Thursday, October 30, 2008

Step outside of your privilege for just a second please

It can be difficult for me to express articulate arguments when I get so worked up about the subject matter. When something is so important, you want to get it right, you want to convince people why it's important. Notice I didn't say convince people to change their minds. I don't think we all have to agree but some people certainly need more education, more perspective, and a different paradigm about certain things. We should not be afraid to speak up, to argue til we are blue in the face, to make a scene. If something necessitates questioning and action then keep talking, keep fighting, keep getting doors shut in your face, harsh words thrown at you.

I notice often that people have such difficulty stepping outside of their privilege, out of what they know to be. This is especially true of those whose privilege is the majority--namely, moneyed, white men. What bothers me is that someone of this privilege cannot comprehend that perhaps the reason that this particular election is so frenzied, that there is all this talk about change, and that there is more turnout all around is that for once, there is a candidate who is speaking to their issues. Someone who looks like them. Someone who could represent them. Let's discuss the terms Us and Them for a minute. The majority considers any other, them, and I speak not just in numbers, because a minority is not just a minority because it is small, but because it lacks power and influence. It is easy to group others into one lump when you do not understand them. This is why stereotyping is so frequent, so convenient. It allows us a frame of reference to begin to comprehend an other.

I am a sociologist. I can spot socialization, I can spot social pressure. I know movements when I see them. We are what we are taught, how we grew up, what we've experienced. This influence cannot be discounted. There are larger social forces acting upon us constantly. We are not always independent actors. Not everyone thinks like a sociologist. If it isn't your reality, then you don't look behind the curtain to ask why. If your reality is comfortable, you don't consider how it got to be that way, if it is inherently good or fair. Why would you? You like it the way it is. For all this talk of change, society and people are not quick to change. It was only 50 years ago we hunted people down and ostracized them for supporting an economic and political model that was in the minority. In America. In the melting pot. In the country that embraces free speech and dissent and the freedom to question government. Twinges of McCarthyism are resurfacing even now. We have learned nothing.

Everybody has a story. The American dream is talked about a lot. But somehow, the real meaning of the American dream was lost. That "real America" became a catchphrase, one that applied only to certain kinds of people. People of certain races, religions, occupations, parts of the country. We have become adept at putting our heads in the sand and living in our own terrariums. When did we become an America that really only cares about ourselves? When did sharing in things like wealth, resources, education, and privilege become a dirty word? When did those who want to do well for themselves decide that meant they had to at the cost of others?

I will continue to speak up, to champion the unpopular ideas, to dissent, to stand up for justice. I will continue to fight because the cause is worthy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Church and State

Sigh. I am so fired up by everything anymore. It is stressful. It's frustrating seeing hate and injustice and religion-pushing and stupidity and hypocrites over and over and not feeling like anything is changing.

And this is just ridiculous. Especially the commenters:
Virginia Pharmacy Caters to Pro-Life Customers

I cannot stand the argument that people who receive their life direction from God get to live by different standards than the rest of the world, most of whom DO NOT SHARE their position. When you live in a world with many other people who are different from you, you have to have separate spheres for public policy and legislation versus religion and home life. This is a John Rawls principle that is the simplest answer I've seen to these kinds of arguments. Rawls argued that a narrow definition of public reason was necessary for the sake of achieving agreement in a pluralistic society.

He also argues that since many people have differing doctrines that are understood to be reasonable, those who insist in the public forum on acting solely on what they believe (and that others don't) are being unreasonable. Therefore, in a public sphere, this concept of the reasonable then displaces that of moral truth. Rawls states, "Once we accept the fact that reasonable pluralism is a permanent condition of public culture under free institutions, the idea of the reasonable is more suitable as part of the basis of public justification" (Source)

This is not so different from our constitutional (though eroding) separation of church and state. It is fine for you to have a faith that makes you live your life a certain way. But when that way is incompatible with all the other freedoms and basic rights of others, then you don't get to push that way of life on others.

I think I'm going to start going back and re-reading my philosophy and political and religious liberalism books from college. I miss this kind of learning, this kind of discussion.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Obama in Richmond

View the live feed of Obama's rally in Richmond today here

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

UR hosts Mayoral Debate

The University of Richmond will host a debate among the five candidates for mayor of Richmond Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. in Tyler Haynes Commons, Alice Haynes Room. The debate is free and open to the public, and a reception will follow.

Questioners will represent local media, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Centro, Style Weekly, WWBT TV-12 and the university's student newspaper, The Collegian. Audience members may submit questions, which moderator Dan Palazzolo, professor of political science, will ask as time permits.

All five candidates for Richmond mayor—Paul Goldman, Robert J. Grey Jr., Dwight C. Jones, William J. Pantele and Lawrence Williams—have agreed to participate.

University sponsors of the debate include the Office of the President, Jepson School of Leadership Studies, Richmond School of Law, Bonner Center for Civic Engagement and the Center for Government and Policy.

For more information, call (804) 289-8056.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Celebrity do-gooding

Brad Pitt stands up for LGBT

from Below the Belt

This is not a normal human

Jezebel, in its popular, Photoshop of Horrors, illustrates how much photoshopping can change what a person looks like. Just looking at this ad, you wouldn't necessarily notice anything odd about Britney Spears.But at closer look, you realize that her wrists and ankles are impossibly thin. Her legs are unnaturally long. Her waist has been shrunken.

Have a comparison between the photoshopped version on the left and a regular photo of Britney on the right. See?

These kind of images, this kind of ultra-distorted photoshopping, affects us all. When we don't realize that the images we see every day are not actual reflections of reality, we assume them to be truth. So even though we may have an idea that some photos are generally photoshopped, at casual glance, our brain is not picking up on the fact that her ankles are not normal. All we see is a thin, tanned, perfect model. And we set that image as normal, as regular, when in fact, NO ONE is shaped that way. This is so harmful, not only for women and their own body image, but for men, who will expect women to look this way, even if only subconsciously.
I think many have noted that this issue is serious, and even unacceptable, but what can be done about it? What has to happen for magazines and photo editors to stop making cartoons out of humans? I can understand that a magazine wants the best possible version of their models, but this isn't removing red eyes and stray hairs--this is creating fiction.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Presidential Policy Advisers at UR today

Environmental policy advisers to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain will discuss their candidate's proposals Oct. 1 at the University of Richmond School of Law.

The 12:15 p.m. program will beheld in the Moot Court Room and is free and open to the public. Noah M. Sachs , assistant professor of law, will moderate. He serves as faculty director of the law school's Merhige Center for Environmental Studies . The event is co-sponsored by the Jepson School of Leadership Studies . The interactive session will begin with opening remarks from each campaign, followed by questions from the audience. For more information, contact Kris Henderson at (804) 289-8186, or see this release