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Practically Idealistic blog
The title for this blog originated with use of the term “practical idealist” in this 1996 opinion piece, which asked: “To what kind of work should a practical idealist aspire?” A century and a half earlier, Emerson, in his 1841 essay Circles, wrote: “There are degrees in idealism.  We learn first to play with it academically. . . .  Then we see in the heyday of youth and poetry that it may be true, that it is true in gleams and fragments.  Then, its countenance waxes stern and grand, and we see that it must be true.  It now shows itself ethical and practical.”  John Dewey and Mahatma Gandhi embraced practical idealism in the 20th century, as did UN Secretary General U Thant.  Al Gore invoked it in a 1998 speech. In the context of this blog, the term is meant to convey idealism tempered but not overwhelmed by realism: a search for the ideal on a path guided by common sense.
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Census 2010

Last week my wife and I completed the short Census form sent to us.  The only question without a straightforward answer was the "race" of our children.  Invited to mark "one or more boxes," we checked for the kids both "White" and "Asian Indian," as well as "Some other race," where we wrote "Multi (of both European American and South Asian descent)."  Others have been known to respond simply "human."

The subjective, even arbitrary way in which one might answer such a question could undermine its value as a demographic source.  Yet notions of race and racial purity have always been socially constructed, and at least now individuals themselves have greater ability to shape those constructions.  Posts to this blog on December 2 and January 25, 2009 (and earlier) have addressed related issues and resources, including NPR's "Beyond Black and White" series.   One of the stories in that series features a book, Blended Nation: Portraits and Interviews of Mixed-Race America, by Mike Tauber and Pamela Singh.  The Mavin Foundation "helps build healthier communities by raising awareness about the experiences of mixed heritage people and families. [Its] projects explore the experiences of mixed heritage people, transracial adoptees, interracial relationships and multiracial families."

This blog's January 25, 2009 entry noted a January 21 New York Times article by Jodi Kantor:  "A Portrait of Change:  In First Family, a Nation's Many Faces"

See also a May 2006 commentary on the This I Believe website "Cushioning Globalization through Global Families"  as well as a similar, expanded June 2006 essay.

. . .

Census, continued

The Complete Count Committee is working nationally to address the undercount of many communities' residents.  Thomas MacMillan in December  and Allan Appel, in January and February, reported in the New Haven Independent about local census efforts, with leadership from Sandra McKinnie and April Lawson (City Hall) among others.  Mayor John DeStefano and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro are championing the cause with an estimated $9000 in federal funding per resident at stake.

Data Haven and this Yale census site are other local resources.  Douglas Rae's book City: Urbanism and Its End draws on historical census -- and many other-- data on New Haven. 

The U.S. Census site is itself a source of historical data.  The first U.S. census in 1790 had sought information on "the head of the family and the number of persons in each household of the following descriptions: Free White males of 16 years and upward (to assess the country's industrial and military potential), free White males under 16 years, free White females, all other free persons (by sex and color), and slaves."  In 1790, Connecticut enumerated some 4484 persons in New Haven proper (roughly the size of one city ward today), more than 30,000 in the entire county, and 237,946 statewide.  The three largest cities were New York with a population of 33,131; Philadelphia, 28,522; and Boston, 18,320, amid a total U.S. population of 3.9 million.

Back to the present, the Prison Policy Initiative  has a "Prisoners of the Census" project that is informing the public debate through people like metro maven Neal Peirce, who argues "How the census counts prisoners is a crime."  He asks, "Should the census count inmates as residents of their prisons, often hundreds of miles from home? Or, should they be tallied as citizens of the cities or counties they came from?"  Peirce cites an agreement between the Census Bureau and U.S. Rep. William Clay Jr. of Missouri, who chairs the House subcommittee on census issues.  The deal "creates at least a chance for prisoners' overwhelmingly urban home areas to get a better break on legislative representation."

Yale political scientist Khalilah L. Brown-Dean studies connections between criminal justice and injustices, civic health and voter disenfranchisement.  Also a senior fellow of the Open Society Institute, she lectured to Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute Fellows in 2009 on "Once Convicted, Forever Doomed: The Politics of Punishment in the U.S."

6:55 am edt 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Red Cross Month, Giving Blood

March is Red Cross Month.  The calamitous earthquakes in Haiti and Chile have appropriately elicited great concern and generosity.  Beyond supporting such missions, a way to contribute is by volunteering as a blood donor every eight weeks in one’s own community.

A March 4 A.P. article reports the call by John Kerry and 17 other Senators: Lift Ban on Gays Donating Blood .  The lawmakers aim to change a policy imposing a lifetime ban on donating blood for any man who has had gay sex since 1977.  The Senators “stressed that the science has changed dramatically since the ban was established in 1983 at the advent of the HIV-AIDS crisis. Today donated blood must undergo two different, highly accurate tests that make the risk of tainted blood entering the blood supply virtually zero, they said.”

I agree with Kerry et al.

Familiar with the questions posed to blood donors about their sexual histories and also such matters as whether they have ever been in juvenile detention or lock-up for more than 72 hours, I am currently frustrated by the Red Cross blanket prohibition of donations of blood from anyone who has been to India – or certain other countries – in the previous year.  That policy, too, is understandable given the risk of diseases such as malaria.  But in my case it seems unfortunate that 10 days in north India during December – when it’s neither hot nor wet for mosquitoes – preclude the six pints of blood the Red Cross could otherwise have received from a donor during a year.

Albertus Magnus College is hosting a blood drive on March 22, as are Yale's Sterling Memorial Library on March 31 and the Yale Repertory Theatre the afternoons of April 6 and 7.  Every Friday afternoon the New Haven Red Cross chapter house holds a drive at 703 Whitney Avenue.  Call 1-800-RED-CROSS or visit www.RedCrossBlood.org.

12:31 am edt 

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