Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

We Can Believe

January 21, 2009

So today I finished my last SAT class with the La Vida Scholars program in Lynn, MA.  La Vida Scholars identifies talented Hispanic students and helps prepare them for college and the college application process with MCAS and SAT prep, as well as  helping them find scholarships.  One of the students in the program is a quiet young man, Guilver Gomez, who seems to go out of his way to avoid drawing attention to himself.  But I want to bring some attention to him.  Guilver wrote the following essay for a scholarship and delivered it at a special breakfast on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  I thought it was particularly appropriate to share one day after the holiday, the day that the United States inaugurated its first black president.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest

by Guilver Gomez Gr. 11

“Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty we’re free at last.” (Washington DC, August 28th, 1963).

The quote above holds deep meaning for the immigrants in America. It describes the overwhelming sense of joy felt by a person who finally reaches the land of their dreams after having worked and waited tirelessly to find a better life. As an immigrant in America, I can identify with the joy that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. felt upon hearing the news that laws were being passed to protect his Civil Rights in America. This joy for African Americans came after suffering for hundreds of years under slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation. They had arrived in a new and better time.

My teacher explained to me Dr. King’s metaphor of crossing into a land of freedom. Dr. Martin Luther King expressed his feelings using the metaphor of Moses leading his people out of slavery in Egypt across the Jordan River and into their promised lands. During slavery, the slaves who escaped would follow the Underground Railroad out of the South and across the Ohio River to freedom in the North or Canada. Today, those traveling on the road to freedom are the immigrants of the world who are making their way out of poverty and war across the borders like the Rio Grande River into America, our new promised land.

My path to a new life wasn’t an easy one. I was born in San Marcos, Guatemala into a family that had never delivered a baby,\ in a hospital. After I was born, my father left to the United States to work and support his family. When I was five, my mother left us with my grandmother and joined my father in the U.S.  My grandmother was disabled and needed a lot of help around the house. My siblings and I attended school and helped her around the house. When my sister was 16, she decided to go to America and join my parents. She was in Mexico waiting for her visa when she was killed in a robbery. I was twelve at the time, and it was very difficult to deal with her death and my parents’ absence.

Upon turning 14, I decided to move to America and join my parents. I knew it was going to be risky. I had to travel for days by bus to Mexico and wait for my visa in a foreign country like my sister had. I supported myself by cleaning Mexican hotels in the dangerous city of Tijuana. I missed an entire year of school, and on a day when I was on my way home from work without my documents to reside in Mexico, I was picked up by Mexican immigration officials who placed me in a jail cell, just like Martin Luther King Jr.  They sent me on a three-day bus trip back to Guatemala where I had to begin my journey all over again. Just like Martin Luther King and the slaves of America before him, I did not want to give up. I returned to Tijuana and waited and worked until I was able to afford my trip to America.

Finally, at the end of my year in Mexico, I was able to fly to America and meet my parents. I landed at Dulles International Airport and felt free at last! I started back at school and now sit next to students who never had to fight to enjoy the freedom of America, but I know after tasting freedom, I’ll never forget it.

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that’s so gay

November 20, 2008

With all of the recent furor over gay rights, it seems fitting to highlight a recent series of PSA’s that attempt to address the issue of homophobia at its source: kids.

I realize my previous statement is a bit foolish; trying to pinpoint a source of homophobia is like trying to walk to the end of a treadmill, but the simple fact is homophobia is a learned behavior and if kids never learn it (or perhaps unlearn it) then eventually it will dissipate.  That’s why discrimination takes generations to overcome in any form.  It’s not like Martin Luther King had a dream and the next day everyone woke up and said, “You know, I think I’m going to stop being racist today.”  As for LGBT rights, the progress made in the last two decades is pretty astounding, but clearly, as evidenced by the recent election results, there’s plenty more work to be done.

As a former high school teacher, I can attest that homophobic language and attitudes are alive and well in today’s schools.  Yes, the overall atmosphere is safer and more inclusive than it was when I was a high school student (which isn’t all that long ago), but anyone paying attention while walking down a crowded hallway will hear a fair share of bigoted language.  Actually, the synthesis of new words can almost be amusing.  “Queertard” and “Gaywad” being some of the newer additions to the old standbys like “faggot” and “cocksucker.” Most of these words, though, have a clear, negative connotation among their users.  Yes, such hateful language should not be used so lightly in any context, but a high school student knows he or she is being pejorative when using such words (even if they don’t know what pejorative means.)

Homophobia doesn’t start with words like “faggot.” Those words are somewhere in the middle between quiet ostracism and physical violence.  Stopping harsh language like “faggot” will never eliminate homophobia; a kid can be taught to avoid certain words, but the hate that allowed those words to enter the lexicon will still be there.  You’ve got to start much earlier.

And that’s where the Thinkb4youspeak campaign is aiming.  In a series of three PSA’s starring Hillary Duff and Wanda Sykes, kids who without thinking say “that’s so gay” to mean stupid, get a little comeuppance.

And that’s so smart. Kids who say “that’s gay” rarely connect what they are saying to any level of homophobia.  In the moment, they are simply repeating an oft-used idiom that to them has no meaning beyond expressing their distaste for the subject at hand.  Anecdotally, I would say that 90% of the students I had who would say “that’s gay” had no real ill-will towards the LGBT community.  Whereas the majority of students who would use the word “faggot” were truly homophobic, at least on a basic level.  The “that’s gay” kids had gay friends and openly supported gay rights; the “faggot” kids did not.  What the “that’s gay” kids failed to realize, at least unaided, was that every time they used gay in a negative context, they were subtly reinforcing the homophobia among the “faggot” kids.  Certainly they weren’t endorsing it, but on a very basic level they were condoning it, and thus continuing a cycle of hate and ignorance that leads to the kind of discrimination and violence prevalent in all battles for civil rights.  Meanwhile, the students struggling with their own sexuality, the ones desperately seeking allies among their peers, were experiencing mixed signals.  They think they know their friends are accepting, but then again, can they be trusted?  What do they really think?

My point is, this series of PSA’s may seem naive.  It might seem unrealistic to think that changing how a kid thinks about the words “that’s so gay” will have any impact on homophobia in the “real” world.  And to a certain extent, it is.  However, if you really want to create change, you have to start at the beginning.  If you take a brick out of the middle, the foundation remains intact, in this case a foundation for homophobia and hate.  But if you take a brick from the bottom, the whole thing will come down and you can rebuild from scratch with a foundation built on acceptance and understanding.

Check out a CNN interview with Hillary Duff here.

Got Milk?

October 13, 2008

Do you hate political ads?  CNN and Time.com recently ran a feature of their picks for the “Top 10 Campaign Ads,” and I had to check it out.  “There’s a top 10?” I thought.  “That has got to be really scraping the barrel.”  But in fact, it turns out there have been some real masters of propaganda in this country and these ads are more than compelling.  And surprisingly, only one is overtly negative.  Turns out that some really effective ads can be made that actually make one candidate look good rather than simply trying to get a leg up by cutting down someone else.  In particular, the “It’s Morning in America” ad run by Reagan in 1984 is one of the finest pieces of propaganda I have seen.  Had I been able to vote in 1984, this probably would have done it.

Of course, the Kennedy and Ike ads might be a little too positive.  Forget the fact that they are cartoons.  The catchy jingle offers scant concrete reasons to vote for either candidate.  How did this work?  As if the American public would ever be fooled into voting for vague ideals in the guise of catchphrases and rhetoric!  Oh.  Right.  Maybe Obama should hire Pixar to come up with something for the last few weeks of the campaign.

See all the ads here.

The real debate.

October 5, 2008

Tina Fey returns for Sarah Palin part III and is as brilliant as ever in a longer sketch than the first two.  Maybe because Fey’s performance isn’t a surprise anymore, we don’t focus as much on her spot on mannerisms and verbal tics and inflections.  The real highlight here is Queen Latifah as moderator Gwen Ifill.  Latifah steals every moment with knowing glances and eye rolls, and she doesn’t try too hard to be funny in her supporting role.  Exactly what you expect from an Oscar nominee for best supporting actress.

Watch the video here.

Tina Fey does it again!

September 29, 2008

It may not have been quite as brilliant as the first time Tina Fey uttered “Hello, my fellow Americans!” but there are enough laugh-out-loud, satirical zingers to keep me wanting more Tina Fey as Sarah Palin sketches.  In case you didn’t catch it, here is this past Saturday’s opening sketch with Fey reprising her Palin and Amy Poehler filling in as Katie Couric.

$50 million is a lot of pennies

September 17, 2008

Alright, do something for me.  I need you to really think about this.  Reach in your pocket, the one where you keep your change–or find your change jar or whatever you use–and fish out a few pennies.  Look at them closely.  What are you planning on doing with them?  Think about what you are saving up for.  And answer honestly, do you really need the penny?

I mean, if you are like me, you collect a few pennies each day when you get change from your coffee, or your lunch, or your newspaper, and at the end of the day you drop the loose coins in a jar (I actually use a small vase that I got with a wedding centerpiece) and one day, months from now, you’ll find yourself with a few hours to waste and you’ll count up all the pennies you have collected. You might even roll them!  And you might even get excited about the $6.53 windfall you’ve come into.  Or maybe you’re not like me and you’ll just head to the coin star machine at the grocery store, which will count your change and then take a chunk right off the top (in this case 58 cents*) and you’ll get excited about your $5.95 windfall.

And who wouldn’t be excited about an extra $6?  That’s a $5 footlong at Subway, plus tax, plus a cookie!  But here’s the thing: that six dollars you just saved cost the US Government ten dollars!  (and we all know where the government gets their money)  It seems because of rising material costs, every penny now costs 1.67 cents to produce.  (Actually that was in 2007, apparently costs have gone down a bit in 2008, but it’s still way above the face value of a penny.)  The US minted 7.4 billion pennies in 2007, and some basic math reveals that that $74 million in pennies cost taxpayers an additional $50 million.  Just so we can all enjoy that pleasant jingle in our pockets and continue to fill up our coin jars.

$50 million isn’t going to solve our national debt, but it will go a long way towards any number of public service projects like schools, homeless shelters, disaster relief, or AIDS/Cancer research.  And why do we continue to waste $50 million every year?  Because our government believes we can’t live without our pennies.

So take a look at that pocket change, and ask yourself, “What has the penny done for me, lately?”

If you want to see where I got my numbers check out this CNN article from last May.

*Coinstar stated fee

“I can see Russia from my house.”

September 15, 2008

Okay, so I didn’t catch the SNL premiere this past Saturday because I was too busy watching highlights of USC’s demolition of Ohio State (Fight On!), but this CNN/AP article reminded me of the “political relevance” of SNL during election campaigns.  The recap of the Palin/Clinton opening sketch featuring Tina Fey was too good to miss, so I looked it up.  It’s even better watching than reading. . .I know, what a shock.

Anyway, this deserves to be seen.  Not only is it good political satire, Fey as Sarah Palin may be the most spot on, creepy impersonation by an SNL cast member. . .ever.

Palin/Clinton SNL

But how will this play to the middle red states?

September 14, 2008

This video really captures the earnest melodrama that has colored Barack’s campaign.  That said. . .it’s still hilarious. . .and hopefully these democrats don’t meet the same fate as the characters they are lip-syncing.

Behind every good man is a woman who drifts

September 4, 2008

My first post is going to be a link. . .

I haven’t really decided what direction I am going to take this blog, but political musings will definitely be a part of it.

I am a registered democrat and socially very liberal.  I make no apologies for that.  However, read this story and tell me who you’d really rather have as first lady.

Drifting and Cindy McCain?  Seriously?  This woman could be the best thing for White House style since Dolly Madison!

Cindy McCain takes the wheel in her own race