Sport Is Something We Do Together

This week I watched videos by Rosianna Halse Rojas and Hannah Witton discussing Anna Kessel’s new book, Eat Sweat Play: How Sport Can Change Our Lives. Rosianna and Hannah discuss the role that exercise and sport have played in their lives and since watching their videos I’ve been thinking about what it means to do sport together, especially as young women.

Tuesday was the last day of school for public school students in my town and the kids started getting home around 11:30am. My sixteen year old brother got off the bus, quickly ate a haphazard lunch, and then hopped on his bike to hang out with his friends from the crew team at a park near our house. Based on what he tells me as he digs through the garage, they’re going to play some ultimate frisbee and then probably lay around in the grass. They started this frisbee habit last summer, meeting up after practice had ended to be together and run around.

Social experiences for me as a teenage girl were always very sedentary – friendships were built around sitting and talking. We went on some walks at a rail trail or maybe strolled through the mall, but there was never a group of us running around playing. Teenage girlhood meant talking and delicately snacking, not diving for discs in an open field. Read More

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A Personal History of Libraries

1/2.  My mom is at work and my dad stays at the apartment to take care of me. The woman next door needs help with childcare and my dad needs money, so he hauls two kids and a baby all around D.C. We are lucky that so many things are free. I learn to walk at the Smithsonian in between trips to the zoo. We visit the Library of Congress and hear about the days my dad spent there in college doing research.

4. My mom takes a baby and a preschooler to story time once a week with some people who live in our California apartment complex. It is nice to be able to walk to the library without worrying about snow.

6. We have moved twice now and our new house in a colonial town is three-fifths of a mile from the public library. My mom walks there with a baby carriage and two little girls holding hands. My dad is at work now while she stays home, though we know nobody in this whole town. We are each allowed to pick out one movie, and as many books as will fit in the tote-bag.

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What I’m Reading and Why

I first started reading non-fiction for pleasure when I was around fourteen. I had been a fantasy-dork as a kid but a combination of adolescence and anxiety meant that fiction suddenly became overwhelming. I was internalizing the problems of the characters in the book, ruminating on them long after the last page had been turned, and that was not really helping my over-all life. I needed something different.

That spring I would walk home from school a few afternoons a week, sneaking out the door by the gym instead of getting on my bus. The library was on the way home and I would spend an hour curled up in the young adult non-fiction section. Since I was a semi-closeted deeply repressed young gay kid, I would quietly read books geared at LGBT teens, often hiding them behind an Oprah magazine. 306.766 is the call number, don’t want anyone seeing you looking it up in the online catalog! After I felt a little more validated, I would pack up and walk home to do my homework.

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The Zodiac Killer and Katy Perry: Why We Need Conspiracy Theories Right Now

The Zodiac Killer was/is a serial killer in California in the 1960s and 1970s (and possibly early 2000s) who was never identified. He corresponded with the police using cryptograms, only one of which was ever solved conclusively. Based on the timing of his killings, there’s a significant chance that he’s dead now. Unless he’s running for President.

For the past week, I’ve been reading Rob Brotherton’s book Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories. I come from a family with a long-standing fascination with conspiracy theories; my dad’s grandmother firmly believed that the moon-landing was faked. More recently, though, popular conspiracies have hit too close to home for us. My very patriotic uncle saw the Twin Towers fall from a ferry and so the 9/11 Truther theories hurt too much to even mention.

Suspicious Minds doesn’t detail the evidence supporting any specific theory, but talks about the psychology and experiences that cause people to believe in these outrageous theories. The more socially disadvantaged you are, the more likely you are to think that there is a grand scheme created by people above you in order to keep you down. (I often feel like a conspiracy theorist when I talk about unconscious forms of sexism with my parents). So why are we talking about the Zodiac Killer right now?

To a large degree, the “conspiracy theories” about Ted Cruz being the Zodiac Killer are largely jokes. Despite the prolific meme-ry, the Internet does not actually think that a man who was born after the Zodiac Killer’s most active years  really committed those crimes. The other theory ~trending~ this week is that JonBenet Ramsey, the little girl who was murdered in 1986, is actually alive and has grown up to become the pop singer Katy Perry. This seems to have come out of nowhere; while Ted Cruz at least has an active campaign, Katy Perry hasn’t even released a single recently.

I find these memes to be in rather bad taste; these are recent, real murders. Their families are still alive and I don’t find joking about these murders to be funny. But I do wonder what these jokes and conspiracy theories  are saying about how we view the world.

Importantly, these cases are unsolved. They indicate a large lack of control in our society. And for many people, this election cycle has, too. The Republican Party has lost control of its primary and we are facing the possibility of previously unfathomable realities. If Donald Trump could be the president, why couldn’t Ted Cruz be the Zodiac Killer? It doesn’t have to be the Zodiac Killer – pick any ludicrous unidentified person from recent memory. The fact that there is no way that Ted Cruz could actually be the Zodiac Killer makes this theory more popular, not less.

The JonBenet Ramsey -> Katy Perry theory developed later and I think can be understood as  a response. Finding out that a Senator is a murder is horrible. But the idea that a little girl who was brutally murdered might actually be alive and well? That’s  a theory filled with hope.

In times when people feel like they cannot trust the systems around them, they turn to conspiracy theories as a way to find some sense of order in their lives. In this crazy election cycle where nothing has gone as expected, people are creating these memes that do the same thing, by solving unsolved murders and resurrecting little girls. Even if we know that the theories are false, playing with them in this way gives us the tiniest bit of control in a time when we feel we have increasingly little.