April 26, 2010

There Is No "Us" Without Us

... or rather, there is no "U.S." without Us.

On Sunday, April 25, 2010, The History Channel began its broadcast of "an epic 12-hour television event" titled America The Story of Us "that tells the extraordinary story of how America was invented." Seriously, tune in and let's remind ourselves who lived on this land originally, and who the original immigrants were.

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Earlier in the week on Friday, April 23, 2010, Randal C. Archibold wrote in a NY Times article titled Arizona Enacts Stringent Law on Immigration:

Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed the nation's toughest bill on illegal immigration into law on Friday.  Its aim is to identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants.

... The Arizona law, he (President Obama) added, threatened "to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe."

The law, which proponents and critics alike said was the broadest and strictest immigration measure in generations, would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Opponents have called it an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status.

... Mexico's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was worried about the rights of its citizens and relations with Arizona. Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles said the authorities' ability to demand documents was like "Nazism."

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On Monday, April 26, 2010, Richard Fisk and Erin Einhorn writes in a NY Daily News article titled Sharpton, other activists compare Arizona immigration law to apartheid, Nazi Germany and Jim Crow:

"We cannot sit by and allow people to be arbitrarily and unilaterally picked off as suspects because of the color of their skin," Sharpton said.

April 19, 2010

The Color of Money

Photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt, c.1937

When I was younger and more naive, I used to question how my grandparents' generation (and those who came before them) could allow such horrific world events to happen (think intolerance, discrimination, dominance, World Wars, poverty and corruption). Time moved on and I shifted to thinking about my parents' generation - its own failures and disappointments. 

Of course it's easy to look at the world through rose-colored glasses when you're young and say "Not on my watch!" or "Not my generation ... we're going to change the world!"  But this is it ... it's our time, and what do I see but more intolerance, discrimination, dominance, wars, poverty and corruption?!? Does it sadly all trace back to the almighty dollar? Is the act of fighting reason tooth and nail or pitting one group against another simply a diversion from dealing with the real issues at hand? Here's the truth: It is said that in the United States alone, the top 5 percent of the wealthy controls nearly 50 percent of the nation's wealth. Globally, the race for natural resources, material possessions, and personal gain means the world will once again face turmoil and conflict.

From a Time article written by Maia Szalavitz titled School Bullying Prevention: Teach Empathy at Young Age:

"Increasingly, neuroscientists, psychologists and educators believe that bullying and other kinds of violence can indeed be reduced by encouraging empathy at an early age. Over the past decade, research in empathy - the ability to put ourselves in another person's shoes - has suggested that it is key, if not the key, to all human social interaction and morality.

Without empathy, we would have no cohesive society, no trust and no reason not to murder, cheat, steal or lie. At best, we would act only out of self-interest; at worst, we would be a collection of sociopaths.

Although human nature has historically been seen as essentially selfish, recent science suggests that it is not. The capacity for empathy is believed to be innate in most humans, as well as some other species - chimps, for instance, will protest the unfair treatment of others, refusing to accept a treat they have rightfully earned if another chimp doing the same work fails to get the same reward."

Seen outside the School of Visual Arts 
on East 23rd Street in NYC

Empathy. It's a powerful word meaning "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another." But is that what our parents and educators teach our youth daily? Is that what our political and church leaders stand for? Does empathy give the necessary buzz to radio and cable news personalities to sell enough advertisements so they don't have to calculatedly stoke the unintelligible anger of their misguided flock? 

Let's see now ... these talking heads get rich while the Average Joe's socioeconomic status remains the same or gets worse no matter how many walls he has built ... or how many guns he owns ... or how many battle fatigues he wears out ... or how much hate they've built up inside of him. Hey Joe ... when in doubt, follow the money back to the source! Who's profiting from your allegiance while they pretend to be just like you?    

While I don't have any problems with my fellow brothers and sisters, be they white, black, yellow, brown, red, green or purple ... I do have a problem with stupidity. Some so-called intellectuals and "supremacists" in our country are making it harder and harder to remain civil and not call a spade a spade. Is this really where this great nation is headed? It's the 21st century folks ... we've all learned from history and wouldn't want to see the same errors repeated. The challenge is for all of us to break out of our mental shackles and follow only that which we know is right in our heads and in our hearts.    

Do you have the strength to join us and stand against that which is wrong? Let's not wait for another generation. - PS

April 14, 2010

The Last Word On Sarah Palin

Seen on 51st Street and Lexington Ave in NYC

And now ... a calculated sound bite from the minor league celebrity and polarizing faux patriot-in-training wheels known as Sarah "Get Rich Quick Scheme" Palin.

At a Tea Party movement gathering in Boston today, Ms. Palin said "I want to tell 'em, nah, we'll keep clinging to our Constitution and our guns and religion - and you can keep the change."

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In a conversational piece titled Who Will Lead the Republican Party? by David Brooks and Gail Collins in the April 14, 2010 edition of The New York Times, Mr. Brooks says:

"First, let's all stop paying attention to Sarah Palin for a little while. I understand why liberals want to talk about her. She allows them to feel intellectually superior to their opponents. And members of the conservative counterculture want to talk about her simply because she drives liberals insane. But she is a half-term former governor with a TV show. She is not going to be the leader of any party and doesn't seem to be inclined in that direction.

The Sarah Palin phenomenon is a media psychodrama and nothing more. It gives people on each side an excuse to vent about personality traits they despise, but it has nothing to do with government.

She is in 2010 what Jerry Falwell was from the mid-1990s until his death - a conservative cartoon inflated by media. Evangelicals used to say that Falwell had three main constituency groups - ABC, CBS and NBC."

April 7, 2010

Flying For The Very Joy Of Flying

Excerpts from Think on These Things by Jiddu Krishnamurti:

"As long as you are afraid of anyone or anything, there can be no happiness. There can be no happiness as long as you are afraid of your parents, your teachers, afraid of not passing examinations, afraid of not making progress, of not getting nearer to the Master, nearer to truth, or of not being approved of, patted on the back. But if you are really not afraid of anything, then you will find - when you wake up of a morning, or when you are walking alone - that suddenly a strange thing happens: uninvited, unsolicited, unlooked for, that which may be called love, truth, happiness, is suddenly there."

. . . . . . . . 

"Creativeness is not merely a matter of painting pictures or writing poems, which is good to do, but which is very little in itself."

. . . . . . . . 

"Most of us cling to some small part of life, and think that through that part we shall discover the whole. Without leaving the room we hope to explore the whole length and width of the river and perceive the richness of the green pastures along its banks. We live in a little room, we paint on a little canvas, thinking that we have grasped life by the hand or understood the significance of death; but we have not. To do that we must go outside."

. . . . . . . . 

"You want to be famous, you want to be known and talked about in the world because inside yourself you are nobody. Inwardly there is nothing there at all, therefore you want to be known in the world outside; but, if you are inwardly rich, then it does not matter to you whether you are known or unknown."

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"To find out what you love to do demands a great deal of intelligence; because, if you are afraid of not being able to earn a livelihood, or of not fitting into this rotten society, then you will never find out. But, if you are not frightened, if you refuse to be pushed into the groove of tradition by your parents, by your teachers, by the superficial demands of society, then there is a possibility of discovering what it is you really love to do. So, to discover, there must be no fear of not surviving."

. . . . . . . . 

"Sir, life is very strange. The moment you are very clear about what you want to do, things happen. Life comes to your aid - a friend, a relation, a teacher, a grandmother, somebody helps you. But if you are afraid to try because your father may turn you out, then you are lost. Life never comes to the aid of those who merely yield to some demand out of fear. But if you say, "This is what I really want to do and I am going to pursue it," then you will find that something miraculous takes place. You may have to go hungry, struggle to get through, but you will be a worthwhile human being, not a mere copy, and that is the miracle of it."

. . . . . . . . 

"Do you think a leaf that falls to the ground is afraid of death? Do you think a bird lives in fear of dying? It meets death when death comes; but it is not concerned about death, it is much too occupied with living, with catching insects, building a nest, singing a song, flying for the very joy of flying. Have you ever watched birds soaring high up in the air without a beat of their wings, being carried along by the wind? How endlessly they seem to enjoy themselves! They are not concerned about death. If death comes, it is all right, they are finished. There is no concern about what is going to happen; they are living from moment to moment, are they not? It is we human beings who are always concerned about death - because we are not living. The old people are near the grave, and the young ones are not far behind."