Program in American StudiesWestern Social Science

Speaking Out

Robyn Schwarz-Pimer in DC

Robyn Schwarz (MA 2013) and friend Alex at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC.

Commentaries contributed by American Studies Graduate Students.

Welcome to Speaking Out; a new electronic publication consisting of commentaries written by our students in the MA Program in American Studies. These commentaries will focus on a wide range of political, cultural, and historical issues that should be of interest to fellow academics, policy makers, journalists, and members of the attentive public. This site is intended not only as a forum for the discussion of ideas, but as a vehicle through which you, the reader, can engage in thoughtful and provocative discussions.

Constitutional Reasons to Support Gay Marriage in the United States

By Jacob Skinner, MA in American Cultural Studies 2012 (April 2, 2013)

The Supreme Court has taken up the question of gay marriage; something that has come as a response to the 2008 Proposition 8 controversy which stopped gay marriages from happening in California.  There are some questions regarding the timing of this case:   has enough time passed since the legalization of gay marriage in several states to know enough about its costs and benefits?  How are the children raised by gay couples affected?  What is the rate of divorce for gay marriages?  How important is the absence of traditional procreation in gay marriages?  Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. pointed out the difficulty in assessing something that is “newer than cell phones and/or the internet” (Barnes & Morello, 2013).  Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wondered whether it was too soon to take up the question: “We have five years of information to pose against two thousand years of history” (Barnes & Morello, 2013).  The case, which will be known in the history books as Hollingsworth v. Perry, will determine whether gay marriage is constitutional or not; and it is the aim of this article to look at the constitutional reasons the Supreme Court may use to uphold gay marriage. Read whole article.         

Mitt Romney-Five Reasons for a Lack of Enthusiasm

 By Jacob Skinner, MA Student, American Cultural Studies (March 12, 2012)

Is there a lack of enthusiasm for this year’s group of GOP candidates?  If voter turnout is any indication of enthusiasm then maybe there is.  On 5 March 2012, CNN reported that voter turnout in this year’s Republican primary is down by nine percent over 2008.[1]  Many fault Mitt Romney because his candidacy has failed to coalesce a strong following, and some also blame him for being a bore.  Another reason for a lack of enthusiasm is the negative effects of a supposed long primary; although, to counter this claim, it is worth remembering that George H.W. Bush did not drop out of the 1980 primary race against leading candidate Ronald Reagan until May.[2]  Whatever the reason for a lack of enthusiasm, this article examines five reasons why voters may feel less than enthused about 2012 GOP front-runner Mitt Romney. Read whole article.

Responsible Foreign Policy: The Questions that Frame the Debate

By Laura McGee, MA Student, Canadian-American Relations (January 24, 2011)

In 2005, Prime Minister Paul Martin declared that Canada would not participate in the American-initiated Ballistic Missile Defense program (BMD).  Rather than publicly questioning the effectiveness of the program, Martin used the familiar rhetoric of anti-Americanism to appeal to a largely uninformed public.   “[The Americans] were told we would not participate,” he stated. “It is a firm no.”[1]  Martin’s position invoked the image of a small actor taking a stand against an aggressive neighbour, a portrait that appealed to fellow opponents of BMD in both politics and academia.  The missile defense program, a relic of American imperialism, would challenge a cherished conception of Canada as a middle-powering, peacekeeping nation dedicated to disarmament and anti-aggression.  Martin’s “firm no” acted as a proverbial chest-thump as the belittled Canadians stood their ground. Read whole article.

November Again

By Miles Hopper, MA Student, American Cultural Studies (October 14, 2010)

November has not been a kind time of year to Democrats when one of their own is in the White House. It was former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and the ‘contract with America’ that lead a Republican surge in the 1994 mid-term elections and created a stalemate between the Republican controlled congress and Democrats in the White House. Now in 2010 as the White House is once again in the hands of a Democratic president another uprising in the Republican party is storming Congress, this time it is the Tea Party movement. Read whole article.