Enjoy tonight’s debate, but beware rampant anti-intellectualism

85As the countdown for tonight’s Republican debate enters its final hours, American politics—and to a greater extent–America stand at a crossroads. After nearly seven years of Barack Obama’s stoicism and “Mr. Spock” approach to governing, a cast of characters so illogical, over-emotional, and downright anti-intellectual will grace the stage in Cleveland, Ohio. They will no doubt castigate Obama’s legacy as president, lambasting every policy, executive action, and statement ever uttered by the two-term president. For this group of candidates, they are not looking toward the future, but a way to bring the nation to a screeching halt before putting the car in reverse.

The prospect of reversing the nation is truly terrifying. The country remains at the precipice on a host of defining issues that could make or break these United States. Climate change, unabated economic, social, and racial inequality, and the prospect of continued ground wars in west Asia must be addressed by Obama’s successor and thus far, every Republican firmly stands in opposition to any progress made over the last six and one half years.

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A Most Dysfunctional House

So we are experiencing a government shut down.

The last time we had one, I was an adolescent and news via internet, blogs, and the like weren’t popular. (Cue the sound of your modem . . . )

I actually had health insurance 17 years ago, and I was (unfortunately) using it.  (I say “unfortunately” because being sick and in the hospital = not fun).  So yes–I spent one shut-down (1995) in the hospital. I would ask my parents and nurses about the effects, but I gathered from my sources it wasn’t really hurting anyone too much. I still really don’t know, but I gather I was being spoon-fed some information so I could focus on recovering—?

Now, I’m not yet insured (not my choice). I have two children.

And I know what it’s like to be poor.

The shutdown hurts the poor.
It hurts children.
It hurts the barely-existing middle-class.

. . . and more . . .

My friend and fellow blogger found this gem:

“We’re not going to be disrespected, We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

— Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN)

I know. Sigh. Deep breaths.

WTF!?!?!

Let’s review:

  1. The Executive Branch approves the ACA/Obamacare, which was drafted by the Heritage Foundation.
  2. The Judicial Branch of the government, the Supreme Court, has ruled that the ACA/Obamacare is Constitutional.
  3. HALF of the Legislative Branch has approved the ACA/Obamacare. Sure, some of the members of the Senate may not like it, but they realize that it is, in fact, law.

Could this be the most dysfunctional House in a century? It certainly seems to be in my three decade lifespan.

Olympic National Park, May 2005. (Photo by me)

The National Parks are gated shut. You can look at the nice photograph, but don’t expect to be able to see anything like it in person right now.

Headstart funding is killed.  Meals-on-Wheels and WIC are slaughtered.  Crucial scientific research on all sorts of things–including pediatric cancer–has ceased because the NIH is gone.

And there’s more we’re not investing in because Rep. Stutzman, Rep. Yoho and others have a point to prove.

I’m sure they’ll figure out what their point in a few weeks.  I’m also sure people directly impacted by this tantrum-led shutdown won’t care, won’t get their medication, their food, their education, etc. These aren’t things you just “make up for” with more later.

So while we wait for the House majority to figure out what the hell their point is, we’re hurting our most vulnerable citizens first.

Investing in the future of this country is clearly not a priority.

Be sure to thank your Representative if they did their best to prevent this.

If you’re in a situation like me, then make your voice heard and call/email your Representative of this sad, dysfunctional House.

I posted the what follows earlier this week. Sadly, it bears re-posting:

(transcript below video):


[clip begins partway through former Vice-President Al Gore’s speech at the Brookings Institution this morning] …I will have more to say about this [climate change report] on many other occasions, but, because this report was released just hours before we gathered here, I would not have felt right about not addressing it.

Now, I’m gonna talk about the potential for a shutdown in just a moment, but, uh, I think the only phrase that describes it is political terrorism. “Nice global economy you got there. Be a shame if we had to destroy it. We have a list of demands. If you don’t meet ’em all by our deadline, we’ll blow up the global economy.”

[pause] Really? Um. Where are the American people in this? Why does partisanship have anything to do with such a despicable and dishonorable threat to the integrity of the United States of America?

Who Wrote This?

Many of you may not know this, but one of my sons has Asperger’s Syndrome.  After many years of trying to force public schools to meet his needs, my husband and I decided to school him from home.  Public schools, and how they educate pupils with special needs, deserves a post of its own.  Wait for it, it is coming.  But that is not what I want to discuss today.

Virginia utilizes a “Virginia Studies” course for fourth grade students.  The curriculum mandates instruction and retention of information about the state’s history, ranging from Jamestown to the Civil War.  Naturally, there is no way to not include the plight of the Native peoples and Africans.  My child noticed right away how the language used, in an official textbook, didn’t describe events, as they truly happened.

(Him)  Wow!  This book is really not accurate, Mom. 

(Me)  Well, no, son.  It does not tell the whole story.

He saw right through the book’s attempt to force the Natives into the role of aggressors.

(Him)  How can the English really be called pioneers?  Pioneers settle land that hasn’t been settled before.  This land was settled.  And how come my book calls them savages?  And why weren’t they (the settlers) nicer to the tribes that taught them how to survive?  This book is not good!  Who wrote this thing?

He laughed at how the enslaved Africans were portrayed.

(Him)  Everybody knows that the slaves wouldn’t be laughing and dancing after all the work was done.  Slavery was not fun!  This book is stupid.

He is nine years old.

In all fairness, Aspies tend to have highly focused interests in certain topics.  The Powhatan tribes are one of his “things”.  But what of those children who trust what is written in their textbooks?  What message are we sending when Native peoples are seen as wild things who just needed to be tamed?  And the atrocity that is slavery is made out to be just a job, with singing and dancing at night?

Then, I was reminded of the fight in Texas.

In recent years, board members have been locked in an ideological battle between a block of conservatives who question Darwin’s theory of evolution and believe the Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles, and a handful of Democrats and moderate Republicans who have fought to preserve the teaching of Darwinism and the separation of church and state.

And this, in Louisiana.

Really?  Dinosaurs and humans?  The KKK a decent organization?  Slave masters and the Great Depression were not so bad.  Really?  Because math is too hard and we have good reason to doubt climate change.  No use fighting the rapture, ..excuse me..,  globalization.

Is it really a surprise that our children are falling through the cracks?

Look.  I get it.  We are Americans.  We want our children to be proud of their country.  We want them to recognize that America is one hell of a great place to live.  We, Americans, feel exceptional.

Recently, we were reminded of the dangers of exceptionalism.  Our newest BFF, Vladimir Putin, had this to say:

It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

Many of us are leaping to the defense of our new friend.  But keep in mind, he has also said this:

We will not allow someone to impose their will on us, because we have our own will! It has helped us to conquer! We are a victorious people! It is in our genes, in our genetic code!

This is all to remind you that every country feels it is exceptional.  History and facts are not ours to change, shape, and mold.  Our children deserve to know what happened, as it actually happened.  They deserve to hear many sides of the same story.  What we have been giving them, and seemingly want to continue to give to them, is propaganda.

Adam did not ride the back of Brontosaurus.  Slavery was not a club.  Natives were not savages.  The KKK and the Great Depression were horrible.  There is a separation between church and state.  Climate change is real.

Our children truly are our future.  Pride in our country is all fine and dandy.  I just don’t want to hear my grandchildren asking, about their textbooks, …Who wrote this thing?

That does say “Eyeball licking,” right?

We’re on a mini (and impromptu) vacation this week. We look forward to starting back on Sunday (or Monday…coming back from vacation is rough!).

In the mean time, here are some interesting, funny, sad, thought-provoking, head-scratching things we’ve been reading. The title of this post is inspired by one of the links below:

All Over the Place

Summer is winding down for many families in the South, where school starts before Labor Day.

This is why, I imagine, so many of the writers here are busy.

So here are some links of just some of what we’ve been reading; please let us know what you’ve been reading and writing in the comments!

Shared Suffering

Anyone who took the time to read my last post, may be a little surprised at what I say next.

Beneath all of the sadness and hiding behind all of the outrage…was pride.  Yes, you heard me, Pride!

Why?  What on Earth was there to be proud of??

martin 1

US!!

Not just the above us, but…

martin 5

THIS US!!

The us that stood together –  shoulder to shoulder, our voices mingling – to protest our displeasure.  Displeasure with a culture that hasn’t yet gotten over its biases.  Displeasure at how cases, involving our children, are handled.  Displeasure at how our laws are written.  Displeasure at how our justice system works.

A large number of Americans – all across the nation – came together for a common cause.   No matter our respective “colors”.  How’s that for tasting the rainbow?  You’re proud, too, right?

(Feel the but coming?)

But with that being said, many of us know that we are not headed for the pot of gold.  We know that our (individual) voices are often marginalized, if not silenced.

And as much pride as I have in what we did above, I fear that we won’t use that momentum going forward. 

That is because each of us is guilty.  We are guilty of paying especially rapt attention to the hot-button issues that touch us on a personal level.  And..we are ALL guilty of not paying (as much) attention to the suffering of others.  Sure, we are quick to jump to the defense of someone who has been blatantly wronged and gets enough media coverage (which seems to be up to fate).  But, then what?  We have a tendency to return to our respective corner, lick our wounds, and rest up for the next assault against our rights.

I, as a non-wealthy, cisgendered, black woman, have my own problems.  (You do, too.  Am I right?)  Sometimes it is difficult to step out of my shoes and into someone else’s.  Further, it is extremely easy to focus on what matters to me, to the exclusion of all else. 

I was as guilty as anyone else.  I spoke out against an injustice, here or there.  I volunteered for a campaign or two.  And I was proud of it.  But, I have come to realize that is not enough.  Not by a country mile.

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.  – MLK

We must combine our grievances to fight for the common good.  We can not afford to become so encapsulated in our little bubbles, that we forget about the gay couple who asks only the freedom to marry.  We can not focus all of our energy on the plight of the woman when our oceans are becoming more acidic by the day.  It would be a mistake to disregard the plight of the immigrant, in favor of the black struggle.

Let’s be perfectly honest.  Any politician who does not believe that a woman is a fully cognitive being, capable of making her own decisions..probably won’t believe that poor people are not making a concerted effort to remain in poverty.  If any politician is able to look in your face and deny climate change, that politician is equally likely to think ‘drill, baby, drill” has no impact on the environment and that “education mills” have got it all wrong.  Any politician that doesn’t recognize the ingrained cultural biases in society..probably won’t understand why “the gays” are making such a fuss.  A future leader who will snatch your right to vote..will snatch your right to marry.  If he or she wants to pay for prisons and not schools..chances are he or she will not be too worried about the uninsured.  If a politician can’t value the unions..how much does he value the worker?

Consider this…

Those who have no problem stepping all over our rights have a plan.  They have a view of the world that we do not share.  Say what you will about them, they are tenacious.  They are determined and they are fighting with all they have.  They are investing millions and millions of dollars into their efforts.  They are buying the kind of country they want.  And have absolutely no guilt over it.  In fact, when we are hesitant to get with their program, we are labeled as lazy.  Or takers.  Or, sometimes, traitors.

And what are we doing?  We’re waiting..

Well, we can not afford to rest up for the next assault on our rights any longer.  We simply can not.  When we fight for the rights of the poor, the worker, the children –  we are fighting for our rights.  When we battle for the rights of our fellow citizens, we win the battle for ourselves.

As long as justice and injustice exist, human beings must be willing to do battle for the one against the other.

 – John Stuart Mill

The AMA is Wrong

A few weeks ago, the American Medical Association voted to declare obesity a disease.

…members of the AMA’s House of Delegates rejected cautionary advice from their own experts and extended the new status to a condition that affects more than one-third of adults and 17% of children in the United States.

Why, I wondered, would the esteemed AMA reject cautionary advice from their own experts about declaring obesity a disease?

There may be several reasons, and sadly, not one of them get to the crux of the matter.

With so many people qualifying as “obese,” there’s money to be made with this classification. If you have a disease, you need to be treated.

As is, the diet industry is already making money hand over fist, with few success stories The lack of success stories is due to the fact diets don’t work. Long-term, meaningful changes MAY work. But cutting caloric intake, reaching a goal weight, and then resuming normal eating habits is a recipe for failure in keeping weight off.

Instead, the US spends over 60 BILLION dollars a year on dieting.

$60,000,000,000.

The lack of success stories is telling: it’s our culture. It’s the priorities. It’s the fact that it’s a lot cheaper for most families to buy processed foods than it is for them to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, fresh meats, etc.

But that the AMA ignored the advice of experts and declared obesity is darker and more sinister. It’s about the money for Big Pharma. After all, now that obesity is an illness, pharmaceutical companies can start making more medicines to “treat” the new “illness.”

Via:

It’s inaccurate:

It distracts from the real issues:

It’s a win for the weight cycling industry

Unfortunately, what’s good for the weight cycling industry isn’t necessarily good for patients: 

This new categorization has an interesting “benefit”–the ACA (aka “Obamacare”) will cover treatments for obesity.

But even that’s a very questionable “benefit.” This still seems, once again, to be all about the money.

If we, as a society, wanted to address obesity, we’d quench the many food deserts within our country. We’d make fresher, healthier foods cheaper. It still costs more to buy bananas, broccoli, or apples than it does to buy a box of Mac n’ Cheese. We would stop blaming people for being obese and realize that there are many reasons why some people are heavier than others.

We also wouldn’t equate thin with good health.  This is one of the most harmful lies we tell ourselves, at least in my opinion.

But hey, it’s all about the Benjamin’s (or Franklin’s, thanks DH!) in the end, right?

 

Guns, Mental Health and Florida’s Failure

To say that Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, is not popular is a massive understatement.

He helped make Florida the first state to require those seeking assistance (welfare) undergo a drug test. Unsurprisingly, this move didn’t save the state money. It cost the state money.

Governor Scott has most recently signed a bill that stigmatizes those who seek treatment for mental health issues.

I have to pause here. This latest move infuriates me.

The bill infringes on a Florida citizen’s right to bear arms. You know, that thing better known as the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution?

Via:

Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Friday that will close a loophole that allowed dangerously mentally ill people to admit themselves for treatment, then quickly check out and buy a gun.

The legislation was one of the most significant gun bills to pass this year’s legislative session and was supported by Democrats, Republicans and the National Rifle Association…

The gun bill addresses people who doctors say pose a danger to themselves or others. Their names will be put into databases to prevent them from buying guns.

If the patient doesn’t agree to be voluntarily admitted for treatment, an involuntary commitment petition would be filed. Patients who voluntarily committed themselves would do so with the understanding that they would be barred from purchasing firearms.

If patients refused to give up their gun-purchasing rights, the involuntary commitment process would proceed.

The bill includes a pathway for people to petition the court to regain their gun-purchasing rights after they are treated. A doctor would have to agree that the person should regain the right.

Maybe it’s not clear why this bill isn’t good. After all, I don’t want guns in the hands of people who will do bad things.

But I don’t want people to do bad things. And I don’t want a gun. Still, rights are rights.

But there’s a faulty assumption here. For starters, having a mental illness that requires hospitalization doesn’t mean a person is bad, or is unable to determine right and wrong. People with mental illnesses are far more likely to be targets of violence than to commit acts of violence. See this, this, this, and this.  (I could go on…)

This bill may actually keep people from getting help and treatment they need.

The stigma around mental health is huge, and to get people to seek treatment is hard enough. But now, with this bill, there’s a state-sanctioned stigma. It’s now permissible by the State of Florida to stigmatize someone having a hard time through no fault of their own and seeking help.  It’s permissible to take away a right guaranteed by the Constitution.

I could go on (and on and on), but this bill is just terrible. Stigma by the state for severe depression? Loss of constitutional rights for an eating disorder? (Which, by the way, I was hospitalized for at age 15.)

It’s now legal in Florida. Assuming you get treatment.

This law does nothing productive to curb gun violence. It does nothing to address the real issues behind gun culture, the pervasive violence in our society. This law certainly doesn’t help and only hurts a group of already vulnerable people who society tends to shame anyway.

I leave with this this fantastic  image, but keep in mind, this was supported by Democrats and Republicans–shame on you.

1008915_581744405202989_1790337221_o

Thank you, Justine, for this sadly relevant image!

Hot Topic Triumverate

Dear Left-Leaning Friends[i],

It is no secret that our friends on the Right have a reputation for denying science—evolution, climate change, etc.

But let’s not be foolish. There are left-leaning folks out there who also deny science. Or rather, conveniently ignore it, misinterpret it—sometimes on purpose.

Yes. I said it.

Some self-identifying liberals deny certain scientific studies and facts.

The gmowhole GMO debacle is a great example. Lefties tend to be wary of GMOs, while agribusinesses and the Right tend to favor/push GMOs.

Now, I’m not a fan of Monsanto, but Lefties have been presenting very weak scientific data on the supposed harm GMOs do.  We misinterpret studies to prove our point, whatever our point is.  We did the same in Portland, Oregon, a liberal bastion, who voted once again to not fluoridate their water.
flouride

It was an ugly smear campaign, and both sides of this debate are partially to blame.

vaccineWe, on the left, pride ourselves for thinking critically and outside the box, for trying to see the whole picture–but there’s a damn good reason we have vaccines[ii].

I understand concerns about the timing and spacing of vaccines, and believe that parents in consultation with their pediatricians should decide on the best vaccination schedule for their kids, although ideally it should be within the guidelines recommended by health authorities like the WHO and CDC.

But rejecting vaccines altogether? For one thing, you’re endangering your child by exposing her to potentially serious illnesses. Let me put it this way: when parents of a pediatrician friend of mine ask her if their children should get vaccinated, she says: ‘oh, NO! I haven’t had a good case of measles in years! It would bring back such memories!’

Whew. I’ve managed to touch on three molten-lava-hot-topics—what do *you*, dear reader, think about one or any of these issues? Of the misinterpretation of science, of the left and science, of GMOs, vaccines, and/or fluoridation?

I’m genuinely interested in your opinion and thoughts.

Thanks in advance–  trust you all to be civil, etc.,

ContraWhit

 


[i] Would “comrade” be more fitting? 🙂

[ii] Note the vaccination debate falls into the Right as well.

Down the rabbit hole, Out through the Chocolate Factory

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where-” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“-so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice Added as an explanation.

Lewis Carroll

Down the rabbit hole.  Our nation is down the rabbit hole.

Collectively, we feel trapped, confused, helpless, and angry.  We are afraid.

I, too, feel all those emotions.  But, what I feel the strongest is frustration.  Like Alice, all I want is to get… SOMEWHERE.

When did we fall down the rabbit hole?  Does it matter?  I would love to say it is irrelevant how we got here.  But, I can’t.  On our journey, we stumbled over our own fear..er..feet.  We’ve fallen, and can’t seem to get up.

We read our children stories, like Alice in Wonderland, hoping to teach them the importance of life choices.  We encourage them to dream and set goals.  We help them develop courage, determination, and perseverance.  We teach them that not trying is the only true failure.

Well, look at us!  Aren’t we quite the hypocrites?  Even now, when our inability to act is harmful to our children, we do nothing and go nowhere.  From our comfortable spot in the pit, we point fingers.  We blame blacks, women, gays, immigrants, republicans, democrats, or the poor.  Our children, remembering what they’ve been taught, see the grown-ups bicker, complain, and remain…stuck.

We stress to our children the value of education, yet do nothing about this and this.  If we proclaim that education opens doors for our sons and daughters, shouldn’t it actually do so?  We must prepare our children for adulthood by improving ALL of our schools.  Wealth and/or vouchers shouldn’t be necessary to receive a quality education.  Nor should college costs ride a person’s back well into middle age, forcing them to take up residence in a parent’s basement.

We teach our youth to play by the rules, yet allow this.  If we want them to know that playing by the rules is the right thing to do, we must ensure that they grow up in a world where that is expected.  Of everyone.  Corporations are allowed to (legally) cheat the system.  This is a no-brainer, right?  It’s broken, we fix it.  Ah, that would make too much sense.  So, our kids grow up observing that greed is the key to success.  There goes the sharing is caring lesson.

While we are pointing fingers on climate change, things like this happen.  Why is this even a continuing debate?  Overwhelmingly, scientists agree that our planet is being stretched too thin.  Natural disasters, like Hurricane Sandy and the massive tornado in Oklahoma, are going to continue.  We have been warned, again and again, about this.  Is this garbage really easier to believe than 97% of scientists??

As we bicker about who is more patriotic, tragedies like Sandy Hook go unaddressed.  Unless you count this.  Our children are told repeatedly that violence is not the answer because it never solves anything.  Ha!!  Have you noticed that our culture is becoming more violent by the day?  Yeah, kids have, too.  When we have opportunities to come together, and make decisions that will save their lives, we should take them.  Perhaps, they need to give us a pep talk about bullying, eh?

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”  
J. K. Rowling

Let’s choose a direction.  We’ll never get somewhere, if we don’t.  Our children deserve that much.

To them, everything is magical.  Anything is possible.  Adults know better.  We are aware that no Cheshire Cat or Elder Wand exists.  Life is a series of choices (or unfortunate events, depending on perspective).  We learn from mistakes, and try again.

Enough crying and complaining!  The next generation is watching.  If there is an outcome we desire, let’s elect representatives who will help us achieve it.    Those that don’t..replace them.  Occasionally, we will learn that our ideas aren’t good ones.  If that happens, we change direction.  Life has taught us all that there is often more than one way to get where you’re going.  Remember, the failure is in not trying.

So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Roald Dahl
 
Choose to educate yourself.  Then, choose to act.