Tag Archives: Humans

An Overwhelming Day

Today was one of those days that made me question everything. My life, my choices, my future… I am so mentally drained that I just want to curl up into a ball with South Park and my kitty and just focus on what I’m going to wear tomorrow or what color of eyeliner to buy next from Target or something stupid like that.

But I can’t.

I can only focus on the whirlwind of questions in my mind that today has created.

Simply put, what I am majoring in, sustainability, is mentally and emotionally draining. I won’t go into extreme detail for fear of confusing everybody, but there are basically three main categories of sustainability – social, economic, and environmental – and my concentration in this field focuses primarily on the social aspect of it. Society. People. Peoples’ wants and needs and goals and dreams and futures and safety and happiness.

The concepts behind social sustainability are not concrete or set in stone. They are very conceptual and theoretical. Therefore, while we learn concrete fact about peoples’ situations and certain rules and regulations behind different ways of implementing policies that change said situations, most of what we talk about is theory. Reading off my notes I took in one of my classes today, we talk about internal framework, hypothetical situations, social development. Hyden’s crescendo: evolving, diffusing, insulating. Layers of government. Data and arguments. Flow of information vs. misinformation. Roles and influences of technology and geography. Capacity building.

Is that confusing, or is that confusing?

Some days I chip in happily with the class conversations. I take my notes and nod as my professors explain models and ideas and realities that collectively make up one way of doing things, or explain why some people do something a certain way, or determine whether or not an immediate solution is needed in a situation. Some days I get it. I understand.

And then there are some days where my professors are firing off terms and abstract ideas and some of my older, wiser classmates are debating amongst themselves and are quoting articles, books, other universes for all I know, and I sit in complete shock and wonder how I ever managed to get accepted into the School of Sustainability; I ask myself why I didn’t major in something like art, or design, or communications, or something that wouldn’t drive me insane, something that wouldn’t keep my mind churning for hours on end, something that wouldn’t make me question my capabilities and my role on this planet and my very existence.

There is just no other way to say this: the more I know about the field of sustainability, the less prepared I feel to be entering it.

Days like today are the ones that make me sit with my head in my hands and despair because I don’t feel worthy enough to be in this program. The mess we humans have gotten ourselves into is so complex, so complicated, that I can’t wrap my head around it and I hate myself for not understanding fully. Maybe that’s where the true problem lies. I’m an egomaniac that wants to be the smartest of them all, and I can’t stand the fact that while I want to be a top academic that people look to for guidance, I just don’t have all the answers.

Days like today are the ones that make me think… what in the living hell did I get myself into?

Careers, my poor mind starts sputtering like a broken record. Of course that’s the first thing I think about. I’m 21, going to graduate in a year, and need to find a career if I’m ever going to survive in this lion’s den that is the real world. What career will I end up in if I continue down this road? Will I be a successful humanitarian someday? Will people listen to me? Will I know what to do? Will my life ever be in jeopardy from trying to work with those who need help? Will I be happy?

And what about the determinedly ignorant people who refuse to see that sustainable solutions must surface if there is to be hope for humanity? How do I even function when they exist? How do I do my potential job? How do I convince them I have their best interests at heart? What about those who refuse to do anything because they are so convinced their God will just solve everything with a wave of a magic wand? How do I possibly get through to them? How do I tell them it is okay to believe in a higher being, but scientific fact backs up these sustainability-related problems and they require real, equally scientific solutions? How do I try and help those who refuse to see the giant mess they are sitting in? How – in reference to an awesome quote from the movie Avatar – do I fill a cup that is already full?

How do I help governments work together? How do I help developing nations rise out of poverty? How do I stop wars? How do I stop crime? How do I stop hunger? How do I improve education? How do I spread awareness to more fortunate groups of people? How do I redistribute power? How do I uplift those who have been beaten down? How do I promote equality? How does anyone in this field do any of that?? How do they do it without losing their minds? How do they (brace yourselves) sustain their abilities and follow their dreams of helping people at the same time?

How?

How?

Today I ask these questions. Today I am still in love with my field of study, but I am overwhelmed with emotion when I think of the fact that if nobody answers these questions, people will continue to die of starvation, disease, conflict, or thirst. People will continue to slowly destroy the only planet we have to live on.

Today I stand with my eyes to the sky, begging, beseeching whatever or whomever is up there, if there is anything up there, to guide me, to guide all of us.

I don’t have all the answers. Maybe no one does.

But today I simply try to have hope, because there are times like now where that is all I have.

But from this rises yet another question… is it enough?

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Drunk Drivers, Hurtful Words, and Humans in General

My big sister was in an accident with a drunk driver the other night. She had a green light and was passing under a freeway when an old Ford came out of nowhere and flew in front of her. She was able to slam on the brakes in time to hit the back end of their car, but her car was totaled in the process.

She’s okay. She has some back pain right now and is currently having a hell of a time with her insurance company, but she’s okay.

But there are so many people who aren’t that lucky.

The kicker in this story is that the driver that could have potentially killed my sister was uninsured, unlicensed, unregistered, out past curfew, and fifteen years old. Fifteen years old.

Before I go on to my many other points in this blog post, can we all just sit back and ask what the actual living hell is wrong with some people? What is wrong with this kid so that he thinks it is perfectly acceptable to get into a car that does not belong to him and drive even though it is illegal for him to be driving? Not to mention doing all of the above while DRUNK.

What is wrong with this kid’s parents so that they raised him to believe that that kind of behavior is okay? Parenting is everything. Parenting doesn’t begin when a kid is fifteen and making bad decisions. Parenting begins the moment a child is born. Those parents had a responsibility to make sure their child grew up knowing the consequences of his actions and a responsibility to make sure their child knew the dangers of mixing alcohol and driving. They had a responsibility to make sure their kid didn’t find it necessary to drink and act cool. They failed. They failed miserably.

Furthermore, what is wrong with our society so that kids find it necessary to drink at all? There is such a taboo on drinking alcohol in the U.S. In other countries, teens start drinking wine at a young age and are allowed to sip alcohol at their parents’ parties and whatnot. Over here, you must be 21 to drink, no exceptions, period-end-of-story. There is such a restriction on drinking alcohol that it naturally becomes the Super Cool Awesome Thing To Do. It’s disturbing, really.

When stuff like fifteen-year-old kids getting drunk and getting into car wrecks happens, I sometimes forget to keep having hope for the human race. Whenever I hear about stupid people (because yes, kids are not the only ones who make bad decisions) on the news, or see them on the road, or hear about them through friends of friends, I just want to curl up and pull the covers over my head and not ever leave my house again. It makes me sick. It makes me so, so sad.

Another prime example that makes me want to quit humanity? The other night, me, my boyfriend, and a group of our friends went out to dinner in downtown Phoenix. None of us get out very much due to our workloads and lack of finances, so we were all excited to be able to go somewhere semi-nice and spend some time together. We were standing in front of the café, waiting on one last friend to show up, when a homeless man came over and asked if we could spare a dollar or two for him. We all shook our heads no and said, “Sorry,” because a) we are all broke college students and b) none of us had cash on us at the time.

This man’s response?

“Oh, I get it, it’s because I’m black. If I were white I’m sure you’d help a brother out. You know what, man? Fuck you.”

And he turned and walked away.

I was absolutely floored. We all stood there for a moment or two, completely speechless, unable to comprehend what had just happened. Then my I found my tongue and my temper.

“Um, actually, that is NOT true,” I yelled after him, “I just don’t carry cash on me.”

The man turned and responded with a few more explicits and my friends and boyfriend chimed in with their own rage until the man kept on walking. (He ended up pacing outside the café we were all in later, glaring at us while we ate, and even came in to use the bathroom and shoot us death glares… I was actually afraid he’d come over and start attacking us at one point.)

But I mean…seriously?

To pull that card because we’re broke and can’t give people money all the time? Racism goes both ways.

If that man had nodded, thanked us, and went on his way, I would have felt bad for him. Well, I still feel bad for him. I’m sorry for him because he is so angry and in a position in his life where he has to resort to asking college students for money. I’m sorry for him because he has probably hurt plenty of other people who have pushed him away as a result.

But that comment hit me hard. It hit me like a knife.

Humans are so fascinating to me. We love to hurt each other with our words. We’ve categorized our planet into countries and we have allowed some societies to advance to the point of the availability of near futuristic technology, and yet we allow some countries to bury thousands of their citizens every day because of hunger and thirst. We love to kill each other over interpretations of ancient books written by men and over what to call a potential deity. We do stupid things.

We do hurtful things to one another.

Some of us decide that it’s totally okay to treat others differently based on the color of their skin or their sexual orientation. Some of us decide it’s perfectly acceptable to belittle and verbally abuse other humans based on their financial status. And some of us think it’s fine to get into a car while under the influence and drive straight into an innocent woman’s vehicle and almost kill her.

I have said this several times before on this blog, and I will say it again because it’s my blog and I’ll write whatever I damn well please: I am a huge advocate for personal choice. If you (and “you” is spoken in general terms) are endangering yourself, that’s your deal. If you are hurting yourself, I’m sad for you, but I cannot stop you from making your life choices.

But if you are endangering people around you, if you are harming others with your words or weapons or potential weapons or whatever, that is not okay.

That is not okay.

I continue to have hope for the human race because I’m a sustainability major and by God, if I didn’t have hope I would go absolutely freaking insane.

But some days I just want to hang my head and silently apologize to whatever’s up there for the way humans can be sometimes. Oh, how I hope we learn from our mistakes someday…

Of Coffee and Religion

One day a woman was walking to work when she saw a man drinking coffee. The woman was absolutely scandalized. She went right up to the man and demanded, “Excuse me, but what do you think you’re doing?”

The man blinked and said, “Drinking coffee?”

“Exactly,” the woman said. “That is incredibly offensive to me and I need you to stop right this instant.”

“I – I don’t understand,” the man said.

“You see,” the woman told the man, “drinking coffee is against my religious beliefs. My religion forbids drinking coffee. That’s why I am so offended and horrified.”

The coffee-drinker stared at the woman, confused. “I’m so sorry that you took offense at my drinking coffee, but I still don’t understand what this has to do with me,” he said, frowning.

“You are violating my religious beliefs when you drink that coffee,” the woman said. “This is America, and we have freedom of religion here. You are not allowed to drink that coffee because that is against my religious freedom.”

The man looked bewildered. “Well,” he said, “I’m sorry if my drinking coffee is offensive to you, ma’am, but you are not allowed to impose your religious beliefs on me and call it your rights.”

“No, no, you don’t understand,” the woman replied. “My religious book – the doctrine that expressively forbids coffee drinking – is here, and I am going to quote it to you so you can see just how wrong it is.”

“That’s all well and fine,” the coffee-drinker told her, “but that is your book that guides your religion and your life. But I don’t belong to that religion, and so it does not run my life. Sorry.”

“So!” the woman said, “You drink that coffee because you hate my people and want to start a war on my religion?”

“No,” the man said, “I drink this coffee because this is America, and I have freedom of religion, too.”

And so the man went on his way, leaving the angry woman behind. And he drank his coffee because he lived in America and he had freedom of religion, too.

Christmas Consumerism, the Retail Suckhole, and the Church of Stop Shopping

Shoppers vie for copies of video games at a Black Friday sale at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. store in Mentor, Ohio, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011. Retailers are pouring on the discounts to attract consumers grappling with 9 percent unemployment and a slower U.S. economic expansion than previously estimated. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

From the Huffington Post: Shoppers vie for copies of video games at a Black Friday sale at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. store in Mentor, Ohio, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011. Retailers are pouring on the discounts to attract consumers grappling with 9 percent unemployment and a slower U.S. economic expansion than previously estimated. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“We’re proceeding into the shopping season under an enormous misunderstanding. We think that we are consumers at Christmastime. No, we are being consumed at Christmastime.” ~ Reverend Billy

OOO

Christmas has turned into the biggest retail nightmare in human history. The season has become a monstrous undertaking for each individual due to the hundreds or even thousands of dollars that simply must be spent on everything from holiday-themed potholders to the countless presents that will be torn apart come Christmas morning. On average, Christmas is something that is dreaded nowadays rather than eagerly anticipated. On average, the holiday has become a time of irrational spending and incalculable debt. It has created what I have disgustedly dubbed the ultimate Retail Suckhole.

Every year the expectations for all things Christmas grow larger, and every year the market faithfully and cheerfully provides for these demands. The terrifying part? There is no stopping this rapid progress because it is not fueled by the government nor is it powered by evil conspiracies and corrupt organizations. We, the people, are the consumers. We are the ones who stimulate the materialism that Christmas now represents. Ask anyone – child or adult – and he or she will tell you what all anyone is thinking about this time of year: presents. It’s all about the presents, the long lines at jam-packed stores, the stampedes at shopping malls, the bargains and sales and the desperation of eager customers to find them. Santa Claus and his elves have become metaphors for parents that run around getting gifts for their children. The work of this beloved folklore character and his workers has become a metaphor for people going to great lengths to go above and beyond their friends’ and families’ wildest dreams all for the sake of it simply being Christmastime.

In 2006, the United States alone spent nearly half a trillion dollars on Christmas (What). Let’s look at that number again. Half a trillion. That is $500,000,000,000 – 500 billion dollars. Divided between 300 million Americans, that is (on average) $1,670 per person. This money goes to presents and gift-wrap and ribbons and bows. It goes to trees and lights and ornaments and tinsel. It goes to a ridiculous amount of food that will be consumed all at once by families. It goes to new clothes for this party, and new shoes for that outing. It goes to toys that will be played with for a week or two then thrown under the bed and forgotten. It goes to satisfying the ever-increasing lists people make in anticipation of receiving anything they want this time of year.

Speaking of gift-wrap and ribbons and bows, 5 million tons of waste is created from the packaging for these presents. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American created 4.2 pounds of trash per day in 2008, which is just over 1,500 pounds of trash per person for an entire year. 5 million tons (which is 10 million pounds, for those of you keeping score) of extra trash is produced in these holiday-driven weeks. These figures are difficult to imagine since they are simply numbers on a page, but think about it for a second. That is a lot of trash. Furthermore, that is a lot of unnecessary trash. Not only do people splurge on unneeded materialistic goods, but our planet pays a heavy price for our gluttony.

So what am I getting at? Why am I taking the time to describe in great detail what happens in the United States around the holidays? It’s simple. I am trying to stress one thing and one thing only:

This is madness.

This Retail Suckhole is madness. It’s insane. It has to stop. And as I type these words I can already hear the roars of outrage from economists who will argue that Christmas is a huge stimulator of the economy and essentially helps our capitalist society. There is no denying that fact. I simply wish to say that the desire to show our love for our children by rushing madly from store to store in order to buy a mortgage’s worth of presents is completely outrageous. The idea that the most valuable things in life can be bought and wrapped up is saddening and disturbing.

Now, if you think I’m one of the only people that think this way, let me just say right now that there exists a church called the Church of Stop Shopping. I’m not kidding. These guys go around to malls and other public places imploring and begging people to stop their shopping and turn to what’s truly important in life. Their documentary, What Would Jesus Buy? depicts the commercialism of this nation and the Retail Suckhole we’ve unintentionally created. Led by “Reverend Billy” and his “church” members, the group reveals how the holidays have turned into a hellish shopping battleground.

One point that the documentary made really bothered me. Dr. Peter Whybrow, author of American Mania, stated that thanks to commercialism and the emphasis on materialistic goods, children now tend to associate good feelings and happy memories with toys. “Togetherness is now created over gift-giving,” Dr. Whybrow said. “Christmas almost died out in America after the Revolution. And then it was realized that this is a wonderful commercial opportunity because it combines this commercialism with a true feeling of love and affection.” It causes one to think. What would happen if children learned that they wouldn’t be getting any presents for the holidays? We could hope that we’ve raised them correctly and that they would smile, nod, and say, “That’s okay! As long as I’m with my family I don’t need presents!” But would that really be the case? Would they feel cheated, unworthy, and unloved because they didn’t get free stuff from Santa Claus?

Another rather childhood-killing point is the one that Christmas historian Dr. Steven Nissenbaum makes: “Our parents go to such immense trouble to make it seem to children that nobody shopped for Christmas, the presents were all brought by Santa Claus who made them each by hand, to disguise the fact that the gifts they’ve bought for their kids have, in fact, come out of shops and come out of a season of anxiety and sometimes frantic desperation.” Is realizing that a ridiculous amount of shopping was what actually put presents under the tree what ultimately kills the magic? Is finally understanding the debt and the pandemonium that goes into making those boxes appear what destroys the spirit of Christmas for us all?

So if the holidays are not about spending lots of money to fulfill our kids’ wildest dreams, then what is it about? What are the other options? What should Americans be focusing on during the holiday season? That is a gray area, something that depends on religious and/or personal preference. Christians celebrate the birth of their savior this time of year. Those of the Jewish faith celebrate the triumphs of their people and the miracle of one days’ worth of oil burning for eight days. Pagans celebrate their Winter Solstice. Kwanzaa participants celebrate their Nguzo Saba. Atheists and agnostics celebrate being around their loved ones and show gratitude for their abundance. Of all of these religions and beliefs, there is one constant, reoccurring thread that weaves all of them together, an idea that is buried under mountains of presents every holiday season and must be dug out and dusted off: materialistic goods are not important.

They’re not important.

That’s what we should be focusing on. That’s what we need to make a priority.

If I ever have children some day, I don’t want them to grow up seeing Christmas as the season of getting free things. I don’t want them to see mad rushes to shopping malls to get the best bargains that end in people getting carried away on stretchers. I don’t want them to see Mommy and Daddy spending money we don’t have in order to buy things we don’t need. I especially don’t want them to receive an insane amount of toys that are played with for a few hours then quickly forgotten. I don’t want them to retain the idea that a good Christmas = lots of good toys.

I want to see the smiles on their faces as they give food and clothing to those who spend the holidays in shelters. I want to watch them as they happily decorate the house and spend time giggling over making cookies. I want to see them light up as they receive a few very special toys that they’ve wanted all year long. I want to see them interacting with their family and those who love them. I want them to know that the true magic of Christmas can never be handed directly to them.

This retail catastrophe that has become Christmas is not the Christmas I know and love. The magic of Christmas does not come wrapped up in boxes, and I don’t want the next generation to grow up believing that it does. Should you have fun picking out one or two meaningful gifts for your close friends and family this holiday season? Absolutely. Should you try to make presents rather than buy them? If you have the time, of course you should. But all of this splurging and buying incessantly, this ridiculous obsession we have with materialistic items? It needs to end. We need a wake up call. We need to break free from these chains that bind us to our desire to spend, spend, spend. As a member of the Church of Stop Shopping said in their documentary, “We say ‘stop shopping’ just to get your attention. Certainly nobody can stop shopping, but you can have a conscience about your shopping. Think about how it affects other people. Just explore the options. That’s all we ask.”

Buy things less this year, and give yourself a little more. Give love, patience, acceptance, forgiveness. Spend your time, not your money. The holidays are magical not because of sales and specials. They are magical because we make them that way. We give our hearts to our fellow man. The more we do that, the more special the holidays will be.

In the perfect words from a speaker in What Would Jesus Buy?: “If we were able to change Christmas, we could change the whole year.”

OOO

“What was Christmas before the shopping started? Christmas is the birth of a child that we believe will grow up to teach us peace. And you don’t have to be a Christian to hope that’s true. Amen?” ~ Reverend Billy

 

Works Cited

What Would Jesus Buy? Dir. Rob VanAlkemade. Warrior Poets, 2007. Film.

 

[Cover photo from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/12/walmart-black-friday-2014-thanksgiving_n_6140442.html%5D

Sustainability and Hope

I have just completed my fourth semester of my college career, and for three of those semesters, I have taken at least one or two sustainability-related courses. I have loved every single one; looking back at all of my classes, they have been my favorites.

However, I have noticed something that occurs in every single one of these classes, something that struck me dumb the first time it happened and continues to confuse the hell out of me time and time again. Every sustainability class. A little happenstance that I notice every now and then that pulls on my conscious a little more each time.

In between lectures in these classes, my professors will have us review case studies that we have analyzed and ask us to offer potential solutions to the problems along with some possible tradeoffs. No matter what kind of anti-school mood we’re in, no matter if we’re talking about the Aral Sea drying up or New Orleans disappearing underwater or intervening in human rights issues around the world or whatever, we really get into these kinds of discussions. We come up with decent, potential resolutions that are real, are possible.

And then, then comes the bigger question from my professors:

“Now, let’s say we’re going to take this to the EPA or the IPCC. Apply it to real life. Would it actually work?”

There would come a pause as everybody considers this. And then…

“Is there hope?”

And then, and then…. nearly all of my classmates will shrug and shake their heads no, offering their reasons as to why such and such situation is a lost cause. They will say although it is a good idea to think positively, realistically speaking, no. It would not work, ever. We should give up. Leave the problem as a sunken cost.

And I sit and stare at them in disbelief and think to myself… Then why are you here?

Why would anybody in their right mind major in this controversial subject that does not necessarily secure a well-paying job – or any job at all, for that matter – a major that forces us to go to the depths of human injustice and dust out the far corners of mankind’s capabilities to come up with solutions to problems that could potentially destroy our entire existence…why would anybody put themselves through that unless they had any hope for the future?

There are so many people who don’t have the faintest clue as to what sustainability is (read my personal definition here), and when I am asked, I tell them the basics. We are finding solutions to social, economic, environmental problems that our world faces today and will face in the future. We are thinking of ways to not necessarily save our planet, for she does not need saving, but mankind.

What I don’t say, what I don’t mention, what I always forget, is this: sustainability is more than looking at graphs and calculating and predicting. It is more than surrendering your soul to homework and research and pledging to speak for those with no voice. It is more than thinking of ways to solve the problems of world hunger and poverty and desertification and deforestation and population growth and territorial disputes and water pollution and human rights while cooperating with all shareholders involved and minimizing tradeoffs.

Sustainability is about having faith in the unknown.

It is throwing caution to the winds and thriving during the unexpected. It is being prepared. It is knowing that every now and then we will never be prepared.

It is about trusting logic and trusting madness. It is dancing in the rain when plans have been made for the sun, finding new legs to stand on when all others have been destroyed.

Sustainability is thinking on your feet and planning for the future. It is never retreating, never giving up, and knowing there is always a way.

It is having hope during the most desperate of times. It is always looking to the horizon in search of new answers and never considering the words I can’t.

We don’t know what’s going to happen today, tomorrow, and far into the future. Mankind has only been around for between 200,000 and 300,000 years as opposed to the 4.6 billion years our planet has existed. We are less than nothing to our great Earth. She could purge us tomorrow if she needed to. And if we keep acting the way we do, she just might have a mind to, and I wouldn’t blame her.

But fellow sustainability majors, fellow workers in the sustainability field, we must always have hope. Sometimes it is all we have going forward. There will always be hope for a situation as long as we bring it with us. No matter how impossible the circumstance is when we approach it, we must always believe that in the end, everything will work itself out, and a solution will be applied to the problem.

After all, if we don’t have hope, who will?

If we don’t have it now, then when will it appear again?

The Logic of Immigration

Written in July 2010

OOO

Due to a turn of interesting events, I was at work today with nothing to do for several hours, so rather than sitting at my desk and staring at the wall for two hours, I decided to surf the web instead. (That sounds bad, I know, but my actions were justified, believe me.) I thus had time to write this.

Anyway, as I was reading daily news on msnbc.com, I kept coming across article after article involving Tea Partiers and racism and the federal budget and Democrats and the government and politics in general. And seriously, guys, as I was reading these biased pieces of work (from both sides of the political spectrum), a web of confusion started weaving itself over every word I took in. Even the articles that were written by those who supposedly agreed with what my personal beliefs were took me by surprise. I mean, I was rather reminded of high school. Snippy comments, cliques clumping together, fingers pointed, bad words said . . . I half expected someone to step into these sneakily written pieces of work and start handing out detentions or something.

Long story short, I clicked out of msnbc.com and decided to spend the rest of my free hour or so writing my own article — an article as unbiased as I could possibly make it. Because the wanderings of my mind were still settled on immigration due to a political discussion I partook in previously, I filled my notebook with thus:

Here is my logic.

Tea Partiers, Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, and independents all think that their beliefs are correct and are what is best for this country. Forget the world for a brief moment. Let us speak of our glorious United States of America.

All of these people who make up our country and who are apart of these different groups are all thinking of this country and are trying to do what is best for it with every action they make. However, “what is best” is the reason we are all divided — no one can agree what is best for the United States of America. Despite the fact that everyone has their country’s best interests at heart, we are all up in arms over many things. Ironic how we all call ourselves “United,” isn’t it?

Now, let’s take immigration into consideration. Not the law recently passed in Arizona, not the ideas or the support or the arguments behind it, but immigration itself. Ask yourself, is the immigration system a problem here in this country? If you believe it is, keep reading. If you do not, perhaps you should find something better to do than read the ramblings of an eighteen year old college student.

Immigration exists purely because a person or persons decide to leave their country of origin and move to another. Remember, we have forgotten about the world momentarily and are focusing on the U.S., so when I say “immigrants,” let us refer to the Mexicans who live directly below us. Immigration thus exists in our country because Mexicans have decided to leave their country and come to ours.

It is my greatest fear that there are people in the U.S. (and Mexico, for that matter) who have not questioned as to why that is. Why people could get up and leave their country is a feat that not many of us living in the grand country of America have considered. Therefore, let us take the time to question Mexicans’ actions.

Why would a person leave his or her country and go to another?

As I have not made the treacherous journey over a national and federal border, I could not possibly presume to know the truthful answers to this question. If, however, you are interested in reading my logical guesses, please read on:

  • because they are unhappy with their own country for a number of reasons including:
  • general poverty
  • lack of food
  • lack of good health due to lack of medicine
  • lack of work (which provides a family with finances to pay for food and shelter and medicine and frisbees for children to play with)
  • lack of clean water
  • lack of leadership (that would otherwise provide citizens with a good and happy country to live in)
  • they fear for their lives (this includes fearing any physical, verbal, and/or sexual abuse and/or death threats these potential immigrants may have undergone)
  • they believe that the country they are immigrating to (in this case, America) can provide them and their families with the following:
  • food, shelter, water, good health, and a steady income
  •  a clean environment to live in
  • contentment and hope (and while I’m still at it — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as our forefathers so beautifully put it)

Assuming that my bold presumptions are correct, let us now observe the number of immigrants who are currently sneaking across the U.S./Mexico border or are now living in the U.S., having sacrificed the fear of getting caught and deported/arrested for the chance to live in our country. Different political groups everywhere can agree that the number is quite high, am I right? Thousands and thousands of men, women, and children from Mexico have come to the United States of America over the past few decades, and more are probably on their way in as I write this.

Here is where I fear we arrive at a crossroad. It is my belief (and yours, too, if you’ve read this far) that our immigration system is problematic. All problems require solutions in order for said problems to cease to exist — therefore, our immigration system needs a solution. It’s simple logic. Like one plus one equals two.

Before I trot off to the solution to this problem, allow me to bore you all with a very brief description of a weed. We all know weeds (yes, Arizonians have them, too). We all know that if you pull the leaves and the vines and thorns and stuff from the plant so that you can’t see it, the damn thing will just grow back (oftentimes worse than before) and make our yards look like pollen mating grounds. Why? Because the unfortunate person responsible for getting rid of the weed did not remove it correctly — that is to say, he or she did not rip it up by its roots to get rid of it all together.

Now that we are all pleasantly reminded of the proper disposal of a weed, look back upon the immigration problem, and put that in the weed’s place, thorns and all. This immigration system problem (or rather, the lack of an immigration system), like the weed, requires a solution so that it does not spread and cause more conundrums to foundations and the like. Also like the weed, the problem of our immigration system must be ripped up by the roots in order for it to be removed. It must be solved directly at the core of the dilemma in order for it to go away completely.

Here is where all of the Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, Independents, Tea Partiers, Crisp Chewers, and Gum Blowers insert their own ideas as to how we can go about solving this problem (or, in case you haven’t been hammered enough by my metaphor, how we can go about ripping up the roots of this weed). Here is where we offer ideas such as walls and more enforcement and new laws that will take out the leaves, vines, and roots of this weed, but NOT THE ROOTS.

If you would now do me the courtesy of reading back over my list of reasons the immigrants (Mexicans) would consider leaving their country for another (the United States), please do so now.

Now that we all have officially questioned why people choose to immigrate, why don’t we consider this for roots: if people did not want to leave their countries, there would be no immigration. And without immigration, there would be no immigration system problems. Simple logic again, but this time it is rather like one plus two equals three.

The fact remains, however, that people still want to leave their countries, hence the immigration system problem. Therefore, we can agree that the logical thing to do would not be to set up walls or pay millions of dollars we don’t necessarily have to hire extra look-out men for the border or create new laws enforcing consequences to illegals — in order to solve this problem, we must make it so that these immigrants do not want to leave their country. How do we go about doing this? Well, we don’t let our country go to hell, for starters, so that Mexico will look better by comparison. We start by offering our support to Mexico, we start by earning the country’s trust. We work on projects together, we educate citizens and leaders alike about matters of concern to both countries’ people. We work together to discus proper consequences for people living off of America’s finances illegally and proper rewards to those who are legal and are helping America’s economy. And we build on that trust so that day by day, the leadership of Mexico grows stronger so that living conditions improve for its citizens. Granted, we will not be the only factor in this change — Mexico must show effort in wanting to improve as well. If we do not get that guarantee from them, then we must allow people into our country with open arms. That last sentence is certainly up for debate, but that is another topic for another day.

Now, is all of that more work than pointing guns at illegals who are trying to sneak over the border or passing laws that call for a police officer to ask for identification from anyone who looks suspicious? Absolutely. But remember this: the United States of America was not founded by men and women who took the simple way out. The rare people in this world who are determined to make their countries a better place to live in live by doing what is right, and not what is easy.

Think of all the romantic songs and poems like Pocahontas’s, “Just Around the Riverbend,” or Robert Frost’s, “The Road Less Traveled,” — works or art whose messages we have followed for years. People of the world, we still have that ability to follow those messages, those messages of hope and promise that we subconsciously still believe in.

Every person on the face of the earth has choices to make, and everyone is entitled to take the road he or she chooses. But solutions do not come wrapped up like presents ready for distribution. They take time and effort and passion for them to be carried out. And while the true solution to the United States of America’s lack of an immigration system problem is a tough path to follow, it is not one that we, in the many years to come, will not regret taking.

Of Humans and Cycles

I was lying on my bed on a Sunday night in February 2012, watching a TV show online, when a single thought fell into my head and has not yet made its way out:

I and a hell of a lot of humans are living a life of bullshit.

It’s all a cycle, isn’t it? It’s a never-ending cycle that we follow throughout our lives. It’s a cycle of play turning to work and following repetition forevermore.

Think about it. You spend your childhood being told to walk and talk only to grow up and be told to sit down and listen for the rest of your life. Now, if you were lucky, like me, you had a great childhood. If you were lucky, unlike me, you had a nice transition from childhood to adulthood. But what really happens when you hit adulthood? Once you hit that magic number, eighteen (or twenty-one, if you’re interested in drinking), what does the cycle continuously throw at you and other emerging men and women? What is expected to happen to them, to us?

Here’s what happens: we work our asses off for our high school diplomas, then we sell our souls to earn our bachelor’s degrees. We play the grade game to earn points with our professors and our deans, we twist our words so they agree with others’ and do whatever it takes to get all ‘A’s and nothing less. Did you know that fifty or sixty years ago, it was perfectly acceptable to get a ‘C’ in a subject? That was considered normal. Nowadays it is expected that you get ‘A’s. Now, ‘C’s are looked down upon, and lower your grade point average, which is really another scheme set up by universities to get you to cry, scream, and go to the depths of Hell to raise that number until it reads 4.0 or higher. God help you if it is lower, society doesn’t like it if that number is any lower.

Once you’re out of college and saddled with about twenty years of mind blowing debt, you spend the next forty years of your life going to work in a tie or a skirt and blouse. You work eight or ten or twelve hours a day nonstop then go home and numb your mind by watching TV and go to sleep and wake up and do it again. Every day. For years. We kiss ass to the managers and, if you’re like me, stare at a computer screen for hours on end until you want to stand up and run and stretch your legs for once and never look back at the mountain of papers on your desk. We score points for paid vacations, for better benefits. It’s college all over again, but it’s your salary at stake this time, not your GPA.

And where does that salary go? Well let’s see – society demands that you pay rent, insurance, electric, water and sewage, garbage pickup, car insurance, gas, car bills, phone bills, everything bills. We buy a lot of food and a lot of clothes. We like to put money into savings and some of us attempt to hold off spending it as long as we can before it gets brutally ravaged by medical bills or house damages or whatever. Oh, but we shop, too. We love going to malls, we love picking out shiny things. I’m guilty of wanting everything I lay eyes on every time I go to a mall. It’s sick. We need bigger TVs, bigger cars, bigger houses. We need more gadgets and more jewelry and more things we can proudly display for our friends to show how awesome we are.

And speaking of gadgets, we increasingly, increasingly are slaves. Not official slaves, mind you, but we are bound to something that has changed the world for the better and for the worse: technology. God, how I hate how technology has made me its slave. I hate that desire to check my phone every few minutes for new texts, I hate wanting to leave my facebook open on my laptop so I can see new notifications instantly. I love it when people “like” my statuses and pictures. In fact, right now I just thought about whether or not this note will get any likes. It’s a sickness, a death grip on this generation, and I hate it. I despise it. I played outside today with my sister and all I could think about was uploading pictures and talking about it on facebook. I tried to read today and all I wanted to do was see what other people had posted about their lives. I don’t call my real friends anymore to ask how they are, I can’t even remember the last time I dialed numbers into my phone. I text them.

We spend our lives in this cycle where we abuse our planet and the resources she gives us. We abuse each other. People judge, people hide the meaning of their words behind fake smiles, people classify one another like insects in a biology class based on race or religion or economic status or whether or not a girl has blonde hair and huge breasts. People hate. God, how people love to hate.

All our lives we are told to do things our way and be creative only to grow up and enter the cooperate world where you have to follow a formula in order to succeed. We survive college only to earn a degree that will get us a job that will be hated and despised. Maybe we get married. Maybe we raise a family. Maybe we find incredibly wonderful and beautiful friends to share our lives with. Maybe little bits and pieces of what life is all about get through to us. But I feel as though we, for the most part, have been sucked into a shameless rotation. Each generation learns from its parents, and with every new generation of people we solidity that pattern that is getting harder and harder to break. And it’s madness. And it has to stop.

There, my friends, is my rant. Do with it what you will. “Like” it and move on. Read it and weep. I hope you take it to heart. As for me… my God, I don’t know how I’m going to break this awful cycle. All I know is that from here on out, I am going to try. All I want is to be happy.

Shouldn’t that be the greatest goal of all?