Part I: Letter to Former President Barrack Obama
Dear President Barrack Obama,
I am ___, an American citizen from the state of Iowa. I was one of your ardent followers while you were in the White House as the head of State and even now, I am still inspired by most of your actions and speeches. I was really excited when you won the presidential election during your first term as well as in the second term. Through the years, I can say your reign impressed me massively and even changed for the better due to the changes you brought to our country. Above all, I am a woman and I experience certain issues first hand as compared to the males in our society. As such, I believe that my opinion on the legalization of abortion should have counted as much as other women’s opinions did. I am also sure I do represent the views of many other women out there who may not have had the opportunity to contribute to the discourse.
Mr. President, you signed the bill to legalize abortion in the country based on the arguments presented by its proponents. Some of the arguments included the fact that women may not have wanted to have babies at the time of pregnancy. The abortion thus gave them an opportunity to choose the lives they lead. Furthermore, there were also claims that the fetus held in the womb is not a living being as life begins after birth. Others also posited that some pregnancies come about due to events such as rape hence warranting abortion while others held that the economic situation may not support large families hence abortion gave women the opportunity to control their family sizes.
Mr. President, I tend to hold an opinion contrary to what you signed the bill for. Yes, I am aware that there are many women who would have babies they did not plan for if abortion was illegal. However, did you consider the implications that legalizing abortion would have on the youths who are sexually active? It is inevitable that their level of activity would increase as they are aware there are no embarrassing consequences. They would be reckless in their activities and consequently be infected with diseases too. Secondly, the fetus is a living being as even the Bible, which I believe you believe in recognizes the fact that the fetus lives, albeit inside the womb. This should thus guarantee its consideration as a living being. Furthermore, although events such as rape may result in pregnancy, what if the mother loses their own life during abortion? What if, they are rendered incapable of child bearing? In spite of the economy, I believe both women and men should take responsibility for their actions. If they do not intend to have any children, they should abstain from having unprotected sex or better yet, use contraceptives that prevent implantation and fertilization rather than abortion which terminates life.
Instead of the outright legalization of abortion, I believe a viable solution could have been had in recommending abortion for cases where life is at risk. For instance, when having the baby would risk the mother’s life and there is no way that the mother can be saved; abortion would do the least harm. In such a case, licensed medical practitioners should have been allowed to perform safe abortions on women. However, given that most of the legislators who authored and passed the bill thought otherwise, sometimes the end of a matter does not come as we imagine it should. I however still ask myself whether it was impossible for you as an individual and a Christian to recommend the other alternative.
Member of the Pro- Life Movement.
Part II: Examining Reactions to Competition in the Family
Robbers’ Cave experiment is one of the most popular social science experiments in history. The experiment is based on the concept of intergroup competition where individuals placed within competing group contexts adopt that competitive attitude (Sherif 349- 356). This experiments interests me a lot since it tends to advance the belief that individuals within a group act cohesively and may not possess autonomic thoughts during the experiment. In my experiment, however, a twist to the original version where individuals unknown to each other were subjected to the group environment was adopted. The objective of the experiment was to determine whether such inter-group competition still ignore individual awareness when the group members are known to each other.
Procedures and Methods
- I created the setting in my own neighborhood where I know most of the people and where most people also know each other. In this setting, I brought together 6 children aged between 5 years and 11 years from different families which have more than one child each. Having done this, I then grouped the children into two distinct groups, each with 3 children. No group contained siblings hence each person had their sibling in a counter group. The children were then set to compete in task completion where the tasks to be implemented included spelling different words and completing various crosswords puzzles. At each stage, points were awarded to the winning group and the cumulative results used to determine the winner. From thence, the winning group was awarded. The group members were to represent their groups individually in each activity. For instance, during the spelling, each member would rise up and the number of words they were able to spell correctly in 2 minutes was recorded.
- During the experiment, the groups were informed that no member would be allowed to cheer up their siblings from the other group and any such actions would lead to automatic deduction of points.
- During the experiment, I contacted a friend to help me keep records as I had to watch the reactions of each of the participants fully. The groups took turns during the competition and at each group’s performance; the passive group was scrutinized to determine any form of sympathy or pride associated with their siblings’ performances.
- During the experiment, it was realized that in spite of the rule to avoid view each member of the other group as a competitor, the children still considered their siblings as known individuals. A case was even reported when one of the children openly congratulated their sibling for spelling many words correctly in total disregard of the experimental rules. The younger children were more likely to regard group members individually rather than as a competing group.
In spite of achieving its objective, the key limitation of the experiment was its narrow sample size. Based on the application of the concept to a population comprising of children, it is doubtable whether the results would be applicable to an adult population. A replica of the same could be conducted among older individuals.
Part III: Priestly Mien
Characters: Clarke; Father Leonard; William
It is a Saturday morning and Clarke, a 28 year-old banker goes to visit his friend Father Leonard after a long time. Leonard had been Clarke’s childhood friend and schoolmate until they separated after high school. Leonard then went on to the seminary to become a priest and has just been ordained recently. The two continue their dialogue, Clarke making comments about priesthood while Fr. Leonard attempts to explain to him how life as a priest is.
Clarke: (Coming in for a hug from the priest) Long time my friend, how have you been? It’s been so long I feel like am seeing you for the first time!
Fr. Leonard: Same here too, I’ve been well and I thank God. You look awesome, I never thought you’d grow bigger, look at you!
Fr. Leonard: Come; let’s go in, we have a lot of catching up to do.
The two walk together hand in hand towards the priest’s house. Clarke is welcomed and shown to a couch. The house appears meticulously tended, everything in its place and orderly.
Fr. Leonard: It’s so hot in here, what do I offer you?
Clarke: Anything cold my friend, anything….. But I bet you only serve juice and water here.
Fr. Leonard: (Laughs out loud) you would be surprised, this is a normal home as any, it’s not a church, don’t be so tight!
Clarke: (looks bemused and lifts up his hands in surrender) Okay, I get you. (Chuckles lightly) In that case, can I have a bottle of wine please; we need to celebrate this reunion.
Fr. Leonard: Done my friend.
Fr. Leonard: (Calls to the housekeeper) William! Can you please get us a bottle of wine and two glasses, my friend is here!
Clarke: (seems surprised). You priests sure have a lot of fun in here. Imagine having everything you need and everything being done for you? I wouldn’t leave my house for anything; I’d grow so huge I wouldn’t pass through the door!
Fr. Leonard: Don’t be deceived by looks my friend, the stress in here is massive! The demands on us are at times overwhelming; we rarely have time for social interactions.
William comes in with the wine bottle and two glasses in a tray, places the tray on the table and offers his hand to Clarke as a form of greeting.
William: can I open it for you father? (William goes on to open the bottle and welcomes them to partake of it)
Fr. Leonard: Go ahead William, we’ll appreciate. This is my childhood friend; it has been long since we last saw each other
Clarke: Thanks William for taking good care of my friend here, he says life is stressful as a priest but I don’t think so, I believe you are just pulling my leg on that one. Who would believe there are stressful demands in here with all the goodies? (Winks)
William: Every person has their own experiences you know, I better live both of you to catch up.
Fr. Leonard: You know It’s true that we are all different, what one person considers to be a luxury may not be so to another, there is a lot one has to give up to be a priest.
Clarke: remember I knew you since childhood, I don’t believe you’ve changed even a bit except for adding weight and maybe the priestly things that you do.
Fr. Leonard: (Looks Serious). You know priesthood is a calling and at times, personal traits may not match the demands of the vocation. It requires patients, tolerance and a lot of consideration for the public. One has to be very empathetic to the congregants. I do not possess some of the qualities I need and I have some that do not suit the ‘group’ expectations.
Clarke: I am still not sure why you keep telling me there are stresses and demands in this vocation. I know some priests who are very careless with their words, quick to anger and possess no iota of empathy, but they still survive.
Fr. Leonard: You see some of those you say have possessed those qualities from birth; it is who they are and they cannot change even if they tried. We understand them as individuals and we do not consider them as models of priesthood. You should also learn to do the same, understand that everyone is different and no one perfectly fits the priesthood model.
The two are silent for a short while, as if in contemplation
Fr. Leonard: One of the major challenges we face as priests is the generalization concept. Most people observe one priest in their lives and then generalize what they see to everyone. This makes it really difficult for us to get help when we actually need it.
Clarke: (looks shocked) what help? Why would you need help when priests have all they need in the house, you only have to go to church, preach and come back to a house where everything is provided, you have no wife or children to stress you up…. What could you probably need help for?
Fr. Leonard: (Chuckles yet looks distant) you speak as though you know everything about priesthood. We experience many things while out there interacting with people, some have problems that they let us carry and we may also need counseling at times. But when everyone assumes we are fine, we end up getting depressed yet we must remain calm, composed and the ever present counselors. Sometimes providing priestly counsel leaves you feeling guilty as your conscience tells you would have acted differently, yet the expectations from you as a priest made you act the way you did. I such times, you feel you have lost autonomy, you need comfort but there is none to provide it.
Clarke: (Sighs heavily) I can’t believe what I just heard. You go through a lot my friend. I promise you I’ll always be here when you need me. All you have to do is to call.
Part IV: Analysis of the Socratic Dialogue
A Socratic dialogue, first used by Socrates in convincing his peers to change their perceptions about various aspects of life is not so common as a form of literary representation. In ‘Priestly Mien’ the dialogue between Clarke and Fr. Leonard provide a conventional example of a Socratic dialogue. In the dialogue, Clarke believes various misconceptions regarding the life of priests. Fr. Leonard purposes to change his perception by providing an insider’s view of what priesthood looks like and eventually succeeds in convincing him contrary to his perceptions. The dialogue makes use of various rhetoric styles to communicate about individualism in a group context and the need to distinguish between an individual and the group within which they belong.
The most prominent rhetorical technique applied in Priestly Mien is that of hasty generalization. In the dialogue, Clarke persistently refers his arguments to the ‘priests’ grouping. He makes general deductions based on what he expects of his friend and what he has observed among other priests. For instance, he hastily concludes that being in a priest’s house, there would be nothing other than water and juice to be served. Moreover, he generalizes the experiences of priests through arguments that they have no source of stress and their work is not demanding. In each case, Fr. Leonard attempts to divert his thoughts from his misconceptions based on hasty generalizations. Initially, he does not change his perceptions easily and he needs more demonstrative convictions to affirm the arguments of his friend.
Clarke’s adamancy in maintaining his perceptions bring about the concept of demonstrative rhetoric in the dialogue. As Clarke gives examples of what he has observed among other priests i.e. they are indifferent to feelings of others and also intolerant, he ensures that he provides sufficient information to alter the perception being projected by Fr. Leonard. Similarly, the priest uses similar demonstrative strategies to be able to change the views held by his friend. For example, he focuses on making his fried distinguish between individual and group dynamics and to be able to see each priest as an individual and not as a model of what priesthood should be like. In spite of Clarke’s position, Fr. Leonard continues to pursue the cause of convincing him through the use of friendly language as well as being strongly expressive towards his friend. This helps him to communicate satisfactorily without any indications of losing his demeanor.
The use of circular reasoning is also heavy in the dialogue, especially as Clarke uses it to counter the arguments posited by father Leonard. In the first instance, Clarke uses circular reasoning when appealing for William’s assistance in developing his own arguments. Similarly, he uses this technique when he refers to the seemingly stress free life that the priest leads. His use of circular reasoning towards William exposes yet another technique of speech used by William. Through his answer that each person has their own experiences, William employs the technique of eunoia (disinterest). The housekeeper goes ahead with his duty as if he does not even here what the two are talking about. When prompted to take part in the argument, he excuses himself after reacting disinterestedly and leaves the two. Through this, William further advances the subject of autonomy in a group setting as he acts independently and does not conform to the group expectations.
Furthermore, Fr. Leonard appeals to ethos through the use of the descriptive approach in explaining what priestly role entails. The priest explains his role through the use of language such as practice of tolerance and empathy. He further explains to his friend that priests who do not practice such should be considered as individuals but not used as a model of priesthood. This in essence creates the impression that he is making an effort to allure Clarke towards his position based on the priestly expectations and not on what is observed among other priests. Furthermore, he uses the same appeal while explaining the challenges they go through during counseling and how those challenges affect their lives. Appeal to logos on the other hand is depicted through Clarke’s justification of the argument that priests do not experience any stress. The description of the priest’s life from based on his own understanding exemplifies his appeal to reason in that without the factors that result in stress, it is impossible for an individual to be stressed. Based on his assumptions, it can be said therefore, that the entire argument developed by Clarke is founded on an appeal to ignorance. Those who are as ignorant as Clarke concerning the priestly life may adopt similar stances unless one talks directly to a priest.
In conclusion, it can be said that the dialogue clearly adopts Toulmin’s model of argument. In this case, the key elements of Toulmin’s model have been satisfied. For instance, there are two arguments presented, which can be said to be facts. On the one hand, Clarke argues that priesthood is not stressful. On the other, Fr. Leonard knows contrary to this. Clarke provides assumptions that lead to his arguments while Fr. Leonard provides evidence why the truth is actually converse to the arguments. Through the use of the evidences to the truth, Fr. Leonard manages to bring the dialogue to a conclusion in the Socratic style which requires one party to totally win over the other. Through his acceptance of the description made by the priest and the offer to be there when needed, it is clear that Clarke has eventually been converted towards the view that priesthood is stressful. The stress on the distinction between individualism and the group is eminent throughout the dialogue, clearly communicating its purpose to the audience.
Sherif, Muzafer. Superordinate Goals in the Reduction of Intergroup Conflict. American Journal of Sociology, 1958, pp. 349- 356.