Can We Fix What’s Broken Here?

This is about more than just mass shootings.  This is about how sick our society has become, and it’s not because of violent video games or music, or “lack of prayer in school,” or even “broken families” or “millennial entitlement (lawd knows there is plenty of entitlement on all sides.)

For those of you who may think I am talking out of my ass (so I have been told recently, and by someone who was actually talking out their ass), I actually did study some of this stuff in school and hold a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology as well as Sociology, with a concentration on Criminal Justice.  My point is, I am simply asking for a little faith, or at least forbearance, that my opinion is somewhat informed.

So…

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So let’s start by addressing this meme… or rather what this meme doesn’t say.

“Throughout Canadian history, the social policy framework has been composed of efforts to address the sociopolitical rights of marginalized segments of the population (such as laborers, Aboriginal people and other visible minority populations, women, disabled people, and sexual minorities), along with addressing the negative conditions in which people live through the creation of national and provincial programs of social support (such as community programs of support directed toward new immigrants or disabled people) and economic support (such as unemployment insurance or family allowance payments)” (source) Oxford research encyclopedias
Basically, it seems their government has always tried to lift people up instead of keeping people separate. I really feel like we need a multi-part solution to this mass shooting issue. Studies show that if guns are available, they will be more likely to be used. So, first, we don’t want angry, frustrated, or violent mentally ill people to be able to access them as readily as they can, while we fix the other issues.  It’s common sense, really.  You don’t hand pissed off people large mag weapons.
But more importantly, we need a political and social system built on lifting our whole society up and unifying them, instead of dividing them for the benefit of the oligarch.  People will always compete for resources; it’s human nature.  But it is not intractable! And the social structure of a society makes a difference.

 For this reason, there is a tendency to attribute wars to “primordial” ethnic passions, which makes them seem intractable. This view is not correct, however, and diverts attention from important underlying economic and political factors.

Although a person’s culture is partly inherited it is also constructed and chosen, and many people have multiple identities.2(source) NIH

With a small percentage of the population controlling most of the wealth  (namely big business and politicians), they then toss their scraps into the ring and the rest of us fight over them.  Maybe if we weren’t fighting for scraps, we would feel a little more generous and have a little more room for compassion and consideration for those less fortunate.  Maybe we’d be less frustrated, less likely to look to one another for someone to blame or resent.

Group motivation hypothesis—Since intra-state wars mainly consist of fighting between groups, group motives, resentments, and ambitions provide motivation for war. Groups may be divided along cultural or religious lines, by geography, or by class. Group differences only become worth fighting for, however, if there are other important differences between groups, particularly in the distribution and exercise of political and economic power. (source) NIH
It has long been acknowledged in social sciences that it is poverty, not race or other facts, have a significant effect on crime, and many, many books have been written on the subject.  It’s the reason “ghettos” exist in most cities and states regardless of the demographics.
So in summation, if we want to tackle the issues of violence and social injustice in our country, first we need to loosen the financial stranglehold on our people, and contrary to what the current administration suggests, this is not done by giving corporations tax breaks, cutting welfare for poor people, or denying affordable healthcare (especially mental healthcare) to millions of Americans.  It is not done by controlling who prays where or what bathrooms people use.  It is not done by ignoring social injustices or calling people “snowflakes.”  I think we’ll only be able to do it if we all accept that it’s going to get worse before it gets better, and take steps to fundamentally change how our government works, from the kleptocracy it has become, to once again being by the people, for the people. 
Please, if you have any hope for our nation to heal, think about it.
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People to Obama: Do Something NOW…But not THAT!

My intention is that this will be a short post, where I make an important point concisely, as it really should be self-evident.  But…we all know how I seem to be be practically incapable of not pontificating or at the very least, indulging in tangent streams of thought as they occur to me.   See?  There I go again…

But the main thrust of this post is this; I find it amusing, in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way, that people are clamoring for the President to “do something” about the violence in our schools (and in the country in general,) some doubtlessly even going so far as to blame him for it, but the minute he makes a proposal, everyone is bitching about infringement of their rights.  I’m not saying I am either for or against President Obama’s proposal.  What annoys me in the reaction of an ungrateful country who shout a call to action, usually with no practical (or accurate) idea of what it takes to actually achieve success.

Rep. Paul Gosar’s statement on Obama’s proposal was the following:

I will actively fight any attempt by this Administration to undermine our Constitution and infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. With the attack on personal gun-ownership, the Second Amendment, and our God-given rights, the Obama-Biden Administration has been relentless in their pursuit of taking guns away from law-abiding Americans. (source)

Some of these “free thinkers” even go so far as to compare Obama to Hitler.

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Let me explain something to you…people of questionable intellect.  Hitler’s tyranny was born out of a society in disarray.  At first, Hitler offered an ideal that the people wanted to believe.  An article from the Scientific American Mind describes tyranny as the result of a group processes, not one individual person’s pathology.  And yes, our society is in disarray, but that is due as much to the idea of entitlement that has been sewn into the fabric of our society.  Now, everyone thinks they’re owed something, and that they have the right to make waves to get whatever that something is.  A lot of greed,  useless righteous indignation, and not enough consequences for poor behavior is what is ruining our society… not ONE man.

Groups… are ultimately about collective self-realization. They use social power to make an existence in the image of their shared beliefs and values. But when groups cannot produce such a
working order, their members become more willing to accept other social structures—even if these new systems violate their existing way of life.

In specific reference to Nazi Germany:

Moreover, when the collapse of a system wreaks such havoc that a regular and predictable social life becomes impossible,
the promise of a rigid and hierarchical order becomes more alluring. Thus, the chaotic failure of the democratic Weimar led to the rise of Nazism.

See? I have already written more than I intended, but forgive me, because it is all to support my point.

AT first glance maybe it seems like I am actually inferring that I agree with the conservative view of the President’s plan.  Actually, what I am saying is that:

a) It takes more than one man to create a tyranny and

b) the very people that are criticizing the President’s every move are still looking to him to give them an answer, a solution, and berate him if it is not the answer they were hoping for.

Basically, I liken this to the smaller scale example of the society/ laws that restrict parental rights and decision-making (corporal punishment, health care and vaccinations, etc) but then blame the parent when the kid gets loosed on society as a disrespectful, anti-social mess.

You can’t have it both ways!  You can’t expect someone to perform miracles with their hands tied behind their backs (or in bureaucratic red tape.)

Just sayin’.

DP: Helpless? I Don’t Think So!

The DP Challenge for today is sort of ironic:

Helplessness: that dull, sick feeling of not being the one at the reins. When did you last feel like that –- and what did you do about it?

It’s irony is two-fold in that I have felt sort of helpless about my life for a while.  Please understand, I am not unhappy with my life.  I have a wonderful, hard-working, good-looking hubby and a beautiful, intelligent, and sweet two year old girl.  I wouldn’t trade them for anything…  and yet, other aspects of my life have been suffering for a while, for many reasons.

I’d say the root of this is probably the unpleasant shock that came when I graduated from college in 2005 with a double degree… and could not get a job.   Getting a job was like getting credit in a way.  If you don’t have credit, you can’t get credit.  Similarly, there are so many people in the job market today that even in specialized positions, employers feel they have a wide sea of eager fish to choose from.  We eagerly await their return calls, while they have their choice of prospect after prospect in a revolving door of interviews.  Also, they want education.  They want that little piece of paper that says you went to school for at least for years and your education is specialized in this or that.  But…

They also want job experience.  I worked my way full time and went to school part-time, and I worked part time and to school full-time, and I’m sure variations of the two.  But my job was at a mortgage company– read: not my desired career field.  So when exactly, after working in the day and then going off to school in the evening, or visa versa, was I supposed to have time to intern for job experience.  I had my own apartment, no roommates, bills to pay.

Also, turns out my majors were not well thought out.  Turns out, to get a decent job in Psychology, you pretty much need a Master’s degree, and to work in a specialized field in Criminal Justice, it’s usually advised that you walk a beat.

Maybe my counselor in the Student Aid office should have mentioned some of this stuff when she was suggesting I declare a double major.  Just saying.

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Maybe you should have planned better and got a job in your career field, you may say.

To which I would answer either 1) How, with no education?  or

2) Hindsight is 20/20.  Should I continue to pay for making ill-informed or uninformed choices forever?

But alas, I digress…  The point is, suffice it to say, I only had a general idea of what I might want to do.  It’s moot now anyway, because I don’t think I could stomach the job I initially dreamed of having, a criminal profiling job.  I’ve become too sensitive.

And despite having a fulfilling home life, my “career” has fallen by the wayside.

I also have long had aspirations of writing novels as well, but have never been able to complete a novel length manuscript (see my post on writer’s block.)

I have also long wanted to work with animals.

I have a lot of interests and a little experience with a lot of things.  In other words, I know a little about a lot.

Do you see my problem here?  My goals are many and thus I have not given 100% to any of them.  There’s also the money problem.  I haven’t held another full time, career type position since my three and a half year stint at the mortgage company.  Not for lack of trying.  Just a no-go.  So we don’t really have extra money now, even for me to invest in myself.  Similarly, hubby has some ideas of his own he  may or may not decide to pursue.

Well, this brings me to the second reason the DP Challenge for today is sort of ironic.  I have been entertaining the idea for a while that I would love to work either in animal control or with police and service dogs.

Yesterday, I found out my sister is going to school to work with dogs.  I talked to her on the phone today and she offered to send the info about her program.  I am excited, but I am already thinking of all the reasons this won’t work out for me.

I won’t have the money for the program; I won’t have the time; There’s no one to watch the baby if I have to go to classes while hubby is at work; Will hubby be upset if I want to go to school and he still hasn’t gotten to?

But this could be the first step in me “taking the reins back” on my professional life, so to speak.  I also tend to vacillate between being hopeful and being pessimistic about my career situation, and so maybe I need to put a cork in the negativity and, you know… like Nike says, Just do it! Swish!

Are You There, God?

When I was fifteen, I told my dad I didn’t want to go to church anymore.  I very calmly explained to him that it wasn’t right for me at that time in my life.  I never wanted to believe just because I was afraid not to, or because I was afraid of death.  (And believe me, I am afraid of death.)  I told him maybe one day– when I was ready– I would come back to the Church.  I tried to explain my well-thought-out reasoning to him maturely…

And then I told him if he tried to make me go, I’d stop coming to his house for visits on weekends.

Needless to say, I didn’t have to go to church anymore.  Maybe he understood…maybe I broke his heart a little.  But since that time I have been searching, in my own way, for the answers.

For some people it’s simple.  Some people were  raised with a faith that they never felt the need or desire to question.

Some people are so immersed in their faith that they literally can not conceive of someone doubting God’s existence; they use rote faith as proof… ie. “How can you look around at this beautiful world and not see God everywhere?”  Sort of  solipsistic, isn’t it?

And then there are those who insist that faith is about believing in the absence of evidence.  In other words, if you want to believe, you just believe.

I am none of these people. I have issues with organized religion.  I’d love to believe there is a God, but I’m not sure I 100% like the Catholic God I was raised with.  Or rather, the representation of him.  Many, many Christians interpret sections of the bible in ways which suit them, latching on to certain ideas, rejecting or ignoring others.  And then there is the question of how literal the bible is to be taken, and then how to interpret the contradicting ideas–

-Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live… but…

-Thou shalt not kill.

Only God is allowed to judge, yet we make judgments on our fellow man all the time, often based on our interpretation of “God’s word.”

Then there is the question of whose God is the “right” God.

Also, I have a very analytic mind.  My majors in school were Psychology and Sociology, so I tend to approach the idea of religion and faith in the context of those disciplines.

But all of that’s academic.  In other words, it’s not the real point of this post.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I went through a period of many losses.  Jobs, family members, a miscarriage, our home…  At four and a half months pregnant, hubby and I uprooted and moved 800 miles on three hours’ notice.  We were going through a very financially and emotionally stressing time, my husband’s unemployment at one point being held for three months (three months with NO income and a baby on the way,) and my mother and I were in the worst fight of our lives.  I actually worried the stress would harm my unborn baby.

My best friend, who is pretty much “born again,” only not in the annoying, bible-thumping way, urged me to come to church with her, and to put my trust in God and ask for his help.  So I tried.  I really did.  I prayed, although my praying was stunted because I constantly over-thought everything even AS I prayed.  I would tell God about my day, and then say, “But I guess you already knew all that…”  and then chide myself for presuming to guess what God may or may not know.  (Weird, I know, but I’m Obsessive-Compulsive, so what do you expect?) I found it hard to concentrate, and my mind would wander so I actually started keeping a prayer journal.  I also did go to church with my best friend.  My husband went once or twice, more to support me than out of any feelings of faith.

And the funny thing is…I actually did start to feel a measure of peace.

Fast-forward to after my daughter’s birth.  Like most new mothers probably, I was overwhelmed with emotions, chiefly deep love and deep, deep fear.  Becoming a mom changed me in many ways, some expected, some not…  One key difference is that I became infinitely more sensitive to media reports of violence against children.  Especially violence perpetrated by people the children are supposed to be able trust.  Like their parents.  The number of family annihilators, mothers murdering their infants, and children abused in horrific ways is staggering.  And it was weighing very heavily on my soul.

The point is, at that important juncture of my life, when I should have been the most thankful to God, when I should have looked to God the most for guidance and peace, I could not– can not– reconcile myself with the idea that a “loving god” would allow such horrors to happen to innocent children.  All the “God’s plan, mysterious ways, devil’s influence, sins of humans” platitudes in the world are not enough to make me alright with this.

It has been told to me more than once by people of faith that people in general tend to blame God when something bad happens, but often don’t give Him credit when things go their way.  My question is this; conversely, then, why is it okay to give Him credit for the good, but not look to Him for a damn good reason for the bad (especially something as bad a the murder of a child?)

I know it may sound like I am preaching here, but really I am just trying to sort out my thoughts, and please forgive me if this blog entry is very stream-of-consciousness or seems to ramble.

These are the things I think about when I lay awake in bed at night.

I would love to believe we are not alone in the universe, and when I try to pray at night I can almost feel like I might be talking to someone…  But when I step away from that isolated moment, I feel the sterile and empirical “alone-ness” of the human condition– that all life on this planet is the result of a coincidental series of optimal conditions.  That when we die, we cease to exist.  That there is no judgment for the wicked people who would harm their own babies, aside from that which we mete out here on earth (our “justice” could never be enough for these people, and some escape the law entirely.) That no amount of praying can protect my child.

eye of God

I keep telling myself– hoping to myself– that by the time my death approaches, hopefully after a long life filled with love, that I will have found the answers.  That I won’t be afraid anymore.  Now, as any good mother would, I care more for my child’s health, life, and happiness than my own anyway.  So I will continue to seek the answers, however passively, and hope that one day I will be at peace with whatever those answers are.

Maybe there is a God, but He is unlike anything written in the Quran, the Bible, or ancient mythologies.  Maybe he is an observer.  Maybe He is Love, or maybe He is completely ambivalent.  Maybe He is infinitely more complex and inscrutable than we could ever conceive with our piddly human minds.

The only thing I can know for sure is that I have to do the best I can with this life, and the best way I know to combat the fear I feel is to fight it with love.  I’ll make sure those dearest to me know how much I love them.

*This is an intensely personal entry for me.  In some way I can’t define, I am uncomfortable with it, and even now hesitate to click the “publish” button.  Maybe for that reason more than any other, I have to post this entry. 

The United States of Leland: Crime Theory (orig. 11/04)

Criminology has developed extensively since its humble beginnings in the 1800’s. Old theories have been expounded upon and new theories of crime have developed. There has been special interest in violent crimes, especially crimes involving violent juvenile offenders including juvenile murderers. Continue reading

Resident Evil 2: The Film as a Political Text (orig. 3/2005)

(As the title suggests, this  is a re-post of a paper that I wrote in college and had posted on a previous blog.)

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Resident Evil 2: The Film as a Political Text

The basic storyline for Resident Evil 2: Apocalypse (and its science fiction/horror prequel, the 2002 film Resident Evil) spawned from a popular role playing, blood and guts, zombie-killing video game. However the film reflects more than simply pop culture’s idea of entertainment. Resident Evil 2 also serves as a political text, in that it reflects our culture’s view of science and the role of science and technology within society. Continue reading