mikeyzjames

Just another WordPress.com site

Category: Homework

Dialogue Practice

Daniel: Because you’re not the chosen brother, Eli. ‘Twas Paul who was chosen. See he found me and told me about your land, you’re just a fool.

Eli: Why are you talking about Paul? Don’t say this to me.

Daniel: I did what your brother couldn’t, I broke you and I beat you. It was Paul who told me about you, he’s the prophet, he’s the smart one. He knew what was there, he found me to take it out of the ground. You know what the funny thing is? Listen, listen, listen– I paid him $10,000 cash in hand, just like that. He has his own company now. Prosperous little business. Three wells producing $5000 a week.

Daniel: Stop crying, you sniveling ass! Stop your nonsense! You’re just the afterbirth, Eli, slithered out on your mother’s filth. They should have put you in glass jar on a mantelpiece. Where were you when Paul was suckling at his mother’s teat, eh? Where were you? Who was nursing you, poor Eli, one of Bandy’s sows? That land has been had, there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s gone, had.

Eli: If you would just—

Daniel: You lose.

Eli: Take this lease, Daniel—

DanielDRAAAIIINNNNAGE! Drainage, Eli, you boy. Drained dry, I’m so sorry. Here: if you have a milkshake… and I have a milkshake… and I have a straw; there it is, that’s the straw, see? Watch it. My straw reaches across the room… and starts to drink your milkshake: I… drink… your… milkshake! I drink it up!

Eli: Don’t bully me, Daniel!

Day 32 – Research Paper Rough Draft

My students have their rough drafts due today, which means my rough draft is due today. There is a lot I want to change, much I want to cut down, and some I want to remove altogether. That is the beauty of a rough draft.

Soccer in America (I like catchy titles, what can I say?)

            The New Jersey Meadowlands was packed to capacity. Fans clad in green walked to their seats, beginning their songs long before opening kickoff. As the teams entered the field, the stadium rocked as the cheers and singing overwhelmed the  announcers. It was a thrilling game decided in overtime. But these 80,000 fans were not there to see the New York Jets or Giants play football, but Mexico and Guatemala square off in the semi-finals of soccer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup. Meanwhile, the United States, in the same tournament, played in front of nearly 1/3 of the people that had shown up in New Jersey. For the entirety of the tournament held in American stadiums, Mexico’s games continually saw higher attendances and were held in higher capacity venues than those of the Americans. Although the attendees of these games were primarily Latin immigrants finally able to see their home teams on American soil, the disparity in support highlights the difficulties soccer has had in gaining the attention of the American public. While soccer is overwhelmingly the most popular sport in most European, African, and Latin American countries, it has failed to attract similar popularity in America and lags far behind other team sports like football, basketball, baseball, and hockey in terms of attendance, revenue, media attention, and success. Soccer’s inability to find the level of support and popularity in America that it does abroad can be traced to the very development of the sport here. The cultural, regional, and ideological roots that have made soccer so popular abroad have failed to take root in America and the game continues to be seen as a “foreign” enterprise.

The sport America now calls soccer has been existed in England in some form since the Middle Ages. For centuries, it was played in a variety of styles until the London Football Association (LFA) finally agreed upon a standardized set of rules in 1863. In 1870, the first International soccer match was played between England and Scotland, in 1871, the first FA Cup tournament was held, and in 1888, the first English Football League began play (Szymanski and Zimbalist). Surprisingly, soccer has an equally long, and sometimes longer, official history in America as well. The first recorded competitive American game was held in 1869 between Princeton and Rutgers, although what was played only superficially resembles the sport as it exists today and many people also claim it as the first competitive American football game (Van Rheenan). Ironically, America even had a professional soccer league before the British after the American Football Association (AFA) formed in 1884, and the nation’s longest running cup, the National Challenge Cup (now the U.S. Open Cup) began competition in 1913 (Wangerin).

Although it shares a history as old or even older than the sports that currently dominate the American consciousness, soccer has been plagued by a series of false-starts and dead ends. The AFA quickly fell apart to be replaced by the equally unstable American Soccer League (ASL). The league enjoyed modest success through the 1920s by luring foreign players with lucrative contracts, and the sport, it seemed, was on its way. But political infighting, poor organization, and the onset of the Great Depression destroyed any chances the league had to rival baseball, America’s most popular pastime (Wangerin). Soccer continued primarily as an amateur sport, with leagues like the San Francisco Soccer and Football League enjoying modest, local success with teams comprised of primarily recent immigrants (Van Rheenan).

The next significant development in American soccer was the creation of the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 1968. In the mid-70s, the league saw enormous success as teams like the New York Cosmos signed some of the most famous players in the world, most notably Brazilian legend Pelé. For a while, the team regularly played in front of 70,000 fans, but as Ian Scott notes, “the NASL was relying on an increasingly superficial audience for an increasingly superficial existence” (842). After Pelé’s retirement in 1977 and the league’s failure to renew its television contract with ABC in 1982, support dwindled and the league eventually collapsed under a weight of political infighting and bankruptcy (Scott).

In the wake of 1994 World Cup hosted in America, there was yet another attempt to professionalize soccer domestically. Major League Soccer (MLS) began as a 10 team league in 1996. Today, there are 18 clubs in th United States and Canada, with more being planned (Scott, 844). Like the NASL, the league has attempted to bolster popularity by recruiting famous players like David Beckham and Thierry Henry to play in the waning years of their career. But unlike the NASL, the league has managed to overcome significant hurdles to maintain and even grow its fanbase. The MLS has done well to place its roots firmly in domestic player development, individualized stadium construction, and an equalizing draft system. As a result, after 15 years of play, the MLS is only growing in popularity (Scott). But this success must remain in context. Soccer is nowhere near as popular as the other major American sports. Its attendance, television and advertising revenue, and journalistic coverage still lag far behind baseball, basketball, football, and arguably hockey. Despite its historical roots in America, soccer is still treated as a “foreign” sport.

The perception of soccer as a “foreign” sport has been the largest stumbling block to it becoming a popular American pastime. While modern commentators continue to make this claim, it has actually been present since soccer began in this country and the United States has a long history of “Americanizing” foreign sports. David Wangerin writes, “Virtually from the time of the first organized games, the United States has been much more concerned with establishing its own existence and playing by its own rules than in joining any international fraternity” (16). When the AFA formed in 1884, baseball was the most popular sport in America. Baseball itself was a derivation of the British game cricket. Unlike the leisurely, aristocratic British game, baseball was played at a faster speed, the rules were simplified, and a greater emphasis was put on manliness and strength (Szymanski and Zimbalist).

In many ways, soccer underwent a similar transition. The first version of the game played in America was really a mixture of soccer and rugby. Players could catch the ball and even run while holding it. At the time, the game was played primarily in colleges, and Harvard was at the forefront of athletics. In 1874, they scheduled a match against Canadian school McGill University. An adaptation of the sport called the Boston Game was played which involved much more physical contact and handling of the ball. Wangerin writes, “From that moment on, American football never looked back.” They quickly set up matches against local schools and “Yale agreed that the handling game was much more hardy and scientific and, unable to resist the allure of a regular encounter with its nemesis, soon gave up on soccer.” For soccer, this was a tragic blow. Wangerin continues, “With two of the nation’s most influential institutions converted, it was only a matter of time before others followed” (21). Sure enough, the Americanized sports like baseball, football, and basketball did indeed leave soccer behind.

The decision of Harvard and Yale to abandon soccer also highlights the ideological difficulties the game had in establishing a foothold in America. As Wangerin notes, football was seen as a superior sport because it emphasized physical strength and scientific calculation. Each play was a new chance for the strategy and physical acumen of one team to overwhelm the other. Soccer, on the other hand, is an amorphous, liquid game that can go long spells without “anything” happening. Brian Phillips arguesthat soccer has more chaos and intangibles than any other sport, which leads to long periods of boredom.  American sports, on the other hand, attempt to minimize this chaos at all costs. In football, each play is followed by a short regrouping period. Teams are also given strict regulations: ten yards must be gained in four plays or the other team gets a chance themselves. Baseball emphasizes one on one confrontation between the pitcher and batter that is also governed by the strict, limiting rules of balls and strikes. Even basketball, which seems on its face to be the most soccer-like, enforces a strict shot-clock that governs how long a team can hold on to the ball. In soccer, a team could theoretically hold on to the ball for the entire game without ever even attempting to score.

The potential outcomes of a soccer match also fly in the face of most values Americans hold dear. Even those American commentators who support soccer have a difficult time accepting the possibility of a tied result. Rick Reilly, popular sports writer for ESPN, wrote of the World Cup, “In the NFL in the past 10 years, there have been two ties. As of Tuesday Morning, in the first 11 games of this World Cup [2010[, there have been five ties. You will not see more ties at a J.C. Penney’s Father’s Day Sale. I hate ties. Doesn’t anybody want to win in this sport?” A tie flies in the face of the most fundamental American and free-market beliefs: there are winners and there are losers. The better man (or product) will succeed. Just as no company wants to break even, no sports fan wants to see a tie. American sports, for their part, have worked to ensure this does not happen. Of sports played in America, only soccer and football allow for draws. Football, though, generally avoids ties by way of the possible permutations of its score lines and a sudden death overtime period (a tie has only been accepted as a possibility in football because of the dramatic threat of injury in extended games).

In soccer, ties have been accepted for a number of reasons. First, most leagues award a champion based on total accumulated points over a season (38 games in many top-flight leagues). A draw is awarded one point and thus adds to the overall score. For favored teams like Manchester United or Real Madrid, a draw is seen as a loss. For lower teams like Wigan or Osasuna, a draw against these teams is seen as a massive win. Second, draws are seen as crucial in opening up the tactical possibilities of the soccer. They allow physically outmatched teams to adopt a gameplan that can still achieve a successful result. Although they might not have the technical skill to threaten the opponents goal, if they are defensively solid and unified, they can still earn a point.

The importance of draws in soccer highlights a fundamental disagreement in how America and the world views competition. A draw gives smaller clubs a greater chance in achieving success while also creating a much smaller margin of error for teams with realistic chances of winning the title. For example, in the 2009/2010 Premier League Season, Chelsea and Manchester United both won 27 games, but Chelsea’s five draws to Manchester United’s four were the deciding factor in who was crowned Champion (similarly, in 2008/2009, Liverpool only lost twice, but there eleven draws to Manchester United’s six left them four points behind first place) (“League Table”). Unlike the NFL which sees a 9-7 team squeak in to the playoffs and ultimately win the Super Bowl, soccer ensures that each game plays a significant role in the ultimate outcome.

The concept of a draw also feeds into a larger operating model of promotion and relegation that soccer uses around the world, something that has been rigorously avoided in America. Most leagues around the world (with the MLS as a notable exception), employ a system in which a country does not have merely one professional league, but a series of leagues that are hierarchically arranged into one system. In these countries, there is a system of promotion and relegation whereby the bottom three (or four) clubs in one league are demoted to the next league down on the totem pole. Likewise, the top 3 clubs from the lower league are promoted to the next higher league. What results is a fluid system by which small clubs, through hard-work, strong results, and adept player selection can see themselves move up into new echelons of competition, visibility, and profitability. Likewise, even large clubs can, through poor personnel decisions, underperformance, and even bad lack, find themselves demoted to lower leagues with lower profit potential, player recruitability, and prestige.

This system has also dramatically affected the business models of most clubs in world soccer. According to Szymanski and Zimbalist, “Promotion and relegation increase competition and decrease the long-term monopoly power of the big clubs […] It is a hypercompetitive system in comparison with a closed system [American leagues], and it shows in the relatively high profitability and low frequency of financial failure in the US majors than in the top European soccer leagues” (47). American sports like baseball have established themselves as closed systems that deter new entrants and emphasize the profitability of the brand. Clubs are treated like businesses, are owned by businessmen, and, through the consistency of the product and brand, have all but assured profitability. Furthermore, the draft system ensures that poor performing teams have first choice in the addition of new players which allows them to address weaknesses quickly. For example, the Detroit Lions went an unprecedented 0-16 in 2008 but were granted the first selection in the next draft. Now, just three seasons later, they earned their first trip to the Playoffs since 1999. In soccer, demotion to a lower league does not only affect prestige but also dramatically affects the profitability of the club. With television contracts and ticket prices, the difference between playing in the Premier League and the next-lower Championship can mean tens of millions of dollars. As a result, many clubs over-spend to keep themselves in their present league which has led to massive debt issues throughout world football.

The ideological battle between profitability and competitiveness is perhaps the single largest hindrance to soccer becoming as popular in America as it is around the globe. In America, sport has become a matter of profitability, whereas in soccer it is a matter of competition. The system of promotion and relegation speaks to this significance. The stability of American sports’ leagues assures continual income sources while the relegation/promotion system (and the added level of European competitions like the Champion’s League) keeps soccer clubs in a constant state of economic unpredictability. In addition, American sport franchises are, with few exceptions, located in large urban centers that can assure owners profitability. Owners have the ability to re-locate clubs to places that are more economically viable if they see fit. This does not occur in soccer. As a result, soccer clubs are much more intimately tied into their location. Unlike American sports franchises that are begun by owners, “most European clubs were not run by a single individual or corporation as they are now. They were run as associations with member’s dues and board elections. The members of a club wished to control the club’s affairs rather than allow the economic elite to manage them” (Benoit 535). Many clubs, as a result, became to represent the places where they were located, not only in terms of membership dues, but in terms of ethnicity, religion, politics, and ideology.

The ideological basis for many soccer clubs can account for the unrivaled, and to many Americans, off-putting passion of soccer fans. Macon Benoit writes that “the club became a symbol of importance for much of the local population. Support for the team was an expression of loyalty, and was construed to be support for the territory and the people who lived there” (535). Many clubs, as a result, were formed along very strict ideological lines. In Scotland, for instance, Celtic was formed as a Catholics-only football club by Irish-Scots, and Rangers was formed as a Protestants-only, Native-Scots football club. As a result of these ideological antagonisms, the rivalry has become one of the most passionate, violent, and contentious in world football. For Benoit, “the domestic game fed religious particularizing, political partisanship, and ethnic rivalry throughout Europe” (535). These ideological underpinnings help explain the perilous economic position of many teams in soccer. Because success is representative of the people themselves, profitability is often seen as a hindrance towards competitiveness and success. Clubs will do whatever it takes to win.

Regional allegiance to teams only intensified as the sport made itself international. America has only recently begun active exportation of its home-grown sports, which means, in general terms, that America still dominates those games on an international stage (many failures of American teams in these sports on an international stage can be accounted for by the use of amateurs [baseball] or other participation issues [basketball]). Soccer, on the other hand, was used by the British to open up and create allegiances in its colonial project. Szymanski and Zimbalist write, “[British ex-patriots] saw their sport as embodying the virtues of the nation and their class, and saw the spreading of their game as a kind of missionary work” (53). The simplicity of the game assured that even impoverished countries would be able to easily play the sport. In addition, “Soccer […] is sufficiently simple that it can admit to any number of styles of play, each of which can become the distinct property of a particular culture” (51). These styles of play then come to represent the ideological underpinnings of the nation itself. Brazil is known for their flare; Germany is known for their work-rate and organization; the Spanish are known for their intricate, artistic passing.

In the lead up to World War II, international matches became loaded with political significance. In one famous instance, the England Foreign Office forced the English team to perform the Nazi salute before their match with Germany in May of 1938. It was supposed to be a signal of peace and respect, although many players argued against the move. As tensions rose throughout Europe, “The national team ostensibly came to represent the entire nation, while the pitch became a surrogate battlefield on which mock war was waged, bringing citizens of a state together in victory or defeat” (Benoit 536). These allegiances only served to double the passion of most fans throughout the world.

Because of its historical, cultural, and ideological formations, soccer has became an integral part of daily life for much of the world. In America, these roots will never be able to be established. Our long isolation in terms of sport not only assures that it will be difficult to create a similar rivalry system in the sports we do cherish, but it also assures that a “foreign” sport like soccer will continue to play a marginalized role in the American sports landscape.

Works Cited

Benoit, Macon. “The Politicization of Football: The European Game and the Approach to the Second World War.” Soccer & Society 9.4 (October 2008): 532-550. Print.

“League Table.” Premier League, Premier League. 2011. Web. 9 February 2012.

Phillips, Brian. “Soccer’s Heavy Boredom.” Grantland, ESPN. 17 January 2012. Web. 9 February 2012.

Reilly, Rick. “World Cup Buzz Kill.” ESPN, ESPN. 15 June 2010. Web. 9 February 2012.

Scott, Ian. “From NASL to MLS: Transnational Culture, Exceptionalism and Britain’s Part in American Soccer’s Coming of Age.” The Journal of Popular Culture 44.4 (2011): 831-853. Print.

Szymanski, Stefan and Andrew Zimbalist. National Pastime. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2005. Print.

Van Rheenan, Derek. “The Promise of Soccer in America: the Open Play of Ethnic Subcultures.” Soccer & Society 10.6 (November 2009): 781-794. Print.

Wangerin, David. Soccer in a Football World: The Story of America’s Forgotten Game. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008. Print.

Day 29 – Annotated Bibliography

The next big step in the process of writing a research paper is compiling the annotated bibliography. Here’s mine.

Benoit, Macon. “The Politicization of Football: The European Game and the Approach to the Second World War.” Soccer & Society 9.4 (October 2008): 532-550. Print.

            Benoit traces the politicization of football as fascism spread across Europe before World War II. Domestic clubs had already formed around political, religious, and ethnic lines. Germany’s usurpation of many domestic leagues only strengthened this. Likewise, in the build-up to WWII, international matches gained a new importance. Previously, these matches had been fairly casual affairs with animosity at a minimum. But as the war neared, the matches added a new dimension. For Fascist powers like Italy, the performance of the Italian National Team signified the strength (or weakness) of the State. Likewise, a match between Germany and England became more about national identity than common sport.

            This essay will be extremely useful to me because it marks the transition from soccer as domestic pastime to international religion. It highlights how allegiances were solidified and the importance of the sport in national identity. Because America doesn’t have an equivalent of this in its major sports, we don’t see the same type of identification with sport. Likewise, the community allegiance to teams does not necessarily have a mirror in America which explains the type of fan each sport enjoys.  

Brown, Sean. “Fleet Feet: The USSF and the Peculiarities of Soccer Fandom in America.” Soccer & Society 8.2/3 (April/July 2007): 366-380. Print.

            Brown’s essay attempts to highlight the difficulty American soccer has in navigating between differing fanbases. On the one hand, participation in the sport is high. But these participators rarely turn into spectators. Most spectators of the sport are from urban centers and are generally first or second generation immigrants. As a result, he argues that the USMNT has difficulties scheduling games on American soil in which they won’t face a hostile crowd. In response, fan groups like Sam’s Army have organized to support the sport within America and to create a kind of fan that is both knowledgable, respectful, and loyal.

Brown’s essay will be useful for me in the way it highlights the complicated position the sport has in gaining “native” support in America. Although the argument feels incomplete to me, I think his analysis of support groups will be helpful in supporting my argument that the sport remains “foreign” and that many fans within America still hold to their native identities, which hampers the growth of the sport within the country.

Markovits, Andrei S. “Sports Fans Across Border: America from Mars, Europe from Venus.” Harvard International Review 33.2 (Summer 2011): 17-22. Print.

Markovitz argues that America’s sporting culture is significantly less violent, racist, and anti-cosmopolitan than Europe’s football culture because it has eliminated racist language as socially acceptable, sport’s teams are geographically dispersed which reduces tension, and sports teams are more closely aligned with business than political or social movements. He argues that as a result of the Civil Rights movement in America and the predominance of minorities in professional sports, the US has virtually eliminated racist chants and racial violence from stadiums. In Europe, the close proximity of clubs intensifies rivalries and leads to an increase in anti-Cosmopolitan (racist, xenophobic, classist) rhetoric. Additionally, America sports is so closely tied to business that it has been difficult to recreate the social and political identities that many European football clubs have.

Although my own paper will not be addressing violence in American or European sports, the root causes of this violence, as Markovits notes, will be useful. In particular, I think there is a clear connection to be made between the geographic location of clubs and the increased intensity of support. This was already a point I wanted to make. Likewise, the distance between American franchises means that even the most popular sports don’t enjoy the type of fan support that European clubs do. I think Markovits also does a good job of explaining just how intimately tied football clubs are to their location, not just in terms of sport, but economics, politics, and social movements. American sports can’t reproduce this, especially in soccer. If these types of things do happen with US soccer teams, it usually comes from enclaves of immigrants support (Chivas).

Scott, Ian. “From NASL to MLS: Transnational Culture, Exceptionalism and Britain’s Part in American Soccer’s Coming of Age.” The Journal of Popular Culture 44.4 (2011): 831-853. Print.

Scott argues that, although it will never achieve the same domestic success as baseball, basketball, and football, soccer in the United States has finally adopted a system that can become self-sustaining and even competitive internationally. He traces the history of the sport in America, particularly focusing on the demise of the NASL in the early 80s. For Scott, the NASL failed because it attempted to Americanize soccer. By sensationalizing the sport through superstars and neglecting up-and-coming domestic players, the league assured that soccer would only be a fad. The MLS, in contrast, has succeeded by minimizing its expectations, establishing firm roots in development (the MLS draft, competition), and adopting many foreign attributes that previous incarnations of the sport avoided because of American exceptionalism. The result is a league that continues to expand its popularity while managing expectations.

This source will be useful because it highlights the pitfalls soccer has fallen into in America. In particular, it notes the fact that soccer initially failed to collectivize itself which set it behind other American sports from the get-go. Likewise, it continued to be seen as “foreign” which marginalized its potential. By highlighting how soccer is finally starting to take a hold in America, he actually highlights what has made the sport so successful around the globe. This can highlight the roots of soccer globally and support my own position.

Van Rheenan, Derek. “The Promise of Soccer in America: the Open Play of Ethnic Subcultures.” Soccer & Society 10.6 (November 2009): 781-794. Print.

            Van Rheenan argues that, although still largely unpopular, soccer has a long and diverse history in America. The major tendency of those promoting the sport in America has been to “Americanize” the game itself, which actually led to the fall of the NASL. But, in small leagues like San Francisco’s Soccer Football League, the sport has provided an opportunity for immigrant ethnic groups to both insulate themselves and ultimately open up to multiculturalism. Here, the desire to win led once insulated clubs like the Greek-American Athletic Club to open their ranks to a variety of ethnicities and nationalities.

Van Rheenan’s article will be useful to me for a few reasons. It highlights the sense of soccer as an imported sport. Although he does mention many Americans who played, most of the clubs he talks about have been associated with immigrant populations. In addition,  it speaks to the insulated nature of soccer in the US. Although the Greek-American AC was one of the most successful in California and the country, most people have never heard of them. I had never heard of them, and I love soccer and even follow it domestically. So, I will really be using Van Rheenan against himself. While he argues that soccer helps immigrants integrate, he also seems to highlight the relegated nature of the sport in this country.

Day 27 – Research Paper Topic Selection

My clas is now moving into the final assignment of the quarter, the Research Paper. The first step of this project is to select a topic. I waited for my class to hand in their selections before I decided on mine, although I could have predicted that noone would select my topic as well.

I have chosen to write about soccer’s popularity in the United States. Although it is called “the World’s game”, soccer seems to only be relevant in the US during the World Cup. Why doesn’t America embrace soccer? Why does the rest of the world connect to it so strongly?

I selected this topic because I am a soccer fanatic. Although I enjoy most sports, soccer is the one I am most passionate about. But being an American makes it more difficult to stay engaged with the game. I’m interested in looking into socio-historical reasons to help explain why the United States has “refused” to embrace the game to the degree that Europe, Africa, and South America have. I’m also interested in looking at how the soccer fanbase is growing in America, especially in regards to a few MLS teams.This topic is very debatable. Many Americans argue that soccer isn’t popular because it is low scoring. Some say that it is because it is an “immigrant’s game.” Many others argue that soccer simply hasn’t embedded itself as fully into the American way of life as it has in Europe, Africa, and South America. While the differing points of view may not be overly contentious, there is definitely no unified argument.The topic is definitely big enough to warrant a 7-9 page paper. There are a number of different ways to approach my topic. I’m particularly interested in looking at the history of the game and how it integrated itself into European daily life. I’m also interested in comparing soccer’s style of play with the most popular American sports to see if there is maybe an answer there. Although, like most fandoms, soccer clubs can have an almost religious atmosphere around them, the topic will not rely on morality or religion.I have already found a number of significant articles discussing the topic from a variety of angles. Many articles that don’t necessarily discuss soccer’s popularity in America will still be useful because they address fandom in other settings. There are also a number of books written on the topic that will be useful.

Day 26 – Research Paper Notes

Research Paper Components

Framing – p. 277

This is the lens through which you present your issue. Framing narrows down your topic to the area you want to cover and presents the stakes. Framing occurs early in the essay, generally within the first paragraphs.

Thesis

Clearly presents your main idea. If I only read your thesis, I would know what stance you would be taking on your topic. Consider using “should (not)” and “because” to help flesh out your thesis. Example: The death penalty “should” be outlawed “because” it risks killing innocent people, it does not deter crime, and it costs states billions of dollars.

A Readable Plan – p. 269, 279

The readable plan is the spine and structure of your essay. This is the work you do to connect your main points together so that the reader is always clear about where they are in the argument, why they are there, and how the pieces all related together. Initially, the readable plan begins with the thesis sentence and follows with a forecast of what arguments will be addressed. It continues through the use of strong topic sentences that guide the writing/reading. These topic sentences, and the paragraphs themselves, should stay consistent in key terms so that arguments are always clear. BE EXPLICIT

Support – p.268

A research paper cannot simply be an outline of main arguments. Those arguments must be supported with well-reasoned argument and strong evidence. Evidence should be used when declarative statements are not universally known to be true. A citation is not needed to explain that Lincoln is the capital of Nebraska; it is needed to say that Lincoln has a population of X. Next, the sources must be reliable. If you have even the slightest hesitation about the source, you should generally avoid it. If you can only find one source that says something, you might want to reconsider it.

Counter-Arguments – p.268, 279

A well-reasoned research paper should be well-rounded. It must address the significant arguments against your position. This can take many forms. Sometimes, you just flat out destroy the other side’s arguments. In other cases, you might have to concede the opposition’s point while also explaining why you are still right. The presentation of Counter-Arguments is tricky. First, you must present their argument fairly and completely. Second, you must answer their argument. Sometimes students simply present the opposition’s position without answering it. Counter-arguments should also be presented as such. Make it clear that you are presenting a position you don’t agree with. For example, “Death penalty advocate John Bonbaum aruges X.” “Some opponents will say Y.”

Requirements your Essay Should Fulfill

History

Before you begin specifically addressing arguments for or against your position, you must first establish the history of the topic. How long has the issue been around? What significant developments have occurred? Have there been any significant laws passed in regards to the law? Have there been any significant events that have affected the perception of the issue? To convince us of your position, you must first prove that you are an expert on the topic.

Significance and Harms

Is the issue you are talking about important? Does it have wideranging implications? Does it affect many people? Does it affect a principle which is universally important? If the issue is not handled or addressed in the manner you support, what are the risks? What is at stake?

Solution

In the clearest way possible, present just exactly how the Harms can be prevented. This should generally take the form of a Thesis statement, but might be explained more later, with specific details.

Reasons

Just like arguments need evidence, Solutions need Reasons. These are your main points of support.

 

Day 24.5 – Research Notes

1)  What is a research paper?

  • Presents info. from various sources in a concrete format. Intro -> Body -> Conclusion. Undisputable.
  • Factual, non-biased essay about one subject. Present both sides. No stance.
  • Analysis over a specific topic. Breaking it down. Depth.
  • Data driven analysis of a subject. Compile information.
  • Empirical (measurable, provable) data to objectively present both sides of an issue.
  • Thesis driven, on an arguable topic, supported with viable research, convincing logic, and thorough coverage.

2) What makes a good research paper topic?

  • A debatable topic.
  • Lots of information. Needs awareness. Popculture. Pick something interesting and relevant to you.
  • Reseachable. Can’t be based purely on personal or purely philosophical.
  • Readable, interesting. People should care about it.
  • Relevance, universality, easily interpreted across the ages. Timeless. Connectable to larger themes.

3) What qualifies as good research?

  • Reliable – unbiased (reputable – amount of publishing, affiliation, traceable)
  • Sources
  • Multiple sources. Source understandability.
  • Statistics. Enhances the topic. Unique sources.
  • Variety from different types of publications.
  • No plagiarism.

4) What components are necessary in the research paper to make it convincing?

  • Several drafts. Clarity of thoughts. Logical transitions. Lots of support to the thesis.
  • Solid logic. Link to the thesis. Cited research.
  • Presents flaws in both arguments.
  • Present both sides.
  • Evidence.
  • Understandable.
  • Grammar. Punctuation. Spelling.
  • Genuinely believe what you are saying.

Day 24 – Children of Men Final

One subtle way that Alfonso Cuarón’s 2006 film Children of Men fills in the history of post-apocalyptic, infertile Britain is through the background use of advertising, and in particular, pharmaceutical advertising. Three drugs in particular are both discussed and advertised throughout the film: Quietus, a suicide drug, Bliss, an anti-depressant, and Niagra, a male erectile dysfunction pill. Each, in their own way, helps Cuarón paint a picture of future Britain, but in particular, Quietus reveals the true despair of the infertile future. Through Quietus and the more abstract discussion and presentation of disease and treatment, Children of Men critiques the modern use of and reliance on pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical advertising.

The most prominent drug in Children of Men is the suicide pill Quietus. It is seen in advertisements, discussed by Theo (Clive Owen) and Jasper (Michael Caine), and even used twice, once to kill rats by Jasper and once to actually kill Jasper’s wife Janice (Philippa Urquhart) as his compound is raided by the Fishes.  The television advertisement for Quietus appears when Theo’s TV turns on to wake him one morning. It shows a man walking stoically into the sunrise as the tagline “I am free to decide my own destiny” echoes through the speakers. While at Jasper’s, Theo opens a Quietus box and reads the included instructions. Quietus, he reads, is 100% effective and it is also being given out freely by the government. For Cuarón, Quietus serves two functions. First, it symbolizes the general despair that is overwhelming humanity nearly two decades after the last human was born. The world is in chaos, and even “safe” Britain is over-crowded, polluted, noisy, and dangerous. In such depressing circumstances, death is seen as a peaceful, quiet way to escape. More significantly, Cuarón makes Quietus a government sponsored, distributed, and endorsed drug. It isn’t simply passively allowed; it is encouraged and even promoted. From the government’s perspective, dwindling resources and significant crowding have put extreme strain on the country. Large-scale suicide frees up resources and makes security and maintenance easier.

Cuarón’s use of pharmaceutical advertising is effective and seamless because it is rooted in the types of drug ads that have become ubiquitous within the last 20 years. The commercial for Quietus seen when Theo wakes up is based on modern pharmaceutical advertisements. It features a solitary man, out of context, looking into the sunset. Like many ads, this commercial does not explicitly discuss what the drug does, but rather focuses on more abstract concepts like personal choice, freedom, and peace. Although we know Quietus is a suicide pill based on Theo and Jasper’s discussion, the ad could just as easily be for Cialis, which also emphasizes personal freedom, choice, and happiness.

But Quietus offers a false freedom. At its core, Children of Men offers hope in a hopeless world and Kee’s baby is a symbol of that possible “Tomorrow”. Although there seems to be little worth fighting for, the people that surround her are so committed to that hope that they are willing to die, and as a result, they become martyrs for humanity. Quietus, on the other hand, offers death as a escape. It serves no cause in the betterment of humanity, but instead grants people a release from the difficulties of life.

What is even more troubling for Cuarón is that this option is being advertised by the government. Propaganda plays a large role in the film and we frequently see a relation between Cause (a sign urging Britons to report illegal immigrants) and Effect (illegal immigrants being transported in cages to the ghetto of Bexhill). Thus, we can assume that the Quietus advertising, in conjunction with the increasing terror and fear, has led many people to choose this option. Each unnecessary suicide diminishes the hope for human survival.

Cuarón bases this connection on the modern use of pharmaceutical advertising. Today, pharmaceutical companies spend over $20 billion annually in drug promotion, including nearly $5 billion in Direct-to-Consumer advertising (Campbell). These advertisements urge consumers to ask their doctor “whether the drug is right for them.” As a result, a study published in CMAJ found that patients with significant exposure to pharmaceutical advertising were more likely to request new medications, more likely to request medications that they had seen advertised, and ultimately 17 times more likely to receive new medications from their doctors than those who do not ask for them (Mintzes, et al). In short, pharmaceutical advertising results in more patients using the advertised drugs.

For the real world, Cuarón seems to be critiquing our increased reliance on both pharmaceuticals themselves and advertising’s ability to influence human decisions. It is important that he has chosen drugs that are generally qualified as “lifestyle” drugs that treat non-fatal diseases and problems (Woodard). Obviously, in a world with little hope of survival, it seems clear that drugs that treat things like high cholesterol, heart disease, or cancer would be less important. The drugs advertised in the film address short-term quality of life or even grant a permanent end to an immediate problem. Most importantly, the drugs don’t find cures to causes, but solutions to effects. The drugs do not actually address the living conditions that make life unbearable for the citizens of 2027 Britain, instead, they make those conditions acceptable. For Theo and those who help Kee, the goal of getting her to the Tomorrow is to offer some hope at curing the root cause of humanity’s problems. Instead of finding ways to manage the despair, the government should be finding ways to solve the problems.

In addition to critiquing the use of pharmaceuticals to cure effects rather than causes, Quietus also addresses the more general abuse of pharmaceuticals in our own world. In 2008, over 20,000 people died as a result of prescription drug overdoses. Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has claimed that this represents a new epidemic in the United States (Roberts). Quietus simply cuts out the middlemen and makes death assured. It also plays with the now clichéd list of side-effects associated with most pharmaceutical ads. Now, the worst side-effect, death, is the goal, and it is 100% guaranteed.

Cuarón is not completely anti-pharmaceutical, or even completely anti-Quietus (Jasper giving Janice the drug is actually seen as a beautiful, loving, and graceful choice). But he is clearly skeptical of the industry. For example, although the film never reveals what has caused the massive infertility of humanity, Cuarón may see a connection between the increased use of pharmaceuticals for non-life threatening problems and the problems of reproduction. We see one instance of the potential harms of pharmaceuticals while Theo sits hooded in the Fishes interrogation cell. A newspaper visible on the wall claims that some drugs that attempted to treat the infertility actually led to death in users. In addition to the use of Quietus, Cuarón is consistently making connections between pills and death.9999 Perhaps the increased reliance on pharmaceuticals in the late 20th and early 21st centuries affected humanity’s ability to reproduce as well.

In this case, Cuarón has merely expanded upon a widespread belief that humans are overly reliant on drugs to treat non-life threatening illnesses, and as a result, there is an increased risk of drug resistance. For example, the CDC has warned against the overuse of antibiotics in minor infections and especially viral infections (which antibiotics cannot treat). They state, “these drugs have been used so widely and for so long that the infectious organisms the antibiotics are designed to kill have adapted to them, making the drugs less effective. People infected with antimicrobial-resistant organisms are more likely to have longer, more expensive hospital stays, and may be more likely to die as a result of the infection.” They urge for increased prevention strategies in the spread of diseases and proper diagnosing on the part of medical professionals to stop over-medication (“Antibiotic/Antimicrobial Resistance”).

Drug resistance is an increasing problem. Just within the last week, India has reported at least 12 cases of tuberculosis that they say “has become resistant to all the drugs used against the disease” (McKenna). This new form of TB is related to the already difficult to treat MDR-TB which killed nearly 150,000 people last year. For Cuarón and Children of Men, this fact should not come as a surprise. In fact, Jasper references an influenza pandemic in 2007 (the film was released in 2006) that killed Theo and Julian’s child. According to the CDC, influenza is one disease that is becoming increasingly drug-resistant and the general reaction to the “swine flu” highlights the general belief that it is not a question of if, but when such a pandemic occurs.

While the usage of drugs like Bliss, Niagra, and Quietus might not directly lead to resistant forms of disease like influenza or tuberculosis, they are part of a more general reliance on prescriptions to treat effects, not causes. Because little is seen being done to promote the general well-being of the remaining British citizens through basic services like trash pick up or pollution control, it is clear that the government finds it easier and cheaper to distribute anti-depressants, sex drugs, and suicide pills than it is to actually make things better. Clearly, there are bigger issues at stake in Cuarón’s film, but the increased influence of non-necessary pharmaceutical advertising is symptomatic of a more general unwillingness to confront real world problems in a direct, realistic way. For Cuarón, Quietus is not such a far reach from the modern day ads that promise peace, relaxation, and serenity.

Works Cited
“Antibiotic/Antimicrobial Resistance.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. United States Government. 4 October 2011. Web. 10 January 2012.

Campbell, Sheila. “Promotional Spending for Prescription Drugs.” Congressional  Budget Office. United States Government. 2 December 2009. Web. 10 January  2012.

McKenna, Maryn. “India Reports Completely Drug-Resistant TB.” Wired. Wired  Magazine. 9 January 2012. Web. 10 January 2012.

Mintzes, Barbara, Morris Barer, Richard Kravitz, Ken Bassett, Joel Lexchin, Arminée  Kazajian, Robert Evans, Richard Pan, and Stephen Marion. “How Does Direct-to- Consumer Advertising (DTCA) Affect Prescribing? A Survey in Primary Care  Environments with and without Legal DTCA.” CMAJ 169.5 (September 2003):  405-412. Print.

Roberts, John. “Report: Prescription Drug Deaths Skyrocket.” Fox News. Fox News  Network. 1 November 2011. Web. 16 January 2012.

Woodard, Larry. “Pharmaceutical Ads: Good of Bad for Consumers?” ABC News. ABC.  25 February 2010. Web. 10 January 2012.

Day 23 – MLK Day

I haven’t posted because I want my class to be able to easily find my rough draft for their next assignment on Children of Men. (And yes students, it is but a ROUGH draft. I’ve been working dilligently to improve it because there are many aspects I don’t like. You should do the same! If you are completely happy with a rough draft, you will likely be unhappy with your grade.)

But seeing as it is Martin Luther King Day, it seems impossible not to make a passing word to the man, seeing as how important he is to my own class. If you have never read “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” please take the time to do so. While the “I Have a Dream” speech is probably the most famous text associated with King, “Letter” is his true manifesto. It is a beautiful, thoughtful, and powerful piece of rhetoric. As much as I admire the incendiary style of Malcolm X or those associated with the Black Panther Party, Martin Luther King always overwhelms me with how calm and rational he is in his approach. Even when you are hoping that he is going to explode and roast his opponents, he quickly dashes the idea of “opponents” and speaks on the level of love and equality that he promotes. Yes, he takes people to task, but the way he does it is so incredibly admirable.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Day 22 – Children of Men Rough Draft

One subtle way that Alfonso Cuarón’s 2006 film Children of Men fills in the history of post-apocalyptic, infertile Britain is through the background use of advertising, and in particular, pharmaceutical advertising. Three drugs in particular are both discussed and advertised throughout the film: Quietus, a suicide drug, Bliss, an anti-depressant, and Niagra, a male erectile dysfunction pill. Each, in their own way, helps Cuarón paint a picture of future Britain. Through these drugs and the more abstract discussion and presentation of disease and treatment, Children of Men critiques the modern use of and reliance on pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical advertising.

Quietus is the most prominent drug featured in the film, and it is used twice during the film, once to kill rodents and eventually to kill Jasper’s (Michael Caine) catatonic wife Janice (Philippa Urquhart). We first see the drug advertised when Theo (Clive Owen) leaves a coffeeshop, as the tagline “You decide when” scrolls across a billboard in the background. A television advertisement for Quietus also appears when Theo’s TV turns on to wake him one morning. It shows a man walking stoically into the sunrise as the tag echoes through the speakers. Finally, while at Jasper’s, Theo opens a Quietus box and reads the included instructions. Quietus, he reads, is 100% effective and it is also being given out freely by the government. For Cuarón, Quietus serves two functions. First, it symbolizes the general despair that is overwhelming humanity nearly two decades after the last human was born. The world is in chaos, and even “safe” Britain is over-crowded, polluted, noisy, and dangerous. In such depressing circumstances, death is seen as a peaceful, quiet way to escape. More significantly, Cuarón makes Quietus a government sponsored, distributed, and endorsed drug. It isn’t simply passively allowed; it is encouraged and even promoted. From the government’s perspective, dwindling resources and significant crowding have put extreme strain on the country. Large-scale suicide frees up resources and makes security and maintenance easier.

Bliss and Niagra are less prominent in the film, but still illustrate the general psyche of 2027 Britain. The Bliss ad is bright and colorful. It shows a smiling woman surrounded by vibrant flowers. Like Quietus, Bliss is governmentally supported, with Theo noting that it is distributed in rations. For those unwilling to use Quietus, Bliss offers a path to some form of happiness. Niagra, for its part, addresses a more primal concern for a world without children. Given the general despair and an aging population, a healthy sex life may need some pharmaceutical help. In conjunction with the prominent warnings that avoiding fertility tests is a crime, it is likely that there is also an added emphasis on attempting to get pregnant, even if it seems unlikely. With its allusion to the famous waterfall, Niagra offers the chance at renewal and, hopefully, rebirth.

Cuarón’s use of pharmaceutical advertising is effective and seamless because it is rooted in the types of drug ads that have become ubiquitous within the last 20 years. Today, pharmaceutical companies spend over $20 billion annually in drug promotion, including nearly $5 billion in Direct-to-Consumer advertising (Campbell). These advertisements urge consumers to ask their doctor “whether the drug is right for them.” As a result, a study published in CMAJ found that patients with significant exposure to pharmaceutical advertising were more likely to request new medications, more likely to request medications that they had seen advertised, and ultimately 17 times more likely to receive new medications from their doctors than those who do not ask for them (Mintzes, et al). In short, pharmaceutical advertising results in more patients using the advertised drugs.

As a result of this fact, Children of Men achieves a dual critique. On the fictional side, it highlights the general callousness of Britain’s endorsement of something like Quietus. Merely allowing the drug to be prescribed is quite different than actively promoting it to the population. Based on the effectiveness of modern pharmaceutical advertising, it seems clear that the Quietus ads would be successful in convincing English citizens to choose suicide. For the real world, Cuarón seems to be critiquing our increased reliance on both pharmaceuticals themselves and advertising’s ability to influence human decisions. It is important that he has chosen drugs that are generally qualified as “lifestyle” drugs that treat non-fatal diseases and problems (Woodard). Obviously, in a world with little hope of survival, it seems clear that drugs that treat things like high cholesterol, heart disease, or cancer would be less important. The drugs advertised are all about increasing short-term quality of life or even granting a permanent end to an immediate problem.

Additionally, because we never find out what has caused the massive infertility of humanity, Cuarón may see a connection between the increased use of pharmaceuticals for non-life threatening problems and the problems of reproduction. While Theo sits hooded in the Fishes interrogation cell, a newspaper visible on the wall even claims that some drugs that attempted to treat the infertility actually led to death in users. Perhaps the increased reliance on pharmaceuticals in the late 20th and early 21st centuries affected humanity’s ability to reproduce as well.

In this case, Cuarón has merely expanded upon a widespread belief that humans are overly reliant on drugs to treat non-life threatening illnesses, and as a result, there is an increased risk of drug resistance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state “these drugs have been used so widely and for so long that the infectious organisms the antibiotics are designed to kill have adapted to them, making the drugs less effective. People infected with antimicrobial-resistant organisms are more likely to have longer, more expensive hospital stays, and may be more likely to die as a result of the infection.” They urge for increased prevention strategies in the spread of diseases and proper diagnosing on the part of medical professionals to stop over-medication (“Antibiotic/Antimicrobial Resistance”).

Within the last week, India has reported at least 12 cases of tuberculosis that they say “has become resistant to all the drugs used against the disease” (McKenna). This new form of TB is related to the already difficult to treat MDR-TB which killed nearly 150,000 people last year. For Cuarón and Children of Men, this fact should not come as a surprise. In fact, Jasper references an influenza pandemic in 2007 (the film was released in 2006) that killed Theo and Julian’s child. According to the CDC, influenza is one disease that is becoming increasingly drug-resistant and the general reaction to the “swine flu” highlights the general belief that it is not a question of if, but when such a pandemic occurs.

While the usage of drugs like Bliss and Niagra might not directly lead to resistant forms of disease like influenza or tuberculosis, they are part of a more general reliance on prescriptions to treat effects, not causes. Because little is seen being done to promote the general well-being of the remaining British citizens through basic services like trash pick up or pollution control, it is clear that the government finds it easier and cheaper to distribute anti-depressants, sex drugs, and suicide pills than it is to actually make things better. Clearly, there are bigger issues at stake in Cuarón’s film, but the increased influence of non-necessary pharmaceutical advertising is symptomatic of a more general unwillingness to confront real world problems in a direct, realistic way. For Cuarón, Quietus is not such a far reach from the modern day ads that promise peace, relaxation, and serenity.

Works Cited

“Antibiotic/Antimicrobial Resistance.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. United States Government. 4 October 2011. Web. 10 January 2012.

Campbell, Sheila. “Promotional Spending for Prescription Drugs.” CongressionalBudget Office. United States Government. 2 December 2009. Web. 10 January 2012.

McKenna, Maryn. “India Reports Completely Drug-Resistant TB.” Wired. Wired Magazine. 9 January 2012. Web. 10 January 2012.

Mintzes, Barbara, Morris Barer, Richard Kravitz, Ken Bassett, Joel Lexchin, Arminée Kazajian, Robert Evans, Richard Pan, and Stephen Marion. “How Does Direct-to-Consumer Advertising (DTCA) Affect Prescribing? A Survey in Primary Care Environments with and without Legal DTCA.” CMAJ 169.5 (September 2003): 405-412. Print.

Woodard, Larry. “Pharmaceutical Ads: Good of Bad for Consumers?” ABC News. ABC. 25 February 2010. Web. 10 January 2012.

Day 13 – Christmas Comes Early!

Tomorrow is the last day of Metro’s quarter before Winter break. Because I don’t really know how to manage a 2+ week gap in the middle of a quarter, I made it easy on myself: have the first paper due the last day before break and show a movie the first day back (which won’t be fluff, but part of an actual essay). So far, this quarter has gone very well. I am really enjoying my class; they are engaged, thoughtful, and hard-working. I even walked in to class one day to find them already discussing the day’s reading (which is unheard of!). I’d like to give myself the credit, but really I just got lucky.

Because I promised to do so, here is the prompt for the first essay, followed by my own version. I’m posting it a day early so maybe it is of some use to the more dedicated (or terrified) of my students who check here.

PROJECT #1 – “Letter from Birmingham Jail” Rhetorical Analysis

Our first assignment of the quarter is designed to begin the process of in-depth Critical Reading. The goal is to begin a more objective form of writing that doesn’t judge the source, but rather attempts to explain how it works, why it works, and who it works for. For this assignment, you will be analyzing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail”.

To write about this letter, you will be creating a rhetorical analysis. A rhetorical analysis attempts to explain what the main purpose of the given text is, who the main audience is, and how the text works to achieve its purpose with its intended audience.

Your paper will be split into 3 sections:
Section 1: Introduction and Summar

Section 2: Audience and Context

Section 3: Presentation: Ethos, Pathos, Logos

With this assignment, I want to see that you are able to synthesize and explain someone else’s ideas. This is an important skill, especially as you progress in your classes. But more importantly, I want to see that you are able to think about and explain why the author is saying what they are saying. This is a much more important and difficult task.

Quotes are required for this assignment. You must include at least  3 quotes that help support your claims. This is something we will be doing all quarter, so it is important that you begin now. These quotes must follow the basic MLA style with parenthetical citations that we go over in class. While you will not need to provide a Works Cited, I do want you to begin using in paper citations. These will be graded strictly.

In the 1960s, black leaders fought for ideological control in the movement for civil rights. Fiery black leader Malcolm X urged his followers in the Nation of Islam to “Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.” His belief in violent self-defense found its greatest opponent in the form of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., whose famous “Letter From Birmingham Jail” urged his followers to respond to increasing police resistance with love, peace, and self-control. His call for non-violent protest catalyzed the movement and eventually led to the Civil Rights Act of 1965. In his “Letter From Birmingham Jail”, King effectively uses logic to persuade the Alabama clergy that his path of non-violence was the best option in the inevitable struggle for racial equality.

According to Martin Luther King, 1960’s “Birmingham [was] the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States” (3). For the Civil Rights movement, it became the focus for one of the most sustained protests in the South. Led by King, black citizens began a series of actions that systematically closed off downtown Birmingham. The police responded with massive arrests, but also more forceful methods like spraying protesters with fire houses and provoking them with trained police dogs. The situation in Birmingham soon gained national attention, and images of the protests were aired around the country.

The unwanted attention led a group of Alabama clergymen to craft a letter urging black leaders to stop the protests and enter into negotiations to end the racial tension. Having been arrested in the movement himself, Martin Luther King took the clergymen’s letter as an opportunity to lay out the movement’s goals, motives, and strategies. This “Letter From Birmingham Jail” argued that non-violent direct protest was a fundamental step in creating a chance for real, honest negotiation. For him, the tension caused by the protests was therapeutic and only when the forces of good began to use time effectively would true racial harmony ensue. For King, if the white power structure refused to respond positively to the movement, blacks would be forced into a hopeless situation in which violence was the only solution; it wasn’t a question of whether blacks would continue the fight for civil rights, but what form that fight would take.

One of the underlying messages of the Alabama clergymen’s letter is that the movement’s methods incited violence and created an instability that hampered any hope of racial progress. They repeatedly urged for leaders to “[work] peacefully” to “find proper channels” and to “observe the principles of law and order and common sense” (1). In his letter, King directly responded to the clergy. He repeatedly addressed them in second person, saying, for example, “You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern  for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations” (2). He even went out of his way to clarify and explain the clergymen’s original letter, writing, “You may well ask: ‘Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?’ You are quite right in calling for negotiation” (3). By addressing the clergy directly, and in places even agreeing with them, he was able to speak with them, rather than at them. He argued with them as equals, in a calm and rational manner, and also framed his responses directly for them, using references, metaphors, and allusions that he assumed they would be familiar with.

King’s “Letter” used logic to persuade the clergy that non-violent direct action was the best method of resistance for the civil rights movement. Although he could have easily pressed the inhumanity, degradation, and violence that blacks faced, he instead appeals to his audience’s intellect. For him, the emotional argument could only cloud the clear-cut issues he wanted to discuss. Here, he spoke to the clergymen’s claim that “extreme measures are [not] justified in Birmingham” (1). He claimed that initially he was “disappointed that fellow clergymen would see [his] nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist” (7), but that he eventually realized that he stood between two extremes: those blacks who were secure in and profited by segregation and “the various black nationalist groups that [were] springing up across the nation” (8). For King, the former group symbolized an extreme form of despair and self-disrespect while the latter symbolized an extreme form of rage and fear. Only his path encouraged love.

King argued that the clergy, the rest of Birmingham, the South, and America had only three options: maintain the status quo, which even the clergy admitted was not ideal, endure the “frightening racial nightmare” that a turn to “black-nationalist ideologies” (8) would ensure, or accept and engage with his own non-violent protests. He rested this forced choice on the logic that “oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro” (8). With this, he cut out one of the three choices, maintaining the status quo. He narrowed the options for the white power structure to violence or peaceful protest and asserted that the segregated system had led blacks to internalize “many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations” (8). Here, he concluded his argument by assuring that “If [the Negro’s] repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history” (8). By leaving the clergy with a choice between his own methods of non-violent direct action and the violent self-defense of black nationalist organizations, King brought into question the very definition of extreme. If his actions were extreme, what would the clergy call a situation in which “many streets of the South […] flow[ed] with blood” (8)? Certainly, if it was inevitable that Blacks would stand up and fight for equality, even the white power structure would prefer a method of resistance that utilized peace instead of violence.

By calmly and logically addressing the Alabama clergy, Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” put its stamp on the civil rights movement. Although the clergymen never formally responded to King, his methods of non-violent protest dominated the civil rights movement and led to dramatic changes in the South and across America. Although groups like the Black Panthers began to engage in violence with local and federal police in the 1970s, they were never successful in their aims. King and his followers had already created a path in which peace, love, and restraint could achieve dramatic goals.

%d bloggers like this: