Saturday, July 25, 2015

Sandra Bland's Message

   Listen to Sandra Bland's message, because she's voicing a message that is obviously not sinking into our social fabric.  I'm still not over Trayvon Martin's death, because all of the evidence surrounding Trayvon's death, to me, seemed painfully obvious that Trayvon did nothing to instigate any sort of attack, let alone his own death.  We forget these deaths as a society so easily.  What ever happened to Kendrick Johnson, for example, the young teen found dead in a rolled up gym mat under suspicious circumstances?  I see an underlying theme to these cases, and I think a good number of people really misunderstand what some of the primary issues are.  Of course, social advocates such as Sandra Bland do an excellent job at attempting to clarify them, people become uncomfortable, defensive, and fidgety with a subject we all need to address with completely open minds.

This Isn't Just About White People Hurting Black People

   One of the common sentiments I see people bleating redundantly in response to these pleas for justice is, "Well, more white people, statistically are victims of crime by black people than the reverse," or, I hear people bleating, "What about XYZ case where a black man shot and killed a white man.  How come that wasn't in the news?"  Okay, so firstly, making a competition about which group of people is more dangerous is, well, dangerous to society, but these arguments are missing the point. In every case someone attempted to refute the #blacklivesmatter movement by posting about a black person killing a white person, I've found that the perpetrator was swiftly incarcerated and the victim was swiftly vindicated.  I keep thinking about Trayvon Martin because this was a young man who walked nearly a mile to the store and ended up dead, with no weapons on him, within 50 feet of his apartment.  The police tested him, the victim, for drugs, and soon afterward, his every deed as a teen was unearthed as to criminalize him.  The majority of the public defaulted to automatically criminalizing Trayvon.  Many people didn't even scratch their heads even once at the possibility that Trayvon wasn't a hardened criminal.  So we come to a weird catch-22 about the justice for black victims:

Statistics about Black Crime Perpetuate Unreasonable and Societally Dangerous Stereotypes

     Take Sandra Bland, for example.  I get that Sandra Bland was irritated and that the best advice for people stopped by officers is to comply and be as respectful as possible, but I'm sure you can converse with a lot of decent police officers who can attest to the vast array of annoyed individuals who attempt to argue their way out of traffic tickets, who sometimes use profanity, or who sometimes throw mini temper-tantrums at the idea of a ticket.  Police generally don't force them out of the car on that reason alone (unless they are confrontational to the point that seems unsafe).  In fact, Sandra Bland didn't even use profanity when the officer asked her, "What's wrong."  She was brutally honest, and clearly irritated.  Her situation was clearly escalated by the police officer who arrested her, but she was in a jail cell alone for a traffic violation.  This woman was being charged with an assault on a public officer:  a felony.  A felony takes a person's right to vote from them.  A felony makes it difficult for a person to get, keep, and maintain adequate employment.  A felony is a major festering wound on a person's record.  This officer attempted to royally interfere with Sandra's ability to be successful in life with this charge, and remember, she was supposedly not under arrest until he was already apprehending her, which is certainly a confusing catch-22 in our justice system, isn't it?

    So, Sandra Bland would be (and is) another blip in the crime statistics vault on the dangerous crimes of black people.  The most profound thought nugget coming from this is that when someone posts one of those statistical info graphics about how criminal black folks are, consider the fact that maybe, just maybe, a good number of them are being provoked and charged with crimes which are incredibly unreasonable, and so, that only adds to the invisible racist undertone of people's minds. Truly, a considerable number of black people being accused of crimes are actually the victims themselves.   Judges see assertive black women as rebels and criminals and young black men as thugs or gang members without really considering the human context of the individual.  Obviously the public is quick to criminalize black victims, as we see in the Trayvon Martin Case.

     There is something to these movements and demonstrations.  We can't continue minimizing these acts and cries for societal change.  We have to acknowledge these issues and admit it:  something is seriously wrong.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Bernie Sanders and the Socialist Issue

 What a great way to break the blogging hiatus by cracking the socialism code and discussing Bernie Sanders.  Years ago a cool libertarian debater almost broke my core with facts, cool rebuttals and sincere debate.  Since then, I've described myself as politically bi-polar, ebbing and flowing between the political ideology of Libertarianism and Socialism.  Now that Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist is garnering a lot of attention (at least on the Internet), I can freely talk about socialism without fear of cultural persecution.

One of the debate jabs my Libertarian friend of yesteryear used (it was a Navy shipmate, that's why I don't interact with this person any more), was that the idealism of socialism was one of hyper-idealism.  He thought liberals and socialists had a super-idealistic view of the world and humanity, but that thought plagued me, because I believed then and still do believe that the same argument could be made for libertarians.  Without much regulation and with the government out of our infrastructure, schools, and any facet of our lives, would we be putting a lot of faith in ourselves and others to self-regulate?

I feel as though we teeter on a balance between asking the wealthy to be in charge of us or asking the government to be in charge of us.  For that reason, our economy and nation depends on a balance between conservatism and liberalism.  We need to execute both ideologies during the right times and with as little corruption as possible.  A purely capitalistic approach is feasible, but we'd have to accept and address the fact that our great nation has blundered.  It's still a relatively new nation, so perfection is not necessary.  We can't close our eyes to the fact that we have created great inequality in our nation, and until we address it, we can't set our citizens into the fight for prosperity without the necessary opportunities to achieve it.  To be blind to our past mistakes while proclaiming to be the best nation is to be narcissistic, and such a mind-set will squash our progress and growth.  We set ourselves up for failure.

Socialism has become a bad word, yet we've had socialistic policies for ages. Much of the conservative to liberal dialogue evolves from the fact that we don't have equal socialistic opportunities, and because of that, our social safety nets have become stifling:  food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Earned Income Credit.  Without great access to education, parental leave, decent starting wages, and medical care, the lowest income people are getting the bulk of the entitlement dollars without a great deal of means to elevate themselves out of those situations.  So we have socialism, but the socialism we have creates a great deal of stress and anxiety, because hard working people cannot gain access to health care or education, yet they often make just a little too much money to get the help afforded to the lowest income people.  So then we become divided, hyperbolizing the stereotypes of the poor as primarily a lazy, addicted, unmotivated lot.

While Bernie Sanders, an open socialist, models much of his political ideology on the social structures in Europe, if he becomes president, our economy will not change significantly due to the checks and balances of our nation.  He will preside over a much more progressive agenda, though.  He would work toward a more efficient socialism, especially because he aims to dismantle the corruption which stitches our government to the elite.  Whether we aim to be a more social economy or a more libertarian economy, we must attack corruption and lopsided power.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

What Tootsie the Cat and My Mom Taught Me

Today my husband trailed off with a couple of neighbors to transport a queen sized mattress we gave them.  It's an old mattress, but it's better than the one they have.  These neighbors are decent folks who had a bit of a neighborhood rumor path to clear before we got to know them a little better.  They've been through some rough times in their lives, and they currently live a pretty interesting woodsy life which may make them seem a little riff-raffy.  We live in the country too, so it's easy to hear a few wild things about folks (and  know that some of them are actually true).  It's so country here, that we now have a new cat because of this neighbor.  This neighbor guy was paid $20 to kill a cat.  The neighbor didn't have the heart to do it, so he freed this cat in our yard. Thanks neighbor, by the way.  Speaking of cats and the trust level of humans, this neighbor reminds me of a pre-lesson I got from my mom and a cat named Tootsie when I was about 8 or 9 years old.

Tootsie was a nice short-haired, silvery gray tabby cat who would sometimes lay on me or my mom while we watched television. She had a litter of kittens while in our care, and she was the first mommy cat I really got to know and love.  She was also a wee bit timid around people she didn't know.  The more the same people came to visit our place, the more Tootsie warmed up.  She wasn't a complete scaredy-cat.  She gave people a chance.  One day while sitting on the couch with my mom and Tootsie, my mom said, "Tootsie is a cautious cat, isn't she?  She's not overly cautious, though. That's a good way to be."  I remember agreeing with my mom, and we meandered into talking about humans.  My mom told me that it's important to be cautious but not to be completely aloof--that we give others a chance without opening ourselves up to danger.  I think that's the day I learned the meaning of the word "aloof," too, which might explain why I mentally picture cats when I hear that word.

Eventually, Tootsie took off and we couldn't find her.  My parents spotted her inflated body in the grass far off of the main road a few days after she disappeared.  Tootsie taught me my first lesson in grief too.

My neighbors reminded me of Tootsie, and Tootsie makes me think of humanity.  I have made mistakes in my past.  I've learned from them and grown from them.  I know that people are people. People mess up on occasion.  I have been lied to, stolen from, and generally mucked up by people I once thought were decent people.  I have also been given to, loved, and surprisingly understood by people I thought had the capacity to break a human spirit without a flutter of an eyelash.  There are no labels on humans.  People with bad reputations and messy countenances have, at times, shown me to be honest, decent folks.  Sometimes people like that live up to their reputations.  Kind looking people have looked me right in the eye to lie about things I just witnessed them do while others have more than lived up to the kindness they portray.  We aren't all good or all bad, and some are mostly good or mostly risky.  The one lesson in life I learned is that the saying, "You can't trust anyone," isn't fully true.  You can trust everyone so long as you exercise a little bit of caution.

This life can be rich and colorful when we take a few chances while keeping our hearts a little further up our sleeves with a few more safety pins than usual.  We can still keep our hearts there...just be a little more secure with them.  Be cautious but not overly aloof.  Sometimes we lose a little in investigating others who take up space in the realm of humanity.  The loss is sometimes worth it. Sometimes the return on investment is surprisingly generous in ways that can't be counted, weighed or measured.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Barbie vs. the Lammily Doll shared the good news of a new kind of doll that is supposed to upend the ill-will of Barbie.  In the Facebook comments to the post, there were a lot of negative Nellies protesting that Barbie isn't so bad and that this new doll promotes an unhealthy weight fetish.  Some men suggested the He-Man doll didn't disrupt young boy's personal self-esteem, and therefore, there was no need for this new kind of normal girl.

It's rather unsettling that most of these comment generators failed to recognize a very simple concept:  there's room for Barbie and the new girl.

Barbie isn't the villain.  She's a fantasy.  She's a fashionista with pretty hair, perfect make-up, perpetual smile, and pointed feet.  She's an object.  She's an object of imagination, idealism, creativity, and basic play-time, but right now, she's pretty much the only human teen that young girls and a few boys play with.  Without a pretty plain Jane to be a somebody in this realm of dolls, Barbie becomes the end-goal.  Being pretty, skinny, big breasted, and platinum blonde isn't all there is to be, but isn't terrible either.  It's a fringe benefit to being the cool person you are inside.  There are real life people who are more like Barbie than they are like this new brunette interloper, even if more people are like the brunette.  A person can be honest, hard-working, decent, talented and skilled AND be gorgeous as all get-out.  It's a benefit.  It's not the goal, though.

Barbie sort of suggests that her best strength is her beauty.  The girls make her a human with a human personality.  There's nothing wrong with that, but sliding in a normal looking doll into the market is no attack on Barbie or the Barbie-wannabes of our lifetime.  Since Barbie and dolls like here are the only ones at the party come game-time, the messaging can be subtle but strong that a certain kind of beautiful is the most important thing to be.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Women's Roles and my, Dare I Say it, Feminist Perspective

I haven't written a blog entry in a while, because sometimes what I say is politically, socially, and religiously, well, honest.  I was looking for work and I had wondered if a potential employer might stumble upon my blog and think of me as an overly opinionated time-bomb.  While I make an honest attempt not to throw dissenting points of view into a vortex of insults, I worry about what the peanut gallery will think of my brain-products.

That said, I just read a blog piece by Kacey Faulconer entitled, "Please Stop Asking Stay at Home Moms What They Do All Day When the Kids are at School."  The comments are saddening.  The blog piece was not at all about how hard stay at home moms work or how much more special they are compared to working moms. The piece was about the autonomy of time that women so often seek and feel pressured to excuse away.  The fact that the working moms felt insulted, that stay at home moms felt pressured to explain how hard they work in the comments section made me wonder why women are often seeking to explain every moment of free time they may or may not have.  Faulconer was not complaining about being a stay at home mom.  She was complaining about people expecting her time to be their time because they figured she did nothing of importance all day long.  The rebuttal to, "You have time," doesn't have to be, "No, I don't.  I'm busy."  I could very well be, "I do have time, but it's mine."  

One commenter, Jillian Deutsch Kaplan, commented that we don't ask what wealthy people do with their extra money or ask if they are donating it to charity, and therefore, asking a mom what she does with her free time is akin to asking wealthy people what they are doing with their money.  I disagree.  We do ask what rich people do with their money.  Especially when they're women.  When I was young, I remember the media storm that washed over our country called, Paris Hilton.  She wasn't rich from her own doing.  What exactly did she do with her wealth?  Why was she wasting her money on stupid attempts to make music?  Why couldn't she do something, you know, important with her time and money?  Those questions crept up in conversations, and I cannot lie at all.  I asked them.  I judged her too.  Paris Hilton had money and resources I could only dream of having.  She could look prettier because of her wealth.  She could start businesses as a hobby, and they would be successful businesses by sheer luck.  I couldn't do that.  She had a power I didn't have.  I thought that if I were her, I'd do it differently, and I neglected to see her as an individual human who makes life-choices that I will never know about.  Her time and money is hers, and as an individual, I have no reason to think she was any kind of person based on what I think she was doing with her resources.

What I saw writhing in the guilt of the stay-at-home mom world of Kacey was her discussion of PTA meetings, volunteer work, and ability or time to watch other people's kids.  Why are we women so hard on ourselves to prove we are giving ourselves to society?  If you don't have kids as a woman, the perception is one of selfishness.  If a woman has kids but works a highly demanding job, she's selfish.  If she stays home and doesn't work, she's lazy.  Oddly, we laud the women working two or three crap-jobs to "put food on the table" to raise her children "right," but goodness forbid she earn an MBA, work her way up into the business world and seek a six figure income.  Why is it more laudable for a woman to work three jobs for minimum wage to avoid going on public assistance, but we cringe a little at a woman whose career ambitions require we look up through the glass?  She has more control of her situation when she does that, and I hate to go all feminazi here (I hate that word too, by the way), but I'm starting to get the idea that people just can't stand to see women in control of their own lives.

We women can't stand it either, because we simply aren't validated.  Inherently, I find women to be rather supportive of each other in normal situations.  We do have each other's backs, but all too often, the stigma that women are catty and competitive rides our cultural heuristics like air.  When people are not validated, they get frustrated.  Women are not often supported when their life decisions don't mold to what's acceptable in our world, but it's not because their decisions aren't acceptable, it's because often, women are confined to categories and meet with a great deal of resistance to personal decisions that really don't affect anyone but themselves and the people who feel the women's time is owed to them.

On a final note, consider what commenter Tracy H. Terry said in her comment: "Sorry but I don't think you "deserve" to do whatever you want once your children are in school! Being a mom is hard but not working and having all your children in school is easier as a SAHM! "

So, we don't ever "deserve" free time.  At some level, doing "whatever" we want is something people just can't wrap their brainwaves around.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Rural Middle School Students

If you are a parent of a middle school student who lives 15 or more miles from his or her school (or if you have parented middle school students who have lived that distance from a middle school), please take this survey:  Rural Middle School Students.

This survey is completely anonymous, and the results are for student research purposes with the American Public University's school of health and public administration.  If you decide to take the survey, your answers will contribute to academic research, but the the research will not be published.

Thank you.

Rural Middle School Student Survey.