The National Moment of Remembrance

It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays…

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

Memorial Day History,” Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

My Dad is buried at the Veteran”s National Cemetery in Houston. Dad was proud of his service, for good reason. I think, though, that we need an expanded idea of service that includes nonmilitary service, too. I think that we sentimentalize the military when we try to make it the most important kind of service to community and nation. We need a day to memorialize all service, from soldiers to labor organizers.

Property is Theft: Here’s Your Grade!

I’ve long been fascinated with plagiarism, not so much as a problem of students, but as a preoccupation of certain professors.  A fear of plagiarism– and an anxiety about grade  inflation–seems to be symptomatic of our era, to use the old term from theory. Yet, as Rob Jenkins suggests, there’s really not much to worry about when it comes to plagiarism (“Toward a Rational Response to Plagiarism.”)

Urban myth at the University of Texas at Austin held that the fraternities had extensive collections of tests and papers, dating back decades, that the fraternity brothers could use for all sorts of mischief.  I am not sure how much of that story is reality and how much is braggadocio, but I do know that a certain subset of fraternity culture sees substantive learning as irrelevant to a college degree.

Animal House (and its antecedents and predecessors) may be an exaggeration, but it’s rooted in a grain of truth. There’s nothing new in the idea of cheating in college and little evidence that technology– the internet or otherwise–has made it any more common. Most writing teachers don’t need any software, either, to notice that a particular students’ prose has suddenly improved dramatically.

It takes  time and energy to succeed at cheating. Students don’t cheat often, and they cheat under pressure, and do it badly. The anxiety about plagiarism, I think, echos the degradation of the authority of the college professor, culturally and economically. As our ‘soft power‘ declines, in short, professors feel the need to assert their authority as the guardians of property and bourgeois propriety.

Orwell 2.0

Every time I broke my arm as a kid, I started noticing people in casts everywhere. I’ve been mulling over a paper presentation about consumerism in my field, and I am having a similar experience. Suddenly, everywhere I look there’s an article suggesting something about new communication technologies, good or bad.

Most recently it’s a Slate piece called, “War is Gaga.” It’s written, in typical bourgeois journalistic style, from the point of view of “our troops.” The point, in other words, is that these “ridiculous dance routines on the Internet” (as the subtitle notes) are a way for soldiers to blow off steam. No doubt.

There’s a brief nod to the creepier side of some of these videos (not much on the racism or xenophobia) and an acknowledgment that these videos are a profoundly denatured view of war. It’s imperialism as sketch comedy. The piece also notes that the military, which once resisted web 2.0, has now embraced it.

It’s hard to imagine a better way for the military to naturalize war and to help focus our concerns on “our soldiers” rather than on the policy that put them in danger. It has to be one of the most direct propaganda channels– straight to the hearts and minds– ever created. There’s no putting this genie back, either.