Tuesday, October 23, 2007

English 101 x 2

I actually learned how to blog in my English 101 class that I took the summer of 2005. That was a great class. I deleted an old blog from there, but had to transfer 3 of the papers I wrote onto this new blog. I just couldn't quite give them up. I worked hard on them. I hope it's OK.

Today I had my first piano lesson in 10 years. I'm taking from my incredibly beautiful and talented daughter-in-law, Becky. She is teaching April, Ross, and me. Ryan, my oldest son, told me that now I have to set a good example by practicing. I will try. I do enjoy playing and having an excuse to do so.

I watched a movie called The Painted Veil today, too. It was thought provoking. I would recommend it.

I had a great evening. For young women's tonight we had dinner and a meeting. The meeting was...a meeting, but afterwards a few of us stood around talking. It was good. I learned that I wasn't the only one in the group who had had Postpartum Depression after my babies. I enjoyed just visiting. I feel like I am finally getting to know a few of the women in the ward a little better. Last week we had a Stake Relief Society service project. We quilted 125+ quilts in a day for different charitable organizations in the valley. I quilted from 11am-5pm. I probably talked too much, as usual. I did get some quilting done, so it wasn't only idle chatter. Plus, I actually learned things about some of the amazing women in my ward. I keep thinking that I'll actually make some friends soon. I've only been here a year. There is hope.

Dear Editor

Monday, July 25, 2005

Dear Editor,

Joseph Hilbe in his commentary on July 19th claimed the Founding Fathers “made [the] nation non-religious.” Even though Hilbe had some points that were accurate, the premise that the “Founders made [the] nation non-religious” is erroneous and misleading. On the contrary, the Founding Fathers made the national government a civil, earthly one with no intentions of having the nation or people “non-religious”. One can see by looking at their words and actions that they hoped for the very opposite. Their desire was to write the Constitution so that it would guard the people from a government mandated religion like the Church of England at the beginning and for the future.

While the Founders weren’t perfect and did not foresee and solve all the problems for our nation, they did strive to protect all religious expression and people in our new nation by setting up a government that would defend the rights of people of all faiths. They never intended the government to be nonreligious or secular. Kevin Hasson, from the Brecket Fund for Religious Liberty explained in his book The Right to Be Wrong, that the word temporal is better than secular. The Founders arranged for a temporal government dealing with issues in this realm not the hereafter (Hasson). While many of the Founders were Christians, they didn’t agree on which sect or belief was best, and because of their experience with England, they were wise enough to protect those with whom they disagreed. The framers of the Constitution wrote The First Amendment which says that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” to do just that. “Congress” in that amendment was referring to the federal government, and not the state governments. States were left to make their own laws concerning the establishment of state run religions if they so desired. New England had an arrangement that most Americans today would now consider an establishment of religion by the state (Feldman).

Looking at the following examples, one can see that these two founders hoped and planned for America to be religious. Signer of the Declaration of Independence, John Jay said, “A proper history of the United States would have much to recommend it: in some respects it would be unlike all others; it would develop the great plan of Providence, for causing this extensive part of our world to be discovered and these ‘uttermost parts of the earth’ to be gradually filled with civilized and Christian people and nations.” John Jay hoped for a Christian nation. Also, Founder Patrick Henry affirmed that “this great nation was founded, not by religionists” and “not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”

And so it began, and as people from all over the world saw the principles of freedom on which America was based, they began to come to the New World. Even if the Founders had a notion of what they had started, they probably had no idea the direction this new freedom would take the nation. They could not anticipate the huge immigration of Catholics, Jews, and Muslims, to name only a few. They didn’t imagine government run public schools that would have to deal with objections, first from Catholics to Protestant ideas being taught, then from atheists and agnostics to prayers and bibles in the classroom. But according to Noah Feldman in his book, Divided by God, Americans did and still do feel strongly that governments should not coerce people in religious matters and affairs of individual conscience. The reason Americans have fought through the decades over religious freedom and expression is because of their strong belief in the “principle of the liberty of conscience” spoken about by John Locke. The Founding Fathers leaned heavily on the ideas of John Locke, who inspired their work more than any other philosopher (Feldman).

Thereafter, the course through American history over the church/state issue has been anything but clean and straight. E. J. Dionne Jr., in his book review of Divided by God, in the Washington Post, said that Americans “...have seen a good deal of incoherence and inconsistency, a fair bit of hypocrisy and a huge amount of contention. We have muddled through in a way that has allowed Americans to believe and worship God as they choose to – and reject faith altogether if they are so inclined” (Dionne). The "great experiment" that our Founding Fathers started has afforded Americans throughout the generations the right to be free, because of the Founder's and Framer's incredible wisdom, bravery, and foresight. Our national government was set up to protect all people from government-mandated religion like the Church of England, to worship whatsoever way or thing they chose. For that I will be eternally grateful.

Terry Allen

Works Cited

Declaration of Independence

Dionne Jr., E. J. “American Spirit.” Book World. The Washington Post 10 July 2005: T7.

Feldman, Noah. (2005). Divided by God. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

The Junto Society, Founder of the Month, John Jay, Dec. 2002. 22 July 25, 2005

The Junto Society, Founder of the Month, Patrick Henry, May 2003. 22 July 25, 2005

Hasson, Kevin Seamus.(2005).The Right to Be Wrong.

Raspberry, William. “Our Religious Culture.” Editorial. The Washington Post 11
July 2005 pp. A15.

The Battle Rages On

Thursday, July 28, 2005

I’m a 41 year old mother of five, a student, and a church-going, praying Christian. I voted for President George W. Bush and am presently overwhelmed by the ongoing war. The one I’m talking about is the war over church and state in America. It is raging between the people, in our classrooms, and even among the judges of the Supreme Court. Last month the Supreme Court handed out two ambiguous rulings about displaying the Ten Commandments on government property. The vote was 5-4 on both. The court ruled that it was unconstitutional to display the Ten Commandments in a Kentucky courthouse, but constitutional to display them on the state capital grounds in Texas. According to Washington Post writer E. J. Dionne Jr. , in his article, American Spirit, the court explained that posting them in Kentucky was “‘to emphasize and celebrate the religious message’ of the commandments” and those in Texas were there for “historical” purposes. And this from a court that starts each session with: “God save the United States and this honorable court” (Dionne).
Is posting the Ten Commandments in a government forum unconstitutional? The Supreme Court can’t even decide. The Founding Fathers wouldn’t have thought so. Anyone looking at their words and actions could see that. The First Amendment was not written with the purpose of keeping religious ideas out of government forums, but was set up to protect the right of religious expression for people of all beliefs. This right, originally protected by the Founding Fathers, is often being destroyed by misapplication of the law, when at other times the right is upheld. The inconsistent and confusing rulings of the court is muddying the waters and worsening the war. Our courts need to truly look to the Founders and the framers of the Constitution for a peaceful solution.
The Founding Fathers started this war by giving us the right to fight it. According to Noah Feldman in his book, Divided by God, the framers of the Constitution strongly believed that governments should not coerce people in religious matters and affairs of individual conscience (Feldman). Because of their experience with the Church of England, they felt it was imperative to add the First Amendment to the Constitution which says that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Their purpose in adding this was to protect religious expression for all people, especially for those of differing beliefs. Even the Founders had varying views about religion. For example, according to his own writings, Thomas Jefferson was a Deist when most of his associates were fervent Christians (Feldman). This law was not intended to protect the government from the influence of religion, but the people from coercion by the government.
Through the years the First Amendment has been interpreted, and reinterpreted by the people and the courts depending on their political situations and motivations. Consequently, the right of religious expression has been injured by the law being misapplied. When our nation started the “common” schools in urban areas in the 1820’s, the concern over religion and religious teaching was immediate, but the leaders in the government didn’t even consider leaving religious teachings out of the classroom (Feldman). These teachings were never thought of as harmful, or unconstitutional, but they were thought of as vital. But the teachings were Protestant doctrines. Then there was a massive influx of Catholics from Europe and the first bomb hit. The Catholics did not want to pay taxes that supported public schools that taught religious doctrines that conflicted with their own (Feldman). They wanted their tax dollars to support their own Catholic schools. When the case went to the courts, the Catholics lost their right of religious expression in the schools. The Constitution should have equally protected their right to education, but it did not. Taxing the Catholics to support other’s religious education was deemed constitutional.
Then the Mormon question arose. After mobs murdered many Mormons and drove them out of several states in the mid-1800s, they fled to the Utah Territory for religious freedom. The states that “legally” drove them out did so because of state anti-bigamy laws. After the Mormons reached Utah and set up a territorial government, Republicans, in 1860, passed a federal law banning polygamy in the Utah Territory. Their quarrel was that because of the dominance of the Mormon Church in Utah, there were church/state issues in the territorial government. The Mormons appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue that “Congress lacked the power to interfere with the purely local government of the territory. But the Supreme Court reframed the issue to ask whether Mormons’ religious belief in polygamy meant that the law in question violated their free exercise of religion under the First Amendment” (Feldman). The justices looked back at similar cases in the late 1700s and the court unanimously determined that creating a federal law about marriage (because marriage was a religious institution) was unconstitutional (Feldman). If only our current court would follow those predecessor’s example. Feldman said, “Never before had the Supreme Court so much as considered a claim that Congress had passed a law prohibiting free exercise. Since 1791, Congress had steered clear of any law that might have given rise to such an objection, and it would be another seventy years before the Supreme Court came to believe that the First Amendment applied to the states, not only Congress.” The original intent of the First Amendment was upheld, and the Mormons won, for a time. . It wasn’t until the 1870’s that the now famous and incredibly influential phrase by Thomas Jefferson stating “that the Constitution had ‘erected a wall of separation between church and state’” was dusted off (Feldman). It was then construed and twisted to support the idea that Jefferson meant that the state and federal governments should be guarded from the ideas of the religious, which Jefferson never imagined (Feldman). The people had to wait until he was good and dead to try that and get away with it.
Luther Kramer, in his letter to the editor titled, No Theocracy, But Allowed Expression wondered why it “has taken Christians several decades to challenge the historical context of Thomas Jefferson’s ‘wall of separation letter’ which was used to promote separation of church and state in 1947.” Kramer goes on to explain that the ruling handed down that year has been “called ‘bad history and bad law.’” Another misapplication, perhaps?
The above examples show that the battle over the church state issue has been anything, but consistent. Dionne said that Americans “....have seen a good deal of incoherence and inconsistency, a fair bit of hypocrisy and a huge amount of contention. We have muddled through in a way that has allowed Americans to believe and worship God as they chose to – and reject faith altogether if they are so inclined”. Our present Supreme Court is just as inconsistent with the current conflict as was the path through history.
So, is posting the Ten Commandments anywhere unconstitutional? Is merely displaying them coercing anyone to read them, let alone believe them, or live them? The Founding Fathers wanted the people to be free to exercise their religion without the government forcing the people to go against that which their consciences dictate. Because of misapplication of the law through the years this idea has been lost. With closer examination of the actions and words of the Founding Fathers and the framers of the Constitution, the Supreme Court could get a clearer idea of what was originally intended by the Constitution, and better guard the right to freedom of religion and expression. But the justices would have to be willing to do some soul searching and a lot more homework.

Works Cited

Dionne Jr., E.J. “American Spirit.” Book World. The Washington Post 10 July 2005: T7.

Feldman, Noah. Divided by God. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. (2005).

First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Kramer, Luther. “No Theocracy, But Allowed Expression.” East Valley Tribune 30 July 2005: A18.

I Even Surprised Myself

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

“Bandits” is a movie about two bank robbers who are exact opposites and a “kidnapped” heroine. Billy Bob Thornton plays a nerdy, neurotic hypochondriac with Bruce Willis playing a good looking womanizer with anger management problems. They rob a few banks and become well known. The heroine, an unappreciated housewife, fleeing from her self-absorbed husband and boring life runs into Thornton with her car. She makes him get in so she can take him to the hospital. Then he tells her that he is a dangerous, desperate man and she responds with, “You don’t know the meaning of desperate!” She gets involved with the bandits and eventually falls in love with both men. She can’t choose between them because in her mind, together they “make the perfect man.”

Being the wife of an ambitious husband and the daughter of a traditional, slightly crazy mother, I identified a great deal with the characters. I appreciated Thornton’s neuroses and the humor related to it. But the thing I enjoyed the most was the fantasy that Cate lived after her escape from the stereotypes, and expectations of others. “Bandits” was meaningful and enjoyable to me because of the colorful, daring characters, and the dream of doing or being anything that I would want without the insecurities and weaknesses that I’ve had throughout my life.

I immediately related to Cate’s character. During the first scene she is in, Cate is singing, dancing and cooking in a beautiful gourmet kitchen. I, too, love to do those things, especially for my family and friends (except for the dancing in public part). But then her doctor-husband walks in and when she excitedly tells him that she has made him an elaborate meal, he says he already ate and has to go to the gym. Why doesn’t she go see a movie? I remember a situation just like this one. Early in my marriage, my husband had just finished finals and was reading a novel. I had been looking forward to finally spending time with him and was peppering him with chit chat about the kids, my day, and anything else I could think of. He got frustrated with me for interrupting his reading and told me to call a friend. The feelings of disappointment and rejection really struck deeply and I felt devalued. I believed that he thought I was only able to take care of the house and children and that was all I was good for. Worst of all, I believed it, too. Because of this belief, I felt powerless and trapped.

The feeling and fear that I would be trapped in a stereotypical role of woman, wife and mother started well before that incident. My mother told me that although she, herself, always got As, she could have never taken a higher level of mathematics, like Trigonometry, because it was too hard for women. Women didn’t need all that stuff, anyway. I believed her and was always afraid of “hard” subjects that were traditionally for men, like chemistry and math. Billy Bob Thornton’s character in Bandits is a lot like my mother, smart, obsessive, overly cautious, analytical, neurotic, and dependant on others. My mother has a horrible, graphic story for every occasion. She told me repeatedly about the dangers of walking (OK, she said running) with a toothbrush in my mouth, falling in love, and believing anything I read. Yet, I should believe her because her life experiences and reading proved her wise. I thought at the time that I didn’t believe any of it, but as I’ve looked back, I can see that I did believe a lot.

I loved the movie because it let me escape even if just for ninety minutes. I became Cate, bold enough to leave my role and go on a crazy, spontaneous, rebellious joyride with two men who appreciated me for who I was, not what they thought I should be. But I tried the crazy, rebellious joyride once, and failed. I was not as successful as Cate. Right out of high school I took a far away job in San Diego working as a nanny for two U.S. Naval officers that were man and wife. This was my big chance! I was going to the big city to get some life experience so I could write my first book. I thought taking care of children would come naturally because I was a woman. I really stank at it. I was more interested in playing, reading, and writing than working. When I realized it and went to quit, I was called a “social butterfly” by my female, commanding officer boss and was told that I would never amount to anything unless I broke away from the false traditions that I had been taught about the place of women. Being crushed by her words, yet denying them, I went home and started my first freshman classes a week later. I was going to be the successful college student, career woman and prove them all wrong. But I got really sick two weeks before finals and didn’t take my exams. I thought I didn’t need those classes anyway, because I was engaged. I got two Fs and a D. I didn’t tell my mother. I thought she would again say, “I told you so.” In my mind, I had proven her right. I was a woman and a failure. All I could do was get married, have babies and keep a relatively clean house (of course it wasn’t as clean as my mother’s).

So I did. Surprisingly, my mother said that I took care of my husband, house and kids better than she had. I was grateful for that and I believed her. I had two children and decided that I wanted to try the school thing again. Because my husband and I were starving students, my father paid for my classes, again. He knew that I had made a mistake earlier and supported me in trying. My father had always supported me in anything that I tried. But for some reason his voice was quieter than others. I should have listened more closely. But I had to prove my own beliefs wrong before I could hear him. That first semester back, I got straight As. I got a 98% overall in my math class. My female teacher suggested I go on to Calculus because I had a gift and that was when math got fun. I felt empowered. I was a success at something other than motherhood. I no longer believed that I was powerless and trapped. I was 23 and had the ability to do anything I wanted. I could do it all if I wanted. But I knew that there was only so much of me to go around so I stayed home for another 15 years to be a mother, because I loved it, chose it, and am great at it. Since then, I’ve been told that I am bright and successful in many areas of my life, not just by my peers and teachers, but by a very surprised mother. And I believe them.