Archive for the ‘ In The News ’ Category

This week, President Obama issued a controversial, three-part executive order preventing the deportation of over five-million illegal immigrants.

Presto! You are legal!

In Thursday night’s pathos-saturated speech to the American people, the president relied heavily on rhetorical questioning to appeal to our hearts and our patriotism,

“Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?”

“Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families and works together to keep them together? Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us, or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs here, create businesses here, create industries right here in America? That’s what this debate is all about.”

No, Mr. President; we are not. We are a nation which has famously welcomed the “tired, the poor,” the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” the statue 2“wretched refuse” of other nations.  The Statue of Liberty calls, “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

But once the immigrants get through that golden door, what happens? What becomes of them? In the case of the illegals who snuck in a golden back-window in the dead of night and then lived in constant fear of deportation, they may remain here, though they don’t necessarily have a path to citizenship just yet. They are assured that their family can and will thrive in the land of milk and honey, and if they cannot, their adopted Uncle Sam will see to it that they have what they need.

Yeah. That’s exactly how it works. Just ask the people in Appalachia, many the ancestors of the Scots-Irish and Europeans who waited in long lines to trudge through that golden door to mine black gold in the hills of West Virginia, Virginia, southern Ohio, and eastern Kentucky. immigrants2

When King Coal was dethroned, our nation expanded and extended support to the poorest counties of these states, via government social programs that were intended to get people on their feet. Fifty years after LB Johnson declared his  “War on Poverty, the poverty rates in rural Appalachia average slightly over 30%. In some areas as many as 47% of the people live on government support (Gabriel).

Consider, too, how this nation has provided for  the people who had already claimed this continent when the Europeans began colonizing. Our Native-American communities, confined within awkward reservation boundaries, fit the true definition of ghetto—there  is little escape from the cycle of poverty. One in four Native Americans and Native American Eskimos survive below the poverty level, with proportionately less government assistance than other American-poor (A Quiet Crisis).

poor-native-american-indians-well-water-pump-pumping1

Yet, Obama essentially has allowed millions of people who have bypassed the golden door to stay on and get an even bigger piece of the shrinking American pie, without any regard for the generations whose ancestors we welcomed centuries ago, nor for those who were here long before the United States of America existed.

President Obama’s bold action last week further taxes this nation’s resources and even further reduces its ability to improve the lives of America’s forgotten poor.

Signing that executive action, then asking us to be compassionate is akin to the neighborhood crazy cat  letting one more sad-eyed kitten in the door, crazy cat ladythen

 

 

another, then another, even though she hasn’t the time nor the resources to properly care for the ones she is already housing.

This laughably loose analogy doesn’t account for the fact that people can and, for the most part, want to work. But it does describe how taking too many people in as a compassionate act can have unintended consequences.

While I am a staunch advocate of our duty to care for, provide for, and fight for people throughout the world, I wonder why our president is more concerned with making things easier for people who disregarded American laws instead of investing in programs and industries and businesses that could boost the economic potential of rural Appalachia. The citizens of this region are among those Obama referred to in his address, who

“…go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens.”

I wonder why our president is not instead advocating for real change for  the Native Americans and Native Alaskans who live on resource rich territories with as high as 54% poverty rates, according to the 2010 US Census? I wonder why our president is not brazenly crafting and signing legislation that would extend loans to businesses willing to set up shop in coal country, bringing more jobs to some of the nation’s poorest areas.

America already cares for these people, you say? Sure! The people in need in these areas get Food Stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, government-subsidized education yet, wonder of wonders, they are still exceedingly, excruciatingly poor. Some areas could be described as  third-world poor. Almost 15% of Native American homes and schools on American reservations have no electrical service, though they may have wiring. A staggering 20% have no plumbing, and 18% have inadequate sewage-containment systems (US Census). poor-native-american-indians-shelter-shack-dilapitaed1

 

 

There are homes in rural Appalachia without connections to a local water service. No pipes, no toilets, no sinks. I’ve seen homes there with no windows. I once met a 19-year-old woman there who had not tasted a peach or a pear until I shared with her.

Is this the America the president closed his speech stating that “we love?” Is this the American Obama spoke about the other night, the one with a

“… shared commitment to an ideal, that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will”?

As we were  reminded Thursday night, “we are and always will be a nation of immigrants.”  Ah, the romance. Then the roses stop coming…

America hasn’t made good on its promise to all of its immigrants. The country hasn’t even treated its native populace with honor and respect. It is ludicrous to  allow so many more people in, with so many more to follow, without ensuring that those that are already here can prosper.

References

“A Quiet Crisis: Federal Funding and Unmet Needs in Indian Country.” US Commission on Civil Rights.  Report. July 2003. http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/na0703/na0204.pdf

Gabriel, Trip. “50 Years Into the War on Poverty, Hardship Hits Back.” New York Times. April 20, 2014.

Krogstad, Jens Manuel. “One-in-four Native Americans and Alaska Natives are Living in Poverty.” Pew Research Center. FactTank: News in the Numbers. June 13, 2014.

Obama, Barack. Immigration Speech: Transcript. Washington Post. Nov. 20, 2014.

US Census Bureau (2000). US Census FactFinder. Washington, DC: US Census Bureau.

Images from Native American Poverty in the US., The Simpsons.com, US Immigration Archives.

 

Lament for the Lost Library

Teens make good use of the library. (From the TLCPL webpage)

Growing up, I spent a lot of time in my neighborhood branch of the Toledo Lucas-County Public Library. Sometimes I’d wander there alone and read for a few hours. Other times I’d go with friends, or meet them to do homework at one of the community tables.

The librarians–the Silence Police–would make their rounds, shushing anyone who talked above the allowed  decibel limit,  admonishing giggling kids, and bouncing those  who made the library their playground. I recall once seeing someone ousted for  throwing a paper airplane.

The library has changed quite a bit over the years, no thanks to technology and the desire for more funding. I’ve long lamented the draw of the computers at my local branch. Whenever I go in, the seats in front of the screens are filled with zombie children and adults  feeding on their Facebook pages, online games, and instant messaging.  While computers were added to libraries everywhere as a means of providing unlimited access to unlimited information, I don’t see much research and learning at those terminals…for a lot of the users, computers are for play.

When the Main branch added the televisions, I, too, mourned for the days when the library was a repository of learning material, not a repository of media, which isn’t always enriching nor educational. The counter arguments posit that libraries are community gathering places, and that the definition of text is so flexible that as technologies advance, so must our recognition and acceptance of alternative texts.

Yesterday, I learned that the TLCPL has added video gaming to its offerings. As part of their new hip teen areas, The Main Library and Reynolds Corner branch have installed the  Wii, X-Box360, and Playstation 3 in areas where, according to its press release, 13-18 year-old-teens can, “…test their skills, learn and play games solo or in groups of 3 individuals.” 

The press release also includes this notation, in bold, “According to the American Library Association, some 75 percent of public libraries support gaming, by offering computer or board gaming, circulating games, or offering gaming events, areas and programs.”

WHY? Because it brings patrons in? Because those patrons have to use their card to circulate the items, thus signifying  the “need” for even more public  funding? And why the use of bold text as a rhetorical tool? Was spokesperson Rhonda Sewell expecting to be questione about the necessity of video-gaming?

Libraries in the state of Ohio suffered significant blows in the governor’s last two budget adjustments. Our local library system was quick to respond with an advocacy plot,  petitioning library users to call or write the state reps and the governor to demand more money for the library. Along with this came the dire news that the libraries would not be able to offer the programming they always have. Hours would be limited. They would not be able to purchase the volume of  books, CDS, DVDS, that we had grown accustomed to…

But they have funding for video games and the systems that run them? It’s all good for the kids, they’ll tell you–fostering community, engaging them in problem-solving, improving their hand-eye corrodination, 

I argue that had the library stuck to its traditional mission–a public source of information–rather than an entertainment venue and/or computer lab, it would not be so strapped today. I admit that I have benefitted from borrowing vdeos/DVDs and CDs without charge for years and years, but is that really the library’s mission? To provide community access to feature-length films? Don’t get me wrong: Funds used for expanding the film section could have beeen relegated to media, educational  media that is more difficult for the average citizen to access, like independent documentaries, for example. These would be more in keeping with a library’s mission than circulating  The Star Wars Trilogy.

I was shushed plenty of times by those Draconian librarians at the Point Place branch. It directed me back to my task and reinforced the idea that we need quiet to read and to absorb ideas. The library doesn’t seem to be the place for that anymore. But if not there, where?

The Cool Kids Get All The Breaks

Is President Obama taking the appropriate action to protect our troops and interests in Afghanistan? Is he making appropriate diplomatic choices while visiting with Asian leaders? Did he really think through his decision to try the 911 hijackers in New York City? Is he making flippant and irresponsible statments about the inevitability of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s conviction? Is he doing what he can to revise and negotiate a health care reform bill that will not bankrupt the country and burden our future generations?  

Who the hell cares? According to USA Today, he is the hippest cat in America!

Get a load of this graph from a November 3 article:

“President Obama may not have delivered on all the policy changes he promised since his election a year ago, but he and his family have brought dramatic social change to the nation’s capital and to the country’s collective image of its first family — and not just because they’re the first African Americans in charge at the White House.”

 While I see how the family has changed the image of the first family, I can’t think of  any “dramatic social change” the Obama’s have  brought.

The article details all the cool things the Obamas do, like hosting poetry slams, hiring Stevie Wonder,  Fergie,  and the Foo Fighters to entertain at their house, and they go to Paris and Martha’s Vineyard as a family! The first couple use iPods! She Twitters! He is addicted to his Blackberry.  She has a Facebook page.

 They go tho their kids soccer games. They work out….and they go out on the town… a lot.

If he got any cooler, he’d be able to bump Johnny Depp from the People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive throne.

The fact is, we all take our kids to soccer games, and we love or iPods, and social-networking tools. We travel with our families, and though we can’t have big-name acts play at our parties, we can entertain with their music. Obama is no cooler than the rest of us. The only difference between us and him is his success or lack thereof in his job, and his approval rating.  Hard-working Americans can sit at my cool table. Until The President proves himself worthy, he’ll have to find another spot in the cafeteria.

A Reluctant Non-Endorsement

I opened my  (Toledo) Blade this morning, and read my way to the Op-Ed pages, where I found that the lofty editorial board chose not to use its traditional space to make its traditional endorsement of its favorite mayoral candidate. They claim to endorse neither Wilkowski nor Bell.

 I see things a little differently–the team stands equally behind both men, therefore, it rubber stamps both candidates, or perhaps, some quality or qualification in each of the men vying for  the 22nd-floor throne. Ah, t’wer it possible that both men could be combined into one fair leader who could create prosperity from the ashes! But this is not in keeping with the role of the American newspaper in our daily lives.

Newspapers have ALWAYS been a strong influence in politics in this nation, and newspaper editors have been the engine driving that machine. WHY, the editorial board would so flippantly dismiss its mission, choosing the “Good Choice for Mayor” route is worthy of analysis.

The wishy-washy editorial ends with this statement:   “And so we reluctantly defer to the electorate, hoping that they will turn out in large numbers to make their wishes known on Tuesday.”

Is this a kinder, friendlier, everybody’s happy Toledo Blade? Don’t be too quick to draw that conclusion–

 Let’s look at word choice: Reluctantly?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “reluctant” as Unwilling; disinclined: Exhibiting or marked by unwillingness; Offering resistance; opposing.

The men and women who sit on editorial boards are “word people,”  that is, they carefully choose words that convey the meaning they intend. This word was not chosen by mistake, or wrecklessly to best describe the board’s inability to come to a conclusion about who they would want to govern the city–a conclusion that editorial boards in this city and thousands of others have done willingly and proudly for  hundreds of years.

One of the tenets of journalism tells us to be suspicious of such changes in policy: Why would the editorial board be so reluctant, so unwilling to make a public statement choosing one man over the other? What does the newspaper business have to gain by endorsing Wilkowski? Bell? What do they have to lose if Bell wins? If Wilkowski wins? Did someone, say a publisher, suggest that the editorial board not endorse a certain candidate, when the board did not feel it could in good conscience endorse the other?

If you read my diatribe levying charges of favoritism toward Democrat Wilkowski, you might be thinking that I should renege and concede that I was off base. You’d be wrong. I maintain my original stance–that the coverage of the mayoral race was biased in favor of Wilkowski. I did term this a “not so clandestine endorsement,” and that opinion stands.

It is clear; however, that for some reason, the editorial board could not or would not solidify that bias in a formal endorsement.

 

 

Helen’s Halloween Costume

costume

 

Here’s a photo of me in costume: It was the scariest thing I could think of–Terrifying, isn’t it?