Posts tagged ‘Politics’

February 28, 2011

Deconstructing the American Dream

Image via Google

The American Dream is a term that is very common in American culture. Turn on the news on any given night and you might see a politician or three relying on it to drum up support for their policies. On the other hand, it has also been used as a way to attack opponents or political rivals. For example, Mitt Romney, a prominent Republican in an upcoming book accuses current President Barack Obama of trying to stifle the American Dream. He claims that the president’s policies will lead to the death of the dream. But what exactly does this mean? What is the American Dream?

According to Arnold Schwarzneggar, the former governor of California, the American dream is that “a once scrawny boy from Austria could grow up to become governor of California and stand in Madison Square Garden to speak on behalf of the president of the United States”. Yet David Abrahansen felt that “the American Dream is in part, responsible for a great deal of crime and violence because people feel that the country owes them not only a living but a good living.” Obviously, this simple phrase has taken on a complex meaning. However, for the man who coined the phrase, it’s meaning was much simpler.

In his book, The Epic of America, James Truslow Adams wrote that the American dream is a

dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.

Simply put, the American Dream was intended to mean equality and opportunity for all.

This idea that America is a land of opportunity often brings immigrants into the country. These people come with the hope that they can make something of themselves by taking advantage of the resources that are available. Instead, they find that this notion is just a dream.

Perhaps, it never existed the way that Adams pictured. For one, America is not a land of equality. Back when Mr. Adams was coming up with the phrase in 1931, Black Americans could not even vote. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the Civil Rights Movement helped secure that right. And even in the 1960s, the dream still didn’t exist. Martin Luther King Jr., the most prominent Civil Rights activist of that era had a dream that “one day, this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal'”. His use of “one day” implies that in those days, America had not risen to those heights.

That day never came in the 1960s and it still hasn’t come today. The American dream is a pipe dream. It doesn’t exist in the real world and the fact that it is pursued keeps the American public hostage. As Florence King once said; “people are so busy dreaming the American Dream, fantasizing about what they could be or have a right to be that they’re all asleep at the switch. Consequently, we are living in the Age of Human Error.”

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February 22, 2011

Change is inevitable

Recently, change has been on my mind. Not the change that Barack Obama promised, but something a lot more personal to each of us. There is the time worn cliche that; “change is a good thing” yet I find that most people are afraid of change. Why is that? I think it’s because change for us represents something new, an X-factor of some sorts, an unknown. And fear of the unknown is one of the more common fears out there.

However, change should not be an unknown. Change is a reality and is consistent and a constant. Almost nothing is permanent but we like to pretend that our favorite things are and we make our decisions accordingly. Let’s apply this to the recent financial meltdown. It has been blamed on greed and rightfully so, but it is much more than that. A majority of the population did not imagine a world where things could be different. Tragically, we believed that the economy would always boom but the truth is where there is a boom a bust soon follows. What goes up will eventually come down. Had we been cognizant of this lesson, I believe we might have acted differently.

The world is changing. Democracy is spreading in places where we traditionally believed that it was impossible. The most amazing thing is that it is happening without direct American influence. We didn’t invade Tunisia or Egypt to set up democracy. Instead, these people are choosing it for themselves. In turn, this is sending shock waves throughout Africa and the Middle East. It is also forcing countries in the West to re-evaluate their foreign policies.

This is of course an oversimplification of a much more complex situation but remains a valid point. We need to embrace change and include it in our planning. Relationships evolve, the Stock Market goes up and down, jobs are gained and lost, and above all opinions change. Approach life with an open mind, challenge your assumptions constantly and do not be afraid to stretch yourself. Change is inevitable, and that is a good thing.

February 17, 2011

Learning to Listen

xcd.com via Google

One of the best things you can do for anyone is to listen to them. By so doing, you are affirming them, confirming that they are alive and that they do exist. Think about it. Without a voice, you do not leave a mark or a dent. Our voices are the ripples that we make in the pond of humanity. And with no one listening, these ripples go unseen. Yet, we do not listen to others. Taking things a step further, we do not know how to listen. There is a lot of vitriol, angst and pain around the world today and I believe that what we need are more ears.

It begins by asking the right questions and then doing more than just hearing an answer. You see, listening is more than just hearing what someone has to say. Listening is active while hearing is passive. To hear what a person says, all you have to do is receive the sound waves out of their mouth. Listening on the other hand, involves dropping all of your preconceived notions and ideas, and engaging a person with the goal of understanding them. Dropping our own perceptions, notions and ideas is the hardest part. Every time we talk to people, their voice is distorted by the soundtrack we have playing in our heads. To listen we have to turn off our music or take off our headphones and then we can hear the speaker’s song. When we do this, then they feel like they exist and are understood.This is most important when the person doing the talking is underrepresented in society. These are the people whose voices are the faintest. To continue with the analogy of music, their songs are almost inaudible and we need to turn up the volume.

But the underrepresented are not the only ones that should be listened to. Everyone should be listened to. Questions like; “How do you feel about…….?” or “Why did you do what you did…..” are very powerful. They give the person a chance to respond and be heard. We don’t have to agree with them, consensus can almost never be reached, but compromise can be achieved and that is more than enough. For example, I was in favor of the Health Care Bill that President Barack Obama’s administration passed. To me it was a no brainer that we needed a way to stop “pre-existing conditions” from being a part of Health Care conditions. But then I heard a parent of one of my students talk about the issue. He was losing a lot of work because of the new law and his family was being negatively impacted. I listened to him, not so I could formulate a response but to understand his story. He didn’t exactly cause me to change my stance but he did force me to re-examine how I saw things. Now when I meet someone who is anti Obamacare, I don’t automatically get defensive. I just wonder where they are coming from because of my new understanding. I probably won’t ever reach a consensus with them but I can definitely strike a compromise.

The current protests in Tunisia, Egypt, etc., present a wonderful opportunity for those of us in the United States. The people there want to be free from tyranny and we can definitely relate to that. But we haven’t always done that. According to Nicholas Kristoff in this article, American Foreign Policy has always seemed to revolve around our own selfish interests. We’ve made alliances with dictators in exchange for stability in the Middle East. This has caused us to appear to be anti democracy in the region. It was also responsible for the current Administration’s hesitancy to jump into the fray during the protest in Egypt. However, we can learn from this experience by listening to the people. Some of the Egyptian demonstrators kept saying that they wanted “freedom like there was in America”. This is great news for American interests and I think the Egyptians will work with us as long as we allow them to direct their country’s future. People will always tell you what they want and sometimes what they need if you’re listening.

February 14, 2011

The World’s newest Country facing new problems

On January 9, 3.8 million Sudanese turned out to vote on a referendum. The issue at stake was the fate of the people to the South of the country. Much of the nation’s resources, with oil being king, is found in the South. In spite of this, the region has largely remained poor and underdeveloped as the government in the North diverted most of the benefits to their own ends.  In 2003, this friction between the Northern based administration and the Southerners boiled over into war in Darfur. This war has been very controversial with much of the casualty unclear and Human Rights Groups calling it a genocide.  It ended with a cease fire in 2010, about seven years after it had begun.

The aforementioned referendum was to determine whether Southern Sudan should secede from the rest of Sudan. According to the results, 99% of the voters were in favor of the South being its own country. Surprisingly, the Sudanese government accepted the results and Southern Sudan was born. However, the Global Post reports that this new nation is facing some health issues. Hopefully, the United Nations and the rest of the West can come to their aid.

August 24, 2010

At the mercy of the system

Glenn Beck

This man likes pie (Image via Wikipedia)

This morning, I went to court to take care of some traffic issues. I knew I was guilty and I pled the same, yet when my punishment was handed down, I felt like it was unfair. After all, I hadn’t meant to break the law so that had to be taken into account right? This got me thinking; what exactly do I deserve? And while we are at it, what do you deserve?

Glenn Beck’s answer; “I want all of my pie.” I can understand that philosophy. I mean it is his pie. I am sure though that Mrs. Beck probably taught little Glenn, just like my mother taught me, to share. No word on whether little Glenn yelled “socialist!!!” at her. Anyway, I digress.

I spent the first 15 years of my life in Africa. People there work just as hard for a lot less than we do here. A pie is definitely out of the question there. However, Africa is a world away. Here in the United States, there are lots of people who cannot catch a break. They work hard, they put in their time, what do they deserve?

According to the founding fathers, we all deserve “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Herein lies their genius. They created a system which although flawed, could be corrected from the inside out. It remains our place to keep the system honest, to challenge it and by challenging it to force it to grow. When nothing is done, we run the risk of having the system start to decay and come apart at the seams. Everything else is a privilege that we ought to be grateful for. Things like the running water, electricity, indoor plumbing etc. And when we remember to think this way, it’s easier to help others less fortunate than ourselves.Flash back to this morning. I thought about all the times I had broken other traffic laws and hadn’t gotten caught. I didn’t immediately drive over to the nearest Police station to turn myself in.  I thought about how lucky I was to even have a job and be able to pay for my car. I thought about all the people in the world who would kill to trade places with me. And I reached my hand into my pocket……

August 18, 2010

Things on my mind

1. “Combat troops” leave Iraq

Crossing the Iraqi desert


“Operation Iraqi Freedom” is officially over. President Barack Obama stuck to his timetable of August 31 and today, the last 14,000 U.S. combat forces crossed the Iraqi border into Kuwait. This effectively brings the 71/2 year war to an end. There are about 50,000 troops left in Iraq but their job description lists them as “advisors” and trainers for the Iraqi police and military. It is definitely a historic day but with the Iraqi democracy in shambles and sectarian violence always a threat, time will tell what is to come.

2. The flood disaster in Pakistan

An example of the devastation


“The flooding in Pakistan has been of epic proportions: 20 million people affected; more than 1,400 dead; 900,000 homes damaged; 3.5 million children at risk of waterborne diseases. More people have been affected than in the 2004 South Asia tsunami, the 2005 South Asia earthquake, and the Haiti earthquake combined” However, aid has been slow to come in despite the fact that the United Nations is asking donors and countries for half the aid that they asked for in Haiti. Please find an organization and donate to the efforts.

3. My friends helping in Chile

Temporary shelter in Chile


As recently as February, there was a massive earthquake in Chile. The amount of destruction caused by the 8.8 quake was tremendous. Yet, Chileans remain as warm and loving as ever. I have two friends who are currently in Chile doing what they can to help. One of them has agreed to write about her time in Chile. Keep coming back to be a part of the experience.

February 17, 2009

I am not political

I am spiritual, I am moral, I am social but political I am not. And there is a method to my madness. I am not here to claim that I refuse to vote. That part is my right as a moral American. What I am more interested in is how to change for the better on a social level.

I take that back. I suppose that I am political to a certain level. On the level that the vote can change things for the better, I am there. But the part about repping a party or relying on my congressman or congresswoman to make my life easier, I am not waiting. I see it as my place and my birthright to not just be about myself.

I believe that if we fixed our morals, then our politics will follow. The revolution I speak of is not one of war, but one of a change in understanding. Call it a “Moral coup d’etat” if you will. I dream that people will become empowered enough to seek the truth. I dream that people will constantly seek to be better as human beings and not to own more. That we will appreciate what we have more and as a result, give more. That we realize that the unemployment rate is not just a number but that they represent people. That we spend more time asking questions like “who are we” and “why are we here?” and less of “what is Britney Spears up to” and “is Alex Rodriguez with Madonna?”

Thus I laugh when people insinuate that I should be happy that Barack Obama is now the President because I am black. They act like my battle was one of politics all along. I am glad that Obama is president and all but that doesn’t fix our deeper issues. Like the one about all the homeless people, or the one about the poor who can’t have access to a decent education. Obama can’t even pay my bills for that matter. No my friends, I am happy when I talk to people and share my vision and the lightbulbs pop on in their head. When their eyes light up because they realize that their life can have purpose. That’s my life. That’s my fight and that fight may never ever be won.

May 1, 2008

Creating a straw man out of Reverend Wright

Much has been made out of the fact that Reverend Jeremiah Wright is Barack Obama’s ex pastor or current pastor. Who knows? Apparently your pastor isn’t allowed to have his own opinions if you are running for president since he might be a political liability.

Listen, I don’t agree with Reverend Wright or his opinions. But he has his right to express them. Its called a freedom of speech. It shouldn’t affect Obama’s qualifications to be president. Why is there such a double standard in this country? I am not going to go into George W. Bush’s history but suffice to say that he was friends with shadier men than Reverend Wright.

The issue here isn’t about Reverend Wright’s politics at all. Make no mistake about it, this is about Barack Obama’s candidacy. Obama has been hitting a note with a lot of people with his message of change and being a Washington outsider. He hasn’t been squeaky clean but none of the mud slinging has stuck so far. So what to do?

The old straw man tactic. The straw man argument is when a person can’t win a debate against you so they set up a weaker version of your stance and then try to attack it. In other words, they set up a straw man version of your argument and then attack the straw man. Reverend Wright has become Obama’s straw man. Of course, Obama’s opponents know that he doesn’t believe in the same ideas as Reverend Wright but maybe just maybe they can use him to create doubts about Obama. So far, they have been accomplishing just that.

Meanwhile, Reverend Wright isn’t helping the cause at all. He insists that he isn’t running for president. This is true so he should help Obama out by being quiet and staying low for now. But he refuses to stop. He seems to be enjoying the limelight. I have nothing against him but I just feel that he should help his friend and avoid controversy. For now.

January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King Day

Dr. King deserves all the respect and accolades that he gets. It definitely cannot be over emphasized. I like to wonder what things would be like if he were still alive. What he’d think of what we’d become since his time.

I am sure he would be proud of how far we have come and by we I mean America as a whole. There has been a lot of good work done. We live in harmony. There are opportunities to be had.

But he’d march on and continue the fight. I like to think that Dr. King was the kind of man who had a fire burning deep in his belly for better or for worse. I’d like to believe that he always stood for fairness, justice and equality. And that battle, my friends is yet to be won.

This article says it better than I can. Enjoy.

Happy MLK day.

January 11, 2008

And so it begins

It hasn’t been but a mere three days since the New Hampshire primary and well, there has been so much “drama” surrounding these events that my head threatens to explode trying to keep track.Then a close friend pointed me to this article. To follow along with what I am about to say, it would be helpful to read the article first.

The dilemma or the issue at hand is that Sen. Barack Obama lost New Hampshire after every poll had him leading Sen. Hillary Clinton by nearly ten points (Clinton ended up with the win). So were the polls wrong?

Note that this wasn’t the case with the Republican primary. Sen. John Mccain won with about the same margin that the polls had him leading with.

Andrew Kohut, President of the Pew Research Center and the author of the article claims that a possible explanation for this discrepancy is “the longstanding pattern of pre-election polls overstating support for black candidates among white voters, particularly white voters who are poor.” Kohut is making the argument (backed by personal research) that college educated white voters with higher socioeconomic status tend to participate in polls. These polls are then expanded as a representation of the entire population of white voters and in the case of New Hampshire, they were way off. The implication being that college educated white voters are open to voting for Obama while voters without a college education are less likely to do the same (the votes reflected this trend).

So here is the million dollar question; why won’t the aforementioned group vote for Obama? I have my answer but I am not going to push it on you. I want to hear yours.