Tag Archives: Community

America… Voting Isn’t Enough

not-enough

“There is a lot of mediocrity being celebrated, and a lot of wonderful stuff being ignored or discouraged.” – Sean Penn

Yep, I said it.

Let me first say that I am happy that people are voting, I really am, but something has really been annoying about this whole election from two different angles.

For one, people who say:

“I am not voting, because we have TWO bad candidates”

And for people saying:

“I voted! Voting is the most important thing I can do”

No, no, and a really big NO to the second one.

I have tried to restrain from sharing my frustrations about both of these sentiments, because for some reason I feel like I am being a negative Nancy. But the more I marinated on these statements, the more I felt convinced of my perspective.

If you have a problem with both candidates, you know that you are part of the problem, if you’re only engaged at this point in the process.

I am not saying that Bernie Sanders would be doing any better than Hillary, but for liberals who don’t particularly want Hilary, if you weren’t out there pushing for him and his movement, he was a pretty good alternative. Otherwise, shut up and Vote for Her.

I really wanted Kasich to win the Republican nomination, but he didn’t. And to be honest, I step back and see Trump as the candidate of my former (sort of) party, and it is part of my fault. I did not volunteer in the primary election and take the campaign of Donald Trump seriously, and for that I am sorry.

If you don’t like Hilary or Trump, what have you personally done besides take your ass out to the polls. Like seriously. Did you canvass? Did you make calls? Have you ever in your life?

People need to hear this. People need to keep saying this till they understand.

There are ways to change the candidates in our political process, but you have to be engaged to do so. There are too many of us that are convinced that are voice doesn’t matter, but the Tea Party HAS PROVED THIS TO BE WRONG. The Tea Party, in the past, has completely changed the outcome of statewide elections and now has a Presidential candidate with the help of evangelical conservatives. Their insistence on coming together and making their voice heard…. it worked ya’ll. It didn’t happen overnight either. This has been brewing since 2009.

They have literally taken over the Republican Party and people still have the audacity to say things can’t change. Oh, they can. We have ALL seen it. Now, this doesn’t mean they have enough power to win the election, but it was enough to get a candidate to win the nomination based on some sound fiscal policies, but completely combined with racist, bigoted and archaic policies as well.

On to point two, voting is just simply not the most important thing you can do. It’s just not. Not even a little bit. And I feel weird writing about this, because I want people to vote. But, I want you to see the importance of it, but it should be paired with something else besides simply casting a vote.

What else are you doing in your community?

What other conversations are you having with people outside of your comfort zone?

What are you doing beyond yourself?

Anything? I literally mean anything!?!

Now, I have written about how people in Austin love animals, especially their dogs, almost to a fault. The community will come out and save animals when we have a disaster such as a flood. It drives some people insane, and rightfully so, because it’s like, “What about people?!?” But I can respect people with different passions if they are committed and are contributing to it.  Similarly to focusing on the arts. There is a place for it. You want to advocate for those things you do that.

Our future, our kids, are the most important thing to me, therefore, I invest my time, money and effort towards them. I volunteer with different organizations to make sure I am not only giving to the kiddos, but also to kiddos that look like me, whether it’s young girls/women of all shapes, colors and sizes or children of color of different ethnicities. I am not here to say everyone should do the same, but whatever “community” you care about, you need to give some time to it. I see many of my counterparts investing in the justice system. I see my counterparts investing in the health and wellness of others. I also see counterparts investing in themselves professionally for a time to make a better place for themselves in order to do better and give back.

We are all at different places in our life, but if you are doing nothing more than waking up and breathing for your own good…You are not doing enough.

The bible says “Judge not, lest you be judged”, so I am not here to be judge-y…. But if all the time and effort you have is at the polls and vote, and you don’t work 2 or 3 different jobs, struggling to survive than you are really missing the mark. And it’s sad. This is one of reasons people don’t have a global view of the world or people continue to live with biases.

Do you think the world will just shape itself and doesn’t need any help?

The reality is if you are doing nothing you might be a little more scared about Hilary or Trump more than others. Yes, I know I sound condescending, but it’s the truth.

What you don’t do, is just as important as what you do.

Making money is important. Being happy is important.

But just voting is not enough.

M/P

 

The Vicious Cycle of Power: The Real Problem in America Right Now

xDrAUUJ

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” – John Acton

The killing of innocent lives is never good, whether the lives are lost here or abroad and whoever the victims are, the loss of innocent lives is never good. The killing of innocent lives that distract from fixing the current problem with policing in our communities is even worse. The last thing that we needed to happen were more innocent black men killed and innocent policeman shot in cold blood, and most of America and the world, had to sit and watch. Some wept, some were confused, mystified, and others were mad. I couldn’t help but think about what the continual root cause of the problem.

Whose hands are truly stained with blood? I can give you a little hint, but it’s not just the Police, and it’s definitely not the innocent people who continue to die simply for the color of their skin.

It’s power. Power corrupts. The duty to protect and serve is a power, and if abused, can be a matter of life or death. Sometimes power corrupts a good police officer. Sometimes it makes a bad police officer worse, but this power is nothing compared to the truly powerful people who aren’t doing anything to fix a broken system. A system that has been broken for years, decades. In fact, it seems to me that they prefer to allow the viscous cycle of power to churn out the same story and it’s getting worse.

Police officers are given a certain of lever of power in their jobs, because they are asked to enforce the law. Crime and violence does occur in many urban communities across the country, and the law needs to be enforced. But power corrupts. We all see this in any workplace where bad managers and directors mistreat employees simply because they can.

Often times, people of color experience this “power” of the law by the hand of police, when police are simply doing their job. Whether it’s because they are getting evicted, parents are being arrested for petty or serious crimes or kids are being removed from their home because of abuse or neglect. Other times they experience this “power” so unjustly by being racially profiled for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Rarely are any of these interactions positive.

So if Police are given the power to monitor communities, and are often above reproach, what about the ones who are corrupted by power? That is why we see police brutality. Daniel Holtzclaw, the Oklahoma City police officer, who was sentenced to 263 years in prison for raping women of color abused the power of his badge.

I am saying the blame on the police and the violence/crime in these communities of color, at times, is unfair, because the system has been built to create vulnerable citizens, first, who then have to live and die by the hands of ill-trained and sometimes underfunded police departments.

The famous quote by Thomas Moore says it best:

“For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.”

The lack of good education, the inability to make a decent wage or to find gainful employment (convicted felons), you cannot help but expect some people to turn to crime. These actions stem from the difficulty to reach the “American Dream”. We then ask police officers to enforce laws against those who have been rejected and hurt by the system.  And now, many police departments have lowered their standards for police officers to ensure that they have enough officers on the force. Thus creating a problem of police officers who are too young and ill-trained. Seems to me that the police and the people in the communities of color are stuck in a deadly hamster reel.

The logical next step is to think who gives the power of the law. The police do not give this power to themselves. And more over, who has the power to improve the minimum wage, improve our educational system or the justice system and to create better programs for our convicted felons.

Politicians. Elected officials. “Leaders”.

America has stacked the cards against the most vulnerable, and asked police officers to enforce the laws against them, no matter the cost. We know that the prison system in this country is a billion dollar industry. This is not a conspiracy. This is the reality of the cycle of power that we have allowed to take place. When they talk about making America “great” again, we will never be able to move forward as nation, if we continue down this road.

So what can be done? Pay attention to what’s going on in your community, and not just the Presidential election. Who are your local politicians, what’s going on in state and local politics, who serves on your school boards and are you paying attention to where the money is going? We must hold them accountable. Like actually, pay attention and hold them accountable. People with the time and/or the aptitude to do something, must act. We cannot expect our most vulnerable to have the time or the capacity to fight.

So am I saying it is our responsibility to do something?

Yes I am.

We are not talking about giving handouts or throwing money at a problem. I am talking about making sure our laws are just, and the people that we elect into our offices have our best interests in mind. People like to joke that the Founding Fathers were slave owners among other things, but there are positive legacies that they left behind. They created a system of laws and separation of powers, and a place for people to be heard. But we are not using our voices effectively. Especially those who are in a position to do more. Because we must remember, the difference between ourselves and the most vulnerable, is that we were just dealt different cards. We should be thankful, and make a difference in their lives.

M/P

Capitalism Needs A Hit of Community

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This past weekend I was at a restaurant and I overheard a couple young kids, maybe in their early twenties, talking about marriage, or rather talking about looking forward to their second marriage, because the first marriage was just practice. And one specifically, who sounded as if he was going to the military after college, because he just knew his first marriage wouldn’t work, because they never do in the military.

I wish I were exaggerating, just a little bit, but I am not. As I listened, I was first annoyed, saddened, and then quite angry for so many reasons. I quickly jotted down what they said, and added a few comments of my own and thought, “this is what this week’s blog is going to be about: marriage.” That’s usually how I pick my topics, something usually happens during the week that sparks my interest, I do a little research, form my opinion, and then I write, write, write.

But then I sat down to write, and with the election around the corner, I thought I should be focusing along those lines, and all the other issues that seemed more important than marriage, traditional marriage, marriage equality; such as the economy, racism (civil rights), healthcare, terrorism, and all the other topics that  are in the forefront of our minds. As I sat down to write, something was still tugging at my heart, about the disregard of marriage. There are so many people who are still fighting for marriage equality, others fighting to maintain traditional marriage, and the statistics surrounding divorce are truly depressing. Why is that? What can we do? And then I realized, all of the issues today, including marriage point to at least one thing that is lacking … community (a sense of family). How did we get here? Capitalism. Yes, Capitalism. Is Capitalism bad, Nope. I would just argue that Capitalism just needs a HIT of Community….

In 2012, David Brooks, a conservative political and cultural commentator from the New York Times, made the assertion that the idea of capitalism “is a problem for the American family because it reinforces self-interest” over other social ethos of the family. (Source). And I would tend to agree, and argue that it seeps into other parts of our lives besides just the family. It applies to almost every issue in America, overwhelming self-interest is hurting America. When we specifically look at marriage, the marriage rate is 6.8 per 1,000 people and the Divorce rate is 3.6 per 1,000 people, which is why they say that 50 % of marriages end in divorce. (Source). The researchers say those statistics are misleading for several reasons that I won’t go into today. But no one would disagree that there are a lot of divorces. And although infidelity is rampant, the number one reason people still get divorce is  finances and money. And if we look beyond marriage, capitalism is creating a crippling economy as the wealth disparity grows and the middle class continues to shrink, especially with rising healthcare costs,  and educational opportunity is different depending on what side of town you were born in. Not to mention all of these things are the main cause of the growing strain of race relations in America.

So, What do I mean? Capitalism at it’s most basic level is to allow trade and industry to be controlled by private owners for profit rather than the government. This is a good thing, because when governmental regulations are too stringent it hurts growth and the economy. But at the same time, when the private owners are such a select few, capitalism can hurt the economy for the whole, and not the select few.

I am in no means saying that we should utilize another system besides capitalism. I like capitalism, especially at its core. When describing Ayn Rand’s political philosophy, a fan of laissez-faire capitalism, a scholar described it as, “Her basic theme was that free people, acting together voluntarily, produce greater general prosperity than central planners wielding the whips of State power”. (Source). The key word in that is “greater general propensity”; the problem is that prosperity cannot only be defined in monetary terms. Prosperity includes security, comfort, and well-being. Nowhere in the definition of capitalism or free-market economy  is the focus supposed to be so heavily focused on self-interest; see the simplest form of capitalism does not exclude community, but we’ve created that environment.

When you have a capitalistic society that is not in touch with community then you cannot expect the country to be successful as a whole, and we should be concerned. There will be plenty of people who are successful, who have no worries. Why is this a problem? People who you really start from the bottom, need a village to help raise them. Not only are they born without enough resources, but often lack the social and human capital to compete with others who face few challenges.  If we don’t help those children, no wonder they become delinquents in our justice system, dependent of benefits from the state, etc.

There are a lot of people who lament against food stamps, Medicaid, and any other “handouts” given out with the backdrop of a low minimum wage. While an increased minimum wage would hurt some small companies, let’s tier the minimum wage based on profit and size of the company, or any other factors that would make sense. I would argue that the mom and pop stores shouldn’t have to pay the same minimum wage as Wal-Mart. But it does not make sense for executives of Wal-Mart to live in an extreme excess and their employees struggle to try to obtain their American success story. There’s come a point that making the highest profit isn’t the MOST important thing and the market may not be calling for it. This is why we need more community in capitalism. We want businesses and the economy to continue to grow and be prosperous, but not if it’s hurting a large number of the population. If we care about the success of America, taking a couple of million dollars away from the richest parts of America, to decrease the wealth disparity,couldn’t be the worst thing ever.  But the thing about capitalism, which is why it’s awesome, the private actors have to decide to take this action for themselves.  Just like the CEO of Starbucks, creating a partnership with Arizona State University to make it a little easier for their employee to reach educational advancement.

This can be seen very openly in our political voting system. The wealthiest Americans are attempting to buy elections on both sides, donating large amounts of cash that have potential to change elections. Despite, the large amounts of money being poured into elections it doesn’t necessarily create more involvement in the voting process, and to some extent probably decreases it. But do you know where people come out in high percentages? In places with high sense of community.

There are 6 states that have high voter participation compared to the rest of the population, and three out of those six states, including the state with the best record (Minnesota), all cite a sense of community as a part of why they are successful in getting to the polls. In South Dakota, they have a 60. 2% voter participation rate and say that “South Dakota is part of the collection of Upper Midwest states where a strong sense of community, civic duty, and civility in political discussion are abundant”. (source).  In Wisconsin, with a 60.93 % voter participation rate, they say, “People want to live up to the expectation for themselves or community norms,” says Michael Slater of Project Vote. “They think, ‘voting is what we do in this community.’” (source) . And last, but not least, is Minnesota, which has a 68 % voter participation rate, they say, “Minnesotans do love this place we call home, It’s our responsibility to take care of this place, and voting is one of the ways we do that.” (source) . Although there are a few other factors, such as competitive races, access to the polls, the community is a large reason that they are able to have such high voter turnout and we all should strive to duplicate this effort in other communities.

I have said a lot here, and even included the infamous Ayn Rand, who would probably disagree with most of what I said. She has a famous quote that says “Capitalism and Altruism care incompatible … they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society”, and I would actually agree with her.  Altruism is taking it too far, were not asking for an absolute selfless concern for the well-being of others. But I do think we need to take a look in the mirror, and wonder if we’ve turned capitalism into something so selfish it is bad, when its not…. we all need a little community in our life.

M/P


Have thoughts? Please comment and start a discussion with me. I love to hear other perspectives!