Spotlight

A Veteran’s Story

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Veterans Day has come and gone but the themes that encompass this holiday are not. Veterans Day is a national holiday that brings U.S. citizens together to celebrate and honor all of our soldiers. I wanted to honor my grandfather, Columbus Johnson, who served in World War II, by documenting his story. I regret that I have never asked my grandfather about his time in the U.S. army until now, but I am glad I will be the first in my family to immortalize his story.

The U.S. didn’t officially join World War II until December 7, 1941. However, a draft was called in the year 1940. Johnson was drafted on May 6,1954 at 29-years-old and had found the woman who he had wanted to be with for the rest of his life. The moment Johnson knew that he was being drafted into the army, he made plans to marry my grandmother, Frances Vincent. When interviewing my grandfather, he said, “I wanted to marry her immediately.” Johnson started by asking Vincent’s father for her hand in marriage. Fortunately for Johnson, her father said yes, and a wedding was planned for September 5, 1954 because he had to leave that month.

In the meantime, Johnson’s mother was torn. She didn’t want another one of her children to be shipped off to a foreign land for the purpose of being a war instrument. Johnson stated, “She would talk with a fortuneteller to get information about my safety. She did the same thing when my older brother who was also in the army.” Johnson, continued by stating that he didn’t know anything of what the fortune teller said. “The only other person who knew what the fortune teller said was probably her husband because he was the one paying for those appointments.”

When Johnson left that September, Vincent and her family were nervous. However, they had a sense of relief because Johnson wasn’t in active combat. Johnson was only being sent to Germany to increase the presence of American soldiers to keep Germany in line after all the major fighting had stopped. Through the course of September 1954 to when Johnson’s military duty ended and was able to leave Germany on April 20, 1956, Vincent and Johnson would send each other letters that conveyed feelings of love, status updates, and new experiences. When Johnson stood, once again on the soil of his home town Everyone was happy to have him home and he was ready to start his family with Vincent as soon as he was able.

Johnson endured much hardship and had many first-time experiences. On the trip to Europe, his ship ran into terrible weather caused by a hurricane. When he was stationed in Germany, the conditions were often very cold and snowy. The smells of wildlife and their waist nearby permeated in the air. In addition, Johnson experienced his first and last movie that he ever saw in a theater. Johnson was grateful that we didn’t have to experience combat and that he was able to come home alive. The only regret Johnson had was that he wasn’t able to fulfill a promise he made with Vincent to take her to see Germany one day.

 Written By: James Gilbert

Halloween: Ancient Roots and Modern Perspectives

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2,000 years ago, October 31st was the day the dead roamed the earth. People would leave offerings of food and wine outside their houses to appease the spirits, and would wear masks as disguises to look like the fellow phantoms. These events would take place the night before the Celtic festival known as Samhain – pronounced as ‘sow-in’. Their New Year started on November 1st, and they believed that on their New Year’s Eve that the realms between the living and the dead became intertwined and spirits were free to roam the earth. In the 8th century, the European Catholic church renamed November 1st as All Saints Day or All Hallows Day and remained October 31st as All Hallows Eve later renamed again to Halloween.

Much of the modern traditions of Halloween, such as dressing up and going door to door for food, took root in medieval Britain. Labeled as guising, a child would ask for food, drink, et cetera and in return preform an act of entertainment. Later, in the 19th century, Scottish and Irish immigrants brought these old traditions to America and the result was trick-or-treating. However, Halloween in America started out with strong focus on mischievous themes and only became family-friendly in the 1950’s. Halloween is an old and commercially popular holiday being the second most celebrated holiday in America. With this in mind I interviewed two people with contrasting views to see what Halloween means to them.

My first interview was a fellow Reinhardt student, Jamie Rhinehart. Rhinehart, expressed that she wasn’t the biggest fan of Halloween. I asked her why and she started that, “I liked Halloween when I was young, but now I don’t like the effort of dressing up.” Rhinehart said that she stopped dressing up after fourth grade because it no longer retained the joy she once experienced. “Personally, I felt like I was dressing up to be someone that I wasn’t.” I then asked her if she enjoyed the themes that surrounded Halloween – fear, horror etc. Rhinehart replied,” I don’t like horror or dressing up. I never enjoyed watching or prefer scary movies because I don’t have time for it.” However, Rhinehart did state that she preferred to give out candy on Halloween rather than receive it. “I don’t have sweet tooth.”

Lastly, I interviewed Dr. Summey, the Assistant Professor of Spanish and Director of the Honors Program. Dr. Summey was born in El Salvador and has lived in Peru, as well as, Spain. Halloween wasn’t something that was celebrated in those countries. I asked her when she first heard about Halloween and she said that, “Both of my parents are American, so there was mention of Halloween but since I grew up overseas there was no example of it.” She continued by saying that Halloween didn’t hold any true meaning to her and she just viewed it as another day on the calendar. “The monsters that I had to learn about were really horrible monsters so the idea that you would willingly dress up as one just seemed kind of odd.” I then asked Dr. Summey if they were any similar holidays to Halloween that she grew up with, like the Day of the Dead. Dr. Summey explained that there wasn’t much of anything

similar to Halloween. “Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), was more along the lines of Memorial Day where you go and honor the dead.” I asked if there were any comparisons between these two holidays and she relayed that there were some similarities in the forms of death, fear, and the unknown.

Next I inquired when the first time Dr. Summey experienced Halloween was. She replied, “I experienced Halloween, for the first time, when I was about 12. Usually, we would come to the U.S. during the summer time for a couple of weeks and then we would leave. We were in transition from moving to Peru to Spain and we hit the tail end of the year. That’s when I experienced Halloween for the first time.” “I was with friends and we just ran around to the scariest homes and asked for candy. It was terrifying but so much fun because it was real fear.” She continued by saying that when she reached parenthood Halloween was seen as a way to make all the scary things that children are afraid of less offensive because they would become desensitized.

In conclusion, Halloween started out as way to appease the spirits and protect oneself and one’s family. Later on it was rebranded by the church to bring about a sense of holiness and used as a time to beg for food, drink, or money and, in return, to tell a joke, recite poetry, or sing. Now it is used as a way to have fun with friends, start of the holiday season, eat indulgently, and feel a rush of adrenaline. Halloween is no longer considered, by the mass majority, as an unholy holiday, but as an outlet to have fun and to start enjoying the act of giving before Christmas comes along.

Written By: James Gilbert

Gender Stereotypes: Masculinity

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According to the Marriam-Webster dictionary, masculinity is defined as “having qualities appropriate to or usually associated with a man.” This definition is straight forward but vague and leaves interpretation to the imagination. Based on this definition, the idea of masculinity can vary from person to person, region to region, culture to culture, nation to nation. Because of this I interviewed several people to find out what masculinity means to them and how differently this word can be defined.

Masculinity can be interpreted in many ways. There are commonalities and popular themes that arise no matter where an individual grew up or how they were raised. These themes can range from a deep voice to an overconfident attitude. Even through the interpretations of masculinity can still be broad, common and overused ideas dominate the social definition. This creates a general stereotype.

In addition, analytics from the website “Google Books” states that the word masculinity didn’t rise in usage and popularity until around the 1900’s.

Written By: James Gilbert

 

Puerto Rican Culture Compared to the U.S.

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Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory since the year 1898: however, it was founded in 1493 on Christopher Columbus’ second trip from Spain. Puerto Rico was initially inhabited by natives called the Taíno, but influence from the Spanish, and Africans (slaves) took hold. Puerto Rico had over three centuries for the development of culture, language, social costumes, and art.

Similar to the U.S. Puerto Rico was somewhat of a melting pot between the several nationalities/ and ethnicities, with the current primary ethnic group being white – Spanish in origin – making about 80 percent of the population. However, the Taíno and African influences have just as much impact as the Spanish had on Puerto Rico’s holidays, cuisine, arts, traditions, etcetera. In addition, the central religion of Puerto Rico, just like the U.S., is Christianity. The mass majority of American, as well as, the Puerto Rican people practice Catholicism.

In regard to holidays, there are some holidays that U.S. doesn’t have. However, they are holidays that celebrate either the life of an influential individual who had a profound effect on the history of Puerto Rico, Jesus Christ and the day P.R. was founded. Other than that, Puerto Rico celebrates the same holidays that the U.S. does, including Memorial Day, Martin Luther King Day, and President’s Day. Holidays, such as Halloween, and Christmas are very major and hold a lot of weight for the people of P.R.

Academically, P.R. takes their schooling seriously and desires to teach their children the importance of a balance between work, arts, and recreation. Puerto Rican public schools do emphasize the teaching of the English language just as American public school’s emphasis the Spanish language. However, English is taught nationwide in P.R. because parents want to open up more opportunities for their children. Many common goals of parents are for children to get

good jobs and have the chance to build character and do something worthwhile. Many Puerto Ricans have believed that this will be the case if their children think about seeking a career path in America.

Continuing with the topic of language, body language, as well as, gestures are very important in the P.R. culture. Communication and language of all types are essential in every country, and in P.R. they mostly use all forms of expression to convey love, friendliness, and warmth. Unlike in America, Puerto Ricans are okay with finishing each other’s thoughts and interrupting one another isn’t as taboo. Oddly enough, personal space is socially set closer – an arm’s length away – to the other person or people invested in a conversation. Moving away could be interpreted as rude and insulting. In addition, if they are close friends, men well hung each other and women will kiss each other on the cheeks.

The art of Puerto Rico can range from religious to superstitious. Religious art depicting the saints have been sculpted since the 1500’s. These art pieces can be made of clay, valuable materials like gold, stone, or cedar wood. They vary in height from 8 to 20 inches. Before the Spaniards colonized P.R. the natives of the nation, the Taíno, would create similar figures that decorated villages and served the purpose of showing respect. Another popular craft to make are paper-maché masks made to wear at festivals. They are scary in nature being decorated with horns, fangs, and bulging eyes, to depict half demon half animal creatures. They are typically worn by festival merrymakers and accessorize the masks with batwing suits and sticks with inflated crow bladders on the end. These rods are used for harmlessly whacking people. The masks are speculated to have originated in Spain where they were used to scare sinners so that they would rely on and go back to the church.

Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory with many similarities and commonalities to the United States. However, there are differences that make each country unique, special, and interesting. Knowing what influences a nation can bring better understanding to one’s own social, economic, artistic, and political wellbeing. The foundation and history of a nation can greatly affect how culture, habits, and traditions manifest and spread around the world.

Written By: James Gilbert

Reinhardt’s Helping Hands

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In keeping with Reinhardt University’s history of uplifting the region, Dr. M. Katrina Smith, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Psychology Program Coordinator, with the assistance of Dr. Simon Peter Gomez, the Year of Cuba Community Co-Chair, Dr. Cheryl Brown, mentor, as well as other faculty members and students, have partnered with the Ball Ground Lions Club to provide meals for children in Cherokee County and plans to expand those efforts internationally with Puerto Rico in mind.

The Ball Ground Lions Club act as Reinhardt University’s ‘boots on the ground’ to facilitate proper distribution of assistance and Reinhardt’s way of knowing what a group of people or institution needs. Recently, Dr. Smith spearheaded the Year of Cuba Festival to bring awareness of Cuban culture to the Reinhardt Campus. Specifically, on the aspects of art, education, healthcare, and especially, the financial well-being of the nation. Dr. Smith said that she had more plans in mind to assist Cuba and Cherokee County through the Ball Ground Lions Club. She said, “I was trying not to do more than one major piece a month because there are so many logistics that go into getting everything, and I don’t want to wear my group down. I do want to keep it in people’s minds that we are, for the whole year, trying to raise money”. However, recent political events have hindered those endeavors. Currently, Dr. Smith wants to bring focus to those affected by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, in addition, to the children of Cherokee County and Cuba.

Dr. Smith stated that the first financial goal will go towards helping the children of Cherokee County academically, as well as, through food assistance. She said, “I have a goal, and right now we are two-thirds of the way towards the first goal, so we are really pleased with that, but we’ve got some room to grow here, and we’ve got ideas for how to do that.” The first goal is set at

three-thousand dollars with two-thousand dollars having been collected through donations. Once this goal is complete, the next goal will be set at five-thousand dollars with the intent to help the people of Puerto Rico. Dr. Smith relayed that she wished to help more people however those efforts have been hindered by political policies. The Year of Cuba team has stated that they are still selling T-Shirts. Dr. Smith added, “T-shirts are $12 dollars for students, $15 dollars for non-students, and donations are always welcome. Every dime of that goes straight into our donation fund. I want to be sure that we can meet the needs and promises that we had made to the Ball Grounds Lion’s Club.” If you would like to inquire about how you can help or donate, email Dr. Smith at mks@reinhardt.edu.

Written By: James Gilbert