Thursday, May 1, 2008

Who Am I? Who Are YOU?

Writing assignment based on pages 269-279 of Darrell Fasching's "Comparative Religious Ethics"

The Feminist Challenge...
As you can probably guess, this particular reading assignment had a major impact on me. Furthermore, the timing couldn’t have been better as I struggled with my own sense of self and an ethic of care regarding my own family and friends. In this vein I will try to convey what I learned from the text in relation to my own personal experience.
First of all, I found it very enlightening (even as a refresher) to read about how the rise of patriarchy has affected not only women’s place in society, but also their sense of identity and how they reason ethically. It is interesting that women are expected to develop a sense of self, but in having done so are expected to abandon it to accommodate the needs of the people in their lives. This paradox sets a standard for women as they try to live up to male dominated ideals for happiness and success while struggling to balance a subconscious sense of inferiority and duty based on their gender.
I can say that I completely understand this conundrum from a personal perspective. As a mother and housewife for the past seventeen years I have tried to understand why and how I was living the “American Dream” and yet was so dissatisfied with my life. For seventeen years I have struggled to do what was expected of me, to fulfill my role in my family as well as in society. No matter how well I succeeded, at the end of the day I was always left with a feeling of deep dissatisfaction and unhappiness. When I confronted people with these feelings I was made to feel ungrateful, selfish. The irony, I now realize, is that before I was married I had had a sense of self, a personal identity that wasn’t associated with those to whom I was related but was defined by my own thoughts, achievements and beliefs. After marriage and children I found myself lacking a sense of self and could define myself only in terms of my relationship to others; and this was the point at which people accused me of being selfish!
How can one be selfish when one has no sense of self, no identity? How alarming is the notion that “a virtuous woman was a woman who sacrificed herself for others” (p. 274). This dangerous notion leaves many women in the same position I have been in, indeed the position you recognize as having once been in yourself. We have sacrificed, but when we are not personally gratified by the sacrifice we are labeled as deviant, selfish, ungrateful and un-virtuous. This is an important argument for why women must not only develop and define their sense of self, but also must find a voice with which to express it.
On page 276 it is suggested that men “…approach ethical problems as a matter of rational calculus… [While] the young female tends to see the ethical problem as having to do with how to sustain relationships and the responsibilities they entail…” This concept rings true of my own very recent personal experience. For many years I have struggled with my unhappiness and dreamed of ways to be free of it, but couldn’t see how to achieve my freedom without affecting the lives and relationships of the people in my life. This was a major factor in my choosing to have stayed in my marriage as long as I have. Conversely, when I finally did announce to my husband my desire to end the marriage his main concerns were monetary issues, care of the children and other material matters.

To learn more about this piece of literature and/or to purchase the book please follow this link:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Claim You're A Victim and Suddenly You're A Bitch

A Flawed Feminist Test

Published: February 13, 2008

Russell Berman, a young reporter for The New York Sun, trailed Bill Clinton around Maryland all day Sunday. The former president was on his best behavior, irritating the smattering of press.

After Bill’s last speech at Leisure World retirement community in Silver Spring, Berman interviewed two women in the audience.

Elaine Sirkis, 77, an Obama supporter, confided that she just isn’t sure she’s ready for a woman president. Betty Conway, 83, a Hillary supporter, confided that she just isn’t sure she’s ready for a black president.

As Conway walked away, Sirkis smiled sheepishly. “I’m sorry,” she told Berman sweetly about her friend. “She’s a bigot.”

We’re not just in the most vertiginous election of our lives. We’re in another national seminar on gender and race that is teaching us about who we are as we figure out what we want America to be.

It’s not yet clear which prejudice will infect the presidential contest more — misogyny or racism.

Many women I talk to, even those who aren’t particularly fond of Hillary, feel empathy for her, knowing that any woman in a world dominated by men has to walk a tightrope between femininity and masculinity, strength and vulnerability.

They see double standards they hate — when male reporters described Hillary’s laugh as “a cackle” or her voice as “grating,” when Rush Limbaugh goes off on her wrinkles or when male pundits seem gleeful to write her political obituary. Several women I know, who argue with their husbands about Hillary, refer with a shudder to the “Kill the Witch” syndrome.

In a webcast, prestidigitator Penn Jillette talks about a joke he has begun telling in his show. He thinks the thunderous reaction it gets from audiences shows that Hillary no longer has a shot.

The joke goes: “Obama is just creaming Hillary. You know, all these primaries, you know. And Hillary says it’s not fair, because they’re being held in February, and February is Black History Month. And unfortunately for Hillary, there’s no White Bitch Month.”

Of course, jokes like that — even Jillette admits it’s offensive — are exactly what may give Hillary a shot. When the usually invulnerable Hillary seems vulnerable, many women, even ones who don’t want her to win, cringe at the idea of seeing her publicly humiliated — again.

And since women — and some men — tend to be more protective when she is down, it is impossible to rule out a rally, especially if voters start to see Obama, after his eight-contest rout, as that maddening archetypal figure: the glib golden boy who slides through on charm and a smile.

Those close to Hillary say she’s feeling blue. It’s an unbearable twist of fate to spend all those years in the shadow of one Secretariat, only to have another gallop past while you’re plodding toward the finish line.

I know that the attacks against powerful women can be harsh and personal and unfair, enough to make anyone cry.

But Hillary is not the best test case for women. We’ll never know how much of the backlash is because she’s a woman or because she’s this woman or because of the ick factor of returning to the old Clinton dysfunction.

While Obama aims to transcend race, Hillary often aims to use gender to her advantage, or to excuse mistakes. In 1994, after her intransigence and secrecy-doomed health care plan, she told The Wall Street Journal that she was “a gender Rorschach test.”

“If somebody has a female boss for the first time, and they’ve never experienced that,” she said, “well, maybe they can’t take out their hostility against her so they turn it on me.”

As a possible first Madame President, Hillary is a flawed science experiment because you can’t take Bill out of the equation. Her story is wrapped up in her marriage, and her marriage is wrapped up in a series of unappetizing compromises, arrangements and dependencies.

Instead of carving out a separate identity for herself, she has become more entwined with Bill. She is running bolstered by his record and his muscle. She touts her experience as first lady, even though her judgment during those years on issue after issue was poor. She says she’s learned from her mistakes, but that’s not a compelling pitch.

As a senator, she was not a leading voice on important issues, and her Iraq vote was about her political viability.

She told New York magazine’s John Heilemann that before Iowa taught her that she had to show her soft side, “I really believed I had to prove in this race from the very beginning that a woman could be president and a woman could be commander in chief. I thought that was my primary mission.”

If Hillary fails, it will be her failure, not ours.


Ms. Dowd,

First of all, the title of your article misleads the
naive reader into believing that if one supports
Hillary Clinton then one is NOT a feminist. Don't you
find that ethically unconscionable? Or do you justify
your behavior because it's an "opinion" piece?

Furthermore, I particularly found this portion of your
article to be alarming:

"While Obama aims to transcend race, Hillary often
aims to use gender to her advantage, or to excuse
mistakes. In 1994, after her intransigence and
secrecy-doomed health care plan, she told The Wall
Street Journal that she was “a gender Rorschach test.
If somebody has a female boss for the first time, and
they’ve never experienced that,” she said, “well,
maybe they can’t take out their hostility against her
so they turn it on me.”

In essence, what you have suggested is that when
Hillary points out mysogeny she's using her gender to
her advantage. That's like saying that a rape victim
is using the fact of her rape to bring her sympathy.
It's classic "blame the victim" mentality.

Lastly, if you are seriously conveying that Hillary is
less of a feminist because she did not choose to
divorce Bill after the Lewinsky scandal then I beg you
to reconsider. It takes a strong, confident woman with
sincere values to stay with her husband after such an
incident and repair her marriage. It is easier, and
thus the action of a weaker person, to walk away. Then
again, if she HAD divorced Bill, you'd probably skewer
her for that, too.

So if Hillary cries mysogeny she cries it righteously,
not selfishly, and it would be wise for all women of
this nation to pay attention and re-evaluate our
flawed cultural and political system. By bringing
awareness to these flaws, Hillary brings hope to the
future daughters of this country, a hope for change
and justice.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Apple Juice

"The title is the impetus to write this blog.... That's right, apple juice. Of all the juices, in all the joints, in all the world, I had to choose apple. I just now happened to glance the back label of a bottle of apple juice I bought today and saw it contains concentrate from the U.S.A, Argentina, Austria, Chile, China, Germany, and Turkey. Sure, you might say, just a part of globalization that - but 7 different countries?! That's apples from 4 different continents, people!!! WTF?! Why not go for all 7? It is just me, or does that seem a little odd to you?" ~Jennifer Saunders-Johnson

This was actually a post on my friend's blog, but I found it so fascinating I wanted to share it. Such a simple thing really, but it DOES make one ponder... I must say that my original take on it was, "That is disgusting that they are preparing apple juice with apples from 4 different continents!" But then I saw Jennifer's take on it and it blew my mind in a wholly different direction (a more positive one). I am referring to when she says (I'm paraphrasing), "Why not all 7 continents?" I wish we could all be so positively minded towards peace and unity.

Thanks, Jennifer!

It has been brought to my attention that I seemed to have missed Jennifer's point, which is that it is "odd" for juice to be made from fruit originating in 7 various countries. This made me realize that I haven't done a very good job of explaining my thought processes. Yes, I am aware that Jennifer was pointing out the irony and ridiculousness of juice being manufactured in such a way. The point I was trying to make, however, was that the way she stated it made me see things from a different angle. "What you see depends on where you stand." Hmmm! So maybe it was my seeing things from a another angle that made me interpret differently what she was stating. Ha! ALSO: when she stated, "Why not all 7 continents?" (paraphrasing again) it brought to my mind the concept of the subconscious. Maybe Jennifer made her statement as a show of sarcasm, but deep down inside one has to wonder if she REALLY meant it, and from a symbolic standpoint at that.

So once again, here's to peace and unity; ONE humankind and, as Jennifer put it, "Unity Juice."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Religious Spin and the American History of Slavery (Favorite Essays, Part 3)

The Contradictory Religion of a Slave Girl
The transformation of the Jesus Movement into the Christian Movement has been the source of much strife and confusion throughout the history of Christianity. Translated to mirror and support a more hierarchic societal structure, the words of Jesus lost the spirit of their meaning and became more literal and patriarchal in the form of the Christian Movement. One result of this confusion is the ability of a dominating group to take advantage of marginal and/or disenfranchised groups for their own personal gain. Simply put, the Christian Movement supports prejudice. Examples of the horrors of this theology can be found in the Nazi concentration camps of World War II and the enslavement of millions of Africans and their descendants in the American South through the nineteenth century. Proof of the contrasting natures of the Jesus and Christian Movements, as well as the confusion these contrasts cause, can be found in the story, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs.
Jacobs’ account enables one to understand why she and other slaves adhered to the patterns of the Jesus Movement, which evoke inclusiveness (despite status) and ethicality (through justice and compassion). The teachings of Jesus were very inspirational to slaves who sought freedom from oppression and equality in their community. On page eleven, Jacobs states, “My mistress had taught me the precepts of God’s Word: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ ‘Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them.’” Time and again she shows a belief in such words even as she witnesses a lack of reciprocity from slaveholders who consider them selves to be Christians. This paradoxical situation was the source of much confusion for Jacobs, as she witnessed the contradictions between her own Christian beliefs and the Christian beliefs of slaveholders.
Christianity had been taught to the slaves as a means of keeping them subservient. An example of this can be found in Jacobs account of a sermon given by the Reverend Pike after a well known slave insurrection, in which Mr. Pike delivers the following message: “…You are rebellious sinners…‘Tis the devil who tempts you. God is angry with you, and will surely punish you, if you don’t forsake your wicked ways… Instead of serving your masters faithfully, which is pleasing in the sight of your heavenly Master…You must forsake your sinful ways, and be faithful servants. Obey your old master and your young master- your old mistress and your young mistress. If you disobey your earthly master, you offend your heavenly Master”(60). Fear of the denial of their souls into heaven has long been a powerful tool in the Christian Movement with which to convince subordinates to ignore their earthly troubles. Moreover, slaveholders convinced themselves of their right of superiority through their religion. Jacobs asserts that her father’s act of teaching his children “that they were human beings” is “…blasphemous doctrine for a slave to teach…” (12), and goes on to recount conversations with her master, Mr. Flint, in which she states, “…he told me that I was made for his use, made to obey his command in every thing; that I was nothing but a slave, whose will must and should surrender to his…” (18), “He told me I was his property; that I must be subject to his will in all things” (27). She also states the sentiments of her mistress, “…my mistress, like many others, seemed to think that slaves had no right to any family ties of their own; that they were created merely to wait upon the family of the mistress” (34). Finally, Jacobs says, “They seem to satisfy their consciences with the doctrine that God created the Africans to be slaves”(40).Despite these mandates Jacobs continued to believe that slaves were indeed human beings and were as eligible for their rights as were their slaveholders.
Discrepancies between the way slaves were supposed to behave and the so-called Christian behavior of slaveholders fortified Jacobs’ moral standing. The hypocrisy of how the slaveholders expected her and other slaves to behave (supposedly through the mandate of religion), as opposed to how the slaveholders themselves behaved was clear evidence to Jacobs that her convictions were accurate and that she should defend her morals at all costs; however, her gender made her situation more complex and thus the cost of her morals was a high one.
The duality of the Christian religion, which expected women to be chaste and pure, and yet expected women of slavery to yield to their masters in all things, and which also denied these same women the right to a lawful marriage, was a source of much torment and confusion for Jacobs. If she yielded to her master then she could no longer be chaste and pure; however, if she did not yield to her master then she was, through this disobedience, defying what was perceived as God’s will. Since she could not legally marry she was also considered dishonored if she took a lover. This situation pushed her into making a moral decision that was more or less based on the idea of free will, an idea which governed her belief in human rights as well; Jacobs chose to take on a lover who was a white slaveholder. She justified it by stating, “There may be sophistry in all this; but the condition of a slave confuses all principles of morality, and, in fact, renders the practice of them impossible” (48). Even though she had made the decision based on belief that it was better to choose one’s lover than to be raped, she still suffered much guilt from the act. Guilt was bestowed on her by her grandmother, who reacted to the news by saying, “I had rather see you dead than to see you as you now are. You are a disgrace to your dead mother…Go away! ...and never come to my house, again” (50). She was also chastised by her master, who claimed that she was a “disgrace” and “had sinned against [her] master” (51). In a cruel irony, her master even proposed that he could “make a lady” of her (46). In the midst of all these contradictions it was impossible for a woman in slavery to achieve the societal demands of what is considered a proper lady. Jacobs sums this situation up sorrowfully when she states, “…do not judge the poor desolate slave girl too severely! If slavery had been abolished, I, also, could have married the man of my choice; I could have had a home shielded by the laws…but all my prospects had been blighted by slavery. I wanted to keep myself pure; and, under the most adverse circumstances, I tried hard to preserve my self-respect; but I was struggling alone in the powerful grasp of the demon Slavery; and the monster proved too strong for me. I felt as if I was forsaken by God and man…” (48).
These were not the only contradictions presented by Christianity to the slaves. Although religion offered slaves comfort and strength, it also raised many misgivings. When slaves were put through particularly hard times they resorted to the reasoning that it was God’s wish. Typical themes from Jacobs’ story include the view that God was the reason for a person’s strength, and/or that God was testing a person through strife; however, the dominant theme that can be found in the story is the wish for God to kill a person, or let them die. This was seen as a mercy by slaves who didn’t want to see their loved ones go through the agonies of a life of slavery, or who didn’t want to go through any more such trials themselves. Again and again, throughout Jacobs’ story, one can find evidence of this wish. Where murder and suicide were considered an abomination, a natural death by God’s mercy was seen as acceptable and fortunate. On the other hand, there are times when Jacobs’ describes moments where she pleads with God to let someone she loves live. How can a person be of sound mind when they concurrently praise their God for their fortunes, question their God for their misery, beg their God for a merciful end to suffering through death, and plead with their God to let a loved one live?
Through all of these theological inconsistencies Jacobs finally finds the way to freedom for her children and for herself. The triumph is bittersweet, however, as it comes at the cost of her principle, which is that a human being- a creature of body, mind, and spirit- cannot be bought and cannot belong as property to another human being. On hearing of her emancipation, Jacobs writes, “…I despise the miscreant who demanded payment for what never rightfully belonged to him or his” (163). Amy Post appends Jacobs’ story by stating, “…through anxiety, turmoil, and despair, the freedom of Linda [Harriet Jacobs] and her children was finally secured, by the exertions of a generous friend. She was grateful for the boon; but the idea of having been bought was always galling to a spirit that could never acknowledge itself to be a chattel. She wrote to us thus, soon after the event: ‘I thank you for your kind expressions in regard to my freedom; but the freedom I had before the money was paid was dearer to me. God gave me that freedom; but man put God’s image in the scales with the paltry sum of three hundred dollars. I served for my liberty as faithfully as Jacob served for Rachel. At the end, he had large possessions; but I was robbed of my victory; I was obliged to resign my crown, to rid myself of a tyrant.’” (166). In these final words can be seen the biggest contradiction of all, which is that a woman cannot rejoice in her freedom through the simple fact that her freedom had to be purchased.

Works Cited
Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 2001.

To learn more about this piece of literature and/or to purchase the book, please follow this link:

Oh The Thinks He Could Think! (Favorite essays, Part 2)

Oh the Thinks He Could Think!

I swung ‘round the corner

And dashed through the gate,

I ran up the steps

And I felt simply GREAT!



~Theodor Geisel

Theodor Geisel, otherwise known as the illustrious Dr. Seuss, is one of the most innovative and celebrated authors of children’s books. Fifteen years after his death his distinctive and exhilarating style continues to capture the imaginations of millions of children. His ability to do so has played a large part in turning these children into avid readers. His themes, which typically carry an unobtrusive message, expand children’s minds by introducing them to the concepts of morals and social responsibility. His technique has revolutionized the way children’s stories are written as well as the way children (and adults) receive them. For over sixty-nine years, his stories are still enthusiastically read and are circulated across the globe. They are treasured by people of all ages and status. Most people already realize these things about the legendary Dr. Seuss, so the real question is: how does the unassuming Mr. Geisel accomplish it?
One way in which he achieves his success is through his famous writing style. Dr. Seuss stories are exciting because of the unique way in which they are written. Geisel characteristically writes his stories in anapestic tetrameter, which employs a simple limerick-like cadence. Thomas Fensch, in Of Sneetches and Whos and the Good Dr. Seuss, describes it this way:
An anapest is a metric foot consisting of two short unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable. In The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, editor Chris Baldick writes that this form was originally a Greek marching beat. Tetrameter is four metric feet to a line.
A perfect example [comes] from McElligot’s Pool:
‘Cause you never can tell
What goes on below!
This pool might be bigger
Than you or I know!
Fensch goes on to describe it as:
. . . a rhythm that pulls readers through the text. (Critics have suggested this is one reason children love the Seuss books.) Even more importantly, with the stress toward the end of the lines, the rhythm gallops. Children repeat it- they chant it, they sing the words.
Another writer, Jonathon Cott, expresses the power of Geisel’s style by saying, “. . . the anapest line embodies movement and swiftness. . .” Herein lies Geisel’s genius, for it is this quick pace with its teasing rhythm and the satisfying rhyme sequences that enchant young readers. Renthal states, “They delight in his rollicking rhythms, his unexpected rhymes, in sounds they can feel and taste on their tongues, in hearing his whip crack over the galloping syllables.” In other words, readers become mesmerized, hypnotized, and even energized.
Geisel deliberately uses anapests in a way that compels the reader to turn the page. According to Nel:
It’s fun to be carried along by the rhythm of the language, a characteristic which Seuss exploits when he completes an end rhyme on the following page. Seuss introduced this page-turning strategy in Horton Hatches the Egg, at the moment when Mayzie confronts Horton, demanding the return of her egg: “Poor Horton backed down, / With a sad, heavy heart. . .” The page ends. Turn it, and the rhyme completes: “But at that very instant the egg burst apart!”
As well as using this little trick of anapest-as-page-turner, Geisel also lures children into reading by offering them the delightful challenge of the tongue-twister. Reading his stories aloud not only develops strong readers, it also helps readers to develop strong tongues! Consider this:
First, we’re greeted by Drummers who drum as they come.
And next come the Strummers who strum as they come.
And the Drummers who drum and Strummers who strum
Are followed by Zummers who come as they zum.
Just look at those Zummers! They’re sort of like Plumbers.
They come along humming, with heads in their plumbing
And that makes the music that Zummers call zumming!
And all of this beautiful zumming and humming
And plumbing and strumming and drumming and coming. . .
In this way, Geisel encourages children to read for fun. They become so wrapped up in the game that they forget they are actually learning. What is more, they seek out his stories again and again. Thus, they become enthusiastic readers and in the process learn some important life-lessons along the way.
These life-lessons are another important facet of Dr. Seuss’s success. His stories are a platform on which he tackles important human issues which include but are not limited to: morals, politics, ethnicity, religion, and environmental responsibility. His stories, which are playful and seem silly, tend to prove that the real silliness lies in the behaviors of closed-minded people.

This concept is reflected in The Butter Battle Book. This story is about two societies who despise each other simply because one, the Yooks, chooses to butter its bread on the top and the other, the Zooks, chooses to butter the bottom:
“It’s high time that you knew
of the terribly horrible thing that Zooks do.
In every Zook house and in every Zook town
every Zook eats his bread
with the butter side down!
“But we Yooks, as you know,
when we breakfast or sup,
spread our bread,” Grandpa said,
“with the butter side up.
That’s the right, honest way!”
Their stubborn determination to prove each other wrong leads them into an escalating rivalry for the perfect weapon. Ultimately they each end up with one so perfect that it will not only end the war once and for all, it will also end civilization as well! This book was meant as an anthem against nuclear arms. In American Icon Nel states that Geisel “. . . knew that the arms race between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. was dangerous. As Coretta Scott King said of The Butter Battle Book, ‘May the wisdom of this book help parents double their efforts for world peace, and may its wit help children forgive us our foolish antagonisms’ (Butter Battle press release).”
Another story with a similar purpose is the well-renowned How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Though many people interpret this story as an anthem for the spirit of Christmas, it is actually a secular statement about the bitterness that is cultivated by exclusion:
The thing that [the Grinch] specifically likes least of all is the Who-Christmas-Sing. He hates the sense of community among the Whos- . . . More than a treatise against rampant consumerism, the book promotes inclusiveness- a common theme in Ted’s stories, which often taught children tolerance. The real message of the book involves the true spirit of community, which has been lost.
What makes the story work is not just the message that “. . . Christmas. . . doesn’t come from a store,” but the fact that despite the Grinch’s dastardly behavior he is embraced by the community and given the gift of social inclusion:
“And what happened then. . .?
Well. . . in Who-ville they say
That the Grinch’s small heart
Grew three sizes that day!
And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light
And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!
And he. . .
. . .HE HIMSELF. . .!
The Grinch carved the roast beast!

Stories like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Butter Battle Book and many others by Geisel teach children a lesson about the folly of bigotry and stereotyping. They teach children to embrace diversity and to celebrate individuality.

Another of Geisel’s celebrated stories with a moral lesson is The Lorax. In this book, the Once-ler tells a little boy the story of the Lorax, and of how the world became so polluted. This story involves economics, environmental pollution, and material greed. “As an icon of environmental conservation, The Lorax’s activist message endures: Unless people act upon their concerns, nothing will get better.”

 In the end the Once-ler gives the boy the last Truffula Tree seed and confers on him the hope for a better future. “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot/ nothing is going to get better/it’s not.”
Just as the Once-ler hands the boy the Truffula Tree seed, Geisel hands the hope for the future to children through his books. The clever rhyming and comedy of his stories captures the attention of young and impressionable minds. Cott states, “It is interesting to note that a child’s favorite books are often consciously the models for, or the most important influence on, his or her later beliefs and ways of living.” According to Nel, “In granting children the license to think freely, Seuss shows them that the world is what they make it. Children and adults, Seuss suggests, should use this ability to think creatively, participating in the world, learning from it, and when necessary doing what they can to make it better.” West concurs with Nel when she states:
If students can learn how to examine their world critically, forming theories and testing theories and applying theories, they will be better equipped to respond to problems and issues that arise in their everyday lives. They will have an invaluable tool to organize and analyze their lives and to develop more effective solutions to difficulties they may encounter. After all, this is what defines a true education.
Through his writings Geisel educates young readers by endowing them with a sense of social consciousness and personal responsibility for the condition of the world. This awareness gives them the power to think independently and to make comprehensive decisions about the way in which they conduct their lives. Consequently, their choices influence the world in which they live.
Geisel’s writings are not just a vehicle for this philosophy; they are also an example of it. His stories are proof that he believed in practicing what he preached. In 1955 he wrote what was for him an unusually serious poem. Called “Prayer for a Child”, it pleads for peace while suggesting a sense of duty for both God and himself:
From here on earth,
From my small place
I ask of You
Way out in space:
Please tell all men
In every land
What You and I
Both understand. . .
Please tell all men
That Peace is Good.
That’s all
That need be understood.
In every world
In Your great sky.
(We understand,
Both You and I.)
In his own frolicsome fashion, Theodor Geisel will continue to spread this message of peace, as well as ideas about tolerance, inclusiveness, and civic duty. He has had as much, if not more, impact on society as many of the great leaders throughout history; and because his stories are timeless, he will continue to do so for generations of children to come.

. . . You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose. . .
. . . And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.


Annotated Bibliography
Cohen, Charles D. “The True Spirit of the Grinch”. Your Favorite Seuss. Comps. Schulman,
Janet and Goldsmith, Cathy. New York: Random House Inc., 2004.
This source is an introduction to the story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The author also wrote The Seuss, the Whole Seuss, and Nothing but the Seuss which gives him the knowledge and expertise to write about Geisel. This introduction gives an excellent interpretation of the message in The Grinch and how the story continues to affect society.
Cott, Jonathon. Introduction. Pipers at the Gates of Dawn. New York: Random House Inc., 1983.
This source is a book about the importance of literature for children. It covers some of the most important children’s authors, including Theodor Geisel, and explains why and how the author’s works are important.
Fensch, Thomas. Introduction. Of Sneetches and Whos and the Good Dr. Seuss Essays on the
Writings and Life of Theodor Geisel. Jefferson: McFarland & Company Inc., 1997. 3.
This source is an introduction to a collection of essays by various authors about Theodor Geisel and his stories. Fensch uses the introduction to explain the significance of Theodor Geisel’s works and how to interpret them; he also includes an explanation of Geisel’s rhyming style and why it is crucial.
Geisel, Theodor. “And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street”. Your Favorite Seuss. 22.
This source is a story by Theodor Geisel about the cultivation of a boy’s imagination. In this paper it is used to reflect Geisel’s own unique imagination in story-telling.
Geisel, Theodor. The Butter Battle Book. New York: Random House. 1984. 5-6.

Annotated Bibliography Continued
This source is a children’s book. It tells the story of two societies who are at war with each other over the manner in which they butter their bread. Under the surface, however, it is a commentary on stereotyping, bigotry, and the futility of war.
Geisel, Theodor. “Happy Birthday to You!” Your Favorite Seuss. 226.
This source is a fantastical story about a birthday wish. It is also a good example of Geisel’s tongue-twisting rhyming style.
Geisel, Theodor. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. Your Favorite Seuss. 186-188.
This source is a story in which a bitter character, the Grinch, learns the true meaning of Christmas still exists. It is an effort by Geisel to emphasize the importance of social acceptance and belonging.
Geisel, Theodor. “The Lorax”. Your Favorite Seuss. 335.
This source is a story about the destruction of the environment. It chronicles the story of society’s greed and their disinclination to pay heed to the Lorax, a creature who represents a healthy ecology. Their unwillingness to listen to the Lorax results in the devastation of their
world. It emphasizes the importance of every citizen to do their part in being responsible for the world in which they live.
Geisel, Theodor. “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” Your Favorite Seuss. 341-345.
This source is an inspirational message from Geisel about the limitless potential of a person in their life. It chronicles the ups and downs in the journey of life and offers a promise of personal success. In this paper it is used to prophecy the potential of Geisel’s impact on future generations.

Annotated Bibliography Continued
Geisel, Theodor. “Prayer for a Child.” Dr. Seuss: American Icon. New York: The Continuum
International Publishing Group Inc., 2004. 196.
This source is an uncommonly serious poem by Geisel. It expresses his wish of peace for the world and an answer to human suffering. It reflects the purpose behind all his story-writing.
Nel, Philip. Dr. Seuss: American Icon.
This source is a book which concentrates not only on the biography of Theodor Geisel, but also on the meaning of his stories and his personal objectives in writing them. The book also encompasses how Geisel’s stories have affected American culture and why they continue to be successful and significant in contemporary society.
Renthal, Helen. “25 Years of Working Wonder with Words”. Of Sneetches and Whos and The
Good Dr. Seuss. 38.
This source is an essay that emphasizes how Theodor Geisel revolutionizes children’s books. It describes the unique qualities of Geisel’s writing style and why he is so well received by his readers.
West, Angela D. “Horton the Elephant is a Criminal: Using Dr. Seuss to Teach Social Process,
Conflict, and Labeling Theory.” Journal of Criminal Justice Education. 16.2 (October 2005): 355.
This source is a scholarly journal that is an instructional tool for educators. It outlines an exercise that teaches students how to analyze theories and their connected facets. It incorporates the use of Theodor Geisel’s history and writings, specifically Horton Hears a Who, to help students create and nurture the ability to think in an integrative manner.

Faulkner Gives Us Emily (Favorite Essays, Part 1)

I wrote several essays for a college English course. I am posting a few of them here for preservation purposes and my own amusement, so be gentle.

The Ruin of Emily and the Fall of the Old South

William Faulkner writes a wicked story in classic Gothic style about a small Southern town's relationship with one of its iconic inhabitants. On the surface, this story's shocking ending is the result of the dysfunctional relationship between the town of Jefferson and a woman named Emily Grierson; however, closer examination reveals the hidden story within. Emily Grierson, along with a handful of other supporting characters and symbols, represents the Old South amid a constant and overwhelming theme of death and decay. Could it be that "A Rose for Emily" embodies the end of an era in Southern history and culture?

This theory is spelled out by means of symbolization as well as by the consequences of events that occur throughout the story. One of the major symbols of the Old South is represented by Miss Emily. Her story is a reflection of how the traditions and values of the Old South were decimated in the aftermath of the Civil War. In her youth she is described as "a slender figure in white". The color white represents purity, truth, conservativeness, and innocence, concepts which reflect ideals of what the South was like before the war. This impression is also given through the description of Miss Emily's house, which is depicted as having been white at one time but is now in a state of deterioration. Further symbolization of Miss Emily is given by references to her being slender and her skeleton being "small and spare". This description supports the Old Southern notion of women as being helpless and weak. These combind images support a romanticized vision of what the South was like before the Civil War. However, a description of Miss Emily in her later years is more disturbing:
A small, fat woman in black. . . Her skeleton was small and spare; 
perhaps that was why what would have been merely plumpness in another was obesity in her. 
She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue. 
Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two small pieces of coal
pressed into a lump of dough...

It is no accident that she is compared to a dead body. These images bring to mind deterioration and neglect, two words which have been strongly linked with the condition of the South after the Civil War. Her clothing, which was once white, is now black, a color associated with death and mourning, darkness and hostility. The disparity of the descriptions of Miss Emily in youth and in old age is symbolic and representative of the idealized condition of the South before and after the Civil War.

Further proof of the parallels of Miss Emily's life and the decline of the Old South are plentiful in this story. Once piece of evidence can be found in the way the townspeople liken Miss Emily to a "fallen monument", a "tradition", and an "idol". On this basis, they insist on continuing to treat her in an antiquated manner: Colonel Sartoris develops a noble excuse for remitting her taxes, the Board of Aldermen remain standing in her presence and are unable to argue with her, Judge Stevens declares, "will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad?", older members of the community comment that, "...a real lady [could not] forget nobless oblige...", and some of the old men wear "their brushed Confederate uniforms" to her funeral. These behaviors demonstrate a reverence on the part of the townspeople. They treat her uniquely because she represents their ideal of the Old South.

Another confirmation of Miss Emily's life mirroring the violation of the Old South is evidenced by her relationship with Homer Barron. His entrance to the story is in the company of change and progress after the war. His character is representative of the North, for he is introduced as a Yankee. He is described as, "a big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face". "Ready man" alludes to a person who is quick to seize an opportunity, such as a carpetbagger. Many Southerners consider Northerners to be loud and brash, thus the mention of his "big voice". A big voice indicates a sense of strength, and a big voice will drown out one that is weaker, which indicates the fact that the Old South had no say in how it was governed post-war. Portrayal of Homer Barron as "dark [with] eyes lighter than his face" is a subtle suggestion that his blood line may have been tainted with African blood. The contamination of Caucasian blood with that of the Africans' is representative of a Southern taboo as well as a defilement of the purity of the Old South.

Homer goes on to represent the carpetbagger, or defiler of the Old South, in other ways. The townspeople's disdain for him is evidenced in behaviors that are both obvious and obscure. They refer to him in derogatory terms, as a "day laborer", a Yankee, "not a marrying man". About Homer's relationship with Miss Emily, the ladies of the town say, "it was a disgrace to the town and a bad example to the young people." Faulkner carefully insinuates a more obscure depiction of Homer Barron's character in a scene where Judge Stevens suggests that a mysterious smell is the result of Miss Emily's manservant killing a snake or a rat. Snakes and rats are often equated with being devious, filthy, and treacherous, which was a popular view of Yankees by Southerners before, during, and after the war. So there is no real surprise when the smell is eventually revealed as Homer Barron's rotting corpse. This creates a subconscious suggestion on Faulkner's part of a snake in the Garden of Eden, with Homer Barron representing the snake and the Old South symbolizing that fabled Garden of purity and innocence.

Using this theory as a foundation it can be said that Miss Emily plays Eve to Homer Barron's satanic snake. Her relationship with Homer, a man the townspeople obviously disapprove of, results in their believing she is a fallen woman. Though the word "fallen" is considered antiquated and outmoded, it does not just allude to the loss of Miss Emily's reputation as a proper Southern lady; it also refers to political collapse, defeat in war, and is a description for people who are killed in war. Therefore, Miss Emily embodies the Old South and Homer Barron the North. Her sullied reputation not only signifies the defeat of the South, but also the defilement of Old Southern traditions and values through the encroachment of Northern influences.

Miss Emily's death and the town's reaction to it serve as another link to the fall of the Old South. Two significant events occur at her funeral which contribute to this theory. Firstly, the "Negro" manservant who has attended her for many years walks out and is never seen again. This is a clear representation of the abolition of slavery at the end of the war. He does not need to request permission or offer excuses; rather, emancipated by Miss Emily's death, he simply walks away. Secondly, the body of Homer Barron is discovered and a strand of what is unmistakably Miss Emily's hair is found on the pillow next to him. This demonstrates that despite the gruesome consequences of the war, the North and South are together one nation and that the South is dependent on the North more than ever.

"A Rose for Emily" is an anthem to these consequences as well as to the death throes of Old South. Miss Emily's death is viewed by the townspeople of Jefferson as the end of an era, for she is regarded with the "respectful affection for a fallen monument". The narrator tells us that "the very old men... in their brushed Confederate uniforms" reminisce about Miss Emily, even going so far as to believe they each had romantic social interactions with her in their youth. Wearing their defunct uniforms and dreaming of things which never happened enables these men to express an idealized memory of the past, one in which the negative memories are forgotten and the positive memories are magnified. An example of this type of thinking is manifested in the way many people tend to remember the Civil War; despite the loss of thousands of lives in a horrendous battle that pitted a nation against itself, the Civil War is often glorified by Southerners. The discovery of Homer Barron's body destroys the townspeople's flawed perception of Miss Emily as an icon and forces them to see the brutal reality. In conclusion, Faulkner uses "A Rose for Emily" as a parable which reveals the reluctant truth about the death of the Old South.

To learn more about this piece of literature, or to purchase the book, please follow the link:

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Advocatus Diaboli

I am the other side of the coin.
I am the lesser of two evils.
I am the calm at the eye of the storm.
I am the justification and the excuse.
I am the Devil's advocate.

I drip like honey and burn like fire.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Unleashing the Demon

There's a reason I keep my halo close by. I keep it safely tucked away, but always within reach. Sometimes it's heavy, sometimes it's oppressive, but it keeps me safe. It keeps me sane (I think).

It also makes people see me in a way that I know I am not. It doesn't reflect my true identity. It projects, reflects and refracts the image of a person I know I will never be. I am not intentionally deceiving people with this image, they are merely seeing what they wish to see. I'm the reluctant magician. It is my curse.

My halo keeps me safe. Safety is good unless it stifles you and imprisons you.

Sometimes the devil comes to call and I am tempted to set my halo down. Let go of the burden, free myself, free my mind. So I step away from the halo, and I revel in the glories of sin. What is sin but a social construct? What is sin but a mandate by an antiquated and out-moded religion? So I play with the devil. I dance with the devil.

When the sun comes up though, I know the truth. It's not about sin, it's about conscience.

I reflect on my actions. I see that in trying to define myself all I have done is acted out in defiance.

I peer at my halo, sitting dusty on the floor. It still has a little glimmer. It still looks heavy. So I pick it up and hold it in the palm of my hand. It is warm and solid and vibrates with a little electric hum. It glows softly and pulsates gently. It has an inner light that shines like the morning sunrise and it whispers to me softly to be true to myself, to be the best person I can.

So I set it down again and ponder the consequences of playing with the devil or of carrying the halo.

What have I decided? I don't know. I like to be safe, but I don't like to be bound. I like to play with the devil, but only so much. Somewhere in between there is a place where the two merge and co-exist in harmony.

In that harmonious place is my identity, one in which I can be true to myself and shine from within. A place where I can also put on my dancing shoes and Salsa with the Devil with gleeful abandon, but still go home in the morning and let the sun shine on my delighted face.

So let the light shine on, but not too brightly.