Living Oblivion

Apathy is a sort of living oblivion. - Horace Greeley

Poll Reveals What Americans Really Know About Ukraine »

And this is what’s wrong with America.

The Perplexing Case of the Michael Dunn ‘Loud Music’ Trial

So a guy is at a gas station and some kids in a car next to him are playing their music too loud. He asks them to turn it down, they do. Then they allegedly turn it back up, and suddenly the guy’s so angry he starts shooting into the car even as the kids begin to drive away. One of the kids is killed.

Today the wonderful people of Florida (aka the people who somehow found George Zimmerman not guilty) came to a verdict. They found Michael Dunn guilty on four counts of attempted murder (of the three surviving teens), in which he faces at least 60 years in prison. And yet, because of the Stand Your Ground law and the lack of clarity as to whether the dead teen Jordan Davis possessed a weapon, the jury wasn’t able to determine whether Dunn is guilty of second degree murder. In other words, the jury decided that Dunn definitely tried to kill three kids, but they’re unsure if he murdered the one who is no longer living. 

What kind of world do we live in where a death caused by a fatal gunshot isn’t a clear-cut murder? Part of this might be my personal inability to understand how the Stand Your Ground law essentially makes murder permissible in the case of self-defense. As far as I’m concerned, murder is murder. But apparently that’s not how the state of Florida sees it. And frankly, the verdict in cases like this and that of George Zimmerman are making me lose faith in our country’s justice system.

“There’s a section in the book where a young Lieutenant named Dave Roller, who has just lost his Captain, Tom Bostick, and has lost other friends, ruminates on the fact that most of the American people cared more about Paris Hilton at that moment than they did about what he and his friends were doing. I think that detachment is a big part of our country right now.”

– Jake Tapper, on his book “The Outpost”

Iran's Rouhani may meet Obama at UN after American president reaches out »

A meeting, whether formal or otherwise, between President Obama and Iranian leadership would be huge, signalling a change in policy toward Iran for the first time since 1979.

How to Feel About Ariel Castro's Suicide »

While I in no way disagree that Ariel Castro was a monster, I’m not sure I can totally agree with the violent emotions of the author. 

Despite the horrific nature of his actions, Ariel Castro was a human being who took his own life. Perhaps I’m simply too sensitive to suicide, but in some bleeding heart way I think it callous that news outlets find it sufficient to simply state that he was found hanging in his cell and move on.

On the other hand, Castro held these women captive for years, yet was unable to handle a life of imprisonment himself. As my friend said, he can dish it but he clearly can’t take it.

"The arc of the moral universe may bend toward justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own. To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency."

A Place At The Table

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Today, A Place At The Table is released nation-wide. I was fortunate enough to catch a sneak peek earlier this week at New America NYC, where the filmmakers were also present for a Q&A following the screening.

If you don’t read the rest of this, my main point is: go see this film. 

A little background: A Place At The Table looks at the troubling issue of hunger in the US, despite our sufficient collective wealth to provide nutritious food for the entire population. Unlike the stereotype of the starving African child, hunger in this country does not look like skin and bones. On the contrary, due to high subsidies for starchy products such as wheat, corn, and soy, many malnourished people in this country are actually obese. It must nevertheless be clarified that their being overweight does not mean that they don’t suffer, quite literally, from hunger.

While the documentary is itself both moving and fascinating, the most salient point came out during the discussion following the film. (NB: The panelists included the filmmakers, Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson, as well as celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, who was featured in the film.) The panelists acknowledged that this documentary would largely appeal to left-leaning people for ‘ethical reasons.’ However, they also pointed out that there are convincing arguments for people of all political backgrounds to support changes in our food and farm policies, specifically those surrounding SNAP (or, food stamps). 

The first motivation is economic. The right does not generally support higher taxes — particularly those that go toward social programs that benefit the poor. Yet programs like food stamps, in economic terms, are actually cheaper in the long-run.

The second is relating to security. A military official is quoted in the film as saying that obesity harms the ability of persons in the US to enlist and perform in the military. With a rising obesity rate, this could undoubtedly harm the strength of our military, and consequently, our national security.

The third is relating to our competitiveness. The United States is one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world. Yet each day our strength is threatened by the growth of other countries. In order to maintain our competitiveness on an international level, our entire population must be healthy in order to continue to perform and excel in everything we do.

Ultimately, the filmmakers created this documentary not only to raise awareness of the epidemic of hunger in the United States, but also to encourage people to take action. They noted that in many cases it can take as little as six phone calls to motivate politicians to work toward changes in our legislation. If sequestration takes effect today, and if the farm bill fails in November, a lot of social programs that help impoverished people to get the little sustenance they do will be cut. Therefore, the first step is to encourage legislators to support these programs. The more long-term goal is to change the nature of our food subsidies. If produce were subsidized, this would bring down the cost of healthier food options. In turn, low-income families would be saved from having to make the choice between four Big Macs that can feed the whole family and one watermelon (which is significantly lower in calories, and therefore fills you less). 

So I’ve rambled enough by now, but I want to leave you with one quote from the film that particularly stood out to me from the film:

"America has a big stigma of the family eating together at the table. But they don’t talk about what it takes to get there or what’s there when you are." - Barbie