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Write On, Downtown

A Journal of Student Writing at the ASU Downtown Phoenix Campus

Issue 7

April 2013 Editors-in-Chief

Rosemarie Dombrowski Catherine Rezza

Editorial Board

Michael Bartelt Ashley Bigley Samantha Bustillo Jayro Giron Chad Ligaya Celestina “Tina� Munoz Brett Nachman Amy Ostroff Paulina Pineda Michael Rader Hillary Schuck

Graphic Designer

Deanna Johnson Mullican

Cover Photograph Gabriel Radley

Contributing Artists Gabriel Radley Jessica Matthies Diana Lustig Kaelli-Mckenna Kutsop

Visit our companion journal at writeon.asu.edu


ONE WAY AY   Memories  

Body count  

You buy,  I’ll  fly   Baby’s  first  step  

Lights begin  to  flash  

One third  of  the  sky  

The peasants  of  the  peasants  

Has the  public  interest  waned   Immediate  action  is  necessary  

Their names  are  Tiger  and  Bear  

The glass  had  never  been  defined   Bizarre  acts  from  hanging  on  harnesses  

If art  primarily  resides  in  the  virtual  world  

It was  clear  she  had  the  crowd  under  a  spell  

A healing  herb,  an  escape,  the  devil,  and  a  gateway  drug  

Snaps and  loud  remarks  acknowledge  powerful  statements   They  were  fed  things  that  they  would  not  even  feed  the  dogs   There  is  no  visible  way  to  change  the  minds  of  the  perpetrators  

The Beastie  Boys  said  it  best,  “You  got  to  fight  for  your  right  to  party.”   Instead  of  stopping  to  smell  the  rose,  I  stop  to  smell  the  cannabis  burn.  

The perfect  place  for  people  to  be  who  they  want  to  be  

The concrete  and  asphalt  bake  in  the  intense  heat    

Write   On        Downtown  


Write On, Downtown 2013: An Introduction Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, Healthy, free, the world before me, The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose. —Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road” At the beginning of the semester, we boarded the same train. And we were all riding for a common purpose – our love of beautifully crafted language, inventive stories, and critical issues. We were journeying to find the best of what the downtown students had to offer and to compile it in the most innovative and creative way possible. The railroad track is miles away, And the day is loud with voices speaking, Yet there isn’t a train goes by all day But I hear its whistle shrieking. —Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Travel” And so we read submissions. For weeks and weeks. At times, it seemed like we would never arrive at the next station. And then we began looking for something un-nameable, and we peered through the window and saw the lights of the city. So we began looking for connections between images and texts, and we suddenly saw the intersections between them. Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. —Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken” And once we had realized our vision, we were elated, like the way you feel at the end of a long journey, one involving many months of planning and careful execution, one that, in the end, exceeds your expectations. And then we reflected … and it was as if we had just begun.


Acknowledgments The editors of Write On, Downtown would like to express our gratitude to Deanna Johnson Mullican, graphic designer for University College, for her continued partnership with the editorial team as well as her dedication to the production and publication of the journal. Without her input and skills, the print version of the journal would never go to print. We would also like to thank Dr. Frederick C. Corey, Dean of University College and Director of the School of Letters and Sciences, and Dr. Barbara Lafford, Faculty Head of Languages and Cultures, for their ongoing support of our endeavors (seven years’ worth to be exact). We would also like to extend our sincerest gratitude to Mary Ehret for her continued support of our celebratory luncheon and conference. It should go without saying that none of this would come to fruition without our amazing team of student editors. Their expertise, passion, and commitment expand and reshape our creative vision every week, evolving the journal into something greater than what we’d previously envisioned. Finally, we’d like to thank all of the student writers and photographers who submitted their work for this publication and who continue to make our teaching experiences on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus the best of our careers. RD & CR


photo by Gabriel Radley


Contents Central Station Back-tracking

by Brett Nachman

His Name Was Willy by Melody Hernandez

Criminal Behavior Explained Through Evolution and Genes by Betty Banh

Something to Tell by Andrew Ancona

An Analysis of Immigration Deportation by Sydney Glenn

Homeless Youth: Foster Care, the Better Choice! by Brooke Marmaro

13 19 20 26 32 38

Heritage Square The Great Wall of Culture: Why Cultural Competence is Key to Healthcare by Emily Sullivan

Violence Against Women: Rape in the Congo by Jessica Lopez

African Aid and an American Crisis by Jacob C. Solares

Educating Afghanistan: Teaching Prosperity, Equality, and Peace by Noemi A. Gonzalez

A Public School Teacher Pay Increase Would Pay for Itself and More by Cuyler Meade

Faux Pas

by Stevi Rollison

45 52

61 68 77 90

Roosevelt Row Dear Random Lady, by Stevi Rollison

97


Slam Poets

by Celeste Ruiz

Drag Culture by Erica Cron

The Glass

by Adam Waltz

No Swan

by Cody Wilson

Vision, Instinct, Surprise: Is This Today’s New York City Art Scene? by Ariel Stone

A Cannabis Culture by Marley Molitor

Waste Not, Want Not

by Waste Not, Want Not

99 103 109 115 116 122 126

Good Samaritan To My Father on the Anniversary of his Death by Stevi Rollison

Life at 37

by Alexa Chrisbacher

The Harmful Effects of the Anti-Vaccination Movement by Rylee Grafil

Seconds Matter by Ana Rivas

The Liberation of Larry Finklestein by Jessi Matthies

Fireflies

133 136 144 148 150

by Sarah Atchinson

159

Notes on the Editors

160


photo by Gabriel Radley


entral station


Back-tracking by Brett Nachman

I once read a story about a child who stared intently at trains. Funny. It sounded just like this one. I remember there were lots of run-on sentences that did not make much sense whatsoever just strings of words continuing on and on and on and on dragging out like there was no tomorrow or clichÊ to fill the end where the mind goes nobody knows but the protagonist and the topic wandered off like the tracks leading the Amtrak shuttles zipping across the Atlantic coastline at 74 miles-per-hour in non-city zones where every single bit of speed matters since moving ten miles fewer per hour would extend the time to reach the destination which equates to fewer train trips and less money for the companies yet they need more cash to make environmentally-friendly and efficient trains but those aren’t the least bit economical nor realistic. Here I am looking at the trains, consumed by every little facet, and my thought process transports me to stimulating new locations like these vehicles that carry some millions of passengers. I do not know where it will take me to but trains rivet with rivets and fascinate with fasteners. Look at the wordplay I just used. Homophones and words that sound alike but nobody seems to appreciate that except me. Me the Aspie. The kid who stares at the wheels and the motion and the lights and the whistles of the train, set against a station backdrop that reminds me of the Hogwarts Express and focusing on this object is the only thing that distracts me from the booming shouts that echo too loudly and the swarms of crowded bodies that infringe on my personal space. Some say space stretches perpetually, but why is it that everything here on Earth feels so incredibly congested? I like vocabulary and words that sound kind of hard to ar-ti-cu-late. Ar-ti-cu-late. Feels good on the tongue, supposedly the strongest muscle of our bodies. I disagree. I think it’s the brain. When we read we become stronger, so my parents say. Speaking of books, I like my massive tome that teaches me new words and idioms. Those are the best, especially the ones with the cartoons. Of course my favorites are ones with vehicles, which remind me of what I am writing about. I am in a train station, I am age ten, four months and nineteen days to be exact. I am fixated on the piping smoke that emits from the locomotive, right behind the car with the dozens of people wearing sweatshirts 13


Back-tracking

and gloves, but in front of the car with the windows shaped like portholes. Why would a train have windows shaped like portholes? I do not know, but I like trains and everything is all right. Alright or all right? All right it is. The train keeps me focused, though my mind is not. My mind is not all right. And yet I am right. On the train right now, shuffling along the rails, and several years later I find that I’m not plugging my ears as firmly when the conductor shouts “ALL ABOARD!” like he is some important person who everyone must listen to or face the threat of not entering the vehicle. The sounds are not bothering me as much, but the people still do. The passenger across the aisle from me, three rows up to the left, one seat in, smells like a rotten salami sandwich covered in raw eggs. I guess that’s one of the costs of riding on the train, the sheer possibility of someone like him being on, too. I cannot ar-ti-cu-late why I love trains so much. I like to watch the outside world from here, safe and enclosed in a moving passageway that glimpses into the inescapable valleys and mountainside like the pioneers on the Oregon Trail that couldn’t view past the horizon. The bump-ity of the car relaxes me in a way I try to describe with words like “soothing” and “calming,” but it just cannot manage to convey the feeling of security while being enclosed in a moving box that ironically could meet its doom. Ironic, another fun word. The book I was reading last month used that word quite often. I guess it means humor that comes from implementing words that suggest the antithesis. Another great word. I suppose I must enjoy irony because it’s ironic I love things that do not make sense, but yet it bothers me when adults’ words don’t match the actions of their facial expressions, which I still have trouble understanding. My senses are sometimes mixed up. I don’t really see things, but rather hear them. I listen to the world’s frustration. I smell their repulsion for people who are not like everyone else. I taste their disappointment that I am in so many ways miles behind my peers, and also light-years ahead of them. Sure my feelings don’t sound right or come out the way I mean them to, but I know me. I know what I love and hate. I know what brings me joy and pain. I know what I want and dread. For now I am on a train and everything seems to be right for a minute. No matter the salami-smelling guy or longggggg train ride – did I mention it was estimated to take seven hours, twelve minutes and forty-three seconds to reach the destination? I see time disappear as we pass each pine tree, a second lost and a new experience gained. Now it’s 2012. I’m arriving at the station with my laptop in tow, the vehicle easing to a halt and everything coming to an end. I have to make sure I did not leave my textbook on the seat. No, it’s in my hands. That’s good. I start to head off and can now appreciate the little details of the train, like the ring-like pattern of wheels on the carpet and the glowing lights on the side of the aisle. I guess they illuminate at night, but I have not been on board that late into the day. I exit the train, more secure with myself. Those sights, smells, sounds, feelings

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Back-tracking

do not irritate me, confusing and consuming my being with overwhelming power, like they used to, but I no longer feel the same rush of the train either. Kind of sad, really. I don’t find the experience as appealing, but I manage to find a time every here and then, here and now – no, the expression goes every “now and then,” that’s better – to take this trip. I depart the vehicle and see a little boy with his mom, the boy probably about the same age as when I first boarded, stuff plugs into his giant Dumbo-sized ears and he grips his mom’s hand tightly before stepping on. Am I looking at a mirror image right now? Is he my reflection? Or am I his? Will he soar with this experience and voyage onto the train like an exciting adventure to the unknown or crumble like the last winter leaf before the conductor calls out his famous phrase? I think nothing more before arriving home and opening up my laptop, ready to start the assignment my professor handed me some days ago. I think of trains one, no two, more times before thinking of how I can articulate – got it! - how to perfectly capture the many perspectives of one object and use these techniques I have learned in the classroom. Okay, so I have to manage to show personal or cultural relativism. Well, I’m not from another country nor am I Latino, or Asian, or Middle-Eastern - hope those are politically-correct terms, because I always aim to be respectful. I could show the various perspectives of an individual with Asperger’s Syndrome, my “disorder,” or “challenge” as I like to put it, but how could I do that in a way that doesn’t draw attention to the issue or undermine the significance that this plays in my daily life? I’ll keep it subtle but still evident. Check. I must also defy the typical narrative structure and demonstrate the narrator’s self-awareness. I think I can work that out somehow. I would like to believe I know postmodernism, but all I know is I try. I try, just like I tried to show free-association and could not understand the meaning. I am like a person looking at a train, on a train, departing the train at different points of my life, but not from the same perspective. I once read a story about a child who stared intently at trains. Funny. It sounded just like this one. Who is the author? I can’t quite remember at the moment, but I like trains. And that’s what matters.

15


photo by Gabriel Radley


His Name Was Willy by Melody Hernandez

When I met him, he was living in a shelter for children called Casa De Los Niños. This little boy had been abused to the point where he could no longer even use the bathroom properly and needed assistance. He wore thick glasses and was cross-eyed. He had bruises in several places and was a skinny little thing. Yet, he was the happiest little boy I had ever met. He would race around the playground laughing at the top of his lungs. He would take my hand and take me on tours of the facility. When we got to his room, he pointed out a stuffed tiger and bear sitting neatly on his bed and told me, “Their names are Tiger and Bear.” I found it strange that he had named them that. It was almost as if he wanted them to maintain their core identity, to not lose the one thing they had. In the playroom, he threw on different costumes, becoming new characters and pretending to live in an imaginary world. I was told by one of the workers that it was his favorite game to play, which made me wonder if Willy often wished he really was another person living in another place. If you think about it, it’s almost as if he feels he lost his identity. Instead, he strives to preserve the identities of others, and tries to find a new one for himself by pretending to be other characters. Then again, maybe I read too much into things. To me, the core identity of a human being is an intricate part of them. It’s something everybody struggles to comprehend. It’s something I’ve struggled with my entire life. I’ve found that a lot of times, I’ve accentuated certain traits of mine with certain people, because I feel that’s how they would appreciate me best, or what they would find acceptable. Working with Willy helped me find myself. I realized playing pretend with other people in order to find my identity was only giving me a false happiness.

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Criminal Behavior Explained Through Evolution and Genes by Betty Banh

‘Once upon a time’ stories usually end with ‘happily ever after.’ But, not if the husband is mentally deranged and stabs each of his family members. One night, military police, arriving at a home from which a distress call originated, found a pregnant woman, two-year-old Kristen, and five-year-old Kimberly, all stabbed to death by the father of the family (Ramsland, 2007, p.6). Fifteen years previous, a 14-year-old boy killed his grandparents and later went on to kill his mother, have sex with her corpse, and use her severed head for dart practice (Michaud, 1998, p. 65). Would these men be considered criminals? Sure. The true question is how anyone can fathom committing such violent, deranged acts. Simple. They do it because evolution by natural selection has kept these criminal tendencies in people’s genes. Natural selection is the mechanism that allows for the survival of beneficial traits’ existence in a single species population. It is also the apparatus that may blow a cold, halting breath upon characteristics that hinder efficient survival. Between five million to two hundred million years ago, in the time of our ancestors (the Ardipithecus, the Australopithecus, the Paranthropus, and the early Homo species), the land that covered Earth was dismal. There was nothing but dirt, rocks, trees and plants, water, and animals. To survive, men and women had to hunt and gather and make babies that would live to make grandbabies. The men who were the top breeders were the ones that could capture food, create shelter, defend territory, and most importantly, secure mates. The combination of these skills rendered these early hominid men as having the genes advantageous enough to be passed on so the future offspring of these men would be more apt to take after their father’s proficiency. In the light of evolutionary history, the acts considered as crimes shouldn’t come as a shock or make others ask how some one or some group can be so heartless. Once too many times, the following scenario happens. A young man is walking home and then from behind, another young man turns him around and strikes a lethal blow straight to the middle of his face. Blood starts dripping 20


Criminal Behavior Explained Through Evolution and Genes

from his nose and the assaulter continues his onslaught, punching his victim’s face and gut repeatedly until he falls unconscious and resembles a heap of trash. The assailant then digs through the sufferer’s clothes’ pockets and strips him of his wallet, phone, and shoes. The two young men had never encountered each other until that moment. Sure, the assaulter could be described as cruel or troublesome, but his actions were evolutionarily sound, though he was probably unaware of this. Everything he took, he took to provide himself with resources. The money could be used to buy food, the shoes for protecting his feet, the phone for access to the ones he cares about. In the early Hominid days, acquisition of resources was the first key trait that showed that a man possessed welldeveloped survival methods and could provide for himself and his offspring. Gangs are looked upon by the public as groups of devious delinquents, harmful to community infrastructure, and a threat to the precious laws upheld. If one gang spots another gang on their ‘turf’ and wants to show them that they don’t belong, and they open fire, most people would say that’s unacceptably vicious. Many might say drive by shootings are bad, but natural selection says “no, those individuals are participating in what is called territory defense which was prized in the olden days because women didn’t want to bear children to men who wouldn’t be able to protect and fight for his offspring’s survival” (Gottschalk, 2010, p. 59). It turns out that violence isn’t as crazy as it seems Or, maybe it is. Modern Homo sapiens are far more advanced than the early Homo species could have ever imagined. Human cranial capacity is currently 400-1000 cubic centimeters bigger than that of the early hominids. Intellect and reason are at their peak. It is because of this growth that dark shadows of judgment are cast on acts of criminal behavior. The majority of people are not criminals-most think rationally, don’t partake in violence, and don’t have records of rape, assault, or murder. Acts of aggression that lead to jail sentences are considered as behavior fit for people who are not truly humans, but are instead irrational, mere shells of humans. What many don’t understand is that many criminals indeed are not average humans. Their first and maybe most significant abnormality is that their brains are not physically the same as a typical brain. Psychopathy or antisocial personality disorder is a trait that many, many criminals possess. A study comparing the brain scans of 21 antisocial people to the brain scans of people who have no mental disorders, found an average reduction in the overall frontal lobe of antisocial individuals of 27 percent. Another brain study showed an average of an 18 percent reduction in the size of the amygdala in the brains of 27 psychopaths. The amygdala is basically the seat of all emotion (Moscowitz, 2011). This is the physical basis of why criminals feel little to no remorse; they can’t process empathy, concern, alarm, or fear (Ramsland, 2007, p.122). The second most striking reason for the delinquent behavior of criminals is that the chemical levels in their brain are ‘off’. Dopamine-the chemical that

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Criminal Behavior Explained Through Evolution and Genes

produces a feel-good pleasure- is released in bountiful amounts each time a criminal commits an aggressive act (Gottschalk, 2010, p. 69). They therefore feel rewarded each time they cause pain, hear screams … kill. Conversely, serotonin is the chemical that keeps most of us from doing anything rash or aggressive when we get angry. Psychopaths have a shortage of this neurotransmitter. When serotonin levels are high, a person will be calm and content. When they’re low, the person is likely to experience irritability and gloom and they may react to maddening situations with impulsiveness and violence (Gottschalk, 2010, p. 69). The last chemical imbalance of significance is also what separates men from women. Men are five times more likely than women to be arrested for violent crime in part because they possess testosterone (Gottschalk, 2010, p. 64). “The tendency to behave aggressively … also depends on how much testosterone gets into the brain even before birth and how many special cell receptors are present in the brain to lock onto each testosterone molecule that enters.” High amounts of testosterone entering the brain or low amounts of androgen receptors available to latch onto the testosterone will influence neurotransmitter functioning, including dopamine and serotonin (Gottschalk, 2010, p.70). The genes that form proteins that make our brains (and ultimately the chemicals released from our brains) are what constitute roughly more than half of antisocial behavior. To this extent, it can be said that some people are not fully in charge of how they act. Their degenerative brain processes determine mental state and actions that they can’t control; their assumed ability to rationalize and act upon free will may be non-existent (Kroeber, 2007, pp. 254-255). By why would natural selection keep such deviant traits in the midst of a society where heinous acts will put people behind bars? After all, the point of natural selection is to pass on genes to ensure species survival, and reproducing usually doesn’t occur in jail cells. The hypothetical answer would be because even if our society is evolving and encouraging good moral conduct and inflicts punishments through the criminal justice system for rebels, evolution doesn’t follow our rules. Rape, domestic assault, and murder aren’t necessarily frowned upon by nature because these may all lead to reproduction. Rape is easy enough to understand in terms of reproduction: “the male reproductive advantage derived from having multiple sex partners has resulted in natural selection favoring genes promoting brain patterns for ‘pushiness’ in pursuit of sexual intercourse, genes passed on might code for readily learning pushy sexual behavior in offspring” (Ellis, 1997, p. 235). According to the R/K selection theory, a small yet substantial group “of men have evolved with genes that incline them toward an extremely low parental investment reproductive strategy” (Ellis, 1997, p. 252). Assault of spouses and children may seem to defeat the purpose of reproduction … but it doesn’t. The most important motivator in spousal abuse tends to be sexual jealousy or infidelity. A man who beats his partner will grind fear

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Criminal Behavior Explained Through Evolution and Genes

into her. And that fear is the exact reason why she won’t leave; the thought of even greater abuse (for trying to leave) keeps her grounded in pursuit of making him happy so she won’t be hit again. This gives the male the opportunity to keep mating with her. Murder simply happens because getting rid of people of the same sex means more opportunity to mate with creatures of the opposite sex. The biology and genetics of criminality is still a burgeoning area of study, but the research that’s been conducted has shown there are key neurotransmitters whose prevalence or lack thereof result in more or less criminal behavior. Scientists have also detected that physical regions of psychopaths’ brains are unlike those of your average, plain Joe or Jane. As research progresses, we will hopefully completely dissect the physical causes of deviant behaviors and generate therapy or procedures to fight against the natural selection for violent traits. If we don’t, Joe or Jane could be killed by a psycho for no modernly sane reason.

References

Ellis, L. & Walsh, A. (1997). Gene bases evolutionary theories in criminology. Criminology, 35, 229-276. Gottschalk, M. & Ellis, L. (2010). Evolutionary and genetic explanations of violent crime. In Ferguson, C.J. (Ed.), Violent crime: clinical and social implications. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications Inc. Kroeber, H. (2007). The historical debate on brain and legal responsibility-revisited. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 25(2), 251-161. Doi: 10.1002/bsl.753. Michaud, S. & Hazelwood, R. (1998). The evil that men do. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press. Moscowitz, C. (2011, Mar. 5). Criminal minds are different than yours, brain scans reveal. Live Science. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/13083-criminals-brainneuroscience-ethics.html Ramsland, K. (2007). Inside the minds of healthcare serial killers. Westport, CT: Praeger.

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photo by Gabriel Radley


Something to Tell by Andrew Ancona

Phoenix is a furnace in August. The concrete and asphalt bake in the intense heat and the only relief is the monsoon storms that roll up from the south, and scrub the brown haze from the sky, and wash the grime from the streets. Cool drops begin to fall. Maria releases the heavy glass door and it swings shut behind her with a bang. She glances up at the darkening sky and walks back toward the car. More money I don’t have. Easy come, easy go. Where am I gonna get the money I need? The wind is gusting and an empty Big Gulp cup skips across her path followed by a straw-impaled plastic lid dragging across the asphalt. Dark thoughts billow in the pregnant storm clouds that drift from the south. An opening in the clouds dilates briefly and a radiant shaft of sunlight pierces the gloom. Maria smells the rain, but the stench of the fumes and filth of the busy intersection are overpowering and she feels nauseous. She reaches behind and plucks the back of her damp t-shirt. The breeze feels good as it billows the cotton and she glances up at the sky, thankful for rain. Maria’s eyes narrow as she approaches the pump island. He’s still sitting in the car. Maybe Mom was right about him. His own brother says he’s a bum. I drive. I pay for the gas – at least he could pump it. Emilio pumps it. She approaches the car and glares across the dusty roof at no one in particular. The wind blows harder and the rain falls with greater urgency; each drop washes away the dust and reveals the bright red paint underneath. The young woman steps up onto concrete pump island and stops. He’s texting. Always texting with that stupid grin on his face. Maria scowls and crosses her arms, obscuring the dancing line of pink chicks and the message “Cruising With My Peeps!” that decorates her tight pastel blue t-shirt. She stands in silence, her shiny black hair framing the shadow that has fallen across her pretty face. The drops continue to fall and she waits. In the front passenger seat on the opposite side of the car he sits oblivious to her dark mood. Maria tilts her hips and looks through the tinted driver-side window and waits until he acknowledges her presence. He glances her way and mouths a silent, “What?” She doesn’t reply, and he throws his hands

26


Something to Tell

up and produces a dark scowl of his own. His attitude is not the answer she desires. Her mouth falls open, and she abruptly resumes her dark pose standing upright with her hands on her hips – waiting. A lanky, dark haired young man climbs out and slams the door shut. On the other side of the car Maria is unstirred and watches him come around the car. Feminine beauty mingles with anger, and he can’t help but smile as he comes to stand before her with his hands in the pockets of his baggy shorts. With her standing on the island, they are eye to eye. “What? You can’t even pump the gas for me?” she says. His attitude dissipates. He looks at the ground like a child being scolded as if he cannot look into her fiery eyes. He steps up onto the island and regains his posture, towering over her, “Come on baby, you got it.” “Remember when you used to treat me like I was special,” she replies, “opening doors, paying for stuff we needed, pumping the gas.” She shakes her head, “Now you act like—“ “Don’t be like that baby,” he grins, “you know you’re my girl. I need a Big Gulp. You want anything?” He stares at her expectantly. “You buy, I’ll fly.” One day, I’ll fly. “I told you I don’t feel good.” She reluctantly reaches into the tight front pocket of her jeans and pulls out a few crumbled bills and stuffs them into his hand. Away, far away. “Whatever, Santos.” She shrinks in submission and cannot pull her eyes from the ground as he glares at her. He gestures toward the pump handle, “You pump while I get my drink on.” He turns away to head toward the store. “Get me some of that tea I like,” she calls after him. The rain is steady now but the wind has calmed to a light breeze. He turns back, “What is it?” he asks while he uncrumples the bills, “You got more scrilla?” Maria turns toward the pump, “Just forget it.” “What?” She ignores him. Santos shrugs, steps down and heads toward the storefront. As he walks away Maria unscrews the cap muttering, “What am I doing?” She shakes her head and begins pumping the gas. She grits her teeth to stifle a gag. Behind her back, obscured by the pump, Santos shakes his head and chuckles. When he reaches the door he looks up and makes eye contact with a young blond girl headed in the same direction. He opens the door and her swaying hips beckon him to follow. Maria finishes pumping the gas, screws the cap back on and stifles a gag. Oh, I just want to lie down. Mom is right. He treats me like crap and he has nothing to offer. What am I gonna do? She glances back at the store. Inside the store he’s talking and laughing with a young girl with long blond hair and a short skirt. Tears began to well up in her eyes. What am I gonna do? She was late. The test was positive. She stopped at CVS on the way home from work last night and 27


Something to Tell

took the test first thing this morning. A blue plus-sign. How am I gonna tell Mom and Dad I screwed up? It’s beginning to pour. Maybe I should drive around and pick him up. She gets in and the engine rumbles to life. She plays with the radio trying to find a station – stopping on Sheryl Crow singing “A change would do you good.” The windshield wipers slap back and forth in rhythm with the song. She looks back toward the store and he’s still talking to the blond. He’s laughing, holding his big gulp in one hand and his cell phone in the other. The girl is touching his arm. Maria grits her teeth. On the radio Sheryl Crow is crooning, A change - a change would do you good - do you good! and she realizes that she is singing along now – “Hello it’s me, I’m not at home - If you’d like to reach me, leave me alone.” As he turns and exits the store, time slows down for Maria. She peers through the front windshield. The rain is pelting the car with large drops, and the wipers are sweeping the water with broad strokes. She glances back one last time, turns the wipers up to fast, puts the car in drive, and pulls away from the pump. The wipers slap back and forth - A change, – a change would do you good! She doesn’t see him throw his hands up in surprise as she pulls onto Thomas Road and drives away. Tears are streaming down her face. Her phone rings, but she doesn’t look at it. The rain is coming down hard, and it’s difficult to see the road. The tears aren’t helping either. Lightning flashes beyond St. Teresa’s Catholic Church. The cross on the front lawn looms above the trees. Its silhouette stabs the roiling sky above. The phone alerts for a text message. She holds it up. It’s him: WTF. He’s pissed. She throws the phone on the seat. Why did I do that? What am I thinking? What am I doing? I can’t have a baby. The phone rings again. “What?” she answers. “What the fuck’s wrong with you,” Santos roars. “I can’t do it anymore, Santos. You don’t know what you’re doing to me.” She’s sobbing into the phone and trying to peer through the inundated windshield. The wipers can’t keep up with the downpour. Red lights glow in the distance. Headlights shine off the oily asphalt. “What are you talking about?” he demands. “I saw you talking to that white girl,” Maria retorts. “Aw, come on baby, I was just being friendly.” He’s grinning. He thinks this is funny. “Yeah, friendly. It looked a little too friendly. Did you get her number? I saw that you had your phone out.” “This is what I’m talking about. You’re always making these stories up in your head. She just asked for the time.” “Whatever,” She is sitting at a light and slams her forearms down on the steering wheel. “You’re so full of shit. You were talking for a long time and she was touching you,” she says between sobs. “Flirting with some skank! Right in front of me. While I’m waiting for you!”

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Something to Tell

“Come on, baby. Why are you doing this? We got a good thing. Stop making problems where there ain’t none,” he pleads to her, “You know I hate fucking drama.” Maria hangs up. Lies. The phone rings again and she sends it to voicemail. Another text pops up: FU BITCH. Yeah, that’s gonna make me turn around and pick you up. Fuck you too, Santos. Traffic is heavy. Suddenly, the car is pounded by a quickening clatter that beats down on the roof and windows in a deafening rush. Maria can’t see and slows down. It’s hailing. Marble sized hailstones are bouncing all over the road and off the car as she pulls off to the shoulder to wait for it to pass. Other drivers are doing the same. The torrent of hail continues in several waves and lightning flashes in the dark sky above. Her car is stopped in front of a rundown strip mall. A sign for ‘Planned Parenthood’ hangs above the glass-windowed entrance to one suite. What should I do? The door closes behind him. In the darkness above her the fan clicks and wobbles. She smiles and stretches, pulling the sheets close and inhaling his lingering scent. Enjoying it. Everything was gonna be alright now. The cool air caresses her naked skin. She reaches for her phone to check the time. Santos has been texting her. Someone is knocking at the door. She tosses the phone back on the nightstand and hops up and shimmies into her jeans and a black cami, “Just a second!” she calls. In the living room, Maria cracks open the security door. The yellow glow from the entry light casts an eerie shadow on Santos’ brown skin. He looks upset. It is late. Has he been drinking? Did he see Emilio leave? She has not seen him since that freak hailstorm. He called and texted, and called and texted and showed up on her mother’s doorstep a few times but Maria never answered. How am I gonna tell him? What am I gonna say? “Baby, we need to talk,” Santos pleads. “I know we do,” she replies. What should I tell him? “Come on out,” he beckons, “we’ll sit on the wall.” He turns and sits on the slump block and bumps a cigarette from his pack and lights it up. The ember glows orange as he inhales a long drag. “What was my brother doing here?” Maria doesn’t answer. “I swear that was Emilio I saw,” he insists. She sits down next to him, “Listen to me,” she says looking down at her hands twisting a hair-tie in knots. “I have something to tell you.”

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photo by Gabriel Radley


An Analysis of Immigration Deportation by Angela Torres Camarena by Sydney Glenn

Documentary films are used as a tool to expose the truth of a specific subject to the public. Exiled in America is a documentary about the repercussions that families face when a family member is deported. The film follows the specific story of the Santibañez family. Sergia Santibañez, a mother of five and a legal, permanent resident of the United States, was deported to Mexico after living in the U.S. for 25 years. Her five children, all U.S. citizens, were left to live and support each other on their own. When most children their age were crying over a scraped knee, these children were dealing with an issue that would change their lives forever. Directed by Angela Torres Camarena, Exiled in America shows the emotional stress of deportation and the unjustness of today’s federal immigration system in America through interviews with family members, hard facts about immigration, and the images of an immigration detention center. Interviews with the family members of the Santibañez family provide an in-depth view into the emotional stress the family had to overcome due to the unfair treatment of the U.S. immigration system. After their mother was deported, life became a day-to-day struggle. At age 24, Luissana Santibañez was forced to grow up quickly and take on a parental role. Luissana talks about having to deal with the hardships of this role, “How am I going to keep all of us united in spite of having our parents so far away?” (Camarena, 2007). The children of the Santibañez family are being forced to grow up without the love and support of a mother, and the eldest sibling has had to find a way to support her siblings both financially and emotionally. This also had a great impact on the youngest son, Sergio, who expressed, “I didn’t like it because I wasn’t able to hug her,” (Camarena, 2007). All this young boy wants is the warmth of his mother’s touch, but the federal government has prevented that. When their mother first left, they wanted to go after her, drop out of school, and become a family again. However, Madeleine, at age 17, was wise beyond her years when she explained, in a tearful statement, “It was hard for me because I was doing good in school. All the hard work I had done…just to throw that all away and live 32


An Analysis of Immigration and Deportation

out there,” (Camarena, 2007). The five children decided to try and live on their own. They had to support each other on days when they felt as if they could no longer continue to move forward. For this, they have developed a support system for one another. Sixteen-year-old Paul speaks about his eldest brother Elesban’s struggles, “He has a mental disability right now and we have to take care of him. We have to do double the work to make him feel calm or make him feel good…. stuff that my moms supposed to do,” (Camarena, 2007). The emotional toll that the unfair immigration laws have played on this family is devastating. Although each interview is with a different child who is sharing different perspectives on the situation, there is still one fundamental truth: they all want their mom back. Exiled in America uses unbiased, accurate facts to describe the unjust manners of the United States immigration system. Facts are shown more effectively typed on a screen than when they are said out loud. The film uses this technique perfectly by flashing facts across the screen, reinforcing the most important details for the viewer. In 2007, Sergia Santibañez was involved in a car crash while on her way to Dallas, Texas, with a friend. She was arrested for transporting illegal immigrants. In 1996, a law was passed that immigration judges are no longer allowed to have discretion in immigration cases (Camarena, 2007). Daughter Madeleine spoke about how ridiculous the whole situation was, “Who’s going to ask their friend ‘Are you an American citizen?’”(Camarena, 2007). Sergia was sentenced to four months in federal jail, 18 months in an immigration detention center, and then was deported to Mexico. She had no idea that her friend was not an American citizen. In 1996, a strict law was passed that said minor crimes of legal residents will result in deportation. Over 1.5 million people have been deported since Congress passed the zero tolerance law (Camarena, 2007). She is not a threat to the community; she raised her family in the United States legally. She came to America for a better life for herself and her family. Everything she loves and has worked for is being taken away from her. In February 2007, the Child Citizen Protection Act was presented to Congress. This act would restore a judge’s authority to prevent deportation of an immigrant parent of a U.S. born child. Currently, this act is still pending approval from Congress (Camarena, 2007). The emotional stress that has been dropped on her five children is almost too unbearable to even think about. The immigration system is unjustified for deporting her for unknowingly driving with an illegal immigrant. The facts are there: Sergia has been treated unfairly and both her and her children are left to suffer. In order to fully grasp the emotional and horrific situation Sergia has been put in, Exiled in America uses images of the immigration center she was put in. Sergia was forced to live away from her home and children for four years in a prison built with gray floors and walls. Her youngest son, Sergio, spoke about the inconvenience to see his mother and explained how much he hated the long car ride and only being able to see his mother so rarely. This is a private prison for profit and she was held there for 18 months before being deported 33


An Analysis of Immigration and Deportation

to Mexico (Camarena, 2007). Sergia describes the conditions of the detention center as “horrible” and said they were fed things that they would not even feed to the dogs. She even goes as far as to say that she was treated like an animal (Camarena, 2007). She did not commit a crime worthy of this type of severe punishment. On top of all that, her own children had to witness it all when they came to visit her. In a tearful statement, Sergia lamented, “The suffering that my family faces daily makes me feel so much pain and anger against the Federal government that tries to destroy us completely,” (Camarena, 2007). The Santibañezes cannot help but be filled with hate because of what has happened to them. Documentary films truly give a detailed look into issues that are not necessarily thought about on a consistent basis. Director Angela Torres Camarena did a phenomenal job with this film by showing an unscripted look into the life of the Santibañez family and their struggles. Exiled in America perfectly shows viewers the unfairness of the Federal government in regards to immigration. The emotional stress that the Santibañez family has been through is unimaginable. Hopefully reform and change is in the near future for immigration laws so no more families have to endure this pain.

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photo by Gabriel Radley


Homeless Youth: Foster Care, The Better Choice! by Brooke Marmaro

Dear Homeless Parents, You love your children and want them to succeed. You take them to school as often as you can, you help them with their homework to the best of your ability, and you feed them whenever you get the chance. There is no doubt that you are involved in your child’s life. They call you Mommy and Daddy, and that binds you for eternity. When your child wakes up sick in the middle of the night, he or she turn to you for help. As birthdays rack up, you become more and more connected with your child. From your baby’s first step, to their first word, and then their first haircut, memories are made. Growing up, becoming a parent, is a rite of passage. Now you are a parent and you hold that very near and dear to your heart. You have the best of intentions toward helping your child, but in many cases, there are ways you cannot. Many challenges are thrust upon you as a homeless parent and they can interfere with your ability to be a mentor to your children. Drug addiction often engulfs your body and will not let you focus on the important things until you have had your fix. Alcoholism is a demon that may linger inside of you. Is it fair to have your child take care of you and wonder if you are coming home because you are addicted to drugs and alcohol more than you are to your children? Do you want your six-year-old child to know what coke, heroin, and vodka are? You say that it is wrong to take a child away from their family. Children do need contact with their family. When a child is removed from his or her family, they may suffer from separation anxiety, depression, and often times require psychiatric help. While all of that sounds terrible, the main reason you do not want your child to be placed in the foster care system is because you do not know who has access to your child. The foster care system is not some big, governmental organization that wants to destroy your family and take your children away; however, children report many cases of abuse in the foster care system. The foster parents may hit your child, or even sexually abuse them. Medication 38


Homeless Youth: Foster Care, The Better Choice!

can get messed up, or the other children in the house might bully your child. As a parent, you do not want your child to have to go through the trauma of living in a foreign environment. But--picture this: you are a six-year-old child living with four siblings and a single mother. You are the oldest child and your mother fled from your abusive father due to domestic violence and now you live on the streets of Phoenix, Arizona. During the day, you attend a school that houses children who are homeless or live beneath the poverty line. The level of education you receive is minimal, fights break out daily, and the classroom budgets are so low you have to share a box of crayons with six other children. The only meal you might get that day is the one provided by the school. After school lets out, you gather up your siblings and walk to your “house”, which may be a shack on the side of the road or a random homeless shelter in town. While walking home you have to cut through someone else’s turf and that sets them off. Fights will break out and territorial boundaries will be set. Night creeps up on you and you are just about “home.” When you arrive home, you are hungry and your mother is crying. Not knowing if she is drunk, starved, stressed to the max, or just going crazy, you try to comfort her. While your mother is emotionally paralyzed, it becomes your job to find food for your family, a warm place to sleep, and make sure there are no external threats throughout the night. Once darkness consumes the night, you have to put your siblings to bed, make sure your mother is ok, and then finally sleep yourself. That scenario seems harsh, but that is the exact reality of one of my students. What you are putting your child through may not seem so bad to you, but in the eyes of a child, it is terrifying. The world is a large scary place and when you have no guidance, it becomes even more petrifying. Phoenix, Arizona has the ninth largest homeless population in the U.S. with a staggering 8,448 people (Highest coc homeless, 2012). Do you really want to be another statistic, let alone your children? Removing a child from the streets and placing them in foster care is the better answer. The street is a dark and dangerous place for anyone to live, let alone a child. You may think it’s not that bad, but when you compare the life you are giving your child to the life of an average child, it seems like you are punishing them. From first-hand experience, I have seen what being homeless does to a child: children who once lead a suburb-filled life and are now living in cars, or in and out of homeless shelters. As a student at Arizona State University, I was given the opportunity to intern at the Children First Academy of Phoenix. Children First Academy is a non-profit school that predominantly teaches homeless children. The internship allows me the opportunity to go every week and teach art to these children. Art is important for the development of both cognitive and motor skills. While doing our latest project, the kids drew their best memory. Over one-third of the students in all of my classes drew their old house with a pet, and a smiling, happy family. It really hit home when I saw how

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Homeless Youth: Foster Care, The Better Choice!

large of an issue homelessness has become. To put it in perspective, Children First Academy had a school population of 210 children in the 2010- 2011 school year. In 2011-2012, the school is busting at its seams with a whopping 614 students. Next year they will have to change locations to sustain their growing population. Foster care is a great option for families in this situation. Even if your family consists of two parents and several siblings, a loving environment can only go so far. Children need food. Children need stability and children need a consistent place to call home. Foster care offers an immense amount of perks compared to living on the dirty, dangerous, and disease infested streets. For one, when youth are put into the foster care system, they are placed in a state approved home. Having one location to go and to call “home� is both mentally and socially beneficial. Children become comforted with the stability that having one address brings. Furthermore, stability goes up with attending just one school, consistently seeing people and friends, and it also allows them the opportunity to play sports or do activities that they might not have been able to do before. With foster care homes, the child has constant supervision, they know their guardians will come home at night, and they will feel psychologically calm knowing that they always have someone there for them. Plus, living on the streets is an invitation for disease. Homeless families typically do not have easy access to bathrooms, showers, and often times even hygiene products. When a child lives in foster care they are governmentally insured for any medical expenses that they may encounter while in the system. Now, asthma is the number one disease in homeless youth and often the cause of their death (Homeless Children, 1999). According to Homeless Children: Problems and Needs, children die on the streets because they are never properly diagnosed with a disease or they never get their medication once they are diagnosed. In foster care, the government has officials that come by every so often to check up on the children and make sure all their needs are getting met. A perk of foster care is that when a child gets sick, they have a guardian there taking care of the child. The guardian can take the child to the doctors, measure out their medicine, and monitor their progress. You may be able and willing to do this for your child, but how often do you actually take your children to the doctor? Foster care also has the benefit of being able to get the child psychiatric help. Living on the streets is mentally draining and can psychologically mess your child up. Psychological and physical protection are two of the most important qualities that foster care can offer a child. As in the example stated above, the main reason why mothers and children become homeless is because they were victims of domestic violence and decided to leave (Homeless Children, 1999). When a family is experiencing domestic violence, the only fool-proof way to escape is to run away. Running away is extremely hard on both you and your children because

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Homeless Youth: Foster Care, The Better Choice!

you have to cut off all ties to your previous life. That means no more going to that school, talking to your friends, and contacting family that could disclose your new location, quitting your job, and leaving your church and community. Leaving everything they have ever known, with very little or no money and no place to go can cause severe emotional scarring. The children are happy that they are not getting abused anymore, or their mom is no longer a victim, but they still face the challenge of how to survive with practically nothing. Mothers often take their kids to different shelters, try and find work, but after the constant stress and worrying they may eventually abuse their children themselves because of the frustration of not being able to care for themselves, let alone another individual. Mothers turn to substances to take away the pain, or leave their children and go back to their abuser. Being a child and seeing one’s parent and role model go through all of that while experiencing it oneself is certainly detrimental to one’s development. According to Factors Affecting the Use of Medical, Mental Health, Alcohol, and Drug Treatment Services by Homeless Adults, homeless children have more health problems, are socially lacking, and experience severe learning disabilities compared to non-homeless children. Homeless children should be taken from the streets and put into foster care so they can have a semi-stable home, health care, and are protected from the psychological and physical abuse that comes from living with homeless parents. The foster care system is designed to give children the proper care they deserve while their parents get back on their feet. Once you are able to give your child a proper upbringing, you can appeal to get your children back. If you really love your children, you will do what is truly best for them.

References

Barnes, J. (1999). Homeless children: Problems and needs. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Highest coc homeless population and rates. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.endhomelessness.org Homeless children. (1999). America, 181(15). Padgett, D., Struening, E., & Andrews, H. (1990). Factors affecting the use of medical mental health, alcohol, and drug treatment services by homeless adults, 28, 805-821. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Rafferty, Y. (1995). The legal rights and educational problems of homeless children and youth. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 17(1), 39-61. The universal declaration of human rights. Retrieved from http://www.un.org Vostanis, P. (1999). Homeless children: Problems and needs, 68-82, 154-168. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

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photo by Gabriel Radley


eritage squar


The Great Wall of Culture: Why Cultural Competence is Key to Healthcare by Emily Sullivan

From Chinese acupuncture to Indian Ayurveda, every nation has its own unique history of medicine, and many of the people who immigrate to the United States retain their cultural traditions regarding health. In 1980, Foua and Nao Kao Lee came to America with their children as Hmong refugees from Laos, only to be confronted by an entirely new array of oppression (Fadiman, 1997, p. 6-7). Their daughter Lia was just three months old when she experienced her first epileptic fit (Fadiman, 1997, p. 20), which became the precursor to an extensive string of medical emergencies ultimately ending in Lia’s death, all because of the massive cultural rift which stood between the Lee family and Lia’s doctors. What’s more, their story could have had a far less disastrous end if the physicians and social workers involved had been trained in cultural competency. By Western standards, Lia’s doctors were brilliant. Fadiman described them as a super-team worthy of being crowned “perfect” doctors: the husband and wife team had both been high school valedictorians, Berkeley graduates, and had their lives perfectly organized to a T (1997, p. 41). Two of their past students even attested that “Neil ‘n’ Peggy know everything and they never make mistakes” (Fadiman, 1997, p. 42). So how did Lia’s case go so terribly wrong? For one, “Neil ‘n’ Peggy” encountered some unprecedented obstacles: an impossibly stubborn foreign family, and the accompanying cultural barrier comparable in magnitude to the Great Wall of China. When a typical patient comes into a health care clinic, they are treated with speed and efficiency. Because, after all, they are people: human beings whose friends and family are trusting the physicians to heal their loved one. So why should the quality of care be any different simply because someone is not what one would consider a “typical patient”? What if they or their family members do not speak English, or are even deaf or mute? One of the first physicians the Lee family encountered in their arduous journey through the American medical system with Lia said that when he dealt with Hmong families who were not fluent in English, he would “‘practice veterinary Medicine” (Fadiman, 1997, p. 25), essentially equating Hmong families to animals. But as one Hmong woman 45


The Great Wall of Culture: Why Cultural Competence is Key to Healthcare

said, “I don’t want any doctor to treat me like an animal. Animals, they don’t understand, but human beings do, we do know how to talk. We do understand like anyone who is a human being. We are just refugees but we are human beings like any doctor too (Fadiman, 1997, p. 84).” Proper communication is vital in health care. If a doctor cannot speak with a patient or a patient’s family, how is he or she to know what is wrong with that person, or gain consent for diagnostic procedures? As the Hmong woman said, her people – and those of other cultures – are capable of understanding. It is a matter of how health care providers help their patients understand that is imperative. Says Putsch and Joyce, “western medicine has developed into a subculture with its own history, language, codes of conduct, expectations, methods, technologies, and concerns about the science which supports it (1990).” The barrier of understanding pertains to more than American culture versus foreign culture. Even a person of Caucasian descent born and raised in America may have difficulty understanding the “language” of the medical community. Cultural competence allows physicians to provide patients from all backgrounds with highquality, personalized health care. The entire medical facility needs to be ready to act and administer care to anyone, at any time. One of the biggest problems faced by the Lees was that the hospital Lia was taken to, Merced Community Medical Center (MCMC) did not have a Hmong interpreter; rather, because of budget issues, the only person at the hospital who could speak any Hmong was the Laotian janitor, whose Hmong and English were both sub-par (Fadiman, 1997, p.26). Later, they did begin to hire other bilingual medical staff (Fadiman, 1997, p.25). Even so, a properly trained translator would have been a prudent expense because of the hospital’s high numbers of Hmong patients. At the time, over 20% of Merced’s population consisted of Hmong refugees and immigrants (Fadiman, 1997, p. 24). The medical staff at MCMC also could have researched the culture of the Hmong people, especially because many had remarked that patients within this group had histories of being particularly difficult. If MCMC had been able to provide a Hmong interpreter from the beginning, the differing beliefs of the Lees and the physicians at MCMC could have been uncovered before it was too late. Still, critics of culturally competent health care claim that culture cannot be simplified to a mere “technical skill” (Kleinman & Benson, 2006). However, Betancourt described cultural competence best, stating that “cultural competence is not a panacea that will single-handedly improve health outcomes and eliminate disparities, but a necessary set of skills for physicians who wish to deliver high-quality care to all patients (2004, p. 2).” Therefore, while it is certainly not realistic to expect every hospital in the United States to have a specialist for every culture on earth, it may be a necessity in some clinics to have one or two interpreters to serve a certain demographic of people in an area. “Cultural interpretations of health and illness are factors that contribute to a patient’s decision to accept or reject the advice of their health care professional,” 46


The Great Wall of Culture: Why Cultural Competence is Key to Healthcare

says George (2009, p. 9). Clinicians need to gain the trust and confidence of their patients in order to treat them effectively, and if accurate communication and understanding is accomplished, then patients are more likely to be confident in their doctors’ choices. Many minority groups in America avoid hospitals and clinics because of past events or out of fear of prejudice (Betancourt, Green & Carrillo, p. 4). Some groups, especially those who are immigrants or refugees, may simply have an extreme misunderstanding of how the Western medical system works. The entire Hmong community believed that American doctors ate the organs that were removed from their patients’ bodies, and that when a person died, they were sent somewhere to be cut into pieces and canned like tuna (Fadiman, 1997, p.32). Speaking with a patient and learning what their fears are can help a physician immensely in not only gaining trust, but in learning about the patient’s cultural beliefs. Unfortunately, there was very little communication between Lia’s family and her doctors. George wrote that when a patient’s cultural beliefs are unveiled through proper communication, the reason for his or her hesitance towards a certain treatment can be identified, and a culturally appropriate response plan can be devised (2001). There were seldom points in which the medical circumstances Lia was under were able to be fully explained to her parents. In fact, the Lees had filled out and signed numerous documents – birth certificates, delivery room records, and medical release forms – with many vital details of information and explanations of procedures left unexplained because of the language barrier (Fadiman, 1997, p. 7-8). The efforts to bridge the gap between the Lees and the doctors at MCMC were few and feeble. Therefore, the Lee family’s mistrust of Lia’s doctors and their tendency to stray from her prescriptions grew immensely. A major concern of those skeptical about the benefits of cultural competence is that the practice runs the risk of becoming unethical. Many foreign cultures treat illnesses using what Western cultures consider “alternative” medicine: that is, medicine that is not “standard” (Kelner & Wellman, p. 2), or is not scientifically proven. Controversy surrounds whether or not many alternative forms of medicine are truly effective, and some forms have become notorious for causing negative reactions (Kellner & Wellman, p. 5). This has led some physicians to discount alternative treatments as ethically devoid frauds and “quackery.” However, if a patient and his or her family strongly believes that a medical procedure – such as Lia’s spinal tap – is going to end in some form of eternal punishment or despair, which is more ethical: putting the patient and family through the psychological torment of condemnation by pushing for the procedure, or allowing them to use an alternative therapy despite the possibility of the treatment not being effective? This is a real issue in America, as many religions and ethnicities have rules regarding medical treatments. The Hmong, for example, believe that if anything is removed from the body, his or her body will no longer be “complete” (Fadiman, 1997, p. 32). Therefore, Foua

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The Great Wall of Culture: Why Cultural Competence is Key to Healthcare

and Nao Kao blamed Lia’s comatose state on the spinal tap performed on their daughter, saying that “they just sucked her backbone like that and it makes me disappointed and sad because that is how Lia was lost (Fadiman, 1997, p. 148).” Unorthodox medical beliefs are not only seen in minority immigrant and refugee groups, either: Jehovah’s Witnesses are religiously bound to reject surgery and blood transfusions (American Medical Association, 1981, p.1). Therefore, it is very necessary for physicians to be prepared to treat ‘resistant’ patients at any time. So how are the lines between neglect, malpractice, and ethics drawn in these situations? Lia’s doctors could not simply sit and wait to see if she had sepsis (Fadiman, 1997, p. 148). They needed to act quickly, and the most efficient method they had was to perform a spinal tap (Fadiman, 1997, p. 148). However, where Lia’s doctors went wrong with this was failing to obtain her parents’ consent. Her father, Nao Kao, said of the procedure, “I don’t know why they did it. I wasn’t there yet and they didn’t give me any paper to sign (Fadiman, 1997, p. 148).” At this time, Lia was also given countless numbers of drugs and a further series of strange and terrifying medical procedures (Fadiman, 1997, p. 148-149). And by the end of this final visit, which Fadiman referred to as Lia’s “crash” (1997, p. 148), the young girl was no longer the hyperactive, jubilant child she had been. She had become a vegetable (Fadiman, 1997, p. 151). According to La Puma, medical ethics dictate that it is the right of the patient to determine how their health care regime is set up (1995, p. 4). In Lia’s case, because she was a minor and, for the most part, incapacitated, her treatments should have been decided by her parents. It is simple to see that if Foua and Nao Kao had been properly informed of all of the medications and procedures performed on Lia, they would have agreed to very few of them. Maybe Lia would have died even more prematurely, but would her death and her family’s experience have been so horrific as witnessing alien procedures be performed on their child (Fadiman, 1997, p. 149-151) and having her taken away from her family with no explanation (Fadiman, 1997, p. 82)? But then, how would this have reflected on Neil and Peggy? Just as Lia’s family did not understand their medicine, the American doctors had little knowledge about the Lees’ ideas of medicine. Additionally, they could have been chastised by the ever-skeptical Hmong community for being prejudiced, or have been punished for not reporting Lia’s parents for neglect (Fadiman, 1997, p. 82). As doctors with children of their own, all they wanted was to help Lia: this poor, sick child whose parents seemed not to care what happened to her (Fadiman, 1997, p. 82). Paasche-Orlow described the concept of cultural competency as focusing on the patient too much, leaving little regard for the clinician’s moral conscience (p. 3-4). However, good cultural competency does not call for a total cast off of modern medicine. In many cases, physicians can present procedures to patients in a way they understand and even find modern alternatives that are sounder

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than other non-traditional medicine. For example, many cultures perceive hot and cold as having an effect on the health of an individual and relate hot and cold to colors like red and blue (La Puma, 1995, p.4). Therefore, if pneumonia is considered a “cold” disease by a patient, he or she may be more inclined to take medication for it if it is a “warm” color such as red or orange (La Puma, 1995, p. 4). Is it possible that by understanding the Hmong culture more, Neil and Peggy could have succeeded in coercing Foua and Nao Kao into treating Lia with modern medicine? Because the doctors did not realize until it was too late that Lia’s parents were not giving her the correct amounts of medications, the prescriptions were changed and added to frequently (Fadiman, 1997, p. 58). Fadiman made a point of stating that if Lia’s doctors had changed her prescriptions less, Foua and Nao Kao may have had more confidence in the doctors’ decisions and stuck with the prescriptions (1997, p. 78). They even could have presented the medications from a less scientific standpoint. As George noted, understanding the patient’s culture is paramount to determining treatments (2001). If Neil and Peggy had understood that the Hmong culture views illnesses, particularly epilepsy, as spiritual ailments, they could have described Lia’s medications as being able to fix that aspect of Lia’s body, or having the ability to ward off the evil, soul-stealing “dabs” which the Hmong believe cause individuals to suffer from seizures (Fadiman, 1997, p. 20-28). Perhaps, in a culturally competent setting, the ancient Hmong culture and the highly advanced medical culture could have worked together and both had their ways. Today, massive strides in the idea of cultural competency in health care have been made. However, it is still a novel and developing idea. And while it still may have some ethical conflicts, this does not mean that we should dismiss it as being a burden on modern medicine. If Lia were to be taken to a present-day hospital, how would her treatment be different? Or, over thirty years later, would it be any different at all? More attention must be drawn to the conflicts of cultures in medicine to prevent another case like Lia’s from happening. Hospitals need access to translators that fit their facility’s demographics. Physicians need to be aware of differing cultural beliefs, and must be willing to explore their patients’ beliefs if they want to succeed at what Neil and Peggy had tried their best to do: save a life.

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References

Betancourt, J. R. September 2004. Cultural competency – Marginal or mainstream movement? New England Journal of Medicine, 315. February 21, 2012. Betancourt, J. R., Green, A. R., & Carrillo, E. J. The challenges of cross cultural health care - Diversity, ethics, and the medical encounter. Bioethics Forum, 16. February 26, 2012. Fadiman, A. 1997. The spirit catches you and you fall down. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. George, M. 2001. The challenge of culturally competent health care: Applications for asthma. Heart and Lung: The Journal of Acute and Critical Care, 40(5), 392-400. American Medical Association. 1981. Jehovah’s Witnesses: The surgical/ethical challenge. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) 246(21). http://www.watchtower.org/e/hb/article_06.htm Kleinman, A., & Benson, P. 2006. Anthropology in the clinic: The problem of cultural competency and how to fix It. PLoS Med 3(10). La Puma, J. 1995. Cultural diversity in medicine and medical ethics: What are the key questions? Bioethics Forum. Kelner, M., & Wellman, B. Complementary and alternative medicine: How do we know if it works? Healthcare Papers 3(5). Paasche-Orlow, M. 2004. The ethics of cultural competence. Academic Medicine, 79(4). Putsch, R. W., & Joyce, M. 1990. Dealing with patients from other cultures. Walker H. K., Hall W. D., Hurst J. W., Clinical methods: The history, physical, and laboratory examinations. Boston, MA: Butterworths.

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drawing by Jessica Matthies


Violence Against Women: Rape in the Congo by Jessica Lopez

Values, mores, and norm — all are necessary for the formation of cultures. These signal what is of worth to the society as a whole. Likewise, they signal what is not acceptable and even criminal. When evils become common in a society, it signals a deterioration of said culture. Presently, a great harm is being committed against a group that will permanently alter the psyche of its members. Rape is a taboo in our society but on the other side of the hemisphere, this type of violence has become disturbingly normal. This degrading crime is occurring at an alarming rate in the continent of Africa. This is especially true in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo), where turmoil seeps through the deceitfully calm surface and into the country’s chaotic war-torn center, where rape is an acceptable weapon. The foundation of the Congo’s government is unstable and plagued by corruption, injustice, and violence. This is reflected by the actions of militia groups as well as military personnel who have raped. This crumbling core affects all citizens but especially women. The abductions, rapes, and murders have impacted a vast majority of women and leads to the prolonging of suffering. The Congo as a country has lost its direction: unstable government leadership, continuous state of war, and a destitute population all contribute to this mishap (Jackson, 2006). Congo Rape and Violence: History and Catalysts The Congo is tremendously wealthy and abundant in diamonds, tantalum, tin, copper, zinc and cobalt; however, the natural resources are not benefiting the people (Mukwege, 2010, p. 163-164). Instead, the Congo is divided with rebels, corrupt governments, and foreign investors all fighting for the country’s wealth. This has often been the core reason for the conflicts that are so prevalent in this region. The Congo has a past of warfare that still affects the country today. The most recent conflict dates back to the 1960’s when Joseph Mobutu seized control of the country. Once he obtained sufficient power he began exploiting the resources in order to remain in dictatorial control (Mukwege, 2010, p. 163-164). It was 52


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under his rule when the rape epidemic boomed. His failure in encouraging and executing a positive change for the Congolese citizens is an obvious sign of the severity of this issue. The people have also lacked progress. In 2006, 66 million people held a historic election intended to end Congo’s various wars and rebellion and its sedentary government (Gettleman, 2007). Despite their efforts, the elections have not significantly strengthened the Congolese government or their attempt to diminish renegade forces. The justice system and the military system are still flawed and, according to United Nations officials, the Congolese government troops are among the worst offenders when it comes to rape (Gettleman, 2007). It is common to find large swaths of the country, especially in the east, devolved into authority-free zones where civilians are at the mercy of armed groups who have made warfare a livelihood and survive by raiding villages and holding women for ransom. Some of this group conflict results from the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. Beginning in 1994, the violent conflict between Hutu and Tutsis led to one million dead from murder, rape, starvation, and disease. These casualties accounted for one quarter of Rwanda’s population (Mukwege, 2010, p. 163-164). Many members of the Hutu militia who, after committing genocide, fled from Rwanda to the Congo are said to make up a modern day vicious and violent group who condone rape, the Rastas. An insight to their world was revealed by 18-year-old Honorata Barinjibanwa who said she was kidnapped from her village that the Rastas raided. She was held captive for five months during which she was tied to a tree and only untied for a few hours each day to be gang-raped. Why Women are Vulnerable Tribal cultures are still the norm and this subjects women to a nomadic lifestyle. This same nomadic way of life keeps women on a trail of constant emotional turmoil. Many women find themselves fleeing their own villages after they have been raided and destroyed. They travel alongside other women, also victims. They carry the few items they managed to salvage during their escapes and travel aimlessly with their children in tow. Finding a safe place to sleep for at least one night becomes the primary concern of these mothers. Even though these women have mastered their domestic duties, they lack the basic skills needed to support themselves. According to The Greatest Silence, a documentary by Lisa Jackson, in Eastern Congo two-thirds of women are illiterate with few resources for learning new skills (Jackson, 2006). Their lack of skills and knowledge holds them back from pursuing a better life and it also contributes to their silence. They have no voice, no power. Their culture sees victims of rape, yet never hears them. Corruption Feeds the Cycle An even greater shock is the lack of control that the government has over the situation. After all, this is why so many rapes are happening and these numbers show no sign of stopping or reducing. The vicious cycle is kept alive through 53


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ignorance, corruption, and lack of authority. This characterization stems and flows from the nation’s roots, from the government to the military. Almost non-existent leadership coupled with unrecognizable government structure shows there is no visible way to change the reasoning of the perpetrators. Soldiers have a certain system by which to abide. According to this system there are distinct forms of rape: lust rape and evil rape. Their reasoning and logic help keep them at ease after the damage is done. To them, it is not whether or not a soldier raped a woman; it is why he raped a woman. Lust rape, for example, is when a man is away from his woman and has needs and no money. Evil rapes are to humiliate and strip the dignity from people (Baaz, 2009, p. 1-3). The military men who take advantage of their authority and rape women have little or no remorse. When Lisa Jackson asked a few soldiers about how many women they had sexual relations with, each soldier held up their hands and raised more than five fingers to quantify their victims. When she questioned a soldier about his proclaimed intimacy he answered, “I have slept with women …if she says no I must take her by force. If she is strong I will call some friends to help me…” (Jackson, 2006). These very words were said carelessly and nonchalant while facing a camera. This gross mindset of dominance is common in these soldiers. They see nothing wrong with their actions, especially if it was a “lust rape.” In fact, they believe a woman should serve a purpose, to please men. These men make the Congolese women out to be weak and defenseless. What is worse is that these women begin to believe this as well. A Nation of Destitution The universal poverty is another contributing factor to this infinite violence. This is a nation that lacks the infrastructure of a proper educational system, health care, and transportation (Mukwege, 2010, p. 1-3). This facilitates the crimes that take place because their victims have little resources to protect themselves, let alone fight. The soldiers also face a similar dilemma. They lack supplies and are ordered to live off the land and, as such, they take what they want and need. This does not exclude the taking of women and children. However, the military only makes up a portion of the abusers. There are many militias such as the Rastas who hide out in the woods, raid villages, and rape and kill women and children. A group such as the Rastas is too strong to be taken down by the authorities (Jackson, 2006). Thus, these militia groups continue to commit such inhuman crimes. Rape Epidemic According to The Greatest Silence, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has had over 200,000 reported rape victims in the last decade. Keep in mind, common knowledge regarding sexual assaults is significantly under-reported. Moreover, lethal and violent methods are used to carry out these sexual acts; naturally, this adds exponentially to the victims suffering. 54


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These heinous rapes deprive survivors from living a normal life. According to Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, his patients range from girls as young as eight to women as old as eighty who have all been included in this ring of perpetual suffering. These women are not only robbed of their dignity but they then must endure even further consequences of the sexual violation. This includes: • Seeking medical attention for the damage that had been done to their bodies • For some, having to care for any offspring resulting from the rape • Coping with the psychological effects that follow. Results of Rape The modern and silent battle is the one that continues to attack women. The Panzi hospital has 350 beds, yet continues to send women back to their villages before they have fully recovered because it needs space for the continuous stream of new arrivals (Gettleman, 2007). According to Malteser International, a European aid organization that runs health clinics in eastern Congo, in the town of Shabunda, 70 percent of the women reported being sexually brutalized. “We don’t know why these rapes are happening, but one thing is clear,” said Dr. Denis Mukwege, who works in South Kivu Province, the epicenter of Congo’s rape epidemic, “they are done to destroy women” (Gettleman, 2007). Physical Damage Rape may cause many to suffer more personal and in-depth effects. The damage that is done reaches such great heights because at times these women only represent a statistic, but each person has their individual story that needs to be told. Every single person agonized and endured pain but all cope differently with the situation. Some women seek medical help, in an attempt to heal the wounds. The Panzi hospital is funded by international agencies and the women do not have to pay. For this reason, many women travel for miles in order to reach Dr. Mukwege. The distance is overbearing and physically demanding. For a woman who has just suffered an attack, the journey can wait. Unfortunately, many are never able to make it to this hospital for medical attention. As Dr. Mukwege stated, “Those that make it to the Panzi hospital, are just the tip of the ice berg” (Jackson, 2006). Even then the hospital is always overflowing with women. For this reason the hospital is unable to give an exact number of victims; how many victims are still suffering in their village because no one was able to take them to the hospital? The graph further breaks down the multiple effects that many endure after the rape. Once examined and treated, some women need to have surgery to repair their mutilated vaginas. This condition is called fistula, the long term repercussion of the rape. This came about because after the raping, sticks and guns were used intentionally to destroy the uterus, tearing the wall between vagina, bladder, and rectum. Many undergo multiple surgeries but despite the doctors’ efforts most will remain chronically incontinent; which means that they are no longer able to retain bodily discharges (Jackson, 2006). 55


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Most of the patients are expected to remain hospitalized for at least a year in order for proper recovery to take place. Aside from the mutilation and humiliation, it was discovered that 30 percent of the victims treated had contracted HIV and a majority conceived a child. Children out of Wedlock Where rape has been used as a weapon, it has damaged the hearts and minds of future mothers. Immakilea is from South Kivu and was 18 when she was interviewed by Lisa Jackson. Immakilea was raped by Rwandan soldiers when she was only 15. She became pregnant with her daughter Lumiere, which means “a light.” She says that she will tell her daughter that her father is unknown and that she was raped and taken by force. “There is nothing I can do about the past but sometimes I spend my days crying. I really don’t have a plan for the future. I hope that by the grace of God I will find someone who will marry me.” As she spoke, tears streamed down her face and the trauma became visible. To think that at such a young age her dreams of ever being married were shattered. Unfortunately, Immakilea is not alone in her grief. The women who are tainted by rape are said to be a vast majority of the population. According to the United Nations, 27,000 sexual assaults were reported in 2006 in South Kivu Province alone, and, as previously mentioned, that may be just a fraction of the total number since rapes are grossly under-reported (Gettleman, 2007). Discrimination Whenever a woman is attacked, there is a chance that she will never see the light of day again. Some women die as a result of the raping. For the women who survive, normalcy is no longer an option. Rather, these women continue to be afflicted in ways that reshape their lives. It is not uncommon for family members to disown the victims after they have been sexually assaulted. Many victims of rape are shunned because of the incident, Marie Jeanne, a 34- year-old mother, said that her own husband told their eight children that, “… she wanted to get raped” (Jackson, 2006). Saying that this is adding insult to injury would be an understatement. The backbone of many of these victims is severed and they are left to pick up the pieces alone. This mentality breaks down their remaining spirits. Marie Jeanne stated that she blames and hates herself (Jackson, 2006). This genocide and abuse is taking its toll on the lives of these women. The majority of the raped women are abandoned and discriminated against; society no longer accepts them and this rejection is devastating. This leads to a weak and suppressed group of women who are expected to function properly in society, when, in reality, this demand is one the afflicted will never be able to assimilate. Attempted Solutions With an estimated 500,000 rape victims, the interlinked consequences of rape are amplifying the crisis in the Congo (Mukwege, 2010, p. 163-164). It is for this reason that any form of possible solutions seem overwhelming and intricate. 56


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However, immediate assistance can be offered in the form of curative treatment and access to healthcare. Yet, these measures are inadequate. As stated in the Journal of International Health, “What actions from the international community are succeeding if there are three-year-old children being raped?” This continues to be true even today. The number of victims is constantly on the rise and the abusers have no respect for age differences. For years, the United Nation’s troops have resided in the regions where rape and violence is most common, yet change has not been successful. In order to fortify the community against attacks and their abusers, intervention and support from all around the world is deemed necessary, but depends upon lasting peace in the Great Lakes region of eastern Africa (Wakabi, 2008). We the people play a pivotal role in encouraging this change. Waiting on a resolution is certainly not fulfilling our obligations to protect human rights, nor will it prevent further suffering. It is for this reason that action needs to be taken immediately. Abuse that has consumed the Congo will become an old repeated story and women and children will continue to suffer traumatic events, endure physical damage, and cope with a society that no longer accepts them. Different Approach The turmoil that affects the Congo has led to massive abductions, rapes, and murders. This suffering can be prevented through the help of dedicated volunteers, funding programs for education, and the availability of medical attention for all those in need. These small steps can be made to improve the victims’ situation in hopes of saving a life, reducing the lack of education, and the widespread STDs. Because of this, immediate action is necessary. Though drastic change cannot be achieved right away, it is worth helping a few victims at a time. Components of Solution 1. Work toward funding organizations that can help the women stabilize their lives after being raped such as Women for Women International. 2. Expand the access to medical treatment for the women a. For example, the Panzi hospital is funded by international organizations; for this reason the victimized women do not have to pay for visits or treatment. b. Achieved by supporting existing organizations such as Heal My People c. Recruiting more volunteers who are willing to dedicate time to the cause. 3. Encourage and inform supporters of possible contributions that can benefit these victims through generous donations. Desired Outcomes The rape predicament that consumes the lives of many women in the Congo is deluging for any individual who would like to help these victims. It is for this reason and given the circumstances the most attainable solution would

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be to contribute to existing organizations and amplify their efforts instead of starting from the bottom and making little progress. The purpose is to save and change the lives of the troubled and degraded women who endure hardships and poverty. This can be achieved through various forms of support such as donations to proper foundations like Heal My People and volunteering time, knowledge, and moral support. • By giving the women more opportunities to learn new skills, they will take what they learn and use it for their own benefit. A contributing factor that leads to a submissive woman is the lack of skills that one has. Unfortunately, the majority of these women are dependant and cannot find a job outside of domestic chores because they are illiterate and do not possess the proper skills needed to get by. By providing them the skills needed to survive, we also help keep them occupied and working well toward a goal such as escaping the Congo. • Sadly, the Panzi hospital limits access for the women who live in farther away towns. Though the treatment is beneficial, not all women have access to it due to distance and physical inabilities. With the help of the mentioned organizations and donations these victimized women would have more opportunities for receiving medical care. Implementing the Solution Despite how overwhelming this issue may seem, the minimal contribution goes a long way. Heal My People, a HEAL Africa program, was established in 2003 to address the violence targeted toward women in eastern Congo. In the past eight years, the program has evolved to respond more effectively to the issues that are at the root of the problem. Today, almost 40,000 women have been assisted by Heal My People (Women, 2012). This organization helps women who have been raped by providing medical treatment, post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV infection, and psychological and social support. These women are under the wing of Heal My People for five years, where they are given access to literacy training, vocational training, and micro-loans so they are able to start fresh and rebuild their lives. These actions are possible through financial support. Simply visit www.healafrica.org and scroll down to the Get Involved section. Educating the Congolese Women Another effective and globally known program is Women for Women International. This organization focuses on emotional support. They provide direct financial aid, rights awareness education, and vocational training to help generate income through: • Tie-dying: The popularity of tie-dyed fabrics means that they can be sold in both local and global markets • Ceramics production: These women are offered the skills needed to create practical household items for sale in local markets 58


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• Bread making: Program participants learn the basics of baking and earn an income from the sale of baked goods • Other courses include: Agriculture, beauty care, culinary arts, soapmaking, retail sales, and tailoring. Women for Women International give these women the value that they forgot they possessed as human beings. Here is an example of how this program has established itself in the heart of the regions where help is most needed. In one year, almost 20,000 letters were exchanged between the program participants and the sponsors (Who, 2012). This type of communication serves as the moral support and encouragement that these women need to overcome their dark past. Among Women for Women International—Democratic Republic of Congo program participants and graduates: • 88 percent report improvements in both physical and mental health • 83 percent report improvements in their economic situation • 98 percent of participants leave the program with knowledge of their legal rights • 90 percent of women train and mentor other women in their communities (Who, 2012). • These rates demenstrate obvious progression and benefits for these women Since 1993, Women for Women International has helped over 285,000 women and men in 169 countries worldwide by reaching out and supporting women survivors of war (Who, 2012). It is obvious that with time this program has managed to improve the lives of more victims—one woman at a time. With ongoing support, this organization will continue to address women’s needs and especially take care of rape victims who need the extra hand. This progression can be moved along the way by visiting their website, www.womenforwomen.org and either decide to get involved or donate in an attempt to help a devastated woman on the other side of the hemisphere. Through these organizations the wanted resolution can be achieved. These are the small steps that begin to shape and change each individual despite the fact that these organizations help but only after the rape has occurred. This not only is a personal reward for the rape victims but for their families and their country. The violence in the Congo has tainted many lives for many years. The damage is embedded deep within the hearts of these women. For this reason, drastic change cannot be expected so soon. It will take time and strength for these Congolese women to recover. They can do so through the multiple programs offered by these organizations, which are funded by supporters who are in interested in making this positive outreach.

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References

Ba, A. (2011, September). Working against all odds to improve maternal health in DRC. UNFPA. Retrieved from http://www.ufpa.org/public Baaz, M., Stern, M. (2009). Why do soldiers rape? International Studies Quarterly, 1-3. Gettleman, J. (2007, October 7). Rape epidemic raises trauma of Congo war. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com Jackson, L. F. (Director). (2006). The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo. [Documentary]. United States: Jackson Films Mukwege, D., Mohamed-Ahmed, O., Fitchett, J. R. (2010). Rape as a strategy of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Journal of International Health, 163-164. doi: 10.1016/j.inhe.2010.06.003 The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo. (2006). Retrieved from http://www.thegreatestsilence.org/about Wakabi, W. (2008, January). Sexual violence increasing in Democratic Republic of Congo. The Lancet, 15-16. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(08)60051-3 Who Makes It All Happen. (2010). Women forWomen. Retrieved from http://www.womenforwomen.org Women: Heal My People. (2012). Heal Africa. Retrieved from http://www.healafrica.org

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African Aid and an American Crisis by Jacob C. Solares

Have you ever heard the saying “charity starts at home”? During a recession as bad as the one we are currently in, a reallocation of capital would help bring a sense of normalcy back to the American working class. Fortunately, there is a sum amount of funds that is readily available. Money that would go to foreign donation groups, specifically African aid donation groups, would be better used to help Americans in need during such a fragile time. Aid money can bring harm to those that many believe they are helping and those who distribute aid aren’t always reliable or helpful, but more importantly these funds will be better used because Americans can really use the help right now. Let’s harp on the touchy subject of taking African aid money. Aside from finally putting an end to the sappy and unnecessarily depressing commercials, removing our contributions to these countries can help more than drowning them in donations. Dambisa Moyo offers many examples about how foreign aid to African countries can prove to be more harmful than helpful. First, Moyo points out that the abundance of “free money” helps keep many dictators in Africa in power. According to her findings, “[a government] doesn’t need to raise taxes, and as long as it pays the army, it doesn’t have to take account of its disgruntled citizens” (2009). With civil cries being stamped out by the feet of a well-paid army, corrupt governments are allowed to adopt dictatorial practices, which are indirectly funded by African aid money. Moyo notes “Malawi’s former President Bakili Muluzi was charged with embezzling aid money worth 12 million dollars” (2009). Unfortunately, Muluzi is not the only dictator to abuse aid money; as long as the money is there, they will keep indulging in it. Along with the hardships that accompany cash donations, other forms of donation may be equally as destructive. Moyo also illustrates very well how non-monetary donations from western civilizations can wreak as much havoc as capital infusions: Say there is a mosquito-net maker in small-town Africa. Say he employs 10 people who together manufacture 500 nets a week. Typically, these 10 employees support upward of 15 relatives each. A Western governmentinspired program generously supplies the affected region with 100,000

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free mosquito nets. This promptly puts the mosquito net manufacturer out of business, and now his 10 employees can no longer support their 150 dependents. In a couple of years, most of the donated nets will be torn and useless, but now there is no mosquito net maker to go to. They’ll have to get more aid. (2009) Another phenomenon that occurs is the inflation of food costs in African countries due to American food donations. Melissa Roberts, a writer for the Penn Political Review, explains that the United States giving food aid to African countries is actually one of the reasons why African agriculture is suffering (2011). When countries are flooded with food from other countries, it inflates the prices of their own produce and causes agricultural businesses to suffer. Constantly infusing these countries’ economies with capital and products hinders those countries’ ability to stand on their own feet, or be self-sustaining. Ludwig Rudel, author of Foreign Aid: Will It Ever Reach Its Sunset?, emphasizes that the goal of many organizations is to create stability within the country. While there may be a multitude of ways in which sustainability is defined, he tells us that “[sustainability] contributes to the achievement of the goal that aid will, at some point, no longer be needed--thereby making a nation’s economy self sustaining in the global marketplace” (2005, p. 26). Without sustainability, a country is forced to continue receiving help to supplement the losses from not being able to compete with other countries. However, the paradox is that since it is easier to receive money than become competitive, countries succumb to a dependence on aid (Riddell, 2006, p. 363). In Does Foreign Aid Really Work?, David Sogge states that, “the greater a country’s dependence on foreign aid, the worse the quality of its public institutions” (2002, p. 8,). This dependence on help from others continues to be a problem for both the donation makers and those that are helped by them. There are many hiccups between African aid organizations and African countries when it comes to transferring aid from one to another. On one hand, this hiccup can be attributed to the ineffectiveness of African countries to collect and utilize these funds. One way that governments are hindered is that they do not have extensive and/or properly trained human resource departments. Riddell states that, “[aid] recipients have to allocate valuable time and scarce human resources to interact with these different donors and projects” (2006, p. 361). Rudel points out that, “[least developed countries] suffer from varying levels of inefficiency in the manner in which they employ capital resources” (2005, p. 30) These difficulties can be attributed to underdeveloped programs and institutions, undeveloped human resources agencies, and corruptness in governments. Due to these deficiencies, Rudel claims, “It becomes clear that the ultimate responsibility for aid utilization and effectiveness rests exclusively with the recipient country’s government and not with the aid donors” (2005, p. 32). While this may be a bold statement, it does hold some ground. It can be argued that it is the donator’s fault for the ineffectiveness of their aid actually 62


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helping these countries. Due to the imbalance of responsibility and action on the side of donators, “Foreign aid faces expectation that it cannot reasonably meet. It is simply overburdened with too much hope and hype” (Sogge, 2002, p. 9). This could be due to the horridly depressing Save the Children campaigns and the like. These campaigns make Americans of all shapes and sizes dump their hard earned money into one organization, but they do not know what that organization does with it once they get it. The American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) is one of many institutions that rates businesses and organizations on their helpfulness and efficiency. They know what happens to this money once it is out of our hands, and the results are not too pretty: [Feed the Children] emphasizes feeding hungry children in its name and most of its fundraising and [public relations]. Yet, food is not mentioned in the breakouts of noncash property received in FC’s fiscal 2008 tax form. These breakouts account for $736 million or 69 percent of the total noncash items received consisting of $584.5 million or 83 percent medicine; 52.2 million dollars or 7 percent books; and the rest ‘assorted necessities’ and ‘disaster relief supplies’ (2009). The AIP has expressed very strong feelings about Feed The Children in their articles, “from forged audits and alleged employee theft in the late 90s, to alleged burglary and board coup staging within the past year, no other major charity can match Feed the Children’s record of outrageous behaviors over the past 10 years” (American Institute of Philanthropy, 2009). This inability to fulfill the goals that they set out to accomplish hinders needy countries’ ability to successfully utilize the resources provided to them. The approach that many organizations take when giving out donations can be likened to the “Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s line from The Cherry Orchard: ‘someone gets sick... and the doctor suggests one thing after another, that means there’s no cure...’” (Rudel, 2005, p. 28). By drowning countries in aid, organizations hope that the problem will sort itself out on its own, ultimately leaving these countries to solve their own the problem themselves while being immersed in capital that serves little to no specific purpose. Whether this is the organizations’ fault or the countries’ fault is not important; what is important is that there are already many difficulties when donating to charity organizations. It is much simpler to donate to a local charity as opposed one overseas. Aside from charities that provide aid overseas, many Americans overlook local charities because America is thought of as number one. However, America is not quite as healthy as one might assume; “the costs to America associated with childhood poverty total 500 billion dollars per year — the equivalent of nearly four percent of GDP. In other words we can raise our overall consumption of goods and services and our quality of life by about half a trillion dollars a year if childhood poverty were eliminated” (Holzer, Schanzenbach, & Duncan, 2007, 63


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p. 2). The effects of poverty in children alone is pretty staggering, and Holzer et al. merely emphasize the monetary costs of it. They also claim, “poverty early in life may be most damaging, it might well be true that even short spells of poverty during those years can impose large and permanent costs to children” (Holzer et al., 2007, p. 8). Because even short periods of time where children are exposed to poverty can result in lasting detriments, it is imperative that these conditions be minimized as much as possible. Holzer et al. express with great importance that widespread good pre-kindergarten programs would more than pay for the costs implementing them (2007, p. 24). They also remind us that “the mechanisms through which poverty hurts children may not be exclusively (or even primarily) financial” (2007, p. 16). With the pressures coming down on public schools across Arizona alone, it is not hard to imagine why children would be left behind. With the closing or disbanding of school programs such as the performing arts or, as in my school, several sports programs, children are left without a safe means to express themselves. Regrettably, children in poverty, specifically those in the bottom fifth of the income bracket, are 130 percent more likely to commit a serious crime as opposed to children from the upper fifth of the income bracket (Holzer et al., 2007, p. 16). Organizations such as this one can help families and others who are in poverty get the help that they need to better themselves and their community. One of the AIP’s tops organizations is the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization (BBBS). Organizations such as this one are excellent at improving the lives of children. Their studies have shown that ‘Little Brothers’ and ‘Sisters’ are “46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol, and 52 percent less likely to skip school” (Grossman, Resch & Tierney, 2011). Organizations such as these are phenomenal in the help that they bring to children, which would help bring a more immediate and visible change. On the other hand there are local charity organizations that, despite the help they bring, are not as well known. One such organization is St. Joseph the Worker, whose mission is to “assist homeless, low-income and other disadvantaged individuals in their efforts to become self-sufficient through permanent, full-time employment” (St. Joseph the Worker, 2011). Although organizations like these can provide those in severe poverty the means to become stable, “the creation of higher-wage jobs, income supplementation, education and training policies, neighborhood revitalization and housing mobility, marriage promotion, and faith-based initiatives” will help Americans as a whole overcome this recession (Holzer et al., 2007, p. 24). By focusing on putting money into public programs and beneficial organizations such as the ones aforementioned, the recession that Americans have found themselves in can begin to see signs of improvement. With the American economy in such a delicate state, Americans could really use some help dealing with the recession. As bad of a state as many African 64


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countries are in, an influx of aid can actually hurt these fragile countries. Moreover, the median through which they receive aid cannot be trusted. Americans should reallocate the money they are currently contributing to African aid charities such as Feed the Children; the money should instead be used to fund public programs and charity organizations that will help America see an end to this recession.

References

American Institute of Philanthropy. The most outrageous charity in America, Larry Jones’ feed the children. (2009). Holzer, H., Schanzenbach, D., & Duncan, G. (2007). The economic costs of poverty in the United States: Subsequent effects of children growing up poor. Institute for Research on Poverty. Moyo, D. (2009, March 21), Why foreign aid is hurting Africa. The Wall Street Journal. Riddell, R. C. (2006). Chapter 20: Why aid isn’t working. In Does foreign aid really work? (pp. 358-380). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Roberts, M. (2011). Does US food aid cause famine? Penn Political Review. Rudel, L. (2005). Chapter 3: The evolution of the ‘aid relationship’. In Foreign aid: Will it ever reach its sunset? (pp. 21-38). New York: Foreign Policy Association, Inc. Sogge, D. (2002). Chapter 1: Foreign aid: A problem posing as a solution. In Give & take: What’s the matter with foreign aid? (pp. 7-23). New York: Zed Books Ltd. St. Joseph the Worker. (2011). Our mission. Retrieved from http://www.sjwjobs.org/index.html Tierney, J.P. & Grossman, J.B. & Resch, N.L. (2011). Big brothers big sisters. Retrieved from http://www.bbbs.org/site/c.9iILI3NGKhK6F/b.5962351/k.42EB/We_are_ here_to_start_something.htm

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photo by Gabriel Radley


Educating Afghanistan: Teaching Prosperity, Equality, and Peace by Noemi A. Gonzalez

A 10-year-old Afghan girl governed by poverty and lacking access to essential tools for a salubrious life presents America with a different, subtler weapon for taking on Afghan insurgent groups that have posed a threat to the United States since 9/11. This 10-year-old girl will provide a breakthrough for both Americans and Afghans alike longing to lead a more democratic and peaceful country if she is granted access to her education. Providing an education that consists of mathematics, literature and science in Afghanistan will result in the teaching of peace. Replacing Revolutionary Military Affairs (RMA), the official name for advanced robotics machinery used in Afghanistan, along with other military tactics may seem like an idealist approach to dealing with the ongoing ideological war occurring in Central Asia with America, but in turn will benefit both countries. Providing access to an education will not solve all the pressing issues that Afghanistan faces, but it will provide a foundation for solving them. If Americans persuade Afghans to make education accessible to all inhabitants of Afghanistan, the access will not only benefit both countries, but also the two undermined groups in this region of the world: women and children. There will also be both positive economic and social outcomes for all countries in the marketplace. Most critically though, by promoting access to an education, the two undermined groups of Afghanistan will regain their lost human right to learn and then be able to influence political and social change that will send Afghanistan to the path of democracy, and to a separation of religious views within government and policies, at the least. Importance of Education Two years ago, through a non-profit organization based in Arizona, New Global Citizens (NGC), I learned (and dialogued with my high school peers) about the state Afghanistan finds itself in and the state it found itself in more than a decade ago. Through this non-profit organization, a friend and I took the opportunity to form a team and decided to raise funds, advocate and educate the community 68


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about the need to provide an education to women and children. Before my senior year of high school, I lacked the knowledge of where Afghanistan stood on a map, about the Taliban, and about the Afghan culture, along with many more cultures that make up the world. Even so, through the project that our NGC team supported, I realized that the Western presence and influence in Afghanistan should root itself in a sustainable method such as the promotion of education where Afghan locals receive an education taught by Afghan local teachers. As of now, America still sees climactic moments filled with violence and animosity in Afghanistan. Due to the inability of the Afghan government to put a stop to insurgents overpowering rural parts of the country that pose a threat to American troops, journalists, and Afghan citizens, these climactic moments occur. As well, these climactic moments where Afghan citizens become oppressed happen because of the government itself passing discriminatory policies against certain religious groups that typically hinder women. By re-shifting the American mindset to supporting Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), NGOs will then produce sustainable results that will benefit not only a country’s citizens, but also the world’s. I came to this conclusion by learning and advocating for the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) through NGC. An Afghan woman, Sakena Yacoobi, founded the Non-Governmental Organization, AIL. In the institute, the money received by outside supporters goes to teaching local women and men to become teachers who then will teach other women and children in the Afghan community by giving them a primary education for six months, depending how much financial aid may be allocated. Through AIL, I learned that with an education people feel inclined to engage in the politics of their community, influencing change in established policies to benefit those who need it the most, in this case women and children. Educating Afghanistan does not just promote the notion of peace by granting human rights to women and men, but like Stony Brook University Economics Professor Warren Sanderson argues in The New York Times, an education offers imperative and valuable benefits to the world: Education works in several dimensions. More educated mothers have fewer children, reducing the rate of population growth. More educated adults are more capable of adapting to uncertain environmental changes. And more educated individuals have a greater potential for contributing to the solution of our environmental problems. (2011, para. 5) But to really understand why American troops and Americans need to promote an access to an education in Afghanistan with the main target being poor women and children, readers must understand the history of how this country became a war torn area made up of ideological battles, as well as the relationship the United States has with Afghanistan.

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Educating Afghanistan: Teaching Prosperity, Equality, and Peace

History of Afghanistan From 1978 until 1994, Afghanistan engaged in a war with Communism. The war proved to be healthy for men and women alike, except those that radically believed in the Islamic Law. Women enjoyed equal rights and equal job opportunities under the Communist regime (Middleton, 200, p. 422), until 1995 when a group of Islamic school students who had become displeased with the Communist government formed a faction known as the Taliban (Human Rights Watch, 2011, para. 12). The group of students intended to restore and enforce Islamic Law. Considered the literal word of God, the Taliban wanted, and still want, to implement the Quran as policy rather than a constitution of faith. By enforcing their interpretation of Islamic Law, they prohibited women to work outside the home and from attending universities; as a result, they also closed schools for girls in Kabul. Essentially, women’s basic and human rights became annihilated. Later in 2002, after the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration sent in troops to Afghanistan to disentangle the Al-Qaeda group along with Taliban insurgents. After the troops came, the group separated and some members fled to the neighboring country, Pakistan. From then to now, the U.S. has had a relationship made up of tension and animosity with many Afghans arguing that they don’t wish to be westernized, but women and children present a dire situation where they show that they need immediate help from a Western country. Even so, the Bush administration in 2002 may have seen warfare as the immediate and effective solution to protect American and Afghan citizens from terrorism, but today, education should be the leading solution to the pressing issues between Afghanistan and America and between Afghanistan and Afghan insurgents. Ten years ago, it may have seemed that the war was necessary to defend the American culture. And today, it may seem appropriate to bring our troops home and leave Afghans to fend for themselves. However, pulling out troops may cause the weak Afghan government to fall under insurgent powers that may once again pose a larger threat to the world. Our American presence of military defense has become deeply rooted in Afghan culture. Therefore, instead of providing a violent presence in Afghanistan, we should provide a transition from warfare to solidarity by investing ourselves in Afghans’ education and culture. Aftermath Affected by the Civil War in the 1970s and later by the Taliban, impoverished Afghans who lack access to any healthcare, education, and live in criminally infested neighborhoods have a need to the universal human right of an education and more. Promoting access to an education through local grassroots NGOs, which should receive financial support by inside and outside supporters, will effectively aid these impoverished individuals. Through an education these individuals will then have the necessary tools to rise out of their own miseries and use their knowledge to fight back against gangs, misogynists, and remaining 70


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Taliban members. By supporting independent NGOs, we can assure that the education Afghan citizens receive will not be limited to go hand-in-hand with traditional beliefs about what women should be able to learn. The promotion of an education in Afghanistan will have a positive rippleeffect as well, where neighboring countries and local people may be touched by the aftermath from such access, as we saw in the Arab Spring that started in the small country of Tunisia and moved on to the bigger countries like Egypt and Libya. Also, education will allow for this war-torn country to focus on dialogue rather than violence, which will encourage a democratic society. By promoting access to an education for both men and women alike in Afghanistan, rather than focusing on military tactics, the U.S. may help eradicate poverty, a poor economy, and a lack of women’s and children’s rights. Eradicating Poverty and a Poor Economy The individuals that make up rural parts of Afghanistan find themselves confounded by conservative notions with strict societal norms and mostly governed by poverty, thus, impacting the economy negatively. Once born into poverty, the likelihood of impoverished families getting out of poverty becomes little to none without the adequate tools. However, the tools that these countries need must be sustainable; by providing accessible tools to these countries and the people that make them up, these tools will offer an effective method to eradicating their biggest issues, such as poverty. The United States, a leading democratic country with tense ties in Middle East and Central Asian countries, should refocus its tactics from military defense to the promotion of education in order to alleviate the tension poverty causes. The U.S. should shift the spotlight to engaging in efforts to promote grassroots and NGOs to startup the process of making education accessible to the country’s men, women and children because “education contributes directly to the growth of national income by improving the productive capacities of the labor force,” according to researcher at the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) (Roudi-Fahimi & Moghadam, 2003, para. 5). A study done by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization demonstrates that providing access to education, countries such as Egypt, Jordan, and Tunisia will see an economic increase of 3.7 percent (Roudi-Fahimi & Moghadam, 2003, para. 2). If these nearby countries will statistically see an increase in the economy, then, being a similar country, Afghanistan will also see a boost to its economy. An increase in economy will, thus, enable the impoverished parts of Afghanistan to become competitive in global markets and, as well, allow individuals to become competitors in a global and local scale. The research done for PRB also shows that “countries with high illiteracy rates and gender gaps in educational attainment tend to be less competitive,” highlighting that any given country with gender gaps, such as Afghanistan, does not hold the capability to compete on a global scale if one gender is hugely 71


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favored over another (Roudi-Fahimi & Moghadam, 2003, para. 2). Nicholas D. Kristof, columnist for The New York Times and Sheryl WuDunn, former New York Times reporter, are the authors of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. This book chronicles their venture into underdeveloped spheres across the world to find evidence to support their argument that investing in a woman’s education is critical to many aspects of a society. In the chapter “Investing In Education,” Kristof and WuDunn argue “until women are numerate and literate, it is difficult for them to start businesses or contribute meaningfully to their national economies” (2009, p. 170). They go on to assert that granting these rights will also play a role in enhancing a stable economy. Many countries governed by poverty may be made up of conservative notions, warlords, gangs and intolerable and weak governmental structures. Some countries have the capacity to be prosperous and compete in the global market, but corruptions within the political and social system prevent this from occurring. Lebanon, a “vortex of conflict,” provides an example of the latter (Kristof & WuDunn, 2009, p.167). Therefore Afghanistan, like Lebanon, needs to provide an education that will allow poor individuals to have an effective voice among their communities. According to BBC News reporter Dale Gavlak, World Bank officials released a report in 2008 that stated, “Arab states had to make improving education their top priority, because it went hand-in-hand with economic development.” Accordingly, countries like Iraq, Djibouti, Yemen, and Morocco “were ranked the worst educational reformers” (Gavlak, 2008, 12). With troops located in Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries, the U.S. then can help protect the education of the youth by allowing them to jumpstart on calling the shots of their future by providing a basic education. Furthermore, with recent talk about allowing Afghanistan to govern itself without the United State’s constant watch, one of the ways to help transition this country and the others into a stable economy and social situation is through education, considering that four years ago “300 million people in the Arab World were illiterate” (Gavlak, 2008, para. 13), Afghanistan being among one of the countries studied. In his short essay titled Educating for Democracy in a Changing World, Pablo Toral references the findings of Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University, Stephen M. Walt: Stephen M. Walt concluded that the United States should involve itself in ‘fixing’ failed states such as Afghanistan, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone or Somalia not just on humanitarian grounds, because they can affect the national security of the United States since they can become a breeding ground for terrorist organizations. He also points out that the United States ‘cannot go it alone,’ and instead recommends the US government to build an international coalition to advance four main policy areas: antiterrorism, 72


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enhancing control over weapons of mass destruction, reconstructing Afghanistan (and failed states), and rebuilding relations with the Arab and Muslim world. (2007) Rather than focusing just on “humanitarian grounds,” Toral (2007) suggests that America take a path that the United Nations has provided through its Millennium Development Goals, which include eight goals that will help eradicate some of the world’s pressing issues. One of these goals refers to an access to an education that will have substantial economic impact because education makes up one of the “forms” that will bring economic development (Toral, 2007). Furthermore, Toral suggests that violence and simple rebuilding of Afghanistan’s economy may not be enough in tackling issues that arise due to possible insurgencies. Even so, a shift in the U.S.’s manner of handling Afghanistan does not just need to happen in order to alleviate an economy and a poor people, but influencing Afghanistan to promote access to an education to all citizens, especially poor women and children, will have a positive effect on the entire country. Although access to education has improved over the years, many women “are still excluded from education, and many more are enrolled in school but learning too little to prepare them for 21st-century job markets” (Roudi-Fahimi & Moghadam, 2003, para. 2). The economy will not only benefit if impoverished women and children receive their education—minimally through their primary education—through NGOs, but the knowledge of basic math and reading will allow for women and children to play a competent role in society where dialogue with these two groups may seem virtually impossible because of the restrictions they face due to a lack of knowledge and, therefore, a lack of power. Eradicating Lack of Women’s Human Rights Girls and women need access to basic education the most. “Of the world’s 1.3 billion people living in poverty, 70 percent are women. Two-thirds of the world’s nearly one billion illiterates are women and two-thirds of the 130 million children worldwide who are not in school are girls” (Abdi & Schultz, p. 90). The statistics show a system where the value of male children out-ranks the value of females. Afghan male children and adolescents are more likely to be sent off to school by their families, while the girls may be kept away, whether because of financial issues or societal restraints or both. Exemplifying the gender gap among Afghan children, New York Times reporter Jenny Nordberg highlights the story of Afghan Parliament member, Mrs. Rakaat, who has three daughters and a daughter that dresses as a boy because of societal pressures to reproduce male children who can become the bread winners. Mrs. Rakaat tried explaining to Nordberg the reasons behind such measures, but according to the mother, some things happen in Afghanistan unimaginable to Western people (Nordberg, para. 12). However, if women and girls became encouraged and given the opportunity 73


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to attain their primary education, at the minimum, they would grow up to advocate for their rights and participate in society and political matters, pushing for legislation that will benefit all women. But in poor countries and in regions of Afghanistan, the gender gap between boys and girls becomes, as Kristof and WuDunn call it “lethal” (p. xvi). Even so, an Afghan man named Sedanshah told Kristof and WuDunn “a son is an indispensable treasure, while a wife is replaceable” (p. xvi). Sedanshah is not a misogynist, though. He simply abides by what society defines as the way of life. His wife’s situation also demonstrates the norm among poor families. Because girls and women do not have the benefits males do, as in Sedanshah’s situation, saving his son becomes both socially and economically beneficial. As well, a lack of education and ability to partake in society has proven to be a fall-out for married and widowed Afghan women. Arranged into marriage at the age of fourteen, Bidi Aisha suffered from abusive in-laws. In 2009, she defied society by running away back to her family. Aisha’s features were dramatically altered when, after being dragged out of her parents’ home with the permission of a Taliban officer, her husband sliced her nose and ears off. The officer, husband, and others present believed her to be dead, so they left her. She survived and ran away to a women’s shelter located in Kabul, Afghanistan. Uneducated peasant girls face the possibilities of being raped, kidnapped and trafficked, and abused by male predators because these men tend to seek out women and girls who will not be resistant due to a lack of knowledge of how to fight back without being killed. “Education and empowerment training can show girls that femininity does not entail docility, and can nurture assertiveness so that girls and women stand up for themselves” (Kristof & WuDunn, p. 47). As implied, an education may result in lives being saved. By receiving an education, women can not only fight against their condemnation, but also participate in society because “women’s participation in social and political transformation must eventually lead to change” (Abdi & Schultz, p. 87). New York Times’ reporter Dexter Filkins highlights this last point when reporting on Afghan Shiite women protesting a law similar to Taliban policies that grant Shiite men the right to rape their wives if the wives refuse to participate in intercourse: It was an extraordinary scene. Women are mostly illiterate in this impoverished country, and they do not, generally speaking, enjoy anything near the freedom accorded to men. But there they were, most of them young, many in jeans, defying a threatening crowd and calling out slogans heavy with meaning. (Filkins, 2009) Thus, women have the potential to succeed and enforce their participation in society by simply being educated. If Aisha has the opportunity to gain an education, instead of currently hiding, she would be able to publicly denounce the treatment of women in arranged marriages in the area she came from. 74


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Through knowledge, she would have the potential to take up issues to the Afghan Parliament located in Kabul and be able to make sure that the issues that she and other women face must be addressed. Promoting an education in Afghanistan, even so, may seem like a leftist and liberal thought, but conservative minds also promote it. Three summers ago, right-wing New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman highlighted through his article “Teacher, Can We Leave Now?” that when women become educated — minimally educated through a primary education — they are less likely to allow their male children to become Taliban members, less likely to have more children, and less likely to be exploited. Paving the Road to Democracy Many Western organizations advocate the need to provide access to human rights to women. Of many Western organizations, the Nike Foundation and Creating Hope International provide just two examples. The latter supports Sakena Yacoobi’s NGO, Afghan Institute of Learning, from Michigan, exemplifying the need of Western support towards Eastern NGOs. The former, however, appeals to a younger American audience through the creation of videos. Invest in a girl, The Nike Foundation advocates, and she will do the rest; the issues women and girls face to date are no big deal, “just the future of humanity” (2010). By supporting and encouraging access to education for both women and men alike, as the two non-profits do above, both genders may be able to engage in political and societal dialogues that in return can lead to a more democratic society. This may happen when the dialogues between these two groups begin to develop, which can then proceed to the conversation of having a secular country, like Turkey, where all women, including men, have equal access to an education and voting rights among other rights. Conclusion The Chinese adage says that women hold up half the sky (Kristof and WuDunn based their book title on this proverb), but because the proverb only considers gender, one could argue that the math might be a little off. Women, children and men each hold up approximately one third of the sky, and it takes all three to produce an effective country. In order to hold up their share of the sky, women and children must have the necessary tools. Education provides a foundation, so they can have the opportunity to reach for the sky. The plight Afghan women and children face is not an isolated situation just relative to Afghanistan. It is a situation seen across the world from Latin America to Africa. As the Nike Foundation puts it, the future of women and girls may be parallel to the future of humanity. A ten-year-old girl who lacks access to an education among other essential things may be the key to America’s future relations with Afghanistan, whose future relies on dissolving non-secular norms and dissolving the power of insurgent groups. 75


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References

Abdi, A., & Shultz, L. (2008). The short history of women, human rights, and global citizenship. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, Albany. Afghan Institute of Learning. (2007). Retrieved from http://www.afghaninstituteoflearning.org/ Filkins, D. (2009, April 15). Afghan women protest new law on home life. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com Friedman, T. (2009, July 18). Teacher, can we leave now? No. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com Gavlak, D. (2008). Arab education ‘falling behind’. BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.news.bbc.co.uk Human Rights Watch (2011). Background on Afghanistan: History on the War. Retrieved from http://www.hrw.org Kristof, N., & WuDunn, S. (2009). Half the sky: Turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide. New York, NY: Random House, Inc. Middleton, S. (2000). Women’s rights unveiled: Taliban’s treatment of women in Afghanistan. Ross-Blakely Law Library. Retrieved from http://www.heinle.org Nordberg, J. (2010, September 20). Afghan boys are prized, so girls live the part. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com Roudi-Fahimi, F., & Moghadam, V. (2003). Empowering women, developing society: female education in the Middle East and North Africa. Population Census Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.prb.org Sanderson, W. (2011). Educating the masses. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com Toral, P. (2007). Educating for democracy in a changing world. In Fain, S.M., Slater, S.J., & Callejo Perez, D.M. (Eds.). Educating for Democracy in a Changing World. New York: Peter Lang. The Nike Foundation. (2010). The Girl Effect [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.thegirleffect.org

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A Public School Teacher Pay Increase Would Pay for Itself and More by Cuyler Meade

It would be a hard job to come up with a more universal influence upon young people than school. Familial and parental situations differ from child to child. Geography and wealth-levels surely wield a great influence as well, but those are by their nature not universal. Pop culture and television are significant, but there is no state mandate that children watch the same shows as each other five days a week for nine months out of every year of their lives from four-years-old until they’re at least 16. There is for school, and there is no more direct influence within the school than the teacher (Hanushek 2010). I once yearned to teach high school. It is ironic, actually, because I very nearly dropped out when I was in high school myself. I would have, in fact, had it not been for a few special teachers who kept me going and worked to bring out the best in me when I thought I had nothing to offer. Their influence on my life is something for which I will be forever grateful, and for a time, it was something I wanted to reproduce for future generations. Then I got married, and have since faced up to reality. The reality of teaching is that I knew I could not become a teacher and fulfill my greater dream of having a family. It just is not feasible. I am a pretty smart guy, and I know I would have been a great teacher, but it is extremely unlikely I ever will be, because I literally could not afford it. I realized that I have to find something else that will pay me what I am worth so that I can take care of my family. The argument has been made and countered the same way a hundred times: Teachers should be paid more. They get paid far less than peers of similar education levels, or so says the first side. But they only work for two thirds of the year. Their similarly educated peers are working all year and are getting paid similar hourly wages, or so respond the opponents. But they’re ignoring the real issue. As a whole, the relatively very low salary (we will get you numbers, stay tuned), especially the very low maximum salary for the most experienced teachers, is extremely discouraging to a bright-eyed, young, superstar academic, deciding what to study in college and what profession will bring him or her the 77


A Public School Teacher Pay Increase Would Pay for Itself and More

most enjoyment, while paying them what they know they’re worth. That is simple logic, but look at it this way, as well: The best of us are not looking for a job where they have to work less. They are looking for a job where they are able to earn more. It does not mean anything to those who today are becoming doctors, lawyers, engineers, computer programmers, and (highly-successful) journalists that they can have two or three months off in the summer if it means that the most they can EVER make is probably less than 70,000 dollars. That is un-American! We work as hard as you will let us for as much as you will give us! That is, the best of us will. That is why the best of us are not interested in teaching in public schools any more than they are lining up to take a massive pay cut so that they can take a couple months away from the office. So let us forget that old argument. We are having a different one. And it is this: Raising teacher salaries to levels comparable to that of lawyers and businessmen would pay for itself. Higher pay means the State can declare standards for teachers similar to those for their new peers. These standards include training, education, continued improvement, AND hours. There is literally no reason why this highly motivated and engaged new breed of educators would not be willing to work through the year for their top-of-the-line salaries. This means a fully stocked summer school staff, but more than ANYTHING, it means a better-educated citizenry. Giving our youth a vastly superior education means that the unsettlingly high percentage of dropouts would decrease substantially, leading to a lower percentage of unemployed and criminals, which means the State is spending less on welfare, Medicaid, head-start programs, prison (and prisoner) maintenance, cash-assistance, mental health programs, drug rehab programs, CPS, you name it. And this is the key: Those savings would be more than enough to pay for the increase in teacher’s salaries. Here’s what I am going to show: It is four links in a cycle. To make it simple, I have provided a chart at the bottom. First: Increasing teacher salary would make it possible to recruit the best and brightest into the field. It would make the field more competitive, thereby forcing applicants for now sought-after teaching positions to acquire more schooling, better training and more experience in order to increase their chances of securing a now highly-paid job. It would also enable higher standards for educator quality to be enforced, with eager suitors lining up to fill the rolls of the less engaged. Second: Improving teacher quality will significantly improve the chances a student has of graduating high school and going on to college and vocational school. I will supply corresponding estimated numbers from experts. Third: The percentage decrease of high school dropouts would lead to a certain percentage decrease in the demand upon social services like welfare,

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social security, Medicaid, and the like. It would also lead to a drop in the crime rate, decreasing the amount the country is spending on maintaining prisoners and allocating to curtail crime. (It is actually impossible to quantify the real economic impact these isolated events would cause, as the positives coming from this sort of increase in employable, law-abiding, socially conscious citizenry would spiral exponentially beyond the conceivable imagination of any of us, so we will just focus on the above. I will probably mention those other “side benefits” at some point, though.) Fourth, and most important for the sake of this argument: It is from that certain percentage decrease that money for this salary increase will come. While that MAY cancel out any money we would be able to trim from the budget, (and, you will see, it may not), we will have to settle for the net gains of decreased unemployment, lower crime rates, less poverty, increased charitable contributions, a larger pool of income-makers from which to draw taxes, and the eventual cessation of our national slide down the international charts as a country. I realize that is wordy, so here is the chart I promised: Now, it is important to note that every link in this chain has been exhaustively discussed by far more qualified researchers than myself. What I’m attempting to do is complete the cycle. The burden that creates on me is that I must establish valid links between each point. If there is one break in the chain, or if one proposition is invalid, the entire thesis fails. If you are quick, you will notice that I am starting the cycle in an awkward position: the spot where we are spending the money but do not actually have it. And you are right. This country has never spent money it does not have. Glad you caught that. I should leave … Moving on. Better Pay = Better Teachers I went over a lot of the reasoning up top, but let us flesh this argument out with some real numbers and research. Dave Eggers and Ninive Clements Calegari have been advocating for increased pay for educators for a decade. Contributing to The New York Times, they’ve made most of the same connections as I have: the pay that is offered for public school positions combined with the pressure of the profession makes it a prohibitive choice for our best and brightest (2011). 79


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Eggers and Calegari (2011) quote the same number that you will see in the hundreds of papers and books written on this subject stating that “teachers make 14 (sometimes you’ll see 15) percent less than professionals in other occupations that require similar levels of education.” They point out that the 39,000 dollars a year that is the average starting salary for a teacher is quite low on its own, but that the really powerful number is the average maximum salary, which the pair quote (consistent with many other sources) at 67,000 dollars for 25-year veterans in the field. They note, “this prices teachers out of home ownership in 32 metropolitan areas, and makes raising a family on one salary near impossible.” Going along with the massive burnout rate for teachers, especially in the neediest schools, where turnover is 20 percent annually versus the 14 percent national average (costing the country seven billion dollars a year, by the way), that two month break is looking less and less attractive. Teaching children is an attractive profession to the best of us, but if the best of us are who we say they are, why would they settle for a life of zero advancement and massive stress when they could do just as much good for humanity as an engineer, or a scientist or an entrepreneur while having the opportunity to actually make a decent living? The answer is, they would not, and they do not. Commentators like to repeat each other when they say some variation of the following: Most public school teachers are coming from the bottom two-thirds of college classes. The exact accuracy of that figure is somewhat debatable (Di Carlo, 2011). However, the data from which that quip derives is inarguable; the majority of our most highly achieving students are taking their talents to more lucrative professions, and while it’s hard to blame them, what is the obvious result (Auguste, Kihn & Miller, 2010)? The highest achievers in school (which also translates down the line to the most educated beyond bachelor degrees and accomplished in valuable extra-curricular work) are not bringing their potent minds and highly trained skills (nor their high motivation to be the best in their field) to the classroom. This means that the majority of our children are being instructed by the second, third or fourth best and brightest, if not sometimes lower, and the country is suffering for it. And, to get it out of the way, while CERTAINLY there is a percentage of teachers who are highly-skilled and highly-qualified, most are either lured away by the higher-paying, lower-stress careers their friends all got into out of college, or spend time that could be spent focusing on their students at a second job. Nobody is thinking of forcing these great educators out. The idea here is to get them to stick around. It seems logical that we would attract more of the best and brightest to teaching with more competitive salaries; let us quote a study anyway. Auguste, Kihn and Miller (2010) surveyed “top-third students,” or the highest achievers in colleges and discovered that “offering a maximum compensation of 150,000 dollars would attract a 39 percent increase in the number of top third students 80


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becoming teachers, singlehandedly raising the percentage of new teacher hires drawn from the top third to 32 percent, from 23 percent today” and went on to determine that “raising starting salaries to 65,000 dollars and maximum salaries to 150,000 dollars together could increase the number of top-third students entering teaching so that they would comprise 37 percent of all new teachers.” Now, that is a massive increase. We are yet to determine if those numbers are possible. The department of labor gives us the following numbers: Number of teachers employed (in 2008): 3,476,000 Median Annual wages: $47,100 to $51,180 Lowest 10% Wages: $30,970 to $34,280 Top 10% Wages: $75,190 to $80,970 So let us do some extrapolation and get an idea for what we are talking about here. The bottom 10 percent would increase from about 32,000 dollars to 65,000 dollars. That is a pretty big leap: 33,000 dollars, but it is getting up to the neighborhood of the average starting salary for PhDs. That is a little shy of an 11.5 billion dollar increase. 77,000 dollars to 150,000 dollars for the top 10 percent is a 25.4 billion dollar leap. Let us fudge a little and just have a median increase to about 90,000 dollars. That’s about 48,000- 90,000 dollars, which is a 42,000 dollar increase. For the middle 80 percent, that would make a 116.8 billion dollar increase. The total annual salary increase would be about 153.7 billion dollars. WOW! Man, that number sounds big. But remember, when we are talking about the whole country, it is always big. Keep in mind; Medicaid costs the country roughly 380 billion dollars on its own. But either way, that is a lot of money we are going to have to come up with in step four of this process. With that in mind, and considering how staggering those numbers are probably feeling, let us skip ahead a few steps and see if all the rest of this is even worth our time, and then we’ll work in the other two steps in our chain. How much money is this new generation of super teachers going to save the country, anyway? Let us take a look. Higher Graduation Rate = Significant Savings I invite you to check the references I provide, but I will not go into too much detail in the interest of space. This is a difficult topic to address because there are so many costs that come with a poorly educated citizenry. For simplicity now, let us focus on one very measurable metric: high school graduation rate. There are extremely varied estimates regarding the cost of a dropout to the government and the taxpayers, but the numbers are in the billions of dollars per non-graduating class. Every year 1.3 million young people drop out of high school. We get the following regarding the impact that has on the national budget from Carleton.edu (citing and compiling data from the Alliance for Excellence Education [2011] and Alliance for Excellence Education [2010]), an advocacy website dedicated to improving education: 81


A Public School Teacher Pay Increase Would Pay for Itself and More

It is estimated that in the next decade America will lose 3 trillion dollars as a result of dropouts. Not only are there personal costs to each individual who drops out of high school, but social costs as well. Indeed, society is losing a valuable, fully contributing member each time a student decides to drop out. Dropouts end up costing our communities in the form of governmental assistance, jailing charges, and crime and drug money. 40% of young people without a high school diploma received some type of government assistance in 2001, and at the rate students are quitting high school, dropouts are costing the government billions upon billions of dollars. America could also save more than $17 billion annually in Medicaid and health care for the uninsured by graduating all students. Furthermore, statistics show that high school dropouts are 8 times more likely to end up in jail or prison than those who graduate. As the cost for each person who drops out of high school and assumes a life of drugs and/or crime is roughly $2 million, the U.S. government is responsible for footing the roughly $90 billion annual bill. As long as we fail to address the dropout crisis, the communal cost of supporting them will continue to rise. So over the course of 10 years, we’re looking at three trillion dollars. Remember, we only needed 153.7 billion dollars a year for our new teacher pay scale. One hundred fifty-three billion times ten is 1.537 trillion dollars. So we’re already saving a little less than 1.5 trillion dollars just by looking at the above numbers. Now let us take into account a few other things. I mentioned above that the “burnout” referred to by Eggers and Ninive costs the education system seven billion dollars annually to retrain teachers. You will see below that I’m allowing for that to continue for a few years as we replace the teaching force with our new super teachers, but after that we will not be seeing that anymore, because teachers will want to stay to keep their well-compensated jobs. So that’s an extra seven billion dollars in the country’s pockets every year. Whatever could we do with that? Now it is time to start looking at tax revenue. The annual federal tax revenue is over 2.1 trillion dollars. By turning 1.3 million students a year into diplomalevel tax payers, which means increasing their annual tax payments by about 70 percent we would be increasing the federal tax revenue by 6.4 billion dollars every year (1.3 million dropouts/ 311,591,917 total population= .004, or .4 percent of the population) (Council on Virginia’s Future, 2008). Four percent times 2.2 trillion dollars in annual tax revenue (accounting for the improvement in the economy) times .7 (to find 70 percent of the taxes paid by .4% of the country) is 6.4 billion dollars. After ten years, those ten classes of non-dropouts will now be bringing in an increase of 64 billion dollars every year total, and it will rise every year. In 20 years, the increase compared to what it would be with those 20 years worth of kids having dropped out would be 128 billion dollars annually. Coupled 82


A Public School Teacher Pay Increase Would Pay for Itself and More

with the nearly 150 billion dollars we would be saving annually already and the seven billion dollars from the reduced turnover rate, that is creeping up on 300 billion dollars per year in savings. And the above is not even taking into consideration the significance of a higher-performing student versus a lower-performing student, even within that majority that does graduate. Hanushek (2010) found that higher-quality teachers impact the lifetime earnings of their students so significantly that the difference between students taught by top teachers and those taught by the poorest teachers is in the millions of dollars per student. That impacts the gross domestic product, the amount of tax revenue and America’s position as a global superpower in ways this argument cannot possibly explore fully, to the extent that it is not even effective to use it as a variable in the conversation, but it is CERTAINLY something we should not forget. Basically, what we need to realize is not ONLY that the money spent on this proposed increase in salaries would make itself back quickly, but that the country is actually LOSING 300 billion dollars annually by not properly valuing our educators. As you can see, the money will be there. It will not all be there immediately, but it is a short-term investment for a MASSIVE long-term gain. The effect of the nation’s education system failing to reach more kids and help them to graduate from high school is costing the country hundreds of billions. Now let us see how putting that money in the proposed direction might work. Better Teachers = Student Success The crucial finding of Eric A. Hanushek’s life work as an educational researcher is that the number one most important formula for student success is the teacher-student relationship, and that relationship depends more on the quality of the teacher than upon anything else (Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2005). Studies estimate that by increasing teacher aptitude (measured by training and experience alone) by roughly two and a half percent, we can expect to see an increase in graduation rate of roughly two percent. (Ferguson and Gilpin, 2009). Now let us get to work to see how much of an increase in teacher quality we can expect from our salary increase. Our salary increase plan was shown to increase the number of top-third students that choose to go into teaching by about 61 percent. Unfortunately, these variables are not identical. Let us say that an average top-third student that goes into teaching is logically 33 percent better (whether that means more engaged, more motivated or simply smarter) than an average bottom two-thirds student. If we have got three and a half million teachers (we are rounding up just slightly), what we are basically doing, is replacing half a million mediocre teachers with half a million superior teachers. For the sake of our math, let us assign an average teacher a value of one and an excellent (top-third student) teacher a value of one and one third (33 percent better), and there are already 805,000 superior teachers (remember that the pay increase would increase the number of top-third 83


A Public School Teacher Pay Increase Would Pay for Itself and More

students going into the profession from an existing 23 percent to 37 percent, an increase of 61 percent of all top-third students in the field), Adding 500,000 means you have increased that total to 1,305,000 out of 3.5 million, and you have raised the average quality of your teaching force from 3.7 million to 3.9 million, or a 5 percent increase in quality. Now take into consideration that the current average annual turnover for teachers in the U.S. is 14 percent. While the new breed of teachers is expected to stick around, every year there is a new graduating class of 500,000 top-third students prepared to do what it takes to become superior teachers. 14 percent of 3.5 million is 490,000. Therefore, as the system is currently set up to be training and orienting 490,000 new graduates (on average) every year, it shouldn’t be unreasonable to allow those less-qualified current teachers to either become more qualified or find another profession, as there are more than enough better candidates leaving graduate schools every year to fill in the positions if the existing teachers are unwilling to meet the new standards that can be required of those earning this now very competitive salary. That means that within only a few years (theoretically as few as seven), ALL of the 3.5 million teachers in the pool will be from that top-third of students. This raises our arbitrary quality metric from 3.5 million to 4.55 million. That is an increase in quality of 30 percent. In theory, within seven years after instituting this new pay scale, all teachers will have either shaped up or moved over for more qualified candidates, yielding a teaching force that is 30 percent better at their jobs. This is where things REALLY get good. There will always be graduating classes vying for well-paid jobs. Look at literally any industry that pays the way we are theorizing. This creates self-imposed standards increases, as those who dream of teaching and know they are good enough to earn the PhD level salary and will work harder and harder to get better and better and more and more qualified to obtain the now scarce positions for teachers. Just as we see that a few generations ago it was not necessary to get a college degree to get a good job, and then in this generation it became an absolute pre-requisite, but a college degree is not by any means a guarantee of a good job. We must seek internships, graduate school, extra-curricular experience, additional graduate school, certifications, specializations, impressive test scores, honors, and merits. When those who would teach our children impose these standards upon themselves as they seek a job we already know people are passionate about (or why would there be as many of our top-third students already going into teaching as it is?) but for which they must now compete against the best of us, the quality of the field increases exponentially. However, conservatively, let us use that round number of 30 percent as the increase in teacher quality in our schools. Let us go back to our metric. An increase in teacher quality by roughly two and a half percent equals about three percent in graduation rate increase. Right now we’re graduating roughly 75 84


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percent of our freshman four years after they enter high school. If we increase teacher quality by 30 percent, we should expect an increase in graduation rate of 36 percent. That’s 36 percent of the current 75 percent, of course, so we’re looking at jumping 27 percentage points, which, by the way, adds up to more than 100 percent. Now, thinking rationally, it seems unlikely to assume that a change like this will completely eliminate all drop outs from our country. Statistical anomalies are bound to exist. But look at some of our international competition. Finland boasts a 93 percent graduation rate, and Germany’s is even higher (STEM Trends, 2009). They do it by valuing the teachers that instruct their children, or so says Marc Tucker (2011), president of the National Center on Education and the Economy. Is it truly impossible to imagine that we could achieve this within a decade or two? And imagine the cultural shift when dropping out of school becomes something that is only done by the VERY worst, and those who are considering dropping out look around them and realize that only the poorest of the poor remain who have been making that choice over the past generation. There was a time when very few of even the brightest went to college. Now anyone with any ambition knows that college is a pre-requisite to success. What if only a very very few fail to even graduate from high school because the commitment to their education is a matter of national priority? Imagine a country where education is a priority both for our government and our children. That is a country where our children spend every day of their young lives being taught, nurtured, influenced, and guided by the best among us. It would be a country where a bright and motivated young person can make a difference in the world while still raising a family or owning a home. It would be a country willing to leverage its greatest natural resource- its people- to move up the international charts, rather than free falling down them.

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References

Alliance for Excellent Education (2010, September). High school dropouts in America. Retrieved from www.all4ed.org/files/graduationrates_factsheet.pdf Alliance for Excellent Education. (2011, November). The high cost of high school dropouts: What the nation pays for inadequate high schools. Retrieved from www. all4ed.org/files/highcost.pdf Auguste, B., Kihn, & P., Miller, M. (2010). Closing the talent gap: Attracting and retaining top-third graduates to careers in teaching. Retrieved from McKinsey & Company website: mckinseyonsociety.com Care to vote ’08: Getting smart about getting smart. (n.d.). Retrieved March 5, 2012 from http://www.carleton.edu/departments/educ/vote/pages/thedropoutdilemma.html Council on Virginia’s Future (2008, August). The high cost of low educational attainment. Retrieved from http://future.virginia.gov/docs/IssueInsights/Insight2HighCostLowEd.pdf Di Carlo, M. (2011, December 5). Do teachers really come from the “bottom third” of college graduates? [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://shankerblog.or/?p=4395 Eggers, D. & Calegari, N. (2011, April 30). The high cost of low teacher salaries. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com Hanushek, E. A. (2010). The difference is teacher quality. in K. Weber (Ed.), Waiting for “Superman”: How we can save America’s failing public schools (pp. 81-100). Retrieved from hanushek.stanford.edu/publications/difference-teacher-quality Hanushek, E. A. (2011). Valuing teachers: how much is a good teacher worth? Education Next, 11 (3), 40-45. Retrieved from hanushek.stanford.edu/publications/ Rivkin, S. G., Hanushek, E. A., & Kain, J. F. (2005). Teachers, schools, and academic achievement. Econometrica, 73(2), 417-458. Retrieved from hanushek.stanford.edu/ publications/teachers-schools-and-academic-achievement STEM Trends (2009, October). United States below average OECD secondary graduation rate. Retrieved from http://www.cpst.org/hrdata/documents/ Tucker, M. (2011). Teacher quality: What’s wrong with U.S. strategy?. Educational Leadership, 69(4), 42-46.

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photo by Gabriel Radley


Faux Pas by Stevi Rollison

The focal point of the restaurant: the watering hole. The ‘hole’ is a bar top constructed of polished aluminum, around which stand red leather bar stools (at meal times dwarfed under pronounced butts with exposed butt cracks). The wall behind the bar is home to “the shrine” –a label belonging to every conceivable alcohol maker can be found amidst the light-catching ambers, clears and golds of liquor bottles shelved on the wall. The bartender is a masculine man (or masculine woman) dressed in sport-oriented attire of some sort, respective of season. The sales floor—the rest of the interior dining—area consists of approximately thirty-one black laminate table-tops. A tea-light candle illuminates for atmospheric purposes in the smack-middle of each respective dining set-up. The candle radiates a glimmer, enough to create golden ambiance, but not enough to emit substantial heat. A roll of silverware, bound by a black band, is positioned atop a napkin before each seat. Salt and pepper sit on the sidelines, alongside sugar (sugar being a synonym for Splenda, Equal, and Sweet ‘n Low). The hierarchy is crucial to the functioning of the kingdom. At the apex of the food chain, sits the owner: the queen, the lioness, the alpha. Next, on the hierarchy, are the managers: floor manager, kitchen manager. Below the managers are the servers/bartenders (some of which are the designated managers for other shifts, indicating dominance.) Below the servers sit the cooks. The hostesses have a slight edge on the bussers, as the hostess has less tedious duties. The bussers are above only the dish washers. The bussers are parallel to the town peasants, while the dish washers are positioned at the last rung of the hierarchy: the peasants of the peasants. The hierarchy is determined by dirty work. The owner/manager will never touch trash, or grime, or dirty plates unless the situation is dire (dire as in somebody comes into the restaurant with a gun, and a dirty plate is the only projectile in arm’s reach to Frisbee at the gunman). The managers will call upon the bussers (aka the minimally compensated peasants) to attend to any mess. A “mess” can range from a crumb on a table to a puddle of puke or diarrhea on the bathroom floor—worst case scenario being a puke and diarrhea cocktail-puddle on the floor. 90


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The servers are not required to touch more than a dirty plate upon the completion of a meal, as long as they are willing to compensate the busser with a percentage of earnings. If a server makes 100 dollars in combined tips, the busser is really only entitled to one-dollar (or one percent) according to official restaurant rules; however, the typical server abides by an unspoken tippingrate of about five percent of earnings. The busser is, at the root of the matter, a maid hired to clean up after other people’s customers. If the busser is not paid properly, the cleaning service shuts down, or becomes less efficient. Those at the bottom of the hierarchy (the dishwashers) are not only required to come in contact with dirty dishes, but are responsible for physically removing the dirt/grime from dishes, in the process of making the dishes “new” again. This job has the most intense “gag factor” as mushy food particles accumulate in the floor of the sink and require hands to come in contact with said mushy food particles. The grotesque nature of this responsibility credits it among the least desirable restaurant duties, thereby positioning dishwashers at the last rung of the hierarchy. The restaurant is a house of illusions produced by employees trained to “fake-it.” The illusion process is multi-faceted. The first level of “fake” is the smile. The idea of the smile is to mind-manipulate customers into believing you give a shit about them. This art is complex. Newbies in the art-of-faking must develop their cheek muscles, and entertain the possibility of premature laugh-lines. The smile is the “money maker,” responsible for charming a customer—responsible for making a customer love you in an hour’s time. To win a customer’s heart is to win their money. Smiling is a natural example of molding oneself into a plastic persona for the sake of “bringing home the bacon.” It is a known fact that enhancing oneself in the service industry will enhance the fruits of labor: Money. Heart-winning, of course, is far less difficult a feat for the more fortunatelooking staff members. Females are the primary subject of this rule. This is where part two of “faking it” comes into play: The art of fabricating sex appeal. Sex appeal for women is not contingent on beauty. An unfortunate looking woman can be alluring as long as certain features are faked well. Make-up and hair amp allure. Make-up is the literal “fake” mask which covers any facial misfortunes. Hair is important as it adds feminine luster to the not-so-captivating black-on-black-on-black of the restaurant uniform. Make-up is a “highly-encouraged” uniform staple for bartenders and hostesses. “Highly encouraged” taps in to unspoken law again: “highly encouraged” translates to “wear it, or be prepared to hear about it in the form of yelled chastisements.” Perhaps, it is the idea that potential customers (horny, alcoholic men) will be more likely to strike up a conversation with an attractive female worker, during which the female worker can work some voodoo magic and convince the potential customer to sit down and dine, or to sit down and have a drink—or ten.

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Breasts are the foundation of all sex appeal in the restaurant industry for waitresses, bartenders and hostesses, alike. Since women in the restaurant are clothed (even if minimally), assets can be enhanced via illusion with the right “stuff”. The right “stuff” is the difference between an A cup, and 36 DDD. Socks, toilet paper, and rubber-inserts help, but the real key to the illusion lies in the bras. The layering of bras can create a successful illusion that eliminates the risk of a stuffing malfunction (i.e. toilet paper falling out on the floor in front of customers). It is a natural law that tips are directly proportionate to the appeal of cleavage. Sex-appeal “faking it,” for men, is a different art, altogether. Men cannot fake sexual physical attributes (even attempting a classic sock in the crotch of the pants will be to no avail, as the crotch is hidden behind the dress-code required apron). Men must fake sex appeal by the means of flirting—as must physically unattractive women. The object of a man’s flirting, for example, can range from a tanned-up blonde, sporting perky, augmented breasts, to an eightyyear-old grandmother who insists upon the sharing of wallet-sized portraits of her twenty-seven grandchildren housed in the flip-out photo album of her Fossil wallet, and whose breasts have now drooped to waist level. The lowest rung of the hierarchy, working under the spectrum of the public eye, are the bussers. The bussers are not burdened with the need for sex appeal, or flirtation, but most abide by a different kind of “fake.” The busser does not rely on sex appeal for money, being the minimally compensated maid. The busser could be a green ogre from the depths of the forest, and it would not matter as long as he was a happy, smiling ogre. This rung of the hierarchy must create the illusion that they are happy to be cleaning up the mangled scraps of food after customers have completed a meal—not only must they act happy, but enlightened. Sun rays must radiate from their being as they pick up halfconsumed food and garbage. The hostess must continuously smile for hours on end, at the hostess stand, while catering to customers. The appeal of the smile is fundamental. Happy, peppy, enthused people tend to attract more of a crowd than would bitter, angry unenthused people. This is a rule of attraction that applies to romance and the majority of life situations—the service industry is no exception. At the root of the matter, the art-of-fake makes more sense from a customer’s perspective. As a customer walking into a restaurant, we feed off of happy. If, upon walking into an establishment, we find the hostess frowning, allowing us to see her misery, we feel as if we are imposing on her, inflicting an inconvenience. If we turn away at the door, nobody wins. The customer leaves, still hungry, pissed, and in search of food, and the restaurant as a whole—namely the server—makes no money. Making no money furthers the misery of all employees involved, giving yet another reason to frown. It’s a lose-lose.

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Perhaps, it is that customers know they are being targeted, and manipulated by cash-hungry service professionals. Does it matter to the customer? No. The customer is simply seeking a sanguine experience and would rather that the servers fake enthusiasm then have none at all. This might be traced back to societal rules instilled in middle-class Americans at birth: “If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all,” or “grin and bear it.” We, as members of this society, rely on peppy attitudes for our adaptive functioning. We feed on the notion of “not knowing.” Despite our inklings to the contrary, if we can maintain the illusion that a server really cares about us—however minute the possibility—then we can delight in the delusion, and of course pay a percentage for the dining experience. It comes down to this: “Fake” is neither appealing nor even acceptable in most circumstances except when it comes to doing “good business” and making money. Then, it is not even a “faux pas” because “professionalism” requires that we be cordial in the earning of money. It would be beyond inappropriate to greet a customer with “Hi, I’ll be your server, and I want your money.” Yes, the server is seeking the customer’s money, but this is unspoken. The art-of-fake is to get the money without disclosing the fact that the money is “really” the sole pursuit.

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oosevelt row


Dear Random Lady, By Stevi Rollison

Hot boyfriend, ugly broad? It’s not him, it’s her I applaud Lady, tell me your secret. A Catholic devout? Your boobs are out. Lady, this is church. Skinny women try so hard Fear the Lord, not the lard. Lady, eat a sandwich. Six inch heels? You’re limping—let’s get real. Lady, get yourself some Nikes.

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Slam Poets by Celeste Ruiz

A single microphone, the audience, and the execution of the performance: a slam poet’s initial thoughts before stepping up to the stage are focused on these three things. The judges start the timer, the lights shine on a single spot center stage, and the competition commences. The participants have a limit of three minutes where they must impress the judges enough to move on to the next round. Whether discussing a general topic or an experience close to the heart, these performances give the audience a sense of belonging, a sense of cultural purpose. As the poets perform, there are snaps and loud remarks to acknowledge powerful statements and encouragement through the tough storytelling. Slam poetry competitions are used by some as a way of expressing the art of language and facility with words, while others see it more as a means of venting their problems; both types of slammers, however, have drawn a large crowd of people to these dramatic and emotional performances. Slammers consider themselves members of a unique culture of poets/lyricists given their shared passion for words, their desire for a means of expression, and their dedication to social issues. The beginnings of poetry slam competitions are said to have begun in 1987 by Marc Kelley Smith, better known as Slam Papi. He founded the “home of poetry slam” in the Green Mill, a Chicago Jazz club when he began hosting open mic nights. (Founder of Poetry Slam, n.d., para. 1 ) Although the format for competitions varies, Smith is credited to have set the general guidelines. The idea was to make the typical poetry readings more enjoyable, thus he encouraged the audience to interact with the performers by cheering on their favorites and booing whenever a certain piece did not appeal to them. From there on the judges gave the contestants a number from 1-10, 10 being the highest, based on the audience’s reaction and how well they felt the poet performed. (Burrows, 2001) It allowed for the poetry to reach audiences in a more relatable way. These judging techniques are still used today, as there are almost 100 certified poetry slam venues throughout the U.S. and Canada, and numerous across Europe and Australia as well (O’Keefe, 2009). Local competitions in preparation for these

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larger ones however usually take place once a week. It allows for poets to see what they can improve on in their performances and how the audience reacts to certain techniques played around with. There are three main categories a poetry slam performance tends to fall into: funny, emotionally powerful, and funny-and-emotionally-powerful (Spoken Word/Slam Poems, n.d., para. 5). Aaron Johnson, owner of Lawn Gnome’s Publishing and an experienced slam poet himself, states that he begins his crafting of a poem by thinking of an emotion. “I want to make the audience feel like they’re having a religious experience, or that they’re going to laugh, or I want them to think about old people in a positive light, or think about old people in a negative light. I play with themes and ideas first, then work my way back from that and do a line by line dance” (Johnson, A. Personal Interview. November 26, 2012). Aaron, who has participated in competitions in three different countries and forty-five different states, shares his opinion on how when it comes to performing, less is sometimes more (Havir, 2012). “I think the best poetry performers are the ones that let the language do the tricks it’s meant to do” (Johnson, A. Personal Interview. November 26, 2012). Although he is able to master this simplicity with ease, he also knows when to give it all he’s got. Through the incorporation of intricate sounds and a range of vocal tones he livens up not only the poem but the audience as well. This is used to his advantage, as he plays this card whenever it is a crucial round in the competition. With the portraying of words through these “sound effects”, he adds a playful, humorous component that keeps his audiences laughing. Whenever he is performing, it becomes obvious as to how he has gained his success. Aaron, a versatile poet, shines under the stage lights, radiating with confidence. As Aaron sees slam poetry as an art form, Cristian Duarte, a slam poet from Tucson, Arizona, sees it more as an escape. He has been writing and performing poetry for the past five years and utilizes it to rid negative thoughts off his mind. “A pen and paper,” he says, “that’s all I need to express myself. When I’m on stage, I feel like my words mean something … not only to me, but to the audience as well” (Duarte, C. Personal Interview. November, 28, 2012). For him, his favorite thing to include in his writing is the use of personification and symbolism. This allows the audience to be able to get a clearer idea of the point he wants to project. He focuses on writing about the struggles he encounters through life, such as family hardships and the pressures cast upon him as a teenager, as well as his views on society and his surroundings. Many poetry slam competitors share Duarte’s use of performing as an escape, especially in the younger performers. Today, there are numerous competitions targeted towards teens. This is done in an effort to not only get today’s youth more involved in extra-curricular activities and off the streets, but to also increase the love of spoken word and poetry. Countless organizations have dedicated their efforts to putting together competitions to promote artistic

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self- development in younger generations. Brave New Voices, a poetry slam competition for teens founded through Youth Speaks Inc., has been organizing competitions since 1998 and represents youth from all over the country and some parts of the world. The competition allows for younger people to share their point of view on important topics circulating today’s headlines, such as immigration, politics, education, etc. These types of programs give a voice to those who would not normally be heard; it emphasizes how important it is to convey one’s thoughts and opinions as well as to listen to others. “I truly believe that spoken word kick starts social revolutions,” Johnson said (Johnson, A. Personal Interview. November 26, 2012). As back in the Green Mill days, performers are encouraged to rant about their stance on current social issues. Most, however, seem as if they would write about these even if they were not. Some poets may even at times adopt a certain “brand,” gaining inspiration from a topic they feel passionate for and dedicating their pieces on this issue. A perfect example of such a poet would be Regie Cabico, an openly gay Filipino from the Marc Smith era, who stuck to poems about racism and homophobia (O’Keefe, 2009). Though these are not light topics to joke around with, Regie was able to use comedy to discuss his viewpoints. He performed in extravagant ways, using lavish hand gestures and raising his voice to new heights to prove his point. The idea of this was to make the audience forget about the stage and not feel as if they were at a poetry reading. This made him a successful poet, touring all through the United States and other countries as well as winning the 1997 National Poetry Slam competition. More than anything, Regie was able to talk about social topics that were not as openly discussed back then as they are now, all through his talent with spoken word. These thriving poets from the 1990s showed how important it was to establish a connection to the audience as well as to not hold back from expressing their true thoughts. They set a module for the generation of slammers that were to come. Poetry Slam competitions are much more common today compared to several years ago. They are organized on both a national and local community scale and have gained attention from audiences of all ages. While these poets have different reasons as to why they act upon this art form, they all are part of one unique and innovative culture full of hunger for words and thirst for liberal expression. When The New York Times asked Marc Kelly why someone would get involved in slam poetry performances, he said “… why do any art if you’re not going to bring out of yourself the thing that is most vulnerable and most precious, that has to be said? Why do something unless you’re really trying to get at what it’s really about? And that’s what this show is” (Rohter, 2009).

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References

Burrows, A. (2001, July 16) Slam Poetry: A Brief History from Chicago to Seattle Retrieved from http://www.historylink.org Founder of Poetry Slam. (n.d.) Marc Kelly Smith, Founder of the Poetry Slam Movement. Retrieved from http://marckellysmith.com Havir, A. (2012, February 1). Local poet opens first downtown Phoenix used bookstore. The Downtown Devil. Retrieved from http://downtowndevil.com O’Keefe Aptowicz, C. (2009) Funny poetry gets slammed: Humor as strategy in the poetry slam movement. 2-4. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research. Rohter, L. (2009, June 2). Is Slam in Danger of Going Soft?. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com Spoken Word/Slam Poems. (n.d.) Sir Francis Drake High School. Retrieved from http:// www.tamdistrict.org

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Drag Culture by Erica Cron

Culture, a word established from Ciceroy’s “cultura animi” in Tusculan Disputations, is a small word with a colossal meaning (Culture, n.d., para. 1). It is a word used to describe the distinct way one group of people lives. Drag, in its most general sense, is a culture characterized by a shared devotion for presenting gender-bending performance. Members of drag culture share a passion for each style of drag, art and performance of illusion, shows, media exposure, and beliefs. “Everybody put your hands together for Barbra Seville!” Lights begin to flash, people begin to clap, and the bridal party sitting in the front begins to shriek with excitement. The anticipation in the room is high as the audience awaits their queen, Barbra. Then, right before the anticipation caused everyone to fall out of his and her seats, a woman came forward from the glimmering black curtain surrounding the stage. The bright spotlight shone on the star of the show, Barbra, drag queen at The Rock in Phoenix, Arizona. The crowd let out a loud roar as Barbra started to lip sync to her first number, and it was clear that she had the crowd under her spell. Her sexy and seductive performance was nothing less than glamorous and she knew how to work her look. She wore a sparkly white dress with a towering blonde wig while gliding throughout the club in her six-inch heels like she had been doing it her whole life. Her dramatic makeup, which included fabulous contouring, was enough to make Bobbi Brown jealous. Barbra’s look, attitude, and practices are all common occurrences in the culture of drag. Though there is no specific event that marks the birth of drag, there have been events and movements that have aided drag culture in the journey to become what it is today. The first recorded time of a man dressing as a woman was in 1870 (Drag Queens, n.d., para. 4). Though that did not spark drag itself, it introduced the idea. Drag really took off in the 20th century around 1920 when drag balls were held in major cities like New York and Chicago (Taylor & Rupp, 2006, para. 4). This was during the Harlem Renaissance when gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and even transgender individuals were visually accepted. The

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mixed racial dynamics of these balls really captured the essence of the Harlem Renaissance (Harlem’s Drag Ball History, 2011, para. 3). Another famous drag club called Finnochio’s in San Francisco flourished in the 1940’s (Taylor & Rupp, 2006, para.4). This was significant because it shows how drag was expanding as a culture. Though the fun and carefree nature of drag was a harmless form of entertainment, these artists also faced their share of trials and tribulations. After the two world wars, Joseph McCarthy, a Republican U.S. Senator, wanted to weed out everything he considered a “risk” to the United States. In the 1950’s, he decided homosexuals were among these groups. Wearing clothing of the opposite gender was banned and gay men and women were often humiliated. The police forced them to be gender checked in public (Howe, n.d.). Though the Civil Rights Movement was thought to have started in 1969, activism grew throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s. On June 28, 1969, police raided a Mafia-owned gay bar in New York, where gender checking and arrest took place. During this raid, people actually fought back, sparking three days of riots. This marked a time when the LGBT community came together to fight for their cause (Howe, n.d., para. 8). This event, Stonewall, ignited a movement that spread all over the world (Stonewall Riots, n.d., para. 1). This community persevered and eventually came to make drag into what it is today. Drag is a phrase used to describe the wearing of gender-specific clothes by the opposite gender. In most cases, drag is seen as a form of entertainment, with men dressed in outrageous women’s clothing. Although many drag artists are gay men, drag is a form of expression open to all gender identities and orientations. There are many genres of drag that range from drag kings-women dressing as men, drag queens-men dressing as women, and androgynous drag-a person who dresses as someone who is neither a man or a woman (Gogo V. Berlynn: The Interview, 2012, para. 5). Some specific styles of drag are also common among this art. Camp drag is when the artist employs clown-like values with exaggeration, satire, and obscenity. Some drag performers lean more toward elegance and fashion. They wear elaborate jewels and gowns, often trying to impersonate actresses and pop divas such as Celine Dion and Diana Ross. Pageant queens aim their performances and appearance toward winning drag pageants. Another type of drag is known as post-modernist. Their presentations are created to cause extreme emotions from their audience. An example of this style would be David Hoyle, who would roughly apply makeup and smear it on stage. One time he even chopped up a pig’s head and threw it into the audience (Drag Queens, n.d., para. 21). Drag cannot be narrowed into one category because within it is many different categories. A drag performer is all about entertaining a crowd through illusion. Drag queens and kings pride themselves on their personalities and being outgoing. They are artists of hair, makeup, and clothing. When looking at a drag performer one can expect an extravagant appearance. It is their artistic outlet and even

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an escape if they are not pleased with their own natural appearances, so a lot of effort is applied (RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race, 2012). It is sometimes considered a career, other times a mere hobby. The true essence of being a drag queen is taking that which defines femininity and expressing it in different ways. Drag queens embrace womanly lines and curves. Since it is known for being such an accepting culture, it is not limited to gender or age. Anyone who wants to dress up in drag can do so. Sometimes the beginning of a drag performer’s career starts out in the most unconventional way. Barbra Seville said the gay youth group he used to attend as a young boy “needed funding so they put together a drag show, and I did it!” Ever since that day he has been fascinated with drag. To get into the club to do performances, one just has to put himself or herself out there, show incentive, and have personality (Stevens, R. Personal Interview. November 17, 2012). Drag culture is all about looks. Before a show, drag performers spend time transforming their natural appearance into their characters with aesthetic features. Though times may vary between each queen, it takes Barbra Seville about two hours for her whole transformation from the minute she steps out of the shower until she is putting finishing touches on her blush (Stevens, R. Personal Interview. November 17, 2012). The process begins with makeup. To create the illusion of high cheekbones and defined facial features, contouring is key. After contouring comes strong blush, eyeliner, and eye shadow. Some performers like to add extra pizzazz, so they add glitter to their eye shadow or eyeliner; some even add rhinestones and jewels to their makeup depending on their character. After the make-up comes clothes. To go along with their extravagant make-up, drag queens have over-the-top clothing. From long, beautiful gowns overflowing with sequins to short, black leather skirts studded with gold spikes, drag queens wear it all. One can always expect the clothing to match the style of the song or performance. The moment before each outfit is revealed is exciting because anything is possible. Embracing womanly lines and curves is the foundation of their art. Under all of the glamorous gowns and makeup are tight nylons and padding to simulate the shape of a woman’s body. Drag artists like Barbra Seville like to wear butt, hip, and breast padding to create these voluptuous curves (Stevens, R. Personal Interview. November 17, 2012). The way drag artists can transform into a whole different being is truly incredible. A drag show is like nothing else one has ever experienced in one’s life. No two shows are the same. Each drag performer works to make their show unique and reflect their own personality. Some like to lip-sync while others like to perform skits; everyone has their own talent. Whatever is the specialty of the artist, an over-the-top performance can be expected. They are there to entertain, and entertain you they will! The beauty of a drag show is that the art is so focused on not only having fun, but also on the personality of the performer. Audience involvement is key in these shows and often results in a good laugh. There are

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many styles of drag within one club but each person is usually accepting of the other because they understand it is show business and everyone has different inspirations. Though the styles vary, a common occurrence among these shows is glamour. Since drag is essentially dramatizing features and gestures, they want their sets and shows to be dramatic as well. So prepare to be struck by the power of sparkles and glitter. Aside from all of the laughs and sparkle, being a drag queen early in its history was not as simple as it is today. Fortunately, over time the strong will of this culture has opened doors. Through media exposure, the general public has grown more accustomed and open to drag culture. Though it may not be completely normal to outsiders, there is no denying that people have loosened up on their views towards the culture. Shows like “RuPaul’s Drag Race and RuPaul’s Drag U” are examples of aids in media that have helped drag acquire more exposure. These shows prove that drag is an art and means of harmless entertainment to the general public. The spirited members of this culture have persevered over the years and will continue to usher open minds and acceptance. The Beastie Boys said it best, “You got to fight for your right to party.” The media exposure has allowed this culture to settle itself in a place where individuals are comfortable to voice and form their own opinions and beliefs publicly. The beliefs of this culture are not easily defined and can range from two completely different viewpoints. Politically speaking, not everyone in the culture of drag belong to the same party. Many drag artists typically lean towards Democratic views due to the party’s acceptance of gay marriage and rights, being that most of the artists are gay or lesbian. Some drag artists, however, consider themselves Republicans. Many of these people are a part of Homocon, which stands for homosexual conservatives (Arana, 2010, para. 12). The religious beliefs among this culture also cannot be narrowed down to one specific faith. Each person has his or her own views that can range from being a Catholic to an atheist. Each individual is unique on the inside as well as the outside. Drag is a culture defined by the intense love for the styles of drag, art and execution of illusion, shows, media exposure, and beliefs shared by a group of people. Members of the drag community have experienced their share of trials and tribulations. Theirs is a story of oppression, prejudice, and judgment. However, the spirited and enigmatic members of this community have persevered over the years and have ushered in an era of open minds and acceptance. The trials and tribulations they have faced to continue their practices have earned them the right to consider drag a culture. This is a culture of extravagance and open mindedness- the perfect place for people to be who they truly want to be.

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References

Arana, G. (2010, December). Drag Queen: The American Prospect, 21 (10), 6. Retrieved from Lexis Nexis. Culture. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org Drag Queens. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org Episode 3, Season 1. (2012). RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race. [television series]. Retrieved from http://logotv.com Gogo V. Berlynn: The Interview. (2012, October 31). Facebook. www.facebook.com Harlem’s Drag Ball History. (2011, April 27). Harlem World. Received from www.harlemworldmag.com Howe, M. (n.d.) A Brief History of Drag [part 1]. TQS Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.tqsmagazine.co.uk Stonewall Riots. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org Taylor, V., Rupp, L. (2006) Learning From Drag Queens: American Sociological Association, 5 (3), 12-17. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier.

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The Glass By Adam Waltz

The glass was set down on the bar. The bartender always seemed to have the right potion at the right time. He looked almost as generic and faceless as the bar itself, which had a name synonymous with all the other bars in town—each as unoriginal and forgettable as the last. To the inhabitants, the bar served as a purgatory of sorts, a break from the world that loomed on the other side of the cracked wooden door. The glass was filled with a dull-colored liquid that shook mildly as the bartender set it down on the counter. He then slid the glass down the wooden bar to the intended customer. The path of the glass was occupied by three onlookers, their hands back and their heads up, watching as the glass traveled toward them. The first man at the bar noticed immediately how the light bounced off of the glass, glaring back at him with a cynical grin, transporting the poison in his direction. His weathered brow deepened as his eyes focused heavily on the thick liquid that bared the shape of its container. The glass remained motionless, as if it knew that it were on display. Nausea began to rise from his stomach into his mouth as the hatred grew like a weed from his custom shoes to his silk tie, infiltrating his mind. He scowled under his breath how any man could subject himself to such a drug that has caused dignified men to die as weak, insignificant beings. His perspective of the glass would have been clearer if surrounded by yellow tape reading “Keep Away: Hazardous Material.” But it wasn’t the contents of the glass, nor was it the idea of the sins committed with the glass that caught his attention in such a breathless manner. It was the smell perspiring from the glass, engulfing his nose in the poisonous odor. Immediately he was sent back to a memory that had been buried deep in his subconscious where he had first encountered that smell. He was a teenager, watching his childhood hero die, clinging to the glass, even in the last moments of life. That same odor filled the room, suffocating morals, as close family members bickered, all with the glass in hand. It was then he made a vow against the glass. It is ironic, however, that he be face to face with the glass now, soaking in the hatred through every pore, gleaming back with hollow eyes.

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As the glass passed him, he took one last look, verifying the lack of details and uselessness of the glass, justifying his stance by remembering his success in the real world, where he believes there is no room for such a disease. The second man, who was awaiting the bartender to take his order, smiled at the glass that seemed to wink back at him as it gracefully flew across the bar. The glass danced as light shot off in every direction, smiling and singing, floating his direction. The smooth solvent warmed his heart in such a way that can only be compared to a reunion with a distant relative, reminiscing about childhood games and ambitions. His mind wandered, falling into the trance of the glass. The glass began to intertwine with reality, taking the form of his old neighborhood, where he would play games in the dead of summer with his best of friends. In the evening they would sit outside, watching the sun attack the sky with radiant colors, stunning the eyes for a matter of minutes before collapsing behind the mountains, only to rise again in the morning, starting the dream all over again. The glass also carried ambitions of a promotion to bring retribution to his dirt-stained clothes and callused hands. “We have noticed the work you have done for us, and we would like to give you this new job, car and house for all that you have done for this company.” The glass knows how hard he has worked and rewards him for all that he has done. As the glass waved goodbye to the second man, he gives small grin of reassurance and gratitude. The third man had been fixed on the glass since the bartender first poured the golden liquid into its shiny container. He watched it slide painfully slow as it passed the first two men, watching their varied reactions. These thoughts left him as his focus quickly straightened back to the glass. His hands were already trembling when the glass traveled in front of him, approaching the end of its journey. The edges of the glass shook as the distinction between where the glass ended and the bar started became less and less distinguishable, becoming a vibrating mess of light and sound. The once motionless elixir became aroused, screaming at him louder and louder with every inch it crept closer. He would have reached out and grabbed the glass for himself if his hands weren’t already clenching to a glass of his own, which too was acting as a catalyst for his perverted reality. The reality was being transformed into a flashback that he had been trying to suppress with help from the glass. The reflection off the glass grinded its way into his head as his sweaty hands began to pick at the empty space on his left hand where a ring once sat, representing a life he once lived. He took a sip of his own drink, but it couldn’t mask the desert landscape where he used to walk, endlessly sitting, obedient to the dry, cloudless sky that could have only been crafted by the devil himself. His mind jumps to a time when he wasn’t dependent on the glass, how it was nothing more than a pleasant memory.

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The glass was now a warped phenomenon where time and space were one, stalling him from the inevitable awakening to his cruel, pitiful reality. The glass was his home, his religion, his drug. The most intriguing aspect of the glass came after it disappeared into the blackness where the bar ended. The glass had never been defined, never characterized as good or evil. If you were to ask the three men what the glass looked like, not one would be able to tell you the physical characteristics, or even what the glass contained. It was not the ingredients lying within the glass that made it so unique. It was not the liquid that it held, varying in taste, scent and color. The special thing about the glass was the uncensored portrayal of reality, unbiased and true. It was not constrained by a single boundary, but instead took the shape of reflection from the many people facing their own glass, on their own terms, with their own reality.

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photo by Gabriel Radley


No Swan by Cody Wilson

The man knocked on the door, asked for a glass of water. “I’ll be right back.” Enter water. Enter man, swinging a gripped fist insisting on desire: Not god, no, not good, no recoiling swan, no Yeats to make it stick forever, just the torture of a woman who loved a stranger enough to offer a glass of water: empty thirst.

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Vision, Instinct, Surprise: Is This Today’s New York City Art Scene? by Ariel Stone

“Think of it as a giant sponge: bland on the outside, intricate within … sprawling but not evolving. Whatever, there’s no avant-garde within it because there’s nothing to react against”(Saltz, 2004). This is the opinion of Jerry Saltz, art critic for New York Magazine, about today’s New York art world. Some have little faith in the art culture of the modern age, yet New York has long been considered the gold standard for creativity and originality. Is the New York City art scene still avant-garde enough to be innovative? Or has it lost its unique edge to commercialism? Has the public’s interest waned, or is New York City still a magnet for innovation? The art scene of today is strikingly different compared to the thriving art scenes of the mid-twentieth century. The New York art scene first bloomed in the early 1960’s. During this time, Pop Art was being introduced, new musicians and visual artists were influencing each other, and the powerhouse of it all—Andy Warhol—was at the peak of his career. According to Schaffner (1999), Warhol was known for taking popular commercialized images that were familiar to the public, and transforming them into unexpected works of art. He was also the founder of The Factory, an urban space in New York where he spent hours creating his pieces, and also where he and a group of musicians, poets, runaways, outcasts, and generally creative people that Warhol took under his wing, would congregate and make art together. Some of his protégés even became stars in their own right (Schaffner, 1999). Everyone knew about Warhol and his crew, and almost anyone involved in the “cool” scene of that time longed to be a part of his famous group. By establishing this critical scene, Warhol laid the foundation for what would be the next era in the New York art world: The Downtown Scene, from 1974-1984. According to Taylor (2006), by this time, artists began to find their own niche in New York where they could live creatively and work on their art. They occupied abandoned factory buildings and turned them into their own creative living spaces called “fluxhouses.” These fluxhouses were usually located in SoHo, and thus the center of artistic activity was geographically planted. Once this Downtown Scene established a location, it then exploded with new, 116


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exciting aspects: punk music was born; artists like Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat became well-known; graffiti art took off; and the newest, most controversial form of art was created in live visual art. For the first time, artists were displaying live art in highly populated areas, such as subway stations and beaches. They were doing bizarre acts such as hanging from harnesses while dancing on the sides of buildings. They were sitting like statues precisely lined in large groups on the shore of beaches, all facing the same direction, and never moving a muscle (Taylor, 2006). This was a highly experimental time, as artists were branching out from traditional forms of art. They instead used the current society structure to show the realities and problems of it through their art. Because of this, people in the Downtown Scene were very much politically involved, and they tried to ignite awareness and change in society. Clearly, the Downtown Scene, as well as the Pop Art scene of the 1960’s, had a major impact in shaping the culture of New York City, both then and now. It is important to realize that even though these scenes were classified as avant-garde, they were still at least familiar to the general public. The artists and their work were publicized to some extent; otherwise they would have gone unnoticed by society. It was important for these artists to have some notoriety in order to catch the awareness of art galleries. However, even though they were known by society, they still did not give themselves up to commercialism. Instead, by encompassing the features of avant-garde, they made their unique mark in the history of New York City. After such striking, inventive art innovations took place in the twentieth century, what is the current state of the art world in New York City? Where are the Andy Warhols and Jean Michel Basquiats of today? These are the questions that leave some wondering if the art scene even exists anymore. Today, it seems there is far less public awareness associated with the art world. There isn’t one well-known artist leading the creative minds of New York City into what would be the newest art trend. So then, how can we expect to find any signs of a current art scene? To answer that, we need to look at hidden gems. The first is NYC-ARTS, a non-profit arts organization whose sole purpose is to “nurture New York City’s position as a thriving cultural capital of the world, one that has both world renowned institutions and those that are focused on local communities,” as stated on their website (NYC-ARTS, n.d.). With a strong internet presence, NYC-ARTS promotes hundreds of upcoming art events on its website, as well as showcasing numerous videos introducing up-and-coming artists and musicians that NYC-ARTS has recorded and aired on local television channels. Many of the events listed on the website are not only events where the public will be in the audience, but these performances also involve audience participation, allowing everyone from children to adults to interact and create art themselves. NYC-ARTS has made it easier for the public to become more engaged with the present New York art world and feel like they can be a part of that culture. 117


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Another jewel is Creative Time, a non-profit arts organization which “commissions, produces, and presents art … guided by a passionate belief in the power of art to create inspiring personal experiences as well as foster social progress” (Creative Time, n.d.). Creative Time’s website further elaborates: “We privilege artists’ ideas. We get excited about their dreams and respond to them by providing big opportunities to expand their practices and take bold new risks that value process, content, and possibilities” (Creative Time, n.d.). With such a powerful mission, they own up to their beliefs. Creative Time has been in existence for 33 years, and during that time several of its featured artists have emerged as “urban legends.” According to Peltason (2007), Creative Time specializes in public performance art, which the founders believe is on the rise. They firmly believe that “art has an important role to play in daily life and in shaping society” (Peltason, 2007). They also introduce fresh perspectives on “who an artist is, what art can be, and where art can be experienced” (Peltason, 2007). Creative Time is an institution that reliably keeps New York art innovations on the radar. The pioneers of the Downtown Scene would surely be proud. The last example is art gallerists. According to a recent article in The New York Times, young gallerists in New York play a vital role in the art scene. “Though one gallery owner may show an artist whose work now sells for $25,000 or more and another may show unknown artists … both are part of a new generation of New York gallerists who are slowly transforming the city’s art scene” (Holson, 2011). Take, for example, Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld and Andy Valmorbida, two young, knowledgeable art dealers who opened their own art auction gallery space, Phillips de Pury & Company. Since its inception, the space has enjoyed much success. Recently, Roitfeld and Valmorbida held an opening reception for artist Richard Hambleton. Hambleton was a well-known graffiti artist during the time when graffiti art was flourishing. Recently, however, his influence has dwindled somewhat. Thus, Roitfeld and Valmorbida stepped in to revive interest in the artist’s work. Nearly 2,000 people showed up, crowding the rooms of the gallery space (Holson, 2011). The crowd included fashion models, wealthy buyers, Upper East Siders, young celebrities, and everyone in between. The fact that Roitfeld and Valmorbida caught the attention of so many people— especially the youth—shows that New York gallerists have the power to get people involved and aware of current happenings in the art scene. They are rejuvenating the “cool” label associated with the art scene, which encourages younger participation in this unique culture. Scott Draves, a visual and software artist living in New York City, gives interesting insight into today’s art scene. He sees the art culture in New York City as still very strong. He says the “tiny sliver” of the scene that he is involved with, “software, technology, new media, electronics, etc.,” is one aspect that is influential and he believes will continue to grow, gaining more notoriety (S. Draves, personal communication, November 2012). Draves also elaborates on how technology—specifically the internet—is involved in the current art scene. He believes that while the internet provides for faster, easier ways of promotion and 118


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getting one’s name out in the public, it can only do so much. “The internet allows artists to more directly reach the public and bypass the traditional gatekeepers. This, however, leads artists into the fields, not the citadel” (S. Draves, personal communication, November 2012). Draves’ point is well taken. Artists undeniably need to promote themselves through physical means, and audiences need to physically see the artwork in front of them, so that they can experience it first-hand, and let it resonate with them. This idea complements The New York Times’ perspective on art gallerists. Gallerists are the key to giving an artist recognition by providing the exclusive experience patrons feel at an exhibition, surrounded by physical art and by other like minded individuals. New York has been rich soil for the breeding of experimentation, innovation, and creative thinking. But recently the public appears less in tune with the art world. Perhaps, as Draves implies, technology could be partly responsible for the waning presence of the art scene in today’s culture on a wide scale. However, as Draves and others assert, art requires a physical aspect to thrive. If art primarily resides in the virtual world, we may lose sight of what experiencing art in person provides us. Does that mean art will eventually risk dying out? If physical art is not considered as important anymore, does that mean people are losing their ability to be creative? These are important questions to consider. It will take the public’s interest in art to keep the art culture in New York strong. It is interesting to note that even after his criticism on the current state of the art world of today, Saltz concluded his opinion by saying, “show for show, New York is still the best place for gallery exhibitions in the world; vision, instinct, surprise (not for its own sake) and private experience are the life-blood of art; and underneath it all we’re still gypsies” (2004). So art is not dead after all. Perhaps it is just getting started.

References

Creative Time. (n.d.). Mission. Creative Time. Retrieved from http://www.creativetime.org Holson, L. (2011, September 30) . The young gallerists. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com NYC-ARTS. (n.d.). About. NYC-ARTS. Retrieved from http://www.nyc-arts.org Peltason, R.A. (Ed.). (2007). Creative time: the book. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. Saltz, J. (2004). Super Babylon. Modern Painters, 17(4), 32-33. Schaffner, I. (1999). The essential Andy Warhol. New York: The Wonderland Press. Taylor, M.J. (Ed.). (2006). The downtown book: the New York art scene 1974-1984. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

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A Cannabis Culture by Marley Molitor

The common street names are Pot, Dope, Hash, Bud, Weed, Grass, and Reefer, but the medicinal name given to this sticky green bud is Cannabis. Cannabis is an extremely versatile plant with so many uses; it can get you “high,” and among other things, it can make lotion, rope, paper, and clothing. Cannabis is the third most commonly used substance on the planet behind tobacco and alcohol leaving a huge gap for the cannabis culture to grow. However the recreational cannabis culture is very different from the medical or retail subcultures of cannabis. Even though the Pot Head sub-culture is filled with so many different people; these members share such common traits as: the chronic use of marijuana, why they use it, the rituals of use, the belief in the medicinal effects of the drug, and how it affects the person in their social environment. Cannabis and the hemp plant it grows from doesn’t require many pesticides or any agents to help it grow and, as long as the conditions are right, the cannabis can last for a very long time. The longest aged sample of cannabis on record was found in the Peoples Republic of China at 2700 years old (Cannabis, 2012). In 1753, Carolus Linnaeus created the system classifying most European hemp to be Cannabis sativa L (Cannabis, 2012). Then in 1785 a well-known evolutionary biologist named Jean –Baptiste de Lamarck classified a new species of cannabis as Cannabis indica lam; Lamarck found this new species of cannabis mainly in Asia and India (Cannabis, 2012). Thus, the two major strains of weed formed and have been thusly shortened to Indica and Sativa. In 2004, the American government estimated that approximately 4 percent of the world’s population uses cannabis regularly (Merel F. H., Griffith-Lendering, S., Huijbregts, C.J., Vollebergh, W.A.M., & Swaab, H., 2012). Four percent of the world’s entire population is 162 million people. (Merel et al., 2012) No matter what people think about this plant the only true thing that can be said is that people abuse it in order to get high for their own reasons. Despite the Cannabis culture being so large, users differ in their motivations for using. Some smoke purely to get the high, some do it because they feel it gives them certain medicinal benefits, some even just because they are simply bored and

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have the desire for some drug to alter their perception. However, the main reason most people give for smoking marijuana is to relax. It seems to be a coping mechanism. According to one user, “Well … It’s a great way to have fun at a social gathering, and a safer alternative than drinking alcohol. But the main reason I use cannabis is to relax. Smoking weed helps me cope with stressful times, and calms the chatter inside my head” (Smith, J. Personal Interview. Nov. 28 2012). Many people also turn to cannabis for the feeling of escape, as expressed by the same user: “Using cannabis helps me to stop and smells the flowers in life. I don’t need a girlfriend to make me happy, or tons of money, or a nice flashy car. Smoking weed has taught me about being above what everyone else is doing, and be my own person” (Smith, J. Personal Interview. Nov. 28 2012). According to another chronic user: Cannabis is a way for me not to feel pain. I use it to help with injuries that I have accumulated; I didn’t want to use those other more addictive pain pills. I would rather have something natural in my body rather than some chemical imbalance that could mess up my brain. (Anonymous. Personal Interview. Nov. 30, 2012) Just as some methodical people have the same schedule every day, some to most smokers have the same schedule or rituals before they smoke. These habits can be distinctly unique to the smoker. However, there are some smokers who don’t have any kind of ritual except for setting up their weed and smoking it. It seems that how the cannabis affects the person is how they prepare before they smoke. One marijuana user said “ How I prepare for smoking pot depends on where I am and who I am with, but I usually put eye drops in a bag and grab a couple dollars for some fast food” (Anonymous. Personal Interview. Nov. 30, 2012). This is really just like any other set up for something; it is just preparation. The important part of the culture isn’t the preparation; it is the use of the cannabis. Joints, Pipes, Bongs, Vaporizers, Edibles; are all different methods of using cannabis and gaining the effects of the drug. Most of these methods involve inhaling with different methods leading to different degrees of high. A joint is the simplest form of smoking cannabis or any other kind of plant; you put your substance onto paper, roll it, light, and smoke. A joint is really just a marijuana cigarette. Similarly, the pipe is just a variation of the old Sherlock-Holmes tobacco pipe but now usually made out of glass or metal instead of the traditional corncob or porcelain. When using the pipe you place the cannabis in the bowl of the pipe, burn the weed, and suck in the smoke. “I prefer using a pipe because even though the feeling of the smoke may be harsher on my throat, the high from using a pipe doesn’t hit me as hard as a bong does, but it is different for other smokers,” said a daily user (Anonymous. Personal Interview. Nov. 30, 2012). In 1973, Charles W. Frost and Donald F. Frost in Miami, Florida patented the traditional water pipe also known as a “Bong” — leading some users away from the traditional pipes and cigarettes (1975). Vaporizers are just another way of 123


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inhaling but instead of actually lighting the weed on fire the vaporizer basically steams it. The vaporizer is one of the most potent ways to use cannabis because when the pot gets steamed it takes the most THC into the smoke. Rosemary, saffron, basil, and garnish are all plants that can be used in a recipe so why should weed any different? Edibles are a term for foods that have weed infused or cooked into the dish. The most common types of food with weed as an ingredient are baked goods like brownies or cookies. According to a long time user “You have to be careful with edibles because they don’t hit you for a while. You can eat a whole brownie and not feel anything for awhile and it will hit you like a ton of bricks, but it was one of the coolest and longest highs I have ever had.” “But once I am High the best part comes next” (Anonymous. Personal Interview. Nov. 30, 2012). Just as certain smokers have a pre-smoking ritual, once high, they also have some. For one chronic user, “the only special ritual I have is the need to smoke a cigarette right after a good session” (Smith, J. Personal Interview. Nov. 28, 2012). Even people of different religions smoke weed and have rituals: “Depends on the day. I’m Buddhist so sometimes I sit and got incense and candles going, just zone out and contemplate the world (that’s the Buddhist part of me), other times I sit there watching Teletubbies laughing my ass off (that’s the stoner in me). All depends on the day” (Thedudeisin, 2007). For some smokers it is simply just more of a primal urge to feed, The Munchies. In an interview the question was asked, do you have any specific rituals after smoking ganja; the smoker thought for a second and with much enthusiasm, “E A T MYSELF OUT OF HOUSE AND HOME” (Mr. America, Personal interview. Dec, 6, 2012). Today, medical marijuana is being used all throughout America and even in other countries. How has the hype about medical marijuana affected the recreational user? The news has been blowing up the cannabis culture in the past couple of years and not always with the correct information, leading some smokers to believe pot can be more harmful or helpful than it really is. “Not only do I smoke weed because I can get high but it helps deal with pain in my bad ankle.” It is true that cannabis does help with pain, when you smoke marijuana there is a chemical compound in it called tetra hydro cannabinol (THC) that blocks your dopamine receptors causing you to have more dopamine in your body (Jager, G., Kahn, R.S., Van Den Brink, W., Van Ree, J.M., & Ramsey, N.F., 2005-2006). Even in developing nations where there is little modern medicine and technology, aboriginal tribes use it and believe it to be a medical remedy for curing skin diseases. For instance, in 1981 the Khasi and Garo tribes in India had much less connection to the outside world and used, “The leaves and fruits … in making different kinds of medicines; the crushed leaves [were] used for skin diseases” (Ethnobotany, 1981). Moreover, there is also a widespread belief that marijuana has an effect on the long-term memory each time you use it. However, alcohol is just as harmful 124


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to your memory as cannabis. The only real damage that will occur to your memory is if you overuse and abuse the drug for long periods of time. There are a few different kinds of potheads; there are the social potheads, reclusive potheads, major potheads, moronic potheads, and brilliant potheads. Depending on what category somebody falls into out of those, they behave differently in society. The cannabis culture is so vast that there are so many different types of people that someone who does smoke weed isn’t going to be the same as someone else. Depending on what kind of stoner someone is they will act a certain way. Many stoners will try and cover up that they smoke marijuana because they don’t want someone to know that they use the drug, and on the opposite end of that there are those who are very out in the open about their use of cannabis. With those two extremes in place there are those in the middle who would probably never admit to using as much as they do or even admit they use at all because it is illegal. “Instead of stopping to smell the roses, I stop to smell the cannabis burn,” is how one social user acts when he comes into contact with it in everyday life (Anonymous. Personal Interview. Dec. 4, 2012). Cannabis has had many different labels. Historically, marijuana was thought to have been a healing herb, an escape, the devil, and a gateway drug. Within the two different strains of Sativa and Indica you have sub strains such as kush, chronic, reggie, diesel, skunk, and hundreds of others. This is just more support for the claim that cannabis culture is huge. The culture has become mainstream and media exposure is like a huge invitation saying, come, join — making it the most diversified sub-culture in the world.

References

Cannabis. (2012). Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Cannabis#Ancient_and_religious_uses Ethnobotany of Meghalaya: Medicinal plants used by Khasi and Garo tribes. (1981). New York Botanical Garden, 9 (6). Retrieved from Google scholar. Frost, C. (1975). Smoking Pipe. United States Patent. Retrieved from Google. Jager, G., Kahn, R.S., Van Den Brink, W., Van Ree, J.M., Ramsey, N.F. (2005 2006). Long-term effects of frequent cannabis use on working memory and attention: an fMRI study. Psycho-Pharmacology, 2-3, 7-9. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier. Merel, F. H., Griffith-Lendering, S., Huijbregts, C.J., Vollebergh, W.A.M., & Swaab, H. (2012). Motivational and cognitive inhibitory control in recreational cannabis users. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 1-11. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier. Thedudeisin. (2007, November 26). What are your smoking rituals? [comment thread]. Cannabis.com. Retrieved from http://boards.cannabis.com/spirituality/

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Waste Not, Want Not by Julianne DeFilippis

As a server and cashier at a restaurant in downtown Phoenix, I see an enormous amount of food go to waste every day. I first noticed it back when I started my job in October, and over the past few months the problem has become increasingly frustrating. Some days we throw away less than others, but on a bad day, I have dumped a dozen or so bagels and muffins from the front display alone. If you also take into consideration how much food is tossed from the kitchen it becomes even more unsettling. I began my job at the same time the restaurant opened, so at first I attributed the lack of organization behind leftover food to the fact the restaurant was new and still had to find its footing within the community. However, as we reach our six-month mark in a few weeks, there still does not appear to have been any changes since the opening. If wasted food is an issue in the restaurant where I work, then it is most likely an issue in other restaurants around the city. Since I work for a large chain restaurant that is not run in Arizona, I figured it might be too much for me to tackle on my own. Instead, I wanted to find a way I could still address the problem of wasted food but closer to home. Home for me right now is the dorms at the Arizona State University Downtown Phoenix campus. Due to the small size of the campus, much of my eating is confined to the dining hall that is on the first floor of the building. The meal schedule is a little odd, but each day breakfast, lunch, and dinner end at the same time regardless of how much food is left. This means that even if a meal was unpopular or too much was made and there is plenty of food leftover, it all gets thrown away at the end of night. Instead of tossing edible food, it can be donated to a local charity or food bank. Phoenix is home to St. Mary’s Food Bank, the first established food bank in the country. Though they do get a lot of donations from local families and businesses, with the state of the economy and the continuing rise in poverty level in Phoenix, the amount of food they need to satisfy the community is higher than ever. As I began to work more and experience more of downtown Phoenix and see the poverty firsthand, I wondered how businesses could go on ignoring such issues when they hold the key to helping fix them. I finally decided to do some research into poverty in Phoenix and the restaurant industry’s involvement, or lack thereof, with food banks and other charitable organizations. 126


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According to the 2010 census, Arizona has the fifth highest poverty rate in the country. One in five families in Arizona live in poverty, which is defined as living on 22,050 dollars or less annually for a family of four. The census also revealed that more families are living in poverty now than any time since they started keeping record in 1959. Virginia Skinner, a development director at the Association of Arizona Food Banks (AAFB), stated, “the number of people requesting food at the pantries has doubled in 18 months, and half are children” (Holstege, 2011, para. 14). Cynthia Zwick, executive director at the Arizona Community Action Association said the caseload of poor people seeking assistance statewide shot up from 140,000 in 2009 to 171,000 in 2010 (Holstege, 2011, para. 10). Arizona State University (ASU) makes more than enough food for its residents each day and perfectly edible food is wasted because it is always thrown away. The dining halls should donate their extra food instead of throwing it away to help reduce hunger in Phoenix. Many organizations do not donate food, not because they are lazy, but because they have not been informed of the various methods and charities that make it easy to do. There are several charitable organizations in and around Phoenix that are willing to work directly with restaurants in order to get their leftover food to people in need. Besides St. Mary’s Food Bank and other food banks in the AAFB, there is also a Waste Not organization in Arizona. This organization does not have warehouses or food banks; instead they have trucks that pick up food from different restaurants and companies around the Valley and take the food directly to food banks and shelters. The food does not have time to go bad because it is delivered the same day it is picked up. This is great for restaurants that are worried about perishable items that might go bad and potentially get people sick. This concern brings up the liability argument, probably the main reason why many restaurants refuse to donate their leftovers. It seems like a valid standpoint, restaurants do not want to be accused of getting people sick if the food they donate goes bad. Organizations like Waste Not help make this less of an issue, but even other organizations that do not distribute food immediately are still worth donating to. Waste Not reminds its potential partners that, “donors are protected by the Good Samaritan Law, passed by the Arizona legislature in August of 1989 that exempts Waste Not donors from potential liability and damages related to the donations of perishable foods” (Waste Not). The law states that as long as organizations are making an effort to help those in need, they cannot be sued for any problems that result from their donations. This means that whenever restaurants try to use the liability excuse they have not done their research. Even though there is a lack of more detailed legislation that requires or at least encourages restaurants to donate their extra food in Arizona, it does exist in other states. Mississippi, Nevada, California, Florida, Massachusetts and other states all have laws that protect donors from civil liability and authorize 127


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restaurants to donate leftover food (Irgang, 2009). In fact, after an eleven-year old student in south Florida noticed the amount of food his school wasted, he contacted the state legislators and helped pass the Jack Davis Florida Restaurant Lending a Helping Hand Act in 2008. State Senator Jenny Oropeza, who introduced a similar bill in California that same year, stated, “There simply is too much perfectly good food being wasted. Sadly, too many people are struggling financially and going to bed hungry” (Irgang, 2009, para. 10). These new laws have been passed around the country over the years, and more states are joining in because they see the correlation between a need for more donations and a large amount of wasted food at restaurants. Along with poverty and the economy, environmental protection is also a hot topic in the country today. From an environmental standpoint, there are a lot of solutions that involve unusable waste. Some of the food left on people’s plates can be put towards composts instead of going straight to the trash. Any plastic products can be recycled. ASU prides itself on being a sustainable, green university; all the plates and silverware in the cafeteria are reusable, and this year they made a switch from Styrofoam to-go boxes to reusable plastic boxes. These are great steps towards improving the environment that we live, but now it is time to turn the attention to the people that live here. Donating food can be considered green as well. According to The New York Times article, “One Country’s Table Scraps, Another Country’s Meal,” only a few studies have been done in food waste, but a study run by the Environmental Protection Agency showed that Americans generate roughly 30 million tons of waste each year and all but roughly two percent of that waste goes to landfills (Martin, 2008). Furthermore, the rotting food that ends up in landfills produce methane, a major source of greenhouse gases. Much of the food is thrown away is not just scraps, it is edible food, which means that if more was salvaged for donations, in the long run, it could reduce the amount of food that ends up in landfills and in turn reduce the amount of methane produced. If the amount of poverty in the Valley and the rise in necessity at food banks is not convincing enough, maybe this green standpoint is just what this issue needs in order for ASU to pay attention. Of course, in order for this to happen, the first step needs to be awareness. All it takes is asking the right questions in order to get people to start thinking about the issue and the benefits that could come from donating for both charities and the school. According to a study by Tarasuk and Eakin (2005), “The work of salvaging edible foodstuffs from among industry ‘surplus’ helps to ‘feed the hungry’ while also diminishing the amount of refuse deposited in landfill sites, sparing corporations disposal costs and landfill tipping fees, and helping them forge an image of good corporate citizenship.” Along with the environmental factors, building a stronger relationship with food banks could be good for the school’s image and reputation. ASU Downtown is always looking for new ways to get involved with the community and a partnership with food banks or other organizations would be 128


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a great way to do that. The best way to begin this partnership and get students involved would be to create a club. I propose the creation of a Waste Not club that can work with the school and the Waste Not organization in Arizona to get the ball rolling on donating leftover food. The club will mean less work for ASU since they will not have to handle all of the relations and it will also mean more involvement because the club members can help not only with the donation process, but they can also volunteer their time at local food banks. Eventually the club will be able to use ASU as an example to reach out to restaurants in the area to see if they would be willing to donate their excess food as well. Though donating to food banks is not the solution to the larger hunger issue, it can be a short-term solution. Donating leftovers will not stop hunger, but it can aid food banks and waste less food, which also means less money wasted. As explained in The New York Times: Of course, eliminating food waste won’t solve the problems of world hunger and greenhouse-gas pollution. But it could make a dent in this country and wouldn’t require a huge amount of effort or money. The Department of Agriculture estimated that recovering just five percent of the food that is wasted could feed four million people a day; recovering 25 percent would feed 20 million people. (Martin, 2008, para. 17) It is a win-win situation because in the long-run it will help the food banks in Phoenix, reduce the amount of food in landfills and methane gas emissions, and get ASU, particularly the downtown campus, more involved in the Phoenix community. Eventually it would be great to see some legislation requiring or at least further encouraging restaurants to donate their excess food to charity. The first step should at least be awareness of the issue by beginning a relationship between food banks and ASU.

References

Holstege, S. (2011, September 14). Demand up at Arizona charities. Arizona Republic. Retrieved from http://www.azcentral.com Irgang, T. (2009, July 13). States passing laws to assist food pantries. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday30.usatoday.com/ Making the pieces fit for Arizona: The case for our social services safety net. (2011). Association of Arizona Food Banks. Retrieved from http://www.azfoodbanks.org Martin, A. (2008, May 18). One country’s table scraps, another country’s meal. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com Tarasuk, V., Eakin, J. M. (2005). Food assistance through “surplus” food: Insights from an ethnographic study of food bank work. Agriculture and Human Values, 22, 177-186. Retrieved from http://www.cynthiaclarke.com Waste not perishable food rescue and delivery. (2010). Waste Not. Retrieved from http://www.wastenotaz.org 129


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ood samarita


To My Father on the Anniversary of his Death by Stevi Rollison

Two days before prom I fed you pudding with a flimsy, plastic spoon. It was late afternoon, and the sun scorched My spaghetti-strapped back through open blinds. I approached heat stroke while You shivered beneath layered blankets, Propped-up “get well” cards lined the walls, Bouquets of flowers overwhelmed both side tables. “This food tastes like pissed-on cardboard,” You announced to nurse Vicky as she entered the room. “A couple more bites,” she said. Your cheek bones protruded, your eyes had Faded from a hue of deep blue to an absent gray, The color of storm clouds to match your hair. When Vicky left the room, You sang “Ain’t No Sunshine when She’s Gone.” She giggled from the hallway and I had to laugh, too. You always called your sense of humor “youthful charm.” Mom called it “grownup-child syndrome.” Making people laugh despite your pain— Despite the network of tubes you lay tangled in— Was so you. “I’ll be damned if you miss prom over me!” You said. You handed me your debit card. I shook my head, but you insisted, “Come back with a dress tomorrow, or else.” That was the last time we spoke. You never saw my dress. But you know I wore it for you anyway. 133


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Life at 37 by Alexa Chrisbacher

Everyone in Fred’s family died at 37. His father, his father’s father, his aunts and uncles—all gone just shy of four decades. This unexplained curse was inherited endlessly like a pre-existing condition on a medical chart. Instead of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s trimming his family tree, it was accidental asphyxiation, slippery stairways and an occasional rabid dog. Today, on the eve of his 38th birthday, Fred pulled a thick scrapbook from the shelf of a bookcase in his living room. Long wood screws had been used to keep all upright furniture snug against the wall, this bookcase included. Fred sat gingerly in an armchair and propped his feet up on the coffee table—the corners having been padded with packing foam and duct tape—and opened the book in his lap. The plump, greasy face of his Aunt Midge smiled at him through a photograph on the page. He didn’t remember his aunt; she had lived in the south and his father was always too terrified of flying to visit his dear, older sister. Midge lived alone with two orange cats, Ronald and Wendy. Her dim apartment was cluttered with dusty Happy Meal toys, cat figurines and empty fast-food containers. The polyester sofa in her living room was speckled with ketchup stains, splatters of soda and a thick coating of animal fur. Abandoned stacks of pizza boxes and piles of waxed paper wrappers lined the walls. Midge loved fries, she loved cheeseburgers and she loved pizza. But of all the greasy, salty, fatty delights in her repertoire, she loved nothing more than a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Once a week, Midge would shuffle out of her grimy second-floor apartment, lumber down the stairs, and drive down the road to KFC. She lived next door to a young nursing student from San Diego (a real busybody if you asked Midge) who would lecture her about health and diet and all that garbage Californians really get off on. As Midge made slow progress down the stairs, her neighbor jogged out of her apartment and called out. “Hello Miss Cauley, are you having a nice birthday?” Midge was not going to slow down for anything, especially not a pushy blonde girl in scrubs. “You know Miss Cauley, we talked about heart disease in my lecture today.” 136


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“Oh good,” Midge said, sucking in air and grasping the railing. “Good for you.” “Well, you know, the risk of heart conditions increases with age,” she said from the top of the stairs. “And diet, too. Since you are one year older today, I thought you’d want to consider a lifestyle change.” Midge glanced over her shoulder from the bottom step. The nursing student was still going on as Midge walked away. Phrases like ‘high cholesterol’ and ‘heart attack’ faded behind her, unheeded. As she pulled up to the drive-thru, Midge deeply inhaled the thick scent of frying oil in the humid air. She felt faint as she basked in the comforting red and yellow glow of neon in the windows. The drive-thru speaker crackled and her pulse jumped, she could hardly wait. Midge ordered a feast. She could feel her chest tighten in anticipation as she loaded brown paper bags filled with golden breaded chicken, steaming mashed potatoes slathered in gravy, creamy coleslaw and gooey mac-n-cheese through her driver’s side window. Midge slurped Pepsi from a massive cup sandwiched between her thighs before she pulled away from the window and drove slowly across the parking lot. A gust of wind blew an empty chicken bucket across the lot. A low, shuddering creak filled the air. All Midge heard was the crinkling of brown paper as she dug around in her bag for the container of wedge-cut fries. Unsuccessful, she put her station wagon in park in view of a colossal sign that advertised chicken to passersby on the nearby highway. The Colonel’s massive face gazed down at Midge from his perch atop a blue, 75-foot pole. Another gust of wind rolled through the lot as Midge bit into a hot thigh, grease collecting in the corners of her mouth. Nursing student, my ass, she thought. California thinks it’s so great, with their tiny dogs and vegetarians. You don’t like fried chicken, you ain’t right. A loud pop jarred Midge from her thoughts and she looked up from the biscuit she had drizzled with honey. The plummeting head of the Colonel, severed from its pole by a particularly strong gust, made eye contact with her for just a moment before crushing the station wagon and Midge along with it. Fred gazed for a moment out the double-paned, shatterproof window of his living room. He knew this day would come, when all the stories he’d heard would suddenly seem like more than old family folklore. The past year he had stopped driving, thrown away all his silverware and pulled the laces out of every pair of shoes he owned. His shower was lined with slip-resistant plastic, every hanging picture was pasted to the wall and he had even stashed EPI pens around the house in case he developed a spontaneous allergy to peanuts. It didn’t seem to matter though, he saw death in every speeding car, construction site and parking garage he passed. He was determined to survive, he had to; it would be his first great accomplishment. There was so much Fred hadn’t yet seen for fear of losing his tug-of-war with the family fate: amusement parks, London, the new bagel shop on 15th street. If he lived to 38, he thought, he could go on a date and fall in 137


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love and move to Paris and have kids without the risk of leaving them. He could buy a canoe and pursue the pining of his adventurous heart. He could finally take up woodworking. The family curse was never a secret to Fred. He and his twin brother, Stewart, grew up hearing tales of outrageous family passing the way most children are told about princesses and dragons. These grim tales could be mapped out for generations and generations on his father’s side. Luckily for everyone else, this disease was not contagious, but that did not blunt the sadness of befuddled and abandoned spouses. It could be traced back to their first ancestor to set foot in America, a pilgrim who died of starvation during the first Thanksgiving feast after getting lost in a recently-harvested cornfield. The curse even overshadowed the accomplishments of some of their more talented family members, like his second cousin. He swam professionally, only to drown at 37 when his Olympic coach tackled him in the pool to celebrate his bronze medal. Fred’s grandmother, Meredith, was so distraught over her inevitable fate that she turned to the solace of people whose lives were more hopeless than hers: the tragic characters of William Shakespeare. In her career as a librarian, she found comfort nowhere else but among her fictional friends who sat in their dusty leather jackets on towering shelves. Every evening, after all the other books had been carefully placed in their allotted sections, Meredith would sneak back to the Towers, a two-story shrine to classic literature, to revisit Hamlet, Ophelia, Romeo, Juliet, Macbeth and Banquo. The shelves stretched high toward the room’s vaulted ceiling, a cathedral in which Meredith found sanctuary. She’d scurry up the tall, wheeled ladder each evening, scaling oaken ledges to choose a new book to spend the night with. Meredith stood high on the ladder, dusting the delicate spines of each aged novel as the sun set through the peaked windows casting a sepia glow across the room. She stepped onto the next rung, a filthy rag grasped in her hand and glanced at the top shelf. Her gaze settled on a first edition collection of short stories that sat on the highest shelf. Pointing her feet to gain some height, Meredith reached toward the spine, its faded lettering beckoning her to stretch a little further, to lean a little farther. Just as her fingers grasped at the binding, the ladder shifted under Meredith’s uneven weight. She jolted backward. Her hands grasped frantically until they found the ladder rung, but the book hadn’t been as lucky. It tumbled through the air, pages fluttering as it left wisps of dust in its wake. Meredith cried out as it hit the ground with a thud. She looked down at the mangled book, its cover spread wide, pages crumbled between the ground and their binding. Hastily she descended, eyes glassed with emotion at the tragedy she just provoked. The broken spine crackled when she tried to straighten it. The antiquated pages resisted her coaxing fingertips as she tried to smooth out the damage. Meredith buried her face deep in the recesses of the binding to muffle her sobs. 138


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The next few weeks Meredith did not show up for work. She lay in bed weak and nauseated, crawling out from under her quilt only to retch. Eventually she could not even do that. Her organs began to shut down—one by one—an ancient mold spore ravaging her body from the inside out. The book of short stories on her bedside table was later retrieved by a team in HAZMAT suits. Fred spent tireless hours compiling obituaries and brainstorming ways to avoid deadly scenarios involving seemingly-harmless kitchen appliances, which hardly left time for socializing. As years and cousins passed, Fred became more and more alone. At dinner, he’d alternate taking bites of lukewarm TV dinner and recounting the events of his day to uncles and aunts, who smiled at him from photos spread across the dining room table. Closing the book, Fred thought of his father, Robert. He was an amiable man. Fred remembered being flushed with embarrassment as a child when his father cracked jokes to grocery clerks or kindly complimented a waitress’s curly hair. Their mother always joked that Robert was extra-sweet to compensate for the candy he couldn’t eat. The sweet tooth Robert had been born with never gave him cavities, but eventually it did give him diabetes. Sadly, he walked past glazed doughnuts in the office break room every morning, he resisted pouring French vanilla creamer in his coffee and averted his eyes as he scampered past the vending machine’s candy bar wares. “Oh come on Rob, just one piece!” his co-workers persuaded during lunch break. In the center of the dining room’s faux-oak laminate table sat a frosted white cake. ‘Happy birthday Rob’ was scrawled on its face in a playful script. “One little piece isn’t gonna kill you, champ,” his boss said, clapping him on the back. “It’s your special day.” Robert was not one to dampen the mood so, with a wide smile, he cut himself a piece of velvety yellow cake. His mouth moistened as he slid a finger through the buttercream frosting and brought it to his lips. It was rich and sweet, just as he remembered. I deserve this, he thought. Plus I’m picking up my meds later so, just in case, I’m covered. His wife always nagged him about his eating—don’t use too much syrup on your waffle, don’t steal cookies from the kids, is that candy in your coat pocket? Robert was usually very compliant, he knew health was important, but dammit, it was his birthday and he was going to eat cake. “Forty is just around the corner now buddy, it goes by fast,” his boss said before shoveling another bite in his mouth. “Let an older guy give you some advice, treat yourself now and then. There’s no shame in living a little.” Robert clocked out and climbed in his car. His mouth was dry. He smacked his lips together and pulled onto the road. The pharmacy was only a few blocks away, and for this he was thankful. It had been a long week and Robert could feel the fatigue of a 9-to-5 beginning to settle into his shoulders and lower back. The stop-and-go traffic blurred in front of him and Robert shook himself to stay awake. A radio DJ announced a fender-bender was slowing down daytime 139


Life at 37 commuters during the 5 o’clock hour. Talk radio babbled on as Robert looked down at his driving foot. His shoes must be too tight because the tingling in his toes was getting worse, it wasn’t muted like the weeks prior; today, distinct numbness crept along his arch and settled in the heel of his leather oxfords. The playful jingle of ‘Turkey in the Straw’ wafted through Robert’s open window, and he glanced up with a grin. That song always reminds me of ice cream trucks, he thought, just before a white van with a rotating, mounted ice cream cone slammed into the side of his car. Fudge pops and Choco Tacos scattered across the intersection and the ragtime tune pumped from the van’s speaker even after the scream of tearing metal had ceased. After their father’s passing, Fred and Stewart began to confront their own unstoppable fates. Their 14-year-old minds, once so alike, were shattered. When the pieces were put back together the boys barely recognized one another. Fred set out to prepare for his fateful 37th year on earth by creating a scrapbook of family obituaries—he wanted to know exactly what he was dealing with. Stewart, however, spiraled into an existential phase that followed him throughout high school. As a teenager he would quote Sartre and Crosby, while raking his blacklacquered fingernails through his artificially ebony hair. After spending his high school years deciding not to live, Stewart went on to spend the following years trying to die. His freshman year of college he decided to slash his wrists. A classic way to end it, he thought. Why waste all this time when 37 is the end of the line? Unfortunately for him, the angle was wrong and his roommate walked in soon after. Not to be deterred, Stewart later stole a handgun from a friend’s closet, only to realize that it shot air-soft pellets, which strike the temple with just enough force to bruise slightly. While on a walk he tried to swallow his tongue, as he had seen done in a movie, but that proved fruitless as well so he leapt into oncoming traffic. Stewart was badly injured, but the paramedics in the ambulance that hit him saved his life without a moment to spare. Years later he worked up the confidence to once again end his pointless venture of living. He tried to forget his last botched effort involving a mix-up between Nyquil and Dayquil as he strolled down the aisle of the hardware store. With 20 feet of rope in his bag, Stewart headed to his studio apartment outside of campus and set up for his long-awaited finale. Stewart strung up the rope up on the horizontal bar of his small closet, stepped on a stack of philosophy textbooks and put the makeshift noose around his neck. “You can do it,” he whispered aloud, “This is your moment.” Stewart cried out as he stepped off the pile of books. The rope tightened around his neck and held his weight long enough for the bar in his closet to snap and smack him across the bridge of his nose. Still quite alive, Stewart mashed a sock against his nostrils to stanch the flow of blood. After months of going from fearing that children would accidentally strangle him with their jump ropes, to swallowing handfuls of pills and waking up alive (again) to face another day with countless opportunities to be impaled by dull objects, only to try this later and 140


Life at 37 realize it doesn’t work as well as he’d feared, Stewart had had it. The only failure he ever experienced in his near four decades of life was the inability to execute a proper suicide. Frankly, it was beginning to depress him. The next morning Stewart woke with a new outlook on life. Yes he may die next month, next week or even tomorrow, but at this point his odds were better leaving fate up to someone else. He slipped on a pair of running shoes that hadn’t seen much use, pulled the laces tight and headed out the door. The spring sun on his face was warm and a cool breeze tousled his hair. Stewart felt his blood pumping, muscles burning and sweat dripping down his face. He jogged past City Park, over the town lake bridge and through the tall, multi-story buildings lining Main Street. He stopped. The sound of traffic, chattering conversation and barking dogs pulsed all around him. He closed his eyes for a moment to soak in this feeling of being alive, truly alive. And Stewart was truly alive in that moment of bliss—and dead the next, when an inconsolable woman leapt from the building behind him and fell directly onto his head. Stewart was killed two months ago, the same day Fred was having noxious gas sensors installed in every room. He was saddened by it, but mostly it just made him feel lonely. By living to the cusp of his next birthday, Fred became the only remaining person in his bloodline. Everyone else had died. But, this is what he wanted. He had chosen to push against the inevitable and break past the barriers of life and death in his family. The sacrifice he made for this propelled him forward. Prom night, a college life outside his dorm window, owning a car, scraping his knees, breathing unfiltered outside air. Fred believed he could become the oldest person in his family. In his years-long struggle to prepare for this last fateful night, Fred neglected to start a family, to have children. Truly, if he died his family would be sealed in the casket alongside him. He had never dated much, but there was a pretty woman that worked at the coffee shop down the street that he avoided (hot liquids seemed an especially painful way to go). She had bouncy red hair and a gap between her front teeth that showed when she smiled. Fred mused about strolling in there, a confident 38-year-old man with nothing to lose, and asking her out without flinching at the sinister hiss of steaming espresso machines. Maybe he would bring flowers. Fred imagined what her laugh might sound like and how her freckled nose would scrunch when he said something witty. He thought about the circle of her mouth saying I love you and the crescent moons of her fingernails. Fred looked at the clock on his bedside table. 11:55 p.m. He sat on the edge of his bed. Doing so had proved difficult ever since he had the bed shortened to prevent tumbling to the floor from a dangerous height. He slipped under the covers, turned off the light and closed his eyes in the red glow of the digital clock face. Five minutes from now I will be free, he thought. Then my life will truly begin. Fred rolled over and slipped deeply into sleep while his bedside clock ticked on. 141


photo by Gabriel Radley


The Harmful Effects of the Anti-Vaccination Movement by Rylee Grafil

Jenny McCarthy has a body count. At least, that is what Derek Bartholomaus, self-proclaimed entertainment industry expert, claims on his website “Jenny McCarthy Body Count.” According to Bartholomaus, the former Playboy “Playmate of the Year” and MTV star is responsible for a staggering 870 deaths and 90,618 injuries since June 2007, when McCarthy publicly announced that she believed that routine vaccinations had caused her son’s autism. While McCarthy may have popularized the anti-vaccination movement to some degree, she by no means started it. The anti-vaccination movement has actually been active since the mid nineteenth century. In “Anti-Vaccinationists Past and Present,” Robert M. Wolf and Lisa K. Sharp explain that after Edward Jennings invented the smallpox vaccine, mass outbreaks of the disease in both Europe and North America led governments to institute compulsory vaccination laws. Upset that their personal freedoms had been infringed upon, angry citizens responded with mass protests and the formation of formal anti-vaccination leagues, succeeding in repealing compulsory vaccination laws in several states (Wolf & Sharp, 2003). Since the repeal of such laws, the anti-vaccination movement has gradually evolved. In recent times, the most popular arguments against vaccination have centered on those given to children and young adults, questioning the safety and necessity of vaccination. The issue gained international notoriety once again in 1998 when a British doctor named Andrew Wakefield published a now-debunked study linking the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination with autism. Once again, vaccinations were the subject of major controversy, a controversy that still lingers over a decade after the initial study was released and years after Wakefield was discredited as a physician. Although the movement continues to gain momentum, it is harmful to society because it can lead to outbreaks of diseases and perpetuates falsehoods about vaccination. The most obvious side effect of a decrease in vaccination is the resurgence of diseases made rare by modern medicine. Many people who oppose vaccination have a hard time seeing its benefits without the eminent threat of the diseases 144


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they protect against. Ralph Edwards of the Uppsala Monitoring Centre, an independent scientific research center in Sweden, explains, “paradoxically, vaccination programs suffer from their own success. Many of the diseases that childhood vaccination is used for are not now known to many parents … so it is difficult for them to see individual benefit for their child” (Edwards, 2009, para. 6). This leads to the perception that these vaccinations are harmful and unnecessary. Furthermore, many anti-vaccination justifications rely on the idea of herd immunity, which means that diseases are unable to resurface if most of the people in the population have been vaccinated against them. Michael Fumento, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and columnist for Scripps Howard News Service, stated that, “If enough people free ride, then herd immunity is lost and what follows is the return of diseases we hardly think about anymore” (2009, p. 68). These disease comebacks are far from hypothetical. Recently, cases of pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, rose in industrialized nations, such as the United Kingdom, Sweden, Japan, and Australia, after vaccination scares augmented by the voices of the anti-vaccination movement in those countries (Fumento, 2009, p. 68). The United States has also seen outbreaks of preventable diseases that correlate with declining vaccination rates. In 2008, the Center for Disease Control noted outbreaks of measles in California, Arizona, and Massachusetts. Of the 64 documented cases, 63 of the patients had either no proof of immunization or were not immunized against measles (Center for Disease Control, 2008). In the unvaccinated American Amish community, clusters of polio outbreaks have been reported as early as the late 1970s and as recently as 2005, when five children were diagnosed with the disease in central Minnesota (Harris, 2005, para. 1). While many anti-vaccinationists deny that vaccines had any effect on the eradication of these diseases in the first place, the resurgence of these diseases among populations where vaccination rates are low is alarming. Yvonne Maldonado of the Stanford University School of Medicine stated that “recent examples of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses among populations with poor or no immunization coverage underscore the need for continuous immunization programs in the absence of disease elimination or eradication” (2002, para. 5). The spread of the anti-vaccination movement only harms these efforts, leading to the potential reemergence of such diseases. That’s not to say that there are absolutely no risks associated with vaccination. Many people suffer from allergic reactions to vaccines every year, with effects ranging from small rashes to paralysis or death. Furthermore, it’s hard to argue that forcing someone to vaccinate themselves or their child or face legal repercussions doesn’t infringe upon personal liberties. It’s the responsibility of the individual to weigh the risks and make an informed decision. The antivaccination movement, however, makes it harder for people to make informed decisions on their health, because it often perpetuates misinformation about vaccination hazards. 145


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The most famous of these instances is the Wakefield study. It gained popularity after it ran in the British publication The Lancet. The study, which observed twelve children with autism, found a link between the MMR vaccination and autism. While Wakefield initially denied a causal relationship between the two, he went on to urge the suspension of the MMR vaccination in children at a press conference. His statements ignited controversy, leading to outcries from parents and several subsequent experiments investigating his claims. Of the dozens of experiments conducted since Wakefield’s, none have shown a definitive link, or even evidence to suggest, that the MMR vaccination and autism are somehow related (Miller & Reynolds, 2009, p. 172). But the myth persists. It’s not hard to see why. A simple Google search for “vaccination” turns up plenty of webpages run by groups like Vaccine Liberation, which prominently feature Wakefield’s evidence. Many of these sites also feature personal stories of parents who have dealt firsthand with autism and its difficulties, outright blaming vaccinations. Edwards acknowledges the power that this anecdotal evidence has over parents trying to make an informed decision. “Most of the responses by experts … assert the need to consider only scientific evidence. These approaches are not likely to be effective on … the public, when the case for personal tragedy is so strongly presented and contrasted with impersonal science, and uncertainty” (2009, para. 4). These widespread lies have made it harder to make an informed decision about one’s health. This misinformation only harms people more by putting doctors and medical professionals on the defense. Michelle Au, physician and author, observes “rhetoric from the most vocal portion of the anti-vaccine contingent has turned particularly antagonistic, painting doctors and the drug companies who develop vaccines as greedy, ignorant, maleficent perpetrators of a giant medical conspiracy” (2011, para. 5). This pits patients against doctors, creating a general distrust toward medical professionals. When patients feel they cannot seek medical advice from their doctors, the amount of information about vaccination available to them is greatly reduced, forcing them to turn to pseudoscience (defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary to be “a system of theories, assumptions, and methods erroneously regarded as scientific”), perpetuated by antivaccination groups. So why are people so eager to believe that medical professionals, drug companies, and the government are actively trying to hurt them, eager to discredit scientific evidence and turn to pseudoscience? The issue extends far beyond the question of vaccination. Michael Shermer, American science writer and author of Why People Believe Weird Things, explains:

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All humans seek patterns. That’s our nature … we have evolved to find cause-and-effect relationships in nature, and then weave a plausible story to explain them … we also have inherited magical thinking. Add to this the fact that many of these beliefs make us feel better, meet some emotional need … and in general appeal to our emotional brains and bypass our rational brains. (2002, p. 233)


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This theory can easily be applied to the question of vaccination. It is no wonder why people become more cautious when they hear about crippling side effects of the human papillomavirus vaccine or the autism scare associated with the MMR vaccine. The fear easily bypasses our “rational brains” and goes straight for the emotional, leading to questionable decision making on the part of patients, because of lies perpetuated by the anti-vaccination movement. Does Jenny McCarthy actually have a body count? Probably not. She cannot (and should not) be held accountable for every person’s decision to not vaccinate. What she is guilty of, however, is helping to spread lies surrounding vaccination movements. This is not a battle between the rational and emotional, or between scientific evidence and anecdotal evidence, or between utilitarian goals and personal freedoms. These are complex, serious decisions that everyday people face. These decisions become more difficult and the information more muddled as the debate over vaccination heats up. In today’s information era, it’s especially important to research and verify all of the claims we are bombarded with, be it from celebrities or websites. It’s important that the spread of scientific evidence and facts outpaces the spread of anti-vaccination propaganda. Who knows, it might even save lives.

References

Au, M. (2011). When people decide not to vaccinate their children, I take it personally. This Won’t Hurt a Bit. Retrieved from http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2011/09/ people-decide-vaccinate-children-personally.html Edwards, R. (2009). A risk worth taking? Drug Safety. 32 (10), pp.801-804. Fumento, M. (2009). ‘Anti-vaccinationists are freeloaders’. In Endghal, S. (ed), Vaccination: Current Controversies. 1st ed. Detroit: Greenhaven Press. pp.61-69. Harris, G. (2005). 5 cases of polio in Amish group raise new fears. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/. [Last Accessed 14 March 2012]. Measles Outbreaks (2012, January 13). Retrieved March 14, 2012, from the Center for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/measles/outbreaks.html Maldonado, Y. (2002). Current controversies in vaccination. The Journal of the American Medical Association. 288 (1), pp.315-318. Miller, L., & Reynolds, J. (2009). Autism and vaccination - the current evidence. Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing. 14 (3), pp.166-172. Sharp, L., & Wolf, R. (2002). Anti-vaccinationists past and present. British Medical Journal. 325 (7361), pp.430. Shermer, M. (2002). Why People Believe Weird Things. 2nd ed. New York: Holt Publishing.

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Seconds Matter by Ana Rivas

One Mississippi … two Mississippi—two seconds passed, two shots were fired, and one body was hurt. His name was Juan; he was my brother. Two years ago, it took only two seconds from the time that a man fired two shots (one Mississippi) to reach my brother’s chest (two Mississippi). The walls of the house that were once white were now covered with his life. After a long ambulance ride and thousands of seconds that the doctors used to turn death into life within my brother’s body, they reached their destination. Time had saved my brother’s life. The same two seconds would not have mattered as much before my brother was shot. It was just a moment, it meant sending a text message, blinking my eyes, nothing too significant. But after this tragedy, I learned that two seconds is not just time. I believe that time means life. Since I was little, I was taught that time is valuable; that you can never get it back once it passes. I wish these lessons were taught through watching a movie or hearing a song, but unfortunately life lessons are taught the hard way: through some pain and suffering. That is just the way God designed it. Along the journey of my brother’s recovery, many would tell me, “You are lucky that he is alive.” But they didn’t understand that to me, at that moment, those two seconds, those two shots were death, darkness—not light, not luck. It wasn’t until two weeks later, on my brother’s graduation day, that I learned one of life’s most important lessons. In the few seconds that it took for a man to call his name and for my brother with courage and strength to reach for his diploma, shake that hand, and smile at me, I realized: it is in two seconds when extraordinary events occur in our lives. Two seconds is all it took to change my life, my family, and my world. I am no longer the person I was before. It is because of what took place in those few seconds that I am determined to become a doctor. So, don’t take too long to realize that life is happening; life is this moment, this second, right now. I believe it can take only one second to change yours. So live life enjoying every second you spend breathing, even when it feels like you want to stop. Life lessons can be taught in two seconds. Don’t miss them.

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149 drawing by Jessica Matthies


The Liberation of Larry Finklestein by Jessi Matthies

Chapter 1 Larry Finklestein was awkward in every way, and frightened of most things. He was afraid of the dark, afraid of unfamiliar places and things, afraid of being around women and other people in general, and of being alone. But most of all, he was petrified by heights. There was also something about alphabet soup that made him a little nervous that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Larry was a monumentally fat colossus of a man, so tall that he was constantly hitting his head on doorframes and light fixtures, knocking his comb-over askew. It usually remained flopped down over one eye, and no matter much saliva he mustered up to plaster it back in place, it still refused to lie properly. Not to be defeated, he resourcefully used it to cover most of the large, scabrous wine stain birthmark that dominated his forehead. Unlike his sparse scalp, this birthmark sprouted several coarse black hairs, which he tried to comb into his eyebrows. Whenever people stared at it, as they often did, he would tell them that it was a rash or a bruise. This seemed a plausible explanation, as he was very clumsy and had many allergies. His stuttering voice was unexpectedly high and meek for a man of his imposing physique, but was compensated by his more appropriately booming, baritone flatulence. Now Larry’s mother, on the other hand, had an impressively large, intimidating voice for a woman of her diminutive size. A dwarfish, puckered little pensioner, Missus Finklestein came just slightly above Larry’s knee, but she could reach high enough with her cane to sufficiently exercise her authority over her giant son with a sharp jab to the belly. Back when he was still just a rather large child and his noisy juvenile antics would begin to wear on her nerves she used to set him out on the spindly fire escape for a time-out so that she could get some peace and quiet. She would tell him that if he made too much of a fuss and didn’t hold still, the whole thing just might give way and send him plummeting to the pavement below. The flimsy scaffolding rattled and clung tenuously to the brick with its wobbly rusty screws, and little Larry would cringe and desperately grip the railings until she unlocked the latch and allowed him to clamber back

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inside when she was satisfied. The threat of time-out was so terrifying that soon enough Larry hardly dared to make a peep for fear of provoking her. Now, of course he was much too fat to force out the window. Missus Finklestein wore copious amounts of heady, floral perfume that cloyed onto the surface of her eyeballs. Her face was thickly caked powder and rouge. She also had a disturbing habit of taking her teeth out so that she could wipe the globs of lipstick off on her dress. She constantly wore the same ratty bathrobe and slippers, and her head was encased in a thick helmet of curlers day and night simply because she never bothered to remove them. Over these, she would tie a kerchief on the rare occasions necessity forced her to venture out of doors, which she never did without first enlisting the assistance of a taxi, no matter how little the distance. Missus Finklestein claimed it was because her age simply made it too challenging, but the truth was that she had always been accustomed to being chauffeured around by the late Mister Finklestein, occupying herself with her thick makeup and never so much as glancing out the window until she arrived at her destination. She rarely looked at her husband either, except to stare at him expectantly when something needed buying. Larry could remember very little about his father. Mister Finklestein had been an extremely timid man and never spoke out of turn, which in his marriage meant that he rarely spoke at all. He spent most of his time hiding behind the newspaper, nodding agreeably, trailing a civil distance behind Missus Finklestein while she piled things in the shopping cart, and mutely pulling out his wallet. One afternoon while escorting Missus Finklestein on an outing, their marital bliss was interrupted when her husband accidentally slipped on some dog excrement on the sidewalk and took an extraordinary pratfall, biting his tongue in the process. Shortly thereafter, he tragically died from a septic infection, and the butler service was no more. Once alone, Missus Finklestein was left completely helpless as she had never learned how to drive or ride the bus, and even if she could she didn’t have the faintest idea where the places she visited actually were. She suddenly had an epiphany how much she had relied on that useless lout, and how alone she was. Why, she didn’t even know how to read the hands on a clock, she would always just dial the operator if she needed to find out the time. It wasn’t her department to know these things, so she used the money from the life insurance and the automobile to pay others to know them for her. She found it frighteningly perplexing to be on her own all the time, so she decided that Larry would no longer go to school and would stay at home with her instead. The school might have come looking for him, only his paperwork had been lost when the administration building burned down, and he had been such a quiet child who’d sat inconspicuously at the back of the class and the edge of the playground that no one really noticed. Larry however did not feel particularly affected by his father’s passing; he had been so distant that his absence at the dinner table did not seem to make much of a difference. The only thing Larry could recall his father ever saying to him that might qualify as handing down words of wisdom was this: 151


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“Larry, do you know what’s stopping you from having a brain aneurysm right now? Nothing. Absolutely nothing at all.” This sage insight had always stuck with Larry over the years, and he understood it to mean that the world is a chaotic and perilous place, where there is no protection from the capricious flukes of fate. One could never know when their paths might cross with fatal coincidence, a thought that haunted him relentlessly. He rarely set foot farther than the doormat to retrieve the newspaper, from which he would collect clippings of unusual deaths in a scrapbook. His father’s obituary had a place of honor as the first entry. Some contributed to the odds of their own demise by doing foolish things like running next to the swimming pool or leaning too far out over the gorilla enclosure when there was a strong breeze. It seemed to Larry that just about every day you’d hear about senseless deaths in the news: of people who contracted a flesh eating microbe from touching a doorknob or a toilet seat, or were crushed by jettisoned waste from a passing jet plane. Even silly little things like revolving doors and flowerpots perched precariously on windowsills could be instruments of death. Leafing through the scrapbook of his obsession was strangely comforting, as if reassuring Larry that he was making the right decision by playing it safe. But his sense of security wavered when he came across articles about families who were going about their business while they unknowingly suffocated from carbon monoxide leaks, or had the ceiling cave in on them while they were sleeping because the upstairs neighbor forgot they were running the bath. Their homes had been no refuge of safety. Larry and his mother shared an apartment in a mildewed tenement building in an uninviting neighborhood in New Jersey, which had pipes that squealed like banshees through the thin plaster walls and smelled of mysterious drain clumps. Larry began to suspect there were likely toxic mold spores working their way through the walls and their respiratory systems, which might explain why he got so out of breath in the bathroom. The shabby domicile was far too cramped for him, a labyrinth of spindly little tables laden with doilies of delicate chinaware knick-knacks that were easily upset. So was Missus Finklestein, who would moan and carry on all day if one of her prized porcelain creatures was so much as chipped. Whenever he moved about in his own home he had to edge his bulk through the narrow pathways as gingerly as he was able. This was especially difficult because his mother also collected stray cats, which were responsible for the ever-present tang of ammonia that lurked in the back of the throat. They were fond of winding around his feet and make him stumble, and whenever one jumped up on the tables and sent the figurines scattering, it was always Larry that got the blame. Because there was not enough room to swing a cat without hitting another cat, and certainly not enough for Larry to move about, he stayed mostly confined to his bed or the armchair for reclining, or to the bathtub if he wanted to stand up or eat without worrying about crumbs. If there was one thing Missus 152


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Finklestein did have the ability to do well, it was to cook and produce a mountain of leftovers. After his father died and she began hoarding she also ensured that Larry had a steady supply of dense casseroles, lasagnas, doughnuts, and deli meats. The only time she was particularly motherly was when she was urging him to eat. He was all she had left, she would say, and she didn’t want him to waste away and leave her. As is to be expected with such an acute combination of sloth and gluttony, Larry steadily increased in girth and mass. The floorboards creaked and sagged with the strain of their burden, and Larry felt that old familiar terror that he would go plunging through. He worried that he would grow so large he would not be able to fit through the doorway, and soon he wouldn’t be able to squeeze through his home at all. The fear of being unable to escape began to outweigh the fear of going outside. One day, Larry had an overwhelming attack of claustrophobia and tried to calmly make his way to the window to get a gasp of fresh air, or what passed for it in New Jersey. From underneath a frilly tablecloth camouflage an especially malicious ball of fluff lay in wait for him and latched around his calf as he passed, teeth and claws piercing deeply though his trousers. The whole incident was unpleasant and unfortunate. The cat had the element of surprise, and Larry was perhaps a little too excitable. There was a great deal of screeching and crashing, and somehow the cat found himself underfoot, to their mutual surprise and dismay. No matter how many times Larry apologized or tried to explain what happened, his mother wasn’t very understanding. Missus Finklestein wailed and wrung her hands, gave Larry several whacks and jabs with her cane and swore she would never forgive him. After she withdrew to her bedroom with a bottle of schnapps and sufficiently composed herself, she unceremoniously bundled the cat in a plastic grocery bag and dumped it down the laundry chute in the hall. Larry stood in the bathtub rubbing his sore belly and thought about how Houdini had died from getting hit in the gut. That was the day when Larry was finally determined to do the unthinkable. He had to flee from his anxiety before the walls literally closed in on him, and the only place to go was out. The first thing to do was to get a job. Missus Finklestein swelled like a bullfrog when he told her his intentions. Just how exactly did he think he could possibly manage on his own without her there to look after him, she jeered, when he wasn’t even able to tie his shoes? Larry realized he really didn’t know what to do, but he held on to his resolve and began to search the phonebook for a clue, and turned to the letter “J” for jobs. As soon as he finished dialing and the line began to ring his hands started shaking. The first time someone answered he froze, only managing a tiny squeak, and after a few moments they hung up. After a few tries he did a little better, that is until the person on the other end asked him for his information and Larry slammed the receiver down in a panic, hyperventilating. Then he looked up his own phone number and address and had them ready on a pad of paper in case he was asked again. He forced himself to 153


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take deep breaths and try once more, though his voice still trembled. Finally, he managed to get an appointment for an interview. He was desperate to make a good impression, so he wore his best suit. Or rather, it was his only suit, a wreckage of vintage floral patterns that his mother had sewn out of the dining room curtains for the occasion. Though the curtains were rather large, his mother had to ration the cloth by cutting a few corners. The result was a crooked shambles that stretched and creaked dangerously at the seams whenever Larry moved, and pinched him painfully in the armpits and groin. He felt like a plump sausage in a casing. The fabric was prickly and smelled of his mother’s cigarettes, cooking sherry, a hint of cat urine, and the copious perspiration that Larry exuded as he huffed away on the bicycle that he borrowed from the young boy down the hall. It would have been slightly small for an average man, but was comically teeny for him, the tiny perch driving the seat of his pants into a place that was just as uncomfortable for Larry to say as it was to feel, and he had to take great care in order to pedal without bashing his knees on the handlebars by cocking his knees out at a wide angle. He was a ludicrous sight. Some cars honked as they passed him and rubberneckers leaned out their windows and hooted. The loud noises startled Larry so badly he would yelp and nearly tumble, and his face flushed from both exertion and shame. His mother had offered to call a cab for him, but remembering her challenge he declined and said he’d rather do it himself. She’d told him he would regret it, and she was right. When he finally made it to the temp agency, Larry felt like he was drowning in his damp suit that seemed to have shrunk into a corset and was gasping for air (much like an innocent household with a gas leak). He longed to sit and catch his breath, but the waiting room chairs were so small his bottom couldn’t fit between the armrests. He tried, but a menacing cracking sound discouraged his efforts, so he was forced to lean against the wall awkwardly and tried to use his sweat to preen his comb over. Larry was relieved to escape from the stares in the waiting room when the receptionist finally called his name and led him through a hive of cubicles, but his anxiety came flooding back as soon as he found himself facing his interviewer across the desk, a weary looking, slightly disheveled woman with big horn rimmed glasses that slid down her nose as she gawked at Larry and his suit in disbelief. The lady quickly recovered from her surprise and began barraging him with questions. Larry hadn’t known that he was expected to bring a résumé, though he did remember to bring the scrap of paper with his phone number and address. As the lady discovered under further interrogation, there really was nothing more to put down; as he had no previous work experience, no schooling, no skills, and didn’t even have acquaintances, much less actual references. She asked him in amazement how in on earth he had made it this far? Larry explained he’d only really just started, since he’d never wandered far from his apartment since he’d been started on homeschool after his father died.

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She blinked hard at him and Larry grinned back at her desperately, hoping that he was doing well. After a long moment, she told him that she would transfer his case to another department, which was a resource that helped arrange employment at very simple jobs on behalf of very disabled and incompetent people, no offense intended of course. Larry didn’t mind, and agreed that was probably his best bet. When Larry left the building he found that the neighbor boy’s bike he’d left on the steps had been stolen. About a week later every living creature in the apartment was startled by the unfamiliar sound of the phone ringing. They had found a job that required no qualifications or social skills, so Larry was being recruited. They put Larry in a small room with some cubicles, one of which contained one standard issue chair and desk, one rotary telephone, a stack of simple order forms, a reasonably sufficient number of pens, and a drop slot. The idea was fairly simple; one would sit until the phone rang with a department request, fill out the order form, and drop it in the slot to the stockroom below. If the stack of order forms was used up the procedure was to dial the number taped to the phone, which would connect to the phone in Larry’s cubicle. This cubicle was crowded with stacks of boxes, which contained form copies, standard issue black pens, and a single clipboard. When his phone rang, his job was to open one unit of the requested item and walk three steps over to deliver it, tick the appropriate box on the clipboard and initial. Larry felt somewhat intimidated by his official responsibilities, but he was assured that with good performance he could eventually work his way up to the first cubicle. Thus Larry embarked on his first grand undertaking as a bureaucratic cog! Though Larry’s standard issue chair quickly proved defective and he found his cubicle just as stifling as his apartment, at least it was quiet and didn’t smell. He was thrilled by his duties and eagerly kept count and recounts of the supplies, ready to spring into action. His coworker had been assigned to the same program, and spent most of his time precisely aligning his pens, clearing his throat occasionally. Though he and his coworker rarely interacted outside of authorized business, Larry thought he was getting good practice during their exchanges to get over his fear of the telephone. Missus Finklestein kept asking when he was going to give up and abandon his foolishness, but Larry persisted until he saved up enough money to afford his own place and leave his prison behind him. Finally Larry took the big step and packed his boxes while his mother, who was refusing to speak to him ever again, furiously smoked cigarette after cigarette and made frequent remarks to her cats that they were the only family she could rely on, unlike her ungrateful spawn. Larry moved downstairs to a cheap basement apartment next door to the laundry room, which clanked and dripped and had a terrible smell, which was most likely dead cat. It was nothing fancy, just a single room with some carpet on one side, linoleum on the other, and a toilet where the closet would be. It was alright because he didn’t have much furniture anyway, and even through it was 155


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sparse he liked being able to pace back and forth without damaging any delicate collectables or God’s innocent creatures. The landlord even threw in the refrigerator and toaster oven, and best of all he didn’t have to go up and down from the top floor every day and worry about the elevator cable snapping. Someone with a suit and an official sounding title turned up at Larry’s job and with all due solemnity informed him that his mother’s remains had been discovered. They used the word “remains” rather than “body” because it took some time before anyone investigated her whereabouts, since the neighbors were accustomed to her reclusiveness and bad smells. It was believed that she must have slipped on some cat urine on the kitchen floor and broken her hip. Apparently Missus Finklestein’s precious foo-foo’s had buried deep inside their ancestral memory the same instinct of lions who heard the bleating of an injured wildebeest, and had wasted no time in dispatching and devouring her choicest tidbits.

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photos by Kaelli-Mckenna Kutsop

photo by Diana Lustig


Fireflies by Sarah Atchinson

I believe in fireflies. I believe in snails, sparklers, and the simple pleasures of life. As children, we take pleasure from the most trivial experiences that adults have either forgotten or simply don’t cherish anymore. Throughout my childhood, my family and I would visit my Aunt’s home in the countryside of upstate New York. During the summer, I’d trailblaze through the wilderness of reeds and grass. There, I would discover a new species of snail or slug that I would claim my own, and name it “poogie” or whatever my heart desired. This freedom to imagine made all joys endless as a child. Each day we swam in the pond that seemed as vast and deep as an ocean. After drying in the warmth of the sun, my sister would make a crown of daisies and ornament my hair with flowers. As soon as the sun went to sleep, my brother and sisters would run throughout the field with glass jars. We were on a mission to find the mystical bugs that would float with a wondrous glow. Catching this simple joy never failed in bringing delight and awe from even the smallest wonders of the world. After freeing these creatures back into the night, we would return to the house for sparklers. As sparkles rained down from our hands, we would dance and sing out our favorite songs into the night. As soon as our sparklers burnt out we retreated back into the house to escape the horrible creatures that dwelled in the woods nearby. Crawling under our tent of colored cloths, we would snuggle into our sleeping bags and fall asleep. Dreaming of magical lands, making us the heroes, and creating a place that was just as mystical as reality. Rather than dreaming to escape reality, we wove our dreams into each day. Most of my happiest moments are from my childhood. And it’s not because happiness can’t be found in adulthood, but rather our ability to cherish what we once loved slowly diminishes. Imagine a world where we treasured each moment as if it was infinite. Not only would the world be a happier place, but a much more peaceful one.

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Faculty Editors Rosemarie Dombrowski is a Lecturer of English on the Downtown Phoenix campus who teaches literature and the Lady Gaga course. She has an honorary degree in fashion with an emphasis in anything Milanese. She loves driving her Cadillac to Trader Joe’s while listening to the Great American Songbook. She also adores poetry, both reading and composing it. Catherine Rezza is an Instructor of English on the Downtown Phoenix campus. She teaches fiction and literary journalism and considers herself very, very funny. Her unhealthy obsessions with Doctor Who and Jon Stewart is eclipsed only by her healthy fears of stained glass unicorns and Amy Ostroff. Who is she? She’s Catherine Rezza.

Student Editors Michael Bartelt is a sophomore working toward undergraduate degrees in both journalism and English literature. He is an employee at the university’s Writing Center, loves Jim Morrison and The Doors, and fills his weekends with jazz, poetry, and debauchery. Ashley Bigley was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. She is majoring in broadcast journalism, hoping to become a sports broadcaster. She knows three languages: English, Spanish, and American Sign Language, loves hockey, and became a black belt in karate before entering high school. Samantha Bustillo is a senior in nutrition communication at ASU. She hopes to obtain her master’s in public health in the near future to work with local governments and other community partners in research to change the physical environment to be more conducive to a healthier lifestyle that promotes overall wellness. Jayro Giron is a junior majoring in film and media studies. A Phoenix native, but lived in Guatemala for a few years in his early life, he hopes to get into television screenwriting or become a member of the Kardashians. Whichever comes first.

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Chad Ligaya is a sophomore currently enrolled as a pre-professional health science major. He enjoys long walks on beaches at sunset, spending hours lost in a good book, and he absolutely loves chocolate. Celestina “Tina� Munoz is a true Arizona native. She attended South Mountain High School and graduated from South Mountain Community College in May 2012. She now attends the Cronkite School of Journalism and hopes to work for either National Public Radio (NPR) or on Channel 3TV for Good Morning Arizona in the future. She believes that every person has a story to tell, and she loves a good story. Brett Nachman is obsessed with Disney and dogs, travel and theatre, movies and music, words and writing – not necessarily in that order. He believes that alliteration always adds an amusing angle. Brett was thrilled to be on the editorial board, and even more honored that his creative nonfiction work was selected for the magazine. Amy Ostroff is a special education major and second time editor for Write On, Downtown. She spent her first two years as a journalism major and fell in love with downtown. Although she is now based in Tempe, WOD is the perfect outlet to stay connected with the downtown campus. She enjoys baking cupcakes and stalking her favorite professors. Paulina Pineda is a sophomore journalism major from Sahuarita, Arizona. Her concentration is in print journalism and she is minoring in history and Spanish. A reporter for The State Press at ASU, she is interested in community affairs and social services. Michael Rader is currently in his second year at ASU. He studies nursing at the Downtown Phoenix campus and is minoring in English literature. He is passionate about earnest locution, scientific theories, and the architecture of classic foreign film. Hillary Schuck is an aspiring sports journalist from Colorado Springs, Colorado. She enjoys outdoor activities like swimming, skiing, and hiking. Her other hobbies include shopping, sleeping, and cheering for the Denver Broncos every Sunday. Hillary hopes to channel her passion for football into a career as a sideline reporter for the NFL.

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photo by Gabriel Radley


photo by Gabriel Radley


Violence Against Women: Rape in the Congo

• Bread making: Program participants learn the basics of baking and earn an income from the sale of baked goods • Other courses include: Agriculture, beauty care, culinary arts, soapmaking, retail sales, and tailoring. Women for Women International give these women the value that they forgot they possessed as human beings. Here is an example of how this program has established itself in the heart of the regions where help is most needed. In one year, almost 20,000 letters were exchanged between the program participants and the sponsors (Who, 2012). This type of communication serves as the moral support and encouragement that these women need to overcome their dark past. Among Women for Women International—Democratic Republic of Congo program participants and graduates: • 88 percent report improvements in both physical and mental health • 83 percent report improvements in their economic situation • 98 percent of participants leave the program with knowledge of their legal rights • 90 percent of women train and mentor other women in their communities (Who, 2012). • These rates demenstrate obvious progression and benefits for these women Since 1993, Women for Women International has helped over 285,000 women and men in 169 countries worldwide by reaching out and supporting women survivors of war (Who, 2012). It is obvious that with time this program has managed to improve the lives of more victims—one woman at a time. With ongoing support, this organization will continue to address women’s needs and especially take care of rape victims who need the extra hand. This progression can be moved along the way by visiting their website, www.womenforwomen.org and either decide to get involved or donate in an attempt to help a devastated woman on the other side of the hemisphere. Through these organizations the wanted resolution can be achieved. These are the small steps that begin to shape and change each individual despite the fact that these organizations help but only after the rape has occurred. This not only is a personal reward for the rape victims but for their families and their country. The violence in the Congo has tainted many lives for many years. The damage is embedded deep within the hearts of these women. For this reason, drastic change cannot be expected so soon. It will take time and strength for these Congolese women to recover. They can do so through the multiple programs offered by these organizations, which are funded by supporters who are in interested in making this positive outreach.

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photo by Gabriel Radley


A Public School Teacher Pay Increase Would Pay for Itself and More

social security, Medicaid, and the like. It would also lead to a drop in the crime rate, decreasing the amount the country is spending on maintaining prisoners and allocating to curtail crime. (It is actually impossible to quantify the real economic impact these isolated events would cause, as the positives coming from this sort of increase in employable, law-abiding, socially conscious citizenry would spiral exponentially beyond the conceivable imagination of any of us, so we will just focus on the above. I will probably mention those other “side benefits” at some point, though.) Fourth, and most important for the sake of this argument: It is from that certain percentage decrease that money for this salary increase will come. While that MAY cancel out any money we would be able to trim from the budget, (and, you will see, it may not), we will have to settle for the net gains of decreased unemployment, lower crime rates, less poverty, increased charitable contributions, a larger pool of income-makers from which to draw taxes, and the eventual cessation of our national slide down the international charts as a country. I realize that is wordy, so here is the chart I promised: Now, it is important to note that every link in this chain has been exhaustively discussed by far more qualified researchers than myself. What I’m attempting to do is complete the cycle. The burden that creates on me is that I must establish valid links between each point. If there is one break in the chain, or if one proposition is invalid, the entire thesis fails. If you are quick, you will notice that I am starting the cycle in an awkward position: the spot where we are spending the money but do not actually have it. And you are right. This country has never spent money it does not have. Glad you caught that. I should leave … Moving on. Better Pay = Better Teachers I went over a lot of the reasoning up top, but let us flesh this argument out with some real numbers and research. Dave Eggers and Ninive Clements Calegari have been advocating for increased pay for educators for a decade. Contributing to The New York Times, they’ve made most of the same connections as I have: the pay that is offered for public school positions combined with the pressure of the profession makes it a prohibitive choice for our best and brightest (2011). 79


photo by Gabriel Radley


Seconds Matter by Ana Rivas

One Mississippi … two Mississippi—two seconds passed, two shots were fired, and one body was hurt. His name was Juan; he was my brother. Two years ago, it took only two seconds from the time that a man fired two shots (one Mississippi) to reach my brother’s chest (two Mississippi). The walls of the house that were once white were now covered with his life. After a long ambulance ride and thousands of seconds that the doctors used to turn death into life within my brother’s body, they reached their destination. Time had saved my brother’s life. The same two seconds would not have mattered as much before my brother was shot. It was just a moment, it meant sending a text message, blinking my eyes, nothing too significant. But after this tragedy, I learned that two seconds is not just time. I believe that time means life. Since I was little, I was taught that time is valuable; that you can never get it back once it passes. I wish these lessons were taught through watching a movie or hearing a song, but unfortunately life lessons are taught the hard way: through some pain and suffering. That is just the way God designed it. Along the journey of my brother’s recovery, many would tell me, “You are lucky that he is alive.” But they didn’t understand that to me, at that moment, those two seconds, those two shots were death, darkness—not light, not luck. It wasn’t until two weeks later, on my brother’s graduation day, that I learned one of life’s most important lessons. In the few seconds that it took for a man to call his name and for my brother with courage and strength to reach for his diploma, shake that hand, and smile at me, I realized: it is in two seconds when extraordinary events occur in our lives. Two seconds is all it took to change my life, my family, and my world. I am no longer the person I was before. It is because of what took place in those few seconds that I am determined to become a doctor. So, don’t take too long to realize that life is happening; life is this moment, this second, right now. I believe it can take only one second to change yours. So live life enjoying every second you spend breathing, even when it feels like you want to stop. Life lessons can be taught in two seconds. Don’t miss them.

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149 drawing by Jessica Matthies


photos by Kaelli-Mckenna Kutsop

photo by Diana Lustig


Profile for College of Integrative Sciences and Arts

Write On, Downtown issue 7, 2013  

A Journal of Student Writing at the ASU Downtown Phoenix Campus

Write On, Downtown issue 7, 2013  

A Journal of Student Writing at the ASU Downtown Phoenix Campus

Profile for writeon
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