a july 4th lookback

Wednesday 4 July 2012

It’s funny to realize that I’ve had this blog now for over 5 years. And it’s funny to think, when I come across some news story or event, “I think I wrote about that on my blog once…” Such was the case this year in realizing it was, once again, time for the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. If you want to know the results I’ll leave them to you, but I thought it a good opportunity to “go to the archives” and point you to my blog post from a year ago: American American. A few things show the movement of the past year, but the sentiment still rings true.

Also, I thought I’d add a few more topics to the mix I didn’t cover last year, including this infographic about education vs. incarceration and another blog post about obesity (and it’s obvious connection to our country’s excess), fat (and getting fatter).

Enjoy yourself, and remember your connection to everyone, not just in your own country but with everyone around the world.

Update: Let me add here also a nice opinion piece in the NY Times called The Downside of Liberty,connecting the expansion of individualism to the wealth disparity currently evident all over the place.

American American

Monday 4 July 2011

It’s July 4, y’all, the day we celebrate the creation of these (wonderful) United States of American in 1776 with the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, and I’m back blogging with a vengeance!

I’m not going to pretend the U.S. doesn’t have some pretty great things going for it; if you check out the kind of overt oppression happening the last few months in Libya, Syria, and Yemen, I think all of us citizens of the U S of A can all be thankful to live where we do.

But, if you know me or have read my blog in the past, you know I like to get critical.  And I figure what better day than this one, a day we think with inflated egos just how great and awesome we are, to look a little deeper at some of the ways I think we’re getting it wrong:

Economic Disparity: If you ask me, this is from where all the problems stem. We’re a country where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and with a system where those with money are in power or paying to get their friends into power (see below), the cycle will continue. A few infographics (Inequality, Stupid; 15 Facts) and this amazing article, “Who Rules America,” tell the story pretty well, but the basic idea is that the top 1% of Americans has as much money and wealth as the bottom 90%, a group that itself is fairly stratified. Thus, the $1 you and I might spend on a meal means Oprah gets to spend $90. Does that seem right to you?

“Free” Speech: In the past few years, the Supreme Court has basically determined that the right to free speech means the right to as much speech as you’re willing and able to pay for. This means that should I run for office, I can choose to forgo getting in bed with corporations and wealthy individuals and stay true to my ideals, but if someone else is well-financed, they can pretty much drown out me and my voice. Basically, free speech doesn’t mean equal amounts of speech, and in this game, if you have money, you win and get to make the rules that help you get more money, though this has been true for awhile, it’s just become even moreso as of late.

Health Care: I’m guessing I don’t have to inform you that we still don’t have universal health care.  Yes, there was a bill passed that requires everyone to purchase health care, I’m aware, but universal health care this is not.  Instead, what this does is create an even a larger pool of participants for private insurance companies to reap more money and profits from the estimated 50+ million without insurance.  And with Medicare and Medicaid on the ropes, those who would lose such benefits would now also be required to “buy” insurance, again putting money in the hands of private companies.  Why is health care not something we feel is a human right, afforded to everyone, like a high school education?

Education: While we’re on the topic of universal rights, can we discuss the horrific state of the education system of this country?  In Chicago, the high school graduation rate in 2010 was only 56% (an improvement from 1999’s 47%, but still a travesty).  Big cities across the country have similar stories.  A lot of this, again, comes back to money.  With all the states of which I’m aware using property taxes to fund education, this means more money is spent on education in wealthy areas than poor areas.  And if you have money and don’t like your school system, you either move or simply send your kids to a private school.  If we truly valued education the way we give it lip service, we’d fund it as such.

Competitive Eating: If anything is representative of the excess that has become this country, it’s the event held on Coney Island each July 4: Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.  This year’s winner, Joey Chestnut, ate 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes (and of course the 20 or so other contestants ate a lot, too).  Yet there are still families heading to soup kitchens and food pantries because they have nothing to eat.  What drives something like this?  Well, this year’s event was (again) broadcast live on ESPN, with Pepto-Bismol as a top sponsor.  I’m going to guess advertising money.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I don’t have time today to write about issues of housing, transportation, Social Security, unemployment, prisons and criminal (in)justice, war and foreign policy, and many others — I want to enjoy my day off, too!

But as we celebrate today and in days to come, let’s not be complacent with the current ways of our country. We still live in a democracy, which means power to the people if we choose to claim it.

I leave you with a great op-art piece with a humorous look at our nation’s not-always-so-pleasant-looking history: Like It or Unfriend It

(The title of this blog post is meant to be read as an adjective followed by a noun.  The second “American,” the noun, is meant to signify that I, being someone living in the U.S., would colloquially be called an American.  In the first word, the adjective, I am affirming my belief that to act in an American way is to challenge the status quo and to work to make  a better country for everyone — EVERYONE — and that’s what I believe I try to do, and hopefully this blog is just one such example.)

(Oh, and why not a throwback to a post I wrote in September 2007, too: economic oppression)

if you don’t like socialism…

Wednesday 25 November 2009

…then you must HATE communism, right?

I’m not going to get into the discussion now of whether or not “socialized medicine” is a good thing, and I’m certainly not going to discuss whether the current US health reform constitutes such a phrase and how I feel on the topic.

However, the comments being thrown around in this whole debate have shown that a lot of people don’t support socialist ideas, and we all know that communism is the extreme form of socialism, right?  Are those who decry socialism so much (and thus communism) aware that China happens to be a communist country?

If you’re one of those complaining about socialism/communism in this country, you don’t want to support a communist country, do you?  If not, you should put your money where your mouth is and protest products made in China.  It’s not that hard; everything has a label where it’s been made, so check it out and made a conscious decision.  We all know that the only vote that matters these days is the one you make with your pocket-book, so if you’re truly against the evils of socialism/communism and gung-ho for capitalism, try not to be a hypocrite as you do your shopping this holiday season.

Shop Capitalist!

listen up, Mr. President

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Here’s a nice op-ed from the main paper in Israel.

America, stop sucking up to Israel

Did you know the US sends nearly 3 billion dollars to Israel every year (and money to other countries, actually) for military use, while continuing to grow the national debt?  Does this seem right to you?

Check out some money numbers here: US Aid to Israel and Palestine

Iraq in perspective

Monday 4 February 2008

U.S. Says It Accidentally Killed 9 Iraqi Civilians

Usually articles like these just make me shake my head, sigh, and think, “Should I really be surprised?” But this time I let the headline sit with me a little longer, and it got me thinking about things a little differently.

What would the reaction of Americans be if the title said instead, “Iran Says it Accidentally Killed 9 American Civilians,” or even better, “U.S. Says It Accidentally Killed 9 American Civilians.” If they were American civilians — just normal people, trying to live their lives — that were mistakenly killed by the government of another country (or its own), wouldn’t there be complete and utter outrage? But why do we not have the same outrage for the killing of innocents in other countries around the world? A recent study suggested that over one million Iraqis have died since the U.S. invasion began in 2003. That is equivalent to about 833 Holgate — the town I grew up in — sized towns. Or think about it another way: how many people do you know? Do you know one million people? Probably not. And what if every single person you know was killed? How would you react to that? And that still wouldn’t be enough…

I think a large part of the problem is that we remove ourselves so far from what’s happening that it becomes little more than numbers and statistics, lacking any kind of human context (I’ve written about this before). I recently saw Charlie Wilson’s War, and in it, the politicians don’t sympathize with the plight of the Afghan refugees during their conflict with Russia until they actually went to visit their refugee camps. I have heard of similar experiences from those who’ve traveled to places like Palestine, Columbia, and Iraq (to name a few). If it’s not right in front of us, it’s easy to ignore. But that surely doesn’t mean we should ignore it!

When people get interested and concerned about a topic, they pour energy into it and get other people riled up about it, too. We can truly create change if we actually see the horrors our country is committing and speak out that we want change. Are you willing to spend a little less time on the Internet or watching TV and use that time to let your voice be heard? I challenge you to speak out for the change you desire, no matter how far away it may seem now. Without our voices, what will ever change?