Knapsacking Up Introduction

I remember the exact moment I became a feminist.

I was a junior in college, taking Human Relations a year early because the terrible professor who usually taught the course was on a sabbatical. The professor brought in several excellent speakers who told their story, and in doing so, shared with a bunch of White college kids what it was like to be Black or female or homosexual or Native-American or Asian-American in our society.

In preparation for one speaker, we were asked to read Peggy McIntosh’s “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Although the version we read for our Human Relations course dealt specifically with race, the connection with sex and gender was not difficult to make.

From that day(ish) forward, I have been a self-described feminist. As a high school educator and coach, I deal with high school students every day, teaching American History and American Government. Most of them think that feminists burn bras and seek to set up a matriarchy in America.

Me? I like bras. They’re fun to take off and keep boobs from getting droopy later in life. (Is that science or am I just making that up?) I really just want two things. First, I want American society to perceive women as worthy of the same basic respect as men. Second, I want women to receive the same opportunities as men.

See? That’s not so much, right?

Once upon a time, a friend of mine set up a feminist website and I was set to contribute. My plan was to provide a male perspective on the inherent advantages we have in America solely because we are men. I would have “unpacked” items in that knapsack through my experiences deep in the heart of BachmannLand, the most terrifying place on earth.

Unfortunately, life happened and the website collapsed after I worked ahead and finished several posts. So, over the next eight weekdays, I’ll be burning through my planned series “Knapsacking Up.”

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Street Smarts

I love going home and I hate going home. Beyond the long two and a half hour drive to a loving family lies political discord. Every. Single. Time. Whether it’s out on the porch on Easter, in the living room on Christmas, or in the garage after a round of golf. Every. Single. Time.

On one level, it’s awesome. I don’t have a ton of conservative friends and there’s a lot of value in discussing things with people who have different values and beliefs. I’ve learned to be reflective and the drive home gives me lots of time to chew on things and assess the things they said. This is an example of just such a thing.

On the other hand, it’s awful. Although I’m more moderate than most of my friends, we all operate the same way and have the same broad values. We are generally the same people.

That is not the case with my dad and my uncles. They’ve spent a lifetime doing. I’ve spent mine reading, listening, and reflecting. They’ve, on the whole, lived in rural areas their whole lives. I’ve lived on the farm, in the suburbs, and in the city and have traveled across the country and across the Atlantic. They are distrustful, at best, of science. I (over)zealously embrace it. They purposefully exaggerate while griping. I demand factual accuracy and precise word choice AT ALL TIMES.

This time, my uncle, then my dad, took shots at folks who come onto the job or into a situation with a know-it-all attitude despite not knowing it. Of course, they couldn’t help but phrase it in a way that lumped all college graduates into this category.

Everything I know is useless because it wasn’t learned at the School of Hard Knocks, but no offense? Thanks…

Have I mentioned that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday? There’s football on Thanksgiving.

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Can we stop using the phrase “street smarts?” It, probably along with “common sense,” needs to die.

Let’s use an example my uncle used. His wife, a very intelligent woman who does auditing at universities across the country, expressed surprise that the loon, Minnesota’s state bird, could fly.

Silly, right? Everyone, or at least most people, could sort of figure out that a loon can fly.

On the other hand, Continue reading

We Are Special

In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker is an everyday space kid dealing with everyday space kid problems. Then, he finds out that he is special and that only he can save the universe.

In The Matrix Trilogy, “Mr. Anderson” is just some computer programmer/hacker until he learns he is the “One.” Whoa…

In The Lord of the Rings universe, average hobbit after average hobbit is drawn out of their comfortable hobbit holes to go on some great adventure because, for whatever reason, it has to be them. No one else can be trusted.

The examples go on…

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The Mass Effect series is, in many ways, similarly the story of a reluctant hero. Or more specifically, a reluctant hero race.

Humanity finally takes to the stars, derps its way into a war it cannot win against an all-around superior foe. Humanity recovers from this early setback and seeks to assume its “rightful” place in the galaxy. If you aren’t sure what that place is, it’s the top, of course.

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We are special.

This idea is drilled into our heads by our parents from the day we are born. Then, our teachers and schools pick up the mantle from our very first folded-paper snowflake.

Of course, we’re not special. At least not in the way we think. Continue reading

Mass Effections: I Am Not a Hero

At their core, video games are mechanisms for people to play out their hero fantasies. Most of us don’t get the chance to be the sort of hero we grow up revering. The guy who charges a machine gun nest to relieve pinned down comrades. The gal who rushes into a burning house to save someone else.

We all want to be heroes and video games make for a painless way to “prove” that we are.

Some games give you classic heroes. Their honor, courage, and nobility are all that’s required to stack up a pile of corpses large enough to save the day.

Other games give you anti-heroes. They save the day by amassing an equally impressive pile of bodies, but through the POWER OF SARCASM.

Others still feature reluctant heroes. They require a catalyst, usually an attack on something or someone they love, before they save the day via a pile of corpses.

Also common are unlikely heroes. They are just an average Joe or Josephine; a common person who must create an uncommonly large pile of corpses to save the day.

At the root of it all is the belief that we would be heroes if only given the opportunity.

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Mass Effect lets you be your own sort of hero. You can be the product of a spacefaring family, a poor Earth orphan, or a survivor of a colony wiped out by slavers. Although I am of Earth, the colonial option sounded closer to my agrarian roots.

You also get to choose your backstory. You can be the sole survivor of a mission gone wrong, a war hero who single-handedly repelled an invasion, or a renegade who ruthlessly completes the mission regardless of cost.

Without a personal connection to any of them, I picked the war hero.

We all want to be heroes.

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I don’t have the physical courage necessary to be a hero.

That doesn’t make me a total coward. I probably have intellectual courage. I don’t settle for easy answers and I’m not afraid to question my beliefs, even those most cherished. That takes courage.

I have moral courage most of the time. I usually can be counted on to do the right thing. However, I’m also practical enough to choose my battles. Heroes don’t fight the good fight only when it’s easy or convenient. I could stand to improve in that regard.

I do not possess physical courage. Brave a storm of gunfire? Continue reading

Veneration & The Military

One of the biggest surprises of my trip to London last year was the integration of British military history into the rest of English society. Statues and monuments are everywhere in London. It seemed like every park, abbey, church, and public square somehow reflected upon Britain’s military past. Leaders like Slim, Churchill, Montgomery have several statues and were seemingly buried in multiple places.

If you want to experience military history in the United States, you go to Washington D.C. or one of the many battlefields scattered across the nation. London’s version of Arlington National Cemetery seemed to be every church, including St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.

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Interestingly, statues in Edinburgh praise literary and scientific accomplishments. Weird…

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London also highlighted some interesting gender distinctions in military remembrance. Continue reading