A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

April 28, 2009

I Never Knew I was an Extremist

Filed under: Uncategorized — avoiceofreason @ 1:05 pm

It’s amazing, but I have the feeling that I am being painted as an extremist.  I never knew that I was such a person, but it seems that the pop culture view has determined that is my estate.  I realized this when I was watching a television show that I used to enjoy, Law and Order, and found the message they were sending out about those who may have somewhat “conservative” ideology troubling. 

I used to enjoy Law and Order.  I liked it a great deal when it focused upon a murder or other serious crime happening in New York City.  The police work was enjoyable and the trial was quick, not like the times I’ve spent on jury duty which has been long and mundane to say the least.  The plot was simple to follow, bad guy kills another – often not so good themselves – get bad guy in jail. 

Then the show began to change and they had to have a message.  The new theme more than often is someone representing a stereotype of  mainstream conservative or religious values is portrayed as some psychopath or pawn in the manipulations of a vast conspiracy such as being uncomfortable with issues in sexual definitions, abortion rights controversies, illegal alien controversies, or any other social issue.  However, one consistent trend occurs, if you are on the side of the conservative you are the killer or a person who wants to destroy the work of the wonderful Manhattan DA’s and New York’s Finest.  Even the hiring of Fred Thompson for a short career as the bumbling DA of the city didn’t stop this trend.  His folksy deprecations and defenses of the perpetrators of the evil right are flimsy at best and tend towards being myopic at many times. 

I guess since I am not fully comfortable with abortion on demand, have some misgivings about unbridled stem cell research, am not positive that marriage between non-traditional partners is needed nor a good thing, am concerened about the societal and policy problems brought about by the continuing deluge of illegal immigrants flooding into this country, I am now an extremist.  Probably doubly so, because I actually at one time was foolish enough to wear the uniform of a soldier.  It is amazing how the perception of those who were moderate to somewhat conservative have been pigeon holed into being some new form or right wing extremist.

What is actually odd is how this labeling has effected me.  While I am a bit angered, I do not feel a need to become mobilized or to be more of an activist, or even to post more.  I don’t care anymore.  when I hear ill tidings which may befall this nation ….I don’t care.  I hope it doesn’t effect me personally, nor those I know, but I feel disassociated from the process, and from my fellow citizens.   Maybe I perceive they are really not on the same team I am on.  Perhaps this is how many of the left of center felt when they felt they were being pigeon holed as extremist. 

I just don’t know when that I became one.

April 18, 2009

The March of States Towards Gay Marriage

A thoughtful and sane analyis, written by Froma Harrop, of current trends of states legalizing (or normalizing) marriage between gay partners appeared in the Providence Journal.

In this article she posted many of the changes which have occured recently. 

She reported:  “The Iowa Supreme Court struck down a ban on same-sex marriage, providing a toehold in the heartland. And the Vermont Legislature legalized gay marriage, marking the first time that elected lawmakers, rather than state judges, initiated such change.”

This latter development is important and it is well that Harrop notes this.  While one may agree or disagree regarding gay marriage, the legislature making the move, rather than judges making a decision is an important step in this process.  Legislators are elected and can be held accountable.  The move towards democratization of the process is a positive step as the representatives of the people are in fact, doing their job.

She later wrote:
“There’s much to be said for letting states settle the question of gay marriage, one step and one jurisdiction at a time. This pragmatic approach does not always sit well with gay rights activists. They consider marriage a basic human right that should not be honored in one place and abridged in another.”

This is also true.  There is a deep divide whether marriage is a right, and one that the need for licensure seems to give weight that it is not an inherent right.  While one has a right say to free speech, they would have to obtain a license to exercise that free speech in certain conditions.  The same is true for heterosexual couples as for homosexual couples.  The states have statutory authority to restrict or grant licenses, and the people have a right via the legislature to express their voice.  Granting the rights of legal status are not analogous of limiting exercise of property rights, visitation rights, and expansion of benefits of employment, public housing and services etc. to homosexual couples.  Many gay activists understandably wish for the process to be expedited, but this is not in their long term interests.  Roe v Wade is still not accepted by large parts of the nation, and as Harrop reports, is still looked on unfavorably from a Constitutional vantage point by many “Pro-Choice” legal experts.   In the end states will make this decision, and for all parties this is the best remedy.  States are closer to the people and in that view are more democratic than federal interventions. 

Harrop also reports on the changing of cultural norms:

In a poll done shortly after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court threw out the ban on same-sex marriages, over half those residents surveyed said they wanted a state constitutional amendment limiting marriage to between one man and one woman. But a poll taken three years later found that 56 percent of the Massachusetts respondents would oppose such an amendment.

What happened in Massachusetts? Gay marriage had become legal, and the sky hadn’t fallen in.  People got used to the idea.

The strongest ally for homosexual partners who wish to become legally married is the changing of cultural perspectives on the norms of human relationships and sexuality.  Harrop does not report about another factor that leads to shifts in cultural norms and mores, the role of the media.  Right or wrong the media has framed homosexual relationships in positive light or at the very least in neutral lights.  This along with homosexuals become more visible and vocal in society has lead to the formation of new cultural perspectives regarding this aspect of human sexuality.  Younger people are more attuned to viewing homosexuality as an alternate form of human sexuality and not an aberrant or discrepant form of sexual expression.  The media has played a large part in this normalization process, and an occlusion of the old paradigm has coalesced with the formation of a newer paradigm. 

There is also the perception among many that this issue is a human rights issue.  Once that perception becomes the reality, in a democracy the outcome is inevitably going to side with the group that is seeking a rise in their status to acceptance.  This is not inherently a bad thing; while for some it may be emotionally painful.  It is merely the reshaping of the norms of a society and has happened throughout history.  Of course many will reply that homosexuality is the bane of a powerful culture and a sure sign its demise is imminent.  That is a ludicrous proposition based on emotion and not fact.  Homosexuality was practiced by segments of society that were rather formidable in history.  Cultures decline for other reasons, usually economic and military, apart from the practices of people regarding their sexual choices.

Harrop correctly concludes that the “straight path” to change is often not as beneficial as the slow steady road that this issue seems to be taking in American society.

Self Actualization and Adoptive Parenting

Filed under: Adoption,children,Culture,Family,History,Multiculturalism,Religion — avoiceofreason @ 6:07 pm

As some of the loyal readers of this humble blog know I am always interested in research proposals of varying degree.  Recently I have begun a cursory review of the literature regarding formation of self concept in children.  This became a very broad topic, and so I limited my research to formation of academic self concept and adopted children.   Some of the initial reading has been interesting and illuminating.  It also lead me to a conversation with an expert in adoptee issues – who is always more than willing to sledgehammer any ideas I may have about the topic.  Actually, their input is usually very helpful.

Trying to get a broad view on the topic, I was just perusing through news articles one day and just hit adoption as a key word.  Of course the topic of Madonna and her attempts to adopt a child from Africa came up.  As I read I reflected, more on formation of self-concept issues.  This lead me to have rather strong opinions forming, which is often the driving force behind some research.  The researcher then has to do a lot of work with colleagues on the audit trail (if ethnographic approaches are used or on content validity if a survey device is used) to make sure that bias hasn’t crept in.

However, my reflections were what were the basis of Madonna’s wish to adopt a child from a third world nation and the potential outcomes.  Her motivation she claims is altruistic and are in the interests of the child.  Whenever I hear a person citing purely altruistic motivations, and my cynicism may be ramped up proportionally by the wealth or influence of the alleged altruist, my BS radar is actively pinging.  I honestly don’t really believe that the actions of most people are done from altruistic motives but are done to promote self-actualization.  There are so many benefits to this woman or any other person who ventures upon a course of adoption and many have formed guises to rationalize this understandable emotional benefit derived on the one who chooses to adopt. 

Some of these fallacious altruisms may be:

1) God told us to adopt this child.  While I am second to none in the role that faith may play in a person’s life, I am skeptical about this in many cases.  Recently I came across a study that cited that nearly 40% of all adopted children are turned back in to the adoption agency.  It is mathematically impossible that none of this children weren’t initially adopted at the behest of the Almighty.  Either God was changing his mind in these instances or the person was acting in their own self interests – which may have some positive outcome for other mind you, and things didn’t quite work out.  You will not believe how many people “knew” that God had drawn them to their spouse only to end up in divorce proceedings.  Nations do this also.  Whenever God speaks and tells someone to do some certain minute detail of their life, I am convinced that 90% of the time it is really a quite human rationalization to justify or lend credence to an action they would like to do without the involvement of God.  While some may strongly believe this to be true, I am unaware that Madonna in particular has claimed to have a “Burning bush” experience.

2) Adoption is done in the interest of the child.  This one may be more nefarious than citing the blessings of a deity because it shows an underlying arrogance on the part of the one who is adopting.  Most people adopt out of a need they have more so than the need of the child.  If this were truth there are some discrepancies that must be addressed.  Why are the overwhelming number of children adopted under the age of four?  Statistics show that as the child’s age increases their chance at being adopted decreases in geometric proportion to their age.  These children have great need, yet the Almighty and the interests of these children are not being considered by a vast portion of people who are eligible for adopting.  Another discrepancy is the large number of guarantees that many adoption agencies put forward in their promotion of adopting children.  Guarantees of the health of the child, that the child is not offspring of someone who was drug addicted among others can be secured with a price.  These are contractual issues which if violated would constitute breach and make the agency liable to damages or to provide a more suitable child.  Much of this talk seems to be reminiscent of contracts entered into when purchasing a dog for show or for breeding, which may be a more accurate analogy to the practices of many who adopt a child. 

In this particular instance a child from an economically disadvantaged nation may be adopted by a person of incredible wealth.  There will doubtlessly be some economic advantage afforded this child that they would not be given access to should they remain in their current condition.  However, there is a large amount of arrogance in the presupposition that adoption is in the interest of the child.  What this child – and many who are adopted from developing nations – loses in regard to their culture, their language, their inherent religion,  and in total their sense of identity within that culture, may outweigh what they gain by access to wealth.  Statistically, this cultural arrogance is strengthened by the tendency of developed nations seeking out these children from undeveloped nations at a rate that is growing astronomically. 

Another litmus test of this alleged altruism being in reality cultural arrogance can be illustrated in this scenario.  Picture children in desparate need of basic necessities such as food, medical care, clean sanitary housing and education.  These children exist in many places in the United States.  Many of these children are also White – as in Appalachia and other areas of the nation.  A large number of these children are adopted by parents who are of Islamic or say Hindu background.  They are wealthy and could meet the physical needs of these children far better than their indigenous parents or perhaps than the social agencies in their region.  The prospective adopted parents – who have dark skin, speak a different language and worship in a different fashion state that God told them they should adopt this poor suffering American child.  The child will be forced to learn the language of the parents, will be raised in the religion of these parents and it is understood they will be asked to take on the world view of the predominant culture of these parents.  This is in the interest of the child.  One must wonder if this would be the view of any in the Industrialized West if this were a common practice.  

Adoption like most human activities is done out motives of self actualization.  If Madonna or any prospective adoptive parent wanted to act in a more altruistic fashion they would make a private donation to a bona fide relief organization for that or any other child which would raise the standards of living for those children.  Lord knows they need that.  What has happened in current practices and policies of parents from Industrialized nations adopting children from undeveloped nations is in many ways more akin to the stripping of natural resources – in forms of humanity – that happened during times of European Imperial aspirations from the 15th through the 20th centuries – moreso than acting in altruistic methods for the interests of children.  An interesting study might be to compare the emotional factors that prospective adoptive parents face and find out the degree that they are causative towards the action of adopting a child.  This would be particularly interesting is analyzed by comparing the adoptee’s emotional factors and see how they were causative in forming self concepts in the adoptee.

3) Adoption is a win-win –Due to the length of this post comments will be brief.  Adoption at its base is formed by loss and usually accompanied by some type of pain.  It is not a win win.  Don’t get me wrong.  Adoption can be of benefit to all parties, but my feeling is that looking honestly into the mirror of self would be an important factor in this occurring.  However, in most situations may be making the best of a situation – and the policy practices currently in place by developing nations desperate for influx of currency from Industrialized nations – and the need of those who are comparatively wealthy to have a child by nearly any means necessary – create conditions which are from from the “win-win” picture painted or at all “best” policies.   The current painting being framed by society is one of impoverished and helpless (nations and children) being removed from indigenous lands by the powerful and wealthy (mostly those from the Industrialized West) for ostensibly altruistic motivations.  

Hardly the stuff of headline news.  Even when Madonna is on the front page; it is merely history repeating itself.

Disappearing Posts

Filed under: Uncategorized — avoiceofreason @ 5:07 pm

I was advised to against posting some of my work (conference papers and such) on this site as it was considered professional suicide. 

I will have to find some other format to get the information out without giving away too much!

 

Sorry for the disappearing posts – I know I have an avid reader following!!! 🙂

Media and Framing of Culture

This is a paper I authored analyzing an an ethnographic study performed concerning the media and cultural occlusion vis a vis The Vietnam War.

This paper is the intellectual property of the author and may not be utilized in any form without proper citations and/or permission of the author.

The Media as a Framer of Cultural Norms

 

            In society today, as well as in the past, there is a constant shifting of oppositional positions.  One of the major functions of the media is to inform the general public of the relevant issues which are parties to the constant stir in the social and political realm.  The media – whether in book, radio, television, daily publication, movies, and most recently in electronic weblogs (blogs) – serve a dual purpose in society as a reporter of the events, and also as a framer of the discussion regarding those events.  Media can by the sheer volume of their voice call attention to or occlude reality, and thereby frame a discussion or limit discussion by eliminating it from the public discourse.  A common perception is that the mass media is a vital player in the framer of societal norms, values within a culture which supersedes the framing role of the educational system, family system, and the political system.

            How the media frames a cultural curriculum was the topic of a study (Wineburg, Mosborg, Porat, Duncan; 2004) performed concerning generational perceptions of the Vietnam War, and whether the history represented by the media formed a “collective memory”.  The study posed to answer the question how media and popular culture frame historical knowledge and how it is transmitted across generations. 

Over a course of 30 months, 30 members of 15 families were interviewed about how their conceptualization of the past may form a collective concept about a historical era.  One parent and one child from each family were interviewed about their knowledge and conceptual framework concerning American involvement in Vietnam.  Each member participating in the study was also asked to provide their interpretation of well known photographs taken from the Vietnam Era.  Each of these photographs had become iconic of the Vietnam War Era.

Prior to the interviewing the student’s perceptions of the Vietnam War and the instruction offered concerning the topic were analyzed by the researchers.  Despite the detailed instruction concerning the issues at stake in the Vietnam War by the schools of the students, as a group, had a similar perception of the Vietnam War – “A war without a reason”.

Using well documented photos, produced by the mass media, both parent and child were asked to write down their reactions to the pictures shown by answering open ended questions, such as, “What do you see in this picture?” and “What associations does this picture bring up?”  Later on the responses elicited by each respondent was coded with a graphic textual spreadsheet in order to develop emergent themes from the interview process. 

The first photo used was a picture of a veteran of the Vietnam War looking upon the names etched on the wall while his hand gingerly touches the wall.  Of all the photos presented, this one image was the most identifiable picture.  All of the teens and all but one of the parents (who had been born in the former Soviet Union) were able to recognize the memorial.  Every student also knew what the man was attempting to do.  For the parents, the picture brought back memories of loved ones or friends who had served in the Vietnam War, and the veteran took on a symbolic identification of long remembered people from their past.  However, the students’ answers were more general, with the man depicted in the photo not taking any symbolic meaning at all.  The experience for the adults in the study also reflected their own personal opinions concerning America’s involvement in Vietnam.  Words and phrases such as “resolution”, “respect that was deserved” appeared in the responses in the adults.  Interestingly, the man portrayed in the picture is seen by all as a victim of the war, and not as a perpetrator of war, who is worthy of respect and pity, not hatred.

The second photo is also an icon of the Vietnam War era, a photo of a young man placing flowers in the barrels of guns of soldiers in the 1967 March on the Pentagon.  The adults surveyed instantly identified the clash between the flower and the guns as a symbolic clash of war opposed to peace.  Terms used to qualify the event express the antithetical symbolism the picture displays, “Blocking soldiers with flowers”; Peace, not power”; and “a divided country”.  For the students there was a significant disconnect with the interpretation of the picture.  Only eight of the fifteen could identify the basic concept of peace versus might.  The symbolic elements of the picture were even less easily discerned by the youngsters.  One student thought the soldiers were North Vietnamese, another felt the incident was meant to mourn the dead. 

Interestingly, for the adults, while the first photo brought about feelings of the nation coming to reconciliation about the war, the second photo brought the sharp divide felt by their generation back to the forefront.  One parent spoke warmly of the camaraderie felt by members of the anti-war movement; while another contemptuously replied, “He’s a slime-bucket”.  Part of the student’s problems with this photo was their failure to identify the clean cut youth as a “hippie”.  The young man is clean cut and wearing clean clothing with an overall appearance which does not align with their perception of the prototypical hippie of the 1960’s. 

The third photo, a “hard-hat” rally drew strong responses and identification by the adults in the group, and almost universal misunderstanding by the younger generation.  The rally, which was a pro-war response by blue collar workers in New York City in support of the war in 1970, elicited two polarized replies.  One reply stated that “although there was confusion about the issues in the war, these guys, typical working men, were going to support the government”.  This picture also drew a rather strong comment by an opponent of the war, “These men are a bunch of assholes, guided by their penises”. 

The majority of students were unable to interpret the photo.  One person identified the type of people represented, “blue collar workers”, but had no idea what the purpose of the rally served.  One thought that a sign, which referred to “Building America”, was an anti-war sentiment, as it contrasted the destruction which was going on in Vietnam.  Many of the students were surprised to learn that people actually protested in favor of the Vietnam War.  More than one of the students cited the movie Forrest Gump, which had framed their perception that all of America was against the war, when in reality, as late as 1972 a Gallup Poll showed that 70% of the nation felt a renewed confidence in the prosecution of the war.  However, the media through a repeated message – that the Vietnam War was without support and baseless – had constructed a framework of history apart from the reality of fact.

The findings of this study concluded that the younger people perception of the war had not been formed by instruction or by a true understanding of the concepts involved, but had been formed by images found in media such as movies about the Vietnam War, such as Forrest Gump, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, which were frequently cited as sources of history.  Despite various ethnic and cultural variances, a consistent perception about the war had been formed in these young people, and their perception about the war was remarkably more similar than those of their parents, who had experienced the war from a more personal vantage point.  The young people’s perception allowed no room for pro-war demonstrations and “the silent majority” that supported the Vietnam War.   In the eyes of this generation, removed by the war from time, the Vietnam War was one fought without supporters.  In a real sense cultural occlusion has come about with regard to this historical event, and in effect, the icons of the Vietnam War have been selectively used or occluded to create a historical construct and the largest framer of that occlusion has been the media.

The findings of this study have vast implications for the transmission of knowledge to a society by the media.  The demonstrated ability of mass media to control the flow of information, through a mode of entertainment, gives it the ability to form a cultural curriculum, and a view of historic events which may be anything but a view which is based upon the truth. 

The challenge facing educators is one of coalescence.   In many areas, in particular to this study, The Vietnam War, a common belief about the war has become imprinted upon the framework of the nation.  Any idea which challenges this view reached by occlusion, must take on a cognitive dissonance, which precludes any view other than the one which is currently held.  The common belief of a culture, particularly when spurious, must be challenged by other sources to allow students to use inductive reasoning to frame a true understanding of historical consciousness.  The real danger resides when educators themselves have bought into the common belief of history, which is often formed by ideology rather than reality, and are no longer capable of presenting historical information apart from the vantage point of merely spewing out what other sources have programmed them to say.

 

References

Wineburg, Sam; Mosborg, Susan; Porat, Dan; Duncan, Ariel; (2007). Common Belief and the Cultural Curriculum: An Intergenerational Study of Historical Conciousness. American Education Research Journal, Vol. 44, No 1. pp. 40-76.

Ambivalence….if you care…or don’t….

Filed under: blogging,General — avoiceofreason @ 3:38 am

A great deal of ambivalence in my life right now, and there shouldn’t be.

I am on the very of  a capstone achievement in my education.  My disseration is at long last finished; all 285 pages – which caused my committee quite a bit of discomfort at times.  I have been told I have a lifetime of work ahead of me investigating or furthering this study.  I’m happy, but not as much as I should be with this achievement.

I resigned from my job in December as it just wasn’t working out.  I leave it at the end of June.  I don’t have a job waiting for me, but I do have a few interviews lined up.  I’m concerned about the job situation, but am dissatisfied with my career in many ways.  I don’t see what I do making much of a difference.  I guess it’s hard to be motivated when you know you’re on the way out.

I have a game I play too much as a hobby.  Lately, it’s been more of a job managing events and dealing with personalities.  It’s an OL game and no, I won’t tell you what it is.  It used to be a lot of fun…not so much fun nowadays.

I see what is happening in the world of politics on a national level, and am not overly happy with it, but also, just don’t care anymore.  What’s the point.   No reason to be a spoil sport or to be a nervous Nellie.  But mainly, I really don’t care too much about it anymore.  At least for now.

I guess I can tell I’m bored to go back to blogging.  I doubt I will stoke up enough motivation to care, and figure these posts will be rare and random.  Who can tell.  I know I can’t.

Just right now…things are so blase…that I don’t feel too much of anything.

Other than ambivalence.

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