Category Archives: Nation

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.

Views and Beliefs vs. Rights and Freedoms

I appreciate people’s views, opinions and concerns. I think those are what have driven America’s progress the most. Without those voices of the past, we would not have the freedoms to have our voices heard today.

However we share our voices, whether it be through writing, TV, radio or to those around us. The fact is, we have the desire within us to be heard and in this country, we have the right.

In many countries, that is not the case. Those rights did not come to us without fight and by others giving up their freedoms and their lives. How we use those rights and our freedoms should never be taken lightly.

I have always been one to see things through the eyes of many, not just myself. I believe that one’s freedom can not be enjoyed with another person enslaved. Justice is not won if an injustice is being done and ignored. I see that and I do not take that lightly. That is why I do what I do.

Choice is a freedom. Choice is the ability to make a decision. For someone to take that away is to take a freedom away and we have fought too long to earn those rights.

In today’s politics, it seems like there are sides. People are choosing or picking who will win this election. It is much more than sides or winners and losers. When people vote without knowing what they have to gain or lose, they have already lost. And, when people vote for a candidate knowing their win will mean freedoms are lost, what does that say about America’s freedoms? How easy is it for us to give up the freedoms of others when we feel it does not agree with our beliefs?

What if that were the way America started to work? No more separation of church and state? Church telling government how to make the laws and government telling churches to pay up taxes and what they can and cannot preach. Church and state getting into conflicts over schools. Haven’t we crossed that path?

It is called progress. It has enabled us to allow people to make choices, to find the way to move forward equally, allowing freedom of religions and freedom of speech in a nation that is more diverse than any other nation in the world.

Who would want to back up progress that has already been made? Who would want to repeat history when those times of turmoil have been fought and lives have been lost so that we can be where we are today?

We have chosen to move forward and live in a nation of progress that believes our diversity is a value and with freedom, we have more opportunity. Our country has shown how valuable freedom is and in turn, it cannot truly feel free until it is shared by everyone. Humanity is one.

 

America’s road to the White House – 2012 Edition

Get out and vote!

As we countdown to the elections, there have been many moments that stand out. There are great moments, confusing moments and those moments that will be remembered forever.

There couldn’t be a more important time in America for people to come together and hear out what each side is saying at their campaign rallies, conventions, the upcoming debates and really be able to make an informed decision in November.

This is not an election of which Party to put into the White House but a choice of a leader for our Nation as we continue to work on strengthening our economy, building a better future for our children, putting quality and affordable healthcare in the reach of everyone, advancing our educational system to stay competitive in the world and making sure our service members, military families and veterans have their needs looked after from the time they enlist and each day after.

To lead America into the next 4 years, it means leading and listening to ALL Americans while respecting their lives and the diverse backgrounds many come from as well as the diversity within the United States of America. Without this diversity in our Nation, our great Country wouldn’t be what it is today. Pride in our Country starts with pride in its people.

There have been many speakers at both the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida and now the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. There has been a great deal of finger pointing, looking back at what hasn’t worked, talking to an empty chair (?) and in the Republican Convention there was a great deal of what seemed to be self promotional speeches.

The fact is, this is a time to make a point, take responsibility, state what their nominee’s plan is to move forward and nominate the person for each Party. At the end of these conventions, voters should know more about what each candidate would do to improve the lives of the American people as well as lay out some type of an idea for their overall policies. Give a glimpse into the future if they were to be the one sworn in as President of the United States in January 2013. This is not a race to win or a “family feud” of sorts. This is serious business. Can this person lead? Can this person represent the American people?

When it comes down to it, the decisions made in the past have laid down the groundwork for opportunities today.  Without strong leaders, much of what our Nation is known for would not be in existence today. Many freedoms we often take for granted would not have come about. To be a great leader means working to improve the present while also taking into account lives in the future, not taking for granted what has been fought for in the past and respecting those who have given of themselves for the freedoms we have today.

Between now and election, there will be a LOT of targeted ads running on TV. A good deal of them are being put out from special interest groups saying they “represent” one side or the other. Their point is not to give facts but to get votes. They don’t care if they are misguided votes. A vote is a vote. They have money to spend and they aren’t spending it to educate the American public.

In today’s age of technology, it has never been easier to sit down and watch a speech, debate, read a full dialogue or look up anything a person may have missed during the day or week. Why take someone’s word for what was said? See things, in full for yourself. A vote shouldn’t be made based on emails received, clips on the news, coworkers ideas or based on Party affiliation.

Each candidate has their own website and many of their speeches are posted shortly after they are given along the campaign trail. This enables voters to see for themselves what is happening as voting day gets closer.

Romney/Ryan Campaign 2012

Obama/Biden Campaign 2012

Every vote matters. Are you registered? Each state has different deadlines to register prior to elections. Check here for deadlines and registration.

Question: Have you been watching the conventions? RNC or DNC? Both? What have your favorite moments been?

Here is a video clip from the #DNC2012 of President Bill Clinton speaking. This is the first time ever a former President has nominated a President. This is a MUST SEE speech.

America is a land of heroes and honor

Vigil held in rememberance of September 11th

How has our Nation changed since the attacks on September 11th, 2001? Did Osama Bin Laden’s death bring any closure for us?

I had often wondered how our Country would react when Osama Bin Laden was captured or killed and that day finally came.

Now the 10 year mark, or anniversary, of the attack on our Nation is just days away. This tragedy is often talked about and looked at on a large scale as something that happened to our Nation, as one, and in a way it did. Many parts of our national security have been changed.

However, the effects that linger on in our Nation are something that can be looked at individually. Life, for many has taken on new meaning. The individual security we once had, as well as a great deal of conveniences, has been changed. What was once thought to be a simple weekend get-a-way or business trip isn’t the same anymore.

Those passengers aboard United Flight #93 did not hand over their boarding pass knowing they would be called upon to make a decision to save countless lives and go down in history as heroes to so many. Was it a decision or did they just carry out a selfless act as they would have in any situation put in front of them any other day of their life?

At Ground Zero that day, the first responders grabbed their gear and set out to save lives as tragedy continued to unfold around them and around our Nation, yet none of us really knew just how horrific these moments would turn out to be even as they happened in front of our eyes. Like I said, this was unimaginable to us, at the time.

Alongside those first responders at Ground Zero were many everyday men and woman, now referred to as heroes, helping each other and doing whatever they could to assist the city’s firefighters, police and other rescue workers, offering a hug or an arm to someone who was too weak to walk or plenty of people who were consumed by dust. Were they trained to do this? How could they have known they would be needed in this situation? But, they helped in any way they could. That makes them heroes, to me.

On September 11th, 2001, something we never imagined could happen to our Country, the United States of America, did. As one plane after another flew into incredible buildings taking them down and thousands of lives with them, our lives were forever changed.

However, the response across America, overwhelming and almost instantly was brotherhood, heroism, united efforts, strangers reaching out to strangers, and people offering one another peace in a time of grief and utter devastation. In a time of chaos, when people could have been at their worst, the united response was to rise up and come out giving comfort and show that together we can get through anything.

America is a land of opportunity, a land of ideas and solution, heroes and honor. All of this goes together when we all come together, to stand strong, united.

On this September 11th, let’s keep our unity strong so America can flourish, strengthen and together, move forward.

Below is a song/video Tribute “America Stand Strong” – Tribute to 9/11 which you can use this link if the video area doesn’t appear. Please feel free to share your comments on the tribute or how 9/11 affected you, where you were on that day or how you live life differently now.




The song, “America Stand Strong”, was written and composed on September 12, 2001 by Myron Solomon.


Myron is a U.S. Army Veteran who now serves with the Department of Homeland Security


Past article on September 11th attacks written in 2010

“Looking back and moving forward on 9/11”

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

Not just a story

Our world is under a constant change. That is a given. Those who try to stop change or stand in the way of progress are slowly being rooted out.
That is certainly being seen across the Middle East as they continue to fight for their freedom of speech, equalities and the ability to finally be out from under the unspeakable acts of cowardly dictators that have ruled over them for decades.

As each day passes, bravery becomes more evident because to share the turmoil going on in places such as Egypt, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, it literally means risking arrest or even one’s life. Making a phone call, sending a picture, a tweet, updating a blog or even carrying on a conversation on the street or anywhere in public can cost a person their life on the spot or have them detained, tortured, or kidnapped leaving their family to wonder whatever became of them. This is not something that is exaggerated or made up. This is life for the people of these countries and has been for decades.

Most reporters sent in are there under government watch and only go places with government permission, in government convoys and to places the governments wants them to see. Example of this is in Tripoli’s famous Rixos Hotel where a large group of reporters have stayed and covered Libya’s conflict for an ongoing amount of time. This is where Iman Al Obaidi ran in to share her story of what happened while she was held by Gaddafi’s soldiers. Her story became internationally known once it was shared by worldwide news organizations and across social media websites. This became possible only because she risked her life to go into that hotel in the first place.

Other reporters have been thrown out of Libya and other countries for sharing too much of the truth as well as having been detained, beaten, raped or are still missing or or have been killed.

To name just a few, Chris Hondros, Tim Hetherington, Mohammed Al-Nabbous, Anton Hammerl were killed just recently. These are just a few and are just naming ones killed in Libya.

Why do “outsiders” risk their lives to share these “stories”?

I’ll answer this question very directly so as to be very clear.

These aren’t just stories, this is life. Just because I am an American writing about people that are living all the way around the world, doesn’t make this any less relevant than if I were writing about something locally, not to me.

You see, these people in many ways are just like me. They have hopes, dreams, families, loved ones, and friends.

Rebel fighters at the Wazin Border Crossing(Tunisia and Nafusa Mountains) May11th
Photo Courtesy of: @ShababLibya

A mother losing her child or a child losing their parents somewhere else in the world is just as upsetting as if that happened here, or to me. A friend watching their friend die is no less painful because it is further away or because it is in a time of war. Many of those fighting in these current revolutions are students, lawyers, doctors or young kids. Most are not soldiers and had never held a weapon before in their life. They are protecting their homes, businesses, families and their lives. They didn’t want to fight. They don’t want to fight. They want to be free which is the opposite of fighting.

As an American, I want our government to be able to help, of course.

I also know that many times, U.S. involvement comes with a cost and although at first glance and in a time of crisis, it seems great and the right thing to do when making arrangements but the long term effects, due to diplomatic arrangements made to reach that original agreement, often far outweigh the long term benefit. Doesn’t sound right, does it?

Let me explain. Iraq and Afghanistan.

The need for help is there and the desire to help is there but the actual response and outcome is often so jumbled up in politics, the RSVP would have been better to have been lost in the mail.

Some situations are so clear, up front, one would think there wouldn’t be any issues. One would think.

In Libya, Gaddafi was making it abundantly clear that he had no problem with taking as many lives each day as he could without any given reason. He also made it clear he wasn’t listening to reason. Once the UN came to an agreement and NATO started its response against Gaddafi’s crimes against his own people, it wasn’t as quick of a process as it would have once been thought.

At this point, it seems communication on the ground (what little there is) doesn’t get heard by the right people, quickly enough. I personally think if it were, Gaddafi would have been cut off much quicker.

Syria has tried to hide what is going on in their country but they haven’t been able to do this, not completely. The government says one thing and does another. It seems they want to act like Iran, dress like Iran but not be treated like Iran. When do threats from the U.S. end? Syria’s government has clearly chosen its path.

In Yemen today, President Saleh refused to sign the exit deal to hopefully bring an end to the political crises. Saleh has ruled for 32 years.
For months now, Yemen has been filled with protests for him to step down. Hundreds have been killed and he has refused to sign a deal at least twice before.

Saleh is demanding the opposition be present at the signing. The opposition refuses saying it will send the wrong message to the revolution leaders in Sanaa, making Saleh look victorious.

The opposition signed their part of the agreement on Saturday, May 21st with the understanding Saleh would sign his on Sunday.
About Saudi Arabia…this is a country with a great deal of oppression toward women.

I am a woman. I drive. Recently Manal Al Sharif was arrested for doing exactly the same thing in the eastern town of Khobar, Saudi Arabia which defies a long standing ban on women’s driving. Yeh, that’s right.

Manal Al Sharif 32 year old Saudi Arabian woman detained for driving in Saudi Arabia

It’s said that about two-thirds of a woman’s salary goes toward their transportation. They can’t walk on the street or drive so they must pay a taxi or private driver. There’s no public transportation.

On June 17th, there’s a campaign #Women2Drive which is growing in numbers on their Facebook page. The idea is for those women, with foreign licenses, to go out in the Kingdom of Saudi and drive that day. Some are even offering to teach others how to drive. Manal Al Sharif remains detained at this moment but in an interview to Gulf news she said, “Every lady has something to do in the city, she’ll just drive, do her business and come back. So it’s as simple as that. People can’t call it a demonstration, we’re not going against the law, we’re not going against anyone, we’re not even demonstrating.”

I was going to divide this article into two parts but I think it’s important to keep it as one.

You see, as a nation, we have an enormous amount of freedoms. I am writing this article which I will shortly post because I have the freedom to do so. I have the ability to share the information which I freely read about on the Internet or via links that were sent to me. Information is golden.

Education is priceless. The ability to have those available to us should never be taken for granted.

In many parts of our world, these freedoms or abilities do not exist. Our freedoms were fought for by very brave people before us and to take anything at all for granted, to me, just seems wrong. It also seems wrong to take lightly why others would want these same freedoms as well as the loss of lives they are experiencing while fighting for their freedom.

Many have chosen to come here, to the U.S., seeking a better life for themselves and their children. Around the world, America has been known as the “Land of the Free”, but is it? Do we truly know where these people are coming from, why they are seeking freedom and can they still find it here? In coming here, they have often made many sacrifices leaving behind the only homes they have ever known and family members to still live under dictators and the very life they are running from.

It’s been a while since I have written. I’ve been following much of what has been going on around the world, devastating natural disasters, revolutions and our own nation and its many ups and downs.

I hadn’t planned to write quite yet until I read a comment about the woman in Saudi, Manal, who had been arrested for, driving. The comment was basically along the lines of the fact the reader would never live in a place that wouldn’t allow a woman to drive!

My question: What if you were born there?

America’s best days are ahead

"Sea to Shining Sea"
Photo by: dgroup

In our homes, our neighborhood schools, local businesses, communities and across our nation there have been conversations about the need for improvements in many areas of day to day life and the future of America.

Although when traveling through American cities or the rural communities which link our nation together, things may appear at first glance to be different, most Americans have the same basic needs in life and many share the same values and goals; family, home and having a better future for their children.

However, it’s not the differences within these communities that bring the divide to the nation. The diversity of cultures, religions and race have made America a nation that stands out unlike every other country in the world. These differences however can also be used as a tool to bring weakness and divide.

Many issues our country continues to face have come about through history and in instances, such as slavery, laws have been enacted after many lives were lost and many injustices were carried out but also heroes came to the forefront of our American culture to show that good can triumph over evil if people are willing to get involved and stand up for what is right even when it may not be popular or have anything to gain for them personally or may possibly bring them physical harm even costing their life.

Through history, lessons can be learned and the worst possible thing to do would be to revert back to old ways or act as though they never happened.

History should never have to repeat itself to prove wrong doesn’t make right and to again show one human is not above another human, not by race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or economic standing.

Instead, as American and World History are taught in our schools, it should include the fact these lessons in history can and should be what makes America a stronger nation and each culture and religion represented in America should be the ties that bind us as an even greater, more unique nation of the future with goals that represent our strengths and ambitions and look out for the humanity of everyone across our nation.

On Saturday, January 8th our nation suffered a tremendous tragedy in Tucson, Arizona when a 22 year old man opened fire at a shopping center, shooting a U.S. Representative, a Federal Judge, and 9 year old girl as well as countless others in a few short moments. In the end, 20 people were shot and 6 lost their lives including one of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ aides, Gabe Zimmerman, Federal Judge – John Roll, Dorwan Stoddard – who used his body to shield his wife from being killed, Dorothy Morris – who was there with her husband of 55 years, also shot but survived, Phyllis Schneck – a loving mother and grandmother who loved her community, and Christina Green – a 9 year old who wanted to meet her Congresswoman and someday participate in Government.

The news of this horrific event ripped through the media on TV, radio, online social media, etc. causing a great deal of grief, confusion, anger, unity, memories, panic, just so many different emotions.

An outpouring of prayers and wishes poured out across America for the families of the victims and those who had suffered injuries and were being rushed to nearby hospitals. So many questions were being asked but there were very few available answers.

Different news agencies were trying to gather facts and at times, there were reports coming in and then being reversed due to wrong information. There was also a great deal of information coming in that was being driven by emotion and reaction but not backed up by facts because the shooter hadn’t talked nor had enough time passed to give investigators an opportunity to put together the facts.

What happened in Tucson, Arizona is an inexcusable tragedy and by no means can be something that defines who America is but what America, as a nation, is not.

For those who used their media outlet and time before this awful event to campaign Americans against Americans will hopefully see America is a United Nation. For those who look at our nation as citizens against their government, America is a civilized democracy.

People can have different ideas, different goals and debates but as a people, Americans should be looking out for the good of one person as much as for the good of another person, one family as much as for the good of another family.

Americans should look past each other’s party, race, religion, Ethnicity and to each other’s goals, ideas, needs and future and see it as America’s future, their future.

America’s best days are ahead. It is within this great nation, our great nation to accomplish what is needed to move forward and to move ahead into the future. The idea is to work alongside each other and alongside other nations, to draw on our strengths and not focus on the weakness of others.

Our nation is made up of our people, all of our people and for America to truly be as great as it can be, our nation must unite and work together for the common goals of everyone.

As different as many may be, that is also our strength when used correctly and for the right purpose.

In the face of tragedy, unity is often seen, but everyday unity can be shown.

Examiner link

Vote for America

Simply put, people are frustrated. People across America; neighbors, teachers, doctors, lawmakers, labor workers, the unemployed, underemployed, college students and the younger generation is frustrated.

There are a number of reasons why this is happening and for each person, it affects them differently. Our nation has been under a constant strain economically, we’ve had multiple wars going on and it seems the United States has been in constant “campaign mode”.

It’s not campaigning for an election all the time. It’s been campaigning to get Americans on the side of certain decisions over bills and laws. Things drag out over long periods of time while nothing is getting done in Washington and this is becoming almost acceptable to let time go by while nothing gets done and then blame it on “party differences” and the inability to resolve things until the next elections when everything can get fixed if Americans just vote a certain way.

It’s not the fault of the difference in parties. It is the fault of the people in office who are supposed to be doing their job representing the people that elected them and in some way representing their party and what it stands for (the good part).

It should never be acceptable for a group of elected leaders that are representing their people and their parties to be able to blame anyone but themselves when something is stopping everything and bringing progress to a halt.

A true leader that is actually there to represent those who elected would be able to figure out a way to work with anyone to achieve some type of a positive outcome for those they are representing. It doesn’t mean all in one day but progress is progress.

A true leader is a peacemaker who can still get others to hear them out by also listening and working with others.

Every representative in Washington should be discussing how to benefit every American, not just certain Americans or some classes of Americans because that will further divide America and today, America needs to be united and Washington needs to be united.

If the right U.S. Representatives and Senators are elected to do a job in Washington, it shouldn’t be that they represent their party first. Each of those elected, as they do their jobs each day or cast any vote should be representing what is best for each and every American now and in the future.

As each American goes to cast their ballot, it should be done to support their community, fellow Americans and country before supporting a party.

It’s America that needs to move forward at this time, Americans that have been hurting and everyone can be a part of being involved in solutions and not excuses.

Help Americans with your vote in either an early vote or on November 2, 2010. Together, we can move America forward.

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U.S. and the rest of the world

Most people around the world have heard about the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped on August 5thwhen their mine suddenly collapsed.

At the moment, their rescue is being watched live around the world as each miner is being brought to the surface via a small tube just big enough to hold each miner, one by one from nearly half a mile underground. Each miner is wearing sunglasses as they haven’t been in sunlight for over 65 days. This has been a day of happiness for not only those waiting at the site but also many around the world watching live as these events unfold.

People have sent words of encouragement, hope, prayers and support from all over the world to the friends and family of the miners.

Often times, it is said that the U.S. needs to concentrate on its own issues and not worry about what is going on in the rest of the world. People ask why the U.S. offers aide and assistance to other countries when our country is so in debt or why our news networks have such continuous coverage of disasters or even these types of stories in other countries.

These same questions came up soon after the earthquake in Haiti earlier this year because people didn’t understand the continuous news coverage being done or why the U.S. was encouraging fund raising efforts for Haiti when people in the U.S. were facing such devastation of their own due to an economic crisis.

When Hurricane Katrina happened, the coverage was shared around the world and the same thing happened after the attacks of September 11th. Other countries shared in our pain and offered their words of condolences and backed us up with aide after Katrina and support for the War on Terror.

One thing that was pointed out from others when seeing the footage after the 9/11 attacks was how those abroad were seeing Americans at their best in the worst of times. Americans were united together to help each other out, pull each other up and bring strength back to a nation that had been shaken.

It didn’t make a difference what a person’s race was, or their religion, nationality, beliefs or whether they were gay or straight. Nobody was asking those questions. They just wanted to help someone who needed help and move America forward from a bad situation.

Over the past few years, America has been in a bad situation. This wasn’t a small part of America or something that could just be cleared up in a day with a quick fix or an easy plan. This was an enormous and devastating economic meltdown that happened over years. First, without many people knowing and then without being properly managed to bring it to a halt which allowed an even broader, long lasting, economic crash.

Due to the housing and mortgage collapse and the stock market collapse in 2008, it felt as though the rug was pulled out from under many Americans who before that time had a sense of security in their homes, jobs and savings or some type of stock or retirement plan.

Many people lost their jobs due to company closings or cut backs, their health benefits and their homes due to the inability to make payments and with so many unemployed trying to find a job would become an opportunity so many would be seeking and few would find, only making the current situation that much worse.

At the same time, our country was going through presidential elections. These elections were being watched all over the world. Why are so many people concerned about the outcome of the presidential elections in the U.S.?

During the campaign, John McCain was saying he had more experience in Washington than Barack Obama and therefore would be a better president and Obama was running on the fact he would be able to bring change to D.C. and could bring hope to America when America truly needed hope and change.

Part way through the campaign, due to a serious downturn in the economy, a $700 billion bailout package for the financial industry was drafted and passed by both the House and the Senate. The country was desperate to elect someone who would get the country moving forward and back on its feet but many didn’t realize how much damage had really gone on for years within the financial industry and how much corruption had taken place.

In November 2008, Barack Obama was elected into office and from the beginning had started making changes and has continuously worked alongside his team to make things happen, moving America forward.

To see some of President Obama’s achievements, click here.

There are many people that question why more hasn’t been done, why it isn’t more obvious that America is on the road to recovery. Of course it would be best if everyone who needed a job had a job. It would be best if everyone who lost their home was placed back in a home with a suitable mortgage.

Aside from curing all the devastating diseases, making sure that people are able to have insurance, not be turned away due to pre-existing conditions or have their insurance company say they’ve reached their yearly or lifetime maximum payout is something that should have been an easy agreement by both, the House and the Senate as well as the American people. Healthcare should not be made into a political argument or slogan like “Obamacare”. It should be a human right.

If those in Washington were more worried about the people they were working for instead of themselves being reelected, much more would get done.

I asked early on in this article why should Americans be worried about what goes on in the world or other countries? Why should we get involved? Why does the world watch what goes on in the U.S.? Should it matter to us what other countries think about us?

The U.S. is made up of immigrants from countries all over the world. This country has been added to by immigrants, although some have family here that has been here for many generations, and others for a few generations or maybe some have just come here recently, roots go back to other countries. Many still have families in those countries and are very concerned on a daily basis for their family and their country. Their family there is very concerned for them here. That is how America is. That is what makes America strong. It’s diversity. With each person and their background, their heritage and their culture, America has gained a great strength. The land of opportunity has always had an opportunity to learn as well from every person that has come here just as they have had the opportunity to learn by coming here.

When a natural disaster happens anywhere, we have people here that are very concerned about their families who live in their countries not knowing whether they are dead or alive, homeless or if their home is okay.

We have many American citizens living abroad. Our concern for them does not end at our borders.

Our government also maintains relationships with other countries for diplomacy reasons and compassion is an act of humanity.

These are just a few reasons to care about people all over the world, to offer aide when possible and to lend a helping hand when needed.

Of course the U.S. has to take care of its home front, its people and protect its borders but that doesn’t require throwing in the towel on humanity and forgetting what other countries truly mean to us and our own citizens.

It’s been said, “The only time you should look down on a person is when you are helping them up.”