Monday, November 22, 2010

Who is my neighbor?

So I was perusing the internet(s) during my day and looking through the regular sites to get some news and infotainment. I came across the NPR website to check on a story I had heard about earlier in the day and observed a story that I thought was pretty interesting, “Number of Hate Crimes Down in 09.” If you are as unfortunate as I am you have the time and the resources to check out national news on a regular basis via the internet. I say unfortunate because “news” is rarely news and is far from uplifting. I can’t check out a site without hearing about something Palin related. That woman stands for everything I am against and is totally worth a post solely on her own, but I digress. If you do observe the happenings of the world and the nation you see an alarming amount of concern regarding terrorism and people being afraid of Muslims (refer to previous NPR employee, Juan Williams, fired for saying, “"When I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.")

Within this small article they obviously highlight the positive statistics of hate crime dropping but they go on to expand on the statistics. If you venture to take a look you see something that absolutely baffled me.

Of the 1,376 hate crimes "motivated by religious bias," 70 percent were anti-Jewish and 9 percent were anti-Islamic. In 2008, according to the FBI, about 66 percent of hate crimes involving religious bias were anti-Jewish and 8 percent were anti-Islamic.

I’m put in a tough position because I don’t believe any hate crime is justified but I feel misled by our news organizations that there is some sort of mistrust of people with Islamic faith. In an idiotic hypothetical situation where I was the contestant and the question would be, “In 2009 there were 1,376 hate crimes recorded, that were based off of religious bias. Seventy percent were anti- _______?” And I had three choices and they were; Jewish, Buddhist and Rastafarian, I would still not pick Jewish. More to the point, how is the narrative of America that we hear from news organizations that people will burn Qur’ans, not allow Islamic centers in New York and that the head employees of NPR are afraid to fly with people of the Islamic faith. Yet I don’t hear about the injustices occurring to the Jewish community. What is not being said is that one religion is being picked on more than another, what I’m arguing is that the narrative of the nation right now is, that it is far more profitable to cover the pseudo tension between non-Muslim and Muslim citizens. My understanding from what is covered and what is statistical is the posture we as Americans take towards Muslim citizens is fear, yet the facts show that there is much, much more hostility towards our Jewish citizens. This could mean a variety of things, but what it certainly does mean is that there is complacency in regards to the covering of hate crimes and religious intolerance. I can’t think of a time recently where I have heard anything about a Jewish center in America being picketed or anyone threatening to burn the Torah. There is a disproportionate amount of news focusing on an entire group of people that sheds a less than favorable image while at the same time we have an entire people suffering and going unnoticed.

I know I’m just posing a problem and not giving any sort of real solution because for once in a long time I am shocked. There are no news stories about professional athletes, politicians or public figures that truly surprise me anymore. Call me a cynic, or just a negative person but I have little faith in humanity. But this statistic truly caught me off guard and gave me the motivation to share my findings with the limited audience I have. I don’t know if the problem is certain areas are targeted by the same hate groups or if we really still have a bigoted nation of anti Semites. Regardless the irony is that in a “Christian nation” the most persecuted religions have the same deity as the persecutors; Allah, ABBA, YHWH.

Matthew 22: 36-40

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I prefer times like these

Life is far more pleasurable when you have the ability to enjoy it. I recently have had the ability to enjoy weekends again due to some unfortunate experiences by two of my coworkers. Due to the economy I guess their full time jobs could no longer afford to keep them around so I am continuously getting phone calls to work my shifts. It’s a weird sense of satisfaction to not only take the day off and also be helping someone during a rough patch. All of these positive things are occurring at once which means there are going to be some not so pleasant events in my near future to balance my life out and make sure I stay at my desired level of humility. I am 2 papers away from being done with my last semester of graduate school before I student teach. On top of that I discovered that I will be at the Freshman Center for Blue Springs school district for the second half of my student teaching. This is truly exciting for me because it may not have been in the Lee’s Summit school district, but it is a district that is held in as high regards concerning academics. On top of that I’m just excited to have a group of students that I can call my own. Being a substitute teacher over these last four and half years has given me the confidence and self awareness to know that I can handle a classroom, but can I contribute to a classroom? This will truly be a comprehensive test of my intelligence, patience and drive to be a factor in a student’s life and not just a stepping stone. Through emailing the teacher I’m student teaching for I know he is a younger guy who coaches at Blue Springs South and had some connections at my job at Hooper’s, so I should be able to get along with this person which was a huge concern as to whether I’d be stuck with someone without a personality or something worse like a Tea Bagger.

I do know one thing about my teaching abilities. I know how to pacify a classroom with some good tunes. I had two hours of freshman biology and I knew I had to play them something that would please the masses, while at the same time promotes a feeling of being sedated in their seat. I’m not trying to hypnotize them, just distract them from being young and rambunctious in the classroom. Band of Horses was definitely the trick. These kids ate it up and worked through the whole hour without a peep. There is something about this band that can be somewhat of a pop hybrid. Their sound is plenty unique to not be permitted on the radio in excess, but their songs are so catchy. While at the same time there is a depth to their lyrics which give a more subtle clue to their not belonging in the same genre as linkin park or owl city. But if you’ll excuse me I have a weekend to start involving no; soccer, work, papers that need to be done and a whole lot of “The Office”, dates with a special little lady and socializing to accomplish.

Lucky ones are we all 'til it is over
Everyone near and far
When you smile the sun it peaks through the clouds
Never die for always be around and around and around

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Spend Less Give More

I just tasted a peppermint and it immediately took me to a place in my mind that made me think of the holidays. This is weird for a couple reasons; One, I stole like 10 of these exact same mints from Garozzo’s 10 days ago when we went for my birthday and this was my last one and yet the first time it “tasted like Christmas.” And two, I don’t get excited 2 months out like all the radio stations. It’s an incredibly odd thing to think about but it’s like in the movies when you see the character have a flashback and his/her “entire life flashed before their eyes.” Instead for me though, it was my entire holiday experience flashed before my eyes. The joy of all my friends being at home and the countless holiday parties and meals, time off from work and school and the joy of giving and getting presents. I’m obviously not an opponent of getting gifts on my birthday but for Christmas you get to share in the excitement of mutually opening presents together and there is that lack of guilt because nobody is missing out in your immediate company.

On Christmas my girlfriend and I participate in Advent Conspiracy. You can go to the website or just read my little blurb about it. The point of this organization is for people to donate money in the absence of participating in over consumption that plagues the citizens of America. The money you donate is not just sent to some random charity that chooses what to do with the money and you have to wonder whether or not it gets directed to the cause of your choice. Every donation goes to the building of Well’s in African countries. Many countries in Africa suffer from mal nutrition, poor education, and civil unrest because their citizens do not have the luxury of water. Water is a luxury that we have taken for granted and don’t recognize the power it has. Children do not go to school because the schools do not offer running water, or the water they have causes dysentery and other diseases. These students are limited to what they can learn simply because they can’t get a drink to satisfy their needs as a human being. The lack of education causes lack of growth and lack of economic prosperity. There are no possibilities for agriculture and livestock to survive which limits the nutrition of the areas and when the closest locations for water are 2 hours away you are walking to retrieve water instead of working and improving your economic standing.

This is a Christian charity, by that I mean it was founded by Christians and supported by churches. I think though that it is something that all citizens can get behind and have no theological bias. We can all agree that the amount of credit card debt Americans go into for a holiday is frightful and that the gift of water is far more fulfilling than any sweater or video game. Think of when you received your favorite present. Mine was a Nintendo 64. My eyes shot open and I began to celebrate like I had won the lottery. It’s so strange to think but these kids in these nations have a similar response to just plain drinking water. There is a video on the website that shows children dancing and singing because they know that these trucks are coming to provide them with water. Out of context it is the most ridiculous thing you have ever heard of. A bunch of kids excited for water? In the grand scheme of things these wells are going to dominate their new story. Children will be able to eat and drink without fear, mothers can start looking for work, schools can open and teach the children and the adolescents will be able to work on their education.

Every year Ally and I promise to get each other something small for fun but we donate a good chunk of money each based on what we can afford (because we are still poor college students) to Advent Conspiracy. It takes away from the American spirit of “buy what you can’t afford, for things you don’t need,” and contributes to a cause that gives children a life that is closer to what they deserve. Beyond that it is truly the message of Christmas. The perversion of Christmas by big business has only held us back as a society from growing in compassion. We have been raised and taught about the “greatest country, God ever gave man” but we still spend more on ourselves and create a calloused self entitled posture. I think that this type of celebration through charity satisfies the spirit far more than a blue ray player or a sweater. What is asked by the contributor (other than the money) is for individuals to reengage themselves with the people around them. They ask for you to spend time with people who would normally receive gifts. Spend time creating as opposed to consuming. I hope that this post reaches more than just my normal viewers and can shed a more relevant view of Christmas. I hope people can start planning accordingly to give the gift of water/life/freedom. I challenge you to check out the website watch the videos and not be affected. It’s impossible to watch those children dance and sing and cry and not wonder if you could spare an extra 15 or 20 bucks this year.

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death." - Albert Einstein