Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Group 2 Case Study

Brian Heller
Brooke Farber
Julie Morcate
Daniela Composto

It’s not over till it’s over

For Sharon Montgomery, the shock she felt on the morning of November 5, 2008 has still not worn off. The headline read, “McCAIN DEFEATS OBAMA, COUNTRY AND WORLD IN SHOCK!” and Sharon had to pinch herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. Every national poll had Obama leading, some by as much as 10 points just days before the election. Even McCain’s most vocal supporters were showing signs of doubt. Sharon could not think of one person she had spoken with that said they were going to vote for John McCain this year. The economy was miserable, the unemployment rate was at one of the highest points in years, foreclosures of homes were rampant, and McCain described the economy as fundamentally sound. Obama had a plan for the economy, he had a plan for the middle class, and except for Bill O’Reilly, every media personality supported him. The election was not predicted to even be close; so what happened?

This story is obviously false, but it is being used to relate to the election of 1948, where there were very similar circumstances. Just to give a little bit of background as to what the conditions of that period were like, WWII had ended and the country was looking forward to the return of economic prosperity. When that did not immediately happen, current President Harry Truman was taking the blame and criticism for the country's hardships. In general, people were tired of government controls such as price restrictions and rationing, which were associated with the Truman administration and the Democratic Party (Hughes).

Imagine waking up in Chicago on Nov 3, 1948, the day after the presidential election, and picking up a copy of the Chicago Daily Tribune, then reading the headline Dewey Defeats Truman. If that were the case, you would probably not have been surprised, since Dewey had been favored in all national polls by as much as 15 points prior to the election. In fact, most polling had ceased weeks before the presidential election because the election was going to be such a landslide in Dewey’s favor. The background of this historic presidential election was that it featured two prominent candidates, although there was a third named Strom Thurmond who won some electoral votes. Incumbent president and Democratic nominee Harry S. Truman had succeeded President Franklin D. Roosevelt after he died less than three months after beginning his fourth term as president. Republican nominee and New York governor Thomas E. Dewey was Truman’s opponent as well as the heavy favorite to win the election. As mentioned above, national polls as well as the news media were convinced that the election was over before the votes were counted and this led to what is now called one of the greatest elections upsets in American history.

Noelle-Neumann’s Spiral of Silence Theory “focuses on the idea that individuals fear social isolation and monitor their social environments for evidence of the extent to which their opinions match the trends of dominant opinion.”(McDonald, etc.) If an individual fears that his or her opinion is losing ground or not in the majority, he or she is less likely to voice any honest feelings and opinions in public. Eventually, the theory explains that only the hardcore types will continue to speak out and voice their true opinions in public while the rest of the supporters will stay silent.

One of the most famous photographs linked to the 1948 presidential election was taken on November 3, 1948. This was the day that the results were official and Truman proudly held up his copy of the Chicago Daily Tribune, with the front page claiming Dewey the winner.

Research after the election has supported that Truman supporters were not giving accurate responses to pollsters because they felt like Truman was going to lose and they were not comfortable voicing their opinion. In fact, as many as 1 in 7 voters had not even made up their mind with two weeks until Election Day. Of the 1 in 7 that made their decision later in the election, three quarters of them were have said to vote for Truman. Because of the fact that national polls were not even being taken at that point, the public as well as the media were convinced the election was going to take an inevitable course of Dewey being elected the next president.

Politics has always been an area where so many of us are not comfortable about expressing our true feelings. One reason may be that it is something we consider very private in our lives and another reason may be we know how passionate people are about their beliefs and for most of us, it is an argument we would rather not get into. In any case, the media will always play a role in our perception of the candidates. What would have happened in 1948 if Truman voters stayed home because they felt hopeless for their candidate? Would our country be the way it is today? The Spiral of Silence is just a theory but many aspects of it seem evident in this election.

Audience questions-

1. Do you do your own research before voting or do you base your decision on the opinion from someone politically knowledgeable that you trust?

2. If the candidate that you were going to vote for was obviously not the popular choice, would you feel comfortable engaging in a debate with a group of supporters of the more popular candidate or would you be more likely to keep quiet?

3. If you believed that your candidate had no chance to win, what would be the longest line you would be willing to stand in to place your vote?

4. Why or why not do you believe national election polls accurately predict the feelings of the public?

5. Why do you believe national election polls are either fair or unfair to candidates and the public?

6. The Spiral of Silence theory says that only the hardcore supporters will voice their honest opinion in public; do you agree?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

One of my many families

The movie “Garden State” not only addresses issues within families, friendships and young love, but also shows a young man’s quest for independence, self-worth, and the meaning of his past, all while finding himself along the way. The short clip I’ve included shows the protagonist, Andrew Largeman, emotionless and numb at his mother’s funeral.

Although I couldn’t find clips of any of the scenes I wanted to include, here are two excerpts from the movie that address family:

Andrew: You know that point in your life when you realize that the house that you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of the sudden even though you have some place where you can put your stuff that idea of home is gone.
Sam: I still feel at home in my house.
Andrew: You’ll see when you move out it just sort of happens one day one day and it’s just gone. And you can never get it back. It’s like you get homesick for a place that doesn’t exist. I mean it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I miss the idea of it. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people who miss the same imaginary place.

Mr. Largeman: I'm sure you can find lots of things in your life...that you can be angry about. But what I do not understand is why you're so angry at me. All I ever wanted was for everyone to be happy again. That's all I ever wanted.
Andrew: When were we all ever happy, Dad? You always say that, but when was that? When was this time that we were all so happy? 'Cause I don't have it in my memory. Maybe if I did, I could help steer us back there. But I just...You know, you and I need to work on being okay...if that's not in the cards for us.
Mr. Largeman: Well, we might have a shot at it...if you can forgive yourself for what you did.
Andrew: What I did. What I did. Okay, let's-let's do it. Okay, we're here, right? Let's do it! I'm gonna forgive myself for what I did. Are you ready?

Just like the college-aged character Zach Braff plays, I am going through the part of life where I’m trying to negotiate my family’s expectations and my journey toward independence and self-sufficiency. I have to completely reconsider my family from the perspective of where I am now in life: the stage in between leaving my mother’s nest and starting a nest of my own, alone at first and hopefully with a partner and children somewhere down the line. After all, as an independent college student, although I don’t have my own permanent residence, I no longer consider my mother’s house to be my home. Still, when I think of my immediate family, the people who live in and pass through my mother’s household come to mind. These characters include my mother Mary, her boyfriend Larry (the actual owner of the house), my brothers Michael (28, electrician, lives in Philly), Justin (21, also lives in Philly, Sports Medicine major at Temple University) and Charles (11, has autism, lives with his father in South Jersey), and my sister Laura (13, the most normal out of all of us, lives with our mother).

The unique thing about my family is how scattered we are. Because we siblings all have different fathers and stretch across a great range of ages, we are constantly passing through disparate areas in life and don’t often catch each other in person. We have all had to adapt and adjust to new homes/schools/lives multiple times. For example, my only full brother, Justin, and I have lived in five different houses before going away to college. As such, it is a rare and special occasion when all of my mother’s children gather under one roof—it happens maybe twice a year ever since my brother Mike got kicked out 10 years ago. It doesn’t help that my mother hardly ever cooks, so we don’t really have a particular time and event to be home for (part of our birthday present each year is getting our favorite meal prepared for us. See why I appreciate Daly’s so much?). For all of these reasons, the most recent time my family was all together was a Sunday afternoon in late September when I brought a bunch of my foreign exchange friends over for a barbeque dinner. Not only was my immediate family there, but so were my grandmother, my niece Azour, and Justin’s girlfriend, Mary Kate.

I participated in but more often observed the dialogue with my family over the course of the day. My family stuck to the same place settings for the most part: my two older brothers sat at the table in the middle of the deck, dead center in front of the TV (which had an Eagles game on); my grandmother sat between the international kids and the table where my brothers sat; Larry stood by the grill the whole time; and my mom, my sister and I walked in and out of the kitchen, making sure everyone had drinks and appetizers. The dialogue was different in every setting; however, one thing I noticed was that everybody avoided talking about politics, most likely out of politeness and the fear of offending any hosts or guests. Sitting next to my brothers, I heard lots of arguments about football, whether or not the Phillies were going to make it to the World Series, recent parties or events in Philly and Atlantic City they attended, and food. The two “used humor as a way to bring amusement or enjoyment to their relationship” (Campbell Eichhorn 297). My grandmother, an avid football fan, chipped into their conversation to introduce historical figures and make shrewd prediction of the Eagles’ upcoming season. These three used their words to express dissatisfaction with each other’s predictions and analyses (all in a friendly manner, of course). When the boys were speaking about other topics, my grandmother leaned over to talk to the international kids about their pasts, their home countries, their studies, and what they like about this country so far. This dialogue lent itself to the Uncertainty Reduction Theory easily, because they were all participating in the opportunity to get to know each other better through self-disclosure (Campbell Eichhorn 165). My mom, my sister and I talked about my troubled love life, my classes so far, what work has been like for my mom, and my little sister’s first month as an 8th grader. Goffman’s Dramaturgical Theory can be applied to the context of our conversation because we were all attempting to present ourselves in manners that were pleasing to us and acceptable to the others. We fused all three cores of communication: we used our words to illustrate our thoughts on one another’s decisions, daily activities and difficulties, meanwhile exerting body language, paralanguage and proxemics to express our emotions of affection, disappointment, empathy, irritation, disparity, and many more emotions (as most deep female conversations tend to include). I attempted to provide social support for my little sister as best as I could (Campbell Eichhorn 297). Throughout the day, my family’s dialogue incorporated a variety of words, thoughts and emotions.

Believe it or not, no adults in my close family are married. My mother is single, my father and all of my siblings’ fathers are single, the woman my dad left in order to marry my mom (my sister Gabby’s mother, Carmen) is single, and the two siblings I have that are of the appropriate age to marry are both single. My mother, however, has been living with her boyfriend for six years, and since they are not married simply for financial reasons, I’m going to make the leap and label them as a total marriage under Cuber and Harroff’s definition. My mom and Larry are inseparable. Both of them work long hours during the day, but they make sure they start and end each day in each other’s company. In fact, they spend every waking moment of their time off from work together, not only in the day-to-day but also on vacations, on weekends, and on holidays. One of their favorite things to do is eat dinner and watch “Everybody Loves Raymond” together, which is ironically the example our text uses to portray the aspects of conflict in the Sustaining Relationships chapter (Campbell Eichhorn 193). My mom’s conflict management style has been avoidance as a fallback option. Her first attempt is usually collaborative or integrative—“often described as a productive means of managing conflict because it requires open and ongoing communication” (Campbell Eichhorn 201)—but when it doesn’t go well, she’ll just physically leave the room or the house to prevent the argument from going any further. The most typical conflict that I see my mom and Larry engage in concerns my brother, Charles. Charles only comes to visit every Sunday and on occasion holidays since he lives with his father and goes to school in NJ. While my mother is fiercely and tragically protective of her often misunderstood son, Larry is zealously protective of his house and his material belongings. As Charles has autism, he tends to not comprehend or remember certain rules of Larry’s house, including no jumping, running, or yelling (which he loves to do and is allowed to do in every other location he knows), and no eating in any rooms other than the kitchen. Larry freaks out whenever Charles disobeys these rules, and my mom in turn snaps at Larry for frightening Charles. Then Larry defends himself on the grounds that it’s his house and his scare tactics might actually help Charles learn the rules (if only my mother would allow him to try) until my mom feels threatened and ultimately leaves the room/house. Despite the fact that the two of them have tried many times to talk out the issue, they can never seem to compromise or agree on a plan of action. Inevitably, the environment on Sundays in my household is rather tense.

All in all, while my family does have a unique wholeness to it, we do not have so much interdependence as most typical families do, and we only partake in calibration on holidays—which makes for quite eventful holidays (Campbell Eichhorn 298). Still, we do our best to support each other and take care of each others’ needs. “And let’s face it, self-esteem is a psychological state of self-belief bolstered initially by one’s parents and communities” (Sweeney 252, from “Maiden USA”).

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Cleaning House

Cleaning house is never an easy thing for us and our loved ones to go through. We've all had to deal with this within our families, friendships, work relationships, and romantic relationships. My most recent experience with this was my break-up with Steve, a boy I had been with for nearly two years (my longest and deepest relationship). When I saw the comedian Hal Sparks Friday night, he pointed out something brilliant that I think completely captures the essence of what went wrong in my and Steve’s relationship. He started out saying that he was never going to get married. There was a collective sad “aww” from the audience, but then he went on to explain. To paraphrase, Hal believes that when you’re living with someone, you have to come up with a new reason to love each other every single day; otherwise you could just pack a bag and leave. On the other hand, when you’re married, even if you’re dissatisfied you won’t leave simply because of all the effort it would take: you’d have to move, hire a lawyer, go through court, figure out how to divide your possessions (what is half a house?), etc. While this is a pessimistic view of relationships, it applies to my situation with Steve. This past summer things just became a little too off between us; we were bored together, we didn’t really get excited over seeing each other, and in fact, we didn’t even see each other much. Our relationship became more of a habit than a passionate exchange, almost as if we were married and stuck together. I tried to fix things, but Steve didn’t reciprocate. I found out later he had been dwelling on something that had happened a year ago and he didn’t want to tell me about it, but with all of his thoughts and energy on that occurrence, how could he possibly help make the present better? I realized that, “what we got on our hands is a dead shark” (Annie Hall). The thing is, Steve thought that he had all the time in the world and could just neglect me while he worked things out in his own mind; he even told me after we broke up that he took me and our relationship for granted. However, as I am the kind of person who doesn’t let anything negative or oppressive stay in my life for long, I realized it was time to clean house.

Of course, plenty of thought went into my realization, and it took time. I went through the intrapsychic phase: “The individual begins to consider the costs and rewards of the relationship…during this phase, the leaver spends considerable time contemplating whether the relationship is worth saving” (Campbell Eichhorn 247). I gradually became aware that I was not getting much of a return on my investment, trust or comfort in this relationship. There was a disparity in my and Steve’s level of commitment. When I started feeling this way, I tried to work through the conflicts and communicate with Steve to show him what I needed and what was missing in our relationship. Rather than having a big fight or argument over it, we spoke about each little point separately and on multiple different occasions over the course of the summer months. I’m not sure whether or not this was the “best” way to go about it, but it didn’t work: Steve did nothing to change and took no responsibility to keep the bond alive, even though I kept trying. Our goals and similarities had always been alike in some ways and completely opposite in other ways, so that did not have much of an effect on my decision. On the other hand, as for our attraction, I began to see that I was still with him not so much because I felt in love with him anymore, but more out of habit and a fear of what loneliness might feel like. Although I have wonderful friends, I couldn’t even fathom what it would be like to not have Steve there for me; so it’s not so much that I was afraid of being alone per say, but rather that I didn’t know what to expect—I feared the unknown.

Finally, I decided to break up with him. I did this a week after I moved back in to school, when our proximity changed and it became more of a hassle to see each other (even though we happily arranged our lives around each other freshman year, this time around my attitude changed—I felt like it would’ve been an aggravation to fit him into my schedule). Then came the dyadic phase: “This often emotionally exhaustive phase is characterized by long talks and rationalizations of how the partnership ‘got to this place.’ During this phase, the other partner may make attempts to reconcile the relationship and to illustrate the costs of withdrawing. This phase typically continues until someone admits, ‘I have had enough’” (Campbell Eichhorn 247). It’s eerie how right-on the text is here. After I told him I was leaving him, Steve and I had a terribly taxing two-hour-long conversation that day, and then three weeks later (after he calmed down enough) we had an incredibly emotional five-hour-long conversation. Those were the only two times we saw each other, but we continued to have an email correspondence for nearly two months.

As we discussed in class, sometimes a relationship might be terminated more because of a conflict of dialectics than a conflict of interests. In my case, this is true: Steve’s needs were not cohesive with mine anymore, and we struggled and failed to find a way to compromise. For example, I was always the one that arranged things to do together, and I was always the leader. Steve never wanted to be the one to take me out, or plan a fun event for the two of us, even something as simple as a picnic in a park; instead, he was content to be a homebody all throughout the summer, the one season of the year I am eager and able to do lots of things. Essentially, as someone in class said, “If I feel like I’m always the doer, it becomes really hard to maintain that relationship.”

I attempted to demonstrate through my favorite band’s music and poetry the phases our relationship went through. To represent the beginning, I chose Animal Collective’s “The Purple Bottle.”

I couldn’t find a music video of the song in its original form, but this video shows one of the lead singers playing acoustic guitar along with his wife playing the keyboard. This song is about the first stages of falling in love. If you’d like to hear the song in the original version - the singing is not as crazy - here it is.

To represent the middle, after we self-disclosed, bonded, and started feeling like any day spent away from each other was a wasted day, I chose “Grass.”

To represent the end of our relationship, when we were still together but things weren’t going well, I chose “Banshee Beat.” I found a video that shows the lyrics for better comprehension.

If you’d like to see various interpretations of Animal Collective’s complex lyrics, here’s a website that's great for helping you gain a better understanding of them.

I also am including a scene from “Across the Universe” to represent the difficulties Steve and I went through after I decided to break up with him.

This clip shows the disintegration of Sadie’s and JoJo’s relationship, and while it’s a lot more glorious and dramatic, I can relate to it in terms of my break-up with Steve. We went through so much during the two months following the day I actually left him: the dyadic phase, the social phase, and ultimately the grave dressing phase all occurred (Campbell Eichhorn 247). Although we only saw each other twice afterwards, we emailed each other often, which only caused a lot of heartache and anger. I finally cleaned my house, though: I haven’t spoken to him or really felt like I miss him in over two weeks now.

I want to end this blog on a hopeful note, though. Here’s a poem I think captures the essence of a truly healthy loving relationship, one that I hope to find myself in someday. The narrator speaks of his lover in adoring terms, even perceiving her faults to be endearing traits.

“Love Poem” by John Frederick Nims

My clumsiest dear, whose hands shipwreck vases,
At whose quick touch all glasses chip and ring,
Whose palms are bulls in china, burs in linen,
And have no cunning with any soft thing

Except all ill-at-ease fidgeting people:
The refugee uncertain at the door
You make at home; deftly you steady
The drunk clambering on his undulant floor.

Unpredictable dear, the taxi drivers' terror,
Shrinking from far headlights pale as a dime
Yet leaping before apoplectic streetcars—
Misfit in any space. And never on time.

A wrench in clocks and the solar system. Only
With words and people and love you move at ease;
In traffic of wit expertly maneuver
And keep us, all devotion, at your knees.

Forgetting your coffee spreading on our flannel,
Your lipstick grinning on our coat,
So gaily in love's unbreakable heaven
Our souls on glory of spilt bourbon float.

Be with me, darling, early and late. Smash glasses—
I will study wry music for your sake.
For should your hands drop white and empty
All the toys of the world would break.