Journalism 2 Class luis jennifer mason robert forrest casey caitlin sarah mason lia alexandra luis natalie

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Final Word

After creating a project on the American Dream within the country’s society and people, I came across several unique discoveries.

The first, and perhaps most surprising, was the immediate thoughts held by the youngest generation regarding the American Dream. Through my interviewing and research, I found the younger generation (fifth graders specifically) to hold a very negative and pessimistic view on the American Dream. Most didn’t believe their parents were living out the American Dream, and most didn’t think it possible for the current Millennial Generation, let alone for themselves.

The second, which vastly contrasts the first discovery, was the thoughts held by the oldest generation regarding the American Dream. In contrast, the older generation was very optimistic of the American Dream, suggesting not only does it still exist, but also they achieved it within their lifetime. They do not dismiss the current Millennial Generation in their pursuit of the American Dream, but instead encourage that they will achieve and surpass their expectations.

This obvious opposition in thought was not only drastic, but also somewhat discouraging.

What in society deters young people from believing they can not only hold goals and dreams, but have the opportunity to reach them?


According to a recent US Today survey, American Idol and Dancing with the Stars holds the two spots for top watched television shows.

What makes these shows so popular?

I was surprised to ultimately find some controversial issues surrounding both shows. American Idol has been recently criticized for racism (Elton John), vote manipulation ( and, disqualifications due to personal connections with networks (Joanna Pacitti), etc.

Following game shows, reality television, and talent contests will always be possibly controversial to American ideals and standards.

Yet a majority of Americans follow these shows on a consistent basis.

The First Amendment

One clear distinction of the United States is its promotion of a religiously tolerant and free country. The First Amendment to its Constitution prohibits the government from leadership or authoritative roles in religion, allowing free expression of religion in society.

It’s no doubt that to most Americans, the freedom to practice any religion without persecution is without a doubt an immediate human right that should be upheld in America.

A majority of Americans identify themselves as Christians, but a multitude of different religions are represented within the country.

Personally, I feel like freedom to practice and hold any religion is a significant element to America. It allows not only for religious tolerance, but cultural tolerance and acceptance, which promotes a more aware and understanding people.

Proud to be an American

The popular song “I’m Proud to be an American” by Lee Greenwood depicts a classic understanding of American pride and patriotism.

The main lyrics of the song suggest the common patriotism is shared all across America, from “the lakes of Minnesota” to “the hills of Tennessee” to “the plains of Texas.” This shared feeling expressed as freedom in Greenwood’s lyrics.

Freedom shared, that every American can identify with and support, is the ultimate bond between our society.

Ultimately, expressed by Greenwood, this freedom is upheld through our armed forces.

Is what makes America “great” really defined solely by its army?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Americans need high intensity stimulation at all times. We need to be entertained every moment of the day. When we aren't, we complain.

Hollywood has done an excellent job of producing movies for our entertainment. The problem is when they are terrible, and what do we do? Complain of course!

The movie theaters now charge upwards of $10 to see a movie. TEN DOLLARS. It's obscene. I'm not going to pay ten dollars to sit in a chair for 2 hours. I can wait until it comes out on Redbox and then rent it for $1. It really makes me mad, but people still pay it on a regular basis. When will the price cap? Soon we'll be paying $15 for a regular movie, not even a fancy 3D IMAX movie...just a plain old movie. Shiver.

But what else do we do for entertainment? Activities are fun but those take strenuous effort. Sports are fun, but again, take effort. Books are great, but you can't do that with a group. Eating? Yeah but then what...everything goes back to movies. We love our movies, and sometimes it's our primary form of entertainment. I think that's part of living in America.

I don't know of any other country that gets so excited about movies. I mean to wait in line for hours and hours to see a movie? Sounds crazy doesn't it? But it's what we do, and we love it. It draws us together because no matter where you go in the country, you can always talk about movies. It's a good conversation starter and can preface a good laugh.

Hollywood has permeated America, but if you're not complaining than neither am I. Pull out your $10 and let's go see a movie!

Living in the Northwest

I often ask people from other states what they think of Oregon. I mean, there's nothing too special about Oregon. Sure, Portland is beautiful, and we are known for being oh so "green," but what else?

"I imagine hicks live in Oregon," said someone I met a few weeks ago. Hicks? Well, yeah we do have a good number of tiny rural towns which may lend toward the "hicker" side of things. But we aren't all hicks!

"Oregon is full of hippies and Birkenstocks," another person said. Ok, that's actually pretty accurate. Although not everyone would consider themselves a hippie, just walk downtown for an hour or two and guaranteed you'll smell some body odor you didn't know could exist. And Eugene? Absolutely known for its hippie dwellers and Birkenstock wearers.

"Everyone is nice there." I would mostly agree with this. But drive down the Terwilliger curves around 5:30 p.m. and you'll see very quickly that we get nasty during rush hour.

I think it is fascinating to ask people from other parts of the same country what their impressions are of other states. We have these assumptions about parts of the country, and sometimes they are accurate, and others they are way off.

How amazing is it that we can live in one country but have so many parts that are completely different? Traveling to the South is an absolutely different experience than traveling to the Northeast. I think it's really great. And for now, I'll continue to reside in my hick tendency, hippie dwelling, Birkenstock wearing, really nice state of Oregon.


Even though Starbucks is a global corporation, I feel like it is distinctly "American."

It started in Seattle in the 1970s, but who knew espresso would become a morning necessity? Before the drive though coffee window and the 30 second latte, there was percolator coffee and instant coffee granules. Sorry, but I am not going to drink anything called "granules."

I say it is distinctly American because where else in the world can you find people willing to spend nearly $4 on a cup of coffee every single morning? Europe maybe. But even there they are drinking 5.5 ounce cappuccinos that maybe cost $1.50. And to them it's not this do or die situation. They sit and relax while they drink their cappuccino. In America we can hardly get out of bed without our coffee cup in hand.

I've worked in the coffee industry for over 2 years. I've seen the earliest of mornings and the latest of nights. It is amusing to me the different kinds of coffee people. There's your 5:30 a.m. "I just got finished at the gym and now I'm powerwalking before taking my kids to school" housewife who always comes adorned in her black spandex pants, long sleeved shirt, and hat. There's the 7:30 a.m. crowd who is on their way to work but already looks inconvenienced before they get there. There's the 9 a.m. leisurely crowd who has nothing better to do but come sit in a coffee shop and read all day.

These things are funny to me because it seems like American's lives revolve around the morning cup of coffee. Like our days cannot get started and cannot possibly be productive without it.

Starbucks took this concept and expanded it to all corners of the earth. Starbucks is a landmark in America. But I think people like it that way.

Monday, April 26, 2010


by: Lia

Working this last semester with the topic of “Being an American,” has been a lot better then I initially anticipated. As I mentioned in my first post, I was less then thrilled when the class chose this topic.

There is a lot that can be, and has been, covered under the umbrella of “Being an American.” Good, bad, and everything in between. It’s important to open up avenues where dialogue among citizens can occur. It’s important that we listen to differing opinions, realizing we might not have all the information necessary to make an informed decision. As United States citizens we need to not only learn to critically analyze the workings of our government, but appreciate the freedoms and privileges we have.

As the saying goes, “with privilege comes responsibility.” We must be good stewards of our gifts and use them not for selfish gain, but to better the world around us. Yes, I said world. It’s not just about America and making us happy, but it’s about providing for those around the world that may be less fortunate then ourselves. That doesn’t mean taking over a country and enforcing our rules and power, but giving others the tools and provisions necessary to live a full and healthy life.

This semester as given me the opportunity to look at the world around me and realize that every thing I do, or don’t do, has an impact on others. I must be informed of the actions of my government and take the necessary steps to ensure that we are all being treated fairly. No more us and them mentality. As I think I’ve mentioned before, we are all part of the human race and we need to start acting like it.


by: Lia

It’s interesting that here in America we so willingly lock people away in prison for crimes that they committed instead of spending less money to get them the help they need.

Let’s take someone with a mental disorder for example. Their mental disorder might not be enough to send them to a psychiatric hospital, but it’s enough to make them unable to function properly in society. According to Mental Health America, “An estimated 54 million Americans suffer from some form of mental disorder in a given year.” Yet, with treatment, “many people with mental illness return to a productive and fulfilling life.”

What about drug addicts and dealers? When they are locked in prison for their crime, do they at least get substance abuse counseling? To me, that would be the most logical step. Only 1 out of 10 drug offenders actually get the counseling they need.

Most drug abusers that go into prison end up abusing drugs there as well. When they get out of prison they do what their body has trained them to do, they use again, and then get put back in prison. It’s a vicious cycle.

In the mean time we are spending all this money to keep them in prison, when it would cost less to give them the treatment needed. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, it costs $23,000 each year to keep just one prisoner in prison.


Many originally American elements have been adapted by other countries, becoming more popular and socially acceptable; several of which include clothes, music, spending habits, food choices, etc.

Some trends have not been adopted by American society from surrounding countries.

One such trend that especially surprised me is the internationally acclaimed sport of soccer. The game, drawing much attention all around the world, becomes barely discussed in American popular culture.

The modern game was originally created in England, with the formation of the Football Association, governed by an international authority (International Federation of Association Football), which holds annual the World Cup.

This particular sport is especially popular in countries such as England, Italy, Germany, France, South Korea, Japan, Brazil and Mexico. But trends have never quite reached American soil.

Why is this?

The one controversial and not fully determinable reason is due to the sport’s history. The sport’s history and success resides in our European counter-part.

Does our need for social trends and popularity stem simply from our own roots?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Life in America

The renowned play “West Side Story” gives its audience a clear lens into the cultural separations of 1950s American society.

This play also gives us a clear understanding of the differences between the idealistic and realistic expectations of the American Dream.

In the song entitled “America,” this clear distinction is made.

There is a clear contrast between the two trains of thoughts, where “everything is free in America, “ well only “for a small fee in American.

They acknowledge that “buying on credit is so nice,” but then the men echo in reference to their Latino ethnicity and suggest, “one look at us and they charge twice.”

The following contrasting lines create additional controversial elements between what is actually truthful of the American Dream, and what the reality of racial prejudice in America.

I have my own washing machine. What will you have though to keep clean?

Skyscrapers bloom in America. Twelve in a room in America.

Lots of new housing with more space. Lots of doors slamming in our face.

I’ll get a terrace apartment. Better get rid of your accent.

Life can be bright in America. If you can fight in America

Life is all right in America If you’re all white in America

Despite the rhyming phrases, complimented by choreographed dancing, the lyrics prove to be quite profound and controversial. Despite the hope for a better life, one filled with hope and options, one must question if this opportunity if available to all, regardless of ethnicity.

Are you “free to be anything you choose?” or “free to wait tables and shine shoes?”

Monday, April 19, 2010

Miss America

If one were to categorize the ideal American woman, the one who is the best of the best, the finest representation of an American, who would she be?

Thanks to the Miss America pageant, we know.

Or do we?

The Miss America pageant, originating as a beauty contest in the early 1920s, is now the largest provider of college scholarships for women in all of America. Held annually in Las Vegas, Nevada, this “scholarship competition” offers the largest financial opportunity for American females in the nation.

The winner must represent the epitome of the American woman.

So what does this look like?

The competition is based on five elements: the personal interview, talent, lifestyle and fitness in swimsuit, eveningwear, and the onstage question.

The ideal American woman, quite obviously, is well spoken, talented, fit, and articulate. In contrast, the ideal American woman does not have a speech impediment, can most definitely juggle with and has played a musical instrument from birth, looks great in a bikini, even better in a gown, and would never consider having a native language other than English.

What does it mean that 20% of the competition revolves around how the contestant looks in a dress, and only 5% is based on her response to an important current event?

Many times we question the American female stigma. We voice that we are more than just blonde hair and a pretty face.

Well, Miss America, what do we expect?

American Change

Does the “American” change over time?

My answer to this question would be followed with an addition question: Has America changed over time?

I would suggest the answer to be yes.

Through my interactions with the older generation, I have come to discover that the thoughts, perspectives, and hopes between generations is extremely different.

Personal identity, regardless if it is associated with citizenship, race, age, etc is determined and molded by personal experiences. The experiences that the younger and older generations have faced have been completely different, therefore their opinion on what it means to be an American is different as well.

It’s important, I think, when considering such a topic, to acknowledge both generations; to take both the Civil and Iraq war, the technology of the computer and the technology of the iPod, the Great Depression and the current recession.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


And now we come to the end... It's been quite the semester. I have learned quite a lot about our society, and have formed relationships with some of its newest members. I am now about to step out of the bubble of my private Christian liberal arts school, and into the world of the rich and the poor, the homeless and the mansion-dwellers, the hungry and the over-fed, the successful, the hopeful, the well-established... and the failures, the hopeless, and the immigrants. I will graduate from a hugely expensive university with little but a tiny scrap of paper to show for it (which society tells me that I need), and the learning which that paper represents (which is of much more value. Priceless, in fact).
America, to me, means consumerism, a house in the suburbs, and a life in the rat race. It also means exploitation of the 3rd world, atrocities carried out in the name of democracy, and a military force larger than that of the rest of the world combined. Sorry for the judgment and cynicism. I realize that other countries would probably be no better if they had as much power as we... All of that to say; I think the best way to end this series of blogs is with a prayer.

May God lead us away from arrogance and hypocrisy and towards humility. May God give us the strength to give up our greed and spread the wealth to those who truly need it. May America give up the idolatry of Nationalism and instead seek the God of Truth who shows up in the faces of our brothers and sisters all over the world. May we move away from individualism and toward community, building relationships of love with those we used to ignore or despise. May we pull away from our television sets long enough to recognize and respond to the ill-effects of the non-committal sex and mindless violence with which our culture is unhealthily saturated. May we be a people who seek justice for the poor and helpless. May we learn to love laughter and peace. May we lead the way in laying down our weapons (or turning them into farm equipment). May my skepticism be proven wrong.

A Final Word

Wow, I cannot believe our semester is already coming to a close. Tomorrow marks the last week of classes and with that, comes the conclusion of another school year. This has been a very interesting semester spent analyzing America, American culture, and what it means to be an American. I find it fascinating how all of my classmates and I were shaped throughout this process. Getting ideas from events around us, and bouncing ideas off one another, I have learned much about this great country we live in.

We have explored issues regarding mass media, health, beauty, nationalism, food, family, and different artistic expressions and values of America.

It is interesting to see how my personal ideas on America have changed or strengthened. Throughout this semester I have tried to remain as optimistic about America as I can. I love the country that I live in and feel so blessed to have the freedoms and advantages that I do. However, my eyes were opened about the negative sides of America. Caitlin Blestcher's project on the American Dream was saddening. So many people, including young elementary school children, had negative interpretations of what the American Dream was or how it is played out within their own lives. Many of their reactions were hard to read. Her project will be available for viewing with the launch of our website on Friday, April 23, at 6:00 pm (PST).

Also, my blog post on Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution was sad as well. These children (and adults) are exposed to so many unhealthy foods and eating habits, it is no wonder our nation is becoming more and more obese.

Hopefully this experience has been eye opening for you as well. Maybe you learned something. Maybe your beliefs or attitudes have shifted after following our blog posts and projects. Maybe none of this happened. But I know for me at least, it has.

And although we have our negative aspects in this country, I still believe America is an amazing country with many wonderful qualities.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Health Insurance

by: Lia

My husband and I went out for Mexican food last night, and boy was it good. After everyone had cleared out of the restaurant we ended up talking to our waiter for quite awhile. He was really nice. He said that in 1993, about a year into his marriage, his wife had horrible problems with her gallbladder and appendix. He tried to get insurance through the state, but he was denied. They said he made too much money.

After his wife had emergency surgery the hospital was nice enough to deduct a substantial amount of the bill, since him and his wife couldn’t afford to pay it. That left them with a bill of $10,000. Only recently were they able to finally pay the last of it.

In 1998 I came back from another country and literally almost died. The doctors in the ICU unit said if I hadn’t had an appointment with the infectious disease doctor down the hall from the ICU at the very moment I did, I would have never made it. It was just my mom and I, and she couldn’t afford health insurance for either of us. My mother was paying the hospital bill for years and years and years.

Health insurance is so important, but most people can’t afford it. When they have some sort of unexpected emergency they are screwed. So many people die of curable diseases because they cant afford the treatment. Something is wrong with that picture.

I must admit that I don’t know nearly enough about the new health care bill as I’d like, but I know that something has to change from the current state healthcare is at.

What does it look like to be an American?

Pop culture plays a vital role in the shaping of the perspective of American culture.

In my interactions with the Mexican culture, living among a Mexican family and spending my days with the local people, I had the opportunity to see the perspective of American culture away from my own biased view.

From there, I found that most local perspectives were quite similar. Most people considered American young adults to be scandalous and indecent. It was a clearly established expectation.

The most fascinating part of this perspective was once I questioned why this view existed to the family I was staying with. They informed me that most media, including international news, celebrity gossip, Americans personified in movies and television shows, etc.

Is the American culture in our media a good representation? Has the definition of what it means to be an American really settled to the latest episode of The Bachelor?

Red and Blue

This week I was watching the trailer for a documentary featuring the “Purple” state of mind, which reflects a mix of the Red and Blue extreme political sides. The author of the documentary emphasizes that instead of becoming defensive and identifying just with one side or the other, we should encourage open debate and discussion among our differences. He would approach all different members of society to get their perspective, which resulted in a lot of agreement and strong disagreement.

Watching the two strong opposing extremes, I began to realize the importance of politics in American culture. Before, politics were a means of understanding government authority, control, and participation within society.

But now you can determine almost everything about a person by which side they affiliate themselves with. If you are conservative, you hate MTV because it encourages a sexual, immoral society; you attend a large, evangelical church every Sunday religiously; you send your money to government funds instead of humanitarian aid. If you are democratic, you only buy organic; you listen to alternative music because everything else is just crap; you ride your bike, and refuse to drive an SUV.

Despite these very stereotypical associations, we have all experienced such bias. We encourage this “Purple” state of mind, yet we can never fully get ourselves past the royal blue and deep red. Not only is our political affiliation apart of what we think, but it becomes part of who we are.

Not only are we American, but we are now an extremely conservative American, a very liberal American. Can purple ever fully be achieved?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Feeding America

by Sarah

There's an awfully lot of talk these days about the food we consume in America. Many are thinking about where their food comes from. The movie Food Inc., a documentary about the meat industry in America dives deeper into this issue and the injustice involved.

In addition to problems of injustice and exploitation, believe it or not, hunger is a problem in America. Usually starving orphans in Africa come to mind when I think of hunger. But hunger isn't constrained within the African continent. There is a website dedicated to Feeding America and the stories of those helped in America by this organization.

It's important to recognize that food isn't just food. It's attached to faces. The faces that plant, grow, harvest,  buy and sell the food. Those who aren't paid fair wages and those who are. The hungry homeless woman on the street and the starving child in Africa. Don't get lost in the food and forget about the faces.


Where do your clothes come from? Do you know who made them? Do you know in what country they were made? Do you know how much each seamstress, each weaver, each spinner was paid? Do you know what their working conditions were like? Do you know how old these workers were? Were they children or adults? Were they getting enough to eat? Were their basic needs being met?

What computer are you using to view this blog? Do you know where each of the parts came from? Do you know where the plastics were made? Where the metals were mined? Where the minerals were extracted? Do you know who the miners were? The ore-smelterers? The factory-workers? Were they paid fairly? Was the ore obtained legally? Was it mined in a war-zone? Were the profits used to pay for weapons? Drugs? Where is your computer going to end up after you are done with it?

Consumerism is Complicated.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


The link posted above is for a commercial from Dove's Real Beauty campaign. This specific piece is called "Dove Evolution."

Isn't it fascinating how media affects us and our perception of beauty? As I was scrolling through the blog, I saw a post by my classmate, Lia Thompson (, and wanted to piggy back off her ideas.

When did the media determine who or what is beautiful? Who gets to make that judgement call? Granted many people look to celebrities and stars to see what is in fashion or what could be deemed as "acceptable" or "appropriate." Many times what celebrities wear or how they act is copied by their fans.

But what if their lifestyle habits, fashion sense, or language is awful?

America seems to be a culture that is highly, highly influenced by the media and the messages it brings us. Maybe it is due to our country's large dependence on mass media outlets. It is heartbreaking to me to see little boys and girls dressed in what my opinion is "inappropriate." It is horrible to hear that to someone, beauty is the size of their waist or their chest. Or even, that beauty is what the opposite sex things of someone.

Is that really what our society has taught people?
Beauty is not dependent on what others think of us, but rather, what we think of ourselves.

I believe the most beautiful people are confident, happy, and have a clear understanding of who they are.

Sure it is nice to get compliments here and there. But I think the key to being beautiful and happy, is just to be oneself. That means, NOT modeling ourselves after the people on TV shows, the radio, movies, or in magazines. We were each made to be us, not someone else.

It's time to live like that.


I just finished reading Up From Slavery, an autobiography by Booker T. Washington. As an ex-slave, the thing that Washington repeats over and over in this book is that any man - if he proves to society that the work he does is indispensable, and if he lives for the betterment of others - that man will be judged by his merits and not by the color of his skin. Mr. Washington honestly believed this, and by his life's work he proved it to be at least partially true. One of the greatest things about the United States of America is that it generally does allow people who work hard to advance. The self-made man/woman is the symbol of this country. That is, in fact, the very reason why so many immigrants have been attracted here. Let us not forget, however, that some people have a lot farther to climb than others. Booker T. Washington is an exception, not the rule. In this country, as in the rest of the world, racism and prejudice still exist. Most people do not live for the "betterment of others" as Washington urges, but for the betterment of themselves. The driving force of today's America is money. We make a profit by whatever means necessary, and turn a blind eye to sweatshop labor, exploited farmers, toxic waste, etc. Perhaps we need to remember that we are, in fact, not at all self-made. We are God-made. And it is to God that we will have to answer for the people we have stepped on during our upward climb.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


by: Lia

What we think we “need” in America is absolutely absurd. We “need” a two-story house with 3 rooms, 2 bathrooms, a Jacuzzi tub, a large kitchen, a flat screen LCD television, two cars, at least 50 different outfits, and 100 shoes, junk food, and the list goes on and on.

In most countries they would be thrilled to have a place with four walls and a roof; who cares about windows or a door. Clean water is a luxury they can’t afford. They bathe themselves in toxic rivers filled with human excrement. Yet, somehow these impoverished countries seem to be a lot happier and grateful for what they do have.

It’s sad that we have to go without before we appreciate what we had. I am blessed that I grew up with very little money, always wondering if this would be the month we had to be out of our home. I am very simple and grateful for every little thing I have been given. That’s why it is hard for me to see people living in the U.S. with so much money and hoarding it for themselves. and wasting it convincing themselves that they “need” all this frivolous stuff.