Self Censorship

On October 1, I changed the theme of my blog for the first time in three years, and asked you guys if there was anything you wanted to see me write about. ShoutAbyss  posed this question to me:

 How did you decide you are an atheist? Do you out your atheist beliefs or keep them in the closet?

I realized, as I read the comment, that when it comes to my blog, I really do keep a lot of things in the closet. I censor myself. I rarely, if ever, use the swear-words that I use both in everyday life and in much of my fiction. I try not to touch tricky subjects like politics or religion. I don’t share my deepest darkest secrets – or, if I do, I try to mask them in story form or in poetic prose, and I attempt to shield my exact meaning. This last makes sense – there are people who read this blog who actually know me, and sometimes I want to discuss things that they might not know about me and that I’d rather not share with them. This is natural. Anyway, writing about my personal life through other kinds of media is an interesting challenge and I enjoy it.

But why do I censor my politics, my religious opinions, my coarse and often vulgar language?

I think I’m scared. Scared to alienate readers. Scared to have people challenge me on my ideas. To be fair, when it comes to politics, while I have solid ideas and opinions of my own, I don’t feel comfortable expressing them when I’m ignorant of many of the facts. The title of this blog has always, whether you knew it or not, alluded to my weird reluctance to read the news and educate myself properly on what’s going on in the world. I’m less ignorant now, and I listen to NPR and read the New Yorker, and I feel more informed, but I still feel the childish ignorance rise up in me when I’m called to defend my opinions.

When it comes to religion… well, that’s a very sensitive subject to a lot of people, and it’s one that I feel extremely strongly about. I also know that I have various readers who have their own strong opinions, and yes, I don’t wish to alienate them or push them away from me. I’m probably not giving them enough credit – they’re all open, intelligent people, and I’m fairly certain that they wouldn’t forsake me because my opinion differs than there own. And yet – and yet I still haven’t written about how I feel on this subject (unless, of course, I have and I’m not remembering it. Which, in three years of blogging, is entirely possible.)

Finally, when it comes to the profanities, I think that I don’t use them because a) yes, they make many people uncomfortable, but also because b) there are stronger, more interesting words for me to use, and it’s a fun challenge to write differently than I speak.

So am I censoring myself? No doubt. Despite all my lovely rationalizations above, I’m still aware that it probably all stems out of fear of being rejected. Approval matters to me a lot more than I feel comfortable admitting. But maybe, in censoring myself, I’m managing to explore some other sides of me, my mind, and my writing.

How about you? Do you feel like you censor yourself on your blogs?

…Late on a Friday Night

Things I notice late at night:

-The way sound is magnified because of the quiet.

-The way wind seems to be so much freer. Maybe the lack of many people being in the way makes it blow through my hair in a nicer way.

-The way speaking about politics becomes so engrossing, so enfuriating and so intense. Even though I usually speak to people who agree with me, and so we’re preaching to the choir, the night-time makes me want to DO something about it. Maybe it’s the lack of real life that seems to happen at night.

-The way real life doesn’t exist. Late at night, things feel different. There’s a certain point beyond being tired, and in those moments I feel bigger, better, open to possibilities, uninhibited. Magic and fairy-tales always seem more real at night.

-And finally, the way I know that if I could, I’d live the lifestyle of a night owl, because of all of the above.

A Taste of Conference Work

Although I’m taking time off from school – or maybe because of it – I still think a lot about my academic work. Over the last few months, I did more research and reading about obscure and interesting subjects than I dreamed was possible for such a short span of time. I found it immensely satisfying, challenging, and frankly fascinating to read things that I would never have picked up on my own without the structure of research and coursework to guide me.

Now, at Sarah Lawrence, the most important and unique part of the system is conference work. This is basically independent study and research that is done for each course, with the professor supervising the process and helping out when and if needed. I thought I’d give a small taste of what this is like. Below is the handout I gave to our class, as instructed by the professor, towards the end of my writing process of what turned out to be almost twenty pages of essay, end-notes and bibliography:

Elizabeth Barton, The Holy Maid of Kent, and Anne Askew, Protestant Martyr

Political and Religious Importance in Early Reformation England

  • Elizabeth Barton – In 1525, Barton began to have visions and make prophecies. She soon joined a nunnery after an impressive public healing in a chapel in Kent, and became renowned in England for her prophecies. She prophesied directly against King Henry VIII, predicting his downfall should he marry Anne Boleyn. Executed on April 20, 1534, for treason.
      • What was her political role and what goals did she set out to meet? What political role did she play in her arrest and death? Was she autonomous in her actions or merely being influenced and used by her mentors?
    • Quote: A warning from Thomas More: “Good Madam… I shall beseech you to take my good mind in good worth… many folk desire to speak with you… But some hap to be curious and inquisitive of things that little pertain unto their parts; and some might peradventure hap to talk of such things as might peradventure after turn to much harm…”
  • Anne Askew – In 1545, after being kicked out of her home by her Catholic husband, Askew traveled to London where she was soon apprehended and examined for her Protestant beliefs. She recorded her examinations – the first in 1545 and the second in 1546 – and her manuscripts were published after her execution on July 16, 1546, by John Bale, a Protestant activist.
      • Were her words her own, or were they edited? What was her political and religious significance, before and after her execution? Was she used by others or working as her own free agent?
    • Quote: John Bale praises Askew: “Soch a won was she… whose harte the lorde opened by the godlye preachynge of Paule… “

2. Amanda [2]

Amanda walked towards the register, picking up a bag of miniature chocolate-chip cookies, an orange juice and a rather unappetizing ham-and-cheese sandwich along the way. She smiled at the woman who rang up her things, gave her student ID to be swiped and then carried her dinner over to the furthest table she could find that was still more or less clean. She sat down, tipping her things onto the table, and pulled out her cell-phone. She had found Jake’s number in her phone book and was almost about to hit the “SEND” button to dial it when she stopped herself. She’d promised herself that she wouldn’t bug Jake too much this summer. He had told her that he was doing much better and needed her to give him some space. It was hard, though, after spending all of her freshman year calling him two or three times a day to see if he was doing okay – and he hadn’t been, at first. He had forgotten to buy groceries and had gone hungry, not knowing what to do. He’d gotten so engrossed in his latest novel that he’d forgotten to go to job interviews. He’d been as helpless as a puppy, and Amanda’s heart ached for him.

But he’s doing better now, she reminded herself sternly. Ever since he’d gotten the job waiting tables at Lila’s, a twenty-four hours diner that was in downtown Hartscreek, he’d been able to pay his bills, he’d been buying groceries and had learned to make himself mac-and-cheese and some other basic dishes, and he was even doing his own laundry. Amanda suspected that the change had to do with a certain Bo, another waiter at Lila’s, who’d been slowly creeping into her conversations with Jake. That was a good thing, though. Maybe he’ll be able to get over what Mom and Dad did to him after all.

Putting her phone firmly back in her bag, Amanda pulled out a well-worn copy of Pride and Prejudice instead. She had a biography of Elizabeth I in her bag, as well as a stuffy book about politics – she was doing some reading in order to decide which courses to sign up for in the coming semester. But it was still vacation time, damn it, and she was going to read a comfort book and not study for a while.

Security, and Lack Thereof

As some of you may know, I’m flying to the United States in a week. I’m extremely eager for this trip, which, of course, makes the time move all the slower. I’ve been obsessing, planning and re-planning, mentally packing and making lists for days now – and with all that came the comparisons between here and NOT here. In musing about the differences between a country fraught with chaos, namely Israel, and a country fraught with a different sort of chaos, namely the US, I stumbled upon a very small but fundamental difference between the places. It’s something I almost never remember until I’m actually in the US.

When most of you walk into a grocery store, a theater, a mall, a cafe or any other public place – you just walk in. You open the door, and walk in. Here, it is not so. Here, there will be a guard. There is always a guard. There will forever be a guard. No matter what public place you enter here, you will have to surrender your bag, purse or back-pack to a guard’s cursory glance, their hands feeling inside it or weighing it to see how heavy it is. In places like the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, you’ll have to go so far as to pass your things through a metal detector. At the entrance to most malls, you yourself have to go through a metal-detector.

After being used to handing over your belongings everywhere you go, I’m always struck by how odd it feels in the US, or anywhere else for that matter, where you don’t have to do that. You can just… walk in. Incredible.

Happy-Happy-Joy-Joy

I’m not a great patriot, not when it comes to Israel, nor when it comes to the US. However, it’s an incredible feeling, knowing that when I go to college I’ll be able to actually support my government and take an acitve interest in its doings, instead of cringing whenever I hear the President’s voice- as I’ve been doing for the past eight years.

Eight is definitely enough. The United States do need change. And I am thrilled that Barack Obama is now in a position to help achieve such change. He is such an inspiring man, full of charisma and, despite his being a politician, what seems to be a genuine belief that he can make things better. Who knows? Maybe in eight years, instead of invading another country, the United States will have public health care! Maybe even gay-marriage rights. Perhaps even tax-cuts going to the right places and not to humongous corporations and people who really don’t need their money.

Let me just vent some emotion for a moment: THANK *INSERT-WHATEVER-YOU-BELIEVE-IN-HERE* THAT PALIN WON’T BE ANYWHERE NEAR THE WHITE HOUSE.

Although I will forever maintain that the US has never and will never see a president as good as Jed Bartlet, I think Obama might be really really close behind. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, LOOK IT UP. *stupidgiggle*

Bomb Country

Sirens pierce the air with their harsh sounds, sounding their half-melodic noise in the distance. First siren. Second, third. Mostly we ignore sirens, we just hear them and think, maybe for a split second, that something happened somewhere. Then we forget about it and get on with our lives. So it is most places, I believe. Sirens are so much a part of the background that we really don’t notice them much.

In Israel, it is often different. Sure, we ignore the first sound of those wailing tones. But when another and another join the first’s voice, we start to wonder. What has happened? Was there a bomb? Was there an attack somewhere? How many are dead this time? What political tangles will imerge now and how will the papers make it racist this time?

The Intifada has been over for quite a few years now, but still, we cannot forget the times when we would look at the front cover of the newspaper and count how many died last night and how many were wounded. All those deaths, for a squabble over some silly land. Israel, Holy Land indeed.

What do you write about when you have nothing to write about?

Well, you could write about the weather. Slightly cloudy, with a cool western breeze and a slight chill coming up as evening falls. Blah, blah.

You could write about your physical and mental state. Ouch, my head hurts. Oh dear, what a strange day. Bitch, bitch, moan, moan.

You could write about something random. Gosh, isn’t Avenue Q just an amazing musical? So funny, so daring, so damnably catchy! It’s really something that you can listen to over and over, and seeing it in the theater is even more incredible. Gush, gush, gush.

You could write about politics. GOD, Sarah Palin is stupid. I mean, she really thinks she’s able to be the vice president of a whole country? She thinks that women shouldn’t have a choice about abortions, and yet states that her daughter made the CHOICE to keep her baby! Rant, rant, rave, rave.

You can write about anything. Just as long as you still write.

Political Drinking

There is clearly something wrong when at a dinner table three out of the seven adults are drunk and the four youngsters are sober. I don’t want to sound pretentious but sometimes it truly seems as if young people could be better at governing, if only because we’d all be willing to compermise much faster so we could go play GTA4.

Dinner last night at Sir B. F.’s family was interesting obviously. A loud political argument took up most of the time, in which it was said that being in the Israeli army is like being a rapist; a grown women started crying out of frustration; much happiness was had over a line of paper towel bits and three bottles of wine were left standing empty on the table by the end.

Seriously, the only normal thing about dinner was the yummy coffee-flavored dessert. Other than that, the evening was completely bananas. And bats. And generally crazy.

“Women, Media and Conflict: A Gendered View of the Media Coverage of the Lebanon War”

This was the title of the lecture and panel I attended tonight with Sir. B. F. who volunteers with Keshev, the orginization hosting this event. I shall proceed with a review of the lecture. Perhaps not a relevant one, but a review nontheless.

First of all, it was hosted in a very small room, which was fitting for the small amount of people who attended. What was less fitting and more amusing was holding this sort of discussion in a room that held very large photographs of Bette Davis, Judy Garland and Ingrid Burgman. Because what did these three beauties of Hollywood do for femenism?

The man sitting in front of me was the husband of the woman who published the paper on the topic above. He was very intent on telling people off who weren’t listening or being quiet enough for his taste, but then he answered his cellphone twice and whispered fiercely into it, answered SMS messages on said cellphone, kept looking at his watch and at the door at the back of the room to see who was coming in and fidgeted unnecessarily and loudly. I can see you give quite a lot of respect to your opinionated wife, Mr. Fidget.

Lastly, a lot of what was said was interesting and relevant, but then a lot of it also wasn’t. The panel sadly turned into a bitchy cat-fight of women talking over each other and disagreeing loudly with each other over issues of how women were and are portrayed in the media. One of the women, the speaker I related to most, actually left the room after a woman from the audience criticized her for needing to leave early to take care of her children. I do not know how the fact that she failed to hire a babysitter for that night was relevant to the feminist discussion in any way, and yet in our lovely Israeli society, it seems things always go off track and get personal.

Thus concludes my mostly irrelevent report of the evening.