Public Opinion or Popular Opinion: Which Voice is Louder?

As the political elections draw near with televised coverage of the political parties’ conventions, many newsworthy pieces are emerging regarding the November races. An interesting article appeared in several publications this week over an outfit worn by Megyn Kelly of Fox News at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. The article which appeared on Huffington Post online chronicled many of the comments that were published on Facebook and Twitter regarding Kelly’s appearance on the televised portion of the convention.  Ms. Kelly was dressed in a spaghetti-strapped dress to combat the hot and humid weather that night. Apparently many viewers felt that the outfit and the backlash that followed violated the “sacred space”. It important to note that Arnett, et. al, (2009), defines that it is a “space that is to be protected, honored and valued” (p. 108). The Republican National Convention and public television are of course part of the public arena and therefore an unspoken and decades-held dress code in a sense was something that was not be changed or modified and therefore it may have seemed that the outfit worn by the correspondent was a deliberate “thumbing the nose” at regality and tradition of the event. Historically, people often begin to feel threatened if something that seems familiar and comfortable is changed, but it is often forgotten that the “public arena” is “not our home” and it is not wise to “feel totally comfortable in such a place. It is interesting to note that in this case, the “voice”, representing the appropriate and inappropriate was fully present in the forum comments and editorial opinions as well.

However, there were some elements lacking that diminished the seriousness of the events going on in American politics. It is “just a dress” or is it? Did Ms. Kelly harm the “public good” in any way considering she was in the public arena. Many of the “voices” emphasized their “opinion” regarding her choice of wardrobe as right or wrong.  The public arena is viewed as the place that protects and promotes the discernment among diverse ideas and lives and prospers when public space for conversation, not one’s own opinion (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 103). This is where undue confidence and unsubstantiated opinion comes in and simply put, there is no room in a “vibrant” public arena is for communicative action based on “ideological certainty that seeks no new knowledge, just the opportunity to tell, and an unwillingness or inability to make temporal decisions” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 103). Therefore, that is where a lot of “she should have or she shouldn’t have” is based on, which shows generational shifts of what is deemed as acceptable or not acceptable. Most importantly, the public arena does not possess the final answer, it simply provides the “place for a grounded stance, engages other’s grounded stances’ and makes a decision and with that are short-term and long-term circumstances” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 103).

In reflection, it seems that the ability of “free thought” on social media is approaching the excessive mark. Each time I read a news post or a Facebook post, I glean the comments to see how many differences of opinion exist regarding the topic discussed. Although moderation is important in the conduction of rational thought and discussion, it is important to note that moderation could pose the possibility of censorship of unpopular opinions and especially those that expose the truth behind the often alleged “media fabrication”. As a child growing up in the eighties and nineties, the term politically correct always came up on the news and talk shows and in the “politically correct” context we live in today, I see how free speech could definitely be endangered. Therefore, no guarantee exists that informed moderation could ensure that the public dialogue be that of rational and sensible thought without imposing some form of  censorship. Arnett, et. al (2009) stated it well: “in a changing world, public discourse is the communicative ethics protector of difference among persons and ideas: the task of individuals is to keep the public domain safe for the difference” (p.108). However, it seems as with each passing day that is being threatened.

References:

Arnett, R.F., J.M. Harden & Bell, L.M. (2009). Communication ethics  literacy: Dialogue and

       difference. Los Angeles: Sage.

Hatch, J. (2015, July 22). Megyn Kelly wore spaghetti straps and people lost it. The

      Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/megyn-kelly-

      wore-spagehetti-straps-and-people-lost-it_us_57923502e4b0fc06ec5cbe9a.

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Narratives: The Shape of My World

When reflecting on this week’s topic, it was necessary to go back and define what the term Narrative meant before deciphering my own meaning of it. Narrative is described as “a story agreed upon by a group of people” (Arnett, et.al. 2009, p. 37). However, it can also be a term defined as the “story of one’s life” and although it encompasses a public story and the harbinger of human action, the personal story of each human is greatly influenced by the narrative or narratives of the world in which the public story is created. Narratives play such an important part in the “human story” because “Humans are essentially storytellers” and essentially “read and evaluate the texts of both life and literature(Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 37). Without fully understanding how communications ethics in action “requires a dwelling place from which the good is articulated and then brought into persuasive engagement” it is easy to misunderstand or even dismiss the importance of narratives and I never really appreciated how much the narrative impacted my life until hitting adulthood (Arnett, et. al., 2009, p. 38-39).

Many narratives influence my daily life and dates from my childhood until now, which is largely dominated by the values which were instilled in me by family. Christian values are largely dominant and it very apparent that tradition can play a role how a narrative can shape an individual’s decision making and ultimately their worldview. In reflecting on the narrative that has greatly influenced my life, I am very mindful of that the communication ethic that has guided my life is not necessarily shared by other people, especially in my community and certainly in the world around me. Our text stated it well: “given communication ethic is not understood to guide action for everyone; each communication ethic lives within the narrative structure or communities of discourse that argue for the importance and value of a given set of communicative goods” (Arnett, et. al., 2009, p. 38).

An example of these implications noted above can best be described in how diversity shapes my life and my narrative. Residing in the state of Arkansas, many cultures have settled in the state over the years and therefore has transformed the cities and towns of the state across the board. Unfortunately, many residents have resorted to a negative view of the blending of the different ethnic groups and have even encouraged the separation and the lack of acceptance has clouded the narrative of the community. However, my view is somewhat different of that of my neighbors and friends. In my family, the Christian values and within the practice of Christianity, the development of friendships across races and cultures were encouraged. Mind you, not all Christians share that same view of acceptance and showing love of their fellow man; it very deceptive of Christ’s teachings when violence and segregation are promoted in his name, it is a false narrative breed from hate and intolerance.

An incident from my childhood is still vivid as I remember my family being outraged when an African-American family wanted to come to our church, and they were discouraged from coming back due to the color of their skin. My family questioned this of church leaders and were essentially ignored, a little later we found another place to worship, but years later, we all realized we should have immediately disassociated ourselves from that congregation but the narrative that shaped our Christianity that also influenced within me and my family was a more separatist view when it came to religious worship. In other words it was okay to associate with different races at work or school but not at church. Very narrow thinking but over the years, the “narrative” has changed; the values I outlined took on even a broader view and the simple truth is you cannot compartmentalize acceptance into different parts of life. That particular communication ethic applies to each aspect of life. Interestingly today, my parents are pastors of a congregation that is made of several different cultures and as an adult I visit this church frequently. Just last week before I fully engaged in the chapter topic, I was lamenting how these precious people would not have been welcome in the churches of my childhood, even today.

Therefore the narrative that guides me in my everyday decision making invokes understanding and appreciation of those with different upbringings and views. True love and acceptance does not necessarily mean “rubber stamping” every view or influence of that other culture. Ultimately, it is following my own moral compass that has been shaped by faith and experiences which have shaped the communication ethics practiced in my life.

References:

Arnett, R.F., J. M. Harden  & Bell, L.M. (2009). Communication ethics literacy: Dialogue

       and difference. Los Angeles: Sage.

 

In Search of the “Good Life”

The “good” that shapes me in this time and place is interwoven with complexities and contradictions which reflects the shape of the world today. At one point in time, especially in my early twenties, living a “good life” meant everything was going right and every want and need was met. However, that was misguided and misrepresented of what life is truly about. As Arnett et. al., stated in Communication Ethics Literacy: Dialogue and Difference, (2013), “the good is descriptive of a value or value set that is manifested in communicative practices that is sought to protect and promote” (p. 2).

As my life is examined at this time and place, it is not to be taken that the “place” is just only the physical location but the time and season of my life. Interestingly, I find that I agree completely with Arnett, et. al. (2013) in “the definition of the good life is lent to rhetoric, especially if there is not a “consensus about what the good life is or should be. In one sense, it would be best to interpret the good in my life at this particular time or “season” as I often refer it as, but many people would interpret it differently simply because many people are unable to identify what the good life truly is (Arnett, et. al 2013, p.15-16).  My personal slant is directed toward the spiritual side, when I classify what the “good” in life is all about and how it is often how I deal with difficult circumstances.

In history the question of what is the “good life” is often tied to the spiritual or religious sector, but over the course of time, has moved toward the humanistic view.  As Taylor (1989) was quoted by Arnett, et. al, 2013,  “it describes the movement from identifying the good as emerging from a framework outside of human experience, such as a religious perspective, to the idea of “nature” and, eventually, to within human experience” (p.`16). Pondering and my personal reflection spurred me to read an article by the C.S. Lewis Foundation (Lewis was a renowned British author and theologian) which explored the definition of the “good life” which supports my reflection. In the article, author Kevin Kinghorn noted how Lewis viewed the ultimate key to the good life, which was the “good” found in relationships and caring for the welfare of others ( The Human Search). However, Lewis did downplay at some extent on how expressing love for all things natural and supreme was important as he was explaining this from the “welfarist” view. I tend to agree with the author, Kinghorn that the good in life or “the good life” can be pursued and found by engaging in involvement with others and social and spiritual matters ( The Human Search).

This past year, many may not characterize my life as “good”, because last August my dad was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer and the doctor classified his cancer as incurable. However, this journey not only brought my retired parents closer together, but it strengthened and challenged my entire family, and my parent’s church family, and it renewed old friendships, strengthened current friendships and family ties. In the midst of this journey good things and many events happened that overshadowed the battle my dad was going through. In other words, we strived hard to live what our family deemed “a normal life” interrupted by only chemo and radiation and doctor visits. In retrospect, that good in life was not what I saw as in my twenties; it is not “good” circumstances either, it is something much deeper. It is evident that I choose to view the “good” from the perspective that is based on my spiritual experience. On Friday, July 8th, we received the news that my dad has no active cancer and he will not undergo further at this time. Ironically, my younger self would have viewed this as the “good” in life because he got a good report, but the actual good is the fact that this journey built our family’s character and strengthened our faith during an impossible time. If his condition had went in the other direction,we would still have to view it as he had experienced a full life and knew where he was going if he left this earth. Essentially that would still represent good because of the legacy that would be left.

My interpretation of the good in life is all the things that encompass through relationships, nature, spirituality and love for the Creator and fellow human beings

References:

Arnett, R.F., J. M. Harden  & Bell, L.M. (2009). Communication ethics literacy: Dialogue

       and difference. Los Angeles: Sage.

Kinghorn, K. (2011). The human search for the good life [Special section]. In Pursuit of

      Truth: A Journal of Christian Scholarship. Retrieved from

     http://www.cslewis.org/journal/the-human-search-for-the-good-life/