Issue № 1 | September 2008

Issue № 1 | September 2008

Welcome to the first official issue of  The Public Sphere. We have titled this issue "Global Responsibility." After a summer of Olympics in China, hurricanes in the Caribbean, snide repartee between Vladimir Putin and Dick Cheney, and the official start of the presidential election campaigns, it is time to reflect on what it means to be responsible in our actions towards the world. While every piece may focus on something more local, each piece still queries something we may have taken for granted about politics, religion, culture, and media. Valerie Bailey reflects on the Sarah Palin as archetype within conservative evangelical Christian subculture. John Cochran's essay discusses how one manages the climate crisis through a transformation of consciousness. David Dault examines the dissolution of medical ethics in the midst of the U.S. healthcare crisis. Jacqueline Hidalgo's photo essay presents images of   U.S. religious life found along the road side when traveling from California to New York, while Marc Lombardo diagnoses the disease of U.S. democracy.Sourena Mohammadi's photo essay excavates the complex relationships between martyrdom and culture in Iran, and Paloma Ramirez remains indignant over New York City's attempt to control her eating habits. Finally, Katy Scrogin asks us to reconsider if economic growth can really measure the health of U.S. society.
Sep 16, 2008 /

Sustainable Hedonism

The majority of the citizens of the industrialized world and even a large number of inhabitants of the United States have come to recognize global warming as a significant problem posed to the continued existence of the species homo sapiens. However, a tremendous political and social inertia remains regarding just what needs to be done about this problem and how to do it. In other words, there is a clear disconnect between our cognitive understanding of the dilemmas posed by global warming and our apparent inability to address those dilemmas practically. This gap between what we know about global warming and what we are actually doing about it can be read as a sign that there is something about our framing of the issue that is itself a part of the problem.
Sep 15, 2008 /

Shopping and Stimuli: On Economic Citizenship

Now that tax season is well behind us, I was wondering what had become of a certain messianic stimulus package. Its mysterious disappearance from collective memory may be due to more than the nation's short attention span. Our failure to analyze its impact, in fact, may merely reveal a hesitance behind our transition to a "newer" standard of national excellence. Setting aside cultural achievement, for instance, we apparently strive for nothing beyond the growth of the Market.
Sep 14, 2008 /

Your Government Lied to You. So What?

Members of the Bush Administration-Vice President Cheney seems the most clearly implicated-led an effort to forge documents alleging Iraq's possession of WMDs. If that wasn't enough, these documents were attributed to a source who was actually saying exactly the opposite. It is hard to imagine a clearer breach of the public trust by governmental officials. The severity of this overt deception is compounded by the numerous atrocities that have followed in its wake. And yet, no one really cares. President Bush will finish his term unabated, after which time he'll probably go back to his old career of running businesses funded by Saudi oil money-running them into the ground, that is. He'll make for some amusing stories in the tabloids. Maybe he'll even get his own reality TV show. In any event, he'll never have to account for his actions in a court of law.

Sep 14, 2008 /

I Am Indignant: Don't Nanny Law Me! I Want That Brownie

The social contract, of course, requires the government to act in the public interest, but its methods are occasionally overly intrusive.  Sometimes we compromise because, after all, it makes sense that motorcyclists should wear helmets (although apparently the availability of donor organs decreased dramatically when those laws began to be enforced). But should government have a say in what we feel like eating?  Recent public health measures in New York City aim to do just that, and I have to say, I resent it. 
Sep 14, 2008 /

Hockey Moms, Prayer Nazis, and Why I Love But Fear People Like Sarah Palin

Remember that really nice girl who greeted you warmly as a potential friend when you first arrived at college? Remember how she conscientiously invited you to dinner, or to study, or to her Christian fellowship activity? Remember the conversations about religion that you thought were a precursor to sharing secrets among friends? But then you expressed a different opinion, or you joined a liberal club, or you started to explore your sexuality, and suddenly, you felt a sharp pain in your back?  Betrayed by some evangelical whom you thought was a friend?
Sep 14, 2008 /

Signage Across the U.S.A.: What I Learned While Watching the Road

This summer, I indulged in a rapid drive from Pasadena, CA to Albany, NY. As I passed through the economically slowing but still alive Sun Belt on into the more economically depressed towns and cities of the Midwest, I also found myself barraged with a variety of unique advertisements set up to greet me specifically as an Interstate rider. Most focused on drawing my tourist dollars to the local town, but some just focused on getting my attention. While I focus on U.S. religiosity, I learned that every state did have a slightly different ethos of road signage.
Sep 14, 2008 /

Photo Essay: Martyrdom in Tehran

Images of "Martyrdom" dominate Tehran's urban space. State-sponsored and hand-painted by artists close to the regime, they provide an insider's view of the Islamic Republic's psyche at a time when Iran makes daily headlines. Thematically, the murals feature images of the fathers of the Islamic Revolution and martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war, as well as explicitly anti-U.S. and anti-Israel messages. The primary objective is to document and present images that are part of Tehranians' daily visual experience and of which people in the U.S. are largely oblivious.
Sep 14, 2008 /

The Perpetual Practice of True Victimhood

In the September 15, 2008 Los Angeles Times, Gregory Rodriguez reminds us that U.S. politics has a love-hate relationship with the idea of victimhood. People, like Rush Limbaugh, criticize the ideas of "victimhood" when an ethic of proper treatment for victims leads to increased civil rights for African Americans. At the same time, John McCain loves playing his running mate as the victim of a misogynistic news media if he thinks it will solidify the base behind him. How does the U.S. sustain the tension between hating other people's claims to victimization but loving our own?
Sep 14, 2008 /

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