Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hide the Problems, Fix Them Quietly

In the wake of new allegations regarding the Secret Service, a security force that protects the president, a greater issue, concerning government releases of potentially dangerous information, is emerging. Because of whistle-blowers and watchdog government groups, and investigative reporting, much of the edge that the Secret Service and other government agencies have on criminals has diminished or disappeared. Criminals now have access to all of the documents detailing the Secret Service member's locations, weapons, strategies, and responsibilities. It is unnecessary to reveal the exact details of a security breach, and the new security program to the public.

The most recent allegations concern a man who jumped over the White House fence, entered the building, and ran through two rooms in the White House with a knife, before being apprehended. With this reveal came other stories, one about a contractor with a criminal record, who stood just inches form President Obama in an elevator, and another blunder in the response to a series of gun shots fired at the White House three years ago.

While it is important to have whistle-blowers and watchful citizens that make sure that the security forces of the United States are acting in a proper manner, and respecting the privacy and security of individuals, exposing flaws in the protocols publicly poses a danger to the safety of public officials and members of the security teams.

To those who are not interested in unlawfully entering the White House, fighting with a guard, and then being arrested, the detailed story about the intruder only serves as a shock. The average citizen has no power to change the way that the Secret Service operates, and cannot gain anything useful from detailed reveals of government security programs. Yes, it is frightening that the White House does not lock the front door, but scaring the public does not fix the problem.

Even if there was a positive side to the public reveals, the possible negative effects far outweigh the benefits. Using the information about the flaws in the security system, a terrorist could easily exploit the Secret Service's declared weaknesses. The only people that should have a full understanding of the flaws and capabilities of the Secret Service are agents of the Secret Service and public officials in Washington.

The ongoing public hearing in Congress has revealed past mistakes and current problems with the Secret Service to the world, describing exactly how to circumvent the President's protection. The hearing should be done behind closed doors, and the evidence and security review should be done privately. Unless the threat concerns the public's safety, there is no reason to reveal it to the world.

The United States has a responsibility to promote vigilance in its citizenry, and the citizens have a right to demand information when it does not jeopardize national security. In recent years, pressure has been mounting on the government to increase "transparency" and release  classified documents. This principle exposes problems with governmental policies, budget waste, corruption, and illegal surveillance to the public, putting pressure on public officials to make changes. However, in the digital age that we live in today, these public reveals can threaten the safety of our public officials, and the safety of the nation.

The Qualms of American Government, and Human Greed

All of you patriots out there, please don't disregard the words that I am about to write simply because they go against what you so fervently believe in. I believe that the governmental system of the United States is not the best government system in the world. Granted it is rather brilliant, but, in my humble opinion, it is by no means the best.

The United States government is a republic. In other words, the citizens of said country elect people via elections, to represent them in the government. There are three sections to the government. The Legislative, Executive and Judicial Branches. The Legislative Branch is bicameral, which means there are two chambers, the House of Representatives, and the Senate. The House represents each state by population, whereas the Senate represents each state equally (two seats per state). There are 535 total representatives. This branch is responsible for creating laws that interest the people. The Executive Branch is the President, his job is to interpret the laws, run the army, and rule the country. The last branch is the Judicial, which is typically overlooked but should not be under estimated. The Judicial Branch's job is to interpret the laws created by Congress and determine whether they are constitutional or not.

I believe there are quite a few flaws to this system of government. The first flaw is the number of representatives for the number of people. 535 fat old men do not in anyway represent the whole 319.9 million people living in the United States. Robert Yates, a famous anti-federalist, believed that this form of representation is blatantly unfair because their are so many minorities that don't necessarily get their voice heard, simply because they are a small group of people. This really goes against the whole idea of Democracy. The second problem I have is that the 535 people elected into Congress are rather stupid, corruptible and extreme. These persons are almost always on the fringes of the left-right political spectrum, which neglects to represent the independents and moderates that make up a surprisingly large amount of people. Congressmen are also extremely bribable and looking for their own personal interests, this can be seen in numerous cases, and there is no need to go into detail about them because one could look them up. I stated that these men/women are stupid because they really are. One doesn't see scholars or doctors pursuing careers in politics, and quite frankly I have a problem with that. I do not have many qualms about the Executive Branch, the only one is that the President, after his first two years in office, begins to focus more on his reelection than running the country, this is obviously a problem and not in the best interest of the people. Lastly the Judicial Branch. I fear the power of the gavel above all fears of our government. There is nothing more frightening than giving twelve people the power to interpret the holiest document in the United States (the Constitution not the Bible). These men and women are incredibly bright and have the ability to change the course of the whole nation. Yikes. However, they are appointed for life, and I appreciate that because it is rather difficult to corrupt them.

Now to the political systems that I think are just absolutely brilliant...

The first of these systems is the Democratic Socialism. This is the idea that a country will tax the hell out of their citizens, but then give them the best benefits in the world, such as health care, education, and unemployment cheques. The best part about all these things is they are free!!!! These countries are advantageous for both impoverished and wealthy citizens. The poor get great benefits and essentially have an equal opportunity to succeed as everyone else. The wealthy may be restricted and taxed heavily, but they still have a free market to use (with a few restrictions), therefore they still have the opportunity to make as much money as possible. This system is predominant in the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark), and is thriving there. Although one must admit that it is almost impossible to implement a social democracy on a large scale because it would simply be impossible to control. Another advantage to social democracies is that the countries usually give citizens shares in their natural resources. This means if a country has oil and is selling it, the citizens get a percentage of the money earned from said oil. Wonderful isn't it!!!

The next political system is the Socratic System. Socrates believed countries should be ruled by divine leaders, who were essentially the most amazing and brilliant people in the country. This just completely makes sense because a divine leader would look out for the best of everyone in the entire country and know exactly how to govern, and know exactly what to do. It is essentially an emperor. This government however has a few major flaws. The first is the fact that it would be nearly impossible to find the perfect leader, and even more impossible to deem whether that person was the perfect leader mentally. The second problem with this idea is the human factor. Like in communism, socratic government is bound to fail due to the greed of all human beings. No one could ever become supreme leader of a country and not become a tyrant. It just doesn't happen, we are simply to wired to look out for our own personal interests as opposed to the country's.

This brings me to my third and final favorite form of governing, elitism. Now you may jump at my throat at tho very moment claiming that elitism is horrible and is essentially a tyranny, an oligarchy and an aristocracy all mashed into one. But hold up, I have a justification!! Elitism is not necessarily the powerful and the rich who rule, nonono it could be the extremely smart!!! This is exactly what I want. Who could be better then the nation's smartest people to run the country? I'll tell you, no one. Granted the government would have to be set up in a way that everyone has equal opportunity to succeed, but other than that we are good to go. Why should we have buffoons representing bigger buffoons when we can have intellectuals discussing everything civilly? America needs to change and it starts with the youths, so fight for what you believe in, start a revolution!

The Power of Quitting

“ Quitters never win. Winners never quit.” Vince Lombardi- NFL hall of fame coach

When most people picture a quitter, who do they think of? I remember my math teacher last year was talking about a childhood story where he was overwhelmed with schoolwork while attempting to play a sport at the same time. As he began to struggle in school his father said to him “ It’s OK to quit.” The idea of being labeled as a quitter terrified and motivated him to continue pushing, because nobody wants to feel the humiliation associated with quitting. But why are people so afraid to give up, even if it is something that they don’t like or don’t feel that they will ever need? The answer is simple. American society is built on the shoulders of those who didn’t quit. The United States would still be part of England if the colonists had quit in their struggle for independence. Michael Jordan got cut from the varsity basketball team at his high school. If he had given up at that moment, there would be no air Jordan, and Nike would probably have been out of business years ago. American culture teaches us all to believe that, if we quit, we are weak hearted and not mentally strong enough to proceed and take a little pain. 

I am offering a different perspective on the idea of quitting. But before I proceed, I must first make a crucial distinction between the two types of quitting. The first form of quitting is when you give up on yourself before you have made a concerted effort to succeed. I do not condone this practice, as it simply demonstrates a lack of perseverance and mental toughness. The other type of quitting is completely different. Here, you have expended all that you could in a particular discipline, and you realize that you do not want to pursue that area of focus anymore. I believe that, when people hear that someone “quit”, they automatically associate that person with the first type of quitting, that he or she is someone who does not have the willpower and the drive to continue.

However, quitting is not necessarily a measure of weakness in a person. If somebody is dissatisfied with his job, he should be able to quit. It is not beneficial for society to encourage members of the workforce to keep their jobs, even when it makes them feel frustrated and unhappy. I understand that there are some people who cannot quit their jobs even if they wanted to and had the courage to do so, but there are others who continuously slave year after year at the same boring occupation because they are afraid to quit and move their life in another direction. The economic idea of “sunk cost” is important when attempting to provide a concrete answer as to why so many people are reluctant to quit, even if there are better alternatives. Sunk costs are the investments made in pursuit of a goal. Money, time, effort, and sacrifices are all included in the principle of sunk cost. Some people have sacrificed so much in order to maintain their current unsatisfying lifestyle that they feel that quitting would make all of that time, effort, and money a waste. Therefore, even if they don’t like what they are doing, they refuse to quit because they have already given up so much to be where they are.

I believe that we, as Americans, have an obligation to rewrite the stereotype that the quitter is somebody who will never come out on top. Every person will encounter a situation during their life where they are unhappy with their current status and they feel that their position isn’t one that is worth staying in. It is important for people to realize that quitting is a viable option. It may not be the option that your friends would choose. It may not be the choice parents that your parents think is best for you. But if you feel that quitting would enhance the quality of your life, then I wholeheartedly encourage you to quit.

Extra Curricular Activities for High School Students

High School is an important time in young people's lives. It's a time of experiencing and evaluating who you are and what you want to be. It doesn't get any easier after these four years, which is why it's vital to make a path for yourself for the future.

I believe extra curricular activities such as clubs and sports for high school students is the most significant thing and is the biggest contributor to their mindset and success.
In my opinion, OPRF is one of the better examples of how much sports and clubs matter to the teachers and kids. At this school, you are strongly encouraged to get involved and be apart of something bigger than yourself. It not only teaches you life lessons and keeps you busy, but the experience of high school is that much better with playing a sport or joining a club.

I am apart of Best Buddies, JKB Leadership Group, Football and Basketball at OPRF and not a moment has gone by where I regret it. The good times I've had and the friends I've made will last a lifetime and I think every student needs to take advantage of this opportunity. Grades and academics come first in school and getting you into college, however, I believe doing extra like being on a team or club can help in doing the right thing in the classroom.

For me, sports have taught me how to be disciplined and always be positive on the field or in class. Some of my favorite words to live by came to me from my football coach. He preaches to us Grit, Zeal, and Optimism. Always be gritty. Live life zealously. Always be optimistic. My basketball coach also tells us that the little things mean everything. Whether this is in school or in a game, it's very true how big the small details are. Success can come by being involved in the camaraderie and positivity of school activities. More than anything, it gives you a mindset to be hungry for success and it keeps you out of trouble. I have been impacted tremendously by sports and clubs so far at OPRF. They have given me a certain work ethic as well as giving me a drive to go out and represent the community in a good way. I strongly encourage every one of my fellow classmates and younger ones of the community to do the same.

What is Physical Fittness

The modern media is a cesspool of tips and guidelines on how you should be or live your life. All the time you see pictures and people who are telling others, who tend to be mostly female to be comfortable in their body, in which I completely agree. Though you should not hate yourself I believe this self motivating is somewhat incorrect and as controversial as my view may be I believe correct physical fitness is an important factor of life. People need to do there best to keep themselves in a condition that is safe.
With this idea I do not believe everyone should go out and work out to become thin and lean, which I am not myself. I believe people should live a healthy lifestyle and treat their bodies with the delicacy it deserves. It is understood that people have glandular problems or emotional issues that go deeper than changing their diet. These people need a little more than just working out and some may even need doctors. My point is not to ignore your health, but if you need to see a doctor go to one and figure out what needs to be done.
This concept also applies to people who are not only overweight, but also underweight. If you are so skinny that your body is becoming sick it is unnatural and should be addressed with extreme importance, as I believe it is pretty well addressed in certain parts of the media. Being physically fit does not mean being skin and bones. Physical fitness is how fit your body is to survive, no matter how your body looks, which shouldn’t matter, putting your body in a way that fits you for maximum survival is best.
The men and women in bodybuilding contests are known to be extremely fit but are known to die very young due to high blood sugar, high cholesterol and other steroid related deaths. Bodybuilding is believed to be a contest for the most in shape a person can be, but what it really is, is a vanity contest, for who can look the best. Bodybuilding is unhealthy and is also a problem made into a lifestyle. It is like going to see a contest for who is the skinniest or the most over weight.
All problems of how the body looks should be replaced with how the body works and feels. It is not what the public eye sees, but what your innerself lives in every day. I myself am very obviously no physical fitness guru but I believe in respecting my body and keeping it in good functioning shape as I believe others should to.

Mocking Our Society

While I am looking forward to the upcoming release of The Hunger Games: Mockingly Part 1 as most of American teens, the new trailer is overcompensating. While trailers are supposed to be representative of the movie and grab the viewers attention, it can be overwhelming. I think that this constant focus on the action and heroism takes a movie which is already unrealistic and deemphasizes the motifs which reveal truth. The trailer consists of constant cuts to battles, dramatic conversations, tension, and heroic statements. While they are supposed to be fighting a rebellion, a person has moments of weakness, fear, and selfishness in stressful situations, it is simply natural. The heroism would not be consistent if it were a true situation. Although the trailer does not advertise the underlying true motifs of war which the book expresses, the material from the series can be used to reflect upon american society.

The whole premise of this series is mocking US society today. The separation of districts is a parody of our class system and corruption of government. The government throughout the Hunger Games series is trying to squash the rebellion and ignore the issues of lower-class citizens. This is supposed to reflect on our society. The most extreme parody involved in the series is the idea of sending children to fight and die inside a dome for entertainment and "reminder" of the war. A reflection of reality television shows, the games is a radical version but may have truth, for the purpose of "entertainment" much of our television programs are shows in which the participants endure emotional stress and lies created by producers to increase ratings. Most "reality" shows are not even reality, the majority of content which makes it into the final product is a reproduction of something that did not go quite right or something completely staged to enhance the show. Our society is manipulating people's lives for the sake of entertainment, lives are meant to be natural not something that can be manufactured.

"SeaWorld of Hurt"

A staple in the ideal household would seemingly be a trip to SeaWorld. Although, being up close and personal with the world's most majestic animals comes with a large price. The original SeaWorld San Diego opened on March 21, 1964, and since then SeaWorld has been offering the experience of being eye to eye with the most mysterious animals the deep ocean depth can behold. This experience may sound like a wonderful opportunity but the idea that whales and dolphins should be exposed to humans on a day to day basis is just wrong.

How long can such an insensitive practice last? Hopefully soon the general public can come to a consensus that trying to domesticate wild animals like dolphins and whales for the entertainment of humans is wrong. In a recent study however, it seems that society is starting to educate itself and pull back the deceiving vale of SeaWorld.

A survey released in May, commissioned by Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) and the AWI, found that since 2012 there has been an 11% rise in the number of people opposed to the confinement of orcas in captivity. It also shows that fewer people are on the fence; 50% of Americans are now against the practice. A recent survey of British tourists by the Born Free Foundation showed similar results; 86% said they would not visit a marine park while on an overseas holiday.

This survey serves as a large beacon of hope for so many wild animals currently being held and exploited at SeaWorld.

SeaWorld has released many of its inhabitants and does conservation and charity work, but these acts do not excuse the daily exploitation of so many animals. If SeaWorld wanted to restore its public image, they could stop all performing animals and focus the time and capital towards creating a rehabilitation environment for injured or ill marina animals. By visiting a SeaWorld location, purchasing a souvenir and meal you are supporting the cycle of SeaWorld’s atrocities.

Lastly, there is the matter of trainer safety hazards. Animals like killer whales, commonly referred to as “Shamu”, are expected to perform daily without spontaneous outbursts. Many trainers have been injured from animal attacks and there will be countless more with the continuation of SeaWorld.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Teacher Salaries: Who Should Be Making the Money at OPRF?

OPRF is a house of intellectually rich, diverse, and hard-working staff that does everything in their power to make the best out of the students that are put into their hands. However, there is an issue with the distribution of rewards towards the teachers. As with any other field of work, certain people are better suited for their job than others with the same job. Certain jobs are more important than others. Some people work significantly harder than others. Currently, it is apparent that certain members of the faculty are making a significant amount more than they are entitled to.

Anybody can go online and see the salaries of all their teachers; juicy information. It almost seems wrong, but it's a temptation many, including myself, cannot resist. Upon looking at the listings of salaries, anybody with a predisposition that some are more worthy of higher pay than others may be quickly surprised. The highest paid teacher at OPRF is not scholar. It is a gym teacher. And this isn't simply an anomaly resulting from one single, hard working P.E. teacher. It is one of many examples of a common trend on the chart. Some of the highest paid teachers at the high school are, frighteningly, P.E. and Driver's Ed teachers. These are not fields that open doors to students in any way. While driving and personal health may be important, they are not areas of study that need to be shoved down our throats and that we should then praise excessively through massive salaries for their teachers.

As students, we need to decide to whom it is that we owe our debts. There ought not to be a reward waiting down the road for the teachers that are indifferent to the true need of the students, with that being academic enlightenment. We need passionate teachers that can nurture passionate students. For this reason, tenure ought to be removed from the system, and a reassessment of all teachers should take place. After this, there should also be a balanced redistribution of salaries based upon which teachers are most dedicated toward the pursuit of knowledge.

Efficiency is the Energy of the Future, and the Present

As the modern world is becoming increasingly dependent on technology and therefore energy, efficiency is a topic that must be addressed. Peter Lehner, an executive director of the Natural Resource Defense Council, successfully addresses the need of energy efficiency in his op-ed, Efficiency is the Energy of the Future, and the Present. In this op-ed, Lehner provides a compelling argument for the importance of energy efficiency using incredibly successful rhetoric.

One instance of Lehner's successful rhetoric is his use of rhetorical questions. When beginning his op-ed, Lehner asks "which energy source has had the biggest impact on meeting America's energy needs over the past forty years?" He then answers this question, stating that "It's not coal. It's not oil. Not wind or nuclear. Believe it or not, it's even bigger than all of those combined." This is successful rhetoric because he draws the reader's attention by ruling out the answers that the reader is most likely to think of. This creates a pull of curiosity that forces the reader to continue reading in order to find the answer to Lehner's question.

Another rhetoric technique Lehner uses is ethos, defined as character appeal. Lehner creates character appeal when he states that "scientists agree we need to do more in order to stabilize the climate." This is an example of ethos because he uses scientists as endorsers of his own belief. This, in turn, makes his belief appear sound because scientists, which are generally respected for their knowledge, are in support of it, developing a successful rhetoric.

Lehner advances even further, using the rhetoric technique know as pathos, defined as emotional appeal. An example of this emotional appeal that Lehner uses is when he asks another rhetorical question: "How many more gadgets Americans have at home now than we did at the turn of the century, how many more chargers are plugged into every wall socket?" This is an example of pathos because it creates guilt among the readers because charging phones and other devices is truly relatable. Nearly everyone has had the experience of charging something or another. This creates guilt because Lehner continues on to state that the increase in gadgets, such as chargers, that we use is destroying the Earth, and therefore, the reader is responsible for this destruction, devising a powerful rhetoric that drives the reader to do as Lehner suggests in order to relieve this guilt.

Additionally, Lehner uses logos, the rhetoric technique defined as intellectual appeal. Throughout his op-ed, Lehner states a multitude of facts including "thanks to efficiency, Americans are already on track to meet President Barack Obama's target of a 17-percent reduction in carbon pollution by 2020" as well as "continuing to burn coal and oil in our power plants and gas tanks costs the nation more than $100 billion each year in premature death and illness, hospital bills, work days lost and other health costs." This is successful rhetoric, as it reasons why the readers needs to listen to Lehner's solutions as well as the good that will come from following as he says.

A final example of Lehner's rhetoric is not necessarily defined as a term. The diction Lehner chooses and the ideas that he states are appealing because they better the world. He states "efficiency efforts are already saving Americans hundreds of billions of dollars a year, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, and reducing carbon pollution, all while costing far less than developing new sources of energy." This is appealing to all because it creates a better environment for the world, improving the economy as well.

Although Lehner has an interesting argument, the rhetoric he uses to present it is just as interesting. Lehner asks rhetorical questions, urging the reader to continue reading to find the answer. He also uses ethos, making his argument appear sound. Furthermore, he applies pathos in order for his argument to embody emotional appeal. Additionally, Lehner uses logos to persuade the reader to support his argument by giving statistics to show the good that will result. Lastly, Lehner's argument appeals because of what he is arguing for, a better world, a common want of everyone. Clearly, by analyzing Lehner's rhetorical techniques, it can be concluded that his argument is incredibly successful, persuading readers to do just as he believes.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Music Can Shape Generations op-ed

Music has a way to shape people and generations. In the 60’s and 70’s The Beatles along with other bands preached about love and peace. They started a movement of people protesting and standing up for how they thought the world should be run. The peace continued to the 80’s in the way of new wave, dance music, and glam rock. The rock music became harder when the 80’s came to a close and transitioned into the 90’s. The 90’s was known for punk. This had a more angry approach with ideas like anarchy and destruction to get change. All of these generations have defining factors to them. What will people look back at our generation and think of it?

Our generation is full of songs of guns, violence, lust, hate, greed, misogynism, drugs, and alcohol. This is exactly the objects and ideas our lives have been shaped around. The song Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke was a perfect representation of this. The music video portrays women as accessories for men and nothing else. As the men are drinking and smoking and having a good time the women are not wearing any tops and waiting on their every need. This music video was also very popular and the song was played on the radio regularly. Not only the song itself gives awful demeaning visuals it makes viewers more numb to misogynism because it seems normal and accepted in this video. People listen to what artists tell them through songs. Listening to this music that promotes all of these horrible things makes you notice it less and less in songs and in your daily life. The amount of murders in America has gone up from 9,110 in 1960 to a staggering 14,827 in 2012. Instead of promoting peace and love into this hurting country popular artists are just bringing us down further into a pit of hate.

When my dad tells me all music in this generation will never meet up to music of the past it hits me that it might not be the tune or the guitar solos but the meaning and representation of music will never be the same.

Top hits on the radio have become unlistenable and now we are left with the music that used to be and the generations that promoted caring about each other and peace. Today peace has just become another word to put on a colorful tee shirt and has lost its true meaning. But we can change that.

We dont have to be known as the generation of violence and destruction. Going to school I should not have to pass a no guns allowed sign. I should not have to listen to people refer to my city as chiraq. This is our generation and we need to do something to fix it. Music could be that driving force and trend the world needs to have peace as a priority.

Is wrestling gay? Does it make You Less Masculine than a straight man? op-ed

I’ve come across so many people who look at wrestling as a "gay sport", and how they argue that all wrestlers are gay. Being a straight male, and a wrestler, this doesn't bother me, but what bothers me is that some people see wrestling only as a sport to give guy an excuse to touch each other. It bothers me when people don't see how hard wrestlers work.

Being a wrestler means you have to be more dedicated, more disciplined, and more athletic than anyone else in any other sport. A wrestler’s main goal during a match is to outwork your opponent, and win your match. Not to see how much your hands can grab. If wrestling is a gay sport, then I could argue that football, baseball, swimming, boxing, cross country etc. is a gay sport. Why do football players always slap each other’s butts, why do swimmers wear tights, why do boxers fight shirtless? Because they are all gay? No because they want to be a successful athlete. What really confuses me is that a lot of people argue that homosexuals are super feminine, but we have the same people calling wrestling a "gay sport". The only thing that makes a person a gay is if he or she has a sexual or romantic desire for someone of the same sex. Not in which sport they play.
Even if a wrestler is in fact gay, it doesn't make him any less of a man than a straight wrestler. Also a gay wrestler wouldn't disrespect the sport, by using it in way to get his hands on another man. Most famous for being gay and a wrestler, Darren Young. He was a high school state champion, NCAA All American and currently a WWE Professional wrestler. He recently came out to his fans, and this goes to show that a gay man, can be just a masculine as straight man.  
If people see me as a homosexual because I want to become a successful athlete, then fine by me. 

Darren Young

Averse to Converse

This weekend my girlfriend and I planned on going to the homecoming at Oak Park and River Forest High School. She bought a boutonniere, I bought a corsage, and we were both excited. She asked me a few weeks in advance, and she purchased the tickets in advanced as well. As a last minute decision, we both decided to wear converse with our dress clothes. The website specified "dress shoes", but we figured that our attire was formal regardless. Apparently, we were wrong.

When we arrived at the high school around 7:30 p.m., the line at the entrance extended far out the door. We took our place, and a fellow student immediately informed us that we might not be let in on account of our shoes. One friend of ours told us that she had worn crocs last year, with the same rules in place, and had been admitted without a problem. As any student at OPRF knows, however, the 'Safety and Support' team has dramatically changed the character of enforcement lately. Leniency and empathy are things of a bygone era.

After waiting in the line for fifteen minutes, a staff member aggressively informed us, "we can't let you in with those shoes." Our absurd anxieties had been realized. We went up to talk to him. "We're all dressed up, we spent $30 on the tickets, and we just want to go to our homecoming," we pleaded. "We can't make an exception," he replied. I felt frustrated, so I asked him, "Is there any logic behind this rule?"

"The logic is, it's the rule."

We walked out of the hallway, dejected and depressed. We decided to try another entrance, and perhaps encounter a little sympathy. The next staff member angrily informed us, "We've sent 40 to 50 kids home crying because of their shoes, if we made an exception for you then someone would take a picture of your shoes and we'd be getting calls from parents." So we didn't go to homecoming this year.

Does this rule have a logical explanation? Not that I can think of. If the explanation derives from an idea of dressing nicely, I would point the administration and the student council to the countless fashion blogs discussing the merits of gym shoes and converse with suits and dresses as a fashion statement. If the explanation derives from an idea of safety, I would love to have Mr. Randy Braverman explain to me how converse pose a greater safety threat than high heals or other dress shoes, and why his safety measures have to be enforced in such a hostile fashion.

Mr. Rouse, the principal of Oak Park and River Forest High School, asks what kind of 'culture' we want our school to be known for. His employees perpetuate a culture of hostility and disrespect. They discourage students from wanting to come through those doors. There are exceptions of course, security guards who want to help students succeed, but they are fighting a much larger trend towards the impersonal and indifferent treatment of the student body.

How can any member of the administration expect a change in the character of the student body to occur while the staff continually treats the students with disrespect and a lack of sympathy? Every corner I turn, I see the words "Here we treat each other with respect" flaunted by the administration. I don't feel treated with respect, how about you?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Do we really make choices for ourselves?

Recently I was watching tv with my mom and a political add for Dick Durbin came on. At the end, my mom pointed at the tv and said "My vote it always for Dick Durbin, you should vote for him when you're at voting age. Your sister should vote for him." And for a split second, in my mind I made a mental note of "vote for Durbin". But then it occurred to me, I just almost made a decision based on only what my mom told me to. I don't even know anything about Durbin or what he stands for. I started thinking about what other choices I might have made based only on what someone told me. As children, we always we told to do what are parents told us to but is that flowing into our decisions today? I know I'm not well politically educated and I probably should be. My parents defined themselves as Democrats and I just assumed I was one too. But now I'm not sure, I don't even think I knew what the difference was until 5th grade. I just always thought that I had to share the same political views as my family. But the views of our parents shouldn't dictate the choices and views that our generation has. We need to start making the choices ourselves based on our own opinions.

Parallels in Les Miserables and The Things They Carried

The story of Les Miserables and the songs from its musical, especially “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” have many parallels with The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.

During “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” one of the main characters in Les Miserables, Marius, has just gotten back on his feet after a revolutionarily sustained injury, goes to the sight of the revolution, and sings about his heartbreak. Marius sings, “Oh my friends, my friends forgive me, that I live and you are gone. There's a grief that can't be spoken. There's a pain goes on and on.” The guilt that Marius is feeling in the scene is made apparent when he begs for his dead friends’ to “forgive” him because he was the one to “live on” and that they are now “gone.”

O’Brien talks about a similar guilt when talking about death and war. He says, “my presence was guilt enough… and I remember feeling the burden of responsibility and grief” (171). Marius’ and O’Brien’s “guilt” about death brings to light the after affects of war on the soldier’s conscience.

Both in Les Miserables and The Things They Carried, characters acknowledge the profound sacrifice that takes place in war and that the reason for that sacrifice is not always clear. Marius sings, “Oh my friends, my friends, don't ask me what your sacrifice was for. Empty chairs at empty tables where my friends will sing no more.” Marius’ blatant ignorance in regards to what his “friends” have just died for exemplifies the fact that soldiers or revolutionaries do not always know if their “sacrifice” is worth the cost or if it is justified.

O’Brien discusses this often times unjustified sacrifice when saying, “you don’t make a war without knowing why… [and] when a nation goes to war it must have reasonable confidence in the justice and imperative of its cause… Once people are dead, you can’t make them undead” (38-39). O’Brien’s concrete way of talking about the “dead” demonstrates his views on the importance war being just.

The similarities that these two stories hold highlight the common experiences that all soldiers might have despite the century.

ISIS is Limitless

Everyday on the news there is an update on ISIS, the Islamic State in Islam and Syria. It was established in 2004 as al Qaeda but changed to ISIS in 2006. The anti-Western militant group aims to establish an independent Islamic state in the regions from northern Syria to central Iraq. It has only continued to grow and create global fear. ISIS leaders seize to amaze with their infamous cruelty. Iraq's second largest city, Mosul is now under control of ISIS. However, the power base is in eastern Syria controlling more than half of Syria's oil. Through the black market, $3 million is funded to the group each day with these oil supplies.

Not only is ISIS controlling the land, but the civilians too. Earlier today it was announced that a female human rights lawyer was publicly tortured and eventually executed because she had "abandoned" Islam. Abandoning Islam is practically asking for death, and it can include anything from converting to another religion or simply not being "extreme" enough. Samira Salih al-Nuaimi was home with her husband and three kids when she was kidnapped and taken to a secret location. Five days later her family was contacted to retrieve her tortured body. This type of inhumane action fits ISIS's reputation perfectly, and it needs to be put to an end. Doing anything that is not Islamic or Muslim is seen as a threat to the group, therefore, they will completely eliminate anyone who disobeys. Rules and deconstruction have only increased since the group has taken control of cities, forcing minorities to convert to Islam, taxing, and insisting dress codes. Al-Nuaimi's death is the latest in attacks by ISIS to silence female activists and politicians. Anyone with a voice is being targeted for speaking their mind. ISIS needs to be put to an end before the group gets any more strength, creating more fear for everyone.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

John Oliver Takes Down Miss America

In last Sunday's Last Week Tonight, the former Daily Show correspondent provided his own take on the annual Miss America Pageant, which could be viewed on ABC and online. In a fifteen minute segment, Oliver verbally destroys the outdated contest. He first addresses the sexism of having a man present a line of women in  bikinis to be judged by others. Men are certainly not forced to strip down to barely naked for the enjoyment of a national audience, and clearly this practice is part of a time long passed, when judges would grade "the structure of girls' bodies" by measuring them. This time, as Oliver points out, was only shortly after the admittance of Alaska into the the United States 1958. He goes on to show that that level of pure ridiculousness is still very much present in today's competitions. Contestants are often forced to answer astoundingly complex questions in a mere 20 seconds. In the past, women have been made the source of national ridicule for their nonsensical responses to these questions, but as Oliver points out, "Which is crazier? That they sometimes give stupid answers, or that they almost always insanely complex questions." Topics include ISIS, government security leaks, and prisoner exchanges. In reality, these competitions should be the source of ridicule.

Oliver goes on to give background on the pageant, which is owned by Donald Trump, who is himself not particularly good looking but because of his wealth can judge these women on their looks. The media backs up the competition by saying that the pageant is largest provider of scholarships for women. Firstly, Oliver talks about how to be able to get these scholarships, women cannot be or have been pregnant and cannot have been married, which furthers patriarchal ideals such as purity but also inherent sexuality in women. The women must also learn trick to get a shot at winning, from dancing to using butt glue to keep bikinis on. However, with greater research, Oliver found that the organization gives out nowhere near the reported 45 million dollars in scholarships annually. By searching through tax forms, Oliver and his team found that the pageant bumps up its number from the not-even 4 million that it gives out to the 45 million through dishonest scholarship information. In the end, Oliver hosts his own fake pageant to emphasize the insanity of the pageant. He also provides links to women's scholarship providers that don't perpetuate sexism and "reward working information of buttock adhesive technology." His segment has gained increasing popularity, and clearly information on the sexist practice has gotten out to more and more people. Hopefully by next year, the awful practice will have no place in our culture.

Foreign Policy: The Faults in Our Plans to Neutralize Terror

During the 1980’s, the US was involved in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. When the Soviet’s began to invade Afghanistan, the US jumped at the chance to ally with the Afghans through a common enemy. We supplied weapons, training, and money to the Afghan forces fighting back, called the Mujahideen. Mujahideen is a term used for those who struggle for the sake of Islam, a term similar in meaning to jihad. Jihad became a household term after al Qaeda used it to justify their actions, but the US did not know this yet. Through US aid, the Afghans drove out the Soviets. However, also through US aid, Osama Bin Laden formed al Qaeda, a terror cell that utilized the training, cash, and supplies sent by the US. Later, this group would carry out the biggest attack on US soil in history, an attack made possible by US aid.

In 2012, when civil conflicts arose in Syria, the US once again stepped in to aid the side with which we sympathized. We sent aid to the Syrian rebels in the form of economic, logistical, even communications support. The US has been criticized for its “vetting” process to decide to whom supplies should be sent, and the aid to the rebels exemplified this poor choice. The Pentagon later admitted that up to 50% of the troops which we aided were Islamic extremists. These Islamic extremists? They used the aid to branch off and form ISIS, the terror group that currently poses the most threat to society worldwide.

The trend here is quite obvious; the US sends aid to middle eastern countries, extremists get a hold of some of these supplies and use them against us. It seems that any common sense decision would avoid sending aid to forces which harbor Islamic extremists, however that must not be the case. Just last week, in his address on how the US plans to combat ISIS, Obama stressed that we are not going to put US boots into combat; instead, we are sending our resources and training to the forces already in place fighting ISIS. This seems to ring a bell, a bell that reminds us of accidental US sponsored terrorism.

To backtrack, ISIS, which stands for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, garnered attention from the US after they posted the brutal beheading video of US journalist James Foley. In this video, they showed a second journalist, Steven Sotloff, with the threat that if America didn’t end their airstrikes and anti- ISIS support, he would be the next to suffer. Sure enough, a month after the initial video, ISIS posted a similar clip online, showing the gruesome beheading of Sotloff by what appears to be the same executioner. One of the first questions that arose in my mind was how ISIS had these citizens. While details surrounding Foley’s abduction remain cloudy, one of the men with Sotloff when he was kidnapped escaped. His story is chilling; just after crossing the border into Syria, ISIS tricked them with a fake checkpoint, and then abducted the journalist and his team. How did ISIS know where Sotloff was? One of the border guards, a member of the Syrian military, had informed ISIS of the entrance of Sotloff. This guard is part of the same Syrian force we now plan to send aid to, a force that has already been responsible for aiding ISIS in the abduction and later execution of an American citizen.

No, I cannot offer a better plan. Defense analysts say that airstrikes alone will not be effective, but if our counter terrorism only creates new terrorism, it seems like a circular battle. While putting US troops in combat is a horrid thought, there is no “half-war.” Aiding Syrian rebels is the only action possible outside of direct combat, and while it sure is desirable, it is not progressive. Without ideas for better action, the plan will proceed as laid out. We can only hope that history breaks its pattern this time around.

NFL Domestic Violence Op-Ed

The Problem with Domestic Violence in the NFL

Domestic violence is defined as “the inflicting of physical injury by one family or household member on another,” by Merriam-Webster dictionary. However, it can take on many different forms. In the past few months, it has been an issue that is closely associated to the National Football League (NFL). Repeat arrests for the offense have sparked comments from governors to large, corporate establishments. This is clearly a problem at needs to be confronted head on.

Domestic violence has always found its way into the NFL. In a recent study published by Benjamin Moore of the critically acclaimed statistics website Five Thirty Eight, it was found that domestic violence accounts for 48% of arrests for violent crimes within the NFL. The number for the average American male (25-29 years old) is 21%. These numbers indicate a pattern that is quite disturbing and troubling, and in dire need of fixing. The only way to do that is do harshen the punishments, and for teams to take more aggressive stances.

The recent string of arrests, and more importantly, the punishments that have followed, have been eye opening and have caused the NFL as a league, and the individuals who run it, to come under fire.

Ray Rice, running back for the Baltimore Ravens, was arrested on February 15 on the charge of aggravated assault for brutally punching his wife in an elevator, rendering her unconscious. (Search video at your own discretion). His suspension was at first, announced as a measly two games on July 25. However, celebrity news website TMZ leaked a video of the assault online, and started a great backlash. The video depicted him slugged his then-fiance (now wife) in the face after a heated argument, knocking her unconscious. Rice then proceeds to drag her out of the elevator, and tries to resolve the situation privately. After the leak, Rice was released by the Ravens and suspended indefinitely from the NFL.

Greg Hardy, defensive lineman for the Carolina Panthers, was convicted on June 15 for assaulting a female and communicating threats. He allegedly threw his girlfriend down on a couch full of guns, and threatened to kill her. There was no action taken by the Panthers, and he was allowed to play in the first game of the 2014 season on September 7.. However, after the Ray Rice media bonanza, Hardy was put on the exempt list on September 17, which removes him from team activity, but still pays his salary of $13.2 million.

Adrian Peterson is a star running back for the Minnesota Vikings. He won the Most Valuable Player award in 2012, and was en route to having a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. On September 12, Peterson was indicted on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. He admitted to beating his four year old son with a switch. TMZ also posted pictures of his young son’s injuries (photos are very graphic). The Vikings immediately suspended him for one game, but brought him back after a loss. There was much outrage about this decision, as even the governor of Minnesota criticized the decision. Due to the outrage, the Vikings put him on the exempt list, which removes him from all team activity while he still earns a hefty salary of $11.25 million.

All of these cases have one frightening thing in common: they were all swayed by the court of public opinion. The NFL cannot be taken seriously if this trend continues to occur. Ray Rice was not cut until the video of the assault was made public, Greg Hardy was not suspended until Ray Rice was cut, and Adrian Peterson had to be re-suspended by his team after the Vikings organization came under strong criticism for their leniency in the handling of the case.

The only thing that can help this outbreak is strongly enforced punishments for domestic violence. It is true positive strides have been made in the last month in the matter, as a harsher policy on domestic violence was put in place on August 28, outlining a six game suspension for the first offense and a lifetime ban for the second. Within the past week, a committee of four women were hired by the NFL to have input in cases like these. However, the proactiveness of the NFL is very suspect, as a grand total of zero players have been suspended for the six game punishment, even though multiple players have been arrested for domestic violence since the new policy as come into effect. The NFL needs to stand strong in the face of adversity. They need to act now before this blows up even more.

Documentation of Assaults (Extremely Graphic)

Ray Rice assault video: http://www.tmz.com/2014/09/08/ray-rice-elevator-knockout-fiancee-takes-crushing-punch-video/

Major League Baseball's Problematic Regular Season

When you watch an NFL game on TV, you normally only think about the crowd in terms of how loud they are. NFL games are always sold out, they are the talk of the media all week, and popularity of the sport continues to rise at an astronomical rate. When you watch a baseball game, the network usually shows the picture of the field and how beautiful it looks. What is blatantly obvious though, is not how loud the crowd is, but how small the crowd is. As sports leagues like the NFL and NBA continue to rise in popularity, America’s pastime, Major League Baseball has lost popularity. The overwhelming majority of people point to the pace of play, or lack thereof, and claim baseball games take too long. Although I agree with this position to a certain extent, it is very clear to me what the problem is, the regular season games do not matter.

Every regular season game counts the same so why wouldn’t every game matter? The reason is there are 162 games in baseball’s regular season. Yes, 162. Almost two times as long as the NBA season and over ten times as long as the regular season. To make a comparison, a team in the NBA could lose every game they play but if a MLB team lost 82 games, they would still have a respectable .493 winning percentage. If an NFL and MLB team both lost 16 games, the NFL team would be 0-16 at the end of the year, and the MLB team would still have 146 games left.

It is a supply and demand problem and the MLB is on the wrong side of the spectrum. On a radio show called “Mike and Mike in the Morning”, Mike Greenberg says “the NFL is the only regular season that keeps you wanting more.” In the NFL, there is one game on Thursday, one on Monday, and the rest of Sunday. In baseball there is a game every day. If there were trillions and trillions of U.S. dollars in circulation, the value of a dollar would go down compared to if there were just a few hundred billion. I am not advocating for this at all but if the MLB played just 16 games in the season, there is no doubt that people would be more interested and invested in going to those games. The games simply mean more in a shorter season and by reducing the MLB schedule, there be more importance on regular season games.

While I understand the modern baseball fans perspective in that the game needs to evolve with the time, I think the tradition in baseball is exactly what draws people to the game. You grow up hearing stories of past greats like Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Ted Williams, and you cannot but imagine what it would be like to see them play. The mind games that go on when the batter steps out of the box. The shuttle shifts in the outfield that many people may not notice but could mean the difference in catching a ball and missing it. And the best part of all, the reality that a game can change with one pitch or swing of the bat. These are just a few aspects of baseball that make it great and I think by changing the game even in small ways, would negatively impact the game and essentially ruin the great game that so many before us enjoyed.

Land Mines Ahead, Tread Lightly

The United States of America is getting closer to eliminating the use of land mines in war. While land mines can be very helpful in disposing of the enemy, they pose a large threat to the civilian population of whichever country is plagued by war.

 Long after a war is over, the ground in which the war is fought is often left covered with land mines. This is a great danger to all animals or civilians that have the unfortunate luck to discover a land mine by placing their foot on top of it.

The United States of America was one out a small group of countries that did not sign a treaty in 1997, which banned the use of land mines. This week, the Obama Administration agreed to destroy most of the United States' three million stockpiled land mines. This agreement supplemented a white house decision earlier this year to halt production and acquiring of land mines.

The land mine is a helpful tool during the war but after the war they become a major hazard to civilian population. The action that the Obama administration has taken to eliminate this threat to civilian life is excellent, but the action itself has come to late. In the time between 1997 and the present, the situation in the middle east has escalated dramatically and it is impossible to determine the extent to which land mines have devastated the populations of these countries.

All in all, it is should come as a relief that American land mines will no longer threaten the lives of civilians.

The Internet Generation and Why It's Actually Pretty Great

This country has seen its fair share of civil unrest. We’re a relatively new nation - I’d say we’re still going through our rebellious teenage phase at this point, and have been going through it for roughly two hundred years. We had that experimental phase with slavery; the resulting fallout, harsh breakup, and consequent make-up between the north and south; that silly little “women’s suffrage” thing; and the whole “civil rights” scuffle we had to deal with in the sixties. The thing is: those haven’t been the only moments of national outrage - there have been so, so many more of them, but they quickly fizzled out, or were quenched, and were later entirely forgotten.

At first, the death of Mike Brown seemed like just another one of them - but then, amazingly. It wasn’t. Why not?

Because of the internet generation.

The internet is one of the most interesting social experiments our world has ever seen. For the first time in history, anyone can talk to anyone, and any information or opinions can be seen by millions of people with the touch of a button. There are some disappointing outcomes of course, and some scary ones, but since the police brutality in Ferguson, we’ve seen an amazing new side of the internet that no one had expected.

See, the craziest part of the Ferguson events isn’t the murder of Mike Brown. It isn’t even the rubber bullets and sound cannons and the tear gas. The event in Ferguson that seemed to strike most of its onlookers was the way the police responded to reporters.

The craziest part is when the police stopped allowing official members of the press to enter the area, and only let out “official” police reports to mainstream news. And when journalists had to bravely venture into the chaos and report through twitter or independent blogs. And when videos on youtube of the police shooting at peaceful protestors started getting taken down. And when police actually dismantled a reporter’s camera. And, finally, when a reporter caught a police officer shouting, “Get that light off. Get the fuck out of here, or you're getting shot with this!” on film.

The Internet generation is also the Hunger Games generation. We fawn over dystopian novels with nationwide obsession. Why? Mainly, it’s because we identify with it. There’s a lot of hyperbole of course, and more hovercars and spaceships, maybe, but the problems at its core - the flaws in the fictional governments - are the same ones ours have, but on a grander, more easily recognizable scale. People in power controlling and censoring the media, higher classes violently oppressing the lower classes, some form of hideous racism, entrapping the civilians in a life they can’t escape. They’re all played up in a consumable way - not like the subtle, insidious way they usually appear in real life - so we can identify with them from a comfortable, glamorized distance. We like that. We like to get riled up about things that hit home but still don’t really apply to us.

But once in a while, something like this happens, and it’s so familiar, because we’ve read about it hundreds of times. No one ever reads the Hunger Games and thinks, gosh, what if we were to put our own children against each other in real life one day? But then you see Ferguson, and you think of all the other parts of the Hunger Games - the police brutality, the silencing and censoring of the media, the controlling government - and you think, holy shit, it’s real. We recognize those feelings that Hollywood has bred inside of us and we realize why we liked those books in the first place - because of how real they are.

There has been injustice in this country since its birth. Now, however, after we’ve been conditioned to recognize it by our own pop culture, and now that we have that amazing tool that lets us communicate, things are beginning to change. For the first time, we are not reliant on the reports of major mainstream news stations for an idea of what’s happening - independent, non professional journalists have been live blogging their experiences with videos and photos. We are able to raise money for the grieving family of Mike Brown through an internet gofundme.com campaign. People across the country are able to pay for food at the food shelters in Ferguson, since the schools temporarily shut down and many of the lower class kids there can’t get food anywhere else. Through the internet, people were able to figure out that the police department’s account of Mike Brown’s death was inaccurate, and even prove that the video of him robbing a store that they “leaked” was fake. If word hadn’t been able to get out to that many people at a time, we likely wouldn’t have ever uncovered the lies.

The internet is transforming the world of news and journalling. The people of this country, from any class, can now take news into their own hands. The spark from Ferguson is already ebbing, but now our nation has seen what it can do. Maybe the next time something like this happens, we’ll be prepared. Maybe we’ll have a plan. Maybe the Internet generation will be the first generation to turn America into a true democracy.

Op-Ed of Domestic Violence in the NFL

As a society, I think most of us have reached a consensus that any abuse is a bad thing. But recently, on every news station, pop-culture of just local news, we hear about this Ray Rice scandal. Some of us heard about this a couple months ago. I personally saw a video showing Ray Rice dragging out his girlfriend out of an elevator, and so did the NFL. Just a few weeks ago though, a video was released showing exactly what happened inside the elevator. It showed Ray Rice actually punching his girlfriend in her face, hard enough for her to collapse. Only this forced the NFL to give Ray Rice a harsher punishment.

But why now? Why do we have to see the video of her getting punched in the face to pursue a bigger consequence? We all knew what happened inside that elevator.

The way the NFL is dealing with this disgusts me. Rice only received a couple games suspension initially, and now that the video is released, he is suspended indefinitely. It’s just a slap on the wrist for these guys.

If this video was released before Ray Rice was involved with the NFL, do you think he would be in the NFL today? No. No franchise with so many followers would want to be known as accepting of someone who hits their significant other. Especially in public!

So why is now any different? Why should Ray Rice, or any other player, be allowed to play with the best? And be looked up to as role models. I strongly think they shouldn’t. If these men have the drive and the excellence to make it to the NFL, I think they should be held to higher standards. With higher standards comes higher responsibilities, and hefty consequences.

Or should we look to give the bigger punishments to the men that let this slide. Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, is really the man in charge of dealing with this huge scandal. Goodell claims that the organization had no idea that a video from inside the elevator existed. Basically, he is saying that I, just a sixteen year old girl, understood what had happened in that elevator before a whole work force saw it.. One girl beats a hundreds of workers? What are the odds. I really think it is impossible that I was able to find this before the NFL.

Just to be clear, Rice isn’t the only man in the NFL that has been known for domestic

violence. But should the NFL start with him in, what should be, stricter violence rules? Yes. I do feel guilty about stripping someone of their lifelong dreams, but in no way do I think it is acceptable to hit someone you love. We should know that by now. It should be a given to never lay a hurtful hand on the people you love.

I think it starts with Ray Rice. With him, it will show to us as a nation that this will not be tolerated anymore. It will show the little boys playing football, dreaming of scoring that touchdown in a stadium, that when they get there, they are held to a higher standard. And this standard isn’t flexible. You need to be someone you would want your children and grandchildren look up to.

Smart Phones, Dumb People

Every year, a new smartphone comes out with brand new, fancy features that everyone has to have. Most of the time, this smartphone happens to be and iPhone. It is not only the iPhone that is smart. There are many smartphones out there, and each year they are becoming smarter and smarter. But are we becoming dumber?

With each new feature that a smartphone has, that is one less thing we need to do, or have to carry. Before smartphones, people knew how to socialize with each other. Now if there are three people waiting in a room, they just pull out their phone and get transported to another world. Our memory has also been diminished by this revolution. Many people have information on their phone, so there is no need to remember it. The smartphone has also affected our ability to focus. When a smartphone is activated, there are many things happening at once so there is no need to  focus on one thing. After it is taken away, people have a hard time focusing on one thing because their phone has trained them not to. Many people have also forgotten how to read a map, since their phone can read the directions out to them. Take away the phone, and nobody knows where to go, or how to get there. The final thing that smartphones affect is our ability to do simple tasks. We no longer need to do the tip in our head, because there are calculators. Many phones also have voice activated features that will answer anything question you have, demolishing the chance for a discussion or research at the library.

As long as the intelligence of phones increases, our knowledge of basic knowledge with declines. Many people need to relearn simple tasks before the phones completely take over.

Speaking of courage from The Things they Carried analysis

In the Chapter Speaking of Courage O'Brien focuses on Norman Bowker, a fellow soldier. Norman struggles with lots of emotional issues and we get to see how he copes with them as he reflects upon a particular incident in the war. When O'Brien talks about the man he killed he creates a fantasy were he pictures the life of the guy he killed. He imagines his family, the details of his life goals and even goes into his childhood a little. Norman has a similar way of coping.

Norman spends a great deal of time circling a lake pretending he is talking to his father. He holds entire conversations within he own fantasy and discusses with his father how he was almost awarded the silver star medal. He talks about how he was going to save the life of one of his comrades but bailed due to the fact that he could not deal with the situation anymore. the situation being he was sinking into a field of shit and had a hand on the boot of his friend, overwhelmed by the smell he decided to let go. His made-up father tells him that his friend had probably already been drowned in the muck, but Norman argues that he just had this feeling that he was still alive. this is his major conflict that he argues with his father multiple times in the chapter. Norman feels as if he is drowning in his dark memories just as his friend drowned in the field of shit. This leads him to deal with the issue by creating an imaginary version of his father to talk through the situation with, maybe in hopes of clearing the situation in his head.

The Things We Carry, Vol. 1

Today in class, Mr. Heidkamp mentioned that this year, we'd be discussing the levels of "truth" in every story we read...  Other than The Things They Carried.  Why?  Because there are so many levels of truth in this book that the conversation would both a) last for several days, considering we only have 48 minutes to a day in class, and b) still skip over many of the truths, simply because thinking of and exploring them all is a near impossibility.  I agree--I myself would never be able to find all the levels, and even with the ones I do know of I could talk for hours.  And at this point in my train of thought, I said to myself, "Heck, I could even write several blog posts about this sort of--wait a sec..."  So, here I am.  And today, I'll start with what hit me most recently--O'Brien's method of coping with his loss of Kiowa after his failure to save him.

Yes, I hear you, loyal readers.  "But Norman Bowker was the one who let Kiowa die!"  To be honest, I'm surprised people asked me about this.  At the end of "Notes", O'Brien defines to us that it was, in fact, he who let Kiowa die (or, rather, couldn't save Kiowa). He doesn't say much about it, but it's certainly said.
"In the interests of truth, however, I want to make it clear that Norman Bowker was in no way responsible for what happened to Kiowa.  Norman did not experience a failure of nerve that night.  He did not freeze up or lose the Silver Star for valor.  That part of the story is my own." p.154
O'Brien coped with Kiowa's death and his own personal self-perceived failure of his friend by talking about it in a story.  After all, that's practically what the whole book is, right?  O'Brien says it himself in that same chapter--this process of moving past the impact of a war became easier for him once he started writing such things down.  It's his way of reconciling everything that happened.  Well, what he does with this Kiowa-Norman Bowker bit is a really just a classic form of saying something you can't say otherwise.  But first, let's look into just why O'Brien can't say it.

Look at "Speaking of Courage" from a perspective of "Norman Bowker" dealing with what happened in the shit field.  Bowker can hardly handle it.  He acts cool about it, but everything he talks about someone circles back to what happened in that shit field.  It's a story he's dying to tell, but for one reason or another, he can't do it.  The only one he can tell is an imaginary version of his father, and even that left out a fair share of details.  And this makes sense--when one fails to save someone they care about, the emotional consequences are dire to say the least.  He had to say it, but he couldn't say the real truth to anyone who might actually react or judge him.

However, in "Notes", O'Brien adds another layer of coping mechanism to the function.  Many of us have heard someone use an excuse for coming out with something that goes something like the following: "Yeah, so I have this friend... And this friend I have, who is not me, has this problem or this thing that he/she needs to get past."  And, toward the end of it, they may or may not reveal that, shocker, the person with the aforementioned problem was them all along.  O'Brien does something similar.  He uses his own experience as Norman Bowker's, allowing him to assume a third-person perspective and really describe just how hard it was to deal with what happened.  And, at the end of it all, he reveals that it was not Norman Bowker at all.  The town in question was his own hometown, and the story Norman told had actually been his own all along.

Shocker, right?

Op-Ed on the Correlation Between Stress and Education

If you type “how to survive” in to a Google, Yahoo, or Bing search engine, the most common suggested endings to the phrase are: a zombie apocalypse, the plague, a tornado, unemployment, and… high school. Which one of these things is not like the others, and why does the list make it seem synonymous with life-threatening situations? The answer is simple. Modern-day education systems create an unhealthy environment where high levels of stress and anxiety are commonalities due to unrealistic expectations of teenagers. Personal health and personal goals seem to be set aside in order to achieve a high standard of academics that sometimes are unattainable. Kids resort to cheating, cramming, and overall dishonesty in a desperate need for points. We are taught to memorize and recite theorems and theories but rarely taught values such as honesty, kindness, and loyalty.

As a freshman two years ago, I walked in to OPRF’s Huskie Kick-Off day for freshman extremely nervous. I dug my nails in to my palms as I walked through the cheerleaders and drum line, then into the school and through the mass of mentors decked out in orange, blue, beads, and pom poms. I remember although I was nervous, I was excited. After hours of playing get-to-know-me and name games we were finishing up with one final game. A game where a leader calls out a number, and you have to get in a group of people with that number. Although the moral of the game is teach kids that it is good to make a lot of friends, so you can be able to adapt into any situation because you are welcome in many different groups, us freshman took it very differently. I remember a mentor asking, “So why do you think we play this game? What’s the point?” and immediately a few kids raised their hands confident in their unanimous answers which were, “High school is full of cliques.”

years later, and this summer I was one of many mentors leading the same game. While I had changed, and my position had changed, it seemed that the freshmen’s viewpoint on high school had stayed the same. When we asked the same question, “So why do you think we play this game? What’s the point?” the freshmen had the same answers: high school is full of cliques, your friends will leave you or you will get kicked out, you’ll get excluded. A couple hours later when they have time to ask mentors questions, they are almost all concerning workload and how much time is spent on homework. What does that say about high school, that before kids walk in to their first real day of high school, they already have preconceived notions of how terrible it will be?

The average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950’s. This is due to that fact that school is an environment where fear of being just average motivates us, and where mistakes are sometimes seen as failures. Our society puts so much emphasis on teenagers to be perfect, they are expected to: be present and engaged during school, take part in numerous extra curriculars, and do hours of homework which often includes studying for multiple tests in one day. While this is not a crazy long list, the things that go into each of those things is where the time needs to be put in. Homework can include essays, worksheets, math problems, all on top of studying for multiple tests in one day. Students feel pressure to be in AP classes, and some even take all AP classes which is an extremely unhealthy workload. After all of this, we are told “You need to get at least 9 hours of sleep every night when you are a teenager!” which is a joke because the same people who say things like this are the ones who are assigning the work that forces many students to only get 5 or 6.

With so much work to do, there is very little free time in a busy student’s life. At a time when kids are supposed to be finding themselves and exploring and seeing what their passions are, we are learning, sometimes pointless, equations in math class. We are not taught to think for ourselves. If you really think about it, we are never actually thinking. We are trying to catch up on notes, get our things out, explain what we wrote. How many time a day are we asked to just sit for 5 minutes, take a breath and really think?

All of this work and stress is said to be expected of students so that they can get in to the college they desire. So when they are applying for college, they can have good ACT/SAT scores as well as an above average GPA. Teens are constantly being tested, and after a while kids see their worth as the grades they are getting. Students get grades back every single day, saying how good or not you are. For many students, Junior year marks the year that they have to take the ACT/SAT standardized testing. Many kids suffer from test anxiety, and are not good test takers. For many four-year universities, the first process they complete in order to weed out applications is to simply look at numbers. Students are judged by test scores and GPAs, which doesn’t fully allow them to grasp the character and abilities of a person. It is no wonder that these tests are taken so seriously, and provoke so much stress. This process teaches kids at a young at that their personality is less worth than how well they can take a test.

Education and learning shouldn’t be seen by students as time away from their life and away from exploring the world, it should instead be a part of their life that they enjoy. Public school systems should not be a source of anxiety and unnecessary stress for teenagers at a time when their brain, perceptions, and outlooks are at the most malleable point they will ever be at. Every year, teen’s depression, anxiety, and social phobias increase. This is because every day they spend 7 hours sitting in a desk, in a high pressure and judgmental environment that is not healthy.

Stop the Madness

My personal exposure to gun madness came when a family friend showed up at my front door, flustered, disturbed and stressed out. I was shocked that he was at my house because he was supposed to be in Alaska with his dad. Later I found out that the trip was canceled because his dad had threatened him with a gun.

He was so terrified he ran four miles, jumped on a train, and and then ran another mile until he showed up at my house. I was surprised to see the effect a gun could have, even without it going off- just the sheer terror and destruction that can be caused by seeing a gun.

The numbers of gun-related incidents are staggering: on average, more than 100,000 people are shot in the United States every year. Every day, about 289 people are shot and 86 of those people die. Between 2000 and 2010, 335,609 people died from gunshot wounds in the U.S. that is more than the population of St. Louis!

Guns have the scariest effect on kids. In 2010, 15,576 kids were injured and 2,694 were killed by guns. This is three times more than the number of U.S. soldiers wounded in Afghanistan that year. Not only are thousands of kids injured by guns, but half of all juveniles murdered in 2010 were killed by firearms. Furthermore, many mass murders have been made possible because of guns finding their way into the hands of troubled kids. In the past ten years, 900 people have died from mass shootings in schools and other public institutions.

Guns are not a joke. Their main purpose is to kill. They are dangerous to have around, even if they are supposed to be for protection. Just a few days ago a nine-year-old girl accidentally shot and killed her shooting instructor. Not only is it sad that a man’s life was taken, but the nine-year-old girl will be traumatized for the rest of her life. Guns can never be totally safe; accidents are inevitable and often fatal.

Many pro-gun advocates argue that the Second Amendment gives them the right to bear arms, and that there is no point in making laws that control gun ownership because criminals will get guns no matter what. Their favorite adage is “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” If so, how can these pro-gun advocates explain why U.S. juveniles are seventeen times more likely to be killed by a gun than their peers on twenty five other high income countries put together? The point of making laws that increase gun control is to reduce the opportunity for criminals and unstable people to get guns, making it harder for them to kill innocent people. The goal of gun-control laws is to put restrictions on gun ownership in order to reduce violence as much as possible. It may not be the perfect solution, but we need to try everything we can to reduce the carnage. Although the Second Amendment does grant people the right to bear arms, that does not mean there cannot be any limits or controls. In the United States, people also have the right to freedom of speech and religion, but limits on these freedoms have been imposed when it comes to the safety of other citizens, especially children. The Supreme Court has agreed that individuals have the right to own guns, but that it is also necessary for there to be restrictions on gun ownership.

Firearms are not only dangerous for the individual but destructive to our country as a whole. Guns do not equate with justice. They can hurt people no matter who they are, going off and killing the most respectable person in the world. Unlike attacking someone with fists or a knife, guns generate a distance between the act of pulling the trigger and hurting someone, allowing people to hide from the reality of what they are doing and for more accidents to happen. That is not something that the people of the United States should support. Guns kill people. Another Favorite argument of pro-gun advocates is that “people kill people, not guns.” Although technically true, guns increase the number of people and individual can kill exponentially. A device that’s sole purpose is to injure and kill, that someone can use without needing to think twice, can only be bad. It allows a careless act or a rash decision to ruin many lives. Guns make it possible for one person to decide to kill another person and to act on that decision, all in a matter of seconds. The consequences of such a split-second decision destroy not only the life of the person who has died, but also the one who has killed.
Putting restrictions on gun ownership will not be easy and there may not be a perfect way to control gun use, but it is essential for us to come together as a country and try to save ourselves from the violence and tragedy that is associated with unregulated gun ownership and use. We owe it to our friends, family, and ourselves to enact laws that protect the people of our country from the madness of unfettered gun use.

The Buffalo

War is numb
“Shot it through the right front knee”
It didn't scream
“Shot of an ear”
It didn’t attempt to flee
“Shot it in the hindquarters”
“Shot it twice in the flanks
no one pitied it
“Shot off the tail”
“Shot away chunks of meat below the ribs”
Shot randomly”
“Shot it in the left front knee”
“Rat had lost his best friend”
“For now the question of pain”
In war pain makes you numb.
“Rat Kiley was crying”
“Curt lemon stepped on a booby trap”
When a soldiers in pain
He doesn’t care to feel
He doesn’t want to feel
He doesn’t want to be a soldier

Jack Monaghan

America and War are the Same Thing (or at least OPRF thinks so.)

Spirit week is a event that happens every year right before Homecoming. Student council thinks of ideas for days, then all the students are encouraged to dress up for that day. This year there was an America day. Which is an average dress up day, people wear red, white. and blue so they can display their patriotism. Yet, this year it wasn't just America day it was America/Camouflage day.

I am never that interested in spirit week, but this day caught my eye. I can understand dressing up to support your country, but the student council and the school have made this a parallel to America and dressing up in Camouflage which is often associated with soldiers. Are American and war seen as the same thing?

If this is true, we live in a violent corrupted country. If I learned anything from The Things We Carried is that war is everything. But Schools shouldn't be supporting idea that America is the same thing as war.

OPRF is always talking about how we want to be violent free. Yet, we are promoting a violent America. 

Technology Ideals Today

Day by day our technology continues to improve and expand. The society around us expands and becomes "easier". As technology expanded from the computer which was the size of a building, to a computer that fits in your pocket, our society has become accustomed to the way we live our daily lives. Around forty tears ago the first cell phone was invented, now just this week the iPhone 6 was released. The transformation from a cell phone that was almost to big to hold, all the way to a cell phone that is touch screen and is capable of many more things than just phone calls is outrageous. Its amazing in our society it is completely normal to spend hundreds of dollars on an electronic device, and not to use the money where it could be used for non material uses. It poses the question, is all of this worth it? The money we spend to further our material use and social standing, is radical in difference to other societies, where money is given to other objects and ideals.

Explicit Rap Lyrics Op-Ed

With all of the technology advancements in todays society, music has changed a lot in the past decade or so. The internet allows for easy transfer and purchase of music from virtually anyone and anywhere. Radios have more music stations and new mp3 products are developed all of the time and are built into almost every phone. Music is expanding throughout society and one kind of music that is becoming more popular and acceptable is “explicit” music. Words that never were spoken before are now loosely said all of the time. As many people argue that using explicit language is wrong, I believe that certain words and ideas are needed to express the true work and message coming from the artist.

Lyrics are becoming more and more vulgar as artists gain more freedom, reaching points that were unheard of not too long ago. Although these lyrics can be offensive and wrong, it is ultimately your choice of what music you want to listen to and that is the beauty of it. Despite new genres of Music coming into play like electronic/ E.D.M and others going out of play like disco, a type of music that has stuck around since it’s birth in the early 80’s is hip-hop/rap.

Rap music has evolved quite a bit in the past decade and you can find many important messages inside this genre. However, the main message of a lot of these songs are that these artist are above the law, taking part in illegal activity. These are lessons that nobody should admire or take part in. It is also common for rappers to objectify women. Too often this is seen as acceptable and the ideas are glorified by the artist and their fans. Although a lot of the messages delivered come off as bad, many are good too. For example, Macklemore’s song, “Same Love” goes against the common stereotype of what a rapper should talk about in his music. This song conveys a good message about equality which is almost never touched on in rap.  

Marshall Mathers, known as Eminem, is considered one of the best rappers of all time. His jabby and assertive tone creates a different kind of feel when listening to his music. Artists sometimes need bad language and other controversial ideas to convey certain messages within their music. Eminem definitely uses this tactic which is how he gets his story and ideas to the people listening to him. In the song “Spacebound” he talks about a past relationship where he explains the pain and anger from being rejected by somebody he loved and trusted. He uses words that nobody would say out loud and this conveys how serious his emotions were when writing it.

Now that it’s more acceptable to use explicit rap lyrics, musical artists have more freedom and range in the music that they create. Even though explicit music may not be for everyone, I think that there is a time and place for everything and the language that the artist wants to use is very important.