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Reply to Ron / response to the academic paper for which I posted a link

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  • dgoska
    Dear Ron, Hi. Thanks for writing. Ron, you wrote: I have not found the history of Sulin and the Stara Lubovna area that I would like to read, so I plan on
    Message 1 of 16 , Dec 4, 2006
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      Dear Ron,

      Hi. Thanks for writing.

      Ron, you wrote:

      "I have not found the history of Sulin and the Stara Lubovna area that
      I would like to read, so I plan on writing it myself."

      I think that that is wonderful, Ron.

      I applaud your spirit and enterprise.

      Keep up the good work.

      Regarding more controversial portions of your email.

      You wrote that you did not read my article, because it is long, but
      that you did read negative comments that purported to be about my
      article, because those comments were short, and that those comments
      worked for you.

      Well, that's the problem, isn't it?

      Whenever a writer publishes something, esp. something that is not a
      soundbite, but that, rather, is lengthy and complicated, that writer
      risks being misrepresented by others' soundbites.

      The soundbite didn't work for me. It is not about the article i wrote.

      That's one problem.

      The larger problem, for me, is this.

      I come from a Slavic American background. In many ways, my family
      represents typical demographic trends.

      Illiterate (on my father's side; my proud Slovak grandmother, though a
      peasant who gave birth to my mother in a river, would haunt me if I
      intimated that she could not read; in fact she could read in at least
      three, largely unrelated, languages), peasants in the old country,
      coal miners here; their children had to really struggle to enter the
      American middle class, to the extent that we have.

      I had really high test scores and received advanced degrees, under
      world famous scholars, at two prestigious American graduate schools; I
      also attended what I think is the oldest university in Central Europe.
      I've worked around the world and spoken several languages. I could
      have, as many like me have done, chosen a highly remunerative
      profession. I could be living in a big house and worrying about my
      stocks and bonds.

      I didn't do that. Like you, Ron, I wanted to do something for those
      people who were so mistreated by history. That's why I so highly
      respect the statement I quoted from your email, above.

      Despite active discouragement from my profs, I worked on Slavic
      American issues.

      I was informed, by profs who cared about me and my future: "You've
      lived in Africa! You speak an African language! There is funding for
      Africa! Do Africa! You'll get a job when you finish!"

      I was begged: "You've lived in Asia! You speak an Asian language! Do
      Asia...! Don't you want to get a job when you finish?"

      I was warned: "If you keep writing about these Bohunks, there's no job
      for you when you finish!"

      It's been a tough row to hoe. It's been all but impossible to find
      funding. Pieces I've written on non-Slavic issues have found
      publication readily; articles on Slavic issues have been much harder
      to place.

      And I've had to deal with active bigotry. I've had to watch professors
      I very much liked and respected reveal their bigotry against
      Catholics, against blue collar people, and against Poles (I'm half and
      half.) I was invited to announce that, as a Polish Catholic American,
      I am a dumb anti-Semite -- yes -- even advanced academics retain these
      prejudices.

      And there's more. If you want to work on Slavic-American issues in the
      academy, funding is hard to come by. Departments that even recognize,
      never mind support, these issues are vanishingly rare, and often
      marginalized.

      Mind -- I'm not talking about linguistics -- about Old Church
      Slavonic; I'm not talking about economics -- about how to make lots
      and lots of money in the post-Communist world; I'm not talking about
      rulers' histories, about dead white Central European males. There are
      plenty of academic departments addressing those issues.

      I'm talking about writing we Bohunks can be proud to call our own.

      How much of it is out there?

      Irish people have "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn;" Italians have, like it
      or not, the Godfather epic. We have "Out of this Furnace," but how
      many, outside of, or even within, our communities have read that book?

      Academia does not make it easy on the scholar who wants to do the kind
      of work that you describe doing, Ron, the kind of work I dream of doing.

      The lowest point in my academic career came several years ago when I
      was harassed by a well-placed prof for taking off four work days to
      attend my dad's funeral. The harassment was brutal, and resulted in my
      sustaining an injury that rendered me occasionally functionally
      paralyzed, blind, and unable to stop vomiting.

      That went on for years.

      I'm still trying to dig myself out of the economic and social hole
      caused by that catastrophic illness. The best teaching jobs I can find
      are as an adjunct. These are temporary jobs without security. I live
      below the poverty line, and I don't know what the future holds.

      Something keeps me going, though. That something is the belief I have
      in the work that I do, or, at the very least, in my service to that
      work, in the best way that I can serve.

      Service? I've edited papers for free, hosted scholars for free,
      written letters, even marched, while carrying a sign. I've pushed
      sales for my Slavic American colleagues' books. I work at this. As
      hard as I can.

      My proudest effort was contributing to the resurrection of the poetry
      of Antony Piotrowski.

      But I'm not enough, and you are not enough, and no single one of us is
      enough.

      I've been in academia for a long time. I've learned that, in academia,
      work is done, and topics are honored, because of community more often
      than because of individuals.

      I've watched minorities in academia build important community and
      advance their agenda.

      Have you ever observed how African American scholars reach out to,
      form community with, and support each other?

      I've been at parties where an African American scholar will enter a
      room, see the one other black person there, cross the room, shake
      hands, and say, more or less, "I've got your back, brother. You are
      not alone, here."

      This kind of community is especially important when the lone African
      American is, like me, a first generation college student -- heck -- my
      parents were removed from school before grade school graduation, for
      my dad, and before high school graduation, for my mom -- from a poor
      background. That kind of support is needed in the strange land of
      academia for an ethnic minority scholar.

      Hispcanic American? Asian American? Gay American?

      They support each other. They start departments. They begin journals.
      They care about their friends. Their efforts are admirable. More
      importantly, they get the job done. They create a future for
      themselves and their work.

      A working class girl from a poor, immigrant background, I have been
      supported, mentored, and encouraged in academia.

      People have pointed out jobs to me, and journals for possible
      publication to me, and helped me get funding to attend conferences.

      For the most part, with a couple of exceptions, those people have not
      been, alas, my fellow Slavic American academics.

      My supporters have been, largely, though not exclusively, Jewish
      Americans, who are often interested in the same region, but from a
      different angle. They're the ones who read my work and offer HELPFUL,
      PERTINENT comments. They're the ones who write me good letters of
      recomendation. Etc.

      When I've tried to approach Slavic-American scholars, I've been rebuffed.

      It's not just me. I see this again and again. There is a kind of
      spite, back biting, undercutting.

      A desire to see the other guy fail.

      It's tragic.

      This behavior isn't just about individuals. It's about us as a people
      in America, and our efforts to get work done.

      United we stand, divided we fall.

      If anyone here is an academic, and wants to contribute helpful
      comments to my work, by all means. contact me. I'm eager to form real
      community with fellow Slavic Americans who want to achieve the same
      ends as I. My email inbox awaits your valued communication.

      But when behavior that looks like what I've seen before takes place, I
      have to speak up. That is part of the work to which I am in service.
      It's not an easy or a nice part of that work. Frankly, it makes me sad
      and afraid.

      But, if we don't name that behavior when we see it, and if we don't
      work to change it, we're going to be stuck in this no-exit situation
      forever.

      Let's encourage and support each other.
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