February 27, 2010

War and Terrorism

I. Origins

When in the course of human events it become necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another...

In this cold Michigan winter, it is much more easy and convenient to only care about the everyday things in life—having enough money, working, going to college, taking care of your family—that most people seem to push the broader United States picture into the foreground of their minds. Even if the curious intellectual should probe into the present historical times, he or she would be faced with terrorism, famine, a growing gap between rich and poor, and an overall pessimistic view of America's prospects.

College students have a unique opportunity. Even though we may come from poor backgrounds or farms, we are given the opportunity to learn about current times and hopefully acquire the weapons necessary to fight should our national integrity be threatened.

Estimates from the Census Current Population Survey November Supplement suggest that the voter turnout rate among young people in 2008 was one of highest recorded.

A bell in my head rings. I pick up what remains of my backpack and head out the door in a thick winter coat. It is dry and cold in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The morning cuts into my skin with the claws of an unrelenting force, and yet the sun is rising like every other spring day. Cars, truck, and buses pass by my house on Fuller Avenue as I wait to cross the street.

My life is the life of my mother before me. Like her, I agreed to going to college without any real plan in mind. Of course, I get a little more financial aid than she did, and she is much more supportive of me than her parents (my grandparents) were of her. However, standing on the sidewalk waiting for the cars to pass, and feeling the gnawing of a breakfast uneaten is something my mom remembers quite well.

At the beginning, every college student is poor.

Even if you come from a rich family that can pay for your college tuition, there is more to being poor than just monetary wealth. For the first eighteen years or so, the average American lives off their parents' income. In consequence, after so many years of being dependent, many college students remain in this mindset if they immediately transition to college without any “real life” experience.

Arriving to my Economics class after slipping and sliding in worn leather shoes, my face has been washed awake by the winter onslaught of my morning trek. I am one of the rare Juniors in a general education class of mostly Freshmen and Sophomores. I take off my coat and backpack, open my backpack, take out my notebook and pencil, and sit down.

II. Education

We are often said to be the foundation of the future—the young and bright, the knowledgeable elite that will be the law makers and providers of the next generation. Our professors, parents, and, to some extent, present policy makers have invested in this theory. Until recently, even federal support has been fair and logical.

That is, until I found through my own predicament that the world does not follow the perfect world that the FAFSA seems to outline.

In order to be independent, you must:
- Be 24 years of age or older by December 31 of the award year
- Be an orphan (both parents deceased), ward of the court, or was a ward of the court until age 18
- Be a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States
- Be a graduate or professional student
- Be a married individual
- Have legal dependents other than a spouse
- Be a student for whom a financial aid administrator makes a documented determination of independence by reason of other unusual circumstances

When students who work to pay tuition and books, stacking up $30,000 in loans by the time they graduate, as long as their parents income exceeds the poverty line, defined by the government, a student cannot be considered independent unless he or she fits these criteria.

The Economics textbook, Wealth and Democracy, I am borrowing from the library. While opening it up and browsing the pages, the professor of the class talks about traveling abroad and learning from Europe the ways of better economy. He plays a video. I learn that the U.S., in relation to other world leaders, spends the most in military might while having a poor health care system. Seven hundred trillion dollars ($700,000,000,000) were spent on the war in Iraq while citizens in the European Union get free or low-cost health care. If their child is sick, the nearby hospital will treat him or her free of charge. I am astonished. I had known that America was not the most efficient country, but to the extent of being poor at everything except war... Then, I take my eyes off the movie and find half the class glossy-eyed or sleeping. (Yes, one guy was sleeping)

III. Government

Through ignorance and fear, the government has been leading America in the footsteps of the British empire before it. Think back to your history classes. When Britain was a world empire, it spent most of its wealth of expansion and colonization, i.e. war. The gap between rich and poor grew exponentially due to overseas trading and pirating. However, that empire collapsed due to the expenditure of resources and the weakening of colonial bonds.

I, nor my family, nor any of my friends' families, have ever been attacked by Muslims or the Taliban. Though tragic, the deaths from the bombing of the World Trade Centers numbers three thousand. 3,000 of the 300,000,000 U.S. citizens were killed that day. Yet—due to the escalating economic problem as a result of stretched resources, war expenses, and federal debt—15,000,000 citizens remain unemployed.

When I return home after classes, I am exhausted but thinking. Later that night, I get a call from my mom, who wants to know what's been going on in my life. I tell her. The car isn't working for some strange reason, and I found that the registration expired in last June. I have only rice and Ramen in the pantry. I need a job as well as volunteer hours to keep my school scholarship. I need to apply to study abroad and get letters of recommendation. But, I told her about how I learned in Economics class that the U.S. was in bad shape, and that we should do something about it.

“That's all good to a point.” My mom said, echoing motherly word of wisdom, “But, right now you should be focusing on yourself and what you want to do. When you have established a good foundation, then you can worry about the world.”


Right now, our jobs are sent to China, our wars are fought in the Middle East, and our clothes are made in Taiwan. Terrorists want to destroy the U.S. from the inside, my professor said to a class too young to understand what that means. A class too blunted by protected lives. A class too ambitious to stop and take a look around. I believe, he said, the U.S. doesn't know what war really means.

Quiz

1. What should America's future government decisions address and ultimately solve?
(Please support your thesis with examples from history)

February 20, 2010

Conversation with a Campus Safety Officer

"I forgot to tell her," I said to the Campus Safety officer as he approached out of the dark parking lot, "My homework is in my locker."

"Where?"

"On the third floor of AB." I pointed, but it wasn't necessary because the building was right behind us.

The officer was an older black man with a lazy eye that made me want to avert my own eyes while I talked to him, saying half of my replies while starring up at the sky or to the left. During our walk to the elevator, he asked me how I was doing. I told him I had been working the entire day, and I was tired. It had been a crazy day, four hundred extra people had come for the Spectrum Scholarship Competition, and as a cafeteria worker I had to feed all those people. On top of that, two people didn't show up for the night shift later that day. So, at the end of the day, already tired people who had been working all day, myself included, had to clean up the mess.

"Well, now you can relax."

I laughed bitterly and said, "Not really, I work all day tomorrow."

In the elevator he asked me what I did for fun. I said I read books. On the way to my locker he asked me if I did anything with my housemates, and I said I played Guitar Hero with them occasionally, about once every two weeks. While I was getting my books out of my locker, he asked if I needed help, but I declined the offer, hoisting the books under my right elbow and slamming the locker shut, locking it with a twist of my wrist.

"I mean, I used to be shy in college, way way back." The guy said, driving me to my house, a mile from campus, "But, if my housemates offered to go to the movies, or play video games, I would."

He seemed bent on seeing if I was like that, but I had to disappoint him. I told him I was one of those people who could have fun by themselves. What he didn't know was what I was telling myself.

Of course, I have more fun when I am with my friends.

However, I didn't tell him that. I did tell him that all my friends either live out-of-state or are going to different colleges across the state. I told them they all graduated or transferred. Right now, I just didn't have anybody to hang out with. Oh well, sometimes life's that way...

He dropped me off at my house, and I said thanks, "have a great night!" I shut the van door. The house was dark, and I didn't have my keys. I tried the front door, knocked a couple times, and then went around to the side door. It slid open. I kicked the snow off my shoes as I entered and closed and locked the sliding glass door. No one was home on a Saturday night.

I sighed. Back to homework, back to forcing words out of my brain and onto a page of paper, back to the grinding stone--back again. Here in my room, my refuge and my prison, a constant struggle of independence in a social vision.

My feet ache as I take off my shoes, but I change out the cat litter, pour water for the cats, and clean up the dirty clothes that are scattered around my room before I sit on my bed. I am tired, frustrated, and alone.

February 12, 2010

American Blues (song)

Yes--it's a song! Not only am I attempting at poetry, I am also inspired to write lyrics to a tune that popped into my head, called "American Blues." I love my Economics class, I dedicate this song to Professor Robertson, who has achieved what all great professors by getting his class to think outside the box.


American Blues

Walking down the street, feeling like you can't breathe--
and now the world collides.
Knowing now the darkness might never go away,
transforming somehow alive.

The sweet ol' American Blues!
Help! Help!
with my tainted American Blues
Help! Help!
can't shake the American Blues
Help! Help!
bought from the power to choose...

You sit there in your room, life draining awa-ay
"Fuck class," you say, "it's just another day," paying rent on minimum wa-age.

What's the point to learn?
When others seem to earn without single thought in their minds
What's the point to school?
When others seem to think that their beyond the rules.

Damn you American Blues!
Help! Help!
$30,000 American Blues
Help! Help!
Education down the tubes
Help! Help!
we all have the right to lose...

You sit there at your job, pour more coffee-eee,
"Why I am I still here?" Been working for years-yet Boss doesn't see-ee

What's the point to work?
When others are jerks while getting better wages
What's the point to money?
When businesses are all acting funny--I think

Corrupted American Blues
Help! Help!
Runnin' the race for few,
Help! Help!
How can those lies be true?
Help! Help!
sometimes I think it's all for You...

For You...

Saw a girl on the street,
staring at the concrete,
feeling like she can't breathe...

Now.


And it's been recorded, YES! Don't get too excited, I sung it and I don't have a very good singing voice. But it sounds like the way it should. I'll see if I can upload it. It has a fan in it...I don't like being video taped...Sorry! But enjoy my ceiling!



video

February 04, 2010

The American Question

If I saw Bill Gates on the bus, I would ask him where he's been--if he ever thought, years ago, how rich he would be if he invested in Microsoft after quitting college. For sixteen years he has been America's richest man, and, consequently, the Gates family is America's wealthiest family. The man after him, Warren Buffet, is the science geek turned billionaire noted for saying "be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful." The man after him, Lawrence Ellison, dropped out of college and is currently the founder of Oracle, the database giant. Then, the woman after him is shining Christy Walton, along with the Walton family, making billions off of the millions of poor Walmart shoppers and sucking the life out of small businesses.

All four of these people are self-made billionaires, taking opportunity and soaring to new heights. Three of the four are noted for charity contributions in Forbes magazine of the top wealthy individuals.

And yet, "a shocking 37 million Americans live in poverty. That is 12.7 per cent of the population - the highest percentage in the developed world" (The Observer, "37 million poor hidden in the land of the plenty," by Paul Harris).

Why?

Despite government efforts--or perhaps because of the lack--charities, and the possibility of becoming "self-made," America has the widest gap between rich and poor when compared to all of the developed nations like Britain, New Zealand, the European Union, and Canada (yes, Canada, can't make fun of them anymore, can we?).

I am a product of a middle-class family, and against my better nature I have taken pride in that. My family, in my own lifetime, has swerved down and then back up, going below the poverty line when I was eight and then, mainly due to my mother's resourcefulness, clawed its way back up by the time I was in high school. Right now, because I am in college, I do not have any individual assets besides a $10,000/year income, junk car, and college education. However, I consider myself still middle-class. I pay rent, go to school and pay for it, and live a relatively independent life (my mom does help with car insurance from time to time, I admit). On top of that the cost of education has stacked itself past the $30,000 mark, and I am worried about paying it back in thirty years (by the time I graduate I will have accrued around $40,000--divide that by 36 months equals $1111/month... I will be graduating with a B.A. in English).

The destruction of the middle class affects people like me, my friends, their parents, and relatives. My aunt lost her house in California because of the mortgage crash, and, ironically, my grandmother, who is the boss of a small mortgage firm, took another cruise last Christmas. It seems to me that those within the middle class are grabbing at the nearest bar and heaving themselves up into the rich, or being squashed into the multitude of the poor, and college students like me are playing Guitar Hero downstairs in their run-down living room with beer bottles strewn everywhere.

The American question becomes:
Do we care enough to change it?

The middle-class and poor person gets assaulted with advertisements of quick money now, hooked into high-interest loans with a promise of great returns in profit, they look up but never ahead, and end up tripping on the poverty line. Meanwhile, shrewd, often greedy, business people grab at the bar and pull. They donate to charity so the lower class will not rebel, but charities are some of the most consistent and profitable businesses in the world. Think about it, they get money in donations, and in turn help people enough to make progress while paying people at the same time. William Blake, a famous British Romantic poet, said that the time when human charity becomes capitalized is the beginning of the end.

How far does charity stretch if it cannot prevent the dissolution of the middle class or the growing economic crisis? If the systems in place in the past--charity as well as government--have had any real effect, the logical conclusion would be that today should be a brighter future, right?

I digress and say that not all charity is bad, the Haiti community and Hurricane Katrine relief would back me up on this. However, as a whole it does not benefit the "trailer trash" children running around naked and barefooted. Or the homeless guy who rode on the bus with me to Walmart one year ago, wearing duck-tapped shoes and praising Obama's election. It does not help the millions of college graduates find jobs, or a man working at Kalahari Resort in Ohio move out of his parents house and become a geologist like he wanted to. Or help a writer change the world.

In reality, this blog is unread and virtually faceless in the multitude to online blogs by emo-stricken teenagers, entrepreneurial business people jumping on the Internet bandwagon. In reality, the Cedar Point workers in Ohio, who are usually people who can't get jobs up in Michigan, are ignored. In reality, millions of children below age 18 are given half-hashed education, the students often complaining about peer-pressure, boring classes, and educational repression of individual thought.

In reality, when I entered high school, it was the beginning of the greatest and worst parts of my life. I became aware of how much I could learn, but the reverse was the knowledge I could not know everything no matter how hard I tried. I could learn 'til I die, then where would that leave me? Probably rotting in a grave, if I or my family could afford it. I realized how teachers did not care sometimes, or the worse and often more prevalent disease--students did not care anymore.

Education leads to jobs, leads to economy, leads to national success and values. Whether from families or schools, there is nothing more important than the education of children. Morals, math, English, science, healthy social interaction, and living healthy and logically is very important, and the lack of education in each field has led to the problems of the government. And everyone tends to ignore it and push it aside (along with lowering the pay for teachers and professors).

Children are not being taught proper morals or healthy social interaction. Many complain about how boring school is, or, perhaps simultaneously, how easy the classes are. Now, personally, I am not a fan of long homework assignments based purely on the observation that most long homework assignments teaches me something that I could have learned in an individual hour project, the length of the longer mainly from the effort it takes to cite al the "proper" sources.

It does not take a genius to figure out the discrepancies of the educational system and the corresponding behavior of the economic and political nation. People do not care anymore. Not about education, not about politics, not about saving money. I correct myself--children care about playing rather than doing homework, teenagers care about personal relationships rather than personal responsibility, young adults care about alcohol, cigarettes, and video games rather than using their knowledge to improve the world, and adults just want to shake their heads and go with the flow, because many of them are working their asses off without time to think about changing anything.

The only people who have time, and are knowledgeable enough to contribute change, are young adults, usually college students, and rich aristocrats. It has been so since the boom of the industrial era, where the farmers had to migrate to urban areas and fuel the economy, it will be so until the working poor and middle-class are finally given a break. When that will be, no one knows. To make it happen there certainly has to be change.

So, now the American question becomes:
Do you care enough to change it?


May God give me the tools to enact Thy will in this life, for there is no other I can see or change.

February 02, 2010

And Still, be Still

One morning I was climbing true,
the ground ashining bright with dew,
and came upon a haughty sign, foretelling--
"Warning: Drop Ahead."

As I was sure ahead was wise,
that turning back would blind my eyes,
to the prospects of the end, heeding
not the warning sign.

The mountain steeped past all prediction,
and beat the snares of my conviction,
'til at the summit I stopped, fearing
air beneath my feet.

And still, be still,
staring down fatal cavity deep,
cold wind biting so I should weep, holding
fear and thrill at the end.

And still, be still,
lest phantom hand should push me over,
or the kiss of greeny lover, swaying
my feet to take a step.

And still, be still,
signs foretold ill,
repulse the thrill--
should we die or
descend the hill?