Commencement Speech

If I gave the commencement speech at my graduation, this is how I would start:

“Despite the many hardships, the monumental challenges, the numerous distractions — you’ve made it. You have the degree. But now what? There is no better way to think about the future than to think about the future. So think about this: you are giving a speech before the entire IU graduating class at commencement. Your theme is the future of the graduating class after graduation. What would you say?”

Not a Eulogy

Friends, family, and frequenters of this blog: I’ve gathered you here not to talk about one of the many careless atrocities of this world, but rather something positive, something that I hope speaks true to all of us like the words of Ghandi did to his followers. Those with a sharp mind will understand that I am not talking about a person — no politician can capture the ideologies of everyone. I am here in thanks of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

Alas, friends, some of you may not be familiar with the name; but I assure you that you’ll recognize the tune. And that, truly, is where the beauty of Beethoven’s Fifth comes from. It’s ubiquity, it’s familiarity create a universal recognition for just three notes.

To me, Beethoven’s Fifth is a lot like soccer (or football for my European friends). From Ghana to Russia, Mexico to North Korea, America to Italy, everybody is familiar with the game. And this familiarity brings us, as a world, as people, together.

 

Make love, not war

This ideanode — “make love, not war” — is strong for many reasons. The phrase conjures up different thoughts for different people. Some common ones: the Vietnam war, hippies, Woodstock, death, life, peace, happiness. Herein lies the power of this short phrase. Just seeing it on the back of a car can make someone ponder the tragedies of war. Additionally, the phrase contrasts “love” with “war”, implying that they are natural opposites. “Love” brings up positive connections for people — sex, families, friends — while “War” does the opposite — death, loss, suffering. It is the strong symbolic power of the phrase that lends it such meaning and emotion in such few words.

The wall

The idea of “The Wall” in between the U.S and Mexico taps into a broad ideoplex of values. For me, it conjures up images of seedy-looking Mexicans, the idea of American safety over all else, and a symbol of strong government. In other words, it taps into my implicit racial bias and my subconscious desire for an authoritarian government who places value on only its own people. I think it’s clear from this why this ideology is dangerous — it promotes racism and undermines democracy.

 

This I believe.

This I believe — that killing animals is wrong. The values and practices of vegetarianism are fairly straightforward. The vast majority of vegetarians hold the idea that killing animals is wrong, although others practice vegetarianism for environmental or health reasons. The practice is simple: you don’t eat meat.

Incidentally, I support the practices of renewable energy use, recycling, catalytic converters mandation,  and personal energy efficiency. These practices support the ideology of environmentalism. There are strong images that go along with these practices — the recycle triangle, the tree with leaves consisting of environmentally friendly practices,  and, most ubiquitously, the color green.

 

“Violence in video games leads to violence in real life.” I’ll be discussing this statement, which is not an analogy (Dr. Arthos claims that there is an A:B :: A:C analogy here but I cannot find one (perhaps “violence is to video games as violence is to real life?” I’m not convinced).

Let’s preface the discussion with this thought experiment: If Hitler had been accepted into art school, would the Holocaust have happened? Or would he have settled down, raised a family, and been a good Samaritan?


Yes, violence in video games obviously leads to violence in real life. Kids are naive. Kids that get abused abuse their kids. The brain of a child is like a sponge. It soaks up everything that it comes in contact with. Call of Duty? Sure, let’s let our kids play a game glorifying murder, violence, and gore!

Trump says that America is the most violent its ever been (just take a look at Chicago — you walk to the store, you get shot.) 10 years ago, parents didn’t let their 10 year old kids play Call of Battlefield or Duty. It’s a shame, really. I know best of all (I come from a family of 12) how easily kids are corrupted. This is a travesty. This needs to stop.

 

 

 

A Sign of the Times

 

Donald Trump won the Republican seat (fairly) and has a fair chance of becoming our next President.

What does this tell us about us?

First, notice that Trump would most likely not have gotten this far if he were campaigning in any other voting year in recent history. Thus, something special is going on today that allows the Man to be so popular.

A likely reason is that people are simply fed up with how America is doing. More specifically, this probably has to do with the declining middle class — the middle class has long been attainable in America by hard work, or so we believed (see: The American Dream). Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” implies that America is no longer Great — perhaps because of a declining middle class?

In short, Trump’s success comes from the fact that he is different from the other canidates in so many ways (outsider, arrogant, personally extremely wealthy, not politically correct).

A disappointing moment in my life

Once when I was a wee lad, my Pappy and I got a-talking. Talking, not of toys, candy, or people, but of freedom, since of course I was a wee lad 16 years of age, and I had freed him (he being the thirsty adolescent hiding inside) but not freedom. It was 11 or so at night — I wanted the car, to go far and see stars with a girl (and perhaps even bring a bit of homemade juice in a mason jar, or my person bar as I liked to call it). The issue of course being that it was 11 or so at night and I was a wee lad of 16, under the protection of my great father. So when I asked the task ( “Father, could I perhaps blast off fast (in the vehicle of light mass)?” ) excuses came ( “There is no gas” etc. ) but obvious it was (my father had no tact) that it was too late (11 o’ clock !) for a wee lad of 16 like myself to go out gallivanting.

Now, in my mind, I play an alternate reality. When Daddy was younger he was a real sensualist. A bit like myself (a chip of the old block). And I knew that. So maybe, an opener to get him on my side: “Remember when you were a young lad? Did you ever get called (on the home phone, of course) by a nice girl? A girl, perhaps, in a different neighborhood?” Then, maybe, he would remember his days of virility and become compassionate again.

Op Ed

The U.S Food Pyramid actually recommends an unhealthy diet, one that promotes a heavy grain diet(some people actually believe that this is due to the corn lobby) when healthier diets have been found. Of course, it can be difficult to recommend one diet when there is so much conflicting evidence, but experts nevertheless tend to think that the Food Pyramid is not a good guide for health.

An article by Harvard’s Public Health department (https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/mypyramid-problems/)

criticizes the Food Pyramid for a multitude of reasons. First, it reccomends a low fat diet, and fails to mention that some fats are actually very healthy, such as omega-3 fats found in fish (this is why people take fish oil), as well as polyunsaturated fats that can come from a variety of sources. Harvard also criticizes it for grouping “healthy proteins (fish, poultry, beans, and nuts) into the same category as unhealthy proteins (red meat and processed meat), and overemphasiz[ing] the importance of dairy products.” Again, some believe this is due to the farm lobby, but that is a subject for another post.

America has an undeniable health problem related to poor diets: 2/3 of American adults are overweight or obese (https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/overweight-obesity-statistics.aspx). Solutions to this are not easy, and likely come from some combination of making better personal decisions, changing the overall eating culture, and getting accurate information about diet and food out. USDA should be ashamed of itself for providing unhealthy suggestions to the American people.

 

Claim: Complete separation of Church and State is bad

Separation of Church and State is an idea that is quite fundamental to the United States. Indeed, it’s even somewhat written down in the Bill of Rights. However, there is an easy case to be made that the United States government does not completely separate Church and State; evidence of this ranges from the phrase “under God” in the pledge of allegiance to criminalization of prostitution to defunding of Planned Parenthood. I will argue that, from both a religious and a non-religious point of view, some amount of Church and State collaboration has its merit.

I think everybody would agree that our government should act morally. The thing about morality is that there is no one definition for it. Hitler may have (probably) thought that he had been acting in a moral sense. Terrorists consider themselves martyrs, fighting for a good cause. So where should our government get its morality from? Even ideas that may seem to be universal are not actually respected by the government. For example, there is the accepted idea that “killing is bad”, yet the U.S went to ‘war’ with Iraq quite recently. Where, then, can our government find an explicitly defined morality? In religion.

Of course, having a fully religous state has many negative consequences that are a subject for another essay. Nevertheless, let’s remember a quote from Churchill: “Democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried.” Likewise, there’s an argument to be made that mild collaboration between Church and State is the worst form of collaboration, except all others that have been tried.