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His Heart Will Go On*

March 10th, 2010 No comments

As I just wrote on the blogsite of my late colleague Bobby Lipkin, his first-rate site Essentially Contested America, will continue. His former co-bloggers will be joined by a third, and soon some of my colleagues will be joining them. This is the best tribute we might have paid to Bobby and his vision.

(*Apologies to anyone for whom the title of this post brought back memories of that Celine Dion song. But I thought of it as a title before the reference occurred to me, and I still like it — the irritating Canadian songstress notwithstanding.)

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Remembering Bobby Lipkin

February 23rd, 2010 No comments

A few days ago, I wrote about my reaction to the unexpected death of my colleague, the warm and bright Bobby Lipkin. Here is a brief story about his passing from the school’s website, and here is an obituary. This personal remembrance is so moving it stopped me cold.  I’m forwarding information from another colleague, Prof. Andy Strauss, about a memorial to be held in his honor, as well as other ways of remembering him:

The comments about Bobby Lipkin that have been posted on WordinEdgewise are a beautiful tribute to a wonderful man and mean a great deal to all of us who worked with him over so many years.  We would like to let you know that Widener Law School will be hosting a memorial for Bobby at 4:00 on March 8th at the Law School’s Delaware Campus in Wilmington.  The formal program will last about an hour to be followed by a reception where people can share their thoughts and memories on a more informal basis.   The address and directions to the Delaware campus are here.

Also, we are preparing a book of thoughts and remembrances about Bobby for his family and other people who were close to him.  In addition to the comments from the blog, if anyone would like to write something specifically for the book, please let either Associate Dean Erin Daly or me know in the next few days.  Also, please feel free to email with any questions about the memorial.  I can be reached at andrewstrauss@comcast.net, and Erin can be reached at edaly@mail.widener.edu.

A Death in the Family

February 18th, 2010 4 comments

I was going to blog about something that I listened to today. Then I learned that a colleague that I very much liked and respected, Bobby Lipkin, died today.

It was a couple of conversations with Bobby that gave me the courage to start this blog. His passion and energy were evident, and he convinced me to get past (even if I couldn’t entirely overcome) my uneasiness and fear of putting myself out there. His blog, Essentially Contested America, went quiet a few months ago, but it will live in cyberspace and in intellectual discourse for a long, long time. Perhaps one of his co-bloggers, or someone else, will carry his effort forward. But he will be missed.

If you knew Bobby Lipkin, and want some comfort, perhaps spending a few minutes with the clear voice you’ll hear on his blog will help.

Moving Day

July 22nd, 2009 No comments

My webmaster needs to do some shuffling (don’t ask me to explain it) of the blogsites, so I will be unable to post from late today until, probably, late tomorrow. You may or may not be able to access the site during that time. If not, there are a few million other blogs, not to mention other news sources, to check out. I know you’ll miss me terribly.

This works well, as I’m actually spending tomorrow and Friday far from the madding computer. I do have one post that might go up (via iPhone) on Thursday pm or Friday am, but otherwise: I’ll be back on Saturday.  

Update: Webmaster now tells me that the site will be up and down starting late today. So you may be able to access it at times. Just don’t get frustrated when it doesn’t come up.

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50,000! (Thanks)

July 14th, 2009 No comments

In late January of this year, I started to blog faithfully. Doing so was scary, as what I most feared was a clanging silence. As this recent article in the New York Times points out, in 2008 there were some 133 million blogs, of which about 7.4 million had been updated within the past 120 days. I’m glad I didn’t know that before I started.

Six months into this, I’m happy and proud to report that, just a few minutes ago, wordinedgewise.org crossed the 50,000 page view threshold! The audience has grow each month, with June seeing an explosion: Over 8,000 unique visitors viewed more than 22,000 total pages.

As regular readers know, I cover all kinds of social, political, sports-related, personal, and just plain silly issues. I’ve had lively and, I hope, respectful debates with other bloggers, notably Andrew Sullivan over at the Atlantic (the Daily Dish), who engaged me in a back-and-forth over late-term abortion. My current take on the Philadelphia area swimming pool controversy has been linked to CNN, and spawned a ton of comments (not all of which are as respectful as I’d hope).

The blog has been fun to write, and enlightening to me. I’ve changed some positions, and been inspired to think about things that I might otherwise have ignored. Thanks for your interest, your encouragement, and — always — your comments and suggestions.

The Revolution Will Be Greened, Blogged, Tweeted…but not Televised

June 16th, 2009 No comments

I’m hopeful that my savvy and terrific webmaster can turn me green tomorrow. I always  bear in mind that we don’t know, with certainty, who won the election — but it’s clear enough for me to take the plunge in solidarity with the reformists in Iran. Fellow bloggers: Stand up and be green!(H/t Andrew Sullivan for this suggestion.)1

Another site on the events in Iran to add to those I recommended on Sunday: The sleepless Nico Pitney’s live-blog of the dreadful events is inspiring and depressing at the same time. Again, read as much as you can bear.

Pitney and Rachel Maddow engaged in a thoughtful discussion on her show tonight about the promise and perils of “citizen journalism.” In this case, of course, it’s that or nothing, as the mainstream media (“MSM”)  has been mostly blocked and silenced. This kind of on-the-ground reporting by those with a huge stake in the otucome does run the risk of amplifying and echoing one position. Pitney seemed alive to this problem, and tries to hold off blogging an event without some kind of corroboration. I don’t envy him the difficulty of his task.

  1. He removed the post for other reasons, but the idea remains a good one.

Iran Comes Apart

June 14th, 2009 No comments

After a weekend of thought about the whole DOMA/DOJ fiasco, I’d planned on writing a short summation, and the text of a speech Obama should — but won’t — give that might do for gay and straight relations what his Philadelphia race speech did for race relations .

That’s still in the works, but I’m pushing it back to tomorrow. (Look for it late in the day.) For tonight, though, I think this blog needs to show respect to the millions of Iranians who are fighting and dying in a probably doomed effort to prevent their election from being stolen. Here are few recommendations for different kinds of news sources that have been doing a great job of keeping up with the issue. These will lead you to many more, without practical end. Read as much as you can bear.

Juan Cole, an expert on Mideast relations (and  Prez of the Global Americana Institute), offers incisive and frequently updated commentary.

This New Yorker blog entry by Laura Secor makes a clear and convincing case that the election was stolen, done in the sober and persuasive style that’s the magazine’s hallmark.

Over at the Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan has been a blogging madman for the last two days (even by his hyper-prolific standards), focusing almost exclusively on Iran. This blog is more in the style of “all comers,” where Sullivan reports and tries to make sense of the news, from an astounding multiplicity of sources, as it comes over the transom. The Dish imparts the chaos of the unfolding situation, chillingly. He and his staff must be exhausted by now.

The New York Times’s coverage explains how it can get away with charging $2/paper ($6 for  the Sunday Times). Both the “mainstream” and blog (“The Lede“) stories have been predictably first-rate.

There are many more.

In the long arc of history, this situation is a good thing. But people being beaten and killed might have trouble keeping that in mind. We should salute their courage.

Kick ‘Em to the Curb

May 23rd, 2009 No comments

A story in Friday’s NY Times speculated on the possible connection between high-level social interaction (playing bridge) and the ability to ward off the dementia that typically accompanies old age. Although the point wasn’t as clearly made as it might have been, the author seemed to be saying that only one in 200 people lived to the age of 90 without significant dementia (although the accompanying video, which is better than the article, puts the number at 1,200). By age 95, the numbers are even worse. Yikes!

If the nonagenarians featured in this story are typical success stories, sign me up for bridge lessons immediately. True, the story is more fascinating feature writing than compelling science (no one knows, for a start, whether these bridge players are active because they’re sharp, or vice-versa), but it contained an interesting insight into the ruthlessness of the over-90 crowd. For although some players knew when they could no longer “hold their cards” and voluntarily withdrew from the games, others didn’t. And then they were, effectively, kicked out. Consider this excerpt from the article:

“’The first thing you always want to do is run and help them,’” [one woman] said. “’But after a while you end up asking yourself: “‘What is my role here? Am I now the caregiver?” You have to decide how far you’ll go, when you have your own life to live.’

“In this world, as in high school, it is all but impossible to take back an invitation to the party. Some players decide to break up their game, at least for a time, only to reform it with another player. Or, they might suggest that a player drop down a level, from a serious game to a more casual one. No player can stand to hear that. Every day in card rooms around the world, some of them will.

“’You don’t play with them, period,’” [another woman] said. “’You’re not cruel. You’re just busy.’”

Busy?! Doing what, one’s inclined to ask. How about staying alive? At some point, the very old realize that the sands are rushing out ever more quickly, and many decide that they’re better off only doing what they want to do. In extreme cases, this can take the form of passing gas in public, but usually it’s much less apparent that than. I’m reminded of my grandmother who, upon moving into a retirement complex/assisted-living facility after turning 90, matter-of-factly (but civilly) turned down an invitation from a well-meaning neighbor to participate in a Bible-study group. “I don’t have time,” she said, echoing the bridge shark quoted above.

What does this  mean for those of us still some distance from these scary points in our lives? Probably, blogging isn’t socially interactive enough.1  Luckily for me, I get plenty of social interaction before a captive audience: my students. After reading this article, it appears I’ll be best served by teaching until I fall down in front of the class, or at least until I start referring to Palsgraf v. Long Island R.R. as the case that established a woman’s right to choose.2 An advance apology is due the class of 2050.

After reading the article, I couldn’t help but think of poor Dick Cheney, now routinely  surfacing after many years in an undisclosed location from which he was somehow able to shred the Constitution. Given his serious health issues, perhaps his endless TV tour is based on his belief that the social interaction afforded by FOX News and the American Enterprise Institute will keep him going for another ten years. Uh…can we please make a present of bridge lessons for the former VP?

  1. Or is it? Does cyber-contact count? Discuss.
  2. For non-lawyers: Palsgraf is a strangely famous negligence case involving an explosion, a fallin scale, and a series of inscrutable aphorisms from the great New York jurist, Benjamin Cardozo. As everyone knows, the case that established the woman’s right to reproductive autonomy was Brown v. Board of Education.

Equality Forum Day 1: From VIP Kickoff to the Margins

April 27th, 2009 2 comments

Imagine this life: You’re not safe at school. The very sight of you makes people uncomfortable, sometimes angry. Your family disowns you, but no one else will adopt  you or take you in for foster care. Without mooring, and unsure of your own identity, you turn to drugs and alcohol, perhaps landing in jail. You can’t find a “legit” job, so sex work becomes your “best” option. You contract HIV, or Hepatitis, but have no access to health care to pay for your treatment. Low-level bureacrats decide whether to honor your chosen gender on identity documents, making routine transactions an occasion for recurring humiliation.

This nightmare is reality for many transgendered people. Even the “mainstream” gay and lesbian community has only recently begun to wake up and recognize these realities. The National Transgender Panel – significantly, the first substantive program of this year’s Equality  Forum – was an energizing, often moving conversation about the legal, social, and political obstacles that block the full citizenship and dignity of the transgender community. Indeed, the story told  above was pieced together from the comments made by both panelists and audience members, whose input the panelists constantly sought — and received in effective abundance.

The panelists, themselves all members of the community, spoke authoritatively about legal issues (Benjamin Jerner); the national political landscape (Kathy Padilla) and the hugely complex public health challenges faced by this community (Ben Singer).

Perhaps because of my own interest in public health and the legal issues relating to it, I  found Singer’s presentation particularly compelling. He’s a smart activist who understands the need for data-driven results; as he puts it, if you’re not on the public health radar (and you get there by showing a problem affecting a population), you don’t exist. But the issues facing the transgender community are more than a “blip” on any morally defensible radar; they amount to an on-going emergency. A few of the sobering examples confronting this community will have to suffice here: (1) Violence against them is epidemic, and the situation becomes graver as the categories of oppression pile up. Thus, transgendered women of color are at the greatest risk. (2) HIV/AIDS are at levels otherwise associated with sub-Saharan Africa. (3)The community faces high levels of medical uninsurance, a problem connected to joblessness and homelessness, themselves endemic.

Against this backdrop,  many of the issues of formal equality that many of us (including your humble blogger) most often concern ourselves with seem less vital. Really, do you think people facing the kinds of issues I’ve just mentioned have marriage equality on their plate? Again, Singer:  “We talk more about these grand legal issues and not these other ones.”

But “these other” issues were thoroughly chewed over — by the audience. In a wonderfully  generous move, Singer invited the audience to answer a question about the kinds of problems routinely faced by transgendered youth. The answers should pain any person with a halfway developed sense of empathy. One young woman was thrown out of her home and not adoptable. A young man ended up abusing drugs and doing time in prison. Several regarded every day of school as a kind of torture. Of course, any kid growing up gay — or different in any way, really — can share painful experiences. But these really did seem different in kind, not  just degree.

“Every spark of friendship and love will die without a home.”

Yet not all transgendered people are in the desperate situation Singer describes, and, for some at least, it would be very helpful if the state were to grant them basic legal rights, including the recognition of their marriage. Jerner discussed a case with which I’m familiar, in which the Kansas Supreme Court idiotically declared null a long-term marriage between an opposite-sex couple (where the wife had been born a male), thereby disinheriting the surviving spouse in favor of an evil offspring. Although I have a quibble with his reading of the case,1 his point about the need for legal remedy is sound.

The panel ran over time. The audience was large; about 100, I’d guess, many of them young, bright activists.  They didn’t seem to want it to end, and that’s not surprising. There was a great deal to be said. Afterwards, I had a chance to speak to Singer, Padilla, and moderator Joelle Ruby Ryan, a warm and gentle giantess who ran an open and generous forum. Singer and Padilla are very interested in the untold story of transgender activism (newsflash: Stonewall wasn’t the first time members of the GLBT community rose up in protest). Padilla showed me some of her materials, and I’m sure I’m only one of many encouraging her to turn these into a book, or at least a long article. In the meantime, I’m hoping to do a follow-up blog on this issue of the history of transgender resistance — with help from Singer and Padilla,  who are enthused, knowledgeable, and in possession of all kinds stuff that’s by turns really cool and very moving.

I couldn’t have asked for a better blogging assignment to get me excited about the rest of the week.

———

Before this amazing panel, Equality Forum kicked off, as always, with the VIP Party in City Hall. This year’s event was staged, aptly, in the grand Conversation Hall. Probably a couple of hundred folks were VI enough to have garnered invitations, and most of the people I spoke to were impressive leaders of various organizations, or were directly involved with Equality Forum.

Dwight Evans, the Pa. State Representative who received a distinguished service award for his legislative efforts on behalf of the LGBT community, is a gregarious man with an expansive view of equality and opportunity. His charter school has been around for more than a decade, and he’s been a consistent advocate for GLBT rights in Harrisburg, where  the political winds don’t reliably blow in a favorable direction. I enjoyed a brief conversation with him, in which he showed himself to be a member of a rare and beautiful species: the pol without affect. His view of equality? “You don’t have to convince me.” His acceptance speech spoke to the need to “get past typical barriers and walls,” and concluded, quite sensibly (yet somehow movingly) with: “Thanks. And let’s move on.”

Also effective was Mayor Michael Nutter, the poor guy stuck with a job that no reasonable person would have taken had he known of the economic collapse to visit the city within nanoseconds of his inauguration. On radio, he comes across as bright and logical, but a bit stiff. In person, he’s witty and relaxed – but just as compelling. The short: He’s on our side. And Equality Forum founder and Executive Director Malcolm Lazin, to whom I must give props for giving me this “forum” to blog about the event, closed the proceedings with an inspiring call to take part in this Sunday’s Equality Rally and March, linking these events to a courageous march here in Philadelphia forty years ago led by gay pioneers Frank Kameny and the late Barbara Gittings. Very effective — now let’s hope the event is the success it needs to be.

Well, it’s late and I’m almost blogged out. But here’s a light moment from the Kickoff Party. Having just speared an unwilling olive after a too-epic struggle at the hors d’oeuvres table, I was standing near it (catching my breath), when a jovial fellow spun around and bumped into me. He was so apologetic that I didn’t have the heart to tell him he’d sent my only olive spinning out of my hand and through the air. I was reminded of the Seinfeld “Junior Mint” episode, and only hoped that the escaped refreshment hadn’t had a similarly calamitous result. Alas, I believe (but do not know for sure) that it landed in a scoop of perfect, high hair — unknown to the “victim.” If so, I’d like it back. No questions will be asked.

  1. He says the court declared that transgendered people couldn’t marry anyone — I think that reading is possible but not compelled. The case is In re Estate of Gardiner,42 P.3d 120 (Kan. 2002).

It Won’t Be Pretty

April 26th, 2009 No comments

At least on the weekdays, the Equality Forum events begin in the evening and run until almost 10 pm. I expect to get home no earlier than 10:30 most evenings, and likely not until 11 pm or so. My plan will be to post that same night (or early, early the next morning — as in “wee hours”), while the events are still fresh. We’ll see how well I do.

I’m hopeful that I can convey a useful perspective on what I’m seeing and hearing. Given the speed required and my effort to be prolific, don’t expect a writing style worthy of Flaubert. Or even of Dan Brown.

Categories: blogs, Equality Forum Tags: , ,