Is the US doomed?

A new Pew Research Center Poll was published this week  concerning the impact of the news media and colleges/universities on society and I’m not entirely sure why I’m surprised by the results, but I am.

“A majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (58%) now say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, up from 45% last year.”

The poll goes on to say:

As recently as two years ago, most Republicans/Republican leaners held a positive view of the role of colleges and universities. In September 2015, 54% of Republicans said colleges and universities had a positive impact on the way things were going in the country; 37% rated their impact negatively”

By 2016, Republicans’ ratings of colleges and universities were mixed (43% positive, 45% negative).

Now, nearly two-thirds of conservative Republicans (65%) say colleges are having a negative impact, compared with just 43% of moderate and liberal Republicans.

1_8

I’m really curious as to why the increase has been so drastic in such little time. I’m in no way an advocate of everyone going to college. I don’t believe you HAVE to go to college to be successful. Hell, I’m a college graduate (in debt) who’s working at a job that doesn’t require a degree. College isn’t for everybody (and it’s way too expensive), but I’d never say that it’s having a negative impact on society. I think that doctors, engineers, etc and their college degrees are positively impacting society. If we’re talking in terms of personal debt, then I could see viewing it in a negative light, but what other possible reasons are there?

1_7

The other information that surprised me in this poll is how distrusting everyone has become of the media.

Democrats are divided in their views of the effects of the national news media. Nearly half of Democrats/Democratic leaners say the news media has a negative impact on the country (46%) while about as many (44%) view its impact positively.

This marks a major shift from just a year ago, when 33% of Democrats said the national news media had a positive effect and 59% said  it had a negative effect.

Currently, 85% of Republicans/Republican leaners say the news media has a negative effect on the way things are going in the country, up 76% two years ago and 68% in 2010. 

As a person who went to college for journalism, this is hard to hear. Yes, it’s absolutely true that most news sources have some level of bias and it’s fair to question what you hear instead of blindly believing it, but it’s not hard to find relatively unbiased sources.

16195384_10211239651204843_1241847370697932489_n
This is a pretty basic summary that can be found with a simple Google search

NPR, BBC, AP, Reuters and FactCheck  are my go-to sites to check the information I’ve heard from mainstream media.

Please, instead of accepting what you hear from the president/Twitter trolls about the media being liars and “fake news” (which honestly, Repub distrust being up 76% from two years ago has to be majorly influenced by that), don’t just decide to be distrusting of all media. Do some work and find whatever unbiased source satisfies you. They are out there.

Why do you think Republicans’ views on colleges/universities has become so negative in such a short amount of time? What are your views on college? What about mainstream media? Do you trust it? What are your favorite news sources?

 

Immortality, Five Years Later

My first WordPress article, posted in 2012, was titled “Immortality.” Five years (and a ton of writers block) later, I’ve decided to revisit this post to see how my thoughts have changed.

In a sense, we are all crashing to our death from the top story of our birth to the flat stones of the churchyard and wondering with an immortal Alice in Wonderland at the patterns of the passing wall. This capacity to wonder at the trifles–no matter the imminent peril–these asides of the spirit, these footnotes in the volume of life are the highest forms of consciousness.

This excerpt from “Lectures on Literature” by Vladimir Nabokov is a lot deeper than I originally found it five years ago. I had a very shallow interpretation of his words; that eventually we will die and because we don’t know when death is coming, we have to “wonder at the trifles,” otherwise we won’t have time to reflect when death does come. I related this to writing, in that it’s the only way to achieve immortality. We may die but our words will live on; our writing evolves with us and the only way to reach that highest form of consciousness is to continue writing and evolving.

Looking back on this blog entry, I’d like to think my thoughts are much more coherent when put to paper (well, computer screen) now. While my interpretation hasn’t entirely changed, it’s certainly much less shallow.

Nabokov is right: we are crashing to our death from the moment we are born. We’re never as young as we are in this moment, while it’s simultaneously the oldest we’ve ever been and we never know when there’ll be a stone with our name on it six feet above us in a churchyard. While we’re living, for the most part, we aren’t constantly in a state of existential crisis (though it’s certainly a common occurrence). We are “wondering at the patterns of the passing wall.” That is, we are in the moment and focused on what’s happening in our life as it is happening and has happened and we’re planning our futures despite not knowing if that future will come for us.

calvin-gets-existential
This kid gets it

There’s always imminent peril in our lives – just because we aren’t focused on the fact we’re growing closer to our death than we are to our birth – doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. I believe Nabokov is saying that human’s ability to not constantly be living in a state of existential crisis is the highest form of consciousness. We know death is inevitable and yet we are still able to enjoy the trifles, even if they are insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

But this is where I am uncertain if I agree (and also unsure if this is a thought I’ll be able to coherently express).

Is it fair to call events in life “trifles” just because they’re insignificant in the face of death? Yes, we will die. Yes, most of what the average person does with their life will make no difference after death. But unless you are specifically living your life for some sort of afterlife or are doing significant things that will impact humanity, isn’t enjoying your time on Earth the whole point of living?

Maybe it’s because I’m borderline atheist/agnostic and am doing nothing significant with my life, but I believe the trifles are all I have. I wont be able to take anything to the grave (or wherever they’ll put me after I donate my body) so why shouldn’t I wonder at everything? I don’t plan on having children, my family will be long gone (here I am, assuming I’ll live to be old) and I haven’t done anything significant that will leave a mark on the world after I’m gone. I will have no legacy. Everything I have done and will do are going to die with me.

But there’s my dilemma.

Everything is a trifle because it’s insignificant in the face of death while everything is simultaneously not trifles because it’s all I have to live for.

Is there any point of living if we’re only focused on death? Or is there any point of living life when death is the only thing we’re guaranteed?

Existentialism is a bitch.

A Journey Through Time and Space: A research paper on black holes, white holes, wormholes, and the possibility of time travel.

“Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.” Carl Sagan was the man who had once spoke this quote. If we take time to look at the big picture, the human race and the Earth we inhabit really is insignificant when it comes to the whole scheme of the universe. This is one of the reasons why so many people wish time travel and travelling to other universes were possible. We wish to figure out the universe in entirety, and we want to know if we’re alone or if there’s more than our version of “life.” Currently, time travel and travelling to other universes is nothing more than fiction that movies like Star Wars and books like The Time Machine by H.G. Wells have created. However, there are some real, as well as some theoretical, objects in space that could, theoretically, allow us to travel throughout time and space. These objects are: black holes, white holes, and wormholes. In this paper I will discuss what these objects are, how they work, and how they could, together, allow space travel.

A black hole is an invisible object in space that is so compact that, within a certain distance of it, even light isn’t fast enough to escape. Black holes are thought to be born from stars or other massive objects that collapse from their own gravity to form an object whose density is infinite. Once all the dying stars’ fuel for nuclear burning has run out, what’s life is the core; In a black hole, otherwise known as a singularity. The space surrounding the singularity, where the escape velocity must be equivalent to the speed of light is what’s called the event horizon; or “the point of no return.” (Seidel).

Speculation of black holes has dated back as early as 1783 when John Michell theorized that there might be an object massive enough to have an escape velocity greater than the speed of light. Simon Pierre LaPlace theorized not long afterwards that it is possible that the largest luminous bodies in the universe would be invisible (Is a Black Hole Really A Hole?). Black holes really came to light, though, after Albert Einstein developed and published his theory of relativity in 1915, in which he predicted space time curvature; going against Newtonian physics, which stated that all things in space travelled a straight line unless acted upon.

There are four different kinds of black holes that we know of: Static, Charged, Rotating, as well as a Supermassive. All four kinds are made up of the same three elements: The Photon Sphere, the Event Horizon, and the Singularity. There are always exceptions, though, which will be covered in greater detail later in this paper. The Static black hole, which is often referred to as Schwarzschild black holes after Karl Schwarzschild postulated them in 1916. The static black holes are the simplest of the bunch because they are simply defined as having a mass but no electric charge or angular momentum; when something doesn’t have angular momentum, that simply means that it is stationary and doesn’t spin (Research Paper on Black Holes). This type of black hole is said to have one photon sphere, one event horizon and one singularity. It’s also the only vacuum theorized that is spherically symmetric; meaning there is no observable difference between the gravitational field of this type of black hole and any other object with the same symmetry and mass.

The next kind of black hole, the charged black hole, is one which possesses an electric charge. It is said to have one photon sphere, one singularity, but two event horizons. Hans Reissner and Gunnar Nordstrom are responsible for theorizing this type of black hole and coming up with an equation to explain its possible existence. They discovered that if a small charge is added to a black hole, the event horizon would shrink and a second, inner horizon would form just above the singularity.

The more charge that this type of black hole had, the smaller the outer horizon becomes, while the inner horizon expands (Jillian). What happens, then, if the magnitude of the charge becomes as great as its mass? Reissner and Nordstrom predicted that both horizons would eventually vanish and leave a naked singularity. Having a black hole with no outer or inner horizon and simply a singularity would create a problem for those people who would attempt time travel. You would have absolutely no warning as to where the black hole began and you would instantly be sucked in and ripped apart by the hole’s tidal forces.

The third type is called the Rotating black hole and was proposed in 1963 by New Zealand mathematician Roy Kerr. His concept hinges on neutron stars, which are massive collapsed stars the size of Manhattan but with the mass greater than that of Earth’s sun (Kaku). Kerr postulated that if these dying stars collapsed into a rotating ring of neutron stars, their force would prevent them from combining into a singularity. Since this black hole wouldn’t have a singularity, Kerr believed it would be safe to enter without the fear of the infinite gravitational force pulling and stretching you until you were ripped to shreds. Because of this reason, this is the only type of black hole that is used when the theoretical discussion of time travel arises (Bonsor and Lamb).

The Supermassive black hole is the final type. Theoretically, it could be any of the three types: static, charged, or rotating. The only difference is that it is much, much larger. Supermassive black holes range anywhere from one million to billions of times the mass of our Sun (Research Paper on Black Holes).

According to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, black holes (at least the static ones), do exist in space. Applying these black holes to time travel, though, seem to be impossible currently because of his Theory of Relativity, as well as the principles of the speed of light. The Theory of Relativity states that a particle (that has rest mass) with a subluminal velocity needs infinite energy to accelerate to the speed of light. However, to allow for time travel, one would have to be travelling faster than the speed of light, which is currently impossible (Bonsor and Lamb).

A stellar-mass black hole in orbit with a companion star located about 6,000 light years from Earth.

White holes are often called “anti-black holes.” This is because they’re black holes running backwards in time. Just as black holes swallow things irretrievably, white holes only spit things out. These objects would have a negative gravity and emit an extremely bright white light. However, it should be noted that white holes violate the second law of thermodynamics, and are only a thing of speculation (Hamilton).

Karl Schwarzschild not only proposed his own theory of a black hole with his Schwarzschild metric, his system also consists of a white hole and two universes connected by a wormhole (a topic which will be covered in just a few paragraphs).

In order for white holes to be of any use when it comes to time travel, parallel universes must exist. These parallel universes would exist alongside one another in hyperspace (Mendez). They would not be on the same plane of space; there would be no way of reaching them with simply a spaceship because they are not in the same dimension. Since they are parallel, they are in different dimensions, and in order to reach them one would have to travel, theoretically, through a black hole and exit in the other dimension through a white hole. These two holes would be connected by a wormhole, which will be discussed later.

One reason why white holes cannot exist in space is because they violate the second law of thermodynamics. The second law of thermodynamics says that any ordered system becomes more disorganized with time, and so a system which adds order, such as a white hole, is not at all possible (Wojcik).

A wormhole is a funnel in a region in space which connects two different places within the same space time or connects two asymptotically flat times (i.e. parallel universes). Wormholes, like white holes, are also purely hypothetical since it would require exotic matter, or matter with a negative energy density, to hold the tunnel open (Black Holes and Quasars). However, Einstein’s general theory of relativity allows for the existence of these since it states that any mass curves space time.

There are a few different types of theoretical wormholes. The Schwarzschild wormhole has an unstable throat and is connected to a black hole. This theoretical wormhole would be one where you could go past the black hole’s horizon without being torn apart by its tidal forces (Hamilton). As you travel further and further inside, you will eventually be able to see through the mouth on the other side, and eventually you would pass through the black hole, reach the white hole, and be spit out into a different universe.

Another type of wormhole is a Morris-Thorne wormhole. It differs in a few aspects from the Schwarzschild wormhole. First, this wormhole’s throat is more stable, and even though it still has an enormous tidal force at its mouth, it has no horizon. Because of this, it would only require planet size masses, which is much less than the other wormhole.

A Visser wormhole is formed by knitting together two ‘deep’ potential wells to form a throat. The inconvenience, though, is that it requires a lot of exotic matter to keep it open. Unlike a Morris-Throne or Schwarzschild wormhole, the Visser wormhole has significantly less tidal force due to this exotic matter.

The final type of wormhole is called an Ellis wormhole. There really aren’t many differences in this special case from the general case, other than that time flows smoother and the mouth is completely spherically symmetrical (Schimelpfenig).

Since wormholes would significantly shorten the amount of time it would take to travel from one point in space to another, many scientists have theoretically speculated that if any type of wormhole were connected to a black hole at one end and a white hole at another end, space travel would be possible (were these objects to exist).

As with every theoretical situation, there are problems that exist whilst considering the possibility. There are paradoxes, such as the Grandfather Paradox. Also, there are issues like an inconsistent casual loop and a consistent casual loop could occur and need to be considered.

“Imagine, you’re a time-travelling assassin, and your target just happens to be your own grandfather. So you pop through the nearest wormhole and walk up to an 18-year old version of your father’s father. You raise your laser blaster, but what happens when you pull the trigger? You haven’t been bon yet. Neither has your father. If you kill your own grandfather in the past, he’ll never have a son. That son will never have you and you’ll never happen to take that job as a time-travelling assassin. You wouldn’t exist to pull the trigger, thus negating the entire string of events.” (Bonsor and Lamb).

This is what is known as the Grandfather Paradox, and it is probably the most famous paradox relating to time travel. This sting of events is also called an inconsistent casual loop.

While considering the possible issues with time travel, one must also consider the idea of a consistent casual loop. According to physicist Paul Davies, such a loop might play out like this: a math professor travels into the future and steals a groundbreaking math theorem. The professor then gives the theorem to a promising student. Then, that promising student grows up to be the very person from whom the professor stole the theorem to begin with (Bonsor and Lamb). These issues and paradoxes make the thought of time travel an even more complicated possibility.

If time travel were to exist there would need to be black holes to act as an opening of a portal, a white hole, as an exit point of the portal, and a wormhole to act as a link between the two. While it is very interesting to theorize about how time travel could be possible, because of the different issues and paradoxes that would go along with it, time travel is a much more complex theoretical speculation than we had previously expected.

Sources:

Continue reading A Journey Through Time and Space: A research paper on black holes, white holes, wormholes, and the possibility of time travel.

Short scene

I’ve never understood why we have field day in high school. During elementary and middle school this was the greatest day of the year…but in high school? It’s like a long day of outdoor gym class where the sporty types get to be competitive and show off to the pretty girls who sit on the sidelines watching. It’s probably my least favorite day of the school year. I hate those types of guys. I’ve never fit in with them. The only good part of field day is being allowed to bring out own lunches and eat outside. All I brought for lunch today is an apple and a turkey sandwich on wheat bread with a little mustard and mayo. I didn’t want anything too messy or that would attract the seagulls. Why are they called seagulls, anyway? We’re nowhere near the sea.

“GRYFFIN, ARE YOU LISTENING AT ALL? GOSH, YOU ARE SUCH A NERD!” I was suddenly snapped out of my musing on the origin of seagulls when I heard Riley shouting at me. Riley is your typical sports loving idiot type. For that reason we’ve never really gotten along and ever since he found out I’ve been trying to teach myself to play hockey he’s been relentless in his taunting.

“I’m sorry, what did you want?” I asked him, hoping the apology would get him off my back so I could enjoy my lunch in peace.

“Didn’t you hear what Ms. Smith said just a few minutes ago? The three-legged race is starting soon, and unfortunately, you’re my partner.”

Great, I literally wouldn’t have cared if I would have been paired with anyone else in the entire planet. But why Riley? This must be some sort of punishment for something I’ve done in a past life, or something. He’s at least 6 foot 5 and built very muscular. With brown hair and blue eyes and perfect teeth, he’s basically the definition of a “cool” guy. He’s always attracting the attention of the girls, despite being a sport loving idiot jock. We’re exact opposites.

“ARE YOU COMING OR WHAT, IDIOT? LET’S GET THIS OVER WITH.” I set my lunch down and walked over to the field and took my spot next to Riley in front of the white starting line.

“Ms. Smith,” I asked, “do I have to do this?”

“Yes, Gryffin, you have to participate in at least one event today, and this is yours.”

I guess there’s no getting out of this. Riley stood on the left and placed his right leg in the brown sack and I stood on the right with my left foot in. The height difference between us isn’t very significant, maybe five inches, or so, but I’m nowhere near as athletic as this guy.

“If you make me lose this race in front of those girls that are watching, you’ll regret it,” he said to me which a menacing glare.

“Good luck to you, too,” was the best comeback I could think of. I am an idiot.

The Trends in the News Concerning the Prevalence of Entertainment

 

            If you visited CNN.com you would notice that they have an entire section dedicated to entertainment. When pressing that link, you can learn anything about any celebrity you want. They’ve got a photo gallery of celebrities, a page of quotes by celebrities, and even a page titled” “The Justin Bieber Saga.”

            CNN isn’t the only website dedicating a large section of their website to celebrities, Fox News is also guilty. Their celebrity headlines range from Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s breakup, to the most recent drama on New York Housewives.

            Additionally, if you watch television you can watch shows like Entertainment Tonight, Good Morning America or even entertainment segments during local, national and world news broadcasts. If you flip through the newspaper there’s an entire section dedicated to entertainment and there are entire magazines such as Elle, Cosmo, Men’s Health, Vogue and Women’s Health, just to name a few, that are strictly for entertainment.

            Entertainment news can be defined as information about movies, radio, television and celebrities, as well as games like puzzles, comic strips, cartoons and horoscopes. CNN’s website has an entertainment section, Fox News’s website has one, even the Associated Press’s website has a section for sports and oddity stories.

            “The more relevant you make celebrities the less relevant you become,” said Cory Anton, a communication professor at GV in a Communication Theories lecture. This made a profound impact on me. So profound, in fact, that I’ll be dedicating this entire article to how relevant entertainment news in general is in our society and how it is potentially harmful to ourselves and our society.  

            With the accessibility of Cable TV and internet, the supply of media content has multiplied drastically, which has resulted in greater diversity of content. It’s a well known fact that mainstream media exists to make a profit and it’s sad but true: entertainment sells more than hard news stories, so many of these media outlets have resorted to having entertainment segments or sections to increase ratings.

            According to Thomas Patterson in an article from Harvard College titled “Doing Well and Doing Good: How Soft News and Critical Journalism are Shrinking the News Audience and Weakening Democracy—and what News Outlets Can do About it,” entertainment news is weakening the foundation of democracy by diminishing the public’s information about public affairs and its interest in politics.

            Americans devote more hours of the day to media consumption than any activity except sleep and work. If during this time, we are steeped in entertainment and distracted by remote incidence, the contribution that the news could make to the quality of public life is diminished, and possibly unnecessarily. According to the article, entertainment news may actually be eroding people’s interest in news.

            After surveying the student population at GV, 40 percent of the votes (26 individuals), said they preferred entertainment news over hard news. Some of the reasons ranged from not being able to understand hard news, having too many things to worry about in life already, being too controversial to watch, to not enjoying politics.

            One anonymous survey taker said they preferred entertainment news because “life has enough bad news in it. I don’t want to spend my little free time watching or reading something that’s only going to make me feel worse about the world we live in.”

            At the end of the survey, 70 percent of respondents believed that citizens are less informed about current events because of the prevalence of entertainment news in our media today, while only 24 percent didn’t believe citizens are less informed today.

            One survey taker responded: “Depends on the definition of ‘current event.’ If it’s defined as war, famine and pestilence, then quite probably yes. If current events include the upcoming release of a new Justin Timberlake album, it seems people are right on top of it.”

            The most interesting result of the survey was that individuals that answered they preferred to watch or listen to entertainment news still agreed that the growing coverage and interest in entertainment news is a problem for our society.

            “I think [the prevalence of entertainment news] is a major problem. It’s creating a society of uninformed dimwits that don’t possess the ability to make a rational decision on anything important because they’d rather watch a video about Justin Bieber’s DUI than pick up a newspaper and read about what Congress is doing,” answered one anonymous survey taker.

            Another anonymous survey taker answered: I believe that a growing percentage of the population is more interested in soft news. It seems that they do not want to think, or work to make changes in our society. This means that it is easier for others to have their way, be it good or bad, because there is no opposition or watch-dog group to ask questions or point out flaws or better/other ways to accomplish something.”

            Another answered: “Sadly, I do think the increasing interest in entertainment news is a problem. Any time a person lets their brain rot it’s a problem. Entertainment news is sugar for the brain.”

            On the same subject, someone responded “the media force-feeds us entertainment news and yes this is a problem. As a society we are effectively lobotomizing ourselves with this nonsense!”

            Returning to Anton’s quote: “the more relevant you make celebrities the less relevant you become.”  To be a good functioning democracy, the public must have a clear grasp of the daily workings of its government. Entertainment news provides little beneficial political information and American’s are overdosing on stories of stupidity, scandal and corruption. Entertainment news is causing apathy toward politics, which will eventually turn into apathy toward all news that isn’t entertainment. Ultimately, American’s will become disenchanted with their best source of political information and voting and participation in government, if done at all, will be performed blindly.

            The survey I conducted did have a silver lining: 60 percent of responders said they preferred hard news over entertainment news and their reasoning restored some of my faith in society. One anonymous taker responded:

            “I have no desire to find out what crap the celebrities are up to. I want to know what psychotic crap the politicians are handing to teachers now, if a tornado is about to take out my house, or if I need to donate food to the food banks because some politician has decided food stamps are too expensive.”

             So it seems that there is an increasing prevalence of entertainment news in our media today and there is still a lot of hard news coverage. Some believe that the prevalence of entertainment news is ruining our society while others disagree.

            “I definitely think people are more interested in entertainment news but I’m not sure it’s a huge problem,” one survey taker responded. “The people that want to be interested in hard news will be.”

            Another answered “In some degree yes, I think citizens are more interested in entertainment news, but I think the problem has to do with education. It’s OK to like entertainment news more than hard news, just as long as you’re keeping up with the hard news. However, when people don’t understand the importance of being an informed voter, it’s only natural that media is going to focus on entertainment news to stay afloat. Teaching people to think critically starts with education, and our education system in America is so messed up right now.”

            So based off the Harvard article and my survey, it seems like the best approach to the news is watching, reading, or listening in a healthy balance. It’s okay to like entertainment news more than hard news as long as you continue to educate yourself with what’s important. It seems that the prevalence of entertainment news in society and our media only becomes problematic when that’s the only type of news a person watches and when they’ve become entirely clueless about what’s happening in the world around them. 

From Rags to Riches

**Names have been changed for anonymity**

                When arriving at Catherine B’s house, you’re greeted with a hug, a kiss, and one question: “what would you like to eat?” And don’t even think about telling her you’re not hungry, because she’ll make you something anyway.

                Upon entering her living room and waiting for her to wander back from the kitchen it’s apparent that my grandmother loves her family. There are pictures on all of the walls, sitting on every table, inside the china cabinets that line two walls and stuck into the sides of a large rustic mirror of her children, siblings and grandchildren.

                This deep love for her family is different than most, however. The love and importance my grandmother places in her family stems from something tragic that happened when she was just a young girl—becoming an orphan.

                Her father, John Demetris, immigrated from Greece to work on the Panama Canal and eventually settled down in Clinchco, VA, where he worked as a coal miner. While there he met Pearl Stanley and they married and had seven children. Catherine was the youngest child and has the least memories of her parents.

                Her mother died in 1936, when my grandma was four months old. From what she was told her mother died at home in their bathtub due to a loss of blood. It was assumed she died from late complications of birth, but after finding Pearls’ death certificate, it’s assumed her death was due to stomach cancer. Catherine’s father died in 1944 when my grandma was nine years of age. He got into a car accident while driving home from work. He was ran off of the road by a drunk driver and tumbled over a cliff. His body was recovered and he was in a coma for three days but ultimately he died from head trauma, brain damage and paralysis.

                After both her parents passed away she was shuffled between her siblings. She jumped mainly between two of her sisters and oldest brother. She lived with her brother Tom in Virginia until he went away to California to work on ships for the Navy. She was then put in her sister Irene’s home in Virginia. When money was running short, she was given a few dollars and a can of food and put on a train for New York, where her eldest sister Beatrice lived.

                While she lived with Beatrice, she was put in charge of taking care of the children. When she wasn’t doing that, she was babysitting for other families in their apartment complex in the Bronx. It was then that she decided if she ever had children, they wouldn’t have a life like hers. If she was lucky enough to have a family, she would make sure they knew they were loved, they would be cared for, and she would make sure her family was always close.

                Catherine was passed back and forth between the two sisters for her entire life. After World War II, both Irene and Tom moved to Michigan and Catherine went along. Here, she met her husband, Earl B., and was finally able to have a family of her own. She had five kids and while she and Earl weren’t able to afford to feed them the best food or give them everything they wanted, they always knew they were loved and were always close.

                My grandmother knew she had succeeded in finally having the family she always wanted when she got married and had children, but even more so when she became a grandmother. Her five children are all married and have given her eight grandchildren, seven of whom are still living. All 19 of us get together for the holidays and that’s when you’ll find my grandmother the happiest: surrounded by the family she strived to give a better upbringing than she was afforded. 

Violence of Religion

           Cavanaugh’s article “The Violence of ‘Religion’: Examining a Prevalent Myth” gives an interesting definition of religion which he then goes throughout the paper to criticize. He also writes a critique of the secular liberal view that “religion is violent,” which, before reading this article, I had never thought about. The article gave me a new perspective which I will discuss throughout this paper.

            Cavanaugh begins his article stating “one of the most prevalent myths in Western culture” that widespread religion causes violence, or is at least a significant contributing factor in many conflicts of human history. At the end of his long list of ‘violence done by religions’ he says that the definition of “religion” isn’t clear. He says that “religion and culture” often get grouped together but are never distinguished from one another. He goes on to admit that there are numerous religions which support that violence is helpful and necessary but the attempt to divide them into “religion” and “secular” phenomena and claim that the former is more prone to violence isn’t helpful.

            I think the definition of religion that’s being criticized, that religion and culture have become indistinguishable from one another makes sense and there are many examples of it in daily life. For example, when people in the west talk about the middle east, we tend to call the people there “Muslims.” We don’t call them “Iraqi’s” or  “Afghan’s,” which would indicate their culture and where they’re from. Instead, we identify them only as their religion.

            That leads into Cavanaugh’s  main critique of the secular liberal view that religion is violent. On page 7 Cavanaugh says that he’s trying to separate out a category called “religion” which is prone to violence because it’s absolutist, divisive, and non-rational, compared to a ‘secular’ reality that’s less prone to violence, presumably because it’s less absolutist, more unitive, and more rational. He goes on to give a list of ideologies, practices, and institutions that have been known to support violence under certain conditions but says this, which I found to be the most important line in his article thus far: “what is not helpful is the attempt to divide the above list into ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ phenomena, and claim that the former are more prone to violence.”

            I somewhat agree with Cavanaugh’s argument that religion causes violence because it delegitimizes certain kinds of violence (namely Muslim) and legitimates other kinds of violence (namely, secular western ideals). I do agree that certain cultures are delegitimized and I do agree that others are legitimized, but I don’t agree that it’s mainly secular ideals that cause ‘violence in religion.’ Actually, I believe the problem is between non-secular westerners and non-secular non-westerners.

            If we’re going to argue that Muslim’s “haven’t learned to privatize matters of faith” we should also argue that non-secular western culture hasn’t, either. Cavanaugh states that Muslim culture, for example, is absolutist, divisive and irrational, whereas western culture is modest in its claims to truth, unitive, and rational. I don’t agree with this.

            Westerners have a skewed view of Muslim’s. Because of the terrorist attacks and our media portraying Muslim’s badly, we lump all people of the Muslim faith as extremists (and even terrorists). For this reason I don’t think it’s fair to say that Muslim cultures haven’t learned to privatize matters of faith or to call them irrational. If we apply the same standards to a non-secular western culture, for example, Christians, they can also be called irrational and be accused of not knowing to privatize matters of faith.

            To illustrate my point I’ll use the example of anti-abortionists. In the United States there is an underground terrorist organization called the Army of God. It has been responsible for a substantial amount of anti-abortion violence. In addition to numerous property crimes, the group has also committed acts of kidnapping, attempted murder, and actual murder. Law enforcement officials have found the Army of God Manual, which is a tactical guilde to arson, chemical attacks, invasions, and bombings. This group is clearly a non-secular monotheistic terrorist group, so why don’t we view all non-secular monotheists as terrorists (as we do Muslims)?

            To summarize, I do agree with Cavanaugh that religion oftentimes gets confused with culture and that the two are intertwined. I also do agree that some religious violence is deemed acceptable, whereas other religious violence is delegitimized. The point I do not agree with is that it’s the secular western groups causing the problems. I believe the “clash of religion” or “culture wars” are caused both in part by non-secular western groups as well as non-secular non-western groups.

            Going back to Cavanaugh’s critique of the secular liberal view that religion is violent, I do agree. I believe the majority of secularists view certain groups in certain religions to be violent or the cause of violence in the past but I don’t agree that secular liberals think religion as a whole is violent. I’m certain there are some ignorant secular liberals that do believe that all religion is bad because it causes violence but I don’t believe it does. Muslim’s view suicide bombers in their religion the same way we view the members of the Westboro Baptist Church; that is, every religion has extremists but as a whole they aren’t violent or necessarily “bad.”