Friday, May 16, 2014

Louis and Lestat: Villains, Anti-Heroes, or Heroes?

by Shadow Dove

Louis was the main character in Interview with a Vampire, and his distaste for his maker, and the way he spoke of him was maybe part of what made Lestat seem like such a villain. At one point early in his new life as a vampire, Louis had this to say about Lestat “And all the time, he belittled me and attacked me for my love of the the senses, my reluctance to kill...and would taunt me with sealed lips when I asked about God or the devil” (Rice 37). It was made very clear that the two were developing a great distaste for one another, and Louis had a suspician that he had only been given the “dark gift” as it is later reffered to, for his plantation and his wealth.

So just because Louis is not as bad as Lestat, does this make him a “hero” or does he rest in the place of “anti-hero” like so many other softer natured Vampires? According to Richard Wilson's article “Anti-Hero: The hidden Revolution in Leadership and Change”, the Anti-Heroes “are inherently sensitive to other people and aware of the limitations of their own knowledhe and skills. It is this sensistivity to themselves, others and the wider world that forms the basis of the Anti-hero” (Wilson 15). This definition clearly fits Louis, he is very sensitive to other people, in fact for many years he refuses to feed on human blood and feeds off of animals instead.

Furthermore, when we look at an excerpt from the Hero's Journey Outline, featured in “The Hero's Journey Outline The Heroine's Journey/ Archetypes 'The Memo That Started It All' by Christopher Vogler 'a Practical Guide to Joseph Cambell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces' by Christopher Vogler”, Vogler describes a hero as “the person who goes out and achieves the great deeds on behalf of the group, tribe, or civilization” (Vogler 1). So although Louis has good intentions and is sensative to the plights of others, he does not by any means have a journey in which he is fighting a cause that serves a “group, tribe or civilization”.

It would appear that by both Wilson's and Vogler's definitions that Louis indeed fits the Anti-hero model. Bleeding heart and all!

Now, Lestat, oh Lestat, what a misunderstood soul indeed. There is no question in my mind that he does not transend from Anti-Hero to Hero, and in fact many times, by his own will, fits quite comfortably into the roll of Villian. However in the second book in the Vampire Chronicles: The Vampire Lestat you see his humanity quite plainly when he is speaking to Armand, an ancient vampire whom he has recently encountered “'You know it was the damnedest luck!' I whispered suddenly. 'I am an unwilling devil. I cry like some vagrant child. I want to go home'” (Rice 242). You have to understand that he had been given the “dark gift” by an ancient who then lept into a fire killing himself, without any explanation of how to live as a vampire, and upon meeting Armand, Lestat had hoped to find answers, but he found none. Instead he learned only that in the words of Armand to “Live among men, and the passing years will drive you to madness” (Rice 201). So perhaps his disapointment and loneliness is what drove him to be villainous, and although he had his moments of making you feel like he could be an Anti-hero, he definitely does not fit into the category of Hero, by any standard that I have found so far. However, I find a fondness for him nonetheless....not only because he is a vampire, but because he is so completely torn between two parts of himself, and I can relate to that. The only difference is that he surrenders to his darkness, and that is what makes him a true Villain.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How to Be a Hero

by Anonymous

Everyone has the potential to be a hero. We see opportunities every day. It may not be a calling to bound buildings and save lives, but a simple act if kindness is also heroic. A true hero is someone who sticks up for those who cannot defend themselves. All too many times we see the weak are the ones who are hurt or picked on. It takes only one brave person to correct these wrongs and say something. These people are true heroes and should be acknowledged.

Standing up for those in need is not always easy; we often are afraid ourselves. Or perhaps it’s our nature to turn a blind eye, not wanting to get involved with what's happening. We often think that someone else will say something and stop the abuse, but all too often that is not the case.

You don’t have to run into a burning building to be help someone in need. All it takes is a kind word to someone who looks sad, or a hot meal for a stranger, or maybe even a load of groceries for your neighbor who is going through tough times. These are the things people are going to remember and be grateful for.

Everyone deserves a hero. Are you going to be someone's hero? Next time you see a person in need, stop and think about what might happen if you don’t help. Stepping in and helping could save a life and isn’t that what being a hero is all about? Those who step up and help are true heroes and should be acknowledged.

Sure, being able to stop bullets and leap over tall buildings is what we think of when you mention a hero. It is something we all wish we could do, but don’t forget all those out there that are heroes in their own right. We all get the call to be a hero; are you going to listen? Forget about yourself and do what is right. Be someone's hero.

Heroism is in the Eye of the Beholder

By Anonymous

The definition of a hero is an individual who is romanticized for their valor, nobility, bravery, or exceptional accomplishments. However, are these qualities what truly makes a hero and is the anti-hero closer to the definition of a hero? To just behave bravely with noble and good intentions seems to be closer to a Disney version of a hero.

Often enough there are so many controversies to a conflict that the hero has to make ugly discussions on what is best and how to solve the problem. From my own observations of anti-heroes, their sometimes unconventional methods achieve more good than those who are charismatic and charming who run into battle with their best intentions.

If we have learned anything from our history is that more suffering can come from another’s best intentions.

Is that not what the Christian missionaries believed themselves to be doing to the Native Americans, and the Indigenous people of Australia by taking their children away to the missionary schools, cutting their hair, and applying punishments for speaking their own language.

Did they not believe they were doing something good by killing another’s way of life. With that being the case can not a hero just be a person who is fighting for what they believes is right.

Is not Robin Hood considered to be one of the greatest heroes maybe one of fiction but still a great hero. He, time and time again broke the law against a corrupt government by taking it’s wealth and giving it to the people made poor by their own ruling leadership.

I believe a hero is one of those subjects that is far too complicated and complex to define as one thing, and perhaps heroism is in the eye of the beholder.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Hero's Journey of Faust

By Penny Peterson

Goethe’s Faust depicts a man torn by a changing modern society and how Faust ultimately meets and deals with these changes. The play does follow the Hero’s Journey as Faust is unsatisfied with life and agonizes over his decision to sell his soul to the Devil. Faust ends up making a deal with the Devil and he takes the role of an antihero. Through his adventures Faust has his loyal servant Wagner beside him. Wagner is the one that tries to pull in Faust and help him see the error of his ways.

The ordeal that Faust encounters that changes him forever is love. His love for a woman not only wakes up his human feelings but Faust eventually seduces Gretchen. When Gretchen’s brother finds out, Faust is called out to fight and Faust wins the fight with the Devil’s help. Now Faust must leave Gretchen and run for his life as the townspeople want him arrested.

Much later in the play, Faust finds out that Gretchen has given birth to his child out of wedlock and has been scorned by the town. Faust returns to the town to find that Gretchen, in grief died along with his child. After this horrific event, Faust turns his talents to better mankind. He continues his good deeds until he is old and feeble. As his last hours are slipping away, the Lord asks Faust if he will repent giving Faust a chance at salvation. Faust repents and his guilt and love in life, is his salvation in the end.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Soul of Weaponry

by Leroy Martinez

Contemplating the soul of weaponry is capitalization upon fear that motivates each and every one of us. The Iron Man is an archetype that has been defined in our society through movies and stories. The hero's journey of self transformation models from higher development from mythology and this is a way that humans were believed to think. 

There are many different ways to think about the Iron Man persona and why it is bred into our society as a developed sense of the human being. Industrialization and modernism have changed the way we believe to think, developing us into futuristic human beings. But the gladiator and warrior still linger in all of us in one form or another. This now affects the mainstream population at large. Mindless violence, warlike violence and authoritarian personalities. This was some kind of inhumanity that humans should have conquered in this day and age, but it seems that we are going backwards in time to barbarian ways. Peace is hard work and killing is the coward's campaign as we see in our present day society. Give a soldier or cop a gun and they will us it. 

Heroism comes in many forms and there is an alternative to violence. Iron Man's heart is at the center of this story and is an emerging machine consciousness which is tension between self and persona. Are we afraid that creation will replace the creator? It takes a dramatic event in one's life to make them reflect on what they have become through imperfect, biological, and emotional turbulence.

Sequential art is a part that may give us some insight into our own personal reality. "With great power come's great responsibility," it says in Spider Man. Yet humans still don't know how to contain this.  Take, for example, the ongoing problem of killings and the Albuquerque police department. Worlds of imagination can be useful to give us great insight to the actions that we might take, for instance in The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes is a great example. This is an extraordinary action of humanity by an Iron Man (machine) to save the world by not using his weapons of mass destruction but uses his heart and mind to save the world. This is the possible world that we all want to live in, the perfect world of love and peace.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Reflection on The Infinite Horizon

by Krisana Hall

Infinite Horizon is a graphic novel retelling the story of the Odyssey written by Gerry Duggan and illustrated by Phil Noto. It is set in a post apocalyptic America with conflicts of a Middle Eastern war fought abroad.

The main character or Odysseus figure is named the solider with No Name. He is a methodical calm collected commander who is generally fearless. One aspect I wished and would of made the story more interesting if the Solider kept Odysseus’ boastful demeanor. The solder was way too humble and at times avoided conflict.

Infinite Horizon begins as the Soldier volunteers for service in the Middle East. Only to find things are turning for the worst. No Name can bring victory in any battle but cannot guarantee winning the war. Innocent Civilians are fighting a gorilla warfare war. The hero’s unexpected journey starts when they are forced to flee from their fallen fortress after being outnumbered and scarce resources.

Meanwhile No Name’s wife Penelope is left alone with their young son at home. She is fighting to maintain their land and water rights from greedy neighbors and the mayor of New York. The story flips back and fourth between America and Abroad. No Name is taken to all sorts of interesting places as he tries to return home.

One of the elements I liked about this edition is beautiful drawings full color.  There are also unique twists of story elements such as the Cyclops redesigned as a Cyborg Russian Super Soldier.

The plot feels rushed a bit. Certain plot points could have been more impactful if more time was spent on critical sequences. Sometimes mediocre dialog would be like a soulless B action movie. Some characters are not fleshed out to be who they were supposed to be such as the doctor and siren arcs.

Overall it is an enjoyable read if one is familiar with the Odyssey and the reinterpretation is quite interesting in this well-rendered post apocalyptic setting.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Still My Hero

By Karen M. Lynn

Robin Hood, in my opinion, falls in to the definition of a hero. I think he would also be considered an anti-hero by others. The simple history of the character is that of stealing from the rich to give to the poor. For the poor that makes him a hero. Stealing makes him a thief and thus anti-hero to those from whom he took.

In the history of the period that the story is set in, the English Kings of the day, Richard the Lion Heart and his brother John, had run the royal coffers very low. That caused them to tax their citizens relentlessly. Historically, people in those days, with exception of the rich, had very little and survival was likely a daily struggle. The common folk could ill afford to support the royal houses. Robin Hood is the man that pilfers from the rich, giving the spoils to the poor and downtrodden; the hero of the day.

The story of Robin Hood is known around the world and resonates still today considering the current financial inequalities experienced by many. I think this tale will always carry some value to those who struggle. May the Hero live on!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Iron Giant vs. The Iron Giant

We were recently assigned to read the book The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes, and then we watched the movie The Iron Giant in class.

Well, I'll admit...I didn't read the book before we watched the movie! Bad me! But I loved the movie, and I went and rented it that night and watched it again with my three year old son, and then we watched it again, and again, and again (as it tends to go with three year olds when they love a movie).

I then read the book. It's a relatively short, easy read and very different from the movie. In the movie, Hogarth, the young boy who befriends the Iron Giant is the main character, and the relationship that they have is so sweet and well formed, they become good friends and at one point Hogarth even expresses his love for the Giant, and the Iron Giant clearly loves the boy.

In the book, they hardly even have a relationship. In fact the story is completely different. The Iron Giant appears one day as a nuisance to the community, eating machinery and fences and other metal objects (okay, that part is similar to the movie) until the town's people capture and bury him (with Hogarth's help). The Giant eventually frees himself, and with Hogarth's help once again the town's people are able to find a solution by pacifying the Iron Giant at a junk yard, where he can eat all of the scrap metal he wants.

Then, unlike the movie (which is more of a parallel to the fears of the cold war) one day a giant “space-bat-angel-dragon” literally the size of Australia lands....well, on Australia, and terrifies the entire planet by demanding living things to eat. The people of Earth band together to try and destroy the “space-bat-angel-dragon” and when they are unsuccessful Hogarth goes to the Iron Giant and asks for help. Only when Hogarth explains that there will be nothing left for the Iron Giant to eat if he does not help, does he decide to help! In the movie, he helps Hogarth, because he loves him!

In both the book and the movie the Iron Giant is willing to sacrifice himself to save others, that is clear. Both stories are entertaining, I won't argue that. The book is definitely a classic and I would surely recommend it as a good, short read (as I mentioned before). However, the movie absolutely captured my heart. The relationship between the robot and the boy, and the realization that a machine could “love” is a theme that I have grown up with and I loved it, but the book and the movie were shockingly different, and I just haaad to blog about it.

This is my first blog, I don't know how to end it.

The End.

Shadow Dove

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Hero's Journey in Stories

By Cortnie Gurno

I love movies. The movies I enjoy most are action and adventure. However I like historical movies as well. Movies that use action and adventure to bring a story to life is a great interpretation of that historical event. An example would be the Trojan War and Odysseus and his journey.

I was always intrigued by Greek mythology so studying Odysseus and his journey brought my back to that time. You could never go wrong with Ancient Greece. It is such a beautiful time full of beautiful architecture and stories of Gods, Goddesses and Monsters.

This class is perfect to explore the realms of books and movies. I found that some of my favorite movies were based on books. I am reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which is a great movie but also a great children’s book, one that I never took the time to read. The character of Dorothy is one I feel young women can connect to. Digging deep into her story also lead me to another brave young girl named Alice. Alice in Wonderland is a story of pure imagination and creativity. Both of these stories are well known and popular movies that came from the pages of books. Both characters are heroes in their own journey to find themselves and who they are.

Exploring the model of the Hero’s Journey exposed how many classic stories and tales follow this model. After learning more about the Hero’s Journey I believe this is the key to a successful storyline

Friday, April 4, 2014

Cultural Referencing with the Simpsons, D'Oh!

By Nikki Cain

Every Halloween, since 1990, The Simpson's television show has regaled fans with new tales in The Tree House of Horror series. There are now twenty-five episodes of fantastically freaky fun in this series. Each episode is brimming with intertexuality references. The first episode, The Tree House of Horror 1, contains no less than twenty references to movies and books, if not more. The series was originally inspired by EC Comics Horror Tales. There are three segments or stories in each episode which always parody popular and classic literature, movies, radio, and television shows. With twenty-five Tree House of Horror episodes, The Simpsons have touched upon subjects and themes concerning every thing spooky often overlaying plot lines from a variety of sources.

In the debut episode, during a segment called Bad Dream House, the Simpson family finds that their house is trying to possess their souls in order to convince each family member to murder one another. The segment uses themes from The Shinning, Ghost Busters, The Exorcist, Amityville Horror, Poltergeist, Psycho, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Addams Family. In a funny plot twist, the house kills it's self rather than continue to try and convince the family to do each other in.

In the segment called The Raven, a satire of Edger Allan Poe's poem, a grief stricken Homer is plagued by a bat like Bart. This segment appears in the first Tree House of Horror episode. Not only is The Raven referenced but so is The Cask of Amontillado, The Pit and The Pendulum, The Tell Tale Heart, and The Purloined Letter. Edgar Allan Poe's poem is only slightly changed in it's wording so the viewer gets a close rendition of the original Raven. Poe's bust appears in the scene as well as the bust of Peter Lorre who stars in Tales of Terror which was inspired by Poe's writings.

The Simpsons are a wealth of intertexuality. Anyone craving a healthy dose of popular cultural education needs only watch The Simpsons to be fulfilled. The episodes are full of written as well as visual references that create richer, deeper jokes for the audience to enjoy. Reference layering is the joy of intertexuality; it creates an enriched experience for the media consumer by representing ideas and themes and creating fresh interpretations. The Tree House of Horror series as well as the rest of The Simpsons episodes, offer a rich assortment of intertexuality and parody from a wide breadth of sources. Watching one episode will remind the viewer of countless plot lines, characters, and themes from popular culture. With twenty-five full and irreverent seasons to enjoy, viewers can get a full sense of classic and popular themes in literature as well as a good laugh.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Heroic Youth in Peril

By Hallie Taylor

Growing up, I read a lot of things. From science fiction to historical classics, I always had a book in my hand. It seems contradictory that I would start to read young adult novels once I became an adult, but that's how it happened. As a child, I mostly read “grown-up” books, and as an adult, I mostly read young adult books. There is something fetching in these tales of young love, heroes and heroines triumphing over evil and bonding over personal struggles. They draw me in and catch my attention, but at the same time, I'm constantly running into a personal struggle of my own: what is the fantasy these books are providing for the readers?

What does living in the myriad worlds of these novels say about the readers? It seems to me that a reader of young adult fiction is living within a specific kind of fantasy world. From the vampire fantasy of Twilight, to the dystopian tragedies of the Divergent and The Hunger Games series, an avid reader of young adult fiction is constantly consuming what almost all young adult genre books have in common: young love and young violence. All of these books, invariably, include a romance of some sort between two teenage protagonists, who, throughout the course of the novel, engage in multiple battles with their perceived enemy. In our culture, I've heard it said that we have a fixation with youth: reading young adult novels transports the readers to a fantasy land, where the characters remain forever young, forever triumphant, and forever in love.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Heroes Among Us

By Renee Lynda Martinez

I suppose that a hero lies in the eyes of the beholder. I started writing a novel almost 10 years ago and the main character is a vampire who takes the lives of only murderers, rapists, child molesters and animal abusers. I created her from my idea of what a hero would be like. The type of heroine that I would be. This is quite a far cry from the days of my childhood, when I wanted to be Wonder Woman.

As I grew up and grew older, I still had my fantasies of what a hero would be like but the black and white slowly bled into each other and I found that there is a beautiful shade of gun-metal gray that appeals to my senses.

My idea of a hero/heroine is not one, solely, of a super-human dressed in tights, a cape, body armor or who possesses super-human strength or powers - although, that aspect is appealing when presented creatively. I now see heroes who look like everyday people… like you and like me. I see Harvey Milk, a tall, gangly, middle-aged Jewish guy from New York who stood up for the most basic of Human Rights and was murdered in cold blood because of it. His body died but his legacy goes on. I see Malala Yousafzai, a 16 year-old Pakistani girl who also stood up for the most basic of Human Rights and, who was nearly assassinated because of her convictions. She is a living miracle and her legacy has only begun. In both of them, I see the hero that I wish to become. I see that I don’t have to be Wonder Woman or the vampire who exterminates the scum of the earth in order to be someone’s hero. I simply have to speak up for someone who may feel oppressed and inspire others to do the same.

I wear no letter “S” upon my chest but my heart carries the strength of that symbol. I have no Lasso of Truth to use on others… I only use it to speak my truth. My weapons consist of my words, my actions and my intent. When I grow up, I want to be just like Harvey Milk and Malala Yousafzai. I want to be a real Hero.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I Will Meet You on the Hero's Journey

By Brenda Bauer

Sitting in a coffee shop, I watch people. It is a favorite pastime of mine. There are coffee shops that I avoid because they have become internet cafes. I like people and when I step into a coffee shop filled with people that have only the awareness of the screen in front of them I am left feeling alone and disconnected, but they have a story too. I wonder why they go out into the world and then not take a part in it. The stage for people watching is not isolated to coffee shops.

My voyeurism has an element of storytelling. I tell myself the story. Taos, New Mexico is a perfect setting for this pastime. There is a rich diversity of people here that fires my imagination. In the laundromat one day a beautiful woman came in dressed in old but well designed clothes. She stepped into the middle of the rows of washers and dryers and began to sing in a clear lovely voice a sad sweet ballad. Immediately I began to tell myself her story. What had prompted her to break out in song in this unusual setting? What did her journey look like? I tell myself the story of what barriers she had to face and what battles she had had to fight. What choices had she made to bring her to this town , to this state of being, to this laundromat? I tell myself the story of her sadness, her humor, her brokenness and her laughter.

I believe that we are all on hero's journeys and in telling myself the story of others' journeys I no longer feel alone in my own. So my people watching is not just about observation. It is about connection with the whole of humanity.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Obstacles in a Hero's Journey

By Eliana Lerman
What Makes a Hero
A person or fictional character is not considered a “hero” unless they go on a hero’s journey. One can not simply go from point A to point B with no obstacles and retrieve the “treasure” and still gain the same recognition as someone else who faced multiple obstacles and maybe even death, before they successfully completed their journey and returned with the prize. A hero can be a real world hero such as Martin Luther King, or a fictional hero such as Superman. Though the two are vastly different, both types of heroes go through similar stages in their journeys.

Obstacles, Threshold Guardians, and Archetypes
There are often many different people or events that stand in the way of the hero from reaching the goal or treasure. Based on Vogler’s version of the Hero’s Journey, Archetypes are recurring patterns of human behavior, symbolized by standard types of characters in movies and stories. Although there are allies and mentors, the shadows, threshold guardians, tricksters, and shapeshifters tend to be more involved with the hero. The mentors give advice and then tend to disinvolve themselves from the hero’s actual journey. Allies are normally on the outskirts of the journey, fighting whatever other threats they can to protect the hero. On the other hand, the “bad guys” are constantly trying to stop the hero from completing his or her journey, and creating obstacles to do so. Without the obstacles that prevent the hero from an otherwise pleasant and easy journey, the hero would not be considered entirely heroic or brave.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Vehicle for the Hero's Journey

We just passed the midway point of the semester in the Hero's Journey class I teach, and what a journey it's been so far.  I have a full class of 20 students, and they've all chosen interesting topics to write their research papers about.  Some of them are using the Hero's Journey model to analyze books and/or movies, and some of them are focusing more on analyzing certain types of hero roles, such as anti-heroes and culture heroes.

One of the assignments I've given my students is to write a brief reflection that in some way relates to the hero's journey stages and/or roles, and/or to intertextuality, and over the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting those.  I would love it, Internet, if some of you out there would respond to these posts.  Why?  Well, because for many if not most of my students, this will be their first published writing, and it would be great for them to get public feedback.

But even more importantly, the Hero's Journey model, because it allows us to see how narrative influences life, can be used as a way of understanding and directing change.  And in the words of author Terry Tempest Williams, "Conversation is the vehicle for change."  So I hope you'll accept this invitation to join us on this journey and jump right into the DeLorean conversation!

Friday, February 7, 2014

What is a Hero?

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Rev. Veasey in Cold Mountain.
(NOT a particularly heroic character.)
Strange and melancholy timing that we
started watching this movie in class this week.
This past week there have been many people on the Internet writing about the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman; at the same time, the other big celebrity story has been about Woody Allen getting the Lifetime Achievement award at the Oscars and possibly having molested his adopted daughter when she was a child.

I don't want to dwell or speculate on the details of either story, but what they have both brought to mind for me are questions about celebrity and heroism.  Our culture seems to have a tendency to confuse the two, otherwise we might not be so shocked when we discover that celebrities are often deeply flawed human beings.

So I'd like to look at the definition of the word "hero."  For the purpose of this post I'm offering two distinct definitions (and both are open for debate):
  1. someone with heroic qualities such as courage or honor or altruism, who has demonstrated those qualities through heroic acts that others have benefited from.
  2. the principal character in a story.
Clearly these are very different definitions.  It is the first that comes into question for me when considering the lives of Hoffman and Allen.  These men are not heroes by this definition simply because they are celebrities, nor even because of their talent.  Have these men done heroic things?  If so, have they done "enough" of them to earn them the label of "hero"?  Does death through drug overdose automatically disqualify someone from having been a hero?  Can someone who has molested a child ever be considered a hero?  Why or why not?  Can someone be a hero in some ways and not in others?  Can a villain be redeemed and become a hero? If so, how? Who decides?  

We all have people we hold as heroes in some way; what is it about them that makes them heroes for us?  And how do we react if we see them display less than heroic or even villainous qualities?  

I also want to touch on the second definition of "hero."  From that perspective, everyone is the hero of his or her own story, his or her own "hero's journey."  And yet, to complete the hero's journey cycle as described by Joseph Campbell, the hero has to overcome his or her villainous urges or tendencies and perform some deed(s) that line up with the first definition of "hero."    

Do you see yourself as such a hero?  

To me, it is a heroic act to explore questions like these, beyond the knee-jerk black-and-white responses that might first arise.  Even if we don't come to comfortable, clear-cut answers.  If you have any thoughts on this topic that you'd like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments below.