Sunday, February 18, 2018

What America Can Learn From Black Panther

A lot has been made about the new Black Panther movie. Originally, for me, the excitement of the Marvel franchise was my motivation to watch the movie. Marvel comics have been a part of my life for the last 40 years. The Marvel Universe has been a joy to read since I was a child, and to witness the transformation in cinema has been an amazing experience.

Some of the hype for Black Panther is different from past offerings from Marvel. Black Panther reflects African-American heritage. The story line is unique. The audience is taken to a world of wonder in Africa, that no one knew about. We meet the Wakandans... an advanced civilization. However, the creative twist is that the Wakanda kingdom ignored the plight of the rest of the world, which provides an interesting take on oppression.

This is why I enjoy reading Marvel Comics. Marvel, unlike their DC counterpart has always intertwined social issues into their story line. Each superhero has a flaw that represents the world we live in. Black Panther provides an alternative reality that allows the reader, and viewer to think about oppression. The movie Black Panther was well written, and delved into relevant issues that impact all Americans.

Even with all of the talking points about the story, there was a subtle story line that deserves to be a part of the conversation merely by attending the movie Black Panther. The talking point is segregation. The movie, depending on where you live demonstrates that we as a society have strong elements of segregation.

I live in community of us and them. Minorities see the world through the eyes of an Anglo-American bias. Attending the movie Black Panther truly brought this to light. What struck me about going to see Black Panther was the amount of African-Americans that I saw at the movies. It was the most diverse representation of an audience I have seen in our city. It lead me to ask, why is that? The answer, Hollywood movies for the most part, speak to white America. More importantly, local cinema offerings do not bring us together.  What struck me is that most people in the theater did not notice the subtle change in audience. Black Panther is a lesson is the importance of cultural diversity in all that we do as a society.

The diversity of our society is truly not represented in our mainstream cinema. It is important for whites to imagine what the world must seem like for people of color. When whites see the world with a critical lens, our society can connect indifference to intolerance. This leads to further questions. When people of color are not represented in positions of power, how does that shape your reality? It transcends gender and color. When children, see a white world, they see reality that does not speak to their own. Segregation starts in our schools, and expands as adults with opportunities for financial success. Power structures are consistent with our childhood upbringing, and then we begin to mistrust what is seen as reality. This is what we can learn about Black Panther. If we could represent our world equitably in cinema, and power structures, we begin to see the world in an inclusive manner.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Inequities Of Back To School

For the past several years, I have witnessed an increasingly inequitable school supply list define a child in school based on class. As an educational professional, and as a parent I am concerned how the school supply list defines a child's sense of self. Increasingly, children are growing up in a caste system defined by the corporate nature adopted by our educational system. Unfortunately, the divide between have's and have not's can be defined by a child's level of preparedness in our schools and their ability to provide their own supplies for learning.

This year, the supplies for my children have sky rocketed past the 200.00 level. The lists are extensive. In middle school, each teacher has a list and it is very specific. As I shop for supplies every year, I wonder how a child in poverty, or a child going through unfortunate circumstances can afford the lists that haunt so many families.  School supplies will define a child on the first day of school. It is literally the first impression their classmates and teacher will have to define who a child is economically.

A child's ability to provide for supplies is more important than some realize. Kids and adults notice the differences. Many communities try to compensate the divide through giveaways. Giveaways unfortunately have a habit of  defining the child's social status. For example, kids know the difference between the expensive backpacks that are reserved for the upper class children versus the giveaway backpack. Brand names for supplies will also define who a child is when they start school. There is a big difference between name brand supplies versus the inferior products children will get in their backpack giveaways.

Technology is another barrier. Calculators for example define status. Kids will come to school with one that their parents purchased, or they will have to sign one out from their school. There is a big difference when a child loses one from their parents, versus the countless reminders their teacher will give them about taking care of the school's calculator. This defines class, as surely as a free and reduced lunch provides a sense of self in school.

Some children will come to school unprepared as they missed the backpack giveaway. All year, a few will hear the chatter of frustrations from teachers and classmates. The phrase "Can I borrow" becomes a lightning rod of frustration. "Why can't you just come to class prepared" is their new mantra that greets many kids that are unprepared.

The United States Public Education system has become by definition, a symbol of class warfare. The kids with expensive I Phones and Nike Shoes sit along side their classmates with minimal means. The school supplies add to the frustrations of kids who lack the proper resources due to poverty. Kids will learn about an unjust world in which some children struggle for basic clothing and supplies. The disparities serve as a daily reminder of their status in the world they live in.

The caste system that exists in schools has long term detrimental effects on children in poverty. Some children coming to school with minimal supplies. They will be grouped with their peers of "unprepared to learn" learners. This reduces their access to educational opportunities due to their status, versus their ability to learn. Research has shown that the disparities due to poverty are barriers to access to educational opportunities.

Equitable funding is the only solution and it seems we are nowhere close to considering an approach that provides school supplies for children anytime soon. It is a simple solution, however our current political landscape will not allow for such thinking. In the meantime, our country will continue to remind kids that the caste they are born into, will be increasingly difficult to leave without an equitable system of education funding and opportunities.


(SAMPLE SUPPLY LIST -)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The NY 22 and Goodfelllas - You Serious?

We are a long way away from the NY 22nd Congressional vote, however the first glimpse of Tenney's strategy was an ugly one. So far, the strategy of her campaign is simple. She wants to try to use the national strategy of Donald Trump to divide the NY 22 based on demographics that she feels play into her hands. Otherwise known as, "the Trump Effect."

The problem with the Trump effect is that it divides the electorate by hate. This will not play well in our district due to the Democrats choosing a viable candidate early that represents a wider representation of values. When Anthony Brindisi announced he was running, it was clear from her response how she would run her campaign. Label him as a Progressive, align him with Pelosi and Cuomo and then attack him for being a liberal. Nothing of substance, just try to use fear to divide the NY 22nd.

Tenney has a problem however. Her candidate has a stellar voting record. He can be a centrist, and a fiscal conservative. He also has a high rating from the NRA. He comes from  the Mohawk Valley which is witnessing a resurgence economically, and he is popular among many politicians that are centrist republicans.

Tenney decided to play the ethnicity card to try to discredit Brindisi. Why she did this so early in the campaign makes no sense at all. This kind of logic is something we usually see right before the election to tilt the vote toward the candidate that wants to win using scare tactics. She has shown her hand, which gives Brindisi an advantage. Her mistake gives his campaign insight into her strategy. It also gives the public and secret groups information to combat Tenney's strategy.

One has to wonder how Republican leaders from Italian American roots must feel seeing the race card being played against their heritage. No matter what your party status is, a stereotype like the one Tenney tried to use against Brindisi must bother them, as it is a part of their ancestry. They also have to answer to their Italian American voters.

Anyone supporting Brindisi needs to watch Tenney for mistakes like this one, and education an uninformed electorate they have a choice between a message of hate versus and message of moving the NY 22 forward in a positive direction.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The 22 Is Our Seneca Falls Convention - Part 1 Turning Point

This next election for Congress is without a doubt the most important decision Upstate New York has faced in a very long time. It is a potential Turning Point in history. We will be asked to reverse the poor decisions of Donald Trump as president, along with the legislation that the Republican majority is trying to pass in the House and Senate. All eyes will be on us during this critical time in American History to send a clear message that we will not tolerate the dismantling of Civil Rights that many Americans fought so hard to gain for those most in need. Disavowing the policies of Claudia Tenney, minion of Trump's agenda will send a clear message that Upstate New York rejects the current policies of divisiveness and exclusion of certain groups from basic Civil Rights.

New York State had another similar time in history when a Turning Point was needed. In 1848, delegates met to chart a course of change for Women's Rights. The task has been put upon us once again to reverse the disturbing trends set forth by this administration and Claudia Tenney towards women and other target groups such as LGBTQ, immigrants, and refugees.

Civil Rights has been an evolutionary tale in our nation's history. While never fast enough for those who were disenfranchised, our nation has steadily moved toward a nation of tolerance and inclusion. This current administration along with the Republicans in the House and Senate have tried to reverse the gains from our past. In fact, they have proposed legislation to weaken those who need help the most. From the 22 million that risk losing insurance, to the reproductive rights of women, and finally the rights of LGBTQ communities, this President is moving quickly to weaken the civil rights of individuals most neediest in our nation.

The carnage does not stop there. This legislative majority and the President have weakened environmental laws and caused the United States to isolate itself from the rest of the world. Our partners in peace internationally were once solid in defense of a common cause, have decided to go it alone without the United States. It is a dangerous path and we have a responsibility to say "No, enough is enough."

Electing Anthony Brindisi to the 22nd seat of Congress sends a clear message. That message is that Upstate New York will not tolerate the current trends of legislation that creates inequalities for many while funneling more funds and power to the rich. We are a nation of shared values that include a message of equality and hope for all. Anthony Brindisi is the shining light that can turn the course of history. This election, the nation has called upon Upstate New York once again, to send a clear message that intolerance and hate are unacceptable. If we keep our message concise and clear, we will rise about the c
urrent situation of fear and intolerance that is present in our legislative district and the nation.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

When Was America Great? (For All Americans)

"Make America Great Again!" A very clever and dangerous campaign tactic from the far right. The phrase was most likely inspired by lessons learned from extreme right wing websites that post misnomers like this phrase all the time. Conservative websites have posted similar catch phrases about American culture that have been generally accepted by many including the infamous "All Lives Matter." A response to Black Lives Matter that again implied what is not true, that All Lives Matter, unless you are gay, lesbian, and transgendered. The same people who said All Lives Matter want to restrict their rights.

Why is Make American Great Again a mistruth that people generally accepted as the truth? Simply, it implies America was once great for all Americans. Ask yourself, when was this time in American History that America was great for everyone? The correct answer is never. American has always struggled with inequalities for many groups.

Its a common misconception. Ask a friend or relative, when was America Great? The answers will always be yes and reflect a time period that is special to them. For example, some may answer World War II, the "Greatest Generation Ever." Sure we won the war, and we did stop the spread of fascism. However was America great for all Americans during this time?  World War II was not so great for African Americans living in a segregated south fighting for Democracy. Nor was it great for Japanese Americans placed in internment camps on the west coast.

Some might suggest the Civil Rights Movement was another great time in
American History. Was it? Political assignations, Women's Rights and Pay Equality were examples of inequalities during this time period. (And Now) The South during this time experienced lynching's and church bombings. For many, this time was a terrifying time in American History.

The truth is America was never great for all Americans at any time in American History. It is ironic that since the phrase won the election for Trump, what have we witnessed legislation that is far from great. So far, we have seen executive orders or proposals to have more people go uninsured, the reversal of clean air and water legislation, and the complete cutting of the arts funding. Will this make America Great Again?

Make America Great Again demonstrates how na├»ve and foolish Americans are when it comes to our own plight. How can 62 million Americans believe in their mind that America was once great for all Americans without realizing such a time never existed? The truth is we have to help 62 million Americans understand they were duped by a very deliberate strategy from the far right. It is foolish to think we can convince all of them, however we have to reduce the number of Americans that fell prey to the manipulation by the far right. All the far right did was to tap into their patriotic feelings due to uncertainty in their minds that things are far from great. We can help American achieve greatness, but helping it understand that for some, America is not so great.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Does Rachel Maddow Really Care About Transparency?

This past week, Rachel Maddow's went after Donald Trump by focusing on leaked information regarding his 2005 tax return. Some may see her as a champion of progressive values and transparency, however I found the report to be hypocritical on many fronts.
  • Trump paid more in taxes than I would have imagined. In fact, there was no smoking gun. He produced thousands of jobs while paying a fair amount to the Federal Government in taxes. Yet, the reporting seemed to indicate a smoking gun. Trump made $150 million in 2005 and that he paid $38 million in taxes, which equaled about 25 percent of his income. In fact, Trump paid more in Federal taxes than previous Presidents.
  • Maddow risked counter arguments that poor people do not pay their fair share in taxes. Many people who perform a minimal amount of work and have children receive huge tax returns in lieu of not contributing their fair share of taxes. Her reporting actually validated stereotypes of the working poor.
  • Rachel Maddow works along side Al Sharpton who for years has owed millions in taxes to the Federal Government. She has never called her colleague to task for not paying his fair share of taxes. Why did Sharpton get a pass for not paying his taxes?

Maddow's reporting is symbolic of partisan politics. Transparency is important on both sides of the aisle. If Maddow wants to be credible, she needs to have the same standards for reporting whether you are a democrat or republican. Until then, she is exactly like her counterparts at Fox News.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Did James Franco and Seth Rogen Provide The Motivation For The Death Of Kim Jung-Nam?

While reading about Kim Jung-nam's death, I kept thinking to myself, this story line sounds familiar. It reminded me of the movie, The Interview starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. In case you did not follow the death of Kim Jung Nam, here is a recap of a what we know so far:

Two female assassins were sent to Malaysia to rub a nerve agent on Kim Jung Un's Brother. It went undetected. Kim died on the way to the hospital minutes after the attack with the nerve agent, which is tasteless, odorless, and kills by causing muscle spasms that ultimately prevent a victim from breathing.

The assassination is reminiscent of the movie the Interview. The James Franco-Seth Rogen film had as the major plot line an attempted assassination of Kim Jung Un by a nerve agent with similar abilities. Did Kim Jung Un attempt to send a message to Hollywood that the movie provide some inspiration for life imitating art? Was this his way of sending a message that he did not find the movie funny? The movie when released included many threats of revenge from the North Korean dictator.

This might sound a bit conspiratorial, however most political assassinations in North Korea are completed by line of fire. This was an unusual murder even by North Korean standards. It is plausible that this assassination had extended implications. This may have been an attempt by Kim Jung Un to let Hollywood, and the United States know that weapons of mass destruction can come in tiny packages, not just nuclear warheads. Some may think it was a coincidence, however the similarities to the movie are odd, and the message was clear. Be careful what you put out there Hollywood. Kim Jung Un is watching.

A Child's Reality of What is Important

A Child's Reality of What is Important

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The Magic of Phil Donahue

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Body of War

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The YouTube Experiment

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