Sunday, February 25, 2018

Watching Again as Lawmakers Do Nothing

In the politically charged atmosphere we have cultivated in the United States, there's barely any time to mourn. The time to mourn was yesterday--or years ago, when students were killed at Columbine, or Virginia Tech.

I've spent another week trying to process. Disbelief. Sadness. I've been watching as my roommate, studying to become a teacher, looks at the articles, videos, and town halls and tears up thinking about how her ideal profession has become more and more dangerous. I've read articles and seen tweets and thought about how different school would be if teachers were armed, or if schools were heavily guarded. I've cried and signed petitions and accepted an invitation to a March for Our Lives.

We all have a right to a basic education here in the United States, but we also all have a right to bear arms. In the last week we have been reminded that one of those rights seems to take precedence over the other. Accusations are being thrown across the country--that children don't have the knowledge or experience to be speaking in a situation like this. Conversely, that adults don't care and don't know how to do their jobs. Protecting people with guns seems to be more important than listening to the people who have had an active shooter in their school.

Then there are the numbers--showing that other nations with stricter gun control have fewer shootings like this, and the ones that show how much money different politicians receive from the National Rifle Association and various gun-supporting organizations. The problem is a complex one, yes--and I'm sure there's more to it than I understand. But I also know that we can do more. We can do more as a country to protect our children and our schools.

Gun control does not mean taking guns away from law-abiding citizens. It means putting restrictions in place like assault weapon bans, restrictions for people convicted of domestic abuse, and general background checks for people buying guns. Making it harder for people to get guns doesn't mean making it impossible. The amount of regulation in place to purchase a car or to get a license should be just as difficult as obtaining a gun. The common argument is that regulation won't do anything, because the people who want guns and people who want to bring a gun into a school will still find a way to get a gun. Just because a killer might be able to get their hands on a weapon if they want one, does that mean we shouldn't make it more difficult for them along the way?

The NRA just wants to keep making money--and will buy politicians just to keep doing that. There has been virtually no movement to writing and passing comprehensive gun control laws--and that is a tragedy. How many more school shootings need to happen before the nation realizes gun control could help prevent these tragedies? Will we have to wait until the children in Parkland, Florida grow up and run for office?

Monday, January 15, 2018


I am disappointed in the federal government of the United States of America.
Not that I've never been disappointed before.

I am disappointed in the population of Americans who continue to walk around with an elitist attitude about how "great" our country is while we disparage nations still developing that are not up to our standards of living.We need to do a better job of understanding our privilege while acknowledging that the privilege does not make us better than the people in another country in any way, shape, or form. The prevalence of racism here in the United States is one part of the problem. The other is the very denial of that racism. Thinking oneself is better than another because of skin color, religion, sexuality, or nation of origin is racist and the blatant ignorance of this fact causes me much grief.

Being a white woman, I do not have the firsthand experience that people of color and immigrants to the United States experience. But that does not mean I should be silent. The racially charged comments made by the acting President of the United States disgust me. They disgust my Muslim friends. They disgust my friends of color. This is not a matter of political policy and party agenda anymore, it is a matter of human decency. This isn't just about a Mexican border wall, or a Muslim ban, or the uproar surrounding kneeling at football games. It's about the attitude I see in interviews by people like President Trump, Tomi Lahren, and primarily conservative voices, where immigrants and refugees are looked down on.

A year ago at this time I was in Nicaragua on an immersion trip with a dozen other students, a Jesuit, and our guides for the trip. We visited people all over Managua and its surrounding area, to learn and immerse ourselves in the culture of Nicaragua. It was a breathtaking experience and one I will never forget. Yes, Nicaragua is not classified as a developed country, and there was a lot of poverty and corruption. The country of Nicaragua, however, does not give up. A woman living near the dump in Managua talked about how her community grew because people worked for the dump. She showed us her house that she opened up to sick people, learning how to treat malaria and other illnesses. She opened up her shop, full of handmade goods made by people who lived all over Nicaragua. She told us the story of how her neighbors fixed her house after the roof cracked in an Earthquake.

This woman glowed with pride when she talked about Nicaragua. The country's history is riddled with corruption and US intervention and lot's of other problems, but she did not want us to pity her. Her faith in God and her ability to welcome anyone with open arms was beautiful and inspiring. She loved everyone in her life and you could tell she was going to spend the rest of her life fighting for her friends and family to have a better quality of life.

She had something that I don't come across in the United States as often. She had compassion and faith unlike I had ever seen before. Even in her suffering. With all her accomplishments and the number of people she helped, she was humble.

The United States seems so much more focused on the corporate world: the stock market, unemployment, and 'getting rich.' Her ambitions were not to become a multi-millionaire, but to live in service of her community. This is not to say that every person in the United States or every person in Nicaragua has the same ambition, rather, that we come from different places; but, that does not make us better than another. Other developing nations like Haiti and Senegal have similar struggles and experiences that Nicaragua has with corruption, inequality, and illness. The people, however, are just as human and just as valuable as we Americans are. They do not some from "shithole countries" and letting them in does not make us worse off. They are more open than we are in that sense. Our focus on the corporate world may make immigrants from developing nations less experienced than other workers, but that does not make them any less valuable.

I am sick of the hate and discrimination surrounding people of color, immigrants, or anyone who does not fit the mold in the eyes of American society. The principles that this country were founded on have been forgotten. At one point, people came here seeking freedom from persecution--so now that we've become a developed nation do we no longer wish to be a nation of refuge for others seeking persecution?

On this day where we celebrate the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. we must remember more than just his "I Have A Dream" speech. His legacy is greater than the fight for desegregation. Dr. King once said, "Large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity." After the year we've had in the wake of electing Trump, I think this is still true. As long as we, as a nation, allow people like Trump to make racist comments without punishment, status quo will be maintained and justice will be forgotten. We need to shift the attitude to one where we consider our humanity over 'tranquility.' One where race, religion, gender, sexuality, and creed do not determine success or acceptance. One where people can actually be proud to be American, rather than disappointed.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Quote Today

  “When power becomes gracious and descends into the visible – such descent I call beauty. 
           And there is nobody from whom I want beauty as much as from you who are powerful: 
          let your kindness be your final self-conquest.  Of all evil I deem you capable:  therefore I want the good from you."  
                      (Nietzsche, Zarathustra II. 13)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Our Throw-Away Culture Infuriates Me

Planned obsolescence. It's the term referring to planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, so it will become obsolete after a certain period of time. This comes in the form of things that are meant to break, or things that look a particular style that will not be "in-style" for very long. Deliberately turning over the economy, this was created for industries to make more money. Wasteful.

Then there's all the stuff that's made to throw away after a single use. Coffee cups. Plastic water bottles. Paper bags you get when you order a bagel. If you stop by a coffee shop there's almost no avoiding it. It's easier to just get something you can toss after rather than bringing your cup and cleaning it out, blah blah blah. But in reality it is fairly easy to bring your reusable coffee cup. If you can afford to get a coffee every day, you can afford to buy a reusable cup to get your coffee in, saving you a few cents here or there (most coffee shops offer discounts if you use a reusable) and saving potentially hundreds of coffee cups from landfills. That's the other problem. Cups designed for hot liquids are not usually able to be recycled. So then you're stuck with this coffee cup that has to end up in a landfill because it won't compost and can't get recycled.

It infuriates me that people who clearly could use reusable items every day and help slow this throw-away culture don't; mostly because of laziness or lack of caring. What's just as bad is when you show up to the coffee shop, order coffee and hand them your reusable cup, but the other employee hears your order and automatically puts it in a disposable cup without even thinking. Now, it's not her fault that she automatically assumes she's going to put the order in a throw-away cup. The majority of people who order there do that. What's frustrating is that it isn't an automatic response to ask people where their reusable mug is. If we can't get people to care on the front end, what would happen if the employees started asking, "do you have a mug to put that in?"

In a society where the automatic response is to throw things away, how are we ever going to save the planet?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Unequal Schools

There's a community in Illinois, across the river from St. Louis, Missouri called East St. Louis. For years it has been a dumping ground for chemical companies like Monsanto. The city doesn't have the financial ability to re-do the systems that need re-doing and gets thrown to the wayside because the state of Illinois doesn't want to throw any more money into suck a poverty-stricken area, saying that the money is there--they just need to "help themselves."

As a result, sewage lines the streets and the ground is contaminated from chemical spills, sewage breaks, and trash that no longer gets collected because the city can't afford to keep up with trash collection. It's a dump. The schools that do exist in East St. Louis are terrible; they don't have enough school supplies, aren't funded enough to get an adequate number of teachers, and dropout rates are nearly at 50%. Conditions in the school and the community are deplorable, and this place exists in the United States today. Not a third world country.

I read about East St. Louis in Savage Inequalities, a book that talks about problems in the public education systems. Talking about the conditions in this place in class the other day, one of my fellow students said "This isn't a real place, right?" Wrong. This place exists. "Then it must be pretty old." Nope. Published in the early 2000's. When conditions in some place in our home country are so bad that you don't think they are real, there's something wrong. How do people not know these places exist? Better question: why aren't governments and charitable organizations paying attention to these small places that get pushed under the rug? The community is essentially stuck because they don't have the resources to do anything about their situation.

This acts as a reminder to me. Pay attention to the communities around you. Acknowledge the privilege you have and don't forget about your neighbors.

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Writer Told Me

A writer told me to think about being a writer 24/7. He said that keeping your eyes open, your ears open, and being present in every day is how you practice being a writer. He said that stories you hear every day have the potential to blossom into a novel. He said paying attention to how you react to things, how you speak, and how other people carry themselves gives you insight into your own world and the potential worlds of your characters.

A writer told me to write every day. To get stuck in a routine of writing for at least fifteen minutes between the craziness of essays and the challenges of college. He said that routine will make it easier when you are eventually working on a book for hours a day.

A writer told me to fall in love with reading all over again. He said that reading books that make you want to write are the kinds of books you should immerse yourself in. He said that stories will surprise you, make you want to be the writer you've always dreamed of being.

A writer told me that it's okay to hate yourself. It's okay to think you're a terrible writer. He said that there are good days and there are bad days but you need to be willing to work hard at something and not give up, and eventually you will find your novel, your story, your calling. He said that good things will happen if you let them; that good things will happen if you work hard.

A writer told me to listen. He said to listen to what my heart wants. He said to listen to the people around me. He said to listen to the stories I'm reading and hearing and he said to write those down. He said that inspiration is all over the place, that you just have to run with it. He said this won't be easy, that it hasn't been for him. But he said it would be worth it.

Be a writer 24/7.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Back to School

There's a weird sense of adulthood that has settled in with me over the past few weeks.

This year, being in an apartment, sort of separate from the rest of the school and all, I feel this weird sense that there's so much more riding on this year than just finishing school and getting to graduation. There's an aspect of problem-solving on my own and learning how to live with other people where you're not just sharing a sleeping and studying space, but you're sharing a kitchen and food and chores. It's nice to feel so independent and to be able to make choices on my own but it also feels a bit daunting to be approaching the end of the safety net that is college.

There are a lot of things that I probably take for granted. Having the packed schedule that I get from taking college courses and having a job and such forces me into routine. I still get help from my parents for a lot. I still go to band and spend time with friends, but things just feel a little different. Only having the year left leaves me with a looming feeling. Not walking down to the dining hall for dinner every night means I don't always have a big group of friends to sit with.

Here I go again, into my studies.