Saturday, September 11, 2010

A post for today

I'm in Vienna, preparing for a talk on the technology of Long-Distance Relationships at the Paraflows conference (powered by monochrom). It's great brain-candy to go to a bunch of talks where interesting people present interesting things. Day One included talks by Heather Kelley and Kyle Machulis on new directions in game design (for one, using your own vital signs as game inputs--stuff like mindball, or taking your heartbeat as the meter for a rhythm game). It's very cool stuff, all stuff that I'm deeply interested in.

But given today's date and the attendant craziness we've been feeling as a country lately, I feel compelled to step a bit outside the normal run of topics. So, that post I'm cooking about games-that-teach will have to wait. Instead, I'm going to give you words from a man from long ago, words worth remembering. 

First, Here's his thoughts about discrimination against immigrants or believers in strange religions:

At one time I promoted five men for gallantry on the field of battle. Afterward in making some inquiries about them I found that two of them were Protestants, two Catholic, and one a Jew. One Protestant came from Germany and one was born in Ireland. I did not promote them because of their religion. It just happened that way. If all five of them had been Jews I would have promoted them, or if all five of them had been Protestants I would have promoted them; or if they had been Catholics. In that regiment I had a man born in Italy who distinguished himself by gallantry; there was another young fellow, a son of Polish parents, and another who came here when he was a child from Bohemia, who likewise distinguished themselves; and friends, I assure you, that I was incapable of considering any question whatever, but the worth of each individual as a fighting man. If he was a good fighting man, then I saw that Uncle Sam got the benefit of it. That is all.
I make the same appeal to our citizenship. I ask in our civic life that we in the same way pay heed only to the man's quality of citizenship, to repudiate as the worst enemy that we can have whoever tries to get us to discriminate for or against any man because of his creed or birthplace. [italics mine]

Now, his thoughts on inflamed rhetoric and the violence it breeds:
Now, I do not know who he was or what he represented. He was a coward. He stood in the darkness in the crowd around the automobile and when they cheered me, and I got up to bow, he stepped forward and shot me in the darkness.
Now, friends, of course, I do not know, as I say, anything about him; but it is a very natural thing that weak and vicious minds should be inflamed to acts of violence by the kind of awful mendacity and abuse that have been heaped upon me for the last three months by the papers in the interest of not only Mr. Debs but of Mr. Wilson and Mr. Taft.
Friends, I will disown and repudiate any man of my party who attacks with such foul slander and abuse any opponent of any other party; and now I wish to say seriously to all the daily newspapers, to the Republicans, the Democrat, and Socialist parties, that they cannot, month in month out and year in and year out, make the kind of untruthful, of bitter assault that they have made and not expect that brutal, violent natures, or brutal and violent characters, especially when the brutality is accompanied by a not very strong mind; they cannot expect that such natures will be unaffected by it.
Now, friends, I am not speaking for myself at all, I give you my word, I do not care a rap about being shot; not a rap.

If you haven't figured it out already, this is from the speech Theodore Roosevelt gave shortly after being shot in the chest. The bullet was slowed enough by his eyeglasses case, the folded papers of his (extremely long) speech, and his impressive chest muscles that it didn't penetrate his lung. Once he realized this (on account of not coughing up any blood), he insisted on giving his speech, albeit in a slightly quieter form. There were several attempts to get him to end his speech and get medical attention, understandable given the bloodstain spreading through his shirt, but he refused them all and spoke for ninety minutes, insisting, "Don't you pity me. I am all right. I am all right and you cannot escape listening to the speech either."

Teddy Roosevelt was one of a kind, a high-powered mutant unsuitable for mass production. This country could use someone with his combination of commitment to social justice and incredibly ballsy craziness. 

(The meritocratic racism, not so much...)

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