Saturday, December 26, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
When one considers religion as field of Academic study, the societal influences and cultural biases create a world where creed, code, cult and community clash against the secular understandings of a nation that claims the autonomy from religion in daily life. The very definition of religion opens the door to seeing the most mundane and minute beliefs and practices of the American people as religious gatherings. In accepting the "American Religion" of freedom and the right to express one's self, bridges of understanding are built between former foes, and pluralism becomes a new format where all belief is sacred and "the other" transforms to one's brother.
Defining religion in the terms of creed- the word or belief of a people, code- the rules or boundaries stemming from the creed, cult- the group practices and traditions and community- the social structure of the organization, allows the scholar to analyze all aspects of American culture from sports to government and fraternities to churches. This broad characterization may seem daunting to those who wish to keep a system of easy labels, but this classification also gives credibility to the young religions of America trying to establish their theology in a nation awash in relativism.
Prior to taking this class, my personal experience had lead me to judge that the religion of Scientology was not a religion at all, but an elaborate systematic approach of using blackmail, extortion and fear to gain power and money. However, this course helped me to differentiate the cultural practices and personal beliefs of the religious men and women of all faiths. Breaking past my prejudice and judgments, I see the common thread of their religion to my own- their belief to mine- our shared goal of a better world where everyone gathers according to the dictates of their own conscience.
Furthermore, as people are able to distinguish the cultural traditions in their religious worship, they are given the opportunity to find their faith once again. There can be no doubt that religion and culture constantly rub and crash against each other; creating two separate yet similar worlds full of art, inspiration and order that shape our society for good and bad. In removing the cultural influence from religion, religion can be found in an undiluted form. This concentrate becomes the basis for a new faith free from the changing trends of modern culture. In removing religious influences from culture, societies may examine their motives for change and no longer hide behind the mask of religious conviction to enact change or suppress humanity.
In conclusion, the religious diversity in America is what defines this nation. In all our actions, words and beliefs, our nation constantly changes to meet the needs of its citizens. In recognizing that we are united by our differences, we are no longer defined by what we are not, but we become a people who embrace "the other" as they are us, and we are them.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Friday, December 04, 2009
I just finished my last draft of a humor essay for my class. This was fun to write, and I hope it is fun to read also.
I had just turned 12 and starting the 7th grade in a new state. This could be seen as an adventure for some kids, discovering new friends, new teachers and new ways to skip class. For me this was not the case. I had just finished my first year of middle school in Texas where 6th grade is the starting point, and I dreaded the thought of facing the social pecking order where I was sure to be on the bottom. In Tennessee, I was starting the new school year at MacMurray Jr. High as an outcast; I was white, fat and the new kid. Oh yeah, I was also a Mormon in a school filled with Baptists.
The first day of class we found that each classroom had a list of names containing the students that were to gather there for "homeroom announcements." Since it was the first day I felt relieved to find that the teacher had assigned our seats, so that I had a guaranteed place to sit without the rejection that came from asking the dreaded question: "Is this seat taken?"
The Vice Principal came into our room to inform us that we would be taking a test on our first day, "This test doesn't count for anything." She said. Since there wasn't a reason to lie to us, I took her at her word. Surely if this test meant anything, they wouldn't offer it on the first day, or at least they would wait until the end of the day to test us. What could they possibly test us on: the color of lockers in the hall, or the number of our school bus? Our teacher reinforced this while handing out the test, "Don't feel pressured because it doesn't count for anything. In fact, we won't even grade them." She said. I believed her.
Immediately after my parents' divorce, I learned that any in-class work could be skipped if I put my head down on the desk and kept a solemn look on my face. I was in 1st grade, and was tired one morning when the teacher stopped her lesson. "Archie," she said, "is everything alright? Do you want to go talk to someone?" Right away I smelled weakness, and I knew that I had the upper hand. From that point on when the class got boring or when we started math, I would become very "sad" and need to talk with the counselor while playing with the assortment of trucks in his office. He would try to get me to talk with him, but my reply was always the same: "Talking about it makes me miss my daddy." He stopped asking, and I kept playing. This act was a win-win-win for all of us. I got to play; the teacher didn't have sad kid in her class, and the counselor felt that he was helping me through a rough time in my life.
Since this test "didn't count" I figured that I would just fill in some bubbles on the scan-tron and spend the rest of the time counting the little holes in the ceiling tiles with the "sad" look on my face. This worked and after watching the other kids in the class struggle with the test for over an hour, I felt pretty smart for not wasting my time with a test that didn't count.
Right away the bubbled answer sheets were collected and whisked away to the front office. In class we reviewed the school and classroom policies while I tried my best to blend in with the rest of the students by un-tucking my shirt and messing up my combed hair. I would have traded my little sister for an Atlanta Braves jacket right then. More than half of my peers showed their support for the Braves with either hats or coats. I remained one of three White kids in the room trying desperately not to notice the turning heads and hushed whispers.
Soon after the all the rules had been reviewed, the Vice Principal returned with more news. "We will divide you up into smaller groups for your actual classes. " She said. "These groups will meet with the other 7th grade homeroom classes for your courses." One by one, she read the names of the students and their assigned group. I became a Mac. I couldn't think of a better group name than something from McDonald's, so this new school was starting to seem really cool after all.
Within weeks of class starting, even the small kids were picking on me. My ability to blend in didn't work in this place where adolescence was the eighth circle of Dante's hell. My name had been changed to "Doughboy" or "Marshmallow Man" with the teachers joining in on the joke. One short, stocky woman who had the honor of educating the largest group of seventh graders ever assembled in one class would often mutter "Mormon" or "Doughboy" when passing my desk. Prior to entering this school, I did not know what puberty was. Within hours of passing through the doors, I was introduced to a world of body odor, hair and testosterone that rivaled the locker rooms of the NFL. I would have been shoved into my locker daily, but after their first attempt, and realizing that I could not fit because of my roundness; my "friends" decided that kicking my books was a better option.
I couldn't figure out why they hated me so much, the classes were super easy and everyone had just as much time to answer the questions as I did. The lessons went a little something like this: Teacher- "How do we kill the germs in water?" Archie- "Boil the water." Teacher- "Back when all the continents were together, what was that called?" Archie- "Pangaea." Teacher- "Why is Doughboy answering all the questions?" Doughboy- "I don't know."
I took the teasing and the kicking just as some test of my character. I never let it get to me, and mostly figured that since the majority of the kids were Baptist and I wasn't, that must be the source of the problem. Until one afternoon when a girl who towered next to me in her desk asked a simple question that answered all of mine. "Why are you in the retard class?" She asked. With that question I looked around the room and realized why I was hated; with thoughts reviewing the past weeks of abuse and scorn, I noticed that my classmates looked a couple years older and in most cases they were. Our "Mac group" was the remedial class. They had all been held back from advancing and resented anyone who showed signs of moving on.
The words of the Vice Principal echoed in my head: "This doesn't count for anything." She was right; they never showed us our graded test, or even entered them on a class log. That boring test I choose to sleep through was a placement test, and that was the moment that I learned that sometimes even when it doesn't count, it does.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
This lyric essay was for my English class. I find that writing non-fiction stirs up some old memories, and the more I write, the more I remember. Perhaps some good will come from all this writing...
On March 23, 2008 I became a dad. Standing next to my wife after 30+ hours of labor, we were anxious to greet this new baby into our family. I stood by my wife's side pushing, pulling, comforting and coaching her long into the night and into the early morning of my best Easter ever. When the midwife asked me if I wanted to catch the baby I quickly responded that I didn't know, but that did not stop her from telling me how to cradle his little neck into my hand and prepare for the next push. My son, a beautiful gooey mess of purple skin and slimy hair, slid into my hands at 1:11am, and my life changed forever. I held him as he took his first breath. I held him as he cried; shocked at the cold air that now surrounded him. I held him as he nestled into his mother's arms. I was a daddy.
When I was eight I didn't know how to ride a bike. This wouldn't be a problem if my friends didn't like to ride, but we were living in Louisiana, where every street and vacant lot had an adventure to be explored. I tried to blend in with my training wheels keeping me upright, but how could any self-respecting lizard hunter and tadpole collector go on safari with training wheels? My parents had divorced several years earlier, and despite my mom's best effort to give us everything we needed, I still needed a dad. That is where my French speaking friend Felix stepped in, and taught me one of the most basic lessons in life. We hijacked my sister's training wheel free bike and started practice. I fell, and I fell a lot. When I wanted to quit, I was told that the only way to learn was to get back on and fall some more. Felix patiently helped me off the ground and on the bike every time I fell. Finally the moment came when I was pedaling faster than he could run. I was on my own! I wish I knew the words that Felix shouted as I made my way down the sidewalk and across the street. I wish that I knew the words in French to thank my friend who stepped into a role that wasn't required of him. I wish I knew where he was today.
At thirteen I was the fat, white, Mormon kid in a school where I did not fit in. Tennessee was not a great place for me to attend junior high. Really though, is there ever a great place to attend junior high? Up until this point in my life, basketball was played on a six foot hoop with friends late into the evening. This concept of a ten foot hoop played in a gym with a bunch of large strangers seemed foreboding at best. Not knowing any rules, I hoped to avoid detection by just standing to the side and letting the other boys work their magic. I was great at standing. In fact, I was so great at standing that they let me stand under the hoop and took turns driving down the key and slamming their massive frames into my prepubescent body. Since they all seemed to enjoy this, I must be doing something right. So in spite of the pain and embarrassment I remained under the hoop to serve as the "dummy" for their practice. It would have been nice to know the rules of the game, but I did not have that option. Life dealt me a hand free from the education of sports and the knowledge of how to stand up to a bully. I didn't like it. I didn't know any different. I thought that this is just the way life is.
My son is still growing. At 18 months, he has life figured out. He knows how to eat. He knows how to communicate as he makes the signs for "food", "milk", "more" and "diaper." He even knows where to find my wallet and pull out all of its contents. The other day we were in the backyard, and I was watching him play on the slide. Climbing up the ladder and then going down the slide, he spent his time enjoying the beautiful day. After a few climbs and a few slides, he lost his balance and was close to falling off the slide. I watched from a distance knowing that he was only two feet from the ground, and that as much as I wanted to help him back into place, it was important that he learn life lessons like this on his own. He eventually climbed back into place. Looking around the yard he saw me and smiled. Taking a break from his toys, he climbed into my lap seeking comfort and love from someone who will always be there to give it. I love my son. I enjoy every moment of watching him grow. I am a dad.
Friday, October 23, 2009
The Great Delusion
Among philosophers from different backgrounds, the free will problem continues to create debates and stand in contrast with the omniscience of God. If one supposes that God is a perfect being, all knowing, all good, all powerful, then how can man act independently of God's will? Wouldn't the will of an all-powerful god have power to force the human race into submission? From the Determinist to the Libertarian, many conflicting views create the uncertainty of our role in the world.
In order to come to an answer about free will, we must first understand the three schools of thought in regards to the nature of God. By understanding the theology and definitions of God, we can then define our relationship with Him.
I claim that free will does exist and does not take away any traits from a perfect God; rather the existence of free will proves that not only is God omnipotent but also merciful and loving—traits that should be held by a Supreme Being.
A classical theologian like Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) subscribed to the theology of determinism which is: "the view that everything that happens is uniquely determined to happen by prior events and states of the universe (Shatz, 556)." In other words, God has already set life into motion, and everything that will happen has been decided by God before any person came into existence. A determinist believes that God is the source of everything. If anything happens, then it happened because God wanted it to be that way. All of our actions, past and future, have been decided, and we are not free to act on our own.
This philosophy is strengthened when one considers the omniscience of God. If God is all knowing, then He knows how we will act. A perfect God must possess this attribute of knowing everything in order to be supreme. If God knows that something will happen, then it must happen or He will no longer be omniscient— and no longer worthy of our worship.
While this form of belief may bring comfort to many who look for order in a chaotic world, this notion of God eliminating our ability to choose unsettles many. For those looking to have a personal relationship with deity, the deterministic view is cold and subservient. According to William Hasker, a professor at Huntington College, this relationship with God can be compared to a puppet tied by string to a puppet master who controls all movements and voice (Shatz, 56). In following the deterministic philosophy, a person surrenders all autonomy to this higher power and acknowledges their station in life as the will of God.
The critique of determinism continues with the issues of sin and evil. If one supposes that a benevolent God is the source and cause of everything, then where does evil come from? How could a perfectly good God create evil? How can a person sin when God has decided that choice for them? To answer these questions while keeping with the deterministic philosophy, all things are done because that is the way God had planned it. This answer does not provide any clarity on the questions of evil and sin, nor does it help the believer build a personal relationship with this God. In claiming that God is the source of all suffering, the believer cannot seek comfort or refuge, or plead for help from this being. This callous thinking comforts only those who want to have a concrete explanation for the mysteries of life.
The philosophy of the Compatibilist closely resembles that of the Determinist in that a person's free will is real and in harmony with determinism. A person can act according their own will and desire if it is true for them to act at that time. A person can only make a choice if that choice has been approved. With compatibilism, God retains all His power, knowledge and goodness while still allowing humans their freedom to choose.
The compatibilist argument satisfies both the need for God to be perfect and the human need for independence. Each and every person is able to act according to their own will. However, this idea of free will cannot be real if our choices are contingent on the need to be "true" for us. We have two choices when waking up in the morning: get out of bed on the right side, or get out of bed on the left side. We could choose either option, but the perfect omniscient God would already know what side we will get out from. This perfect God cannot be wrong. Therefore, our action must comply, and be "true" for us. The only choice we can make will be the choice that God already knows. While we may think that we have options, God knows that we have only one action—His action; thus causing our free will to be nothing more than an illusion.
This illusion of free will may still give comfort to people who look to God for answers to life, but there are many still that do not see how an illusion of free will is the same thing as being able to choose. We are still trapped inside of a prison even if we do not realize it.
Libertarians, or incompatibilists, argue that free will is real. According to Hasker: "an agent is free with respect to a given action at a given time if at that time it is within the agent's power to perform that action and also in the agent's power to refrain from that action. (Shatz, 55)" A person can act however they desire if they are able to and if they can say no. We simply can't try to fly and then claim that God is restricting our free will because we are not able to avoid the law of gravity, but we could choose to jump off a cliff, or choose to not jump off a cliff without any determined outcome. In this view of free will, we are truly free agents to according to our own desires.
This libertarian view of free will also eliminates the problem of sin and evil. People are free to choose—to sin or not sin. If a person is considered "evil" or a "sinner" they have chosen that path; God did not decide this for them.
However, the problem with this idea arises when talking about the power of God. In the libertarian philosophy, God is no longer all knowing as there is no way that He can know how we will act if the choice is left to us. If God does not know something then He is no longer perfect. The Libertarian now must tweak the concept of God to fit with his definition of free will.
God is still omniscient, but that does not mean that He sees the future. Rather as an all knowing God, He knows everything that can be known. He cannot be expected to know things that have not occurred as they have not yet happened. Strengthening this argument further, the Libertarian then asserts that God knows all the possible outcomes for any situation we are in. While He may know our many options and their outcomes, He allows us to make that choice for ourselves.
The Determinist vs. The Libertarian
In comparing these three views, we can quickly eliminate the compatibilistic argument as they eventually revert back to the deterministic view that the outcome is already known to God and therefore must happen. The remaining two arguments both have strengths that appeal to the believer. The God of the Determinist is all knowing; there is nothing unknown or surprising to this God. The Libertarian will admit that there are things that his God does not know.
The Determinist takes comfort in knowing that all problems and sorrows come from God for some unknown reason, but by faith they accept this as divine. The Libertarian cannot answer for the calamities that fall upon the human race. However, the Libertarian can claim to be a free agent in respect to God while the Determinist can't. The Libertarian takes comfort in building a personal relationship with this Supreme Being whereas the Determinist's relationship with God remains distant and cold as they have no claim on their own actions of good or evil.
The libertarian argument remains the stronger of the two as it clearly allows for a more intimate understanding of God. In their argument of God's omniscience, they do not take away from His power and glory, but they still are able to explain the problem of evil and sin. The deterministic view creates a rigid unbending law that can only be explained by denying simple logic. One must deny that free will exists, and also they must deny that God is able to change.
I agree with the libertarian view also because of my desire to act as an independent agent. Clearly there is a selfish reason to this thinking, but the evidence of their argument also allows for God to still know all possible outcomes. Isn't that knowledge still worthy of worship? The assertion that free will is just an illusion still remains a possibility, but clearly delving into a debate on relativism in regards to this will only lead to more questions and fewer answers. In believing in free will and the existence of a loving benevolent God, we must subscribe to libertarianism as that theology allows for both the perfect God and the free man.
Shatz, David. Philosphy and Faith: A Philosophy of Religion Reader. 1st ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2002. Print.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
This is my most recent paper done for my Creative Non-fiction class. I chose to write about the first date I had with my wife. Enjoy.
So much to do and so little time, throwing my work clothes on the floor and jumping into the shower, I make a mental list of all the things I need to do for this date: 1) dress nice, I need to impress this one because she is something special, 2) drive from my apartment in Queens to her office in midtown, 3) find parking, 4) find her office, 5) most important, don't screw this up!
What is there to screw up? It really isn't a big deal if she likes me or not, so why do I allow myself to get so caught up in the game? Who is this woman that she can have such sway over my sanity without my permission? My jumbled nerves only add to the stress I feel, and I quickly come to the conclusion that the sooner I accept the reality of a failed date, the sooner I can go on with my life. The date hasn't even begun and I throw up the white flag pleading for mercy. Of course years from now I will look back at this small moment and laugh at the stress I felt, and I will smile when I tell my wife how nervous I was that she might not have liked me.
What makes her so special? I could tell you about her intelligence and determination to attend and graduate from Princeton University and then go on to Graduate School in New York, but that wouldn't describe her people skills. I could tell you about when I saw her teaching a horde of hungry twenty-somethings easily transitioning from Spanish to English so everyone could understand, but that wouldn't describe her beauty. I could tell you about the first time I saw her in New Jersey, and when she came through the door I noticed a glow surrounding this exquisite Latina with a sincere smile and a welcoming aura, but that wouldn't suffice to describe my date. She has become the subject of every thought as the ever-present butterflies fill my body during every encounter I have with her.
At 6pm in NYC, traffic is my greatest foe. Fighting through the masses of commuters struggling for the last inch of roadway, I map out what I hope will be the quickest way to cover the 10 mile drive. 78th Ave. to Myrtle; Myrtle to Woodhaven, take Woodhaven to the Long Island Expressway straight into the Queens Midtown Tunnel and then with any luck I can avoid the congested corners and arrive at her office by 7.
Of course traffic won't be as difficult as getting her to agree to a date with me in the first place. Why is it that at 26 years of age, I still have problems asking girls out? I sat at my desk looking at her number that she gave me, I questioned myself as to if she really would go out with me. I bit the bullet and dialed. She answered, but was too busy to talk; she will call me back later. I watched my phone all afternoon up until it was time to go home. At home she called me and I gathered the courage to ask her to dinner? What kind of dinner? She asked. The kind with food, of course! My humor helped little to ease the awkward tension I felt as she questioned my motives. I settled on the "just friends" kind of dinner that crushed my hopes of romance, but offered me a glimpse at the chance.
Thankfully, I find parking one block north of her office in a construction zone left empty by the homeward bound workers. With 5 minutes before my deadline I get into the elevator that will lift me even higher than my elated state. Upon reaching her floor I exit anticipating her welcome as we start our evening together, but I find an empty desk where a receptionist should sit. I call out and she responds from around the corner that I should enter. She has some more work to do, but if it is alright, I can wait for her in the lobby. With a heart that won't slow and legs that won't stand still I put on my façade of the "cool guy" who thinks that this evening is nothing more than a casual dinner between friends, but secretly I watch her face and body for clues that she really doesn't want me around in case I need to run away and salvage what little pride I have left; she smiles.
She wants me to stay.
I take some time to evaluate myself in the mirror. Spiky hair? Check. No food in my teeth? Check. Cool plaid shirt that everyone but me thinks is dreadful? Check. I look great! When we are on the street, she mentions a place she enjoys that is trendy and affordable and I quickly approve; the less time I spend talking, the less time I spend looking like a fool. At Republic, a hopping scene with fresh and tasty Thai food, we are greeted and I scan the restaurant hoping to find something on someone's table that I recognize and like, so that I can order without scratching my head like a giant ogre staring at the menu.
I spent several hours at work trying to find a great place that would be perfect for this date. I love diners and thought that she just might enjoy a large plate of cheese fries as much as me. I sent a few text messages with the hope of being on her mind, but found that I received much more—she flirted back. It wasn't overt, but I got a hint of maybe just a little crush for me when she said that she was looking forward to tonight and maybe we could do something after dinner. Maybe—that means if I don't screw up over dinner and keep her happy, I get more time with her.
Oh shit, there's a problem.
The tables in this place are fancy picnic tables with multiple parties sitting at one giant plank of wood. I have never had luck with sitting at any table that I couldn't move a chair far away from to get my massive 300 pound frame nestled into comfortably. With a couple "Hail Mary's" I squeeze and twist and plop onto the bench while holding my breath to save me a couple inches and hoping that I didn't look as stupid as I just felt.
I have a history of breaking chairs. The first happened in my parent's backyard leaning back in their outdoor cassock on a nice summer evening. The wood split. Without warning, I found myself on the ground with a sore butt and laughing family. With splinters still gracing my behind, I was at my grandma's birthday party sitting on what I thought was a stable metal folding chair—it wasn't. After standing up, I inspected the chair hoping to find evidence of foul play, but the facts don't lie; popped rivets and bent steel proved my guilt. Tonight would be a bad night to add another shattered chair to my collection.
She sits across from me and we begin the enjoyable conversations that I am "pro" at. Say something smart- check. Say something funny- check. Say something to make her smile—I am on a roll. When the menus come, I have no fear and I am starting to feel invincible; especially since the meals are described in English so I didn't need to ask what dish had chicken. The conversation continues and I am convinced that I am Adonis; captivating in every way and the true desire of her heart. Then the food comes, oh shit.
We have another problem.
Chopsticks! Really, chopsticks? I can't eat with chopsticks; since I was a young kid I had tried and tried again, but thankfully we lived in a country where forks were standard and people needed to ask for chopsticks. I have three choices at this point: 1) admit being a fool and ask for a fork, 2) hope she won't notice what I fool I am for dropping noodles all over my shirt, 3) run out of the building and back to the car and hope that I never run into this girl again. I choose the second, but only because people had sat down to my left and I am unable to get out of the table to make my escape. I find that if I take my bites while she is taking hers, I have one or two seconds in which I can stab my food and slide it into my mouth without her seeing. Crisis averted.
What is it about those early days of love when passions magnify the most mundane aspects of our lives? Feeling the undeniable butterflies of having a crush on a girl makes me giddy, and imagine a younger world where I needed multiple "cootie shots" to survive the square dance lessons of elementary school. How have I matured into becoming a dopamine junkie not wanting to release the dragon's tail even in the face of certain death? This evening's roller coaster ride of emotion is almost complete. I don't want to get off this ride just yet.
Fortune smiles upon me and we finish the meal without incident, and I find myself wishing for some more time with her. I had convinced her for dinner, but now I see a snapshot of myself standing outside the restaurant trying to keep conversation alive with rapid questions and uncomfortable puns while not wanting to admit the night is over. What is she going to do now? I asked her. She wants to see a movie. I pause, with me? Yes, with me.
She wants me to stay.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
The following is a little paper I wrote for my English class:
I believe that Faith and Love will never get along. Now, I am not talking about the great principles taught to all of us in churches across the world; when I say Faith, with a big F, I mean my religion, and when I say Love, with a big L, I mean my wife.
Faith and I have been friends my entire life, and in many ways you could say that Faith introduced me to Love. Love and Faith became acquainted just a few months before meeting me, and they had a great friendship. They shared many of the same ideals and goals that were so important to both of them. Quickly they built a rapport that was in the best interest of both parties. Learning about each other only helped them strengthen the friendship that continued to grow.
Of course, like all friendships that burn bright and fast in the beginning, their friendship started to struggle. It didn't happen all at once, nor was it drawn out over a long process. Love came to see some other views held by Faith that she didn't agree with. Faith felt the need to exclude people, and make others feel bad if they didn't agree with her—she can be very demanding at times. This alone wouldn't be enough to strain the friendship, but Faith had many followers who felt the need to put Love aside and focus on not being nice. This made Love sad. The more Love spoke up, the more Love was told to be quiet.
Love wrote Faith a letter. This was not a happy letter. Faith had abused the trust given her by Love, and Love couldn't let that continue. This letter made me sad because I have known Faith for a very long time, and I suppose that I had grown accustomed to her sometimes erratic behavior, but always considered her a great friend to have. Love realizes this friendship is still important to me, and will not get in the way of that, and I can only hope that Faith will feel the same way.
So while Love will no longer be friends with Faith, I will continue to have faith, with a little f, in Love.
Monday, August 10, 2009
the demands of the ticktockman
Mixing the genres of science fiction and fantasy, Harlan Ellison created a world of order in need of social revolution. Standing alone, "Repent Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman", may seem an odd addition to any library, but when compared with the reality of our industry driven nation the story resonates the truth of the decline of individuality and personal accountability.
Who is the Ticktockman?
In the opening of the story, Ellison quotes Thoreau from his book "Civil Disobedience": "The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines…" (Ellison 363). Thoreau's statement illustrates the lack of compassion and thought needed to run a healthy government and society. This machine-like government needs a machine-like enforcer—the Ticktockman. While he is a man remaining masked, the Ticktockman carried the responsibility of cutting back the time people have to live. As Master Timekeeper, he was given the burden of finding the "Harlequin" and punishing him according to his crimes.
This idea of a Ticktockman immediately creates controversy to the readers. How can one man be given the ultimate power to end life? Who gives him that power, and what rules govern his use of it? To understand who he is, we must first understand what he fights.
Seen as a destructor of their utopian society, the Harlequin endeavors to disrupt the mindless obedience of the citizens and inspire them to live a free life of pleasure and chaos. In a paper written by Earl V. Bryant from the University of New Orleans, the Harlequin is described as a living representation of the great festival Mardi Gras (Bryant). This carnival involves celebrating life and indulging in the pleasures surrounding us. Bryant continues his connection of the Harlequin to Mardi Gras with the colors of the jellybeans and the colors of the parade: purple, green and yellow (Bryant).
Once again the reader must face another question: are the indulgences of the Harlequin liberating, or are they simply the outward demonstrations of an undisciplined life? Where does a society find the balance between living free and order? Truly, the Harlequin not only disturbs life in the cozy land of the story, but starts a debate among readers about the amount of power and control given to government and industry.
From an Ethical Perspective
Do we serve the government, or does the government serve us? In Ellison's work, we read about a people who are nothing more than the cogs of a machine running so efficiently that a simple delay of seven minutes can disrupt the economy. These drones may seem fictional, but in an honest comparison the similarities are shocking. We, as a people, shop in giant stores, drive on giant roads, vote in giant elections. The individual voices of our land drown in a sea of commonality. In turn, our blind following of "the rules" has placed us in a strange relationship with major companies to tell us what to buy and where to visit. The desire for individual expression and exploration has fallen into an abyss and covered by the ease of a pre-packaged life.
The Ticktockman has the power to shorten life. With simple controls, he can exact justice for tardiness and other careless behaviors. This too holds great significance when juxtaposed with the "Rat Race" and other financial pursuits. Every person has the right to earn a living and provide for their families, but what is the cost of excess? When does making money become more important than living? In the United States millions of vacations days are wasted every year by workers unable or unwilling to use them. Our purpose is not simply working so that we can live, but living so that we can work.
Ellison's warning shouts from the story with every turn of the page and culminates with "one day we no longer let time serve us, we serve time and we are slaves of the schedule" (Ellison 367). The reverse order of our lives leads to an enslavement of the soul; by surrendering to the demands of work and social order, an individual forfeits the beauty of life and assumes the role of machine.
Marxism and the Ticktockman
In a utopian society, the health of the individual spirit is equal to the health of a nation. If one of our fellow citizens suffers, we all suffer. By realizing the importance of the individual a nation can lift and sustain even its weakest members. There may be little to profit from this theory in a monetary sense, but there will be much to gain in the humanities as humans are celebrated as equals.
We are subjects to our own laws. We possess the power to change our land—we just need to get off the couch. In rising for the defense of our countryman, the powers that govern our land would have no choice but to comply. Going to war for the profit of industry would become a thing of the past. Indulging in the carnal lusts of men would be replaced by the enjoyment of a land filled with equality and hope for all residents. Certainly the lure of a land with order and efficiency has its appeal, but at what cost? It is possible that order and efficiency would be the product of a peaceful land. Rather than enforce law, let us enforce life, and enjoy the new land created from the harmony of souls in true unity.
The Ticktockman's purpose serves as warning to the destruction of living free. The giant sentinel dominates a world enforcing profit and order, but there is hope; laughing, loving and living prove the best antidote for a sterile life devoid of pleasure.
Bryant, Earle V. "Ellison's "REPENT HARLEQUIN!" SAID THE TICKTOCKMAN." Explicator 59.3 (Spring2001 2001): 163. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. [SLCC Library], [Taylorsville], [UT]. 8 Aug. 2009 <http://libweb.slcc.edu:2436/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=5011286&site=ehost-live>.
Ellison, Harlan. ""Repent, Harliquin!" Said the Ticktockman." Klotz, Richard Abcarian & Marvin. Literature The Human Experience. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin, 2007. 363-372.
Saturday, August 01, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
In the poem "Harlem" by Langston Hughes, the poet creates an image of decay. At the height of the New Negro Renaissance, Harlem became the home for a new wave of thought and creativity. Despite the overwhelming popularity given to the small neighborhood in New York City, Hughes records the eventual decline and departure of the intellectual leaders from the Mecca of the greatest cultural change of the twentieth century. "Harlem" foretells of the despair that most residents of the neighborhood will go through, as their dream of equality and prosperity is "deferred".
The poet begins the poem with a question that could easily pass for a philosophical discussion at the dinner table: "What happens to a dream deferred?" (406, 1). The word deferred stands out to the reader in considering what really happened to the dream. By stating that the dream had been deferred, the author allows for the dream to return. Deferring a dream is not the same as destroying it. Most often the reader will associate military service or college when thinking about deferment. This suggests to the reader that the author's dream is being deferred for a higher cause. Whether the dream is put on hold for war—a battle for equality, or for the education of the Black residents—a time to learn and then return ready to share the knowledge with their neighbors and family, eventually that dream will return to claim all the glory it was intended to receive.
The poet continues the writing by starting to list some possible outcomes for the deferred dream. "Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore—and then run?" (406, 2-5). Using the imagery of a raisin in the sun creates the feeling of something small reacting to a large amount of heat. This represents the great oppression the residents and Black leaders were facing at the time from the popular majority parties. The rhyme of these two lines is ABA. By linking the sentences together to allow the reader to feel the heat and pain felt by members of his community, the author takes the reader on a journey into the feelings and disappointment of the Harlem residents.
Continuing on with his theme of a dream deferred, the speaker then compares the dream to food: "Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over—like a sugary sweet?" (406, 6-8). The author's use of meat and sugar signify to the reader the importance of this great dream. Meat feeds and builds the body with a lasting protein while a syrupy sweet is a treat best saved for after meals—a simple dessert. Is this dream the nourishment needed to endure the trials ahead, or does the dream more closely resemble the sweet joys of art; providing pleasure but no lasting energy for life? The words chosen by the speaker create the images of a large feast prepared to celebrate the victory of war, but with no one attending, the food sours and remaining inedible to anyone who shows up late.
The author switches from the imagery of food to a much more pressing comparison: "Maybe it just sags like a heavy load." (406, 9-10). This image relates to the buildings of a once thriving neighborhood. The Apollo Theater for example fell close to ruin after the movement that defined much of Harlem ended. Not only are the buildings aging, but the people too; poverty, crime, and neglect have crippled a large number of Harlem residents. Those wishing to leave the rough neighborhood are often required to work harder and longer than their peers living across town.
The most chilling lines of this poem have been saved by the author for the end. Realizing that people will only be kept down for so long, and that the dream that had been deferred will soon return giving life and hope to the dreamers, the poet leaves the reader with a sense of the power and fight left inside: "Or does it explode?" (406, 11). Will there be an explosion? Will it come from the inside or the outside? The author does not tell when and where, just a simple question perhaps left as a warning serves as a cautionary conclusion to a poignant poem.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Perhaps I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, but I was not amused at this little joke. In a class teaching the importance of different classes, races, sexes, genders and ethnicity, this man decided to poke fun at someone who has defied many odds and become a global activist. I am not going to say that I am a great Oprah fan, but I will stand up to defend her dignity.
I have spoken with a few people at work; some agree with me, and some think that I am blowing this out of proportion. What I want to know is, where can jokes like this be made? Is the classroom the forum to laugh at the "others" in society? I sent the following note to my teacher (who is not the dean) about this joke.
"On a side note I would like to point out that the joke made by “Professor” Allen is inappropriate not only for this course but for any educator endeavoring to teach lessons of equality and dignity. By claiming, in a humorous way, that Oprah possesses half the wealth of African Americans, he demeans both women and Blacks. Why is he concerned with the amount of money that she has made? Is it because she is a woman? Is he bothered that a Black person could earn more money than he? Where was the joke about Rupert Murdoch or Bill Gates? While I am a great fan of humor, I find it unprofessional for him to abuse his position of an educator to make light of anyone’s personal achievements."
I may have just woke on the wrong side of the bed, but it has been several days and I still feel the same way.
What do you think?
Sunday, July 05, 2009
O Yes? Do they come on horses
with rifles, and say,
Ese gringo, gimmee your job?
And do you, gringo, take off your ring,
drop your wallet into a blanket
spread over the ground, and walk away?
I hear Mexicans are taking your jobs away.
Do they sneak into town at night,
and as you’re walking home with a whore,
do they mug you, a knife at your throat,
saying, I want your job?
Even on TV, an asthmatic leader
crawls turtle heavy, leaning on an assistant,
and from a nest of wrinkles on his face,
a tongue paddles through flashing waves
of lightbulbs, of cameramen, rasping
“They’re taking our jobs away.”
Well, I’ve gone about trying to find them,
asking just where the hell are these fighters.
The rifles I hear sound in the night
are white farmers shooting blacks and browns
whose ribs I see jutting out
and starving children,
I see the poor marching for a little work,
I see small white farmers selling out
to clean-suited farmers living in New York,
who’ve never been on a farm,
don’t know the look of a hoof or the smell
of a woman’s body bending all day long in fields.
I see this, and I hear only a few people
got all the money in this world, the rest
count their pennies to buy bread and butter.
Below that cool green sea of money,
millions and millions of people fight to live,
search for pearls in the darkest depths
of their dreams, hold their breath for years
trying to cross poverty to just having something.
The children are dead already. We are killing them,
that is what America should be saying;
on TV, in the streets, in offices, should be saying,
“We aren’t giving the children a chance to live.”
Mexicans are taking our jobs, they say instead.
What they really say is, let them die,
and the children too.
–Jimmy Santiago Baca, 1977
Friday, July 03, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Monday, June 01, 2009
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
After returning to the house THREE times last night after leaving so Mommy could retrive forgotten items, we finally left Utah. It was hard for the little guy, but he eventually fell asleep. The wife and I enjoyed great conversation and music on the drive, and we are getting closer and closer to San Diego!
Friday, May 22, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Saturday, May 09, 2009
I have recently been led to the poetry of Suheir Hammad. I won't go into much detail about her because you are sitting at a computer and can do all the research you want. What I will say is that her words blend together in a way that cause her message to resonate within you. While she is very political in her prose, her message is so applicable to all of us in whatever situation we find ourselves in. Just give her a try.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
I had my last final in school today.
I am not sure how to feel about the end of the semester; on one hand I am relieved that I will be having a break, and on the other I will miss the familiarity of the schedule and teachers. Coming back to school after a long break began rough, but I quickly picked up the nuances of writing papers and balancing 18 credit hours. Now that my grade is not on the line I can honestly say that I learned much from my teachers at SLCC. Though at times I was frustrated with my peers for their lack of "experience" in the real world, my teachers proved to be hands-on educators that used their own life stories to enhance my education.
I am now gearing up for 9 credits this summer and then 18 again in the fall. There are so many classes that I want to take, but just do not have the time for. Right now my focus is going to be getting a great application together to apply at NYU.
Yes, NYU. I almost hate writing this down out of fear of being rejected and facing a public humiliation. I suppose I am tired of hiding. For a long time I hid behind a façade of being the nice guy, the funny guy and the friend, so that the smart guy would not have to face the crowd and expose potential weaknesses. What I have learned is that I am happier when I am learning. I can't believe that I hid for so long content to just live life. What drive me now are dreams and goals that I had kept hidden for a long time that I now realize are attainable.
So, I return to my short break in anticipation of spending time with my little family, and getting a little extra sleep.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
alt Lake Community College must improve the teaching of diversity. Despite the White cultural majority in Salt Lake City, the city's population is growing and changing. This same change must be reflected in the surrounding colleges and universities by exposing students to the customs and cultures of their neighbors.
A strong educational institution needs to produce students capable of working and succeeding in all types of work environments. Here at Salt Lake Community College, students take at least one class to fulfill the diversity requirement. The diversity classes, when taught correctly, inspire the students to learn more about other cultures and lifestyles. This concept of one class fulfilling the racial and social education of students is flawed at the most basic level. Diversity cannot be summed up into a single semester of reading and cramming for tests. Many voices must collaborate and unify to truly reflect the meaning of our multifaceted society (Egbert).
On March 11, 2009, students gathered in TB 203 to participate in a debate on the diversity requirement here at Salt Lake Community College. The moderator's name was Abio Ayeliya. The debaters were Sione Siulua, June Labatai, Nicholas Rossi, Robert Palonko and Leonard Siennick. The Time Keeper was Dr. Clark, Dean of students.
Before the debate started, a poll was taken of students attending. Out of 36 people in attendance, only eight were minorities. Interestingly, the two debaters on team B who were in favor of eliminating the diversity course requirement were both minorities, while the three debaters in favor of the requirement on team A were all white.
Team A argued that we as a student body had a responsibility to create diversity. They felt that bigotry is a condition that needed to be changed. One debater stressed the importance of diversity classes to "force a change in perception." This phrase is unsettling as the concept of forcing someone to change their acceptance of diversity seems counterintuitive. How can someone who is "educated" in diversity insist that others need to be "forced" into anything?
Team A continued with another statement that showed their lack of understanding in the principle of diversity. Despite giving a profound statement of "Homogenized courses result in homogenized students", they lost momentum by claiming that "White is indicative of a lack of culture." While the White culture may be dominant here in Utah, it is not in areas like Brooklyn, Detroit, and Baltimore. Diversity, or lack thereof, cannot conform into a single definition of one race or gender, as every person contains something unique that others can learn from.
Team B based their argument on the premise that the classes offered here at SLCC are not sufficient enough to require students to pick one. "Just because it is different does not make it good." This summed the opinion of team B as they felt that the classes need to have more to offer students that simply fulfilling a diversity requirement. Creating classes that inspire a diversity of thought will better lead to new understanding than simply studying a different race.
At the conclusion of the debate a vote was taken to see if the teams had swayed the opinion of those in attendance. 32 voted to keep the requirement, three voted against and one vote abstained (Egbert 1-3).
According to Princeton University, the definition of diversity relates to the condition or result of being changeable (Wordnet). In this concept of changing rest the premise that every person has a chance to change themselves and improve their understandings of the world they live in. While there are some who do not feel the importance of exploring other ways of life, they can never reach a higher plateau of learning without this change. It is also important to note that diversity is not simply a study of a different race or gender. To truly understand diversity a group must explore social difference as well. The many different branches of diversity are as numerous as the people on this earth, because everyone possesses something unique to offer.
Pro's of diversity education
In creating a campus that truly embraces the teaching of diversity, Salt Lake Community College will produce students, workers and leaders that quickly adapt to new environments and excel with today's diverse workforce. Students enrolled in these classes will understand the connections they share with disenfranchised members of society. As their awareness of others is increased, the students will become more aware of themselves. Self actualization is paramount in excelling in education. As a Professor of Education at San Diego State University, William Piland wrote about the many benefits of diversity in education. Among the benefits, Piland states that students will become better members in society that blends cultures from around the world (Piland 33). As students learn about others, they become more able to interact with the different people they encounter.
Need for diversity
All students regardless of what major they are pursuing should be required to take multiple diversity classes. There are a number of students who feel that since they are going into a program that is not centered in the Arts or Humanities they should not be required to take additional classes. While their basic logic may be valid, it is the way that American universities function. If the sole purpose of education were to receive purely vocational instruction, then they would have a case, however, American college education encompasses much more than mastering one vocation; education calls upon individuals to truly explore learning in all forms.
The need for diversity education is evident from the results of a survey done by Shelly Hess Dean of Curriculum at San Diego Community College. In her survey Hess found that only 37.5% of students polled have had previous experience learning about women, gays/lesbians and people with disabilities (Hess 544). Among those that had little experience the largest group was White males. Hess noted that the main reason for their aversion to diversity classes was an avoidance to learn about homosexuality (Hess 545). It is unsettling to imagine that slightly more than one-third of the students in college have stepped outside their comfort zones to learn about others. Perhaps what makes this most appalling is the fear some students had of learning about homosexuals. There is a silver lining to this dark cloud. Hess reported that one 18 year old White male did come to an epiphany about women's suffrage; "I thought that it must be hard to have to fight for something that men were given from birth (Hess 546)". Despite knowing some facts about the fight for equal rights by women, this young man never understood the significance of their plight until after taking a diversity course.
Responsibility of schools
Salt Lake Community College has an obligation to the students to provide an institution of learning that reflects the world we live in. School officials and student representatives must work together to create a program that will entice more students to learn about diversity. As a professor of Educational Studies for the State University of New York, Nancy Schniedewind wrote about a four-part process important in creating an environment conducive to teaching diversity: "Empower students to envision and create changes to foster greater equality (Schniedewind, 1)." As the college plans to make changes, the students' voices must be heard.
Responsibilty of the students
While the college opens a dialogue with students about diversity, students need to use that opportunity to honestly discuss their thoughts without fear or embarrassment. Students who wish to expand their cultural understanding need to become more active in the classroom discussions and school activities. William Piland found that among the many choices available to learn about diversity, it was not enough to just combine people from different backgrounds in one classroom. Students needed to engage each other in conversation to take advantage of each other's experiences (Piland 30). Simply attending a class will not give the student adequate opportunities to learn, but by associating and interacting with diverse students true learning occurs.
In addition to discussing curriculum with educators, students should actively engage themselves in service to people with whom they are not familiar. There are numerous community organizations that need volunteers to help them accomplish their mission. By becoming active in the community, students will learn firsthand the struggles and hardships faced by others throughout our region.
A change needs to be made to the diversity program here at Salt Lake Community College. This change is vital to this college's ability to create students that will show the nation and world the dedication to equality found here at this school. By widening the doors of the current class curriculum, more students will become involved and create a greater interest in learning the importance that each person plays in society.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Oppression slowly chokes the life of the soul. Whether this oppression comes in the form of discrimination, racism, or sexism, the damage is great and in some cases irreparable. There are a few individuals, however, that can take the experience of abuse and create art. Their pain serves as a catalyst to their art and through their experience they have the power to spread a message of love and hope.
In the play "Trifles" by Susan Glaspell, we read of a murder that is under investigation by the County Attorney and Sheriff. Slowly the reader and audience come to learn of the mistreatment of Mrs. Wright at the hands of her husband. The abuse represents itself again in the form of a song bird and its cage. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters look around the house to find items to take to Mrs. Wright and come across an empty bird cage. The bird is missing and the cage is in a poor shape, says Mrs. Hale, "Looks as if someone must have been rough with it (Glaspell, 1047)." The rough treatment from Mr. Wright led to his own death. Years of isolation and being pushed into a small cage were too much for the tormented song bird, Mrs. Wright.
Not all oppression comes in the form of physical abuse. Even those who have a façade of concern can smother those they wish to help. In contrast to Mr. Wright, Charlotte Gilman's "The Yellow Wall-Paper" tells the story of a concerned husband who wants his ailing wife to improve her health. The husband is a doctor who, despite protests from his wife, isolates her from her family, friends, and journal. The writings of Gilman parallel her own life closely and serve as a warning to men who discard the opinions of their wives. John's oppression does not take the form of Mr. Wright's cruelty, but instead arrogance and patronization. Gilman wrote, "It is so hard for me to talk with John about my case, because he is so wise, and because he loves me so (Gilman, 584)." His "love" and sense of authority were the downfall of his treatment. The more he put his "knowledge" above her intuition; his wife continued the downward spiral to insanity. "I've got out at last…in spite of you Jan. And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back! (Gilman, 590)." These ramblings stand as testimony of mistreatment and even neglect. Even Mrs. Wright showed signs of her abuse through her quilting. Mrs. Hale noticed the craftsmanship and its degrading quality "It's all over the place! Why, it looks as if she didn't know what she was about! (Glaspell, 1046)." Mrs. Hale's observation reflects Mrs. Wright's distressed state at the hands of her tormentor.
Charles Alexander Eastman was born as Hakadah in the Sioux culture. There is no other race that has suffered the full anger and wrath of this nation more than the Native Americans. His people were killed off, pushed into worthless parcels of land, and seen as nothing more than uncivilized savages. As Eastman was converted to Christianity and given educational opportunities, he excelled. He did not achieve his brilliance through white people. Rather, he was born with it and only learned how to communicate in a new language. His learning did not create a hate in him for those who had harmed his people. Instead, he was able to draw closer to his abusers and see the close connection that everyone shares. He eloquently wrote of the personal faith held by the Sioux. "To him it was the supreme conception, bringing with it the fullest measure of joy and satisfaction possible in this life (Eastman, 543)." It is natural for a person of faith to feel that way about their relationship with their god. Eastman's writing elevated not only his soul, but every mind who reads his words today.
Like Eastman, Simon Ortiz took his pain and suffering and created a work of art that expressed both his torment and hopes for the future. In his poem entitled "from Sand Creek," Ortiz mingles his prose with historical accounts of the cruelty his people suffered at the hands of the United States government. Ortiz himself was in a VA hospital to recover from injuries sustained as a soldier. Despite being in a hospital for different reasons, the common thread of illness is in his writing, as with that of Glaspell and Gilman. Ortiz notes in the poem, "The mind is stunned stark (Ortiz, 2278)." in reference to the nights he spent in the hospital hearing the cries of the soldiers who were sent to war to fight for a man they would never meet. Ortiz saw the pain caused by subjugation of poor men and women who enlisted to serve in an army as the only way out of their circumstances. "From Sand Creek" starts with hope - "but, look now, there are flowers and new grass… (Ortiz, 2726)" - and ends with hope, "That dream shall have a name… our America (Ortiz, 2730)."
The contrast of light and dark in art is defined as chiaroscuro. As a person suffers, they have two choices. By surrendering to the dark, life is lost, hope is lost and the individual is driven to unspeakable places. In choosing light, one can create a template of knowledge that can be shared and spread throughout time in an effort to enlighten those who destroy, intentionally or otherwise.
Friday, February 20, 2009
It is Friday morning and before I start doing some chores and homework, I want to try using a blog posting from Word… Let's try it.
This is a paper I did recently for my diversity class in Humanities; hope it is not too boring.
Keeping Hope through Trials
Hope is a treasure belonging to those who seek to build a better world for themselves and society. Hope can be placed in many different ideas and beliefs but still it shares the goal that the Dreamer's dream will come true. In spite of oppression, hatred and war, hope can flourish and bring happiness and peace to those seeking solace.
Perhaps the most famous dreamer of our time is Marin Luther King, Jr... King mobilized thousands in an effort to help his dream come to fruition on August 28, 1963. In his speech given at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, King spoke of his dream of how life in this country could one day become. He recited the words spoken long ago in the establishment of this nation. Each and every man, black and white "would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" (King). Those words that inspired King were from the founders of this nation, who in turn were inspired by John Locke, an English philosopher who lived during the late 1600's. One of Locke's well known theories is that we are each born as a blank slate, without any innate tendencies. A blank slate would be one born free from the ideas of hate and bigotry, making his statement apropos for King and the Civil Rights Movement.
We all live in a country built on the hopes of those who have come before us. Oceans were crossed and mountains were scaled as dreamers pushed forward with their hopes of a better life. In the short story "His Own Society", Gish Jen shares the story of a man who left feudal China to come to America in hope of achieving the American Dream. He quickly purchased a small pancake house, which enabled him to earn a living and support his family. Ironically, he began to practice the same customs in his own restaurant that he fled China to avoid. He would grant special favors to his employees that they did not ask for, and then become dismayed when they did not lavish him with love and loyalty (Jen). This shows that despite moving to a new land with new opportunities, many fall back onto old habits and traditions that are familiar, even if these ways are misunderstood.
Traditions are not easily broken. We all feel ties to our family and a loyalty to our country. National pride is shown wherever a flag is flown and whenever an anthem is sung. These ties have the potential of dousing the flame of hope in each of us if given too high of a priority in one's life as illustrated by Anzia Yezierska's novel, "The Bread Givers". In this tale we read of a young girl Sara who watches quietly while her father marries off her older sisters. Her older sister Mashah was the prettiest girl in their town. Mashah had hopes to marry for love, her father intervened, and she acquiesced to him rather than follow her own path, killing the dream she had of her own future. In describing her sister's apartment, Sara says; "…the soda with which she had scrubbed the floors clean, and laundered her rags to white, had burned in and eaten the beauty out of her hands" (Yezierska, 147).
Throughout the centuries immigrants entered this land looking to find a "New World" while bringing part of their "Old World" with them. Whether a person has been in this country for 1 minute or 100 years, there are influences that have been passed down to them by their ancestors. We cannot escape the way we were raised just by relocating to another town. Even Sara Smolinsky left everything she knew in the realization of her dream of becoming a teacher. As she studied and progressed, she noted that she still felt like the same girl who was without education. Eventually, as she conquered the hurdle of her poverty and gender to become a college graduate, she came to the knowledge that by expressing herself, she fully realized the dreams of many generations before her. "But I felt the shadow still there, over me. It wasn't just my father, but the generations who made my father whose weight was upon me" (Yezierska, 297).
The penal system is an easy place for a person to lose their hope of a better life. After conviction of a crime, a person can be placed in a world where intimidation and oppression run free. One's hopes and dreams remain as that which cannot be taken away, and even they can dwindle while under incarceration. A façade must be built by those wishing to preserve hope. This façade will consist of a tough face and quick wit mixed in with defiance and anger. By putting up a pretense of indifference, prisoners can closely guard their own dreams. Unfortunately, this does not help the prisoner; rather it only fuels the fire of anger that is also burning in them. "Finally I can no longer hear the sounds of my own weeping… stand up. Straight. Tall. Shoulders back. Chin up. I put the dark glasses on my face and the mantle of hard-ass prisoner on my soul" (Norton, 2679). The hope that they are able to keep has the potential to change their lives for the better, but it must be nourished.
Dr. King saw the importance of freedom and how oppression could kill a man's dreams if allowed. He spoke of raising the bar for his people's own hopes when he said "We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one" (King). This emphasized the importance of having the ability to grow and expand ourselves into what we want, and not simply what the world around us thinks we deserve. He expressed how he could have faith in the unknown by saying; "Go back… knowing somehow this situation can and will be changed" (King).
Kings ability to hold close to his hope was an inspiration to millions and still spreads the seeds of equality around the world. His dream was summed up with these words:
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places made plain, and the crooked places made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together (King).
Our hopes are our dreams and our dreams our hopes. By keeping and sharing them we have the ability to change the present and future. Our greatest hope should be that we will always have a dream. Just as those that came before dreamt of a better world, we too should dream of a land where we can be free to keep our hopes alive.
Jen, Gish. "In the American Society." The Heath Anthology of American Literature. NYC: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991. 3036-3046.
King, Martin Luther. "I Have a Dream." Washington D.C., 28 August 1963.
Norton, Judee. "Norton #59900." The Heath ANthology of American Literature Volume E. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991. 2674-2679.
Yezierska, Anzia. Bread Givers. NYC: Persea Books, Inc., 1925.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Anthology of American Literature pg. 2674
I chose to write this piece after reading the Reader Response of Lisa Watkins. In her response she stated, “Illustrated is the misuse of power by the governing authorities in order to keep the prisoners emotionally down-trodden and without a voice. The struggles this prisoner faces between “saving face” with her fellow inmates, standing up for the truth, pleasing the staff, and her own emotional torment is unfathomable to most of us here on the outside.” Her statement indicated to me that this essay would be full of emotion and conflict.
After reading and reflecting on the piece, I could not help but think about how futile our efforts are in incarcerating those people in our society who need our help the most. In her short biography of Norton, Judith Scheffler explained that Norton was in a State Prison from 1988 to 2002 and came from a background of addiction and poverty. In her writing, Norton clearly expresses her feelings of oppression and her need to save what little pride she had in order to survive the brutal environment surrounding her.
Hubert Humphrey said, “The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped." Here in the United States we failed this test. We choose to place the “sick” among us in prison, where drugs are easily accessible, rather than helping them overcome their addictions. Our government looks to please those who will vote for them, as well as those who will donate money and time to keep them in power. They overlook the fact that our prisons are full of poor minorities because these individuals do not have the means to “buy” freedom.
In her writing, Judee Norton captures the humor of the irony embedded in the Justice System. It is unfortunate that we live in a nation that supports and engages the principle of breaking the will, soul, of our prisoners. By attempting to show dominance they are only fueling the fire of hate that is so rapidly spreading across this planet. I am not saying that we should show mercy to every prisoner, there are those in the system who intentionally destroyed the lives of others. These people should be removed from society. What I do know is that we as a people need to stop destroying the lives of those who can still be saved.