One upside to writing about masculinity is that going to the movies counts as research. I have taught enough men ages 18-35 to know that I need to see every superhero movie. Even if they do not themselves like superhero movies, blockbusters end up being an assumed topic of conversation with their friends and coworkers. One very gracious student who loves superhero movies stayed in conversation with me as I watched hours and hours of backlogged movies. After sorting through the nuances of each era’s Superman, the various Batmans, the Spiderman from Electric Company to the Spiderman crawling up buildings today – I realized I was not going to find a superhero franchise that I like. I was on a fool’s errand, because I disagree with the whole shtick. Read more
Professors are characters. This is a reason the Harry Potter fantasy rings true. Whether teachers in a haunted institution start out strange, many of us grow into characters. When I arrived at Yale Divinity School in 1990, the portraits on the wall might as well have been enchanted, for all the stories swirling around. One history professor had stepped into a trashcan while lecturing on Luther, and evidently did not miss a beat. A bible professor had read straight through the same lecture twice in a row. He did not pause to look up to see his room full of students looking back at him, pens down, amused. Read more
Two older friends at Trinity United Methodist told me a few weeks ago that they wish Barbara Jordan were still alive to run for president. They both would love to celebrate the first woman president before they go to God, but not the woman that many of us are being told to support at present. Barbara Jordan or Shirley Chisolm, yes. If you do not know who these women were, please look them up. Here are two places to start. Growing up in Texas, I learned early who Barbara Jordan was. My parents wanted her to be president someday. My mother and I stop to pay our respects at her statue in the Austin airport when I fly there for holidays.
The first presidential election I followed was between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. I was eight years old, and my brother and I had dressed up in bicentennial costumes for the little parade in our small town the summer of 1976, the same month that Barbara Jordan delivered her televised keynote at the Democratic National Convention. This was all a huge, complicated deal in my little mind, as I watched my parents experience nostalgia, skepticism, and resilient hope for a different country. (See the Wikipedia page on the Bicentennial, and look online for more cheesy photos of children dressed in colonial costume.) Read more
I write a piece for the Durham Herald Sun every first Sunday of the month. Please consider subscribing and support a local paper in Durham. Whether you live in Durham, care about politics in the South, or are interested in ways a post-industrial city with a major university functions and flourishes, the Durham Herald Sun is worth a subscription. Thank you for considering this. Here is my opinion editorial for this month.
Jesus’ words about a divided household are so well known that a popular North Carolina bumper sticker refers to them in passing. Jesus talks about the ruin of a divided people in the middle of an argument about whether his healing miracles are miraculous or demonic. Jesus is, of course, clear that he is healing people with the power of the Holy Spirit, not through the power of Satan. This is also the passage where Jesus specifies that the only unforgivable sin is speaking against the Holy Spirit. It is a dense and scary passage, in part because the specific parameters of the one absolutely unforgivable sin are unclear. The concept of a divided house is easy to understand, however. That a divided household cannot hold itself together makes logical sense. Read more
Readers who followed my Facebook page following the end of my marriage may recall I was determined to learn the mandolin. High Strung in Durham rented me a beautiful mandolin, and I proceeded to admire it, trying to play a few chords. My daughters asked I do this on the porch, because the sounds I made were jangled, discordant – not at all like the Bill Monroe tapes my dad played on car trips. After taking one lesson from an impatient teacher, I tried to learn online. When I told my mom the reason I was not going to give up, she explained something to me. I had been determined to play the mandolin because my grandfather had played the mandolin at home with his four brothers. I had told myself a story that he had also played the mandolin after he returned from war. I had told myself a story that he played the mandolin to heal from the trauma of war. My mom, his daughter-in-law, explained to me that I had this wrong. My grandfather could not play the mandolin after he returned from war. Some wounds of trauma do not fully “heal” in the way that many people think about “healing.” Read more