Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Off with her head covering!

I hereby provide a link to an article from the ABA Journal about a recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling that gives judges the power to require witnesses to remove head or facial coverings in their courtrooms. Sounds simple enough, you say? Well, as with many things, this controversy started because of an illogical and unfair request masquerading as "religious freedom."

The ACLU, with whom I have been known to agree more often than not but not this time, wanted the aforementioned Michigan Rule of Evidence giving judges that power to contain an exception for religious dress. Why? This all started when a Muslim woman brought a small claims lawsuit, refused to remove her religious veil so the judge could see her face, and then had her lawsuit dismissed.

I took Religion and the Constitution for about three weeks this last semester of law school before I had to drop it for life schedule reasons. Those were three of the most interesting weeks of my life. It helped that the professor is a genius who doesn't take shit from whiny law students (of which there are many), but the material itself is always fascinating. People asserting their so-called Constitutional rights to freedom of religion are some of the most logically flawed people on Earth -- and I have serious doubts as to whether any of them have read our Founding Fathers' document, let alone understood it.

The plain and simple fact is that often -- as is the case here -- your religious beliefs are irrelevant. I don't care if they are protected, marginalized, nearly universal, offensive, or what. They are just irrelevant. The judge needs to see your face, s/he makes a rule about attire in the courtroom, you BRING A LAWSUIT availing yourself of said courtroom -- well, guess what? Take off your stupid veil.

Yes, I called it a stupid veil. It is stupid. It is also not a holy, divine, required thing, despite what some people will tell you. The Muslim veil, in particular, is totally misunderstood in the West, but those who've read my blog for a while know that I am fascinated by head coverings in all religions. Jewish, Catholic, Sikh, Mormon ... there are so many religions that have this weird fetish with covering (or shaving) the head, and I can never get any sort of an answer as to why. I mean, I can never get any sort of an answer that actually answers the question when I ask why. I sigh, realizing yet again that religious people tend to not be terribly concerned with logic when they answer questions; it's such a shame. Why not have a logical discussion about covering the head when you go to Mass, or go into the temple? Is there something wrong with having a logical discussion about it? We can analyze all kinds of things in this society: sports, news events, consumer behavior, traffic violations. But if I analyze a religious tradition it's infringing on some "right" you have to your belief? I don't think so!

Furthermore, let us not let the word "veil" obscure the fact that this woman's covering hid not just her scalp and hair, but her face.

Rules exist in society because that is how we have and maintain a society in the first place. I have no patience for people who insist upon religious exceptions to the rules. Screw that. If it's OK for you to have an exception, then everyone should get an exception and we should get rid of the rule. In this case, Michigan is not getting rid of the rule, and you have to take off your veil if you want to testify in court. Just as I have to take off my baseball cap or ski mask. Hurrah!

I am so proud of the Michigan Supreme Court, and I roll my eyes at the two dissenters.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


So about this whole not-taking-the-bar-exam thing: I find it really funny how quickly law school has gone out-of-sight-out-of-mind for me. Every day I read messages or status updates from (former) classmates who are back in New York slogging through their bar review courses, and each time I have to sort of remind myself that a mere fifty or sixty days ago I was right there with them, in that elitist club of misery known as law school, staring at computer screens and cases and cites and convoluted phrases, questioning my sanity. And now here I am in the Southwest desert, a place that will always be home for me on many levels no matter how far I roam, and the whole law school thing just seems so far, far away.

But the thing is, I don't think it's just the physical distance from Long Island that makes Hofstra seem so far off. It's not that. It's more like driving down a freeway. Everyone is going 65 or 70 mph, and I took an exit. They are out of sight and off in the distance in mere seconds.

This would probably be a good time to have some profound looking-back-on-all-I've-learned kind of moment, but it's really not that simple, nor that grandiose. But I am trying to regroup, recharge, and rethink what to do next. Those who knew me three years+ ago, which is most of my adoring fans? I think, should recall my m.o.: always thinking about what could be next, always dreaming about what's around the corner, always listing a dozen adventures that I want to pursue in the next year and then kind of letting them fall and float and sift through themselves until something emerges on top.

As for the practical realities, Brian and I did have to move out of our adored Brooklyn 'hood and our lovely Box It Up existence, at least for the summer. That was a funding issue, not an all-out rejection of New York City. However, I am considering being employed elsewhere this fall, with the usual chief contenders: Washington D.C. (the city to which I've always meant to move, although I keep accidentally moving to other East Coast cities instead), Chicago (the obvious choice, it seems, after stints in Los Angeles and New York), San Francisco (California - swoon! - but still a place I haven't lived), and Abroad (just in general - more on that in a second). Of course those top choices are followed by my favorite destination: anywhere!

I have a certain freedom I haven't had in a while. I want to throw a dart at the map and move to the city where it lands. There are two things stopping me from doing exactly that tomorrow: 1)I don't have a car, so I have to either move to a public transportation city or wait until I buy a car and then fling that dart 2)I'm not certain Brian wants to throw a dart. At least not literally. He's adventurous and tries new things (such as Ethiopian food - more on that in a second, too) but he is slightly more meticulous than just literally throwing a dart. But I would do it literally, see. I really would. Maybe I will throw the dart, just for amusement's sake, the same way I take Facebook quizzes about "What ___ suits you best?" You know, just to see what the dart oracle has to say.

Meanwhile, back to those thats about which I promised more in a second... OK, Destination Abroad. I am definitely thinking about living abroad again, which would then coincide nicely with my plan in which I give myself permission to move back to California only if I first live abroad again for an entire year. While I am fully aware that the next item on my Life's Things to Do List after "Teach English in Asia" and "Go to law school" is "Join the Peace Corps," that one is also sort of simmering on the back burner for some of the reasons mentioned above but also because I am leaning more towards working abroad and not just volunteering. What I mean by that of course is earning more than just a volunteer's stipend. I am still very pro-Peace Corps, though, hence the simmering. But I would not mind a job abroad and to that end, I have taken the Foreign Service exam, and am waiting to hear if Hillary wants to hire me to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba (that is, if I passed the written test and get to move on to the next stage). I am all kinds of ready to get hired by the State Department and have my first gig at an overseas post. I just need them to see that they really want to hire me.

About the trying new things, such as Ethiopian food. Today Lesley (my sister), Brian and I went out to lunch at Taste of India, our go-to Indian lunch buffet restaurant when I come to Phoenix. Well, at least ever since our first go-to Indian lunch buffet restaurant closed down. Lesley and I both adore Indian food, and Lesley is surrounded here by people who won't eat it, such as her husband, his entire family, our parents, her kids, and so on. When I come to town, we make it a point to go eat it. Yum! Of course, Brian also likes Indian food so now that he is also here in Phoenix, we all went as a trio. While we were there we got to talking about the adventure of trying new cuisines. My sister and I have long been known to seek out the various ethnic restaurants in Phoenix (that's how we discovered our love for Indian food), and on two of my recent trips here we sampled an Ethiopian restaurant near ASU and the simply and to-the-pointly titled Baghdad Food. We were telling Brian about those places as well as some of the places we went in high school/college when we first began sampling all Phoenix has to offer, and then Lesley shared a story.

One of Lesley's nephews who went on a mission to West Africa and served in Togo, Benin, Ivory Coast, and maybe another country or two, I forget what all she said. Probably Ghana, since it's right in the middle of the countries I just mentioned. Anyway, he came back after two years doing West Africa things and a little while ago he was here in Arizona among my brother-in-law's large, Mormon, somewhat sheltered family. Not all of them, and not totally sheltered, but, well, yeah. Somewhat sheltered. So returned missionary nephew found a market in Phoenix somewhere with all the African goods, bought the requisite ingredients and spices, and made some undoubtedly intriguing and possibly delicious dish he had learned to make while there. And what do you think happened? My sister and only about three others could be persuaded to even try it. UGH.

I mean, picky eaters are one thing. (My sister's kids, ages three and five, are kind of ridiculous on that score. But I harbor hopes that they will outgrow at least some of their picky tastes. They're young yet.) And avoiding, say, one item or maybe two is acceptable. Like being allergic to seaweed, for example. But this was actually more than that, and the more-than-that was my sister's point in telling us the story in the first place. Here was this giant family (my brother-in-law has lots of siblings and they all have kids, and his parents each has even more siblings, and so forth) and yet only a handful of people can shake off the fear of trying something exotic. That's the crux of this, and the thing that bugs me. Kids avoid trying new foods. Snobs avoid trying unhealthy or inorganic or whatever foods. But sheltered people avoid trying foods that they perceive to be exotic. But why?

No, really. Why?

If we accept such jingoism in our palates I don't suppose we should ever be surprised by any national belligerence in political attitudes, either.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

On the Move

I am out of touch! Breathlessly, I check in with you my adoring fans to say I am in Michigan. We have cleared out of our beloved Brooklyn Box Street for at least the summer as we attempt to: 1)find jobs 2)find out what's next. Not a bad list of goals for the summer. Of course, moving proved to be a major pain, with much U-Hauling and best laid plans ganging oft agley, etc. Let's just say I am intimately acquainted with every Arby's between Toledo and the Delaware Water Gap.

But, we have been able to get in a few days of Michiganing, including the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts (I think that's what it's was really just referred to as Festival the whole time) which consisted of walking around downtown Grand Rapids eating and listening to live music. Perfect. Also I looked at some handbags in the arts and crafts tent and this reminds me that I need to just generally announce to the world: help! I want to buy a tiny Going Out Purse.

In my life I have had a few Going Out Purses, but all have eventually spread their wings to fly from the nest, either by being stolen off of my body in Cuba, or just by wearing out and reaching the end of their straps. My latest, greatest Going Out Purse gave up the ghost in Curacao or shortly thereafter. Here is what is required of a Going Out Purse: a small flat rectangle of a soft usually cloth material, slightly taller than it is wide (perhaps 4 x 6 or 4 x 7 inches?), with a long strap to be worn over the shoulder across the body with the purse part resting on the opposite hip, and generally one flap to close it with a snap, velcro, or other fastening, although I wouldn't be opposed to a zipper. I'm not entirely sure why I am unable to find a Going Out Purse right now, unless it may be due to the fact that lately everyone seems to be buying/carrying these atrocious, giant purses that are really bags masquerading as purses or possibly vice-versa. The only thing I like less than annoying, expensive, jeweled, leather handbags are giant, annoying, expensive, jeweled leather handbags. Ugh. Does no one want to meet my needs of a suitable Going Out Purse? Minimalist, hands free, lightweight, and just big enough for keys, phone, cash, i.d. and possibly some feminine goodies.

Enough about that! We also saw Lake Michigan today, as we spent last night and today at Brian's family's "cottage" in Holland. It's always good to see a Great Lake. After another day and a half here we will be jetting off to Phoenix to reclaim my desert soul, save some money, and visit the Grand Canyon, among other summer activities. (Such as, Brian reminded me just as I was about to publish this post, eating at In-N'-Out Burger!!!)