Judiciary Candidate Cries Over Pen

After pulling out his calendar from high school, tearfully mentioning how his dad taught him how to keep his schedule in order, everyone knew the candidate stood a chance against the composed, chilling account of his accuser.

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(1982 Calendar Entries, CNN*)

The prosecutor remained silent and silenced.

The session ended, and certain senators held back tears over his incredible performance. “Should we send him flowers? As a boost? He certainly was…pleasing,” murmured the senator from Utah to his compatriot from South Carolina.

Emotions Run High After Hearing

“This is the pen that”–the candidate stopped, a lump in his throat, “I will use to sign my contract when this left-wing conspiracy is inevitably swept under the rug.” The left-wing conspiracy, as it turns out, goes by the virulent name of feminism.

It’s a word that must be growled, spat, and mumbled. A more reserved phrase, perhaps, is “decency”. Or simply the understanding that women deserve to have control over their own bodies in multiple settings, whether it be a medical clinic or, even, as the candidate pushed out through sobs, “P–PJ’s parties.” It’s truly a horrific scheme, propagated by women for millennia who can’t seem to understand their bodies are not their own.

“This pen,” the candidate repeated, his voice wavering, “is not only emblematic of the official codification of a figure who’s shown demonstrable hatred toward women ascending to the highest levels of government”–again–“but of my family. And me.

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The Pen

This pen, your journalist noted, was leaking ink all over his hand, and had left an unsightly purple stain in his breast pocket that he had failed to notice. It was a disposable ballpoint. This tiny tool of violence against women, like the candidate himself, can be found anywhere and be replaced easily. The only difference is one, however, seems to have a penchant for weeping.

So your journalist, unable to contain herself, snatched the pen from his hand. With security on her tail and her briefcase abandoned, she sprinted away into the sunset, and was promptly fired.

After hearing about this incident, the president seemed unconcerned. “We’ll just find another one.”

*https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/26/politics/brett-kavanaugh-1982-calendar/index.html

“Speak English!” Demands Barely Literate Student

As a white person who wants to “do something” but is also too lazy to critique myself too heavily, I’m curious about the U of U’s implicit xenophobia. However, when I researched further, the xenophobia I found was unfortunately…what’s the word? Explicit.

I caught up with Elías two weeks ago at the freshly sterilized Big Ed’s/Publik on Second South and University Street. The space smelled like artisan coffee and veggie burgers. The perfect place for liberal youths to gather.

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(Photo by Francisco Kjolseth, Salt Lake Tribune)

Meeting Elías

When Elías arrived, I pointed out which beers were best. We then sat down, and he told me about himself.

Elías speaks Spanish at home and English at school. Elías’ accent is negligible. He’s an S.I. for Calculus 3 this term, and explains to me that teaching math is nearly identical to teaching a new language. “When you get a question incorrect or look at a string of variables and not understand at all what’s going on, this was exactly what I felt when I started learning English,” he told me. “Teachers would look at sentences I’d write, would say I did something wrong, and I’d feel so frustrated.” He laughed. “It makes me sympathetic, I guess.”

Good Journalism

Because I don’t care about math, or, really, about Elías as a person, it was time to get to the hard-hitting questions. “Do you think your students respect you?”

His brow furrowed. “What?”

Suddenly, Elías’ phone rang. It was his wife. He spoke for a few minutes with her, and I would have eavesdropped, if I knew Spanish.

“Speak English,” barked a student as he walked past our table and out the door. I recognized him! I copy-edit his papers. They’re incomprehensible. It’s like the man vomits disconnected words onto paper.

“What a jerk,” I said, heroically. “I’m glad not all white people are like that.” I was, of course, talking about myself.

He looked away and swigged his beer.

“What the hell? Is this beer…vanilla flavored?”

Unfortunately, it was.

Moronic Satire: A Love Letter to Absurdity

Utah is an amalgam of bizarre politics. A few days ago, I drove from Salt Lake to Cedar City, traversing Utah’s broad swatches of nothingness, incredible scenery, and needlepoint Mormon steeples, all under a haze of wildfire smoke.

Liberal Bubbles?

I was driving to participate in the academic conference of Utah’s Shakespeare Festival, planning to talk about disability in the 400-year-old play, The Tragedy of Richard III. This year, the theme of the festival is “Shakespeare and the Other”; speakers were asked to consider how Shakespeare used POC, women, queer characters…demographic “others”, in other words…to make political statements. I, a bisexual woman uncertain of both her sexuality and her woman-ness, and an agnostic atheist, certainly list severely to the left, so I felt the comfort of an echo chamber. We transformed Shakespeare’s politics into our own, and were allowed to do so, protected by our rich liberal bubble. As I spoke, and as I listened to others speak, the phrases “w*nk fest” and “circle jerk” drifted around my mind.

Hiking Culture?

I would drive from the conference to Hurricane, where my friend and I were staying. The first night, we labored up a desert hill, ditching our sandals, our bare feet clopping up the red stone, to see the sunset and Martian hills from a better perspective. When we reached the top, we saw that new oil rigs sprouted from the broad orange fields, adding to the luxurious natural beauty gilt profit and big, beautiful coughs of sand. My friend and I wheezed from physical and moral stitches, staring at those little phallic pricks in the surface of the earth. “The world is ending,” I said, and she picked up some litter. We found a spot to take pictures anyway, stumbled to our house, and turned up the air conditioning.

Empathy Fodder

Tuesday evening, we saw Shakespeare Fest’s Merchant of Venice; a comedy about money and justice, featuring a Jew, Shylock, who sits right on the line of caricature and humanity. I wondered if there were people in this Utah audience who had never met a Jew before, and knew this evening could alter their sympathies forever, for better or worse.

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(Leslie Brott as Antonio and Lisa Wolpe as Shylock, 2018 Utah Shakespeare Festival)

Thankfully, Cedar City’s version of Shylock—and the Jewish actress who played him—carried a history that demanded empathy. We see Shylock lose his family, his money, and his religion; he’s forcibly converted to Christianity. When we saw this happen, several people in the audience gasped. Tears leaked from my eyes. A few seats down, I heard someone whisper, “This is a comedy?” And, because of its absurdity and futility, it is, even if we can’t laugh at it.

For the past year, my home and the world—with all our echo chambers, our pre-apocalyptic environment, and our trials of empathy—has been a comedy that has pushed tears from my eyes. All of us hang somewhere between futility and choice, and, perhaps most importantly, our own comfort, control, and desire. So, because I despair and panic every time I read a headline, smell smoke, and see drills hover over my home state, it’s time to start making some jokes.

With love,

Sarah B.