Monday, November 30, 2009

Freedom to and freedom from

The question of banning is always, in this country, controversial. As Margaret Atwood points out in one of my favorite books, The Handmaid's Tale, there are two types of freedom: freedom to and freedom from. Supposedly we are guaranteed both in this country, but where does one person's freedom to interfere with another's freedom from? I think that's the question our class has sort of been getting at and many of the readings for today are getting at. The smoking in public places ban is a sort of compromise; it doesn't ban smoking, it only bans smoking in places where non-smokers are directly affected, and the health benefits have been seen after not very long, according to the article we've read.

Cursing on television or radio is sort of the middle ground between smoking, which directly affects others, and clothing, which doesn't actually affect anyone else. Pinker's essay and article are so interesting because they challenge the basis of our language. What do words really mean anyway? Why are we so scared of sex and poop? He points out that curse words aren't actually cursed- contrary to what South Park's "It Hits the Fan" might portray- and he points out that in and of themselves, there is nothing morally corrupting about a curse word. He also acknowledges the power of language though. I feel as if this debate is nowhere near over. I do think that there should be more freedom as far as cursing goes on the radio or on tv, because it just seems silly to me. There are parental locks on tvs if a parents doesn't want their child(ren) to watch a certain channel, and the chances are that whatever they aren't exposed to on tv will be exposed to them somehow in their daily lives.

The articles on the clothing were interesting to me because I wasn't aware of the origins of the baggy jean phenomenon. It reminded me of a documentary I watched recently called "Tough Guise: Violence, Media, & the Crisis in Masculinity" which is about the state of masculinity in this country in many different ways (it's really interesting- you should watch it). He talk about out at one point something similar to what these articles talk about- the origins of these trends. He says that young white or suburban men dressed in this manner to copy the black or poor men who dressed this way- but these young men got it from movies, and he cites The Godfather as one of them, and the circle it goes around. He points out, though, as one article does, that the real problem isn't the way these young men are dressing but rather, as a quote highlighted in the New York Times article we read, "The focus should be on cleaning up social conditions that the sagging pants comes out of." I think that part of this whole problem is that people are trying to cover up the consequences of a flawed society rather than dealing with the real roots of the problems.

This class has been by far my favorite English class I've taken at Loyola. It has challenged me to think for myself. I tend to read things written by people smarter than me and just get excited and agree wholeheartedly- this class set me up to agree with something in theory and then point out to me that I might not agree with it in practice. This class has compelled me to ask myself what my morals are, who I am, and what I'm made of. I have never contributed to in-class discussion as much as I have this semester. This class coincided with a sudden and passionate concern for social issues in this country and has asked me what I'm going to do about it, because at this point I can't see myself spending my life living only for myself. Beginning with the Kolvenbach speech, I feel an enormous sense of responsibility, which simultaneously makes me feel incapable but also strong. It reminds me of a quote from Gandhi: "Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." Now, seeing all the ways in which people try to limit each other, I finally feel like I'm headed in a vague direction towards my vocation. I probably won't know what it is by May, but I finally feel like I will at some point in my life... and this is encouraging.

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