KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Woman I'm Proud to Know

FagbugI recently finished doing a pro bono edit of a book proposal for gay rights activist Erin Davies, 30, owner and driver of Fagbug, raising awareness about homophobia, the Volkswagen Beetle that became a project about raising awareness of homophobia. I've not met Erin in person, but we've corresponded by e-mail. From the photos I've seen of her, she's just a little slip of a woman. Such a young, small person she is to have such huge courage. We should all be so courageous.

It was ironic that in 2007, on the eleventh annual National Day of Silence, Erin, who is a lesbian, would find that someone had vandalized her Beetle by spray-painting fag and u r gay on it because the car carried a rainbow sticker. The National Day of Silence brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying, and harassment in schools. As Erin has written in her book manuscript, which is still in preparation, she's been openly gay for 12 years.
Writing u r gay on my car was the equivalent of writing "You have brown eyes" or "Your name is Erin." It was like writing "You are heterosexual" on a car owned by someone who’s straight and fine with it. My intellectual response to what was written on my hood was "Yes, I am gay. What’s your point?"
But her personal space had been invaded by someone who'd wanted to embarrass her and hurt her emotionally. Did she remove the graffiti and pretend that her privacy and sense of security had not been invaded?

Not Erin. She decided to leave the graffiti right where it was and drive her car, with its messages of intended hate, across the United States and Canada for 58 days, stopping along the way to talk with people, individually and in groups, about their reactions to the defacing of her car, to (as she explains on Fagbug.com) "raise awareness about hate crimes and homophobia in our society, to give a voice for those who are silent, to inspire others to take a stand against bullies, and to be an example of how to overcome obstacles in bringing a creative project to life." She gave talks at high schools and universities, did podcasts and radio shows. And now that she's back home, she's still giving talks. She's even had her Fagbug wrapped to look like the rainbow Bug graphic on her web site.

She learned a great deal about herself and about people during her travels. She's writing a book (that would be why I was editing her book proposal) and making a film about her trip. Here is a short movie trailer that she's done. Erin has impressed a lot of people with her antihomophobia work, including GO Magazine, which included her in its June-issue feature "100 Women We Love 2008."

If Erin's story impresses you as much as it has me, please consider giving her a donation. She still needs help with funding the editing of her film and with publicity costs. To do so, go to the home page of her web site and click on the flashing image of the Fagbug that has the word Donate under it. You can keep up with her adventures by reading her MySpace blog. And if you're an acquisition editor affiliated with a major publishing house, e-mail me (click the "View my complete profile" link in the sidebar at the right to be taken to a page with a link to my e-mail address) and I'll put you in contact with Erin.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

If They're Different, We Must Kill Them

The Iraqi team plays in the World Soccer Cup games
(Photo of Iraqi soccer team at World Cup games from Gorilla's Guides)

Click on the photo above and look closely at those faces—joyful, eager, and focused. They could be the faces of any group of people playing in any soccer game anywhere. They're the faces of people having fun and working together.

Why, then, are we Americans shooting at them and their brothers, cousins, mothers, sisters, wives, lovers, children, and friends? Why are we occupying their country? Simply because they're Iraqis.

Would we be at war with them if they were light-skinned and had European features? Or if they were Anglicans rather than Muslims? (Did you even know that there are Iraqi Christians?) Probably not. Europeans aren't sitting on lots of oil that feeds our cars and trucks and machines. Europeans have cultures and religions that we're more familiar with and more comfortable with. We can speak many European languages or find someone who can interpret those languages for us. Yet how often do we read about the scarcity of Arabic interpreters?

It's the ancient human story: Destroy those who are unlike us, those who look different from us, those who believe a little differently from we believe.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Suing the School District Whose Teacher Banished a Boy

Remember 5-year-old Alex Barton, the boy whose kindergarten teacher led the class in a vote on whether to allow him to remain in class because she was apparently fed up with his Asperger syndrome behaviors?

His mother's attorney has put the boy's school district on notice that he'll be filing a civil lawsuit charging that Alex was discriminated against and that his civil rights were violated.

It's a very sad situation when a parent has to sue to get school personnel to treat a child with patience and compassion.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Making History and Heading Toward Normal

I think that to a large extent, how each of us perceives the larger context of Barack Obama becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee for president has to do with the generation that each of us is part of.

I was talking with my 25-year-old daughter on the phone last night during Obama's speech after the Montana and South Dakota Democratic primaries and said, "Well, are you exited, watching history being made?"

"Oh, I'm watching some comedy. ... 'History being made?' "

"Yes! The first time that a major political party has ever had a black person as its candidate! It's so cool!"

"Well, I guess ..."

After talking with her a bit more, I got the strong impression that it's not all that big a deal to her generation to think of someone other than a white man as a presidential candidate. She grew up seeing people as just people, not people who have specific skin colors. And she, an American of mostly Polish and Irish ancestry and with skin whiter than white, grew up to marry a dark-skinned man with Puerto Rican and black ancestors and to be the mother of a pale-mocha baby. But when I was growing up in an insular, racist, middle-class white community in southeast Texas in the late 1960s and the entirety of the 1970s, her life choices would've been seen as very unusual, probably intentionally rebellious, and even socially suicidal. So though I think Obama's win is amazing and wonderful, to my daughter and her friends, it's not amazing. It just is what it is.

Now, that is cool.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Obama and His Church Life

If religion and involvement with a religious institution are not a part of your life, you might not understand what it is that people get out of religion, what they get out of searching for God.

And given the well-publicized extremes of some far-right folks who call themselves Christians, you might also have seen the much-hyped tussles among other presidential candidates and their minions, Barack Obama, and the media over Obama's now former church as too much of a muchness; you might have thought Obama should just walk away from his religion completely.

I am a writer and editor and a decent speaker, but I cannot always explain my spirituality well to others. I certainly have had difficulty explaining life in U.S. churches to atheist, agnostic, and antireligion friends and colleagues, so I don't often try. Part of that has to do with my having left the local Presbyterian church within the last 2 years; I'm still working out how I feel about my own spiritual life. That's made it difficult for me to help put the brouhaha over Obama's church life into perspective for those folks.

But a blogging friend of mine, a minister from Obama's own Christian denomination, the United Church of Christ, who uses the pseudonym Songbird has explained it all quite well in an open letter to Obama:
... Let me respond first as a pastor. It would be my hope that NO member of any church I serve would EVER be held responsible for my words from the pulpit. In the Congregational tradition, whatever the colorway might be, freedom of the pulpit is an essential. Pastors are sometimes called to be prophets, and they may say, and I hope WILL say, things that people in the pews or outside the church walls might find perturbing, if not shocking, particularly when the people being shocked are essentially comfortable themselves. Pastors step up into their pulpits, televised or not, to break open the word of God. Anyone who thinks that ought to be restrained to sweet stories about what we learned in kindergarten or advice for how to keep your husband happy or instructions on gaining financial success is not in touch with the history of preaching and in particular with the history of prophetic preaching. ...

People who don't belong to churches may not understand this. They may have an expectation that everything is clear cut, that no relationships are compromised, that your pastor is a service-provider, and you will up and go if you are no longer satisfied. ...

You're in a campaign that is only beginning. When the 2008 version of the Swift Boaters come along, we are all going to have to watch those video clips again, and I'm afraid you will have to state your case again, too. You always seem to find a way to do it that sounds reasonable, even when I know you must be irritated, and I admire that in you. Keep taking the high road. We need to walk the high road. ...

I hope that you'll take the time to read Songbird's post in full.

Monday Heart-Tug Blogging

I don't know which is cuter, Neil's heart showing in his eyes or the two baby cottontails who were nesting in our front flower bed before Neil caught them so that they wouldn't run in front of our lawn mower:

Bunnies and a boy with a big heart

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