This is a slightly weird day for me. Today, something I've been fighting for for years is going to come to pass. The Marriage Equality bill is going to pass its third reading. What will I do tomorrow?
Obviously, the answer to that question, for me and hundreds like me, will be 'groan, wince, and think "I really shouldn't have done that".' Tonight is for celebrating, with like-minded individuals.
It's days like this when I really wish we could all be together. Not that you could fit all the people I'd want to spend this evening with into the same bar, but you understand the sentiment. The closest I will come is Twitter, where I fully expect to see the people I love making sarcastic remarks about ParliamentTV's hold music.
Out in the meat-space, there are events all over the place. In keeping track of this, I am even more than usually indebted to gaynz for constantly updating this page as things have changed through the week.
I will not be there, and given the forecast and the venue, I won't be the only one. Luckily (and contrary to what was reported in The Press) it's not the only game in town. A bunch of us will be heading along to join Tony Milne and the Christchurch Campaign for Marriage Equality upstairs at the Pegasus Arms from 7pm for viewing and drinking. It's always nice to have company when you're yelling at the television.
Wellington, where they really know how to celebrate some legislation. Legalise Love has a lunchtime picnic planned on Parliament's lawn from 12-2. Again, the weather is probably going to be a factor there. (EDIT: Picnic has been cancelled due to weather.) For the reading itself, the public gallery is full, but there's now overflow space in the Legislative Council Chamber. On the other hand, Back Benches is also filming that night, right across the road. The official after-party is, of course, at San Francisco Bath-house, and it's free.
You can also watch the debate and the vote at S&M's and Ivy.
Auckland. You can watch the debate at Caluzzi, or The Zookeeper's Son. The latter venue would like you to RSVP. [EDIT: Zookeeper's Son viewing party has been cancelled.) I remain convinced there must be more going on in our northern city. Let's not keep it a secret. EDIT: Gaynz have added an event at Family, from 9pm. That's more like it.
The gaynz page also has details of events in Hamilton, Palmerston North, WaihekeIsland and, yes, Blenhiem. Nothing for Dunedin. Yes, it's cold, but I know y'all have bars down there.
The debate will be on Sky and Freeview, and you can stream it here.
In the midst of all this celebration, I can't help but spare a thought for the legislation's opponents. They've found themselves a minority in our society that some people feel it's okay to say mean things about. I can't even imagine what that must be like. And imagine the strain of maintaining the cognitive dissonance of continuing to believe they were right when all around them, society fails to fall apart.
On the other hand, maybe they're right, and I'm wrong. Maybe I really will wake up tomorrow gay-married to my cat while fire and brimstone rains from the sky. All the more reason to party hard tonight.
Parents of special-needs children are used to fighting their government to get their kids' needs met. Giovanni's talked about it here, and I touched on it here. By the time our kids get to high school, we can no longer be shocked, right? Introduce Unit Standard 26625 as compulsory, so hearing-impaired teens have to pass "actively participate in spoken interactions" to get NCEA Level 1 Literacy? Of course. Why not? Turn my gifted writer into a failure in her strongest subject because her speech isn't clear.* Why would we expect to be treated any better? Hearings on enrolment applications for special-needs schools are held in February of the year in question, after the school year has started? Of course they are.
Exams in particular are supposed to be barriers, right? That's their purpose. Thing is, those barriers are bigger for some kids than others. Some special-needs kids have issues that make sitting exams particularly difficult: reading, or writing, or motor control, or sight. It would be (I hope) obviously unfair to make them sit exams under the same conditions as their peers who don't have those issues.
That's why NZQA has Special Assessment Conditions, or SACs. They're designed to go some way to levelling the playing field. Mostly, they're pretty simple. Things like enlarging an exam paper to A3 for a visually-impaired kid, Braille papers for the blind, or giving a dyslexic kid an extra half-hour on a three-hour exam to compensate for their naturally-slower reading speed. Sometimes SACs are a little more complicated, like providing readers or writers or NZSL signers.
All in all, though, it really is just common sense. What would possibly be the point in not providing special-needs kids with the assistance they need to gain qualifications? It would be mad to get in their way. You'd end up ensuring they were unemployable and a much greater expense to the state in the long run, so even on an Arsehole Values scale, granting SACs just makes sense.
Last year, NZQA declined a record number of SAC applications. This year, they've made some of the criteria tougher. Why? I assume for the same reason it got harder and harder to get ORRS funding: the government is facing an epidemic of fraud from disabled children.
Take the criteria for extra time. Previously, candidates qualified for the extra ten minutes per exam hour if they had slow processing, or slow reading, or slow writing. This year, they need to fulfil two of those criteria. Why? Seriously, they have those meetings in February. I mean, this is a whole extra half hour of a supervisor's time. We can't be giving that away recklessly to kids who just read slowly. That's a lot of money: think how many Wanganui Collegiates you could bail out for that.
There are increased requirements for schools to provide psychometric and in some cases intelligence testing (yes, really, next it'll be polygraphs) to back applications. Kids who want a writer have to do a typing speed test, even though the vast majority would be hand-writing exams. There is no extra funding for this testing.
Here's a thing that really bugs me. If your SAC application is refused, only the school can appeal that decision. Parents have lost the ability to do so. Why? Oh, come on.
Last year we moved our daughter from a mainstream school to a special-needs unit in a mainstream high school. The difference in catering for her needs has been overwhelming. It's not just the extra support in her day-to-day schooling. It's the experience the staff have in gaming the system. I know that, should my daughter have issues with MinEdu, her school will pursue the issue and act in her interests.
Let's be honest. Not all schools will do this. In some, the staff don't have the experience. In others, the school environment is unsupportive** towards special-needs pupils. How much time are they going to take out from trying to get paid or stay open to fight for your kid's half-hour? You'd be prepared to take that time yourself? Can't be having that, now.
NZQA has advised the Ministry of Education that it will be undertaking a full review of SACs, to be completed by October this year. I'd love to tell you how you could have input into this review. I'd love to give you a cookie if you can find any trace of this review on the net. The information I have has come through the Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand. To be honest, though, the devil isn't in the detail on this one. The problem is the underlying institutional attitude that this funding must be kept from its intended recipients if this is at all possible. You know what people who benefit from things are? Beneficiaries.
We've just applied to renew my daughter's Child Disability Allowance. Yes, as it turns out, she's still hearing-impaired. Our GP, who did the paperwork, is not optimistic. There's been no change of criteria, but what she's seeing is that it's becoming a lot harder to get. No doubt people are farming disabled children for the forty bucks a week.
This is why I can't be glad Thatcher's dead. Zombie Thatcherism is still shambling along just fine.
* The actual solution was to ram her level one English through a year early, before the change came in. Success!
Know what I hate? Yes, you do. Know what else I hate? Those lists of things people should be able to do to be proper... whatever. Men. Women. New Zealanders. Grown-ups. They're normative and stereotype-reinforcing and they're always going to make someone feel excluded and inferior. (The obvious exception is Hyperbole and a Half's "This Is Why I'll Never Be an Adult", being as it's the best thing on the internet.)
Lately, however, we've had to accept that our "children" are now... offspring, or progeny. Something: but no longer children. (You can't say "our teens"; it sounds like you keep them locked in the basement for nefarious purposes.) Some time in the near future – gods willing - they'll leave home, go out into the world, and have to function on their own, without us. As adults. It's our job as their parents to equip them with the skills they need to do that. So we have to think about what those skills are. And if, like me, you're a compulsive theoriser and you have a slight (or massive) tendency to over-think things, this gets kind of problematic.
My partner, for instance, is teaching them to drive. All adults should be able to drive, right? Except, y'know, me. Meanwhile, I'm teaching them to cook. A necessary survival skill. Not one, however, that my partner possesses. What we're saying to them is, "You absolutely need to be able to do this thing an adult member of your immediate family can't do." How is that justifiable?
One might think that what adults need to do is be able to take care of themselves. They need to be able to do all the things their parents did for them as children. Wash, dress, feed, clean, get around, support themselves financially. Bare minimum, right? Sure it is. Unless, you know, you're ill or disabled. When I was spending most of every day in bed because my CFS was utterly crippling, I didn't cease being a grown-up, and nobody thought I had.
Yet we have children, and we have adults, and we even have an intermediate maturing stage these days called 'teenagers'. How can we have a concept of 'adult' if we can't define it? Is it just a matter of age? People turn eighteen (or twenty-one, or twenty-five if you have a student allowance) and then get their Adult Card?
My son will turn eighteen this year, and in preparation for this he's been carrying on an involved correspondence with the Electoral Commission. He'll be grown-up enough to be allowed to vote, to have an actual say in the future direction of his country. So... does that mean I think people who don't vote aren't proper adults?
Man, this weather. And how about those Black Caps?
Okay, no, of course I don't. And yes, I am way, WAY more excited about his enfranchisement than he is.
I went and asked Google Auto-complete for advice. It's one window into the zeitgeist. Its suggestion for "adults should be able to" was "carry concealed handguns". Jesus, America. Grow the fuck up.
And there it is. When we say "Grow up," or "Stop being so childish," we're not talking about skills. We're talking about emotional maturity. And, largely, being dicks about it. But still, there's our cultural expectation of adulthood, in the way we slag people off for behaving like children. When I say, "She acts like she's still in high school," I don't mean she's on her Learner's, sits a lot of exams and can't plan a meal. I mean she plays games with other people's emotions. I mean she lies, and slags her friends off behind their backs. I should also, y'know, stop slagging her off behind her back.
So let me go out on a limb here, and make a "should" statement about Proper Grown-Ups. An adult should be able to say "Thank you," "I'm sorry, I fucked up," and "I need help." All of those things are hard. We all fall down over them some of the time. But we owe them to other people, and we also owe them to ourselves. I reckon mastering them (and "I love you,") might be the Key to Life. I want my kids to be kind in their dealings with others, but also to be able to stand up for themselves. Maybe I should just make them read all of Captain Awkward.
To be honest, though, we're not really trying to turn them into adults currently. That's the long, exhausting game. Our actual goal is "people who won't starve to death in a pit of their own filth when we leave them on their own for three weeks." Auto-complete has no suggestions for that.
Five years ago, we lived in a house over the fence from Middleton Grange's school auditorium. Some mornings, when I went to hang the washing out, I'd hear the cheerful strains of Queen coming from that hall, and it really used to piss me off. How about we have a rule, I thought, where if you teach that someone's burning in Hell, you don't get to use their music?
What they were doing, I guess, was separating the art from the artist. And that's something all of us do sometimes, right? How many books, how much music would we have if we only consumed the art of people we'd happily have in our house? I'm sure there has to be a line somewhere, but where do we draw it?
It's easier, I think, when the artist is dead, and belonged to a previous era. As a student of Renaissance Lit, I can't tell you how tired I got of being told how racist/sexist/anti-Semitic Shakespeare was, by people who'd never read another Renaissance dramatist. Context. Maybe read "'Tis Pity She's a Whore" and get back to me.
Allow for the era and the environment in which the art was produced. And yet... I find it harder to deal with some of the weird racism and sexism in Robert Heinlein's writing. Except that's in the writing – the attitudes bleed through into the art. That's different.
Maybe there's more chance of 'seepage' with writing, more chance of the attitudes coming through in the text. What about visual art? Look: here's Ariel between Wisdom and Gaiety on Broadcasting House in London. The man who created it sexually molested his own children. Does it look different now? Does our experience of his art change when we know about his personal life? I know I'm more uncomfortable with his portraits of his daughters than I am with his typeface.
I do know people whose position is very much Death of the Author. The art exists on its own once created, so why would the prejudices of its creator matter? I know others who, once they know something about the creator, find the art forever tainted and never the same. I know sometimes people think "ironic" Nazi art is okay, and then it turns out the creator is a Holocaust denier. So perhaps... art is created between the object and our perception of it?
Which is all very deep and abstract and Late in the Bar After a Few Daiquiris. I've pondered this concept, and discussed it with people in bars, and there's one thing I'm really sure of.
I'd really like it if you didn't go see Ender's Game.
Now, I own a copy of the book Ender's Game, at least in the most technical sense. I paid for it and everything. I bought it new, so some of that money went to Orson Scott Card, and Orson Scott is a homophobe.
I'm still running across people who don't know this, and who are really upset to find it out. Ender's Game is a hell of a book, especially if you read it at just the right time of your life. But when I say he's a homophobe, I don't mean he just doesn't really like gay people. I mean he wrote stuff like this:
Already in several states, there are textbooks for children in the earliest grades that show "gay marriages" as normal. How long do you think it will be before such textbooks become mandatory — and parents have no way to opt out of having their children taught from them?
How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.
Card also believes that people are made homosexual as a result of rape or childhood sexual abuse. This belief does seem to come through in his novella Hamlet's Father.
That in itself might not matter. Ender's Game itself isn't homophobic, right? It has all those scenes where boys wrestle naked, for a start. And I might accept that, except that Card is a member of the board of directors of the ridiculously-acronymed National Organization for Marriage.
You might not have heard of NOM, but still be familiar with their work. They're the people who brought you the unintentionally hilarious Gathering Storm ad:
NOM spent millions of dollars supporting Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage in California. They have actively campaigned to unseat senators who support marriage equality, and put up signs in the districts of others saying, "You're next." NOM featured on The Daily Show and The Rachael Maddow Show after they were caught using crowd footage from President Obama's inauguration as if it was from one of their own rallies. Internal NOM memos released by a judge show their deliberate use of wedge tactics – using female and African-American spokespeople to drive wedges between them and the gay community, and to enable them to counter criticism with claims of sexism and racism.
NOM do everything they can, including lawsuits and appealing to the Supreme Court, to conceal where their money comes from. One of the few contributors we know about is the Mormon Church.
Being a good Mormon, Card tithes a tenth of his income to the LDS. Even if he doesn't directly financially contribute to the organisation he serves on the board of, and that's a pretty big if, the more money he makes, the more he gives to the LDS, who fund NOM, who fund bigotry and are pretty unethical about how they do that.
And how does Card make his money? By selling his art.
Now Summit faces the tricky task of figuring out how to handle Card’s involvement. The first big challenge will be whether to include him in July's San Diego Comic-Con program. Promoting Ender’s Game without Card would be like trying to promote the first Harry Potter movie withoutJ.K. Rowling. But having Card appear in the main ballroom in front of 6,500 fans could prove a liability if he’s forced to tackle the issue head-on during the Q&A session.
“I don't think you take him to any fanboy event,” says one studio executive. “This will definitely take away from their creative and their property.” Another executive sums up the general consensus: “Keep him out of the limelight as much as possible.”
Homophobia is a liability. I find that quite satisfying. There is just no way you could put Card in front of a Comic-Con audience. They'd eat him alive.
It's a hell of a cast. Ben Kingsley. Harrison Ford. Viola Davis. It was a hell of a book. But there is no way I'm paying money to see Ender's Game. I'm not giving money to someone who oversees the kind of persecution and dishonesty that NOM indulges in. I've fought so hard on my side of this for so long: why the hell would I fund the opposition?
Please don't pay to see Ender's Game. I'm asking really nicely.
There is some kind of slow slide, between the first anniversary of something and the tenth, where it gradually loses significance. It becomes less fraught, impinges on your consciousness less. This is particularly striking for me because every anniversary of the February Earthquake is preceded by the same anniversary of the death of my mother a month earlier.
This year's trip to Timaru to visit her grave* was much less painful than last year, although someone had left her plastic flowers. She would have appreciated the thought. And then thrown out your horrible tat. Soz.
The second anniversary of the earthquake? I forgot about it. It wasn't until a couple of days that I realised it was on Friday. I'd booked us a Stress Relief trip away, and accommodation, without realising there was any significance to the 22nd.
Don't get me wrong, I knew it was soon. And it's not like we're not still living Quake-Life. Every February, just before the Quakeversary, I get to write the cheque for the house insurance. Two years ago it was for $440. Last year, $650. This year, it's a chirpy $1140. I mean, why not? I live in Christchurch: it's not like I can change insurance company.
There's been change in the last year. Some of it is even progress. We've had repairs done on our house. We've had repairs done on the repairs on our house. And if all the paint just fell straight back off our back doorstep, at least my bedroom is now the pretty purple I've always wanted. That's the luck of our draw, though. Friends of ours are still waiting. Two years on, they're still waiting for fairly straight-forward house repairs.
We've been lucky, too, that the mergers of both my children's schools have been voluntary and make a certain amount of sense. Every school in our neighbourhood, however, was up for merger or closure. (This will tell you the kind of area I live in.) The merger of two – Woolston and Philipstown – will go ahead. The merger of another two – Bromley and Linwood Ave – won't. Why? Who knows. None of this has ever made any fucking sense. Any personal relief is muted by the knowledge that someone else's kids are getting screwed over. Those whose schools have been saved can reflect on six months of unnecessary anxiety. Those whose schools are closing (only in the most technical sense is Philipstown not "closing") can watch Amy Adams celebrating the saving of the schools in her electorate. She's so happy. Isn't it great?
The timing of the announcement, also, was a stroke of genius. I have to assume the Ministry of Education had also forgotten the date of the anniversary.
A year ago, I said I wanted a city that was more like Wellington, not one that was more like Auckland. What we've got heading into Year Three is a chronic housing shortage and appalling traffic. There was a headline in The Press the other day proclaiming that Christchurch's traffic disruption was about to get worse, and my gut reaction was, "HOW? I DON'T EVEN HOW IS THAT FUCKING JESUS CHRIST!" And I don't even drive.
Two years. At this point, anniversaries still force you to pause and reflect. There've been good things. There's actual progress. Epic. Alice's. C1 Espresso. C1 might actually be the best metaphor for how it feels, for me. It's great having it back, and just across the road from where it was. The sewing-machine water-dispenser is old. The secret sliding bookcase door is new. The big round ball-lights from the Town Hall are "borrowed".
And when you walk out the front door, and look through the chain-link fence and across the wasteland, you can see the old Twisted Hop. The outdoor seating is still there, and that tree sculpture. It makes me feel blue.
Christchurch people may wish to note that C1 will have its rooftop garden open on the 22nd. You could have that sobering view across the blasted heath of the CBD with a beer. We'd be there, but we'll be driving to Hanmer, and I wouldn't have it any other way. We will take the time before we leave, though, to put some flowers in some traffic cones. There are still plenty to go around.
*Actually her plaque in the crematorium, but that doesn't have the same ring to it.