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Placing Blame

This will be a brief reaction to responses I've heard to the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy questioning who is responsible for this horrific incident. 

To those questioning why God would let this happen.  God gave us free will and the ability to know right from wrong.  Along with these liberties comes the responsibility of having to deal with the effects of our decided actions.  We don't question God when we use our free will to make good decisions and things work out well for us, so why are we so quick to place blame when our judgement lapses?? 

To media blaming video games and movies, I have mixed feelings towards you.  It would be an injustice to the victims to not report the story, but every time another event like this happens and it's broadcast, it motivates more unstable individuals to act in the same way.  I don't have a solution for a happy median, but I think it's important media not push all the blame off onto other mediums. 

That being said, the events at Sandy Hook Elementary have been heart wrenching and families of all the victims have my deepest sympathy.

Update: 8 January 2012. While reading The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran I ran across this quote which perfectly illistrates my point about when we should question/talk to God:
What is prayer but the expansion of yoruself into the living ether?
And if it is for your comfort to pour your darkness into space, it is also for your delight to pour forth the dawning of your heart. 
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Insomnia Ponderings

I ran across this when I was up reading one sleepless night:
Our intuition is always trying to get us where we need to go in the best possible way.  Sometimes this involves letting go of things that we are very attached to, and it may feel as if our life is falling apart.  If we are pushed to let go of something, it may be because we no longer need it, or it's time for it to change form. - Shakti Gawain
When faced with a difficult life decision, I pray for a clear sign that will direct me closer to my best self.  And by clear sign, I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm actually looking for ways to align reality with my vision of the best possible outcome.

The passage reinforced a lesson I know but am still struggling to own: I can't control everything.  Asking a higher power for help involves surrender.  Therefore, I can't get upset and disregard it when I receive an answer I don't like instead of the pleasing one I was looking for.  After all, why ask the source of infinite knowledge for insight if I'm not going to trust it?? 

It's a waste of time, effort and ultimately life to work in opposition of what's for me.  I can do it but when I do, I'm wasting energy trying to maintain what I think will make me happy, something that needs to go so I can obtain what will truly make me happy.

Whether I like it or not, I need to accept that something being forced out of my life is the clearest sign I can get.  It may be painful, but I have to be willing to accept that risk when I ask for help on this journey.  Nobody said it was going to be easy.
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I Heart DC

Having a large metropolitan area as a “hometown” comes with many headaches.  For instance, when I was in journalism school, it was recommended that students intern with their hometown newspaper as an easy way of gaining experience.  Easier said than done when your local paper is The Washington Post.  I did end up getting that internship, but I had to use the typical Washington method way of working connections to even get my foot in the door.
Today, I came face-to-face with another stressor that comes with being a metropolitan native – dealing with transients.  More specifically, how difficult it is being around people who have nothing to lose and everything to gain by living in your city.
Most people come to D.C. because they want to feel like they’re around power.  It makes them feel important. 
Unfortunately, these same people have a say in how our communities function.   It’s frustrating to discuss community needs with people who wanted nothing to do with the city just 10 to 15 years ago because they heard it was “dirty” or dangerous” or whatever else.  How can I take the opinions from the city’s fair-weather fans seriously when I know they’ll leave as soon as the city stops fulfilling their needs?
Maybe I care too much, but hear me out.  I continue to live in this area and do what I can to improve it because I love it, not for what it can do for me, but for what it is, for better or for worse.

Question 7 Revealed


Election season has ended and with its conclusion, the promises that politicians courted voters with have moved into their next stage – being broken. 
I had a bittersweet moment last week when I caught a glimpse of this The Examiner headline:  Maryland Faces Years of Hefty Budget Gaps.  This a mere two weeks after Election Day.  Fourteen Days after a majority of Maryland voters approved bringing a casino to the National Harbor.  A decision that was supposed to bridge budget deficits. 
My first reaction was to write about how I knew building another entertainment venue in Prince George’s County would do nothing to reconcile the difference between ever-increasing tax revenue, supposed budgetary needs and ever decreasing quality of living in the county.  But my next thought was about what’s on the line; if the county is not making money, it has to enforce cutbacks.  These will undoubtedly even further diminish services for our youth.
In the face of this, I didn’t expect officials to start preparing to reveal the okie doke they just pulled so soon.  Two weeks and Governor O’Malley has gone from TV ads requesting voters approve Question 7, to the front page of the newspaper admitting the measure he assured would help our community isn’t enough.
I’m no accountant and I don’t know what happened behind our local political scenes, but I’m pretty sure it takes longer than two weeks to balance a multi-year budget.  I’m going to leave it at this, because like I said, I’m dealing in assumptions, but I’m going to venture to say, officials knew about this continuing deficit while they were convincing voters to approve Question 7.

Permission to Love the Black Woman

I just got home from vacationing in Miami which is always an enjoyable experience, but this trip solidified how unfortunate race relations are in this country.

Because Miami attracts international tourists, it gives me the opportunity to interact with people, men mostly, from various cultures. With the exception of Americans, it seems pretty universal that they are attracted to me or find me interesting without taking ethnicity into account.

On the other hand, every American man that I spoke with asked about my race. This is where things got really sad. When I told them I'm black, I got responses such as, I'm too pretty to be black or pressing me to find out what I could be mixed with because I don't look African. The latter statement was from a conversation between me and a white man. Ironic that information his forefathers worked to erase is the precise information he wants in order to justify his attraction to me.

But the bigger question is, why does a white man's attraction to a black woman need to be justified??

Remember when Beyonce was on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2007?? She is one of two black women to ever be placed on the cover and it came about during the controversy about whether or not she is Creole. There are still differing opinions about this, but it was just the foothold white men needed to allow themselves to openly admit their attraction to her.

This is more of a rant than anything because the only solution to this problem is for these men's mindset to change.  And since I don't have the power to change anyone's mind about anything, all I can do is comment on how sad it is and keep it pushing.
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Why I'm Voting No On Question 7

Earlier this week, I was on Twitter (@MidnyteBloom) railing against Question 7 on Prince George's County's upcoming Presidential Election Ballot.  This question is asking residents to vote on MGM Casino having a location in the National Harbor.  Supporters of Question 7 have everybody from long-term county residents, to teachers to local politicians on TV saying how this casino would keep money in the state and how it would go towards improving the PG County school system.

Excuse me for not getting excited over this. 

Apparently these so-called, long-term resident's have no long-term memories because as someone who has lived in PG County my entire life, I know I've heard this all before.  Most recently, when we were asked to vote the construction of the National Harbor. 

Much like this new casino's deal offering to further education and bring 120,000 new jobs to the county, the Harbor's deal was that it'd further education and 30 percent of its construction would be contracted to local,  minority businesses.  In '08 it was revealed that only 4 percent of these contractors found work there. (Washington Post: Minority Contractors Speak Out, 8 May 2008). 

And, as of this year we discovered our county taxes are still the highest in the area, but our school system is still reprehensible. (Please visit my post, Open Letter to Elected PG County Officials for information on our tax situation and Follow-Up: Open Letter to Elected PG County Officials for information on where our school system is ranked). 

So, I meant it when I decried Governor O'Malley for broadcasting that Maryland has some of the best school systems in the country and saying voting for Question 7 will ensure this status.  It's not relevant.  The only reason our state made the list is because of Montgomery County.  Stop misleading and using the people of Prince George's County.  If this casino is to maintain our state's level of education, then please, go convince the people of Montgomery County of this and put the casino there.  But if this issue is really about improving our school system, it's in the numbers, we have more than enough resources to do that without this casino.

Is Better Always Better??

Lately, I've been contemplating the point at which wanting better becomes detrimental.  While I don't have a foolproof formula to identify that point, I have identified three situations that illustrate it.

The first is very straightforward.  It's destructive when a person wants better simply to feel like they're winning a competition with their peers, or worse, wants better because it's what society dictates they should want or lastly, uses better to substitute for a deficiency elsewhere in their lives.  I don't think I need to go into too much more detail here because pop culture is laden with examples.

The second is when what's technically better goes against what's intuitively right.  The best illustration I have of this comes from the novel I'm currently readingIshmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit
When the population of any species outstrips its food resources, that population declines until it's once again in balance with its resources.  Mother Culture says that humans should be exempt from that process, so when she finds a population that has outstripped its resources, she rushes in food from the outside, thus making it a certainty that there will be even more of them to starve in the next generation.  Because the population is never allowed to decline to the point at which it can be supported by its own resources, famine becomes a chronic feature of their lives.
 
What this is saying philosophically it's better to let people starve because it's nature's way of realigning the population with what it's able to provide for.  That by trying to help, we're actually not only prolonging the inevitable, but also making it worse.  That it's better to let everything take care of itself.  But it comes at the expensive of human lives.  Furthermore, it goes against most of our instincts to let others suffer when many of us are living in excess by some standards.  So, where do we draw the line for what's better in this situation??

The last situation I could come up with was when people are convinced that something ordinary is better than it really is.  I was going to cite the beauty industry or Hollywood illusions here, but I came up with something more monumental - literally.  The Leaning Tower of Pisa.  I've always looked at it as a tribute to the beauty of human error and thought it was amazing because it never fell.  But I never really took the time to research it or even really examine it that closely for that matter.  Today, I did.  Looking at the architecture, it's pretty, but there's nothing really unique about the columns and arches that constitute it.  I guess that's because it was designed to be a bell tower.  And to my dismay, it's not still standing by some divine intervention; the Italian government installed anchors and counterweights to keep it from falling because it didn't want to lose the tourism revenue the tower attracted.  I'm not railing against this historical landmark or even the Italian government, all I'm saying is, you don't have to accept something as better than it really is because of how the majority views it. 

And in the broader scheme, the only way to keep from taking better too far is by making a personal decision about what's best for you.
 
 
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Nature vs. Nurture? I Choose Nature.

Many people who know me know I've been having some difficulty with my supervisor of the past nine months. One of our issues has been my attendance.
My previous supervisor wasn't a stickler for time. She knew I'm a hard worker with high standards for my work product and that I'll do what it takes to deliver something I'm proud of. Oftentimes, this meant working long office hours, continuing to work from home once I "got off," monitoring my Blackberry on evenings and weekends and working 20 hour days when on business travel. It was not something that was required of me, but because my last supervisor didn't expect it, but was so appreciative of it, it motivated me to work harder to support her as best I could. So we had an understanding, I had office hours of 8:30-5, but she didn't trip if I got in at 9. And if nothing was going on around the office, she'd release me to go home in the evening an hour or two early.
I got spoiled.
When my new supervisor came onboard, she quickly made it clear she wants me to account for every moment I am on the clock. Her reasoning is she is signing my time card to verify I worked 40 hours a week, so she needs to be sure I'm actually doing so. My counterargument: I work more than 40 hours a week, but don't claim it (for overtime or compensatory leave) because I enjoy what I do. Being the low person on the totem pole, we all know the end result. I was informed I could not work outside of my office hours without prior authorization, that I must be in the office from 8:30-5 and that I have to check in when I arrive in the morning and when I leave in the evening - in person if my supervisor is in the office or by e-mail if she's on travel. Tight leash that's contributed to huge amounts of tension between she and I.
Imagine my shock when I checked my personal e-mail last night and had a message from my supervisor asking if I wanted to arrive 30 minutes later than normal today because my check-out e-mail yesterday evening was time stamped 30 minutes later than my usual departure time. I had to stay late to deliver a priority product with a tight deadline. I replied by thanking her for the offer, but let her know I planned to arrive at my normal time because I have another project I'm working on and I wanted to get as early of a start as possible on it.
It has taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get here and I'm under no pretense as to the cause of the offer. This is all an ongoing process that I can't get into online, but it does have me thinking about the nature of people. Initially, I concluded that when left to their own devices, people will do the right thing. Very naive, but in my defense, I had just woken up when I came up with it.
A couple hours and a couple cups of coffee later, I've come to two summations about the nature of people:
1) We love blanket ideas because we believe they protect us. For example, it's easy for my supervisor to have a blanket distrust for her employees. Perhaps she got burned in the past by an employee with dishonest time keeping methods, so now she thinks it's in her best interest to distrust all her employees and treat them accordingly.
2) When left to their own devices, people will do what it's in their character to do.
These bullets are completely juxtaposed because the second asks for us to release our proclivity towards the first; release our tendency towards blanket ideas in favor of handling each person and situation on an individual basis. And perhaps therein lies true human nature - juxtaposition.
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Taking the Charge

I’m officially relaxing my stance on something I firmly believed. I was recently having a conversation with a friend about how I believe myself to be slightly quirkier than the average person, but not too far off base. And then, my contact lens fiasco happened.

I was at rehearsal last week when I started having trouble with my contact. I rubbed my eye and it simultaneously became a casualty and something much bigger – it became the burster of my bubble.

About five minutes after I lost my contact in the nether regions of my eye, I found it – well half of it, I’m still not sure what happened to the other half - freaked out, left rehearsal and proceeded to drive home with one contact lens. Did I mention I’m legally blind??

I successfully made it almost home - I was about five minutes away - when I encountered jaywalkers. Jaywalkers at 10:30 p.m. when I’m down one contact and have no depth perception.

As I’m relaying this encounter to my friend, the only thing I can say about the entire fiasco is, “at least if they were going to jaywalk, they could have done it under a streetlight.” To which I received a response along the lines of the fact that there really are no rules to jaywalking.

So this experience and the conversation that followed made me realize I may think in different terms than other people. More specifically, my expectations for people are realistic, but also skewed. In this instance, I know people are going to jaywalk, I don’t fault them for that, but if they were going to be illegal, they should have been safe about it.

I guess the moral of the story is, we’re imperfect beings, but we should strive to be perfectly imperfect.

By the way, no jaywalkers were hurt in the making of this story.
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Hoping It's Truly Darkest Right Before Dawn

The past couple of weeks I've been bouncing between feeling like everything's on the brink of coming together for me and feeling like life has never been more of a mess.  The ironic thing is, both extremes are rooted in me, for the first time, not having a plan.

Scary as shyt to admit this because I've always had a plan.  My success thus far rests largely on that.  So now what??

I'd be lying if I said I haven't attempted to resort to my usual tactics of coaxing destiny's hand.  But I'm tired.  And furthermore, what's the point of me studying about developing intuition if I'm not going to put my skills into practice?? 

Right now my intuition is saying, chill.  Take a little time to go with the flow.

And it's with this that I'm struggling: learning to completely relinquish the reins and trust that what's for me will come when the time is right. 

At the same time, I've been enjoying this newfound understanding that sometimes I just need to let things be what they will.  It's freeing to admit that no matter how much I plan and/or try to do the right thing, it won't always give me my desired result.  The most I can do is prepare myself to receive and be worthy of everything good I've been desiring.

So, maybe this is all really just a lesson in patience.  Because while I'm good at working and sacrificing when I can see the timeline for achieving my goal, I don't do so well with the unknown.  This, perhaps, is my darkness.  Once I loosen my grip on it, I think my dawn will finally break.  The best part is, I think it's all within sight.
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Quartz Crystal


So, after 33 attempts, I was finally able to capture the effect I was going for.  The backstory is that I'd purchased some quartz crystal beads and I wanted to photograph them being illuminated.

Initially, I thought this would be so easy as to place the beads on a scarf and place the scarf over a flashlight.  But the scarf ended up either providing too much filter, this made the beads too distinct, or not enough filter which made the beads look like a glowing mass (not distinct enough). 

After a couple failed, filter readjustments, I decided to bring the light in from the side of the shot.  After doing this, my biggest challenge was holding the camera still enough that the image didn't blur (I was shooting in the dark with no flash).   The end result is still out of focus, but it captured the illumination effect I was looking for and really, after a long day at work, I didn't feel like dragging the tripod out to ensure a perfect shot.   

I also decided to see how the effect would translate into monochrome.  This is even more out of focus than my color shot, but it was enough to  show me something would be lost in translation.

New Ventures: Photography

Back in May, I wrote a Memorial Day post in which I  mentioned my desire to post photos I took with my new camera on a weekly basis.  Needless to say, I've fallen short of that goal.  In part because I'm still trying to learn the camera and oftentimes I visualize the way I'd like to capture a photo, but by the time I figure out what setting to use, the moment has passed.  I think it's something of a perfectionist nature within me.  Something that I need to get over so I can allow myself to actually play with and learn the camera and so improve my skills. 

I'll try to do better, but in the meantime, here are two of my favorite shots from the Baltimore Aquarium - both of jellyfish.  To see the full set, please visit my flickr photostream.


Pro-Black: A Positive or Another Adopted Label??

I find it unsettling that I can't locate information on the origin of the term, pro-black.  A Google search turns up Web sites providing pro-black within its own definition and information on Black Power.  The term may have been born out of the latter, but there's nothing that specifically makes the connection.  In a world where there's a study about everything and a field dedicated to word history, this is, as I previously mentioned, unsettling.

So many in the black community have accepted that our history, our culture, ourselves are not to be valued, that this has become the norm.  So, when members of the black community emerge demonstrating self-love, they're labeled pro-black.  What type of society are we living in that we put the destruction of a culture on a pedestal and slap a label on what should be the norm?? Nobody else does this. 

In fact, most cultures are pro-themselves, but nobody ever fills in the blank with their ethnicity or any other ethnicity except black.  This may be because with labels comes the propensity to group and with that, comes stereotypes.  For example, anybody wearing their hair in its natural state or locked becomes associated with being "pro-black."  So, now you have individuals with a distorted mindset grouped with those who are just trying to live and love.  And as with most things, society tends to focus on the negative, so it focuses on the group members who have room to grow and casts the entire group in a bad light. 

Looking at grouping from another angle, to be considered pro-black, do you have to love anything and anyone having to do with being black?  Just the positive?  Because what's good for one person isn't necessarily good for another just because they share a culture. 

I don't know, adopting the term seems like an unecessary stressor, a distraction even.  I understand the desire and need to unify, but don't think we need a label to do so.  I think we'd make more progress if we stop focusing on symantics and start focusing on truly learning and loving ourselves.
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Paying for the Sins of Their Father

I've been fortunate to have come across and/or been recommended amazing novels over the past couple of months.  I found my most recent read, Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, while browsing my Twitter timeline.  Unfortunately, I can't remember who was discussing the novel so I can't thank them for the recommendation, but I'm following suit and recommending it to my readers.

I always hate going into too much detail when reviewing a novel because I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but in brief, this is a story told by two, teenage daughters of a polygamist, James Witherspoon.  The first half of the novel is in the voice of Dana Lynn Yarboro, Witherspoon's oldest daughter.  Dana's mother, Gwen, is Witherspoon's second wife, but she and Dana have been kept secret from his first wife, Laverne and their daughter, Chaurisse.  Hers in an interesting perspective because she is pretty familiar with the comings and goings of Laverne and Chaurisse, while they have no concept of her connection to them.  The second half of the novel is told by Chaurisse.  This provided a dynamic shift in the story because the reader had the opportunity to see Dana and the polygamist situation through her eyes for 160 pages, so it was a different perspective hearing about her, the effects of the polygamy and Chaurisse through Chaurisse's voice.

That's all I'm going to reveal as far as plot, but I do want to share a stylistic element and language that I fell in love with from my favorite chapter titled Uncle Raleigh.  The chapter is a flashback from when Dana was 9 years old and begins with:

"I am  neither religious nor superstitious, but there is something otherworldly about the space where two roads come together.  The devil is said to set up shop there if you want to swap your soul for something more useful.  If you believe that God can be bribed, it's also the hallowed ground to make sacrifices.  In the literal sense, it's also a place to change direction, but once you've changed it, you're stuck until you come to another crossroads, and who knows how long that will be."

And without giving anything away about the plot and what transpired in this chapter, it ends with:

"When we passed the sign to get on the interstate highway, he didn't put on his turn signal and instead kept driving along the two-lane road.  He slowed a bit at every intersection, giving my mother the chance to ask him to change course."

Loved how Jones used the 13 pages that made up this chapter to bring this story within the story full circle.  

Also, am a big fan of this paragraph because it feels like a childhood memory:

"August was canning season, so the women were busy washing tomatoes, peaches, and beets.  Willie Mae was saving her money to  buy two window air conditioners; in the meantime we kept cool with window-box and funeral-home fans...Across the street, a lady sold Styrofoam cups of frozen Kool-Aid for a dime, but my mother had told me not to eat from strange people's houses.  I spent most of the time in the kitchen, up under Willie Mae, who would stumble over me from time to time.  The atmosphere was thick with the sugary smell of boiling fruit.  I would lick my forearm and taste salt."

I'd give this novel five out of five stars; highly recommended.


 

Connections and Understanding: Review of 'A Thousand Splendid Suns'

As I closed the back cover to A Thousand Splendid Suns, I had to say "That was a good book" even though nobody but my cat, Giselle, was around and she generally pays me no attention. 

This novel relays the history of Afghanistan from the 1980s until shortly after Taliban rule.  The most interesting part is, it's told from the women's perspective.  But the author is a man.  I'm usually leery of authors writing in a voice vastly different from their own, but Hosseini did well with this.  I feel he captured the desire for women to make something out of whatever circumstances they're given, thereby making the reader feel connected to his characters and their plights. 

I don't want to reveal too much because I highly recommend this book and want everybody reading this post to read the novel, but as a brief summary, Hosseini talks about how occupation and the struggle to regain a national identity affects a country.  Spefically, the war to rid Afghanistan of its Soviet occupiers and the subsequent civil conflict that resulted while trying to establish a government. 

It was heartbreaking to read the characters' stories and really get a sense of how all of this fighting affected everyday life and eventually the course of entire lives.  To get into the mindset of people who's every decision is determined by the will to survive.  To see what extremes they'll go to in order to access small luxuries such as watching a movie or traveling freely or having a choice of who you'll build a life with. 

In short, this novel balanced entertainment with history well.  Definitely would give it five out of five stars. 

Taking the Time

Yesterday, I stayed home from work to think and to write.  I'm not entirely sure what I'm writing - could be the beginning of a short story or it could just be words that needed to be written.  All I know is, it was important for me to put those words on paper before they got lost in the brain-numbing void created by my hectic, subway commute and my needlessly stressful worklife. 

I don't want to be diluted, to lose myself in the responsibility of trying to create a space for myself.  So even though I felt guilty about calling out from work, I felt it was more important to spend some creative time with my typewriter.  To make sure I continue to recognize and develop my own voice.


This voice which is important not only for my writing, but for understanding what's important to me, untainted by any outside influence. 

Again, my solitude.

If I don't do this, I do myself an injustice by possibly never knowing let alone fulfilling my purpose.  Self-actualization.  It's in me to do, I just have to make sure I take the time to do it. 

"When we're alive we don't have the time, or the peace of mind, or the inclination to see and understand what we could.  We're too  busy rushing to our graves." - Cristina Garcia Dreaming in Cuban
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The Places We Go

Earlier this week, I became consciously aware that if I do my best to avoid bad situations, I don't have to spend time figuring out how to get out of them. 

Then I had the realization that this wasn't a realization at all.  This was, in fact, the primary lesson my mom spent my entire formative years drilling. And I listened and subconsciously put it into practice, but I didn't grasp the weight of what she was saying. 

This weekend, I learned something that sent me crawling to the memory of sitting on my mom's lap, head on her shoulder and her whispering "There's some mistakes you can't undo, they just lead to other mistakes." 

I'm eternally grateful for that wisdom, the insight to heed it and the memory to go to in times like this.
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Mob Mentality

I’m in the midst of a love-hate relationship with Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness.  This is a collection of essays exploring the facets of the Objectivism school of thought, a philosophy I love, in theory, because it touts reasoning and productivity.  Closer study has shown me that it can only exist by extremes – by functioning in a void.  It gives no allowance for human imperfection because it doesn’t allow for any form of mysticism. 
So, even though I’m finding this collection difficult to read because I don’t agree with a lot – such as, America has got it all figured out and the rest of the world is wrong.   And anyplace America has erred is the fault of altruistic philosophy – I have found countless statements that resonate with me. 
“A society that robs an individual of the product of his effort, or enslaves him, or attempts to limit the freedom of his mind, or compels him to act against his own rational judgment – a society that sets up a conflict between its edicts and the requirements of man’s nature – is not, strictly speaking, a society, but a mob held together by institutionalized gang-rule.  Such society….represents, not a source of benefits, but the deadliest threat to man’s survival”
This sounds like the plight of minorities in America: working a lot for very little return, subpar resources limiting the ability to broaden the scope of thought and opportunity, in short contrived situations creating a less than ideal and oftentimes hazardous environment.    The majority creating a mob mentality to purposefully threaten the survival of the minority. 
And the worst part is, the minority has bought into it.  Knowledge is a person's biggest assest, but the minority community is encouraged to surpress the pursuit of it and instead focus on acquiring a glamorous, but often detrimental lifestyle.  It’s not just theory anymore.  Minorities are dying every day.  Our men end up in jail and so we can’t procreate.  Or the disparity between what minority men can achieve as opposed to what the women are permitted to achieve is promoted to the point where the two lack common ground and have no desire to partner.  And nothing against legitimately homosexual individuals, but some of our youth are doing it because it’s the in thing, not thinking about the fact that they’re contributing to their own destruction.  Minority survival is undoubtedly being threatened by a malicious school of thought.
It’s for reasons like this that I study philosophy. Taken in the academic context, it’s not enjoyable and I don’t subscribe to overarching theories, but there are people who use it to fit their needs.  So I need to understand and be able to apply philosophy to reality to survive.  They do.

Sacrifices

Recently, I was thinking about the nature of change. Missing some people and things from my past and realizing I sacrificed them to make me the person I am today.  A work in progress.  Which means in the future, I'll be sacrificing something I currently hold dear in order to progress to my next season in life.  Made me want to enjoy and value everyone and everything in my life that much more.  To make sure I'm really living in the moment because who knows how the next one will look.
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Better Late Than Never

So, last week's time of reflection threw off my posting flow a little bit, but it's okay, sometimes we need to take time to think.  The downside is, I'm more than halfway done reading Devil in a Blue Dress and I haven't given my thoughts on Manchild in the Promised Land yet.

This is the autobiography of Claude Brown, published in 1965, which recounts how it was coming of age in Harlem in the '50s.  I liked it a lot and gave it four out of five stars.

As far as the story, it was what you'd expect from an account of a man who made something of himself in spite of all odds being stacked against him.  The thing that stood out about this book was Brown's writing style.  Reading it made me feel like I was in his thoughts.  When the book opens, Brown is about five years old, and his thoughts sound like those of a five-year-old child.  Over the course of the book, his writing reflects the thought process of whatever season he was in in his life.  He was also skilled in capturing his thoughts and emotions when dealing with complicated life situations.  These parts of the book felt very human and often provided humorous anecdotes.  All of this made the book enjoyable, but it also gave me the sense of Harlem in the '50s as opposed to feeling like I was reading an analytical account.

The downside to this stream of conscious writing style is that because the book is written how people think, the story was sometimes circular.  This resulted in some redundancy which was a little irritating because the autobiography was so good, I almost felt like I was reading a novel and was expecting a linear plot.

All in all, it was a good book and it comes highly recommended by me.

Boundaries...the Good Kind

I've neglected to update my blog this week because I've been even more lost in thought than usual.  At the forefront of my mind has been the question, what is the life lesson that has had the biggest impact on me over the past couple of years??  I’ve determined it’s the discovery that I need to be more of what I considered to be selfish in the past.  Now I realize it’s less selfish and more the implementation of personal boundaries.

I’m a people pleaser.  I’ve admitted this to myself and now it’s time to create some balance within that trait.  There’s nothing wrong with me wanting to say or do something that may make somebody’s day, the problem comes in when I do it at the expense of my own happiness.

Sounds crazy to admit I’ll consistently neglect my own comfort to ensure the comfort of others, but my habit I wrote about in Ownership of trying to fix peoples’ problems ties into this.  And it all has to change. 

So, I’m working on implementing boundaries.  To be more selfish by denying people more.  Not to say “no” for the sake of saying it, but to be comfortable with knowing saying it does not make me selfish.  And knowing, when applied correctly, saying “no” will result in a peace within myself.  I’m almost 100 percent positive the calm I’ll receive from using my boundaries wisely will heighten the happiness I receive from bringing others joy because it will make my actions that much more meaningful.

This was not a lesson learned easily or painlessly.  I don’t want to be in the position I’m in now - being 30 and just starting to implement boundaries - but I definitely wouldn’t want to be in the position I was about three years ago before I learned this lesson. 

Life is about growth.  Evolution.  Without that, what’s the point?? 
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Our Culture of Change

This weekend, I was watching a movie on TV and was struck by how many commercials aired during the course of the film.  I did some light research and discovered that approximately 24 minutes or 41 percent of an hour of TV programming is dedicated to advertising.  This made me start thinking about the effect all these commercials may be having on our culture.

One of the few commercials I remember from my childhood was for colored contact lenses.  At the time, I didn't know anything about contact lenses.  What I did know was that most of the women in the commercial had brown eyes, but when they'd swipe a bath towel over their faces, their eyes would turn blue or green.  The women seemed so happy to be free from their boring, brown eyes that they convinced me to spend  countless time in the bathroom swiping a towel over my face.

This was probably 27 years ago.  Think how much worse the effects of advertising, and any form of multimedia, may be now that our culture has become so open about altering appearances.  I tried to find a study that provided research on how many beauty ads for botox-like products, eyelash lenghtening, hair weaves, weight loss pills, etc. air during an hour of TV programming, but was unsuccessful.  I think it is safe to say, we are constantly bombarded with beauty standards.

Knowing the effects that all of this can have, should we be shocked when we hear about 7 year olds having plastic surgery or that plastic surgery in children has increased by 30 percent in the last decade?  We've witnessed the evolution of our culture of change.  We've stood by when people took it too far.  Instead of talking about the phsycial and cultural dangers involved, we largely just gossiped and laughed about it. 

The beauty industry isn't going to damage its bottom line by presenting itself differently or less frequently, so we have to decide when we've accepted and been subjected to enough.  Do you think our culture can or will reach a beauty standard saturation point?

Update: Is this serendipity or what?? Since writing this post, I ran across this article Watching TV Can Lower Children's Self Esteem, Study Finds.  It's a pretty good read and has links to other useful info.
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Ownership

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about what it means to take responsibility for my thoughts and actions. 
Until recently, I equated responsibility with being honest with myself.  Now I realize that’s the definition of admission.  I’ve also realized admission alone will get me nowhere.
For instance, one of my personality traits is that I’m a problem solver.  This is beneficial in the sense that when confronted with an issue, I won’t rest until I’ve taken action to resolve it.  On the flip side, I try to fix EVERYthing.  I provide a listening ear and end up walking away from conversations trying to figure out a way to make everything better for everybody. 
Needless to say, I’m stressed out - - a lot.
So you see, being honest and admitting I’m a problem solver - to a fault at times – is a step in the right direction, but it does nothing to reduce my stress level.   But by owning the fact that I’m a problem solver, I can alter what that means in any given situation.  If it’s mine, I can give it away and place the responsibility of resolution where it belongs or I can choose to take a problem on.   Instead of letting behavior decide my strategy, I’m taking responsibility and making a conscious chose.
This happens, and I have nothing or no one to attribute my course of action to but me.  Responsibility.   Ownership. And hopefully a sense of relief.
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The Illusion of Progression

I'm in the process of reading Fraternity by Diane Brady. I find the subject matter largely uninteresting - the book relays College of the Holy Cross' efforts to attract more black men in the '60s - because having personally experienced being recruited by and attending a liberal arts college with a small percentage of minority students, reading this is like reading the journal I maintained as an undergrad.

I have taken a liking to a key player in the book, Reverend John E. Brooks S.J., the catalyst for Holy Cross' diversity push.

Rev. Brooks' views about what an integrated educational system should look like struck a chord with me.

"Was it fair to subject black students to a body of knowledge that had been forged by centuries of white men?...It wasn't enough to let in black students...the school needed to change."
And I would expand that last statement to say, the education system needs to change.

As a holder of a B.A. in African American Studies with a focus on Literature, one of my biggest gripes is that I can't just say, I was a history major, or, I studied literature. I am forced to differentiate an area of study because America continues to fixate on its citizens' differences. Although I studied the history and literature of a people in this country, I’m forced to refer to my area of expertise as though it exists halfway around the world.

These distinctions exist because it’s
the desire that our mainstream education system remain stagnant. For instance, literary classics should be the gold standard regardless of (or more likely, because of) the antiquated views they posses and history should be taught in the same manner regardless of the common knowledge that it’s been skewed to promote the interests of involved parties.

But how many histories can one country have? And more importantly, why has every other culture’s history been adopted into and taught as American history while our history remains its own category?

I know that by asking for our history to be regarded as simply American history, I’m asking for a lot. It involves the people in power accepting not only factual information, but also us as a people. Delving even deeper, this involves accepting responsibility for what’s been done to keep us on the periphery. I’m aware this is counterproductive to their goals and therefore unrealistic.

Therefore, it is our job to stop getting distracted - trying to keep up with the Joneses or trying to actively rebel by creating a counterculture that is becoming more meaningless by the day. We need to define and focus on our own needs as Americans.

Our history in this country predates slavery and even the arrival of European settlers. So, we need to acknowledge that we're more than just a small portion or an appendix to our country's history. And once we accept this, we need to share the knowledge because regardless of a person's race, ethnicity or culture, if they live here, our history, as American history, affects them.

The diversification in our country's education isn't going to start at the top because like I previously said, the people at the top have a vested interest in keeping things the way they are. So we need to educate each other. I'm trying to do my part through this blog, but I still have a lot to learn, so please treat this as a forum to hold conversation, share ideas and information.








Another Great White Hope??

When I began reading Three Cups of Tea, I made a
prediction that I’d either love the book because it was about a man, Greg Mortenson, founder of Central Asia Institute, who turned his thoughts into action, or hate it because it was another story glorifying the Western World’s influence on so-called primitive cultures.

After reading it, I’m surprised that my reaction is simply lukewarm.

I accept Mortenson’s assessment of one of the possible causes of extreme Islam – lack of opportunity. He believed that by providing education in Pakistan and Afghanistan, it would create opportunity. This opportunity would thereby prevent people from feeling the need to join groups such as the Taliban in order to be heard and get what they need. In short, he felt that a counter-attack against terrorism was respect. Provide communities basic needs - schools, clean water and the tools to create industry – instead of solely approaching them destructively.

“People in that part of the world are used to death and violence…the worst thing you can do is what we’re doing – ignoring the victims. To call them ‘collateral damage’ and not even try to count the numbers of the dead. Because to ignore them is to deny they ever existed, and there is no greater insult in the Islamic world. For that, we will never be forgiven.” – Greg Mortenson
My least favorite feeling about the book stems from what remained unsaid. There are children right here in America that could benefit just as much from the aid Mortenson strove to provide for other countries. Although I don’t frown on any humanitarian efforts, I wish more people paid attention to taking care of their own before extending themselves. I just feel we’d be able to do more overall if we’re stronger as a whole.

Okay, so now that my opinion has been stated, I’d like to talk about my favorite story in the book. Jahan, the first graduate of the first school Mortenson founded in Pakistan came to him after she’d completed her studies in her village. When she began her studies, Mortenson asked what she envisioned for her future and promised to help her achieve her goals. She wanted to continue her education by studying medicine in a nearby city and then returning to her village with the knowledge. To convince Mortenson to help her make her dream a reality, she put together a written proposal detailing course load and cost of tuition and school supplies. The catcher was this quote:

“Here comes this teenage girl, in the center of a conservative Islamic village, waltzing into a circle of men, breaking through about sixteen layers of traditions at once: She had graduated from school and was the first educated woman in a valley of three thousand people. She didn’t defer to anyone, sat down right in front of Greg, and handed him the product of the revolutionary skills she’d acquired – a proposal, in English, to better herself, and improve the life of her village.”
If that’s not the fruition of opportunity, I don’t know what is.

Although much of the book focused on humanitarian efforts, Mortenson and Relin did a wonderful job capturing the political context of the conflict in Afghanistan. He described a visit to the Pentagon when he gave a speech about his efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He detailed military officers with laptops under their arms speed walking down hallways – a world apart from life as he knew it from spending time in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They are simply out of touch, using cyberspace to try and fight a very real war.

And last but not least, I loved this quote Mortenson and Relin included from one of Pakistan’s Brigadier Generals, Bashir Baz

“Osama is not a product of Pakistan or Afghanistan. He is a creation of America. Thanks to America, Osama is in every home…you can never fight and win against someone who can shoot at you once and then run off and hide while you have to remain eternally on guard. You have to attack the source of your enemy’s strength. In America’s case, that’s not Osama or Saddam or anyone else. The enemy is ignorance.”
So overall, there’s a lot of really great parts to this book and some that are far too detailed and drag on too long. On a scale of one to five, I’d give it 3.5. Not a must read, but definitely worthwhile.


Bittersweet Holiday

This Memorial Day weekend, my family honored my cousin by having the road my Grandmother, Aunt and Uncle and his family live on renamed for him.

This was a huge deal because my cousin was a staff seargant in the Marine Corps. He gave his life in Afghanistan about a year ago - he was 34.

The saddest part is that he left three young sons who are about three years old, two years old and five months - his wife was preganant with the youngest when my cousin was killed. So although his children may never have any memory of their father, hopefully seeing that he has a street named after him will give them some understanding of how special he was.

The street renaming ceremony gave me the opportunity to try out my new camera while documenting the event (I want to create a keepsake from the ceremony to give to my family. I plan to put the photos on a DVD with voice overs from family members I interviewed after the ceremony.) This is one of the favorite shots I took.


Military members from all around attended the event; many didn't even know my cousin, but they came out to honor a fallen comrade. During the ceremony we honored service members. This shot is of the Marine Corps color guard and a wounded veteran making their way to the stage to receive recognition for their service. It was a very touching moment, and I have to say, as someone who's just getting into photography, I'm proud of myself for capturing it.

Although I don't support war, I do have a lot of regard for the people who serve in our armed services. Happy Memorial day everybody.

Follow-up: Open Letter to Elected PG County Officials

On Monday, Newsweek released a list of the top 1000 public schools in the nation.

Twenty-three Maryland schools made the list. While at least seven of these were in Montgomery County, not one PG County school made the list.

Again, how does this disparity happen when PG County has a higher taxation rate than Montgomery County??

Best High Schools in America 2012: Newsweek Releases New Rankings

Open Letter to Elected PG County Officials

Prince George’s County needs to invest in itself. As our elected officials, you are charged to lead this effort for the betterment of our county’s future.

I live in a community in PG County that has approximately three school bus stops. This means, I have the opportunity to observe many youth as they make their way to and from their respective schools. I understand schools are relying more on technology and less on textbooks, but an overwhelming majority of the students are boarding buses with no book bags, laptop bags or iPad/tablet cases. This begs the question, what resources do our youth have and what are they studying?

Residents of PG County pay more property tax than residents of Montgomery County, yet Montgomery County can afford to properly supply its students with resources, current technology and education that prepares them for higher education.

By mismanaging our tax dollars, you’re creating obstacles our youth must overcome in order to compete in today’s educational system and later, a job market that is steadily evolving to completely exclude applicants lacking higher education.

Our youth may not understand the gravity of the injustice being done to them, so it’s their parents’ responsibility to push for their children’s fighting chance at a decent life. Unfortunately, many parents are stuck in cycle of trying to obtain or maintain a decent job in hopes of making a better life for themselves and their children. Oftentimes, this cycle involves trekking across town because professional jobs in PG County are seriously lacking. This leaves little time for PG County parents to seriously pursue the matter of their children’s education. Simply stated, we need better jobs in PG County. Family structure and our youth’s future depend on this.

If Montgomery County can do it, we can do it. We have the resources, now we just need leadership that cares enough to demand change. Please take these items on for action.

Playing the Race Card

As humans, part of our social nature is to search for similarities in each other; something in another person, with which we can relate and bond over. I think that's why any 'ism' feels like it's going against the grain.

To maintain an 'ism,' extreme, conscious measures need to be taken. Unfortunately, this is mostly achieved by putting another group of people down to elevate one's sense of worth. For instance, classism often comes by living in excess to highlight the divide between those who have and those who are less economically fortunate. And racism comes at the expense of the minority. I don't understand racism, so I can't explain what racists are trying to bring to our attention. They're better people because of skin color?? I almost feel bad for them because they think they have nothing better going for themselves than genetics.

This sense of superiority is as contrived as the measures taken to deny it. One of the tactics that bothers me most is when people use race as an adjective. Especially when it's done for nothing more than political reasons. As in, "Our county was built around such-and-such lake which was discovered by so-and-so, the first African-American man to drive a car." Get where I'm going?? One thing has nothing to do with another. This is just another form of, "Some of my best friends are black." The issue of race is often squeezed in for selfish reasons - to show you're dealing with good people because they like brown people.

And it's condescending. With all the contributions brown people have made, why are we relegated to getting pats on the back for the mundane while our major contributions are downplayed. What if the situation was reversed?? I don't ever recall seeing a historical reference to "so-and-so, the first white man to use a gas mask." Sounds ridiculous, right?? So why do we accept it??

And not only do we accept it, we've adopted it. How many times have you caught yourself saying something like, "Hey, there's some white girl looking for you."?? It's easy, but it's lazy.

Let's do better, but also, let's expect better. If people insist on using race as an adjective, let's make sure it's an educational sense and therefore in everyone's best interest.

Inspiration to Demand Better: A list of major inventions by African Americans

Too Good to Wait

In the past, I've usually held off on reviewing a book until I've completed it. This is because, in general, I'm only comfortable sharing my thoughts on a matter after gaining a complete understanding of a person's intent. Today, I'm making an exception.

The following passage, excerpted from Angela Davis' autobiography, is enough to justify this exception and for me to recommend the book before completing it:

the great majority of white people, both in the United States and England, have been carriers of the racism which, in reality, benefits only a small number of them - the capitalists. Because the masses of white people harbor racist attitudes, our people tended to see them as the villains and not the institutionalized forms of racism, which, though definitely reinforced by prejudiced attitudes, serve, fundamentally, only the interests of the rulers.

This is a truth I've been harping on for years. Davis stated it well.

I'm woman enough to admit this admission not only excites me, it also intimidates me. Davis wrote her autobiography when she was 28. I wish I'd accomplished enough during the first 28 years of my life to create not only a thought provoking piece of literature, but more importantly an impact on history.

In the introduction Davis wrote for the book 15 years after its initial publication, she mentions writing it to document the struggle occurring in the '60s and '70s. In this effort, she definitely achieved her goal. For instance, in one passage, she details the scene when Carole Robertson's - one of the four girls killed in the Alabama church bombing - mom arrived at the scene of the crime. Davis' words so accurately described the pain and anger felt by the black community, I had to close the book and walk away.

But I think Davis achieved something beyond creating a historical document; she created inspiration. This is an intelligent woman who had the drive to ensure her knowledge and talents were consistently in the right place at the right time.

I could use this autobiography as instruction on how to make my learning make a difference. But I think it's more beneficial to view it as a reminder that there's more to life than philosophizing about my purpose, I have to act on it. My path will undoubtedly look different than Davis', but the important thing is that I leave a legacy for future generations to build on.

Wanted: The “Conscious’ Community’s Awakening

Too many in the so-called conscious community have lost sight of what consciousness means. In the past, it meant the struggle to educate yourself AND others so the entire community progresses.

I firmly believe that people who know better tend to do better. I also believe there are some people who don’t have the means to know better and therefore don’t stand a chance at doing better. This is where the conscious community should step up - to provide for those America has purposefully neglected.

Instead, many in the ‘conscious’ community have lost sight of this and have become largely self-serving. They’ve made being conscious a trend - even borderline cultish. It’s about the facts they’ve memorized or the books they’ve read to let others know they’re part of the crew.

The worst part is, instead of sharing this information and thereby uplifting others, they try to boost their appearance of intellectualism by denigrating people who don’t have the means to know or do better. They’ve become hoarders of knowledge.

It’s all very selfish and oppositional to the goal of consciousness. Nothing is accomplished by talking at people. This is evident by the fact that our community is still lacking.

People need to focus less on what a conscious individual looks or sounds like and more on what it will take to be a healthy and aware community.

Relearning Behavior

“…life had begun to go so fast that accepting would take the place of knowing and believing”

I ran across this quote this morning while reading Light in August by William Faulkner. It made me think, why do people, more often than not, lose their fighting spirits as they age??

During my undergrad years, it seems like organizers could get a majority of our campus to protest nearly anything deemed unjust. We protested so much, we had a running joke that we’d have a protest against death and after that, we’d protest a protest. What happened to all of these people who stood up against any and everything that didn’t seem fair??

According to Faulkner, life happened to them. But I can’t accept that. I believe fear happened.

Much of adult life is about security. We have responsibilities – people and things in our lives that make us feel accomplished and therefore secure. We’re scared to do anything that may compromise the well-being of these responsibilities. As a result, we go to the extreme of not standing up for ourselves. I feel this is learned behavior.

I had a recent experience on my job where I was demanding to be respected as a professional. A human resources representative who is probably about twice my age tried to talk me down because of the waves it would cause my highly-visible office. I got the, “Just have faith and let God take care of it, Baby” argument. Me and God have a pretty good relationship and I trust Him to handle it, but I don’t think He wants me to sit idly by and do nothing but wait. Nothing would ever get accomplished if everybody did this. I ignored the fear that was trying to be instilled in me and kept on my path. So far, everything has worked out in my favor.

As with anything else, I think it’s about balance. There are ways to stand up for what you know and believe to be right without crossing into territory that may be hazardous or into territory that forces you to accept the unacceptable. Let’s relearn behavior and teach it to the youth. Let's stop populating this cycle of fear, it's not good for anything but holding us back.
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Is It Only Entertainment??

I was recently having a discussion with a co-worker about how entertainment constantly bombards us with information that is at best not of much value and at worst – and most likely scenario – counterproductive to any worthwhile pursuit.

People do strange things to feel whole when their spirit is lacking and unfortunately it’s being broadcast via reality TV and mainstream music. And a majority of our culture is hollowing their own spirits trying to emulate what they perceive to be just a lifestyle.

My co-worker argued that in fighting for freedom of speech, this is part of what America was fighting for.

I would argue that what is running rampant in our culture and posing as freedom of speech is anything but. It’s an illusion achieved by portraying people saying and doing any and everything. After all, we can’t accuse information of being regulated if they let that be broadcast, right??

Wrong.

Freedom of speech was intended to deregulate information share in hopes of educating the masses to assist in informed decision making. Pushing an abundance of mentally corrosive material is working against this goal by bombarding us with misinformation about the realities of life.

The information we need is out there, but it’s not made as accessible as the negativity to which we’re constantly subjected.

We’re too quick to think we got what we were fighting for and become complacent and easily manipulated. In truth, the fight for freedom of information and ourselves continues. We need to take the free speak we do have and make better use of it.
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Solitude


Originally posted on Tumblr September 24, 2011:

To some it may appear as though I’m sitting around waiting for the sky to open up. My friends respect it, but few actually get it. And me, I absolutely must have it. My quiet time.

I’ve always needed it, but never put much thought into why until recently. I’m not as quick on my feet or as witty as some of my more outgoing friends, so it’s my time to process the day’s events.
To reflect on my interactions with my environment and the people I came in contact with. To think about my words and actions, if they were appropriate and if or how I would react differently in the future.

See, I act on what I feel a lot of the time. Sometimes my emotions are right and sometimes they’re wrong, but I’d never know that unless I examine them. Sometimes I try to fight a feeling, but despite my best efforts, I keep ending up where I should have begun.

My quiet time gives me the chance to think about the purpose of my path and learn just a little bit more about myself.

One day, when I’m no longer needed, I’m going to get to the root of it all. Retire to my home on the Bayou - just me, my music, books, a pen, some paper and my solitude.
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The Collective "We"

After recently spending time studying Rastafari, one of the many things that struck a chord with me is the need to be alert like the Lion.  This for the purpose of guarding my energy against negativity in any of its forms.
I'm daily confronted with situations, people and environments that I know are not for me, but I'm also faced with many more that are seemingly harmless.  For instance, work.  Being in the Public Affairs field has been a mixed bag; I enjoy my career, but it does involve me crafting messaging on behalf of my organization.  As a result, I often find myself using the collective "we" even outside of work.  This is disturbing because when people become part of a unit, they lose individuality  - free think.  I don't ever want to lose this ability.
My inner Lioness stays woke, guarding against the effects of the collective "we" because the day I stop learning is the day I want to die.   
"Let me out, let me out/I'm an angry Lion" - Iron Bars by Stephen Marley
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Don't Pee On My Head and Call It Rain

Originally published on Tumblr on October24, 2011.
I try to keep my energy positive, but occasionally I have to have a bitch session to rebel against being played like a fool.
Today, my gripe is the Giant grocery card that gives me a discount at Shell gas stations.
This evening, I actually got excited that I received a $0.20/gallon discount, bringing my normally priced gas from $3.39/gallon to $3.19.
That is, I got excited until I started thinking. Twenty cents is a big difference. Like, if there was a station in the neighborhood that was $0.20 cheaper than the others off top, people would be lined up down the street to get to it.
This brought me to the lies the American people have been told, for at least the past decade, about what affects fuel prices: natural disasters, war, yada, yada, yada.
All that is still in play right?? I may be mistaken, but I think Turkey just had an earthquake, Ghadaffi just got taken out and we still have deployed troops. If these affect gas prices, they couldn’t create any give, right?? So, why now am I able to get a discount??
I think the answer may have something to do with the fact that I’m having to pay obscene amounts of money for groceries. Apparently, the price of food had to go up to offset the rising fuel costs transporting companies have to pay to deliver food to the stores.
Bear with me because although it seems straight forward that the American people have been getting raped by big oil companies at least since the George W. era, I’ve never run the numbers to see just how ridiculous this all is.
So basically I’m paying for the tractor trailers’ gas and my food just to save less than $3 when I fill my own car up?? Nothing can convince me we’re not living in a consumer-be-damned society.
I attempted to Google what kind of gas Giant tractor trailers use to transport our food, but the only thing that popped up was info about the gas rewards program. Big surprise. If I had to guess, my money would be on Shell holding that contract too.
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Things That Make My Soul Cry: Schoolyard Games

Originally published on Tumblr November 4, 2011:

I fell asleep this morning and found myself caught in the cylindrical web America has spun; for one brief moment, joining the military made sense to me. And then I woke up.

I was really surprised at myself because this unfortunate event happened right after I heard that Republicans blocked the Rebuild America Jobs Act. Apparently, avoiding a slight – 0.7 percent – tax increase for the wealthiest Americans, less than 1 percent of the population, is more beneficial than creating hundreds of thousands of jobs for everyday joes.

Like really, things are ridiculous. Recently, I was looking at a federal government position that required a PhD, but was set at GS-11, meaning starting pay is a little over 50K. I don’t have a PhD, but I was offended on two levels: 1) the lack of regard this agency gave to the amount of student loans an individual accrues to obtain a PhD (and definitely can’t afford to repay on a GS-11 salary) 2) the fact that our market is to the point where people need to have a PhD to even start to think about living comfortably.

…that our market is to the point where I would think about joining the military.

This thought stemmed from a conversation I was having with my co-workers yesterday. One, who we’ll refer to as TG, is military, the other, who we’ll refer to as D, is a civilian and is also in the market for a new job. TG stated that D should be able to find a job in no time in this area. Maybe TG was just being nice, but I also think it may have come from military being unaware of how frustrating civilian job searches can be.

At this point, I started envying the fact that although some may apply for jobs within their branch, for the most part, military are assigned tours of duty and don’t have to search for jobs. In any case, there’s guaranteed pay for service regardless of tour.

Then I thought about the flip side – falling into the trap of letting a job market that’s designed to be less than stellar, convince me to fight a war that’s not mine. A war that’s occurred because someone finally stood up to the wealthy, American bully and decided they weren’t going to line our 1 percent’s pockets with its lunch money any longer.

Our elected officials are financially taken care of and think nothing of utilizing a high school mentality when confronting these issues. They show no remorse at giving a utilitarian approach no consideration, even when nobody would be negatively impacted (meaning 0.7 percent increase of taxes won’t break a millionaire), for the simple fact that it would support a rival clique… my bad, rival party. Unfortunately, this simple-minded allowance comes at the expense of the majority and often manipulates us into getting sucked further into their childish games.

I wish I could offer a solution, but all I can say is, stay woke, my friends.
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Soapbox Days: Same Shyt Different Toilet

This article gave me a headache, but please read it if you get the chance:

Two years after BP oil spill, executive compensation still flowing

I've been harping about the injustice of oil prices for years now. At first my gripe was simply that as a full-time graduate student working as a waitress, I could barely afford to commute to school and work. As a working adult, gas prices are still putting a strain on me (mainly because the price of everything has drastically increased and it's blamed on the price of fuel), but it's so much bigger than that. Now, to add to the fact that I'm pissed off about being robbed blind, I'm also pissed that my intelligence is being insulted.

Just last week I read an article promoting the idea that fuel prices are rising because of what's going on in the Middle East. This reasoning is nothing new and frankly I'm tired of hearing it. Especially when every year I have to read articles about how large the oil companies' margin of profit is. And now, how BP's CEO Bob Dudley's pay package of $6.8 million in salary, annual bonus awards, stock grants and options is small in comparison to the packages other oil companies' CEOs receive. And how Tony Hayward, BP's CEO in 2010 during the infamous Gulf Coast Oil Spill, was paid out $1.1 million last month and $194,973 the year after the spill.

And the only thing BP has to say when questioned why these guys are still making the big bucks after exhibiting poor performance is, they're trying to offer competitive pay??

“We recognize a concern by government, and society at large, of excess in this area, but cannot ignore the reality of a global competitive market for top executive talent,” Antony Burgmans, a BP director and chairman of the remuneration committee, wrote in the company’s annual report. “We respect investors’ expectation for pay to be strongly tied to performance while also wanting to ensure that executives receive fair reward for their achievements.”

If BP wants its executives to be fairly compensated based on their achievements, it should really be collecting money from them. The Gulf Coast Oil Spill was a major, somebody give me a word for "opposite of achievement," and everybody seems like they've forgotten about the smaller, spills BP has had since then - more anti-achievements.

I'm sorry, but if members of middle-class America demonstrated this level of performance, they probably wouldn't keep their jobs. They certainly wouldn't be paid more just to ensure everybody's salary is competetive. But not only is the middle class living by a different set of standards, it is also being hit left and right for money to fatten the pockets of just about everybody who runs with the oil clique. And on top of it all, it's constantly being lied to.

Okay, I have to get off this soapbox and go take something for my head...

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Things that Make My Soul Sad: Lack of Self Love

During my hiatus from Blogger, I was on Tumblr, but that forum didn’t work well for my purposes. Because I’d like to compile my online writing in one spot, I’m going to republish some of those pieces here. I originally published this one on November 10, 2011:

Ladies, we need to talk about hair because a lot of you are driving yourselves insane over it. And men, I’m inviting you to the conversation because some of you are a major contributing factor to the loss of sanity.

I’ve been very fortunate to be surrounded by men who stay in their lane as far as the topic of my hair goes - they’ll talk about it if I bring it up, tell me it looks nice if it does and if it doesn’t, they say nothing. This is as it should be.


But, I’ve also had a few men who mistakenly think they’re in my circle and can comment on my hair. From these few run ins, I understand why women who allow this sort of energy around them are confused. (A very solid argument can be made that women who are pressured to react based on another’s issues with self image need to change their thinking, but I’ll leave that for another discussion.)

I wore my hair natural for much of my 20s until I decided I wanted a bob and relaxed it. I found the variation of men’s interactions with me to be, well, confused. When I would wear my hair relaxed, I’d have men come up and thank me for not having weave, very few men would approach me when my hair was natural and when I’d wear a headwrap, I’d have men come up and ask me if my hair was long. To me, this says some men are more willing to approach a woman based on fantasy than truth - we’re brown and we have our own texture of hair that most likely is not straight and/or long.

It’s still beautiful though. It’s said hair is a woman’s crowning beauty, there’s nothing in there about what texture the hair has to be. Until more people start accepting that, including our own people, women are going to keep relaxing their hair until it all breaks off or gluing/sewing/weaving somebody else’s hair in their head until all their own hair breaks off or wearing wigs and neglecting their own hair until it breaks off…sensing a theme here?? This makes as much sense as shaving your eyebrows off and creating new ones with eyebrow pencil.

I’m not advocating wearing your hair natural or relaxed or braided or whatever. All I’m saying is appreciate what you have and make your style decisions based on style, not somebody else’s perception of beauty.
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Things That Make My Soul Sad: Superficiality

This weekend I learned there's two things a majority of people should not do - have smartphones and later down the line, have children.

Let me explain the correlation. I was sitting in a bar this weekend and got into a conversation with a seemingly intelligent man. He did seem overly eager to settle down, but because we had similar interests, I agreed to exchange information.

And now I'm depressed.

We exchanged approximately four text messages before he replied to my text asking how he was doing with an unsolicited photo of himself in a pool. The photo's caption stated he was fine and that he was sitting at home writing. I'm still trying to figure out what the photo had to do with what I asked him and with what he was actually doing at the time he sent the reply.

More importantly, I'm trying to figure out why he would think it's acceptable to send it. Call me old fashioned but I thought photos were reserved for people you have a connection with or at least someone who requested one, not just the person you met in a bar the nyte before. Has our culture become so superficial the attractiveness of a potential mate now outweighs all?

This encounter was almost discouraging enough to make me start batting for the other team. But then I thought, for him to do that and think nothing of it means there's a large group of women who also think this is okay and are probably even responding in turn.

And to make it all worse, these people get together, procreate and teach their children these whack ideals. Seems the only hope to ending this cycle is for evolution to kick in and eliminate all the pretty, but clueless people.
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