“Excavation is Destruction”


Map of the site where I worked and studied in the summer of 2001, more than 3000 years after it was destroyed in one of the most violent volcanic eruptions

During college, I spent three summers studying in Greece.

(Where else would a Classical language and Philosophy major study?)

I was fortunate to have scholarships all three times.

So. . . . to take a break from politics in this blog–I’m not going to explore how austerity in Greece has really hurt this and many other archeology sites–I thought I’d torture share a poem I wrote while working on an archeology dig in Santorini, during the summer of 2001.

Ancient Akrotiri is sometimes postulated as Atlantis, but better known as the Greek equivalent to Pompeii, is on the southern end of the crescent-shaped island, and we (students) would spend our breaks mesmerized by the Aegean, trying to make out Crete in the distance.

During one of the breaks, I sipped water, ate my τυρóπιτα, or tyropita, and scrawled this in my notebook,  quoting the kindly director of the project, who was also our professor:

Lost in Excavation

“Excavation is Destruction” –Archaeologist Cristos Doumas

Sunburned-dust covers animal bones,
golden beads from a necklace,
and shards of brightly colored tinted glass,
shells from a nourishing ocean feast

And the haunting human bones…

We will be nameless,
Unknown to our children.  Defined as
Merely bones and genetic codes,
males and females in
sickness and health.

Who will remember,
who will remind the children—
our children!—
that these human bones
once simultaneously bore
the beauty and  burden of living flesh?

that the remnants of bones
breathed in the heat, the intoxicating perfume of summer,
saw the clear waves of heat roll across the sandy beach
and the first frost of winter
glisten on the olive leaves?
heard the chiming crickets and squealing donkeys?

Who will remember,
who will remind them that these
dry, brittle, marrow-less bones
smelled the refreshing salt tang of the Mediterranean
and savored the first bites of
harvested grapes in autumn…?  and our
feelings—the vicissitudes of life—cannot be fully discovered,
fully appreciated,
through nucleic acids…

Forgotten loves, fears,
melancholia, euphoria—all are
buried and lost,
for the paper
the clay,
on which we attempt
to record these emotions
disintegrates in the harsh climate.

Shall these heights and depths
of previous lives
remain unrevealed,

or will the child,
while gently scrubbing our bones,
removing  the caked soil and grit,
be a little more gentle, considerate—
perhaps even a little more contemplative—
while laying our long life-abandoned bones to dry
in the rays of the same sun

that was once dimmed by flesh…

Safe & Legal Abortion: A matter of life and death

Heads up:

This blog entry IS graphic.

When I taught “Ethical Issues” at nameless State University, I inevitably lead a two week discussion about abortion. The first week was spent reading philosophical texts as to why abortion was a moral wrong; the second week we read philosophical texts defending abortion. (Should you be interested in these reading materials, drop me a line in the comment section.)

Throughout the whole course, no matter the topic, I kept my own opinion out of the discussion.

But I did open this topic, which I am definitely passionate about, with some basic statistics.

  • By the age of 45, approximately 35% of American women will have had at least one abortion. Think about that when you’re running errands, when you’re at work, etc, and you see a woman. Wonder, “Did she have one?”
  • More than one-third of American women will have undergone at least one abortion.
  • More than HALF of the women who found themselves pregnant were using at least one form of birth control.[i]

Of course, philosophy frowns upon logical fallacies, and citing carefully chosen scripture to make the case against abortion wasn’t allowed. I find it very interesting that all 140 students, most around 20-22, understood this and followed it for the entire semester, making the national conversation looks terribly immature.

Perhaps more importantly, any student of philosophy is well aware that name-calling is a logical fallacy, and it’s a weak one. After citing the basic statistics concerning the prevalence and note the silence—of abortion in my course, I would have students who were adamantly anti-abortion raise their hand and apologize for calling a woman who sought an abortion a “murderer” or some other term.

Those students realized that chances were 99.9% at least one person in our classroom of 140 had an abortion, had a friend who had an abortion, etc.

I really appreciated it, and it helped clear the air so we could debate academically, philosophically.

I premise all this because I feel it’s important that these statistics be more well known before we ever discuss abortion.

Shall we?

Philadelphia “doctor[ii]” Kermit Gosnell was recently found guilty of the murder of three babies and one woman at what has come to be known as his “house of horrors.” House of horrors is a good term, if not a tad too emotive (for the philosopher in me), to describe the crimes committed. The three babies were born alive, and there seems to be no question that he willingly and knowingly killed them after delivering them.

You can read the indictment here (in PDF). It’s a hard read, but it’s worth the read to fully understand the case, and sums up the charges against him.

You may wonder why these women sought late term abortions[iii]. I don’t know their personal lives, but I do know that 26 new laws alone restricting (and even banning) abortion have been passed this year alone. 33 states require a “delay” before a woman can have an abortion—these are also known as “waiting periods.” They are costly for women who must travel to seek medical help. In addition to that, 33 states have mandated doctors lie to their patients, usually (but not always) by floating the idea that their patient’s risk of breast cancer will increase.

We know many of Gosnell’s patients were poor and/or a minority. And given his conviction, it seems that Gosnell was preying upon poorer women who were desperate.

I’d like to note that stories such as Gosnell’s “House of Horrors” are rare. Most providers of abortion and reproductive issues care about their patients and believe in what they’re doing. They realize how stressful this situation is for many women. And of course, abortion providers are risking their life and face constant harassment.

Pennsylvania requires: biased counseling, a waiting requirement, restricts insurance coverage of abortion for poorer women. If married, the woman must sign a statement declaring she has notified her spouse of the abortion (and yes, this is illegal under Planned Parenthood of SE Pennsylvania v. Casey, yet is still on the books. *sigh* )

Laws restricting access to abortion have not been proven to deter women from seeking them. Instead, such laws place financial obstacles, and delay the abortion.

Restricting laws against abortion procedures also put the woman’s health at risk. She may very well turn to a charlatan such as Gosnell, who clearly lost/never had any interest in helping women.

“He was acting wholly outside the law, and the fact that that is the case really suggests the reason why we need to make sure that we have good providers, that abortion has to be safe and legal and accessible,”

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

As draconian laws limiting a woman’s bodily autonomy spread across the country, we are more and more at risk of losing women. This isn’t hyperbole. Due to unsafe and illegal abortions, women DIE.

Just ask the family of Geraldine “Gerri” Santoro (née Twerdy). You’ve seen her death photo.

I leave with with the words of a family who lost their daughter, their sister, and yes, their mother in the 1960’s.

Two lives were needlessly and sadly lost here. This horrible sad picture of death makes clear that illegal abortion not only harms and kills women, it has never ever saved one baby.

Gerri Santori. No one should die like this. EVER.

Gerri Santori, as she died. No one should die like this or face what she did. EVER.


[ii] I use the term “doctor” most reluctantly, as what this man was charged and convicted of is un-professional and certainly not behavior expected from a medical doctor.

[iii] A late term abortion is generally any abortion that occurs after 12 weeks gestation.

Up Late: You can call me in the morning, I’ll tell you what to do

Good evening, Evergreeners!

It’s my pleasure to host tonight’s up late edition, brought to you by . . . limes, coconuts and Mr. Harry Nilsson! (Are limes and coconuts mixed together kosher for Passover?)

Well, I didn’t expect this.

No one expects the Spanish Inquistion!

And I certainly didn’t expect the events I’m about to relay to you…

I was in grad school working on my doctorate at generic State University in Florida from 2002 until 2006. I should have my Ph.D, now.

I don’t.

It’s very awkward for me when I am asked “Why don’t you have your Ph.D?” It’s a long story.

I went to Generic State School in Florida to study ancient philosophy with someone very highly ranked in this not-very-popular field. For the sake of this post, we’ll call him “Ted.”

Ted’s well known for work in ancient philosophy, and State School was on many lists of being one of THE schools to study ancient philosophy.

I took more than half my classes with Ted. I probably don’t have to tell you that ancient Greek philosophy is even less popular than philosophy, and philosophy has a notorious problem with treatment of women. See also: This  and even The Huffington Post. (Many sciences have more females than philosophy does; philosophy averages about 80% male. Inquiring minds have to wonder why? Is it because women don’t like to think or are afraid to argue?  Hmmm …)

As I worked on my dissertation in September 2005, Ted posed a really tough question he had never solved that happened to be in my area of work.

I thought the question over. And then, as I was hanging with some friends, watching football and doodling, and I came up with something that just might work. Actually, I doodled a looping line that was the inspiration for an issue with Stoic causation and free will.

(Do you really want to be know about Stoic causation and hard determinism? I love it, but I don’t expect everyone to love this stuff.)

The next Friday I showed Ted, and he was … well, he was flabbergasted. Ted said something along the lines of, “By golly, that works!”

SO … that night, we had our annual philosophy party with students and professors at a professors house. (By the way, I later learned this counts as a school event).

I was talking and making smart-ass (i.e., lame) philosophy jokes with other grad students and suddenly the mood changed. Ted was standing behind me. I turned around to acknowledge him and include him in the circle. He praised my work.

If it ended there, everything would be fine. There would be no story to read here.

But after praising my looks–my dress, my lips, my eyes, my legs–(yes, you read that correctly), he told me how much he wanted to take my dress off me. Then he put both hands on my cheeks and kissed me very forcefully on the mouth.

I immediately went to the bathroom. Did that really just happen?  Three students later came forward as witnesses.

I took the weekend to cool off. I hung out with my football watching friends. Maybe he was drunk? No, it doesn’t excuse it, but #$^*, I’d known the man for four years, why would he do this NOW? (Oh, naivety.)

So next week, we had our Greek translation group on Friday morning. All four of us showed up, ready to take on Aristotle’s Metaphysics Zeta.

That was fine.

Then I met Ted (alone, door open) in his office to go over where I was in my work.

Again, that was fine. I had made more progress. I left  feeling pretty positive about my work in understanding Stoic logic and hard determinism.

I went back down to my office to grade or work or something. He came downstairs to my office to recommend I look at a paper online. I remember it was a paper by W.V.O. Quine, someone  who was a prominent professor of his at Harvard.

I found the paper online, turned my head to Ted to let him know I found it … and from behind, he groped me quite … um, adamantly … ?  Intimately?  And kissed me (if shoving your tongue in someone’s mouth counts as kissing) — and then left.  Quickly.

I closed the door to my office, which automatically locked.

I was in shock.

I knew at this moment I HAD to report his behavior. I knew that this meant I couldn’t work with him. I know that I couldn’t finish my work at the university where I had already invested so much time.

I knew everything had changed.

My office mate (and good friend) came in (one of the witnesses) and found me curled up in a ball, crying.

He took one look at me.  “He did it again, didn’t he? You have to report it.”

I begged him to give me a half hour to process it, to calm down. But he didn’t give me that time and reported it himself.

So I was called down to some room without windows.

What were you wearing?
Was he drunk?
Have you had sex with him?
Did you lead him on?
Did you say anything suggestive to him?
How many people in the department have you slept with?

Yes. In 2005, I was actually asked these questions at a State University in Florida.
All my witnesses were asked them too.  Some of them told the “fair and impartial” investigators off.
I was numb and stupidly answered the questions … I just happened to be “lucky” that I hadn’t had sex with anyone in my department, or for that matter, the school. I could not be the  “slut” they seemed to think I must have been.

I was told in February (yes, FEBRUARY) that they made a decision. Ted would no longer be alone with women with the door closed (Uh … door was never closed) and I’d have to go elsewhere without Letters of Rec except one from the dean.

I couldn’t fight it. Other philosophy profs said “I could have told you this would happen.” (Thanks.) and, “Well, you must have done something to deserve it.”

I was supported by other philosophers, but they weren’t tenured so their pull in the department wasn’t as strong. Still, I shall never forget their basic human decency and not treating me like a paraiah.  I was even told by the head of the department that he wished I came to him first so we could address it. It was “obviously a misunderstanding”. (I learned later that this move on his part was also illegal.)

Ted’s wife worked in the department too. No female has ever completed their Ph.D with him. Only males. The females leave with their masters degrees; other professors couldn’t seem to understand why this was the case. “She was so bright and promising.”  I heard several times about my female predecessors.

And I found out later this was not the first time he had done this. How the hell did he still have a job? He’st now professor emeritus  and I’m making the most with my degree, but I’d be much happier if I was just allowed to pursue what I love.

I’m not bitter. I just fail to believe that sexual harassment laws are being enforced as intended, particularly in the academy.

As for the three witnesses who stood by me, they all left the school within two years. One finished his Ph.D elsewhere, and two left with an M.A. the next year; one teaches, one  practices law. Both have law degrees.

All supporters of me during that time were male.

But that’s the overall make-up of the field.