I feel bad for Jodi Arias. She has been failed by the American justice system.
You may have seen coverage of the Arias trial on TV, if you haven’t, here’s a brief summary. Jodi Arias is a young photographer from Arizona. She was tried for the murder of her boyfriend Travis Alexander. Analysis of the body shows clearly that Travis was shot and stabbed. Arias claimed in court that she did kill Travis but only out of self-defense as he was abusing her. An Arizona jury convicted her of first-degree murder. The trial is now (as of May 21, 2013) in the sentencing phase. As Arizona has the death penalty, she is facing execution. (In American law, states can choose to permit or forbid the death penalty. 32 of the 50 U.S. states have the death penalty while 18 forbid punishment by death. In 2012, there were 43 inmates executed in the U.S.)
The trial has been strange in many ways. One way it is strange is that the jurors were never sequestered even though the case was widely discussed by the media, thus jeopardizing the partiality of the jury. Another way it is strange is that here the murderer has confessed to the murder but still seeks an acquittal. Also, even though several witnesses testified for Arias in the guilt phase, zero witnesses will testify in the sentencing phase for Arias. It is very strange for even the mother and father of a person on trial for murder to abstain from testifying.
The trial strikes me as a miscarriage of justice. What if Arias lived in California? California has shown much less willingness to execute its citizens than Arizona has. What if Arias were rich and famous? If Arias could afford a more effective attorney, she might have been able to avoid this sentence. What if Arias lived in Europe? With the exception of Belarus, all European countries have abolished capital punishment.
Should a woman die because of the state or country she lives in? Should she die because she is not rich? Even if you believe in the death penalty as a just punishment, do you not think that the state should give the accused person an effective defense?
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore –
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door –
“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door –
Only this and nothing more.”
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost Lenore –
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore –
Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
“‘Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door –
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; –
This it is and nothing more.”
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you” – here I opened wide the door; –
Darkness there and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!” –
Merely this and nothing more.
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore –
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; –
‘Tis the wind and nothing more!”
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door –
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door –
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore –
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning – little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door –
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”
But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered – not a feather then he fluttered –
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before –
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore –
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never – nevermore.’”
But the Raven still beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore –
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee – by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite – respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil! –
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted –
On this home by Horror haunted – tell me truly, I implore –
Is there – is there balm in Gilead? – tell me – tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil – prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us – by that God we both adore –
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore –
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
“Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting –
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! – quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – nevermore!
The poem tells of a raven’s mysterious visit to a depressed lover, tracing the man’s slow fall into insanity. The lover, likely a student, is lamenting the loss of his departed love, Lenore. Sitting on a bust of Athena, the raven seems to exacerbate the lover’s distress with its constant repetition of the word “Nevermore.”
Gradesaver observes, “The Raven” is the most famous of Poe’s poems, notable for its melodic and dramatic qualities. The meter of the poem is mostly trochaic octameter, with eight stressed-unstressed two-syllable feet per lines. Combined with the predominating ABCBBB end rhyme scheme and the frequent use of internal rhyme, the trochaic octameter and the refrain of “nothing more” and “nevermore” give the poem a musical lilt when read aloud.” To understand what is meant by an ABCBBB end rhyme scheme, look closely at the final stanza. If we look at the last word of each line of this stanza, we have “sitting (A), door (B), dreaming (C), floor (B), floor (B), nevermore (B).”
Why a raven? The Poe Decoder argues that Poe used an animal instead of a human because he wanted to show that the lover is really torturing himself with questions that have no answer. Had he used a human, the human could have had a dialogue with the lover. But by using a bird that only repeats the lover’s own words, the theme of self-torture is realized. It could have been a parrot and the Poe Decoder claims that Poe actually considered using a parrot in the poem. He ultimately decided in favor of the raven because ravens are associated with death and darkness therefore they are more in keeping with the theme of loss. He may also have been thinking of Norse mythology, which considers ravens messengers (see below).
- “Lenore” variant of Eleanor, meaning “light” in Greek, a sharp contrast to the darkness of the poem
- “Seraphim,” perfumed by an unseen censer / Swung by seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled…” is used to illustrate the swift, invisible way a scent spreads in a room. A seraphim is one of the six-winged angels standing in the presence of God.
- “Nepenthe,”, is a potion, used by ancients to induce forgetfulness of pain or sorrow.
- “Balm in Gilead,”, is a soothing ointment made in Gilead, a mountainous region of Palestine east of the Jordan river, Jeremiah (8:22). The question, “Is there a balm in Gilead?” is a way of asking “Does my disease have a cure?”
- “Aidenn,” , is an Arabic word for Eden or paradise, it means roughly, “eternal”
- “Plutonian,” the god of the underworld in Roman mythology.
- “Pallas”, an alternate name for Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom
- In Norse mythology, the chief god Odin possesses two ravens that act as his messengers. They are called Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory). They fly across the human world and report everything they see and hear to Odin. Some critics connect Poe’s raven to Odin’s ravens. It is unclear which of the two ravens is Poe’s raven.
- The man welcomes the raven, and fears that the raven will leave in the morning, “as [his] Hopes have flown before”; however, the raven answers, “Nevermore.” The man smiled, and pulled up a chair, interested in what the raven “meant in croaking, ‘Nevermore.’” The chair, where Lenore once sat, brought back painful memories. The man, who does not expect the raven to know anything, still cannot help but ask the raven questions. Since the narrator realizes that the raven only knows one word, he can anticipate the bird’s responses. “Is there balm in Gilead?” i.e., “Can my heartache be cured?”- “Nevermore.” Can Lenore be found in paradise? – “Nevermore.” “Take thy form from off my door!” – “Nevermore.” The question of Lenore’s presence in paradise may have a deeper significance. As the name Lenore means “light,” perhaps the lover is really asking, “Can humans place their hope in Paradise?,” yet the raven causes him to despair. Finally the man concedes, realizing that this dialogue is futile. And his “soul from out that shadow” that the raven throws on the floor, “Shall be lifted — Nevermore!” Much like Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” this poem also depicts a character whose mind slowly unravels, leading to an ending in which there is no hope.
- The American football team, the Baltimore Ravens take their name from this poem. The author, Edgar Allen Poe, lived and died in Baltimore.
- Christoffer Hallqvist, http://www.poedecoder.com/essays/raven/.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
["This has got to be among the best-known, most-often-misunderstood poems on the planet. Several generations of careless readers have turned it into a piece of Hallmark happy-graduation-son, seize-the-future puffery. Cursed with a perfect marriage of form and content, arresting phrase wrought from simple words, and resonant metaphor, it seems as if “The Road Not Taken” gets memorized without really being read. For this it has died the cliché’s un-death of trivial immortality.
But you yourself can resurrect it from zombie-hood by reading it—not with imagination, even, but simply with accuracy. Of the two roads the speaker says “the passing there / Had worn them really about the same.” In fact, both roads “that morning lay / In leaves no step had trodden black.” Meaning: Neither of the roads is less traveled by. These are the facts; we cannot justifiably ignore the reverberations they send through the easy aphorisms of the last two stanzas." - SparkNotes
"Those who interpret this poem as suggesting non-conformity take the word “difference” ("And that has made all the difference") to be a positive difference. But there is nothing in the poem that suggests that this difference signals a positive outcome. The speaker could not offer such information, because he has not lived the “difference” yet.
The other word that leads readers astray is the word “sigh.” By taking “difference” to mean a positive difference, they think that the sigh is one of nostalgic relief; however, a sigh can also mean regret. There is the “oh, dear” kind of sigh, but also the “what a relief” kind of sigh. Which one is it?
If it is the relief sigh, then the difference means the speaker is glad he took the road he did; if it is the regret sigh, then the difference would not be good, and the speaker would be sighing in regret. But the plain fact is that the poem does not identify the nature of that sigh.
The speaker of the poem does not even know the nature of that sigh, because that sigh and his evaluation of the difference his choice will make are still in the future. It is a truism that any choice an individual makes is going to make “all the difference” in how one's future turns out." - Suite 101]
A narration attributed to Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas(ra) reports:
“ The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘Ibn al-Khattab, by Him in Whose hand is my soul, the shaytan never met you traveling on a road but that he would travel on a road other than your road.”
Abu al-Ashhab said, “Umar passed by a garbage dump and stopped there, and his companions were bothered by it [the smell]. He said, “This is this world of yours which you are so eager for and you weep over”.
Ali said: I don’t know of anyone who didn’t emigrate in secret except for `Umar ibn al-Khattab; because when he wanted to emigrate he strapped on his sword, put his bow over his shoulder, carried his arrows in his hand, and came to the Ka`bah where the nobles of Quraysh were in the courtyard. He performed seven circuits, and then prayed two raka’at at the Station of Ibrahim. Then he approached their circle one step at a time and said, “What ugly faces! Whoever wishes to bereave his mother, orphan his children and widow his wife then let him meet me behind this valley.” Not one of them followed him.
`Umar said: I agreed with my Lord in three things; I said, ‘Messenger of Allah, if only we were to take the Station of Ibrahim as a place of prayer,’ and there was revealed, ‘… and take the Station of Ibrahim as a place of prayer.’ (Qur’an 2: 125). I said, ‘Messenger of Allah, both good and bad people come to visit your wives; if only you would order them to wear hijabs,’ and the ayah of the hijab was revealed. The wives of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, united in jealousy, and so I said, ‘Perhaps his Lord, if he divorces you, will give him in exchange wives better than you, …’ and it was revealed just like that (with exactly the same words, see Qur’an 66: 5).
One night Umar (R) explored Medina while wearing a disguise so he could observe the people without them knowing it was him. He went with a friend named Ibn Abbas, and they went to all parts of the city, and finally to a neighborhood where poor people lived.
When he was walking by a very small house, he heard a mother telling her daughter to put water in the milk to sell it so that they would get more money. The daughter told her mom that she did that before they were Muslims, but now that they are Muslim, they cannot add things to the milk. The mother told her to put water in the milk. The daughter said, “No. The Khalifa said that we should not add things to the milk.”
The mother said, “We are too poor. It is the only way we can get money for even some bread. The Khalifa has forgotten us, and he won’t know what we did.”
The daughter said, “But it is against the law. I won’t break the Khalifa’s rules and fool other Muslims.”
The daughter wouldn’t let her mother put water in the milk. The mother did not say anything so they both went to sleep.
The next day, Khalifa Umar sent a man to buy milk from the girl. The milk didn’t have water added to it. The girl did what she knew was right.
Khalifa Umar said to his friend, “The girl stayed strong even when her mother wanted her to do something wrong. She deserves a reward. What reward should I give her?’
“She should be paid some money,” said lbn Abbas.
Khalifa Umar said, “A girl like her would be a great mother. She doesn’t stop doing what is right even if she will get money for it. Because she is so good, she should be given the greatest gift in the nation, because everyone in the nation should learn how to be good like her.”
The Khalifa sent for the girl and her mother to come to his court. The mother shivered because she was afraid when she stood before the mighty ruler, but the girl stood without fear. She was beautiful, and she stood straight and tall.
Then, in front of everyone, Khalifa Umar told how he had overheard the mother and the daughter talking about adding water to the milk, and how the girl had done what was right, even though it meant disobeying her mother.
Someone said that the mother should be punished, but the Khalifa said that even though he should, he had forgiven her because her daughter was so good. Then he turned to the girl and said, “Islam needs daughters like you and as a Khalifa of Islam, it is my job to reward you, and I would like to reward you by having you as my daughter.”
Then the Khalifa called his sons and said to them, “Here is a wonderful girl who would make a great mother. I want one of you to take this girl as a wife. I don’t know a better bride than this girl who is so good.”
Abdullah and Abdur-Rahman, the oldest sons of the Khalifa were already married. Asim, the third son wasn’t married yet, and he offered to marry the girl. When the girl and her mother agreed, Asim married the girl and the milkmaid became the daughter-in-law of the Khalifa..
On the Beach at Night
by: Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
N the beach at night,
Stands a child with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky.
Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading,
Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends large and calm the lord-star Jupiter,
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades.
From the beach the child holding the hand of her father,
Those burial-clouds that lower victorious soon to devour all,
Watching, silently weeps.
Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears,
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky, they devour the stars only in apparition,
Jupiter shall emerge, be patient, watch again another night, the Pleiades shall emerge,
They are immortal, all those stars both silvery and golden shall shine out again,
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again, they endure,
The vast immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive moons shall again shine.
Then dearest child mournest thou only for Jupiter?
Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars?
Something there is,
(With my lips soothing thee, adding I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection,)
Something there is more immortal even than the stars,
(Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,)
Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter
Longer than sun or any revolving satellite,
Or the radiant sisters the Pleiades.
[Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892) paints a scene of a little girl and her father looking up at the stars on an autumn night, at a beach. Notice that Whitman approves of the father teaching his daughter astronomy. Whitman had very liberal ideas about education that were ahead of his time, the 19th century.
She sees clouds engulf the stars, blocking her view. The voice of the poet reassures her that one, the stars will return, and two, a force exists that is even more eternal than the stars.
Whitman really knows his stars. The astronomy in this poem is quite accurate. In autumn, in the Northern Hemisphere, Jupiter is visible for most of the night. Also, you would find it where Whitman tells you to look, in the East. http://www.ehow.com/how_6398171_jupiter-night-sky.html. He also alludes to the Pleiades, aka, the Seven Sisters, another autumn constellation.
The repetition of the word "weep" here is striking. First the child "silently weeps." Then Whitman says twice "weep not." His sensitivity to the weeping of a child shows compassion. There is a touch of realism here too since if one were really consoling a child, one would repeatedly tell the child not to cry. Whitman uses many "w" words throughout this poem like "whisper," "watch," "watching" and "while" among others. These sounds evoke a gentleness, a sense of soothing.
It is interesting how Whitman pulls out a profound realization out of a child's simple sadness. The child cries seeing clouds obscure Jupiter, thinking the planet has gone forever. Whitman doesn't mock her simplicity. Far from it, he sees within it a higher truth. He realizes that even though the clouds are a temporary threat to Jupiter, a day will come when the existence of Jupiter will end. In fact, the sun and the stars will all expire. But Whitman has faith that there is a being in the universe that will endure, long after all the stars have burned out.
Whitman hints at the existence of a deity here, but the characteristics of that deity are uncertain. It certainly possesses immortality ("Something there is more immortal even than the stars,") but beyond that there is little we can say about it. Yet for Whitman, this immortality itself is an incredible thing. He marvels at a being that can exist while Jupiter, the moon, the sun, and the other stars pass away. To the extent that he was anything, Whitman was probably a Unitarian. His work shows considerable influence from Thoreau and Emerson, both Unitarians. He likely believed in a God who expressed Himself through the creation of nature.
Even if one comes to this poem as an atheist, one can still take away something, perhaps a sense of wonder. What is it like for a star to die? Is there something older than the stars? Is there something that will exist when the stars are gone? Whitman doesn't give us dogmatic answers to these questions. He is content to simply raise the questions.]
During the Khilafat of Umar (R) Madina was troubled by great drought and hunger. A certain man presented himself at the grave of Rasulullah (S) saying: “O Rasulullah your ummah is suffering destruction. Beseech Allah that rain descend from the heavens.”
Thereupon he saw Rasulullah (S) in a dream in which Rasulullah (S) said to him: “Convey my salaam to Umar and tell him rain will come. Tell him also that he holds on to intelligence and reason.” The man conveyed the message to Umar (R). When he heard the message Umar (R) wept bitterly and exclaimed: “O Allah as much as is in my power I try not to be unmindful.” (Wafa-ul-Wafa)
Allamah Ahmad bin Qastalaani (RA) (rahmatullah alaihi) the famous scholar of hadith writes in his book Mawaahib Ladunni: “Once I became so severely ill that doctors despaired for my health. For many years I remained thus. Then one day on the 28th of Jumaadal Ulaa 893 A.H. (May 10, 1488) while in Mecca I prayed to Allah through the waseelah of Rasulullah (S) that Allah heal me of my affliction. While I was asleep I saw a vision in which I saw a man with a piece of paper in his hand on which was written: ‘Rasulullah (S) has commanded that this medicine be give to Ahmad bin Qastalaani.’ When I awoke I discovered that no sign of my illness remained.”
Shaikh Anul Khair al Aqta (RA) said: “Once on a visit to Madina I suffered such hunger because for five days I had absolutely nothing to eat. I could not even find something to taste. I went to the grave of Rasulullah (S) and having greeted the Master and his two companions (likely Abu Bakr (R) and Umar (R), the two men buried at his side) I said to Rasulullah (S): ‘O Rasulullah tonight is my desire to be your guest.’ Having said that I proceeded towards the mimbar and went to sleep behind it. In my sleep I saw a vision of Rasulullah (S) sitting with Abu Bakr (R) on his right and Umar (R) on his left and Ali (R) in front of him. Ali (R) called me and said: “Look, Rasulullah (S) has arrived’. I rose and Rasulullah (S) gave me a piece of bread in my hand. I ate half of it. When I awoke from that sleep I discovered that I still had the other half of that bread in my hand.” (Rowdh and Wafa)
Kandhelwi, Muhammad Zakariya. Virtues of Haj. Karachi: Zam Zam Publishers, 1946.
<http://www.sunnah.org/publication/khulafa_rashideen/caliph2.htm>, 22 Mar. 2013.
I can’t recommend this video highly enough. I have already posted it to Twitter and Facebook. Dan Pallotta, founder of the Breast Cancer Three-Day Walk, makes an impassioned plea for rethinking charity in America. He argues that charities need better incentives, better talent, bolder visions, and more money. He rejects the idea that charities need to focus on keeping overhead low. Instead, he persuasively claims that charities need to focus on growth and innovation. I know this video is over 18 minutes long, but please watch it. It’s not going anywhere so maybe you need to watch it tomorrow or the next day, but make an appointment to watch it. Also, spread the word.
On how human memory systems actually change our images of the past:
“Like many radical university professors, our retrieval system are powerful enough to alter our conceptions of the past while offering nothing substantial to replace them” (127).
On the negative effects of family conflict on children’s education:
“As social activist Barbara Whitehead put it, writing for the Atlantic Monthly: “Teacher find many children emotionally distracted, so upset and preoccupied by the explosive drama of their own family lives that they are unable to concentrate on such mundane matters as multiplication tables” (185).
Both taken from: Medina, John J. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Seattle, WA: Pear, 2008. Print.
(Thanks to Tyler Cowen, www.marginalrevolution.com, for the format)
Soldiers intimidate me. They make me uncomfortable. Knowing that they are experts at killing people is part of it, but only part. The part that’s worse, or at least more complicated, is the set of emotions they inspire me. It’s mostly pity. Pity because I don’t think they should have to carry the psychological burden they do, in addition to all the physical wretchedness I imagine they endure. There’s also gratitude, but I find that very hard to articulate. In fact, I’ve seen soldiers and wanted to walk up to them and say, “Thank you for your service,” but I have never been able to do that. Maybe I’m scared of the potential within them to kill. It’s more likely that the formula is too stilted and has an unpleasant combination of banality, condescension, and, at least for me, insincerity. Insincerity because I’m not so much thankful for the job they do as I am for the effect that doing that job has. What I mean is I am not so idealistic that I cannot see that but for America’s military might, the tranquility and abundance that makes American life so enjoyable could not be sustained. Notice the absence of the word “freedom” in that list.
I’m not a patriot. I find nationalism vile. There was a brief period in my childhood when I could look at an American flag and feel a kind of joyous recognition of what that symbol might mean. But that faded quickly as I learned American history. It’s almost funny how when you know no American history, the flag means next to nothing. Then when you learn a little, it’s this terrific symbol. But when you learn even more, you just can’t stomach it. The annihilation of Hiroshima hit me hard. It still does. There’s a place in my mind’s eye, where the blue field doesn’t contain 50 stars, but just one big mushroom cloud. 100,000 people died when the energy of a star’s core was unleashed upon mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, animals and trees. For me, even the trees resonate in my heart. I don’t know why. I don’t pretend it’s logical or scientific. If you go by numbers of dead, I should be far more troubled by Stalin’s purges, or the Irish famines, or of course, Hitler’s atrocities. It’s not as if I give all of those a pass, but they don’t stick with me like Nagasaki and Hiroshima do. Part of it is that this is my country and Germany isn’t. But even the genocide, and I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to use that word here, of Native Americans was far worse on just about any objective scale. But fighting a native population doesn’t strike me as being as useless, as entirely avoidable as just about any fair reading of the atomic bombs makes them. Oh you can argue that it shortened the war but only if you totally ignore the clear-cut messages Japan was sending at that point in the fight.
I feel pretty alone in this. I think most people can separate their views on history from their views on soldiers. I am not so foolish as to paint every American in uniform from Bunker Hill to Baghdad with one broad brush. But I find the “good war/ bad war” kind of dialogue to be missing the point. Even if you call the American Revolution a good war, that good war leads to Vietnam. The enlisted men of one war become the generals of the next one. The lineage is unbroken from start to finish.
Though people are sly about hiding this opinion, I know many think the troops are just simple. I don’t believe that for a minute. Oh some are, certainly so. But you can’t be an idiot and even survive in the conditions they endure, much less be an effective killer. And though I have friends who seem to be sincere in their view that “Thou shalt not kill” has no exceptions to it, I am miles away from that view. It’s a nice sentiment. The trouble is – you just can’t run a civilization with that attitude. You never could. What are you going to do if the other side kidnaps your president? If you’re in God’s good books, maybe, just maybe you can get away with just threatening to take lives and resolve it before there’s complete chaos, but even that won’t work unless the enemy is darn sure that your threats have teeth.
I hope this doesn’t make you think that in my mind, a soldier is like a garbageman – one who fulfills an unpleasant task so that the rest of us can do more important things. Although the garbageman could claim that he saves lives too, by ensuring diseases like e. coli don’t spread. But give me a little more credit. I don’t think they’re stupid. I don’t think we could do without them. I haven’t said this yet, but I don’t even blame them for becoming what they are. In different circumstances, I would make the exact same calculations they assuredly have. It’s a paying job, it’s legal, and there are opportunities for advancement.
I really ought to reward anyone who has made this meandering, semi-nonsensical excursion with me, but I’m afraid I don’t have much to offer in this conclusion. There will be no great wisdom from Thomas Jefferson and no soaring rhetoric from Martin Luther King. There will be no bars of one of our great anthems like the Star-Spangled Banner or America the Beautiful. And there will be no call to revolution. And the revolution will not be televised. But if you are a soldier, and you see me in what was formerly called the real world, just know, that I am constantly reminding God to be loving towards you, because I think you deserve that.
Title: The original German title of this piece is Der Schrei der Natur, “The Scream of Nature.” In Norwegian, the language of artist Edvard Munch, it is called Skrik. The Norwegian title is cognate with the English word “shriek” so one might call
the painting, “The Shriek,” instead of its more common name, “The Scream.”
Inspiration: It is rare that an artist remembers precisely what inspired him or her to create a famous piece of art, but this is exactly what we have in “The Scream.” Munch recalls in his diary:
One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream.
Themes: Viewers may feel compelled to characterize Munch as deeply disturbed or grieving. Recent research on the artist reveals, however, that Munch was a talented marketer and a street-smart entrepreneur. He had a strong sense of how to play the art market and how to sculpt public opinion. While some argue that he drew heavily from French and German art, it seems more likely that he drew on influences from his native Norway. Though it is difficult to imagine from merely looking at The Scream, much of Munch’s work explores love and sexuality including “Kiss by the Window” and “The Hands.”
Finally, there is this comment from The Art Story, an American non-profit dedicated to art education.
“Munch intended for his intense colors, semi-abstraction and mysterious, often open-ended themes to function as symbols of universal significance. Thus his drawings, paintings, and prints take on the quality of psychological talismans: having originated in Munch’s personal experiences, they nonetheless bear the power to express, and perhaps alleviate, any viewer’s own emotional or psychological condition.”
Wikipedia, “The Scream,” Retrieved on Feb. 28, 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scream
Retrived Feb. 28, 2013: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-munch-edvard.htm#sthash.IunXBrMO.dpuf,