Sunday, August 27, 2006

Introducing our new family member...

As many of you may know, I have rats. I love them. They are like little dogs, but with a considerably shorter life span. Unfortunately, the last of my rat girls passed on to that big running wheel in the sky last week. Even though Noah is quite a beast, we decided it was pretty lonely around here. Thus, Erik, Noah, and I introduce to you our newest family member, Mr. Willingham, the guinea pig. The rats aren't completely out of the picture, I just don't want to get another one right now. A photo of Mr. Willingham will be posted shortly.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I really hate this time of year

I really hate this time of year. It is so busy, the students move back into town, and inevitably good friends move away in pursuit of higher goals. Once again, I haven't blogged in a couple of weeks because I have been so busy. Erik started fall classes so everything around here is busy. Last week, I co-hosted a party for my friend and co-worker John, who is moving away to attend the University of Chicago, and one of my best friends, Dusty, is moving to NYC to attend Teacher's College at Columbia University. I am stuck in Kansas for yet another year. I'm starting to think that I'll never escape. Don't get me wrong, life is good right now, but I am ready to do something towards pursuing my career. It is easy to go to work, come home and not have to study, and have family fairly close. However, if I am ever going to get my doctorate, I am going to have to give that up because I can't do what I want to do around here. It will be hard, but I think it will be okay. Also, having Derek in the military will make it easier for me to move because at least if I move away, it probably won't be to my peril. I seriously doubt I would get killed by an IED at Cornell (yeah, it's probably a pipe dream I know, going to Cornell that is) although in this day and age, I guess anything is possible. Sometimes, I really hate change.

Then, as if this time of year weren't bad enough, when the days get shorter, cloudier, and cooler, my seasonal affective disorder kicks in. Fortunately, this year I am on Zoloft so I hope that it will curtail any major effects of the season. I hate the fall, and I hate the winter. I really think I should move south. Too bad everywhere that I want to go is pretty much northeast and/or Canadian (aka University of Toronto, brrrr, likewise with Cornell).

Then, about a month from yesterday or the day before, Ramadan will start. Due to being pregnant or nursing, I haven't fasted in two years. It is going to be really hard to get into the swing of things. I really love fasting. It clears my head and makes me appreciate the little things like having food to eat and clean water. However, the days will be longer for this Ramadan than they have ever been since I have been fasting and the time change won't happen until after it is over. It is said that God locks up all of the Shatans (devils) when Ramadan is happening. It is a lovely sentiment and I am always at peace during Ramadan. Of course, that could be my brain digesting itself (har, har; sorry God, just a little Ramadan humor, please don't smite me).

I have always wondered though, if all of the Shatans are locked up, then why is it that Muslims do bad things during Ramadan, like blow innocent people up? Wouldn't it be evil that causes people to do that? I thought the Shatans were locked up? Does that mean that God wants them to blow people up? That would prove the insurgents theory that God is on their side. Maybe he is, I don't know, but I certainly don't think so (on the other hand, he's certainly not on the U.S. side). Or, is it because people are inherently evil and it has nothing to do with devils. Or, it could be that there simply is no God and I am just wasting my time covering my hair and starving myself one month a year. Sometimes that seems like the plausible explanation for all of the trouble in the world. For some reason I don't accept that theory though, even though I think it sometimes. I need a higher power in my life. Sometimes I just don't know in what form. Oh well, I guess that's all part of my ongoing jihad. I'll figure it out eventually whether I want to or not. I sure hope God has a good sense of humor...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Notes from an apparent Islamofascist

I have been apathetic lately. No, make that painfully objective. I haven't let my emotions get the best of me. Just in the last year, I feel like I've returned to my old self. Nearly five years after September 11th, and I just now feel like I'm getting back to normal. Before 9/11, I was a, well, there's no easy way to say this, I considered myself to be Republican. I was raised in a small town in Kansas where everyone is Republican, if in name only. I voted for Bush in 2000 and ascribed to the "Sore Losermann" slogan that young Republicans everywhere were throwing around. Then, when he took the presidency, I changed my mind. It was like I suddenly realized how stupid he was. I don't know why I didn't see it before. At the time, it wasn't a big deal. Everyone assumed he would go through his presidency as a lame duck, nothing would change. Of course, 9/11 changed everything. Suddenly, it was as if everything he did was an attack on the Muslim community. Sure, he didn't blame Muslims, but yet every speech that he gave the impression that it was the United States vs. Islam, not the terrorists. It completely polarized the Muslim world. When my husband, brother, and I traveled to Egypt, everyone told us that they loved Americans, just not the U.S. government, and they hated Bush because Bush hated Muslims. In the Islamic world and among people I know, this is a universal sentiment. I haven't met a single Muslim who supports Bush. Lately, he seemed to have toned down the U.S. vs. Islam comments. Well, until today.

With his now infamous "Islamofascist" remark, President Bush has managed to alienate nearly every Muslim who woke up horrified to hear about the alleged terrorist plot. I instantly felt myself go on the defensive. I thought, "He just called Muslims 'Islamofascists,' not the terrorists, but Muslims." Never mind the fact that if this plot had been carried out, it would have been devastating, catastrophic, I can't even really find the right word. Having flown American airlines to and from London Heathrow on the way to and from Egypt makes it a little more real and a little more terrifying. Yet, the fact that he used the term "Islamofascist" was on the forefront of my mind, and the fact is, if it is on the forefront of my mind, it is on the forefront of the minds of potentially billions of people around the world.

I feel completely polarized again. The moderation is gone. Now I am so busy defending myself and my fellow Muslims that I tend to lose sight of the fact that there is a bigger issue at hand.
The issue that extremists have hijacked this religion, and every time that Muslims go on the defensive trying to explain that Islam is ultimately a peaceful religion, they end up sounding as though they are defending the terrorists.

While the vast majority of Muslims condemn terrorism and the taking of innocent life, they don't necessarily disagree with the political views of terrorist groups such as al Qaeda or Hizbollah. Most don't think Israel has the right to exist, they resent Western imperialism, and they think the Saudi government sucks, to name a few.* They may not condone terrorism, but they are definitely sympathetic towards the terrorists, particularly when Bush pits the West against Islam. Therefore, why speak out against the terrorists when they are the only force taking a stand against the "Zionists and Crusaders?" Governments such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, staunch U.S. allies, certainly aren't going to do it. They tend to repress innocent citizens under the guise of defeating suspected terrorists, while the terrorists fight against those same governments. After all, if your government was torturing you and you were innocent, and the terrorists came to your aid, who are you going to support? Probably not the government.

I guess my point is that until the U.S. and its Western allies make substantive changes to their foreign policies that at least give the appearance that they aren't waging an imperialist, Christian war against Muslims, Muslims aren't going to take substantive action to help quell terrorism, even though they know terrorism is wrong because in a way, they would be losing their voice, no matter how misguided that voice may be. In any case, this "Islamofascist" will sleep well tonight knowing that this alleged terrorist plot has been foiled. I just hope Bush's careless comments haven't overshadowed the fact that a great many lives, Muslim and otherwise, may have been saved because of these arrests. Your thoughts, anyone?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Evolution 1, Kansas Yokels 0

I have to say, this has been a good week, at least in Kansas. It looks like the Kansas State Board of Education is going to shift to the middle once again, possibly paving the way for a reversal of the ludicrous science standards that they passed last year. As an evolutionary biology major, I am always insulted when people who know nothing about evolution try to impose their anti-evolution beliefs on me and say I worship Charles Darwin. If they knew anything whatsoever about evolution (or enough to advocate for major changes to an educational curriculum), they would know that Darwin's theory of natural selection is one tiny aspect of evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory is so much more encompassing and complex than they give it credit for. They always argue that they are simply trying to insert a different way of looking at science into classrooms. Science, by the very nature of the fact that it is science, always introduces alternative explanations and criticisms to its theories. If you read scientific papers on any given subject, there are always a variety of opinions as to what is correct. The best example I can think of is systematics. If you wanted to get KU ecology and evolutionary biology professors in an argument, ask them the best way to phylogenetically classify organisms, and let the fun begin.

My big problem with advocates of intelligent design on the KS School Board is that they
want to insert religion without bothering to really learn anything about evolution. The fact that they refuse to learn just indicates to me that they are doing it for religious reasons because if they dare to question the Bible, they think they will go to hell. Most people who objectively study evolutionary biology soon realize that it is not threatening to Christianity or any other belief system. They usually begin to understand why it is silly for the two to mix. Science is science, and religion is religion. The two should only be mixed in philosophy classes. If they want to advocate an objective philosophy class in every classroom in the state, I am all for it. However, with the educational funding problems that this state already has, I do not foresee that happening anytime in the next 500 or so years.

I sure hope that this moderation in Kansas is indicative of a trend at the national level. If so, the mid-term elections may be very interesting. I don't want liberal or conservative at this point in Bush's term, I just want moderation.

Speaking of Bush and Iraq, top military brass were testifying in front of Congress yesterday including Gen. Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Gen. John Abizaid, the head of U.S. Central Command. They acknowledged that Iraq could be headed towards a civil war. Gee, do ya' think? My Politics of the Middle East class studied this topic a year before the Iraq War began and we knew that this scenario was more probable than any other under a U.S. led occupation of Iraq.

This excerpt is from CNN:

"Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, asked Pace and Abizaid if they had anticipated sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shiites a year ago. Pace said he hadn't expected it. Abizaid said it was clear tensions were rising, but he did not expect such a high level of sectarian violence."

My question is, "How can an undergraduate political science class anticipate a civil war in Iraq three years before it happens, but the top military leaders of this country couldn't see it a year ago?" I mean, for God's sake. If you don't understand a region (and Gen. Abizaid with his background doesn't have an excuse), then don't start a friggin' war there. Now, in their defense, they may have disagreed with the Bush administration, but due to their position, they felt powerless to do anything but go along with it. However, if Derek has taught me anything about the military chain of command, it is that you speak up if you are asked to do something that you feel is illegal or immoral by going up the chain of command. I guess since Bush is at the top they couldn't go very far. Therefore, they should have resigned. They didn't, and now young Americans are dying in the hornet's nest known as Iraq. I guess it was the same with Hurricane Katrina. Everyone who has watched a National Geographic special on hurricanes knew that New Orleans was a sitting duck, well everyone except the Bush administration. How many people died there? Anyone getting a theme here?

It's Friday. I won't even start on Lebanon and Israel. Have a good weekend!