Monday, October 29, 2007

Does doing a bad thing make you a bad person?

Last night I was told that a friend's friend has been involved in a shooting. He had been the one to shoot the gun and it resulted in the death of another guy. Having first heard this story from my friend and then hearing it on the news, there was a vast difference in the way it was told.

The news plays up the angle that this boy was the ultimate victim. He was on his way from leaving the party, when he stopped to help a friend who had gotten into a fight and the next thing he knows he is shot in the chest and dead. The victim is made to be this angel of a boy, not the same boy who was at a party, most likely drinking underage. Because their son, grandson, friend neighbor would never do anything wrong, and was so helpful and loving.

Now this is not to say that I don't think that the victim was a good person and I am sure he was a wonderful help to his grandmother, but can also say with a lot of certainty that he wasn't perfect. No one is. Yes, in a way this was a senseless crime. It is also a very unfortunate event that should never have to happen to anyone. But to glorify the dead does nothing but paint a false picture of the person that is gone. Just once, I would like someone to say, "yeah they were great person, but man they had a tendency to interrupt people." Or something where at least it shows that a person died and not a deity.

But what about the shooter, does anyone wonder what brought him to this point that he felt he needed to kill someone? That he was so angry that he had time to contemplate the act before committing it? From what I understand, this was not a bad guy. But now because he killed someone does that automatically make him a terrible human being? Do all his good qualities and deeds that he did before the shooting all of a sudden get discounted? And where were his friends when this was happening? Were they there telling him not to shoot or were they silent and just watched it unfold before their eyes?

But on a separate note, I firmly believe that you don't buy a gun unless you have the intentions of using it. I think that people should have the right to bear arms, not in a crazy Charlton Heston way, but in a you should have a permit and be responsible way. However, how responsible can you be when you bring a gun to a party when you know that you are going to be drinking?

Though I suppose a lot of these questions could be answered if the media hadn't created such a one-sided story. It is times like these that make me so much more critical of reporters and what goes through their mind when writing. You aren't creating a PR piece about the victim, it is a news story. At the very least there is a formula to it and it involves hearing all sides of the story. It all makes me wish that I was writing and reporting again, so that I at least would know that I was making a difference and trying to change things.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Oh Nostalgia

I came across someone posting an old New Kids on the Block video and it not only reminded me of my once love for the band. It took me back to the days when I rocked not one, but two NKTB watches. I had shirts, a towel, lunch box and most importantly two dolls (Jonathan Knight and Donnie Wahlberg). My parents should have known that this would just send me down a path of collecting things (which I must say is getting quite less now that I am getting older).

But the blog posting also reminded me of a Conan O'Brien sketch from years ago. It was something that we watched in Journalism and English numerous times my sophomore year of high school. And after a good, lengthy search on the internet, I finally found it (you have to scroll down and click "dudez-a-plenti's greatest hit...).

One of my favorite Conan sketches ever, next to "hasta la vista reef" and the greatest summer of the show.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Banned Books

We are in the midst of Banned Book Week (Sept. 29-Oct. 30) and I can't help but think back to the first time I had encountered the idea of a "banned" book. It must have been the summer before second or third grade and I was leaving the library with my dad and brother. There was a woman there trying to get our library to ban some books and I don't remember the specifics of the conversation, but I am pretty sure that in a subtle (or knowing my father a not-so-subtle) way told the woman she was an ignorant fool. And after explaining to my brother and I what that woman was doing there I remember thinking that she was a fool. Didn't she know about the First Amendment (my smart ass knew all about freedom of speech)? And from that moment on I was always enthralled with the idea that there were books that "challenged" and why people would be against them being on the shelves of libraries across the nation.

To me, the reasons why are ridiculous and it seems to only be a handful of people in the country who have a problem. They say that it is not appropriate storyline, language or matter that should be discussed by parents. 1) If you don't want your kid reading a book, don't let them (this obviously becomes more difficult as they get older, but it is the same argument used for violent video games or movies) 2) This is why this next generation is going to be sheltered idiots not knowing how to interact in the "real world."

The whole point of a book is the historical, cultural context surrounding it. And really its not as though books are as negatively influential as those TV shows, movies or video games. When was the last time you saw a kid paddle down the Mississippi with an escaped slave? (No. 5) Or a doll come to life or something equally as "scary" and unreal? (No. 16) And last time I checked EVERYONE goes through puberty (No. 40, 61, 95 and 58) Of course there is my personal favorite of stupid Margaret praying to get her period because she thinks that it will make her fit in (No. 62). Despite it not really accurately portraying the true pains of Aunt Flo, it is something that ALL girls go through.

Censorship is something that I am never going to completely understand, and finding the fine line of where I stand is difficult, but I do know for one thing, banning books is something I will never agree with.

Here is the list for 2006 (courtesy of the ALA):
  • "And Tango Makes Three" by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, for homosexuality, anti-family, and unsuited to age group;

  • "Gossip Girls" series by Cecily Von Ziegesar for homosexuality, sexual content, drugs, unsuited to age group, and offensive language;

  • "Alice" series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor for sexual content and offensive language;

  • "The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things" by Carolyn Mackler for sexual content, anti-family, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;

  • "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison for sexual content, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;

  • "Scary Stories" series by Alvin Schwartz for occult/Satanism, unsuited to age group, violence, and insensitivity;

  • "Athletic Shorts" by Chris Crutcher for homosexuality and offensive language.

  • "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky for homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, and unsuited to age group

  • "Beloved" by Toni Morrison for offensive language, sexual content, and unsuited to age group;

  • "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier for sexual content, offensive language, and violence.