Athletes on Ferguson

Since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown this summer, many people have explained their outrage via social media. Recently, when the grand jury decision was announced social media became the main way for people to express their opinions, and share what was happening with riots and protests nationally. In fact, I remember sitting in a movie theater and getting a CNN notification that Darren Wilson, the police office, would not be indicted. Immediately, I opened twitter to see #Ferguson all over my feed. Specifically, I noticed many celebrities tweeting and sharing photos on Instagram about the news.

I scrolled through posts from Beyonce, The Kardashians, and many actors. But one athlete really caught my eye. Reggie Bush, the Detroit Lion’s running back, posted multiple tweets about the incident. One said, “I guess we shouldn’t be surprised anymore when stuff like this happens! ‪#JusticeForMikeBrown”. I remember looking through responses and seeing how his fans supported his thoughts on the disheartening situation in Ferguson.  

When discussing “Where Are The Jocks for Justice” in section, we talked about how athletes are often scrutinized for speaking up about political issues. In the article, Candaele and Dreier mention how many athletes visit hospitals or do other charity work, but speaking up about more extreme issues is rare because they are “expect to preform not pontificate”. In class I asked John why athletes can not get away with this right as easily as musicians or actors. His answer was that artists do not usually represent a specific community or crowd the way athletes do, and that athletes also may worry about endorsements. This response made me realize the pressures that athletes face from the organizations they are associated with and how unfair this is.

This is a screenshot from Reggie Bush's twitter.

         Athletes should be able to speak their mind on most political issues the same way other people of high stature do. Many people look up to athletes and by them taking a stand others may feel inclined to do so as well. This week Bush also wore a shirt that said, “I can’t Breath” to warm up for a game to show his support for the unjust death of Eric Garner.  In the case of Ferguson, Reggie Bush, was not the only athlete to speak up. Much more famous athletes like, Lebron James, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, and Serena Williams all also tweeted. I think it is admirable that these successful athletes, who I am sure are all endorsed by major corporations, spoke up about this issue of race and human rights. They should not be ridiculed for defending an issue that they care about, especially since it does not affect their performance in the sport they play.

Interestingly, I could not find any information on people being offended by these athletes sharing their opinion. This makes me believe that because of social media our culture may be changing to allow athletes to have political views. Since personal social media accounts are an easy way to constantly express oneself, athletes may be becoming more comfortable with pushing the boundaries and sharing their personal views.

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Harm Principle in the 21st Century

In discussion this week, my section briefly talked about the harm principle from Mill’s Oh Liberty. Mill believes in the principle of only punishing the actions of those who harm others.   This brought my class to discuss the issue of euthanasia, the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain or suffering. The topic is controversial for many reasons, but one reason we discussed is does ending one’s life harm others? The response seems simple; obviously that person had someone who cared about them, and they will be tremendously affected by his or her death. Others talked about how if the person were an extremely beneficial member to society their death would be a loss to our nations progress.   However, I feel that if someone is terminally ill they should be able to die peacefully before their symptoms worsen.

Recently, this issue has been highlighted in the news because of Brittany Maynard. Less than a year ago, the 29 year old was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. After she got the news, the adventurous woman who loved to travel, decided to uproot and move to Oregon, one of the five states that allow death with dignity.  She mentioned many times that she was privileged enough to move to do this, where many people cannot and have to suffer instead. Brittany planned to end her life on November 1, 2014 unless she was feeling well in which case she would have prolonged her death. However, once her symptoms worsened she chose to end her life on the original date.

Brittany touched many people through two videos that went viral. The first shared her story and expressed why she wanted to die with dignity. The second video she put out further expressed why she was choosing to end her life and why she is the only one that can make that decision. Although Brittany was extremely close to her husband, mom, and stepfather, they all understood and supported her decision because it is her who would have to suffer. In the second video, Brittany also talks about how her health is deteriorating and how difficult that is.

One issue a lot of people have with this law, besides religious ones, is that people are not sure where to draw the line. In some cases it is hard to tell if someone has the chance of getting better or not, or how much the person will suffer if they die from their disease. Most people who believe in death with dignity think that if someone is terminally ill, a panel of professionals will be able to determine if that person should qualify for euthanasia. Likewise, I believe that even if that person is a contributing member to society their deteriorating health, and how they feel is more important than our loss.

Brittany checking off her bucket list by visiting The Grand Canyon with her family.

I think Mill would agree that someone should not be punished for wanting to end their life when they are already terminally ill. A person who chooses to die this way is not harming others since that person unfortunately would be dying anyway, just in a more prolonged manner. It is important to note that people who die with dignity are not choosing to die, they are simply choosing to avoid suffering from a death that is inevitable. In the future, we may see more states adopt the death with dignity law for reasons like this.

Socioeconomic Status at The University of Michigan

Last year I took an intergroup dialogue course focused on the subject of socioeconomic status (SES). When you sign up for the course you fill out a survey on your demographics such as: SES, race, religion etc. This process is done so that the classes can be compiled based on diversity. For example, when selecting students for a class on the topic of race, IGR makes sure to include even numbers of students with different racial backgrounds to allow for the most productive dialogue. Interesting enough, my socioeconomic status section had a large majority of middle to upper middle class students. Most of us were disappointed with this ratio of students because it made our discussion less productive. It was very difficult to talk about the issue at hand when majority of the students in the dialogue had similar backgrounds. So, one day we contemplated why the demographics of our class were this way.

Attending a prestige school like the University of Michigan is expensive, especially for out of state students. Although our school does its best to accommodate students who cannot afford the tuition, other schools do better. This means that our school is compiled of students who come from families with a relatively high socioeconomic status. According to a Michigan Daily article, “In Fall 2011, 63 percent of incoming freshmen reported family incomes over $100,000, according to the Office of the Registrar. A 2012 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau stated the median family income in the United States is $51,324.” This statistic shows how the family incomes of our student’s do not accurately represent the country.

When discussing this in our dialogue last semester, we also talked about the advantages of socioeconomic status. Someone suggested a perspective on the issue that really stuck with me. They said that when looking at life like a playing field, people with higher SES automatically start ahead of others. We demonstrated this by an activity called the privilege walk where based off of statements being read about privilege we either stepped forward or backwards.

Students getting ready to participate in the Privilege Walk.

At the end of the activity we could see who was in the front, the middle, or the back. This represented where people would “start” in life and how many people were at a disadvantage.

Students positioned after finishing Privilege Walk.

When relating this back to the University of Michigan, one could infer that the SES of our students helped them to attend this university in more ways then tuition. They may have had resources like tutors, attending a better school, and the ability to participate in more extracurricular activities. Of course there are many students at this school who come from different and unique backgrounds also. What we learned from this dialogue is not that the University of Michigan has too many students who come from privileged backgrounds; but rather, the institution does not do enough to make it possible for students from less privileged backgrounds to attend.

In Burke’s, “Reflections on The Revolution in France” he talks about how upward mobility and equality are bad. When looking at the University of Michigan Burke would not think the statistics of family incomes are a bad thing. He would believe that the top social classes should attend college. Since one way to move up in class is to get a better education that leads to a better job, he would also think that people of lower social class do not deserve this privilege. This New York Times article talks about how the education gap in the U.S. is growing between rich and poor. It would have been interesting to see how Burke would respond to this growing issue in America, though one can assume he would not find it an issue.

I disagree with Burke. I think the best way to improve major issues in our country is through education. This directly relates to upward mobility because if people were able to obtain better educations they would eventually be able to earn more and move up in society. I think that the University of Michigan needs to do a better job to increase the diversity of students on campus in order to more accurately reflect the population in our country; however, I understand that this is a tough and controversial issue that has been discussed for decades. The Program on Intergroup Relations does a great job of getting these difficult conversations started. It t is my hope that one day students in our school will be able to learn from their peers’ diversity more easily.

Tradition in Detroit Sports

Growing up outside of Detroit, I have been surrounded by professional and collegiate sports. Since my dad is stuck with two daughters, he chose to raise me to love sports and the traditions they entail. Ironically, my parents are both die-hard Michigan State fans. So sadly, I grew up attending most football and basketball home games in East Lansing. Being from Toronto my dad was never that crazy about professional sports in Detroit; however, as I got older and became more interested in the struggling city located so close to me, I became more interested in the sports culture surrounding it.

In a city that struggles with poverty and crime, there is one thing pushing people to visit Detroit: sports and entertainment. This summer I went to a Tigers game with my cousin despite my dislike for baseball. Sitting in the exclusive “Den Seats” I looked around and really took in the crowd. It was clear that majority of the crowd was from the suburbs of Detroit, like me. How could I tell? Well, because after the excruciating traffic on the highway, the trouble finding parking, and the mobs of people walking from their parked cars on this warm day it was obvious most people drove in. Sadly, it is no secret that majority of the people living in Detroit, although this is changing, are struggling financially and most likely could not afford to come to the game. I felt guilty about this as I sat in special seats that had their own wait staff. After reading Edmond Burke’s “Reflecting on The Revolution in France” I believe he would have thought that these special seats should exist since they typically reinforce social class and the benefits of being on the top.

Burke talks about pleasing illusions saying, “All the super-added ideas, furnished from the wardrobe of a moral imagination, which the heart owns and the understanding ratifies as necessary to cover the defects of our naked, shivering nature, and to raise it to dignity in our own estimation, are to be exploded as a ridiculous, absurd, and antiquated fashion”. Upward Mobility is definitely a pleasing illusion. We constantly hear of athletes who have amazing rag to riches stories. This makes us even more inspired by these humans with super talents. I’m sure there are plenty of kids growing up in Detroit who share the dream of becoming a professional athlete just like the heroes on their favorite team. Burke does not think equality is a good thing and believes hoping for upward mobility is a bad thing. In fact, he does not believe upward mobility exists. Therefore he would not be displeased with the idea that the less fortunate would not be able to attend elite sporting events. I disagree with Burke and believe that although elite sporting events are very enjoyable, they reinforce the gap between socioeconomic status in America.

I have thought about these issues since the game I attended, and am still unsure how I feel about it. I think it is definitely an issue that most people that live in the city that is the home of an elite baseball team cannot afford to go to these games, but I also think it is a good thing that Comerica Park is located downtown. Because of its location, it stimulates the economy, bringing tourists and visitors to town. It also makes it more accessible for the people who actually live in Detroit. This is something I often think about when I attend events at the Palace of Auburn hills.

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This photo from Google maps shows how far the distance between The Palace and the city of Detroit is.

Just last week, I attended the Knicks v. Pistons game in Auburn Hills. I have attended multiple Pistons games, college basketball games and concerts there in the past. Only fifteen minutes away from my house, this stadium is off a highway in a suburb of Detroit. With a giant parking lot and nothing really close by there is little culture at the venue. It does not accurately represent Detroit, and therefore has received a lot of criticism for being the Detroit Pistons’ home.

Looking around at this game, I wondered if there were a lot of people from the actual city of Detroit there. How would a person financially struggling be able to get to Auburn Hills to attend the game? And most importantly, how does this venue help the city grow?

In class, we talked about how Burke is a believer in tradition. When regarding politics he does not think we should wander away from the beaten path but rather follow what has been traditionally done before and has succeeded. When it comes to the topic of sports and location, I believe Burke would believe that the Pistons should be located in Detroit. When the Pistons became a Detroit team in the fifties, their home arena was located in Detroit. In fact, they had two different home arenas in Detroit before moving to the suburb area. I believe that Burke would have encouraged them to stay in Detroit, the town they traditionally represented.

The Detroit Pistons’ playing at their old arena, the Cobo Arena, in Detroit.

There has been much talk about the effort to build a new stadium for the Pistons close by to Comerica Park and Ford Field in Detroit. This advancement would not only help the economy of Detroit, it would uphold the tradition of the team that represents the city. I hope that in the future, our Detroit sports teams and the spectators in the audience will better represent the rising city.

Lack of Knowledge Leads to Lack of Power

One would think that at a prestige university like The University of Michigan, most students would be informed about elections. However, I discovered that this was not the case. The night before the midterm election I told my friend how excited I was to vote tomorrow. Her response? “There’s a presidential election tomorrow!?” I was shocked to see that a friend of mine, who is extremely intelligent, did not know that the midterm election was the following day. Whose fault is this? Did our country not do its best job to publicize this election, or do many citizens live in a bubble that politics rarely break into?

After seeing the voter turn out of this election, I was both confused and disappointed. http://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/69d339150c4ce117cb0fd512e05cf0a43b7e9e17/c=1527-1236-3981-3081&r=x383&c=540x380/local/-/media/USATODAY/None/2014/11/05/635507979590476114-Exit-poll-results-2.jpgHow could Americans not want to exercise their right to vote when so many other parts of the world have citizens dying to have this same privilege? I was especially disappointed that voters in my age group, the generation “of change”, decreased in this election. Recently in class we learned about social contracts. Voting, to me, is like a social contract because it is a way to fix and maintain the current state of nature by choosing our own leaders. Similarly to what Rousseau said, people who want individual rights should be compelled to vote. He says, “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains”. Rousseau believes that we need a government that maintains our freedom. This government is most similar to the government we have today in America. We pride ourselves on freedom, however we still have to obey laws and policies.

In John Locke’s “Second Treatise of Government“, he is concerned about the safety of personal property. He wants an administrative process to keep laws in check. Likewise, in our government we have a judicial system that accomplishes this. Most states’ midterm elections had judges on the ballots. If people are concerned about these issues like Locke suggest, then why don’t people vote?

On the contrary, in “Leviathan” Hobbes describes the need for a sovereign government. In order to stray away from the nature of constant war he believes one leader should be in control making decisions. Although our government is a democracy, not a sovereign, we still vote for a president—our version of an extreme ruler. If voters don’t participate in an election then how can they chose the best leader? Likewise, how can they complain when they do not like the leader chosen? If citizens want say in their potential leaders then they need turn out to vote.

When looking at Election Day like a form of a social contract, it is interesting that so many people chose not to vote. This is not a new issue in our country. Unfortunately there are many reasons why people don’t vote. In our discussion, we considered the issue of people feeling as though their vote won’t count. Hello, have you ever seen the movie Swing Vote where one man’s vote determines the president of the United States? However, people realize that this situation is fictional and therefore this issue will always exist considering one vote in such a huge population does seem minuscule. In my opinion by not voting you lose your right to complain about the results.

Another issue is lack of knowledge. On Election Day last week blogger, Matt Walsh, wrote a controversial post titled “Dear Ignorant People, Please Don’t Vote Today. He argues that being an active citizen means being knowledgeable and up to speed about current events. He even proposes including a short multiple-choice test on the ballot to make sure citizens are educated enough on issues to vote. Although I disagree with this idea because it would push our countries progress back about 50 years, I do agree that the lack of education is a flaw in our voting system. Schools should do a better job to educate their students on why voting is so important. By relating this back to social contracts, students will understand that by voting people in office and for proposals they are creating the state of nature in America. When you circle in an oval on the ballot you are voting for individual rights, for freedom, and for democracy. I am hopeful that if we further express that to voters our turnout would improve.

Parenting: Better to be feared or loved?

While reading Machiavelli’s, “The Prince” I struggled to accept the idea that for leaders, it is better to be loved than feared.

machiavelli quote I thought particularly about one organization, my family, and how I viewed my parents or should I say the King and Queen of our household. When I was younger, many of my friends would tell me how they were grounded or had specific privileges taken away for doing something wrong. I would think to myself how lucky I was that I had never been grounded.895

The only big punishment that had ever happened to me was being sent to my room. As I got older, I began to contemplate, if I was rarely punished how come I rarely acted out?

The answer is simple. Growing up having a close relationship with my parents, I never wanted to disappoint them. Because of how much I loved and respected my parents, I feared disappointing them, but I never feared them. Having a conversation with my parents and hearing how I disappointed them was much worse then getting my RAZR phone taken away from me. who-remembers-the-motorola-razr_o_2224211In “The Prince” it says that in order to be a strong and powerful prince you must instill fear in your nation; however, the piece also focuses on the fine line between fear and hate. You do not want your nation to hate the prince, just fear him. Citizens would hate their prince if he taxed them too high causing them to live in poverty. Likewise, citizens would respect their prince if he taxed them the correct amount in order to stabilize the economy, even if he was seen as fearful.

Similarly to in my family, a prince should be someone that is so respected that people fear disappointing him. This distinction between fearing someone and fearing how they feel about you can make a tremendous difference. If a leader of a nation, company, or any organization is feared by its members it may prevent people to speak their ideas or share their concerns. If people working below the leader did not share their input, the organization could fail. “The Prince” also mentions that a prince should be his absolute cruelest at the beginning of his term, so people expect the worst before he eases up. Although I think a leader should be stern, they  should also be compassionate and personable in order to gain respect from their constituents.

I believe that a family is like its own tiny nation, and it’s interesting to look at it’s governing in order to see what strategies work best. Like my family, certain organizations may work best when they instill less fear of an individual and more fear of their reaction.