Best of the Week
of Aug. 4, 2002

Best of Week Archives

Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Aug. 4, 2002, as selected by Y? These postings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from previous weeks, also can be found by accessing Y?'s database using the search form, or, in the case of answers posted before April 24, 1999, in the Original Archives (all questions from the Original Archives have been entered into the database as well). In the Original Archives, as well as in the database, you will find questions that have received answers, as well as questions still awaiting responses. You are encouraged to answer any questions relevant to your demographic background, as well as to ask any provocative question you desire. Answers posted are not necessarily meant to represent the views of an entire demographic group, but can provide a window into the insights of an individual from that group.

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Question:

As a gay man, I have noticed that quite often the people who have expressed their disapproval of my orientation are not religious; many even claim to be atheists. How do they justify their attitudes? I can disagree with people with religious motivation while still understanding their reasoning, but it escapes me why people who profess no interest in, or lack belief in, a supreme being or beings would be so vehement in their thought. Any ideas?

POSTED 8/5/2002

Santiparam, Southington, CT, United States, <Santiparam@hotmail.com>, 23, Male, Methodist, White/Caucasian, Gay, Musician, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 72200271846


Responses:
As an atheist but not a homophobe, I am baffled by this question. Are you implying that only people with some form of religious conviction can feel strongly about anything? Surely it is obvious that if someone determines that they disapprove of something on their own without it being declared a sin, they will have just as strong a feeling about it. You also seem to think that all atheists have an "anything goes" attitude. You imply that if you said you "interfered" with farmyard animals, then because atheists have no religious reason for finding this disgusting, they would be happy for you to carry on like that. I cannot understand why anyone would disapprove of anyone's sexual preferences, as long as they are consensual. However, to assume that those without religion have no moral code or no vehement beliefs is naive and insulting. Atheists have a lack of belief in God, not a lack of morals. The two are not mutually exclusive.

POSTED 8/5/2002

Bert, London, NA, United Kingdom, 31, Male, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 85200292312


To quote Isaac Asimov in Foundation: 'When did prejudice ever follow any laws but its own?'

POSTED 8/9/2002

Campbell M., Glasgow, NA, United Kingdom, <campannexe@yahoo.co.uk>, 42, Male, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, asperger's syndrome, computer programmer, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 85200263231

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Question:

I've noticed when I've gone to almost all-white college bars that I am THE MAN. It's almost like I'm a celebrity, as in, "Hey! It's THE Black Guy!" What's that about?

POSTED 8/5/2002

Tola, Silver Spring, MD, United States, 23, Male, Catholic, Black/African American, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 724200281335


Responses:
I do not have the answer. Working as an ortho tech at a Dayton hospital, I know when white men enter certain black bars, they are at risk. The story is usually the same: A young white male in the 'wrong' bar. It happens too often. They come to our ER by ambulance beaten to a pulp, wallet gone, nobody saw a THING. I counter your question by asking, why isn't the WHITE patron 'the man' instead of 'the target'? I have seen enough cracked skulls.

POSTED 8/6/2002

Diana E., Dayton, OH, United States, 28, Female, White/Caucasian, Ortho Tech, Technical School, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 85200272957


Well, Diana, to keep the white males you speak of from being victims, obviously they shouldn't go where they are not wanted. Too many times I've been in bars frequented by a majority black clientele, where some obnoxious white guys showed up to harass a group of people together minding their own business. If you don't want trouble, don't go looking for it, or start it.

POSTED 8/9/2002

Gail L., Chicago, IL, United States, Female, Mesg ID 882002123539

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Question:

I just finished a project conducting surveys in Texas from teachers who left their jobs and from individuals with bachelor's degrees who choose not to enter the teaching field. The goal was to identify areas that discourage people from teaching. The surprise was that only a third of the responses showed one of the factors as being low pay. The two most prevelant factors preventing Americans from teaching were 'student and parent behavior.' And those people contacted didn't just answer the surveys, many attached detailed comments stating the situations they had encountered or had seen others subjected to that affected their decisions. I volunteered at a job fair recently and watched people continually pass by school district booths. One man told me he'd rather work at a convenience store than teach because he had less chance of being continually insulted and/or bullied by kids and parents. At the risk of opening a Pandora's box, I'd like to hear the pros and cons of this issues from parents, teachers and students. Are the kids and the parents really that bad?

POSTED 8/5/2002

Alma, Kempner, TX, United States, 49, Female, Methodist, White/Caucasian, Lesbian, government employee, 4 Years of College, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 7312002105050


Responses:
Yes, it is that bad. I taught for a little more than two years, and you couldn't pay me enough to go back. Regardless of the fact that I have doubled my salary since leaving teaching, pay had nothing to do with why I left. The kids have no respect and their parents don't allow them to take responsibility for their actions. After my experience, I am all for a resurgence of a 1950s-style education system with desks in rows and hands folded ... the kind of education system where if a child says he got in trouble in school, his parents' first reaction is to ground him rather than run to school and yell at the teacher for doing his or her job. Parents are so gung-ho on 'kids' rights' that they've lost sight of 'kids' responsibilities.'

POSTED 8/5/2002

Danielle, Southern, NJ, United States, 27, Female, White/Caucasian, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 85200254957


A few years ago I was considering becoming a teacher. I thought it would be really rewarding to help people discover the joys of learning, or at least help them learn. But after attending college, I absolutely would not want to be a teacher. Most of my classmates were there only to 'get' a degree by doing as little mental work as possible, and they had no interest in or mastery of the subjects they spent months supposedly learning - making their degrees more of an attendance/completion record than representative of any knowledge gained. I witnessed the majority of students arriving to class late, leaving early, talking throughout class with friends, answering cell phones during lectures, complaining to professors about homework assignments, not doing reading assignments and then blaming the professor for their confusion during class, and arguing about upcoming tests. I also witnessed many students reporting really good teachers to the heads of the department for 'giving too much work' - even though the work involved only reading and was required in order to fully understand the upcoming lecture. Usually, in a class of about 24 or more students, only four on average would produce quality work, attempt to learn anything and treat the professor with respect. If I were a teacher, I would find that extremely disconcerting. In addition, the students didn't want to learn. They didn't want to put in the effort but still wanted their college degree at the end of the program.

POSTED 8/5/2002

Jay, New York, NY, United States, Female, White/Caucasian, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 85200275708


I am a high school science teacher in the inner city. I remember my professor said: 'Most of you will be gone after five years. It won't be the kids but the system you have to put up with.' Unfortunately, he was right. After two years, most of us are looking for other jobs outside of teaching. I teach in a school without enough classrooms, books or anything else, for that matter. As for the students, yes, some have no respect for teachers and will make your life miserable. What gets you through the day are the ones who want to learn. That's who I'm there for. Ninety-eight percent of my discipline problems come from students who know they can do what they want and face no negative consequences. They don't care if you fail them. The parents can't or won't help. In some cases, there is backlash against the teacher if the principal gets involved. Some principals would much rather have no learning taking place than having to explain to a superintendent why the level of suspensions has increased. I could go on. I disagree with one poster who said we should go back to the '50s. Society has changed since then. We have single-and two-income parents. What is true is that it takes a village to raise a child. There needs to be a shared understanding among parents, teachers, students, school officials and the community of what their responsibilities are and how they will be held accountable.

POSTED 8/9/2002

Steve, New York, NY, United States, 31, Male, Black/African American, Teacher, Over 4 Years of College, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 88200254447

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Question:

I have been to a few places in the world and seen quite a few people of different nationalities in the last few years, and I've got to say, we Brits have to be among the most unfriendly people there are. I stayed in a youth hostel in London and shared a room with two American visitors. When they saw me, they smiled and introduced themselves with handshakes, etc. Brits would never be like that. They would more likely give you a mean look if you stared at them too long. Put a Brit in a room with two other Brits and they would more than likely ignore each other. Paranoa would probably exist, too. It's like if someone were on holiday in Arizona and they hailed from California. A local would probably say to him, 'Hi buddy, how ya doing?' and they would open up. If a local in England did that to another Brit, they would probably stare at them like they had just fallen out of a dog's bottom. Why is this?

POSTED 8/5/2002

Robert S., Poole, NA, United Kingdom, <rms6859@yahoo.com>, 26, Male, Christian, White/Caucasian, Mesg ID 852002105254


Responses:
I am shocked that you find your countrymen so unfriendly. I am British, and I'm about as friendly as you can get. Whenever I encounter other Brits here in the United States (of all races), I always talk to them, and they are always extremely friendly. Whenever I go back home with my boyfriend, he loves it, says he gets treated like a king by all. He also says that whenever he meets English people and tells them his girlfriend is from England, there's an immediate bond. The British in general are more reserved than Americans, but you shouldn't misconstrue that as hostility; they just take more time to warm up to strangers. Conversely, some Americans are so friendly it can be overwhelming, a little too-much-in-your-business.

POSTED 8/9/2002

Jay, New York, NY, United States, Female, White/Caucasian, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 862002103811

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Question:

Regarding the recent Arizona forest fire: I saw on the news an Indian spokesperson describing the devastation to the Navajo nation. The spokesperson demanded the culprit be caught and brought to trial. As we now know, a member of the Navajo nation intentionally started the blaze. A second fire, a signal fire started by a woman lost in the wilderness, later merged with the first fire. Here is what bothers me: After it was reported that a member of the Navajo nation started the first fire, another Navajo spokesperson begged for understanding and sympathy for the tribe member. A few days later, these same people went public wanting the woman who started the signal fire charged with a crime. If I were lost and dying of thirst, I'd start a signal fire. What are these people thinking? If they want sympathy for a tribe member who started a fire out of greed, where is the sympathy for a desperate and very thirsty white woman?

POSTED 7/29/2002

Tad B., Fairfield, OH, United States, 47, Male, White/Caucasian, Middle class, Mesg ID 728200295107


Responses:
First, the Navajos were not involved at all, except that they are also being blamed collectively by many whites (including ones like yourself who can't tell the difference between Apache and Navajo). All Indians in the Southwest are having to suffer through this, and you are an excellent example of what is adding to the problem. One of the two firestarters was a member of the White Mountain Apache tribe. He started the fire because he needed the work, being a firefighter himself. It was hardly 'greed,' anymore than a man stealing to feed his family is 'greed.' The White Mountain reservation has unemployment close to 50 percent, and most people are desperately poor. Like this white woman lost in the desert, what he did was an act of desperation done by a person who did not think of how he was harming thousands of others. They should be both treated the same, yet neither the law nor much of the white public is doing so. The white woman is not being charged, while the Apache man is. The atmosphere in much of Arizona has become incredibly tense, with many whites blaming all Apaches, or even all Indians, for what one has done. There have been many threats and intimidation, and we can only hope and work for this not getting more serious. That is what those Indian spokesmen were trying to do, appeal to the goodness and fairness in people's hearts, for equal treatment.

POSTED 8/5/2002

A.C.C., Phoenix, AZ, United States, Male, Mexican and American Indian (Mescalero Apache), Mesg ID 731200291751


Where is the sympathy for the black boy beaten by the cops in California among many white Americans? A great number of blacks do not justify what happened to him, but whites do. And I believe this siuation is no different for what happened to the Navajo nation. Your cultural perception of what is 'wrong' is different than other peoples' cultural perceptions. And worse, if you grapple with subtle racism, you may feel a sense of empathy with your own race that you might not feel with other groups. I am not saying this is a white thing; every racial group is guilty of this at some level. Anyway, I don't know the specific details of Native American culture, but I do know they are more spiritual and connected with things of nature than mainstream American society. Perhaps within their culture the solution to getting out of such a situation (being lost in the forest)should not have been starting a fire if the person didn't know how to correctly use it. And with the history white people have had with Native Americans, I can understand from their position why they would be more harsh. How can they really tell from their perspective if this woman started the fire intentionally or for help? Perhaps they can be more forgiving of their own race starting the fire, because they feel deep down inside that even with this action, the person is not a threat. With a white person starting the fire, they may feel differently, and not really trust her explanation. Of course, psychologically this situation could also be a sense of racial justice, like the O.J. Simpson trial was for many African Americans. The white woman in this case would be to them as Mark Furman was to blacks: a representation of all the racism and cruelty of the acts the white race has committed against them. She may have been unfairly judged by her race because of this, because her case may be the only way for a moment that justice could be sought for the bad things white America has done to the Navajo - or other Native American tribes, for that matter.

POSTED 8/5/2002

Kristina, Washington, DC, United States, 21, Female, Christian, Black/African American, Straight, Transcriber, 2 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 7312002115101


You are correct that the Navajo Nation came out with a plea of sympathy for the Native American who set one of the fires in hopes of being employed to help put out the fire. The Nation was as appalled at his behavior as anyone else. I do not know if the country was privy to the actual news conference wherein discloure was made that the woman would not be prosecuted for setting the second fire, however I live in Arizona and the conference was notoriously absent of Native Americans. The vast majority of people who expressed their anger and grief at this woman not being prosecuted were NOT Native Americans. The very angry crowd was made up of the home owners who had lost all their property and livelihood. You are incorrect in your assertation that the 'same' people, meaning the Nation, expressed no concern for the 'white' woman. If you can separate the two incidents, the Nation quickly and honorably spoke up for their misguided brother and begged for understanding to keep the sometimes tenuous 'peace' toward Native Americans, but has, at least publicly, remained silent regarding the 'white' woman's fate. By the way, the majority of forest destroyed comprised more than 60 percent of the land designated as the reserve that is the livelihood of Native Americans in the logging industry. It was a sad and tragic loss for all.

POSTED 8/5/2002

Serene, Chandler, AZ, United States, 43, Female, 2 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 84200260000

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Question:

If a woman wears an extremely revealing short skirt, her look is often called sleazy. If she wears a top that shows a lot of cleavage, that is called sleazy. But can a man dress 'sleazy'? If so, what part of his body would he be revealing to the eye too much?. A man dressed up to go to a nightclub doesn't generally reveal as much flesh as a woman would.

POSTED 8/5/2002

Rob S., Poole, NA, United Kingdom, <rms6859@yahoo.com>, 26, Male, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, Mesg ID 731200230341


Responses:
How about the men who wear their shirts unbuttoned to the middle of their chests to reveal a bunch of gold chains and chest hair? Add a pair of polyester slacks and loafers without socks, and you've got pure sleaze.

POSTED 8/5/2002

Jennifer, San Jose, CA, United States, 27, Female, Engineer, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 852002113029

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Question:

Why do women shave their legs? Where was the practice started, and what perpetuated it into contemporary times? Every time I try to look up anything about it on the net I get directed to a fetish site.

POSTED 8/5/2002

G. Bruce, Sydney, NA, Australia, Mesg ID 84200272218


Responses:
I shave my legs because I like them to be smooth and look smooth, and I feel more feminine after removing the body hair. Not that I have much, but I still like to be completely hairless. I can't really educate you on where or when the leg shaving of women started. I think it has a lot to do with the society we live in, which places emphasis on personal hygiene, as far as bathing, hair washing, etc. It may also be due to the great importance we place on appearence. So for a female to have body hair is the worst sin she could ever commit. So why do men shave their faces? I'm wondering why you didn't ask that as opposed to women shaving their legs. Could it be to have smoother, better-looking skin or to maintain their appearance? Probably the reasons men shave their faces are the same for why women shave their legs: for touchable skin and for looks. Why did you think we shave? Surely it isn't for our health.

POSTED 8/7/2002

Monique M., Ft. Myers, FL, United States, 16, Female, Pentecostal, Black/African American, Straight, Less than High School Diploma, Middle class, Mesg ID 87200291836


I'm not sure, but I can speculate a bit. I know that in Renaissance art, women are often shown having no body hair at all. Hair on the body was considered a sign of power and strength. Men wanted to view women as weaker and yielding, and thus portrayed them with no body hair. Perhaps this survives in our time as a norm of being 'lady-like.'

POSTED 8/9/2002

S. Hawkins, Houston, TX, United States, 33, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, TV production, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 87200230237

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Question:

If homosexuality is not a choice, do gay people feel angry or bitter about being among the 'chosen' 10 percent? I think I would be angry about having to live a lesbian lifestyle if I had not been given a choice.

POSTED 8/5/2002

Straight, Catskill, NY, United States, Mesg ID 6212002102235


Responses:
I don't know of any black people who are angry over having been born black. I don't know any left-handers (including my partner Greg) who are angry over having been born left-handed in a culture geared toward right-handedness. And while I am aware that some gay people (especially those who are conservative Christians) are so bitter about their sexual orientation that they choose to mask it with heterosexual behavior, I have never been angry about being gay. I have viewed the world and other people through the same eyes and mind as I've had since birth. I was neither traumatized nor 'seduced.' Being gay is as natural to me and as fundamental to my being as liking food. God has also blessed me with a wonderful spouse, with whom I have a loving, nurturing and monogamous relationship. This 'lifestyle,' as you call it, is nothing to be angry about as far as I can see.

POSTED 8/5/2002

Chuck A., Spring Hill, WV, United States, <PolishBear@aol.com>, 43, Male, Catholic, Gay, AIDS educator/radio announcer, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 85200263138

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Question:

What is it with teenagers not being able to behave in a public place, be it the train (jumping around and making noise), the theater (trying to see who can be the last to clap when applause for a song is over) or a store (making fun of all the merchandise)? Is the peer pressure to act cool and daring that strong now?

POSTED 7/29/2002

Sarah C., San Francisco, CA, United States, 24, Female, Agnostic, Asian, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 76200231801


Responses:
I admit I can get a little rowdy in public at times, even though I'm pretty much your age. Basically, me and my friends are a bunch of goofballs and we like to have fun. Part of that is making fun where there is no fun, such as on buses and trains, in the store or on any old boring sidewalk of this city. For instance, I'm a big lug but am somewhat acrobatic, so I like to climb on stuff (poles, rails, roofs, walls, etc.) and monkey around while acting like a dork. I have nobody to impress and enjoy stuff like that. However, I'll never disrespect, harass or intentionally annoy anybody (although I'm certain unintentional annoyance occurs frequently), and I'll usually chastise anybody around me who's doing that. People who do that are immature nitwits who don't know what 'respect' is.

POSTED 8/5/2002

Dan, Los Angeles, CA, United States, 23, Male, Pentecostal, Hispanic/Latino (may be any race), Student, 4 Years of College, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 7312002114836

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