Thursday, January 29, 2009

Narrative. 1/29.

Come spring the boys and girls of Brier Elementary are excited. They have heard about it from their older brothers and sisters, that time of year when the girls would go to the gym and the boys to the library—that time when the secretive adult world was revealed. For many it is a right of passage. A stamp of approval that reads, “You are now validated as an adult. Welcome to sexuality.” Not quite. At least that is the argument surrounding current sexual education programs in our schools. In a changing and seemingly more progressive society, there has arisen the desire by many to address alternative lifestyles in sexual education programs. That is, heterosexuality not as the only option. There sits two sides to the debate—each represented in those bright-eyed elementary students. Billy has found that he sometimes likes to be around other boys, and he thinks about them a lot. He doesn’t know what this means. Julie, sitting in the gymnasium with her fellow female students, knows that she likes boys. Her parents agree. They tell Julie that a relationship is between a boy and a girl—she knows no different. The issue then arises with dealing how to reconcile these two different ways of looking at sexual life. To what extent does an elementary school sexual education program present moral and value issues to students? Many would argue it is not the place of the school to do a parents job. Others believe it should be presented and naturalized as much as possible.

Think B4 You Speak: A reaction.

The "Think B4 You Speak" campaign focuses on ending the use of the words gay, faggot, dyke, etc in a hateful way. According to their campaign mission, the organization states that "This campaign aims to raise awareness about the prevalence and consequences of anti-LGBT bias and behavior in America’s schools." It is not uncommon for phrases such as "That's so gay" and "faggot" to be commonly used in American schools. I myself have witnessed it on a daily basis, working at a middle school.

In order to tackle this problem the "Think B4 You Speak" campaign has released three advertisements using what they have described as "star power" in order to get the message across. Artistically speaking, the three commercials use humor and sarcasm in order to get the message that "That's so gay" is not transferrable with "That's so stupid." The mood of the commercials is to actually make fun of those individuals who commonly use phrases like "That's so gay" by turning it around and using a phrase that indicts something specific about an individual--like an ugly dress, a persons name or a cheesy mustache. This is to equate the use of the word "gay" as stupid for something personal to an individual. It just does not feel good for anyone when you are being made fun of. The tables are turned in these commercials.

The effectiveness of the campaign varies. It can be argued that the commercials do achieve its goal--the fact of the matter is, the organization wants you to "Think B4 You Speak." They make this clear. However, the truth of the advertisement attempts to solve a surface level problem. "That's so Gay" is not only a hateful phrase but it also has deeply rooted homophobic connotations. The larger problem is not the language, but rather the branded social norms of heterosexism and the fear of the homosexual. This is the problem. The language, I would argue, is simply a means to enact true feelings/the larger social problem at hand. It is a tool, not the source.

Ultimately, the ethical standard of this piece helps in the progression of social acceptance--albeit in a limited way. The rhetoric of the campaign does help the situation by indicating just how ridiculous it is. Addressing the rhetoric is an important first step. The organization uses the "power" of the celebrity as an iconic symbol and role-model to indicate the hateful phrases as fallible and hurtful.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Hook-Up" Culture--a lesson in love and sex.

Jack Grimes makes it apparent in his article, “Hook-Up Culture,” that there needs to be a revolution in the way we interact with one another intimately. While hooking-up may temporarily satisfy a carnal desire, ultimately Grimes makes the argument that sex and love are one in the same. To detach the two is to deny the fact that hooking up is both physical and emotional—it is, according to Grimes, “a lively and animated (partner) for you and (for the moment at least) you alone.”

Grimes uses Damer’s principles of a ‘good argument’ in several ways and succeeds in presenting clear and straight-forward claims as to why this pervasive culture among college students needs to mellow. However, there are numerous fallacies and claims open for interpretation. One of his claims relevant to his overall argument centers around the notion that physical pleasure cannot exist as an island. This is to say physical pleasure is attached to something deeper. He makes a profound statement, declaring “The body and soul are one.” Thus, he argues that the sexual encounter—regardless of context (even if it is a mere hook-up)—carries with it an emotional connotation. Later in the piece, he justifies dating by indicating an innate human desire to achieve emotional connectedness with another individual. Hooking-up, says Grimes, does not satisfy this.

The argument and his subsequent claims leaves plenty of room for rebuttal. It even seems as if he himself is uncertain about the situation, though this can be perceived as sarcasm in order to further his point. Grimes does, however, make it a point to include reasons as to why individuals do participate in the hooking-up culture.

One of the more interesting claims surrounded this culture and women. At one point he equates hooking-up by women “as, in essence, and unpaid prostitute.” He mentions that in many circles hooking-up has become a means of empowerment, to which he responds; “A woman who embraces the hook-up culture is simply making it easier for guys to treat her as a sex object.” There seems to be fallacy in his reasoning. This claim appears to come off as an overgeneralization in which the female is judged differently then the male.

Another large fallacy in Grimes argument is an appeal to common opinion. Grimes makes large, sweeping claims in which he assumes readers are on the same page when it comes to things such as gender roles (as witnessed in above paragraph). This article is very much male-dominated in experience and argument which in itself is a fallacy.

Overall, on a more personal note, I would have to agree with Grimes. Hooking-up, while it may satisfy the carnality of our human nature, does not achieve what really matters—the inevitable desire for something more, something emotional, something like love. He states, “trying to find intimate fulfillment by hooking-up is like trying to dig your way out of a hole in the ground.” Exactly. The fact of the matter is, while hooking-up may have its time and place, the larger picture indicates an inherent human desire to achieve a fusion of both love and sex.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A step back in the Obama promise

He has related gay marriage to incest, polygamy as well as an adult marrying a child. For a quick moment, it appeared as if I was watching the inauguration of yet another Bush presidency.

The same nightmare of intolerance, bigotry and ignorance exuded from the last eight years wafted through the air on inauguration day as Rev. Rick Warren gave the invocation for the 44th president, Barack Obama.

As a conservative reverend his message is clear—his tolerance of homosexuality runs in line with the church, one not usually defined by its inclusion.
Luckily there was some representation for my gay brothers and sisters—just not on a large scale. We were silenced once again.

The day before, in what was called the “We are One” inaugural event, openly gay bishop Gene Robinson delivered an inclusive, heartfelt and cerebral invocation to a large crowd.

Robinson should have been the one speaking on inauguration day. His presence would have sent a clear message to the country, one in which affirms who we are as an American people. Obama’s message has been one of inclusion, openness and acceptance. He had made a point of including gay and lesbian rights in his campaign, stating that the era of inequality needs to come to an end. This was not the case on Jan. 20.

If I remember correctly, regardless of race, sexual orientation or class, the declaration of independence (a document Obama referred to in his address as being a symbol of who we are) states that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Warren, as a symbol of intolerance—delivered a straight-forward message on inauguration day but because of his associations brought only distraction.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Aesthetic Imperative: 1/20/09

In her article, “The Aesthetic Imperative,” Postrel makes a point of repeating several major claims about the role of the aesthetic in our daily lives. Among these is a claim that the aesthetic has become increasingly pervasive. She says, “Aesthetics is more pervasive than it used to be—not restricted to a social, economic, or artistic elite.” She uses examples of supermarkets, car dealerships and computers to restate her claim that aesthetics have become mainstream. Additionally, Postrel always speaks of aesthetics in a pleasurable way, and as something in which we enjoy. She states, “Aesthetic pleasure itself has quality and substance,” and “Aesthetics shows rather than tells, delights rather than instructs.”

Major data presented in Postrel’s argument is focused primarily on the architectural and theatrical. She uses examples of common structures being altered into aesthetically driven buildings such as a supermarket and items like household appliances. She says that while we may be skeptical of aesthetics, as we do not want to be manipulated, she argues “the look and feel of things tap deep human instincts.” That is, it is a very emotional sensory. Postrel says, “We enjoy enhancing our sensory surroundings. That enjoyment is real.” Where she delineates is recognizing aesthetics for what it is (emotion and the artistic), and not for what potential or individually created values it may encompass. It is pleasure and not values, put more simply.
Postrel presents a range of warrants. Substantively, she makes a disassociation with the preconceived notions of aesthetics—limited to the artistic, not mainstream, etc—and states a different view of it now. Additionally, and potentially her stronger warrant is the comparison between the world she represents as the aesthetic and the world in which we realistically live. To what extent do we need the grocery-shop experience or the comfortable coffee shop? She also makes mentions that aesthetics do have an impact on purchasing power.

Her ethos/authoritative is framed by two experts—David Brown, Ellen Dissanayake as well as consumers themselves. Finally her motivational warrants center around the emotional response to the aesthetic. She quotes a mid-century industrial designer who says “ ‘fundamentally the art of using line, form, tone, color, and texture to arouse an emotional reaction in the beholder.” This is to say that the well-designed coffee-shop may elicit a certain emotional response. Postrel also uses very emotional and at times poetic language to warrant her claims.

I believe that visual aesthetic is a good thing, because it ushers in an emotional response. The fact of the matter is, it is always more desirable to have an item or be in a location that is pleasing to the eye. Fundamentally, I think there is value in the aesthetic. Architecture, paintings, even a brand new Apple laptop sends a certain message—whether deep or simple. In contrast, however, one could make the argument that the perpetuation of the aesthetic is a response to misguided consumerism. Do we need all of this beauty surrounding us? We live in a culture of excess. In that sense, then, pervasive aesthetics point out our sensory experience as excessive and a response to blatant greed. In my opinion, it is difficult to keep aesthetics under control without trumping other values.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Westborough Baptist Church: Catalyst for Hate

The Westborough Baptist Church, classified as a hate group and not recognized as a legitimate Baptist organization, has received international attention for its message of intolerance. Their rhetoric is simple: God hates fags. They incite the “homosexual agenda” as the catalyst for natural disasters, war, disease and general death. Their slogans run the gamete. From “Too late to pray,” to “God hates America,” to “Fag=anal sex=death” the message is clear and strong. Any traces of tolerance when it comes to homosexuality is washed away by a general hatred of something different. As stated on their website, their views are primarily derived from religious texts. Needless to say, the church reads the biblical text very literally and consequentially applies it as an action. Aside from preaching their message, the church is founded on the principle of taking action. This is to say that the group often protests at the funerals of Iraqi soldiers, AID victims and gay murder victims. In times of misery, Westborough is there to indicate the event was in direct cause to God’s distaste with homosexuality.

Given the groups values, ideals and worldview entering a conversation with them would be quite difficult for me. As a gay man, I would not choose to put myself in a potentially dangerous position. At any rate, entering a conversation with these individuals would yield little to no results for me. They hate homosexuals. I am a homosexual. One would imagine the conversation not going very well. It is difficult to teach tolerance when it has been normalized for a group of people. A conversation would not yield any rational arguments.

Westborough’s worldview is so distinctly different from mine and everything I’ve known that is just seems so incredibly foreign—even other worldly. Like a group of aliens have invaded our nation, they are intent on destroying any bit of tolerance. For me this issue comes down to basic human respect. The fact of the matter is the Phelps’ and Westborough have no respect for human life. To me this indicates a severe lack of intelligence, socialized through an upbringing inundated with hate and intolerance. While my upbringing teaches me to respect all human beings, it is difficult for me to respect such a group of people when they have absolutely no respect for me. There would be no conversation with them. From what I can gather, these people are intent on making their position clear. There is no room for argument. Their rhetoric spews hate in the most extreme form. When it comes down to it, I am more apologetic for the people they are. While I would like to fault them left and right for their messages of hate (ones that threaten, embarrass, and place me on an animalistic level) one has to consider the idea of socialization. This is what they know. They have been taught hate. It’s a sad thing. Westborough’s ignorance is blinding.

Minor Analysis Paper # 1: 1/15/09

As the conversation surrounding same-sex marriage gains in popularity—whether in favor or not—there has arrived the need to address the issue in the arena of both public and private education. More specifically when it comes to comprehensive sexual education curriculum. Homosexuality has become an integral and important part of our national conscience. Regardless of varying views, it has become an issue at the forefront of what many have described as a 'culture war.' Today two states recognize same-sex marriages as legal, and most recently the high profile Proposition 8 was supported in California, disallowing same-sex couples to marry. The issue surrounds in a big way and therefore transcends into our classrooms as a potential topic of interest. It has been said that issues of high political importance—religion, race, violence and now homosexuality eventually end up in the classroom. No denying that. The issue: what should be taught in our schools when it comes to homosexuality? To that extent, should homosexual health be discussed?

There are generally two distinct schools of thought when it comes to homosexuality in the classroom. On the one hand, there are strong arguments in favor of providing comprehensive sexual education which encompasses issues pertaining to homosexuality. This would include curriculum concerning alternative families, what it means to be gay, tolerance, as well as an age-appropriate overview of gay sexual health. Those in support of such education adhere to the standard of a “safe” and appropriate environment where children are able to discuss homosexuality without fear of ridicule or judgment. Their goal, according to supporters, is to provide students with accurate, unbiased and inclusive sexual health education which includes the homosexual demographic—some of which may have personal experience. They argue that, in reality, many students have gay parents or have associations with a homosexual. To deny fair education and representation, argue some, is to negate the reality of many students' lives. Especially with gay marriage legal in two states, supporters argue that the new emerging demographic needs to be represented. Furthermore, a large part of this argument centers around a curriculum that focuses on wider acceptance. They often cite statistics indicating a high percentage of harassment against gay men and the increase use of derogatory slang words. While individuals may not agree with the homosexual lifestyle, there still needs to be an aspect of mutual respect. This is also to say that children should be able to decide for themselves where they stand when it comes to homosexuality after being presented with it in the classroom. Supporters of a sexual education including issues of homosexuality cite it as a way in which kids can think and use their own minds—what several supporters have described as real education.

In stark contrast, there is an opposing side which argues issues of homosexuality have no place in a classroom. Generally speaking opposition arrives on the basis of moral objections. This is to say that schools should not be the place wherein educators are introducing curriculum that leads to value and moral selection—rather, this should come from the privacy of ones own home. Opposition makes it clear that introducing issues surrounding homosexuality in the classroom is inappropriate. Just as church and state are separated, church and sex should be separated according to opposition. Often times, homosexuality is an issue placed in the context of the church and therefore crosses the boundary. On a more extreme level, there are arguments that a sexual education curriculum which includes homosexual health advocates a sexual act that is not healthy. Individuals have said practicing anal sex is more dangerous than smoking on a daily basis. Many against homosexuality in the classrooms cite an effort to protect their children from risky behavior. Furthermore, opposition argues that the “gay agenda” has allowed for the discrimination and belittling of the heterosexual community. They argue that a homosexual inclusive sexual education leads to the homosexual as a “victim” and therefore creates problem. There is often the recommendation from this school of thought advocating for a complete exclusion of anything associated with homosexuality in the classroom.

Schools Should Not Stress Acceptance of Homosexuality

Linda P. Harvey, “Safe Schools: The Trojan Horse of 'Gay' Education,” Culture & Family Report, May 16, 2002.

Argument: Harvey argues that homosexuality should not be taught in schools. She describes a “gay agenda” in which schools are imposing moral teachings on students. She states that “Religious freedom and freedom of speech issues are threatened by programs (that encourage acceptance of homosexuality).” What she proposes, instead, are sexual education programs that exclude the mention of homosexuality. Harvey contends that by doing this, the issue is avoided and conversely the heterosexual community is no longer demonized in the process of homosexual representation—a representation, she states, is defined by victimization. She argues that “the vast majority of people in this country are not potentially violence and do not deserve to be unjustly associated with violence toward homosexuals!”

Harvey makes some compelling arguments. When it comes down to it, children are sent to school to learn. What “learning” means can be defined in many different ways. However, it can be assumed that issues concerning homosexuality (most often linked to religion) are not appropriate especially at a public institution. In a lot of ways the issue of homosexuality has become one based on religious values and principles. As a nation that continually prides itself on the separation of church and state, it is reasonable to argue homosexuality does not belong in the classroom. Furthermore, the instruction of this controversial issue should not be left up to educators but rather parents. Moral and value judgments should be made inside the home, not in the classroom.

Skeptic: In her article “Schools Should not Stress Acceptance of Homosexuality,” Harvey preaches a distinct message of hate. What she fails to recognize is that our country is changing. The change comes from many directions, one of which is the construction of marriage. It is a reality that same-sex marriages and relationships are occurring. When creating a sexual education curriculum, there needs to be full representation. The fact of the matter is, many students may have gay parents or associations with a homosexual in their lives. To deny children fair, unbiased and responsible facts concerning other members of our society is to do them a disservice. Furthermore, her argument lacks a basic respect for human life. Opposition to her claim does not argue students are being told homosexuality is OK. Rather, the issue is being presented and then consequentially left open for interpretation by the student and parents. However, what needs to be included—and something with which Harvey does not mention—is foundational respect for different lifestyles. It may not be what you practice, but it is what someone else does.

Rhetorical Situation: Harvey is a well-know conservative who discusses issues surrounding women, homosexuality and education. She is a regular contributor to Focus on the Family—a conservative group striving to preserve the traditions of the family. Her initial need in writing this article centers around the squelching of pro-homosexual activists who advocate homosexuality in schools. Furthermore, she has a need to get out her own agenda (or rather conservative agenda). Given this information, Harvey is clear and concise in her rhetorical mission. There is no denying she caters to a distinct audience. This specific article was written in 2002—about the time Massachusetts began the conversation on allowing gay marriage. There were also movements, as well as a piece of legislation in the state, to include homosexuality as a topic of conversation in a comprehensive sexual education curriculum. She is responding to this ongoing conversation and she makes it clear where she stands. Her audience is two fold. On one hand she is addressing a group of people who already agree with her—a largely conservative audience. Additionally, however, Harvey is making an appeal to parents who may be on the fence about homosexuality in schools. She appeals to the “don't let the schools form your child's morality,” an idea that strikes an emotional chord with parents who want to preserve family ideals and values.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America: Barack Obama

What this inauguration means to me:

As a gay American, the inauguration of the 44th president is a beacon of hope for a community that has been neglected and torn down over the last eight years. With rights stripped away left and right, the inauguration of President Obama is a symbol that representation as a full, law-abiding, tax paying, and ‘able-to-be married’ citizen is possible—despite argument otherwise. As Obama is taking his oath of office, he will usher in a new generation focused on the inclusion of every individual regardless of race, social class or sexual orientation. It will be a new era of basic human respect—something much needed, especially after the denial of constitutional rights following the passage of Proposition 8 in California. This inauguration is a sign of new politics, a kind of politics that looks not wholly on the clout of the country but the interests of the individual.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Daily Assignment #1. January 8, 2009.

Question: In a single paragraph, first summarize very briefly (in a couple of sentences) what argument authors Graff and Birkenstein make about academic writing in the introduction to their text, They Say/I Say; then summarize very briefly (again, in a couple of sentences) what you take my argument to be about rhetoric in my Course Description of CMJR 320; and finally, in a few sentences, discuss what overlap might exist between their argument about academic writing and my argument about rhetoric.


Graff and Birkenstein explain early in their introduction that academic writing is built on the foundation of an open conversation. This is to say that sophisticated, persuasive writing is less monolithic and more binary in nature for it includes the expression of ones own ideas and those of an 'opposing' side. A well-rounded persuasive piece, and therefore academic piece, is one that acknowledges and consequentially addresses an opposing viewpoint. The authors make the point that to address opposing opinions in an academic piece is to ultimately strengthen ones initial argument. What is created is a cohesive, back and forth conversation. According to Graff and Birkenstein, academic writing is founded on the principle of argumentative writing. This continual conversation creates critical-thinkers, insisting that sophisticated academic writers are individuals whom “instead of sitting passively on the sidelines, can participate in the debates and conversations of your (the) world in an active and empowered way” (12). Bammert makes it clear that rhetoric has the ability to “shape public opinion and policy.” Rhetoric, as explained by Bammert and Marston, has four key principles all of which center around the construction of an overall argument and consequent action. The four cornerstones of rhetoric—advisory, addressed, situational, stylized—have one goal in common, as Bammert makes apparent in her CMJR 320 course description. This overarching goal, as she describes it, is to “inspire reflection, even change, among our fellow citizens.” It is here where Bammert, Graff and Birkenstein agree that both academic writing and rhetoric have a similar telos in mind, one that thrives on open dialogue and imminent change. These three academics would agree that both academic writing and rhetoric operate with an attempt to shape and form opinion. Whether the opinion is public (as most often in rhetoric) or private—elements of conversation, evaluation, argument and social progression are included.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Michelle Obama, Democratic National Convention, August 2008

Michelle Obama delivered an emotional and heart-felt speech at the Democratic National Convention, in front of an audience eager to soak up traces of hope.

Throughout the delivery of her speech, Obama made her advisory clear. The consistent world-view of "you can make it if you try," was exemplified numerous times as an avenue to reach the middle-class voting demographic. In fact much of the rhetoric of her speech, if comparing to Marston's four principles focuses on a large implied audience. The actual audience at the convention is clear: Obama supporters. Their support does not waiver. However, it was apparent that Obama had the responsibility to relate to an implied audience--the middle class. She did this through relating her own experiences growing up as well as her husband's. What results is a fulfillment of a general need. At the time of this address, and still to this day, the economy and loss of jobs is a major concern for many Americans. Responding to this economic crisis, Obama made it clear that hard work and a "never give-up" attitude will fulfill this need. She said at one point, "you work hard for what you want in life," thereby explaining a fulfillment while also injecting her and Barack's worldview and value system.

This value system is presented in a very relatable way. That is to say, Obama presents her world-view in a way that counters any political elitism.

She also made it clear that her life revolves around her family. There has been much criticism of Mrs. Obama regarding her capacity to mother and her nurturing demeanor. What the audience sees at the beginning of the speech is rhetoric appealing to her softer side. She says that her daughters are the center of her world and her "beat of my heart." The stylized performance ( arguably a performance or not) uses language often associated with a soft and nurturing mother. She leaves no room to doubt she is anything less than a hands-on mother.