Pecan Pie

Social Anxiety from the South

Posts Tagged ‘Sociology

Teaching

Well, it was all worth it…and the next five or so years will be as well.

They make me feel like I’m doing what I should, my students.

I’m nervous, but very alive.

I guess maybe I do know what I’m talking about.

Written by thelittlepecan

February 6, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Posted in education

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Still Human, Still have Worth

After that last post, I’m either expecting the death of my blog, or instant interwebz fame.  This one should really get to you.  I’d like to thank the Academy…

In a new TIME exclusive, Anthony Karen shares his photographic journey getting to know the people behind the most hated family in America, the Phelps Family, or as we all know them, Westboro Baptist Church.

While some of the photos will anger you (and me, I feel like I need to keep reiterating this) some of the photos show other positive traits, like love, commitment, and familial bonding; Phelps with a (presumably) great-grandbaby, a mother patting her son’s head, the Pastor holding a congregant inside the church.  The story behind the pictures is even starker than that which we receive from the media regarding the Phelps family.  Karen was given unprecedented access, he was not pressured to convert and he said he felt welcomed.  The most amazing confession by Karen is that he rarely felt inconsumable rage from anyone, save a member who seemed to get into a religious debate with him.

As I get ready to begin developing the basis for my Master’s thesis, I am reminded by this story that it is important to always remember, for me at least, that there is humanity in each person.   I, like Karen, am drawn to marginalized populations.  I find extreme religious groups fascinating.   As an aspiring sociologist, I have to try and remain objective, even in the face of repulsion.

We all know a lot about this family.  Fred Phelps beat his own children mercilessly when they were young.  His children now indoctrinate their children into beliefs that I find profoundly disturbing and encourage them to do things that cause others incredible pain.

There has been some question to whether or not the WBC is one big scam.  Boy, that would sure make this all much easier.  Now, I don’t know Karen and all I’m going on is this photographic story he’s selling, but his story and that speculation don’t jive.  There’s a glimmer of reality in some of those pictures, a kinder reality.  Maybe I’m just crazy and idealistic and want to believe in an Anne Frank version of life.

I think they are crazy.  I also know they are still human.  Let the firestorm begin.

 

Written by thelittlepecan

January 13, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Posted in atheism

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Punished Enough?

I’m reading this Sport Illustrated article about Mike Vick.  As a Georgia girl and default Falcons fan, Vick’s story really just hurts.  He was our golden boy who turned into such a disappointment both on the field and in his personal life.  As a football fan and dog lover, I can’t even tell you the disenchantment felt by me as an individual that was echoed through the city of Atlanta.  Once the highest paid man in the NFL , Vick was just a common hoodrat.

The article I’m reading comes after watching the Falcons win today and keeping up with the Eagles on a peripheral basis this season, Vick’s new home.  He’s stepped up as the on deck Big Man on Campus as far as the NFL is concerned, the next few years will be crucial, but there are already comparisons to Montana, Favre, and Marino.   He’s having a stellar year, though, I’m glad we have Matty Ice, no doubt.  While reading this wonderfully in-depth article about the struggles Vick has gone through to return as a force to be reckoned with, I began to contemplate my feelings about someone who had done something so horrible getting a second chance this amazing.  You see, I’m a big advocate for prisoner’s rights, much to the dismay of some of my friends.   I have huge issues with our prison system and further issues with the way society continues to punishe those convicted after they have “served their time.”

Vick brings up a dichotomy for me.  I want people who have done bad things to have a way to fix their lives.  To become productive.  To be greater than they were.  I don’t like to label people as “bad” or “good.”  I think the way a society treats the least of its members is a reflection on the society that had a hand in producing those members that often do the very, very wrong thing.

Except, well, I was mad when Vick got a second chance.  I’m still glad he’s gone from Atlanta.  He’s the very thing I’m always trying to advocate for and yet, I’m the one pissed he isn’t getting another bad shake from society after serving his time.  His story is the story I’m always hoping for when I think of “criminals” reacquainting themselves with civilization at large.

So, I’m really glad I read that article.  It reminded me that my moral high ground isn’t always so easy to stomach, even if I truly feel it’s the right thing.  It reminded me that I’m part of the problem as often as I’m part of the solution.  I hold stereotypes and make assumptions and have irrational fear just like everyone else.

I’m human, too, in case you didn’t know.

Written by thelittlepecan

December 13, 2010 at 12:01 am

Posted in football

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No Backstage with the All Seeing Eye

God is always watching.  A personal deity sees everything you do, knows every detail of your life, and watches you pee?  Well, maybe not, but you gotta wonder…

What does the belief that Someone is always watching you do to the way adherents of a religious theology behave?  I wonder how damaging it might be to think that you have absolutely no privacy.  Of course, hopefully most of us have a conscience that guides us even when no one is watching, but even if we don’t have that, most of us are socialized enough to know what will be acceptable in society and what will not.  No need for the All Seeing Eye of Mordor to guide our every private moment.

Goffman is loved in undergraduate sociology theory classes because I think everyone can understand the need or pressure to be “on” or “off” (Marie and Becky, I bet both of you can really relate to this theory,  as well.)  Erving Goffman theorized that, like Shakespeare said, all the world really is a stage and everyone else is a player, a part of the audience and also the lead in their own life.  One of the most important features of Goffman’s theory is that like a play, we have a front stage and a backstage in our everyday lives.  Front stage is the place where we must be “on” we must conform to social norms, behave in a way that is satisfactory for us to navigate our world.  Our backstage is where we can let our guard down, like, say, the bathroom or during sexual intercourse.  The backstage consists of the places where we feel little or no judgment or where we prepare for the front stage.

So, I wonder, if god is always watching us, where is our backstage?  If we believe that god is always with us, even when we pee, where is our privacy?  Is there a place that is truly our own and no one else’s?  I have friends, who feel enormous pressure to perform in everyday lives.  They are not Christians, just victims of a culture not able or willing to modify its norms for those playing a different part than the rest of society.  If they did not have a place where they could just “be themselves” (and I’m sure as children, who have less backstage time than other humans this would be particularly difficult) the world would be plain unbearable.

This brings me to another concept that I think ties into my example.  Marx’s (yes, there he is again, oh noes! Call security!) Theory of alienation proposes that capitalism removed people so much from the process of their work (no more farming the food you yourself eat, you work is no longer personal, instead you are a cog in a machine, easily replaced) that they will become disenchanted with their labor.  Religion is often a huge machine, it has many rules and scare tactics are a familiar way to keep people in line.  If a person never feels like they have any privacy and that they have little to no control over their life (save the fact that they can control how well they follow the rules 24 hours a day) will they become disenchanted with religion?

I have spoken to so many religious people, current and former, who definitely felt that they could never live up to the expectations of the perpetual front stage where they were committed to be, all day, every day.  A daunting task.  In some of those instances, the individual did feel alienated from god, faith and the positive parts of belonging to a religion.  Others seem to feel that god, by the very nature of his supposed being, has the right to know each and every detail of our lives, and in fact, already knows it all (causing a free will exchange that usually turns into a mulberry bush.)

How can we reconcile the need privacy with an All Knowing Personal God?  If we cannot reconcile the two, how can we reconcile the need for privacy with the danger of alienating the faithful from their religion?  Are either possible, both or neither?  Ready?  Go!

Written by thelittlepecan

December 6, 2010 at 10:53 am

Posted in atheism, religion, Sociology

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