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Via What It Is Today, a mosaic of the soldiers who have been killed in Iraq. I might bring it into class when we talk about visual arguments. It's a provocative image, raising such obvious questions as: Is it too simplistic? Is it exploitative? Is it ethical to use all of these soldiers' faces? Many of them were likely earnest supporters of the war. What questions at issue and arguments does it raise about why we're at war?

Edited to move image to the "read more" area.

Sign Here, Know Your Fate, Says Chicago

Via the NCTE Inbox comes the news that Chicago students who withdraw from high school must href="http://www.detnews.com/2004/schools/0407/15/a02-213493.htm">sign a waiver first:

In an effort to curtail truancies and drop-outs, Chicago public schools will require students who want to quit to sign a waiver stating that doing so will be hazardous to their futures.

Parents must also sign the waiver, which warns that dropping out of school often leads to unemployment, jail and other troubles.

Officials in the country’s third-largest school district say that the move is intended to send a wake-up call to at-risk kids in Cook County.

Okay, I know Chicago has good intentions here, but I don't know about this. I've known a lot of people who dropped out of high school, and the motivations are sometimes very complex--not all the time, I realize, but sometimes. I've known people who had to quit school and go to work to help support the family, because several minimum-wage jobs add up to a living wage. I've also known plenty of people who dropped out of high school because they were severely bullied or suffering from depression, most of whom went on to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees. They should at least, if they're not already doing so, decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not to use this waiver.

Patriotism and the 4th

I don't have a good 4th of July post for you, but Ginmar does.

Technical Communication and Politics

I was again elated after class last night. We managed to have a pretty interesting discussion about memos, bringing in references to the movie Office Space and using examples of how crucial memos can become when a tragedy or debacle occurs in an organization. We talked about the memos involved in the Challenger disaster and touched upon the torture memos, which I might circle back to on Monday. Using these political examples seems to work pretty well and make for engaging discussions; I think I'll continue in this vein and assign the Gap, Inc. Social Responsibility Report. Lots to talk about there: audience, exigency, purpose, rhetorical strategy, etc.

Gap report via Desert Dragon.

Reagan, Justice, and Mercy

I'm reluctant to talk about Reagan's presidency and the response to his death because the issue is extremely polarized and emotionally charged right now. Now you may guffaw, that's okay; when have I ever shied away from a polarized issue, right? We have the encomia: Tom Brokaw's voiceovers from the funeral, anecdotes about Reagan's personal interactions with ordinary people, his relationship with his wife, etc. Then there are the critiques of what many have called revisionist history: the necessary reminders that Reagan's policies on, among other things, AIDS, Latin America, programs for poor and working-class families, and women hurt a lot of people, and that we should remember those hurt by such policies at the same time we remember Reagan himself. That's a good point, but I find myself compelled to treat Reagan's death with a soft touch, as Jeanne does. She says, "I watched for just a short time, and not even talk about Reagan's 'moral' foreign policy bothered me, because a brief period of dishonesty won't kill us, and brutal honesty at this point would not be good for the soul." She calls for a pause for mourning before going into the critique. The comments in the thread are definitely worth reading; Dustin says, "The Reagan that did so much bad for the world we've inherited has been gone a long, long time, and I couldn't really find it in myself to condemn the man who passed away this weekend." For me, that's a big part of why my opinions here are tempered. My grandfather died eight years ago of Alzheimer's, and I can corroborate that it is a horrible way to die. Dustin's right, that man has been gone a long time. My grandfather had Alzheimer's for eighteen years before he died, so I don't remember what he was like before he started deteriorating. In the years right before he died, he had no idea who we (his family) were. A former carpenter, he would get lost in the house he'd designed and built with his own hands. Sometimes he'd wail, usually incoherent, half-formed words, and hit himself on the head. The lives of the two men aren't comparable, I know, but their deaths are, and their families' experiences with Alzheimer's are. I can't condemn the man who passed away last weekend, either. He was only a palimpsest.

It's important to remember, too, that Reagan wasn't a despot. He could have been the cruelest, most misogynistic oppressor the world has ever known, but he couldn't have acted alone. He had a lot of advisors, Senators, and members of Congress behind him who supported the tax cuts for the wealthy, the Mexico City Policy, the Human Life Amendment. There were plenty of despicable people in that administration.

Poll for Bush Supporters

Michael Bérubé has provided a poll for Bush supporters, "in order to discover (in the best traditions of Gramscian cultural studies) the continuing appeal of the Bush presidency." Good, funny stuff.

Finding Ginmar

Via this excellent Body and Soul post that you must not miss, I was happy to find the LJ of my old friend Ginmar from the Ms. boards. She's stationed in Iraq, and posts particularly worth reading are her description of Iraq, daily experience there, her reaction to the photos, and her reaction to the Army's rape prevention workshops. Actually, just read the whole thing. I'd forgotten how much I've missed her.

Does the punishment fit the crime?

Or do I not know the whole story? I ask this sincerely. It doesn't seem fair to me:

Specialist Jeremy Sivits, a member of the 372nd Military Police Company, a reserve unit, faces three charges in the court-martial, including the maltreatment of detainees at the prison, conspiracy to maltreat detainees and negligently failing to protect detainees from abuse and cruelty, the Army statement said. If convicted of all charges, Specialist Sivits could face a combination of penalties including as much as a year in prison, reduction in rank to private, forfeiture of two-thirds of his pay for a year, a fine and a bad conduct discharge, military officials said.

As much as a year in prison? This is the man who is thought to have taken the photographs of the tortured Iraqi prisoners. I agree that the higher-ups are equally responsible, but for the people who were right there...a year? Simply possessing 5 grams of crack would put a person in prison longer.

Edited to add, for clarity, because someone emailed and asked: I'm not saying the penalty for Sivits is too harsh. On the contrary. My point is that I think it's too lenient in light of other crimes, but I'm guessing the crack example isn't a valid comparison; is the as-much-as-a-year penalty standard for the terms they're following in the courtmartial? The Geneva conventions? See this New Yorker article for more on the torture, including the fact that the British are implicated in similar treatment of prisoners and details of John Walker Lindh's humiliation as a prisoner.

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