Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hate Speech and Compassion -- Dovetailing HCOM Classes

In addition to taking HCOM 310 this semester, I am also enrolled in HCOM 304 -- Relational Ethics. We are currently working with compassion -- for ourselves and others. In short, we are exploring how to incorporate greater compassion in our relationships and therefore heal ourselves.

While reading "
On Freedom of Expression and Campus Speech Codes," it occurred to me that not only can these issues of free speech be addressed with additional speech (as we discussed with pornography), but also with compassion. Yes, I realize that, like the concepts we studied in 312, it seems rather idealistic. Yet remember what we've been learning -- that we can only start with ourselves. If we begin to practice compassion in our lives and conversations, that's at least one small improvement in the dialogue.

When we become angry over some injustice or some experience we have had with hate speech, if we simply start with being compassionate with ourselves and exploring why this makes us angry and what the root of that anger is, we are closer to resolving the problem. Did we have the urge to respond to that hate speech with hate in return? If so, we are not so different from the perceived offender.

Many of us will chafe at such an idea and deny it, but if we are truthful with ourselves, we will find that there are many things about our ownselves that we don't care for either. Perhaps we can even find it in ourselves to be grateful for the offense, which gave us the opportunity to explore these thoughts and feelings.

I am probably not conveying the concepts of compassionate communication and relationships as well as I would like, but I hope I have at least sparked a little kernel of interest. Holding compassion for myself and others certainly hasn't been easy thus far, but I believe that if I can continue to work with it, I will be well-served by these teachings.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Birth Control Costs On Campus Double Thanks to Medicaid

Reproductive rights are something that about which I feel very strongly. Those of you who were in 312 with me know this. I think that so many issues in America could be resolved through better sex education and increased access to birth control.

Other countries of similar economic status and values already know this and have implemented programs to reduce unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Yet the response of the American Federal Government is to keep its collective head in the sand and refuse to listen to reason on this issue. Our president and a large number of Republican leaders have ignored the data which shows that abstinence-only sex education does not work. Furthermore, they also have ignored numerous polls which show that American citizens support more comprehensive sex education.

What boggles my mind the most is that when people cut programs to prevent unplanned pregnancies, they fail to recognize that it is cheaper to prevent a pregnancy than to deal with the consequences of it after conception. And by that I don't mean simply abortion -- I mean that abortion, adoption, raising the child or even simply leaving it at a Fire Station -- all cost taxpayers more than the cost of providing birth control.

I know that some legislators and activists believe that paying for birth control is tantamount to condoning out-of-wedlock sex. Yet this position ignores the fact that even married people cannot afford birth control sometimes. Furthermore, there are individuals in society who simply should not have children, regardless of their marital status. I happen to be one of those people. For health reasons, I should not have children as I could possibly pass on the same congenital birth defect to them which was discovered in me. And for those same health reasons, although I could conceive and bear children, it would be a tremendous strain on my health and well-being. My being married would not change these facts.

But all of this is simply a lengthy intro to my main concern today. Thanks to our federal government, obtaining birth control at the CSUMB Health Center could now cost you more. The reasons why costs are increasing is a little complicated. Basically, drug companies sold pharmaceuticals to universities at deep discounts in order to get rebates from those states when it came time to pay to participate in Medicaid. Now, pharmaceutical companies who give discounts to universities are required to pay more to participate in Medicaid. (Please click on the title of this blog for more information.)

Now, I believe that pharmaceutical companies have been allowed to put America in a stranglehold and they need to be reigned in. However, this legislation feels distinctly as if it is punishing university students along with the drug companies. Not only will students have to pay more for birth control, but any other prescription drugs we obtain at the health center. If you contract pneumonia, antibiotics will cost you more. If you suffer from depression (and reports of depression in college students are on the rise), then your anti-depressants will cost more. Frankly, I don't understand how our government can see fit to punish students in this manner.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Musings on Motherhood -- an art critique

Given our upcoming discussion about art, I thought I would publish something I wrote last year in response to a piece of art that provoked me to think. This entry isn't about free speech as it relates to our discussions in class. However the artist, protesters and myself have all exercised free speech around the concepts put forth by this piece of art.

Musings on Motherhood

In March 2006 New York's Capla Kesting Art gallery announced that they would be displaying a sculpture called "Monument To Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean Preston" by artist Daniel Edwards. The sculpture sparked a great deal of controversy amongst both pro- and anti-choice activists because it depicted a nude Britney Spears giving birth to son Sean Preston, on all fours, on a bearskin rug.

The obstetric inaccuracy of this sculpture aside, I was not concerned about the abortion issue so much as the use of Spears as a model in support of motherhood. Following is the response I wrote to this sculpture.

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"Monument To Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean Preston" by Daniel Edwards could have been a thought-provoking work of art about the beauty of a mother's labor and the pain and sacrifice she endures to bring a child into the world – had it only been based on someone who truly embraced motherhood and devoted themselves to their children, as so many mothers have throughout history. Regardless of whether a woman is a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, or a work-at-home-so-she-can-stay-at-home mom, the average mother devotes more of her life to her children than ANY celebrity mother ever will.

My mother made sacrifices for myself and my siblings, the likes of which Britney Spears and her fellow prima donnas will never have to make, just to ensure that we were well-fed and well-cared for. My mother, and so many others, went hungry just to make sure that the last food in the refrigerator fed the children. While my dad worked during the day, my mother worked at night to help make ends meet – but she made sure that she tucked us into bed before she left for work and she made sure she was home to make us breakfast before we left for school.

My parents don't struggle anymore and they have made sure that I can achieve a life better than they had at my age, but I learned the lessons of their struggle and they are lessons Spears and most of her generation haven't learned or, worse, have chosen to ignore.

Parenthood isn't something you engage in simply because it's fun or "everyone else is doing it". Children are not dolls. Children are human beings and caring for them is an incredible responsibility. One of the most important jobs we have in life is to give everything we have to guiding them to becoming the best human beings they can be.

I don't say this from a religious point of view or even a pro-life point of view – I say this from the point of view of a person who is tired of watching children be born to those who choose to have them for the wrong reasons. I'm tired of watching celebrities have children as accessories. I'm tired of seeing the young girl whose parents didn't give her enough love choose to have a baby because she believes it'll be the one person in the world who will love her unconditionally. I'm tired of the woman who wants to get married so desperately, she'll get pregnant just to keep a man. I'm tired of the couples in failing marriages who choose to have a baby, mistakenly believing it will bring them closer together. I'm tired of self-destructive people procreating to solve their problems instead of simply holding themselves accountable for their own behavior. The children born of these individuals will simply perpetuate this cycle of self-destructive behavior.

Britney Spears is no model for motherhood. Furthermore, given her life-choices, I question whether her mother is either.

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(For the full story of the sculpture and surrounding controversy, go to CBS News:Clash Over Nude Britney Spears Statue. Photos retrieved from .)

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Religion ala Eddie Izzard

Since my group's Dialogue Project proposal is on Freedom of Religion, I thought I'd share this bit from my favorite comedian, Eddie Izzard. And thanks to freedom of speech, he is able to express himself as an "executive transvestite" and not get burned at the stake for his fashion preferences!

(FYI -- He explains a transvestite as a "male lesbian" -- it's a straight man who likes to wear women's clothing and/or make-up.)