Thursday Bag o’ Triggers

triggers_2This, from an article in the Columbia Daily Spectator:

“During the week spent on Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses,’ the class was instructed to read the myths of Persephone and Daphne, both of which include vivid depictions of rape and sexual assault. As a survivor of sexual assault, the student described being triggered while reading such detailed accounts of rape throughout the work. However, the student said her professor focused on the beauty of the language and the splendor of the imagery when lecturing on the text. As a result, the student completely disengaged from the class discussion as a means of self-preservation. She did not feel safe in the class. When she approached her professor after class, the student said she was essentially dismissed, and her concerns were ignored.

“Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ is a fixture of Lit Hum [Literature Humanities], but like so many texts in the Western canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom. These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background.”

The article, written by members of Columbia University’s Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board, proposes educating professors and graduate teaching assistants about “potential trigger warnings and suggestions for how to support triggered students.”

As an older person educated in the literature of the Western canon, back in the day when we didn’t shy away from learning about mankind’s dismal history of rape, slavery, and genocide, I’m starting to feel a bit like the Jeff Bridges character in The Giver, the old man responsible for knowing the dirty and upsetting secrets that must be hidden from the population at large.

Oh, I know it’s a silly thought. Right now there are millions of real-life Givers; pretty much anyone with a decent education and an AARP card. But the way things are going on today’s college and university campuses, never mind the emerging practice of purging library shelves of older books with racial superiority themes, once we die off who will be the Giver? Who will preserve the memories no one wants to acknowledge?

The conspiracy loons freaking out over Jade Helm 15, a planned military exercise in Texas and other southwestern states, are laughable, but I get where some of their nuttier ideas are coming from.

The military has operations plans for wars and contingencies overseas, all of them highly classified. Plans for domestic contingencies are even more classified, and it’s not hard to see why.

In 1987, when I was on the staff of the US Special Operations Command, I participated in an exercise built around this scenario: an enemy attack or some sort of natural catastrophe had destroyed our headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. We relocated the surviving USSOCOM staff to an unused corner of Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia, rebuilt our headquarters with tents and portable communications gear, and re-established contact with the Defense Department and subordinate special forces units around the country.

All major military commands have similar plans on the books: they’re called continuity of operations plans. Reasonable people will understand why the military has to plan for domestic disruptions and disasters. But what about unreasonable people?

If you stretch the idea behind the exercise I participated in — regrouping somewhere else after your own base is destroyed — you can get to the idea of the military stepping in to exercise civil authority inside the USA after an attack or other disaster has disabled law enforcement, emergency response, and other critical governmental functions. And that, of course, is martial law. Does the Pentagon have a plan for something like that? Maybe, but if so I never heard anyone talk out loud about it. Even to whisper about such things is to invite the craziness we’re seeing now in Texas.

Going back to the USSOCOM exercise at Fort Gordon: it was a hell of a thing moving personnel and equipment from Florida to Georgia, and there was a rumor going around that our four-star general was negotiating with the Disney Corporation so that next time we could instead use the underground facilities beneath Epcot Center and Disney World in Orlando, just east of Tampa. The rumor made sense logistically, but that’s all it was, a rumor — there were no negotiations with Disney.

Still, you can see where these crazy ideas come from. Couple paranoia and distrust of the government with news of an upcoming domestic military exercise and it’s game on! Black helicopters! UN Agenda 21! FEMA camps! Secret tunnels!

I joke about FEMA camps all the time, but the idea of secret tunnels really turns me on. Does the Disney World/Epcot Center complex really have ’em? Yes it does!

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