Read This!

What an amazing personal essay by Jhumpa Lahiri! She perfectly summarizes what it feels like to grow up as an American with immigrant parents. Even though her parents came from India and mine came from Taiwan, I feel that we shared very similar experiences. Nationality-hyphenated (Chinese-American, Indian-American) definitely adds another dimension to life.

I really need to read her novel.

Hail King Bushy, Part II

Ah, Shawn, your comments about my "Hail King Bushy" post definitely merit a response, and not only a response, but a very own blog-post of my fiery rhetoric. Haha!

Concerning wiretapping and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, I feel that Amanda's comment adequately sums up my opinions. Who is Gonzalez' boss after all? President Bush. Who appointed Gonzales to this position? President Bush. Of course the AG is going to back up the President's actions---that has been his job since their Texas glory days. What is terribly upsetting in my mind is that a Senate hearing had to be held to address Bush's choice to wiretap American citizens, which blatantly breaks the law. As president of the U.S., Bush does indeed have the right to assume certain duties in times of war, but never is he above the law. This is a fundamental principle of democracy. Thus, I find it unsettling when you say that "I'd rather have my civil liberties be infringed upon through wiretapping as opposed to being killed." How many other civil liberties are we willing to give up? Was our country not founded upon the blood of American soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the freedoms we enjoy today? Aren't our civil liberties indeed something we should be fighting for?

And now to address one of our favorite topics of debate---church and state.

To many Americans, President Bush is a wonderful man because he is a religious man. To me, however, I find it frustrating that Bush uses religion to court voters. Personal religious beliefs should not be manipulated for political uses. In my mind, such beliefs are sacred---and we should have enough respect for them that we don't wave them around flippantly. Furthermore, I find that the people who are most devoted to their religion are the ones who want their beliefs to be demonstrated through actions---not through speech. Take for example the story of the Good Samaritan, a moral fable that outlines the importance of practicing our religious tenets, the importance of action.

And so, the president of our country should practice whichever religion he/she chooses, but I would prefer that he demonstrates his religious convictions through action. Mr. President, please prove to me that you are a Christian---don't tell me about it to court my vote.

You also declare in your comments that, "Religion might be a private matter to you, but it is very public to other people." I agree with your statement wholeheartedly. But Shawn, the question is--- should religion be public? Religion is a private matter and thus it needs to remain in the private sphere. The beauty of our democracy lies in our basic inalienable rights, namely the freedom of worship. We can attend any church we want to and we don't have to face any persecution---what a beautiful thing. It is important then to separate church and state. Why? Because once the government begins to favor one religion over another, then such a freedom is jeopardized.

I do strongly believe that certain religious tenets should be adopted by all governments---ideas like charity, selflessness, peace, and patience. These principles should definitely play a role in our government. The line separating church and state though can be very thin at times. I don't have an adequate answer as to when the line is crossed...

With our country becoming increasingly entrenched with hate, violence, and murder, it is perfectly logical that we want national leaders who embrace goodness and morality. Undoubtedly, people should vote as they please and if they want to vote for religious reasons, then they should do so. However, I hope that all Americans are informed voters who seek to gain knowledge of social issues. And I also hope, perhaps naively, that we realize how our religious beliefs are not shared by all. I hope we ask ourselves, "What strategy, or what candidate, is of the greatest benefit to all Americans?" If you truly believe George Bush is the right man for the job, then by all means, vote for him. But please be an informed voter. Do your homework before casting that ballot. Do not vote for a candidate just because he claims to pray to god every night. Check out his voting history and his political background. Let's make sound judgments when choosing our leaders. Acknowledge his words, but look to his actions.

To echo your own phrase, I would also proclaim proudly, "God bless America." Yet I would also have to add, "God bless the Iraqis who must live through this war," "God bless the atheists," "God bless the Democrats," "God bless the Mormons and everyone in between." I wish that all political leaders could feel the love of God in their hearts---perhaps then we could end our ceaseless fighting and extend a hand to those in need. But I also wish that such religious sentiments will remain in the private sector. Let us allow our religions to influence our personal lives to make us better people and better citizens. The effect of such actions will undoubtedly trickle into the public realm.


Sometimes I think my blog-posts are all so serious and heavy... This is probably because I'm going through a "phase." I promise I definitely have a fun and silly side! Promise.

Anyway, the purpose of my blog is to CALL ALL OF MY FRIENDS TO DC! Bored at work? Tired of school? Ready to play? Come to the East Coast and visit Caroline!

Reasons to come:
1.) I can hook you up with a place to stay. Perhaps my lovely couch or with my parents in Potomac, MD.
2.) DC is full of free activities, like museums, the zoo, the memorials and monuments, etc.
3.) If you come in April, you can see the pretty cherry blossoms!
4.) I can get you a free ticket to an IMAX movie at the Smithsonian.
5.) What better company can you ask for than MOI?

Come one, come all!

The Book that has united us all...

Nope, it's not the Bible. It's not The Da Vinci Code. And it's not Where the Wild Things Are, even though I think every American has read that one.

It's Guns, Germs, and Steel! Honestly, I have heard so much about this book in the past few years from all sorts of people. My professors talked about it; my boss recommended it to me; random strangers have mentioned it. And so, I decided to purchase Jared Diamond's magnum opus on Friday afternoon to see what the hullabaloo is all about.

Not bad so far. Diamond tries to answer the question, "Why did Europeans come to dominate the modern world?" And this is indeed an important question to ask because we have determined the how---through technological innovations and perhaps a stroke of luck---but we haven't necessarily nailed down the why. If all human societies are capable of farming, animal domestication, trading, etc., then why didn't the Chinese or Australian Aborigines or Incans takeover the world? Why Europe?

I'm only about 100 pages in, but it's interesting stuff. I like how Diamond fuses science, anthropology, and history in to his work. And his prose is easy to read, which I think contributed to the success of the book.

Criticisms? I feel that thus far the book only reiterates what I've learned in various college courses. Diamond keeps bringing up the important questions, but he's yet to provide solid answers, or at least any theories. But, I'll have to finish the book before I can give any final conclusions.

Anyone else read Guns, Germs, and Steel?

Grandma and Me

Blame it on excessive free time, but I've been spending a lot of time freelancing. Writing has always been a hobby of mine and since childhood I've dreamt of becoming a famous novelist. In elementary school, I wrote a novella in pencil and on wide-ruled notebook paper. With my head stuck in the clouds, I started a countless number of stories about dragons, magic, wizards, princesses---and with illustrations to boot.

Now at age 23 and in the working world, I still find myself thinking of characters and plot lines rather than focusing on my daily assignments. Lately, I have strayed into the realm of non-fiction, writing personal essays rather than short stories and novels. For the past month, I have worked on an essay about my maternal grandmother who has suffered from Alzheimer's disease for the past five years.

Last night I called my mama to ask her a few questions about my grandmother's early life in China and Taiwan. The details of my grandmother's life has always been hazy to me. I knew her first husband passed away when she was young and left her a widow with three young children. But I have never seen a picture of him---I never even knew his name.

Over the phone, my mom told me briefly that grandma's first husband was a pilot in the navy and had died in a plane crash. Grandma was 28 at the time and my Aunt Ann was only three months old.

I tinkered with the essay until 3 in the morning, deleting certain phrases and sentences, rewriting paragraphs, moving paragraphs around. I think it's almost done, just a few more edits to go. And although it felt wonderful to be oh-so-close to finishing this essay, my heart felt sad and heavy with thoughts of my grandma.

In my mind, I saw her standing there at age 28, her hair dark and her face smooth and unlined. Perhaps a military officer broke the news to her or perhaps she found out about her husband's death in a telegram. Did she weep as she read the words? Or did she sigh and take a deep breath, gathering her two young children to her side and holding her baby to her chest?

And I thought especially of this man without a name---the love of my grandmother's life, a pilot with three young children. Was he afraid when his plane careened towards the ground? Did he think of his wife and kids? And would he ever realize that his death eventually gave me life? If he hadn't died that fateful day, my grandmother would never have married my grandfather and my mother never would have been born. What would have happened to me, my brother, and my sister? And what would happen to all of our future children and grandchildren?

This entire ordeal made me ponder about life in general and the intricate twists and turns that arise from our daily comings and goings. It made me think about death and loss and grief. But it also made me realize the deep ironies of this topsy-turvy world---how the death of one man has led to the birth of many others, how my grandmother's grief ultimately led to my existence.

As I went to bed that night, I thought once more of my 28 year-old grandmother and how she looked out to sea when she heard the awful news. I wish I could have been there to wrap my arms around her, to tell her everything would be all right.

"This is the way it needs to be, grandma," I would say. And perhaps I would whisper in her ear the names of her future daughters and grandchildren who would be borne from this loss.

But I fear such words would give her no comfort. At times, the life of one means so much more than the life of many.

My Long Lost Twin

I google-imaged my name for fun and I found a picture of myself! Well, a picture of another girl with my exact same name. Looks like she lives in London and if I'm heading there in September, I guess we'll just have to be best friends.

Check it out yo:

Outta the Ball Park!

Since I moved back home to DC, I have spent a lot of my time with my high school friends. It has been so fun to reminisce about our awkward years and to laugh about how silly we were. And it's crazy to see how we're all so similar despite spending five and a half years apart at different colleges.

Perhaps one of the best ideas we've rekindled is the terminology of the Four Base system, as in, "So how far did you go?" Back in elementary school, first base meant something like sitting next to your crush. Second base would be talking to him, third base would be holding hands, and a home run meant a kiss on the cheek---or if you're risky and showing signs of future sluttiness, on the lips!

Of course, the Four Base system evolved once we reached high school, but it still remains a great tool to navigate potentially awkward situations. I mean, it's still a little strange to tell your friends how far you've gone with a guy---but much easier to tell them you went to 2nd. Less descriptive, yet to the point.

And what better way to say he got absolutely nothing than to remark, "He was strikin' out all night!"

Gems of Wisdom by Caroline

What I learned yesterday:

1.) If you are going to cry and blow your nose a lot, don't use paper towels. They'll make your eyes sore and your nose red. Use tissues. They were created for a reason.

2.) Tapas restaurants are kind of a rip-off. For a little plate of food, you have to shell out seven or eight bucks---and for what? One little spanakopita? Nonetheless, tapas restaurants are fun and you feel oh-so-Euroepan. Just don't go there if you are poor or terribly hungry.

3.) If you are a woman in your twenties, it is a smart thing to listen to music and read a book while riding the Metro. There are a lot of crazies on the subway system who are strange and mentally-disturbed. They will ask you for your phone number and want to take you out to dinner. A sure-fire way of keeping them at bay is to keep both your eyes and ears busy. Problem solved.

War. What is it good for?

On "60 Minutes" Sunday night, Mike Wallace talked to veterans who were disabled in Iraq. The piece, entitled "The Wounds of War," featured vets who lost limbs, suffered brain damage, or were paralyzed while fighting in the Middle East. The photograph at left is of veteran Melissa Stockwell, who talked to Wallace about losing her left leg in combat. After being medically discharged from the military, Stockwell is back at home and training to become a prosthetist.

It was sad for me to witness the trauma and trials these soldiers have suffered. They were all so young, too--probably around my age--and so it home that the War in Iraq is being fought by people who are a lot like me. We are in the same age group. We probably listen to the same music and watch the same TV shows. We may have even gone to high school together.

It was touching to see the strength and hope these soldiers have for the future. Although they have had to relearn how to walk or even how to talk, they are optimistic, excited about life, and eager to help others. I think if I ever lost a limb, I would be bitter and angry for a long time. And so it was really humbling to see people who have made lemonade and lemon bars when life handed them a truck-full of sour fruit. What an inspiration.

But the sadness still remains in my heart. War is a tragedy. Not only are good Americans being killed, there are also many innocent Iraqis who are also lost in the crossfire. Journalists, too, are being targeted--no matter what their nationality. And it's not only the War in Iraq. There is suffering in Sudan, North Korea, Israel...

Since mankind first stepped foot on this Earth, there have been wars and murders. Isn't history defined by war? By the conflicts between warring tribes or kings or nations? No matter what kind of government we have--be it monarchy, theocracy, fascist dictatorship, or democracy--the ugly head of war always rears its head.

Yet most of us do not want war. We do not want to lose our loved ones. We do not want our homes to be destroyed or our crops ravaged. We want peace. But there always will be war someplace on this Earth. There will always be a corrupt leader who wants to expand his borders or pillage his neighbors. And isn't it sad, and ironic, that sometimes the only way to resist war is to join in it? I mean, someone had to stop Hitler. Someone has to defend our liberty and our freedoms--and sometimes the only way to do that is with guns and bombs. Negotiations and peace offerings can only go so far when a bloodthirsty enemy is involved.

I have a friend who believes the human race is inherently broken. And I can empathize with his perspective because the world is indeed filled with war, suffering, and inhumanity. But I have to believe that there is a lot of good out there--you just have to dig a little deeper to find it. And I also have to believe that we are not broken. We all have the ability to choose between good and evil; even the vilest human being has the option of joining the good side.

And there always remains a hope for peace. However naive this notion may be, I avidly prescribe to it.

A New Romance?

Life in the boy department these days is frustrating and tear-streaked. But I've had enough of my drivelling and crying, so onto newer romantic pursuits!

I'm contracted to work at the Smithsonian until early August, but my mind is already roaming to lusher, more exciting pastures. Don't get me wrong, I feel very lucky to work at a great museum, but the work that I'm doing now will never be a life-long pursuit for me. It's just a job to make some money until I head to grad school in September.

March, April, May, June, July, August...September! I'm especially excited because I plan on getting my Masters in London. What a fabulicious city! Museums, theaters, Portobello Road, Oxford Street, Hyde Park, double-decker buses, TopShop, kebabs, crazy Tube riders--what an amazing place. And I'm also ready to head back to school. I miss the academic life of thought-provoking classes and influential professors. I miss the books and even the process of writing papers.

Of course, I need to live in the here and now and I especially need to make the most of my time in DC. But I can't help but think about London and graduate school and London and London.

So is there a new romance in my future? A thousand times yes! But I just need to wait a few more months. Until September.

Music Balm

On the Metro ride to work today, I listened to the bubblegum pop of Britney Spears' "Stronger" and the emo angst of the All American Rejects' "Swing Swing." Call it comfort food for the heart. There must be a dose of ibuprofen mixed into the lyrics of certain break-up songs because they just make you feel better. Like a throat lozenge.

Other Chicken-Soup-Songs-for-the-Soul include:

1.) Destiny's Child - "Bugaboo"
2.) Jessica Andrews - "There's More to Me than You"
3.) JoDee Messina - "Bye Bye Love"
4.) Christina Aguilera - "Fighter"
5.) Jo Jo - "Leave" (I know, the guiltiest of all guilty pleasures.)
6.) Bon Jovi - "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "Bad Medicine"
7.) Ugly Kid Joe - "I Hate Everything About You"

There's so many more... But of course, such songs can only do so much to assuage the hurt.

So even though, yeah yeah, I know this is for the best... And even though, yeah yeah, he doesn't deserve me anyway, it still feels like someone thrust a mace into my chest, twisted it around, and left me to rot.

Ouch. Love hurts.

Not Pornographic

So the image of Bernini's Rape of Persephone that I posted below might look a bit risque, but I promise you that it is one amazing sculpture.

Here's a picture of the whole shebang:

What's Left Behind

For lunch today, I headed over to the National Gallery of Art, which is just across the street from my workplace. I wandered down to the contemporary art exhibition that prominently showcases half a dozen murals by Mark Rothko.

Rothko died in 1970, but his paintings steeped in abstract expressionism are still found in museums worldwide. Along with the NGA in Washington, D.C., his work is located at the Tate Modern in London and the Guggenheim of New York City.

Despite his avant-garde talent (and perhaps because of it), Rothko suffered from depression and ended his life by slitting his wrists. Undoubtedly, the artist suffered a grisly death, but what's left behind is his art--a testament of his brilliance and a window into the world of abstract expressionist painting.

As I walked around the exhibition, I couldn't help but wonder what I will leave behind when I pass away. Will I leave behind a painting or sculpture that is displayed at a national museum? Will I leave behind a sheet of music that will be played centuries after I'm gone? Will I leave behind a few books that I've written and thus be able to communicate with the living once I pass on to the other side?

The study of history has taught me that we human beings only remember a few ancestors from our past. We remember important political figures like Alexander the Great, Elizabeth I, and Adolf Hitler--Alexander for spreading Hellenism, Elizabeth for raising England to prominence, and Hitler for his evils. We remember religious figures like Mohammed, Jesus Christ, and Siddhartha because their teachings have sculpted the world into what it is today--in both good and bad ways. We also remember great thinkers of the past like Socrates and Hobbes and Aristotle and Locke. (How often we forget that the world we live in is a direct result of the Enlightenment.) And we also remember great artists, such as Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, Bernini, Picasso, and Rothko. And of course, the word 'artist' extends beyond the world of visual art; we cannot forget the novelists and architects, poets and playwrights, filmmakers and musicians.

There are others we remember, too. We have heroes to look up to like Cincinnatus who answered the call to serve Rome and then humbly returned to his farming when the battle was finished. We have traitors like Benedict Arnold who turned against his infant country to ally himself with the British. We have peacemakers like Martin Luther King, Jr., who promoted non-violence to achieve equality for all.

Yet despite such remembrance, we often forget the millions--yes, billions--of people who have also lived here on our green Earth. The two world wars are narrated with military tactics and offensive strategies, rather than with the complicated tale of men losing their lives and women left widowed. The bubonic plague that ripped apart Europe in the 14th century is taught to us in cold statistics and numbers, erasing the individual stories of each victim. Of course, no historical documentation exists to fully tell the humanistic tale of World War I or the sufferers of the bubonic plague--such a task is impossible. But isn't it a shame that we have forgotten the lives of so many of our kinsmen?

And so, perhaps I write in a journal and started this blog to create a record of my life, my thoughts, my emotions. I know that I will not leave behind a masterpiece of sculpture or a manifesto on a new political ideology. Yet I want to leave something behind. But what?

I have decided that what I want to leave behind are two things: a family and a legacy of charity. When I leave this Earth, I hope to leave behind children and grandchildren who are happy, healthy, and who strive to make this world a better place. And I also hope to look back on my life and be able to say that I did my best to help others, to serve the needy, to care for the sick, to comfort those who mourn. I may not leave something behind that will get my name in the papers, but that doesn't really matter because newspapers eventually yellow and fade. What really matters is how I live my life and whether or not I am making a difference while I am here.

So I extend this question to you: what will you leave behind? Hmmm...

Silly Girly Things

I would like to think that I am the kind of girl who doesn't fawn over bridal magazines and who hasn't spent hours picking out her wedding colors. (Cream and blue. Or maybe green?)

But I am! A few weeks ago, my two best friends from high school and I looked at engagement rings online. This Edwardian-style ring is my current favorite. Classy, elegant, and Tiffany's.

Hey, I wouldn't even mind getting it for Christmas or my birthday. Who says that diamond rings are only for women getting engaged? Maybe I just love pretty rings...

So Incredibly Amusing...

So I love reading the editorial page at The Daily Universe (the student newspaper at Brigham Young University). During my tenure at BYU and even after I graduated, the editorials have made me laugh and have made me red with anger. Sometimes, they even make me think.

Silly editorials include the ones that bashed PDAs on campus. These letters often popped up during the spring when lovestruck couples multiplied in mass numbers, laying around on any stretch of campus grass with their limbs entwined like grapevines.

Other silly editorials include the ones that urged married students to pack up and leave BYU. The reason for kicking them out? BYU had served its purpose by helping them locate a living and breathing spouse. So off with you married couples! Your mission here is complete.

I will always remember the letter to the editor that urged students to wear distinguishing markers that spelled-out their marital status. This writer suggested that single people should wear a green patch (green for "go for it") while married people should wear a red one (red for "I've been drafted already for the married cause). Hilarious.

Of course, there have been many editorials that have been peppered with homophobia, sexism, and just plain ignorance, but such letters have always caused an outcry from the more rational and "normal" students at BYU.

Anyway, here is a recent editorial from The Daily Universe. The writer is an acquaintance of mine and perhaps one of the funniest guys I know. I had no idea that he was so politically-minded.

"Bush's 'Bizarro World'

I was sucked into President Bush's 'Bizarro World,' where his Clear Skies Acts increases air pollution and his Healthy Forest Initiative opens woodlands to more clear-cutting, as I watched the State of the Union address. He indulged us with more of his double talk as he spoke about the importance of education for our nation's future leaders, when no more than a month ago the Republicans cut more than $12 billion from Federal Student Loans. He spoke about the need for everyone to have affordable health care, when Republicans also recently made huge Medicare cuts to give tax breaks to the rich.

Representative Obey put it best when he said, 'They [Republicans] think they can pretty much do whatever they want to students, because they think that the students will march but they won't vote.' It saddens me that at BYU we will let them do whatever they want to us, and we won't march. And even worse, we will still vote for them!"

Danny Harris
West Jordan

Hail, King Bushy! Long live the King!

The title of this blog is meant to be chanted to the same beat used in Disney's "The Sword in the Stone."

Near the end of the film, Wort (AKA Arthur) is sitting on his new throne in his new palace and all he can think about is running away. He's just a little kid with scraggly arms and legs---he doesn't know how to run a country! But every time he opens a door to escape, he is immediately greeted by a loud chant: "Hail, King Arthur! Long live the King!"

So let's say this new chant together: "Hail, King Bushy! Long live the King!"

Anyway, I had the pleasure last night of going to a karaoke bar in Old Town Alexandria. I didn't go there to sing, but to watch funny drunk people slur the words of Madonna's "Holiday" and Bon Jovi's "Bed of Roses." Perhaps what's even funnier than drunk people is a bunch of crazy Mormon boys who like to shake their groove thangs up on stage while lip-synching to the Bloodhound Gang's "The Bad Touch." (You know, the song about doin' it like its done on the Discovery Channel.)

But I digress from the topic at hand, which is the madness of King George Bush. At this karaoke bar, I had a lengthy conversation with a friend of a friend named John, who is visiting DC for a few days from Arizona. John is the poster-child of the red-state voter---Republican, right-wing, and religious. He is also incredibly business-minded and (almost alarmingly) ambitious.

As a political independent with Democratic tendencies, I disagreed with John about most current issues, like the war in Iraq and the wiretapping of American citizens. But as a person who's trying to be more open-minded, I really tried to empathize with John's opinions because he represents a huge chunk of the American population that avidly adores our King, ahem, President.

John's Point-of-View
1.) He supports the War in Iraq because Saddam Hussein was a horrible dictator and the Iraqi people were being oppressed. He made an analogy to Hitler and how it is necessary to oust maniacal leaders.

2.) He supports the President's actions in wiretapping the phone conversations of Americans who may be in touch with terrorist groups.

3.) He likes Bush because the President "prays to the same God that I pray to." John feels comfort that the President is being led by God.

Admittedly, as John blazed on and on about the merits of Bush, I felt the defense mechanisms in my brain kick into red-alert mode. But, I'm trying to be less defensive when it comes to debating (if you really get me riled up, I'll start crying and that's not a good thing to do in debates!), and so, I ignored the blaring sirens in my mind and here was my rebuttal.

My Point-of-View
1.) I believe Saddam Hussein is a horrible person and committed atrocities against his own people. I don't think people like him should be in positions of power---and he definitely should not have access to nuclear weapons.

But I have an unsettled feeling about the motivations in going to Iraq. Why Iraq? Was oil a factor in going to war? Where are the WMDs that led us into this conflict? Will the spread of democracy in Iraq really allieve the problem of terrorism? And if we are creating such chaos in Iraq, isn't the country becoming a breeding ground for more terrorists?

And again, why Iraq? Why not Sudan? Why not North Korea? If the U.S. was supposedly justified in ousting a political leader from office, then what is keeping us from getting rid of other oppressive regimes worldwide? Understandably, our resources are limited, but why Iraq?

2.) Proponents of wiretapping say that there is nothing wrong with Bush's actions because they have nothing to hide. OK, I can kind of understand this argument. But I have nothing to hide either, yet I still feel it is wrong for President Bush to sidestep the law.

I do believe in times of war that the American president should be granted certain liberties to protect our country. But what worries me is that Bush is usurping powers into his presidency without carefully considering the legality of his actions. He does not respect the rights granted to American citizens in the Constitution, nor does he respect the balance of power between the three branches of government that our Founding Fathers carefully outlined.

The war on terrorism is indefinite, and thus, the President will continue to chip away at our rights in order to "protect" us from our enemies. But what happened to protecting our civil liberties?

3.) I am always a little thrown off when Bush supporters extol his religious credibility. "He's a God-fearing man and not afraid to show it," they say. Or, "I want a President who prays to the same God that I pray to."

"Ai ya!" as my grandmother would say. OK, I am a practicing Mormon who believes in God and who prays everyday, but I also am a firm believer in the separation of church and state. I mean, America was founded upon religious freedom. The Founding Fathers specifically created the presidency as a secular position; they witnessed firsthand what life was like under George III who held the dual position of political monarchist and head of the Anglican Church. Consequently, the frameworkers of the Constitution laid a foundation for this country where church and state are separated.

Bush is blatantly mixing the two and I think he is using his religion to court voters. Religion is a private matter in one's life and it should be even more so in the case of the president. I don't care if my president is Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or atheist---all I want is for him or her to make our country a better place.

So in response to John who proclaimed that he loved a president who prayed to God, I would have to ask: what if the president was Muslim and prayed to Allah? What if she was Buddhist and avidly extolled her religious views to the media? And in a extreme case, what if he was a pagan and worshipped a rock named Krag? What then?

And so, Bush is deliberately pandering to the religious right in America. He is dividing our nation into the camps of Bush-haters and Bush-supporters. You're either with him or against him, so you better jump on his bandwagon or he'll start wiretapping your phones.

Shouldn't the president try to unify the country instead of polarizing it? I thought that was his job. Oh yes, but this is a responsibility of a president---not of a king.

***For more information about this topic, read this article from Slate.
***Other topics John and I discussed include: the leftist views of the press and how he believes the President represents the "average American." (My question:what is an average American? A WASP?)

The Problem with Country One Man

I have always been skeptical of country music. Those honky-tonk sounds and sappy lyrics about drinkin' and cheatin'.

But because of a lovely roommate I had my freshman year of college, I decided country ain't so bad. She introduced me to fun songs by the Rascal Flatts, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks--and even old fogies like Brooks n' Dunn.

However, in the past few years, country music and I have had a falling out. Sometimes, I just can't listen to any more lyrics about living in the South and good ol' red-state values. Perhaps the real reason for the demise of this relationship can be summed up in two words: Toby Keith.

I HATE TOBY KEITH. (Hence the capital letters.) I think he represents everything wrong in America--cut-off jeans that are too short, mullets, big ignorant fat guys who drink too much beer, and ignorance.

These are the lyrics from his magnum opus "Angry American (Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue)":

Ohhh Justice will be served
And the battle will rage
This big dog will fight
When you rattle his cage
And you'll be sorry that you messed with The U.S. of A.
'Cause we'll put a boot in your ass
It's the American way

You don't speak for me, Toby! Dont' tell me what the American way is! I was a history major in college! That's c-o-l-l-e-g-e. You should try it some time.

My other beef with Toby is that he raps. Please, oh please, stop rapping! Leave it to the pros, like Dr. Dre and Jay-Z. Fat white ex-football players should not attempt to rap. This is not a smart thing to do. Yes, maybe you are trying to inject some "urban hipness" into the country music scene, but I plead with you Toby, this is not necessary!

Mr. Keith is yet another example of the white man stealing everything from the black man. Oh, the injustices of the American way!

(Haha. Please realize that last sentence was a joke. My hatred towards Toby Keith though, is indeed very real.)

On a closing note, I would like to say that I really do like some country music. Especially the new record by Little Big Town. They sound like a 21st century version of Fleetwood Mac! And so, there's nothing I can say to complain about them. Check out their new CD.

Say It Ain't So!

Betty Friedan died over the weekend. This makes me sad because I only got to know her just a few months ago.

Friedan wrote the monumental work, The Feminine Mystique, a book that scrutinized the "happy housewife" role that was idealized in the post-WWII era. In the 1940s and 1950s, American society and culture promulgated the ideology that a woman should find ultimate fulfillment in baking, cleaning, raising strapping young Boy Scouts and little debutantes, and choosing new appliances for her kitchen. Satisfaction lied solely in the home where she picked up after the kids and helped her husband achieve a promotion. Her measure of worth was based upon the succulence of her souffle and the cleanliness of her home. Sure, women could pursue a higher education, but college was really only a finishing school where they found husbands. Dreams of a career--or even just pursuing a hobby outside of sewing and crotcheting--was out of the question.

Mystique consequently opened the eyes of an entire generation of housewives and their daughters. In the book, Friedan describes "the problem without a name," or in other words, the struggle women faced when they could not find ultimate satisfaction in the home. They felt empty. They loved their children and their husbands, but there was something missing. The pressures of society had led them to get married young and to produce babies quickly, but in the process they had given up their dreams and ambitions. Or even more sadly, they were never given the chance to discover and build their individualities. Their lives were prescribed to them, and now they were suffering.

In the forty years since The Feminine Mystique was published, women now make up a healthy percentage of the workforce and interestingly enough, more women attend college than men. From grades kindergarten to twelfth, young girls are taught that they can indeed achieve any dream they have. There have been female astronauts, scientists, doctors, lawyers, politicians. And in Washington today, a black woman holds the position of Secretary of State and rumors are bubbling that Hillary Clinton will run for president in 2008. All of this in a short forty years!

I often forget that only a few decades ago, the opportunities offered to women were slim and bleak. As a child of the eighties and nineties, I have always been raised with the belief that I can accomplish whatever I set my heart to do. The American society I live in today pushes women to achieve their dreams--and how often I take this for granted! Undoubtedly, glass ceilings and discrimination still exist, but how liberating it feels to live in a country where my worth is not measured upon how well I cook or clean.

Perhaps the greatest contribution Betty Friedan has given my generation of women is the ability to choose--we can choose to head into the workforce or stay at home with the kids. And if at any time we want to change our minds, we are free to do so. Friedan's work has thus paved the way for the equality of women in America. As Betty said to Life magazine in 1963: "Some people think I'm saying, 'Women of the world unite — you have nothing to lose but your men.' It's not true. You have nothing to lose but your vacuum cleaners."

Thanks, Betty! You will be missed.

***Thanks, Lex, for letting me read your copy of The Feminine Mystique!

Positive Functions of Life

Another literary gem from the Norton Anthology of Personal Essays. This one is from Dawn Powell's "What Are You Doing in My Dreams?":

"Do you know how some people's lives seem to stop like a clock at a certain mark? They go on living, get married, have families, save money, travel around the world, trade in their cars and houses and jobs, but all that is their dead life. Their life really stopped the year they were captain of the high school football team, the year they had the lead in the college play, the day they quit Paris or the army or the newspaper job. Other jobs and mates come and go, babies grow up and have babies, the exercise horse is mounted each day as if it was really going somewhere, but all the time the rider is transfixed in an old college song or in Tony's speakeasy or in that regiment."

Well, I certainly hope that this phenomenon will never plague my life! I don't want my life to take on the shape of a bell curve--I'd like to think that it is a line that continually moves upwards. Of course, there are times when the line goes backward, even plunging down numerous increments, but I hope it always finds its way back up--towards increased growth. Perhaps the equation of my life would be something like (2x + 1) or 3a(4b +5). Something like that...a positive function.

Here's to You, Winny

As a graduate of Winston Churchill High School, I have always felt an eerie kinship with the great prime minister. Here was a man of such great importance that his moniker would adorn a high school in suburban Maryland. I can't think of very many foreigners who have an American public school named after them, but there are indeed more than one WCHS' in the United States.

I look up to Churchill for various reasons--his steely leadership over England during WWII, his strength in the face of an evil enemy, his ability to unify his countrymen in their most trying hour. And on a personal level, his marriage to his wife that lasted over forty years. I can only imagine what the two of them faced together.

And so, I was excited to read an essay by Churchill in a collected anthology of essays that I borrowed from the library. The title of the piece is called "The Dream" and it is about an imaginary conversation a 70 year-old Churchill has with his deceased father. In the essay, Churchill tells his father about what has happened in the world since his passing (his father died in 1895 and has no idea that his son became the most powerful man in the U.K.).

Good ol' Winny tells his father about the Boer War (something to do with England conquering South Africa...I think) and his father remarks:

"England should never have done that. To strike down two independent republics must have lowered our whole position in the world. It must have stirred up all sorts of things."

I read this quote and thought it had an uncanny resemblance to the war in Iraq. Forty years from now, will we look back on this war and say, "America should never have done that"? Will this war lower our position in the world? Undoubtedly, it has stirred up all sorts of things already.

Anyway, back to the essay...

After the Boer War discussion, Churchill tells his father about all the terrible conflicts the world has seen since his father's death--two world wars, the shattering of Europe, the rise of communism. Dismayed, his father replies:

"Winston, you have told me a terrible tale. I would never have believed that such things could happen. I am glad I did not live to see them. As I listened to you unfolding these fearful facts you seemed to know a great deal about them. I never expected that you would develop so far and fully. Of course you are too old now to thin kabout such things, but when I hear you talk I really wonder you didn't go into politics. You might have done a lot to help. You might even have made a name for yourself."

How poignant! This paragraph broke my heart. Did Churchill see himself as a failure? Did he look back in his life and wonder what more he could have done? What occupied his thoughts as he neared the end of his life?

Has anyone read this essay? If you have, I'd like to discuss it. And if you haven't, you should read it if you have time. It's a fascinating account of the 20th century and an inside look into one of the greatest men of his time.