Friday, September 04, 2009
I Pledge
I found this video to be rather inspiring:

Basically the video is about being the change we want to see in the world by pledging to do simple, practical things to make the world a better place - things like helping at a food pantry, smiling more, giving to Unicef, buying a hybrid, or conserving water. This is what I found to be inspiring - it's an important reminder that each of us can do something to help others, no matter how big or small.

The video also has a slight political overtone as well, since it begins with a quote from President Obama, and has a couple of pledges about "being of service to Barack Obama". It was these aspects of the message that led parents in the Salt Lake City area to protest it being shown at an elementary school assembly (the article about this is how I encountered the video in the first place). Personally, I agree that it probably shouldn't have been shown in a public school context. And I have to admit that I too was a little uncomfortable with the pledges to be of service to Obama. While I generally like our President and (mostly, though not entirely) agree with his agenda, I'm not simply going to blindly follow wherever he leads without question. Besides which, I also agree with the critic in the article who pointed out that Obama is here to serve we the people, not vice versa. If they had pledged (as JFK exhorted us) to be of service to our country, that would be less problematic. But of service just to one man? I'm not down with that.

However, that's not all the protesting parents took issue with. They also went on to decry some of the other pledges as "leftist propaganda". For instance, as the article notes:

Gayle Ruzicka, president of conservative Utah Eagle Forum, said the video was blatantly political. She said other offensive pledges [besides ones not to give the finger while driving, and to replace one's obnoxious care with a hybrid] included... pledges to not use plastic grocery bags and not flush the toilet after urinating.

"It's very inappropriate to show a radical, leftist propaganda piece that political to children," Ruzicka said. "If parents want their children to learn about those things and do them in the home, wonderful, fine, but it's not the place of the school to show a one-sided propaganda piece to children without parents knowing about it."

Cieslewicz said such values should be decided in the home, not at school.

"They shouldn't be troubling our youth with the woes of the world and making them feel like we're in slavery or they have to worry about how many times they flush the toilet or if they have a plastic water bottle," Cieslewicz said, referring to pledges in the video to "end slavery."

These complaints I have much less sympathy for. Issues like energy and water conservation, and especially something like ending modern day slavery should not be seen as partisan political causes. These are things that should concern any responsible citizen and moral human being. Is it "leftist propaganda" to say that we should take care of God's creation? Is it "leftist propaganda" to declare that slavery is a moral evil and should be eradicated? Are these people so deeply entrenched in the culture wars that they can't bring themselves to support any cause that they perceive to be in any way associated with "the left", no matter how self-evidently righteous it is? Is it really more important for your side to "win", than for you to help millions of slaves go free?

At any rate, check this video out. It has a great message, even if it takes a couple of missteps. On a personal note, Emma was looking over my shoulder as I was posting it to my Facebook profile, and she insisted on watching it. Afterwards (and after I explained to her what a "pledge" was), she decided that she wanted her pledge for making the world a better place to be that she would say "I love you more". That, to me, was even more inspiring than the video. :)

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posted by Mike Clawson at 10:06 PM | Permalink |


At 9/05/2009 03:21:00 AM, Anonymous Autumnal Harvest

Huh, I knew Republicans were evil, but I had no idea that they were pro-slavery. Interesting. :)

But I'd say that this has more than "slight political overtone[s]." I think it's political enough that it's totally inappropriate to show in a public school. And the stuff about being a "servant to our president" I actually found not just inappropriate, but pretty creepy, particularly when combined with that final shot of everyone speaking in unison and then merging together into a giant picture of the President.

Also, I thought that African-Americans are Americans. I was a little surprised to find that thinking of yourself as black and as American were incompatible.


At 9/05/2009 09:20:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

I agree AH, it was too political to show in a public school, and, like I said, I too was disturbed by the "serving our President" stuff. (And yeah, I didn't quite get the need to stop using "African American".) I wish I could re-do the video and edit that stuff out, because I like the message overall.


At 9/05/2009 10:14:00 AM, Anonymous Miko

I can see why parents also might wish the one about not flushing toilets had been left out.

I'm assuming that the African-American remark was actually about hyphenated-Americanism in general. While I'm not a nationalist, I could appreciate the sentiment if we replaced "American" with, say, "human." By constantly segregating ourselves with labels, we forget our similarities and equal needs. Our world would be a much better place if our languages lacked ways to say, for example, "People born on one side of an invisible line shouldn't be allowed to get jobs on the other side of the line," or if we were unable to segregate the war deaths into nationalities.

And yes, the right-wing is pro-slavery. It's a consequence of the vulgar, misshapen thing that they call "libertarianism" (and which has nothing to do with what I'd mean by the word). Basically, in a free market, all contracts would be voluntary, and so slavery couldn't exist. They then extrapolate that since we don't actually have a free market, the same thing must be true in our world. They're pro-slavery, then, since they refuse to admit that slavery exists.

Overall, I agreed with most of it, but the final shot is definitely the creepiest thing I've seen in a while.


At 9/05/2009 05:59:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

"I can see why parents also might wish the one about not flushing toilets had been left out."

Why's that Miko? We've trained our 4-year old daughter not to flush after urinating, and she understands the reason why. I think it's a good habit for kids to get into from a young age. (Especially when you live in places of extreme drought like we do.)

As for slavery, I'm really hoping that this Ruzicka lady was just plain ignorant of the fact that modern day slavery actually exists. Judging from the way she phrased her complaint "They shouldn't be troubling our youth with the woes of the world and making them feel like we're in slavery", it seems like perhaps she just misunderstood what that bit of the video was referring to. After all, a lot of just are still completely ignorant of the fact that there are millions of people still in slavery worldwide.

At least, I hope that's what it was.


At 9/06/2009 11:52:00 AM, Anonymous Autumnal Harvest

Yeah, I think we have the same reactions to each of the individual bits, Mike. It's just that the first 20 seconds and the (particularly Orwellian) last 20 seconds are enough for me to make my overall impression of the video creepy, rather than inspiring. My overal impression might be a little different if I had a little girl who made an adorable pledge while watching it. :)


At 9/10/2009 08:55:00 AM, Anonymous Karl

I've never gotten the whole hyphenated-American thing either. Especially when used to identify race. If a Texan of African descent is an African-American, what happens if she becomes a naturalized citizen of Germany? Is she then an African-American-German? Or does she drop the "American" and become an "African-German?" Or what if she becomes a citizen of an African nation? Is she an African-American-African? Or does she get to drop the American again and just become African?

Within reason I'll call people groups whatever they want to be called, but leaving aside arguments about whether such labels do more to divide than to unite, this way of identifying racial identity just never made logical sense to me.


At 9/17/2009 10:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

Love the sentiment. Cool stuff. I'm all about smiling at people, being a good role model, home canning and using my canvas shopping bag. And if Obi Wan says to flush less...I'll go for that.

SERIOUSLY creeped out by the "I pledge to be a servant to our President" thing. Didn't the President vow to serve the American people? A friend of mine went to DC last week and she said that all over the capitol mall there are Obama stores that have all Obama memorabilia. Not souvenier shops that have pictures of the White House and American Flags and postcards and also stuff with the President...Obama only. And at the Jefferson Memorial, half the gift shop was taken out and replaced with Obama merchandise. Egypt and Syria have their "Presidents" plastered everywhere...(which actually sorta creeped me out when I was there...) but we've always been more about the people than the President. I don't remember there being Clinton stores or Bush stores when I've been to DC before. Obama's definitely sexier...but seriously...shouldn't the Jefferson memorial have historical stuff in it, not propoganda for the guy who's been president for a few months?


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