Terrorism is Bad For Your Health

Guest post by SaraJane Griffiths, University of Puget Sound.

Editor’s note: SaraJane was one of my speech and debate students; this is the final form of her Original Oratory entry that qualified for NSDA national speech competition, 2017 (though she’ll be competing in extemporaneous speaking instead). It is the culmination of a couple of years spent researching and learning how to defuse the politics of fear by means of parody and satire. Also available is our earlier work: a Politics of Fear K for policy debaters, by way of apology for being the running brunt of these jokes.

Continue reading “Terrorism is Bad For Your Health”

A Cure for Electoral Dysfunction

It was perhaps inevitable that we should end the year with “Resolved: The United States ought to replace the Electoral College with a direct national popular vote.” We are informed that this “winning resolution received 56% of the school vote and 58% of the student vote” but it sure feels like it was the inevitable, perhaps tardy, conclusion of November 8th. But now, without further ado, let’s present research for both sides. Continue reading “A Cure for Electoral Dysfunction”

The Edgy Off Seventeen

I’m just some guy; I am not a mandatory reporter. Some of my students that I volunteer with appreciate this: they know they can speak rather freely around me and trust me to bet on their ability to live their life. And this is because I believe that friends should bet on each other instead of against each other.

I recently had a young woman who was a bit troubled: she was multi-ethnic in a WASP-oriented school, she was young-faced and adorable but trying to be taken seriously as an adult, and her dad was still disappointed that she wasn’t a boy. She was insanely over-performing in sports, speech, music, volunteering, academically, et cetera, but constantly under pressure to do more and do it all perfectly, performing both as fake WASP and with a mimicry of masculinity in pursuit of her father’s acceptance. She had a chronic feeling of awkwardness. At the point where she was both completely competent yet utterly lacking in confidence we connected and did some amazing work together.

She thankfully ruined The Edge of Seventeen for me. Continue reading “The Edgy Off Seventeen”

…All Others Pay Cash

“Poverty is a relatively mild disease for even a very flimsy American soul, but uselessness will kill strong and weak souls alike, and kill every time.” –Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

Preamble: A capuchin monkey living in a zoo somewhere–I don’t actually know where–has nothing to do with what I’m about to write. On face, it is entirely irrelevant to my purpose. It might take offense at this if I bothered to tell it such a thing and might even fling poo at me, but I’m not going to tell it anything precisely because it is not relevant.

The good people of Walla Walla were displeased when Starbucks came to town at the turn of the century. It wasn’t just that they already had a local coffee shop–two of them, by some measures–but also that Starbucks, being a den of iniquity, was also open on Sundays. But between the heathen carpetbaggers that were buying up farmland for vineyards, the debauched tourists that visited the wineries, and the pagan college students, there was a market for Starbucks in Walla Walla and so it thrived.

When Hochschild writes in Strangers in Their Own Land that “a blue-collar way of life was going out of fashion, and with it, the honor attached to a rooted self and pride in endurance—the deep story self. The liberal upper-middle class saw community as insularity and closed-mindedness rather than as a source of belonging and honor,” it’s important to actually define what honor is and realize that it’s been opposed to capital for centuries. Continue reading “…All Others Pay Cash”

Death Star Counterplans

I just got back from watching Star Wars: Rogue One and while it is most certainly both a tragic war movie and a Disney movie–the mom is killed before the first scene is over as expected (Corliss, 2014)–it did convince me that the United States should build a Death Star. To be clear, I mean that we should be doing this unilaterally and as a counter-plan to any proposed space-oriented cooperation with China, typically predicated on repealing the Wolf amendment, that would affirm the current policy debate resolution of “The United States federal government should substantially increase its economic and/or diplomatic engagement with the People’s Republic of China.

Now any sensible person would say that the United States isn’t about to build a Death Star, such a thought is preposterous! And I get that, and I totally agree. But if we have to take the affirmative plan seriously despite Trump’s behavior already putting us on the brink of a cold war (Luce, 2016) with a country that we still owe a trillion dollars to despite their recent divestment that the affirmative must overcome to be topical (Phillips, 2016), then we must necessarily also seriously consider the benefits of having a Death Star.

With that in mind, we present the counterplan: the United States Federal Government should unilaterally construct a Death Star to establish military dominance of outer space. Continue reading “Death Star Counterplans”

Send in the Clowns

This is to be read as a mostly-satirical speech. It was inspired by a girl dropping an offhand a joke about being a clown, and thus holds to her perspective. But crucial to satire, to parody, to the humor that corrodes cognitive defenses is staying committed to the joke until its work is done. And that’s what I’m going to do here. Let’s begin.

This year was a really difficult year for My People. You all have no idea. We thought we were a beloved and cherished minority that held a special place at the edge of your culture. But the sudden vicious rise of racist Coulrophobic bigotry made me realize how precarious existence as a clown really is.

Yes, I am a clown. My heritage is from my grandmother, a full-blooded Vaudevillean who passed away last year and is pushing up water-squirting trick daisies now. It’s not a mere lifestyle choice, it’s a core part of my being, it’s where I come from. And just like racist Islamophobes get triggered by the traditional muslim head-covering of the hijab, so too racist Coulrophobes get triggered by the traditional clown head-covering of the curly-haired red wig.

Now you may try to down-play my heritage by letting me pass for a white girl, but I reject that: I am a clown. At least partially. And the rest of my heritage is that of a white girl, so the ritual of cultural appropriation is, like, the only other culture I have. So, coming from this particular intersection of whiteness and clownness, I’d like to spend a few minutes discussing how cultural appropriation facilitates racism today. Continue reading “Send in the Clowns”