The Other “I-Word” – When will “Illegal” go the way of “Illegitimate?”

Drop the I-Word

The New York Times ran a story about the revelation that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s biological father is not the person listed on his birth certificate. This is not necessarily “news,” except for the fact that his high station in the church is unusual for someone who could be described as “illegitimate.”

But you won’t see the word “illegitimate” in the Times article. Other news outlets have used the word in the story or headline, but not the Times.

That’s right, the newspaper that has rejected the Drop the I-Word campaign and won’t change its style manual to stop using “illegal” or “illegal immigrant” to refer to people based on immigration status has declined to use the other “I-Word” word for a news story when describing the head of the Church of England. The Archbishop doesn’t use this word to marginalize himself, and in a respectful turn, neither does the Times

Rejecting “Us versus Them” in the Aftermath of Paris

Französischer Dom in Berlin Nov 2015

The day after the attacks on Paris, I had a spaghetti dinner in Prenzlauerberg (a neighborhood in the former East Berlin) with a German man I am just getting to know. We talked about our concerns that these deaths would lead to more escalation in political violence, especially actions by the U.S. and member states of the EU that could lead to more deaths.

But we are an unusual pair of people to be having this conversation. He is a former member of the Red Army Faction (RAF), and I am an American whose only brother was killed by the Red Army Faction in 1985 as part of an attack on the US airbase on Rhein-Main (my dinner partner was already serving time in prison for other deaths at the time).

Later, you’ll be glad you didn’t kill your children

My mom

In the final few years of my mother’s life (she died in 2008) I was living across the country, but visited her three times a year. Inevitably, at some point in these visits, we would go out to dinner, or be waiting for a bus, and my mother would end a lull in the conversation by saying, “I saw that story on the news about that woman who killed her children… it reminds me of when you were little.”

Pleading for a father’s life after a mother’s murder

richard_strong_doc_photo_0

I felt such a sense of horror when I read about a 14-year old girl who petitioned the state of Missouri asking them not to execute her father for the gruesome murder of her mother and sister. Her petition was turned down, and the state executed Richard Strong this week. The state willfully orphaned her, saying that this is what “justice” looked like, with the vocal support of some of her relatives.

It’s like a scene from some movie about a king or queen executing a peasant to show how powerful he is, and a child begging for mercy to no avail. Except that this is real.