Category Archives: Change

When will massacres matter enough to cause change?

“These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children.” President Obama in statement made following the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre killing 20 children and 6 adults in the school.

Where do Americans stand on gun laws? Gun control?

In a pew poll taken after the assassination attempt on Congresswomen Gabriella “Gabby” Giffords, the country was divided. 49% said it was “more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns” and 46% said it was “more important to control gun ownership.”

After the shooting in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, 76% said, “There should be some restriction on owning guns,” according to a CNN/ORC poll.

At present time, roughly half of American states allow gun owners to carry their weapon openly into public places.

Also, making more news recently is the “Stand Your Ground” law. This law really came into the public eye during the Trayvon Martin case in Florida.

There are a host of other states with very similar laws.

Florida, as well as others in this list do not have a “duty to retreat” clause which means if you can get away without harm or deadly force but shoot anyway, you can be prosecuted. Most of the states with the “Stand Your Ground” law do not have the “duty to retreat” clause. Many of these laws are written in a vague way leaving the law to be used as a “blanket way out” for many shootings.

These laws were often introduced as a way to help “victims” in cases such as domestic violence where victims often felt blocked and unable to flee or ended up shooting their attackers (which happened to be their domestic partner) and found it near impossible to defend themselves in court. When was it okay to kill someone under your own roof?

But, the law has left it open for arguments leading escalating, turning into assaults and then murder to be defended under the “Stand Your Ground” law. What would have been different if a person hadn’t had a firearm on them? What if they didn’t feel it was okay to cry “self-defense” in what would typically end up in an assault and battery case but instead, someone is dead. Has the law been a positive or a negative? Who has it actually helped more?

Guns and politics have become so entwined as the NRA has become more involved through the years with politics, legislation and politicians.

The NRA runs ads campaigning for those who promote their cause and against those standing in the way of their proposed changes in existing laws or future goals.

By funding politicians, their campaigns and having their own people in Washington, the NRA is assured of having a way to get current policies changed or new legislation passed, changed or set aside. The problem is much of this happens without knowledge of the general public both through state government and federal government.

NRA does not run the US government and does not make the choices for what is good for America. That is done through the voters. We vote who we want at both the state level and the national level. Are we listening to what these politicians are standing for and against? Who is supporting them and funding their campaigns? What are their intentions?

Ask yourself why the NRA has had nothing to say since this most recent massacre? Statements have come out from all over the world. World leaders are offering condolences. Many actors and actresses are coming forward and saying things should be done with violence in movies and TV may need to be looked at. Networks rearranged TV schedules following the massacre due to programming that may have been viewed as showing things in bad taste.

Sunday morning talk shows have done numerous interviews and Meet the Press asked any of 31 pro-gun senators to appear but none responded. Silence speaks volumes.

Using the words “gun control” is beginning to sound UN-American. I think doing nothing as we are seeing more massacres, people crying in disbelief as their loved ones are being identified, going through autopsies and realizing their last conversation was their LAST conversation… that is UN-American.

Personally, I can’t participate in ignoring an issue that is continuously being swept under the rug by groups that argue for their freedoms while others are losing their loved ones, their lives and their future or their sense of security. What about their freedom, our freedom?

Weapons used for hunting and sporting do not call for assault weapons or weapons with large magazines that can gun down numerous people (or animals) in just seconds or minutes.

Many assault weapons are not for either of these uses and are only used to promote keeping an argument going instead of coming to an agreement.

Responsible and legitimate gun owners, politicians and people across America need to give pause to this, put politics aside and be able to really look at this very serious issue, discuss it (peacefully) and deal with it.

Yes, there should be limits, laws, background checks and training required. Yes, there should be renewed proof of this at the time of license renewals for each weapon. A responsible gun owner would understand the need for this because they would only want other responsible and trained, regularly licensed gun owners having other weapons as well.

A major argument is that responsible gun owners and legally purchased guns are not the problem.

My first response is I find it amazing that each “responsible gun owner” can speak for all the other “responsible gun owners” as though they meet all the time and know each other very well.

My second response is that is not true. Legally purchased guns end up in the wrong hands more often than these “responsible gun owners” must realize. The ability to purchase guns is far too easy in far too many places. There needs to be universal laws when it comes to background checks, waiting periods, guns and ammo purchases and an assault weapon ban.

My third response is this. ”Responsible gun owners” do not come with a magic chip in them saying they are responsible, will keep their weapons locked up properly, only use their weapon in the absolute necessity that it is needed and will be in 100% tip top emotional and mental condition for the rest of their life. They also don’t have the promise no one in their family won’t get to their weapons or someone breaking into their home won’t be able to do the same. There are no guarantees.

The NRA makes it seem as though guns are the answer to protection and the government and its laws are trying to take that away from people.

For those trying to hide behind the 2nd amendment, they aren’t the ones who control this discussion. The idea however of more guns being the answer has proven to be wrong, dead wrong.

This is a must read article by:  Mother Jones, “More guns, more mass shootings – coincidence?” Their team put together a lot of facts about guns, violent crimes, laws and changes through a lot of investigating on their part. I urge you to look at the numbers.

Also, looking at some graphs put together by Simon Rogers with the Guardian, America is well armed compared to other societies around the world (88 per 100) and our gun violence speaks for approximately 60% of all homicides.

Another argument is not only guns take lives.

True. It isn’t just a weapon that ends a life. It is a person who believes they have a justified reason to do so.

As humans we react many times out of emotion. In many of these cases, there are feelings of anger, hate, revenge, defeat, entrapment and many times nobody knows what set a person off to commit such violent crimes.

The right thing to do, if a person is thinking rationally is to walk away, take some time to think things over, seek some advice or maybe get more details. A lot of times people are going through situations where counseling is needed and has been needed but either they didn’t know it, didn’t seek it or it wasn’t available.

Too often, a gun is too easily available to pick up, steal or purchase.

Not everyone committing these horrible murders/suicides, massacres and violent crimes were “monsters” before these acts. Many times, no one noticed any signs of behavior change, isolation, depression or signs of mental illness. Other times, it was noticed but they were unable to get help or convince the person to get help.

Does that mean people with emotional or mental illnesses are “monsters”? No. It means people with problems need to be able to seek help, get the proper diagnosis, counseling, medications and not be labeled with a stigma as being “crazy”.

If a person in need of help seeks help and receives help, this is definitely not “crazy”. That is the right thing to do and it should definitely be available to anyone in need of these services.

Many people with emotional and mental illnesses can live fulfilling lives alongside everyone else if they are able to get the medical and emotional help necessary. This important issue in our society cannot continue to be ignored. This is a huge gap in our healthcare system leading to economic and many other life issues. It is easier for Americans to access guns than mental health care. Without truly dealing with this, we can’t move forward on dealing with these murder/suicides, massacres and violent crimes.

There are two sides to be focused on immediately without involving political favors, campaigning, lobbyist and self-promotions.

1)      Too many weapons without just purpose or place in our society (other than within our military)

2)      Not enough available care and treatments for those with emotional and mental needs and disabilities.

For those who can’t clearly see these needs, they aren’t focusing on the real problems. They are standing in the way of what needs to lead to a drastic change.

We can’t just cover the cracks or kick the can down the road.

Our biggest war is going on here at home and our children and loved ones are the victims.

What is the difference between these recent massacres and 9/11? We are part of the blame. We vote. We have voices and if the issue isn’t being addressed, keep pursuing the issues.

These victims didn’t have a choice and now their voices have been silenced.

20 children silenced (ages 6 – 7) and 6 adults (their principal, school psychologist, two teachers, and teaching assistants)

This is our country, our communities and our neighborhoods. Those teachers are our teachers and those children are our children.

Speak up.

UPDATE: President Obama speaks at Newtown High School

Must see video below:

Video Tribute “Lives cut short by school shooting” – by: Anderson Cooper and the AC360 Team

 

Add on: “Balloons released to Heaven Among the Stars” Remembering Sandy Hook Elementary, Newtown, CT.

With love, 

Tribute to Sandy Hook, Newtown CT December 14, 2012

Time for a discussion: Guns, mental health, violence

24 Hours Ago… So much can change in a 24 hour period.

Throughout the world, lives are lost each day due to diseases, wars, drugs, mental and eating disorders, famine, violent crimes and so much more. What makes today different is not only is this happening just after the other recent tragedies in a mall, a theater, hair salon, etc but these were children, teachers a principal and those there to help our children.

They lived in one of the top 10 places to live in America. School should be a safe zone. No hate, violence, bullying or fear of dying due to any senseless act of crime. Mental disorders or not. That is not a reason or excuse for violence.

People live with mental disorders everyday without causing harm. People have guns responsibly. The fact is, not everyone is held accountable. Not everyone is responsible with a gun or keeps it away from the wrong hands.

Not everyone has proper medical diagnosis, care and/or treatment for their mental illness. The discussions and resolutions can’t be avoided. Prayers shouldn’t have to continuously go out for lives lost and communities affected by tragedy.

Prayers and attention need to focus on one thing, SAVING LIVES.

Put the politics aside.

People deserve to live and people deserve proper medical attention.

Side note:

I wanted to post this now but I was working on an article following the recent shooting in Clackamas…then this happened, the shooting at an elementary school. I will follow this up with a further article.

Please share your thoughts on this matter. Worldwide, people have been affected in different ways. 

It is time for a discussion.

Romney’s Women “Issues”

My thoughts going into Tuesday’s Presidential Debate was whether Mitt Romney would be up front when questions were asked about Women’s Health Care issues. On many occasions he either avoids answering the question or takes an indirect approach giving a broad answer to leave a person wondering his answering is referring to.  It’s not  that he is confused about the question but simply avoiding answering. You see, Romney has either changed his position on policies so many times it has become difficult to say where he stands on many topics of Women’s health choices or he won’t flat out admit his position and risk losing a large amount of votes.

Here are some facts as Mitt Romney states himself.

Romney wants to just get rid of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is made up of more than 800 facilities across the nation that have been providing affordable healthcare to millions of young adults, women and families. This was started 96 years ago with one clinic opened by Planned Parenthood’s Founder, Margaret Sanger.  Services provided include lifesaving screening for breast and cervical cancers, affordable birth control, pregnancy testing as well as testing and treatment for HIV and access to safe abortions.

They are and always have been around to help young people learn more about their health, sex education, making the right choices and staying actively involved in their communities and reaching out to rural areas. For many women, this has been their only access to regular healthcare.

President Obama realized our country had a serious issue. Millions of Americans had no health insurance. Millions more were insured but were still unable to meet their financial obligations or were filing for bankruptcy due to overwhelming medical cost after their insurance companies had stopped paying claims. The reason stated was they had reached the policy’s “lifetime cap” or “yearly cap”. There were also the millions of Americans who were unable to get insurance coverage or become reinsured after becoming ill or surviving an illness like cancer, diabetes, COPD and numerous other diagnoses the companies would list as “pre-existing conditions”. It was as though the insurance companies were looking out for themselves.

Video- What does the new Affordable Care Act do for me? How does it work?

So, we have this crashing economy, people losing jobs, homes and President Obama made it one of his top priorities to fix the healthcare issue in the United States. Not his only priority but one of his top priorities.

Why?

If people are sick, they can’t work.

If people can’t see a doctor, they can’t get better.

If they go to a doctor, without having insurance coverage, they run up enormous bills which eat up their earnings, run into debt and can lead to bankruptcy

If their child is sick and they have no insurance, they can’t go to work, have to chose to either not take the child to the doctor or go without insurance and run up enormous bills (you see the pattern here)

If people are sick with something that is a preventable illness, don’t go to the doctor, the condition becomes chronic and often becomes fatal (i.e. blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, asthma)

So, the idea of fixing the issue with affordable health care for those millions with health insurance doesn’t just get people insured. It helps people stay at work, know their kids can be healthy or see a doctor when they are sick, manage their income better, stay in their homes instead of losing them to bankruptcy due to medical bills and get people medical attention before many conditions become chronic or life threatening.

Well, Romney has some plans too…

Mitt’s idea of providing care for those without coverage – “We don’t just let them die…We pick them up in an ambulance”

Where could women receive care if Mitt takes away Planned Parenthood. He says, “They can go anywhere, it’s a free society.”

Romney doesn’t have much respect for women especially when it comes to policy but he smiles and says nice things for their votes, sometimes.

He does however have very opinionated views on Moms staying home to care for their children…

Get a job…to have some dignity…

Not sure how his wife feels about that statement but I feel my job, as a Mom, has been extremely important and my “Dignity Cup” is very full. Thanks, Mitt! Get some dignity for yourself.

Much of this election will certainly have effects on women. Since President Obama has been in office, he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a bill the GOP blocked in 2007. To this point, Romney hasn’t said whether HE, HIMSELF supports this Bill or not. His campaign has bounced around statements recently finally landing on one saying Romney will not repeal it if he becomes president…

President Obama also extended funding for The Violence Against Women Act, something Romney has stated he wasn’t “familiar” with and still leaves unclear where he stands on this very important issue. In fact, if you go to Mitt Romney’s Campaign Website, look through his “issues” area, WOMEN are not even listed!! There are listings for regular things like; taxes, education, healthcare and foreign policy but then there is; Court and The Constitution, Gun Rights, Human Capital and Values (that is where abortion, Stem Cell research and marriage are).

There is always a lot at stake in any election. This election can bring about many changes that will either allow women to continue in the advancements that have already been made. These not only benefit women but their families, their businesses and all of America. Or, this election can bring about an unraveling of the progress that has taken place over decades for women, their rights, the ability to choose and the overall approach we take as Americans in what we are willing to give up and for what?

This is not just about women and their choices but this is about every American, our choices, our freedoms and our rights. In America, we are one. We are strongest when we see the strength within ourselves and in each other.

Women are all over America, Mr. Romney. We are in all job markets, Fortune 500 companies, every income bracket, the armed forces, teachers, doctors, scientists, engineers but that isn’t what makes us who we are. We are each individuals, living our lives, making our choices, struggling through situations and helping those we love along the way. The fact is we know who we are.

I promise you, we aren’t in binders or just sitting around in women’s groups waiting for someone to come find us as worthy for something. We are already there. We are voters who will be a major deciding factor in this election. We know who we are. Do you?

 

 

UPDATE:

Visit http://tracysolomon.me to read my response to some comments on this article.

Help stop bullying Pt. 1-The time to talk is now!

Photos from "Stop Bullying Now! One Mile Fun Walk"
Photos courtesy of: Mental Health America of NE Florida

According to Gayle Eckerd, CEO of River Point Behavioral Health, “Bullying among our children and adolescents has become an epidemic and something needs to be done now.”

To stop an epidemic, there is often a source where a treatment can be implemented and then spread out from there. But, with bullying, each and every case is different because it is not only dealing with the victim of bullying but also the person or persons behind the act of bullying. It is also looking at what is causing this person to act out in this way and we also must ask a few questions; Why is this becoming such a growing problem? What is bullying? Where does the problem of bullying begin? Who is responsible to address these concerns?

The first question to address is the last one. Who is responsible to address these concerns? We all are. This is a concern for everyone to not only realize but to be part of the overall solution. The first thing to recognize is the problem. Look around. Bullying is not something that only happens on the school playground or during playgroups at the park. It is not something that is happening only amongst our young people. This is a problem in homes with siblings, at school within all age groups. Bullying is a problem within the workplace, within our political system, between parents, between parents and their children and the lists go on. What happens is, it isn’t always considered bullying and therefore the issue is getting beyond our grasp and out of control. But, it isn’t beyond help.

Preparing for the walk, everyone can be part of the solution to stop bullying.

In today’s world, anyone who wants to bully someone else can do so in a buffet of places and even without ever showing their face. Once a person becomes aware of the problem bullying has become in our society, it becomes hard to avoid or overlook this issue. The problem is so many people have begun to accept it as a way of life or have learned to overlook it until the problem becomes unavoidable or irreversible. Too many people are getting physically, mentally and emotionally hurt and many are committing suicide over it or living in silence and unspeakable pain on the verge of a meltdown. But, there is help.

Everyone who participates, tells someone else and the word spreads...
that's a good sign!

On Saturday, May 21st, Riverpoint Behavioral Health in Jacksonville, Florida joined forces with Mental Health America of Northeast Florida to organize the “1st Annual Stop Bullying Now! One-Mile Fun Walk” to raise awareness in their community and beyond.

With 200-250 walkers and their tremendous success, this is one of the most powerful ways to make a difference in the battle against bullying. They are reaching out to the younger generation, their friends and families, starting necessary conversations and letting it be known that it is not only okay to talk about bullying but also making it known that bullying against anyone, for any reason, at any age is never okay!

Studies have shown 15-25% of students report being the victim of bullying while 15-20% of students report they engage in bullying. These reported numbers are often low due to victims’ fear of retribution keeping them from coming forward.

Bullying is a form of abuse and can have immediate and long-term effects.

Recently, as seen on the news, reports of suicides have been on the increase due to bullying. Young people who are victims of bullying are more likely to drop out of school, abuse drugs and/or alcohol, have mental health disorders such as depression, eating disorders, self mutilation, thoughts of suicide, anxiety, etc.

Youth who bully are more likely to engage in violence, get involved in gangs, criminal behavior and become abusers as adults. These traits can often effect the next generations as well.

Mental Health America of Northeast Florida has been working to raise awareness of this epidemic of bullying in our country beginning with our local communities. With sponsors like, River Point Behavioral Health who paid for this event, allowing all proceeds to go the Mental Health America of Northeast Florida for their amazing work in not only this event but also working within schools and summer camps, this is an amazing example of what can be done to stop bullying, prevent bullying and everyone can be involved.

Mental Health America of Northeast Florida has found the necessary treatment is to not only treat the victim but also those that feel the need to bully. There is very often a reason behind the bullying but also to get people talking and raise awareness to this growing problem.

Take time to listen. Take time to talk. Talk about bullying.

The more people who get involved and the more help made available, the better the chances for everyone.

In this series of articles, I’ll share different stories from people who have had their lives affected from bullying in one way or another. The only way to effectively stop bullying is to show its hiding places, bring them out into the open and let people know the best thing to do is speak up and get the necessary help when needed. Let people know it is okay to say they need help because they are not alone.

What many people see as harmless fun is very hurtful and has long-term effects to others. This is bullying. This is causing many people a lost childhood, lifelong trauma, physical harm and as we are learning it is more often leading to suicide. This has to stop. It must stop now.

See the signs, read the warnings and act. Don't ignore what is right in front of you.




The first story is something that is horrible and should be unheard of but it is a situation that very much needs to be recognized for what it is.





This is about a young lady that had been bullied by not only one person but multiple people. She was bullied to the point of victimization in both a medical facility and her family environment. She is disabled and required help for much of her daily care.

During what should have been a 5-day admission to a hospital for medical testing for a diagnosis, she was instead bullied, made fun of, called names and left in unsanitary conditions. In the end, due to the lack of care from the medical staff, the correct tests had not been done which led to a long delay of the correct diagnosis. She said, ““It was an awful experience; the mental games were terrifying and I was stuck there because they did not want to discharge me.”

At the hands of her family, where she should have felt the most secure, cared for and loved, she was instead bullied most by her siblings until she was later sent to live with other relatives. There, she was often left alone as a live-in babysitter, neglected for her own daily medical needs and left to fall into the hands of a family friend who raped her.

When she couldn’t take anymore and tried to leave, she was locked in a room, slammed against the wall, unable to use a phone or a bathroom until she eventually crawled out a window and escaped. Yes, escaped. She said, “You hear about human trafficking nowadays, but that was kind of the case, even within my own family.”

At the time, this woman was wheelchair bound. Since getting better care after these experiences, this has changed. She has chosen to remain anonymous for very clear reasons.


The second story is about Lynda in Parkersburg.

Lynda’s has quite a different side of things. At first, in middle school, Lynda was having a lot of troubles at home and this led to troubles at school. During her 8th grade year, Lynda ran away.

This ended up getting her moved to another relative’s home and also to a new school. The kids at the new school didn’t treat her too well, in fact, they were just mean. She was poked, tripped, had her books knocked out of her hands and threatened about showing up places outside of school. So, she decided to just stay quiet and stay to herself.

In the 9th grade, she moved back in with her grandparents and returned to her old school. However, she had taken on a new attitude. She was loud, mean and a bully now. She wasn’t going to be picked on anymore. She took things to a new level you could say. Name calling and harassing was an everyday part of her demeanor and she’s sure she made the daily lives of some of her classmates a living hell.

“So many things that I look back on in shame,” Lynda says, “I cannot believe the intolerance that I showed back then.”

Now Lynda has her own children and would she never want to see them be bullied”, but she says, “I cannot stomach the thought of one of my kids being the bully.”

Lynda is making this known to help stop bullying.

Many people are stepping forward in efforts to help stop bullying. Below are some excellent links to visit for information on how you can speak with children, friends, coworkers or reach out for help.

Please feel free to comment on your experiences with bullying and how it has affected your life as well. Together, we can help in the effort by sharing information, speaking up, getting help and bringing an end to bullying in our own local communities which will prevent more victims and help save lives from the hurt or worse, from the loss of life. Please pass this along and keep an eye out for part 2 of this series.



AHMIR ANTI-BULLYING VIDEO – “Perfect”
Purchase this song on iTunes and 20% of the proceeds will be donated to the Make Laughter Count foundation (an organization that brings comedians & entertainers together to increase awareness about bullying and raising funds for charities)




SEE PART 2 OF THIS TOPIC



Help stop bullying Pt. 2 – Bullying effects everyone




Please see links below and feel free to share comments below.



StopCyberBullying.org

TakeAStand.StopBullying

ItGetsBetterCampaign

StopBullying.gov

PeaceBuilders.com

TheTrevorProject.org

WelcomingSchools.org

Let’s Move.gov

Teach for America

MakeLaughterCount

Step one-Topple the dictator!

Protests around the world want to see the end of Gaddafi's rule
Photo by: jetalone

Although the information from Libya has been a struggle to get and hard to confirm due to the communications lock-down set in place by the country’s dictator of 42+ years, Muammar Gaddafi himself, a few facts are very clear.

The Libyan people are standing together and want to see the end of the Gaddafi regime, immediately.

Gaddafi has also made it clear he does not plan to step away from the power he has held onto for over four decades while oppressing the people of Libya, torturing them, stealing from them and telling them everyone else is the problem and only through him can there be an ongoing future for Libya.

The problem for him is, times have changed and the nation and its people want to take hold of this change. They certainly have a strong grasp with no plans to let go or back down.

Many have called these recent revolutions going on in Tunisia, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and Yemen the “Facebook Revolutions” or the “Internet Revolutions”, due to the fact much of the organization and taking the idea from something a few could do to something a country could do together, happened online through social media websites.

However, these revolutions are the people showing they have had too many years of, too much and not enough. It shows that each of these protesters from each of these countries are coming together to bring an end to the decades of dictatorships and the abuses being done to the citizens of their countries, the economies of these countries and they are wanting to establish a better future for themselves and generations to come.

These protesters want to be able to speak up and be heard without the fear of being arrested, tortured or forever silenced for doing what we, here in America, are able to do every day thanks to those who have fought for our freedoms ahead of us.

There have been numerous voices on Facebook, blogs, and Twitter speaking out and sharing, not only what they want outsiders to understand, but also showing support for one another in neighboring Middle East countries as one country’s rise against their dictator shows others they can accomplish the same. They can stand up for freedom and focus on a future with more opportunities and long term goals with the hope they can see their dreams through and stop living in daily fear.

As these revolutions have risen up and the people have stood together
in these countries against the regimes, the message is not only being seen across the region but around the world.

The messages being sent out over blogs, Facebook and Twitter are being read around the world and these voices are finally being heard. Other dictatorships and those living under them have more hope today due to these current transitions, not only due to the violence but due to the realization the people were able to come together and no longer live under the fear that has ruled them for so long.

In the recent toppling of these dictators, there are a few noticeable facts that really drove people to the edge over the many years of repetitive abuse and oppression. Those words don’t seem to cover what truly needs to be said.

There was no respect for the people, understanding of the citizens’ day to day struggles or a genuine compassion for a better future for the country or its people.

These dictators are completely detached from everything but the power their position brings to them and they will do anything to continue holding on to that power.

Although it is a very difficult process at times to clarify certain facts or detailed information coming in, it is very clear who the international community should stand behind, the people.

It may not be a detailed path where the Middle East may be headed but when we look back over history and see how the regimes and their dictators have handled the past, it seems the future has a much better outlook without them, their ideals, deceitfulness and their disdain for anyone aside from themselves or those that can benefit them at the time.

In 2010 and 2011, that power and the longevity of the power of these dictators have been greatly diminished with social media as the people of these countries quickly found a way to unite, form their ideals, stand together and once and for all, topple these dictators!

Times are changing.

Change for Egypt

Protest in Tahrir Square
Photo by: AlJazeer


Soon after large demonstrations started in Egypt on January 25th, support poured in across Social Media sites like Facebook and Twitter for Egyptians seeking freedoms, a better future and asking Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak to immediately step down.

Protestors had gathered in Tahrir Square and said they would not leave till Mubarak he had given up his 30 year position as President of Egypt. As time passed, the crowd grew. The numbers following via Facebook and Twitter also grew. (#Egypt #Jan25)

Many of the demonstrators were tweeting and texting directly from their locations and also giving information of what would be going on the following hours and days. In today’s fast-paced Internet world, picture uploading, video uploading, texting, blogging and sharing information is instant and with the world’s changing times, this allows millions of people to know instantly what is going on across the world and to alert others.

Egypt’s government has in its constitution a law, the “Emergency Law” which, among other things, gives the government the right, at its discretion to shut down the Internet and on January 28th, Internet Service Providers were told to cut services.

This “Emergency Law” has been in place nearly all of Mubarak’s time in office. This law is one of many grievances the people have with the Egyptian government and it was recently extended to remain another two years. When the law is enacted, it gives the government the right to arrest people without cause, hold prisoners indefinitely, limit freedom of expression and assembly and more. At the time Internet was cut, most mobile phone services also were disabled especially text messaging. This greatly handicapped the ability not only for Egyptians to communicate internationally but also with one another in the country.

Until February 1st, the protestors mostly were peaceful. Tahrir Square remained full of protestors waiting for President Mubarak to step down. News had come that he had sworn in a Vice President which was a first in the country in over 30 years.

However, on the 1st, Mubarak made a speech on State T.V. which played on a large screen for all to see in the square. He stated he would not seek another term as president in the upcoming elections. The people quietly watched his entire speech and closer to the end he stated he would not be willing to step down before the end of his term in September, later this year.

On the ground in Tahrir Square and close by violence grew as the crowd became angry. There became a rise in violence and coverage of this was being shown internationally soon after the world had viewed not only this speech by President Mubarak but also a speech by President Obama on his thoughts concerning the situation in Egypt.

The rise in violence around Tahrir Square grew as pro-Mubarak groups grew larger in the square and clashes between them and the anti-government group became more violent causing a growing number of injuries and fatalities.

The following day as journalists were covering the clashes, they themselves became the targets of violence. They were being harassed, beaten up, having their equipment confiscated, being arrested, vehicles or teams attacked and as this grew increasingly worse, some were forced to leave for their safety and others went into hiding to continue reporting but to protect themselves and their crews.

This same day, Internet service began to slowly return across the country and as this happened, updates from Egyptians started to come in on Twitter, Facebook, blogging and other sources. These updates showed personal accounts of what had been happening around Egypt and confirming an even greater desire for freedom but also confirmed the fact journalists were being targeted on the ground, in hotels and around the country. Egypt’s government, it appeared, did not want the continued coverage of what was going on in the streets of Egypt during this crisis.

The question was, why?

Was the fear this coverage was making Egypt look bad internationally or was the fear the international coverage and the feedback it was getting influencing Egypt’s youth, inciting more displays of protests? Whatever the reasoning, the amount of international journalists in the country was greatly diminishing and those remaining were not being able to cover the revolution on the streets, the people, Tahrir Square up close as they had been doing, they now needed to look out for their safety and cover the crisis from afar.

The fact is though, covering the situation in Egypt is extremely important. It is extremely important to see the crisis and transformation as it unfolds. It’s more truthful and honest to see it from the eyes of the people and the government’s reaction and the angles there in Egypt and to have those views involved.

Egypt’s crisis and this transformation as some view it or revolution as it is turning out to be is not just a small event or something that will soon pass. It is much larger and significant.

Egypt has a population of more than 80 million people, the largest population in the 22 Arabic speaking countries.

Although the overthrow of Tunisia’s president in December ignited many frustrations and long held grievances of the citizens in other countries across the region, eyes are now on Egypt and at the moment, the leaders of Jordan, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere are looking at their own government and making tremendous changes and reforms to try to prevent many of the same actions. Protests are currently taking place.

As for the U.S. and its involvement in this crisis, of course there is a great deal of concern and the crisis in Egypt has great significance to the U.S. We have many Egyptian-Americans living in the United States and many have called this their home for generations but still, Egypt is their home as well. Compassion must always be shown not only to our fellow Americans but, all others.

What would you go to a demonstration for? What freedom would you not be willing to give up?

Much of what the Egyptians are protesting for, Americans not only have but take for granted. Fair elections, presidential term limit restrictions, freedom of speech and assembly and the right these freedoms can’t just be taken away at the whim of the government (like what is currently happening in Egypt and has been over the past 3 decades due to “Emergency Law”).

What is the United State’s position on making Mubarak step down being President?

This is a political revolution of the Egyptian people. They desire freedom and change in the way their country and government functions. Therefore it is up to Egypt and its people to unfold their new political system, laws and government, not outside countries. True change will come from within.

Since Mubarak has been an ally of the United States, there has been communication between Mubarak and President Obama as well as the Administration and other key officials in Egypt. It is important for the U.S. to point out certain views pertaining to matters that does affect the U.S. as well as what effects U.S. citizens in Egypt, humanitarian efforts and the safety of international journalists. The U.S. has remained a close ally with Egypt for many years and as long as diplomatically possible, this is important to continue without forgetting about the rights of the Egyptian citizens.

However, for the U.S. Administration or U.S. Citizens to act as though we can tell another country’s leader to step down does nothing to aide that country or the real long term efforts toward transformation they are working on. It also hurts our diplomacy efforts with other countries and in the long run would hurt our relations with the government that ends up being formed in Egypt. The U.S. cannot see itself as the strong hold over the world.

The best seat for the U.S. to strategically plan for what needs to be done after Egypt’s transition and the actions that follow in Yemen, Jordan, Syria and other neighboring governments may be in the observation area allowing the people of Egypt and its current government to build its own future out of its current turmoil.

Allow them to have change.

America is more than a country Pt. 2

Pt 2 of a series (see previous article)

As the GOP released their “Pledge to America”, many of its statements sounded good but go against what has been being said.

In Politico on August 18, 2010, Indiana’s Republican Rep. Mike Pence thought the Islamic Center in NYC was “not appropriate”, while John Boehner, Republican House Minority Leader called the decision to build the mosque and Obama’s support “deeply troubling,” and Cantor dubbed it “the height of insensitivity.”

Do they know there was a Muslim prayer room on the South Tower’s 17th floor of the World Trade Center? Do they realize there are over 600,000 Muslims living in NYC? Do they also realize there is a place for prayer at the Pentagon and services are held for Muslims multiple times each week? This has gone on without any issues. Why is that? This was also true after the 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center which were carried out by the same type of extremist and took the lives of 6 people and injured 1,042 others. It doesn’t seem the politicians are trying to stop the building of any mosque or back up having it built for any reason other than to win voters. There are people that really do stand on one side or the other in sincerity but there are many others that are standing on the side of hate, discrimination or just standing without reason but doing so because the majority has taken a stand.

America comes first, before campaigning or popularity.

Going back to pledge.gop.gov

“America is an inspiration to those who yearn to be free and have the ability and the dignity to determine their own destiny.”

The statement is true. In America, a person can be many things if that person is willing to work hard, study hard, has ideas and some ambition. America has been built on these ingredients. This is what attracts so many people to want to come here and start a business, develop an idea or bring their family.

The question is are people able to come here, live here, be free here to raise their children and have a business, become citizens, go to school, practice their religion and truly be free as America and the Constitution says or are those words changing due to politics and fear being driven by a few and voiced over and over to more and more people? Or is that freedom only promised or offered to certain people?

Going back to pledge.gop.gov

Whenever the agenda of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to institute a new governing agenda and set a different course.”

In November 2008, the country voted to set out on a different course. Prior to that vote, things were completely off course. At that time, the housing market and economic downturn was already being said to have been the worst since the Great Depression. It was termed as the “Panic of 2008”.

In 2008 the majority of voters cast their ballot for change because they obviously wanted something, change.

Barack Obama was not only campaigning about bettering the economy, bringing healthcare to more of the uninsured, adding consumer credit protection, building a higher standard for our country’s declining educational system and its young people’s ability to pay to attend college. He was also campaigning for America and its ability to see within itself the need to achieve greater, expect more and to once again, move forward.

Barack Obama was running for the office of the President of the United States. In November 2008, he was elected into office and in January 2009, he took his position in the White House.

From the beginning of his presidency, he has set out to meet certain goals put forth during his campaign as well as help dig a country out of a turmoil it had sunk into over years of bad management, bad choices and now he was surrounded by onlookers daily wondering why he had no quick fixes. To say President Obama has not accomplished a great deal during his Presidency so far would be completely false. However, there is still a long way the country has to go.

In an interview via telephone from the Clinton Global Initiative this past week, Clinton urged the Democrats to start coming back at the GOP’s claims with facts. Give them statistics and show them exactly what the current administration has done to avert a more severe downturn.

Clinton said, “I think the Democrats ought to stand up and say… You gave them eight years to dig this hole and double the debt of this country and not to produce any jobs, and then to have a financial collapse and all of this calamity. At least give us four to dig out of it. If we’re wrong, throw us all out. But don’t bring back the people that dug the hole.”

Recovery for America Pt. 1 – Promise of "Change"

In November 2008, the United States of America was caught up in the “feeling of change”. Even those that didn’t vote for President- Elect Obama were curious and they were anticipating what changes would be ahead with the new president and his administration.

The economy was in a downfall, job losses were at an all time high in decades, home values were in a rapid decline, and record foreclosures were happening nationwide. The U.S. Military had two active wars going on and people wanted answers about troop levels, cost and prospective withdrawal dates. This is only part of what was going on when Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America.

From early in Obama’s campaigning days, he made his issues clear and he made campaign promises along the way. After all, that is what campaign time is about, right? It shouldn’t be just about what is said, it should be about the outcome and the ability to see things through, the long term effect.

He announced a his position on withdrawing troops from Iraq, increasing energy independence, and promoting a Universal Health Care Plan just to name a few.

In 2008 Obama’s campaigning committee did something that had never been done before. It put social media to the task and through Twitter, Facebook and MySpace was able to target the younger supporters and not only get more of them to register as voters but also to become active in the campaign process.

By using the internet, websites were designed and kept updated with speeches, rally locations, policy information, etc. Supporters could upload images from these websites to their own blogs or social media pages, print out posters, send emails to their friends, family and colleagues as well as find many other ways to show their support for Obama’s campaign. Users could also sign up to have secured text messages from Obama’s Campaign Manager, David Plouffe sent to their mobile device. It was something that had never been done before and voters felt much more “in the loop” by knowing things right as they happened and sometimes, before it was announced on the news by receiving a text message from #62262. For many who followed, that is how they found out who Barack Obama had chosen as his Vice President candidate. The campaign was very up to date and personalized.

After winning the presidential election, President-Elect Obama announced the formation of Organizing for America Organization (OFA) on January 17, 2009 which was a community organizing project of the DNC. Obama said it was an “organization that will build on the movement you started through the campaign.” Again, this was something being done that would involve Americans in a way (via the Internet and community efforts) that hadn’t been done before. He said although he and Vice President-Elect Joe Biden would be working in Washington D.C., “We cannot do this without you.”

It is now 18 months later and people are looking at how things are going for the U.S. The economy does seem to be coming back out of its devastating recession. Job loss continued to worsen and went beyond 10%.

The auto companies were crashing and therefore factories were closing, more job losses and for many towns across the country, the auto industry was their way of life, their income.

With so many people out of work, so many companies out of business, factories closed and therefore not producing, banks not lending money, people were losing the ability to see the “light at the end of the tunnel” or have faith things would get better.

For a nation under such difficult times, a simple solution was not going to work for the long term but also many people were hesitant to throw money at problems that money seemed to have caused, or at least the misuse of money seemed to have caused.

Somehow, things needed to get onto a road to recovery.

This series of articles, “Recovery for America,” is going to take a look at promises made through the campaign and whether they have been kept, are in the process of being carried out, have been compromised on or broken.

If you read my last series, “Help for America” it is clear many Americans are in need of jobs and/or better paying jobs. Small businesses need help to grow and be able to hire more employees and many American families are not only barely getting by but are simply just suffering here in America.

Many communities need to improve their schools, roads, hospitals and be able to hire back teachers and first responders. Here in the Bay Area, being prepared for a natural disaster is something that is always a priority. This isn’t something that can be done when it is too late.

Please share your comments and ideas below in a productive way and they may be used in an upcoming article. You may subscribe above to become a regular follower.

If You Don’t Like It, You Can…

What?

What can you do?

Is that the question you ask yourself, those around you? Or, are you the problem solver, the one with the answers? For me, it goes both ways, depends usually. I am not one that is easily flustered (well according to me). I have learned that some fights are better off avoided and not to “sweat the small stuff.”

However, if you live in the real world like most of us do, many things are pretty unavoidable as much as it takes air to breathe and water to live. Life is far from simple and what should be simple is often made more complicated by someone, even we ourselves by trying to make it more fun, organized and in some way hoping to get the most of our time with the least amount of effort. In the long run, it usually ends up quite the opposite. We seem to always be in need of more time, relaxation and “wind down”. But, what has everyone so wound up?

Do we not have enough time in the day, not enough days in the weekend? Is it too little family time? Is it too little money? Are we faced with too many bills? Is work too hard or too stressful? Is it traffic jams? Is it our healthcare we just heard our government fight over for what seemed like 10 years? Is it guilt? What exactly could it be?

I think it is each of the things I mentioned above but all stemming from one thing. Choice or the lack of. What do I mean by that? Well, I think we have lost a lot of our ability to be in control of our own lives. In many ways I think we have so many choices to make at times, it is just overwhelming. At other times, the choices are taken away from us and basically it is that we take what we are “offered” or we lose our “choice”.

As time has gone on, jobs have changed to grow with the times, That means our job structure, the number of positions and our job security has changed. More time is required to do different things even if you are with the same company. Throughout our government, economy and our population it has always been accepted that “time is money” but that is growing truer as time marches on. Employees are becoming more replaceable to their employer due to the fact employers can hire a new employee at a lower pay rate and gain newer ideas, fresh outlook and again do the same thing at a later date. Many times as well an employer has done away with retirement savings and healthcare plans to save money for the business and the employee has been the one to lose out. Both can see it from their side and explain why one side makes more sense than the other but what a person works for and earns should be theirs to keep is the way I see it. It is basically a promise made to them and held in safe keeping by the employer. It shouldn’t be something that is held above their head like a piece of meat that can be stripped away at the first, second or third sign of trouble. But, what can an employee do? If it is not physically in their hand, signed in a contract, already in a bank account in their name, what can they do? They can’t do anything. It is a case of broken trust basically. It is a case of losing out what is rightfully yours, something you worked for. I mean you have done your job, earned that time and now it is gone. For some, they were just 5 years or so away from retirement and then it is gone. Their retirement, their healthcare and in a lot of cases their job too. If they don’t like it, what could they do? Join everyone else that didn’t like it. Join everyone else that had worked so hard as well. Life dishes out unfairness a lot. People dish out unfairness a lot. Often it is done in the name of “survival” to save a business or to fix a broken economy. What about everyone who is being dumped on? They have no choice in the matter. Their choice is on the Pink Slip.

Do you remember the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act of 2009? The law that was designed to protect credit card holders from jacked up interest rates, sudden change in requiring enormous minimum payments and cutting credit lines from one amount down to less than half or even a third or less. Remember also where the banks suddenly required minimum payments of nearly a third of the balance or half the balance? In some cases a person may have had a minimum payment of say $45 and suddenly been required to pay $300 or more? The banks were getting government bailouts and ripping off their customers. Well, they are still out to get the customers. The banks and credit card companies have plenty of tricks up their sleeves and without being prepared, you can get caught in the middle. Well, there really isn’t a middle. There isn’t much you can do if you get caught so you just have to stay ahead of the game. What else can you do?

These are a few tips found in a Reader’s Digest Article in March 2010. “Credit Card Tricks and Traps

*The Catch: After 12 months, banks can raise rates as high as they want on future purchases as long as they give 45 days’ notice.

*The Tip: Watch your interest rates closely

Some companies are sending out bills in plain envelopes,” says Lewis Mandell, a professor of finance and business economics at the University of Washington. Don’t mistake it for junk mail and throw it out. Remember: After 45 days, the new rate takes effect unless you have notified the bank that you choose not to accept it.

That is just one of the examples of what you will find in the article linked above. Click on the article to learn more. It is a very worthwhile read to pass on as well. This is just one example of ways choices are being taken away. You can chose which credit card you pick by looking at their introductory offers and what they reel you in with but I think most people that have followed our economy and the news over the last few years can truly see what can happen and how much is really out of our control unless we take the time to keep a solid eye on matters each day and keep up with the financial news. Even then, most of us have learned that the banks and financial institutions should not be trusted with our money so many have cleaned up their financial matters and had a quick economical education recently. I mean, if you don’t like it, the banks basically said shove off! They were out to save themselves, not the customer.

Do you ever see the homeless people on the side of the street? If your answer is “No”, where do you live? I have seen them anywhere I have ever lived. In some places more than others and at different times of the year, there seems to be less than at other times. These days, there is more. I have to admit when I was younger I didn’t understand how a person could be homeless. It wasn’t that my family was wealthy but I just didn’t understand how a person didn’t have family member that they could live with. As I grew older, I began to understand. I realized in my teen years that a lot of homeless people in our area were Veterans and that was another thing I didn’t understand. If people fought for our country, why were they homeless? How could that be possible! What was wrong with our Country? My eyes were really getting opened. In my 20’s my husband became a U.S. Veteran and that really affected me even more than I imagined it would. Seeing these homeless Veterans and hearing people insult the fact they were there was unacceptable. What upsets me the most is the fact people don’t know the circumstances behind what brings people to a certain place at a particular time in their life. Was it a choice or a circumstance beyond their control? I genuinely doubt the homeless people I see on the street woke up one day in their bed, at home and had a big breakfast and said, “I think I want to give up my job, my house, my family and go live on the street. That is my CHOICE.”

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” Samuel Johnson

I am not saying we should pay people to live on the street but I don’t think we should be going around judging people not knowing what put them there just like we wouldn’t want someone judging us if we look tired and not so put together one day. What if they went around saying, “She must have been out one of her drinking rampages again last night. I hear she does that all time.” Really? Do we have the right to go around making statements and judging people when we don’t know them? Do we have a right to judge people even if we do? Some of my past blogs have been about judging others for reasons beyond their control or things that show a complete lack of intolerance and to be completely up front, this is something that really gets under my skin. But, this is also one of those character traits that is the most difficult to change about people. The title of this blog, “If you don’t like it, you can…” is basically how I think a lot of people are running their lives. I think big businesses are running their companies to the ground, their employees are becoming less and less important to them and the numbers are more and more the focus.

I think overall our government seems to have become less tied to the people because of so many ties and demands on our government. What do I mean by that? Well, to make this simple and due to the fact I intend to continue this in another blog to follow, the U.S. Government has business in every country in some way. There isn’t a day that goes by in which this isn’t true. Americans are spread all over the world and citizens from every nation are here in the U.S. We are so intertwined with our world this is something that is not only possible but an absolute necessity. Our U.S. President cannot have the attitude to walk away from other nations or snub another nation but instead must be willing to negotiate although at all times, keeping our security and economy safe and secure and a number one priority. Our Country cannot have the attitude of, “If you don’t like it, you can…” when it comes to our diplomatic relations or when it comes to having relations with one another. It hasn’t been working and it will only continue to work against us if we have that attitude. As a Nation that doesn’t work, as a citizen that doesn’t work and as a person that doesn’t work.

You may say you don’t like our President or you don’t like our current administration or how the War is going. That is your choice to not agree with something. Elections are also a time for choosing. The outcome of our presidential elections, show America’s choice and ultimately either way we work with that choice for the next four years. As Americans, we should never try to tear down our Government. By doing so, that is tearing down us. Since earlier wars, there have always been people against the wars this country has fought and I can’t think of many people that would be happy to have our soldiers in harm’s way. Personally, I agree things have definitely dragged on but I chose to support our troops. There is a difference between supporting our troops and supporting a war. I am not the person that has a choice whether or not our war efforts should continue but I do know our men and women in the military deserve my continued support and admiration. I have a choice here and that is what I choose to do. I can be up front about where I stand and I won’t send out a mixed or a false message on what I don’t understand.

You see, in many ways a lot of our choices have been slowly voided. They haven’t so much been yanked away but they just aren’t there in the open anymore. They are being made for us or they just happen to be made “by default” these days. Sometimes they are sent to us but they are done in a way that we don’t notice and the company is able to say we ignored our chance to claim making a choice (like the credit card company mentioned above).

But, we do have many decisions we are responsible for making, many choices each day. Do we notice them? Are we taking them lightly when they really could have a big impact on our life or someone else’s?

Look at the statement this way:

If you don’t like it, you can CHANGE IT.

“What you will be tomorrow depends on the choices you make today.” ODB

Change Happens

It is what millions of people voted for and it is what we are seeing. Whether a person voted for the current administration or not, what is going on will in some way affect each of us. If there were no changes occurring at the moment, people would be complaining. If there were different changes occurring, there would be different complaints going around work places, coffee shops, on the streets, talk shows, waiting lines at grocery stores and now, social media. That is just the way things are in our country. Things have really changed in that area. People have a large demographic they can share their opinion. Is that a problem? Well, it can get irritating and of course the media can make it very repetitive to listen to but that is what America is about when it comes to the First Amendment’s “Freedom of Speech” right? Look at me, I am sharing my opinion. I read other people’s opinions, a lot. I listen to the news, I read Facebook, Twitter, Email, Blogs, etc. I get it from a lot of different angles. I choose to stay away from Talk Radio.

I don’t mind hearing someone’s opinion or reading their opinion or, in most cases, I have the option to just turn off the TV or not check on the sources I read. We all have those choices. More and more though, it doesn’t matter where I turn, those opinions are showing up in ways that are becoming harder and harder for me to avoid. If I am going to watch the news, I am going to run into story after story of protests that have turned into crimes or protestors that are threatening different leaders for their stance on issues or votes. These are more recent events. I was stunned (maybe I shouldn’t have been but then that would mean I was becoming accepting with the way things are becoming) of the fact people were threatening the families of some members of congress because of the way they had recently voted. I understand protests have gone on for years, decades even that I can remember. Voting is way this country does things in a democratic and civilized way. We elect the members of Congress and Senate that represent us in Washington during these different votes. I know that may sound like I am minimizing the importance of this last piece of Legislation that was just voted on and how much time, effort and discussion went into this and also how large of an impact this will have on many of us but I am also one of those people. I too spent a lot of time researching, calling my local Representative and before I voted for my local Representative, I researched the candidates because I know the Congress and Senate could be called upon at anytime to make very big and long lasting decisions for our country, my state, me personally. It is a personal thing to me, my vote.

When it comes to my vote, this is something I have discussed when I am asked but not something I go around bringing up anytime I have a chance. I don’t feel everyone wants to hear my feelings and everything I am thinking about at any given moment (It is usually quite boring). I don’t believe in heading straight to vote for whoever is running within my “Party”. In fact, what my Voter Registration card says really doesn’t matter to me. I look over all the candidates and start narrowing them down as I learn more and more. I certainly don’t learn about them via the Commentators and Journalist on TV or Emails that are passed around and forwarded. I don’t just listen to what they say about themselves or what they promise. I look at what history they have, what ideas they have. I look at their character, their body language, their voting history and how those that have worked with them speak about them. I look at their families and how they deal with their families, where their priorities seem to lie and how they handle pressure, the media, campaigning and I consider myself a very good judge of character. Obviously people are going to rip into them and attack every angle they can so I also watch how they deal with that pressure as well. I have another good source of decision making to always turn to. Not just for voting or politics but for everyday life. I pray about any big decision. Voting for the President of the United States of America is a huge decision!

This past election, America seemed to turn its decision into more of a witch hunt, a search for reasons to turn against each other and a reason to put common sense behind us and hatred and self first. This has really put our country in a place of a constant spin and it seems that although things are happening and things are changing, many Americans just can’t get their focus back on what is good for America and their families and how working together has always proven to benefit us as a country. Tearing each other down is the quickest and fastest way to run America into turmoil one family after another. Americans need to look at each other and look across their work places and schools, places of worship and remember how many times, desperate times over the centuries we have proven to pull together and make those needed changes and we came out a great Nation, United and Strong.