Category Archives: Politics

The Sanctity Of Voting

Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual – or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country    -Samuel Adams-

There is a lot of passion in this presidential election and I think that is a good thing. America is an amazing country because we allow people to have passionate opinions. Passion is what changes the world. Passion shouldn’t be scary but should be inspiring. Passion becomes scary when it crosses over into hate and so much of this election is soaked in the stink of hate.

Hate doesn’t allow us to listen to somebody else’s opinion. Hate clouds judgment which brings me to the sanctity of voting.

Samuel Adams stated that voting is a “solemn trust in human society for which he is accountable to God” – When you vote you are telling the world, yourself, God, family and your fellow citizens that I AGREE AND SUPPORT THIS PERSON AND THINK THEY ARE THE BEST PERSON TO DO THE JOB.

I do not feel this way about either of the presidential candidates. As a matter of fact, I have lost all trust and support in our two-party system. If our two-party system gives me Clinton vs. Trump then I no longer support that system and since I live in America I can express that disagreement WITH MY VOTE.

People keep telling me that I HAVE TO vote AGAINST somebody but that contradicts the very edicts of what voting means. When I, as an American, go to the polling location I am ELECTING my leader. I am CHOOSING the person for whom I feel can do the job the best. And since I live in America I don’t HAVE TO do something that I disagree with.

And this is where the big lie happens. We actually have more than two options. The two big parties don’t want you to think about that. They want you to think that voting third party is throwing away your vote, that you will be taking votes away from your party.  But what party is that? The Republican party? The Democratic party? Does anybody even recognize these parties as representing them any longer? For years we have all lamented that these parties have grown isolating, partisan, and out of touch. So why do we keep voting for them? I believe, like our ancestors before us, it is time to vote in a new party.

Anybody remember the  Whig party? What about the Federalist party? These were old political parties  of the past and when they no longer met the needs of the electorate they morphed, changed and created new parties.

Well, I say it is time for the electorate to do this again. It is time for us to elect a new party into power. You want to shake up the system? You want to disturb the status quo? Then vote third-party. I know what you are thinking, “They can’t win.”  Why? Because enough people won’t vote? Why not? Why won’t people vote? Because we believe in the myth that we live in a two-party system. You want to start a movement? You want to send a message to Washington that you are sick of the way these two parties conduct themselves then don’t vote AGAINST someone – vote FOR something new.

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, is the two-term state governor of Arizona. His running mate, Bill Weld, is the two-term state governor of Massachusetts. These are gentlemen familiar with immigration, with running government, and they pride themselves on upsetting the status-quo. Republican governors elected in Democratic states in land-slide victories.

All I ask is that you take the time to explore ALL of your options and don’t throw your vote away on a two-party system that is obviously broken.

Love Letter To Millenials

Dear Millenials,

You have unwittingly launched a societal hand-wringing over the future. Generation X, Generation Y, the Baby Boomers — they all feel that you are the harbingers of doom. That your generation will be the cause of our demise.  You are selfish. You have a sense of entitlement. You don’t believe in hard work.  Well, at least that is what all the “experts” are telling us.

I disagree.

I spend approximately 12 hours a week with millenials and I’ve grown to love you. To respect you and I’m excited about how you will change society.

It is not that you don’t believe in hard work, it is that you believe in balance.  You don’t believe that success should come at the sacrifice of everything else in your life.

It is not that you are selfish (well, no more than any other 20 year old) it is that you are used to being in a world with social media where at any moment the spotlight can be focused on you.

You are not entitled, you expect and demand more from society. You demand better work/life balance. You demand equal treatment between the genders. You demand fairness among the races and have little tolerance for digressions.

You also are scared of the future. You are worried that you will have a job. You are worried that you will keep a job. You are worried about the environment. You are worried about your food. You are worried that the political system is broken.

You live at home not because you want Mom & Dad to take care of you but because the cost of school is so high you can’t afford to live outside of the home. You work a part time job and go to school full time. You work over the summers. You take internships and mentorships and volunteer at a surprising rate.

What I love most about you is your belief that you CAN change things. That you will force the world to bend under your will. That things like peace, equality, and tolerance are achievable goals. My generation is filled with skeptics and cynics and non-believers – a whole generation that “gave up” on the system.  But YOU – you bright faced millenials are the cock-eyed optimists that we need right now. You are the face of good things to come.

I love you.


Ebola: No Truth To Be Found

As David left for work this morning I shouted, “Have a good day! Don’t catch ebola!” We both laughed but living in the suburbs of Dallas – ground zero for ebola in the United States – it is a weak laugh.  Friends and family have asked if I’m worried and I suppose I’m less nervous than some, more than others. I work at a university with a heavy international population so I’m probably at a bit more risk than some but not as much as a nurse or health care provider.

The real problem though is the lack of truth. Depending on who, or where or what you read, the truth about ebola is ever changing and that is the problem. A problem that is infecting our democracy, our political system and our society.

If you think that the ebola outbreak is nothing to worry about then you could read this article in the New York Daily News, or this piece in the New York Times, or this article from Forbes news which clearly state that there are far larger threats than ebola and that we are all over reacting.

However, if you think ebola is a huge problem and that the CDC is doing a horribly botched job of handling it then I suggest this article from USA Today, which states that the situation is far worse than we can imagine or this article from Forbes (which counters their other article).

If you think ebola is just a political football that both parties are using to control the upcoming elections than you could refer to this article from NPR or this piece from MSNBC.

And it is this very moving target of absolute truth that is the scariest thing of all, because we have dissolved into a country not based on facts but on opinions.  Even something as cut and dry as science has now become open to debate.  With each citizen feeling the need to voice and defend their opinion there are no universal truths behind which we all stand.  A friend recently told me that China will be the next super power because they have a billion people who all think and believe the same thing and Americans can’t even agree on what color the sky is.

We no longer watch the news, but instead gravitate to the information source that supports and justifies our already existing opinions. We don’t challenge our own thinking but instead look for ways to support it.  This idea that we are all individually correct in our opinions and can point to an article to prove it does not make us well informed but instead makes us mindless sheep who fear everything that is new and different from ourselves and that is the most frightening thing of all.


I Need Feminism Because…

There is an Internet meme that is making the rounds right now of women holding signs explaining why they don’t need feminism. This makes me so sad that women would freely walk away from a movement that has given them so much. I think a great deal of this is because people confuse feminists with femi-nazis which really are two different things.  I’m a feminist. PERIOD. ALL CAPITAL LETTERS – I AM A FEMINIST. And I’m pretty gosh darn proud to call myself one.  I would love to write some sort of beautifully phrased post supporting my decision but frankly the best I can do right now is provide you with a partial list of the reasons why I need feminism.

1.) Because in 1920 women FINALLY got the right to vote and that was LESS THAN A 100 YEARS AGO.

2.) Because there are still over 20 countries in the world that forbid women from getting an education

3.) Because 28 countries in Africa still practice female genital mutilation.

4.) Because in 1971 women were finally allowed to practice law IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

5.) Because I want my daughter to have CHOICES. The choice to work, to stay home, to be president, to fly to the moon. And unlike my younger counterparts I REMEMBER a time when women were still heavily marginalized in the work place. I REMEMBER a time when a woman was still expected to dress like a man if they were going to work in a professional place. (watch any movie that was made before 1960 and you’ll see what I mean)

6.) Because I want my daughter to know that if she is raped or sexually assaulted she can report such a crime without fearing that she will be accused of “asking for it”.

7.) Because I hope and dream that one day men will be held accountable for their sexual purity and actions as strongly as women.

8.) Because I hope and dream that one day we will stop relegating men to mindless sexual animals that are on one hand incapable of any intellectual thought but sex, and yet simultaneously better suited to run the world because they don’t have periods.  Men are incapable of controlling their minds when presented with scantily clad women but somehow can still be in charge of nuclear warheads. If this was actually true then all we would need to do to win a war is send a bunch of naked women into battle and all weapons would be dropped. Alas, that doesn’t really work.

9.) Because I believe that both men and women should be granted longer than 6 weeks to be at home with their newborn/adopted child

10.) Because when you are a minority you must always be vigilant about guarding your rights and freedoms.

These women who are so quick to give up feminism are actually using the very rights the feminist movement gave them – the right to have an opinion that they can voice openly in a public forum. If you doubt this then I suggest you turn to the beloved Jane Austen — do you know why all of  Jane’s heroines were strong willed and unhappy? Because they refused to be forced into a marriage based on dowry and financial prospectus — a very common habit. Women were chattel, property, things that were married and sold (dowry) for the betterment of the family. Jane craved education and freedom for women — Jane Austen was a feminist. So before you toss out feminism as being unneeded and outdated because you have already won the right to vote and can go to school, I suggest you spend a bit more time thinking about what feminism REALLY is and what it has already given you.


We All Have Dreams

A former student of mine is an illegal alien.  I’ve written about Jennifer before and her struggles to become a legal citizen – a system that is mired in bureaucracy and unreasonable expense.  With the re-election of Barack Obama Jennifer and her family have been working hard to become legal citizens under the lenient statutes that Obama has rolled out. This is a costly process ($1,500 for Jennifer and her two siblings) and the only reason that they’ve been able to pursue the process is because of donations  (and we are still $300 short).  Jennifer submitted all of her paperwork and the immigration lawyer told her that her case was solid and so when she received her initial rejection, which requested yet more documentation,  she was shocked.  I wanted to share with you the email she wrote to me.  These immigrants are not faceless — not to me.  Many of them are my students and I dare you to read this (unedited) and not cry or feel your heart ache for this brilliant, talented young woman who is facing a dismal future without her papers.

“I wish there was something more you could do, but the letters are more suited to people who see me daily since I need to prove I was here continuously for 2012 and specifically for June 15, 2012. What we think happened is that they didn’t exactly read the letters but just glanced at all the dates, because if they had read them then it would be apparent that 2012 falls between 2011 and 2013. I’m not even joking. One of the letters was our lease agreement for where we’re living now, and we moved in here June 2011 and have been living here since. The letter stated, “Jennifer has resided here since June 2011 to the present date.” Anyone with basic comprehension skills would know that the year 2012 was included there, but I imagine if you just did a cursory glance you’d take note of 2011 and nothing more. I don’t know, it feels like total crap. Ugh.

It’s the fact that it’s not personal that aggravates me actually. And I think aggravates most DREAMERS because we are, above all, human beings you know? I am a PERSON, not just a collection of facts. Like, this is intensely personal for me and one could even say that my entire future is riding on it. I can’t not take it personal. It’s my life. IT’S MY LIFE. And the fact that there’s someone out there who is looking at all of the facts without taking into account everything we’ve been through for this, everything we’ve suffered and lost and sacrificed…that’s hard. It’s hard because all I’ve ever wanted to do was go to school and study and learn and…just be normal, and I’ve never really been able to do that…

It is so easy for us to cast large stereotypical nets.  We complain that all welfare families are drug addicts.  We complain that all immigrants are lazy drunks who are after our jobs.  (Yes, because there are so many people lined up to mow lawns in 100+ degree heat.) But, we must not lose track that we are a country founded by immigrants, for immigrants – these dark faces that we see staring at us could very well be our grandmothers, grandfathers or ancestors. Would we want the good, ambitious bright individuals thrown out with the proverbial “bath water”?  If we start closing our borders to immigrants than we have lost track of the very heart of this country – the very thing that makes us strong – the very thing that we should be most proud: the American Dream.

Yippee For Public Schools!

The public school system is an easy and oft criticized entity.  As a matter of fact I think most politicians and individuals take quite a bit of joy out of criticizing our public school system and everybody has an answer on how to fix them.

My children attend public school. And I am happy with them.

That is right, soak that in, I like my public school.

Oh sure I have days when the teacher does something that I shake my head about or some sort of federal regulation requires something I think is stupid, but as a whole my kids have great teachers, with involved parents.  Here is a brief description of what I think our public school system does right:

1.) Families:  Lucy attended private school for a year and I found the parents I met to be pretentious, exclusionary and snobs.

The first time Lucy came home from kindergarten telling me that “Anna Claire has six American Girl Dolls and I ONLY have one” I knew we weren’t going to be at that school for long. In addition, her private school was homogeneous – all rich and all white.

The families I have met at our public school are wonderful.  Because it is a public school and because most parents realize that the success of the school relies on them (and not the thousands of dollars they donate) they are heavily involved.  As a matter of fact they place a maximum on the number of parent volunteers that can attend class parties, or field trips.

Lucy has made wonderful friends and the parents of these children have become friends to David and I.  These parents are actively engaged, grounded and frankly “more like us”.

2.) Diversity:  In case anybody has noticed the white population is shrinking which means children need to learn to manage in a world where not everybody is white, not everybody is rich and not everybody is Christian.  The kid’s school hosts a “World Culture Day” every year where families from the school are invited to come and educate the students about their culture.  This year alone the kids got to “visit”; China, India, Switzerland, Canada, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan and Pakistan.  Lucy and Max have friends from a diversity of cultures and religion and when Lucy came home explaining that “Adrian doesn’t celebrate Christmas because she’s Hindu. So, I told her that I would give her one of my Christmas presents” – well, I was proud.  Instead of judging Adrian, or thinking she was a horrible outside person that we should fear Lucy chose to share her “Christian” culture. This is more in line with what I want to teach my children – the respect and tolerance of other cultures and religions – not to fear and judge them.

3.) Teachers:  The kids have had GREAT educators.  I’ve had some small issues here and there with their teachers, but overall the kids have had strong teachers.   I don’t see ignorant, lazy teachers who are “teaching to the test” but a group of educated and professional men and women working hard to accomplish a daunting task in an impossible situation.  Max’s kindergarten teacher was gentle, kind and supportive. Lucy adored her first grade teacher and although her second grade teacher was tough she kept the kids on task.

Lucy is reading at a fifth grade level, and Max is right on schedule for his grade level.  They are learning about the founding fathers, the election process, science, art, and music.  They go to a nature center about four times a year. And the teachers accomplish all of this while still trying to deal with students with a variety of issues from behavioral problems to academic challenges.

We are all quick to point out the faults and errors of the public school system but there are a lot of successes too.  I graduated from public schools and continued my education through public institutions.  Most of my friends, co workers and peers all were the product of a public school education and most of them I would consider to be successful and morally upright people.

The key to a moral and well-rounded education has always had more to do with parents then with the school.  Perhaps the parents from the kid’s school are not from a homogeneous background but in the end we all want the same thing for our children – a good, safe, well rounded education.  And for our family the public school system fits us just fine.

My Political Platform

I am not looking forward to this presidential election.  Honestly, I don’t like either candidate in our forced two-party system and would love a third option if one would magically appear.  What bothers me the most is how our monopoly driven media environment has controlled the political debate and forced the conversation to be focused on the most sensationalist and yet, insignificant issues.  These are the issues I would like to see discussed in earnest:

1.) Syria

Why does nobody seemed concerned about this humanitarian crisis and complete act of genocide except Hillary Clinton and me?  It is a travesty that the world has done so little to stop the absolute slaughtering of this country’s citizens by their out of touch leader. It is an atrocity.

2.) The Euro and the austerity crisis in Europe

It’s a global economy people and things like the failing Euro, and the Greek government collapsing matter in a BIG way. Not to mention financial dominance of Germany.  Is nobody else concerned that Germany is being rather heavy-handed regarding their ruling and policy making regarding the Euro?  We cannot afford Europe to fail and we cannot afford a Europe at conflict with itself.

3.) Mexico/Immigration/Drug War

Why is it that nobody is paying attention to the horrible bloody civil war that is happening just South of our border?  Most recently, 50 bodies were found on a freeway in Monterrey Mexico.  Dig out your maps people, this ain’t too far from California. Not to mention our outdated immigration policy which everybody agrees needs to be fixed but not a single politician can have a reasonable conversation with anybody long enough to fix it.

4.) Education

Oh they talk about it, but it is always the same old grumbling revolving around accountability and money but it never makes any sense.  The truth is that Ron Paul sort of had it right – get rid of the Department of Education and let local governments control their education budgets.  The example I always use with students is, don’t donate computers to a school if what they really need is an air conditioner. Education is not a one size fits all endeavor and therefore not a place for the Federal Government.

5.) Health Care

The last presidential election I voted for Hillary Clinton.  Yes, I know she wasn’t on the ballot. I wrote her in.  The reason why I voted for her was because I thought she was the only person on the ballot that understood the health care system and the political environment well enough to quite possibly make some changes. No, I don’t want socialized medicine (just ask my Canadian friends) but there is a middle ground somewhere and the truth is that the people who are making the most amount of money right now are the insurance companies and frankly they don’t deserve it.  I’d rather see the return of rich doctors than rich insurance companies.

6.) Return of Regulation

“Regulation” is an ugly word for many people but there are some industries that are SCREAMING to be regulated; mainly banking and media.  When the government lifted regulations in the 90s that had prevented media monopolies they opened the flood gates for the control of information.  Now most of our TV, radio and newspapers are owned by only a handful of people.  I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t make me comfortable. We need to bust up these monopolies and see the diversity of ideas propagate.

The banking industry was threatened with regulation when we bailed them out – remember that? And they promised they would change. They crossed their hearts and everything.  And then Congress promised they would pass laws and regulate so the bankers wouldn’t be bad ever, ever again and you know what happened? Nothing. Some thinly veiled laws that did absolutely nothing.  I want that fixed dammit and I want it fixed NOW!

But these aren’t the issues that will be discussed during our political debates. No, we will be fighting over gay marriage, abortion, candidate’s personal lives, religious beliefs and all the other morally driven issues we always do. Why? Because they are divisive and make great TV.  Because people can be placed in categories and pitted against each other. Because issues like these make it easy to identify the “bad” guys and prevent people from thinking about larger, more complex problems that will have a much greater impact on the future of our nation and our world.

A Dream

Once upon a time there was a girl named Jenny*

First day of class Jenny sat in the front row.  Her dark hair tied back in a tight pony tail. Small silver glasses, short framed, round face wearing a lumpy jacket.  She dissolved into her seat, trying to be invisible.  The first paper she submitted to me was amazing, a perfect A.  The second paper, also a perfect A.  Every morning I would would walk into class and with my most annoyingly perky voice ask, “How you doing Jenny?”  She would shrug and go back to being invisible.  She was academically perfect – a perfect A – every time.  However, she said almost nothing.  It became my mission to get her to smile.  It never happened.

Next semester she turns up in my class again – different course.  Again, perfect A and no smile.  Third semester she turns up again.  This time I’m adamant.  What is this girl’s story?  A perfect student but she doesn’t talk or smile – EVER!  I make the decision that this semester she WILL smile and she WILL talk.  I keep asking questions and I keep probing her.

I find out that she hates English.  She’s actually a math major. She graduated from high school with honors.  She’s a 4.0 Dean’s list student.  Her dream is to be a math teacher.  She loves math.  She solves math equations when she’s bored or stressed out.  This, of course is something with which I cannot relate.  I’m boggled about how math could be that fun for anyone and I tell her that. She laughs. And when she laughs her face comes to life.  Her eyes sparkle and voice tinkles and I know I’ve got her.

Jenny and I spend a lot of time over the next year or so talking.  We talk about how her traditional Hispanic family wants her to get married and have babies.  We talk about how all she wants is to go to school.  She loves school.  She is desperate to finish her college degree and teach.  We talk a lot about her dreams but every conversation has a hidden cloud – a darkness in her voice, the source of which she refuses to share with me.  I respect her privacy.  I don’t prod, but something bigger lies underneath and I can sense it.

Some days when Jenny I talk she is very sad and the depression in her voice is heavy.  The pain and sorrow washes over me and our conversation is like a rain cloud.  I tease her and call her “my little Eeyore”.  However, we both know it is bigger and more serious than that.

I receive a note.  Her father, unexpectedly, dies in his sleep from a heart attack.  Jenny is devastated.  She doesn’t know what to do, where to turn, how to survive.  Her normal rain cloud has grown into a storm, a typhoon of overwhelming loss and desperation.  How will she survive? How will her family survive? I do my best to comfort her but at times I can tell I’m saying all the wrong things.  She starts to grow frustrated with me and I’m getting frustrated because she isn’t telling me everything and after five years I feel like I’ve earned the right to know where the big sadness is coming from.  I blurt out “you don’t tell me anything!” She realizes that she’s been unfair and here comes the truth “I’m an illegal”.

Jenny’s parents received visas to travel from Mexico to the US when Jenny was 5 years old. They came to the US to visit Jenny’s aunt – who IS legal.  The family decided to stay. They start the process to become citizens but in the meantime their visas expire. The lawyer’s fees are expensive and her parents can only afford to work the system periodically when they have enough money.  Her mother works as a cleaning lady.  Her father works construction.  Her mother pleads with Jenny to date and get married so she can become “legal” but Jenny can’t stand the idea and wants to stay in school.

Jenny is lucky because she lives in Texas where illegal residents can still attend college. The family was struggling but making it.  Working with a lawyer on the waiting list, trying to do the right things when her father died.

They aren’t eligible for social services – no WIC, no welfare, no unemployment, no social security no medicaid.  No income.

The desperation in Jenny’s voice scares me.  She has no future.  She can graduate from college and even become a certified teacher but she won’t ever be able to work as a teacher.  Her brother, although excellent with computers and computer repair, cannot work.  Her mother can only do so much.  Jenny’s Spanish is horrible and Mexico is a dangerous place. There is no going back for her.  She doesn’t even have family that lives there any longer.

The United States was founded by immigrants FOR immigrants.  We are all immigrants or children of immigrants.  The American dream is to work hard, get an education and pay it forward.  If we lose sight of this dream we have lost sight of what makes the American experiment so amazing.

The hopes of my immigrant students and the hopes of these parents who have sacrificed EVERYTHING for their children lies with one piece of legislation: the DREAM Act.

Please, please, please write your legislator, contact your representatives and stress the importance of passing this Act – an Act that allows CHILDREN, who have NO CRIMINAL RECORD, and who have graduated high school and completed two years of college or military service the ability to become legal citizens.  Let these CHILDREN give back – let these CHILDREN make the United States their home.

For more information go to The Dream Activist for links to your local rep and how to get involved


*not her real name