Just Another System

The Many Faces of Imprisonment

Crime and punishment is a complex system. For centuries there has always been an attempt to keep a moral code within society. Throughout the centuries punishment for crimes committed has taken on various forms and approaches hoping for a resolve. It has taken from the seventeenth century up to this day to design programs and buildings hoping to meet the needs of the offenders, in balance with the degree of crime committed, with the goal of rehabilitation.
In Meithe Terrance’s, Punishment Philosophies And Types of Sanctions, he explains the “retributive principle of lex talionis, or let the crime fit the punishment” (Meithe). From the seventeenth century continuing unto this day, punishments have ranged from “exile of country, chastity belts, stockades for humiliation purposes and restraint, boycotts, suspended trading, electronic shackles, harnesses control for children, house foreclosures, even censorship of public speaking,” plus more (Meithe ). Punishing the crime was measured by the degree of the crime rather than the offender. Regardless of how elaborate the buildings have become, or how structured the programs are, not everyone has the same experience while incarcerated, nor is rehabilitation guaranteed.
The idea of imprisonment began in the seventeenth century with the mandatory quarantine of the town’s people during a plague. In Michel Foucault’s, Part Three: Discipline 3. Panopticism, he explains Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon design, which seemed to be the ultimate answer to incarceration. His hopes were to build a criminal’s paradise where all convicts, the evil, and the corrupt, could come to rehabilitate into a working-class individual. Bentham said it was going to be a “laboratory,” a machine to carry out experiments. Also, “to alter behavior, to train or correct individuals, and to experiment with medicines and monitor their effect.” The Panopticon would be an alternative solution to the problem of the more barbaric forms of incarceration, possibly a luxury idea (Foucault). It would be a “mechanism to control the masses inside of the building.” The Panopticon was designed “to avoid those compact, swarming, howling masses that were to be found in places of confinement.” It was a circular type of building, where guards who were stationed within and could keep all the inmates in the surrounding cells under constant surveillance, along with one high tower in the middle (Foucault). This was a blueprint dream for prison, punishment, and rehabilitation.
Not everyone is going receive the same mental or emotional benefits from a stretch of incarceration. Not everyone will have an awakening as hoped for by the justice system.     Thoreau describes his epiphany while he was incarcerated for refusing to pay his taxes. He talks about having read all of the literature there, like traveling into a far country, and it seemed he had never heard the sounds of the town in which he lived, even the strike of the town clock, until that one night spent incarcerated. He felt like “. . . an involuntary spectator and auditor of whatever was done and said in the kitchen of the adjacent village inn.” The incarcerated experience for Thoreau proved to suddenly have awareness to the life going on around him. He describes feeling almost like a stranger in his own hometown. This was one theory the Panopticon was said to serve. “. . . to induce in the inmate a state of conscience and permanent visibility” (Foucault).
The basic idea of punishment and imprisonment is to detain or to delay the offender from continuing in his or her criminal behavior (Meithe 17-18). There is also the hope for a reformed and productive lifestyle when released back into society. Rehabilitation is accomplished to an extent, but it seems people who are imprisoned may have rehabilitated on the level of prison life rather than the immediate society in which they live, yet making them more aware of the outside world. This seems to be only a utopian theory. Meithe talks about deterrence and the “relationship between sanctions and human behavior” (Meithe 20). He claims that only a small percent result in arrests and convictions. “The typical criminal penalty and civil suits are often imposed or resolved months, if not years, after the initial violation. He also states because of plea bargaining, reducing charges, jury nullification’s, clemencies, pardons, and good time leniency, “the severity of punishment actually received by offenders is often far less than mandated by law” (Meithe 22). Rehabilitation can’t happen unless the offender is incarcerated by the system who administers the programs.
Meithe says that “some degree of moral and spiritual enlightenment was expected of those condemned to those for long periods of solitary condiment.” In Henry David Thoreau’s, Civil Disobedience, after his experience with incarceration, in which he before-hand had been so proud to serve, says, “Thus, under the name of Order and Civil Government, we are all made at last to pay homage to and support our own meanness. After the first blush of sin comes its indifference; and from immoral it becomes, as it were, unmoral, and not quite unnecessary to that life which we have made . . . Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?” (Thoreau). After his experience of solitude in confinement, he’s now questioning again, whether to obey or not to obey laws that he still views as unjust. Many who are paroled soon forget the pain of being locked out of society and soon offend again.
Some are imprisoned to hold them back from accomplishing what might be a threat to a social group or government change. When justice becomes unjust in a clever disguise of the law, it is a violation of power. Meithe talks about “false positive,” which means, falsely labeling someone as a high-risk offender.” After his arrest for leading a peace march, in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, he asks of the law enforcement, “In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence.” The government considered him to be a high threat of obtaining his goals of equality for the black race. Martin Luther King Jr. tried to rehabilitate the outside world against the cruel brutality of racial prejudice. He also says, “I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends . . . but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice.”
In H. Bruce Franklin’s, prison writing in 20th-centurty America, he talks about the lighter side of imprisonment and about a collection of African-American convict prison songs, “that shaped the blues tradition at the heart of much twentieth-century American music.” He calls this collection “an astonishing contribution to American and world culture” (Franklin 6). American political prisoners such as “Emma Goldman, Alexander Berman, and Carlo de Fornaro,” to name a few, were authors of books written while in prison, as were most books in the “first two decades of the twentieth century” (Frank 9).
Franks says that when prison literature exploded in the late 60’s, the authors were Americans on the bottom of society. Malcolm X read the entire dictionary while in prison to educate himself, learning how to read and write. From out of prisons, “dropouts, rejects, criminals, and rebels in American society, gained their power for writing” (Frank 13). This may be the largest and most important form of rehabilitation.
However, one absolute is that the acts of crime and punishment are not limited to gender or race, but may be limited to “certain conditions” of the offender such as mental disease, defect, immaturity, or prior offenses (Meithe). Punishment against crime is moral rightness against wrong doing. Meithe says the ultimate goal of incarceration is to restore the convict to a constructive place in society through a combination of treatment, education, and training. To some extent, this combination may be helpful, but it has never been a magic pill for permanent reform.
Punishment and imprisonment has taken on many forms since the plague. Foucault says, “Against the plague, which is a mixture, discipline brings into play its power . . . a whole literary fiction of the festival grew up around the plague . . .” Incarceration is a mixture of minds, emotions and personalities. Discipline brings into play the power of these minds and personalities to create many unusual outcomes, such as books, new rules, new laws, and new awareness not only sometimes to self, but also, sometimes to expose corruptions within the walls of confinement. The Panopticon idea didn’t control the maddening and swarming masses within the prison walls. It didn’t make an ideal society within. However, from the Panopticon idea, the hope for rehabilitation for a better society still remains.
Imprisonment is only the face of what goes on inside behind the construction of a building or institution. The outcome is a birth of new realities, good and bad, not only for those who are on the inside, but for those who are on the outside looking in.

Works Cited

Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.], 16, April. 1963. Web. 18, February. 2014.
Foucault, Michel, PART THREE: DISCIPLINE 3. Panopticism, 16 June 2001. Web. 1,
February, 2014. http://cartome.org/foucault.htm
Meithe, Terance, Punishment Philosophies And Types of Sanctions, Web. 1,                     February. 2014. https://moodle.esc.edu/pluginfile.php/706962/mod_resource               /content/1/philosophies_of_punishment.pdf

prison writing in 20th-century America. Franklin, Bruce H. ed. Penguin Group. New York. 1998 Print.

Thoreau, Henry David, Civil Disobedience, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, [1849,          original title: Resistance to Civil Government] 2002. Web. 17, February. 2014.


Will The Real Alien Please Stand Up

That’s when I knew my life was at an end. My organs within began to burn and I felt the sensation of a jellied substance ooze from my flesh. Tears filled my eyes as I thought of my family back home awaiting my return–a return that would never happen. My knees weakened and began to buckle as I felt the poison from this alien being invade my body. I struggled to pull free but it was too late. It was over. I felt unconsciousness overtake me as my soul slipped out from its temporary home. My mother had warned me about these aliens–these Human Beings.

A Different Kind of Salvation

A Different Kind of Salvation

Salvation On Sand Mountain, by Dennis Covington, gives us an insight into the religious practices and the private lives of a very unique group of people living in the northeastern Alabama, northwestern Georgia, Appalachian Mountain chain. The meaning of the word “salvation” for these people holds a different meaning than the standard term of God saving their soul. Their sense of salvation is something that is continuously sought out and has to be proven time and time again to their selves, and to those around them who indulge in the practice of the religion. The power of belief in the unseen, or a sensation, and the need to unify with like minds, to feel a part of a community, can propel an individual into acts that may seem crazy to the outside world.  For this group of people, the feeling of power that comes to them by the handling of poisonous rattles snakes and copper head snakes, surviving multiple venomous bites, and drinking strychnine, is their challenge for displaying their keeping of the faith. This ritualistic organization seems to hold their community together. Insecurities, fears, lack of self-identity, are the inner forces that drive these people into submitting to a higher power, not only that which is in a heaven above, but rather a forbidden act that gives them the sense of self-worth, self-control, and acceptance by those in their immediate community. The snake handlers pass down this ritual from generation to generation. They believe they are predestined to do so and they feel it’s an honor. They are even willing to die for the cause. In all cases, their fathers and forefathers were snake handlers for the faith.
The surrounding circumstances of these types of people, poor, some uneducated, and sense of obligation, induce the need to dominate their object of choice, the need to control something, to have power over something that can even possibly cause their death, seems to be their need in order to feel worth.
Seeking to feel and experience the unseen is a way to strengthen one’s faith, as if God did something mysterious for him, finding the great favor of God. They want to feel it; they want to believe it, so some make it happen. Believing one has to be in the spirit in order to not be bitten by the snakes determines who handles the snakes. The ultimate devotion and loyalty to the cause, is to die unattended by medical provisions, and some want more bites as their going down. The more snake bites that one survives, the larger and more dangerous the snake that one handles, the more spiritual the man is deemed, making him higher up on the holiness chart because he has supposedly obtained an amazing higher faith that Jesus proclaims makes you a marked follower of His (NIV Mark 16:17-18).
However “around eight thousand people in the United States are bitten by poisonous snakes.” But “only a dozen or so die” (147). This is if they have immediate medical attention. But in the in the snake handlers faith and belief in God to protect them, there are instances in the book where people have been raised from the dead, as it is told. Also, for people to survive the bite of a rattle snake and copper head snake without medical attention, does take a divine intervention. To say that these practices are all in their minds would be not interrupting the book correctly, and over-looking these amazing facts (131). Certainly this would be a powerful attraction for someone who is an on-looker.
In observation of the events told in this book and the way it relates to religion, I have the opinion that a person can become drawn to even the most outrageous religion if there is a trace of identification, history of ancestors, insecurities, fear, lack, and the need to be accepted by society or community or individual relationships, or possibly rebellion against the norm. Though someone may have no desire at the start, one could possibly turn their lives over to a religious ritual no matter how much one rejects the idea to begin with. Curiosity can turn a person’s mind and heart to convert to a religion by repeated exposure to its particular practice. Dennis Covington was a “freelance journalist stringing for the New York Times” wanting to write an article (242). He paid a visiting to Sand Mountain and began believing he was called to be a snake handling Preacher. After watching these people handle snakes, he said, “I wondered what it would be like being bitten by a rattlesnake. I wondered if there would be any pleasure in that, coming close to death and surviving.” I think maybe some people can be hypnotized or captured by an idea or ritual if they are compelled to any of the criteria that are involved in the ritual. He began to think back to a time when he was a child and how he would hunt and capture non-poisonous snakes. This made him ponder the possibility that he may be predestined. He says, “I actually envisioned myself, preaching out of my car with a Bible, a trunkload of rattlesnakes, and a megaphone (236).”
Conforming to religion is a must to be like-minded. One has to agree on every aspect of what that particular religion demands that you do. If not, that person will be ostracized. For example, when Dennis Covington got up in front of the church and defended the position of women in the Bible and in the church, he was opposed by the congregation and the Preacher, who were all of his friends, those who accepted him and his wife and welcomed him with opened arms. This was also the end of his illusion and the end for his book (231-233). How are the women treated in their home after the church service is over? Are they forced to be subservient? Unfortunately, I’m not sure if anyone in a group such as this would come to the aid of someone other than for the need of prayer from a snake bite.
What can make a person desert their entire life’s past, their accomplishments, their families, their careers, and sense of direction, all for the sake of a religion that offers ideas that do not make sense, odd challenges, and a path without certain direction, and possibly a destructive end? I think everyone is in search of fulfillment and many find it in religion. I believe it’s the unconditional acceptance of those who welcome a person into a group, even if the group is a dangerous one. Some people find their salvation by taking on the identity or persona of a group, one that makes them feel safe, secure, accepted, powerful, and fearless. Whoever offers the best idea for life’s salvation is where a person will find their Shangri la.

Good Stuff

I Love Hand-me-downs


          One of my favorite memories as a little girl is sitting at the kitchen table with my sister, filled with excitement as we watched my mother do Christmas baking. She began early on Christmas Eve morning and baked all the way until 2:00 a.m. It seemed like my sister and I would wait for hours on the first batch of goodies to come out of the oven, but tasting a sample of these extra special baked goods was worth the wait. This is when my little brother would show up. This was the only part of the baking tradition he liked. Sometimes my mother would let us girls help so we could be a part of the holiday fun and learning the process. My grandparents came from Moravia, Czechoslovakia, so there are many ethnic holiday traditions in my family. They handed down their traditions to my mother, and she handed them down to us kids. Of course as a child I took for granted the hard work and the love my mother put into these family traditions.  Now looking back, my memories make me appreciate the treasure that she bestowed upon us. In our house, we didn’t bake run-of-the-mill holiday cookies. We baked European style!  Baked goods called, Kolaches (co-latch-keys), little pillows of filled dough about 2×2 inch squares, along with sweet rolls called, Bukta (boot-ka), both consisting of sweet prune butter, tasty apricot butter, or sweet ground walnut meats, were a must for Christmas. These rolls are not like bread rolls.  Each roll is about twelve inches in length and about five inches wide, and about two inches high. Today they have dough mixers, but my mom would knead the dough by hand over and over and over again until it was smooth, staying to her tradition, the same way she stayed to Christmas Eve super tradition.


     Christmas Eve super always consisted of lentil soup, tossed salad, boiled potatoes, broiled fish, and boiled fruits of figs and prunes. Before eating the meal, everyone was given a thin slice of wafer called Oplatki (o-plat-key). It was 6×3 wide and barely one-sixteenth inch thick. Breaking off small pieces of the wafer, and passing it to every person sitting at the table assures all who partake, safety for their future, never to lose their way in life. I believe this tradition has helped me to step out in life with courage to succeed. Czechs are the only ones who practice this tradition of wafers. The Russians serve a “Twelve Dish Christmas Eve Supper,” consisting of twelve entrees. The Italians celebrate, “La Vigilia Di Natale, The Eve of Seven Fishes,” along with other entrees.  The Polish celebrate, “Wigilia,” a “meatless Christmas Eve meal, also known as the Star Supper, which doesn’t begin until the first star appears in the sky. Smoked salmon, caviar, pickled beets, mushrooms and other vegetables are served.”There is a great influence of mixed ethnic traditions in my community, because where I live is where many of the European immigrants settled after they arrived in New York City during the 1800 and 1900’s.


     The immigrants, who settled here in America, made their way to many of the surrounding areas where they could find work and make a decent living.  Endicott-Johnson and IBM had plenty of work for them.  My community is where many of Italians, Russians, Czechoslovakians, and Polish people, settled down to work in the factories.  Grape vineyards for homemade wine, and small cafes serving Italian pasta dishes, helped to structure the community. Other contributors to the community were the Russian, Czechs, and Polish, who brought their fine cuisine and their practice of homemade beer, which became very popular, and still is. My mother used to tell us kids stories of our grandfather and the way he would make beer in the basement of their house. Having eight brothers and sister, they made it a family affair, mostly capping the bottles tight. Many of my uncles had smoke houses where they would hang sides of fresh bacon or ham until it was cured. They also made their own stuffed sausage, called Kielbasa (Keel-basa), and horseradish. You will always find the Catholic churches selling ethnic baked goods, crafts, and arts, at their Bazaars held for fundraisers.  They also sell homemade, home grown foods for take-out dinners during other holiday celebrations.


     It’s the Catholic churches who still help keep these wonderful traditions going on. Catholicism is the preferred faith of these nationalities.  The American church has preserved much of the European home-church experience of ethnicity, from the architectural structure of the high domed ceiling, splashed with paintings of angels and clouds, to the sacred statues of the Holy Saints, especially the Mother of Jesus, Mary, and his father Joseph. Beautiful stained glass icon paintings of the twelve Stations of the Cross, Jesus’ journey to Calvary, line the church walls on each side. Urns filled with holy water are located at the front and back entrances of the church for the petitioners to dip in with their finger, and make the sigh of the cross as they enter the sanctuary. The sacred challis that is located in the front is closed tightly within a little tabernacle and can only be handled by the holy Priest. All others are forbidden.  When I was a child I really believed that God and Jesus lived in the little tabernacle located on the mantel behind the front podium. I also believed that the Catholic holy water could kill vampires; this from watching monster film festivals.  I loved to recite the rosary beads, which is a practice of repetitive prayers. The rosary looks similar to a long necklace with a crucifix pendant. Each bead represents a prayer that you speak as you move around the necklace and back to the crucifix where you began.


     Czechoslovakian beautifully designed egg art, originated at the Monasteries made by the Catholic Monks in Rome Italy. Hand sketched goose eggs are the choice in Czechoslovakia, but in the Western World, the use of chicken eggs is very popular. The yolks of the eggs are delicately drained from the egg by inserting a hole at the top and bottom.  They are then dipped by hand in lacquer or acrylic paint in a variety of brilliant colors of red, purple, green, pink, even black, and much more. After they are dried, they are dipped in colored wax, sealing the holes. After the wax is dried, amazing designs and pictures can be carefully etched out on the egg with fine, sharp tools, done by a very skilled hand. Different materials including bee’s wax, straw, watercolors, onion peels, stickers are used to decorate the eggs. As a part of the tradition in Czechoslovakia, on Easter Monday young girls give their decorated Easter eggs to the boy of their crush. Today, during the Easter season, the Catholic churches will make and sell these painted eggs, along with the Kolaches, nut roll, lekvar roll, poppy seed roll, and apricot rolls. We used try to collect these pieces of egg art, but they were expensive and hard to find because they sell out quickly. However, my grandfather worked the craft so we had several to keep.


     The Catholic religion has another tradition. The day before Easter Sunday, the parishioners fill a basket with these baked goods, cheeses, eggs, meats, salts, and wine. They bring these amazing decorated baskets to the altar overflowing with goodies. Beautiful colored bows are tied to the handles with embroidered cloths to cover the contents inside. Each of the food pieces represents something. Some also put candy in the baskets. The hard-cooked eggs symbolize new life or Christ rising from his tomb. Bread represents the bread of life given by God. Meat and sausages are symbols of the resurrected Christ, horseradish represents accepting the bitter with the sweet in life, and vinegar symbolizes the sour wine given to Jesus on the cross. Salt is to add zest to life and preserve us from corruption, and sweets suggest the promise of eternal life or good things to come. There is a noon mass, and the baskets are lined up at the altar. It’s quite a sight to see. The Priest comes out and blesses the baskets with Holy Water, says a prayer, and tells a story about the tradition of the food baskets. The story is about the beginning of this Catholic tradition.  The people would bring their food in baskets to the church to be blessed because they had been fasting in honor of the Easter celebration.  The Priest had to make the foods holy by praying over the baskets and blessing them with holy water before it was eaten. Today, many of the parishioners fast the entire day and night before Easter Sunday, then eat their basket of food at home after the morning mass.


     The Catholic Churches keep the tradition by honoring Moravian Day. Those in the congregation participate with attire, the clothing worn by the men and women who live in Czechoslovakia. Usually after the church mass, they will have a luncheon buffet and the dancers will perform for those who attend the luncheon. Czech/Moravian traditional costumes are beautifully embroidered, and consist of quite the get-up. For the women, bloomers, undershirt, white blouse with flouncy sleeves and vest, layers of petticoats, full red shirt, apron, belt, black boots, and accessories are brightly displayed, including a colorful head scarf. Men dress in black pants, boots, embroidered vests, a decorative belt, and a black hat with a red scarf hat band.  These days, it’s rare to find a Moravian Club or Organization where these ethnic traditions can be carried out. In these Czechoslovakia, or Moravian Clubs, not only ethnic dress and good dancing is involved, but lots of good Czechoslovakia Moravian food.


     Haluski is a Polish and Slovakian dish of origin. Haluski is made with fried noodles and sweet cabbage, butter, onion, and salt to taste.  Klobasy, a polish type of seasoned sausage, can also be added to the dish to make heartier meal.  Perogies are a type of boiled dough resembling the size of raviolis, filled with cheese or mashed potatoes, and fried in caramelized onions with butter. Some people use olive oil instead.  I still use the standard butter for my Haluski and Perogies.  The taste is too wonderful to not do so. Globs of sour cream on the top of the fried Perogies give them that extra flavor. Halupki is also another very popular food. A head of cabbage is boiled to tender. While it cools, a pound or more of beef, pork, or veal, and egg, is mixed in a bowl with cooked white rice, seasoning of choice, to taste. Take the leaves of cabbage one by one, fill with the meat mixture and roll it tightly to resemble a pillow. Lay it in a very large baking pan, one on top of the other. Continue with this pattern until the cabbage is used up. Then pour tomatoes sauce generously over the stuffed cabbage. Lay a few bacon strips on the top of the cabbages and then bake about an hour. I’ve learned to spice-up my Halupki by using a thicker tomato paste, with extra seasoning, and use bacon stripes also between the layers of the stuffed cabbage. I must confess that I have never made the hand sketched eggs, nor have I learned the Moravian dance, but I can bake the traditional baked goods and meal dishes.  I’m glad to have been able to experience the wonderful traditions of my ethnic roots. I can only hope that the generations to follow will carry on.



Religion in Prision

Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Report


      According to the 2008, it seems that religion, no matter what denomination or sect, regardless of the mutual idea that religion can remedy all situations, seem to cause more problems and complications in society, than not. As for the atheists, 49% agree with this statement, although I see they cause complications trying to tear religion down (Landscape Survey 15).  Interestingly, 74% of US citizens believe in heaven, while only 59% of them believe in hell (Landscape Survey 33). I see this as denial, when the Bible clearly states that there is a hell waiting in the end for those who have denied the deity of God and His son, Jesus Christ. On the chart shown on page 33 in chapter one of The Public Forum on Religion and Public Life, had they listed Christian or Non Denominational along with the others, their mark would have read 100% mark for believing that there is a heaven, and 100% mark for believing that there is a hell. Why they are not on listed the chart is a mystery to me and feels a bit discriminatory.  So technically, this would raise the percentage of those who do and do not believe in heaven and hell, therefore making the statistics incorrect.

    I tend to believe that religion causes conflict if used as a weapon such as in radical demonstrations, protests for a cause, or raging an outright war such as the Protestant/Catholic War in Ireland, lasting for decades, killing  thousands of Scotts and English Protestant settlers during the year of 1641 (Irish Confederate Wars Wikipedia).  Religion seems to conflict with the standard Hollywood ideals. It also conflicts with woman’s rights, the choice for pro-abortion. Many people have tied themselves to abortion tables or lay under cars to prevent women from committing the act at an abortion clinic. A few doctors have been murdered by religions do-gooders (Demotex). Hate crimes are committed in the name of religion, such as the radical Muslim religion, Islam; the Twin Towers for example. Murder is what their god demands. The Klu Klux Klan is based on extreme hate for the Black race, Jews, and the gay society (Voices yahoo.com).

     I find that religion and society is not so much a matter of influence, but rather, indirectly, it’s opinion and practicing of that opinion, more often forcibly. The larger percent of religious groups will always have a stronger voice. For example, just because Christians are completely 100% anti-abortion, and anti-gay marriage, will not change or influence the outcome of a government bill. Gay marriage still prevails in several states and abortion still goes on, opinion or not. Other religious controversies include great debates about displaying the Ten Commandments in certain venues, using the word God in the pledge of allegiance, prayer in school, and even using the name of God printed on money. The Atheists and other non-religious groups seem to fight harder to remove anything that has to do with God from the public eye, adding to the fight for religious freedom.

      Religion may tend to shape political views to a degree. I believe depending on what a certain religion believes in, will depend on what candidate gets the most votes by various groups, and depends upon the words of promise that the candidate speaks ahead of time, before Election Day. However, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus, claim to be liberal, so their vote is basically redundant. (Landscape Survey 17).  As a personal experience, those who are of the Jehovah Witness religion do not vote at all. Could it be that possibly because these religions are rallying for nothing to help them in the present or future is why they are all lackadaisical toward politics? Basically, it would then seem that the majority of those who shape political views would be the Democrats and the Republicans, and whatever other religious sect this would involve.

       Religion within the prison walls appears to be an entity in itself.  According to the Pew Forum, it is crucial to continue to have religious outlets for the incarcerated.  Considering the chart below, it is obvious that religion is used for a form of control by certain sects within the prison.   I’m not sure if it is a productive idea for the prison system to make accommodations such as this. I feel that this could be encouraging the inmates that prison is not punishment but rather a place of freedoms that even the outside world would not be willing to accommodate. I believe the prison systems are possibly trying to sidebar the reality of where the inmate is and why they are there. While I do believe religion should be accessible in the prison system, I don’t believe it should be so extreme to those who demand accommodations (PewForum: Religious Accommodations).  Just as the Catholic religion is a cult and a society in its own rite. The Pope plays a major role in the Catholic world. The Pope acts as a dictator. He calls the rules and laws and then removes the rules and laws and the people follow whichever way he desires. He even has the power to declare an aberration to be or not to be authentic. Also, the Priest in the Catholic religion, by their law, is the only one who can talk to God exclusively to ask forgiveness of the petitioner’s sins (Wikipedia Duties of a Priest). As big a part that the Pope may play in the Catholic religion, his influence counts for nothing in government and political decisions. He is a dictator in his own right. His position is one of controlling masses of people. It is also interesting that the people are afraid to not follow his laws. Whereas those who are non-denominational feel they can sin and repent and sin and repent and all is well under the mercy of a forgiving God. I think if a person is facing the pleasure of sin, then looks ahead knowing they will face a man in a confessional booth to proclaim their offense, they are more likely to not go ahead with their fornication, where as the Christian follower of Jesus may take the chance and sin, knowing he or she can go into his or her own room and confess directly to God and be forgiven. Who is more likely to obey the laws of God?

     I believe it’s pretty much agreed that religion can harm or help society around the world. It is agreed that we need someone or something to fill the everlasting void we feel within. Some people feel that supernatural happenings are required to constitute the function of a religious belief or sect. Belief in God can either help or heal. And many don’t agree on what happens in the end. I guess it depends on the demographics.

Core Facts

Novels Essay Research Assignment

     There are no barriers separating upper and lower social class categories when it comes to emotional devastation. In the Novels, The Bluest Eye and The Great Gatsby, both authors shed light upon the issues of troubled lives in two social class families. The characters in both novels come from opposite backgrounds and opposite social class status, yet their trials and traumas are very similar, including in marriage.

In the novel, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, she tells a story about a family named the Breedloves. They are a poverty stricken Black family of four, living life in a rundown home, are uneducated, and their physical appearance is lacking much to be desired. She describes their appearance as wearing a “cloak of ugliness (39).” Mrs. Breedlove, as she is referred to in the novel, is married to a man named Cholly. Mrs. Breedlove, Pauline, deals with her brazen, demanding, uncaring husband Cholly, by fighting back verbally and physically (43-44). She knows she’ll never leave Cholly because her social status keeps her chained to dealing with what life has handed out to her. She is unattractive, Black, and her options for love are limited. The author describes their surrounds as having one huge room divided by beaverboard planks, one toilet bowl without facilities, and furniture handed down from state to state. Their home is partitioned into two rooms, short of reaching the ceiling, equaling a living room and one bedroom. The three iron beds are described as narrow. There is a coal stove in the center of the bedroom to distribute heat evenly through the house. They have no bath facilities, except a toilet bowl. Also, two sofas, an upright piano, and a tiny two year standing, artificial Christmas tree, a small end table and a “wardrobe” closet. She says, there’s nothing more to say about the furnishing. It is aged, and handed down, even from state to state, except for the new sofa that they had purchased. But it had been gashed when moving it to their home—the gash soon becoming a gaping chasm exposing the even cheaper upholstery (34-39). Her escape is to work outside of the home for a rich White family, cleaning and taking care of their little girl who she seems to favor over her own children.  She indulges in the luxury of the possessions of others while her two children, Pecola who is eleven, and Sammy who is fourteen, and Cholly, never get to taste the pleasures of her daily escape (127-28). At the end of the day, she goes back to the lowlife way of living, the lack of luxury or even middle class living, the deprivation of the love and attention she once experienced in her younger years when her husband perused her. Mrs. Breedlove has no option for a lover as she is described as an ugly woman. She doesn’t escape into the arms of a lover, but rather into lovely surroundings, feeling needed, wanted, and indispensible. The Breedloves have no outside influential friends to help them or come to their rescue if needed.

In the novel, The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, he tells a story about a family named the Buchanans. They are a wealthy family of three, living in a very elaborate mansion-style house, well educated, and beauty is in their physical appearance. Daisy took her face in her hands as if feeling its lovely shape (16). Tom is muscle built; shinning arrogant eyes (7).  The Buchanas home is described as a Georgian Colonial mansion, overlooking the bay; a quarter-mile lawn from beach to front door, brick walks and burning gardens (6); a sunken Italian garden, a half acre of deep pungent roses, and a snub-nosed mother-boat. French windows, wine colored rug, with an oversized long couch, long flowing curtains, and rugs (8); a library, a crimson room, a chain of connecting verandas to the front porch, and wicker settee (16-17).

Daisy deals with her husband named Tom, by acting pretentiously happy, carefree and lively. Tom has disrespect for women in general. He’s having an affair, but his lover Myrtle comes from lower class (24-26). Daisy fights back by indulging in an affair with a now-wealthy ex-boyfriend, Jay Gatsby, who moves back to the area after being gone many years (86). However, in her heart, she knows she’ll never leave Tom because he is her security, having worked and provided money to support her as opposed to her ex lover Jay Gatsby, who inherited his wealth, so he claimed (129-34). Daisy stays in her superficial life knowing Tom is an unfaithful man. She has the beauty to continue escaping from her marriage if she so desires, and the affordability to come back when she pleases. Her affairs make her feel needed, wanted, loved and much desired.

Abuse and violence is apparent in the two men in the novels. One man is upper social class, one is lower social class. Both are abusive to women. Tom Buchanan breaks the nose of a woman named Myrtle, his adulteress girlfriend (37). Cholly Breedlove beats his wife, Mrs. Breadlove (43-44). Even after Myrtle is killed by Daisy’s hit and run, and Gatsby is murdered by Wilson, Myrtles husband, both Tom and Daisy leave town not caring about the deaths of the two who are dead, even though they each had apparently held love for them (138, 164).  Cholly Breedlove, drinks, gets drunk. But strangely enough, the author states that Pauline needs Chollys sins so she could feel higher and more powerful than him (42). Tom Buchanan drinks and gets drunk

Both marriages overflow with unhappiness and deceit. One marriage is centered on an over abundance of money and wealth, and the other is laced with shameful poverty and disgrace. Both women in each of the novels find their own way of escaping the bondage of loneliness, but never find a solution. Both are opposite social class, yet very much the same—depression in poverty and depression in prosperity.

There is also acceptance by association and rejection by association. Pecola is constantly rejected by her peers because she is associated with the Black race, she’s poor, and she’s not attractive. She is accepted by Frieda and Claudia, her two best friends, who are also associated with the Black race, and are poor. Nick, though he’s not rich, is accepted into the high life because of Daisy, who is his cousin, and is very wealthy by being associated with her husband Tom, who is very wealthy. Even Jay Gatsby accepts Nick, who is associated with Daisy, because he wants Nick to lure Daisy over to his home. Jay Gatsby, who in essence is not rich, is accepted by having been associated with someone who had money and left him an inheritance, and he became rich. Nick also had an affair with a wealthy lady named Jordon who was associated with his cousin Daisy.

According to an article from a scholarly journal called, Poverty, social inequality and mental health, written by Vijava Murali and Femi Oyebode, alcohol and substance misuse, personality disorders, and moods disorders, are among several oppressive emotional damages that are caused as a result of being subjected to a poverty level type of social class life style. Cholly fit the mode. He drank, beat his wife, and eventually raped his own daughter. Prior to this, his life was surrounded by those who traditionally lived in poverty (38-40). Toni Morrison talks about Cholly being wrapped in two blankets and a newspaper by his mother when he was four days old, and placed on a junk heap. But his Aunt Jimmy saw the event and saved him, beating his mother with a razor strap (133). Apparently his mother also acted out on the affects of her social class.

Effect of poverty on children: Children in the poorest households are three times more likely to have a mental illness than children in the best-off households (Department of Health, 1999b). This seems to apply in relation to Pecola becoming obsessed with wanting blue eyes, thinking this would be her answer to become attractive, and her ugliness would fade away and society would accept her presence and appearance. At the end of the story, she lost her mind to the illusion that she had received her blue eyes, this as a result of failed trickery (giving her poison to feed to his dog) by a man who was supposed to be able to have performed this miracle for her (173-76, 193-204).

Tim Hartford’s article in Forbes says, Economists have suddenly realized that money can’t buy you happiness. Daisy believed money could make her happy. But Daisy was still very unhappy though she was rich and ended up in an endless state of loneliness. Pecola failed to understand that blue eyes would not change her poverty status or her overall physical appearance. Pecola believed blue eyes could make her happy. John Cloud’s article in Time Health states, “a team of three authors reviewed 37 previous papers on the psychological effects of cosmetic surgery; the papers dated back to 1960 and, overall, included more than 3,300 test subjects. The authors concluded that most people do feel better psychologically after undergoing cosmetic surgery, especially breast reductions.”

I believe that rich and wealthy people sometimes feel they are above the law. To me, this is a sign of psychosis, such as those who suffer from the mental issues associated with social inequality. Daisy and Tom Buchanan covered up the death of two people, Myrtle and Jay. Though this is a fictional story, in real life sometimes (more than not), rich and wealthy people also feel they are above the law, such as in the case of Michael Skakel, the nephew of Ethel Skakel Kennedy, the widow of the late Robert F. Kennedy.  For twenty years he got away with the brutal murder of a fifteen year old neighbor girl, Martha Moxley, who he beat to death with a golf club, in 1960. Though he was always a suspect, he was never arrested until 2002 when the bloody golf club that he used in the murder was found in the attic of the house by the new owners.

Unfortunately in the theory of “six degrees of separation,” it seems that Mrs. Breadlove and her family never discovered their connection.



Issues in Multicultural Art, Religion & Spirituality

    The Catholic religion began as a very ethnic religion and remains so today.  Catholicism originated in Rome. In the nineteenth century, the immigrants of many European nations brought their practice of this faith to America, along with their statues, altars, and other ritual arts. The American Protestants became very concerned that the Catholic religion and all of its rituals and ceremonies would overtake the land. Protestants deemed themselves as the sole religion of the country. Through the years, they still hold that the Catholic religion is hierarchy. Other religious groups consider the Catholic ceremonies, sacrilegious or idol worship.  The author of Mixed Blessings, Lucy R. Lippard, refers to the ongoing struggles of blending genres of art and symbols and ceremonies, even religion, as to mate and to battle (151). Mixing cultural religion of origins could ultimately impose boundaries upon its new habitat. This certainly would be a battle to potentially try and mate with these differences of the religious practices that have strong structured formats.

The Catholic religion in itself is a form of art; from the symbolic robes that Priests wear, to the decoration of the Sanctuary and alter. It is a system combined with many rituals that branch out to make a whole religion of art. The religion depends heavily on sacred ceremonies, images of Saints in statue form to guide or mark their religious celebration days, or to propel their personal spiritual convictions. Their practice also consists of structured prayers to the Saints who died as martyrs, from recent, to decades and centuries ago and are examples of the church. A string of Rosary beads are used to mark the number of prayers that are said in designated sessions, and are mandatory for every Catholic believer. The Pope is an icon and is believed to have final and divine authority as opposed to God. Protestants and Christian believers believe fully that God is the final and divine authority. Catholics esteem highly the statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is called The Blessed Virgin Mary, and they believe she is the Queen of Heaven, as well as is their spiritual mother who intercedes with prayers for all of the people. In Rome during the month of May, a statue of Mary is paraded through the town and she is crowned Queen of May and the people sing a special song to her. Protestants or Christian believers say that Mary has no place in the Trinity of deity and is an idol; therefore the Catholics are breaking one of the ten commandants.

Statues of Joseph and the baby Jesus can be seen displayed at Christmas time, lying in a manger, while the full size statue of Jesus continues to be on display in the sanctuary at all times. At Easter, the time of resurrection celebration of Jesus, Catholics receive ashes on their foreheads in the display that from dust we were made and to dust we shall return. These ashes are made from burned palms that are given out on Easter Sunday the year prior. The palms signify the welcoming honor that Jesus received from the people as they waved them high in the air as he rode on a donkey through the city of Jerusalem. They now call this celebration day, Palm Sunday. They also celebrate Lent, which starts on Ash Wednesday, which lasts for forty days of sacrificing something that is important to them to honor the sacrifice that Jesus made for them, ending Easter Sunday.

Catholics use of symbols, such as statues, trinkets, incense, holy water, and various other elements for holy rituals, is their practice of faith when giving fair reverence to God.  The Priest is also an icon. He is the man who hears the confessions all of the sins a person has committed weekly. He is the mediator between man and God and it is believed that no one can ask forgiveness only through a Priest. The penitence for sinning requires a dozen or more repetitious prayers to be said, depending upon how bad the sin is. This is supposed to cleanse one’s soul. Not so with Protestants and Christians. They believe that one confesses sins to Jesus only and not to man, as man has no power to forgive sins.

Holy Communion is given to the parishioners and administered by the Priest only, or by someone who the Priest authorizes, and not by common man. This wafer is a symbol of the body of Christ. The Catholics believe that this wafer symbol becomes the actual body of Jesus. Priests are also often viewed as men with mystical powers. People call a Priest for “last rites” when a person is on their death bed. Many people call a Priest to cast out demons or ghosts from houses or haunted places. Priests have special rituals they perform in that supposedly make these abrasions flee. Protestants feel this is also sacrilegious and that using the name of Jesus is the power that vanquishes all evil, not mere man.

These stern practices my very well cause people to shut out the idea of Catholicism and seek other venues of religious practice which may be seemingly more simplistic. However many people choose the strict guidelines of religion of the Catholic faith, saying that other religions are too careless, and irreverent with the issues of God.

Some people feel that it is easier to let man lead them to the gate of heaven than to trust their own intuition. Some people feel more secure having statues, trinkets, saints, and other holy devices to guide them on their spiritual journey. The securities of doing good works are tangible assurances that all is well and that their path is leading to where it should be going. It is easier to believe what they can see, rather than to trust their own volition’s concerning faith.

The Protestants proclaim that they would gladly mix with the Catholic practices under the following conditions: “if there is less hierarchy in church structure; use the Bible rather than sacraments as the source of revelation from God; and if they acknowledge Jesus himself as the only necessary intercessor with God the Father, instead of Mary, the mother of Jesus.” But it seems unlikely that the Catholic religion will change its structure for the reason of the Protestants accepting them into their religious world.

Because of the structured programs and rituals of the Catholic religion, it would be next to impossible to blend all religions together. World-wide, the Catholic religion has become standardized and in any country where Catholicism is practiced. It has the same structure, rituals, beliefs and format, unchanging. There are no variations. Unlike Protestants or Christians whose belief in the Trinity is the same, their formats vary. Some Protestants or Christian may even disagree on some of the contents of the Bible, and issues can sometimes be debated. But the Catholic religion remains constant in every facet of the practice.

Previous Older Entries