Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 Reflections - 2011 Aspirations

As I sit here, less than one hour into the new year, I look back on what the year 2010 had to offer. For me personally, it was a year of accomplishment, of tragedy, and of hope.

I started out 2010 as a nobody. Just another person, living day to day in a small town in a state the many thought might actually be a town in another state. Perhaps nobody is a broad term. I was someone to those who knew me, but that seemed few. Suddenly, upon making the decision, after finding myself out of a job in December 2009, to run for my town's select board, I found that people knew who I was. I feared rejection due to my age - at 25, what the hell could I really do? But for so many, it was so positive - to have a young person in the community that wanted to help make a change. I suddenly found myself, uncomfortable, trust into the tiny spotlight of this small town.

Whether it was luck or what, I won the election in March - much to my surprise. I thought, "I will run, and I will learn something. I won't win, but I won't give up." While I know that my parents are always "proud" of me, in that instance, I knew without a doubt I had blow their mind and proud was an understatement. I went from calling people and having to give a long explaination of who I was and what I wanted to, with many, just simply having to say a name and them knowing who I was. Here I am, nine months later, still wondering why people look at me differently in the grocery store. No, I have not changed the world. But, I have gotten involved in my community, and each day, and each meeting, I learn more and become more comfortable in my own skin and with my own voice. As someone who has never had the greatest of self esteem; a self image issue, I find myself impressed - impressed that I didn't give up.

In 2010, I ushed in 6 years with my wonderful boyfriend Kyle and our third year in our home. I was lucky enough to find a job with a local non-profit, helping low and moderate income individuals and families in our community. A job that some days is exhausting - it leaves you thinking of all that is wrong with the world. But on the days when you can help someone, it is the best day ever.

The year saw marriages of family and friends. It saw death from fellow school mates and former community leaders.

We had a close call with my father in September. Nothing quite makes you question your existence other than not knowing if you will never get to hug your father and tell him you love him again. Thank goodness he pulled through and is stronger and more determined than ever to help prevent a future heart attack. I am thankful for this every single day.

I look at our nation as a whole today, and I worry. I worry about what we will be facing in not only 2011, but the years and decades ahead- what problems will my yet to be born children face? How are we going to fix social security. How will be fix the deficet. How will we fix unemployement.

It was good fortune I suppose that decided upon annoucnement at the end of September, to attend Jon Stewart's, host of the Daily Show on Comedy Central, Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, DC. A road trip with two friends brought upon some wonderful times and memories and a moment feeling connected to with many other in my country. With 250,000 in attendance on the National Mall that October 30th day, I felt so small, yet so big. In this sea of people, we all connected in ideas and values. So many people from so many different backgrounds and walks of life, exisiting peacefully - it made me realize, people do still care about America.

I have never been a crazy patiot. I would never consider myself a crazy liberal. I am an independent. Sometimes I agree with one side, sometimes with another. Sometimes, I think they are all bat-shit crazy! With the 2010 mid-term elections, there was  huge shake-up in Washington, with Republican's regaining control of the Senate. This is to me, is concerning - not because of the party lines, but because of the reactions and remarks of many of those returning and incoming individual have made. With a Lame-Duck session of Congress that at first seemed to be something destined for failure, I am please that if nothing else two major items - the 9/11 First Responders Bill as well as the Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, succeeded.

These are hard times for our country and our communities. It was big news in the last several days that the unemployment claims dropped recently. While part of me is optimistic that it means things might finally be going uphill, I am more concerned it is just so many that are no going without any benefits because they have been out of work for so long.

We need to stay postive and first look at our lives, and our communities and work to make things better. If each individual in each community took this step, our country as a whole would be on its way to a brighter today.

Today, I sit here, thankful for all that 2010 brought and taught me, and for those who are nearest and dearest to me. I sit here curious as to what 2011 will offer...optimistic that together, things will only get better. 

Happy New Year - make the best of it!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Lame Duck Do-Nothing Session

I recognize that there is a strong likelyhood that I might be "crazy," but I can't help but feel that our elected official in Washington should be held accountable for getting something accomplished during the lame duck session.

Hell, they did manage to pass a food safety budget, something that I think most American's would agree is not very controversial. Now, the FDA is able to mandate recalls, and there is to be more request FDA inspections of food processing facilities. But despite something that, as a consumer of food in American, I can't help but feel is in the best interest of day, 99% of Americans, our officials still found things to bicker about. Albeit, it did pass, so what is there to complain about?

An apparently overly amitious Sen. Harry Reid (Democrat, Nevada) released a list of items that he wants to see passed during the remaining three weeks of the Lame Duck session. Among these items were the Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, a 9/11 Rescue Workers health care act to provide coverage for those who are now ill from the work that they did following that disaster, and amoung others, he wanted to see a budget for the 2011 fiscal year worked out.

Too bad the Republican's have put on the breaks saying that it's not a time to compromise. Even after a bi-partisan sit-down (referered to by the media as the Slurpee Summit) with the President; an event which after both Republicans and Democrats alike thought was useful and a good chance for conversation, still could not bring fourth change.

At a time when our leaders should be the least afraid to push for change in legistation, with no election looming for yet another two years, and some who will not be returning to Capital Hill next year, they are putting their tail between their legs.

In a letter from all 42 GOP members of Congrees, signed the day after the summit with President Obama, the letter started by saying it was time that the American' peoples priorities (job growth) became the priorty of the Senate. They then went out to say that they would not look to pass any legslative action until the time that the Senate acts to fund the government, and prevent tax increase. While they go out to point out that these tax increases will affect small business owners, their agenda all long as been not to budge on the Bush-Era tax cuts, not wanting to return to wealthiest American's to the Clinton Era tax rates.

I don't see what is so wrong with asking the wealthiest American's to pay a little more of the tab for those who do not make hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollar each year. They can best afford it. Especially in a time when the middle class is shinking by the day.

We can only hope that the tune is changed and something, in addition to the food safety bill, gets passed over the next three weeks. Otherwise, we are just spinning our wheels, after two years of doing just that. With the Republican take over that is heading our way in Washington at the start of the 112th Congress, if this is the example that they are trying to set, we will only be worse off as a country after the next two year.

Something needs to change, and citizens must demand that change.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Isn't there enough drama in your life?!

Most of the time, I hold faith in the fact that for the most part, humanity as we know it is not all wrong. That despite all the yelling, pushing, shoving and name calling out there- that there is civility. I recently had a moment where most of my faith in humanity was lost - albeit a brief few moments.

I am not a person who is into watching reality television. Aside from a season of Ultimate Fighter on Spike and The Colony on the Discovery Channel, I do not get all enraged of who was voted off American Idol, or who punched who on Jersey Shore. I honestly find it a bit sad that so many people devote so many hours of the lives to watching other people make complete fools out of themselves for the sake of money.

With that said, over the last few weeks, on two occasions, I was switching through the television channels and happened to stumble upon Dancing With The Stars, a show which I truly do not see the point of. One time I stopped it just long enough to hear contestant Brandy commended for her excellent Fox Trot. The other night, I stopped just long enough to see Brady voted off in favor of Bristol Palin.

Yes, Bristol Palin - the daughter of former Vice Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin. The Sarah Palin, that despite that bid for the second in command slot at the White House that fell short, we are still stuck with hearing about day-in and day-out.

My first thought was "it's because she's Sarah Palin's kid" that she was kept on. But if she had been voted off, you know the thought would have been "she was voted off because of the people that don't like Sarah Palin." I didn't think it would really be made a big deal about...

...But I was wrong. So wrong. The way this matter was covered by many of the media networks and outlets would make you think that there had been a coup...or a threat to national security. But no, it was just about the results from Dancing With The Stars.

And that, right there, is the reason I do not get all engrossed in reality TV. Couple that with the advertisement that was recently done featuring Bristol Palin and The Situation of MTV's Jersey Shore (he also happened to be a contestant on Dancing this last season)  about safe sex and abstinence. It was beyond ridiculous. It's done by the Candies Foundation. I would encourage you to watch it, but honestly, that is 1 minute and 45 seconds of my life I will never get back. It's YouTube if you care to see it!

I understand that many turn to reality shows as a way to escape, but honestly, don't you have enough drama? I try to live a pretty drama free life, but no matter what I do, a level of it always manages to find it's way in. I could not bring myself to watch an episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County or whatever area they are focusing on this year. Because honestly, if any of those people were in my life, I would have told them where they could take their drama and shove it!

Now I am off to try to find things that do not involve Sarah Palin, the Situation or Dancing With The Stars, in an attempt to rebuild my faith in humanity, and the brain cells that I lost in the process of suffering through all this nonsense.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

I was fortunate enough, along with my boyfriend and two good friends to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear hosted by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The idea behind the event was supurb. There is too much insanity. So much of what we hear is yelling - all around us. Little can get accomplished with much blame going back and fourth. Below is a piece I put together, roughly summarizing the events of the day, and what I took away from it.

            The idea was simple – reasonable people, coming together for one afternoon on the National Mall in Washington, DC to promote reasonable discussions about the future of America. That was the idea behind the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, hosted by satirical “news” hosts Jon Stewart from The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report (who was originally holding a counter-event, The March to Keep Fear Alive – the two events merged several weeks prior.) Such a day was Saturday, October 30th, 2010.
            Upon of announcement of the Rally to Restore Sanity on September 17th, Stewart said that it seemed to him as though most of the time we hear, through the media, the views and opinions of the more vocal and extreme 15-20% of the population. The rally would provide an opportunity where like minded, reasonable people could come together with shared values and the goal of creating a sensible conversation about the direction we want our society to move.
            The scene was picturesque on the eve of the rally. At the east side of the National Mall, the stage was dwarfed in contract to the United States Capitol which sat as it’s backdrop, as the sun set on the city.
            On October 30th, the Mall was taken over with what is reported as 250,000 people, from all across America. Lining the Mall several blocks wide and stretching back to nearly the Washington Monument; well beyond the reach of the JumboTron’s and speakers there were set up several blocks back down the Mall, the crowd size far exceeded expectation, which was estimated for permitting purposes for just over 60,000 people, while port-a-potties were provided to be adequate for up to 150,000 people.
            Meanwhile, for those unable to make the trip to the Nation’s Capitol for the Rally were not left out. Comedy Central, the network who hosts The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, reported that over 2 million people watched the event live on the network, that there were reportedly more than 570,000 live streaming views of the coverage on their website. The event was also broadcast on CSPAN, who is not rated by Nielsen, so no estimates have been made regarding their viewership. In addition, prior to October 30th, there were satellite rallies scheduled in 47 states and 6 foreign countries.
            The Washington Metropolitian Area Transit Authority saw their prior Saturday ridership record for 786,358 trips set in 1991 after at Desert Storm rally, shattered with 825,437 trips on October 30th. The average number of trips on a Saturday is 350,000.
            With musical performances by The Roots, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Bennett, Mavis Staples, Jeff Tweedy, The O’Jays, Four Troops, Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow, as well as guest appearances by Sam Waterson (of Law & Order fame), Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman (of Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters), Don Novello (as former Saturday Night Live character Father Guido Sarducci), Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and R2D2, it proved be a fun, and entertaining afternoon.
            There was a message and common theme on the Mall that afternoon. As signs held by rally goer read messages like, “I am a Muslim, and I am afraid of terrorists,” “getting unscrewed takes time,” “health care is good,” “I’m pretty sure Obama isn’t trying to ruin America,” and a personal favorite, “it’s a sad day when our politicians are comical and I have to take our comedians seriously!”
            As I stood taking in the scene, it was surreal. People of all races surrounded me. I saw babies in strollers and the elderly in their hover-rounds. There was no generation gap. Upon making the decision to make the 8 hour trek to DC following the announcement of the Rally, we had no idea what to expect. Except, that it would be, in my opinion a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be part of something bigger than myself.
            In closing of the afternoon’s events, Stewart took a few moments to speak sincerely to audience which stretched as far as one could see.
“I can’t control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.”
He went on to say that the 24-hour news “conflictinator” has not caused the problems our country faces, but that its existence makes it more difficult to solve them. “If we amplify everything we hear nothing,” he said.
Stewart argued, “if the picture of us were true, of course, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable,” he continued, “we hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do.  We work together to get things done every damn day! The only place we don’t is here, (gesturing to the Capitol) or on cable TV.”
            Noting that most people do not live their lives just as Democrats, Republicans, Liberals or Conservatives, Stewart said that most people are doing things, that maybe the don’t want to do, but they do it, because it’s about reasonable compromises which people make in their everyday lives.
            Stewart closed saying, “because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness. Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder.  To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine.”
            Was this of the history-making magnitude of the March on Washington and Martin Luther Kings, I Had a Dream, speech of 1963? Maybe not. But I reasonably believe it made an impact. If it did nothing more than create a conversation among the reasonable people in America about working together, across party lines, in all forms of government, for the greater good of the future of America, I would consider that a success. It may spur activism in some, or a desire to become more involved for others. Some may simply walk away from the day’s events, entertained.
            I walked away proud. Proud to be an American, proud to be reasonable, and proud to have been a part of something – whatever it was, or history turns it out to be.
In these difficult times that American’s face all across this nation, it is important to understand that we will all disagree from time to time. We may disagree about the weather, or Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, paper or plastic, but it’s about making reasonable concessions for the greater good and working together each and every day to move this country forward.
To reiterate Stewarts statement, “we live now in hard times, not end times.” We need to remind ourselves of this when things seem the darkest, and be determined to push forwards. We are America – this nation was not built without encountering obstacles. We now must tackle those with are in the way of progress, for a brighter tomorrow.