Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Reality Check



Reality is only what people are made to believe it is, is one of the major themes of the novel 1984 written by George Orwell. In his strict practice of doublethink and forcing others to commit to doublethink, O’Brien is the greatest example of this theme. O’Brien represents people in the world who are strict followers of this theme without even realizing it. In reality, people show certain degrees of this theme throughout their everyday lives. The major examples where the theme is found in the world we live in is through the media, elections, and cover-ups made by all different types of culprits.
O’Brien states several times throughout his cleansing or reprogramming of Winston that two plus two equals five when the Party tells a member it equals five. Along with this statement is the process of doublethink that shows the theme at its strongest during the plotline of 1984. Doublethink is a word that comes from the new language of newspeak that means that a person is thinking two contradictory thoughts at one time and believes that both are true without having the feeling of contradicting themselves. O’Brien is the character that demonstrates the strictest practice of doublethink because he is part of the Inner Party and wrote “the book” that tells how the world really is doing while still believing that the Party is the right government and has done nothing wrong. He also helps Winston along his path of reprogramming to be able to practice doublethink without having conscience thought that his thoughts are contradictory. Winston even thinks, before his reprogramming, that it was astonishing how O’Brien truly believed in and loved the practice of doublethink.
If O’Brien was to take a look at our world, he would find several similarities between it and Oceania. Though not to the extreme level of Oceania, people follow the theme in this world by believing what they are told by outside sources such as the media. The media happens to be the largest influence in people’s perception of the world because it is common for people to sit at home and watch the news and believe what is being told to them without even questioning it. Whenever a television turns on these days it is filled with advertisements that belittle one candidate or another in an upcoming election. People listen to these advertisements and start to form a biased opinion about the candidate, which they take with them to the voting polls, and that is how they determine which candidate to support. If I was to ask who killed John F. Kennedy, I would be presented with varying answers of the “truth” about what happened because of cover-ups that circulate throughout our society. Unfortunately, people suffer from these cover-ups by being the scapegoats, while others come out on top and victorious like the Party did as it cover-upped various incidents to make it seem as if Big Brother was never wrong.
O’Brien used the phrase two plus two can sometimes equal five, but it is only another approach to the theme, reality is only what people are made to believe it is. George Orwell does an amazing job of presenting this theme throughout the novel, 1984 by showing a society that could have possibly evolved from some of the totalitarian governments that became intimidating forces during his life. His description of O’Brien’s practice of doublethink brings aspects of our society under a theoretical microscope that truly represents a shallower, existing form of doublethink that controls parts of the world we call our own. Reality is only what people are made to believe it is, is a theme that is strong in our world, and is brought to a strong position in our lives during years of elections, but also can be found in everyday life such as in the media influence. It ultimately means that people are too na├»ve to aspects of their lives and will believe the first thing they are told, which can be a dangerous decision.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

JonBenet Ramsey


“Statistics show that in the United States, 58,000 children are kidnapped by people other than their families each year, and 40 percent of them are slain in the end” (“The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2002”, china-embassy.org). Those who are returned are left with years of emotional damage that they must deal with, but in the case of JonBenet Ramsey the emotional damage was left for her friends and family to work past. What made JonBenet a case still remembered by many today? What exactly happened to JonBenet Ramsey that sent many into stage of grief? JonBenet Ramsey’s case is special for several reasons; JonBenet lived a short life, but a life so different from other six year olds, her death was considered cruel and unusual to many, the case did have several suspects, but has never been solved.
By the age of six, JonBenet was already an experienced model and pageant contestant. She had one over half a dozen crowns including being crowned Little Miss Colorado. Several pictures of JonBenet were of her in her showgirl costumes and bright lipstick that she loved to wear. ''Beauty pageants in particular blur the lines between what is cute and what is sensual,'' (Pappano, “Never too Young to be Perfect”), but those who knew JonBenet would describe her as a little girl with a beautiful spirit and who always seemed to bring happiness where ever she went. “JonBenet was a beautiful and typical 6 year old American child. She loved pigtails, she loved kitty cats, she loved blue jeans, she loved standing on her head,” (Ramsey, “A Memorial for JonBenet Ramsey”). JonBenet is still missed by many whom wish that they could reverse the events of December 26, 1996.
It was the morning after Christmas and Patsy Ramsey was on her way downstairs when she noticed something on the stairs, a ransom note. The ransom note was two and a half pages of anger toward John Ramsey and asked for 118,000 dollars for the safe return of John Benet. “You will withdraw $118,000 from your account. $100,000 will be in $100 bills and the remaining $18,000 in $20 bills” (“Full Text of the JonBenet Ransom Note”, http://www.cnn.com/US/9703/ramsey.case/documents/note.html). Patsy Ramsey then called 911 at 5:52 in the morning, to report JonBenet missing. The Boulder Colorado Police Department arrived and started to follow the terms of the ransom note gathering the money asked for and waiting for the reply of the kidnappers. Unfortunately eight hours after the call to 911 was made, John Ramsey found his six year old daughter lying dead on their basement floor (“Justice for JonBenet?”, http://www.cnn.com/US/9712/ 26/ramsey.year.later/).
JonBenet Ramsey’s life had been taken away from this earth in a malicious and destructive manner. “The murdered 6-year-old girl had a white cord wrapped around her neck that was attached to a stick with the word "Korea" written on it,” (Meyer, “JonBenet Ramsey Autopsy Report”). A full report of JonBenet’s autopsy was later published with objections by the police department. The report showed that the cause of death was asphyxia caused by strangulation. Unfortunately the coroner could not determine whether JonBenet had been sexually abused or not, though there was said to be inflammation of the vagina. The police are still baffled as to who could commit such a terrible crime against a little girl of six (Meyer, “JonBenet Ramsey Autopsy Report”).

Though the case has never been solved there have been many ideas as to what happened the day of JonBenet’s murder. The Police department has always thought of three people who may have committed the murder of JonBenet; her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, and John M. Karr, a school teacher who was arrested for child pornography. Patsy Ramsey was the only family member whose handwriting samples came back inconclusive when tested against the ransom note causing many to believe that she was the one who wrote the ransom note. Though John Ramsey’s handwriting samples proved that he was not the author of the ransom note, he is still under suspicion by the police because he was the one who discovered the body and some things didn’t seem to add up (“Justice for JonBenet?”, http://www.cnn.com/US/9712/26/ramsey.year.later/). John M. Karr, the only non-family member suspected of killing JonBenet was considered obsessed with her and was arrested for her death after sending several disturbing emails to a professor asking him to read them where JonBenet’s body was found. Unfortunately, DNA evidence left at the scene did not match so charges were dismissed leaving no strong suspects (Johnson, “Ramsey Case Suspect Cleared after DNA Test”).
Over ten years later, JonBenet’s murder is still unsolved, but her case will never be forgotten. JonBenet had her whole life before her; she was a pageant contestant on the rise and was known for her sparkling personality. Her murder was a terrible crime that has not been brought to justice yet, but many still are searching for answers. Sadly as years pass by the chance of answers dwindles so that we may never know who committed this terrible crime. We must all trust that JonBenet’s memory will be left unsoiled by the terrible act that brought about her untimely death. Her memory will live on inside of those who knew her hopefully bringing her loving personality to all.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

High School Dances



Last night our school had our annual winter dance best known as WPA or Women Pay All. Normally the dances can be a big drag because we have them in our cafeteria and it gets all sweaty and humid because of all the people crammed into a small space. WPA usually isnt as bad as Homecoming because fewer people attend but it can still get pretty hot. I think that last night's dance wasnt as bad for a couple of reasons. First off, I never actually went into the middle of the dance floor because that can get awkward with all the 'interesting' dancing styles that take place there. This can also be described as the "please get a room" dancing style. Also the cafeteria is in the middle of construction so there is not a complete ceiling which means that more heat could rise upward rather than loom amongst the 'dancers.' I have never really been a big fan of the actual dance; it is my opinion that what occurs before and after the dance is what makes the night most memorable. Getting all dressed up with every detail of appearance done special is usually what I love the most about dances but there were soo many other memorable moments at this dance. My group had a blast taking pictures and going out to eat that we arrived rather late to the dance, not a problem in my mind, and even left a little early to go to our favorite store WALMART!! YAY!! haha. It really shows you that a dance can be fun even if you are not really that kind of a 'dance' person so long as you go with a group of people that can make the night memorable in other ways:)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jezebel and Mammy


The first chapter in the book Ar’n’t I a Woman? discusses the hardships of being a black woman and the two personas that black women were given in the South, Jezebel and Mammy. The chapter starts by referring back to the supremacy white men held over women and blacks. However, white women and black men could in some cases be released from their inferiority by accomplishing a goal such as becoming freed from slavery. Black women unfortunately have no chance of being freed from the myth of white male supremacy which also stuck them with the two personas previously mentioned.
Jezebel was the first persona of black women that was created when slavery originally began and Englishmen traveled to Africa. Once there, Englishmen saw that black women did not wear the several layers that white women wore but rather very little, which was mistaken as vulgar rather than an attempt to stay cool in the hot weather. Jezebel became a black woman who craved flesh and would seduce white men or any man for that matter to fill her sexual desire. Because of this false persona that white men had created about black women, several women slaves were sexually assaulted. Records talk of slave women being given choices to either sleep with their masters or be sent off to hard labor in the worst of field. Some slave women were actually sold as slave prostitutes and others actually used sex to get themselves and their families a chance at freedom from slavery which was successful for some but for most it was a risk that ended up with great pain to their dignity and being sold off to another slave holder. Young slave women often took harsh treatment not only from their masters but their bitter mistresses too. Several cases of mistresses beating slave women often were due to their husband’s wandering eye. Rather than pity the assaulted slave women, mistresses blamed them for their husband’s infidelities and were very bitter about the situation.
The second persona was Mammy, the kind, nurturing and aged slave women who cared for the white children and supervised the big house, is again a misconception. Records show that it was actually the mistress of the house that not only supervised over the house and cared for her children but cared for the sick slaves and slave children while their parents went to work in the fields. There are some testimonies of black women filling the persona of Mammy but the dynamics changed from plantation to plantation. Some women who past the age of field work worked in the house because the labor was less intense but there are accounts of some being abandoned by their masters and left to die like Frederick Douglass’ grandmother. There are beliefs that most “Mammys” were actually not as old as the persona makes them out to be but rather young because they would have to be available anytime night or day which often meant little sleep or tiredness. Making Mammy old in the persona is believed by some as an attempt to separate her from the Jezebel persona and to give the possibility that the two personas could cohabitate in Southern men’s minds.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jamestown


Jamestown was founded in 1607 in Virginia and was the first permanent colony under England’s name. Stability did not exist in the first several years of Jamestown as it went through several stages of successes and setbacks. The first three ships that embarked on the task of creating a colony were the Susan Constant, Godspeed and the Discovery, and on board the Susan Constant was the rambunctious John Smith. Angering his fellow shipmates, John Smith was almost sent to the noose until word was given that he had been chosen along with six others to run the colony. The survival of the colony was later dependent on John Smith who decided that everyone must work for their food rather than being lazy and sitting around the colony complaining. John Smith not only rallied everyone into working for their food but also dealt with the issue of the Natives.
Throughout the history of Jamestown the Natives and the settlers were weary of friendship and often were in and out of truce. John Smith was at one point captured and brought to Powhatan, the powerful chief of the several tribes in the region, and the two became fickle acquaintances that would try and communicate with each other. Smith and Powhatan’s friendship status was usually based on whether Powhatan felt that he had some power over the colony. This relationship between the colonists and the Natives worsened after Smith returned to England leading to several massacres on both sides and the Indians refusing to help the colonists with their dwindled food supply due to rotten crops and an accidental fire that lead to the destruction of part of the city and its food supply. The time that followed was known as “the Starving Time.” Famine struck the colony and got to the point of men eating anything they could get their hands on; horses, dogs, cats, rats, leather, and a wife or two.
The people of Jamestown almost called it quits and was even packed up aboard a ship to go back home when their governor and ships containing ample supplies was seen entering the Chesapeake Bay. Lord De La Warr stayed for a mere ten months before returning home due to illness but his successor, Thomas Dale restructured the colony. Thomas Dale did two things of importance; he did away with the system the colony that resembled communism in the way of a common wealth and he took John Smith’s idea of everyone working and made severe consequences for people who did not work the required amount of time. Thomas Dale was not the only man to increase the success of Jamestown. John Rolfe took the tobacco plant from the West Indies that had become very popular in Europe and combined it with Virginia’s original tobacco plant. The combination of these two plants produced an even more successful plant that grew easily which the colonists quickly planted in every available plot in the region. John Rolfe also helped to quiet the increased violence between the native and the colonists by marrying the chief’s daughter but this peace only lasted until Powhatan died.
Overall the colony of Jamestown could be considered a success because of its ventures in tobacco and its eventual popularity that caused more Englishmen to settle in Virginia. However if you take into account that fewer than one out of six settlers managed to live through the first seventeen years of Jamestown it could reasonably be said that Jamestown had a very shaky beginning.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

BLAH BLAH BLAH!

This song has been stuck in my head for the past week! It is a rather fun song to listen to and I just cant help but dance when i hear it...enjoy:)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Killer Angels


Michael Shaara’s novel The Killer Angels tells of the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War, the battle of Gettysburg. Shaara puts an unusual spin on his vision of this battle by having researched the letters and documents written by leading players about Gettysburg and using them to create a storyline of what was going through the minds of the key commanders. Each section of the book is from the point of view of another man who played a key role in what occurred and the decisions made on both sides of the battlefield.
The book starts out in the mind of the spy that informed General James Longstreet of movement of a Union army that perplexes Longstreet because he believes the General J.E.B. Stuart and his cavalry are supposed to be tracking them, but moves his army south to intercept the Union army anyways. While this is going on, other events are taking place that will end up setting up for the battle at Gettysburg such as Union Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain who received more soldiers and General John Buford hears of approaching confederate troops and stops in Gettysburg and sends soldiers to gain control of the hilltops believing that a battle may commence soon.
Later in a Confederate camp Longstreet meets up with other commanders such as General George Pickett along with the Commander of the Confederate army, Robert E. Lee. Longstreet, Lee’s secondhand man, argues with Lee on whether or not to continue their defensive strategy but Lee believes cutting the union army off from Washington D.C. in an offensive strategy. The fighting begins once confederate soldiers fire on Buford’s men.
More and more generals start to arrive with men and begin to fight immediately with their tired soldiers. The first day’s fighting ends with the union forces retreating to the hills, Buford being blamed for the loss of the day and with Longstreet worried about how good of a defensive position the hills are and also angry with the cautious General Ewell that Longstreet had asked to take the hills so that the union forces could not take them. The next day brings Chamberlain heading toward Gettysburg and Longstreet fighting against Lee, Ewell and another general by the name of Early on what to do next. Unfortunately Lee refuses to go with Longstreet’s plan of swinging the army around and cutting the union off from Washington D.C, the plan Longstreet believes now more effective. Ewell and Early suggest rather that the army separate into two flanks and attack which is what Lee agrees to.
Chamberlain finally arrives for the union forces and Stuart for the confederate forces and Chamberlain’s men start to immediately fight while Stuart is berated by Lee for being so late and off task. Later Pickett’s charge occurs as an attempt to split the union army in two. In the end, Pickett loses over 60% percent of his men and the Confederates start to retreat after their heavy losses. Michael Shaara created an excellent image of how the events of the battle of the Gettysburg started to unfold and became the bloodiest battle on U.S soil.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Historical Fiction


In The Red Badge of Courage the main character, Henry Fleming, deals with an issue that plagued many soldiers in the Civil War: the thought of abandoning their post once fighting commenced. Henry is forced to face his greatest fear once word reaches that his regiment is to march which Henry knows will lead to battle. Henry was not alone in his fears of death as many soldiers did abandon during the Civil War. Throughout the book the question of abandonment and courage are questioned by Henry until he finds his own answer.
During his regiments march to battle, Henry hears fighting in the distance and starts to panic. When they finally do reach the battleground and assemble for battle, Henry becomes trapped in the regiment’s formation and knows that there is no escaping this battle, no chance for him to abandon. After a victory the troops celebrate and Henry relaxes enough to take a nap. When he is awoken from his nap another regiment is about to attack his own regiment and he feels certain doom and flees. The burden of what he believed to be certain death was too much for him to bear. Again this book brings you into the mindset of a soldier who abandons because he believes he does not have the courage required.
Once he has fled the battlefield Henry found himself wandering in the woods trying to convince himself that the men who remained were fools that were about to meet their match. He comes across a dead soldier that frightens him even more so he changes direction and ends up finding a line of wounded men marching. He thinks to himself about how all these men had the red badge of courage, bandaged wounds to prove they were courageous in battle. He finds a comrade who has been terribly wounded and promises to take care of him only to watch him leave the line to die. Another wounded soldier keeps asking Henry of his injury as Henry has now joined the line of wounded men. The wounded soldier and Henry break from the line after the death of his comrade and head for the forest. The wounded soldier starts to lose health but keeps pestering Henry about his wound. Henry then commits another act of abandonment, leaving the man to die.
Henry wanders about in the forest only to find himself back at the battle he had abandoned and the men now retreating. Henry goes to ask one of the retreating soldiers what has happened when the soldier hits Henry in the face with his rifle which causes a bloody gash. Henry is then helped by another soldier back to his regiment where he meets up with his comrade Wilson who thinks Henry has been shot and therefore takes care of him. No one but Henry realizes that he had abandoned because of his new “red badge of courage.” The next day fighting commences again and Henry finds himself fighting for his fallen comrade from the wounded soldier line, Jim Conklin, and takes out this unknown rage on the enemy soldiers. Slowly, Henry and Wilson both become known as the best fighters of their regiment, Henry even replaces the color bearer after he falls which brings even more honor to his name. Henry becomes fueled by anger as other commanding officers call his regiment terrible names such as “mule drivers” and “mud diggers.” This fire beneath Henry gives him the energy required in the last battle where they take control of a fence, Wilson captures the opponent’s flag and four prisoners are taken.
After the final battle the regiment is again sent to march back. Their task has been completed with a great victory. While marching back Henry is again drawn into his head to recap the past two days and his actions of the days. He tries to balance the overwhelming guilt he has for abandoning both the battlefield and the dying man in the forest with his pride from his courage and strength in the final day of fighting. In the end Henry reaches peace with himself and revels in “quiet manhood.” Henry was given a chance that most soldiers who abandoned were not, a second chance without grievance. Since his abandonment was his own little secret his return to the battlefield and second chance at fighting was taken as if he had been there the whole time. Most soldiers who abandoned were looked upon as cowards and often killed for their actions. In the end Henry found his courage and was able to look past his own actions without guilt.