June 27, 2002

Did everyone hear about this: Judges Ban Pledge of Allegiance From Schools, Citing 'Under God'?

"In a decision that drew protest across the political spectrum, a three-member panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the pledge, as it exists in federal law, could not be recited in schools because it violates the First Amendment's prohibition against a state endorsement of religion.

In addition, the ruling, which will certainly be appealed, turned on the phrase "under God" which Congress added in 1954 to one of the most hallowed patriotic traditions in the nation.

From a constitutional standpoint, those two words, Judge Alfred T. Goodwin wrote in the 2-to-1 decision, were just as objectionable as a statement that "we are a nation `under Jesus,' a nation `under Vishnu,' a nation `under Zeus,' or a nation `under no god,' because none of these professions can be neutral with respect to religion." "

The story goes on to say:

"The National Conference of State Legislatures says half the states require the pledge as part of the school day and half a dozen more recommend it. In the burst of patriotism that followed the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks, bills to make the oath mandatory have been introduced in Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi and Missouri... Writing for the majority, Judge Goodwin said the school district is "conveying a message of state endorsement of a religious belief when it requires public school teachers to recite, and lead the recitation of the current form of the pledge.""

Here's my opinion, and this in one person's opinion. There have been multiple rulings about the separation of church and state, particularly in the schools. The rulings enforce the separation. So why should kids be forced to say "under God" despite their religious opinions?

It seems like a very straightforward, clear issue to me. If you were required to stand up every day before work and say a pledge that ended with "one office, under Satan" or one office, under Madonna", you'd either feel like a hypocrite or refuse to do it (except for you devil and Madonna worshippers out there). The thing is, you probably could refuse to do it, because you're an adult.

When I stood up in class and recited the Pledge, I felt like a hypocrite. Not only because I wasn't sure I believed in God, but also because I wasn't sure I believed in America. It was during the Reagan years when I flirted with the ideas of communism and nihilism. I stood up and recited the words regardless, because if I hadn't I would have been considered more of a geek and outcast than I already was. A few years later, when the Pledge was no longer required, I understood more clearly that it was hypocrisy for the schools to be making me do it, as well as my own for doing it.

Yahoo's story about the case says:
"...the appeals panel went a step further, ruling the Constitution protects students who don't believe in a monotheistic deity from even having to make an "unacceptable choice between participating and protesting."

It's hard to protest when you're a kid and the most important thing to you is trying to fit in. It's hard for vegetarian kids to turn down a hamburger when everyone else is eating them. It's hard for a teenager to proclaim herself a Democrat amongst Republicans. It's hard for kids to say no to drugs when the kids around them are smoking joints.

When a kid has an ideal ("I don't believe in killing animals for food" "I believe that Reagan is trying to destroy the welfare system") or when the parents are trying to encourage the kid to go along with their own ideals ("Drugs are bad for you" "Vishnu is the one true deity") we don't need the schools confusing matters.

I suppose you could let it all come back to the idea that the children are supposed to get their morals and fundamental learning from the home, not the school. People are always flying into furies when the schools suggest corporal punishment ("No one hits my kid but me!") but they think nothing of allowing the schools to push the words "under God" out of kids' mouths. I have no problem if Mom or Dad have Junior reciting the Pledge before he leaves for school. But I don't see that Junior has to express his patriotism and religion in front of a blackboard and desks full of unforgiving peers.

But back to my main point. I have my own reasons for feeling the 9th Circuit's ruling was correct. But the reason it was correct is beyond my feelings. It's a fact. The Constitution created a separation of church and state. Public schools are state. God is church. It couldn't be any clearer to me. And the ruling only blocks the words "under God", it doesn't say the pledge itself, with that omission, can't be recited.

The 9th Circuit's ruling is vastly unpopular and very well might be overturned. But for a few months here I get to feel like I won one. It wasn't my fight, but it could have been. And I respect the man who made it his.

Posted by Alyssa at 07:53 AM
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June 25, 2002

So my site has changed a little and I thought I'd try to take advantage of that. I now have a comments section so I'd like to ask for some advice.

I'm planning a trip to Spain and Portugal in September. I last went to Europe in 1995 after finishing college. I travelled for more than 2 months and it was a fantastic experience. I travelled with a friend for 3 weeks then on my own for the rest of the time, about 6 weeks. Travelling with my friend was great. Travelling by myself was enlightening.

I was never good at making friends, being very shy. Suddenly I was on trains with strangers, in cities with strangers, in youth hostels with strangers. It was be bold or be bored sometimes. I chose to be bold. I talked to people and found great playbuddies. I had some romantic adventures. I would walk up to people on the street who looked interesting and ask them where they were from. I shocked myself.

Travelling alone also proves something to yourself. It proved to me that I could do anything I wanted to do. I made up my mind on a moment's notice to go to another city. I went out to bars alone if I felt like it (something I would probably never do in San Francisco, afraid of ending up drinking alone). I mangled languages in every country I went to but I still managed to communicate everything I needed to. I walked for hours on end across every city I went to. I spent an entire week in my bathing suit in Greece and felt beautiful (I'm not a bathing suit kind of girl). I became the very best version of myself.

I'll be travelling alone again this time. It didn't even occur to me to ask anyone else to come. This trip is about me, and finding that best version of myself again. Plus, goodness knows I need a vacation like a nomad needs water. It's been years since I had a real one. And I'm going to be gone 4 whole weeks. Let me say that again. 4 whole weeks.

I went to Spain on the last trip--Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Grenada, Sevilla. I also went to Portugal, but just to Lisbon. I've been working on my Spanish and I'm getting better. I'm getting some Portugal tips from a friend of a friend. So what I need from you all is some advice.

Is there anywhere you went in Spain or Portugal that you thought was fantastic and not to be missed? Do you have any recommendations for a young-ish woman looking for fun nightlife type things to do there? Is there a guidebook you thought was particularly useful? (I could use a lot of advice on this one, I used a Berkeley Guide last time but I can't seem to find one now.) Is there a Spanish language book/tape/software that helped you learn Spanish? Any tricks you discovered while travelling that might help me? Any packing tips? Anything useful you can offer will be much appreciated.

Just click on Comments below. Thanks.

I'm participating in the 24 Hour Blogathon for charity on July 27/28th. I'll be updating my site every 30 minutes for 24 hours. I'll be loopy from sleep deprivation and heavily caffeinated. But I hope to make a lot of money for Global Fund for Women which supports women's human rights organizations around the world. Please sponsor me by clicking the Blogathon button below my pic on the left and filling out the form. Thanks.

Posted by Alyssa at 10:30 PM
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June 18, 2002

I don't normally believe in romantic fantasies. Oh, there was a time when I did. There was a very long time. Let's call it birth to 30. I was one of those closet romantics.

My mom used to call me prickly pear because I was the opposite of warm and fuzzy. I wasn't affectionate, didn't show emotions, and generally stayed in my room a lot. But when I was in my room, I was watching romantic movies, reading the occasional romance novel in between the science fiction I allowed the world to see me read (did I mention I was a nerd?), and dreaming of my future husband. I had a million crushes. I thought I'd get married at 19. I shudder now at the very thought.

I don't blame the disappearance of these notions on my subsequent relationships. I've made notoriously bad choices when it comes to men, I admit. It was probably my schoolgirl ideas more than anything that made me make those choices. It wasn't the men who failed me. It was my romantic illusions. Who could possibly measure up to Clark Gable, Nicolas Cage, Cary Grant, Harrison Ford, Kevin Costner, Jimmy Stewart...? Not to mention my unhealthy obsession with Shakespeare. I mean, when Romeo's my ideal, what can Joe Everyman do to impress me?

Somewhere in the middle of my last relationship, the longest lasting one--weighing in at 5 years, I think the romantic illusions went poof like the bunny in the hat.

I've been single for almost two years, it'll be two in September I think. And I have yet to meet a man who interests me enough to date. Either the quality of men is declining or my willingness to take a romantic leap is disintegrating. I think it's the latter.

I was reading a column the other day about love at first sight by Martha Brockenbrough. I love her. Anyway, she was answering a questioner who'd asked if it exists, love at first sight. Apparently 66 percent of people in a British study do believe. Alone, that statistic is fascinating. In this modern world, where divorce is manic, where only the rarest of couples has a traditional courtship, where people have "starter marriages", 2/3 of people believe in the most mythical form of love.

She goes on to say that love at first sight, in her opinion and in the opinion of most experts, does not exist. Rather the sensation is infatuation at first sight, or lust. It's all about physical markers, she says, a certain look or build, hair or eye color. Or we're attracted to those who look like us. Or it's pheromones. Or seratonin.

Ultimately she says there's no such thing as love at first sight because:

"You can tell you're feeling love, Schwartz says, when you communicate well, understand the world together, tolerate each other's flaws, and create a unique connection--something you just don't feel with anyone else.
This isn't something that can happen in five minutes..."

The question is, does love at first sight really not exist, is it just a romantic fantasy, hormones gone nuts? Or have the people who claim it isn't real just never experienced it? I've always said I'll believe in God if he/she will show up and say hi. Maybe these people need to feel love at first sight to have a little faith in it.

My romantic ideals have left the building, but here's a shocker: I believe in love at first sight. Even now. Even when I look at my friends' relationships and marriages with a sense of bewilderment. Even when I stretch happily in a bed I have all to myself. Even when I suspect I turn a blind eye to romantic possibilities as I continue on alone. I still believe. Frankly, I believe in love at first sight more strongly than I believe in love that lasts forever. Forever is a long time.

I believe in love at first sight because I felt it myself. I was 25 and travelling in Europe (I wouldn't be surprised if most cases of LAFS happened while travelling in Europe). I was walking with a friend in Lisbon past the Tower of Belem and I saw the most beautiful man I'd ever seen. I couldn't stop looking at him. He didn't appear to be staring at me but as we walked my head turned further and further around until I had to stop walking to keep looking. I felt it. I felt it down to my toes.

My friend helped me have the courage to meet him. He was a German playwright. We went out one night and talked for 6 hours. Then he had to finish a play he was working on and I had to start the trip back to London for my flight home. I never doubted for a moment that I loved him. I still do, really. I never felt that strongly, knew so absolutely that I was in love, as I did then. The only time I think of marriage without being horrified or petrified is when I think of him. I would have married him in a second. I could be posting this from Germany right now. Of course, it might have ended up a starter marriage...

Regardless, it wasn't his physical markers that drew me in. Yes, he was beautiful. But he was blond, tall, and solid like an Iowa farmboy. My first boyfriend was black and thin and just a little taller than me. Another was older with a brown ponytail and a mustache. Another was built like a little Sicilian bulldog. I could go on, but I won't. Suffice to say, I have no "type". My taste is un-pin-downable. None of them looked like me. I can't say about the pheromones or seratonin, but I have my doubts.

I've been in love in relationships in which we didn't communicate well, we had different understandings of the world, we drove each other crazy with our flaws, and while we had a unique connection, I'm not convinced it was a good one. In fact, that describes most of my relationships.

I don't think you can break love down into practical issues. The practical aspects of love that Martha talks about might explain a healthy relationship or marriage. But they don't explain love. Even my newly unromantic self can see that clearly.

There really is no explaining love. Which I suppose is why I don't completely rule it out as a possibility. It's one of those things that sneaks up on you. You're walking along looking at a tower in a bay and bang, it hits you. You're emailing someone in Yahoo Personals and bang, it hits you. You're dancing in a club and bang, it hits you. It's like a car crash. You can be as defensive as possible, but you take your eyes off the road for one second...

I'm participating in the 24 Hour Blogathon for charity on July 27/28th. I'll be updating my site every 30 minutes for 24 hours. I'll be loopy from sleep deprivation and heavily caffeinated. But I hope to make a lot of money for Global Fund for Women which supports women's human rights organizations around the world. Please sponsor me by clicking the Blogathon button to the left and filling out the form. Thanks.

Posted by Alyssa at 11:20 PM
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June 09, 2002

I woke up this morning thinking in Jane Austen-era English. Itís not something that happens to me all the time. Iím not a total literature geek. Just a little one. But these last two weekends Iíve been having a Jane Austen film fest in my apartment and I guess itís starting to affect me.

Last weekend I watched 4 Jane Austens one after another, Sense and Sensability, Emma, Mansfield Park, and PersuasionÖthrowing in a little Shakespeare In Love for the hell of it. I seemed to stand up under the pressure, no mental damage.

Yesterday starting at around 8 I started watching the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. Itís 6 hours long. I watched it all and still moved on to An Ideal Husband before falling asleep on the couch. (Everyone deserves a Saturday night like this periodically.)

This morning I woke up and my thoughts were along these lines: I daresay I should awaken. Itís near eleven oíclock and time for tea. (Teaís really an afternoon meal, but I was still half-asleep.) The dayís near half gone. Alas, I have wasted much of my Sunday.

Yeah, I know, totally annoying. Luckily it had worn off by the time I had to speak to any actual people. They really should put warning labels on these video tapes. Repeated viewing may cause pretentiousness.

Iíve been easing myself out of the 1800ís all day. Before leaving for a late brunch I watched Circle of Friends which takes place in the 1950ís. After returning from brunch and a shopping excursion I watched Sliding Doors, which is present day but British.

Then I decided to push myself all the way into modernity. Iím watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the original movie. Ok, so itís a little 80ís, but thereís nothing old-fashioned about it and itís anything but British (and has some very early appearances of Hilary Swank and Ben Affleck).

I feel like a member of the present again. I might say things like ďExcuse much, rude or anything?Ē or "What's your sitch?" tomorrow, but at least it wonít sound out of the ordinary. I do live in California after all.

Posted by Alyssa at 11:37 PM
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