RSSCategory: American Culture

United States Citizen Consent Form and Survey

May 26, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
United States Citizen Consent Form and Survey

I suspect that only a smallish minority of people deeply care about the many dramatic political and legal changes that have been occurring in the United States over the past ten years. Just to make sure, though, I have created a United States Citizen Consent Form and Survey, and I would like to propose that it be distributed to all U.S. citizens and they be compelled to fill it out by federal mandate.

Maybe the results will substantiate my fears that I am an outsider living in what used to be my own country.

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“Retard” and other disability-insults.

May 21, 2011 | By | 8 Replies More
“Retard” and other disability-insults.

The word “retard” possessed dual meanings for a long time. First used as a term for intellectual disability in 1788, the word took on a pejorative sense in the 1970s. For thirty years the two meanings curiously co-existed. Universities had “Mental Retardation and Developmental Disability” Departments and students who drunkenly called one another ‘retards’ for lobbing bad beer-pong balls, and the two existed in tandem.

But once medical and social service experts finally disavowed the word ‘retard’, it vanished from official usage with amazing swiftness. The Special Olympics ceased using the ‘r-word’ in 2004, initiating the trend. In 2006, the (former) American Association of Mental Retardation changed its name to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

By 2008, Special Olympics turned the abolishment of ‘retard’ into a full-time effort and launched R-word.org. The site protested the derogatory use of ‘retard’ (including a protest campaign against the 2008 film Tropic Thunder, which featured a lengthy discussion on ‘retard’ roles in film). Special Olympics and R-word.org also pushed for their fellow disability-service organizations to drop the term.

In 2010, ‘retard’ was legally banished from the professional lexicon. On October 5 of last year, Obama signed “Rosa’s Law”, which banned the use of “retard” in all federal health, education, and labor policy. “Intellectual disability” and “developmental disability” became the approved nomenclature. Non-federal organizations followed hastily: in Ohio, Google directs you to the “Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities“, but the website itself has already been scrubbed of the R-word(even if the url still has the dreaded ‘r’ in it).

It’s official: ‘retard’ has no place in formal usage. Once a medical term for someone with an intellectual disability, it lives now only as an insult. One that means, roughly, unintelligent.

Like moron, which began as medical terminology for one with a mental age of 8 to 12.

Or imbecile, which meant ‘a mental age of 6 to 9‘.

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Makeup is the new girdle.

May 16, 2011 | By | 6 Replies More
Makeup is the new girdle.

I stopped wearing cosmetics a few months ago, after about half a year of using the stuff only sparingly. I started weaning myself off makeup because I had come to hate the hassle of applying it, and because I hated fretting about my appearance. I was also beginning to think of makeup as old-fashioned, an antiquated ‘modesty’ that inspires shame in one’s true appearance. The longer I go without a cosmetic product on my face, the more I believe that makeup needs to go the way of the girdle. The restrictive, uncomfortable, needless, obsolete girdle.

How many undergarments are you wearing right now? I’m guessing two at most. Likewise, I only wear two small undergarments below my clothes, even on the most formal occasions. Interview? Presentation? Class? Wedding? A bra and underwear are always adequate.

Since I’ve never had to wear more than two undergarments, I find it staggering that women used to wear massive bras, high-waisted underwear, girdles, pantyhose or stockings, garter belts, slips, and camisoles.

I often wear less than that as a full outfit. Anyone who knows me in real life can confirm that I regularly step out in leggings and a t-shirt (plus two small undergarments beneath). I don’t say this to titilate, just to illustrate, because I suspect my bare-bones attire is quickly becoming the norm. I’ve spent a lot of time on college campuses- big and small, public and private, Jesuit and blessedly godless. Everywhere I’ve seen legions of women and girls decked out in equal or greater states of undress than my own. Gone are the girdles.

[More . . . ]

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War on What’s Next?

May 10, 2011 | By | 5 Replies More
War on What’s Next?

Americans don’t seem to understand much of anything unless we restate it in a war-metaphor:

War on Drugs
War on Terror
War on Poverty
War on Science
War on Democracy

And now there is a “War Against Floods,” which we battle with the “Army Corp of Engineers.”

And I forgot to mention some of the other wars:

[More . . . ]

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We consume

May 10, 2011 | By | Reply More
We consume

At Truthout, Ellen Dannen points out that we live almost entirely in the present, as consumers:

As consumers, we live today in a perpetual now, ingesting and eliminating. But our ancestors understood the importance of being conservative, of conserving. They saw the value of building infrastructure of lasting value – not thinking only of themselves – but building also for their children and progeny yet to be. They understood, as did Oliver Wendell Holmes, that the taxes they paid were the price of admission to life in a civilized society. They understood that to live in a civil society required providing real nourishment, including the best education possible, for everyone. That society at least gave lip service to the principle that, “What you have done to the least of these you have done to me.” The things they produced and created still contribute to our security and progress. Among other things, they created a high-quality, heavily subsidized system of education that eliminated cost as a bar and made our country a leader in so many areas. We would be better off today had we properly valued their investment in us, rather than having consumed and destroyed so much of that inheritance.

I consider this issue often. If one were really to implement “family values,” would we be trashing the planet and failing to plan for the future? Wouldn’t we be obsessed with making sure that our children will have access to a well-cared-for planet on which they can live out their lives, one they can hand to their children? But as a government, we really do seem to be living in the present, dealing with the disasters as they arise rather than taking steps to avoid them. We excel at kicking the can down the road just a bit, putting off for another day.

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United States attacks Canada to seize tar sands region

May 8, 2011 | By | 4 Replies More

Let’s see. What oil rich region should the United States next invade? Hmmm. Politicians and oil companies are increasingly telling us that our future oil lies in the tar sands of Canada.   Only one thing lies between the United States and that oil: Canada might not simply give us their tar sands.  Problems like these, however, are ready-made for the United States military solutions. Hence, today I imagined that we might soon see the following news story.

I don’t really believe that the United States has any plans to invade Canada, but I am trying to make a few serious points with this image.

We all know how to pull this sort of land grab, because Americans are well-practiced in simply taking land from other people (ask Mexico and native Americans, and check out the size of the American Embassy in Iraq).  We are experts at inventing the need to go to war.  Here’s a simplified version of the plan:  We claim that there are weapons of mass destruction in Canada.  We claim that there are French terrorists threatening America; we are good at inventing stories that serve as excuses to go to war.  Our mass-media goes along with the ploy because they are amoral conflict-mongers.  Eventually, the United States simply takes over the tar sands region of Canada.   Or at least that’s how it goes in my imagination.

It’s increasingly clear we have entered peak world-wide oil production, but American politicians don’t not dare to urge American citizens to cut down on their use of energy. Conservation is widely seen as un-American because it is usually framed as an approach that deprives Americans of their life-style, even though conservation and renewable energy makes far too much sense on many levels. And all of this crazy framing of the debate takes place while reputable scientists are offering solid evidence that with current technology and reasonable conservation measures we could now begin replace much of American fossil fuel usage with renewables.

If I had to place a bet, though, I would put my chips on a future where Americans continue, as long as they are financially and militarily able, to engage in profligate oil usage (we use more than 9,000 gallons per second, enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool every minute of every day).  They will do this despite the fact that tar sands oil is an environmental disaster in the making .

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On bad guys

May 6, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
On bad guys

From Christopher Hayes discusses the use of the phrase “bad guys” at The Nation:

The phrase is self-consciously playful but also insidious. An adult who invokes it is expressing a layered set of propositions. What “bad guys” says, roughly, is this: “I’m an adult who has considered the nature of the moral universe we live in and concluded that it really is black and white. I’ve decided that my earliest, most childlike conception of heroes and villains is indeed the accurate one, which only later came to be occluded by nuance and wishy-washy, bleeding-heart self-doubt. I reject that more complicated, mature conception as false. I embrace the child’s vision of the world.”

“Bad guys” was a phrase that channeled our rawest emotions in the wake of 9/11, emotions that we collectively mythologize.

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Pro gore, anti-sex

May 5, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More
Pro gore, anti-sex

I spotted this quote on Reddit today:

“Why is a nation that was freaked about Janet jacksons nip-slip, clamoring for a picture of a blown-up Bin Laden.”

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The lesson we learn from Birtherism

April 29, 2011 | By | 12 Replies More
The lesson we learn from Birtherism

This insightful passage was published by Think Progress:

HOW DID WE GET HERE: If the endurance of the birther myth teaches us anything, it’s the power of repetition. Any claim, no matter how outrageous, can take hold over time if it gets enough media exposure. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that nearly 25 percent of Americans, and 45 percent of Republicans, believed Mr. Obama was born in another country. The shocking fact that a quarter of all Americans now believe the lie — and an additional 18 percent say they don’t know where he was born — illustrates just how successful birther conspiracists have been at sowing doubt and attracting attention from mainstream news outlets.

Epilogue: This episode on Birtherism also demonstrates the power of a vigorous and self-critical media to advance the public good. I will adhere to one of my personal articles of faith: That most people will think in admirable ways and act decently if given accurate information and if treated with at least a modicum of respect by their leaders.

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