Work in Progress - Rachel

I am currently working through a new piece, vaguely inspired by Classical imagery. I have named her Rachel. While Rachel is supposedly a Hebrew name and not specifically related to Classical culture, I’ve always considered it beautifully traditional and representative of a refined elegance. Perhaps I know too many Rachels matching this imagined mold.

In any case, I find this particular piece visually interesting. While she may not be a ravishing figure, she has a certain attention-grabbing quality that I find incredibly appealing. We shall see how she changes over the course of her creation.

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This is insulting...mainly to chimpanzees!

Warning: The preamble is quite a few paragraphs. I will address technology and learning, but you have to survive my personal anecdote first.

[Preamble]

For the second year running, I have returned home for the holiday season, this particular visit a good deal longer than the last. During last year’s visit, I commented both through this blog and in-person to my friends on how stress-relieving the experience of returning home was. From a postgraduate program’s (probably fairly light) workload to more difficult issues of personal relationships, I utilized my time at home as a period of safe exploration and evaluation. Without worry of money, without need to patronize friendships (if you know what I mean), without distraction of having to do something: every element was aligned to provide a calm, introspective environment to think within. Here’s what I said then:

“I appeased my eyelids and sated my deprivation, sleeping in my balmy bed ten hours at a time. Brewing cups of coffee for Ida while pouring over the Register Star’s crossword on Tuesdays and Thursdays retained the summertime’s sublimity. Sitting on the back porch and watching the snow fall with stars still visible, cigarette or tea in hand, sedated the disquiet of my mind or otherwise. I adore home (despite rumor of the opposite). I claim this quotidian registry, this traipsing through time, as my own. [What a sexy phrase!]

“The sense of a coming home feels so strong to me. The universe placates me when I am here and enacts a masterful performance in which it corrects itself. I am calm at home. I am rational at home. I am carefree at home.”

Oh, how things have changed this year on this trip home. That “coming home” feels strong still, but I am not calm. Nor am I rational. Nor am I carefree.

I am anxious and aggressive, occasionally depressed(ish). This juncture is not familiar, so I must understand. And I never thought I would say it, but a lot of these feelings I blame on the currently-in-the-spotlight rhetoric seen on American television. I really do, though my full explanation will not attempt to defame further the media/rhetoric/Palin/Beck/etc.

Perhaps I can lay blame with the actual duration of my visit, which is more than double its predecessors length at nearly two months. Prior to coming home, I was abroad for eleven months. Eleven months: where international politics inspire a lesser interest due to unfamiliarity, American glitz and flashbulbs seem far away, and news casts are all controlled experiences (within a frame or internet window I pursue). My trip last Christmas lasted too short a time and involved too much catching up with friends to allow me to become entrenched in this “media storm.” With this trip spread amongst the nearly two months, the time in front of or in proximity to this rhetoric is extended. Even before last Christmas, I was at NYU and happily out of touch with current politics (or, rather, as involved as I chose to be). My point being that I have not encountered this brand of American culture in four years now.

And, to be fair, media has become derogatory, and I have no intention of making it seem more so. Especially since I consider my real issue here to be the way we collect, distribute, and (are forced to) perceive information, news, etc. Everything feels newly aggressive, similar to the way a recently famous celebrity is pursued by tabloid fodder and E! channel reporting, I would imagine. Content is too quickly changed, stories are too soon forgotten, and my life suddenly seems crushingly crowded. It is all so invasive. I cannot find a moment where I can disengage the machine of images, stories, ads, and opinions: I swear, Ray Bradbury is likely giggling to himself right now, while Orsen Wells cracks a smile in his grave! Technology is killing my mood. There I said it.

[The Goods]

But, and here’s what I really wanted to get to, there may be something to the thought that we are being punished by our own media technology and format. In a thought-provoking BBC News op-ed by Alain de Botton, entitled A Point of View: Does more information mean we know less?, we are thrown into the debate right at the start: “We pay a price for all the information we consume these days – and it’s knowing less.” What an eristically beautiful start! The problem is twofold, de Botton implies, or at least I think he does. First, the epidermis: the vast supply of readily available information. Second, the dermis:  our psychological struggle to cope with our perceived lack of knowledge.

Is Wikipedia the Antichrist or my savior?

By addressing the epidermis, I simply point to those oft-criticized-but-always-utilized social media outlets, our manufactured need to possess our friends through their activities. I never needed to know that you were very hungover after the office party so much so that you couldn’t brush your teeth without vomiting.  But now I do, and I actively can be a better friend with that knowledge. As de Botton writes:

“There is a deeper issue at stake – the feeling, so rife in modern secular culture, that we must constantly keep up with what is new. The obsession with current events is relentless. We are made to feel that at any point, somewhere on the globe, something may occur to sweep away old certainties. Something that if we failed to learn about it instantaneously, could leave us wholly unable to comprehend ourselves or our fellow human beings.”

Even more entertaining sites, such as the #5 website in the whole world, Wikipedia, provide so much information that suddenly seems relevant to my existence. Wiki-chaining or wiki-crack may sound unfamiliar, but are activities we take part in daily weekly, but probably daily. Both terms describe, depending on the nature of your habits, the process of becoming lost in Wikipedia, going incidentally from one intriguing entry to another almost by accident. And yet, with every entry I pass by, I remember very little.

I would be the first to admit how much I adore my (wiki-)crack, which makes me more sure that de Botton may have been right on the money. In a stunningly astute observation, he writes, “In the end, all modern artists share something of the bathetic condition of chefs, for whereas their works may not themselves erode, the responses of their audiences will. We honour the power of culture, but rarely admit with what scandalous ease we forget its individual monuments.” That anticlimax, where one’s state of mind feels it possesses some kind of advanced knowledge that quickly disappears by a sense of lack and time elapsing, is my (probably not) unique feeling of the past few months. A part of my mind says that any time I have spent in heavy academic work has produced the same feelings of stupidity or ignorance. But there is something more sinister and aggressive, more intrusive in the manner of this occasion’s ignorance. As I mentioned, I do not control the functions but am led toward the guillotine on a path laid in fiber-optic cables.

And that, no doubt, is founded upon the dermis, our psychological struggle. Yet this is where de Botton and I disagree. Comparing our information age to the experience of being a landowning medieval citizen, de Botton waxes philosophic on a time of quiet reflection and hermetically-learned universal truths. He writes:

“We occasionally sense the nature of our loss at the end of an evening, as we finally silence the TV after watching a report on the opening of a new railway or the tetchy conclusion to a debate over immigration.

“It is then we might realise that – in attempting to follow the narrative of man’s ambitious progress towards a state of technological and political perfection – we have sacrificed an opportunity to remind ourselves of eternal, quieter truths which we know about in theory, and forget to live by in practice.”

Rightly, one commentator called Allectus has noted that “In the age of Jesus genuinely new things could be decades apart. Life was harsh, full of suffering, superstition, ignorance, and often curtailed. By comparison to suggest our safe contemporary lives are diminished because we have the “option” of living with less reflective time is laughable.” Allectus uses de Botton’s appropriation and romanticizing to draw his own (more correct) conclusion.

de Botton drowns his belief in the price we pay for “promiscuous involvement with novelty” with sentimental, inappropriate commentary on the ineffable role of religious order, but does little more than confound his argument. “Matins have here been transubstantiated into the breakfast bulletin and Vespers into the evening report,” he says, suggesting that information blasts have eliminated the purposeful reflection and introspection of prayer and community. So too much information to get at those tricky little gems of hidden truth, right? He then goes on to say (and ruin his argument), “The news occupies in the secular sphere much the same position of authority that the liturgical calendar has in the religious one.” To me, this undercuts his explanation. If news has the authority of holy days and a resonance with secular people, it must be (as he argues) sufficiently drawn out and unchanging with the years. It would not oversaturate, therefore, the collective conscious of the population; these news events would be purposeful, but intentionally lay.

Sometimes, I worry more about newscasts than I do about the full onslaught of .coms, newspapers, and magazines. Newscasts, and the other media outlets to some extent, fetishize particular events and imply that these certain things you should care about. There is little control in how newscasts function on a personal level: I cannot choose what news interests me, what I would like to hear more about, and how far reaching the journalists go. Instead, I am given my daily dose of medicine as prescribed by media heads as to what will make me a cultured and informed citizen. Paring down my individual experience, the news emphasizes things I normally suppress, like shocking tragedies and random I-can’t-believe-they-even-use-facebook-on-a-newscast facebook opinions, which I often disagree with and just make me angry.

In any case, de Botton founds his ideas in the psychology of rarity, which seems out of touch and faulty. “We are often urged to celebrate not only that there are so many books to hand, but also that they are so inexpensive. Yet neither of these circumstances should necessarily be deemed unambiguous advantages.” Really? Do tell. “We feel guilty for all that we have not yet read, but overlook how much better read we already are than St Augustine or Dante, thereby ignoring that our problem lies squarely with our manner of absorption rather than with the extent of our consumption.” With what I have said above regarding crack Wikipedia, I think his point is somewhat valid on this matter. As such, I read up a bit on intelligence and our achievements in this age, weighed down though we are by information…apparently. In another BBC News article by David Shenk, called Is there a genius in all of us?, he notes a University of Otago study showing how “IQ scores themselves have steadily risen over the century – which, after careful analysis, he ascribes to increased cultural sophistication. In other words, we’ve all gotten smarter as our culture has sharpened us.” Genius, the article finds, or any other form of talent is not innate, but learned. Fascinating! Shenk writes:

“A century ago, geneticists saw genes as robot actors, always uttering the same lines in exactly the same way, and much of the public is still stuck with this old idea. In recent years, though, scientists have seen a dramatic upgrade in their understanding of heredity.

“They now know that genes interact with their surroundings, getting turned on and off all the time. In effect, the same genes have different effects depending on who they are talking to.

[…]

“All of these abilities are dependent on a slow, incremental process which various micro-cultures have figured out how to improve. Until recently, the nature of this improvement was merely intuitive and all but invisible to scientists and other observers.”

These facts put together stand to topple de Botton’s assertion (and my half-belief) that we are overpowered by our access to information. The study shows how surprisingly adaptable the post-post-modern man can be, suggesting we can absorb information successfully.  More successfully than our revered predecessors even with all that time on their hands. As Robert Sternberg states, “Intelligence represents a set of competencies in development.” We can cope. Science says so!

What I think de Botton really tries to get at is our great need to appreciate the little things again, to be able to recognize quality when it is there. And I fully agree with this. “We should stand to swap a few of our swiftly disintegrating paperbacks for volumes that would proclaim, though the weight and heft of their materials, the grace of their typography and the beauty of their illustrations, our desire for their contents to assume a permanent place in our hearts.” It is the recognition and esteem of things that must be adjusted, he pleads us to comprehend: “The need to diet, well accepted in relation to food, should be brought to bear on our relation to knowledge, people, and ideas. Our minds, no less than our bodies, require periods of fasting.”

Too true.


Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter

I have just reread a review I discovered before seeing The King’s Speech this past Tuesday. With the clarity offered of actually seeing the picture, I can more fully accept what I originally deemed a rather controversial (though truly apt) statement from the critic, Peter Bradshaw. He writes, “The movie is a clever anti-Pygmalion. Where Henry Higgins had to get Eliza Doolittle to smarten up and talk proper, Logue finds his pupil has gone too far in the other direction: Bertie is too constrained, too clenched, too formal and too miserable.” While I never thought about George Bernard Shaw once during the film screening, Bradshaw empirically evaluates the pre-war royal polemic in the correct manner. The movie revolves around the idea of finding comfort in the unnatural, discomfiture of royal authoritative life, a life growing more visible every day and less shrouded in ceremonial rituals and the obscurity offered by wealth and stature. George, having already learned how to speak, eat, and comport himself, must accustom himself to his own feelings, which have been repressed by his duty and his fears. A comparable examination of this topic could be said to be offered by Stephen Frears’ The Queen, in which Helen Mirren as Elizabeth attempts to reconcile traditional behavior and rite with populous opinion. Whereas The Queen displayed a superficial-turned-internal reflection inspired by the Queen’s subjects, The King’s Speech is mainly prompted from personal feelings of insecurity possessed by the would-be-King George.

I enjoyed this film and, especially, Colin Firth’s performance in it. His masterful command of the now-famed stammer endears and infuriates us, which is so elegantly set against his relationship with the therapist-née-linguist, Lionel Logue of Geoffrey Rush. The two have an incredibly intimate chemistry that many rightly have said borders on a sentimental, platonic love affair, particularly if we consider the story arc between the characters. Their dialogue is full of brilliant non-sequiturs, witticisms, and fun, but also produces some of the movie’s most powerful outbursts (from both characters). This relationship, beautiful if often hammily plotted, plays on par with the compelling story played in the backdrop of Firth’s George. A father’s slow death and steady abuse, in addition to a brother’s inconstancy and disregard for his duty, all manipulate George and offer necessary (though often predictable) causes for his speech neuroses difficulties. It is amusing to think back on a time when we didn’t automatically assume that royals and celebrities had psychoanalysts working with them. And here we have an intriguing look at what may have been.

As briefly mentioned above, I think there are a few weaknesses to the film. But, to show the quality of the film, I should more accurately call them “the things they brushed aside too quickly.” Here’s my wish list on that front. I wish Helena Bonham Carter played a more significant role: she was a quirky character and one whose devotion to George was unwavering, and I would like to know more about her. I wish they would have either cut out the failed actor nonsense of Logue’s character or gone for it more, perhaps even made a stronger attempt at indicting pre-war society for its harassment of colonial (and other liminal) figures. Though I enjoyed the background of George’s immediate family, there was little truly dramatic content there, nothing that tore at the heartstrings enough or adequately. Even the little Elizabeth was there as a mere token, any more so could be perhaps blasphemous. Still, these characters were hardly developed and instead of being just nationally in-jokes, they could have shared what influence these people really had on Firth’s George.

I maintain that I enjoyed this film immensely, and I think Firth rightly could go home with this year’s Best Actor Oscar.

The signing of the US Constitution

Scenario:

“So, Thomas, do you think we need to add that clause to prevent wardrobe malfunctions on the currently-non-existent nationally broadcast television, also known as the Nipp-Slip Addendum?”

“Of course not, Benjamin. People aren’t stupid enough to read every little detail of this thing to the letter. I mean, I can’t even read this letter.”

“Yeah, wtf is that? Is it a Q?”

“No, wait. I think it’s an S with a really long tail attached. Yeah, definitely an S.”

“Right, I see it now. Definitely an S.”

“God, that Adams is such a dickhead with his signature.”

“Yeah, really. What a dick.”

[…End Scene…]

Is the great division between Republicans and Democrats one based on differing interpretations of the Constitution? No, probably not. But examples are quickly at hand to show how they both manipulate the document to pursue their own political agendas, thereby manifesting these ideological rifts. No doubt each side is guilty. But as my own political beliefs lie with the middle-left, I am obliged to take a position. And in this case, I am most happy to do so, screaming out a massive ‘What the fuck?!‘ to my neighbors on the right for their mock-worthy belief in a purely textual reading of the Constitution. Let me try to be more reasonable and explain how I have arrived at this blogging juncture.

Browsing the usual news outlets, I came across a ludicrous story on the Huffington Post, called Scalia: Women Don’t Have Constitutional Protection Against Discrimination. [Did I just give away the milk for free?] A recently published interview from a stupidly-obviously-named magazine, California Lawyer, details Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s thoughts on the extent of the 14 Amendment’s reach regarding civil rights in the US.  He argues that the Constitution, in its most literal sense, does not prevent discriminatory legislation on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. His statement begins reasonably enough and, upon first reading, is acceptably progressive with one particularly fraught aspect of these Constitutional debates. “[I]f indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society,” he says. There is no disagreement from me on this point; he is right, in my own view. The Constitution is an instrument to guide progression; a tool made of malleable substance; a careful, but not strict, blueprint. Like a parent’s warnings to drive more carefully, phone home very night, or avoid eating junk food: these are pieces of advice intended to be interpreted, whether we may be making a mistake or not. So when he accepts that society may have different viewpoints than the American Ancients, it seems a little too obvious to be a basket on which politicians score cultural points. Right? Right.

Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court (in)Justice

Ah, but I spoke too soon. Immediately after making this (perfectly rational) statement (that I wish other Republicans would believe too), he plays the conservative fiddle, espousing traditional rhythms sweet on far-right ears. The Post quotes him (with my own emphasis), “Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that.” Oh dear, Mr. Scalia. Well, the fight for appropriate behavior is not lost yet. Add something like ‘that was then, this is now‘ or ‘at least we now accept that these quote-unquote minority groups are intrinsically protected.Don’t just leave it there!

And then he went on: “If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws. You don’t need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box. […] Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law. That’s what democracy is all about. It’s not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society.” To me, the last line is the death sentence to the American political system and shows Justice Scalia’s deep misunderstanding and underestimation of the structure of the American government. Essentially to claim that the court is not responsible for taking initiative and making plain what is an obvious intention of the malleability of the Constitution is despicable. Making such impractical and downright discriminatory statements, while devaluing his own position and its authority, Justice Scalia does nothing less than to threaten American-style democracy at its core. This is not an hyperbolic statement. He undermines his own political base by making these statements, which suggest the unraveling of every precedent-setting court decision providing a better America. Whether the ruling was for beneficial for one party or the other, we all win with this system.

Critics are right to move forward, such as Marcia Greenberger: “In these comments, Justice Scalia says if Congress wants to protect laws that prohibit sex discrimination, that’s up to them. But what if they want to pass laws that discriminate? Then he says that there’s nothing the court will do to protect women from government-sanctioned discrimination against them.” Jack Balkin, a legal scholar, disagrees with Justice Scalia’s interpretation of history and instead finds that there was some protection clauses inherent in the formation of the 14th Amendment:

“First, The central purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to guarantee equal citizenship and equality before the law for all citizens and for all persons. It does not simply ban discrimination based on race. The fact that the word race is not mentioned in the text (as it is in the fifteenth amendment) was quite deliberate.

“Scalia argues that the fourteenth amendment was not intended to prevent sex discrimination. That’s not entirely true. The supporters of the fourteenth amendment did not think it would disturb the common law rules of coverture: under these rules women lost most of their common law rights upon marriage under the fiction that their legal identities were merged with their husbands. But these rules did not apply to single women. So in fact, the fourteenth amendment was intended to prohibit some forms of sex discrimination– discrimination in basic civil rights against single women.

“Moreover, the Constitution was subsequently amended. After the nineteenth amendment, the common law coverture rules made little sense. If married women had the right to vote, why did they not have the right to contract or own property in their own names? If we read the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of civil equality in light of the Nineteenth Amendment, the guarantee of sex equality should apply to both single and married women. The conservative court during the Lochner era thought as much in a case called Adkins v. Children’s Hospital, decided immediately after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.”

Aka the Supreme Court is good. Undermining it is dangerous. And, according to how our government is set up, is illegal to not have a Supreme Court making these kinds of calls. So really, strict constructionism of this form makes strict constructionism impossible and anarchistic.

The itch this story caused days ago was only made worse when I read a similar one, entitled Mike Lee: Federal Child Labor Laws Are Unconstitutional, also from the Huffington Post. A Utah-based and Tea-Party-backed Senator, Mike Lee, has recently claimed that laws implemented to protect children (and essentially ensure that they are educated to a certain age) are not Constitutionally founded:

“Congress decided it wanted to prohibit [child labor], so it passed a law–no more child labor. The Supreme Court heard a challenge to that and the Supreme Court decided a case in 1918 called Hammer v. Dagenhardt. In that case, the Supreme Court acknowledged something very interesting — that, as reprehensible as child labor is, and as much as it ought to be abandoned — that’s something that has to be done by state legislators, not by Members of Congress. […]

“This may sound harsh, but it was designed to be that way. It was designed to be a little bit harsh. Not because we like harshness for the sake of harshness, but because we like a clean division of power, so that everybody understands whose job it is to regulate what.

“Now, we got rid of child labor, notwithstanding this case. So the entire world did not implode as a result of that ruling.”

This is simply ludicrous. Child labor was a very contentious issue prior to its eventual regulation/ban. The National Child Labor Committee formed in 1904 and attempted to get legislation through that would abolish child labor altogether. One law did pass via them, but it was inevitably struck down by the Supreme Court on the basis that even a child had a right to contract their own work.  While further attempts were made for Congress to abolish the institution, it was not until the Great Depression that child labor was eventually done away with. This was a direct result of the great competition between children and adults for jobs and the lowering of pay wages for adults as a result. FDR added additional restrictions to forms of child labor after.

Senator Mike Lee

In any case, it is illegal now, so why the hell even bring it up? This is a non-issue and should not even be addressed by our legislators, particularly as dredging it up as a states issue and size of government dispute. In fact, it shows how out-of-touch and backwards these tea-party newbies stances on strict constructionism are. So, we should read the Constitution literally in order to allow individual states to make decisions on whether children can work? The framers of the Constitution purposefully left out that children shouldn’t work in order to secure states’ rights?

ThinkProgress will help me tell why this whole nonsense stinks:

“The Constitution gives Congress the power “[t]o regulate commerce…among the several states,” and to “make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution” this power to regulate commerce. Even ultraconservative Justice Antonin Scalia agrees that these powers give Congress broad authority to regulate “economic activity” such as hiring and firing. Which explains why the Supreme Court unanimously overruled Hammer v. Daggenhardt in a 1941 decision called United States v. Darby.”

Both Congress and the Supreme Court have the authority to ensure the best interests of all by overruling state decisions and asserting national policy. So basically, and make sure you read this Mr. Lee since you clearly didn’t before, the US Supreme Court took over this decision because it was vital to America as a whole, a statute that needed to be unanimously defended against individual state arguments. Senator Lee admits child labor is wrong. If the US government had not protected it federally, the institution could still continue. So to address both Justice Scalia and Senator Lee: the Supreme court is necessary, the Constitution is malleable, and people need to let what happens happen.

It is not as though these two believe and preach every single detail in the Bible. It’s adaptable, right, or at least enough to create moral lessons and account for changes in culture and economic ability? If not, I want to know where is that race of giants, the one that survived the Great Flood? And I certainly hope there’s no wool mingling with linen in those Justice robes…according to Leviticus 19:19, it’s a no-no.

Egypt, one year later…

January 6, 2011

Today is Christmas Eve for the twenty million or so Coptic Christians in the world. Deviating from the western (Roman) and eastern (Greek) Christian traditions in the fifth century CE, which were then still somewhat tenuously unified under their belief in the dyophysite explanation of Christ’s nature, the Coptic faith became an early example of segregation and  subjugation. As an isolated subgenre of Christianity, it has survived remarkably well in these 1500 years, placed as it is amidst the complexities of and competition from Holy Land claimants. Before the Copts, there were the Jews. Now somewhat-friendly neighbors with Israel, we must remember that a great deal of the Egyptian legendary lies with the Jewish faith and stories within the Pentateuch. The late- or even post- exilic books (Exodus primarily, but also Leviticus and Numbers, as well as the older Deuteronomy) offer a glimpse at the ancient world of Moses and the lands surrounding the kingdom leading to Canaan, following the mass slaughter of first born Egyptian children and other plagues of Egypt. Well after the Jews came the Muslims. So too must we remember the newest religion to possess popular appeal in Egypt and remark upon the surprising steadfastness of these Copts. Beginning two centuries after the great Christological heresies at Chalcedon that singled the Coptic faith out, the Muslim conquest of Egypt began, spreading into northern Africa. While Islam took an effective hold on political power, religious majority would not be assured until the late twelfth century. This stretch of time no doubt produced a more equitable and enduring religious coexistence, which would later be advantageous to socio-political harmony.

Between Jews and Muslims exist the Christians. After all, it is within Christianity that Copts were first debased as heretic pariahs.  Not as though that EVER happens in the modern Christian community between different sects. Like the Hebrew books, Christians believe that they have some historical claim on Egypt. Apparently, Joseph and Mary took refuge in Egypt, coming from Judea with a young Jesus and staying until Herod died. In addition, fragments of the Gospel of John were written in Coptic and early Christians in Egypt spoke Coptic. Tack on the Torah’s lore, which Christians take on as their own some of the time, and you’ve got strong ties to Egypt. That explains the Christianity there, but why Coptic?

A full 95% of Egyptian Christians are Coptic. This number is striking, indeed. It seems easy to pretend that all Christians in Egypt support the views of their fifth century church, concerning the dual, in-balance nature of Christ. But these are real people. Doctrinal phallacies are confounding and irrelevant to modern piety. Coptic survives, in my view, as a cultural tradition and no more. Native Egyptians who spoke the language were overwhelmingly Christian as opposed to their Greek fellow citizens. It was their identifying action, their practice. Christianity spread to less affluent areas, not on the wings of popularity or mandate but through local customs, syncretism, and the language itself. The religion is not divisible from the makeup of the people: one can be identified by the other.

Not much has changed over the course of 1500 years, I suspect. Coptics still hold to their religion firmly, which is their right and is set out in their rites. One year ago, I made two closely-dated posts, expressing my concern over worrisome developments in Egypt. The first discussed a new mandate that required identification cards listing one’s religious affiliation on them and the struggle in obtaining these cards for Coptic Christians. An empirical discriminatory technique, I argued that the card’s necessity brought up issues of religion’s necessity in Egypt and how it was impossible to live there without it (through my own experiences) in spite of the pitfalls this ID card of religion offered. I also discussed the undercurrent of religious turmoil now plaguing the country. About a week later I posted a second article on Egypt, following a fatal drive-by shooting that saw six Copts and one Muslim murdered after an accusation of rape was made by a young Muslim girl against a Coptic man. I vented my anger at the Egyptian government for letting factions take control of local authority and failing to address and condemn any violent actions taken by either side.

One year later, I am here again, worrying.

As reported on the BBC, twenty-three people were killed in an Alexandria church on New Year’s Day. Perhaps rightfully, the Copts have spent days protesting and blaming the government “for encouraging discrimination and not doing enough to protect them.” This is while radical websites have continued to post ludicrous calls for all Muslims to continue the violence on their websites. It’s filthy, outrageous, and disgusting. Who says shit like this? I am not religious myself, but I thank God that most of the world’s faithful are level-headed. Who are these radicals and haven’t they heard the old adage about not being able to say something nice? If you don’t, SHUT THE FUCK UP!

To those who take place in the vigils surrounding these churches tonight and other nights, Muslims, Christians, Jews and all, I hope you are safe. And wow, you’re just amazing people!