Sunday, December 7, 2014

How We See the Police

Growing up, I have always been taught that police are there to protect us, and they are not "scary" people - they exist to keep American citizens safe. Starting from a young age, most Americans are taught this. In elementary school, a police officer would come in to talk to our class once a year, but the officer would change his or her name to "Officer Friendly" when they would come in to see us. America tries so hard to convey the idea that policemen are friendly men and women just here to protect us and keep us safe.

Most of the time, the police do exactly that. However, when you hear stories such as what happened in Ferguson and now New York about police killing innocent African American men, everything American's have learned about policemen not being intimidating shatters, especially for blacks.

I came across an interesting video (click on link to view video) that featured black students from Charleston High School discussing both the shooting of Michael Brown and the case of Eric Garner. Rather than focusing on the details of each case, the students all discussed their views of the police force in America as a whole.

Below are some quotes that stuck out to me from the students in the video (Nueseline Goncalves, Jeff Ramos, and Keisha Fertil) about their opinions on police:

"I don't like them at all."

"When I see them, I get mad."

"I get scared when I see them."

"[Police are] not people we can always rely on."

"They do have power, and they abuse it."

Their opinions on police juxtapose everything that I and many other Americans were taught to believe about police. We are not supposed to get scared and mad when we see them, but these African American students do feel scared and mad. We are supposed to rely on police, but these African American students do not feel as if they can rely on them. Police are supposed to use their power to keep us safe, but these African American students feel as if they abuse it.

Obviously, the majority of police are kindhearted people who devote their life to protecting American citizens. Many of these men are considered heroes; however, media tends to only convey the negative aspects of society, such as the Brown and Garner cases, rather than showing the good that many police do. Because of the horrible incidents that have been reported, many Americans, such as these students at Charleston High School, now see the police as people who are hurting society rather than helping it.

I wonder if these black students from Charleston High School have had similar experiences such as what I had growing up with "Officer Friendly" coming into school to talk to us. What would happen if Officer Friendly were to talk to African American students in areas such as Ferguson now? 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Privilege, Pressure, & Perfectionism

On Friday, our class had the privilege of hearing former Yale professor, William Deresiewicz, speak about how Ivy schools have a detrimental effect on the students who attend them. He focused mainly on college students. However, he briefly addressed upon the idea that high-achieving students in affluent neighborhoods tend to have more cases of depression than lower-class neighborhoods. Living in Winnetka, an affluent neighborhood, this thought stayed with me throughout the day... Are the expectations of being a successful student in a wealthy area, like the North Shore, too high?

Dereseiwicz also mentioned the book, The Price of Privilege, by Madeline Levine, Ph.D. which is also about this topic. Levine wrote her book after being a psychologist for 25 years. She argues that students in affluent areas are experiencing "epidemic levels of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse". I see this first hand at New Trier, for I know students who have suffered with depression as a result of the high expectation of being "perfect".

The percentage of students with depression goes up remarkably during the ages of 16 and 17. This is  when students are beginning to apply for colleges, which causes high-stress levels for students (especially in affluent areas). The graph ends in 2011, but the graph shows that the percentage is on the rise.

1 in 10 Americans will have depression at some point in their life, and according to people like Deresiewicz and Levine, this number is even higher in areas such as ours. The number of people diagnosed with depression increases by approximately 20 percent each yearIt is important that parents, teachers, and even other students put less pressure on students. For if this pressure builds up too much and the student puts too much pressure on themselves, then one could possibly become depressed and this number could become even higher.

Unfortunately, this issue is not an easy fix, and I do not even know how to begin to prevent these high numbers of depressed students. In the words of Deresiewicz, "I don't know how to solve things, I just complain about them." Parents can stop putting so much pressure on their children; however, I think this will only get us so far. High-achieving students somehow have engraved into their minds that they have to be "perfect" and put pressure on themselves to be exactly that. 

How do you even turn off that switch that tells these students they have to be perfect?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Shopping > Thanksgiving?

When Americans think of Thanksgiving, typically they think of food, family, and now shopping?

Almost two weeks ago, Rayna wrote a blog post about how stores were starting their Black Friday sales early by opening their stores to Black Friday costumers at six on Thanksgiving. Throughout the post, Rayna explained the idea that by starting Black Friday on Thanksgiving, Americans might possibly be lured away from family time on Thanksgiving in order to be the first to get the Black Friday deals. I agreed that this marketing technique would pull people away from their Thanksgiving; however, I secretly hoped this would not actually be the case.

Nevertheless, the prediction was accurate. The number of sales on the real Black Friday dropped seven percent and the sales on Thanksgiving jumped 24 percent. More than 15,000 people were lined outside of the Macy's in New York City by six on Thursday. These people must have gotten there even earlier than six in order to get a good place in line. How much time on Thanksgiving did these people devote to shopping? Americans spent 3.2 billion dollars on Thanksgiving, a day intended to focus on what you are thankful for, not what you need to get.

Major stores began starting their Black Friday sales on Thursday last year; however, this year even more stores, many of which are large retail stores, joined in. Unfortunately, it would be very hard to prevent stores from doing this, especially if the number of sales keeps raising exponentially every year. This is only going to cause more and more stores to do this, thus ending the traditional "Thanksgiving".

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A "Black Annie"

Yesterday, I was talking to one of my friends about the movie, Catching Fire; however, instead of telling me about the actual movie, she was talking to me about an interesting trailer that was playing before. The trailer was for Annie, a classic American movie and musical usually staring a white orphan with fiery red hair. However, in this upcoming version of Annie, the actress playing Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) is African American.

In order from left to right: the 1982 Annie, the 1999 Annie, the 2014 Annie

While this adaptation of Annie is unusual, I think the idea of casting an African American to play Annie is extremely appropriate. America is a diverse country, and if each time Annie is played by a young, Caucasian girl, it is not an accurate representation of the large 14.4% African American population in the United States.

By simply casting Quvenzhané Wallis, progress has been made. In class, we have been discussing how African Americans are often used as "tokens" by playing a sidekick (the boss, best friend, etc.) for the sole purpose of having a minority on the screen. Annie is three-dimensional character, unlike the two-dimensional "token", so being cast to play Annie is a highly coveted role. By casting Quvenzhané Wallis, the producers believe Americans are able to accept having an African American play not only the lead, but a traditionally white lead.

While this choice of casting conveys progress, there is even more progress to be made. The upcoming version of Annie is produced by Jay-Z, Will Smith, and Jada Pinkett Smith - all of whom are African American. If the producers were all white, would they still choose to cast an African American to play Annie? Also, Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx are casted, both of whom are very successful and well-known actors. Did the producers only take a gamble on casting a black lead because they had two successful actors to support her role? Some Americans even showed they are unable to look past the stereotypes. Saturday Night Live has already made a spoof of "Black Annie" by portraying Annie as someone who is "hyper-sexualized, temperamental, physically opposing, and money hungry", all of which are black stereotypes.

In America, nothing changes overnight, and I am thrilled with this movie because it does show evidence of progress. As time progresses, hopefully America can become an even more accepting nation and the extent of progress can be even greater by white producers hiring more African Americans, the ability for African Americans to stand on their own without a famous actor as a "safety net" and without only being viewed by their stereotypes.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Media Spreading Positivity

Last week, I wrote a blog post about a disgusting article, which discussed the top reasons why a man should date a girl with an eating disorder. I stumbled upon this article on my Facebook newsfeed and was appalled to see how certain people are using the power of media to spread messages that encourage something as severe and harmful as an eating disorder. However, this week, I was beyond thrilled to see a positive video on my newsfeed about the same topic of body image.

I strongly encourage everyone to watch this video from 0:27-3:43.

This video asks fifty people of all different ages the same question: What would you change about your body? The adults all answered the question easily, saying things such as their skin, the size of their eyes, and their forehead. However, when kids were posed with the same question, it took them awhile to think about their response. Finally, they said things like, "I wish I had wings" or "I wish I had a mermaid tail" or "I wouldn't change anything really!".

I think this video is truly remarkable to say the least. It captures children's thoughts on their bodies. These children have yet to be exposed to the negative media such as articles like this that tells them how they should look and defines "beauty". The young children are perfectly happy with their bodies (with the exception of not having wings or a mermaid tail) due to their lack of exposure to harmful media. Unfortunately, the negative media in American society is inevitable, and this video shows just how much it impacts people. 

Thankfully, the Jubilee Project is using the generally harmful power of the media (in terms of body image) to promote confidence. They make short videos, like this one, to encourage good in the world in collaboration with non-profits. This video was created in collaboration with iNature Skincare, which makes this video even more powerful. Most skincare brands promote changing one's skin to make it better; however, by creating this video, this brand is promoting confidence in our own skin as it is. While it disturbs me that some Americans use the media harmfully (especially to the extent of promoting a mental illness), the Americans that are creating these inspiring videos with the sole purpose to help someone makes me proud to be an American. These businesses do not ask for any money in return, for they only care about promoting good in society. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Media is Out of Control.

My Facebook newsfeed is often overflowed with different links and advertisements, but the other day, I saw one that I could not just simply scroll past.

It was entitled, "Reasons to Date a Girl with an Eating Disorder."

The title itself disgusted me; however, the article proved to be even worse. It gave reasons for boys to date girls with eating disorders such as saying they are more attractive, they are cheaper dates because they won't eat, they are vulnerable and fragile, and they are most likely wealthy. Not only are these reasons outrageous, but the author also generalizes the people who have eating disorders. The first sentence of the article reads, "'Nothing screams white-girl problems louder than a good old-fashioned eating disorder.'" He stereotypes all these people suffering with their appearance by saying they are all white girls, and later on goes on to saying they are all weak and wealthy. Even the picture associated with the article illustrates a white woman who clearly is upper-class due to her clothing.

When I looked at the date of this article, I was shocked that it was written almost a year ago; however, since it appeared on my newsfeed only one week ago, it proves the media really never disappears. Once something is online, it is permanent and anyone has access to it. The fact that this article was advertised on Facebook shocked me, for many girls on Facebook are already insecure about their bodies, and to girls with eating disorders, this article could further encourage them to obsess over their weight. 10% of college girls suffer from eating disorders, and I am sure almost all of those girls have Facebooks. Seeing this article could easily worsen their disorder.

The author of this article uses a pseudonym ("Tuthmosis") and writes posts for Return of Kings, the website in which the article was posted, and BuzzFeed, a very popular news and entertainment site right now. Many people hesitated to write frustrated responses about the issue because they did not want to draw more attention to the article; however, inevitably, if this article was on Facebook (and still continues to be a year later), people are going to notice it. It is important people discuss how wrong this issue is. One of the main things morals of American society is knowing right from wrong, and it is important everyone knows writing articles like this is wrong and needs to be prevented.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Getting Off the Hook Too Easily?

I usually do not pay much attention to the Chicago Tribune newspaper that sits on my kitchen counter everyday. However, a recent article on the front page caught my attention, specifically because I am a new driver. The article discusses the consequences one has to face after being convicted of a DUI in Illinois. There is a law that states when a person is arrested for DUI, one must pay a maximum fine of $2,500 and their license will be taken away for a minimum of one year; however, some suburbs are taking this law too lightly by letting people get away with just paying a higher fine in lieu of losing their license temporarily.

Jesse White, the Secretary of State, agrees that town prosectuors need to obey the state law, which states no matter the circumstances, a license is lost after a DUI. In the Chicago Tribune, he was quoted and said, "'DUI offenders should have to face the consequences of driving drunk. Paying steeper fines should not allow offenders to escape the penalties of their actions.'"

With an alcohol limit of 0.08, one can consume approximately four drinks.

Jesse White stated it perfectly. This is yet another law that favors wealthy members of society. People in suburbs are taking advantage of their wealth and using it as an excuse to avoid losing their license for a year, if not more. By simply paying a larger fine, they do not have to deal with the severe consequence of losing their license, so they will not effectively learn the severity of drinking and drinking. The middle-upper-class Americans who pay a larger fine are typically not very concerned about their money. While spending more of their money is not ideal, it will not be detrimental to their everyday lives, unlike losing a license. A license loss forces them to live with their consequence for a longer period of time and reflect upon their actions. By not being able to drive, they can learn the value of driving and learn to not take it for granted by drinking and driving.

In Downers Grove, by simply paying a fine 26% higher (280 dollars more) than the average fine that includes a temporary removal of a license, they are allowed to keep their license. For members of middle-upper class, this number is so minuscule and people would happily pay an extra 280 if it means keeping their license. This is hardly a punishment for residents of wealthier suburbs like Downers Grove.

If someone convicted of a DUI and did not lose their license, they could just drive drunk the next day and risk getting into a crash yet again. This is particularly concerning to me, for I just got my license a couple of weeks ago. Driving itself is already intimidating and frightening, and when you add drunk drivers into the mix, it puts drivers, like myself, at a greater risk of getting in an accident. I, like many other teenagers, usually drive on weekend nights (when the most drunk drivers are out), and would prefer to drive on streets where everyone is aware and safe.

The state law regarding DUIs in Illinois right now is severe, but it is what we need to limit the amount of drunk drivers. If the law continues being used loosely, people will continue to drink and drive and put more people in danger of being injured, or possibly dying. Everyday in America, approximately 28 people die a day (10,220 people a year) as a result of drunk driving crashes, one being Sarah McCausland, a New Trier graduate who was killed by a drunk driver at the beginning of this year. Maybe all this could have been prevented if people saw drinking and driving as a serious matter and obeyed the consequences presented in the state law.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Is the Catholic Church Outdated?

It is no surprise that our world is constantly changing. Life in America in 2014 is far different than life in the 1900s, 1800s, etc... so imagine life during the Biblical times. The Catholic Church uses the Bible to guide their beliefs, a holy book created thousands of years ago. However, society has changed tremendously since then, and now I believe the Catholic Church needs to modernize their beliefs, especially about homosexuality.

This week, Pope Francis called a meeting to discuss modernizing the Catholic Church by becoming more welcoming toward gay people, along with unmarried couples and divorced Catholics who choose to remarry. Years ago, these situations would have been described by the church as "living in sin"; however, now, more and more people are proving to be tolerant and accepting toward these situations. While nothing has been changed yet, the pope's synod called attention to the issue, and it will be rediscussed next October in another synod. Many bishops are still resisting the idea of becoming more welcoming to homosexuals.

From what I see around me, many people are very accepting toward gay marriage and gay rights, despite their Catholic religion. In 31 states, gay marriage is legal. America is progressing in tolerance regardless of what the Bible states. There are Catholic homosexuals in America today, who long to feel accepted in the church. Just because they like people the same sex as them, does not mean they cannot contribute everything a heterosexual person could to the church.

It would not be the first time Catholics have changed what they value in order to keep up with society. Long ago, marriage was seen as "a lesser path to holiness". It was not until the 16th Century that marriage became a sacrament for Catholics and was fully welcomed. The Catholic Church adjusted to change in society then, and it needs to do the same now in response to tolerance toward homosexuals. Many Americans value religion, but like many other aspects of our world - technology, medicine, etc. - it needs to be updated to keep up with our rapidly growing world.

To what extent does religion need to keep up with society? What would be the effects if religions, such as Catholicism, did not update their beliefs?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Our Past Still Affects Us

In class the other day, a question was posed at the end of the period - is economic inequality today between whites and African-Americans a result of slavery?  After thinking more about this question, I realized that every racial inequality traces back to one of the greatest flaws our nation has had - slavery.  While it is in the past, its repercussions cannot go unnoticed.

The graph above clearly demonstrates that out of all the races portrayed, blacks have the lowest median income during every year.  Whites have an average income almost twice the income of blacks, and Asians are over two times the $33,321 the average African American household made in 2012.  Clearly, there is an trend regarding the income of different races - and African Americans are always on the bottom.

Generally, if a family is wealthy, then the kids in that family will grow up to have a fair amount of wealth, which will be passed down to their kids and so on.  The same goes for families in poverty - it is difficult to break the poverty chain and acquire wealth.  Financial situations tend to be similar for a given family tree.  Generations ago, whites were able to make a profit on enslaved people, while African Americans were forced to be enslaved and unable to make money for themselves.  Therefore, whites were able to start a chain of wealth, while African Americans had to start from nothing.

Graziella Bertocchi from the University of Modena in Italy and Arcangelo Dimico from Queen's University in Beflast did a study on the role of slavery in the U.S. economy.  They stated, "Those U.S. counties that in the past exhibited a higher slave share over population turn out to be still more unequal in the present day."  It is evident that some states exhibited greater amounts of slavery than others, and if these states and their counties are the ones with the greatest amount of inequality, than it makes sense that it is a result of their past with slavery.

Slavery also led to the idea that whites were superior to African Americans, which resulted in better education for whites.  The Soiling of Old Glory discussed the extent to which whites were granted a better education, which would allow them to prosper and obtain a high income.  African Americans did not have a sufficient education and therefore, were unable to secure adequate jobs.  This education imbalance leads to an imbalance in quality of jobs, ultimately ending in a difference of income.  None of these imbalances would not have occurred if whites were not once the "owners" of African Americans, which created the idea that whites must be superior, even after the end of slavery.

Is economic inequality today a result of slavery?  Is there a way to break this chain, or is it something that will continue to be apparent no matter how much time has passed?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Trend or Coincidence?

As Americans, we value many things, sports (specifically football) being one of them; however, this week, there was not much to value about football.  Three high school football players all passed away due to an injury from football in just the past week.  17-year-old, Demario Harris Jr., died on Sunday after being tackled in a football game at Charles Henderson High School in Alabama, and Isaiah Langston, another 17-year-old from Rolesville High School in North Carolina, died even before the game started while the players were warming up.  The most recent of the three happened on Wednesday, when Tom Cutinella from Shoreham-Wading River High School died from a collision that resulted in a serious head injury during the third quarter of their high school football game.

The superintendent from Cutinella's school, Steven Cohen, said, "It was just a freak accident", which I might have believed if it was not the third football death within one week.

In the 1970s, there were 119 deaths from football, while in the 1990s, there were only 33.  Unfortunately, the progress was short-lived, as there were 35 deaths from 2000-2009 and already eight deaths in this decade.  These numbers do not even take into account the indirect deaths that also come from participating in football, such as heat stroke.  Football is the only sport having these problems, for no other high school sports have had any deaths within this decade.

Football has become an American tradition, so no matter what people do, Americans are going to continue to play; however, we can improve the safety of football games to wane the number of deaths each year, or in our current state, each week.  According to the Center for Disease Control, as many as 70 percent of high school football athletes will get a concussion, and the NFL admits that almost 30 percent of former football players will suffer through severe brain conditions like Alzheimer's.   Teenagers' bodies are not fully developed, so their brains are not at the state they will be in adulthood and their necks are not as strong as an adult's neck yet, so they are more prone to serious injuries.  By finding new ways to protect football players, such as better helmets, headgear and other safety equipment, the number of deaths and injuries should decline, making football a safer sport, but still allowing Americans to participate in the classic sport.

Do you think the three incidents this week were just a coincidence, or is there a trend starting to occur with high school football deaths?  Are Americans taking their love for sports too far?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

iOS 8... Not So Great?

I, along with many others, recently updated my iPhone software to iOS 8, which came out with the release of the iPhone 6.  At the time, I did not think twice about updating, but little did I know that this software would cause such controversy and could ultimately help criminals get away with serious crimes.

In the past, both Apple and the NSA (National Security Agency) were able to access to data from one's phone, such as one's messages, emails, contacts, location and call history; however, with iOS 8, Apple is unable to release this information even if they wanted to.  The software is much more complicated.  Previously, NSA was able to decode the details of the phone user and get information, but now the information encrypted in a code unique to each user that is far too complex to be decoded.  Apple did not intend for this to happen... it just happened to be a byproduct of iOS 8.

The problem is our world is so reliant on technology that police have been using data from criminals' phones to gather information to either prevent the crime from occurring or proving that the criminal is guilty.  Before iOS 8, the NSA and police were able to track a criminal's location from his or her phone, allowing them to get to the location of the crime and arrest the lawbreaker.  If the event of terrorists were to enter, the police would have been able to monitor their phones and potentially stop them before a crime was committed.  Matt Blaze, a privacy advocate, tweeted, "If smartphone encryption prevents the police from solving crimes, how did they solve them before smartphones were invented? Anyone remember?"  While this seems logical, police in this era are so used to using technology, specifically smartphones, as a tool to solve crimes.  The police will still be able to solve them; however, without the NSA being able to track down data from their phones, it will become more difficult and less effective.

Now, people are worried that the iOS 8 software might be used to a criminal's advantage, such as a terrorist or kidnapper.  They could easily use this software as a tool to keep their plans secretive and hide all evidence that they committed the crime.  Apple refuses to comment on this issue.  There is no doubt that iOS 8 could potentially be used to a criminal's advantage.

What do you think about Apple creating a software with encryption abilities?  Is this much privacy be good, or will it prove to be a danger to our society?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Please Don't Let Me Die"

That was all the sixteen-year-old boy was able to say after being shot in the West Garfield Park neighborhood in Chicago on September 20.  His wish failed to be granted, for he passed away shortly after in Mount Sinai Hospital.  His life was cut short solely because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and no one deserves to die because of that.

Just thirty minutes away from my home in Winnetka, dozens of people are getting shot everyday.  Chicago gun violence is out of control.  Along with the sixteen-year-old boy, fourteen others were shot between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, and it does not stop there.  Another man was shot to his death just a day later in Garfield Park, and another thirteen other people shot from Saturday night to Sunday morning.  Shootings are becoming a regular thing, for so far this weekend there were at least 29 innocent people who were shot.

The number of shootings in Chicago has raised by 5% in the past year.  Instead of progressing, Chicago is just becoming more and more violent.  Approximately 2,000 people were shot last year, and if we continue at our rate now, the number will be even higher in 2014.  Obviously, something needs to be done to wane the number of deaths and injuries.  DePaul University started a program, in which they work with Chicago ninth-graders who live in areas that are frequently exposed to gun violence.  They teach these children ways to manage their stress instead of turning to violence, in hopes that their generation will help diminish the high gun violence rate. I think this program is excellent and should become a requirement to take a course like this for all students who reside in violent neighborhoods.  These children are not violent, but when they grow up in an environment like the one they live in, violence can become all they know.  It is important to teach them alternate lifestyles in order to create a safer future.

Teaching children while they are still young right from wrong will improve the future, but we also need to focus on improving the violence that is occurring now.  Currently in Illinois, one needs a state permit and owner license required to purchase a long gun and a handgun.  One cannot obtain a gun if one has been convicted of a felony, assault or battery, been in a mental institution within the past five years, is an illegal immigrant or has a mental disability.  This seems to be a good system; however, it was not stopped shootings from happening.  In order to prevent it, people must issue stronger background checks and enforce gun control even more.  The safety of these dangerous neighborhoods, like Garfield Park, also need to be improved to protect people who could potentially be victims.  Chicago's Safe Passage program, which we discussed in class, is helping to do just this and is a step in the right direction.  This program, along with DePaul's program and enforcing gun control, will hopefully all help to eliminate gun violence, but that day cannot come soon enough.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Does "Miss America" Reflect America?

As I was flipping through channels, I came across the "Miss America" pageant and decided to tune in for a little bit, and obviously I was not the only one.  In addition to the thousands of people gathered into the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, millions of Americans were watching it on television.  Unlike other Americans, who live for this day, I could only watch for ten minutes, for I found it both appalling and against everything "America" stands for, to say the least.

The "Miss America" pageant is no exception to the idea that pageants objectify women and place far too much emphasis on exterior beauty.  There are four rounds of competition: Lifestyle & Fitness in Swimsuit, Evening Wear, Talent, and On-Stage-Question.  First of all, how could the judges base "Lifestyle & Fitness" off of how a women looks in a bikini?  There are so many different body types in our world, so one person might live a healthier lifestyle than a woman who does not stay fit and simply just has a faster metabolism; however, the judges will see the skinnier woman as "better" and "healthier".  Also, half of the competition is based solely on exterior beauty (swimsuit and evening wear).  These two rounds are also the first rounds in the pageant, so before a woman shows her talent or her views on life with the question, she must prove to the judges that she is conventionally attractive in order to even get to those rounds.

Some people argue that this competition is ultimately beneficial and better than other pageants, for the "winner" wins $50,000 in scholarship money; however, should women really be granted scholarship money for looking the best in a bikini?  There is more to a women than just her body, and while there are other rounds to the competition besides those based merely on looks, it makes up fifty percent of the pageant.  Scholarship money should go to students who are proven to be exceptional academically, possess a given talent, or need the extra money.  I applaud the fact "Miss America" is given scholarship money instead of normal money to destroy the stereotype that "pretty people aren't smart"; however, there are better ways to get scholarship money than parading around in a bikini.

The winner of "Miss America" eventually goes on to tour the United States to promote the cause she stood for throughout the competition.  While this is a good aspect of the "Miss America" pageant, anyone can promote a good cause.  One does not need to win a pageant to spread word about something they are passionate about and encourage people to help out.  The fact that "Miss America" goes on "tour" makes it seem like it is based primarily on fame, not the cause.

Even with all this, the "Miss America" pageant is still described as an "american tradition".  According to the official "Miss America" website, "The Miss America Organization is a not-for-profit organization that has maintained a tradition for many decades of empowering American women".  Does the "Miss America" pageant really empower women?  Why is this a tradition that keeps returning annually for Americans?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Is "Old Glory" an Old Tradition?

This weekend, as my family and I were walking to the Northwestern football stadium, we passed a house and my dad suddenly stopped and just stared.  Initially, I didn't notice what he was staring at, nor did my sisters.  It was just an ordinary, white brick house with a flag hanging from the side. Finally, he said, "Those people hung their flag up backwards.  It really bothers me when people do that."

"Old Glory" hanging backwards on a house, just like the one I saw.

I am embarrassed to say it, but if my dad had not pointed it out, I do not think I would have noticed it was hung incorrectly.  When I see a flag, the first thing that comes to mind is not the way it is oriented; however, to my dad, he noticed it instantly.  I just walked by the flag and thought nothing of it.

"The Soiling of Old Glory" by Louis Masur thoroughly discusses what is seen as disrespectful to the American Flag, as well as what is acceptable.  More often than not, the area between what is and is not acceptable is grey and extremely controversial.  Obviously, the photo, "The Soiling of Old Glory", illustrates the flag being used in a disrespectful manner, for it depicts a man (Joseph Rakes) aiming the flag at an African American (Ted Landsmark); however, the book also brings up many other possibly disrespectful scenarios, such as wearing clothes with the American Flag on them.  Most people from our generation would say the fashion trend of "Americana" is reasonable, while people from past generations would frown upon it and see teenagers that are wearing bikinis with Old Glory printed on them as disrespectful.  The new generations are certainly overpowering the old though, for if one were to walk into any teenage clothing store they would see an abundance of clothing with stars and stripes.

The incorrectly hung flag made me think, "Who would see this as disrespectful, and who would not?"  My dad, a member of an older generation and a veteran, saw it as extremely disrespectful; however, to my younger sister, she could not care less and probably was not even listening to my dad when he discussed the orientation of the flag.  Is it similar to the idea of wearing the flag where some people would say it is disrespectful, and some would not care?  Does it really all come down to the generation gap?

William Maxwell, a frustrated American, wrote a letter to the editor of Billings Gazette expressing his frustration about how Americans do not know how to put up and take down the flag after he witnessed a flag being taken down at a school without a proper ceremony or even folding it correctly. He suggested that students lack knowledge about Old Glory and need to learn how to care for the flag properly in order to keep the tradition of respecting the flag alive.

In my opinion, the flag should always be displayed properly; however, a lot of people from my generation and younger generations fail to know how to "care for the flag", as William Maxwell suggests.  If we do not learn, who will continue to pass down "flag knowledge" to future generations? I wonder if what is currently seen as disrespectful regarding the flag be acceptable someday...