Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On morality and censorship ...

I'm competing in a law school competition in Minneapolis in February. The topic? Whether or not limiting marriage to heterosexual couples is constitutional. I feel like I'm on Prop 8/Gay Marriage overload. Multiple speakers, panels, and education conferences about this issue have been hosted by the law school over the last few months. It is, after all, the great constitutional and legal question of the decade. So I should be thrilled I get to be part of the discussion. And that I'm required to analyze and argue both sides. But for now, I'm weary of it. There's only so much inner conflict this student can handle. So I was a bit disappointed when I was assigned that particular competition, and not the one discussing immigration reform or student speech rights. I mean, really, who wouldn't want to argue on behalf of a hypothetical 14-year-old blogger who made critical comments about her principal?

Anyway, researching different viewpoints about sexual morality led to finding one blog post that led me to THIS blog post and then finally to THIS web site.

I like this idea. I've always felt a sort of tension between my own standards of what I choose to view in my own home and my support of the First Amendment. I've also defended the rights of people to look at whatever they want as long as it doesn't involve crimes against children. And I don't just mean in theory. In college I got called just about everything you can think of (I think liberal slut was my favorite -- especially because I was working on my mission papers when I got that e-mail) for allowing a lingerie ad to continue to run in the college paper I was editor of. By opposing censorship and protecting the rights of people to look at what I might consider smut, I believe I am protecting my own right to view things that other people may disagree with -- like minority religious or political viewpoints. I also concede that while some of what I consider porn is absolutely trashy, some of it is in a context others may consider art. And I'm not about the government getting involved in telling me or anyone else what is, and isn't, art.

So this approach ... reducing the demand for porn by talking about the effects it has instead of calling for reduction of supply through censorship ... appeals to me. It's felt like I've either had to accept pornography as "healthy and positive" or join ultra-right-wing groups calling for the prosecution of Playboy. I wasn't comfortable with either option. Providing an additional voice into the "marketplace of ideas" discussion (rather than trying to drown out someone else's) while simultaneously providing support for those that are seeing pornography use damaging their real life and human relationships. Sounds like a win-win to me.

I'm not totally sold on this organization. They look pretty new and upstart. And I'm just enough of a skeptic to withhold endorsement until I know who exactly is backing and funding them. Where exactly does the money from their "Donate Now" button go?

I did like these talking points from their site: "We are fighting against the demand for pornography. Through education, we believe people will no longer want to use porn and those with addictive behavior will seek help from professionals. AND "[W]e want to infuse more sexiness into the world. Two committed people together, that is sexy. A lonely, addicted person sitting in front of a computer is not sexy."

I am not on board with government censorship. I am, however, totally on board with creating a culture that doesn't demean women into sex objects and celebrates fidelity in both thought and action.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saw Harry Potter last night. Came home wanting an adventure. Decided finishing the semester might be good enough for now.

I've been thinking about the film all day so I spent a good part of tonight's homework aversion tactics on websites learning about what the Harry Potter kids are going to do next, particularly the charming Emma Watson ... have you seen her new hair??!

She seems so grounded and so drug free. And that's weird for someone with millions of dollars at the age of 20 and lots of fame. At least for us Americans it is. She's roughly the same age as American counterparts Lindsay Lohan and Miley Cyrus, and yet she turned out so differently. Do you think that has anything to do with the difference in American culture vs. British? Or just that these are very different young women?

Anyway, now I just feel kind of depressed for two reasons: 1) I love the Harry Potter movies and I think I will feel partially responsible if my (along with the other 6 billion people on the planet) financial support of the dynasty in any way contributes to the ruined life of another child star. Am I a horribly cynical person for thinking this whole illusion of stability from the young trio can't possibly last? I'm going to feel horrible in five to ten years if one (or all three) of them is on drugs and making the talk show circuit about how all those fans and money ruined their life. And 2) I am going to be the most uptight parent ever. If my reaction to a celebrity only five years my junior when going through their slideshow of fashion shoots over the years is "Put some pants on young lady" and "That is WAY too much eye makeup for a 17-year-old -- you look so much prettier with your hair out of your face" -- can you even IMAGINE how bad it will be when I'm looking through my own hypothetical children's Facebook accounts? I'm not even pregnant yet and I'm pretty sure they already think I'm not cool.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank you ....

"10 year vet," the sign read. "Please help."

The man had a slight smile on his face. He didn't seem to care that we were all trying to avert our eyes. That's what I struggle with the most ... knowing what to do or say when I walk past someone begging when I'm in my dress coat and heels, looking the picture of money and feeling heartless for not helping. He was clean shaven and younger than most of Salt Lake's panhandlers. Too young looking to be from Vietnam, maybe Desert Storm or Afghanistan.

I'm OK not giving the handout in most cases. Salt Lake City officials have specifically asked people not to give in to panhandlers -- instead, asking us to donate our money to homeless services and shelters. I'm not OK with the fact we pretend they're not there ... walk past as if they are invisible, ignoring not only their request for money but trying to avoid their existence as another human being in need as well. So I did something brave and made eye contact and smiled at him. And instantly felt guilty that the smile wasn't accompanied by some cash. Like always, I wanted to justify myself to him with my litany of excuses and the conversation that goes like this in my head:

I'm sorry, sir. I REALLY want to help you but I don't carry cash and I can't just hand over my credit card. You don't believe me when I say we don't have the money? I know it's hard to believe because we look rather fancy. Please don't let the fact we just came from the ballet in our Sunday best deceive you. We could only afford our seats because we bought them with Groupon and you have no idea the student debt we're fighting and the long hours my husband is working to make ends meet and to pay for little extras like these date nights. The fancy coat I'm wearing is a gift from my mom. My husband saved for months for these pearls. Don't look at me like that!

We kept walking across the street and I couldn't get his sign out of my head: "10 year vet. Please help." It made me think of THIS article. Did you know the word "tramp" originated from all the homeless veterans who "tramped" home from the Civil War? Or that Iraq and Afganistan veterans are already showing up in homeless shelters? From the article:

Some advocates say the early presence of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at shelters does not bode well for the future. It took roughly a decade for the lives of Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless. Advocates worry that intense and repeated deployments leave newer veterans particularly vulnerable.

"We're going to be having a tsunami of them eventually because the mental health toll from this war is enormous," said Daniel Tooth, director of veterans affairs for Lancaster County, Pa.


Keaveney said it's difficult for his group to persuade some homeless Iraq veterans to stay for treatment and help because they don't relate to the older veterans ...

"They see guys that are their father's age and they don't understand, they don't know, that in a couple of years they'll be looking like them," he said.

I lived near an Army base in Tennessee for several months, working with families in an LDS congregation. It was at the height of this most recent war. There were men on their third deployment in as many years. The divorce rate was staggering among infantry. It baffles me that many of the people who gave the most to protecting society end up reaping the fewest of society's benefits ... warm shelter, three square meals a day, and a productive job. But in other ways it makes sense. Without a college education, the skills combat gives you aren't exactly marketable in a civilian economy. Culture shock, mental illness caused by the stress of combat, physical disability, and the toll of deployments on familial relationships are not a good recipe for success once you return home.

Today is Veteran's Day and I've been thinking a lot about that man I saw.

If I had had cash last weekend after the ballet, I probably would have given it to him, regardless of the city's request. But we didn't and so I wanted to invite him to dinner. Dave said no. He was uncomfortable with the idea. So we kept walking and he kept on being ignored. I wish I would have run back and at least told him "thank you." Because our veterans deserve at least that much.