Tag Archives: Wednesday Word of the Week

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

Wednesday Word of the Week, June 8

8 Jun

I did WHAT?

This week’s word is: HISTORY

  • the study of the events of the past
  • the whole of time before the present, and all things that happened in that time
  • an account of the events that happened during a particular period of the past

During the past week, former fractional Governor and failed Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin put her foot in her mouth once again. (Sadly the foot did not penetrate far enough to nudge her brain facsimile.)

In off-the-cuff remarks about Paul Revere, hero of the American Revolution, Palin totally misrepresented Revere’s actions. With at best a gross distortion and at worst a complete fabrication, she invented a mission for Revere in which he taunted the British with a message of braggadocio embroidered with the Colonists’ hypothetical, pre-Constitution (in fact, pre-Independence!) right to bear arms.

As has happened too many times in the past (thank you Katie Couric), the media have corrected Palin and pointed out her departure from established reality. Of course, the pundits of Teabagistan have rallied to her defense, also ignoring history. As reported on NPR, using Revere’s own words, Palin clearly misrepresented Revere’s primary mission. Some right-wing commentators have used a single incident (actions Revere took when briefly captured during one mission) to support Palin. This flimsy and inaccurate view is nicely analyzed on another blog. In the final analysis, can Palin and her supporters claim that she has presented a moment of history? Let’s dissect that definition and find out.

Given that Palin can’t name a single major newspaper nor identify even a “favorite” American Founder, we can safely dismiss the concept of STUDY

the process of learning about a problem or subject using scientific methods

from her use of history.

Since the events Palin recounts did not actually HAPPEN

come into being; become reality

we can throw out the second definition as well.

If we choose to be generous, we can give Ms. Palin some credit for creating an ACCOUNT

a written or spoken report about something

since she did speak about something, however inaccurately. In most cases, however, I think we would prefer that our history be based on fact, not whim, sloppy interpretation, or political agenda.

Despite our best intentions to create an accurate record, the aphorism attributed to Alex Haley has merit:

History is written by the winners.

Just ask significant figures like Victoria Woodhull or Bayard Rustin, who were obscured in or nearly eliminated from the historical record because their contributions were problematic to the narrative a certain population wanted to create. Conversely, ask Presidents Grant or Wilson, both of whom have rosier histories than they merit based on very specific accomplishments that some narrators wish to emphasize.

Revere’s story is problematic because it is mostly known to us from Longfellow’s poem, which takes great artistic license with the history. Much of our childhood history comes from art like this or fables like Washington and the cherry tree or Betsy Ross and the flag. It is helpful to children to have simple stories to whet their appetite for history; we must not, however allow art, fables, agendas, or outright lies to be spun into the web of real history. When we become lazy about our understanding of the events that precede us, like Michele Bachmann repeatedly does, we either revel in dangerous ignorance or allow others to craft the narrative of our lives for us.

George Santayana famously said

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

which is often paraphrased with a  reference to the word history. This is very true. How much more perilous must it be, then, when we opt to remember a past that meets our needs and not the truth?

(All definitions courtesy of Macmillan Dictionary Online)

Wednesday Word of the Week, April 27

27 Apr

This week’s word is: HERITAGE

something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor – Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Growing up in New England, I’ve been surrounded by a rich sense of heritage all my life. I have not truly taken the time to think about what that means for me or how it my differ for people who live in other parts of the country. Over the past week, I have spent a great number of hours with my Granddad, my mother’s father. I currently live with Granddad and Mom and we exist near one another every day; last week however, Mom was out of town and I made a point of asking Granddad questions and learning more about this man who has always been a part of my life.

Some day I may try to make sense of our conversations as a longer essay or oral history. What struck me and inspired this post, however, is how easy it is to make assumptions about one’s heritage and how easy it is to verify – or, perhaps more importantly, refute – those assumptions.

The 21st Century American Conservative movement presents itself as respectful of our national heritage. The very co-opting of the phrase “Tea Party” indicates a desire to connect with the perceived values of the Founding Fathers, whomever we might identify as that somewhat nebulous group. Simply assuming that what we are doing is what Benjamin Franklin might have done, however is a very poor method of governance and policy setting.

Moreover, the Tea Party tends to over-simplify and misrepresent certain aspects of the early days of our nation. For example, the Boston Tea Party was not about the evils of taxation; it was about unfair taxation imposed on people with no input or control. Our current fiscal situation may arise from voter apathy but it is not the result of a system over which we have no control. Conservatives also frequently point to the “traditional values” of the founders of our nation, conflating heritage with TRADITION

a very old custom, belief, or story; a specific practice of long standing – Macmillan Dictionary Online

When I hear the Tea Party speak, I have an uneasy sense that they hearken back to days that may not have even existed, and do so out of a sense of tradition. It is certainly not true, however, that a practice is valid simply because it is old or standardized. If this were so, women would be property, slavery would be permitted, education would be classist, and voting would be tied to properly. (Strange, this does sound like the Tea Party agenda, doesn’t it?)

Conservatives tend to practice a sort of selective tradition, such as selecting certain biblical passages to emphasize (especially around sexuality) and ignoring others (like the pesky food rules). Tea Party members will point to the use of the word “God” in documents from the founding of the country as evidence of the Christian intent of the country; they make no effort to understand either the religious diversity (and disagreement) of the time or the traditional use of that language, often without specific meaning.

Granddad is fairly conservative. He is an 86-year-old, fourth-generation Vermont farmer who has always lived in a small town and focused on local issues and traditions. When we were talking about his views of the world, however, I was impressed by his insight, humility, and sense of HISTORY

the whole of time before the present, and all things that happened in that time – Macmillan Dictionary Online

History is valuable; we can learn from it and benefit from the experiences of those who have lived through more of it. But it is behind us and we must look forward. Something Granddad said really struck me and inspired this post:

“I understand the ways things have always been done and I appreciate those ways. It wouldn’t do me a lick of good, though, just to keep doing things that way because my granddad did. Times change, and much of it is to the good. Keeping with old ways just because they’re old is foolishness. Worse than that, if you don’t learn from your forbearers, you tarnish your history with a sorry lack of respect.”

RESPECT

a feeling that something is important and deserves serious attention – Macmillan Dictionary Online

That’s what heritage, tradition, and history should boil down to. A sense of pride in what has gone well, a respect for things that work well and make sense, and a willingness to learn and grow from the mistakes of others. Blind adherence to the way things “always have been” is not a sense of heritage, it is

an irrational belief arising from ignorance or fear – Macmillan Dictionary Online

SUPERSTITION.

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