Thursday, January 22, 2009

Live or Die?

We have these group projects each day in my Communications class. The teacher will read the scenario (a list with choices like, "Would you rather have a husband who is a)deceptive, b)jealous, or c)boring," for example). We are to answer them individually, and then get together in a group of 6 classmates and then either discuss our answers, or in some cases, come to a consensus.

Last week we were given a scenario that went something like this:

"Terrorists have taken over a plane with eight passengers, which they are holding hostage. They have agreed to release four of them in exchange for being allowed to land and refuel. The other four will surely die. The President has placed you on the committee that is to decide which four will be released. (I'm really, really giving you the bare bones of the scenario here, but you get the idea.)

The eight passengers are:
1. Brenda Jones, 27, a single mother of three young children.

2. Father John O'Brien, 65, a single priest, no children or family, but does work with inner-city youth.

3. Jan Perkins, 37, widowed, no children, Senator, likely candidate to be first female president. Fights for women's and minority's rights.

4. Andrea Ohms, 19, gifted student, very accomplished pianist, just got engaged to be married.

5. Juan Garcia, 45, father of two, financially independent. Family would be well-taken care of. Has serious heart condition and may not survive stress of hostage situation. Runs a business that employs Hispanics, which would probably collapse without his leadership.

6. Betsy Bates, 23, model, married to a rock star, pregnant.

7. D. B. Calhoun, 54, single, no children, hateful bigot.

8. Elijah Brown, 39, served time for armed robbery, now married and has two children that he is the provider for.

Okay, so we had to rank the eight according to our opinion, and then we had to come to a consensus in our group of which four would survive.

It was hopelessly frustrating and fruitless.

Obviously, I am in my thirties, married, and a mother. I am also Caucasian, and have been in middle-class America my entire life, and my family has lived in this country for many generations.

My group was made up of teens and early twenties, Asian, Hispanic, African-American, and other nationalities, most new to this country within the last ten years, and some living in, or affiliated with, unfortunate areas of the Los Angeles area, along with its problems. A different generation, to be sure.

They wanted to save Juan Garcia first, because he employs Hispanics and the economy is bad.

"But, he's 45 with a serious heart condition. His days are numbered," I said. "And he's loaded. His family will be fine." But they hear their parents talking about job security, so I sympathize.

Then they wanted to save the Senator, Jan Perkins. Because she might be the first female President.

"But, she might not be," I said.

"But she influences the largest number of people and she fights for women's rights and minorities," they countered.

"Well, George W. Bush is President (this was last week, and I knew this was a democratic group), so what if it was him? Should we save him? Or not, because you don't agree with his politics?"

"Ummmmm. . ."

"How do you know you like what Jan Perkins stands for? She doesn't even have any children, shouldn't we save a mother?"

"But a mother just has her kids, Jan Perkins influences the whole country."

"So the government is more influential than a mother?"

"Well, when you put it that way."

Okay, so they wanted to save Father O'Brien. Because he works with inner-city youth.

"Well, he wouldn't have to if the mothers were there doing their jobs! Father O'Brien, bless his heart, is 65 years old! He's on his way out! Can we save the pregnant woman? That's like two people!"

"She has mixed feelings about her pregnancy."

"So did I. Four times. Wait till she looks her child in the eyes."

I tried, "Okay, we have to save Andrea. She's only 19, for goodness' sake, and she shows so much promise!"

"She's just one person," they said.

"She's your age! She has her whole life ahead of her! And she's getting married!"

No takers. Not one of the mothers or women, except for the might-be President made it into the top four. I even looked to the other females in the group:

"Really? You're okay with telling three little kids that you didn't choose their mom?"

They weren't even sympathetic. (Their poor mothers, or their damned mothers, one of the two)

In the end, tried as I might, with all the fervor and passion I could muster, the mothers were all going down. I wanted to save Elijah Brown too. He'd paid his debt, his family relied on him. And Andrea, well, she had too much promise to go down with the flight. They wanted to save the cardiac case and the senior citizen.

I never ever want to be on a real-life committee like this! How do you choose who lives and who dies? And why were all the mothers just brushed over, like they were just mothers? Didn't these people see Titanic? Women and children!

The value of mothering is being forgotten. It kind of broke my heart as I left class that day. I didn't take it personally, but it was a reflection on our nation's values as a whole. A mother's influence is unending! I know that. I am not raising children, I am cultivating generations. But, had I been on that plane, I'd be going down so government could have a key player with no attachments. Kind of sad to me.

Today, however, when I got to class, one of my group members, a 21 year old Asian boy, in his broken English, said to me, "I was thinking about what you said all weekend, about the hostage story?"

"Yeah?" I probed.

"Maybe I was wrong. Maybe we should save the mothers."

Wouldn't his be proud?


Stephanie Humphreys said...

That's really sad. As I read through the list, I saved the same people you did. Makes you wonder what kind of mothers those kids had.

Megan said...

Wow. I'm sad and angered all at once. Save the moms and save society (We're the original cheerleaders!). Hopefully, that one guy called his mom over the weekend... Sheesh! :)

templework said...

When I read it in high school - by reaction pretty much - 'yuck' unbelievable.

My reaction is still 'yuck' or "YUCK"...
but There have been a number of incidents lately that have triggered this association...

"Brave New World is Huxley's most famous novel.
The ironic title ultimately derives from Miranda's speech in Shakespeare's The Tempest, Act V, Scene I:

"O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is!
O brave new world!
That has such people in't!"

However, a derivation not only more recent but more appropriate occurs in Rudyard Kipling's 1919 poem The Gods of the Copybook Headings:

"And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
"When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins ..."

I feel like I have witnessed the unbelievable coming to pass...

Sarah said...

Very sad! I, like Stephanie, picked the same people you did as I read through their descriptions. And yes, it definitely makes you wonder what kind of mothers those kids have/had.

But the end of the story when that boy came up to you and felt the need to inform you that he'd had a change of heart, that he'd been thinking about it all weekend? That got me all choked up...for whatever reason. And like Megan said, I also hope he called his mom and thanked her for her role. What mother wouldn't want to hear that?

I hope you have a wonderul weekend, Jenna!

Anonymous said...

Wow. I would be royally ticked off. I'm glad that young man changed his mind at least.

Wonder Woman said...

I have a tear in my eye. I would save the same people you did. The young, the mothers, those with families. Because that's me.

Josi said...

Oh my gosh. I finished reading the names and it was a no brainer to me--save the moms. I guess I'm too much in my own bubble to realize that other people value a job over the woman that made them who they are. So sad. I devalue myself enough, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for having the sense to save the moms. Thanks for being the mom that you are

Annette Lyon said...

Oh, man, that experience makes me sad. I wonder if there were a Titanic-type situation today whether "women and children first" would hold. I'm thinking not.

You made an impact on that one guy. Way to go.

Blessed said...

Well I'd be saving the mother's, the young lady with so much promise, the man whose family depended on him... just like you.

This is a sad commentary on what our world is coming too. However, I was really encouraged that at least one of the young people had a change of heart!

Oh and I hate committees too... I'd rather just make the decisions :)