Monday, May 28, 2012


I don't think it's a secret that I'm obsessed with "Acad." The people, the teachers, the curriculum; for the most part, I love it all. Just today I had my last marching band parade, and I grew very frustrated at myself that I was tearing up at watching Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and not the impending end to the few constants in my school year life. I don't think the fact that Academy is over has quite "hit me" yet. Though not nearly as dramatic as the death of a loved one, I do think that there is a certain and similar shock period. I'm afraid that a lot of emotions will hit me in class tomorrow and embarrass me.

Embarrass? Yes, even with these people who I have known for a very long time, it's a little embarrassing. I know there are people who would roll their eyes if they see this post, who may have not gotten as much out of the experience. Or they may have gotten more, but are not so emotionally attached. That's fine, and I have nothing against that. But I will miss the Noodles runs, and the constant onslaught of birthday food, and the quips and inside jokes, and the riveting discussions (I will not miss fighting for parking spaces).

The very awkward part about this is that, to reference a previous comparison, we're not dead. Lest this sound unnecessarily macabre, let me explain. After Academy, the 27 of us who survived the program in its entirety will go on to live separate lives. We will grow more, mature more, and learn more. We are not frozen in time as people are when they die. Soon, four years of past common experience will be all that bind us.

On one hand, I find this horribly depressing. Because the things that kept us together– assignments, teachers, open lunch –are disappearing, all at once.

However, I do see a bright side, and that is our individual futures. I plan to keep in close contact with some of the Academites; with others, not as much. This is natural, normal. Some people I became better friends with, others I didn't get to know as well. Anyways, everyone in Academy is going to do something amazing, be someone amazing. Someone's going to help cure cancer, someone's going to intern with the State Department. And it doesn't have to even be on a national or global scale. Someone's going to be a great parent. Someone's going to be a great teacher. And well change our majors, and our life plans, and our minds. "Whatever you are, be a good one."

I know that I will be so proud to have known all of those beautiful children, no matter where they go in life. Because I will always be able to look at them and see them at 14, 16, 18, thinking, "I knew them for four of the best years of my life."

In terms of reader commentary or questions to pose, I have none, other than to say– I will be stalking your blogs tonight. And I love you, Glenbrook Academy of International Studies Class of 2012. I love you a lot.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Guest Post: Graicey

Note from Alex: We had an assignment to post on somebody else's blog and under their lens. My friend Graicey is posting here, and soon I'll have a post on Meghana's blog. Hope you enjoy!
Hey everyone! I'm one of Alex's classmates, and I'll be writing this post as a guest blogger. If you want to read my blog for our English class, feel free to check it out here! The lens I write about is feminism and women's issues, so if you're interested go on ahead and explore. However, for this blog post I'd like to examine an issue that doesn't fit under my lens, but works with Alex's lens of discrimination and minority groups.

Since I'm well versed in feminism, other groups with stigmas against them ignite a similar interest. As I was doing research for another blog for another class (it's in French so I won't link it here) I stumbled upon a concept that I'm continuing to struggle with as I'm writing this.

The thing that I can't wrap my head around is this: is discrimination against obese people acceptable?

As a not-overweight person myself, I don't have any personal experience with the issue of discrimination based on weight. However, after researching and doing a bit of reading, I'm not so sure where I stand.

I read this commentary about a writer's feelings on a hospital that refuses to hire someone with a BMI higher than 35, and another news article that talks about the issue with much more professionalism.

I like to think of myself as accepting. I don't discriminate based on looks, I'm sensitive to cultures and attitudes different than mine, and when I hear some politician ranting about how birth control is the work of the devil I only get incensed instead of murderous. But reading articles on this topic made me feel uncomfortable because I felt as if either way you look at it, it's a lose-lose situation. 

For example: All medical conditions aside, weight is a thing you can control to some extent through diet and exercise. That leads me to believe that discrimination against obese people is okay because a healthy weight is attainable with a healthy lifestyle. And I'm not saying everyone should look bikini-model thin, because obviously people have different body types and a unique healthy weight. There is no 100% goof-proof healthy weight for everyone, so there's a flexibility therein. So what it comes down to is I think it's okay to discriminate against obese people because it will make them healthier in the long run if they change their diet and food choices.

But on the other side, I'm also knowingly making life more difficult for a person because of something about their appearance. If I condone discrimination against obese people, I'm saying that yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and also it's okay to judge people based on how they look, which isn't something I believe in.

When it comes down to it, there's not really a better or worse side to be on. I guess this is one of those things I'll have to puzzle over for a while before I can form a more firm opinion about the topic.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Working Mothers

If you pay attention to the news, undoubtedly you have heard over the recent debates surrounding Ann Romney, wife of presidential candidate and certain Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
(Photo from left to right: Mitt Romney, Ann Romney, Barbara Walters. Picture from Politico.)

Anderson Cooper was interviewing Democratic political pundit Hilary Rosen (who is not affiliated with the Obama campaign) on Mitt Romney's attempt to attract women to his campaign, considering that he'd have to win about 40% of female voters to hope to beat Obama in the November election. The sound bite heard 'round the world was Rosen saying that Ann Romney had "never worked a day in her life."

Immediately, outrage flew from mothers and Romney supporters alike. Some blogs called Rosen's comment "ludicrous" and "offensive," citing motherhood as the most difficult job in the world. The opposition argued that compared to parents who have to work– and worry about losing –wage-paying of the house, Ann Romney's life is comparatively a breeze.

I do think that Rosen's comment could have been worded better; as a mother herself, she should have recognized that the comment would come off as tactless. However, I do think that the crux of her argument was a good one, especially taken in context. Rosen was saying that according to Mitt, he asks his wife to seek out women's opinions on political issues. In fact, just after that quote, Rosen went on to say "[Ann Romney has] never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing."

Roger that. Ann Romney attended private elementary schools and BYU; she had her first child when she was 21. She was actually criticized in her husband's losing 1994 Massachusetts Senate bid for appearing too privileged. The one thing that might connect her with an average American would be her struggles with multiple sclerosis and cancer in the past, but I doubt the cost of healthcare was ever on her mind.

The Romneys are no strangers to looking out-of-touch. Mitt Romney has such gems like saying he enjoys the ability to fire people, and he doesn't watch NASCAR but has friends that own NASCAR teams. If there was ever a man that should appear foreign to the middle class, it should be Mitt Romney– which might explain the extremely drawn-out Republican nomination race, as well as the general lack of enthusiasm for Romney.

I am sorry that such legitimate political commentary has been lost among a war of words. I don't think Rosen quite deserves the flagellation she's getting (though I do disagree with her phrasing). Instead, we should examine the idea that the Romneys don't really get what's going on with the average American.

Do you think Mitt Romney appears out-of-touch? Is it fair to bring Ann Romney into this conversation?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Causes, the Lottery, and What's Important

Allow me to tell two stories, and then string them together.

Just before Spring Break let out, my English class did an interesting activity. We were given a list of 20 events or causes that were more or less positive depending on personal opinion, and told we had $100,000 to spend on each cause based on how much we valued them. This was assigned as homework, and then we discussed our methodologies in class.

The causes were–
  1. An end to hunger worldwide
  2. Happy marriage
  3. A long life of physical health
  4. World peace between the US and all other countries
  5. Reverse the effects of global warming
  6. Fame 
  7. An end to capital punishment
  8. A good education
  9. The ability choose the President of the United States for the rest of your life
  10. An end to racism
  11. Enough money that you don't have to work for the rest of your life
  12. Outstanding musical/artistic talent
  13. A end to abortion
  14. Women's rights globally
  15. Legalization of gay marriage
  16. Outstanding athletic talent
  17. Spiritual enlightenment
  18. Worldwide democracy
  19. Global nuclear disarmament
  20. Worldwide access to effective contraception
Personally, I first put zeros for all the causes that I didn't actually want (a worldwide end to abortion, fame, outstanding athletic talent, etc.). I then put zeros for things that would benefit only me (a good education, a happy marriage, outstanding musical/athletic talent, etc.). I then had ten causes left. I picked the two goals that I considered the most difficult to achieve– an end to hunger worldwide, and world peace between the US and all other countries –and gave them $30,000 each. The other causes I gave $5,000 each.

In class we discussed what we picked. Some people chose to focus more personal causes. Some gave more money to the legalize women's rights globally option, thinking that it would solve other problems like an end to abortion, world hunger, and worldwide access to more effective contraception. We also discussed discrepancies between what we picked on this hypothetical list and what we work on in real life. I, obviously, care about my personal problems, which my choices for the assignment did not reflect. I also devote most of my time to the legalization of gay marriage, one of the options to which I gave $5,000.

New story time.

One of my two sisters, my Mom, and my Dad and I were sitting in our hotel room in Orlando over spring break. At the time, the lottery pot which eventually grew to $656 million dollars was a big news story. My family casually discussed how we would use the money– how much of it would go to charity, how much we would invest, what we would buy, what we would save. I personally didn't come up with any exact figures.

My Consumer Education teacher has said that the two rarest commodities are time and money; of those two, time is probably more rare.  I don't have $656 million (and neither does the winner; there were three, and the IRS takes 25%). Nor do I have $100,000 readily available to me. But I do probably have a good 60 years ahead of me. What causes are most important to me? What do I want to spend my life doing?

I've heard back from all ten colleges to which I've applied, both acceptances and denials. I applied to all 10 as a music education major. Now the rather grueling decision process begins. In terms of my major choice, it gives me a rather specific career (though my top choices have five year BA/BM programs where I would double major in an arts and sciences field, the second major would probably be for personal fulfillment and not for a career).

I'm not going to become a doctor and make my career out of helping people get more effective access to contraception. I'm not going to become a lawyer or politician and make my career out of ending capital punishment. My career solves exactly zero problems on this list, but that doesn't mean that these problems aren't important to me. I run a political blog that arguably calls out people who wish promote sexism and racism. I find great enjoyment out of the rare days in Gay-Straight Alliance where I get to educate the club on a topic. I also share a lot of media on Facebook and Tumblr to the end of promoting LGBT rights.  Although I chose hunger and peace as the largest, most difficult, and most important items on the list, they are not the ones I focus on in my daily life.


On the hunger issue, it's difficult for me to know which charities to throw money at. And in terms of world peace, I don't know how I could improve that without working for the State Department (if my readers think differently, I'd love to hear)...or perhaps a little bit of cause #9! If $30,000 each could fix that problem instantly, as I believe the premise of the activity suggests, of course I would put money towards that. But in real life, it wouldn't.

Plus, in terms of legalization of gay marriage in the United States, our successes are visible. They are legislative, political issues. They make sense. There's no problems with national sovereignty or white savior complexes or corrupt governments of developing countries. Sometimes it doesn't even require money, more of a vote or a signature. And so it's a good field to work in for me because I have visible results achieved through the appropriate political channels. (Of course, it's also an issue of personal importance to me.) But I know many people would say that lives are not at stake in the legalization of gay marriage debate, and so it should be considered less important.

I look at my blog, and I've talked about so many social issues in, particularly, the United States. But I can't work on all of them all the time, or even most of the time. And nobody can. In my opinion, we have to choose a fewer things that we're the most passionate about, because it is when we throw our hearts into our causes that we make the most impact.

What do my readers think? If you're in my class, what causes did you put down? If not, what would you have put? What do you work on in "real life?" Do you agree or disagree with my methodology?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Minority Celebrations

International Women's Day was last week, but all of March is intended as a celebration of women around the world. I, personally, took a 90 minute mini-class on American Women in Rock and Roll, as a part of a special day where my school held different workshops on different topics.

Anyhow, this is sort of a response to the annual dialogue that comes up around Black History Month (which was February), and generally any period of time set aside for minority celebrations. For example, see this 55 second clip of Morgan Freeman being interviewed by Mike Wallace.

I have seen the transcript of this interview all over tumblr; it is the first post on the blog Stuff White People Reblog. The post has 120,000+ notes.

As I did with my "United States on LGBT People Around the World" post, I'd like to add something to the conversation and go against the flow a little. With this commentary, take a grain of salt– I'm white, Morgen Freeman is black. However, it should also be noted that he is incredibly rich and famous, and so both of us speak from points of privilege.

First off, I can't think of (m)any problems that were ever solved by not talking about them. Women and black people didn't get their rights by patiently waiting for them.

Second of all, as alluded in my disclaimer, racism probably looks really good and solved from a Morgan Freeman standpoint. I found his salary for only one movie, and it was $5 million– in 1997 dollars. But the point being that the average Black American is definitely behind whites. A 2004 U.S. Census Bureau study called "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States" said that in 2004, African-Americans earned about $16,000 less in annual income than White Americans (11) and 14% more of the black population was below poverty than the white population (17). In addition,  the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in February 2012 for Black Americans was nearly double what it was for White Americans.

Clearly, economic inequality exists, whether or not Morgan Freeman wants to talk about it. Instead of pretending like it doesn't exist, we should try to figure out how to best lift African-Americans out of poverty and get jobs. Just because we have a mixed race president in the White House doesn't mean that we are a post-racial country.

One final point that I should make was a comparison that my English teacher brought up in our AP Literature class. American culture has been traditionally viewed as a "melting pot," with immigrants assimilating into the dominant culture. However, a more recent view has been that of a salad bowl. Different ingredients can maintain their individual tastes and still come together to make a dish with variety. Of course, the lettuce is still a part of the salad. But it's still lettuce.

African-American history (and women's history, this month) is a vital part of American history. But considering that blacks are still an oppressed minority group, I see no harm in taking a little less than 1/12th of the year to more closely examine Black History– and what we can do to elevate the status of African-Americans today.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Social Class and Mental Illness

(This blog post is somewhat a study in intersectionality, which is essentially the principle that different forms of oppression are all connected, and takes special interest in people who identify with more than one minority group: black women, disabled trans people, etc.)

A member of my family was very fortunate last summer to get a well-paying job in software consultation. With the knowledge that they were on a significant number of medications to control Type I Bipolar Disorder, I asked my mother if she thought the company's healthcare plan would cover our family member's medical needs. My mother informed me that there would probably never be a job that would cover all of their healthcare needs, and some of it would always have to be covered by personal cost and insurance.

Surprise! Having a mental illness— incidentally, most of all bipolar disorder is really, really expensive. The lifetime cost per case of bipolar disorder for chronic or non-responsive bipolar can be up to $624,785. That's about fourteen years of an Ivy League-caliber college. Few people have that money simply lying around.

The other issue with poverty and mental illness is its cyclical nature. At first, it can seem like a chicken-and-egg question— are people poor because they're mentally ill and therefore have a harder time holding a job and paying for treatment, or are people mentally ill because they're poor and feel that they have few prospects for the future? Of course, each person's case is unique. But in the end, the cause itself is not as important as the fact that when a mentally ill person falls on hard times, its extremely difficult to escape.

How many times have we, walking down the street, written off a homeless person as a "crazy bum," when perhaps in a different situation they could be any other middle-class wage-earner? After all, 20-25% of the American homeless population is severely mentally ill (compared to 6% of the country as a whole). Homelessness can also complicate the consistency and availability of treatment of mentally ill people.

Though the cycle can be a downwards spiral, it can also be a positive pattern. For example, better mental health services can also combat homelessness. It also can see overall jail times decrease. Perhaps by better funding mental health services, we can actually save money as a society by lowering the number of people who rely on the state through food services or even incarceration. As a sort of preventative medicine, providing job resources for the mentally ill and mental health resources for the poor can make sure that no one gets caught in a vicious cycle.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ron Paul and "Honest Rape"

I should preface this with my honest, completely biased opinion– I dislike and have always disliked Ron Paul.

I think some people who are Ron Paul supporters are very attracted by his anti-war stance, one of his many libertarian views for which he is famous. Others like his soft on marijuana position, though he doesn't think that full-out legalization is possible right now. Some people are repelled by the fact that he's signed off on racist newsletters, or just find his economic opinions. Depending on what's important to you, all of those are pretty valid opinions to like or dislike the man, as long as you recognize the whole picture.

On Friday, Ron Paul was interviewed (transcript here) on Piers Morgan about his life, his political views, and his election run, especially impressed with his popularity with young people.

(Video from YouTube.)

At one point, Morgan brought up Paul's stance on abortion. Morgan posed the dilemma that if one of Paul's five children or eighteen grandchildren were raped, would he force them to carry the baby to term? Paul simultaneously asserted that "life does begin at conception" and then went on a rambling tangent about the complexity of the issue (recognizing there are no clear lines, indirectly mentioning the morning-after pill) but ultimately did not come to a satisfying conclusion. He did acknowledge that "It's a tough one. I won't satisfy everybody there."

Regardless of the stumbles that he made on abortion, there was one moment of shockingly poor word choice.

MORGAN: But it's a dilemma that I am going to put to you. You have two daughters. You have many granddaughters. If one of them was raped -- and I accept it's a very unlikely thing to happen. But if they were, would you honestly look at them in the eye and say they had to have that child if they were impregnated?

PAUL: No. If it's an honest rape, that individual should go immediately to the emergency room. I would give them a shot of estrogen or give them --

MORGAN: You would allow them to abort the baby?

PAUL: It is absolutely in limbo, because an hour after intercourse or a day afterwards, there is no legal or medical problem. If you talk about somebody coming in and they say, well, I was raped and I'm seven months pregnant and I don't want to have anything to do with it, it's a little bit different story.

Morgan did not go on to ask Paul to clarify on what he believed was an "honest rape." This poses a lot of awkward questions: what is "honest rape?" Moreover, what is "dishonest rape?" 

I'm not going to get into the ins and outs on the different opinions on when life begins.  But I think in this quote and this interview, Ron Paul is showing a dangerous disdain for rape victims. An "honest rape" is not just one where the girl is single and a virgin and a Christian, and she was held at gunpoint in a dark alley, and she didn't know her rapist (probably a person of color, knowing Paul). Rape victims can be drunk. They can be married. They can be male. They can be of any age, race, gender, religion, or socioeconomic class.

There is no such thing as an "honest rape" or a "dishonest rape." There is only rape, and the fact that people should not have to deal with its horrible consequences after the attack.