Hillary Rodham Clinton: Standing In Glass

glassLast night, at the Democratic National Convention, another ceiling was shattered as Hillary Rodham Clinton moved from being the Presumptive Democratic Nominee to securing the Democratic Nomination. She will deliver her acceptance speech Thursday night, 7/29/16, however, she made a surprise satellite appearance last night after her husband, Bill Clinton’s speech. The most memorable of her comments last night: “If there are any little girls out there who stayed up late to watch, let me just say I may become the first woman president, but one of you is next.” Should she go on to win the national election, this could well be the one quote recorded and repeated as historic.

For decades Hillary Rodham Clinton has been a figure in politics. She spent eight years as the First Lady of the United States of America. Unlike more traditional First Lady figures, upon leaving the White House, Hillary did not follow her husband into retirement, speaking engagements and volunteer work. Instead, she began focusing on her own political career, becoming Senator of the state of New York. Following an unsuccessful bid to win the Democratic Nomination, she became Secretary of State under the first term of the current president, Barack Obama. She has spent the majority of her adult life involved in the political process, probing and pushing for changes in the system, the country and the world.

Today, Secretary Clinton stands amid the shards of glass that were once the limitations of women in politics. She has accomplished what no other woman before has. She is historic and her accomplishment gives hope that we are moving ever forward towards true equality amongst all people, all citizens, regardless of sex, race, sexual identity, religion or any other imaginary divide. Securing this equality here at home is the largest step towards influencing human rights around the world.

We are One Woman, One World.

photo credit to Brown.edu

 

Leslie Jones: Victimized by Hate

To hate someone because they are a different race or sex shows a serious inability to find noteworthy value in yourself. But you don’t have to like people. You are entitled to be a racist, misogynistic asshole if you want to be. But to intentionally target, publicly demean and orchestrate a conduct of aggravated hate against an individual is not freedom of speech, it is not a freedom of expression. Saying you do not like Black people or you think women should stay in the kitchen, that is freedom of speech.  But to, without merit,  attack an individual as if they are subhuman and orchestrate a mass of attacks against that individual, is not freedom of speech. It is harassment. If anyone is subhuman, it is the people taking part in this type of attack because they have failed to evolve. People who harass others based on broad generalities, such as race, sex, sexual identity, religion, etc.,  suffer from an extreme inferiority complex, where the only way they can feel value in themselves is by labeling others as worthless. Leslie Jones did nothing wrong. Her only crime for these hateful people is that she is a successful black woman. So, while you have the right to be as big a bigot as you want, you do not have the right to attack innocent people who have done nothing to you. If you take part in this kind of hate, you are a disgusting excuse for a human being.
Some research into Jones’ life and career suggest nothing to make her a specific target for hate. She was born to a military family which moved frequently, as military families often do, before settling in California. She played basketball in High School and College and, like so many other people, had difficulty deciding what she wanted to do with her life. Her aspirations varied from becoming an attorney to playing professional basketball overseas. According to her Wikipedia page she became a comedian after a friend entered her in a college campus contest. She left college to pursue a career in comedy. Jones’ success came from many years of hard work and refusing to give up. She was not spoon fed success. She earned it.
There is no indication that she has ever been the center of activism, just someone who enjoys making people laugh. So why attack her?
Milo Yiannopoulos, a Conservative Blogger, brought a hailstorm of hate against Leslie Jones on the popular social media outlet, Twitter.  He was banned from the site for his activity. Milo believes his freedom of speech is being violated by the ban. His initial comments were based in a review of Jones’ new movie remake of Ghostbusters. While he would have been perfectly within Twitter policies and decorum to give the movie a poor review and even criticize Jones’ acting or role in the movie, even appropriate casting, Milo took it a step further to blast her with racist remarks. He attacked her not because of her ability, but because she is a black woman. It is reported that he allegedly orchestrated encouraging his fan base to bombard Leslie Jones with hate tweets for her audacity to not be ashamed of being black and successful. More successful than the conservative blogger.  I had literally never heard of him until today. I had heard of Breitbart, but not Milo, in particular.
So, here is a question, does your freedom of speech give you the right to harass people or orchestrate and encourage the harassment of someone? Does it allow you to hate target individuals for the crime of being a particular race, sex or for merely existing?  Is it freedom of speech when you single one person out to continuously fling hatred at?
Or, we can even go further, Twitter is a company used by people all around the world. What does that have to do with your first amendment right to spew hatred and bigotry? He is welcome to say whatever he likes on his personal blog, on his own website or on someone else’s site which doesn’t have a problem with his radical racism. But does that mean he has the right to go to the website of another company and violate its user agreements to use it to harass and belittle someone? No.  that is not protected. Just like if he came here to my blog site and spewed a hateful message, I have the right to delete it. I have the right to block him from making comments because, guess what, this is my space. Not his. I paid for this site so I can control its contents. This is my freedom of speech. Since he is a blogger, he should be quite familiar with that concept.
I am sure that Leslie Jones will survive. She is a survivor and a fighter with far more poise than most would have shown in her shoes. She is not a political activist, just a woman enjoying success at a career she worked long and hard to attain. If you happen to be among those taking part in the horrible, racist and misogynistic harassment levied against her, then you are the ugly person who failed to evolve from being a simple minded animal. Oh, and Milo, you can enjoy your fame as he-who-would-be-king of the bigots and racists, but you may have to fire the reality star currently standing on that dais.
It is so sad that people think we are supposed to just accept this type of brutality as if it is a protected right. It is even more discouraging to see how common it is becoming to hear hatred rattled off in public.
Leslie may not be a political activist, but I am. So I will say the obvious thing that sane people have been noticing. The Trump campaign has lifted a curtain. It has exposed and empowered racism and misogyny (along with many other realms of hatred) in our country. Many of us knew it still existed.  Many of us have experienced one or more instances in the course of our lives and careers. But the true extent of hatred  still coursing through the veins of our nation is appalling. People have begun rebelling against “political correctness.” But what they are terming as politically correct is not. Political correctness is calling someone vertically challenged instead of short. They are not challenging political correctness by spewing hate speech. They are challenging courtesy, polite interaction, respect and freedom. They are pissed off their white or male, or heterosexual, or white male heterosexual evangelical privilege didn’t give them more and see other races, religions, lifestyles, orientations and/or genders as inferior and less deserving of success. Basically, once again, they can’t find value in themselves and their achievements without disparaging others. They feel powerless without someone to control, someone inferior, someone to point to and say, “I’m better than you.”
Well, now you are exposed. You aren’t hiding behind political correctness.  What will you do if Trump doesn’t win in November? Do you think you will fall back into obscurity and no one will recall your racist rants? What will you do when the movement to Make America Hate Again is over and your opinions aren’t being perpetuated or legitimized by a major political party? Do you think we won’t remember you? We will. And your claim to fame, your lasting impression on this planet will not be your good works and contributions, but your eagerness to incite hate and the simplicity of your basic, primitive instinct to reject and fear anything unlike you; your inability to evolve from an animal into a thinking being capable of reason and self control.  That is racism. That is misogyny. That is bigotry. That is homophobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitic and all those labels we give to hate. These haters are throwbacks to primitive instincts of huddling together, afraid of anything different from themselves because they don’t understand it. They live in perpetual fear. They are failures in human evolution, incapable of basic reasoning skills.
To Leslie Jones: Sorry, I have not actually seen the new Ghostbusters, so I can’t comment on your performance in the movie. However, I can say that I admire your work ethic and dedication. Everyone faces jerks in life and it sucks. I believe you handled yourself well and I can respect stepping back from social media so you can breathe. Don’t let people harass you, in addition, for making that decision. You did not ask to be shoved into a racial twitter war. I appreciate that you called them out on their actions but I also appreciate that when it became too much, you said no more and stepped away. I wish you the very best and continued success.
We are One Woman, One World.

Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter: Watering Down the Tequila to Make That Racist Shot Easier to Swallow

How many of you have taken a shot of tequila? It burns. It burns like hell, which is why that salt and lime are mainstays. But even with the salt and lime, many people just can’t handle it. Most people who can’t swallow their tequila, just choose to leave it alone and leave those that can enjoy the spirit to it. But then, there are always those few people who want to be seen enjoying it, too. So, they water down their shot to make it easier to swallow.

Well, guess what, institutional racism is a long standing problem in our law enforcement and justice system. It is a reality and it is a harsh one. It is tough for a lot of people to swallow because it burns against everything we pretend to be. Black Lives Matter confronts this ugly truth, defining a legitimate problem in our society and demanding resolution, change and dignity for all people.

All Lives Matter, while coopted by some who are intentionally using it as a racist venue, is otherwise a nice idea. In fact, All Lives Matter is the end idea, the hope that eventually everyone is equal. But what it fails to do is define the systemic problem. Yes, every life should matter, but the problem right now is that not all lives are valued equally. People are being targeted, profiled, attacked, arrested, detained and killed because of how they look rather than what they have done.

It is true that not every incident of police brutality or abuse of power is targeted at black people. However, it occurs in the black community at such an alarmingly higher rate as opposed to white citizens that this cannot be ignored. Well, actually, it has been ignored for a long time.

Until the miraculous advent of high quality video-capturing cell phones in the hands of million of Americans, police brutality was largely hidden from the public eye. There were reports by victims, but easily quashed because, after all, the testimony of a law enforcement officer held far more credibility than someone they arrested or had to shoot. Without evidence to contradict their testimony of events, the abuses went unpunished and largely unseen.

But now, thanks to so many valiant and brave citizens and the social media outlet, the public can see what is happening.  It’s what we already knew, at least to some level: Law enforcement agencies all over the country have cultivated a near cultish and exclusive fraternity which not only allows this behavior in officers, but steps up and gives support to the men and women who have broken their vow to protect and serve the public by abusing the power of their badge. We have seen it over and over. California, Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana, New York, Oklahoma, Georgia, Minnesota, Ohio, Nevada, Arizona… and well, you are getting the idea.  This is not an isolated few bad apples, but a systemic problem. And the justice system is quite aware of it.

Sixteen years ago, in 2000, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, released a report the National Institute of Justice, Research in Brief entitled: Police Attitudes Towards Abuse of Authority: Findings from a National Study.  This study reveals that 84% of Law Enforcement Officers  state they have witnessed excessive force used against citizens, have witnessed abuse of authority by fellow officers. Let that just sink in for a moment. And how does that cult of brotherhood come in to play? Because this same report states that 64% of these officers do not report those abuses they witness. They choose to protect one another rather than protecting the citizens. And that is the statistic which is causing the most harm in how the public views law enforcement.

How can anyone, let alone a profiled minority group, give blind trust to the police community when we know, by their own admission, that the majority of officers will choose to protect their fellows rather than the citizens they are sworn to serve? The U.S. Department of Justice knew this sixteen years ago and yet, it has been allowed to continue. It has taken citizens armed with camera phones willing to risk their own safety to make these abuses a matter of public discussion.

It is also a fact that black people, black men in particular, are specifically profiled by the law enforcement community. This is well documented and a long standing practice. Florida is the poster child for racial profiling by police with ridiculous abuse of their Stop and Frisk laws. Despite being outed for intentionally profiling black men between the ages 5 to 99 in 2014 by local news agencies, they are still riddled with reports of abusing this law to harass the black community. However, many other states were quietly competing. Between 2011 and 2015, New York detained 776,472 black Americans (84.5% without merit) as opposed to 141,082 white Americans. You can find a similar disparity in other cities and states across the U.S.. (With fairness to New York, the numbers they have detained have dropped dramatically in the last two years, however the black to white ratio has remained a constant and the number of meritless detentions has remained well over 80% for each year.)

So, when you combine systemic racial profiling and abuse of power, along with complacency to it within the police community, at some point those who have been targeted or witnessed abuse, or have a shred of empathy in their bodies or any sense of a moral compunction for human equality, are going to stand up and say, “Enough!”

All Lives Matter is a nice idea of equality, but it does not represent the problem. Black Lives Matter addresses a real issue, a valid issue that is substantiated in statistical and researched facts. Facts supported, moreover, by the videos emerging every week of senseless brutality. Black Lives Matter does not mean that other lives don’t. It does not mean that all police officers are bad. But this is not a few bad officers. This is not an occasional instance. It is part of the system and it needs to be purged.

Racism has been an intrinsic mainstay in Law Enforcement. Period. That is some harsh Tequila, and it is tough to swallow for people who have been led (allowed themselves) to believe that black people are profiled more because they commit more crimes. But a black person is far more likely to be detained, abused, arrested, shot at, killed and/or charged with a crime than a white person is for the same action. If convicted of a crime, black people receive, on average, much harsher, longer sentences, fines and jail time as opposed to a white person for the same offense. You can’t water down the truth simply because you don’t like it. So, All Lives Matter, grab yourself some salt and limes and take a shot of reality. Then, after you’ve had that bracer, if you actually believe all lives should matter, then walk over, pick up a sign and help out BLM. Why? Because until black lives matter, too, the reality that all lives matter can’t exist.  When anyone is discriminated against, brutally profiled or seen as less worthy of freedom, then none of us are equal, every freedom is in jeopardy.

We are One Woman, One World.

Pay to Play. Pay to Win: A Guide to Education

Today, while working on another article and starting my second gallon of coffee (yeah, many writers live off coffee, if you didn’t know) I had that all-too-frequent moment where my brain just jogged to the side for a moment. Earlier I’d been looking at some different new gaming laptops because mine has been saving universes for about four years now and I was thinking about updating (okay dreaming and drooling, same thing.) And at the same time I was also thinking about a great article my daughter had posted on her FB about the ridiculous price of college and the weight of debt students are being forced into. I know, that is a lot of different things going on and, yes, I am always like that; my brain swirling with about ten imaginary conversations, stories, articles and random facts. It is a wonder I ever write a single, cohesive sentence. But then, there is that moment, like just now in the kitchen, when two or more of these random, unrelated strings of thought collide and I find the link. Maybe my brain is looking for that link unconsciously, maybe not, but WHAM!  There it is. And I saw exactly what has happened in our education system from the viewpoint of a video or computer game.

I know many of you out there will be familiar with the gaming set up. Think of World of Warcraft, Perfect World International (PWI), LOTR Online, Guild Wars, Rohan, and a huge number of other games. Okay, I don’t actually know if Rohan is around any more. It was the first MMORPG game I ever played, so it sticks in my head. In any event, if you like this type of gaming where you log in, have a character that you create and evolve, build up their gear and skills, and play with other people from all over the world, then you are going to know exactly what I am talking about, when I finally get to the point. But hold on for a sec while I catch the other people up.

These games come in varieties from Pay to Play, purchasing the game and/or membership access to play on their servers, to free gaming with the options to purchase extras, to free gaming and ability to make game money to purchase extras or gears inside game commerce or get instant gratification by buying it with real money, to free to play but pay to win. Now, pay to win is where the best gear in the game either can’t be farmed by spending time making game money or completing quests (working for it) or the amount of time required to farm the gear is ridiculous and unattainable to anyone who also intends to eat, sleep, use the bathroom, go to school or work or in any other way, have a life outside the game. Basically, you can play the game for free, but unless you spend a lot of money, you are going to suck, forever.  That is Pay to Win in a nutshell.

Today, that ideology, in my brain, collided with our current state of post secondary  education. Kids graduating from High School (okay, young women and men, if you prefer) are being thrown out into a not-so-virtual world of Pay to Win.  And when it comes to an education it is both Pay to Play and Pay to Win. Fifty years ago in the United States there was no college tuition fees at state universities and even the private universities and Ivy League had very low tuition costs. Their status was not based on their expensive price tag, but on the quality of the students they admitted. Students didn’t pay to play. They earned their place with grades and determination. What they paid for were student and administration fees, which were nominal, room and board, books and necessities. A student could work part time and pay their way through college without ever needing a loan. See, Free to Play, because they could work within the game to pay for itself and come out with great gear (in the form of an education and a degree) when they were done.

But today, students do not get that opportunity. Sure, they still need decent grades and they still must be willing to work diligently through the quest, but no matter how hard they work, there is no way they can work while going to school to pay the tuition, student fees, room and board and books and necessities. They simply cannot work enough to pay for it all and still have hours left in the week to attend class. Even if they don’t sleep. Now we expect them to take out loans and pile themselves with debt, a lien against the salary they hope they can make if they get a degree, paid back at comparatively high interest rates. Without those loans the majority of students (71% of the college graduates of 2015) could not afford college. Those same 2015 college graduates hit the world at large with an average of over $35,000 of debt to carry around while hoping they can secure a good enough job to start making those payments. That average student debt increased by over $15,000 between 2005 and 2015.  That is more than a 75% increase in a single decade. And guess what! That degree is not earning you more money than it did in 2005. The U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2015) says that based on the Consumer Price Index (which allows us to compare the value of money equally between different years by compensating for inflation factors) says that college graduates in 2015 with a Bachelor’s Degree (all graduates, not just newly graduated) are making almost the exact same amount of money they were in 2005. Except, of course, those new graduates have racked up 75% more debt to get that same paycheck. And the debt ceiling is expected to continue to rise, far outpacing inflation and market pay schedules.

If you are wondering how this stacks up with other demographics, well, a master’s degree is paying less today than it did in 2005, an Associate’s Degree pays considerably less, and a HS or GED pays somewhat less today than it did in 2005, as well.

So here is the question… where the hell is all this money going? It obviously is not going to campus security, given the escalation of campus based violent crimes. State schools managed to operate fifty, even one hundred plus years without huge tuition costs because the communities and government saw the wisdom in subsidizing education for people. But those budgets were cut, the tax dollars once used to help educate our citizens for  better future, were siphoned away to other endeavors. (Like building prisons) They set up the system to make it affordable to those seeking an education in order to keep the U. S. growing and prospering in the world, but abandoned that project in favor of shifting the burden onto the students and their families.  Why? And who is making the big profits off of the loans? Well, the “who” answers the “why.”  If you guessed the universities, you would be wrong. If you guessed the United States Federal Government, then you get a cookie! I may even throw in an “Awesome Job!” sticker, too. in 2013 alone the federal government made over $50 billion in profits from student loans… yes that was billion with a bit, fat B in profits with a big, fat P. Less and less government money is being put into education, but more of your educational dollars are being sucked out by the government. They have turned getting an education into a nice tax revenue that they spend on their pet projects, with no restrictions, whatsoever, that these dollars be put back into our educational system. If the government were forced to put their profits from Student Loans back into the schools, it would decrease the costs of an education tremendously and take away the incentives to keep tuitions high. Then we can work on alternatives to facilitate reducing or eliminating tuition costs. Of course, there will still be administration, student, housing and meal plan fees to contend with, as well as expenses for things likes textbooks and supplies, but this would go a long way towards making college affordable and reducing the number two cumulative debt in our country, second only to mortgages.

So, it appears the government, for its own nefarious purposes to gain access to more of our hard earned cash in a way that doesn’t LOOK like a tax, has perpetuated the rising cost of education. The price tag is going up, they are getting more and more and you are getting less and less. But without that education, you face about 200% higher risk for unemployment and you will make, on average, about $19,000 less per year. Of course, a degree does not actually work out to that much more money in your pocket. You have that student loan payment plus a higher tax burden (fed, State, Medicare, Social Security) which makes it equate to closer to $12,000 a year that you actually see, at least until that loan is paid for. This is where they get you on the pay to play and pay to win.  You graduate High School and you are thrown into the world, where the free play version equates to a life of poverty or ridiculously hard work just to survive, or you can pay to play four to five years of your life, stacking up debt against your future, still working both at a job and in the classroom just to pay the difference between what loans, scholarships and grants cover and the University Tab. And when it is over, you are hoping you have paid to win. In fact, you are praying it is pay to win, while you are looking for a job, hoping to get something that lets you break ahead and eventually climb out of that mountain of debt you have accumulated. You really hope all that money bought you end-game gear and some ability to use it.

So, why is this on a women’s advocacy blog? Because it affects women and men. Because a poorly educated society falls prey to bigotry, misogyny and superstition. A well educated society sees the flaw in bigotry, undermines misogynistic control and contradicts superstition with science and fact. A truly free society is one which values the education of its citizens and promotes their growth. Right now, our society is built on nothing more than the aspirations of greed and this look into our university system and the fundamental change of our government’s role in it denotes that greed with efficient detail. Free market has its place, but it should also have its limitations.

We are One Woman, One World