An Amazing Week for the Associated Content Op/Ed Page

Last week in this column I took the opportunity to spotlight a few content producers who consistently put out high quality product. This week I’m choosing to focus on the top content published in the past week. The reason is that there were an astounding number of impressive submissions to the editorial page this week. From incisive literary and film critiques to political editorials covering both sides of the left/right spectrum to religion-inspired topics and beyond, the opinion section of Associated Content is shaping up as a bastion of information on just about any subject imaginable. I would love nothing more than to take a little credit for inspiring writers to submit some of this opinion-oriented writing, but unfortunately I know that would be akin to giving Ronald Reagan credit for the collapse of the Soviet Bloc; it just ain’t so. Associated Content has been a beacon for top notch editorials on all subjects imaginable.

I’ll start this voyage around the op/ed page with The Problem with “Alternative Fuel” by JR Miller because the topic he addresses is becoming more and more vital to every one of us with each passing day. Remember awhile back when President Bush used his State of the Nation address to solemnly inform us that America is addicted to oil? Remember how he said this in a tone of voice that suggested he had just learned an ancient secret and was at last sharing it with the world? Remember when Al Gore was saying the same thing during the 2000 election and he was ridiculed by Bush and Cheney for exercising fear tactics? Well, with $3.00 gas prices poised to be looked back upon with nostalgia by this time next year, expect to be finally be overwhelmed with information on alternatives to gasoline. The floodgates on this topic are even opening on the major news networks; it only took them ten years or so to catch on to what environmentalists had been predicting for years. One day we’ll all probably understand all the intricacies of the new forms of fuel that power our cars; until then JR Miller provides at least a jumping off point. Miller raises some questions about the environmental advantages of hydrogen-powered engines that at first led me to suspect he might be working for Exxon, and the one resource he lists contains the chilling words “General Motors” so although I am recommending his article, I’m not suggesting that everything he says is true. I simply don’t know enough about the subject. But if his science is pure and not just corporate propaganda, it is definitely troubling.

In Brave New World by Aldous Huxley as a Lens Viewing Todays College System Matt Schirano takes up an issue near to my heart: the utter conviction among political leaders of both parties that America will benefit from a standardized educational system that attempts to create a society of homogeneous mediocrity. Schirano uses the classic novel Brave New World to meditate on why college isn’t the hotbed of intellectual flights of fancy that it should be, but is instead just another industrial factory that continues to prime young people not for what they do best, but for how they best can contribute to America’s consumer-based economy. I think Schirano shares a growing view that the educational system in America is hopelessly devoted to crafting generations of students who are passable at everything, but brilliant at nothing. Isn’t it time we redesigned this system so that we’re teaching to the student’s strengths instead of his weaknesses in a futile effort to bring him up to the lowest passing standard in those subjects he’s not genetically programmed to be good at while ignoring the opportunity to thrust him beyond the highest passing standard in those subjects in which he excels? Is this really the way to ensure America stays competitive? Or is just the easiest way?

I’ll be honest. My favorite opinion submission I read this week was, hands-down, Megan Smith’s Ann Coulter-Bastard Child of 1000 Nascar Fans. For those of you fortunate enough to still be ignorant of who Ann Coulter is, thank your lucky stars. Let’s put it this way: She wrote an entire book to justify her claim that Joseph McCarthy was the VICTIM of the Communist witch hunt of the 50s, rather than the instigator and most shameless perpetrator. Smith took on the problematic task of writing an article about this skeletal life-sized brain tumor. It’s problematic to write about people like Coulter because if you do, then chances are there’s going to be a pro-Coulter ad over there to the right of the article. So on the one hand, you’ve got Megan’s dead-on assessment that Bones is a bigger danger to democratic thought than Osama Bin-Laden or even Dick Cheney, but on the other hand the article also provides her with free advertising. Of course, that’s a perfect example of the essential contradiction inherent in capitalism that Marx spoke of, but what can you do?

Shane is simply one of my favorite movies of all time and, along with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, right at the top of my list of favorite westerns. I also enjoyed Brokeback Mountain, though I felt it have been about twenty minutes shorter. In A Praise of Masculinity Through the Films Shane and Brokeback Mountain Meghann locates these two seemingly vastly different movies within an examination of gender roles. Obviously, traditional gender roles have been chipped away in the years between the 1950s and the new millennium. There is no way I can possibly do justice to the points that Meghann makes in a simply summary, so I exhort you to check it out. I know that-much like the next movie that will be mentioned in this article-there are certain people who just simply refused to see Brokeback Mountain, and I suspect that many of those same people will be equally inclined to bypass Meghann’s article, but that would be a shame. If you love westerns, or movies in general, or cultural studies, then Meghann’s submission will captivate you.

I can’t let this column end without making special note of Mike White’s article, Why I Won’t Watch The Da Vinci Code. It is almost the complete antithesis to my featured article of last week on that movie. I would love for all those who both fervently agreed with my article as well as fervently avoided it to take a look at Mike’s article. I recommend this article for several reasons. For one thing, it serves as a perfect example of the kind of thinking I railed against in my own article. For another, it provides nice counterbalance to my own argument. And finally, even though I think his reasoning is a little weak at times, it is one darn fine piece of writing! White is passionate without losing his focus, and the article proceeds from its own logic. As I said, I think that logic is a little shaky, but I’m sure many of you will disagree. I’m absolutely certain my opinion won’t be shared by everybody. I promised last week that I won’t confine this column to only those opinions with which I agree. Although there is precious little in Mike’s article with which I am simpatico, I can’t help but express admiration for the way he expresses his arguments.

Gwynne Monahan does something in her research paper Henry Fielding: Pushing an Ideology While Making a Profit that is incredibly difficult to do. She takes a work of literature over two centuries old and transports its themes to the contemporary world without diluting the internal values of the book. Trying to transport the ideas found in classic texts into a modern day paradigm often results in academic writing that chooses to ignore certain contradictory textual content in order to justify a thesis. Monahan brilliantly bypasses that trap by making two key decisions. Firstly, she wisely chooses an 18th century British novel. As anyone who has ever had to read Moll Flanders in a Brit Lit class can attest, many novels written during this period contain economic critiques that are eerily similar to today’s concerns. And secondly, if you take a look at her listed bibliography, you’ll see her research expanded beyond merely literary criticism to legal, economic and contemporary business texts. If nothing else, just click on the link and read her opening sentence. If that isn’t enough to get you to continue throughout the rest of her article, then it’s just probably not for you.

Opinion of the Week:

A Critique on the Opposition to Anti-Discrimination House Bill 2661 by Iain Weigert. There’s been a lot of writing on the subject of gay marriage lately, as well as the argument over whether sexuality is genetically encoded or simply a choice. (If it is a choice, one has to wonder if there’s any such thing as homosexual sadomasochism; after all, anyone choosing to be a homosexual in America clearly has severe masochistic tendencies, so where do gay sadists come from?) The subject has become fodder for more blog entries that I care to mention; including my own. Weigert manages to takes on this subject from a point of view that hasn’t been done to death. He succeeds in turning the argument made by those who deem sexuality a choice right back on top of them. Even if sexuality is a choice, how can that possibly be used to justify discrimination? Not too long ago, if you chose to practice the Jewish faith you could legally be discriminated against at country clubs. You probably still can. Since there is nothing in the world to stop someone from choosing to become a Jew, wouldn’t that be the same thing? If we’re going to criminalize marriage based on one’s choice of sexual preference, does that mean we can go back to making it illegal for a Jewish woman to marry a Christian man? Or hey, since we’re no longer allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion, maybe two women who are denied the right to marry each should sue on the basis of religious discrimination. Since that kind of discrimination is no longer allowed, how could it stand up in court? A terrific article that I strongly urge you all to read.

Don’t just stop with these articles, however. There were many more that deserve a visit. And remember, the more opinions you publish, the better your chances of getting a little extra exposure in this column. Every little bit helps as you raise your clout at Associated Content. I’ll be the lookout for the best op/ed pieces every week and I would love to good editorials on any subject on which you have a strong opinion.

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