Archive for the ‘essay paper’ Category

Gay Marriage – A Human Perspective

June 8, 2006

Editor's Note: As some of you may or may not know I am taking my core requirements for my Anthropology degree at a local community college. By doing this is I have reduced my expense in the cost of paying for my degree. However, in order to transfer to a full accredited university, I must meet a certain criteria.

One of those criteria is the requirement of college research English. Why do bring this nostalgic moment up? Once again, the recycled debate of gay marriage has hit the political landscape. Three years ago, when the political savvy elite found fodder in rehashing this a "cultural war" gem as a way to engergize the religious right base, I wrote research for this class. So, I dusted it off and I submit it to you for your appraisal or discussion. One further point, I would like to acknowledge my instructor for all his patience and guidance – Bob O'Connell.

Dateline: June O5, 2006

Warner T. Huston, of the Publius’ Forum, advocates the amending the US Constitution to restrict a personal liberty in order to curtail the “judicial activism.” There is something funny about “judicial activism,” there are only “activist judges” when “they,” the judges, disagrees, most often, with a particular social, cultural, or policy in the opinion of the dissenter, whether they are Left, or Right.

For instance, conservatives (and some right thinking Lefties) railed when the US Supreme Court ruled that in Connecticut that it was okay in the view of public policy to condemn a private citizen’s property in lieu of a corporate entity. On the other hand, the liberals were dismayed when again, the US Supreme Court, ruled that the Ku Klux Klan have a right to free speech even in the form of what could be considered “hate speech.”

The opinion of the judiciary is sometime behind the curve (think Jim Crow laws) and sometimes ahead (think Roe v Wade); nonetheless, “judicial activism” is in the eye of the beholder. Which brings me to another point of consideration of Warner’s discourse, that the restriction of personal liberty, and I must add, “Of consenting adults” as necessity to combat the social mores of a US citizen. To restrict freedom only invites a festering dissension and resentment. At present, although not sanctioned by law, same-sex marriage is not banned. This should remain a state issue, to cede authority to federal government gives more power to the Executive, US Congress, and the US Senate and will be far more difficult to wrest away from the “representative” government when needed.

Furthermore, to have a constitution convention to modify in the current state of patriotic religious fervor would be far more dangerous than the actual amendment. It is fortunate that the Founding Fathers made the modification of the “great experiment” so difficult. The rules state as follows, per the interpretation of the US Senate website.

The Constitution may be amended in two ways. The standard device, used for all amendments so far, is for both houses of Congress to pass by two-thirds vote a proposal, which they send to the states for ratification, either by state legislatures or by conventions within the states. An amendment is ratified when three-fourths of the states approve. The Constitution also authorizes a national convention, when two-thirds of the states petition Congress for such a convention, to propose amendments, which would also have to be ratified by three-quarters of the states.

In these rules we find rationality and temperament, in that, the nation should never rage to the popular movement in order to constraint or advocate without active discourse. In the case of the marriage amendment, cynical political rhetoric was clearly being used to influence, to cajole the far right Christian base of the president in order to energize his base. Overall public clarity saw through this, not because of any public prescience, but the State of the Union is in disarray due in part of missteps of the Executive administration. There may be “a constant statistic” of 70 percent in favor “traditional marriage,” but less than half of those “traditionalist” want an amendment to make it so, and that to has been a “constant statistic.” One final point, there is a reason why Founders separated centralized religion, and that was to save the nation from emotional, irrational, and divisiveness of religion sweeping politics. Fortunately for us, it is just another day in paradise and the devil of emotional chaos and confusion has been left at the doors of Eden…..

Definitions:

Marriage – according to “Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (unabridged)” that marriage is “the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife” (1384). Furthermore, it also is the institution “whereby men and women are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence for the purpose of founding and maintaining family.”

Gay – is defined by the Webster’s dictionary in respect to this paper –“ homosexuals” – relating to, or being a socially integrated group oriented toward and concerned with the welfare of homosexuals (941).

Homosexual ­– is an adjective describing a person who is or “of relating to or marked by sexual interest in the same sex as oneself; and, or relating to, or involving sexual intercourse with members of the same sex. (1085)"

Gay Marriage – is simply the state of being united with a person same sex in a special kind of social, and legal dependence, and possibly for founding and maintaining a family.

Introduction

So what is the controversy regarding “Gay Marriages?” Could it be that if allowed, Americans might have to accept and acknowledge that gay and lesbians “perceived abnormal behavior” is no more different from a person of color? How can a “normal” uniformed citizenry deny the right of freedom of choice in the 21st century? How can the government? How can religion? The answer is that what is perceived as “normal” by American cultural standards is that one male and one female – heterosexual marriage – are “normal” and nothing outside of the “norm” will be accepted. However, this denial of freedom, of expression, and of choice, even to a “small segment of the people” is a denial to “all the people.” Thus, is the controversy. So, we as a free principled society ask, "Can we as Americans, as a people, look at 'ourselves' in the mirror and truly say that every law abiding American has 'true' freedom of choice?" The simple is, no.

Thesis Statement

Gay marriages should be allowed between two consenting adults, they should be afforded all the privileges that go with it, and the government should lead the way.

Government Opposition

Opposition (1)

 

Question – Why does the government oppose gay marriages? The simple answer – because its citizenry does. For instance, Charles T. Canady R-Fla., said “lawmakers have responsibility to draw a legal distinction between heterosexual marriages and unions between people of the same sex …What is at stake in this controversy? … Nothing less than our collective moral understanding … of the essential nature of family.” (Idelson) This attitude by the Florida representative gives insight as to where the perceptions of collective heads of our government are regarding gay marriage. Thus, if gay marriages are allowed then the foundation of American society, the family, will be pillaged bringing further decay to an already rotting society. However, there are other reasons behind the government’s opposition: the United States Constitution. Article IV of the United States constitution states that every state must recognize and give with “Full Faith and Credit” to the “public acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings” of other states (Human Events). In other words, if one state were to accept the covenant of same sex marriages then the other 49 states would have to honor the contract of the couple. Thus, the issuing state would be imposing its will on a citizenry that has not voted up or down on whether to recognize gay marriages.

Such a case happened in 1996. A lesbian couple, wanting to have their marriage allowed, went to the Hawaiian Supreme Court, only to have it dropped later in 1999 because of a decisive public referendum. Thus, the public’s outcry for banning gay marriages in 1999 cannot be interpreted as reasoned or thought through but is a result of a core emotional reaction to what it perceives as “normal” by the American public. Moreover, back in 1996 when the possibility of gay marriages might have been formally recognized as legitimate, the United States House of Representatives in July passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Soon after, the United States Senate joined the House on September 10, 1996 in passing DOMA. Moreover, President Clinton signed it into law to help bolster his re-election chances. What is DOMA?

The purpose of DOMA is to amend Article IV, Section 1 of the US Constitution along with Chapter 1 of Title of the US code by adding a new section. The former, Article IV, Section 1 gives the Congress the right to “prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.” Therefore, the US Congress can interpret what is “Full Faith and Credit” for the states. The latter, Chapter 1, Section 7 is an additional segment to the chapter that states, “ … the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” Furthermore, “the word ‘spouse’ refers to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife (Human Events).” Therefore, the United States Congress chose to reflect an anxious American public outcry that gay marriages not be allowed in order to preserve the “American family.”

Family Opposition

Opposition (2)

Some would say that the degradation of the family began soon after the French Revolution. Far fetched? In the West, marriage was the Domain of the Roman Catholic Church until the Reformation, and nothing more than a licensed concubinage. According to Kevin Grace (15-16) in his article, “Why Save the Nuclear Family?” the late sociologist Christopher Lasch stated that by the end of the 19th century marriage and family was viewed by American newspapers and magazines as being in crisis. Their view was that with the “rising rate of divorce, the falling birthrate with ‘better sort of people’, the changing role of women, and the ‘so called revolution in morals’” the traditional family could no longer exist with the ever-changing world of modernization. As an example of this, the divorce rate increased fifteen-fold between 1870 and 1920. Nearly one out of seven marriages ended in divorce and with no sign of reversing itself. How does this data support the opposition? Simple, the “revolution” in morals has deconstructed the family sense of community, of “kinship network” (15). With the loss of the family unit, the closeness of the grandparents and cousins for all practical purposes are non-existent, because of the impracticability of modern life. Thus same sex marriages, if allowed, then would virtually emasculate traditional marriage altogether. Moreover, this is the fear of the “conservative” right as well as of the majority of the American public who views homosexuality as “outside” of normal behavior.

However, for the “conservative right” it goes deeper than the loss of normalcy and affects Americans spiritually. Religious leaders have used the events of September 11 to show America’s lack of morals, and that it has contributed to the destruction of the American family. Thereby, if Americans decide to cave into the “gay rights movement” by allowing same-sex marriages, God would then condemn America forever.

Opposition (3)

The Religious Perspective

In the opinion of Dennis Prager, from the Public Interest, in his article "Homosexuality, The Bible, and US – A Jewish Perspective.” Is that “It is impossible for Judaism to make peace with homosexuality, because homosexuality denies most fundamental values … denies life … it denies God … (and) denies (what) the Bible prescribes for all mankind – the family.” He discusses the spiritual and religious reasoning for denying gay marriages.

In fact, he states the allowance of gay marriages would be immoral and that “even if homosexuals have ‘no choice’ we offer our compassion.” However, this does not extend to giving up the “heterosexual marital ideals.” The roles of men and women have been clearly defined as such; it is one of the primary reasons why same sex marriages should not be allowed. Prager points out, that “men need women” and vice versa – stating that “when God solved man’s aloneness by creating one other person, a woman – not a man, not a few women, not a community of men and women.” Meaning that man’s sole purpose, in regards to loneliness, is not found in the function of a community or the same sex, but his completion of being with one woman.

Thus, when men and women marry they become fully human (Prager). Therefore, when God created man, he created both male and female. He created “them” not “you guys” or “you gals.” Therefore, marriage is not only a tribute to God, but to the community as a whole. In addition, when a man gets married to a female he is “choosing life,” meaning that he has chosen to procreate and establish a legacy. In the view of Judaism, homosexuality is death, because it fails to propel the human species forward without additional assistance (Prager).

Furthermore, the homosexual lifestyle for males breeds infidelity, which is more the rule than the exception. Although in the modern era, infidelity is one of the primary reasons for divorce among heterosexual couples. However, this is due to lack of modern morality more than a perceived abnormality. So, what is at stake for religion if tolerance and the resulting laws for gay marriages are allowed? Simply, the foundation of ideals set forth by Judeo-Christian civilization is at stake. In other words, the “sexual behavior (of a society) plays a role in either building or eroding a civilization (Prager).” That behavior is a key to the survival of a civilization.

Ideal Government

Support (1)

The United States is founded on the ideals of individualism, liberty, and freedom. It is the right of every American to pursue happiness. The idea of not allowing a group of people to pursue their “ultimate happiness” is contrary to the establishment of this country. To deny the rights of marriage, simply because of the antiquated notion of what marriage should look like is discriminatory at the least and invidious at the worse. M.D. A. Freeman states that “Overcoming prejudice – which remains at the root of most opposition – will be difficult… If we believe in autonomy … and believe that the institution of marriage is valuable … it is difficult to justify depriving homosexuals and lesbians of this treasured form of human association.” Moreover, to allow murderers, rapists, and those with communicable disease such as HIV-infection or those who suffer from AIDS as well as transvestites or transsexuals to marry, as long as one was born the opposite sex, is inconsistent. The view of the government should be that marriage is the right of every citizen no matter the politics or sexual behavior (Freeman 1-17).

Furthermore, the government should be encouraging gay marriages because its what is good not only for the person, but also good for a community of people. To limit a people by restricting their happiness is intrinsically wrong. According to Freeman, in 1967 when the “state of Virginia was challenged by Loving, it could have argued that the incidents of marriage were designed with same-race marriages in mind.” However, they did not. Why? Because they knew that they had crossed the line. Discrimination is discrimination no matter what forms it tries to disguise itself.

Therefore, the government should lead the people, and enforce the public laws that are currently on the books so that equal opportunity for all people is rightly represented no matter what their sexual orientation. As a group with equal protection under the law, they should be allowed to explore all the possibilities of institutional marriage including that of having a family.

Support (2)

Families Coming Out

What constitutes a family? According to Webster ‘s Third International Dictionary – it is a group of individuals living under one roof – a household; they may share the same ancestry, and have common religious and political views. Simply, family can be a group that shares a common goal from the parent on down to the child or whomever resides within the home.

The “gay-rights movement” sees the worry that most citizens may have regarding children being raised by adults that society considers abnormal. However, the advocates of gay marriage can argue that heterosexual homes fare no better. Some examples of this are the Jerry Springer Show, Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones reflected in the world of pop culture. For instance one Jenny Jones’ show “Teenagers Gone Wild”, discussing teenagers girls and their promiscuity defying their parents rules about school and household rules.

When it comes to family, Americans seem to want to band together on what they perceive a family and marriage is. Whatever the popular culture is reflecting about America, the gay-rights advocates are asking for a major cultural change. However, some states may concede to adopt a new type of institution referred to as a “civil union”; the state of Vermont is the first state to have civil unions (Sullivan). Although civil unions will have all the legal rights as an institutional marriage, many view this step, in the gay-rights movement, as a half measure. Moreover, although civil unions may recognize the partnerships of same-sex commitments, the perceptual view of it will not be same as marriage. Not quite condoning, nor condemning gay marriages. They concede that civil unions however are a step in the right direction. They question whether the public will afford them “all” the opportunities that marriage brings.

For instance – will a gays or lesbians be able to raise their own children how they want, have the right to adopt, take in foster children, or have the opportunity to be Big Brother/Sisters? The continual social stigma of raising a child that has two parents that are of the same-sex can be hard. However, more and more families are coming out of the shadows into the mainstream of public life. In an article in the Newsweek Lifestyle section, once the child has an opportunity to accept their differences from other families they are essentially no worse off than other “normal” families. Although social acceptance of “gay families” has a long way to go, the continual “outing” of families will most likely allow Americans more tolerance for the differences. This may eventually lead to the religious acceptance of gay marriages and same-sex families.

Religious Tolerance

There is a movement afoot, and the foundation seems to be coming from within the chapel itself – tolerance. In an article written by Chris Glasner, he writes a two-fold story; one is set in subtext regarding his homosexuality in the ministry, and the other is the direct message regarding his marriage to his life partner. He discusses back in 1996 how his “calling” and his “marriage” were under attack because of the legal hoopla in Hawaii. In 1996, three gay couples challenged the state of Hawaii regarding the same-sex marriage license status (Kunen). Glasner recalls how this is a cultural issue among heterosexuals and how they “scapegoated the lesbian and gay communities”. He recalls how is family and his biological families came under attack; and, the battle from within his own church regarding the dynamic of gay-marriage and families. The final resolution that was written showed the tolerance within his church and the church congregation. What this story shows is that religion is adaptable, and that doctrine is not always absolute.

However, the real battle for religious acceptance will most likely come in the form of secularism. In other words, the battle for acceptance must come in a form of a three-prong attack. First, the gay-rights movement must persuade legislators that being gay is not hazardous to the public wellness. Secondly, and this is most important, that the coveted institution of marriage will not be undermined. In fact, the institution itself may be better off with the stability of committed lesbians and gay-partners (Freeman). Thirdly, the underlining church and state laws regarding homosexuality sodomy must be separated if the culture of intolerance is to be broken (Clark). Why must the separation of Church and State be torn apart? Answer – because the continued entanglement of Church and State culture will foster the furtherance of intolerance. In addition, as long as the two are tied together the State cannot be swayed out of its long irrationality of tradition. Therefore, the “real harm being gay consists of being the victim of homophobia and heterosexism;” thus the denial to right of marriage (Freeman).

By the publics inculcating homosexuality, they can demoralize the gay-rights movement as a result of not allowing “them” into the fold of normal society. Why? Because those who would deny this inalienable right realize that gay and lesbian partnerships would have the same stabilizing factors as does the heterosexual partnerships with individuals and community. Moreover, the opposition feels that the civil advantages of marriage belong to strictly to the heterosexuals (Clark).

The enculturation of heterosexual marriage is so engrained that the “gay rights” movement must use the popular culture of America to find its acceptance. Therefore, only by exposing the American public to their message can they change the minds of the next generation.

Summary

The two sides have many reasons for what “they” believe is valid. For instance, the opposing religious view is that gay marriage is immoral, that it invites death to a civilization. On the other hand, the government is reflecting what the American public wants. Moreover, the opposing family view feels that the exclusivity of what makes up a family should be that of heterosexuals and sees nothing wrong denying its accessibility to “marriage.” While the proponents of gay marriages feel that social acceptance is dependent upon how the government leads it people, and will be the only way that Americans will be more tolerant of “their” lifestyle. Moreover, the proponents of gay-families feel that with their “coming out” that the American culture must find a way to adapt to the differences in families. In addition, with movement within some religious circles towards homosexuals there may be eventual change on the idea of gay marriages.

Conclusion

The success of gay marriages and gay families are solely dependent on three factors: the government, the gay-rights educating the public and finally, the tolerance of religious leaders. The last two will take time and energy, but the first will take a concerted effort by the gay-rights movement to remind the government that “they” are also part of the “people.” To put it simply, two consenting adults should be allowed to marry no matter what their sexual orientation. After all, at least from a human perspective, “they” – gays and lesbians – are Americans too; and, “they” have a right to the freedom of choice and expression as well.

Works Cited

Clark, Thomas W. “Secularism and sexuality. The case for gay equality” Humanist 54.3 (May/June 94): EBSCO HOST Research Database. 26 Feb. 2003. http://0-search.epnet.com.skyline.cudenver.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&an=9406031590

Freeman, M. D. A. “Not Such A Queer Idea: Is There a Case for Same-Sex Marriages?” Journal of Applied Philosophy 16.1 (1999): 26 Feb 2003. http://0-search.epnet.com.skyline.cudenver.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&an=4374093

Glaser, Chris “Marriage As We See It” 128.12 (9/96) Newsweek: 26 Feb 2003. http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc1.asp?docid=1G1:18662356&refid=SEO

Grace, Kevin Michael “Why Save the Nuclear Family?” The Report 2 Sept. (2002): 26 Feb 2003. http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb3543/is_200209/ai_n8358586

Kunen, James “Hawaiian Courtship” Time 128.27 (12/96): 26 Feb. 2003. http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,985702,00.html

Idelson, Holly “Panel Okays Bill To Undercut Same-Sex Marriages” Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report 54.24 (06/96): 26 Feb 2003. http://web20.epnet.com

“Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ Imperils the family” Human Events 52.20 (5/96): 26 Feb. http://0-search.epnet.com.skyline.cudenver.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&an=9605260578

Prager, Dennis “Homosexuality, The Bible, and US – A Jewish Perspective” 93.112: 26 Jun 2006 http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0377/is_n112/ai_14466341

Sullivan, Andrew “State of the Union” New Republic 16.1 (1999): 26 Feb 2003. http://0-search.epnet.com.skyline.cudenver.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&an=3059571

 

pnet.com/citation.asp

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End of Modernism—Part One

February 4, 2006

Introduction Part One

Recently, I was going through some old school books and I came across an essay I had done for a class. As I re-read it, it occurred to me that my current thesis that I have been working on for the past couple of years was an extension of this paper. In fact, it seemed to me that this was one of my first sparks of defining the state of American moral declension. This realization brought a certain melancholy, in which, I felt that the American spirit of restoration was on the rise and the luster from the beacon of liberty would be restored. Unfortunately, I have been chastened by recent events in the news, torture, or redefinition thereof, domestic spying, or its redefinition thereof, Evangelicals advocating the assassination of a political figure, Katrina and Rita, and the implications of our readiness as a nation to handle catastrophic events. Moreover, the political discourse within the confines of the US borders sickens me. The mood of fin de siecle has remained beyond the crossing of the turn of the century and rooted itself into the self-esteem of the American public. What is strange, however, is that I concede its necessity and its chagrin as way of moving forward. In so being that, in order to traverse the crises of civil liberties, much pain must be born, in which the evolvement of humanity can be eventuated toward the light of justice and freedom; and, so it goes the challenge, and expectations in living just another day in paradise.

Introduction Part Two

The 20th century ended poorly. The ethical and moral values of Americans were effaced by our own pride and egoism. Several examples of politicians, corporate executives and civil leaders displayed, at the least, poor judgement. This effacement of morality not only deconstructed the foundational values of Americans, but also aided in the acceleration of Post-Modern angst.

This acceleration enabled Post-Modernism to burrow deep within the core values of America allowing for the explosion of corruption. The resulting corruption allowed for the ethical implosion of fundamental values to end the century in moral turmoil[1] (Baudrillard).

Therefore, Post Modernism is being defined as the ethical, moral, metaphysical, and technological estrangement from everyday community life – some term it as cynicism. This cynicism may be the result of the technological vices, which separate “us,” the individual, from the social interaction of other human beings. This in turn creates isolation of the spirit, as well as desensitization of not only one’s own humanity – but of one’s community.

For instance, in the early part of the 20th century, America was transforming itself from a rural intensive agriculture society to an urban intensive society. This transition, however, was not the end of intensive agriculture (a form of economic modernism) – but its final phase of it, refining its in motion to the assembly of epochal changes involving time. From the human perspective of reality, time is linear, simultaneous, and relative, as well occupying space and time in thought[2]. Thus, Post Modernism is the culmination of several single moments in realities all at once. Moreover, these moments are deciphered (viewed) from their individual realms at any one moment as well as at any one point along the time spectrum and can be non-linear. Meaning the technology of the moment is relative to that particular moment whether it is transmitted through a medium of: a cell telephone, a book, a television, a computer, a movie, or an Internet connection. Furthermore, this technology does not necessarily mean mechanical or electrical in a traditional sense, but can be something beyond the physical – but in the realm of the metaphysical as well.

In other words, the nature of Post Modernism although rooted in technology along with its ability to gather and disseminate vast amount of information is to aid humanity in the next possible evolutionary step of the universal consciousness. Therefore, humanity’s next step is the tapping of the unknown through the intuitive thereby expanding within intuitive spoken universe; thus, post modernism, on one level, can be the reclamation of the social and communal core base values, so that the individual is not preoccupied with relevancy of time. Since time, in the framework of post modernism, can exist at any one point within space-time, forward, backwards, and the now, the present, time’s perceived single focus restricts the participant’s perception.
However, when the 20th century ended, American were confused on how to view their reality whether through the post-modern eyes of popular culture or the reality of traditional cultural values; thereby, leaving America and the outside world in a quagmire of self-discovery.

Neither the world nor Americans understood its role, whether the influence of America as the sole super power was to police the world or to allow the world crumble off the shorelines in certain destruction. Americanism from the worldview was contradictory, foreign and detached, because as the world saw it, Americans are too ethnocentric. Yet as the ultimate beacon of democracy and freedom, the US flag – the red, white, and blue conveys loyalty, purity and honor. America is seen, however, as a wild, undisciplined, violent toddler that needs to find its center (or a good spanking). As consequence of being treated as a toddler in world affairs, Americans feel detached from the world and to itself, and this feeling began nearly hundred years ago.

A Tall Tale Revisited

At the turn of the 20th century, America began, as stated earlier, to transform itself from an agricultural to an urban economy; thus, beginning the migration of family farm to urban city life. Cityscapes, roadways, and the beginnings of suburban sprawl began to take hold and America was looking for an identity of its own after the civil war. The Age of Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, had rooted its way in the foundational core of the American spirit: reason, spirituality, and individualism had become embedded from the relative popular culture of the previous century. For instance, the expansion of the America had ingrained a new spirit of individualism, a manifest destiny, sort to speak, which brought a code of values that are often portrayed in the movie medium – the western. One cinematic production called A Tall Tale – The Unbelievable Adventures of Pecos Bill[3] conveyed this idealism; it had such legendary characters as Paul Bunyan, John Henry, and Pecos Bill (a.k.a. Wild Bill Hitchcock). It was a coming of age story where a young man named Daniel Hackett no longer could shun away the realities of the world, and had to take on the responsibilities of everyday life–the family farm.

The movie is imbedded with symbolism; it starts out in a1905 American town called Paradise Valley where a young boy of 12 is confronted by his mother. He responds to her, that he has seen as horse-less carriage. She shakes her head in response that she thought it was something like that, he being lost in a world of “fancy” and tells him that his father is waiting for him to do his chores. Like most young American men, his father and he butt heads about responsibility and understanding the “code of the west,” which1 is; respect the land; defend the land; and, never spit in front of women and children. These values represent a time that is fluidic, simpler, and more “honorable” than the new modern world to come. His father tries to impart to his son, Daniel, that these core values are the ones he wishes to instill within him.

Moreover, he wishes that his boy would not be so wound up about the Brave New World yet to come. It will be here fast enough as it is. Eventually, he over hears his mother and father arguing, and her wish that his father not be so set in his “traditions.” She, of course, capitulates as he sets out for the town meeting with his gun in one hand, and the family farm deed in his pocket. He is going to tell the black hats that he will never sell his farm. The boy circumspectly follows his father. He watches as his father defiantly tells off the bad guys and storms out of the meeting hall. The young boy and his father serendipitously run into each other on the way back home; his father, in dramatic fashion, tells his son to take the deed and protect it at all cost and run, just before the bad guys catch up to his father and shoot him.

Although this plot is obvious, the symbolism of defiance, individualism and independence resonates throughout the movie. The resistances to change, to remain with the tried and “true” traditions, have always been successful and are the underlying message of the movie. What is interesting about the movie is that it was made in 1995, far into the Post Modern era, wanting to recapture some sort of lost core cultural value. The movie being made at end of the century is significant because the screenwriters has chosen to depict period of ethical certainty within his mind. It is not a coincidence that the screenwriters place the story just after the turn of the century. It was a time, at least in the writers’ point of view, that America understood the principles of honor and hard work. In retrospect, the 1995 America seemed quite detached from this perspective. In fact, one might say Americans sense of right and wrong was adrift in popular culture minutia. The feel good story reminds the viewer that this need not be so, despite the advances being done in the new era of technology. So, when Daniel and his father go fishing near the beginning of the movie, and his father reminds of him of the code – that one’s action determines whether one is honorable or not – not words, this is a signal to the audience that this is a lesson about present day life – pay attention!

Daniel’s father is not killed, but seriously injured, after seeing his father laid up in coma, the young boys run off to the boat that he and his father were fishing in earlier. He falls asleep in it and this is where Daniel’s adventures begin. Patrick Swayze is Pecos Bill who helps the young Daniel Hackett to traverse the course of manhood after rescuing him from a couple of varmints who are trying to rob and kill the boy. He, Pecos Bill, shoots off their trigger finger, because he does not kill on Sunday. In a comedic moment, one of the varmints says it is not Sunday – but Wednesday – one can almost see the gleam in Pecos’ eyes as he cleverly shoots the ruffians away with gunplay. This showing of restraint conveys to us, the audience, and to young Daniel, that just because one has the power to kill it is not necessary to kill.

Prior to Daniel’s almost mugging, the boat which had cried and slept in, while drifting down river into a dried up creek bed, signals the transitions within the story. He wakes up, lost, confused, and scared in wonder. He tries to assess how he got where he is, but also what to do next. In comparison America, seems to fall into similar moments of displacement only wanting to do the right thing. So, when Pecos Bill asks the where he is headed, he responds back to Paradise Valley because he has to save his family farm. Pecos Bill decides to join young Daniel, because that is what hero’s do.

Respect the Land

Along the way home, Daniel and Pecos Bill come across Paul Bunyan; he and his blue ox are lost in dissolution because they feel antiquated, and America has seemingly lost its respect for the land. The modern world it seems is stripping away the land and devouring it. Young Daniel reminds Paul Bunyan of what he represents to people and the code: to respect the land. The message to the audience is obvious. Conservation is not just environmental, but economical as well. The brazen disregard of the land, and of the people, will lead to the downfall of the modernist. For instance, when the stock market crashed in 1929, some 24 years later after movie is depicted, or the dust bowl farms of the 30’s and 40’s; or, in the present Post Modern era with DOT-COM’S crashes of the 1990’s it shows the modernist ineptness. The failure to have respect for nature is the modernist, and post-modernist Persian flaw and no amount of money will restore it. Therefore, the movie’s representation of the modernist is that the corruption of a core value of pragmatism is a sign of America’s decline.

Machine Versus Man

This corruption of a core value is further proof that technology is a hindrance to the development of one’s humanity. The disassembling of humanity is further proven out when their final member – John Henry, joins the group. They come across him just as he about to battle a machine: the challenge is to out work the machine driving a steel pin through a boulder. However, there is a two-fold lesson here: first – as long as you do your best, there is no need to feel shame or guilt. Second, and more poignantly, the modern era is coming and unlike a human, a machine is not reliant on another human. John Henry loses to the machine, because he relied on another human – Daniel – who failed to see the importance of the battle at the time. The lost to the machine is a reflection of a time to come, where the production of the country’s economy will be transformed. John Henry’s failure to defend the land from the machines comes as a haunting signal that there will be a time when mechanization will override the land and humanity.

A Spittin’ Texan

One of the myths about coming of age is that one must submit to the pressure of the group. Although it may be certainly true, how one handles the influences of others, it also certainly true, how one handles the image of oneself by others. Daniel learns this lesson in a bar room fight, when Pecos Bill is upset by another cowboy after a carefree moment with the other legends and himself. The rowdy cowboy “calls him out” after Daniel inadvertently spits on the man’s boots. Pecos defends the boy and in the process, the man insults him, however, in the spirit of defending his land, himself, and his home state, Pecos Bill succumbs to violence. Simply, I don’t like what you are saying about me, my home, and my image thereof – so I am going to pound you until you think otherwise. This way of reacting is nothing more than ethnic cleansing in its base form. So, Pecos Bill and the other man brawl in the bar until it eventually broken by the sheriff, who, happens to be a woman – Calamity Jane. Now, the movie has introduced a new element of individualism by showing that a woman is just a capable as a man. This is not traditional, but it is certainly modern, as American moved to homestead, women had to be as independent as men in order to survive the harshness of the Wild West for their families. This conspicuous moment of modernism spotlights the new world of feminism to come.

Calamity Jane throws all of them – John Henry, Pecos Bill, and Paul Bunyan – in jail except Daniel. This leaves open the opportunity for Daniel to prove the lessons he has learned. When unjustly accused, it is righteous to break the law, so Daniel breaks the legendary figures out – and rescues them. Thus, Daniel in the process puts feminism its place. The dramatic rescue of the troops ensues, only to have the bad guy cause the interruption in their effortless escape. They end up running for a barge, which will take them to the never-ending desert.

Commentary on Modern Life

The desert represents one more obstacle before Daniel can save his family’s farm. He will have to rely on the resources that he has gathered along the way. However, before the men and Daniel go into the desert, they camp underneath the stars. It is at this point in the movie that the culmination of events has led to Daniel describing the Brave New World. He tells them that one-day, electricity will light up tall buildings as large as mountains, and city lights will blot out the night sky to aid the people to see in the dark. Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, and John Henry look at him in horror, saying they cannot image such a place where humanity is disconnected from the land. At first, Daniel tries to convince them that the new modern world will be a wonderful place. However, as the men begin to talk about their feeling about the land, women, and their father’s, Daniel begins to understand his importance in the modern world. (Personal side note – Men talking about their feelings is definitely not modern in the cultural since, but relative in the Post -Modern world–ugh). The final challenge, for Daniel, is to cross the desert, and to comprehend how much he loves his father.

Conclusion

In a Post-Modern world, Daniel’s coming of age is no longer an expected rite of passage. However, what would be expected is his comprehension of the language and perception of time. Therefore, in the modern and Post-Modern worlds, Daniel would have to adopt, adapt, and accept his enculturation as well as his assimilation into them. His ability to play by the rules are quintessentially important to a society as it to live within the time of a society, because this will demonstrate Daniel’s coming to terms with his maturation from childhood. Nevertheless, the movie – A Tall Tale – The Unbelievable Adventures of Pecos Bill is predictable melodrama, because the screenwriters’ attempts to turn the hands of time back through the usage of nostalgia. In a fashion, the movie screenwriters are saying when the saturation of the mass media and popular culture was not so prevalent; America was better off, because it was young and innocent. Life was perceived slower and simpler.

Ultimately, the screenwriter fails this circumspect preaching because the ending of the movie is wrapped up in typical Hollywood fashion, into a harried ending. Daniel not only saves the family farm, but also rallies the people of the town, and the legends to stand up to the modern day corporate raiders – the black hats – the bad guys. Thus, he is able to “push” back the elements of modernization and keep Paradise Valley safe for the moment or at least until the people are no longer strafed with the emotion of fin de siecle, end of the century, sickness. Looking back, the common theme throughout the movie is that of time: Daniel’s coming of age, the obsolescence of American legends, and the approaching new era of modernization. The transformation from rural farm community to urban intensive society gave time the control of America’s reality to come, both in fiction and “real world”; thus, creating the Post-Modern angst that is sometimes felt through nostalgia.

Cited Work

See the link for the movie at: http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1808733697/info>.

See Albert Einstein influences on time can be found in “Einstein’s Clock, Poincare’s Maps: Empires of Time” by Peter Galison.

Acknowledgement— my class notes were used in preparation of this essay, my thank Dr. J. David for his class: Anthropology of Popular Culture.

[1] Jean Baudrillard discourses on Post-Modernism are by way of reviews from an on-line source which can be found at http://carbon.cudenver.edu/~mryder/itc_data/postmodern.html#baudrillard>>, as of February 4, 2006.

[2] See Albert Einstein’s influences on time can be found in “Einstein’s Clock, Poincare’s Maps: Empires of Time” by Peter Galison.

[3] A Tall Tale – The Unbelievable Adventures of Pecos Bill. Starring Patrick Swayze, Oliver Platt, Scott Glenn, Nick Stahl; Produced by Caravan Picture; Producer Joe Roth; Directed by Jeremiah Chechik; Written by Robert Rodat, and Steven Bloom; and, Distributed by Walt Disney.

Upon Reflection

December 15, 2005


There is a benefit in attending school when you are an older adult one has the ability to exercise, to tap, one’s own life experiences. In so being, that one’s accessible experiences to debunk the philosophy of “theory” versus “practical” applications, which are examined in the enchantment of youth, and the various entrapments, has its benefits. Oh, one can still explore the esoteric, the obscure, but attending school as a more seasoned individual gives perspectives on the nature of things ; the way of things—if you please. In as much that life can be often be viewed personally, as a mere card game, in that, one’s own personal narrative lets an individual not only examine the qualities of life’s as a card game , but allows one to expand one’s purview, such that, life’s experiences may evolve into a more complex game for the mature adult—such as chess.

 

The evolution of growth from this game of life, chess that is, is far more representative, the subtle machinations of life workings can be viewed remotely, and objectively. Life’s pitfalls such as dealing with death, illness, and aging are “on par” for the more mature person’s journey of life. In the card game of life, however, the brevity of each hand reflects the short term perspective; chess can be both. The choices an individual makes, good or bad choices, guide the individual toward the either shorter or long term path. These paths may render the complexity of life’s games, chess or cards.

The chess metaphor allows for the evolvement of wisdom (of which covers the individual with satisfaction of lessons well learned); in the game of cards, the nakedness of instant gratification may be sweet and victorious, but mistakes once learned can be often repeated as a matter of course to facilitate the outcome (and sometimes need to do so). Admittedly, the short route (similar to the riskier and bolder moves in chess) is often more treacherous and rewarding as well as needed, but must we always be convicted by a steady pain to tender our evolution?

 

Yes, we must; through conviction of our spirit, we suffer for its enlightenment, and for its obtainment of knowledge with the maturing adult.

 

Should we not to learn from our previous convictions and crevices? The crevices that are our lowest moments in life; of which, the pitfalls and valleys are part of life’s journey as well as its emotions. Should we not build over these previous crevices? Should we not tear down old emotions, vices, attitudes, and moralities? I leave you with your own musings to decide such things.

 

However, to return to my point of the benefit of attending school, I should say, university, late in life, aids in the critical thinking of the subjects’ one has to attend. Furthermore, the benefit of a mature adult attending school later in years, at least for some, is the appreciation of history. To understand the “preciousness” of reflection, or its intrinsic satisfaction , before taking action in order to assimilate knowledge as well as the consequences that are found in the modality (in so being that the lessons of life are repetitive and can be seen as models or templates to provide instruction through allegories, metaphors, parables), and mortality of life’s toll. So, why do I set forth the beneficiaries of the mature student at university?

 

It is a means of introduction, an explanation to the discourse of the work of Giovanni Boccacio, the Decameron; in which, I will parlay momentarily. But let me first address one presumption, that death is wasted on youth, and as such the melancholic ideals—the trials and tribulations of life—are trivialized. The dearth of their appreciation of it sets the mature and youthful apart. To fully ascertain the certainty of it, death that is, one must be close in proximity of it. Admittedly, this is a generality, and death can compact (to reduce) the youthful heart, but I set my sights on a different plain, and that discussant is Boccacio’s plague, the revealing allegory of the complexity of life’s games, such as chess and cards.

* * * *

I remember as youth, in the 1980’s, when AIDS had plighted the consciousness of the American public. It was after the go-go 1970’s decade, from a historical perspective, represented: the western-American “sexual revolution,” the culmination of civil rights for women, the apex of the Feminist movement sought the passage of the ERA amendment to the US Constitution, and the country, the United States, was in the midst of an upswing of a conservative culture war movement.

 

The seemingly fresh paint on the wall of America’s culture war climate was and had been actually rooted in the mores of an older evangelical movement that steadily grew in the twentieth century. Fomenting, as early, if not earlier, as 1906, after the San Francisco earthquake, the Pentecostal charismatic movement a.k.a. Evangelical religious leaders advocated for t he county’s correction before God’s eyes. They pointed toward the difficult trials Americans were facing daily as an indication: cholera epidemics, pandemic flu, tenement living, racism, poverty, and war were its symptoms. But the root villain of this despair was science, and the symbol of this declension of moral values was the revered scientist Charles Darwin. For he represented the challenge to the “core values” of Americans, and their beliefs for the creation of life, this later culminated in the Scopes Monkey Trial, in Tennessee in 1925. Although, the evangelicals won, the exposure of the trial subverted Americans beliefs on the creation of life. It was as if a youth, wrought with emotion, began to realize their own irrationality and started to mature, into a rational adult.

 

In any event, the Pentecostal charismatic of the early twentieth century, transformed into the more politically activated evangelical Christians of the 1970’s. But they were not alone, Islam, the radical Arabs, in the Middle East, had taken its own evangelical turn in the 1970’s, but expressed it with guns. Evangelical Christians and Arabs sentiments were on ascension and both came in concert to the world stage at the end of 1970’s with Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, and Pat Robertson’s 700 Club along with Ayatollah Khomeini’s overthrow of the Shaw of Iran with his “revolutionary students.”

 

For the Evangelical Christians, it had been a culmination of events, which had set their political sights onto America’s consciousness, but one precipitous event seem to inflame there “soul,” the passing of “abortions rights” to women, in the US Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade. As for the Ayatollah, and the groups that would follow its radicalism, it was the oppression of the Shaw and the clash of civilization with the western-American mores, and its religious fanaticism with Israel . This inflammatory period resulted in a shift of American politics, consciousness, and ideals. And, the finding of a leader that represented the shifting of those beliefs, but held firm of the ones that America held golden: truth, justice, and the American way of life. He advocated conservatism with a pragmatic voice; he was seen as the fatherly figure that led us to redemption, salvation, and strength; to resolve the crisis of America’s heart and was elected to restore the majesty of the presidential office of the United States. He reversed the youthful forays of the country and provided a more seasoned perspective as he guided the American public through its own Bocaccio’s plaque tribulation. He was President Ronald Reagan and he used his life lessons of chess to guide America and Americans out of the crisis to come.

 

* * * *

 

It was a sunny afternoon in 1981, mid-June, when my mother told me that, her friend, her bassist (electronic), had suddenly died on stage while performing a local “gig” (show) up in Boulder. At the time, they did not know what exactly caused his death, but they knew it had something to do with immune system; it was later be identified as a variant of AIDS.

 

It, AIDS, was the biological crises of the 1980’s; no one knew exactly how it was contracted, but the one certainty, it seemed, to be afflicting what the politically correct referred to as “marginalized” communities: minorities and homosexuals . Fear ran rampant, religious leaders, implicated, indicted, and prophesied that, AIDS was a sign from God as being displeased with our sinful nature. Others indicated it was the filth, the laziness of these communities, and the lack of moral fortitude that had brought down “God’s” punishment.

Similar punishment arguments were brought during the plaque of Boccacio’s Decameron, he says, “the most beautiful of Italian cities, noble Florence, was attacked. It started in the East either through influence of the heavenly bodies, or because God’s with our wicked deeds; sent it as a punishment to mortal men; and in a few years killed innumerable quantity of people” [my emphasis]. Take note, this pandemic was an illness that consumed the entirety of Europe with or without God’s help.

 

So, for Boccacio’s Decameron, God condemned man’s choices of free expression and will, and it was man’s fault for the suffering at hand. Thus, the sinful nature of the 1970’s was the same as the sinful nature of the era of the Black Death. But let us not take a reductive stand for the motive of religion and limit it to the disease alone. No. Some used the machinations of religiosity to foster an agenda for power, money, and acquisition. Yes, the opiate of religion was used as an artifice of misfortune to triumphantly tocsin the return of His glory against the masses.

 

In a real sense, religion played the cards of its hands against the other cards of the masses to exhort its control for authority. This exhortation was also true for the evangelical Christian movement in the 1980’s as the spread of AIDS instilled fear to the public. (See religion latest example of terrorization: the disasters of hurricane Katrina, Rita, earthquake in Pakistan or for that the matter tsunami in the Asian Pacific quadrant have been illuminated as God’s wrath). Thus, emotionalism ran high as the dearth of rationality ebb to the lowest crevice of life’s trials; religious shrill drowned out reason and empiricism.

 

By comparison, the fated 1980’s tussled with narratives similar to those in the Boccacio’s Decameron: friends, families, and acquaintances isolated themselves away from one another; wild acts of perilous behavior seeded the flames of fear. Some turned their fears inward, while others tempered themselves through prayer, some through moderation, some tried to splash emotion with common sense, and yet still, others partied with raucous joy and left their desires to fate. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we may die! Thus, the rational of the American public as a spire above the waves of uncertainty, but like a passionate adolescent, impertinent and impatient, they wanted a new set of cards to be dealt, as they tried to come to accept their own frailties. “Life is not fair!” is the cry of the teenager.

 

Regardless of these attitudes, the American public in comparison to the citizens of Boccacio’s Florence were that of fearful people trapped by the uncertainty of the disease that enveloped them. Some thought by simply touching a homosexual one could contract the disease; no one knew for sure, if by touched, by saliva, by air, by the sexual act itself transmitted the contamination of death. In Boccacio’s time, however, the variants strains of the plague were transmitted in this manner . Nevertheless, the psychology of fear was the same, some groups and persons used this opportunity to increase divisiveness with the “marginalized” communities.

In addition to this divisiveness, the culture of fear meted out another layer of ostracism. A gulf of separation by the “hegemonic,” “normative” community was necessary for the co-option of the mundane, the Middle American, into “behaving” properly in order to maintain order. And yet! AIDS spread into the heterosexual community cross contaminating through blood transfusions and sexual activity. The befoulment of AIDS and the Black Death contributed, handling of bodies and their fluid aided the spreading of the disease faster. It took the “bravery” of an all American boy, Ryan White, to bring the sanity to the consciousness of Americans.

 

This all American boy returned and reminded a nation of its compassion. He, Ryan White, reminded the public that not everything was simple as a card game, but had areas of grays, not merely black and white. He reminded a nation of their own children, and that tragedies of life are more complex and that their quantity for wanting their nakedness of gratification, the raw moment, was populated with people.

Real people are not a hand of cards to be tossed away, nor are they pawns (used in chess for basic moves), but are complex and each of them are the kings and queens of their own destiny. In Decameron, this too was true, it took the literacy of the elite to understand the walls in which they hid behind was their own ignorance, and in America it took the en masse media to embrace and remind Americans of their greatest treasure—their children and their propagation of future hope. The solution may seem different, but they are the same. The educated elite of the Decameron help transfer fear into providence; in that, they found their own treasure and light to traverse their darkest of times. While an educated American public restored the calm of civility in order to treat each other well. And, as in all things, the experience of time shunted (collapses) the impatience of fear; as a youthful, misguided, and raucous impertinent behavior that is attributed to lack of understanding and that of the inexperienced and the unexplainable—the mystical awe—became swallowed by the measure of time as those who become more seasoned prevailed as their wisdom recollected the words of Dante, from the mouth of Beatrice,

 

Know then, O waiting and compassionate soul,
that is to
fear which has the power to harm,
and nothing else is fearful even in
Hell….

These words were later reshaped by one of our nation’s great stewards, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself,” and so it goes the mature adult, upon reflection of history, and the wisdom of practical experiences versus theories and philosophies of life's games are exposed. These experiences provide truths that are not ruled by the cards, but by the complexities of a more complex game called chess. And as for me, though I did not understand all the tragedies of AIDS epidemic, at the time, I some how muddled through the crises and found balance; it might had been the early exposure from my mom and her calmness when she reported the death of her bassist, or it simply might had been stoic leadership of a great man that led us through many crises during the 1980’s, with his compassion and wisdom, once again that man was President Ronald Reagan. Nevertheless, for whatever reason for my clarity, there was a greater shade of gray as I lived through “biological crisis” of the 1980’s and I realize the complexity of life’s game is not that of cards, but of chess….End notes

1 The obvious reasons for attending school late in life for most adults are for economic reasons, but as one goes through experience of university, there are opportunities to challenge one’s ideals and perspectives, but the experiences of life gives credence to the validation or refutation of theories of philosophy.2 A Reference to Lucretius’s philosophy, who felt that, a person’s existence merely, was that of the material world and saw that worrying about those things outside of the self –meaningless.

3 Greek Philosopher, Cleanthes, spoke of life’s trials, in form of playing cards metaphor. He also used the analogy of the play to explain his philosophical point. To understand, to appreciate the card game, the hand that has been dealt in life, and to seek reference within the hand, and understand our place in the consequence of the play of life. Probable first reference for Shakespeare’s oft quoted, “All the world a stage.”

4 By on par, I mean, “on average” a person’s life has tragedies, but also joys and celebrations; which seems in the short term, like an euphoric high or a devastating loss that can be, upon reflection, the tribulations of life’s journey.

5 One may assume, I mean the accumulation of knowledge, but I literally mean the evolvement of it. Like in evolution, knowledge can be observed as trials and errors. In essence, either knowledge is true or false. In evolution, either the life works within the frame that helps create it, or it does not and it fails. Think of it this way, knowledge let’s move forward or backward, build or deconstruct the culture in the same way evolution establishes a foot hold, thus allowing the knowledge to build or branch off into new undiscovered knowledge, which then allows for more trails or errors.

6 Petrarch, in his story, Mount Ventaux, thought so. He describes his ascent with Gherado, his brother, who took the shorter route as he traversed the long circuitous path.

7 My professor Kurt Pond reminded me that the satisfaction of experience contributes to the mature adult.

8 In the 1970’s, the decade was considered to be that of “free love”; sexuality or sex was deemed “cost free” or “consequence free,” for women with the advent of the birth control pill reaching mass production, and the access to have an abortion gave women the power over the bodies. From the religious conservative view, promiscuity was rampant, even salacious to the extreme. In the US, by the end of 1980’s, a correction had resulted in the return to its puritanical roots regarding sexuality, while in Europe a maturing realization of its own sexual identity became an underlying temperament.

9 Equal Rights Amendment which failed, seeking the equalization of woman in not only in liberties, but in status and in pay, and was supposed to be the establishment of women’s self sovereignty. However, as a result, though many aspects equality are still muted, the shift in women obtaining power and money has been radicalized many times to their benefit since the 1970’s.

10 In a unpublished work by Jack David Eller, Culture to the Ultimate: The Anthropological Study of Religion, he discourses on the fundamentalists movements of the 1970’s, he describes the rise of Orthodox movement, from the right-wing Likud party elected in Israel in 1977, in 1979 Moral Majority founded, and the Islamic Revolution under Khomeini took hold, these movements signaled a shift in the planetary consciousness. In the years that followed, the fundamentalist movement gained political clout as the militancy Islamic grew. (source Jack David Eller unpublished book, page 145…I understand from the author it will be published soon.

11 As a young adult, I voted for him in the mid 1980’s, but I did not always agree with him. I voted for the man, not his issues, I disagreed with perspective on abortion, but I felt strongly that government should always remain limited. Government should be an indicator of the people’s will, and that regulations, laws, should pointers of the people’s desire. Not instruction of how to behave, or how to act. Ronald Reagan for me upon reflection communicated the charisma, the imagery of the US, and its beacon of hope of the experiment of light the US proclaims.

12 One of the most divisive social mores of the twentieth century and beyond, has been the controversy of sexual liberty, the definition of nature verses behavior, and the right of the person to chose their sexual identity, or the person inherited, meaning heredity choice, being born with, their sexual identity coded in the person. For me the argument is mute, whether born or inherited why a person chooses a particular style of life is their enumerated right and condemnation of such choices are against the society of men, and his right to exist as a free individual.

13 This is a paraphrase of oft quoted remarks from Karl Marx, that, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”

14 There seems to be a dispute of who first said this first, between Imhotep born a few thousands years before, or in the Christian gospels written in the majority by St. Paul. In any event, it is public domain and now clichéd reference to “enjoy the moment.”

15 According to the Decameron Web site, the scientific causes came in four shapes; the bubonic (which is insect related) and was the most common, and did not transfer human to human, while the pneumonic plague was contracted during the winter and affected the respiratory system, and the other two; although rare, were 100% fatal, because the septicemic and enteric plagues respectively affected the digestive and blood systems. Cited from the Decameron Website:

http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Italian_Studies/dweb/plague/causes/sci_causes.shtml.

16 This term was created what by the political activists considered the oppressed minorities, in that, societal state of affairs “marginalized” their conditions for success. These groups, homosexuals, Hispanics, and black communities became shunned.

17 A young man, named Ryan White, enabled Americans to get over their fears and start doing hard research enabling the government to better understand the causes and infection rates. This critical mass moment seemingly somehow reached the underpinnings of the dominated. He represented everything that they were and also everything that “marginalized” communities were not. He was them, and by ill fortune, he had received the disease.

I Have Been I Chinged

September 18, 2005

Introduction:

As you some of you might know, I am student at my local community college for the past few years. I am required to take is Humanities to complete my associate in anthropology, which will be completed this spring. Anyway, I thought I would share some of my thoughts, regarding my assignments for class….

I tossed the coins on the professor’s desk as he explained the various aspects of how to construct an I Ching hexagram. As I listened, it struck me, what we were doing as we performed the act of divination, that we were practicing Chinese mysticism. I tried to create within my mind, the elements, and the process, of the magical act[1]. This brought a faded recollection of days long gone by, a memory of a friend, fond of tarot and the I Ching. She told me, “Now remember to ask a question as you toss the coins…” Yes, I realized, I was performing the same ritual with my professor now. It was a queer feeling of familiarity.

So I asked myself, a series of questions: Will I be able to add another class? Will I able to find the focus to complete my degree? Will be able to buy a home before I finish school? And will I be able to go to China next year? And so on. I did this each time as I tossed the coins on the desk of the professor. I did notice that, however, the professor did not instruct me to do this, to ask questions, so I did it silently. I added this part of the ritual to the performance, which seemed to bring a state of confusion, analysis, creation, and finally completion to the “magical act,” which for me seemed to transform the experience.

The final copper ting sounded against the desk as the coins bounced one last time, I had tossed them a total of six times. My professor had drawn six lines on a piece of blank white copier paper as he had described the process of drawing an I Ching hexagram. Each line was either solid, or broken, depending on the toss: if two heads, and one tail—solid. If you toss two tails, and one head—a broken line, if three heads or three tails—also a broken line. So only a solid line can be drawn, if one had tossed two heads, and one tail. The lines are drawn from the bottom up, think of this act as building a foundation; an allegory, if you will, a metaphor for life, in which a person constructs a future: to act or not to act[2].

Let me clarify what I mean, by “to act or not to act,” when a person participates or performs in a ritual act, the process of creation does not necessarily have to be physically apparent in the perception of “reality.” The first step of creation whether it comes from the instinctual, intuitive, logical, or the rational are belied in thought—displaced[3] thought. Simply, that act of creation, divination, or what have you, need not be observable to the outside human experience of another. Furthermore, this process is belied in the initialization of thought of when an idea comes into being. In other words, we place those perceptions directly outside of ourselves in order to validate them. So, what does this have to do with to act or not act?

In order to take an action, one must first believe in the ritual experience, and second, that experienced ritual becomes eventually transmitted outside of ourselves to another. This process may not necessarily recognize, or better yet is “cognizant,” of that displacement taking place; but I simply refer you to the words of Rene Descartes, Cogito ergo sum, or “I think, therefore I am.” Some would say what Descartes really meant was “I doubt, therefore I exist.”[4] Therefore, our doubted existence embellished the egos’ confirmation of “reality.”

Consequently, our own egos were satisfied, when the professor and I had completed the “magical act,” what is referred to by anthropologist Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah, as a “performative illocutionary act,”[5] our experience had transformed the mystical divination with a completed design—a hexagram. We had drawn from the bottom, three set of broken lines, and second set of three which had two solid lines from the bottom, and one broken. In the book of I Ching, and one other tool, which was a set of spinning wheels assisted in assigning a number value to the I Ching hexagram; in total, there are 64 hexagrams attached to a cryptic revelation. My particular hexagram number was 45 also known as “shui” (water, or fluid in Chinese), defined as “congregation, or gathering”[6]. The interpretative message, which offered the sage advice from book of I Ching, was:

“Above the earth a pool is gathering. The superior person, accordingly, makes ready the weapons, and is forearmed against the unexpected.”[7]

Obviously, the above message was an allegory for the person to wait, to standby, and let one gain more knowledge before taking action. Or, to put another way, “forewarned is forearmed” against the unexpected. Nevertheless, if one was to procrastinate too long, the aforementioned advice was also warning to know when to act. Thus, the confusion of my previous questions, if one was so inclined to believe, to attach meaning to my tossed coins was that a “outside” force, or an ancestor, or a divine being provided a solution, and the sage instruction to standby. In essence, the divination by the mystical force aided my coins to follow an arbitrary path to the provided the answer.

Some might considered this, the book of I Ching, nothing but cryptic, random, meaningless, subjective and scripted lines, to create, a fantastical, magical, and mystical act; in order, to instill set of rules, beliefs, values, and ideals. To others, the I Ching was set to establish teachings taught by Confucius. The founding Father of Humanistic ideals, in which, secularization of religious mysticism were transformed, yet this illocutionary moment, within the Chinese culture competed against another ethical system—Daoism.

Daoism dealt with the abstract, whereas I Ching and Confucianism dealt with instruction and structure. Daoism was and is mystically ephemeral, whereas Confucianism insisted and insists on permanence. Daoism was and is romanticism, whereas Confucianism was and is dependent on the rational. And, although Daoism has been bounded to nature, Confucianism was and is rooted in the antiquity of the environment. Meaning that, even the book of the I Ching used the symbols of nature to convey allegorical meanings and forms. Thus, the difference, of course, and I return to the anthropologist Tambiah, Daoism and Confucianism are both vehicles of “imperative and performative illocutionary acts”; nonetheless, they are separated in form of the perlocutionary acts[8]; that was the latter, the vehicle of Confucianism, took responsibility for both intended and unintended acts of a cultural and individual’s transformation. This was and is, of course, one of the first civil and social contracts for the ancient civilization and humanity. Simply put, Confucianism and Confucius provided the equivalence of the golden rule, and the question, “What would Jesus do?”, in this case; however, question was and is, “What would Confucius do?”

Endnotes

[1] See the work of Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah, “Form and Meanings of Magical Acts” in A Reader in the Anthropology of Religion, edited by Michael Lambek (341-357). He, Tambiah, discourses on certain rituals being “performative acts,” in that, they create illusory symbols of beliefs, ideals, and values. He says this can be accomplished by physical or emotive transformations. For instance, the tossing of coins provides the performers the vehicle of displacement, that is, the tools to set aside the perception of reality in order to facilitate the act of transformation. In the case of the I Ching, the ritual of divination is a function as an apparatus to bring order through metaphor of compliance and action.

[2] From class notes, Humanities professor Kurt Pond, defines the ritual of the I Ching as a set of instructions to either act or not to act on particular situation.

[3] In my thesis, “Just Another Day in Paradise: Science Fiction America—The Signs and Symbols of the American Life Mythology,” I define “displacement” as a setting aside, a dislocation, a projection of reality. In the sense that, we place outside of ourselves the perceptions we conceive, thereby “validating or invalidating” the perception of reality. Then, later “narrate,” telling a story of the experience, in which we then, finally (re)Deploy for diffusion from within ourselves or through and among the community: family, kinships, society and/or culture. The vehicle is known as DVND to divine our existence.

[4] David Eller, from the Metro State College of Denver, in a discussion in the nature of sentient and existence felt that what Rene Descartes really meant to say this, in describing empirical nature of the human condition.

[5] See Tambiah’s discourse in “Form and Meaning of Magical Acts,” that we as humans create and use ritual, or what have you, as a vehicle to validate a performance. Think of it this way, you are kneeling before Queen Elizabeth as Pulitzer prize writer or Nobel laureate and taps you with her scepter on both shoulder, and says, “You shall now be referred to as Sir Kurt Pond of Denver,” if the previous accolades had not already brought heir of respectability, this clinches your transformation. The act of transformation from doctor, master, or mister falls away to your “crowning” of your person to the title of Sir. The public, your friends, and family see you in a new light, a new birth, if you will; you are nee to them in how they perceive you. You are transformed by your knighthood and respect, hopefully, can not be torn down. It was a ritual, a performance, which has made you “magical,” even “mystical.”

[6] The Chinese spinning discs imparted the symbolic reference as congregation, or gathering, but I took these words as to mean to “collect,” to “accumulate” like a valley bowl amasses water to create a pond or a lake. These are a metaphor to have patience, to gather knowledge and information.

[7] This is a reference that can be translated, Sir Francis Bacon stated, “Knowledge is power.” But I also think of this as, “forewarned is forearmed.”

[8] Tambiah refers to perlocutionary act as being the spoken act of “connotation,” “persuasion” and transformation for the “hearer” to be transformed by the “intended and unintended consequences.” This is the final act of a performance vehicle. See Tambiah’s essay, the “Form and Meanings of Magical Acts” in the: A Reader in the Anthropology of Religion, edited by Michael Lambek, p. 352.

Review of the Epic of Gilgamesh

September 1, 2005

Gilgamesh Lived Like a Man

How to begin? The story of Gilgamesh, a legend, a myth, or a parable gives us a vehicle to examine how we view our own humanity. In the beginning we see the arrogance and the abruptness of a young king. He was brash, egotistical, and was immortal, in the sense, that no man, woman or child can tame the shrew. He felt superior to all. He filled his days and nights with self-indulgence. He was vain yet happy. He did what he wanted, when he wanted, and there was no one to oppose him. But his life was solitary, albeit filled with many pleasures of the flesh. He was a man, after all, who was two-thirds god and had achieved many feats through battle and learned the secrets of the gods that endowed him.

These feats made him legendary, and for a brief time the “darkness of mankind” ; an oppressor. He devalued his people; he violated their happiness, and usurped their own personal authority, because of his god-like power, and inequitable foes. His wants went unchallenged. No one could fathom his tempest passions, nor denied his desires. Gilgamesh thirsted for one as great as he—a companion. This need for a companion, to share his glory, left him as an empty vessel.

In comparison, the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” in some sense, can be reprised within the chronicles of democracy. In the view of the 1990’s, when the “end of history” tag line signaled the conclusion to the war for liberty. Democracy won. Communism failed. And the Western-American culture had prevailed leaving America as the lone super power willing to impart its might. A vacuum was born. And boredom followed the democracies of the planet. Old grudges that had been suppressed by the communism erupted. Western nations, especially the United States, were left to “police” the globe. In many ways, the US was the Gilgamesh of the 20th century, in that, some viewed America’s power as corruptive and bullying. Its culture, America’s, was considered crude, boorish, and wanton. The people of America seem to represent decadence; it had lost its opposite.

The United States’ counterpart equal in strength was the Soviet Union, at least in appearance, and its opposite in philosophy in how to tend to humanity. Nonetheless, the United States citizenry seemed oblivious to the global citizenry. Lost in its own pleasure and arrogance; living for only the moment, shorted sighted, the US thought that its tranquility was going to be immortalized.

The US like Gilgamesh needed an equal. He, Gilgamesh, found it in Enkidu. Desirable, beautified yet initially untamed by civilization. The “noble savage,” Enkidu, lived with nature, and was naïve in the works of man, but equitable in strength and arrogance. Gilgamesh had found a companion. The “wild beasts at water-holes,” of the forest had befriended Enkidu teaching him the ways of nature and he ran with them; he was brethren to the beasts. He knew not of sin and the ways of man and woman. The loss of Enkidu’s innocence and naivety resulted of being shunned by the animals because of the treachery of one man; who later became his companion. His comrade’s dream, vision of Gilgamesh’s, took away the happiness of Enkidu, but their love of one another replaced it.

In Gilgamesh, this love subdued his passion-of-the-moment and was transformed by Enkidu into “com-passion” . This companionship and compassion led to the feminization of Gilgamesh.

He, Gilgamesh, became the “source of light” for his people, and ultimately, Enkidu’s kinship led to the happiness of a king. In the case of Enkidu, however, the companionship of the king and the temple priestess; in the king, he found a love unfettered in competition and male bondage, in his woman, the wisdom of civilization. Yet Enkidu was lost without his brethren, the animals of the forest, his strength which was founded in nature later became his folly. Enkidu seeped into melancholy like a caged animal, but with Gilgamesh he found his salvation in the glory and the adventure for the conquest of the nature from which he was born. They together slay the “Bull of Heaven,” the protector of the forest, “Humbaba” bringing modernization of humanity to the great forest of cedar.

In parallel, Great Britain and the United States were similar to the epic poem. In bondage, the two countries wish to bring light to humanity, yet their ego and moralizing often left the planet cold. But the role of Enkidu, Great Britain, America’s companion, only tempered the US proselytizing. Britain survives, while Enkidu died for his loyalty; and the king grieved for his loss of his friend.
Nevertheless, the United States friendly attempts to democratize the planet have been a long arduous process, both in the cold war and for Fukuyama’s “end of history.” Thus, the latest round of “history” finds the globe embroiled between the choices of “active” libertarianisms and “active” theologies.

In my own personal life, I have come across many crossroads, and like Gilgamesh, I have found a life long friendship, who has taught me the meaning of compassion.

My best friend and I met several years ago, while I was working at local gas-convenience store. I have watched and envied him as he built his family and a successful career. He inspired me and I learned from him the true meaning of loyalty and empathy. And for the king, in the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” in the beginning, he was a chaotic adolescent, but by the end of his life he became a man. Gilgamesh learned that life was ephemeral but true immortality is found in the lives one touches.

The Right Choice

May 15, 2005

It is

Good Day

To

Die

(The Euthanasia Solution)

By Greg Stewart
(Bob O’Connor)

To define a meaning of a word means to clarify, to understand, to give definition to, direction or purpose to an item, an object, or an idea. However, the subjective cultural meaning of words tells us what the word means or represents to a society. The following terms are by no means strictly by the book definitions, but meant to capture the spirit of the word.

Definitions:

Euthanasia – is defined as an easy death or means of inducing one whether by oneself or with the aid of another – to die well. It is also the act or practice of painlessly putting to death a persons’ suffering from an incurable condition or condition, and or diseases.

Passive – is defined as not acting [a state of non-action] but acted upon subject to, or produced by an external agency. In terms of this paper, not to hinder the death of a person, by not taking additional or extraordinary measures to prevent it.

Active – is characterized by acting rather than contemplation or through speculation. In other words, active means to assist, to help, to aid in the person’s liberation from life – death.

Value – in its archaic form means to show concern for or appreciation that intrinsically important to others or oneself.

Death – means the ending of all vital physiological functions, the cessation of life without recovery.

Dignity – means the quality or state of one’s worth or lifestyle that brings intrinsic value to one’s self-esteem, character and perception.

Quality – means the degree of excellence, a standard, grade, or caliber to one’s expectation of oneself, friends, and or peers.

Competent – means to be possessed of, or characterized by marked or sufficient aptitude, skill, strength or knowledge.

Introduction (revised)

This past spring the country’s perspective on the dignity of death was heavenly debated. The right to choose when to die, or who has the “authority” and the qualification to make such choice was also highly examined with the neo and the religious right in the control of the Republican Party; bringing a new level of emotion and shrill to the discussion. I originally wrote this paper for school in the spring of 2003, at that time for my English research class, although I did not address the Terry Schiavo directly at the time, my opinion remain the same, that the individual should remain in control of their own body. Furthermore, when unable to make the choice, the direct next of kin, should have the “authority.” In the Terry Schiavo case, that was the husband. Despite of all the recriminations and the demonizing of Michael Schiavo, and the other choices made by different individuals, it was his choice to make, not the state, not the governor’s, and especially not the US Congress’. Our very foundation was coming under the attack of the hysterical majority, which is why this country was established as a republic not majority rule mob mentality. Our founders felt, it was necessary, and pragmatic to protect the minority opinion and dissent. If they had not, this country would not be, what it is today. In fact, this country may have faltered coming out of the gate, we might have ended up like France, or Germany for that matter. So I offer my original opine, unaltered and with original introduction.

Introduction (original)

The undignified death, dying poorly, is the fear of those who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The ability to have a good death has become important to the American public because the extraordinary advances in medicine has doubled the life expectancy of the average citizen to nearly 80 years. However, the final days of death can be long and arduous. In fact, those with terminal illnesses experience what they perceive as an undignified death because of the laws and ethics of the medical establishment. Therefore, these establishments and, for the most part, this country have been rooted to the past; death not natural is either suicide or murder. Nonetheless, death in this country is viewed as an ending, not as a celebration of life or a passing to a better place.

Thesis Statement

Simply, that all competent individuals have an inalienable right to chose how they live or die as long as their choice does not do physical harm to another individual. Moreover, every individual should be able to choose how or when they die whether it is done passively or assisted actively by a physician.

Clarification of Freedom – Government Opposition

It is in the “public interest” that the government defines an individual’s freedom when the state deems it necessary to ensure the safety and the trust of its people. Additionally, considered by the government that the whole of the citizenry is greater than the individual’s right and the government has the duty to establish community guidelines when it comes to its citizen’s health and welfare. Therefore, the state may supercede the right of the individual and decides what is best, not the person. One example of this is a person does not have the right to scream fire in a crowded theater, when there is not one – this is the suppression of free speech. Thus, although a person may be in sound mind and spirit it is the duty of state to infringe on the judgement of the person. Therefore, the government can decide what inalienable rights or what rights are endowed, fundamentally, to a person. Namely, an individual can not enlist the assistance of another to aid early termination (suicide) of oneself, although that person may be terminally ill, and harming no other.

To aid in a suicide, in the view of the government, is considered manslaughter not murder, because the intent of the death was free from malice. According to Eric Sanders, in his article Kevin Sampson versus State of Alaska, the Alaskan Supreme Court concluded that “the prohibition against physician-assisted suicide does not violate the liberty, privacy, or the equal protection” clause of their Constitution. In other words, the state has the right to decide about the health and care of its citizenry.
Furthermore, it is the view of the government that the issue regarding self-termination can not be separated from the person. Therefore, the person’s emotions to make a rational decision are erratic at best. Moreover, the government has opined the pitfalls of allowing physician to assist in dispensing death. Again, according to Eric Sanders article detailed some of the government’s concerns for the community:

• Undiagnosed or untreated mental illness;
• Improperly managed physical symptoms;
• Insufficient attention to the suffering and fears of the dying;
• Vulnerability of socially marginalized groups;
• Devaluation of the lives of the disabled;
• Sense of obligation;
• Patient deference to physician recommendations;
• Increasing financial incentives to limit care;
• Arbitrariness of proposed limits; and
• Impossibility of developing effective regulation.

Additionally, the governing body policy of the Code of Medical Ethics states that “physician assisted suicide is ‘fundamentally incompatible’ with the [doctor] role as healer (Sanders).” In whole, it is the government observation that the controversy regarding physician-assisted suicide should at the least be “studied” so that the proper regulation can be properly tempered for those individuals that are terminally ill. Furthermore, the government believes that the “state” should determine, at the least, the how, who, and if possible, the when to die, for the terminally ill. Indeed, to allow the public to initiate or to control their destiny regarding euthanasia would be too chaotic and diverse for the state to ensure the public’s safety.

Ethical Opposition

The slippery slope of active euthanasia as stated says that once sanctity of life has been devalued by allowing active euthanasia then other active "involuntary", much more heinous and unacceptable forms become plausible. The ethical philosophers believe that to allow euthanasia in any form, passive or active would bring the foundation of our culture to an early termination. In other words, to allow euthanasia is in fact, allowing disarray to a system that, for the most part, is working when treating terminally ill patients. That aiding the consequentialists, the proponents, in active euthanasia is creating slippery-slope of events that will and can turn dark, if not for our elderly, but certainly for the indigent and mentally handicapped. Simply, with the indigent inability to pay; elderly seen as a drain on resources; and, the mentally challenged as incapable of contributing effectively and competently to society the physician may preempt by passively or actively pulling the plug on these patients (Clark).

Furthermore, the safeguards currently in placed to protect patients are insufficient. Therefore, the alternatives that might assist terminally ill patient comfort-level may not be developed, because the patients may feel overly pressured by their family and friends to save themselves from the indignity of the fight. Alternatively, patients may decide for assisted suicide option because of “the feeling of the lack of worth, or manifest a protest against inadequate care.” Consequently, such care may be due to inexperienced young doctors, and “the effect of pain and narcotics on ability to give informed consent (Clark).” Therefore, the moral imperative of ethical oppositionist of active euthanasia is to dissuade the terminally ill in considering suicide because all life is considered valuable and sanctified. Moreover, euthanasia in any form whether assisted or not is considered “terrible medicine” that seems to be in the view of psychiatrist Herbert Hendin, the executive director of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in New York City (Branegan).

Psychiatrist Herbert Hendin is the author of Seduced by Death, and he berates the policy of the Netherlands toleration of euthanasia and point to its failure of physicians reporting the cases of euthanasia to the public prosecutor as required (Branegan). Thus, the built in policies to ensure that the publics trust are not abused are primarily going unchecked. These guidelines according to Jay Branegan, and Barbara Smit, in their Time Magazine article, “I Want to Draw My Line Myself” were:
• Patient must be suffering pain unbearably from an incurable disease.
• The doctor must know the patient very well to ensure the request is voluntary.
• In addition, doctor must consult with another physician.

Admittedly, the Dutch primary care physician is the family doctor, in most cases, and with the socialize medicine the nursing care for the chronically ill is thriving. However, the abuse of non-reporting by physicians should bring concern to authorities of why the secrecy. One could conclude that the emotional stress of dealing with morality of assisted suicide is intrinsically wrong. Thus, the Dutch doctors are conflicted with their ethics of assisting their patients to die because the Dutch physician's values the sanctity of life (Branegan).

Physician Opposition

The doctor oath is primary, “to do no harm”, and this is continues to be the view of most doctors. In a study of the American Medical Association House of Delegates, 61.6 percent opposed the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. The beliefs by the delegates are rooted in the long held belief that suicide is wrong. It also their belief that physician-assisted suicide is “morally wrong and is poor public policy” (Whitney et al).

Furthermore, the delegates believe that legalizing physician–assisted suicide “might cause more harm to the profession and to the nation” (Whitney et al). Namely, the possible abuses from the legal profession in second guessing the physician could, the financially paralyze the medical industry. Malpractice insurance my stop carrying doctors in the fear of wrongful death lawsuits. Thereby, limiting the number of doctors who can treat patients, and in turn could clog up the patient care, restricting access to healthcare. Thus, this view is understandable considering the current state of the American culture wanting to place blame and responsibility on “someone” on a perceived wrong. Especially in sight of the evidence of Dutch physician’s lack of reporting euthanasia cases (Sanders).
Moreover, the current perceived health care crisis regarding health maintenance organizations (HMO’s) would place the indigent, elderly, and mentally handicapped, and the poor at greater risk. Again, the inability to pay for an adequate healthcare by the indigent, and the drain on resources by elderly and mentally challenged will likely encouraged physicians to “opt out” these groups quality of care. This concern addressed in the case of the Kevin Sampson versus State of Alaska, “vulnerability of socially marginalized group” would be subject to “arbitrariness” (Sanders). Thus, the ethics of the patient’s right to die, and the issue of physician-assisted suicide has put the quagmire between the delegates and the rank-and-file of the organization. However, they both agree that it is better that the status quo remains, so that the patients need could addressed individually. Therefore, it is the concern of the individual patient that is important to the physician not association or governmental policies (Whitney et al.).

The Freedom of Choice – Support

A good death can not be measured or defined nor can it be judged by some innocuous, esoteric set of rules, because each individual person or culture or ethnic group sees death differently. How an individual’s views death corresponds to, how the individual feels about euthanasia, and physician-assisted suicide. However, this is not necessarily an absolute, but a factor in how death is viewed. According to June Mui Hing Mak and Michael Clinton, “In western culture, a good death [is] … defined [as] one in which the patients’ wants and needs are met.” The key words here are the “patients wants and needs” not what a governing body wants. The Chinese have a saying “‘a good birth is not as good as a good death’” (Mak et al.). Meaning that how one takes on death is just as important in how one takes on life. For instance, an individual may look at this opportunity as a social event, and have family; friends visit until the day the person dies. To many, this would be viewed as a good death, but to others, it is the intangibles that make up a good death for the individual satisfying. Some of the elements of the “intangibles” are:

• Comfort or relief of pain and suffering,
• Openness and being aware of dying,
• Completion or accepting the timing of one’s death,
• Optimism or keeping hope alive,
• Readiness or preparing for departure,
• Location or living with one’s choice about where to die;
• And, most importantly, control or acceptance of autonomy (Mak et al.).

The ability to accept one’s death is most assuredly one of the essential factors in the patients’ competency to make the decisions about how they want to die. Once the person has come to terms about their death, then, this is where the important decisions are to be made if the person has not already made out a living will. "The decision” can come only from a place of informed, rational, competent state of mind including the awareness of surroundings thereby eliminating any doubt about one’s intention. Therefore, it is at this point when choices can be made by the individual, the doctor(s), the family, and friends becoming empowering for those involved. Moreover, depending on how much time a person has left the quality and the quantity of care can be assessed. It is every individual right to be able to state how one precedes death and the intangibles are a rational person measure to defining a good death. How one faces death can only be measured by oneself and their god.

Religious Acceptance

According to Courtney S Campbell, “Death is a defining characteristic of the human experience. Yet … remains elusively beyond human control…” Meaning that, with all the technologies available to medicine and life extending technologies everyone dies sooner or later. Ordinarily, the obvious answer to whether or not religion supports euthanasia, and physician-assisted would be no. However, although the primary three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam belief that preservation of life is paramount some are willing to concede that the “dignity” and the “integrity” of self must be given its due weight (Campbell).
For instance, all three of these religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – “ address the end of life from a common value of perspective … sovereignty, stewardship, and the self.” Sovereignty defined “denotes the lives and bodies of persons created by, and ultimately return to, God… Through the value of stewardship, [one is] considered the “agents of God” called to carry out the work of divine intent on earth…[and] the dignity of persons, linked to the notion ‘self’…” (Campbell)

In other words, through sovereignty God has “graciously” brought mankind into existence, and by “bestowing” humanity with uniqueness He has adorn man the ability of free will. This ability of free will, however, does not allow man to play God with life and death. However, with stewardship, the ability of free will or “decision-making” gives mankind the responsibility for one’s action as well as entrustment of one’s body.

According to Campbell, “we … are stewards of our bodies … therefore entrusted with capacities (competence) and responsibility to make appropriate decisions.” Therefore, being “agents of god” one can determine the morality of what lifesaving measures to take to save oneself or that of a loved one. Moreover, the “dignity of the person” with the three religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) believe that “preserving life is not an absolute good in and of itself”, but “is a good that opens the way to achieving higher goods that constitute the religious self” (Campbell). Simply, “the spiritual goal of liberation [or compassion] can be seen as an ethical reason for seeking or hastening death.” (Campbell)

A Reasonable Government

A government must follow the will of the people or it will find revolution knocking on its door wanting to chop off the leadership’s head. Since, the 1970’s the Netherlands has tolerated some form of euthanasia. In fact, the Netherlands has already passed the law formerly. The guidelines (regulations) that have been hammered out over the pass 20 years have come into effect. The guidelines require a formal declaration that state,
• “The patient makes a voluntary and informed request,
• That he or she is suffering from irremediable and unbearable pain,
• And that all medical options have been exhausted,
• A second, independent doctor must be consulted; and,
• The euthanasia must be carried out carefully, and reported to an inspection panel made up of a lawyer, a physician, and an ethics expert.” (Janssen)
According to Roel Janssen, “a study conducted showed that 92 percent of the Dutch population supported euthanasia. Furthermore, that 200,000 people out of 16 million carried a paper declaring their wish to be helped to die in case there is no more prospects for a normal, healthy life.” A normal life, pain free, and healthy is the elements the proponents have used to persuade the Dutch government to allow euthanasia. In fact, there is strong movement afoot in favor of voluntary death in the Netherlands despite the pro-life lobby (Janssen). The Netherlands is one government that understood the will of the people must take precedence over the state when the individual end of life has been determined. Meaning, how a person dies is uniquely their own and must be respected as long the individual has made an informed, voluntary and competent decision.

The freedom of choice is paramount, and to be able to choose how one greets death comforts the spiritual nature not only to the families, but also to society as whole. An example of this would be, in a case of Bouvia v. Superior Court, Judge Lynn Compton stated, “Self-determination is the most basic of freedoms. Each of us has the absolute right to our own goals and values, as long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others. These rights include our right to die at life’s end at the time and place of our choice, whether by active or passive means. The law must so provide.” (Risely)

Again, the government has restated once more, that the individual has the right to choose one’s final end game.

Conclusion

In the late 1990’s, a sci-fi television show, known as Star Trek: Next Generation, had a race of beings called the Klingons – a fierce warrior race. One of, the Klingons, rallying cries was “It is a good day to die!” when going into battle. This cry was not heroic fodder to pump up their ego or to show their courage, but a way of showing that life has been good and whatever the outcome of the day, that they were ready to face death. Their families understood that they might not come back, because they faced the challenges head on with dignity, honor, and courage. They accepted the choice of being a warrior. In turn, when a person chooses to die through passive or active means – it does not intend to show cowardice. On the contrary, it displays composure by facing down the reality and moving forward.

Works Cited

Branegan, Jay, Smit, Barbara, “I Want To Draw the Line Myself” Time 149:11 (3/17/97): EBSCO HOST Research Database. 8 April 2003. http://web15.epnet.com/citation
Campbell, Courtney S., “Euthanasia and Religion” UNESCO Courier 53:1 (1/2000): EBSCO HOST Research Database. 8 April 2003. http://web15.epnet.com/citation
Clark, Michael “Euthanasia and the Slippery Slope” Journal of Applied Philosophy 15 (1998): EBSCO HOST Research Database. 8 April 2003. http://web15.epnet.com/citation
Janssen, Roels “Government Suports Euthanasia” Issue 390 (Oct99): EBSCO HOST Research Database. 8 April 2003. http://web15.epnet.com/citation
Mak, June Mui Hing, Clinton, Michael, “Promoting a Good Death: An agenda for Outcomes Research – A Review of the Literature” Nursing Ethics (1999): EBSCO HOST Research Database. 8 April 2003. http://web15.epnet.com/citation
Riseley, Robert L., “Voluntary Active Euthanasia: The Next Frontier” Issues in Law & Medicine 8:3 (Winter92): EBSCO HOST Research Database. 2 April 2003. http://web15.epnet.com/citation
Sanders, Eric T., “Kevin Sampson V. State of Alaska” Issues in Law & Medicine 15:2 (fall99): EBSCO HOST Research Database. 8 April 2003. http://web15.epnet.com/citation
Whitney, Simon N. MD, JD, Brown, Byron W., Jr., PhD, Brody, Howard, MD, PhD. Alcser, Kirsten H., PhD., Bachman, Jerald G., PhD., Greeley, Henry T., JD “Views of the United States Physician and Members of the American Medical Association House of Delegates on Physician-assisted Suicide Department of Family and Community Medicine 16:5 (2001): EBSCO HOST Research Database. 8 April 2003. http://web15.epnet.com/citation

The Four Dead Presidents

May 11, 2005

The Convention Speeches of Four Dead Presidents
By Greg K. Stewart

Introduction:

For the past few months, I have been taking a US history course at one of our community colleges, here in Denver, Colorado for a course requirement, to obtain my degree in international business. Although, it was a required course, history has always been one of my favorite subjects. Nevertheless, I found it compelling, not only learning but observing what was being taught. The textbook I had to buy was called The American Promise: A History of the United authored by James L. Roark, Michael P. Johnson, Patricia Cline Cohen, Sarah Stage, Alan Lawson, and Susan Hartman (Roark et al). In general, the text was “complete” and non-bias, for the most part. However, the last few chapters seem to slant a little far to the left; the last chapter, however, clearly made up for the slanted leanings of the previous works. I felt all to propagandize, when the explanation of the first gulf war, by way of this explanation, was a result of the terrorist incident of September 11 2001, but that is a discussion for another time, and my experience turned rather ambivalent. Nonetheless, I found a topic, I could expound about, my four favorite presidents: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. Do not let the list fool you; I am large Libertarian, but these gentlemen captured my fancy for various reasons, and I had to contain my enthusiasm for the last, but certainly, not the least—Ronald Reagan. So, as a tribute to them and my rather leaning professor, here were some of my thoughts….

A Thoughtful Repose

It may seem inane to write about four dead men, and the words they spoke before a nation of ideologues, Republicans and Democrats, but these words spoken set forth a path of divinity that has been recorded by history. They have lasted the passage of time and immemorial in respect to the currency of divination that has played out in the cost of American lives, blood, and tears.
I will not review the past three presidencies; in the fact, that they are not dead, nor will I expound on their toils and words of Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Dwight Eisenhower. But I will, very briefly, explore the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. The aforementioned are all great men in their own right; after all, it takes a great deal of will and passion to successfully be elected in the environs of American political office. Nevertheless, the latter four have qualities which resonate with the public and have made decisions that no other succeeding president would have to face. So, I looked at their nomination speeches, to examine their quality of their words in order to divine an understanding at what type of men they were.

No Fear President

I begin with the first three: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and John F. Kennedy all of whom I was unable to observe as men, since I was not I alive to make value judgments of their stature. Beginning with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, obtain from the website of The American Presidency (APW-FDR) in his 1936 nomination acceptance speech, he speaks on the events of what he refer to as the nation’s duty for charity, he states “Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference,” these ideas of his, are put in place before I am born. His idea of the “New Deal” (Roark et al) saved democracy and the republic for me to observe, and be part of a great country, the after affects of his policy in the years that followed would set the stage for equality among men, women, and the races— but especially from the ranks of the “lower classes.”
He would touch on class elitism in his acceptance speech; he told his audience that Americans mission to save itself from economic adversity was far from over. The “economic royalist,” those who would subject the labor of the hardworking man, the farmer, and people in between, would be costly if he did not aid in the finishing of his mission (APW-FDR).
Americans are a product of their fore fathers, he explained, who sought “freedom from tyranny of a political autocracy, from the eighteenth century royalist who held privileges from the crown” (APW-FDR). He said the “economic royalist” of the 20th century that came as a result from the Gilded Age of the 19th century (Roark et al) and transformed the 20th century classes to the extremes have’s-and-have-not’s . The depression had taken its toll on the people of America, and it was time for a correction. He exclaimed, he took up the mantle, the challenge, and saved them from their “fears” (APW-FDR). He gave them a “New Deal”; thus, returning dignity and humanity to the common man.

The Fair Deal Truman

Harry S. Truman felt that his “Fair Deal” would propel Americans forward. But in order to succeed, America would have to have a “square deal” of opportunity for all. He would say in, according again to the website The American Presidency, in his nomination acceptance speech of 1948, in Philadelphia, that the failure of the, “80th Republican Congress…was dodg[ing] their responsibility” (APW-HST). Their promises to serve the American public were getting bogged down in “committees,” or stuck in the respective legislative “houses” (APW-HST). Truman, at least from my perceptions, perceived, in order to resolve the crisis of the American spirit; the government duty was to carry the torch of hope for the people. Harry Truman made the “big” decision, when it was time to decide to drop the A-bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima—he made it. He also believed, in my humble opine, that the role of government was to “attack the citadel of special privilege and greed” (APW-HST) in order to provide for the less fortunate.

Snapshot of JFK

It is, however, unfortunate that President Kennedy was unable to be see the conclusion of his dream: To see Neil Armstrong walk and land on the moon for the United State of America. Nonetheless, John F. Kennedy's nomination speech in the Memorial Coliseum, in Los Angeles (APW-JFK), saw the “great challenge” was not the concern for his religion, if elected, he was a Catholic, but for the social equality for all of those who had suffered at the hands of the economic oppressors. He recaps the accomplishments, horrors, and the presidents—but his ascription to the spirit of Americans was unfathomable. He would say, referencing from The American Presidency website, “It would be easier to shrink back from the new frontier …to the safe mediocrity…[of] good intentions and high rhetoric,” he would ask, “of each of [us] to be pioneers on that new frontier [and of ] invention, innovation, imagination, [and] decision.” The decade to follow would shine his vision in not only cultural upheaval of the 1960’s, of music and deaths. But in his missile crisis with Cuba compelling us to examine, and never step so close to brink of disaster, that we could never step back from the line of a nuclear war….

The Electric Speaker

Lastly, Ronald Reagan, known as the Great Communicator, would be first nominated in 1980 and win during the time of an economic down turn (Roark et al), but in his 1984 nomination speech in Texas, before his re-election, he campaigns from the pulpit in Texas. He says, in his speech, of which I paraphrase, that the citizens of the country were helping to build a greater America. He felt that life was on the mend. He would state, “We can all be proud that pessimism is ended. America is coming back and is more confident than ever about the future” (APW-RR). Ronald Reagan portrayed the father figure the country desperately needed after the 1970’s, where double-digit inflation was on the rise, and the economy had virtually hit rock bottom (Roark et al). Ronald Reagan was the man who clearly understood and felt he could lead the charge of rational economic spending (APW-RR). He had guided us through the evils of communism, and that nuclear war served only one master—and that was death. He would defend the use of troops in Grenada, and quickly extricate the forces from the beautiful Caribbean island and restore its democracy. As previously stated, I was not around for the first three presidential greats, but Ronald Reagan, I observed. He played the every man, father, and grandfather. At times, and mostly through my stubbornness, I would disagree with the ideals, beliefs, and programs to cure the ills of the day. I was young, but looking back, admittedly through the eyes of nostalgia and wisdom, his steady hand and course provided the touch Americans needed. He remarked of “United States resiliency,” and poetically decried that “Miss Liberty’s torch the ‘lamp beside the golden door’” was still opened for “our children to walk into tomorrow with knowledge that no one can be denied the promise that is America.”

His words were inspirational and yet infuriating at the same time. How could a man be so naïve? I used to think, but in the end, his diligence led to the fall of communism. Kennedy's crisis with Cuba shielded us from harm, while Truman and FDR established that this country during war and in peace would do what we needed to survive. These men and their greatness provided the guiding touch that America needed in the time of crises; my hope for today is that we have that in our current president.

Cited Work

Kennedy, John Fitzgerald. Nomination Acceptance Speech, in Los Angeles, July 15, 1960: 4 May 2005: website of The American Presidency cited from the http://www.theamericanpresidency.us/nomajfk.htm
Reagan, Ronald. Nomination Acceptance Speech, in Dallas, August 23, 1984. 4 May 2005: website of The American Presidency cited from the http://www.theamericanpresidency.us/nomareagan84.htm
Roark, James L. et al (2005). The American Promise: A History of the United States—Volume II: From 1865. Boston / New York. Bedford/St. Martin’s
Roosevelt, Franklin Delano. Nomination Acceptance Speech, in Philadelphia, June 27, 1936: 4 May 2005: website of The American Presidency cited from the http://www.theamericanpresidency.us/nomafdr36.htm
Truman, Harry S. Nomination Acceptance Speech, in Philadelphia, July 25, 1948: 4 May 2005: website The American Presidency cited from the http://www.theamericanpresidency.us/nomatruman48.htm