Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sticks and Stones

I have decided to cross post some of the pieces that I do for Flying Oskar over to my personal blog spaces. Especially ones that are not on highly local topics. Enjoy and comment if you take a notion.


Sticks and stones may break my bones
But words will never hurt me.

Ok who believes that the message of that little nursery rhyme is true? No one? Well neither do I. In reality words can hurt very much. People are capable of saying the most horrible things to one another.

“Why can’t you be smart like your sister?”
“Look at you! And those ugly glasses!”
“Can’t you do anything right?”

We know those statements are lies, yet we believe them anyway.

“If you would just lose weight, then maybe you’d get a date.”
“You call that dinner? The dog could do better.”
“I don’t know why I waste my time on you.”

Why do parents belittle their kids, one spouse say degrading things to another, siblings mock another, children make another child feel utterly worthless, bosses making an employee feel useless? Why do people say?

“Leave me alone, you old hag”
“I wish you’d never been born.”
“You’d be pretty if you’d only…”

Yes words hurt, agonizingly so. They break hearts, self-worth, relationships. They can delay potential, joy, personal growth, and real happiness. Words that cause hurt, even those supposedly well meaning ones, don’t build another up. They do the opposite. They don’t help, they do nothing of value, except to give person saying them a false sense of feeling better, smarter, prettier, more talented, superior, than the one they are talking to. Such words as…

“You’re fat”
“You’re ugly”
“You’re stupid.”
“You’re worthless.”

Maybe those things are said out of frustration or anger. Maybe it is said, because that person doesn’t like you and they are intentionally trying to hurt you. Maybe they thought they were being helpful, especially in offering unsolicited suggestions to your supposed feelings about something. But the more they talked they actually reinforced how you felt, by unintentionally backing up the statements that made you feel bad in the first place. Maybe something is said a single time to you, but it impacts you for a life time. Other times it is a series of statements that is built upon another, sending you  negative messages that you reason must be true, even though, deep down, you know they really aren’t. Maybe the person saying them really didn’t mean what they said. Sometimes instead an apology you are told.

“Suck it up.”
“Stop being such a wimp.”
“You are just being over sensitive.”

Like that really helps.

I know how it feels. Like you, I’ve been on the receiving end of things that others have said that were painful, and several of them stuck. I still struggle, like many, with wrestling with whether those hurtful things are as true as the speaker seemed to think they were. I know they aren’t, but every once in a while a series of events will make me vulnerable, and it all comes back to haunt me.

“I’m not good enough.”
“I’ll never measure up.”
“Am I really that incompetent?”

Lies, all of them.

And I know, like many of you, that I am guilty of uttering hurtful things to others. Few of us are immune from that vice, because it does give us a sense of power and superiority, even though it is very much a false sense. I hope though that anything I may have said has occurred very rarely and that I have worked even harder to undue any damage I may have done by a stupid, hurtful statement on my part. I know how much it hurts to be on the receiving end, so I know better. Which is why I try so hard to never say such things to another. However, I know that I have. To those I’ve said horrible things to.

“I was wrong.”
“I am so sorry.”
“I will work even harder to never say such a thing again.”

I tend to stand in defense of others who, like me who have been wrongly told things to make them feel small and useless. Because I firmly believe that treating others with respect and value is so very important, it deeply saddens me when I see others treated less than so. It is part of who I am that tends to make me others’ cheerleader, because I suspect that we all need a little positive reinforcements now and then. I know I sure do.
So I am here to tell you today.

“You are gorgeous.”
“You have an amazing brain.”
“Wow, you are talented.”
“I am so glad that I know you.”
“I am very thankful that you were born.”

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Write baby, write

I know that some of you have already know that locally popular website The Spartanburg Spark is soon to be no more and that I have moved my Miss Mom column over to FlyingOskar.com Flying Oskar is a close facsimile to what The Spark was with some obvious differences, the biggest of which is the lack Steve Shanafelt's daily influence who was the founder of The Spark's.  Flying Oskar is its own unique community website with some similar voices and some new ones, some similar goals and some different ones then before. Flying Oskar's owner Christopher George and I agree on keeping alive a community website that offers a place for progressive ideas, community information and a place to discuss what goes on in our area. I am thrilled that Chris took on this project and has allowed me to tag along.

 Besides Flying Oskar, and here (obviously) there is a third site that I am contributing to, She Thought . I have been extremely fortunate to be counted among the list of contributers there.  According to the website "She Thought.com is a place to discuss, promote, encourage, and celebrate women in science, skepticism, and critical thinking." There is a fascinating group of people over at She Thought, from an interesting array of backgrounds and occupations and educational levels. I really enjoy the thought provoking topics and discussions that come up, as well as the fact that conversations can occur about some topics and people with some different views can discuss them like grown-ups.

 I am of course grateful for all these new writing opportunities that arise, and am looking forward to more that open up along the way. I think that embarking on a collegiate adventure with writing as the focused goal must have been a good idea after all. I will likely be sharing some of my college writing work along the way. Hopefully I can build on my meager writing skills, and have a decent body of work to show for it at the end. Even better I hope to have a new career out of my degree in the end.

Some things I will be cross posting here, depending on which way my whim is blowing at the time. My whim is fickle and rather forgetful, besides being busy because of work, school, sleep and other mundane life issues. I do invite you to add both Flying Oskar and She Thought to your blog reading list. You can find the links at my reading list right there to the right of this page.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thinking critically about elections

Summer is not quite over, and if what one finds at the local department store these days, winter must be right around the corner. Never mind that it's ninety degrees out, Parkas and fleecy sweaters are plentiful and ready for purchase. This time of year also means that something else is right around the corner. Yes, election day will be here before we know it. That means that come the first Tuesday in November we have the opportunity to elect people to positions of government, from local council members to governors and U.S Senators. Yes I know it is still only August, but November will be here before we know it. A lot of candidates are hoping to get elected, and not just on the national and state levels. Local candidates are also important, and their positions often impact communities more strongly then one assumes.

So what does a topic on politics have to do with critical thinking? Maybe it is because that we can apply critical thinking to making decisions based on a great deal more then soundbites, political campaign signs stuck on every street corner, or television or radio ads that say little about the candidate, only that the other person is the worst choice a voter could make.

One problem with using critical thinking when it comes to choosing a political candidate for a particular office is a willingness to look past the hype and rhetoric and try to discern the facts surrounding the candidate when it comes to relevant issues that would accompany the job they are vying for. The other problem is finding that information needed to make the best choice.

Most political rallies and events do little to get to the source of issue related information, as these events are usually highly programmed and oft repeated throughout a campaign. One can hear a speech from one event and have a pretty good idea what will be said at all other events. Political debates can be useful, but often the questions posed to the candidates are often less about the job and more about matters that the position never really deals with. Also these debates can end up like well-mannered put-down matches, with little actual information on how candidate stand on issues gleaned from the event.

So what can a potential voter do to get credible information about a candidates views, or past decisions made on certain issues? If the candidate has held office, one can with a little bit of research find how they voted on certain issues. If they haven't, then it is a little harder to glean information but not impossible. Most major parties have websites, and many candidates do as well. So it is not too impossible to gain information about where they stand on things. They also have contact information so that a potential voter, can, if they are so inclined email the candidate and see if they respond.

That is what I will be doing as part of a community service project for a local community website, Flyingoskar.com. This community site is new and a sort of second generation from The Spartanburg Spark, who I wrote for for nearly two years. I have joined up and moved my Miss Mom column there as well. I and the blog owner are going to come up with a list of questions for the candidates in our state and the local ones as well. We are also going to ask for questions from our readers. Then we will send our questions to the candidates we will be voting on. We will see who responds and publish the answers, as well as any other relevant information such as contact information, where to vote, and any non candidate information on this year's ballot etc..

Why am I doing this? Because I am tired of politicians and political organizations going round and round about the same thing, of candidates painting pretty pictures with no substance, of the hype, poor and sometimes outlandish claims made that are completely untrue, and yet what a campaign is based on. I know that our political system is imperfect, but its what we got. I would hope that many of us are smart enough not to fall for the same old crap every election, but it seems that we do. It really bothers me, and I want to do something to change that.

Voting for a person simply because of a party affiliation is not necessarily the best choice for the job. It can be, but it is the individual that matters in the end, not necessarily who they are aligned with. Considering some of the people we have in office now, I have to wonder how they made it past their primaries. The only conclusions I can draw is that the voters either didn't care, a better qualified person was defeated or didn't run, voters didn't understand the stakes, or simply believed the silliness they were told.

I don't intend to be that kind of voter, and I intend to try to inform as many as I can before November. To me this isn't about party affiliation, leanings towards the left or the right, or those hot button issues that will still be around, unsolved, come the next election. It is, to me about filling seats with people who can do a job, do it well, and represent their districts with honor and integrity, while looking at the bigger picture of the community of citizens who may be impacted by the decisions made.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Putting Candles out with Water Cannons

There are rumblings from US legislatures about wanting to change the 14th amendment, or even repealing it. The reasons they are making such a proposal is in hopes of closing a certain small loophole that grants a person citizenship status, even if their parents are not actual citizens. While I do understand the need to try to get illegal immigration under control, this is to me a very poor way to discourage people from coming to this country without using proper channels.

The math simply doesn't add up.

Recently I wrote an article in response to an editorial written at my local paper. The original editorial dealt with the writer's thought on solutions to ending or greatly reducing abortions in the US. In my response I did a bit of research, and pulled some figures from the US census as well as the American pregnancy association. In the research data I displayed, I demonstrated the numbers of women of child bearing age, the numbers of pregnancies, and broke those numbers into those that resulted in live births and those that were terminated for natural or procedural reasons. My research also discovered that there are an average of just over 4 million births every year. The US population is estimated at a little over 300 million, half of that are women, about 60 million of that half are of child bearing age. A little further research showed that about 15.4% of the US population are of Hispanic origin or about 47 million. If about half of those are women then you have about 23.5 million, and maybe about half of those are of child bearing age. or about 11.5 million. I based my estimates from figures found at USA quick facts from the US Census

Then there are the actual pregnancy statistics. I used this source, American Pregnancy Association. There are about 6 million pregnancies every year and just over 4 million go to term. Some estimate that about 48% of all babies born are to Hispanic women, as birth rates in other demographic groups are actually falling. So lets say about 1.92 million babies are born to Hispanics. The number of undocumented residents is estimated at about 11 to 12 million. Now one can be quite certain that a fair number of those people are not having babies based on the actual statistic of births occurring. That is simply true because not all of those 11 million or 12 million are women, and of those women, only a portion are of child bearing age. So that narrows down the number of illegal immigrants that are actually having babies annually even further.

 If about 10% of women of Hispanic decent are having babies, Hispanics make up about 15.4% of the overall population, only a fraction of all Hispanic women are here illegally, and there are only about 4 million babies born every year that includes all US residents, then we are actually talking some pretty small numbers when it comes to babies being born to illegal residents. Yet some in government or in political activist groups want to repeal a Constitutional Amendment to prevent citizenship to a very small portion of US residents.

To me the proposal is like putting out a candle with a water cannon. I do wonder if anyone has bothered to do the math. If someone like me, with merely adequate math skills can conclude that the figures are not strong enough to make a case to repeal a Constitutional Amendment, then I would hope that others smarter and with a whole lot more influence then I would be able to demonstrate the ludicrousness of this proposal as well.

While I understand that we can do more to encourage people to obtain citizenship through proper channels, to discourage people from coming here illegally and strapping our social system, and to penalize businesses who willingly hire illegals, sometimes at substandard wages, repealing the 14th amendment is not the way to go about it. I sincerely hope this idea dies a quick and painless death.