An Inclusive Litany


Penny Hoover of the Peace Corps describes her stay in Equatorial Guinea in The Whole Earth Review, Spring 1991:
One clear message from our experience is that "saving the rainforest" is about relationships. The network of species depends, in large part, on our capacity not only to respect plants and animals, but also to relate to other human beings.

Relating to the Fang was not always easy. When my patience gave way, I found that swearing in English (nobody knew English) could be pretty satisfying. There were some things I just wouldn't eat, and I knew it was insulting to refuse. I don't even know all the ways I insulted them. And they had no idea how much it hurt me when they ate our cat.... Looking back, there was ample warning: "Gee, your cat's getting big. Got a lot of meat on him." "Hmmm. That cat would make a good soup." We need to learn how to speak to these strange cat-eaters.

From the anti-discrimination code of a Wisconsin school district:
The Nicolet High School District is committed to fair and equal employment opportunity for each person regardless of age, race, color... handicap... marital status, sex, sexual orientation... arrest record, conviction record...

Those "This is your brain on drugs" commercials for Partnership for a Drug Free America seem to have done the job. Advertising Age and Adweek both reported that youngsters all over the country are refusing to eat their fried eggs in the belief that their parents are giving them drugs and trying to do bad things to their brains.

Larry Tye discusses the environmental impact of the impending Gulf War in the Boston Globe, January 18, 1991:
Tanks could crunch grass and other vegetation, knock down dunes and kick up sandstorms, said Ken Nagy, who teaches about deserts at the University of California at Los Angeles. "Plants and animals there are already living on the edge," he said, "and this insult could be enough to push them over the edge."

Social workers in Canton, Ohio, took Raymond McIntosh's four daughters away from him because the girls had cavities. Charging McIntosh with abuse for neglecting his daughter's teeth, social workers returned the girls only after McIntosh produced their dental records, showing that they did indeed make regular visits to the dentist.

The Sacramento Public Works Department sponsored a contest for a new word to replace the sexually offensive "manhole." There were so many suggestions, including "sewer-viewer" and "person-access chamber," that the department named no winner. But, "out of heightened awareness," Sacramento now calls them "maintenance holes."

After The New York Times published a story about a 75-year-old woman who ran a radio show for the residents of the Daughters of Israel Geriatric Center in West Orange, New Jersey, the FCC threatened a six-figure fine and temporarily padlocked the station because its signal could be detected beyond the center's property.

The safe sex sofa was introduced at the Pacific Design Center's Wild West Week annual design fair in 1992. It consists of a flower-shaped chair and a chaise lounge and features taped messages promoting safe sex that play whenever anyone sits down.

John Davis, editor of Earth First! Journal, commented that "eradicating smallpox was wrong. It played an important part in balancing ecosystems."

At the Queens Criminal Court building in Kew Gardens, five workers from the city's Department of General Services changed six fluorescent bulbs, which had not worked in years, over the course of three days. The fixture was over a staircase, so on the first day the workers erected a scaffold. The bulbs were replaced by an electrician on the second day, and on the third day the scaffold was removed. The work itself only took three or four hours. A department spokesman said it was "an effective use of resources and part of our program to illuminate the corridors of justice."

The Oregon State Legislature set aside $9.7 million for construction of an archive to house the Oregon Constitution and other important historical documents in a climate-controlled, fire resistant environment. The project was later audited after loopholes in the purchasing and procurement guidelines led to extravagant spending: carpeting in the conference room that cost $127 a square yard, rugs for the entrance that cost $225 a square yard, $550,000 worth of Canadian maple paneling, travertine limestone floors that cost $180 a square yard, four lamp fixtures at $5,000 each, and ten walnut reading-room tables at $4,250 each. The building is across the street from Parish Middle School, which holds two temporary classes in its front yard.

The two-letter combination "TM," which stands for "Transcendental Meditation," has now been trademarked.

Ms. magazine has made it official policy that every article it publishes on the subject of lesbians must be written by a lesbian.

The trial of S&L kingpin Charles Keating revealed that his company once spent $1,948 on Silly String for an office Christmas party.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons announced that federal inmates would have to pay for their incarceration. The user fee, approved by Congress to offset rising prison costs, is equal to the average cost of one year's incarceration, estimated at between $17,000 and $20,000. Officials estimated that the fee would raise $49 million a year, once they figure out how to collect it.

From Art Lessons: Learning From the Rise and Fall of Public Arts Funding, by Alice Goldfarb Marquis:
Three weeks after arriving on the job, [NEA Chairman John Frohnmayer] met with senior staff for the first time, in a crisis over another inflammatory exhibition funded by the NEA. "Against Our Vanishing" was scheduled to open at New York's Artists Space in two weeks. Ostensibly a protest against society's indifference to AIDS, it included nudity, but, even worse, the catalog contained desperately crude ravings by an artist who would soon die of AIDS. "At least in my ungoverned imagination," wrote David Wojnarowitz, "I can f*** somebody without a rubber on, or I can in the privacy of my own skull douse [Jesse] Helms with a bucket of gasoline and set his putrid ass on fire or throw [archconservative] Rep. William Dannemeyer off the Empire State Building." As approved the previous year, the gallery's grant application had promised a show dealing with "sexual dependency ... in the work of contemporary artists." The catalog, it said, would include essays by art critics.

Because the exhibition did not match what was described in the application, the endowment tried to retrieve its grant money and to remove its name as a sponsor from the catalog. Artists Space refused; its only concession was to change a reference to New York's Cardinal Joseph O'Connor in Wojnarowitz's diatribe from "a fat f***ing cannibal" to "a fat cannibal."

In a Newcastle-upon-Tyne crown court, Mr. Alan Cooper was accused of "outraging public decency." As the Times of London reported it, the prosecution accused Mr. Cooper of "committing a lewd, obscene, and disgusting act on the 12-foot dolphin called Freddie as they frolicked for 20 minutes off the harbor mouth at Amble, Northumberland." Freddie has become somewhat of a tourist attraction and according to the prosecution, "a boatload of onlookers watched 'disgusted' as Mr. Cooper, wearing a blue and yellow wet suit, masturbated the half-ton mammal as it floated on its back." Mr. Cooper, the Times helpfully adds, is unmarried.

In Laguna Beach, California, Al Maier, a retired Marine pilot, was jailed for six months largely because he had some old cars parked in the driveway of his house. Maier was also jailed for allowing a homeless family to live with him in a spare room free of charge. Frank Battaile, deputy city attorney for Laguna Beach, explained: "Mr. Maier is known for supposedly doing charitable things and being the Laguna Beach Santa Claus. But his neighbors complained about property values."


Course description for "Writing About Witches," offered to freshmen at Cornell University:
[Writing About Witches] will focus on the politics of witchcraft; we will consider why it is that writing about witches almost always springs from the fear, hatred, or persecution of a type of individual or group, and why writing about witchcraft is also writing about power: supernatural power, divine power, the power of the Church, the power of the mind.

The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee published a pamphlet called "Ways to Experience Diversity." Among the forty-nine ways, students could "Hold hands publicly with someone of a different race or someone of the same sex as you," or "Go to a toy store and investigate the availability of racially diverse dolls."

During the Gulf War, the University of Maryland briefly forbade display of the American flag as hurtful to members of the peace movement. "This is a very diverse community," explained university official Jan Davidson, "and what may be innocent to one person may be insulting to another."

After an episode of the "G.I. Joe" Saturday morning cartoon show that had G.I. Joe battling evil forces trying to destroy the Earth's ozone layer by siphoning chlorofluorocarbons from giant aerosol tanks of shaving cream, the Consumer Aerosol Products Council launched an education campaign at young people to make them aware that aerosols no longer contain CFCs since they were outlawed for that purpose in 1978.

Three municipal employees in New York City, all white males, decided not to attend an important committee meeting because their attendance would skew the racial balance in the room.

In Maine, the Paris Utility District's sewage discharge license was up for renewal, which required meetings between the Environmental Protection Agency and district officials. A final draft of the terms of the license had been agreed upon, says John Barlow, manager of the utility district, and everything was proceeding according to schedule.

Then an EPA official called the treatment plant's chief operator, saying that the district had neglected to set limits on ammonia. Barlow says that although guidelines on ammonia in effluent were enacted in 1986, no such limitation had been mentioned during the negotiations.

The EPA then added that if Paris officials could provide sufficient data to prove that water in the river where the waste is discharged is colder in winter than in summer, seasonal limits could be written into the license—cold water absorbs more ammonia than warm water.

Barlow reported the comment about cold water to town trustees, adding that the EPA was welcome to come to Paris and walk on the ice-covered river to check water temperatures.

The Halifax, Nova Scotia, Chronicle-Herald/Mail-Star, January 10, 1992:
In these times of economic woe, the bandleaders of the advertising world are trying to find new ways to seduce customers into spending their money.

A report by American Demographics magazine says psychographic marketing techniques helped marketers of a roach spray discover that the reason low income women in the Southern U.S. were the heaviest users of roach spray was that a lot of their feelings about the roach were very similar to the feelings they had for the men in their lives.

The roach, like the men in their lives, only came around when he wanted food. The act of spraying roaches and seeing them die was satisfying to this frustrated, powerless group.

After Hurricane Andrew hit Florida, the Federal Emergency Management Agency spent $50,000 on billboards to improve its image and $73,000 on polo shirts for staff members. The agency also asked for bids for buttons and Frisbees printed with its 800 number.

Orange County Register (California), December 11, 1991:
San Diego police are investigating 50 unusually savage assaults that they liken to New York City's notorious "wilding" attacks, perpetuated by youthful robbers for the sake of committing violence.

Police said the young attackers are black and their victims, 46 men and four women, are white. The victims were attacked in the Hillcrest and North Park neighborhoods.

There is no evidence they are hate crimes, Detective Steve Baker said.

Phoenix residents angry about a public artwork called "Wall Cycle"—35 giant teacups, Indian pots, and household objects lining a new highway—formed a group called Citizens Rejecting Artistic Pottery (CRAP) and responded by placing old flowerpots, dented garbage cans, and a "Golden Commode" along the road as well. These were promptly removed by the Arizona Department of Transportation.


Psychiatrist Park Elliot Dietz testified in the case of Robert Bardo, a Newport Beach, California, man who was accused of killing actress Rebecca Schaeffer, that the defendant suffered from "fan obsession syndrome" at the time of the murder: a psychological condition created over time by repeated exposure to, and identification with, a particular celebrity. Despite Dietz's testimony, the jury convicted Bardo of first-degree murder.


Freda Zimmerman, who wanted to give occasional piano lessons in her Philadelphia home, was denied a zoning variance to use her residence for a "home occupation." Neighbors had presented a petition with 43 signatures to the Zoning Board stating that the proposed piano lessons would "threaten the residential character of the neighborhood," "increase danger," "overcrowd the land," and "adversely affect transportation, and the public health, safety and general welfare" of the neighborhood.

At the University of Nebraska College of Law, all African American, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian first-year students have been assigned to the same course sections so they do not feel isolated at the overwhelmingly white school. Dean Harvey Perlman said that black students supported the policy: "If it did smack of the back of the bus mentality, they would have been the first to let me know that."

To attract a scarce number of black high-school seniors, the admissions departments of various colleges have started offering free tickets to rap concerts and football games.

In an interview in the New York Times Magazine, Susan Faludi, author of Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, explained her reticence as a public speaker: "For the author of what was widely termed an 'angry' and 'forceful' book, I exhibit a timorous verbal demeanor that belies my barracuda blurbs." Why is this so? "[B]oth sexes fear public speaking... [but] women—particularly women challenging the status quo—seem to be more afraid, and with good reason. We do have more at stake. Men risk a loss of face; women a loss of femininity. Men are chagrined if they blunder at the podium; women face humiliation either way. If we come across as commanding, our womanhood is called into question. If we reveal emotion, we are too hormonally driven to be taken seriously."

Despite these formidable obstacles, Faludi reported that she recently gave a forceful speech at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. "My voice got surer, my delivery rising. A charge passed between me and the audience, uniting and igniting us both."

After Micro-Ap, a manufacturing company based in Londonderry, New Hampshire, paid $18,267.40 in taxes, the firm received a bill from the Internal Revenue Service for 1 cent, plus a penalty of $194.72.


After the actor Martin Sheen had the city of Malibu, California, declared a haven for the homeless, several homeless people camped out on his beachfront property. He summoned the police to have them removed.
Allure, January 1992:
[Jane] Fonda is rapping on about menopause. "You know where I had my first hot flash?" she asks, sounding excited. "At the Acropolis. During the sound and light show. I'm not kidding.

"It was last year. Ted and I were sailing with another couple around some of the islands. We arrived in Athens. My moods had been very erratic. And Ted said to me, 'Honey, do you suppose this is menopausal?' And I thought, Nooo! Two days later, we were sitting at night looking at the show at the Acropolis. I started feeling this kind of burning tingling all down my fingers and chest, and ... it was such a kick that Ted had known what was going on with me and I hadn't." ...

Though she is wildly chatty, almost embarrassingly so, on the subject of estrogen-replacement therapy—"it stops the biological clock a bit in terms of vaginal lubrication and things like that"—certain topics are verboten.

Patricia J. Williams discusses the Tawana Brawley affair in her book, The Alchemy of Race and Rights, published by Harvard University Press. In 1987 Brawley, a 15-year-old black girl who lived in Wappingers Falls, New York, alleged that she had been abducted and sexually assaulted by white racist lawmen after being discovered in a vacant lot with cigarette burns and dog feces on her body. Following public uproar, a grand jury concluded that Ms. Brawley's account was a hoax, and that she had faked the rape to escape punishment for being out late that night. This resulted in uproar of a different sort.
No matter who did it to her—and even if she did it to herself. Her condition was clearly the expression of some crime against her, some tremendous violence, some great violation that challenges comprehension. And it is this much that I grieve about. The rest of the story is lost, or irrelevant in the worst of all possible ways.