Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

Some personal reflections

May 21, 2008

I just realized that yesterday marked my 35th post, and the site reached 3,765 views yesterday as well. In light of these milestones (ha!), I decided to write a post of somewhat more inward reflection with a nice corny twist to it. I usually don’t express much deep, personal emotion/reflcetion on this site, so I am slightly nervous and good deal embarrassed…. So try to be nice with your comments this time around  😉

 

Most of us have probably heard the old saying: “If you’re not a Democrat by the time you’re 17, you have no heart. If you’re not a Republican by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” I have been pondering this idea for quite a while. My mom used to tell me this every once in a while during my young teen years, and it enraged me. I used to think “Ugh! What a horrible thing to think! It is way better to be a Democrat.” Now that I am 20 and have a little more life experience under my belt, I am able to look at this saying a little more rationally, but not necessarily with less questions.

I feel I hit my peak Democratic, liberalist attitude at 18. To call myself a “bleeding heart liberal” would certainly be an understatement. Every ounce of suffering I saw cut me deeply and I constantly questioned why our government wasn’t stepping in to feed this family or save that fain forest. Compassion and empathy have always been two of my most profound characteristics (hence why I took “Veronica” as my Confirmation name in 8th grade [For you non-Christians, she is the one who approached Jesus and used her cloth to wipe the blood and sweat from His face while He carried the cross]), but some inward reflection has made me realize that these qualities have kind of… shifted.

While I would still love to see a hungry family eat or a rain forest thrive, I cannot say that I still believe it is only the duty of our government to remedy such problems. I’ll have to turn to my guy, Thomas Paine for some insight here: “Government is best which governs least.” We certainly need a central government for national defense/international relations, to regulate currency, and oversee interstate commerce, but why has the national it seeped into issues of abortion, gun control, and drug laws?

Looking across the country, many may argue(my uncle included, as we just had a huge debate about this the other day) that citizens have become uneducated, ignorant, and that people are naturally inclined toward selfishness. They state that the Supreme Court and federal government must act to protect us, that they must remedy the problems the we have created through our own shortcomings.

I cannot agree.

While I look across this country and see ignorance, hate, stupidity, and overall apathy, I simply do not believe this is human nature. We have allowed ourselves to become dependent on government, to let it make decisions for us, to let it do all the work. What happened to Plato and Aristotle’s ideal citizen?  What happened to the Ben Franklins of this country (for those who don’t know, he was one of twenty children, and his father was a candle maker/soap boiler)- the every day citizen who rises up to take the challenge and exhibit the qualities on which this country was founded?

More people could tell you the names of Britney Spears’ children than could name their state representatives. More people voted on the first season of American Idol than voted in the 2000 election. Yet we cry out to the courts to right the wrongs. We yell at government for not taking care of more of its citizens.

The privilege of living in a democracy comes with the responsibility and challenges of upholding it, and it seems like people are becoming more and more accustomed to sitting back and letting the big guys do all the work. I would not necessarily blame this on citizens though. A lot of times, people in power seek to make the Average Joe believe that he cannot take action and that he can have no impact. They aim to keep themselves in power.

Whether you are for or against abortion (I won’t be arguing that at this time), we should not run to the court system to establish this or that abortion law as correct. This is a job for our legislators, and this is where rights such as the First Amendment come into play. As a democratic republic, we have the right to voice our policy opinions to our representatives and get them made into law. The court’s only role is to determine whether that law has any CLEAR violation of the Constitution.

Today, we just find it all too easy to have a group of 9 people, completely insulated from public wants and opinoins make the law for us.

“If you’re not a Democrat by the time you’re 17, you have no heart.” This is true. We have to develop a very broad and general conception of compassion and care for others in order for society to function properly.

“If you’re not a Republican by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” This too is true. Once our care for others has matured in a way that we can discipline ourselves to work through difficult solutions, we have developed a brain. We need to be intelligent and independent from government in our actions to help others.

We need to have a heart to love humanity while at the same time have the brain to do carry out our duties and responsibilities as American citizens and ultimately reach our goal of helping others. “If you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime.” I believe that adage too applies to my argument. If we teach our children and teach ourselves to be educated citizens, we can help the destitute in any situation; we can develop laws that work the best for the greatest number of people.

I am certain that it is possible to have both a heart and a brain. While especially at this point in time, it may not really be especially conceivable to be both a Republican and a Democrat, I believe that by strenthening our hearts, we provide fuel for our brains, and while educating our minds we only increase our capacity to love.

I am accepting the challenge to become an American citizen, heart and mind.

Obesity: A problem too big?

May 20, 2008

Washington Post Article

Here is a link to a Washington Post article about obesity in both urban and suburban children.

As many readers know, I have done a few other posts on obesity and focused particularly on overweight children.

This article in the Post quotes parents and dietitians making excuse after excuse for overweight children, and it is oh so easy to buy into. “There aren’t enough outreach programs,” “Our schedules are so hectic,” etc.

My response: if you didn’t allow your child to become overweight in the first place, you would not need an outreach program. If you took the time to be a disciplined, interactive parent, you could do yourself for free what outreach programs do for a cost. An added benefit is that the parents, instead of a strange instructor works side by side with their children.

You don’t need to pay an outreach program to tell you what’s wrong. Why do you need someone to tell you skim milk is healthier than 2%? Why should you have to pay someone to tell you that carrots are better for you than chips; that going for a walk is better than watching television; that a turkey sandwich is less fatal than fries and a coke?

One parent stated that it is so frustrating when her son says “you’re a mean mom for not letting me have this milk shake. It’s not fair.” Okay, and whose fault is it that your son associates your love for him with food.

I spend most of the summer with my aunt and uncle and their two kids who are 4 and 6. Jacob, 4, is in soccer and t-ball. Katie, 6, is in gymnastics. Their parents have instilled in them a sense of self-restraint with regard to food indulgence. The kids regard french fries as a sort of special treat only eaten on the rarest of occasions. They do not drink pop- only milk, water, and 100% juice. They walk their children to school pending the weather. The kids play outside almost every day. They eat at least two fruits at every breakfast and two vegetables at every lunch. Despite my aunt’s full time job as a judge with DCFS and my uncle’s job as an attorney who owns his own firm, they find time to keep their children healthy and active. It requires discipline; it requires time, but their children are worth it.

Parents who claim they are too busy to prepare and offer healthy meals, physical activity, and regular meal times to their children, in my opinion, are not trying hard enough. There is certainly something in EVERYONE’S day that can be sacrificed for the health of their children. This should be an unquestioned fact of good parenting.

Parents: stop making excuses. Stop waiting until your child has high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and a low tolerance for physical activity. Stop waiting until there is a problem before taking action. I feel like we choose instead to pay for a remedy “after the fact” rather than put in the time and effort to take preventitive measures. WE ARE KILLING OUR CHILDREN.

Obesity is a big problem, and it starts with every one of us. Parents must be willing to take individual responsibility (and yes, even blame) for their child’s health and weight from the get go. It is far easier to instill and establish good habits early on than to try to rectify deeply-rooted mistakes later in life.

Some may point to the fact that I am not a parent- that I do not know the struggles parents face in issues such as these. I would disagree. I know the eating and living habits my mother worked diligently to help me with. I know that for this reason I avoid sweets, junky snacks, and fast food. For this reason, I take time out of my very busy schedule as a student with a double major, a part-time job, and the position as president of my college to run three miles four times a week. I walk instead of driving my car whenever possible. I eat until I am satisfied and I do not overfeed myself. I know how to live in a healthy way, and I know why I am able to make these choices- because my parents taught me how.

Once I am a parent, I will care enough for my children’s well-being to promote similar life style choices. I want my children to be happy and healthy, right from the start.

Do you?

“Oh my God it was soooooo retarded!”

July 18, 2007

“I was like… ‘Are you seriously retarded?'”
“My car is so retarded.”
“He acts like such a retard.”
“YOU RETARD!!!”

Really, people?

I am completely fed up with people using the word “retarded” to describe others’ idiocy or the fact that a system or process doesn’t function properly. I will openly admit that I am VERY guilty of using the word “gay” to make fun of or insult. However, over the past month or so I have been trying to censor myself and realize that the word should not be used in that manner.

But “retarded”…

How absolutely shallow can you be? How can you use such a discriminatory word and still feel okay about it?  First and foremost, you sound like a complete moron. I find that people sound stuck-up, snooty, ditzy, and vapid when using the word “retarded” as a way to mock someone or something. Honestly. You make yourself sound like an idiot.

Second, and most importantly, you are using a derogatory word that classifies a serious, untreatable medical problem to insult someone or something. Mental illnesses and handicaps have specific names (i.e. Down Syndrome), and classifying them all under one category, “retarded”, as a wonderfully witty way to make fun of someone can hardly be considered a moral thing to do.

IT’S NOT COOL.

This word has become so prevalent in our society, especially in my age group. However, I’ve noticed it quickly spreading to younger generations as well, and that greatly disturbs me.

Funny (yet disturbing) story: While visiting a really close friend of mine in Wisconsin, we decided to spend an afternoon at the beach. While laying in the sand, a family made camp about 10-15 yards from us. The family consisted of a mother in her mid 30’s, two girls, probably about 5 and 7, and a man that the girls referred to as “John”. While the seven year old ran around causing quite a ruckus, her mother shrilly yelled, “JILL, STOP ACTING LIKE A RETARD!” To which, the little girl responded, “Mommy, what’s a retard?”

I wanted to vomit.

I am not judging the character or quality of people who choose to use the word “retard” in such a manner, but I think it is something to be questioned. So please, next time you find yourself ready to use this elegant and classy insult, think about what you’re really saying, who you’re really insulting: A group of people with mental disabilities. Innocent people who have done nothing wrong and cannot control the complications with which they were born.

When you use the word “retarded” to make fun of someone or something, you diminish the dignity of the people who truly have those handicaps. It’s not fair to rob these people of any human value just because they are not as able-bodied or able-minded as you and me.

Just… show some respect.

The U.S.Weigh: A nation doomed by extremes

July 10, 2007

The problem is evident, yet we refuse to acknowledge it: The bodies of American citizens have turned toward two extremes- the horribly obese and the sickeningly thin.

The body types of health and nutrition seem to have long since passed as overweight Americans find refuge under the Golden Arches while flesh-covered skeletons vomit away their inner self-loathing.

Why has this happened? Why have we completely disregarded the Food Pyramid, the 1,500-2,000 calorie a day diet, the minimum 2.5 hours of cardio exercise per week, and a sincere regard for our wellness?

Being 19 years old, I feel that I am in a position to view with great clarity what has gone wrong.

 

Thin is in:
Anorexia and bulimia are no longer simply myths circulating through our society. I personally know at least a half dozen people who have struggled with one of these diseases. Losing weight becomes the main goal in one’s life. The scale is an obsession; food is a poison.

We’ve heard all the warnings, but they hardly seem to phase us: Hollywood is mesmerizing our young women, calling out to them to follow the path of 5’8, 110lbs wisps of women. It draws us in and immortalizes the Paris Hilton’s and Nicole Richie’s of the world. “This is beauty. This is what it takes to be beautiful.” But it’s not fair to blame the countless cases of anorexia and bulimia on Tinsel Town. Something more has to be wrong.

 

The Increase in Obese:
A number of my previous posts focus on obesity, on how easy it has become to simply be obese. Pop, chips, Pop Tarts, cookies, cake, Cheetos, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Culver’s, Steak and Shake, Hershey’s, Pizza Hut, Oreos- it all fills our stomachs, fattens our bodies, clogs our arteries, and satisfies us. Americans eat more and more and exercise less and less simply because it is easier that way.

Heart disease, strokes, and myriads of other problems congest our hospitals as the overweight people of this country suffer more and more from almost completely preventable illnesses. But who’s to blame?

 

 

 

The fact of the matter is this: Health has taken the backseat in a society that seems to demand so much from us. The miserable and depressed find solace in sugar and fat while remaining completely unmotivated to exercise or become active. The perfectionists and abandoned live with a continuing sense that they are just never good enough. But losing weight would be the answer.

While it is safe to say that so many of the eating disorders (eating too much AND eating not enough) in our country are the result of many outside forces, the reality to which we must admit is that our minds are not secure.

 

Some cure their sorrows with chocolate and ice cream. They find a safe haven in food and satisfy their mournful hearts in its comfort. At the same time, others feel that the only way to please themselves and those closest to them is to lose weight.

 

Whatever the case, the bottom line is clear: We are not happy with ourselves. Some part of us is not being fulfilled, and we are left empty and lacking inside. An aspect of our society has killed a piece of our spirits, and the only way to repair the damage is with food, or lack thereof.

 

The desire to be inwardly happy is revealed outwardly through our complete disregard for our health, nutrition, and well-being. We seek to be gratified by any means possible, even though we are still left with a vapid hole on the inside.

 

Perhaps I’m reading far too much into this, or perhaps I am touching on something that has been said millions of times before. But whatever the case, it is clear that we cannot continue down this road because as a number of us have seen much too often, these extremes are fatal.

Big Kids, Big Dreams, Big Load of Bull

June 30, 2007

(Please see my post ADD and Obesity for more on this issue.)

Has anyone seen the commercials for the new television show hosted by Shaq?

It’s one of those weight loss shows… for kids.

Yes, 200lb fifth graders will face boot camp with our beloved Shaquille O’Neal on ABC in a show titled, “Shaq’s Big Challenge”.

As my wonderful friend so lovingly put it, “The Europeans must be laughing their asses off at us right now.”

If any Europeans happen across this post, trust me, I am laughing right along with you.

Shaq dishes out some (insert sarcastic tone here) profound insight and states that in this society, “it’s easy to eat a bag of chips and watch TV, easy to eat a bag of chips and play with your PlayStation. It’s easy to eat a bag of doughnuts and just sit down and not do anything.”

Well put, Shaq. And now, thanks to you, the other 250 million Americans can sit down in front of their television with a big bag of buttery popcorn to watch you scream at a bunch of overweight kids.

But a few questions for you, Mr. O’Neal:

How many video games have you helped promote that included you as the star player?

Weren’t you, at one time, a spokesperson for Sprite… and the Big Mac?

And, how much are you making off of this television show?

Ah yes. Well, once again, Americans have shown the world what we’re made of:
Obese kids whose parents couldn’t do their job and raise healthy children in the first place
Loving parents who willingly sacrifice their children’s dignity for a couple bucks and the opportunity to meet Shaq
A love for watching fat children get screamed at while trying to run, jump, and do sit ups
The ease with which we will blindly follow network television and a 7 foot, 325lb giant.

Here’s to you, fat children of the world. Instead of those carrots, get mom to take you to Micky D’s. You never know, one day, you could meet the NBA star of your dreams.

ADD and Obesity

May 23, 2007

Although I am VERY ashamed to admit, I was watching Fox this afternoon…and the news came on. I was in the middle of making lunch, so I decided to listen to the plethora (great word) of barely-news stories that filled the hour. However, one story really did catch my attention. Some doctors have begun to prescribe Adderall, a drug used to treat ADD and ADHD, to severely overweight children.

My little sister actually uses Adderall for her ADD, so I’m pretty familiar with its effects. She was always somewhat of a pudgy girl, never fat, but had a good amount of meat on her. Within a month of taking Adderall, she looked entirely different. Her eating habits changed completely in that she consumed much less in a day than she had before. Every morning my parents have to make sure she eats breakfast before taking her pills. She does not eat much for lunch during the day because of her decrease in appetite and has just a small snack when she gets home from school. However, by dinner time, the medication has worn off, and she eats a great deal. All this has changed her body type; she is now very slim and slender.

To me, the prescription of ADD medication to help overweight children is worthy of a substantial amount judgment and criticism. America is currently one of the most overweight countries in the world, and it’s not hard to see why. We absolutely love the taste and convenience of fast food. We have jobs that sit us in front of computers for 8 hours a day. Preservatives, saturated fats, and calories are packed into the foods we call “American”. We are a country that craves speed and efficiency, and healthy meals usually take time and effort. We adore chips, chocolate, and all sorts of candy in large quantities. And deep-frying? Don’t hesitate; throw those fries in that grease! Our portions are massive in comparison with those of other countries.

Older generations are instilling these bad eating and exercise habits on their children. Kids sit in front of televisions and computers, snaking on junk. For dinner, busy parents swing by McDonalds for a Happy Meal and Coke. School lunch programs often offer large quantities of deep fried foods as well as vending machines loaded with fat-adding, artery-clogging goodness.

So, how do we correct this obesity disease in our children? Give them ADD medication! Suppress their appetites! Don’t teach them about the health problems of being overweight, but threaten them with the aesthetic consequences! Let’s not discuss nutrition, healthy hearts, or active bodies; just make ’em eat less. And the best, and of course, easiest way to do this is by popping a pill once a day. Mom and dad don’t have to do any extra work except for remembering to refill the prescription every month.

Moms and dads need to wake up! Take the extra time to scramble an egg and peel a banana for breakfast. For lunch, a turkey sandwich on wheat bread accompanied by carrot sticks and celery would be great. Include yogurt and a small piece of candy. For dinner, toss a salad; steam some broccoli; bake a ham; cook some rolls, and have a small bowl of ice cream for desert. Take a multi-vitamin every morning; drink 80z of V8 (8 oz. contain one serving of fruits/vegetables for the day, and there are a ton of flavors to choose from); walk to the park on weekends; sign kids up for the peewee sport of his or her choice. Make the effort to establish a healthy life for your kids. Teach them that exercise builds a strong heart (and actually, studies are being done that show that regular cardio exercise increases your brain’s ability to absorb and retain new information, as well as fight Alzheimer’s). Let them know that it’s okay to have snacks, but they have to be eaten responsibly.

Good life habits begin right away. When your kid is in 6th grade and weighs almost 200lbs., you have not done something right as a parent, and it is absolutely irresponsible to turn to medication for attention deficit disorder in order to correct the errors you have made. What does this teach our children? Pills can cure anything with little or no effort. Eating healthy and exercising regularly isn’t really required to be thin and look great, so why bother?

When it comes to bettering ourselves and our lives, we all too often take the easy way out, and I am truly tired of it.

Parents: live up to your responsibilities of guiding your children toward healthy life styles, and help them now so that they do not face diabetes, heart failure, clogged arteries, and severe hardships in the future.

Effort and hard work go a very long way, and for some reason, we Americans seem to have forgotten all about that.