Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Short Things

Good News from Me:

1. Walking to work or the coffee shop if it's a mile or less away makes a huge difference in your mood.

2. Volunteering on a regular basis has introduced me to some amazing women and role models. I'm so happy I'm doing this, even if it's a crazy whirlwind of it all.

3. Belly dancing can make ANY woman feel sexy. I gave a performance with the lovely Al-Ahzar ladies at the UNM Women's hospital and it was absolutely beyond exhilarating. So many of the patients came out to watch all of us dance, it was nice to see a smile on their faces.

4. Just a little over 9 weeks until I start school again!

5. Time for me to start getting ready for another weekend of Food Not Bommmmmmbs! Yeehaw.

6. You find new friends in the most unlikely places (superlove)

The Bad News:

I'm currently having an apoplexy over this article.

You know....really? Come on. A 34 year old man with a camera sticks it up (the camera...mind you...) a 16-year-old girl's skirt and a panel rules that it's a-ok? Excuse me I'm going to let yet another lolcat picture express my upcoming heart attack from reading this.

Read the article and see for yourself.

Le Femme

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Where are your Heroes now?

I'm not a believer in heroes. It's an involuntary, knee-jerk reaction to cringe whenever I hear or read about someone talking about their 'heroes' or 'idols'. It's in my opinion that by placing certain people up on pedestals and giving them a token of immortality we rather demolish their humanity, which is a dangerous crime in all of it's unintentional evil. What do I mean by using the word 'dangerous?' I say dangerous because in making idols and/or heroes out of others, we forget to bring out the best in ourselves because we cannot recognize it when our attention is focused on others. This defies the entire point of humanity and the state of being a humanist. There is absolutely nothing wrong with recognizing other's good deeds and giving awards and calling attention to it. What is dangerous and wrong is making that person seem perfect, a statue of virtue. The person who is a public hero or an idol is just as human as the homeless man on the street. And conversely, the homeless man on the street is just as much a potential (or unsung) hero as the person who the public decries.

A good society would look at every single person on the same level, no matter what class, race, or creed. This is an incredibly radical concept called 'smashing divisions.' Free-thinkers, hippies and tree huggers have been attempting to introduce this concept for the past couple of centuries but it just doesn't seem to be getting into anyone's heads, much less the American society.

Another dangerous thing to do when it comes to heroes and idols is that we as as a population of human beings seem to give them our responsibility as individuals. We hear about particular persons doing good deeds, and we leave it to them to do good. Good deeds have nothing to do with religion, party lines or ideals. They have to do with the responsibility every human being fundamentally has to reach out to others.

Think about it. You're having a rotten day, nothing has gone right. The dog ate your underwear, you locked your keys in your car, the kids are sick and your spouse is indifferent. You go into the supermarket to pick something up, and in the checkout lane you come up exactly three dollars short of the amount to pay. It's the final straw. Then the person behind you hands you three dollar bills. It's that little something that stays with you, that leaves an indelible mark, where a complete stranger showed you kindness in a moment of need. If that's what it takes to be a 'hero,' then why don't more people do it?

Where are you when the person in front of you is short of change? Where are you when you see the elderly woman struggling with her bags. Where are you when you hear about a homeless feeding or a soup kitchen volunteer opportunity? That's a good question, where are you? I know the answer to this question. You're waiting for another hero to come along and do it for you.

Nelson Mandela spent 27 in jail for battling against apartheid. He spent almost three decades because he wanted to give people of all colors equal opportunity. He is considered a hero/idol because he brought the radical idea that no matter your skin color: you are equal. No matter your gender, your nationality, your creed, your race: we are all equal. Ask yourself, do you honestly practice what Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for? Do you treat anyone and everyone as an equal with each interaction? I leave the answer to you.

Why are you waiting for others to take up the arms? Why are you waiting for others to do your good deeds? You read that an environmentalist in the newspaper has devised a better method to reduce America's waste consumption, yet you decline to put the newspaper you just read in the recycle bin.

You read about how Germans ignored the Nazi's horrific regime and systematic execution of the Jews. Yet you turn a deaf ear when you hear a racist joke. Or even worse, you contribute to the same prejudice that the Nazi perpetrated.

You hear about a volunteer opportunity to help with homeless children and you reason to yourself: "well I'm just too busy, I'm sure someone else will pick it up." You're wrong. It's your responsibility as a human, ethical human being to help.

You see someone drop their papers/change/books and you don't stop to help. In doing that, you contribute to a person's humiliation and helplessness. Does that sound ethical? Does that sound right? Or are you just waiting for a 'hero' to come along and help that person?

We all have the equal opportunity to be a hero. By looking past gender, skin color, or nationality, you are being a hero. By offering a helping hand to another in a time of their need. Or just a single friendly hand for no particular reason, you are defying every single boundary that society and human nature by default has placed on you. So many people talk about the decline of Western civilization, and we're all looking for a savior, a hero. What we fail to realize is that we are the heroes. We just simply have not yet picked up our capes and jumped off the ledge.

In writing this, I have come to a conclusion. The reason we have such select few people that we consider 'heroes' is because we are all too afraid, too self centered in our own miserable existence with no intention of improving it, to be on the same level as them. It is those few, select heroes (note I took the quotations out of that) that have the pure strength and bravery to do something tremendously good. And they have the same circulatory system, arms, legs and brain that every single one of us do. They are as human as any of us.

We are all equal.

Where are you?

"Kill your idols become your own."

Sunday, March 2, 2008

An Ode to Texas

One of the bloggers that I subscribe to, HackLawyer, put up a post on February 29th that I believe hits home for everyone. And since I have critical issues with the judicial system overall, this infuriates me. Here is a quote from the post, and if you click on the quote itself, you'll be taken to the post in its entirety. The title of his post is 'One in 100 U.S. Adults are in jail,' this should say it all.
The nationwise prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing the grand total to 1.6 million behind bars. Another 723,000 are in local jails. The number of adult Americans is about 230,000,000, meaning that for the first time in history, one in every 99.1 adults is in prison.
And guess who's the leading state in incarcerations? Texas. My home state. Unbelievable.
Texas' school system is in underfunded and in shambles. The high school I attended and graduated from in 2006 went from being one of the best schools in the district to being classified as the worst school in two short years. Drop out rates are rising all across Texas, nothing relevant is being taught in the schools; I can't even remember being taught about Desert Storm in my American History class (because it was a government sanctioned massacre, no matter how you paint it, eh?)

Rapes, murder and violent crimes are on the rise in metropolitan areas, especially in my hometown: Amarillo. The economy is taking a swan dive akin to the one Rush Limbaugh takes every time he opens his mouth (and sweet Jesus in a handbasket of gardenias I hate Chris Matthews), the judicial system is clogged to high heaven. The police force is too busy stopping every vehicle for minor infractions to feed money into their county systems instead of actually providing public safety in the terms of catching rapists, murderers and violent criminals. And what's the solution to all these problems? Throw more people in jail. Yes, convicted criminals that the state of Texas' taxpayers feed, clothe and build more jails for.

To quote the report: in 2005, it cost $23,876 to house an inmate. $23,876?!?!?!! This is more than I make in a year. For the most part I am a law abiding citizen (meaning I follow a set of ethics that the state laws seem fit not to prosecute me for), I work 35 hours a week if I'm lucky and I'm about to try to put myself through college on a $12,000/year salary. That's a pretty steep price for punishment. Most people would say "then don't spend that much, cut back on their provisions." The problem with this is, no matter the criminal, they are still human beings--as violently as some may disagree. They deserve all rights of a human being: food, water, clothing and shelter. The fact that $23,876 on average is spent on an inmate a year is not quite the issue, it's the number of inmates that this money is spent on. It's common knowledge that most convicts in a prison are in for a nonviolent crime. This is $23,876 spent on a person who is not a physical menace to society. This is why people should be outraged. We basically pay $23,876 for a person convicted of insurance fraud. This alone should infuriate anyone who pays their taxes.

And not to mention that the prison system is inherently racist. There are higher imprisonment rates for blacks and Hispanic males as a whole. Read the article yourself for further facts. This common knowledge and common sense, but the bare bones facts, printed on paper in a federal report are revolting. The report shows as a whole how exploitative the judicial system has become, both financially and socially. It's a parasite, funneling money from taxpayers to support a burgeoning prison population, and it's a population in which at least 1/3 of the inmates are not violent and should in all actually not be in prison.

United States citizens as a population are fueling this problem. Why? Because they do not recognize this problem in its entirety. Prison has become a cultural norm. Why? Because everyone knows someone who is or has been in prison, or they have been in prison themselves. So they accept the fact that people are given lengthy jail terms for the most minor drug infractions (concerning marijuana, hash, etc.), credit card as well as other types of fraud, and other non-violent crimes. And in stark contrast, rapists are given probation. A man who physically and sexually assaults a woman can be set free back into society under the terms of a probation while the victim looks over her shoulder for the rest of her life. For ever rapist that is given probation, three third strike offenders for marijuana are given life sentences. Yet the average person does not address this issue. Or they protest, but shell out their tax money and keep their mouths shut when their opinion is called for in the legislative system. There is something vastly wrong with this situation.

For this, I call for civil disobedience.

Yes, it's a funny picture, but it's a serious situation. I recognized the situation of prison system overpopulation but now it's crucial that Americans do something. I have problems with the concept of prison and how it's supposed to keep society safe. But for the sake of the argument, I will concede to violent criminals being committed to the prison system. But that's the Anarchist in me, and like I said: the concepts of Anarchy are for the future. I do not believe drug offenders should be incarcerated, nor should any offender of a non-violent nature. We live in a democracy now, and we as citizens have the ability to change our system as a collective- and believe it or not that is a very Anarchistic concept.

I do plan on becoming active in movements to reduce the number of non-violent criminals put in the prison system. And I am toying with the idea of Civil Disobedience as demonstrated by Henry David Thoreau. If I'm paying taxes to Uncle Sam against my will, I sure as hell am not going to pay for someone who committed insurance fraud to sit in jail while a rapist is free on probation. There are many things wrong with today's world. But this is something that United States citizens can fix, if they can just put their voices out where the judicial, legislative and executive branches can hear them. With the sad state of today's economy, school systems and society as a whole, the last thing we should be doing is unjustly contributing to the social carnage that prison causes.