Perfection or Passion?

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.  

 

As a five year old, ballet was my favorite thing in the world.  I would stay at the dance studio until 8 p.m. despite my bedtime being 7:00.  I would use green and pink fabric paint to customize the dance bag my mother embroidered my name on after school.  At home, I would practice opening and closing my feet like a book, as my teachers would say, to work on my turn out.  As a child, I had already learned what it was like to fall in love.

Two years ago, my dance studio closed down and I had to switch to another one.  The studio I switched to is completely different than the one I grew up at:  this one is competition-based, not love based.  Teachers expected more of their students.  The students expected more of their teachers.  I felt like I was thrown into a middle of a bull fight to be the best, and was completely thrown for a loop.   

December 15, 2016.  Studio seven.  Sleeping Beauty soloist auditions.  I am second to last in line and tense on the side of the black rectangular room.  There are shades over the windows, curtains over the mirrors.  I feel the curtains on the side of my arm as I stick close to the wall.  I am here because I want the role of Lilac Fairy in the spring ballet.  I watch as the ballerinas who stand before me in line perform a section of the Lilac’s part one by one.  These are beautiful dancers.  Each of them well rounded in all types of dance and on competitive teams.  All of them fluid.  All of them confident and stylistic in their movement.  All of them more experienced than me and all of them intimidating.

A year ago at this time, I would have laughed at the notion that I had any chance at earning soloist role at my dance studio.  I lacked the certainty in my movements good dancers have and the ability to move on if I messed up a piece of choreography.  I was awestruck at the dance ability of my peers, fifteen, and anything but ready to go on stage.  

Or so I let myself believe.  May 13th, 2016.  LifeAustin Church.  Recital day.  On this day, I performed on stage for the first time in over a year and was reminded why I began dancing as a child.  I was so surprised when I walked on stage as gracefully as I did and even more surprised when the smile my teachers demanded me to have, came naturally.  Though the red and blue lights on stage illuminated all five dancers, it felt as though they were just for me.  Oh, I thought, I like this.  

Soloist results were posted the following week of December.  I looked at the fairy list and my heart sank, for I didn’t see my name.  I reread the list and then saw it– but, not under Lilac Fairy.  Instead, it was typed under “Carabosse.” I had also auditioned for his role, so I wasn’t thrown into a character I knew nothing about, but I was definitely disappointed.  I was confused, too, because Carabosse is the evil and revenge seeking ex-fairy.  Her part consists of dancing and acting, which I was completely unprepared for.  I thought: this can’t be me!

But I embraced the role.  I decided that despite my lack of certitude and evil grace that any Carabosse has, I would be the best Carabosse.  After my recital in May 2016, when I rediscovered my love of performance, I decided that I would take on anything.  I worked and worked and worked even harder in every rehearsal.  At home, I practiced raising my eyebrow to look evil in my bedroom mirror, as corny as it made me feel.  As the other fairies rehearsed, I worked on my jumps in attitude that I struggled with at the side of the rectangular room.  I worked to the best of my ability to be the best.

Because I got this role, I have come to learn a few things.  I have realized that dance is less about perfection and more about passion.  And that this idea can be applied to pretty much everything, except for perhaps performing a surgery.  Because I had to be so confident on stage, I have learned to also be more confident in my day to day.  Since my May recital and role in Sleeping Beauty, I have become more willing to jump into things I am not positive I will get.  Growing up, I was told: “if you dream it you can achieve it.”  But until this year, I have merely heard the cliche saying, not understood it.  Now I look forward to opportunities that challenge me instead of telling myself I am not up to them.    

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The Remnants of Prejudice Presented by Morrison

In Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby, Morrison presents the modern culture of the 20th century through the way in which people are still impacted by the discriminatory legacy of slavery.  In her novel, Morrison uses characters Son and Jadine to represent the differences in cultural identification people of the same backgrounds can have, usually depending on the way in which they were brought up.  On one hand, there is the lifestyle of Son, whose beginnings were humble and beliefs authentic.  On the other, there is the lifestyle of Jadine; the one of modeling, luxury, and great education.  Through the revelation of the personal identities of both characters in Tar Baby, one is able to understand the reasons why some praise their culture and why some deny it.  

Initially, Jadine feared Son and the way in which he embraces his role as a man and as black.  Son and Jadine are much different in their thinkings; Son believes that people of different races– specifically, blacks and whites– should never mix, for that would be betraying one’s race.  It is almost ironic because Son ends up falling in love with a person who does exactly that: Jadine.  Jadine, an orphan who gets care and an excellent education paid for by retired candy manufacturer Valerian Street, feels more close to the white culture of Europe.  As Karin Luisa Badt says: “Jadine has so willingly embraced white culture that she has become, literally, its cover model.”  Because she does not like the constraints her black race and female gender given to her, Jadine left the island where Valerian lives to study at the Sorbonne in France, and since then has come to value the very independent artistic and urban lifestyle.  Meeting Son causes a sense of discomfort in Jadine, for she does not treasure family or historic roots like he does and begins to question her own set of values.      

Because Jadine feels more connected to the urban culture than her own racial one, she decides to move to New York City instead of residing wither Valerian.  To Jadine, the big city means freedom and fewer constraints when it comes to her sex and race, for there are so many people of so many ethnic backgrounds in the same city, she will not seem like an odd one out or any less than anyone.  She will not be constrained by her expected role of being black and/or being a woman.  Son follows Jadine to New York City, but the trip for him is more of a romantic excursion than a place he can call home.  

Son, in fact, hates the city, for he is very innately connected to nature and the world surrounding him.  He, unlike Jadine, very strongly sticks to the social guidelines given to him.  For him the city means an abandonment of heritage instead of an embrace of it: “The black girls in New York City were crying and their men were looking neither to the right nor to the left. Not because they were heedless, or intent on what was before them, but they did not wish to see the crying, crying girls split into two parts by their tight jeans. screaming at the top of their high, high heels, straining against the pull of their braids and the fluorescent combs holding their hair,” (215).  Son disagrees with all the social norms the city has put in place, especially those related to a loss of culture due to fashion and beauty norms.  Whereas, Jadine loves the freedom the city allows her to embody.

After being in New York City for some time, Jadine and Son take a trip to the very small town of Eloe, Florida, where Son grew up.  Son enjoyed being back in his town, he cherishes his roots and all black culture.  For Jadine, the town is “too black.”  In Morrison’s novel, Jadine attempts to rid Son of his “white-folks-black-folks primitivism” (275).  She asks herself:  “How could she make a life with a cultural throwback… and answered No way.  Eloe.  No way,” (275).  Oppositely, Son makes an attempt to bring Jadine back to her historical culture.  To shake her, so to speak, from all the ethnic wrongs the newly industrialized world has taught her.  

The story of Tar Baby comes up during an argument about identity between Jadine and Son during their stay in Eloe.  Morrison likely brought up the story at this heated time to imply that even today, many great controversies ultimately come down to a difference in race.  The story of the Brer Rabbit was once was a symbol of hope to slaves, but now has racist prejudices surrounding it.  Chris Haire’s Bachmann’s Tar Baby controversy and the truth about Brer Rabbit explains there is nothing inherently racist about the Tar Baby story, but it has become corrupted by decades of racism.  By including this story in her work, Morrison implies that hope– like the one held by the slaves of the Tar Baby stories’ time– is subject to become corrupted by racial discrimination and falter.

Son and Jadine’s differences in opinions presented by Morrison show that some praise their historical culture for its authenticity (like Son), while others deny it (like Jadine).  This is due to the ever-present prejudice that does not make the life of luxury as readily accessible to blacks as it does to whites.  Jadine craves a life with of freedoms that are very difficult for those of African descent to obtain due to the legacy of slavery.  Morrison’s novel is anything but neutral when it comes to the racist and sexist norms of the 20th century.

 

Works Cited

Badt, Karin Luisa. “The roots of the body in Toni Morrison: A Mater of ‘Ancient Properties.’” PDF file. This paper presents various themes of Morriosn’s novel and their meanings.  The themes range from “Centers and Places: An Embodied Past,” to “The Politics of the Apple.” Badt’s work discusses how Jadine “rejects the ”ancient properties“ of African people that Son, the African woman, and the night women who visit her in a dream embody,” which is a theme very similar to what I explore in my paper.  Also in my paper, I refer to Badt’s line: “Jadine has so willingly embraced white culture she has become, literally, its cover model” to strengthen an argument.

Burton, Zisca. Bloom’s How to Write about Toni Morrison. E-book, New York, Infobase, 2008. Bloom’s How to Write about Toni Morrison provides information on how to set up an argumentative literary criticism and potential topics for said criticism.  This book tells the reader what to keep in mind when writing a criticism– especially theme, character, form, language and cultural context.  That “context should illuminate the text.” I will be using a question similar to one provided in the source: How does Morrison present us with a modern culture that remains impacted by the legacy of slavery?  (pg. 113) to drive my thesis and essay.  

Haire, Chris. “Bachmann’s Tar Baby controversy and the truth about Brer Rabbit.” Charleston City Paper, 19 Apr. 2012. Accessed 19 Apr. 2017. This article explains there is nothing inherently racist about the Tar Baby story, but it has become corrupted by decades of racism.  It explains one view of Brer Rabbit, and how it was a “symbol of hope… to the slaves at the time.”  I will use the story of the Tar Baby, the idea of racism surrounding it, and the way in which the story was brought up in Morrison’s novel to strengthen my piece.   

Morrison, Toni. Tar Baby. New York, Vintage International, 2004. Tar Baby is the novel I will be basing my literary criticism on.  This novel contains the characters that will be essential to backup my thesis.  In my paper, I will discuss the characters Son, and the meaning of his trip back to Eloe, Florida, and Jadine, and the meaning of her dislike for the same trip.  I will use their very different backgrounds given in Tar Baby to develop my criticism and discussion of the cultural embrace or cultural rejection of being of African descent. 

 

Repeal Campus Carry

Dear Editor of the Dallas Morning News,

 

In October of 2015, the Dallas morning News posted an article titled: Pro-con: Should college campuses restrict concealed weapons?  In the article Dennis McCuistion argues for guns on campus, whereas Edwin Dorn argues against them.  Of the two, Dorn’s argument is the most reasonable and most fundamentally correct.  Guns should not, in fact, be allowed on campus.  Concealed weapons should not be allowed into classrooms because guns drastically increase the likelihood that a student will get wounded or killed (including by accident) and do next to nothing, if anything at all, to avert an act of aggression.  

Senate Bill 11, or the “Campus Carry”  was introduced in the Texas Legislature by Governor Greg Abbott.  The bill was signed into law in the summer of 2015 and went into effect on August 1st of 2016.  

In his part of Pro-con: Should college campuses restrict concealed weapons? Dennis McCuistion makes the argument for guns on campus.  McCuistion argues that while guns do indeed kill, CHL (Concealed Handgun License) holders are not responsible for the majority of the deaths.  He argues that CHL holders are less likely to be involved in shootings than individuals who do not have a concealed license and, should there be a shooting on campus, a person with a CHL may be able to stop the attacker with their own weapon.  There is much information to prove McCuistion’s claims incorrect, but I ask, how is one able to stand for ‘fewer killings’ instead of none?  I simply cannot comprehend the moral reasoning behind this.  

Although we’d like to believe “good guys” with guns to stop “bad guys” with guns, the facts show otherwise; bad guys kill innocent people.  The argument that ‘bad guy’ shooters may be discouraged to use their weapons against their classmates because one of those classmates may potentially be a CHL holder is weak at best.  In an FBI report that particularized 160 shooting incidents in between 2000 and 2013, it was found that there was only one incident where a CHL holder was able to stop a gunman, whereas 21 shooters were stopped by unarmed citizens (The Trace).  Does this not clearly imply that if good does come from one carrying a weapon, said amount of good is nothing that comes from the help of the unarmed?  The Trace also states: Even among highly trained professionals, gun accidents occur with startling frequency. For instance, in the US military, from 2003-11, more than 90 soldiers died from negligent discharges.  Why risk the extra harm and simply not allow guns on campus?

Similarly, guns have had little, if not no, impact on stopping sexual abuse.  In a study done by David Hemenway of Harvard, it was concluded that out of the more than 300 cases of sexual assault in the NCVS (National Crime Victimization Survey ) data from 2007-11, there was not one incident that was stopped by a firearm (The Trace).  In fact, it has been shown by the National Bureau of Economic Research that rape cases have actually gone up 9% in the states that passed laws like Senate Bill 11 (Ultius).  It appears Texas has a pattern of putting laws in place as deterrents, but said laws are unsuccessful.  After all, the Texas Legislature put the death penalty in place to deter people from murder, but that has not stopped.  

McCuistion brings up research he did on the number of deaths caused by guns.  He states: “the Center for Disease Control reports that 33,878 deaths resulted from firearms in 2013. What is often not reported is that 11,208 were firearm-related homicides, 21,175 were suicides, and 505 were accidents.” (Paragraph 11).  This leaves 990 deaths to killings.  McCuistion compares the 33,878 deaths of the years 2013 to the 990 killings in order to make the number seems smaller, seem like nothing when set side by side to the other thousands of deaths.  Sad, is it not?

Also, students, not just gunmen, need to be considered.  Edwin Dorn says: “SB 11 law allows university presidents to create a limited number of gun-free zones on their campuses… my guess: guns will be prohibited in mental health clinics and in laboratories where volatile chemicals are used. However, guns are not likely to be excluded from classrooms where students are discussing, say, whether confederate leader Jefferson Davis should have been hanged for treason.”  (Paragraph 21).  Guns, in other words, can make debates lethal.

I propose that the Texas Legislature repeal SB 11 for the safety of young adults pursuing higher education.  The repeal of this bill will allow students to once again walk into classrooms feeling safe and have more confidence in participating in heated debates.  Their learning environments will be more knowledge-centered because they will not constantly fear potential for hostility in the back of their minds as they pursue their education.     

 

Annika E. Lopez

 

Works Cited

“Argumentative Essay on the Pros and Cons of Guns on Campus: Aiming for Safety.” Ultius, 29 Mar. 2016. Accessed 23 Mar. 2017.

“Campus Carry.” The University of Texas at San Antonio. Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

DeFilippis, Evan, and Devin Hughes. “The Numbers on Arming College Students Show Risks Outweigh Benefits.” The Trace, 9 Nov. 2015. Accessed 23 Mar. 2017.

 

Arguments in George Wallace’s Inaugural address

In his 1963 Inaugural address, Governor of Alabama George Wallace crafts a compelling argument designed to appeal to his Anglo-Saxon audience for the continuation of the “separate but equal” legal policies implemented throughout the South by making references to God, instilling fear, and repetitiously using the inclusive term “we.”  Wallace connects to his listeners by affirming he is “one of them.”  The governor does not make an effort to strongly argue against those who oppose him because he is not attempting to change anyone’s mind.  Instead, his focus is on reinforcing his particular set of divisive beliefs.

The case of Brown V. Board of Education repealed the Plessy v. Ferguson decision that set the common law precedent for the “separate but equal” ideology.  The ideology assumes that the Anglo-Saxton race will live completely separately from other races but both will have ‘equal’ facilities and opportunities.  Brown effectively ended legal segregation in public schools after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People challenged the discriminatory Plessy v. Ferguson decision and the Supreme Court unanimously agreed (History.com).  In his speech, George Wallace makes an impassioned argument against the Brown decision.

Governor Wallace is able to appeal to his white Alabama audience through his references to the Protestant God he shares with his audience.  Strategically he sells both himself and his argument by using religion as a tool.  By appealing to their belief that they are good people because they believe in God, he makes the argument that their beliefs are therefore righteous:  “..the individual is encouraged in his spiritual growth and from that growth arrives at a character that enhances his charity toward others and from that character and that charity so is influenced business, and labor and farmer and government.” (Page 8).  Using religion as proof that separate but equal is part of God’s plan and anyone who opposes the ideology is betraying God, Wallace makes his Protestant audience more receptive to his political arguments.  For example, he says: “It is the spirit of power thirst that caused a President in Washington to take up Caesar’s pen and with one stroke of it make a law. A Law which the law making body of Congress refused to pass . . . a law that tells us that we can or cannot buy or sell our very homes, except by his conditions . . . and except at HIS discretion.” (Page 7).  Wallace implies that the “President in Washington,” who said housing rights had to be equal among the races, is just as bad as Caesar, the ruler who condemned Jesus to death by crucifixion.

By referencing God, Wallace is also able to instill a deep distrust in the government that they are already uneasy with.  Playing on the deeply-rooted Protestant belief that God is to be feared he states: “It is a government that claims to us that it is bountiful as it buys its power from us with the fruits of its rapaciousness of the wealth that free men before it have produced and builds on crumbling credit without responsibilities to the debtors… we find we are become government-fearing people . . . not God-fearing people.” (Page 5).  The governor describes a fear of taxes, a fear of a controlling government, and a fear of not fearing God enough.  Riling his audience through religious rhetoric, he later consoles them by claiming he is the leader strong enough to maintain the separate but equal status quo and keep the non-believing federal government and its forced integration out of Alabama.  Wallace assures his audience he will make certain the Alabama government will not be more feared than God.

Paternalistically Wallace states: “We have placed this sign, “In God We Trust,” upon our State Capitol on this Inauguration Day as physical evidence of determination to renew the faith of our fathers and to practice the free heritage they bequeathed to us,” (Page 8).  He, again, reinstates the idea of God, but also references “our fathers,” to imply that America should be run by the upper class white men.  That is tradition, after all.

Wallace also refers to “the free heritage they bequeathed to us” in this section of his speech.  In essence, Wallace is warning that should (Anglo-Saxon) people not continue to fight for separate but equal, their cultural identity will be stolen away.  The governor begins this argument on page five of his speech when he mentions the uprisings in Congo, Angola, Cuba and Mississippi.  Congo, which had been ruled by a Belgian paternalism since 1908, became an independent republic on June 30th, 1960 (Encyclopedia Britannica).  Wallace references this uprising in order to further the fear he previously places in his audience.  He states: “But the Belgian survivors of the Congo cannot present their case to a war crimes commission . . . nor the Portuguese of Angola . . . nor the survivors of Castro . . . nor the citizens of Oxford, Mississippi.”  (Page 5).  Governor Wallace points out that these uprisings never should have occurred, since white people (such as the French-speaking Belgians in Congo) are superior.  He implies that something similar will happen in the United States; that the Civil Rights Movement will inspire those who are not Anglo-Saxon to band together to make Anglo-Saxons not only a minority, but a minority that has lost its cultural identity.  This creates the same fear in his audience that he will later use to make his audience view him as an arbitrator between what is ‘right’ and what is ‘government.’  Wallace plays into the fear of change to appeal to his audience and paint himself as the leader that will save them from the godless federal government.

Despite using the fear tactic to established his position of an authoritative governor that distances him from the audience, Wallace often uses “we” to connect with them: “We intend, quite simply, to practice the free heritage as bequeathed to us as sons of free fathers. We intend to re-vitalize the truly new and progressive form of government that is less that two hundred years old.” (Page 7).  This connection through “we” allows listeners to feel Wallace’s words more personally.  To view Wallace as a person on their side, an all-powerful figure that will pave the road ahead of them so they need not worry about their futures under him.

Through his appeal to religion and word choices that spark feeling into his audience, Governor Wallace is able to make an argument for the preservation of the “separate but equal” policy.  While the argument for his white listeners is persuasive, Wallace simply reinstates the thoughts of those with his same values, but he is not able to reach to an audience larger than that.

 

Works Cited

“Belgian Congo.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 13 Nov. 2009.

“BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION.” History.com, edited by Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, 1991.

Wallace, George C. “The Inaugural Address of Governor George C. Wallace.” 14 Jan. 1963, Montgomery, Alabama. Speech.

 

Naivety in The American Dream, a comment made by Fitzgerald

In the novel The Great Gatsby, author F. Scott Fitzgerald makes a social commentary on the inherent myths that are built into the concept of the American Dream.  At its core the American Dream perpetuates the belief that, in achieving it, one will attain both wealth and social prominence.  In The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald notes just how deep our belief systems are; that you may find wealth, but everything else is illusory or temporary, and that there is a great divide even between those who have been wealthy for generations and those who have recently earned their riches.

The story is narrated by a Midwestern man named Nick and it centers on his neighbor Jay Gatsby, a self-made man of very modest beginnings.  By the time Nick meets Gatsby, Gatsby is a very wealthy man.  In an effort to display his social prominence he throws exorbitant, well-attended house parties where no one is ever turned away.  As it happens, Gatsby has been in love with Nick’s cousin, Daisy, for years.  Daisy has ‘married well’ in the sense that her husband, Tom, comes from a ‘good’ socially prominent and wealthy family.  However, Tom is a serial adulterer and has a married mistress that he sees regularly.   As the story unfolds, Gatsby and Daisy become (with Nick’s help) reacquainted and begin an affair.  Tom discovers the affair during an outing to the city with a group of friends.  On the same day Tom also discovers that his mistress will be moving across the country and he will no longer see her.  Angry, yet knowing Daisy will never leave him because he is the one with ‘old’ money and secure social prominence he sends Daisy and Gatsby home in Gatsby’s car.  On the way back Daisy is driving and she is involved in a hit and run that kills Tom’s mistress.  Tom tells his mistress’s grieving husband that Gatsby killed his wife and the husband murders Gatsby before taking his own life.  At the end of the story Nick finds no one at the funeral except himself and Gatsby’s father.  No one that Gatsby every opened his house to or socialized with attends his funeral.  The man was forgotten before he was even laid to rest.      

People with “Old Money,”or inherited money, do not regard people with “New Money” as morally equal to them.  This is the reason many newly successful people were still not regarded with the same respect as those with wealthy ancestors in The Great Gatsby, even if they had the same amount of wealth.  Tom Buchanan, a character with “Old Money,” is introduced to the reader very early in the text.  Narrator Nick describes him by saying: “His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed.  There was a touch of paternal contempt in it, even toward people he liked…” (page 7).  Tom is described as “parental” because he believes he has power over those around him– like parents have power over their children– due to his vast amount of money.  He even believes he is more worthy of something– power, most likely– than those who he considers his friends.   

Despite his lavish parties, Gatsby never fit in with the wealthy crowd.  As a child, Gatsby
grew up on the lower end of the social ladder because of his parents’ lack in money.  As a teen, Gatsby– in his embodiment of the American dream– set out to move his way up this ladder by means of earning much more than his parents.  He found much of his wealth in selling illegal liquor, a fact that was rudely brought to light by Tom during an argument:  ‘“I found out what your ‘drug-stores’ were.” He turned to us and spoke rapidly. “He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That’s one of his little stunts. I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him, and I wasn’t far wrong,”’ (page 133).  In his fit of temper, Tom uses “bootlegger” with a negative connotation and implies that Gatsby’s money is worth less than his own because Gatsby was not born with it.  

For this same reason, Daisy will choose Tom over Gatsby.  It can be argued that Daisy choose Tom because she loved him most– at least, most recently– or she knew it was the proper thing not to leave her husband for a man she longed for in her youth.  However, it is made clear through Daisy’s quick decision to marry Tom and through Tom’s comment on Gatsby’s eternal lack of true riches: “She’s not leaving me!”  Tom’s words suddenly leaned down over Gatsby.  “Certainly not for a common swindler who’d have to steal the ring he put on her finger,” (page 133), that this argument is simply not valid.  Despite being well aware of the sum of money Gatsby owns at the time of his outburst, Tom speaks to Gatsby as if he is worth much less than him, as a crook, because Gatsby’s money is “New,” whereas Tom and Daisy’s money is “Old.”  This outburst represents many feelings of enmity felt by those of the “Old Money” upper class when it came to those with newfound wealth.  It is arguable that Gatsby– a subject to the bigotry himself– would not have found Daisy attractive had she not had the money she did.

The Great Gatsby does an excellent job at portraying the immense effort those born with no wealth put into their fabulous facade to appear wealthy through Gatsby’s character.  At the beginning of the novel, Gatsby is seen as impressive and influential, as wealthy people are.  However, as the story continues to unfurl, the reader is able to see behind Gatsby’s mask and comes to realize that he depends on this said mask for all his ways of life.  That if he were to let this mask falter, no one would regard him as having any prestige or high on the social scale.  This leads to the question: are the fates of one’s class determined at birth?

In The Great Gatsby, author F. Scott Fitzgerald comments on the naivety that comes with believing in the American Dream; the naivety in the belief that one can work his or her way up ­­the social ladder through performing well in their career.  The reality is, prior to World War II, the fates of most were determined from their birth rights, and their status (or lack thereof) at birth decided the level of success one would be able to obtain in life.

 

Rhetorical Analysis on Michelle Obama’s Speech on Donald Trump’s Alleged Treatment of Women

Michelle Obama’s speech regarding Donald Trump’s treatment of women is a political speech.  The speech was given in Manchester, New Hampshire within a week of the release of an Entertainment Tonight video that shows Donald Trump proudly proclaiming he tried to get a married woman to have sex with him and then bragging about sexually abusing “beautiful” women in general.   Michelle Obama’s speech was one in a line of many that the First Lady has given to support and campaign for Hillary Clinton for president.   The audience for this particular speech was primarily women.  The message of the speech is to caution and warn women that Trump’s bragging of sexually assaulting women is not something to be disregarded or ignored because it is so damaging.   Logos and Ethos are commonly used in the speech.
The First Lady’s tone at the beginning of the speech is both personal (as if she is talking to a small group) and friendly.   To draw-in her audience while at the same time making herself both approachable and relatable, she uses words like you, your, I, we and us.   These inclusive words humanize and personalize the story she is telling.  Her words encourage her audience (voters) to relate to her as a woman, a mother, and an ordinary American citizen.  She makes herself one of them, rather than portraying herself as one of the most influential people in the United States of America (therefore, arguably, the world).

 

The First Lady begins her speech by describing the advances made in educating women throughout the world.  She discusses how just that week at the White House she had hosted a celebration of girls.  The story draws-in her audience and makes them feel happy for the girls and proud of the strides women have made.  In her next breath she suddenly and starkly notes the difference between her experience with these ‘amazing’ girls to Donald Trump’s demeaning and disrespectful treatment of women.  Noting how Trump’s language is hurtful to her as a parent and as a woman, it has no place in a civil society.   She notes this without ever mentioning Donald Trump by name.  Arguably not naming him is even more powerful since (although we all know to whom she is referring) the inference is that anyone who speaks those words is despicable because they are words that harm not just women and girls but also damage what should always be a dignified and civil American society.   Her words are powerful and although she is appealing to mothers, her words are relatable to a much broader audience.
Mrs. Obama then begins to use words such as shameful, disrespect, sick, and vulgar to describe what was said by “a candidate for President.”   She allows these words and Trump’s actions to speak for him:

 

The fact is that in this election, we have a candidate for President of the United States who, over the course of his lifetime and the course of this campaign, has said things about women that are so shocking, so demeaning that I simply will not repeat anything here today. And last week, we saw this candidate actually bragging about sexually assaulting women. And I can’t believe that I’m saying that a candidate for President of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women.
Michelle uses pathos (emotions) to appeal to women voters in her speech.  She describes the common, yet chilling, incidents that occur every day in a woman’s life – and very likely has happened to ever single woman listening to her speech at one time or another.   She uses his words and examples to powerfully remind voters that Trump’s words and actions are so very, very wrong and exceptionally harmful not only to women, but to our society.  Her words spark recognition for every woman listening and trigger understanding from both sexes.

 

It is cruel. It’s frightening. And the truth is, it hurts. It hurts. It’s like that sick, sinking feeling you get when you’re walking down the street minding your own business and some guy yells out vulgar words about your body. Or when you see that guy at work that stands just a little too close, stares a little too long, and makes you feel uncomfortable in your own skin.

 

She continues:

 

We thought all of that was ancient history, didn’t we? And so many have worked for so many years to end this kind of violence and abuse and disrespect, but here we are in 2016 and we’re hearing these exact same things every day on the campaign trail. We are drowning in it. And all of us are doing what women have always done: We’re trying to keep our heads above water, just trying to get through it, trying to pretend like this doesn’t really bother us maybe because we think that admitting how much it hurts makes us as women look weak.

 

The First Lady’s words are very effective in relating to her female audience members.  By using the 2016 date, she is indicating that such words have not been acceptable in American society for decades (or at least a very long time).  By noting all of us are doing what women have always done she is commenting on the commonality in all women, no matter the race, economic status, or education level.  All women “deal” with sexist issues and not a single woman wants to appear weak when faced with it.
Offering hope, Michelle then switches the topic to Hillary Clinton.  In a positive tone, she describes why Secretary of State Clinton will be one of the greatest leader’s in our nation’s history.  By making her speech personal before transitioning to talking about Hillary, Michelle creates a sense of understanding between herself and her audience.   The audience is more attentive and therefore more tuned in and more willing to accept what she has to say about the merits of Hillary Clinton.  She continues to make the speech personal by the use of the word we and relatable by use of terms such as values and teach.    While it is likely the majority of the audience was already Hillary supporters, Mrs. Obama’s speech could only solidify their views:
I’m here today because I believe with all of my heart that Hillary Clinton will be that President. See, we know that Hillary is the right person for the job because we’ve seen her character and commitment not just in this campaign, but over the course of her entire life. The fact is that Hillary embodies so many of the values that we try so hard to teach our young people.

Throughout the speech, Michelle Obama emphasizes that Trumps words are not “typical locker-room talk” as Donald Trump, his surrogates, and supporters claim.  Michelle Obama’s adamant message underscores the importance of never forgetting that words can hurt emotionally and spur others to do physical harm.   She maintains it is imperative that women are not seen as or treated as objects or unequal to men.  She suggests that women will be treated as objects and physically harmed if Trump is elected because he will be the most powerful man on earth and he will have an impact on how society treats and views women.

 

This is not something that we can ignore. It’s not something we can just sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season. Because this was not just a “lewd conversation.” This wasn’t just locker-room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior, and actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language so obscene that many of us were worried about our children hearing it when we turn on the TV.

From the very first sentence of her speech, the First Lady clearly established her authority but does not rely on it to keep her audience attentive.  Instead, she uses her position as a woman, a mother, and a (onetime) working professional, in today’s society to connect herself to her audience.  The speech is personal and relatable and the words she uses are compelling, and powerful.

Miserable Minds; A Response to Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen”

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“Everyday, normalized racism is crazy bad because it’s something that everybody, myself included, says and does and it’s not okay because everybody does it.  It’s a problem…  When people tell me I’m ‘pretty for a black girl’– that’s not nice.  That’s not a compliment.  That’s rude, it’s backhanded.  And when people are like, ‘well, you sound white’ or something like that, it’s not a compliment, it’s racist.”  Alyssa C.

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“Sometimes you sigh.  The world says stop that.  Another sigh.  Another stop that.  Moaning elicits laughter, sighing upsets.  Perhaps each sigh is drawn into existence to pull in, pull under, who knows; truth be told, you could no more control those sighs than that which brings the sighs about.” Citizen pg. 59

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“The world is wrong.  You can’t put the past behind you.  It’s buried in you; it’s turned your flesh into its own cupboard.  Not everything remembered is useful but it all comes from the world to be stored in you.  Who did that to whom on which day?  Who said that?  She said what?  What did he just do?  Did she really just say that?  He said what?  What did he do?  Did I hear what I think I heard?  Did that just come out of my mouth, his mouth, your mouth?  Do you remember when you sighed?” Citizen pg. 63

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“[Citizen] was just just trying to explain racial issues.  Not tell you that people are racist, but tell you that racism exists and that it’s there.  And even if you think it doesn’t, there’s a whole list of things even athletes like Serena Williams–who we all think is so privileged because she got to be an athlete–still have to go through.”  Julie A-B.

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“Yes, and the body has memory.  The physical carriage hauls more than its weight.  The body is the threshold across which each objectionable call passes into consciousness– all the unintimidated, unblinking, and unflappable resilience does not erase the moments lived through, even as we are eternally stupid or everlastingly optimistic, so ready to be inside, a part of the games.” Citizen pg. 28

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“Yours is a strange dream, a strange reverie.  No, it’s a strange beach; each body is a strange beach, and if you let in the excess emotion you will recall the Atlantic Ocean breaking on our heads.” Citizen pg. 73

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“[The quote from Citizen]; ‘I feel most colored against a white background’ is really metaphorical to me but also really relevant because it doesn’t just apply to black people, it applies to all people of color.  As a Mexican-American person of color, I’ve been in situations or I’ve known of situations where in an environment of mostly white people and minority Mexican, the white people will see themselves as superior or say things that undermine the minority race, even if they don’t mean it intentionally.  The sad thing is that our society has shaped people to be this way and my hope is that we stop using color to create negative relationships. ” Carmen W.

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“Language that feels hurtful is intended to exploit all the ways that you are present.  Your alertness, your openness, and your desire to engage actually demand your presence, your looking up, your talking back, and, as insane as it is, saying please.” Citizen pg. 49

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“And still a world begins its furious erasure– Who do you think you are, saying I to me?  You nothing.  You nobody.  You.” Citizen pg. 142

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“Everyday racism affects a lot of people.  Even though we might not notice it, it’s still going on right now and even the little [racist actions] can affect somebody.” Esperanza D.

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“You are you even before you grow into understanding you are not anyone, worthless, not worth you.  Even as your own weight insists you are here, fighting off the weight of nonexistence.” Citizen pg. 139

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“What feels more than feeling?  You are afraid there is something you are missing, something obvious.  A feeling that feelings might be irrelevant if they point to one’s irrelevance pulls at you. ” Citizen pg. 152

 

The worst injury is feeling you don’t belong so much

 

To you–

 

Citizen pg. 146

 

Artist’s Statement

 

We are our own support system, our own friend we have conversations with in our head as we ponder, our own motivator, our own ally.  But often, our own contradictor, discourager, bully.  Everyday, we have two choices; to impede or to galvanize ourselves.  We would like to choose the latter everyday, however, sometimes our physical circumstances and/or the people in our lives do not allow us to do so.

The more the happenings around us affect us, the more difficult it becomes to remain positive.  Racist comments–intentional or not–are said every day, and because of their abundance, they have become a norm.  This scares me, because I know how much of an impact words can have on the mentality of a person.  

In most cases, when people do voice their opinions on acts of racism, we do not stop what we are doing to thoughtfully listen or engage despite having an opinion or connection to what they are saying.  Because of this, I have decided to voice the thoughts and stories of people like this.  I have taken portraits of four students in our junior class and collected quotes from each.  The collected quotes have to do with each person’s favorite topic brought up in Citizen and why it is their favorite, or how it relates to them.  Personally, my favorite topic brought up in the book was that on the effect words have on people and how these words can alter a person’s view of their self image and self worth.  My hope is that now people will get a chance to listen to the voices of some of our peers, consider how their words are relatable or unrelatable to them and why, and get a better understanding of the world today.

Along with the photographs and quote from each student, I have included two excerpts from Citizen that relate to what was discussed in the student’s words, and also relate to the mental destruction being treated as “less than” has on a person.  

I intend the audience to be middle and high school students who know words matter, but don’t necessarily understand why.  Or, middle and high school students who have been the victims of discrimination or whose self image has been beaten down by verbal attacks and would like a piece that can speak for them if they do not feel they are able to express their feelings at this time.     

 

“Citizen” Response Proposal

I will be communicating my response to Citizen by Claudia Rankine through a series of original portraits  with quotes from the book and the people I photograph as captions, and an artist’s statement.  The quotes from the students will be on their favorite topic brought up in Citizen and why, or how it relates to them.  My focus will be on the mental destruction being treated as “less than” has on a person.  I want to express the effect words have on people and how these words can alter a person’s view of their self image and self worth.  I intend the audience to be middle and high school students who know words matter, but don’t necessarily understand why.  Or, middle and high school students who have been the victims of discrimination or whose self image has been beaten down by verbal attacks and would like a piece that can speak for them if they do not feel they are able to express their feelings at this time.     

Up-Front in Daily Consciousness

The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness.  Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay.  Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.  And so on.  

David Wallace

 

In this quotation from David Wallace’s 2009 novel, This is Water, Wallace presents the idea that the more one desires a perceived strength, the harder it is to believe they have it within themselves.  The more one begins to idolize an ability or competence the more difficult it becomes to reach.  I agree with Wallace’s words.  In my life I have admired many people.  People who can effortlessly write well and draw beautiful pieces, good runners, dancers, photographers, and people who are good at math.  I idolize them because one day I hope to be as good as they are.  But I have to be careful not to let their talent intimidate or inhibit my own.

Wallace’s quote emphasises the fact that when someone excessively begins to look up to someone else or wants to be/have something, it could begin to control them.  I am a very competitive person, and it is often difficult for me to understand the line between a goal and an obsession.   

Wallace’s quote points out the danger in crossing said line.  Wallace makes it clear that while we should always strive to be the best, we may not always get to be the best, and that is okay as long as it doesn’t get into our head and we keep working.  Some may believe this quote does not convey the idea that we have to continue working after either reaching or missing our goal, but I believe it is implied in the “The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness,. because if we do not strive for our goals daily, what’s the point of setting them in the first place?

I have to learn to accept that there will always be a better dancer in my class, a better runner at the cross country meet, and a better photographer and copy-writer at the journalism conference.  Wallace’s quote lets us to realize the presence of someone else’s talent does not indicate the lack of our own.   The danger lies in not believing in our own talents because we are obsessed with other’s who we perceive to have more.  Jealousy can destroy our own abilities while at the same time eroding our self-confidence.     

Whimsical Winsomeness

Four year old me thought ballet class was pointless; having to go every week was a drag.  I despised it when my instructors would tell me to think of my feet as books, to think of my heels as the pages opening as I “turned out,” because obviously they were not books, but I had to do what my instructors said.  Many teachers of mine would sigh and shake their heads as they wondered why I refused their various critiques.  Can you believe my naivety?  Although dancing makes me incredibly tired, I would be even more drained if I didn’t do it. Oh, what a beautiful bliss there is in letting the red and blue lights of a contemporary dance class soak into you and allowing the powerful purple they create to be released through movement.  I can fly when my bare feet jump and turn on the Marley flooring.  Fly!  When the music is played, my mind clears.  From the exhaustion comes energy, and that energy is exhilarating.  My dance mates and I move as one but we are all so different.

A collective breath, a collective release.  Power and indulgence.