Friday, October 29, 2010

The Tea Party: My Realizations from Reading Forum Posts

I have to admit that I've always found the Tea Party to be pretty confusing. I've tried to understand it in order to have the right context for reading newspaper articles about it, but I've never really felt confident in my understanding of what it really is. Though my understanding of the Tea Party isn't complete, reading the articles posted to the Tea Party forum has definitely given me a better understanding of what the tea party really is and what it stands for, which is great!

Coming away from the posts my sense is that the Tea Party is essentially a loose movement without a lot of leadership. It is composed of many smaller groups. There is no Tea Party headquarters, nor is there any written platform. For these very reasons members have described the movement as being like 'herding cats'.

The party's members are typically better-educated and wealthier than the general population. Many are Christian. Many are conservative (thus conference sessions often begin with a prayer).

Due to the nature of the Tea Party's structure there is much difference in beliefs amongst its members. Thus, though many people view it as being a largely hypocritical or group it kind've by nature is going to be, since there can be so much difference of opinion amongst its members since it has no real stated platform. Also, for this reason one finds the "crazier" or more 'out-there in their beliefs' sorts of people in the Tea Party: such as those others may deem racist.

However, their basic beliefs stem in the idea bringing power back to the people. Many Tea Partyiers express a desire to go back to the constitution. They want limited government, and focus on a fight for rights and the reduction of taxes. Many take issue with the American government's massively growing debt as well. The party believes problems are better solved by individual efforts, rather than by governmental efforts, and are suspicious of concentrated power. Naturally many are 'anti-Obama' as well.

Some Tea Partyiers however get into issues of homosexuality, or are deemed racist, and these outliers in the party, whom are often highly publicized in the media are often looked at as common representatives of the Tea Party. However, it is important to remember that they are not what the majority of the Tea Party looks like. One can't take that perspective at face-value, and instead must look deeper to see what the Tea Party really is.

Recently the Tea Party has been gaining more notice in the political limelight. 33 Tea-Party candidates have been in close governmental races. The party hopes to finally have enough presence to impact decisions being made in Washington. Furthermore, the party's number of supporters are higher than ever. As the New York Times stated, 1 in 5 adult Americans identifies with the Tea Party. That is a pretty large percent of the population. This stat comes from a New York Times/CBS poll that was recently conducted. Furthermore, several candidates from the Tea Party have gotten governmental positions, such as Scott Brown, who recently took the late Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts senatorial seat.

Many people see the Tea Party movement as an expression of the dissent among Americans today, as economic recovery seems slow (and sometimes impossible), unemployment is sky-high, and governmental debt is in the trillions (and is still rising). Two-thirds of Americans have stated 'feeling dissatisfied or angry with the government', so it isn't hard to see why many people are looking beyond a system and political parties that simply aren't working for them. For many people the Tea Party might seem like a very good option.

Tea as a Dense Fact

Reading about tea for Monday's assignment, I was struck by how much of a role it has played in both American and European culture throughout time.

At first tea was viewed as a powerful remedy to many diseases that originated in China. Dutch physician Cornelis Bontekoe actually recommended the sick drinking 50, 60, up to 100 cups without stopping.. who does that?! (or more importantly, could do that--I know I definitely couldn't drink that much water, let alone tea). Personally I couldn't imagine doing that. (The Empire of Tea 68).

With time however tea became an integral part of common culture, especially in England: the tea house was the "nucleus of many political clubs and hence contributed to teh rise of parliamentary democracy". Furthermore as the author writes, "such coffee and teashops developed into meeting places for writers and scientists and as a result became centres for the circulation of ideas" (The Empire of Tea 80).

However, I also noted that many people did not have the freedom to buy tea. As the authors of Steeped in History: The Art of Tea write, "Poorer people struggled to meet basic expenses for food, shelter, and clothing. Even the modest price of a kettle, teapot, and a few cups exceeded their budgets" (168). In this way I came to realize that tea, like many things was considered a luxury, but was beyond the reach of the poor, despite it's relatively low cost.

Also, tea has been used to represent the British: As stated in The Empire of Tea, "..after the tossing of the chests of tea into the harbour at Boston--the famous Boston Tea Party--tea became a symbol of British arrogance and taxation without representation. So the Americans, despite their widespread private use of tea, have represented themselves publicly as coffee drinkers in opposition to the British tea drinkers" (74). In this way Americans have actively tried to actively distance themselves from tea, as it may be seen as a symbol of the British, whom they felt were oppressing them in many ways.

Tea is a dense fact that we can use as a lens to see the culture in both America and the European world more clearly.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Musings on Ben Franklin

One thing that stuck out to me upon reading the second part of Benjamin's Franklin's autobiography was the quote "It will be remark'd, tho' my scheme was not wholly without religion, there was in it no mark of any of the distinguishing tenets of any particular sect. I had purposely avoided them; for, being fully persuaded of the utility and excellency of my method, and that it might be serviceable ot people in all religions and intending some time or other to publish it, I would not have any thing in it that should prejudice any one, of any sect, against it" (70).

Throughout Franklin's book he talks about God, and about faith. However, it's intriguing how he talks about it in such a general sense, without labeling it to one faith or another. This quote made everything make more sense though: that he had intentionally left out the specifics, so that his message would appeal to all people, rather than simply a small group.

Another intriguing thing in this book was how Franklin talked about pride as being something he needed to work on curbing in his own life. Personally I can agree that having excessive pride, to the point of bragging is bad, but I think in moderation pride really isn't a bad thing.

In the end I found some of the things in this book intriguing, and though I didn't agree with everything Franklin said it made me think more about my own beliefs.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Benjamin Franklin and Moral Perfection

In The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Franklin talks of striving to achieve moral perfection. He describes this as having thirteen different virtues: Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity and Humility. I was surprised to find this in his book, since I hadn't ever heard of this goal of his before.

In particular when reading this I identified with several of the virtues he spoke of in my own life.

I didn't feel that personally all of the virtues he spoke of were vital to me, but that the ideas of Resolution: "Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve" (64). I have always believed that one should always follow through with what one agrees or commits to do.

Also, coming to college I am realizing that the idea of Order is an important one to my daily life. As Franklin says, "Let all your things have your places; let each part of your business have its time" (64). I think this can be applied to my life here at St. Olaf. I have always been pretty busy and successfully juggled school, work, volunteer commitments, friends and family in Seattle but here (with even more flexibility in how my day goes with less class-time and more homework) I've discovered that I do best with structure and a schedule of how I want to plan my day. It's important to schedule ample time for homework and fun activities, but also I have to remember to allow for time to go running, go to the Caf and other necessary things which take time too.

Though I didn't relate to all of the virtues Franklin discussed I definitely found several of them to be very applicable to my own life, and found this part of his book to be an interesting read.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The American Dream as Ben Franklin Saw It

"...the core components of Franklin's dream as expressed in his writings--trust in the basic decency of human beings, a belief that earthly and heavenly rewards are broadly consonant, and above all, a serene confidence that both can be attained--reflected the core convictions of a great many Americans of his time. Here, truly, was a Founding Father of the American Dream" (Cullen 98).

This excerpt from Cullen ties back into our discussions about the American dream. Franklin proposes a definition, a loose interpretation of it through beliefs of trust in others and that rewards both in live and death are consonant and that, furthermore both are attainable. In this statement he represented the beliefs of many Americans at the time.

Though some people, such as John Adams or Mark Twain felt Franklin was too complacent about life and satirized him I feel he is a key part of the definition of the American Dream we are hoping to define, and therefore deserves a careful look.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Insight into Life in the Colonies

If you haven't already, you should take a look at, it's a website about daily life in the American colonies.

Looking at it I felt like I learned a lot about what it was like to be an early settler in America. 

On the page it talked about that 90% of people lived outside of the towns and villages. 

Also, it was far better to farm one's own land than rent that of another, yet only 40% of people owned their own land. That seemed surprising, given that I'd always thought that at that point in early American history there weren't too many people here yet so it would be relatively easy to get land; however, it was probably expensive though so maybe it wasn't affordable for many people.

A fair amount of daily life also seemed to revolve around the weather: people typically traveled in the winter or summer months, because in the spring and fall the roads were too muddy to travel on, and in the winter the men had more time to relax because there wasn't any farming that needed to be done and in the summer women had more free time because it was before the tasks of food preservation, spinning and weaving began.

The article gives a good sense of colonial life, and so I'd urge you to take a look if you haven't already. I found it quite insightful.

Inventory of My Dorm Room

 Inventory of Things in My Dorm Room:

o   Bed (2)
o   Comforter (2)
o   Sheets (2)
o   Pillow (2)
o   Quilt
o   Fleece Blanket
o   Desk (2)
o   Desk Chair (2)
o   Room Chair (2)
o   Pictures, Postcards and other Wall Art
o   White Boards (3)
o   Ribbon Boards (2)
o   Posters
o   Pictures in Frames (2)
o   Desk Supplies: Pencils, Pens, etc.
o   Markers, Colored Pencils, Paper, etc.
o   Printer
o   Computer (2)
o   Recycling & Garbage Cans (3)
o   Curtains (5)
o   Towels
o   Shoes
o   Clothing
o   Cups
o   Plate & Bowl
o   Silverware
o   Mini Water Fountain
o   Desk Lamps (3)
o   Floor Lamps (2)
o   Window Seat
o   Carpet
o   Flower Wall Stickers
o   Backpacks (2)
o   Mirror
o   Hot Water Boiler
o   Coffee Pot
o   Mini Vacuum
o   Tea Mugs (2)
o   Books and Notebooks for Class
o   Rain boots
o   Telephone
o   Refrigerator
o   Laundry Basket/Sack (2)
o   Tennis Racquet
o   Yoga Mat
o   Tennis Shoes
o   Suitcase
o   Magnets
o   File Organizer Box
o   Extra (Winter) Sheets
o   Iron
o   Spare Light bulbs
o   Oatmeal
o   Tea
o   Gum
o   Orange Juice
o   Assorted Papers
o   Beach Shells (3)
o   Closet (2)
o   Outlet Plug Expander (3)
o   Water Bottle (2)
o   I-Home Speakers (2)
o   Tissues (2)
o   Paper Towels
o   Winter Coat (2)
o   Shower Caddy (2)
o   Toiletries
o   Tote Bag
o   Belts (3)
o   Jewelry
o   Dressers (2)
o   Shelf (Organizing Unit)


Friday, October 15, 2010

Pocahantas Reflections

I really enjoyed watching the movie last night. In particular one line stood out to me, about the "savages". Pocahantas asks John Smith "How do you know we are the savages? Why could it not be you?" This is an interesting question. After all, who are the Europeans to come in and say that they are doing everything wrong? A mere innocent question ponders into much thought.

Another thing to note was the stark contrast between the Indians and the Europeans: at every turn Pocahantas is having to choose one over the other, even to the very end where she chooses to stay with her people (as that is her duty) rather than go to England with Smith.

Though not necessarily a particularly historically-accurate film, I enjoyed it all the same.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pocahantas: An Ever-Changing Character

As William Rassmussen writes in his article "Pocahontas: Her Life and Legend" (1) "During the last four centuries the story of Pocahontas has been retold and embellished innumerable times. She has been called America's Joan of Arc for her saintly virtue and courage, and even heralded as the "Mother" of the nation, counterpart to George Washington. Like "George and the Cherry Tree," Pocahontas is a historical figure lost long ago behind a cloud of mythology. 
I find this quote to be particularly apt. How many people have seen the Disney version of Pocahontas? When thinking about the movie my mind instantly goes to the "Paint the Colors of the Wind" song, with Pocahontas at the top of a hill with the many different-colored leaves swirling around her, her long hair blowing out in the wind. However, is this how she really was? 
Many people throughout time have compared her to other, more well-known figures: Joan of Arc for her bravery and values and even have called her the "Mother" of our country, juxtaposing her with George Washington. However, I find it interesting how little we know about her, and how much of her story is fiction or speculation, filling in the gaps between the sparse facts that remain on the table today.

Note: Image of Pocahantas in Disney film from

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Native American Women

According to Rayna Green, when looking at depictions of Native American women one sees two very different images. The first, of an Indian mother, wife, and object for a white man's lust. This is a woman who actively helps the men around her. The second is of the Squaw, the Princess or Pocahantas's darker-skinned sister who is viewed as the sexual convenience. These are two very contrasting ideas of Native American women.
Green talks further about the difference, saying time and again that relationships with men are what determine one's image. 
Furthermore, Green looks into the relative power each image has: "As some abstract, noble Princess tied to 'America' and to sacrificial zeal, she has power as a symbol. As the Squaw, a depersonalized object of scornful convenience, she is powerless" (24). Clearly these two women play very different roles in society. However, is one really much better than the other? Even the role played by the Princess is hardly ideal, in which to be deemed "good" the woman is expected to forsake her own culture in order to save the white men.
Another thing to take note of the difference in skin tone amongst the two images. The Princess is much lighter-skinned than the Squaw. I wonder if this ever played out in real life, if in John Smith's time preference could have been given to those with a lighter coloring? It was even interesting to see how throughout time Pocahantas's depiction got lighter skin as time went by.
Though one image of the Native American woman is better than the other, clearly both restrain the Native American woman. For this reason the Native American woman could benefit from a reconsideration of the way she's perceived by American society.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Depictions of the Native Americans

When coming to America Europeans' reactions to the natives here ranged from dislike at some moments to fear at others. At still other times they could appreciate the Native Americans, and were impressed by their skills or knowledge about the surrounding environment. 

In particular I think it is important to note the European responses given in the article "The True Pictures and Fashions of the People in that Parte of America now Called Virginia, Discovered by Englishmen". In some regards the Europeans are filled with awe by their native counterparts, who are skilled basketweavers and canoe builders, At many points during the beginning of the article the author is simply observing, stating facts about Native American dress or food. 

As the article progresses however, I noticed that more of his personal reactions begin to come out. The depictions of the Indians seem to get more wild, with images such as the Conjurer on page 12. On page 13 the author is in awe of the Indians' canoemaking, but yet at the end offers up his distate of the Indians, stating "thus God indueth this savage people with sufficient reason to make thinges necessarie to serve their turnes", as if otherwise they would not have thought (or had enough motivation) to make these canoes by themselves if they hadn't needed them to survive. 

Later-on there is reference to the 'simple' life of the Indians, saying that they are "content with their state, and livinge friedlye together of those things whigh god hath given them, yet without giving hym any thankes according to his desarte. So savage is this people, and deprived of the true knowledge of god. For they have none other then is mentioned before in this worke" (13). 

Clearly in these parts of the writing the author is looking down on the Indian, pointing out his horror at his lack of religion and making the claim that unless the canoes had been vital to Indian survival the Indian would not have thought how to make them. Native Americans are depicted as savage as well, both in their depiction and in the descriptions of them found within the work.

 It almost reminded me of the idea of the cycle of adjustment found in culture shock: where as one is adjusting to a new culture or way of life one first goes through 'the honeymoon stage' (where one simply thinks he or she loves everything about the new place) to the 'initial shock stage' (where something shocks the visitor so much that he begins to see only the negatives or things that scare him about a culture) to the 'cycle of adjustment' (in which one is adjusting and has both moments in which one freaks out and also can appreciate the new place) to the final stage, acceptance (in which one comes to see the culture as a whole and appreciate it, accepting the good and the bad they perceive about it). 

It seemed almost as if the author was going through culture shock as he wrote, as I felt like there were many parallels to it within the article, as to the author's reactions to the native people.

All in all, I felt this was a very telling article about the European response to Native Americans, and I look forward to discussing it further in-class.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The 'Other'

"The quality of being different or 'Other' known as alterity, is an invented one, something a dominant or impirialist group imposes on a less powerful or colonial one for the purpose of controlling or  policing the latter" (70).

This quote is very apt. Throughout time many people who have different customs, cultures, languages, or dress have been labeled the 'other'. This label is very divisive, differentiating one culture from another. Whether it be the native americans, african americans or other group deemed 'less civilized', this label has the power to control the other. It says that one is inferior, and perhaps even 'uncivilized'. However, is one really uncivilized or could one simply just be 'different'? Why is it necessary to say one culture is 'better' than the other? Can we even say one is better than the other?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Common Themes of Separation and Divisions as Pueblo Children are 'Americanized'

Throughout our reading from "Understanding Ordinary Landscapes" the themes of separation and division were intertwined.
In the beginning, the Pueblo children are separated from their parents when they go to the Americanizing schools. 
At the BIA school complex the fence represented a key separation for the Pueblo children. As Swentzell states, "The fence defined the complex and effectively kept the two worlds separate" (62). It defined in a very physical way the difference between the two spheres in which the Pueblo children existed. Furthermore, it represented a loss of trust in the children. In the Pueblo children were free to come and go as they wish, but at the BIA school they were kept inside by the fence, and others were kept out. And how did the children feel about this? As the author states, "it was unsettling to know that other people had to protect themselves physically from community" (63). 
In contrast, in the Pueblo movement was free. Space flowed freely, and it was sometimes hard to tell where indoors stopped and outdoors began. As Swentzell writes, "Within the pueblo, indoor and outdoor spaces flowed freely and were hardly distinguishable" (57). Furthermore, "spirits moved freely" within and outside the home. In many ways, as the Pueblo children entered the BIA school each morning they lost many freedoms: their Pueblo identity, the freedom to come and go as they wished, among others. 
Furthermore, within the school the themes of division and separation continued. Children who could read well were put into different rooms than those who could not. Each child had their own desk and mat. Individual academic success was emphasized. As the author writes, "Concentration on the individual, or the parts, which has become the hallmark of modern American society, was strongly emphasized. This was in contrast to the holistic concepts of the pueblo, which emphasized togetherness and cooperation and which were expressed in connected and multiple-function structures" (63). The pueblo lifestyle was, in essence, directly in contrast in many ways to that of life in the schools.