Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Last One

I must say that I will miss being required to think about the world and the US, and to write it all down at least once a week. So, in that spirit, I would like to recap a bit and probably rant a bit more--just to keep in the usual form.

This year has been a crazy one. For academia, American Studies, and the Americas. Things are always changing and there are always new ways to look at things--in part, because the prior is true. I must say that I've never been short on material for this blog.

There is one main thing that I think is so great about the American Studies. It teaches you to look at your own, to look at your culture, life, society, history, media, philosophy, and more. Whether looking at it in excluded from other nations or country or in a transnational context, I think this is a great exercise!

If we could all take a critical eye to just some of the narratives that surround us everyday, I think we would find an immense amount of benefit. Certainly, being blind to these things, especially willfully so, is near tragic and it happens all the time.

Taking a critical eye or ear to "the world" around you and all that you are constantly bombarded with every day in the modern world, can only serve to make us better people, better citizens and even a better nation.

The lack of self-critique, may in fact be, the inevitable downfall of societies and countries and civilizations throughout the world and throughout history. I just hope that myself and others have learned the skills to divert such an end.

I am planning on continuing my studies in American Studies next fall at KSU in the graduate program, so I hope to continue to make an effort towards encouraging such criticism and the beneficial ideas or products it produces!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Class Activity Parallels American Studies

Our class activity on Wednesday was quite enjoyable. I think the activity is related to American Studies in a few ways. One of them is the way in which we were asked to examine or re-examine the places, cultures and their meanings that are all around us.

We walk by the gazebo here, the Berlin Wall there, the campus green somewhere else, the statue of the man climbing to the top of the world at another location, and we hardly, if ever, stop and think about these places, these structures, or their meaning. Much like American Studies, we are asked to examine the things we know or believe we know so well. Where we, as Americans are so involved, so immersed, so saturated with our culture, our way of life, and our structures, that we hardly ever stop to examine them.

This is probably my favorite aspects of American Studies. It is so important to re-examine the things we are fed everyday, the things we are such a part of. And to some extent, it can be difficult to capture this mindset or to participate in such an exercise, whether it be self-criticism or the effort to be objective in looking at ourselves, our nation that we belong to in some form or another.

So, we walked around campus and we were made to ask questions! The power of the question! Oh the Socratic method! In some ways, a question can reveal much more than a statement. And then, in another way, we were asked to answer these questions through our writing--a poem, a list, so on. Overall I think it was a very beneficial activity and it correlates to American Studies as a discipline to a great extent.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Nukes and Everyone Else

Throughout the semester we have discussed very little about the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki or the Cold War culture that followed. At least, we haven't discussed things in this frame of the Cold War. We have examined the "nuclear family," suburbs into the 21st century, and so on, but it makes me curious.

We always have heard that after WWII all the American soldiers came back home, thus we have the "baby boomers" and all kinds of stuff. But I wonder even more about the national consciousness and whether or not someone other than Kurt Vonnegut saw the grave implications of what ended WWII: the a-bomb.

I am writing about this now because anything nuclear--culture, industry, science and ethics, literature, history--has interested me for some time and because President Barack Obama has recently signed a nuclear treaty with Russia. It is an interesting move on behalf of both parties involved. And, frankly, I laugh when I hear people say that less nuclear war heads that could blow up this earth dozens and dozens times over, makes the US or the whole world any less safe.

I think we could stand to get rid of a few, and so could Russia. And I would really like to see the congress not actually try to have a 2/3 majority. That is, I would like to see them try to convince me that somehow we are safer if we can blow up the earth 100 times instead of 50 times.

Of course, we would have been much better off if the a-bomb had never been made. So it goes.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Christianity in America

There is no doubt that Christianity is alive and well in the United States--perhaps more than any other nation in the world. At least, it is a part of the usual, public discourse. We see it on TV, we hear and see pundits on TV talk about how the US is a Christian nation, we can buy holy water by way of a 1-800 number, we can watch the pink haired lady go through an entire box of tissues....I could go on.

Ok, but on a more serious level (that is, absent of pink-haired TBN jokes) Christianity is a big part of the US. If nothing else, look at all the immense amount of stuff you can buy that is related to the Christian faith--Protestant or Catholic. That statement should tell you of the American version of religion. But I'm not sure this is such a good thing. In a way, consumerism is the American religion.

I think the author of "Material Christianity" finds the American affection towards materials and materialism, as well as the ones that profit from the sale of goods that represent a non-materialistic religion, as especially problematic. And I have to agree. Some of the earlier incarnations of representations of Jesus or God are a bit more forgivable, but the modern-day ones simply are not. There are just some people out there that you must wonder if they are more intent on selling copies of their own book or getting people to pick up there bibles.

I mean, for example, a friend of mine recently got married and the church the ceremony was held in had a form in the pew that signed you up for direct deposit for your tithe. Ok, maybe not so crazy to some, maybe you are an avid and regular 10% giver as the Bible instructs, fine. This is not a particularly good example, I realize, but it may help put it in perspective.

More politically speaking, it is those that claim to be Christians and are viewed as such that promote the very system that keeps money in the pockets of the richest people in the country and encourages an affinity for commodities and material things--that is, "things of this world."

Either way, it is difficult to pin-point the cause of Christian values being coupled with American Capitalist values, but it certainly is alive and well.