Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Clinton Administration

For my AP U.S. History class, I read and analyze historical texts, including letters, speeches, official documents, and analysis by historians. Chapter 41 of our textbook, which is the thirteenth edition of The American Pageant by David M. Kennedy, Lizabeth Cohen and Thomas A. Bailey, is entitled "America in the Post-Cold War Era" and details the Clinton Administration. Many people view Bill Clinton's reign in the White House as an overwhelming success for the nation. Others are critical of the 42nd President of the United States of America. After reading this chapter and some documents in a supplementary reference book, I recognize not only the good Clinton did for our country but also the negative effects of some of his actions and policies.
Clinton's economic policies ultimately brought America out of its long period of financial deficit. The government was actually faced with the long-forgotten issue of how to deal with a federal surplus during his terms. In the 1990s, America was a formidable economic power in the global economy because, thanks to Clinton's genius budgeting, we were no longer so dependent on foreign borrowing. The economic developments Clinton made are probably his best known and by far his most successful policies.
In the diplomatic realm, Clinton felt pressured in his last days in office to establish a legacy for himself. His Middle East Peace Initiatives between Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat and Israeli premier Yitzhak Rabin resulted in a shaky agreement in the principle of self-rule for the Palestinians living in Israel. But Clinton's hopes of being known as a peacemaker were dashed two years later when Arafat was assassinated. This unfruitful conference actually stirred up controversy in the Middle East and was a source of political turmoil in the global community.
Today, Bill Clinton is the most popular living former President of the United States. Just last week, he appeared in my hometown, stumping for local Democrats. He still pushes his successful economic frameworks and is immensely respected by most citizens. However, he was not successful in all aspects of his presidency. Despite his flaws, I still consider him one of our nation's greatest leaders.

The Inescapable Quest

The first chapter of Thomas C. Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor is entitled "Every Trip is a Quest (Except When It's Not). In this section of the book, the author describes the ancient archetype of the quest. He explains that "the real reason for a quest is always self-knowledge." There are five elements to every quest: a quester, a place to go, a stated reason to go there, challenges and trials, and a real reason to go. After reading this explanation and discussing it in my AP English Literature class, I realized that this pattern applies to practically every story I've ever come across.
At first, this appeared to me to be a good thing, helpful in writing stories of my own. However, the more time I spent pondering the subject, the more frustrated I became. I tried and tried to come up with a tale that did not fit this mold. I failed. In some form or fashion, every worthwhile story tells of a character doing something for some reason, encountering an obstacle, and learning something in the process. The thought crossed my mind, "How stupid are we humans if every one of our stories follows the exact same pattern?"
After some more pondering, I decided that perhaps I was being too cynical. Maybe the fact that our stories can be dissected into similar parts is evidence of our perpetual journey for self-revelation and higher knowledge. Or maybe it's just evidence that we tend to over-analyze our actions to give them greater significance. There I go with the cynicism again. Regardless of whether this model reveals human simple-mindedness or insightfulness, it was an interesting revelation to me.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Have you ever watched a movie and thought, "Wow, that's offensive!"? For me, this happened a few weeks ago while watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This film, directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, members of the comedy group Monty Python, is a 1975 British comedy. I should have known. But, determined to experience this cultural icon, I watched the movie. It was stupid and pointless and only funny in certain small parts.
What upset me though was the blatantly sexist portrayal of females in this film. The only scene containing women is scene 11, in which Sir Galahad the Chaste catches a vision of the Holy Grail above the Castle Anthrax. Upon entering the castle, he is bombarded by young floozies who try to tempt and seduce the poor knight. He tries to resist and asks to see the Holy Grail, please let him see the Holy Grail, oh he only wants to find the Holy Grail which appeared above their castle. When he mentions his vision, one of the girls, admits that her twin sister Zoot, who invited him into their dwelling, had been "setting alight to [their] beacon, which, [she] just remembered, [was] grail-shaped." Galahad realized he'd been duped and quickly began to fall for their permiscuous pleas. Before he could enjoy their company, Sir Lancelot drug him away in a "rescue" attempt.
In addition to the crude references, I was upset to see that the general public is amused by powerless, dependent women whose only desire is sex. Women can be intelligent, powerful people, when they choose to be. People annoy me when they settle for less than their potential. And when their settling reflects badly on me, I become indignant. Because of stupid, shallow girls, I have to work twice as hard to prove myself as a respectable, honorable, strong woman.