Family members of a young victim of gun violence mourn at a funeral on Chicago's South Side. Photo Credit: Guillermo Alaniz
By Kyle W. Bell | Political Contributor
The nation has turned its collective attention to the issue of gun violence in the wake of the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut, where twenty children and six staff members were gunned down in cold blood. The past several weeks have been dominated by headlines involving gun violence: five more shootings have occurred on campuses across the country since Newtown. While mass shootings receive a bulk of the media's attention, over one-thousand Americans unnoticed by cameras have lost their lives in a month's time.
We are becoming all too accustomed to these tragedies. Whether it is the unrelenting bloodshed in the streets of Chicago or the mass shooting in Tucson where Congresswoman Giffords miraculously survived a gunshot to the head but where six others lost their lives, including a nine year old, gun violence continues. The horrific mass shooting in Aurora where a man armed with body armor set off tear gas grenades and unloaded an assault rifle, brutally murdering twelve and shooting fifty-eight others who were simply waiting to watch the latest Batman movie, is tragic. It seems that there is a new event every week.
To be sure, our country has a proud tradition of gun ownership dating back to before the American Revolution. I come from a gun state, Indiana, where law-abiding citizens use guns for recreational use and self-defense. However, just as we have adapted our laws to reflect the changing times on other issues, such as the threats of global terrorism, we also must modernize our gun laws to reflect the realities on the ground today. We cannot ignore the vast technological advancements that have taken place since the 1700s. Back then a one-shot musket was no guarantee of a kill, even with a precise aim. In the time of our founders, it would have taken well over ten seconds just to reload a single round, even for a well-trained member of the Continental Army.
Today, we find ourselves with weapons that are truly awe-inspiring — and not in a good way. The Bushmaster assault weapon used at Sandy Hook Elementary is capable of firing hundreds of rounds in a minute. It was designed for the battlefields of Afghanistan, not for the hallways of an elementary school.
We should not pretend that military-style weapons should be in the hands of civilians. These are machines of death, not of play or self-defense. The only civilian who truly needs these weapons is someone who means to do a great deal of harm in a fast, efficient manner without regard for life.
While there are plenty of common sense approaches that we can take to reduce gun violence, it will be an undoubtedly difficult political pursuit. Some powerful organizations with vested financial interests in selling these highly destructive weapons have attempted to sensationalize the issue by claiming that gun safety advocates support taking away all guns and abolishing the Second Amendment as we know it. Conspiracy theorists, with millions of views on YouTube, have even gone to the extreme of claiming that Sandy Hook was a hoax designed by the government to take away people’s guns. This could not be further from the truth. We can and should protect the Second Amendment while also coming to the realization that this is not the 1780s. The founders never intended for us to unleash firepower onto our streets that frankly would be more lethal than any weapons they could have ever imagined.
Bushmaster. Photo Credit: Flickr (smays)
Gun advocates have also put up the ridiculous argument that new gun laws will not prevent every mass shooting or act of violence on the street, thus making the proposed laws unworthy of consideration. Clearly new gun laws will not end all acts of gun violence. In the same way that our government's counter-terrorism efforts are not a fail-safe against all potential terrorist attacks, the purpose of these laws is to prevent and minimize the massacre of our people while maintaining our rights as citizens.
Assault weapons are not the only issues at hand. There were over 30,000 gun-related deaths in the U.S. in 2010 of which there were 11,078 murders. We cannot simply turn a blind eye to this fact. Some would rather pretend that things like violent video games are the culprit or as some have rather comically argued, that America does not have enough
guns. Contrary to these claims, the high gun ownership rate in the United States, surpassed by no one else in the world, enables not only violent criminals to wantonly murder, but contributes to a staggeringly high suicide count.
The proof is in the numbers. Slovenia and Norway had only 2 gun murders. Two! Before you say, “Well, that’s because they’re so small” in terms of population, Norway only has .05 gun murders per 100,000 people compared to nearly 3 per 100,000 in the U.S. And it’s not a difference due to culture, except perhaps gun culture. England and Wales have fewer than 50 gun murders per year at a rate of .07 per 100,000 people. The British have the same movies, music and video games that we do in the United States, leaving the violent media blame game without a basis in reality. There’s only one logical conclusion
: lax gun laws and easily accessible firearms enable
mass shootings and allow for an inextricably high murder rate to take place in the United States.
So what do we do about it? Responsible gun ownership should be a requisite for owning a gun. Proper gun training should be mandatory. Likewise, one cannot expect a person with a felony to be a responsible gun owner. Felons, criminals and terrorists should never have access to any weapons whatsoever. And while we cannot completely dry up the black market of gun sales to these groups, we can certainly make it more difficult and expensive by properly funding vigorous law enforcement efforts, saving countless lives in the process.
The only way that we can fully prevent these transactions from occurring is by instituting universal background checks. In the same way that a teacher has to undergo a background check to be around children, purchasing a gun should be contingent upon a clean criminal record. Under current law, a person even with a violent felony can purchase any gun of their choosing at a gun show or through a private sale. It is estimated that up to forty percent of gun sales occur through these means. This loophole is simply not acceptable. It puts the lives of our citizens at risk. Closing it should be a top priority of Congress.
Finally, the issue of mental illness has been given scant attention in recent years. Congress has an obligation to examine America’s mental health system in a serious, thoughtful and thorough fashion. Just walk the streets of some of our biggest cities and you will see how poorly we have neglected to treat mental illness. Many people suffering from mental illness find themselves homeless, including tens of thousands of veterans. Not only will better funding for mental health prevent future gun violence, it will also help individuals with mental illness live more fulfilling lives.
All of these approaches are enormously popular with the American people. According to a Washington Post poll taken on January 10-13, which mirrors other recent polls taken on the subject, 88 percent of Americans support requiring background checks at gun shows; 76 percent support requiring a background check on anyone purchasing ammunition; 71 percent support creating a federal database to track the sale of all guns; 65 percent support banning high-capacity clips; and 58 percent support banning assault weapons. These are all measures that would enhance public safety with wide support from voters, not only protecting the lives of children, but also police officers, firefighters and others who put their lives on the line for us every day.
America needs a comprehensive approach to solving this critical issue. It is incomprehensible to think that we would allow violent criminals to purchase a gun thanks to a lack of universal background checks. It is equally appalling that assault weapons, such as the Bushmaster and others like it, are allowed on the streets of Newtown, Chicago or any other city. And of course the lack of mental health funding is not only a safety issue, but a moral one as well. To simply throw our hands up and pretend that we cannot solve this issue in a responsible way is ludicrous. We have the solutions right in front of us. Let's bring an end to this violent chapter in our nation’s history. Smart gun safety laws not only protect our most vulnerable, they protect our rights as responsible citizens. Kyle W. Bell is an author and blogger with a B.A. in Political Science from Indiana University South Bend. He is the author of Operation Bald Eagle and other works of both fiction and non-fiction sold through major online retailers. His political commentary can be found at Kylebell.com.
By Jorge G. ZavalaCreative DirectorI sat in a tiny room with blue walls hearing my student mispronounce a variety of words. Pim, one of the refugee students I work with, was asking me a question dealing with his vocabulary lesson. His current chapter, "Growing Up: Memories", dealt with words describing life in a distant past. Memoirs, remembrance, and gratitude were some of the words Pim needed to memorize and assimilate into his lexicon.One of the words, gratitude, stood in my mind. As I sat with Pim helping him form proper sentences utilizing his newly-acquired vocabulary, I couldn't help but think about the passing of a dear friend and professional acquaintance, Steve Starr.Steve Starr, a freelance photographer based in Chicago, was known throughout the fashion and socialite scene and loved by those he beautifully captured through his lens. A well-known man of both wit and integrity, he passed away Monday after collapsing on a sidewalk outside of the Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago. According to varying sources, he was grabbing a bite with some friends shortly before suffering a heart attack.
I stared at the piece of paper where Pim was writing 4 sentences with the words memoirs
. He looked over and asked if I had some sample sentences to share with him. I nodded my head and read aloud two of the sentences I wrote:"Memoirs are used to capture the experiences that influence are lives. A moment of remembrance is meant to honor the people, places, and things we cherish most, like those that have entered the next life."Pim looked at me, smiled, and went back to writing his sentences.
Starr was 65 years-young when he parted this earth. I believe the word remembrance
is quite fitting for a man like Steve. The things I remember about the pal I referred to as Steve-O Estrella (Spanish for "star") are the ways in which he would smile in that sly way of his only to pull out his camera 3 seconds later and take one of the most intriguing pictures of his subject possible. During the Fashion of the Opera
event in October, Steve and I shared a moment while sipping champagne. "You know, I really don't care to be a celebrity," he mentioned while tipping his signature hat. "People always want to make you big, but the only person that can make you grow is yourself."
Some of Le Prestige du Monde's team with Steve at Anna Fong's "Queen of Hearts" event during Fashion Focus Week 2012.
These words are some I carry with me as I place a picture of him on my ofrenda
, an alter honoring those who've passed. The Mexican tradition states that during El Día de los Muertos - the Day of the Dead - individuals and families organize an alter with quintessential things that their loved ones enjoyed, such as flowers, a piece of chocolate, fruit, or jewelery.
Photographs as well as food, water, and items representing activities they enjoyed are also placed on the alter. The belief is that these goods and elements will guide the dead through mictlan
- the land of the dead - and into the next life.
On the altar I arranged for Steve, I have a photograph of him, a small plastic camera, a bottle of water, and a shot of tequila. During Lily's Talent Agency's 30th Anniversary rendezvous
at The Drake last week, he'd confessed his love for Mexican culture, cuisine, and, particularly, tequila. "When I have my event on the 12th, you need to bring the good (tequila)," he mentioned to me over a glass of wine. "None of that stuff that college kids drink - I want to feel like I'm in Mexico drinking the good stuff." While I can't say that we had the chance to savor finely distilled tequila together, I've made it a point to fill his shot glass every evening with a fresh dose of the fine Mexican elixir.
"Jorge, I'm finished," Pim shyly mentioned. "Can I read you my sentences?"
"I have gratitude for good friends and loving family. I grow up in Cambodia and know memoirs of my mother, who writes every day in her journal. One day, she read to me about growing up very poor in the country, but has remembrance for her father who died coming to America."
I smiled, added a few words of wisdom, and dismissed Pim from our session. "Did I do good, Mr. Jorge? I feel I'm getting better in English."
Pim is a great student: full of life and ambition. What I remember most about that session with him are those three words he used: memoirs, remembrance, gratitude
. I share with my industry peers the diverse emotions the unexpected passing of our friend Steve Starr has fostered. Nevertheless, I know that Steve-O wouldn't want us to consider his passing a tragedy. Instead, he would urge us to celebrate and basque "in the light" as he would often say while making one look absolutely divine.
"You're too serious in your pictures," Steve said to me. "You have those multi-colored glasses. Everyone is going to remember you as the fun guy, so do something ridiculous!" I believe this picture does justice to his encouragement.
An avid lover of all-things glamor, fashion, and celebutante, Steve was the type of guy who knew how to make you smile. He captured the beauty in those around him and sought to create harmony in the often complex and ever-changing world of fashion, design, art decor, and politics.
A private family-exclusive burial will be held for him in the next few days.
I know in my heart that Steve is watching over each and every one of the folks he's touched with his charisma, joie de vivre
, and positive energy. While we've lost a dear friend, we've gained an angel that serves as inspiration to do good in such a diverse, high-energy industry.
Last night, I opened up my favorite tequila hailing from my grandparent's home state of Guanajuato, poured two shots, and smiled as I looked at Steve's glamor shot - black suit, unbuttoned white shirt, camera-ready. I took a deep breath, held one shot in my hand, and gently placed the other right next to the camera on his alter. I exhaled. ¡Pa'rriba, pa'abajo, pa'l centro, y pa' dentro! (Upwards, downwards, to the center, and down it goes!)
This one is for you, Steve Estrella. Salud, amigo.
Students, parents, and teachers protest in solidarity in Chicago's Avondale community on the Northwest Side. Photo Credit: Sandy Cakes
By Jorge G. ZavalaCreative Director
In solidarity with the teachers from the Chicago Public Schools who officially went on strike this morning
, I think about my own parents and their diligence within the CPS system. For many years, they both went to work with smiles on their faces, purchased school materials and goods out of pocket because "no budget" was allocated, dealt with 1st generation Americans, students with limited English capacity, and those in special education.
While my father is now a community liaison, businessman, and activist, he still stands in solidarity with my mother, a current educator, and fervid believer in social justice. Monday through Friday, she is the wonderful teacher with a variety of cute outfits who introduces concepts in English and Spanish while serving as a role model for our future generations. My mother, a role model for the community and myself, is nothing short of someone I admire because of the heart she places into her work. With a compassionate heart and a sharp mind, mom regularly strives to foster a strong sense of self and community among her elementary school students. Whether it is learning the importance of the 4th of July or debating whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, she is a passionate educator who sees her job as more than a profession. Her role as an educator, as my mom sees it, is really about giving back. As mom likes to put it, "social responsibility will change the world". I wholeheartedly believe her.The hundreds of educators currently on strike in Chicago reflect more than a system gone wrong: it is a sign of the times. With a changing student population and a new decade 2 years young, the strike is a symbol of so many of the changes our society hopes to implement. Whether we are talking about the type of education our children need or the importance of the Spanish-language
in public schools (and society), we are living in a time of change and it is our duty as citizens to facilitate this transition.
What's more, our own mayor, Rahm Emanuel, is regularly making our educators' lives more challenging. While there are many positive things Emanuel has done for Chicago, if you haven't walked in a teacher's warm, fuzzy shoes you don't have the right to make policy when you've not done the work.As our current president speaks of "going forward, not backward", let's keep this in mind as we commute to work, school, or place of recreation. Give a helping hand to the teacher next door, offer an ear and receive wisdom. Like Sandy Cakes of Panaderia Azucar in Chicago, one can donate generous gifts of food and beverages to sooth our fellow (wo)man's constitutional right to protest.
Let's do this, friends, community members, and advocates of social change. Support the teacher next door - the agent of change for your child's future . I support our Chicago Public School teachers' right to protest and seek their rights as professionals, educators, and public figures in our communities. Si se puede
: Yes we can.
Asian immigrants show support for undocumented students in Chicago. Photo Credit: Jee Hyun Suk
By Samantha Nguyen
With the U.S. election right around the corner, how are we as Americans to feel about choosing the figure that will lead our great nation for the next 4 years? What to do if you’re an incumbent president running for reelection with few accomplishments to your name? You’re presiding over the most anemic economic recovery in 70 years. Unemployment is still above 8% three years after the recession supposedly ended. Your signature stimulus and health care bills are massively unpopular, and your approval rating hasn’t broken 50% in months.
That’s the challenge facing President Obama as he campaigns for another four year term. Gone is the “hope and change” rhetoric or the pledge to “change the way that we do business in Washington.”
Gone indeed is any attempt by the incumbent to offer a strategy to improve our common economic circumstances and prospects. In its place, Obama is attempting to assemble support with patronizing appeals to separate pieces of the electorate, hoping he can tape together an electoral majority. He has overladen this approach with a healthy dose of cynicism and class warfare rhetoric designed to focus the public’s anger on other Americans – anyone besides the man in charge.
I cannot help but feel President Obama is picking and choosing strategic communities of people that are desperate for some loving and using them to gain votes. Just who are the specific targets of his strategy? Here's my list:
Liberals. Let's begin with President Obama’s relentless focus on the “1%” of wealthy Americans who he constantly attacks and, worse, implies are responsible for our poor economic circumstances. Never mind that the 1% already pay approximately 37% of all federal income taxes. Never mind that his plan to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and implement the so-called “Buffet rule” would have virtually no impact on our long term deficit picture or create one single new job. The ploy here is purely political, designed to pin the economic blame elsewhere through class warfare and fire up far-left liberals who favor economic redistribution policies. This is perhaps one of the most frightening because liberals now feel entitled to shove their ideology down everyone's throat in the name of false progress.
Women. There has been a gender gap in America for years so it must be because Republicans are waging a “war on women”. Obama’s weapons here focus heavily on yet more federal laws supposedly mandating equal pay for “similar” positions. (Note: Equal pay has been the law of the land for many years.) He is also placing heavy emphasis on free contraception and access to abortion drugs, going so far as to require every health plan to cover these costs. Obama is even willing to throw the Catholic Church and the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom under the bus in pursuit of another wedge issue. I am all about giving women the right to choose their own destiny, but I think this rhetoric would receive more credibility if an actual woman spoke such fine words.
African Americans. At the recent NAACP convention, Vice President Biden renewed a 25 year old feud with retired Judge Robert Bork, who currently serves as co-chair of Governor Mitt Romney’s justice task force, attacking Bork for wanting to roll back civil rights in America. In 1987, as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a budding presidential candidate, Biden attempted to ride to the White House with attacks on Bork’s judicial record. He succeeded in defeating Bork’s Supreme Court nomination, but his presidential aspirations were cut short when he was caught plagiarizing his speeches from a British politician and quickly dropped out of the race. At the same NAACP convention last week, Attorney General Eric Holder lashed out at GOP-inspired state voter registration laws requiring individuals to show an ID before voting, arguing that such laws would be harmful to minority voters. Though Democrats are skilled at playing the race card, the dance is more complicated this year since, for political reasons, Obama will have to utilize surrogates like Biden and Holder to handle this grubby business.
Latinos. Having done nothing for four years to effectively reform immigration, Obama issued an executive order this year suspending arrests of certain categories of undocumented aliens. Obama also sued Arizona over a state law that essentially requires the state to help enforce federal immigration law, something the feds have refused to do themselves. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the law’s centerpiece and rejected Obama’s position. While I don't agree that undocumented people deserve the same freedoms hard-working U.S.-born Americans are entitled to, Obama's rhetoric on giving DREAMers a fighting chance to DREAM is sad. Like my liberal friends have commented in the past, more work and less talk. These kids are seriously going to spend their days DREAMing away because public opinion very much is opposed to offering criminals freebies.
Gays, Lesbians. In 2008, Obama made a big deal of his “opposition” to gay marriage. Most everyone suspected he didn’t mean it, and indeed after “careful consideration,” he now supports gay marriage just in time for this election. Most Americans rightly see this as a purely political conversion. He was against it before he was for it. Obama’s views even on issues of this magnitude are disposable and interchangeable. Again, I'll believe that Obama cares about the gay community when he signs a little piece of paper stating they're allowed to marry across the board.
Asian-Americans. This community, perhaps equally as ignored as the Native American community, is small in numbers and makes up no more than 4% of the population. 68.4% of Asians in America are between the ages of 18-54. Nearly 73% of Asians are foreign-born and rarely interact outside their respective ethnic community. As this group struggles with English-language classes and, slowly but surely, assimilates to American values, it neglects to actively engage in civic society. To many, the Asian-American vote is not significant enough at this point in U.S. history: maybe in a few years.
The common denominator with all of these piecemeal campaign strategies is that they form no coherent whole, no larger vision for America. All are primarily designed to enhance the Obama Campaign talking points and contribute very little toward solving the major problems we encounter. Worse, they divide Americans because their primary purpose is to focus blame on anyone and everyone but President Obama.
Politics is a rough and tumble business, and thankfully, Americans tune out most politicians and political promises. But any Obama victory based on this lame duck strategy would be achieved at a high price.
His divisive plan would have no mandate for anything positive, allowing the country’s downward drift to worsen while he scrambles to address the great economic crises we face. Bipartisan cooperation would be difficult to achieve, and the 2012 election would have provided little focus or clarification for any way forward.
This year, the only thing worse for Obama than losing this election might be winning. Let's hope and DREAM for the best.
Undocumented student from UCLA protests in favor of the DREAM Act, June 2012. Photo Credit: Dave Park
By Samantha Nguyen
What’s the solution to the GOP’s election-year problems with Latino voters over immigration policy?
Recently, I watched several interviews with Senator John McCain on Univision, CNN, and Fox News Latino. The interviews put many things in perspective, particularly those regarding the Hispanic vote. McCain, who ran as the Republican presidential candidate against Barack Obama in 2008, is a longtime GOP leader on immigration reform. Many consider him a strong leader, a fervid patriot, and a man of many experiences. However, he isn't the most popular guy among Latino voters.
McCain has represented Arizona in the U.S. Senate for 25 years. With an estimated 1.7 Million Latinos, 30 percent of the Grand Canyon State is Latino, making it the fifth largest Latino population in the country. McCain’s past success with Latino voters makes him a Republican elder statesman and guide when it comes to talking about immigration and winning Latino votes. He hasn't quite reached the Latino population's favoritism, particularly among the undocumented group.
Sen. McCain wants Republicans to stop being defensive and turn the tables on Democrats who have not been supporters of immigration reform. Four years after his failed presidential bid, the Arizona senator believes it’s time to shift the blame for years of federal failure to implement immigration reform to Democrats in Congress, and specifically President Obama.
He has a point.
McCain has credibility on the issue from years of fighting for immigration reform. He took a big risk in joining President Bush and the late Senator Ted Kennedy to make a major effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2005.
The bi-partisan bill never got out of committee. Much of the blame was put on conservative talk radio opposition to “amnesty” for people who broke the law. These people, mostly those who've been coming here illegally from Mexico, El Salvador, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Bosnia, and Poland, are criminals in the eyes of many.
In 2007 a Democratic bill in the Senate could not get the 60 votes needed to end debate and force a vote.
There has been no progress made in Congress since then.
In both 2005 and 2007 the hard-right did make it extremely difficult for the GOP to develop a cohesive, unified message on immigration reform. Even modest reform proposals got labeled by some Republicans as “amnesty.” An amnesty is not a solution to our problems with illegal immigrants, who are multiplying since Obama became in favor of the DREAMers and their goal to take over the American education system (and society for that matter).
In Fox's interview, McCain reminded viewers that that groups on the left, notable the Farm Workers of America, and trade unions with strong ties to the Democrats also opposed to his guest worker program.
“The greatness of Ted Kennedy, as you know, was that he was willing—he and I agreed to vote against amendments that we otherwise might support. And I saw him speak rather sternly to then-Senator Obama, when Senator Obama proposed the amendment to quote, sunset, in other words, end the guest worker program.”
In Univision's interview with McCain last February, Jorge Ramos asked the Arizona Senator, who endorsed Mitt Romney in January and has made campaign stops on behalf of the former Massachusetts governor, if he agreed with the Republican presidential candidate's immigration policy. McCain stated that he is "not the first Republican to distance himself" from Romney's immigration comments.
McCain mentioned that even though the media focus remains on right-wing opposition to guest worker programs and overall immigration reform there is little reason to think that opposition from the left is any less an obstacle than it was in 2005. I've met some liberal Democrats who detest the DREAMers and their cause but are very much in favor of women's rights and LGBT marriage. This just shows you can't always have it all.
But of all of the topics touched on, one drew a visceral response from McCain. Hispanic congressional leaders, such as Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, describe McCain as a partner who in recent years “left the table” of negotiations over immigration reform. And Gutierrez blames Republicans for exploiting the immigration issue to create fear and fan anti-immigrant fervor. Gutierrez, who many believe to be Mexican, is actually an American of Puerto Rican heritage. Despite his background, his actions very much reflect the current Democratic party: too much talk and not enough action. Chicago, the windy city, deserves someone with so much wind in his system.
When the interviewer asked him, “Are people right to criticize you as having abandoned the immigrant [and], immigrant community?”
McCain was literally taken aback. He said “Well I hope not. But, I do also understand that there have been increases in border security.”
To win the support of Latinos, McCain speaks about “humane treatment” of the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. And then he highlights three aspects of the immigration debate that he feels are ignored by Democrats but devastating to the Latino community: illegal drugs, drug violence, and human trafficking.
He said “There are a hundred guides sitting on mountaintops right now in Arizona, guiding the drug cartels as they bring the drugs across the Arizona/Mexico border." While the majority of these drugs end up in the hands of upper-middle class white youth in suburban America, the man has a point.
And then there is the human cost. “The young women are raped, they’re put in drop houses in Phoenix, Arizona, where they are kept in the most unspeakable condition, and held for ransom.”
“The human rights abuses,” Sen. McCain said, is the part of the illegal immigration problem that the Obama White House and the liberals do not understand. By embracing illegal immigration and the DREAMers, we are encouraging more young women to be victims of human rights violations: this is very, very wrong. This doesn't even consider the undocumented men and women without driver’s licenses traveling on roads in the state who pose a danger to all motorists.
Arizona’s controversial S.B. 1070 law is not popular with Latinos. But McCain praises the law and Governor Jan Brewer for her commitment to border security. He also eagerly awaits Marco Rubio’s Republican draft of an alternative to the DREAM Act. Rubio, one of the few Latino politicians I admire, is a household name that will save the Latino population. Not only is he articulate and knowledgeable about the issues of the times, he is also a strong figure that can take a factual side on many arguments, including immigration, which is often difficult for many current political leaders.
Sen. McCain said Republicans will not lose Latino support by talking about the need for border security as a necessary precedent to any immigration reform. Despite a sharp decline in illegal crossings from Mexico into the U.S. and increases border security under President Obama he said all Americans want to know that the borders are protected. I would add that the Mexico-U.S. border isn't our only concern: immigrant hot spots like California and New York also attract thousands of illegals from Asia and Europe, which pose a threat to America's safety.
McCain agrees that if Mitt Romney is to defeat Barack Obama in the presidential election he will have to have shift the perception that his immigration policies are harsh, including his support for “self-deportation", and his opposition to the DREAM Act (the proposed legislation offering citizenship to undocumented people brought to the U.S. as children and now in school or the military).
A Pew Research poll last month found that Hispanic voters favor President Obama over Romney by 40 points: 67 percent to 27 percent. McCain lost Latino voters to Obama in 2008 by just 13 points.
McCain’s strategy, to force Democrats and liberals to take responsibility for the failure of immigration reform and the rise of illegal immigrants, has a big hill to climb with Latinos. But it may be the best hope for Mitt Romney and his fellow Republicans.
I hope to see much more from Marco Rubio in the coming months. If he ran for president one day, he would get mi voto.
YOHIO performing in Tokyo, JP, early 2012.
By Kyle Davis
I was watching television from my home in Yokohama, Japan the other day when something caught my eye. A TV program was featuring a beautiful young white girl with adorable curly blonde hair singing in fluent Japanese.
This in itself is nothing special: Japanese people love seeing white gaijin, or foreigners, who can speak their language, and variety shows here make stories out of them all the time. What caught my eye, though, is when I looked closer and realized that this beautiful young woman was actually a dude.
His name is YOHIO, a 16-year-old boy from Sweden who is now the lead guitarist and songwriter of the visual kei band, Seremedy. For those unfamiliar with the Japanese subculture, "visual kei" refers to a type of heavy metal rock music marked by the musician’s flamboyant and often androgynous use of make-up, hairstyles, and costumes while on stage.
According to his profile, YOHIO was born to a musical family in Sweden and from an early age he showed he shared his family’s affinity for music, taking up piano and even writing songs starting at the age of 6. He picked up his first guitar when he was 11 and became captivated with the instrument, receiving basic lessons from his father, who is a guitarist in a rock band.
In the summer of 2009, 14-year-old YOSHIO formed Seremedy and began composing songs based on the band’s concept of “Beauty & Madness,” focusing on creating a sound of traditional heavy metal infused with elements of pop. After having trouble finding members, Seremedy’s line up was complete by early 2010 and they played their first few concerts in April, including UppCon, Sacandanavia’s largest Japanese pop-culture convention.
The band continued to grow in popularity until they were signed to Universal Music Japan last March, releasing their first single, “Bulletproof Roulette".
As mentioned previously, Japanese people love white people, particularly those with pearly white skin, who can speak their language and this likely has something to do with the group’s success: YOSHIO began teaching himself Japanese from about 4 years ago and now writes most songs in a mixture of English and Japanese. He even started a Japanese blog in 2009 and now writes to his fans using a mix of emoticons and glitzy icons spot on enough to fool you into thinking he was a Japanese school girl.
Not bad for a teen Swede boy living in the Orient.
By Samantha Nguyen
I consider myself a multicultural person. I am a Vietnamese-American woman, a native of Santa Rosa, California, and a practicing Catholic. I grew up middle-class, studied political science and communications in college, and became one of the only Asian-American women in California to rally for the Republican party. Currently living in Boston, I am an advocate of women's rights, access to education, and the end of the war in the Mid East.
Additionally, I consider myself a patriot. I am a defender of truth, justice, and the American way. What concerns me at the moment is the state of our nation, America the Beautiful. During the last few months, some of my close friends have begun discussing politics quite regularly. My closest girlfriends, a Palestinian-American and a Venezuelan-American, enjoy dragging me into debates regarding the 2012 race for presidency, immigration, healthcare, and education, among others.
It's quite a challenge for me, really. Growing up Asian-American, I never felt like a person of color. The majority of my friends were white, upper-middle class, and I lived in a typical American household with a white-picket fence (don't judge me). I never felt like the token Asian that college friends would constantly refer to me as. I looked in the mirror and I saw Asian features, but never identified with Asian-American culture.
My parents emphasized leaving our Vietnamese culture behind when they immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s. They came right after immigration laws became more favorable to Asian people. My mom, while she had the heaviest Vietnamese accent when speaking English, never taught me Vietnamese. My father, an accountant, regularly encouraged me to pinch my nose a bit everyday so it could be fair and pretty like the Korean models he adored. I remember one year, my young brother, Brad, and I discussed our interest in learning Vietnamese over a lasagna dinner mom made. Dad hit his fist on the table, looked at my brother and I, and I vividly remember him screaming that "we aren't boat people". I blame my dad for instilling me with a phobia for Asian-Americans with hyphen identities.
During college, I became more familiar with the diversity that is America. I became friends with other Asian-Americans who actually understood their culture, heritage, and language. I was enamored with Mexican food, sushi, and Indian saris. I studied Spanish in high school and decided to pursuit it in college. My professors encouraged me to study abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico, where I would stay with a host family for 3 months. I decided to pursuit it. In 2005, I lived in the city of Oaxaca with Guadalupe and Pablo de la Rosa, small-business owners with children. To Guadalupe, I was a china, an Asian. To her teenage kids, I was an American who played soccer in her sports bra every evening with the neighborhood kids.
After graduating with a political science degree from a liberal arts college in California in 2007, I moved to Boston where I would work with a local non-profit organization heavily focused on helping inner-city youth. Two days after arriving in Boston, there was a protest against the Iraq war. I observed the protesters and the diversity in their faces. Their struggle, however, was the same. What I didn't understand was how so many people brought other issues to light during these anti-war movements. Signs that read "Legalize now!" and "Amnesty for all!" popped up quite regularly. Who are we legalizing? The war?
Reema and Lucia are both remarkable women. One is a believer in a free Palestine and another in human rights for all. I find myself to be a believer of the human spirit so long as it doesn't interfere with my own success and the success of those I love.
A recent topic of conversation was illegal immigration and the DREAMers, as they've infamously been dubbed. Lucia mentioned that she was "content" that undocumented students would no longer suffer deportations, for the time being, and have the opportunities to attend college. Reema felt that Obama strategically is using the issue of illegal immigration as bait to more closely secure the Latino vote.
In my opinion, I don't think Obama, or anyone for that matter, needs to reform immigration or the so-called DREAMers. While I am an advocate of education reform and more opportunities for students during financial struggles, this is simply ridiculous. How is allowing this group of people to attend college and confidently state that they're illegal a sense of pride for the nation? Where have our values, commitment to U.S. citizens, and the security of our own gone?
I offered Lucia my two cents: Obama needs to focus on pulling out of the Mid East and offer more funds for American citizens, the documented ones, who are interested in obtaining higher education. He also needs to work on healthcare reform and alleviate society of the welfare queens out there. I hate to say it, but there are plenty of people out there living off the backs of many Americans, including my own. We should not have to support the lazy and the ignorant simply because they don't want to work. My dear President, offer them jobs: cleaning staff, janitors, crossing guards, Safeway bag people, anything. However, don't use my tax dollars to support welfare princesses too lazy to look for a job.
If we didn't have the illegal immigration problem, these welfare folks could find a job that many are doing illegally. Don't give undocumented people more reason to continue coming to our fine nation illegally. Don't support the DREAMers or their cause.
Lucia thinks me to be a bit ecstatic at time and says my conservative Republican upbringing is the root of "my troubles", as she bluntly puts it. Reema thinks that my Asian face means I should have to be a liberal, a fan of everything counter-culture. The reality is that my Republican friends consider me very liberal. I support women's rights, civil unions for the LGBTQ community, and scholarships for inner-city youth.
Illegal immigration is creating a fundamental problem in our country for many reasons. 1) Illegal people take away jobs other Americans could use, replacing the need for more funds for welfare, 2) Many don't pay taxes and use plenty of our services, such as education and healthcare, 3) Their presence wastes plenty of tax dollars by supporting their children in public education, welfare, and jails.
If I could choose between Romney and Obama, I would choose neither. Let's be realistic, Romney doesn't care about women. I want the choice to do with my body as I see fit and would dislike it if someone governed my decisions. Obama, while his vision is idealistic, fails to act for the people. Take a lesson from the Republicans and start doing something for the voters who put you in office, Mr. President. Let's start by repealing rights for undocumented students and offer those opportunities to documented American citizens who have the same goals. I know plenty of folks made in the U.S.A. who are equally (if not more) talented than these kids who deserve a spot in college. Don't turn your back on American citizens, Mr. President.
Would American citizens living in a foreign country illegally be given the same opportunities we give these kids?
Reema and Lucia think it's funny that I speak my mind so bluntly. After all, no one expects the five-feet tall Asian-American chick to have an opinion.
Samantha Nguyen is a California-native currently living in Boston and working at a top accounting firm. Her interests include photography, travel writing, Cuban food, and political analysis. She considers herself a 'moderate conservative' with a sprinkle of liberal reason.
by Jorge ZavalaManaging EditorTwitter: @ProfZavala, #Zavala4CHGO
After my interview two weeks ago with attorney Benjamin Crump, the lawyer representing Trayvon Martin-young man assassinated by George Zimmerman, I consider what he said in our conversation: no one should be above the law. Besides the Martin-Zimmerman case, an example of such would be the antitrust case against Carlos Slim.
Super billionaire and Mexico’s wealthiest resident, Carlos Slim, is facing a $1 billion fine over practices of his telecom company, Telcel. The company is charged with unfair pricing practices. Telcel is part of the “Slim monster empire” anchored by America Movil, which dominates 70 percent of Mexico’s mobile market. Carlos Slim, who owns Telcel, has been bogged down in court appeals and dispute for a year. Mexican federal competition commission, Cofeco, slapped Telcel, the cash cow of Slim giant telecoms with the record sanction in April 2011 after ruling the company charged excessive prices to wireless and wireless competitors to connect to its network.
Telcel appealed the fine and even managed to ban Cofeco’s President Eduardo Perez Motta from taking part in a second vote, arguing that Eduardo Motta had made biased comments to the media. Cofeco said it was notifying the affected parties of its decision. If it ratifies, drops or modifies the fine against Slim, the world’s richest man would have some serious issues to consider.
While Slim remains the richest man in the world, he is not immune to the rules and regulations that govern society.
Why is it that the United States, often the nation that brags about how it defends human rights internationally, does not do anything to regulate companies such as ComEd, Nicor, Comcast, and Ford Motors, among others? Just to mention an agency, CUB (Citizens Utilities Board) is supposed to regulate ComEd and Nicor. CUB regulates the price rates of these companies yet for some reason allows them to abuse their pricing. ComEd uses Smart Grid, an instrument used to detect the occurrence of power shortages, as a means to increase pricing, stating that they need the extra money to fix their infrastructure. Smart Grid would allow ComEd to know where problems arise in their system. However, it is not the solution: it was tested in Park Ridge, Illinois and the power was gone for 3-4 days.
What ComEd needs to do is reinvest some of the profits it made over the years. ComEd needs to have its structure underground, but if it is not possible they need to update their equipment. This is not much to ask for considering how much people pay for their services. ComEd is charging an additional 97 cents per bill as of now. It does not only abuse the people with hefty charges but also has the authority to shut your service in case one doesn’t pay a bill.
ComEd does not seem to care if there is a sick relative at home who needs equipment connected to an electrical outlet or if one’s home is getting flooded and the water pump is not working because of lost electrical power. They will disconnect you. They do not claim responsibility for these and many other things. That is why we must demand that agencies like CUB regulate these companies that constantly abuse consumers. If CUB cannot do their job, it is very simple: let’s get rid of them. They are useless to us.
How can this country not do anything for its people? In the end, we are the ones that pay taxes and go out to fight for this country. Wars are not bringing about any positive changes to the local people. Instead, they leave us in debt. In legal cases, it is important that the facts are presented so that the court systems could take whatever means they consider necessary to enforce the law. As in the cases of Martin-Zimmerman and Carlos Slim, evidence needs to be placed for others to examine in order to take the most appropriate action.
Whether one is a working-class individual or the richest man in the world, it is crucial to acknowledge that we must hold everyone accountable for their actions and that no one is above the law.
by Jorge Zavala
Twitter: @ProfZavala, #Zavala4CHGO
Education is essential for diverse purposes. First, why is education important? It is the fundamental base which helps us understand our rights, opportunities, and responsibilities in life. Education does not only gives us more opportunities to get better jobs but also helps in developing ourselves as better human beings.
To understand my perspective, I would like to give a brief introduction about myself. I went to elementary and high school in the city of Chicago and, afterwards, I went to Mexico. In Mexico, I attended prep school and studied medicine. Due to an illness that my mother was having, I returned to Chicago. With my educational background and credentials, I was hired by the Board of Education (CPS). After a few years, I went to teach for the City Colleges of Chicago.as a professor while at the same time I furthered my education with a second master’s degree. As you can see, you never stop learning.
As a teacher that worked with affluent and not so affluent students, I think that it is important to mention that education is vital and we should care more about it.
There are many teachers that are passionate about teaching but lack support and resources. Our government does not prioritize our education. Not only are we falling behind other countries around the world with regards to education, every day our city, state, and federal government are eliminating programs for our youth to receive a well-rounded education.
Let us analyze this: does the government want everyone to be educated? Many people think that it is not to the government’s best interest to invest in education. A nation that is well-educated cannot easily be manipulated. Due to our slow economy, the unemployment rate is around 9%, and out of this rate 17 % of 15-24 year-olds were unemployed in 2011, according to the CIA World Factbook.
The government does not see educating our children as a priority. On the contrary, the state is firing teachers that have dedicated their lives in giving their best effort to providing their students with the best education possible.
There have been several budget cuts in education without taking into account that if we do not provide our youth with resources they may not be as successful in the near future. If these cuts in education continue, this country will go from being a world leader to a country without leadership role in the world. From my experience, I have learned that we must value education and must stay on top of it.
by Jorge Zavala
Have you ever stopped to think what is happening to our children? Are we doing enough as parents, educators, and society to prevent violence?
Despite claims that schools continue to be some of the safest places for children, recent school shootings have contributed to the perception that few places are safe anymore. No rural community, suburb, day care, elementary, high school or college is immune to potential impact of violence. Even if a school or district has well-developed safety plans, security personnel, metal detectors, and hotlines, children in those schools are regularly exposed to violence. Given the attention paid to the tragedies in places like Jonesboro and Columbine on local and national television news, in newspaper headlines, and in conversations of parents and school staff, the very fabric of what it means to a young child to “go to school” is disturbed.
Violence at school can have a significant impact on young people, affecting emotional, physical, and mental health and their academic achievement. Most importantly, it also affects overall socialization and adaptation. In an effort to reduce the incidents of violence in public schools, several state legislatures and, subsequently, Congress passed laws implementing school disciplinary sanctions that became known as Zero-Tolerance Policies.
Every day since Zero-Tolerance Policies were implemented throughout the United States, children have been deprived of the education system. These policies require that children in kindergarten through 12th grade receive harsh punishments. This doesn’t surprise me that even at the college level this might be happening. Often for minor incidents that pose no threat to safety, students and their families regularly receive severe hardship. A strong body of compelling research indicates that these “get-tough” disciplinary measures most often fail to meet sound educational principles, and in cases their application defies common sense if we all agree on what common sense means.
More alarming than punishment meted out in schools is the tracking of children into the juvenile justice system for minor misconduct in school, which could also be misinterpreted. What is minor misconduct? Often, minorities, such as African-American and Latinos, are the students that bear the consequences of these policies. Also, children with disabilities or those who are a part of the special education program are categorized in this group. Policymakers, educators, and parents should be very concerned with the long-term implications of denying educational opportunities to millions of children, especially when effectiveness of these policies in ensuring school safety is highly suspect.
School safety is a critically important issue. Recent tragedies have heightened the public’s fear, which has led to legitimate calls for stronger preventive measures. We must ensure that schools remain one of the safest places for children and students of all ages, including college. Yet, the evidence gathered makes it clear that efforts to address drugs, guns, and other dangerous school situations have spun totally out of control, sweeping up millions of schoolchildren who pose no threat to safety into a net of exclusion from educational opportunities and into criminal prosecution.