What's Wrong With Our Country

What's Wrong With Our Country

The question that everyone seems to have an answer to, and is more concerned with proving why they’re right instead of trying to actually fix the issues.
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Computers, cell phones, cars, houses, a college education. What do all of these items have in common one might ask? They seem to have value. They mean something to our society. Our small minds have dispensed a big portion of the attention we possess to these so called valuables. We willing devote our time, our money and our attention to these tangibles because we have deemed them worth it.

Where there is one list there is always another, so on the flip side let me give you a list of items that do not seem to have value in our society. Human life. Wow, that’s a pretty short list isn’t it? In our desire to own and worship all of these objects we have begun to objectify ourselves. Life has lost its worth. Death has lost its sting.

That’s why we know the name Philando Castile. That is why we have Alton Sterling cases. That’s why someone took the opportunity to turn a peaceful Dallas protest into the massacre of officers ending the lives of five people. Life is worthless. Someone else’s life is worthless. This is not an issue of race. It is not a problem of civil rights or racism from both parties. This is not an issue of politics and taking the correct political stand. This is the product of a nation who is swift to decide blame. A nation who believes it is better to respond in the heat of the emotion-heightened moment than it is to stop and evaluate situations. This is a problem of both officer and civilian matter.

We are a nation with officers who go on average, though it varies by state and department, 19 weeks to an academy and expect that and some mentor training to be enough preparation for the intense situations they will face day-to-day on the job. We are a nation who sings along to rap songs degrading and disrespecting the very men and women we call when we need help. We are a nation that turns peaceful protesting in to looting in the name of some sick and twisted justice. We are the nation that chooses to honor the fallen societal members by blasting their last moments of life all over the internet. We are a nation that would rather argue over gun control and our amendment rights than focus on the fact that we have no rights when we are dead. We are the nation that repeatedly uses the phrase “people kill people” as an excuse without realizing how utterly true and disgusting those three words are. It’s not just one group’s fault and we can’t just keep killing each other and pointing fingers.

The Washington Post reported in early January of this year that the 50 biggest cities in the nation had an increased homicide rate of nearly 17 percent in 2015. With the media being so immensely focused on pushing political agendas and selling stories, it is hard to narrow down those homicide numbers to the past six months because we as a country seem to only be interested in the deaths that involve bigs guns and hate crimes. Regardless of weapons or motive, one idea rings clear through all of these tragedies- our response is to kill. And, while as a society we would eagerly like to pretend we know the rational behind these situations, whether or not the decision to end a life was made for the sake of vengeance or out of fear can only be determined by the killer himself. You know, that’s a word we don’t hear a lot anymore? We’re much more concerned with labeling the life-ender a shooter, an officer, or a terrorist. I guess killer doesn’t have such a sting. Despite the external components of these issues- the name we call, the verdict we give, the excuses the accused provide — the problem is the internal immunity we have to caring for anyone but ourselves. We seem to walk around this earth in three states; oblivion of the turmoil we live in with the chirps and dings of our social media profiles distracting us, upheaval and unrest about the latest tragedy and political argument our friends our posting about, or fear of the opposition taking the only thing we truly have, the thing we seem to only think about moments before it is taken from us. We don’t evaluate and we don’t think critically. We have created a society stuck in the middle of some false dilemma.

The truth is, I’m done caring about the statistics of black on black crime. I’m done caring if more police officers died by the hands of a white guy than they did by the hands of an African American. I’m done caring about the Black Lives Matter movement or the Blue Lives Matter movement or the next movement that will just be a furthering division among the people of our country. What I do care about is human life. I care about the people on this planet and more specifically in this country. I care about the chance they have at making something of themselves. I care about the only thing in this life we are entitled to: opportunity. This country is one of the few where you have the chance to become whatever you want, regardless of your political beliefs, your personal morals and the excuses you’ve made for not doing so yet because of your skin color, or gender, or sexual preferences, or financial status. If you want something bad enough, if you’re willing to work for it, America is where you can achieve it; and if you don’t believe me you should take a look at where some of our finest started out.

But, you can’t do it if you’re dead. So let’s start leaving our futures and our destiny's up to each other and stop making martyrs and murderers out of ourselves. Stop living in the era of fear and hate and start trying to compromise. Are we going to agree on everything? No, but let’s stop fighting for the sake of fighting. As white people, as black people, as hispanics, as every orientation, can we just start being people? Not republicans or democrats. Not gays and straights. Not majorities and minorities. Not officers and civilians. Just people respecting other people.

I can name off several intelligent and world-altering individuals who spoke of the dangers of violence for the sake of violence. It gets nowhere. It has gotten us here, a place that I think we can all agree is pretty devastating. So let’s end it. Let’s stop arguing about it and starting talking about it. Let’s start conversing about solutions and offering condolences instead of sharing "witty" negative remarks. If you’re an officer being subjected to unfair stigmas — and trust me, I believe they are unfair — then go out and put forth the effort to do a random act of kindness to change them. I know your plate is already pretty full, but don’t let the only thing the news has to report be that of you ending a life. If you’re an African American being subjected to unfair stigmas — and trust me, I believe they are unfair — then go out and prove everyone wrong. Encourage each other to rise up with your words and not your fists and stop letting your legacy be defined as one filled with violence- even the violence committed against you, because I’ll be the first to acknowledge that you’ve had your share of historical injustices. Let’s spread a little more hope and a lot less hate, because at the end of the day no agenda matters. At the end of this week, seven families are mourning a death. No anti-gun lobbyist wins. No race group wins. Lives were lost. People lose, humanity loses.
Cover Image Credit: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-zZfAXCWxhIA/UJ_M59bfqiI/AAAAAAAAALQ/_hx35uoC9HI/s1600/482985_4468218556067_502369756_n.jpg

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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5 Thoughts You've Probably Had About The Government Shutdown If You, Like Cardi B, Are Paying Attention

I'm not sure if Trump thinks he's playing a real-life game of "The Sims," but I can assure you that a wall will not keep out those that are truly determined to get in.

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2019 — what a time to be alive, am I right? Normally I would use that phrase sarcastically, but each day I am more and more confused, transfixed, and curious (with just a dash of anticipation) about our current state as a society and the direction we're going. Even though most of the time the world seems like sh*t, you've got to admit that out of all the times in history, the current one we're in has a lot of cool perks. I mean, 70 years ago, who would've guessed that there'd be computers and a world wide web filled with endless information and apps that allow 125 million people to see cute pictures of Kim Kardashian's baby. And compared to life in the 1600s, an airplane seems just as extraordinary as the second coming of Jesus.

We're making a lot of wonderful and exciting progress, like our advancements in medicine, but for some reason, we've hit an impasse in terms of social improvement. Not even three years ago would I have guessed that the U.S. would elect an unqualified, most likely racist, reality TV star as president, but alas, here we are, which brings me to his latest antics.

The government shutdown.

Despite how bleak the future seems, a little part of me is just a tad grateful that I'm alive to see this all go down. Like everyone else, however, I've had quite a few thoughts about it all over the past few weeks...

1. So we're screwed, right?

We briefly had a government shutdown in 2013, but for some reason, I have absolutely no recollection of it (my 14-year-old self was probably too preoccupied with who was posted on my high school's Instagram "thot page." Spoiler alert: I was), so this is like my first experience dealing with one. There have been more than a dozen in U.S. history, but the current shutdown is the longest out of the list. My first thought when hearing about the news was "what the hell does THIS mean?" I immediately jumped to the conclusion that we were in a total state of anarchy, but of course, that isn't even partially true. According to The Balance, a government shutdown is "when non-essential discretionary federal programs close." The shutdown doesn't affect state social services, like the Department of Public Safety, and thankfully for us broke college students, funding for financial aid was approved last September, meaning there's no current effect on student financial aid programs.

However, federal services and agencies like the IRS (don't get too excited... you still have to pay taxes), Department of Labor, Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Institute of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration are completely shut down while the budget process is in limbo. With no current end in sight, this is bound to get very bad, very soon.

Already, hundreds of thousands of government employees have been sent home without pay and will continue to not be paid as long as the shutdown is in effect. People living in low-income housing may be evicted as HUD freezes funds for programs. Without funding, all of these services very well may close. Not only that, but the shut down is costing us money: approximately $1.2 billion every week. I wouldn't normally be worried, but Trump is the exact type of immature and petty to where he'll keep this going until he gets his way (or he's impeached, whichever comes first). His attitude firmly suggests that he's not backing down, and if services do close, there will be terrible effects on affected departments and citizen well-being.

Should we just drink the kool-aid now?

2. All of this over... a wall?

Out of all of the things that a president could request funding for, the one we currently have wants $5 billion for a damn steel wall? I'm not sure if he thinks he's playing a real-life game of The Sims, but I can assure you that real humans are much more crafty than we give each other credit for and that a wall will not keep out those that are truly determined to get in. Trump has said that the wall is the "only solution for a growing security and humanitarian crisis at the border," yet common sense and many politicians/organizations can tell you that that's complete and utter bullsh*t. Not only that, but Trump's whole presidency has revolved around quelling illegal immigration, but no one has stopped to ask why he's only focusing on the border.

How would a wall decrease the number of people who overstay their visas? How would it decrease the number of illegal immigrants who aren't even crossing the border?!

While I am not well-versed in how much of a threat illegal immigration presents to the U.S. people and government, I still am convinced that there are way more important issues that the president should be concerned with. F*** global warming and renewable energy, let's build a wall, right?!?

Trump's obsession with his wall is a pathetic attempt to flex his self-professed prowess and a way to appease his hate-filled fanatics who only voted for him because he promised he could get it done.

What happened to Mexico paying for it? Oh right, that was just more bullsh*t.

3. People actually donated to this sh*t?

I just... People's stupidity and callousness never cease to amaze me. Before GoFundMe rightfully shut this fundraiser down, over 345,000 people actually donated $20 million dollars for a (wait for it) steel wall. Why is this the thing that people feel their money is worthy of being spent on? Imagine if we all banded together to raise $20 million dollars to help end homelessness or food insecurity. Or better yet, pay the federal employees who are getting screwed over by this whole ordeal.

4. How do Trump supporters feel about all of this?

I know that die-hard fans can take a lot of sh"t from their idols, but I think that after a while it's only natural for them to get fed up. Out of the 62 million people who voted for Trump, there's probably a good portion of them who are significantly affected by the shutdown. The ones who are government employees are feeling the brunt of it now, but if this continues on for months or even years like Trump is threatening, then we're all going to feel it and I can't think of any good excuses that someone could come up with in order to justify such a foolish and reckless decision made by the president. To a federally-employed Trump supporter, I can't imagine how it feels to go 26 days without a paycheck because the president you voted for is desperately trying to propose funding for a wall that you want to be built. It's got to be a catch-22, but hell, I feel like almost all Trump supporters are delusional anyway, so they're probably thinking they're undergoing some grand act of martyrdom.

5. Even Cardi B is worried... Now you know we're screwed.

Cardi B took to Instagram recently to post a video of her addressing her worries about the government shutdown. While not eloquently put, the rap princess is really only just voicing the thoughts and opinions of a lot of us out here. If Cardi B is taking the time out of her day to stop popping off at her haters and fantasizing about Offset's peen, then you know that this issue is a pretty big deal. The self-proclaimed gang member and boss bit** has admitted that she's scared. I think that warrants us to all be.

Well, there you have it, folks. Five of my most pressing thoughts about the government shutdown. As it continues, I'm sure they'll be thousands more that pop into all of our heads. But hey, let's look on the bright side -- we've made history; now's the only time we can say the government has been shut down all year.

Hopefully, we won't be able to say it for much longer.

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