Tag Archives: Michael Hulshof-Schmidt

Gay Graduation Gratitude

17 Jun

MHSGraduation“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” (Walt Whitman)  In the last two years I am grateful that I have learned how to start being comfortable with my largeness and my contradictions — to sit in ambiguity and reflection.

I started this journey with great trepidation.  I was going back to get my MSW as a middle aged gay man who felt like a cross between Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda Morgenstern; I was scared to death no one would like me and feared it was too late to reinvent myself as a social worker.

I have learned a lot about dignity — how to help people retain their dignity and keeping mine, which means working with resistance and understanding how people need resistance to protect something.

My first experience after being accepted into the program was my visit to the IT Department.  You see, I did not know how to access my student account.  I explained this to the very nice young woman who was trying to help me in earnest.  She very politely explained that she did not have the answer to my query, but would make a phone call (she was standing no more than two feet from me).  She picked up the phone and said: “Yes, I have an elderly gentleman here from the MSW program and he can’t get into his account.”  Of course, I looked around to see who she was referring to, and it dawned on me that she was talking about me.  I had become “the elderly gentleman” just two days before the term had started.  Of course, I wanted to take the tennis ball off my walker and throw it at her, but decided just to walk away and appreciate that she was genuinely trying to help.

While I am exceedingly grateful for my professors and their time, dedication, and belief in me, I have to say that I am also in awe of and grateful for so many members of my cohort.  I listen to their individual and collective narratives full of passion and reflection and I have learned a great deal from these absolutely lovely people. It would be remiss of me to not acknowledge and thank these people for also embracing me and making me feel so welcomed and integrated into the community.

There have been many times during the last two years that I have submitted to my misanthropic woes and have often reflected: “Maybe I can’t do social work.  I don’t know that I do believe everyone is capable of a transformative experience — what if I’m not capable of a transformative experience?”  Then I hear one of my peers talk about standing in solidarity with me around marriage equality and I get verklepmt and I reflect: “How lucky am I? How on earth did I get here?”  I must confess, I don’t always feel worthy of being in such amazing company and I hope I have been able to add just a tiny significant gem to those I have touched and have touched me.

In the larger scheme, I know most of us are desperately wanting to change systems that are wholly unfair.  We are wanting to eradicate poverty, racism, homophobia, and ageism and underscore the power of interconnectedness and interdependency.  The energy and dedication to creating equity both locally and globally is palpable.  One can feel that amazing energy walking down the halls of the school of social work, or running into each other at the Occupy Movement, or posting activist events for us to attend.  When I look around me today, I feel so much optimism that maybe, just maybe we can actually do it!

I have been fortunate enough to have many “social work” heroes through my lifetime: Bayard Rustin, Nina Simone, Gloria Steinem, Howard Zinn, bell hooks, several of my professors and peers here at PSU, and of course Walt Whitman.   The common thread that ties all of these folk together is that they are all radical progressives — the gatekeepers of truth.  None of us can remain neutral.  If we do not work to interrupt oppression, we are as culpable as the oppressors. As radical progressives, we must not give into systems that collude with oppression, but rather we must stand in solidarity with all who are oppressed.  Collectively and individually, we are the Bayard Rustins, the bell hooks, and the Walt Whitmans.

Whitman also wrote, Failing to fetch me at first, keep encouraged. Missing me one place, search another. I stop somewhere waiting for you. I find at this point in my life, I am both searching and waiting and I could not be in finer company to do so.

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Happy Birthday to Me: Reflections on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

10 Dec

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights document, drafted by Eleanor Roosevelt.  Here is just a bit of it to treasure.

We stand today at the threshold of a great event both in the life of the United Nations and in the life of mankind. This declaration may well become the international Magna Carta for all men everywhere. We hope its proclamation by the General Assembly will be an event comparable to the proclamation in 1789 [the French Declaration of the Rights of Citizens], the adoption of the Bill of Rights by the people of the US, and the adoption of comparable declarations at different times in other countries.

I have felt very connected to both Eleanor Roosevelt and to the Universal Declaration of Human rights, maybe because it was on my birthday, or maybe just because I have spent most of my life working for basic human rights for all people.

My 45 years here have been both excruciatingly painful and at times filled with great delight.  The past six years have been some of the most difficult and some of the most rewarding.  I have a husband whom I love dearly and he loves me.  I am in school with such a tremendously wonderful group of people as my cohort works to get our MSWs to change systems and make the world a better place.  I believe Eleanor Roosevelt would be very proud.

As I write this post, I reflect that it is with a mixture of bitter acrimony and delight.  This past week, my husband and I have had to witness first hand the unethical abuse of power from certain white heterosexual men that I would easily qualify as sociopaths.  Rather than reflect on these white abusive men, I shall try to be optimistic and grateful for a loving husband and loving friends.

Call to action: My birthday wish is for all that read TSM to look to find ways to stop oppression on every level–to inject ourselves wherever and whenever we witness abuse of power, and oppression.  I shall continue to work to eradicate racism, misogyny, homophobia, and all oppression.  Let us hope my next birthday looks much better than this one.

My Solipsistic Year

12 Aug

The 3 Faces of the Solipsistic Husband

When my husband started this blog a year ago, I didn’t really know what to expect. We were both interested in exploring social networking and online communication and Michael had some observations about the world he wanted to share. We set up a simple blog (Thank you, WordPress!) and he got started. After a couple of weeks, I was so enjoying his posts that I got the urge to write something myself. The rest is history.

While it is very much Michael’s blog and vision, I have enjoyed the opportunities to contribute my thoughts. Over the past year we’ve spent some productive and enjoyable time bouncing ideas off each other and learning about the world around us. Contributing to The Solipsistic Me has noticeably improved the quality of my writing. I’ve also had the chance to apply the research skills I’ve developed as a librarian to different topics and more journalistic inquiries.

To celebrate the first Solipsistic Birthday, I’ve picked ten stories I wrote that I feel best represent my contribution to the blog.

The First Amendment, Hypocrisy, and Bias: Juan Williams as Case Study (Oct. 23): This fairly early post involved a great deal of research and several rewrites to get my words to match my thoughts. It arose from my steadfast defense of free speech and my frustration with people who fail to understand the subtleties of that concept.

Words Matter – or – Why I Won’t Be “Tolerated” (Nov. 18): I had written a handful of short posts about the hypocrisy of homophobia, but this post brought all my threads together in one cohesive piece. Tolerance is never enough when one is discussing common humanity.

Black Friday: Don’t Buy Your Sweater Off the Back of the Poor (Nov. 24): Every holiday season I become more disgusted at the reprehensible “special sales” that start at 4:00 a.m. (or earlier). What horrific consumerism and abuse of workers! Last Thanksgiving I had a platform to voice my dismay in this post.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service – Civics Made Practical (Jan. 17): It is important to remember the origins of our national holidays. MLK day isn’t just another day off, it’s a challenge to engage in improving our communities. I really enjoyed researching this piece and finding resources to help our readers volunteer.

A Blow to Censorship: The Comics Code Authority Fades Away (Jan. 22): This post merged my opposition to censorship with my life-long fondness for comic books. I’ve always found the CCA to be oppressive and arbitrary; it was delightful to celebrate its overdue end.

Learning How to Learn: An Homage to My Grandfather (Feb. 14): I used a lot of tissues writing this post. My grandfather was a powerful, positive influence on my life and it was a true pleasure to celebrate him.

The Most Challenged Books of 2010: Proof We Need Our Libraries (Apr. 15): Another anti-censorship post, this time from my perspective as a librarian. I also did a series for Banned Books Week in the fall. This post closed out National Library week and provided a nice overview of the ongoing challenges faced by our libraries.

Oregon Librarians Visit Congress (May 13): A slightly more solipsistic post, this recounted one of the highlights of my career so far, participating in my first National Library Legislative Day. As publicly-funded entities, libraries have complex dependencies on laws and funding from the local to the national level. I appreciated the opportunity to spell out some of the key issues and to celebrate my wonderful colleagues.

Books For Charity or Scam For Profit? (May 22): My personal favorite of my more journalistic stories, this post arose from some local concern about those big blue bins that offer to swallow up second-hand books for charity. I truly enjoyed digging up the truth and raising public awareness. This was also one of my most re-posted stories, which was very gratifying..

Women In Comics: Everything Old Is New Again (Aug. 1): This very recent post is a testament to patience. I had wanted to write about Gail Simone’s Women In Refrigerators project for months but never found the right thesis. One day the critical piece dropped into my lap and the story came together very quickly.

I hope you enjoyed this snapshot of this wonderful world of TSM (and proof of my propensity for subtitles). Regular contributor Lex Kahn has also celebrated the anniversary with his Wednesday Word of the Week and Michael will weigh in as the Editor-in-Chief. It’s been a fun, informative, and engaging year participating in the blog and watching it grow. I look forward to seeing what the next year brings. Big thanks to my wonderful husband for making me a part of his online world, too.

Wednesday Word of the Week: August 10

10 Aug

This week’s word is: ANNIVERSARY

the date on which an event occurred in some previous year (or the celebration of it)

This week is the first anniversary of the founding of The Solipsistic Me. This is one of the best of the small-press blogs and I am privileged to be a part of its community. The founder, editor, and heart of TSM is Michael Hulshof-Schmidt, a model of integrity, wisdom, and compassion. (He’s also a witty and insightful writer. What a package!)

Michael invited me to look back over the time I’ve been involved with the blog (first as a commenter, then as an occasional contributor, then as a columnist). I am more than happy to comply with this wish and to celebrate this wonderful bright spot on the Internet.

First, as requested by Michael, a look at what I consider to be my best contributions to TSM.

  1. FAMILY – In only my second Wednesday Word of the Week, I felt like I captured something important and stayed true to the heart of TSM with this post. My biological family has seen a lot of upheaval recently, and this post captures how I feel about all of the types of family and their interconnected value.
  2. HISTORY – This is my favorite of the “words matter, you fools” posts that I have written. Taking shots at Sarah Palin is a bit too easy, perhaps, but this post applies to so many who believe they can twist reality to fit their views and needs.
  3. KNOWLEDGE – One of the posts whose structure and content merged best together, this expresses my frustration with the over-abundance of noise and the lack of understanding in the digital age.

I have to include a sentimental favorite to wrap up this list. I had more fun creating the somewhat silly but information-packed ALPHABET post than any other. It doesn’t have the same kind of insight as some of my better work, perhaps, but I love it for the special wonder that it is.

Mine is but one small brush contributing to the grand canvas of The Solipsistic Me. I would like to fully celebrate this anniversary by looking at what I consider the top ten accomplishments of the past year.

BIGOT

a prejudiced person who is intolerant of any opinions differing from his own

HERO

a being of great strength and courage celebrated for bold exploits; someone who fights for a cause

The regular features of Bigot and Hero of the Week are insightful overviews of key issues and people, often things that are overlooked by the mainstream media. Even when the recipient is a well-known figure, TSM manages to provide a fresh perspective. A great example (and one of Michael’s finest pieces of writing) was the closing feature for LGBTQ History Month celebrating Albus Dumbledore.

COMMUNITY

a group of people who live together in the same place; the feeling that you belong to a group and that this is a good thing

This post used the delightful Britcom Jam and Jerusalem (a.k.a. Clatterford) to highlight the ways we are all connected and the importance of mutual support and care. It inspired me not only to watch the television program but to write a WWW about charity after the Japanese tsunami.

BOYCOTT

a group’s refusal to have commercial dealings with some organization in protest against its policies

TSM takes a strong stand on corporate responsibility. Michael has done wonderful work in highlighting companies whose business practices merit our discretion. I chose the series on Target because of the many ups and downs in the story.

OBSTINANCE

resolute adherence to your own ideas or desires

The Solipsistic Me also highlights the willful rejection of facts so often practiced by the right wing. Many stories contain elements of this important and disturbing trend. I am particularly fond of I Will Not Be Bothered With Facts or the Truth, a stern indictment of many facets of this behavior. A magnificent overview is the calling out of the Querulous Quartet and their ilk for inventing “facts.” I am particularly fond of this post because it refers to the posts that first attracted me to TSM.

INCLUSION

the belief that all people should feel that they are included in society, even if they lack some advantages

Michael’s dedication to ensuring rights for everyone is a singular constant on TSM. This thread of social justice includes calling out weaknesses and room for improvement wherever they occur. As a member of the LGBTQ community himself, he refuses to let his peers ignore their own opportunities to improve. I was particularly struck by his magnificent series on transgender issues and this piece (written by his husband, Robert) about the challenges faced by bisexuals.

INVOLVEMENT

the act of sharing in the activities of a group

Another facet of TSM is that the contributors don’t simply write about the world; they engage in it. Michael’s piece on his experience lobbying with Planned Parenthood is strong journalism, a clear call to action, and proof that he lives his ideals.

RESPONSIBILITY

a moral duty to behave in a particular way

When Michael learned that his alma mater, Oglethorpe University, was hosting a lecture by a notorious pseudo-intellectual conservative, he took action. He held the University responsible, spoke to the parties involved, and engaged the community through this powerful post on TSM. In the interests of journalistic integrity, he also had two correspondents write pieces about the lecture to ensure a complete picture. This dedication to the whole truth is an important hallmark of this blog.

GREED

excessive desire to acquire or possess more (especially more material wealth) than one needs or deserves

One of my all-time favorites is Robert’s searing indictment of corporate irresponsibility, the delightfully titled We the Corporations, In Order to Form a More Perfect Profit.

CONTINUTITY

the property of a continuous and connected period of time

Proving that good thing can indeed last, one of Michael’s finest posts was written just last week. The insightful Bombing of Hiroshima: Lessons We Have Yet to Learn asks important questions about where we are headed as a nation and provides clear examples of history offering us the opportunity to avoid that deadly path.

What wondrous works have come from this blog! Where will it lead us next? I am honored to be a small part of this community and am more than pleased to celebrate some of its many highlights.

Solipsistic? Ironically, perhaps, but not at heart. I say rather

involving or affecting everyone in the world

UNIVERSAL.

Happy birthday to The Solipsistic Me.

All definitions courtesy of Macmillan Dictionary Online

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