A Day of Celebration: The Inauguration of President Barak Hussein Obama and the End of the Bush Era

Posted in just sayin', politics with tags , on January 20, 2009 by countryjim13

Today is a truly momentous day.  I am a white, straight, middle class man – as little a part of any minority group as a person could be.  Today is a truly momentous day.  It does not, or at least should not matter what your background is be it by birth or by choice of socio-political preference and affiliation.  Today is a truly momentous day.  Today Barak Hussein Obama, son of an African immigrant and a white American mother, who lived as a boy in the predominantly Muslim country of Indonesia, a man who truly represents African Americans, Americans of European decent, Americans of mixed heritage.  He is a man who represents both the majority and the minority of this nation through the very blood that runs through his veins (sorry women, I suppose you are still left out in this physiological sense).  It is a historical moment.  President Obama is not only the first black President of the U.S., a nation that actively endorsed and engaged in forcing the African people into slavery as recently as only a few generations ago, he is also the first minority president in the history of any western industrialized nation.  That makes this a momentous day not only for Americans, but literally for people all over the world.56543130

Do not misunderstand.  I have many reservations about President Obama.  There are a number of issues on which I sit nervously at the edge of my seat, unsure of whether or not I will end up approving of and supporting his decisions and actions.  I did not vote for President Obama (in fact I have never voted for a Democrat or Republican presidential candidate).  Yet this is still a momentous day and regardless of whether I approve or disapprove of Obama as his term as President unfolds into the future, today is a day of celebration.  It does not matter that I did not vote for him, that I was not a supporter who helped elect him to office.  It does not even matter what my opinion of him is tomorrow.   It is still a day of celebration.  I could not help but feel a sense of pride, joy, hope as I watched him fumble through the oath of office and give a somber, but inspirational inaugural speech. 

This is not a perfect country.  We still have much to learn.  We have a tremendous amount of progress that still needs to be made.  Today, however, we showed ourselves as a nation as well as the world at large that we do have the capacity to grow, to change, to progress, to overcome the faults and mistakes of a dark past and move forward into a somewhat brighter and more inclusive future.  Today is truly a tremendous day, a day of celebration, joy, and hope for a better tomorrow.

bush_moron1At the same time it is a day of celebration for another reason entirely and yet related.  Today was the end of the Bush presidency.  Today was hopefully the end of an era of Bush presidents, both of whom have helped drive the world into war and economic peril over the past two decades.  I am almost 30 years old.  If you include the eight years that George H. W. Bush was Vice President under Ronald Regan I have lived 66.6% of my life under the rule of the Bush family (and I won’t even begin to try and wonder of the unlikely yet mystically possible implications of the above number in relation to the current thought process).  And so, after 20 of my 30 years of life having little choice but to live under the leadership of this inept family dynasty, today we celebrate the end. 

When Bush Jr. was introduced at today’s inauguration and millions of people booed.  I felt happy.  When he and his wife left in the marine helicopter and millions of people sang, “Na na na na, hey hey hey, good-bye!”  I was proud of this nation.  I know it was rude, but he deserves it and I sincerely hope it makes him seriously ponder his last eight years and the nothing but disastrous effect he has had on this nation and the rest of the world.  A leadership based on fear and divisiveness, warlords and corporate interests, secrecy and lies has finally come to an end.  It is truly a day of celebration.  America and its people can once again hold their heads high.  We can once again say, “I am an American” without feeling a sense of utter shame and humiliation. 

Today we can celebrate.  Bush is gone.  We can, perhaps, have pride in our government again.  As President Obama said so passionately in his inaugural speech, “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ouselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”  And so today we celebrate.  Tomorrow President Obama goes to work, the nation goes to work as we try and rebuild our reputation, our place in the world, our economy, and our way of life in the wake of the catastrophic event that has been the George W. Bush presidency and the Bush era in general.  I truly cannot express my jubilation.  Thank goodness he is fainlly gone! 

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End of an Error

Posted in just sayin', politics with tags , , on January 20, 2009 by mightyfag

Finally, after 8 years under an oppressive president and administration mired in unconstitutional practices, a constant whittling away of civil rights and the utter destruction of our economy, we have a breath of fresh air. As President Obama placed his hand on Licoln’s bible and took his oath of office administered to him by Chief Justice Roberts (an outright corporatists whose entire career revolved around upholding corporations’ rights against the rights of workers) I breathed a sigh of relief. For 1/4 of the years that I’ve been alive on this earth, I’ve had to live under the oppressive rule of Bush’s gulag.

Obama's Oath

One of the things that stood out for me as the new president took his oath was how the Chief Justice stumbled in his administering of the oath. It was as if this puppet justice, appointed by Bush and his corporatist cronies, knew that the jig was up. We can only hope that in addition to his promises of energy independence, a revival and preservation of civil rights, a restoration of our country’s reputation around the world and a revitalization of our economy, that President Obama will also remember that part of defending the Constitution includes holding those who have broken its laws accountable.

I know we are all elated about the new president and the hope that he brings, but I firmly hold that in order to move forward, we need to mend the wounds of the past and make amends where we can. The time is NOW to hold former president George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the rest of the amerofascists, accountable for their war crimes, their illegal wire tapping programs, their negligence in handling of federal disasters like Katrina, lying to the American people in the face of counterintelligence about weapons of mass destruction, breaking habeas corpus, and the multitude of other crimes they commited.

We need to remember, and make visible to the entire world, that the United States of America is a nation of laws an that NO MAN is above the law.

Public Service Announcement: National Defense of Marriage Act Protest

Posted in public notices on January 4, 2009 by countryjim13

Saturday January 10, 2009 is a nationwide day of protest against The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  DOMA is a shameful piece of federal legislation that was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton.  President-elect Barak Obama has expressed his opposition to DOMA and the day of protest is meant to display a massive show of opposition to the law and by doing so encourage Obama to overturn it when he becomes President in two weeks.  Protest events are taking place all over the nation.  CLICK HERE to find events in a city nearest to you. 

Gay Marriage Marches

The Hypocrisy of American Exceptionalism

Posted in politics on December 31, 2008 by countryjim13

newdojsealBy now the story is all over the news. On Monday the Associated Press reported on a case in which the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is asking a Miami judge to issue a sentence of 147 years in prison to a man who has been found guilty of a crime. The irony that begs too many questions to count is that this sentence is being requested for a man who has been convicted of torture. This man’s name is Charles McArthur Emmanuel and he is the son of former Liberian president Charles Taylor. Apparently the son was the head of a paramilitary group while his father was President and as head of this group the son was found to be responsible for the torture of people in Liberia. Apparently there was a law passed in the U.S. in 1994 that says that we can try people for torture committed in other countries (source).

Let’s assume that this is all fine and well. Charles McArthur Emmanuel has been convicted of torture, he has done horrible things, and he should get a heavy sentence, right? I have no problem with that. I will assume he did commit egregious crimes that should carry a heavy punishment. What I do have a problem with is the hypocrisy that flows like a powerful, raging torrent through the heart of this request from the DOJ.

The DOJ is part of the executivebranch of the federal government. The job of the executive branch, as laid out by the U.S. Constitution, is to enforce the laws that are passed by the legislative branch of the federal government. The U.S. Department of Justice is one of the many departments (others include the DHS, the FBI, the EPA, etc) within the executive branch that have been created to help facilitate the carrying out of this Constitutional task. So we could easily say that the DOJ is doing in job in making such a request.

The hypocrisy lies in the fact while the DOJ is seeking such a harsh penalty for a non-American citizen convicted in an American court for crimes committed in another country, Americans who have been convicted torture and prisoner abuse in Iraq, under U.S. jurisdiction have been given nothing more than slaps on the wrist. Where were the calls from the DOJ for heavy sentencing for Private First Class Lynndie England? She was only sentenced to three years in prison. What about Specialist Charles Graner? He received the heaviest sentence of any of those accused for torturing and abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. He was given a hefty 10 year sentence at Ft. Leavenworth military prison. Have there been any trials related to the use of water boarding by the U.S. military?

Not a new method, this photo shows American soldiers using waterboarding during the Vietnam War.

Not a new method, this photo shows American soldiers using waterboarding during the Vietnam War.

Recently the Senate Armed Services Committee, which includes 12 Republicans, issued a report from their investigation into instances of torture on the part of U.S. military personnel. In their report they accuse top ranking officials from the Bush Administration, including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, of being responsible for the “abuse of prisoners” that has occurred at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba (source). Of course “prisoner abuse” is our slanted way of saying torture so we can still feel good about ourselves and our place of moral superiority in the world. Not only did top administration officials encourage the use of torture but they are trying to redefine American law in such a way that allows them to argue that they have done nothing wrong or illegal.

In an interview with Jonathan Karl, Dick Cheney himself says the U.S. openly uses torture and that top level administrators, including himself, were aware of the torture programs. He just doesn’t use the word torture. He admits to the use of tactics such as water boarding to elicit information from prisoners such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. However, he justifies such tactics on the basis that the Bush

Dick Cheney

Dick Cheney

Administration sought legal opinions from the DOJ on the matter of interrogation techniques and were given the go ahead (source). So basically, “Our own legal team said it was okay to torture and so we do. Since our lawyers said we could, it is legal and since it is legal it is not torture.” Does that about sum it up Cheney?

Token sentence were given to U.S. military personnel convicted of war crimes and “prisoner abuse.” The DOJ has sanctioned water boarding of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and Bush Administration officials at least as high up as the Vice President were aware of and at least complicit with the use of the tactic. We’ve heard nothing from the DOJ about prosecuting Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney or anyone else in the Bush Administration. It seems that even President-elect Barak Obama may be balking at the idea of trying Bush Administration officials on war crimes charges. Meanwhile the DOJ is requesting a sentence of 147 years in prison for a crime committed by non-American citizen in another country.

American Exceptionalism

American Exceptionalism

Does this not speak the worst of the American fantasy of exceptionalism? We’ve gone from the dream of being a city on a hill to the reality of being the world’s bully in the name of our shiny pillar of democracy. It is not enough that we invade other nations upon our own whims and fabricate evidence to support those actions. It is not enough that we violently dispose of foreign leaders who don’t tow our political line. We go even further. We punish people who aren’t Americans for crimes they commit in other countries. We are applying our laws to people in other places, people who are not even bound by our national laws and at the same time we are unwilling to prosecute, let alone sentence our own citizens, those in our government who are accused and most likely guilty of committing the same crimes. We are America, we are special, and we can do whatever we want. We don’t have to follow the same laws, rules, or codes of conduct as the rest of the world because we are better than the rest of the world. We are the superpower. We are the shining example of democracy and freedom. Everything we touch turns to gold and our excrement smells of a fresh spring bouquet.

It is a crock. However, this is the worldview of the Bush Administration, many others within the Federal government, and of a great many of this country’s citizens. It is a dangerous worldview that has helped throw the world into chaos over the last decade, but which reaches much farther back into history in its role as a global destabilizer. This same sense of American perfection, rightness, and exceptionalism runs through the history of the Cold War and our battle against the “evils” of communism. It even runs as far back as our quest to dominate the western frontier, a war with Mexico and the genocidal path that was cut through Native America in order to achieve that aim. American exceptionalism is nothing new and it runs as strongly through the themes of today’s “war on terror” as it has at any other point in our short history as a nation. It is a worldview that will continue to wreak havoc on the world until we the people ourselves realize that we need to work in equitable cooperation with the rest of the world if we are all to live in a free and peaceful world.

We need to come to the realization that forcing others to follow our lead is no way to lead. It is no way to create a better world for Americans or for anyone else. We need to drop our sense of entitlement, our sense of being better and superior to the other people’s of the world. This sense that we are right and everyone else is wrong, a belief suckled and matured in the arms of the nation’s churches, must go. This idea is virtually bred into our children as they are taught that Christianity is right and all other religions are wrong.  How easily that sense of superiority has been transferred onto patriotism and blind obedience to a flag.  If this worldview is not rejected, who knows to what dark place America will next take the world. The particular hypocrisy in the incident of the requested sentencing for Charles McArthur Emmanuel is only a small manifestation, the latest example of this problem of American exceptionalism that stands at the doorway to many of the worlds geopolitical problems.

Checking Up On “Facts” Part II: The War On Christmas

Posted in politics, public notices, religion, society and culture on December 24, 2008 by countryjim13

war-on-christmas(source)
Here is a link to a great article by Michelle Goldberg on Salon.com about the extreme right’s attempt to actually create a liberal, secular, humanist war on Christmas as a way of acting like they are playing defense in America’s culture war when in reality they are on the offensive against seperation of church and state, pluralism, humanism, and cultural diversity and tolerance in general.  I highly recommend reading the article as means of fact checking this supposed “war on Christmas” that we’ve become all too familiar with thanks to conservative pundits such Bill O’Riley and a gang of preachers using their pulpit in this culture war as means of salvaging a small vestige of whatever political power the church may still have in the face of an increasingly liberal minded nation and the decreasingly weakened voting power of the religious right.  These preachers and pundits are using their made up war on Christmas to rally their troops in a culture war that is becoming increasingly heated  as it is more and more full of issues which the right <span style=”font-size:x-small;font-family:Verdana
sees it has very little chances of winning and so fights to win all the more ferociously.  If your power to influence real issues is continually on the wane, make up an issue to try and revitalize and energize your base!


http://dir.salon.com/story/news/feature/2005/11/21/christmas/index.html

Bailouts, Bridge-Loans and Blue Collar Workers

Posted in economics, politics with tags , , , , on December 12, 2008 by mightyfag

Let’s face it, folks. We are in the Second Great Depression – or at least at the start of it. The last Great Depression was fueled by highly irresponsible lending, irresponsible playing with the stock market and large central banks calling in loans and then draining massive amounts of capital out of the system. This Great Bush Depression was fueled by almost identical forces, only this time our economy is more dependent upon credit than last time, and the potential is for massive collapse of our entire economic system.

The neo-conservatives who have been dismantling our economy since the era of Reganomics, deregulating financial systems, destroying any government agencies that were put in place during the last Great Depression to prevent economic collapse, and systematically vilifying and disempowering unionized labor have come to the end of a 30 year reign where trickle-down economics have proven once again to be less about economics and more about being “trickled on”. When their “free market” system ran amok and they ended up losing billions of dollars, what did they do? They attempted to nationalize the debt of failed irresponsible corporations, but privatize the profits thereof. (Can we say national-socialism, a.k.a. corporatism, a.k.a. FASCISM!?!)

Bailouts for Buddies

The biggest bailout (i.e. chunk of federal tax-payer money thrown at an industry with no accountability on how it is spent) went to the investment banks and debt insurance companies – the largest being AIG. The Federal Government gave AIG (a bank that insures other banks’ loans and lines of credit) $85 BILLION dollars for a 79.9% equity stake in the form of warrants called equity participation notes. The two year loan carries an interest rate of the London interbank offered rate +8.5%. (source) Effectively, if AIG does well, the taxpayers will regain what was given to AIG and more. Seeing how the housing market is continuing to collapse and foreclosures are still growing around the nation, AIG will have to payout on the loans they promised to back – many of which were highly unethical subprime mortgages with variable interest rates that homeowners are finding themselves unable to keep up with as their home values plummet and the economy worstens. Instead of forcing banks to restructure mortgage loans for consumers, or offering direct support for homeowners (helping Main Street as well as Wall Street – as President Elect Obama likes to say) these Neo-Cons who are in bed with these large bankers and investment corporations padded their buddies’ accounts and managed to further monopolize the banking industry by letting other large banks (like Leighman Brothers) collapse or be bought up by pennies on the dollar (Washington Mutual being bought by Chase – one of the original architects of the first Great Depression).

The infuriating thing about the bank bailouts is that they continue to go on with little to no oversight, no prerequisites, and essentially put the burden of financial liability on the backs of taxpayers, but don’t really put any profits in our pockets in the end – or rather, promises us profits at the end of a very bad gamble that’s highly in favor of the house. You can see a graph of what financial institutions received federal bailout money on the New York Times site here. These companies do not create any tangible products. They don’t keep their business in this country – often financing foreign countries’ debts or backing them in the case of debt insurer. And they received carte blanche bailouts from the goverment.

Bridge-Loans for Auto Manufacturers

In light of the economic depression, the big three auto manufacturers in the U.S. came to Washington in order to seek economic assistance to survive. In contrast to the above mentioned financial executives and their begging for money, these executives and their companies have been receiving extraordinary criticism, negative press and mocking from the media in general. This time around, the auto manufacturers wanted a loan to bridge the bad financial times. These loans were a fraction of the $700 billion that congress has given the green light to give to financial institutions without oversight, but suddenly, they are being held to a different standard. Congress is insisting that they make fundamental changes to the way they do business. They are being forced to retool their plants, dedicate their efforts to making fuel efficient and low-emission vehicles, or to give up executive wages, etc. The image of the “big three” executives coming to Washington on private jets was the culmination of their apparent lack of financial prudence; flushing money down the toilet while asking for more. (No one mentioned that the investment bank executives probably took private jets to Washington as well.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think American car manufacturers are way behind in the times, they are out of touch with what consumers want, and they are VERY hesitant to innovate or change. At the same time, they are one of the largest employers in the country and their work force is unionized, guaranteeing living wages and a pension for the dedication of their workers – one of the oldest parts of the “American Dream.”

Most recently, these loans were approved by the House of Representatives, but they failed in the Senate (source) mainly due to Republicans from the South who are hellbent on two things. 1) Destroying organized labor – something Republicans have been trying to do ever since it came about and 2) Destroying competition for the foreign automobile plants that have been built in their home states that run with non-unionized labor (source) and were subsidized with tax incentives at a per-capita burden higher than the current proposed auto bridge-loans for U.S. Manufacturers. Basically they are covering their more expensive investments to bring business to their states at the expense of the greater U.S. economic well-being.

Another force being vilified in this fray is unionized labor. The Republican talking-point distribution network of radio talk shows and televised opinion shows have already begun to spout the propaganda that the reason the U.S. auto manufacturers are failing is due to the United Auto Workers and their high demands in terms of wages and benefits. (source) Senate Republicans are demanding that the U.A.W. make concessions and cut back on their wages and benefits to fall in line with foreign auto manufacturers. Union workers are not the cause of these companies having problems. U.A.W. workers have a two-tier pay structure (something normally unheard of in unions) where longer-time employees receive (as of 2006) $32.32 per hour for straight-time labor, where newer employees would receive $27.81 per hour of straight-time labor. These are good paying jobs – not extraordinarily over-paid positions. Additionally, the labor costs per vehicle come out to approximately 8.5% the price of a vehicle. (source) This is not a bank-breaking operation, and U.A.W. workers are already making concessions (like reducing health coverage as part of their contract, etc.) as they don’t want the auto manufacturers to go out of business either.

When I hear every-day Americans blaming the unions for bad business or in other ways vilifying unions, I always remind them that they aught not complain about someone having a better wage than they do, when they too could unionize and fight for a fair wage for the work they do. And let us not forget that the unions were what helped build up the Middle Class in the 50’s, one of the most prosperous times in our nation’s history. The more that organized labor gets beat down or disempowered the more of a decay of the middle class this country experiences, and the separation between the richest and the poorest grows wider and wider.

Additionally, there’s one thing these Republicans never mention: foreign auto manufacturers are intimately tied to their own governments and are seen as a nationalized or partially nationalized industry, and their workers have benefits given to them (like nationlized health care) that American workers are not, thus driving up the costs of labor in the “Free American Market”. Make no mistake about it, where Hyundai goes, South Korea goes, likewise, Toyota and Honda are intimately intertwined with the Japanese government and receive subsidies, tax breaks and more to assist in their success – these are things the U.S. car manufacturers don’t get. And the huge burden of health care, should it be nationlized like ever other social democracy in the modern world, would be a big economic boon to business in the states.

What to do?

Where I stand on this issue is that I think the bridge loans should be approved for the auto industry, but with caps on executive pay and with a requirement for worker positions and wages to be protected and maintained. Additionally I support the requirement for them to invest a certain percentage of the money into fuel efficiency and alternatives. But in doing so, I think we should nationalize the auto companies and use them as a way of revitalizing our economy. Reinvent the car, build plants across the nation wherever the unemployment figures are worst, and drive up demand for these newly engineered vehicles. By nationalizing the industry, we can better support organized labor, steer progress in automobile ingenuinty and also make real and effective change in vehicle emissions, carbon dioxide emissions and tie the industry into effective environmental reform as well. If you’re going to nationalize the liability, then nationlize the profit as well.

Lost in the Shuffle : Native Americans and the Availability of Education

Posted in economics, just sayin', society and culture on December 10, 2008 by barbelith923

American history is filled with accomplishments, wars fought and triumphed, adversity overcome, an end to racial indifference, and rights put in place towards self expression without fear of reprise. Yet there is also the record of failures and injustices as well. It is true that our forefathers made mistakes in the name of progress. And in some cases, the word mistake is far too mild for such terrible deeds.  One example would be the attempts by the American government to destroy entire cultures through so-called education.  In as little as 100 years ago, Native American children were abducted from their families and forced into re-education schools to become, what the American government considered to be, civilized individuals. Sadly, rather than providing an education, children weren’t allowed to speak their native languages, practice their customs, or live life as they had been taught by their parents and elders. In many instances, these institutions dealt the final blow to some already struggling cultures. It could be argued that formalized education was originally one of the worst curses enforced upon America’s indigenous population.

These days however, an education may be one of the few things geared towards the survival of American natives. It could be said that a college degree may be the key towards not just the well being of the individual, but also to the community as well. In the last fifty years, many things have changed for the betterment of Native Americans. Yet it is not nearly enough. Still mired in poverty, resources are relatively few. And one of these missing resources is access to formalized and decent education. Out of almost all recognized minorities, Native Americans find themselves on the bottom rung of the ladder where access to education is concerned. In this small article, I will attempt to show the reasons why this is so. The subjects to be touched upon will be general issues that many minority students face, such as poverty, the availability of educational resources, and the ultimate goal of attaining a degree. We will then examine how they apply to Native American students. In addition, through the gathering of this information, I have been surprised to find one more additional issue which doesn’t seem to be mentioned in many reports on minority students. And that is the issue of culture as it applies to societal norms, and the general behavior of students and faculty on school campuses. From what I’ve observed, the issue of culture is a very large problem when it comes to Native students and learning institutions. We will examine these problems and hopefully be able to shed some light on the road towards possible solutions.

Purging The Culture Away

When discussing Native Americans and education, we must take a brief look at the history concerning these subjects. It does shed some light upon current issues. In the conquest of America, the Natives were considered a problem by those attempting to colonize the continent. Before 1870, the Natives were initially forced to reside on reservations. Yet new ideas began to surface with the concept of assimilating the Natives rather than segregating them. This led to the legal abduction of Native children, forcing them into schools with the distinct purpose of re-educating them. The goal was to make them civilized or “white”. The only other option was to become trained as a domestic servant. Yet, to hang onto their own unique cultures was strictly forbidden. We can see this in the methods used to transform these children. They were punished severely for speaking in their indigenous tongues. The same thing applied when practicing their tribal customs as well. Their hair was forcibly shorn and they were forced to wear westernized clothing. The goal itself was the loss of cultural identity while creating new and acceptable one, at least according to what white society considered to be acceptable. And as terrible as this may sound, it may be even more shocking to understand that this practice continued until the 1960’s. With the understanding of all of this, we can deduce that a bias probably exists due to the fact that these crimes against Native culture occurred up until only a few generations ago. Yet as negative as learning institutions may be viewed by members of the Native population, we cannot deny the importance of an education in America today.

Along with formalized education comes the promise of the idealized American dream. The idea is that anyone in America can make it to the top and fulfill the goal of attaining an upper class lifestyle through hard work and dedication. The puritan work ethic is still alive and well. Unfortunately, current statistics say otherwise. In fact, with the contemporary stratification of the lower classes, we may actually be watching history repeat itself in that the drastic income inequalities of this day and age have not been felt since the 19th century. However, a solution was devised in the past which changed a great deal of the situation. The answer was education. Not only were large amounts of money invested in education but ladders were created so that bright young students from all walks of life could receive a purposeful and useful education to better themselves. Stratification began to occur again however among the educated as they married and produced children who were born into an elevated status. Today, only 1 in 30 of lower class children will be selected for elite universities. What we can conclude, in this brief examination of the past, is that college graduates have received better opportunities and improved access to decent paying jobs. In addition, education may be the answer to income equalities. Yet what is the situation of stratified children today?

Social and Economic Stratification

When making an examination of those who fall under the classification of stratified individuals, we can divide them into two groups; minorities and the poverty stricken. Let me make it clear however that a good portion of the stratified belong to both groups. And since this article revolves around the Native Americans, who are considered to be a minority, let us take a look at the situation minorities face in general when it comes to elite learning institutions. Even in our modern times, racial tension can still be felt in many of these schools. We can also claim that the transformation of white genteel schools into pre-eminent universities has been slow. To put it bluntly, the numbers don’t lie. Let’s take the University of Virginia for example, who only began to promote changes in the 70’s. Taking a look at just a few years ago, it may be a bit surprising to discover that out of a student population of 13,000 that there were only 1,594 black students. In general, the number of white graduates when compared to minority graduates are just as one-sided. For example, 83% of white students graduate high school, while only 55% of Native students do the same. The numbers are just as staggering when looking at college graduates. Where 23% of whites graduate college, only 6% of Native students achieve the same goal. One more time, we can see an obvious leaning in the numbers. Yet why does this situation exist? Does the problem exist within the student population? The numbers seem to paint a different picture. Instead, we can probably conclude that a problem exists with the colleges and universities instead. In fact, we could probably go so far as to say that when it comes to Native American students, these institutions outright fail. And since we have examined the stratified, focusing in the issue of minority, it is now time to examine the issue of poverty.

It quickly becomes clear that the privileged or children of wealth have better opportunities when it comes to access to quality education. Granted, good financial means could make the purchase of an education easier. However, when it comes to the selection of students, an obvious bias exists. As before, quite simply the numbers don’t lie. In recent times, 60% of students at elite universities came from wealthy or alumni parents, with children of alumni constituting 40%. Upon further examination we can find even more bias leaning towards advantages for the wealthy. It has been shown that the children of very high donors are helped at a substantial rate. Another example is what is called the “Z list”. This is a deferment list for students to catch up when they have fallen behind. Overwhelmingly, this list is dominated by children of the wealthy. Unfortunately, the situation doesn’t seem to be improving for children who come from poor families. As of today, they have only a 40% chance of becoming students at these same universities. Upon examining statistics, we can see that the situation may be getting worse. From 1980 and 1982, the number of poor children in universities and colleges dropped 1%. However, the number of wealthy children rose from 55% to 60%. As we can see, inequalities do exist from the poor to the wealthy, with the wealthy having more advantages, while the poor are left to feed on scraps from a very rich table. Now having examined stratification from both a means of race and wealth, let us now turn to Native Americans, of whom a great portion fall into both classifications.

Hitting One Bird with Two Stones

The majority of Native Americans have it pretty rough, especially when it comes to life on the reservation. It can be said that life on the reservations can be nothing short of squalor, with very few opportunities to construct a life outside of it. Generations of Natives have been trapped in this environment without the financial means of escaping it. In this, it would seem that the segregation of the Native Americans continues to exist. Most are mired in poverty and it could be argued that Native Americans on reservations are of the most stratified. For example, the Pine ridge reservation of South Dakota has been compared to the poorest of third world countries. There are some houses with no electricity, no running water, nor any sewer system. The unemployment rate is staggering measuring at 85%. And yet, this is the third largest reservation in America. In general, life on the reservation is of the poorest quality. A great deal of the populace do not even possess a high school education. Yet, as we have seen, education, could quite possible be the road to freedom, not just serving the individual, but also the community as well. Upon taking a look at the Red Lake reservation in Minnesota, we can see that this condition exists outside of South Dakota as well. 40% live below the poverty line. Crime runs rampant at Red Lake, mainly drug and violence related. As we can see, the brutal living conditions do not apply to just one reservation but many. In examining the condition of most Natives, and reviewing the bias of universities towards whites and the wealthy, there seems to be very few opportunities to get a decent education. However, out of most minorities in the United States, Native Americans rank the lowest as far as receiving an education goes. Knowing that other minorities also suffer from poverty as well and yet are able to achieve more, might there be another factor other than ones previously discussed? As we shall see, the answer may be cultural.

When taking a closer look, we find that one aspect may have been overlooked in the majority of studies pertaining to Native Americans and education. Upon examining the culture of Native Americans and their history, we find more answers. We have already discussed a possible bias towards “white” learning institutions due to the history with Natives and forced re-education. Another aspect of the cultural problem may be in the hands of instructors at most colleges and universities. Most of these instructors experienced college life in a sort of homogeneous environment rather than one based solely on one cultural perspective. A good portion of Natives only get the experience of one culture due to the inability of being able to escape from it. In essence, they instead become dependent upon this culture to sustain them. Since most instructors, come from a more unified cultural experience, they may not have the ability to understand both the importance and impact of this cultural experience as it applies to Natives. This would possibly create a divide between the instructor and the student, which may ultimately lead to feelings of alienation in a very foreign environment. However, it can also be argued that school counselors can help in this capacity and ultimately enhance the development of a Native student. It is essential that awareness of culture, and the traditions surrounding it, be understood. This awareness could bridge this gap. Yet awareness is not enough without this information being placed in the context of the school at large. Colleges and universities may become places where the Native student is made to feel welcome rather than alienated from. And yet, as much sense as these ideas may make, with the exception of very few instances, these policies are currently not in place. It can be argued that accomplishments in school are the responsibility of the student. Yet it would be foolish to state that none of the responsibility falls on the shoulder of the staff and faculty of the university as well. In some ways, these institutions cater to the student to help them excel. However, we must ask if these same institutions have the willingness to cater to the Native student. Unfortunately, I must conclude that the answer is no. Yet where is the proof for my claim?

Tribal Colleges

The answer can be found in Tribal colleges. In 1978, Congress passed the Tribally Community College Assistance Act. It was created to ensure that there were opportunities in place and the expansion of these opportunities for American Indian students. Because these institutions are tribally controlled, students can find the cultural experience that they may be missing in other institutions. Not only are their cultural needs met, there is an understanding of aspects of the stratified life that most Natives are forced to live. Things like family and home life are understood, financial problems are catered to, and with unemployment being so staggering a factor, when a student does have a job, these colleges attempt to work with the student to help them stay employed. Therefore, I think that it is fairly easy to claim that tribal colleges do meet the unique needs of their students. Some have actually made claims that the creation of tribal colleges may be the most significant development for Native Americans in history.  This is not to say that these institutions do not have problems of their own, which in themselves are almost reflections of problems with reservation life. These institutions are horribly underfunded and their facilities are very inadequate. In addition, they are also increasingly understaffed as well. Yet having knowledge of these problems, this lends more credence to my point of culture being a large factor. It is obvious that the funding, facilities, and staff are probably of better quality at larger and more recognized institutions. Yet as we have seen, the number of Native students is incredibly low at these elite schools. However, upon examining the problems with tribal schools, it is surprising to discover that most Native students are completely satisfied with the education they received from tribal colleges rather than the education they received from other institutions. It could be argued that it may possibly be the familiarity of poor conditions in school to poor conditions in life that may create a means of comfort. However, offer an individual a choice between five dollars or fifty. I think it’s fairly logical which one would be taken. One more time, the obvious solution is the understanding of Native culture and it being implemented into the larger context of the school itself. Therefore, we can conclude that if other learning institutions were to attempt to satisfy the cultural needs of the Native student, the attendance of these institutions would probably improve. And not only would attendance improve, I think it’s quite possible that they would excel.

In examining the issue of Native American students and the lack of education among these individuals, I hope that I have been able to convey a few reasons as to why it may be occurring. In taking a look at the larger scope of the stratified, we see that there is an obvious bias towards those that are both white and from wealthy backgrounds. And therefore, since Native Americans are burdened by stratification, we can see problems occurring when Natives attempt to receive a quality education. Yet there is another factor which may add to the reluctance of these same individuals to attend universities of quality education, even if it was available to all. In asking the question as to why Natives are satisfied with an education from a substandard yet tribally influenced school rather than that of a well received and quality school, one conclusion that we can reach is the importance of a culturally influenced experience in education. Yet this is not intended to deny the burden of being a member of a minority or being financially stratified. These are obvious and troubling factors as well. Yet I cannot stress enough that more attention needs to be placed on the cultural aspects as well as the financial and minority aspects as well. The cultural solution may be one of many. We have examined other aspects as well. But there may be more. I argue that only through research will we find these missing pieces of information.

Our indigenous cultures deserve more than the paltry sum of attention they have received. Realize that these people are the descendants of the First Americans. After all the atrocities committed to them, from attempted extermination to the death of cultures through re-education, wouldn’t it seem reasonable to meet them halfway? Wouldn’t it seem reasonable to recognize the possible special needs and circumstances that they now find themselves in? Wouldn’t it also seem reasonable to do whatever possible to allow these folks to improve their condition and lives as they see fit? As we have seen, one of the key ways to improve our lives is through the attainment of an adequate education. From what I can see, we have no other course of action but to do what we can to bring this to fruition. Granted we may not have had a hand in the crimes committed by our forefathers. Yet as their descendants, the responsibility falls on our shoulders to heal what may still be some open wounds. Remember that crimes were still being committed in what could have been just one previous page in history books. These words cannot be erased. Yet, the future has not been written yet. Hopefully, we can write a book worth reading.