Deny their responsibility, rob them of their Power: stopping Daesh.

We have forgotten the true goal of terrorism. It can be difficult, especially in the aftermath of horrible events such as the one which occurred in Nice (or Dallas, or Orlando, or San Bernardino), as we prepared to bury the dead and do what we can to heal the wounded and care for all those who will never truly be whole again, that the goal of terrorism is not death. The goal of terrorism is in the name: terror; fear.

Every time we pick ourselves up and try and take stock of the damage and the pain, and allow ourselves to forget that what those who promote and execute these acts of violence are trying to generate is fear, we allow them to succeed.

Daesh would love to lay claim to the power to reach out and strike us there where it hurts the most. With every independent attack that is attributed to them, they have further proof that their reach is global, that they are able to infect our people with their poisons and use our people to hurt us. They take that power from our headlines, our speculating talking heads, our circumstantial analyses, and our political speeches.

Perhaps the man who struck out at the Queer Latinx community in Orlando justified his actions through the philosophy promoted by Daesh. Perhaps the man who drove a truck through a crowd in Nice came from Tunisia (where an overwhelming number of Daesh fighters hail from) and maybe he, too, justified his actions through their language.

That does not give Daesh the right to claim responsibility for their actions. Their power is not so great that they can reach across space and time and sow the seeds of their hate in the hearts of people who are thousands of miles away from them. These people are not molded by Daesh, they are molded at home, and their choices are their own, they can invoke Daesh in justification, but we do not have to believe them.

We can rob Daesh of their power. We have the power to make them lose the war abroad as they are losing the ground war in Syria and Iraq. Because when the perpetrators are dead—and they are all dead—there is no one left to speak for them. What we have to say about their origins and their motivations is as true as what Daesh has to say. When the Daeshi leadership learn about the attacks as we do, they are no more responsible for them than we are.

A generation of children already grew up with a boogeyman who lived in a cave in a desert most of them could not find on a map: his name was Osama bin-Laden. From September 2001 onward, children who were not yet old enough to comprehend what had happened in New York City and at the Pentagon knew his name and were afraid of him.

We can keep a new generation of children from knowing that fear. We can stop Daesh at the borders of their stolen territory, and their reach at the limits of their trained fighters and evil plots. We do not have to allow the words and tenets of their death cult to have the power of pandemic. We can acknowledge the violence it effects, and work to heal the wounds it leaves, and deny the infection a vector and the opportunity to spread.

Starting with the Bechdel Test

Let’s start a conversation with the Bechdel Test. Now I might be beating a dead horse here, but I’ve recently realized that knowledge of the Bechdel Test is not as widespread as I thought it was. I’ll drop it into conversation and people will suddenly look confused and I’ll have to backtrack and explain what it is.

The Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test, alternately called the Bechdel/Wallace Test, the Bechdel Rule, Bechdel’s Law, or the Mo Movie Measure, is a simple set of rules that creates a rudimentary set of standards for female representation in movies (personally, I apply it to television as well). It made it’s appearance in 1985 in Alison Bechdel’s comic Dykes to Watch Out For.

Dykes to Watch Out For, 1985.

It has three rules:

1. A movie must have 2 female characters

2. They must have a conversation.

3. About something other than a man.

In theory this shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve. I would like to invite you now to take a moment and think back on the last five movies you saw and see if they pass the Bechdel Test. Continue reading

Lessons from the X-Men

I look at what’s happened, and still happening in Ferguson, the attention we’re currently paying to the senseless, needless deaths of young black people in this country, but I think also of the tallying every year of the deaths of trans* folks, the numbers of deaths and violations for native, black, and latina women, I think of the challenges women face daily. And somehow I end up at the X-Men.

Now, you probably think, “what the hell does a comic series/Marvel superheroes/beloved movie series and/or acclaimed series reboot have to do with all this serious political stuff?” or you might have just stopped reading.

But there is something very important lurking in the X-Men, and in that something is the reason why the X-Men are both so successful and often the only superhero comic non-superhero comic reading people have fallen for (Watchemn excluded, that is a discussion for another time). Continue reading

Building the “Personal Brand” — On Internships

There is a tension between the “personal brand” and the brand of the larger entity one works for.

It is especially true for interns. The intern has essentially agreed to work for free to “pad their resume” or, in other words, build their personal brand.

For people of certain skill-sets, the “personal brand” is less important. If you’re an engineer, or a student of another applied science, you can present lab work and other concrete examples of work you have done or participated in, and be judged on that (often you already have been, if a study is published and peer-reviewed).

But those who fall into a more “artisinal” category (designers, journalists, artists), people whose work is both becoming excessively commodified (“oh anyone can write/throw a webpage together/et. al.”), need a portfolio that clearly displays their skills to acquire work. With these areas becoming increasingly free-lance, it is even more critical.

Continue reading

SGA Elections: how much is too much truth?

This piece currently occupies pride of place amongst all the work I’ve done at WMUA this year.

It’s not the most complex, nor is it necessarily the most interesting piece. But I worked hard, and people helped me when I needed them to, and we got a solid piece of reporting (informative and well-produced) out to our listeners on air, and then online, in a timely and relatively stress-free fashion.

Sure, it’s a political retrospective, but one that I believe is necessary.

The UMass Amherst Student Government Association elections, this year, have been singularly complicated, badly executed, and frustrating. Continue reading