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Moriah Brown
Dr. Dahlman
Honors 201
22 February 2016
The Musings of a Semi-Ignorant American
I began my college career, in the fall of 2015, as a people-pleasing idealist. Not
surprisingly, being both of these things simultaneously can lead to a lot of tense relationships
with family and strangers alike. So why then did I choose to be a self-righteous hippy idealist
(title courtesy of a high school classmate with whom I shared a tense relationship)? Because to
me it seemed the largest injustice in the world to make decisions that influence others without
considering the consequences through their eyes. Thus, I became the verbally militant
feminist/activist of Scott County. Unfortunately, however wonderful my intentions were, I was
doing everyone that I fought for a major injustice myself by not understanding why their cultures
were worth fighting for. I innately understood that their way of life was important, but I never
took any time to appreciate why.
The idea of being a global citizen had never crossed my mind before joining the Honors
Program. I knew that I wanted to be a good person with as little problematic and ignorant
behavior as possible, but the whole idea of understanding other cultures for the sake of
embracing and appreciating them was new. In fact, my first instance of purposeful and
completely pure cultural appreciation did not happen until last week, the fifth week of class.
Rasheed and Muna were sharing how in Arabic when one says they had a really bad day, then
what they say in English would translate to something about the sadness of their mother. We
laughed about how absurd the translation seemed, but behind the translation I could see what

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they had meant when they said that Arabic is a poetic language. Initially this encounter did not
enchant me as it does now in hindsight, but rather it made me feel ashamed that I did not know a
second language; I felt as though I did not have a special and unique culture. After thinking about
it further I realize that this is not true even though it may feel that way at times. Because I am
constantly immersed in my culture, and my culture is considered the norm where I live, I do not
stop to think about the uniqueness of my culture.
I can recognize that my culture exists, but it is harder for me to pinpoint exactly what
constitutes my culture in my day to day life. I speak English, I am a college student, and I have
an affinity for cat paraphernalia; these things are all obvious. What is not so obvious to me is
what beliefs I hold and which thoughts I have on a daily basis are a direct result of my culture.
Do I view certain concepts differently because I think about them in English (Athanasopoulo,
2015)? Am I partial to liberalism because I am a college student, or because I come from a
liberal family (Gupta, 2009)? Or, perhaps, are my political views that result of the way my brain
works? Discerning between these things seem almost impossible to me at this point, but so did
recognizing the differences between the ASL sign for true and tell when I began taking
American Sign Language last fall. While I still struggle with telling the two signs apart, I can get
it right almost 75% of the time now. Maybe being able to recognize the effects of my culture on
my perceptions will come slowly but surely in just the same way as my sign recognition.
I am not hyper-aware of my own culture, but I am hyper-aware of deaf culture, which
amuses me thoroughly. My comprehension of American Sign Language is definitely lackluster,
and that is on a good day. However, whenever I attend deaf events or witness two deaf/hearingimpaired individuals sign to each other, I get childishly excited. American Sign Language is a
beautiful language because its like a never ending dance. There is a certain synergy involved in

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signing; two hands work together to paint a visual picture of what the speaker sees in their
minds eye, and they use their expressions to tell you everything you need to know about how
they feel about the picture they are painting. This emphasis on visual feeling has led me to
believe that deaf culture is one of the funnier cultures.
When a joke is signed to me I rarely understand it in its entirety until it is repeated a few
times, but I almost always laugh after the first or second time its signed. Theres something
about the way that fluent signers use their body to display the finer aspects of the story or joke
that makes the feeling one is supposed to feel completely evident. There is also something to be
said about the way deaf people approach being misunderstood on a daily basis. The stories they
tell of the interactions (that would be frustrating to most) they have with people and things that
arent deaf-friendly are hilarious. And there are new stories all the time because we live in a
location where most things are not particularly deaf-friendly; in fact, many things are almost
comically anti-deaf. Our university has a popular communication disorders major, but the deaf
professors who teach ASL cannot call tech support in the middle of class when their projector
stops working. I have had the wonderful opportunity of having two deaf ASL professors, and I
can say from experience that technology and adjunct faculty do not always agree with each other.
Thus there have been many hearing-student initiated calls to tech support. Because of all the
chaos and creative thinking necessary to sign, Ive fallen in love with American Sign Language
and our campus deaf culture. This may seem incredible because I cannot even speak the
language, but you only need to be able to see a visual language to fall in love with it.
My exposure to different cultures has been limited, and my attempts to understand them
even more so. However, my understanding of what benefits can come from appreciating other
cultures has increased tenfold. My appreciation for deaf culture no longer makes me feel like

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some sort of weird peeping Tom who observes without being a part of what takes place. I feel
now like I am a lucky student who has the opportunity to witness art on a daily basis, and is
slowly learning how to blend in with the moving artwork.

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Works Cited
Athanasopoulos, Panos. "How the Language You Speak Changes Your View of the World." The
Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 29 Apr. 2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2016.
Gupta, S.R. (2009). Beyond Borders: Leading in Today's Multicultural World In M. Moodian
(Ed.),Contemporary leadership and intercultural competence. SAGE Publications.