Sunday, 7 December 2014

Inequality - Civil Rights

The Moment I Realised What It Means To Be A Minority

This is an article from the Huffington Post, posted on the 1st December by an American journalist named Nasir Fleming. In the article Fleming talks about the first moment he realised he was "different".

'I discovered that I was black in the third grade. No -- not really. I have always known that I had brown skin, but I did not start to realise what having brown or black skin represented in a social, economic and legal context until halfway through elementary school.'

He goes on to talk about several defining moments in his childhood where he felt singled out 

'During my younger years, I attended a predominantly white elementary school. In the third grade, after finishing our lesson about the Civil Rights Movement, my teacher stated, "If it weren't for Martin Luther King Jr., Nasir and [other student] would not be in this class with us today." I'm sure that my grade-school teacher did not mean any harm by this comment, but it was definitely shocking -- mainly because I did not recognise any major differences between my classmates and myself'

His feelings of inferiority are soon forgotten however, until the moment he realise that although his teachers told him that times have changed now, its not actually true. Fleming argues that although race is a social construct and does not scientifically exist, the concept of race still institutionally and socially outs people of colour at a disadvantage. Having witnessed certain recent events eg the killings of Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and although its not mentioned the more recent unnecessary death of Eric Garner, unjust mass incarceration rates, enormous poverty gaps, de facto segregation of neighbourhoods and schools and lack of colour diversity amongst people in social, political and economic power, Fleming came to the harsh realisation that people of colour are not equal, nor will they ever be.

Fleming believes that the reason why people of colour will never be equal is because today's society is a society that has literally been constructed for white people to excel and succeed and that this is something that everyone should realise and accept, period. This critical view is not positive in fact Fleming ends the article in way that provides little hope for the future.

'I recommend that we just admit that we live in a society where race plays a role in our daily lives. Denying the idea of race will not make it go away. I recommend that all people, no matter what colour, self-reflect and question their understanding of race and how race affects them, whether in a positive or negative way. Once this self-reflection is complete and we recognise the injustices of this system, then we can better plan to make a change. Our "American experience" should not be minimised by the hue of our skin.'
Overall, the article highlights the issue of racial inequality as a relevant issue in modern day America, saying that contrary to popular belief recent events in America prove that there is still tension over civil rights.

Extreme Wealth Inequality

The article I found that outlined the extreme wealth inequality evident in the US had embedded this YouTube video that effectively demonstrates the differences between what Americans think is the case with the wealth distribution, what their ideal would be and what it actually is.

The video concludes with these echoing lines:

"We certainly don't have to go all the way to socialism to find something that is fair for hard-working Americans. We don't even have to achieve what most of us consider might be ideal. All we need to do is wake up and realise that the reality in this country is not at all what we think it is."

Looking through the comments of the video, on YouTube, it became quite evident to me that Americans, even after seeing the evidence right in front of them, are still adamant that becoming a 'millionaire' only requires knowledge, persistence and hard work. Despite the fact this video has told them otherwise. One comment that stuck out was from 'strangetamer' with only sixty-two likes, out of the sixteen million people that viewed the video.

"Your super hard work ethic doesn't scare the hyper-rich, in fact, they love you for it!...The harder you work the more you get screwed. Its the perfect system...they'll buy politicians who will be paid to tell you to that the American dream is just around the corner and you just have to work a little harder and get the right qualifications for a good job. They want you to succeed in the work force so they can steal your money in the form of dividends and profits."

This comment, understandably, sparked a whole new debate amongst the comment-ers. It's supposedly quite easy to earn money if you work hard enough for it and not just work hard.

"You know who that one percent is? Millionaires. There is nothing wrong with that. I want to be a millionaire one day, and I don't think 75% of my income should go to the fucking government. And btw, literally anyone with a good work ethic, and some creativity and intelligence can become a millionaire."

This comment-er seems to believe that it is ridiculously easy to become a millionaire in the United States, and he or she evidently embodies the type of person the video is aimed at - the completely disillusioned.

The article ends on this single note:

"Maybe we really do need a socialist revolution."

And maybe they do.

Sources: &

Wealth Inequality in America

This video published in 2012 caught the attention of citizens all over the United States and social media, in regards to the state of inequality in America, concerning wealth and poverty. The video highlights the difference between the US and their perception of inequality considering the ‘ideal’ and the ‘real’ statistics. It is evident from the nineteenth century onwards there is a growing inequality of the rich and the poor that was accentuated by immigration, however, it is interesting to note the viewpoints of actual American’s. Even the publisher states – ‘The reality is often not what we think it is.’
It is hard to perceive the United States as a country who on the surface seem to be financially independent and they encourage the success of their own, in accordance with the American Dream. The comparison of the Great Depression and the recent recession in 2008 suggests how could America possibly reach this state of decay whereby its citizens are struggling. According to the statistics shown in the video, the average worker would have to work more than a month to earn what their CEO would earn within one hour. Consequently, eight out of ten people in America only have 7% of the country’s wealth, ranging from the poor to the highest of the middle class, bordering on the rich. Subsequently, 1% of the population have 40% of the all the nation’s wealth.
Hence, this video seems to position itself amongst those who believe socialist’s ideas, whereby everything and everybody should be equal. The commentator who addresses the citizens of America as ‘we’, implies he is an American too, yet demonstrates the distribution of wealth in America to highlight the disproportion.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Urban Poverty

1930s America- The Great Depression

Like many urban Americans who were victims of the 'Great Depression', these children pictured above, are indication of the sign 'Hoover's poor Farm', to be residents of 'Hooverville' (named after president Hoover). Shanty town set ups, these communities  of the poor , were common within major cities, for example Central Park Reservoir in 1931-1933,  They existed for those who were not able to pay for rent or became destitute in other ways. Not only is this photo hard hitting, because of the presentation of children in such a depressing environment, The fact that they are almost a literal sympathy advertisement feature, as they advertise the 'Hoover's Poor Farm - Tobacco Fund' indicating people of the time had to resort to begging to obtain tobacco and other products. Additionally, it can been seen as a piece of protest propaganda, designed to create a negative attitude toward the President, which i believe it does strongly do.

2014 America - The Great Recession

I picked this photo, because i wanted to see if the visual impact of one children themed photo from 1931 would be similar in 2014. The image again portrays the difficulties faced during periods of financial hardship. The use of signs saying 'please help' and 'work for food' is further evidence of the limited stability that occurs in families. Although, the image does not show the state of the living conditions the american poor have to live in, unlike the picture above, that clearly shows the almost primitive types of housing available. The use of children in these images , create a significant question of the position the mothers have to deal with.

Urban Poverty

The above picture is taken from a collection of photographs of a Mrs Ella Watson, taken by renowned photographer Gordon Parks (1912-2006) who wanted to document the African-American experience in Washington D.C. This photograph was taken at dinner time, as the collection followed both her public and private lives to draw attention to the multiple roles in her life, and depicts a busy room full of children. We can see Mrs E. Watson feeding one child on her lap, with two more sitting at a small, cramped table and feeding themselves. In the mirror there is a reflection of another, older, child who is watching on. as if supervising.

Mrs E. Watson would go to work at 5:30 p.m. and clean offices, halls and toilets before returning home at 2:30 a.m. From the photograph we can see how cramped life was for them. Despite having a stable job, Mrs E. Watson was still forced to live with her family, which included five children in total, which she supported on a salary of $1,080 a year in a cramped apartment.

Above we can see a similar image. An African-American family with a small living space and a lot of children. This image depicts a life so similar to Mrs E. Watson's and her family's that it is almost impossible to believe that they're over seventy years apart.

Sources: &

From Wealthy to Nothing

The Great Depression

This is an image of Walter Thornton, a stockbroker who lost all of his money when the stock market crashed on Black Tuesday. This image was probably used to invoke some sense of empathy, as I'm sure Walter is selling off his auto-mobile for what I assume to be a relatively small amount of money. I chose this image due to the underwhelming amount of knowledge that I have on people who where considerably wealthy before the Depression and what happened to them afterwards, I naturally just assumed that they suffered like everyone else. However, although the man in this image appears to be in some sense of turmoil, apart from the pricing of his auto-mobile, nothing in this image really indicates that he was greatly impacted.
 Many of the wealthy in fact where not greatly impacted by the depression as only 40% of the country were hardly affected, although it could be argued that Walter was only impacted because he attempted to trade on the stock market and it fell through. I look at this image as a comment on how many people where lured into a false sense of security during the roaring twenties and despite the many 'mini' recessions that happened during that time, the American aspect of capitalism encouraged people to risk more, to want more until there was nothing left to give, ending up with people like Walter who risked all their money on the stock market, hoping that the strength of the American dollar would surely lead them to even more success and fortune. However, this was not the case and like Walter many people lost everything.

During the 'Great' recession in 2008 Lehman Brothers a global financial services firm filed for bankruptcy. before filing for bankruptcy, Lehman Brothers was the fourth  largest investment bank in the US. I chose this image due to that fact that the sign the men are carrying into Christie's, used to hold so much respect and prestige within investment banking. however, after the recession hit, the sign became a joke, a symbol of failure and collapse. The fall of Lehman Brothers Inc was seen to be a significant part of the recession and is thought to have played a major role in the unfolding of the late 2008 recession.
In comparison to the picture above from the Great Depression, it could be interpreted as a symbol of the flaws of capitalism. Two years after the recession a court case found that many executives at the bank used cosmetic accounting gimmicks at the end of each quarter in order to make its finances appear less shaky then they already were, encouraging more people to give away their money and invest it under a false sense of security. Also, in comparison to the picture above, this picture shows people willing to sell anything in order to make money, just like Walter Thornton in the picture above who is selling his auto-mobile, the two men in the picture below appear to be carrying the Lehman Brothers sign into Christie's for an auction to sell it.

Both of these images do show that regardless of public speculation, it is not only the less fortunate who suffer, on both circumstances people who would normally be considered as wealthy can be just as affected as those who are less fortunate.

Poverty in America

The Great Depression

<> accessed 29 November 2014.

The representation of the United States as a nation of wealth who became the leading industrial power in 1914, consequently resulted in the Great Depression in the 1930s after the stock market crash (Black Tuesday), otherwise referred to as the end of the economic boom. This image portrays the struggle for individuals, causing unemployment, debt and significant financial hardship as the US economy was in a state of decline. The tough reality of urban America sees children begging, pleading on behalf of their parents for work or at least food and shelter. In this hard-hitting time, parents went out looking for work, as well as older children, whilst the younger children had to look after themselves, yet they were still helping by making these signs in order to support the family as a whole. In this image, it conveys the reality of the struggle for families with one young boy’s sign stating ‘Why can’t you give my Dad a job?’ In particular, one young girl’s sign reads: ‘Rarig’s kid doesn’t starve, why should we?’ – This references Rarig Engineering Company*, who manufactured large steam engines and heavy steel structural products. This was an expanding industry due to the governments need for steam engines. Therefore, this successful company who most likely belonged to a successful businessman with children, could feed his family and support them.

*Barrett, Richard, Images of America: Columbus 1860-1910 (Illinois: Arcadia, 2005), p. 66.

Contemporary America

The image above is the representation and reality of El Paso, Texas in contemporary America. With the effects of the 2008 recession, the increased statistic of poverty in the United States is similar to the devastation in the early twentieth century. According to the Huffington Post, ‘the U.S. poverty rate was essentially unchanged at 15 percent in 2012, as roughly 46.5 million people were stuck living at or below the poverty line.’ Reiterating the title of America as a nation of wealth is a universal assumption on the basis of success, and innovation the country has had over the past century, yet, this image and article shows the reality of how real contemporary America is living in. The country’s national ideal of the American Dream, and ethos of social mobility only reaches the minority of individuals who have achieved success as discussed in a previous blog post (Zuckerberg), yet it is the majority who are suffering from such basic daily survival needs such as food and shelter as severely shown in the image. It begs the question as to why in the twenty-first century are there are millions of citizens who are in this position, where the country overall is seen as wealthy and prosperous due to the images of American culture that people around the world view through television and film, ignoring the harsh reality and conditions of the entire population.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

From Rags to Riches - Ralph Lifshitz

As the head of a a global clothing corporation and an estimated personal wealth of $7.5 million, with thousands of employees, awards, cars and properties, including a house in 5th Avenue, Ralph Lauren's (formally Ralph Lifshitz) is a physical embodiment of 'Rags to Riches', an icon of 'The American Dream'. who 'Created a brand synonymous with a superior lifestyle' 

His story, of a very similar nature to the one of Richard Hunter presented in Horatio Algers' Ragged Dick. who's concepts promote the idea, that through hard work, ambition and honesty, the acquisition of wealth, property and respectability could be accomplished. The video documentary about the rise of Ralph Lauren to become an american icon, is in many ways linked to that of Algers juvenile 'hero', a impoverish youth in a underdeveloped and challenging area of New York City (Bronx projects NYC) with an interest in self-indulgence to visit the cinema, as similarly did Dick in his visits to the Old Bowery. Ralph Lauren's passion derived from icons such as Fred Astair and Gary Grant, who's position's derived a sense of superiority and class, that was inaccessible to him at the time. 

Ralph Lauren, like that of Ragged Dick, developed his initial career with a variety of different low paid vocations. His move to educate himself at night school in salesmenship, is linked to that of Ragged Dicks educational improvement with Fosdick. After employment as a salesmen for Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren's move to self-establishment of his own brand, and faced with a challenge of naming it between 'Players' and 'Polo' he chose the idea linked to that of the latter, although ending up using his own name as the brand, as it was (the game of polo) the symbolic sport of the financial elite, a group he aspired to belong to. The concept of the 'American Dream' in that of perseverance, can be shown, in his initial dealing with New York retail giant Bloomingdales, who originally refused to buy his product (based on refusal to change name on the design), after which he gain a contract. selling designs that,
'took you to a fantasy world; to and island, the Hamptons, to the West' John Varvatos (Ralph Lauren's protege)
Ralph Lauren, developed into a chain of outlets and flagship stores  (including $30 million Rhinelander mansion , NYC),  and despite past corporate/personal financial difficulties (related to Dick's near bankruptcy by Jim Travis), health issues, and going public on the stock exchange (that nearly destroyed the company) Ralph Lauren, remains, one of America richest men, who started off selling handmade ties to schoolmates. An individual who's works and accomplishments are undeniable of the concept of 'The American Dream' and happens to have a life story very similar but that goes beyond that of Ragged Dick.

Friday, 21 November 2014

'You won't achieve the American Dream by dreaming'

CBS News Online Article

Tobak, Steve, “You won’t achieve the American Dream by dreaming,” CBS Moneywatch, CBS News, 2011. <> accessed 20 November 2014.

It can be argued that the objective of the American Dream is built from a ‘rag to riches’ story due to the notion of the national ethic as seen in Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick. However, in accordance with the article from CBS Moneywatch, it simply states, ‘You won’t achieve the American Dream by dreaming’. A prime example in contemporary America from a social media perspective of a modern rise of success, is Mark Zuckerburg, founder and CEO of Facebook. The article in a way argues against the typical ideology of the American Dream, that high profile businessmen such as Zuckerburg do not have these high aspirations, they simply work hard, and achieve success through ‘passion’ and ‘strong work ethic’. This is parallel to the narrative of Ragged Dick in the sense that Dick’s success is built on the moral grounds of working hard in difficult circumstances and eventually his hard work enables him to live a better life, not a life of extreme wealth, but one that sees him off the streets.
The CBS article also states: ‘You get there by delivering the goods, getting the job done, and satisfying the needs of your customer, whoever that is.’ For Zuckerberg, this is evident by the successful enterprise of Facebook which was built after Zuckerberg’s interest for computers and programming which transformed into the biggest platform for social media which was simply built in his college dorm room. As the article confirms, ‘When Mark Zuckerburg was developing Facebook, he was building something he thought would be cool. He wasn’t thinking about running a big company and becoming a billionaire.’ This transforms the national ideology into one that is not a straightforward or stereotypical as it may seem. It appears that in fact the dream only takes place after the success of an individual, due to the idea that the dream is so grand and there is not a concrete set of rules to reach the end goal. Therefore the ones who simply work hard and accomplish their ‘dreams’, their success is not measured on a scale of wealth, of course it is a great reward, but it ultimately resides in the personal achievements of the individual.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Gun Control

The Brady Campaign

The Brady Campaign

'Guns are not like drugs.. they are not smuggled into our country.... they are so easy to get hold of they are smuggled out of the US'

The Brady Campaign focuses on the issues of Guns through the use of statistics, which manage to bring home the hard hitting truth about the amount of accidental deaths of children and innocent people by guns. It also highlights the issues with trying to pass the gun control laws, by stating that the only way in which people will begin to listen and realise that guns are dangerous weapons and have no place in a home is through education.
The Brady Campaign seeks to raise funds for local communities to stop the local gun crime, this includes "bad apple" gun dealers; who supply guns without checking the background of their buyers, making it shockingly simple for any individual to buy a gun with "no tax and no paperwork".
One of the way in which the Brady campaigns aims to decrease the amount of violent gun related deaths in the US, is through the passing of policies such as keeping guns from people who can readily be identified as having bad intent, through the use of thorough Brady background checks which have managed to stop over 2 million illegal purchases of firearms and anti-trafficking policies that could play a big part in keeping guns out if the hands of local gangs.
Another way in which the Campaign aims to decrease the amount of needless deaths is through technology, using innovation in such away that prevents criminals from using stolen guns, and allowing police and dealers to effectively recognise stolen firearms.

Keep and Bear Arms

Keep and Bear Arms

'helping lawful people maintain their abilities to protect themselves and the people they love effectively from anyone who would do them harm - through legal, private ownership and use of guns. We also stand for the repealing of all gun laws which infringe on the civil rights of peaceable women and men to defend their own lives and property.'

Keep and Bear Arms is a website that says its goal it to rightly inform people about their Second Amendment rights and to correctly inform them about this right without the propaganda that other sites who may promote gun control suggest. The website starts of with the question, 'are you a red-blooded American?... with freedom running thick in your veins'. 

The websites main purpose is to teach people about their rights and it ironically does so in such way that oddly reminds me of propaganda... the formidable image of an " I WANT YOU" poster springs to mind when I read their goals of reminding the American people of the fundamental rules that the great nation of America was founded on and making them away that one of these rights the Second Amendment  is slowly being eroded away buy unconstitutional gun control laws.

In comparison to The Brady Campaign website this website isn't as professionally laid out and despite the use of strong language "born to freedom" its doesn't give much in the way of information as to what the organisations current projects are in order to spread their message; yes the do mention the fact that they aim to 'enlist' several high ranking reporters from all stated in order to bring further attention to themselves but other than that there really isn't that much of an argument. 

Which made me wonder, is it possible that The Brady Campaign's website was more professional and attractive due to the fact that gun control is only popular with a minority of people and that the use of colour and interactive videos is to attract others into their way of thinking. therefore, the Keep and Bear Arms website doesn't have to try as hard because in way, they have already "won" the argument.

The Right to Bear Arms: Gun Control

Pro-gun control -

I found this website when searching the simple term 'anti-guns in America' however this website of 'moms' is not exactly anti-guns, they just want to raise awareness and have some form of 'gun sense' policies introduced to avoid senseless and avoidable shootings that leave families heartbroken. Their aim is to 'mobilize moms and families to advocate for stronger gun laws', something that, from Caitlin King's story, is very needed.

"It's time for all of us to come together and demand lasting changes that will keep our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren safe." 
Caitlin King, San Francisco, California

Caitlin King is one of the 'Faces of Courage' listed on the website, and she wrote an article explaining her reasons for fighting for better gun control. As a teacher, she experienced guns a lot with students falling into gangs and, when teaching in New York, every few months or so they'd receive a notice from their principle to alert them to the fact that a student had been shot, sometimes fatally. She comments that, more often than not, students handled this better than teachers, something I found quite interesting. Surely other students, that would have seen this person in the halls and gone to lessons with them, would be able to relate to the person more and would therefore be more shocked than a teacher that maybe taught them once or twice a week? Caitlin answers my queries in the same sentence, it was "because they were used to it". 

The pure idea of someone not being shocked by the fact that someone had been shot, and possibly killed, near to their school or maybe in their neighbourhood is completely foreign to me, mainly because I haven't been brought up in a society that so readily allows guns. The fact that students became "used to" hearing about people, their friends, being shot is evidence enough that need to persevere in their mission.

#GroceriesNotGuns is one of their main campaigns as the grocery store 'Kroger' has policies that allow customers to openly carry guns in its stores, "where moms and their kids shop every day". We've all heard about senseless shootings in public places, well a few have taken place at 'Kroger' brand stores in recent years, a fault in their policies allows things like this to happen. 

"Private businesses like Kroger have the responsibility to protect their customers when the law won't."

This is evidence of their main fight, the fact that the law will not protect people that are caught in these shootings. By allowing open carry and such freedom of guns, there are more and more innocent citizens put at risk, even the ones that carry guns responsibly themselves. There are a few people that cannot control their guns and they should not be allowed to carry them but with weak laws in most states it means that a majority of people, as long as they are the right age, are allowed to buy and carry guns without a background check or training. There's a sense of recklessness of legislation portrayed by the momsdemandaction website when they speak of the flimsy laws that allow shootings to happen daily, and the government do not even try and prevent it. 

Anti-gun control -

Whereas momsdemandaction want stronger laws, the National Rifle Association describe themselves as America's "longest-standing civil rights organization", as they defend their second amendment rights. 

"When you sign up to defend your Second Amendment freedoms..."

On their membership page, it is written that you will receive a multitude of 'member-only' discount at many nationwide brands and this seems to almost be used as a bribe to support the freedom of guns. Despite the website aiming to support the liberty that comes with owning and bearing arms they seem to feel the need to create an exclusivity to their association to entice more people to join – with discounts and the feeling of fighting for and 'supporting' their civil rights.

The NRA believes that their second amendment rights should not be taken away or restricted as they were in the original promise of liberty that the country was founded upon. On the other hand, momsdemandaction believe that stricter laws need to be introduced to prevent senseless crimes whereas the NRA believe that citizens need to be protected for the sake of their liberty and right to bear arms. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

The Right to Bear Arms - Pro/Anti Gun Control

The Right to Bear Arms - Pro/Anti Gun control

Anti-Gun control - Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership -                                                                   
'Sharing a common goal of opposing and reversing victim-disarmament policies while advancing liberty for all'
With the common view that most anti-gun control groups in the US are comprised of white, southern males, the discovery of a Jewish group directed by a Rabbi, was unusual in my view.
' Jews for the preservation of firearms' (JPFO) is a educational collective focusing on civil-rights activism against federal involvement on gun control legislation. Although not exclusive to the Jewish community, the JPFO derives much of its anti-gun control doctrine from Jewish; religious laws, traditions and history. Their website is a mix of information and retail, with a 11 minute video portraying JPFO's key aims and ideas of firearms control, such as their research into 'historical occurrences of the dominant and powerful instituting gun regulations to remove any armed threat from social 'undesirables'', they use the holocaust as an example. They argue that gun regulation has historically been a method of suppression and even a staring point for genocide .

The JPFO claim, like any US pro-gun group, that regulations are a infringement on their constitutional right to 'bear arms' stated in the second amendment. They promote their arguments through education, not lobbying. This is due to  the political, media and financial influences of liberal Jewish individuals such as Charles Schumer (D-NY) (sponsor of  Fix Gun Checks Act of 2013), and Michael Bloomberg (Former mayor of NY and Entrepreneur) are seen as too strong to directly combat.

 "[Liberal Jews] ...Driven by some sort of perverse, long-term, suicidal impulse.....leading America to stand poised on a immersion into European 'Nanny-State' socialism - where there is no room in this 'delusional grand scheme for 'the armed citizen' (Rabbi Bendory)  .

The groups website is a hub of far reaching theories , about how Liberal Jews are betraying the rest of the Jewish community from their divinely ordained 'right to self-defence' and how they are collaborating with a government, who base their gun laws (1968) on a frame Hitler's Nazi Sate developed in the 1930's. They claim regulation would leave a cyber/paper trail of who and from which ethnic group owns a firearm, Thus leading to the paranoia of 'mass continental confiscation of weaponry by the federal government'. The group however, has little opinion, research or information on limited gun regulation, such as removal of assault weapons and large ammunition clips, with the aim  to help prevent massacres. The idea that a mentally impaired Jew with a  gun could be is any less dangerous than a Christian, Muslim or atheist with a gun, is just uncomprehendable to me.

Pro-Gun Control - The Brady Campaign

The website for the Brady campaign is simplistically structured with hard hitting statistics and linked to alternative campaigns (gun control to combat suicide and infanticide)  on gun violence in the US, it is a key source for understanding those who are advocates for gun-control.

Their aim :'changing how we think about the guns in our communities and in our homes.' , The groups challenge to stop gun violence is one of regulation, not confiscation. The Brady Campaign web site, is sectioned into the area of gun control that it is involved in, from proving legal representation to victims of gun violence to social enhancement programmes aimed at children the promotion of education on gun safety is a key part of their overall aim.

With statistics showing that gun violence is a current social issue, and that any regulations are based on contemporary not historical events.

'9 out of  10 Americans agree that we should have universal background checks, including three out of four NRA members.'

'On average, 32 Americans are murdered with guns every day '

'An average of eight children and teens under the age of 20 are killed by guns every day'

The site does not emphasis the views of extreme anti-gun advocates, that all weapons in the US should be banned, or sold and used in strictly regulated areas. The site emphasises the modern social need to regulate guns based on common sense and societies current attitude.

Overall, the comparison between the JPFO's website and that of the Brady Campaign is in the, layout of the sites and how they express their views. JPFO, focus on selling media products of theirs to radically alter the viewer attitude. They present themselves as a rather aggressive group, with a hardline view on the topic, 'there should be absolute gun freedom, or no guns at all' , which I really do not agree with, compromise would be of greater benefit to society, and the claims that the US government are basically structured like the Nazi's is ludicrous. Brady Campaign however, presents a site with well sourced statistics and , evidence that they can and are making a legislative change to gun-control in the US.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Gun Control

Pro-gun control -

In observing female American’s perspective on the subject of gun control, it is interesting to see how women who are traditionally seen as the subordinate sex, their opinion and reaction to the ownership and use of guns. One website that caught my attention with their bold title is the ‘Armed Females of America’ which openly affirms their view that they are a group of women who are pro-gun control. On initial visit of their website, sprawled over the banner of their webpage is the Second Amendment from the Bill Of Rights, reinforcing the right for people to bear arms, regardless of whether you are male or female. The overall design and discourse on the website can only be described as quite extreme, reinforcing that they as women are trying to make a stand that they are ‘free’ due to the legislation in place that they are able to own firearms as a human right to protect themselves and their loved ones and are ‘prepared to fight’. Under their ‘mission’, the group state: ‘We always seek peaceful solutions first, but never underestimate the aim of… Armed Females.’ This seems to me to be a very aggressive way of promoting gun control, especially for females, which I do agree with the fact that women in any society are seen as subordinate to men, therefore why the connotations of guns i.e. violence and death, are always typically associated with men. Therefore, I can understand women not wanting to be dismissed by having the right to own a weapon for protection of themselves and their loved ones. However, this website seems to project a sense of extremism, due to the powerful statements they make. For example, in their frequently asked questions page, they reveal:

‘To some, our message may sound extreme. If you listen to the rhetoric of the anti's, more often than not, they are far more strident. Our position at AFA is, any persons, or groups that publicly (or privately) call for the destruction of any part of our Bill of Rights are the REAL extremists!’

‘The eye [in our banner] is a subtle message to our lawmakers and the other anti-freedom organizations in our society that says WE ARE WATCHING YOU!’

‘If you’re looking for a women’s organization to exchange cooking recipes, talk about child rearing or stitchery, then this is not the place for you.’

Anti-gun control -

In contrast, the website ‘Moms Demand Action’ want to promote gun sense in America. The organization was founded by a mother Shannon Watts, in response to the devastation of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The website seeks to help spread awareness of gun violence prevention, although they support the Second Amendment in the Bill Of Rights, they believe there has to be common sense with the responsibility of possessing a firearm. It sparks valid reasoning due to the devastation of the shooting at Sandy Hook, to decrease the number of lives taken of loved ones. This organization seeks to promote stronger gun laws to protect their main concern, children. They reveal ‘nearly eight American children are shot and killed every day’ which reinforces the terrifying reality that ultimately these weapons were designed to kill, yet are taking vulnerable children and adults lives. Their most popular campaign is #Groceriesnotguns, which they are trying to get large grocery stores to ‘adopt common-sense gun policies in their stores’, due to the current policy that allows any individual to openly carry guns into stores. The argument ‘Moms Demand Action’ are stating is mothers and their kids are shopping in these stores every day where there has unfortunately been fatalities concerning guns in famous brand grocery stores. Overall, the organization seem to have valid reasoning in my opinion as to why there should be more strict policies to protect the population to encourage a safe environment for everyone, as surely every citizen has the right and freedom to want to live in a better place without the impending effect of guns?

Sunday, 9 November 2014

"Just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day..." Liberty & Freedom

This is a clip from the HBO drama - "The Newsroom". It can be found on YouTube under "the most honest three minutes in television history". Whether this controversial topic was just for the ratings or a voice to the...voiceless? Doesn't seem to matter, it has got the majority thinking, and not just in America. Freedom is an aspect, a fundamental concept of American liberty. This is an expression of an expression, an expression inception. Through the relaitvely "free" press/media, this character is conveying his view on American freedom. Freely stating that this notion of America the Great, isn't what it seems, and actually sincerely voicing what many people, not just Americans beleive. This almost contradicts American liberty, he is using his 'freedom' (is it really freedom if it's scripted?) to undermine the patriotic American pride.
  I genuinely thought that this would be considered as Libel in the U.S and the poor scriptwriter would become part of the leading number of incarcerated adults per capital. Interesting, I'm curious as to whether the statistics he mentioned are actually correct? The number of adults who beleive angels are real and the leaders in defence spending? They all seem pretty beleivable but, it is just a TV show. Does it mean something that this viral speech on American liberty, is actually artificial? Was that the only way to get through to the masses? Or the only way for the masses to be heard?
This is a loaded speech and directly links to freedom, economy, morals, fighting for whats right, fighting against poverty and not against the poor, being informed by 'great' men, technological advances and curing diseases. All of these things embody American Liberty, but, do they exist anymore?"When you ask about why I think America is the greatest country in the world, I don't know what the (f..k) you're talking about".


 As a contemporary issue of mass controversy, the campaign for the legalization of Marijuana (M.J)  has been heavily covered by the media and continuing political debate. Now with the number of states that grant the use of marijuana, for medical purposes standing at 23, with two states (Washington and Colorado) in a legal position to permit marijuana. to be sold in state regulated 'weed shops', many questions and discussions have arising concerning the legitimacy for the states legislature to legalize a intoxicating substance that is seen under federal law to be an illicit item. With the main argument developing about the the rights of the states to create laws that oppose federal policy.

Amendment X of the US constitution (1789) sates that 'The powers not delegated to the United States by the constitution, nor the prohibited by the it to the states, are  reserved to the states respective, or to the people'  -  simply,  nowhere int the federal constitution is Congress given authority to regulate local matters concerning the health safety , and morality of state residence. This viewed infringement on the constitutional rights of the states to create laws that effect only that state, have lead to massive public pressure on the US government to decrease its attacks on states such as Colorado and Washington. Because of the Federal Governments continued 'War on Drugs', every President since Nixon has had to deal with the growing issues surrounding the domestic use of narcotics. As a standing point for political campaigning many Presidents and other politicians have promised the electorate, to reduce drug influence in the US. This has led to a battle between the executive in maintain an image of electoral appeasement , through regulation on 'legalized' states' and the states themselves who reject federal intervention 

The Video, along with being predominately informative about the 'weed' markets workings in the 'legalized state'. It also provides the viewer with an insight into the political issues attached with this topic. The interview with former Montana state Governor Brian Schweiter showed that although states resident have the prerogative to vote for what they want and don't want as laws in their state. Using constitutionally structured voting method e.g. Initiatives (70% voted for legislation of medical marijuana in 2004). However strict regulation form the Bush administration led to a small  number of residents applying for medical marijuana card, the increase in medical marijuana users after Obama's election  rose to 30,000. Claim for greater state independence is strongly advocated by Gov. Schweiter that 'if states want medical Marijuana and passes it through legislature or citizens initiatives let them regulate it'

The video additionally shows also how by allowing individuals the freedom to purchase, stock and sell  marijuana in 'legalized states' does not only give that person the freedom to influence their body with a substance (on the same basis of smoking or drinking), and without the consequence of legal action. It also provides opportunity for individuals to purchase an outlet and make a legitimate business. That outlet does have to pay tax of around 25%-27% on their products  resulting in a massive tax income for the state. Which then is invested into greater state development projects. 'Colorado, sales of retail marijuana have reaped about $18.9 million in state taxes (with a percentage to go to local governments)' (Huffington Post 2014)

In conclusion, the video from CNN- 'Gone to Pot' , manages to explain how the development of shops selling marijuana has contributed to the local economy, as well as how the confrontation with the federal government has led to great debate over the use of individual states constitutional rights. which could impacting on the freedoms and liberties of individuals.

I DO NOT Pledge Allegiance

Having been asked to find a Youtube video that appropriately conveys American liberty, I initially found it quite difficult as the only videos that appeared after searching on Youtube were either songs written be Lee Greenwood, or memorial video dedicated to fallen US soldiers. This video however, was created as a part of an American liberal/progressive political and social commentary program called TYT University, the "TYT" standing for The Young Turks. In this video the video hosts discuss an incident in which a high school girl named Chelsea Stanton from New Jersey was recently reprimanded by her school for refusing to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance in class due to her disagreeing with the use of the word "God" in the pledge and her beliefs as an atheist.

The interesting thing about this report is mainly the views and comments made by the students that the reporters interviewed, some said that Stanton "has" and "should" stand out of respect and patriotism. However the hosts of the Youtube show agree with Stanton's stand point and argue that America was founded on people seeking religious freedom and the freedom of speech is available to all. The video host even compares the comments made by other high schools students to comments or views expressed in various media outlets in the Western world about people being "forced" to recite or do acts against their will in countries that the United States would deem as not free e.g Russia and Saudi Arabia. The way in which the video hosts stand up for Chelsea Stanton, to me, truly conveys "American Liberty" as they recognise her right to express her own individual beliefs and to not participate in anything she does not truly believe in just because everyone else around her is doing it.

Same-Sex Marriage in the US

When asked to find a video that effectively expressed an aspect of American Liberty I did not really know what to choose, however when I stumbled across this video of two women getting married, I decided that the topic of same-sex marriage would be interesting to look further into. The video shows two women, who had originally been thinking of going to other states where same-sex marriage was legalized to get married, who 'couldn't pass up the opportunity to get married in [their] own state'.

Rev. Nancy Petty from North Carolina views same-sex marriage as positive as it presents America as being an 'accepting, tolerant, diverse community', which is exactly what America should be with its complete diversity.

Thirty-two of the fifty states now allow same-sex marriages to take place, which is a large step considering it was only just over ten years ago that same-sex couples weren't allowed to get married. The first state to allow this kind of union was Massachusetts on May 17 2004, almost ten and a half years ago. The fact that now a majority of states allow this form of marriage just shows how American citizens are exercising the first amendment of the Bill of Rights and using it to their advantage to strive towards equality in their country.

'It's confirming that our relationship has the same worth and dignity as any loving couple.' Kate Burns statement seems to epitomise the idea of equality as in her opinion all love should be considered the same.

Brian Silva, Executive Director, Marriage Equality USA, speaks of how while there are still states that do not allow this union, there are people that are being denied social security, access to state benefits and all the protections that come with marriage which directly affects their liberty. There should be no reason for people who want to get married to be stopped and denied access to the freedoms and protection that they, as American citizens, should be entitled to despite the sex of the person they want to marry.

Same-sex marriage is a controversial topic in America, with Miss California stating in 2009 that, in response to her opinion of gay marriage, 'in [her] country and in [her] family [she] think[s] that [she] believe[s] that a marriage should be between a man and a woman'. This answer was received with great controversy, when she was exercising her freedom of speech that she as an American is entitled to, as a majority of American citizens are fighting towards equality and as it was banned in California at that time, she was completely within her rights to voice her own opinion. Could freedom of speech therefore only be valid when you are agreeing with a majority of the 'free' voices?

Friday, 7 November 2014

American Liberty

'Young Americans for Liberty'
Searching for a video that expressed an aspect of American liberty, there was so many avenues to explore. However, I stumbled upon this video posted by ‘YAL’ – ‘Young Americans for Liberty’. I felt this was quite appropriate, from the perspective of myself as a British student viewing American students pledge their allegiance to their country through an obvious representation of patriotism, yet pledging how to make their country reach a whole new level of freedom for their generation in the future, suppressing any stale, outdated ideas or movements in society, to create a better environment and life, and inevitably a ‘better’ America. ‘Young Americans for Liberty’ is a pro-liberty organization that is continuously growing with more than 162,000 youth activists nationwide.*

 * <> accessed 7 November 2014.

They reinforce the idea that this is not a new project, it is a ‘continuation of a youth movement already brewing in this country’. The video supports the movement and their ideas as an organization by videoing students discussing their own ‘pledges’. By ‘pledging’ their individual ideas, aspirations, national and international movements, and even referring back to the original ‘Bill of Rights’ and the 10 Amendments of the US Constitution (1789), showcases a ‘voice’ for the younger generation. It spreads the awareness of the 10 amendments that are still relative in today’s society, and it proves that this next generation are paying attention to the problems within their own country, which often students or the younger generation are criticised for not getting involved in politics and social reforms.

An interesting ‘pledge’ by one young woman, stated “I pledge to hang on to my 2nd amendment rights until they pry them out of my cold dead hands.” – Another American student also stated: “I don’t own a firearm but I pledge the right for you to own a firearm”. This is a controversial statement on the subject of the ‘right to keep and bear arms’ which is currently approved of in all states. It signifies the idea of how the future generation, those students, feel the necessity to stand for this pledge as a sense of physical protection and liberation with the possession of a firearm. Another male student also refers to the ‘Bill of Rights’, stating: “I pledge to be an advocate of the 10th amendment in respect to state sovereignty.” This refers to the amendment that advocates the ‘powers are not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” This has also proved to be controversial in current affairs due to the situation of the legalisation of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana which is questionable for debate as to why some states advocate this and not as an entire country.

Within the video, not only do young American students ‘pledge’, but a small variation of other ethnicities are included, as well as speaking in their own native language. One British man states: “I pledge to spread the message of liberty throughout the world.” Also, a Hispanic woman declares: “I pledge to always defend my rights”. An Asian man also expresses: “I pledge not to buy U.S. Treasury Bills” and conclusively, a Russian man states: “I pledge to join the libertarian revolution in Russia”. Overall, the message of the pro-liberty organization reinforces the quote displayed in the beginning of the video, by Thomas Jefferson, “Every generation needs a new revolution.”

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Contemporary Icons - Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey

One of the most famous and successful TV talk show hosts in the world and the only female black billionaire in North America, for the past 3 decades Oprah Winfrey has been able to "connect one on one with her studio and television audience by sharing her childhood story of abandonment and sexual abuse". Throughout her career however, Oprah Winfrey has received criticism from other African-Americans, for the perceived general "whiteness" of her studio and television audience, to the extent in which she has been dubbed the quintessential "mammy" because she often cries with her white audience. Although Winfrey has always identified herself as being black, many have argued that overtime due to her large success and wealth, that Winfrey is not black. Dwayne Mack's review of The Oprah Phenomenon by Jennifer Harris and Elwood Watson assesses the way in which each essay from which the book is made from touches upon the different aspects of Winfrey's life and racial identity.
They argue for various reasons as to why Winfrey, is still considered an icon several years after the cancellation of her popular talk show and the cancellation of the show from syndication. From the moment Oprah was born some would argue that the odds were stacked against her, a black female born into the patriarchal society of the early 1950's, the future of many African Americans at the time were very much limited. Early childhood trauma such as sexual abuse and teenage pregnancy forced Winfrey unwillingly into adulthood from a very young age. It is these experiences that Winfrey draws draws from on her TV show, so much in fact that, in popular culture the words "I was watching Oprah" is synonymous with tears and traumatic stories from various unprivileged victims.
Even now in 2014, Oprah Winfrey is name to be reckoned with "When OWN suffered a loss of nearly $143 million last year, critics proclaimed the network a failure. But Oprah Winfrey rebounded, breaking even earlier than expected". Her name alone holds so much weight in the entertainment, journalism and political industry that she is responsible for nearly a million votes on behalf of Barack Obama in 2008. 

Some would say that in a world where being female and black is the worst thing that could possibly happen to you, Winfrey has succeeded tremendously in ways that many have not, no matter which way you look at it. Especially from a feminist stand point, the fact that she has never had any biological children of her own or refuses to get married and she still proclaims to have a great sense of personal satisfaction is unheard of in a world that expects women to want these things above anything else. Therefore it does make sense that Oprah Winfrey is considered to be an icon in both African-American/Black communities and worldwide.

Contemporary Icons: Chuck D.

Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, better known as Chuck D., is an American icon, famous rapper, author and producer.

Yet, I have never heard of the fifty-four year old American man. This made me question how on earth he could be considered an icon, even an American one, because the stereotypical American contemporary ‘icons’, the likes of BeyoncĂ©, Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith are world-renowned, and yet Chuck D. was just a name I had heard once or twice – I would not exactly recognise him when I walked down the street. I would have put this down to my own naivety of celebrities and icons that do not directly affect me, but when I asked around literally no one had heard of this man. My family, my flatmates, my friends and even a student that lives in America had not heard of him.

I found this quite odd. How could no one have heard of a supposed American ‘icon’ to such an extreme scale? I realise that most of the people I asked were British, but if I had asked them the same about the icons listed earlier, a high percentage would know who I was talking about.

Public Enemy’s ground-breaking body of work established Chuck D. as one of the most intelligent, articulate spokesmen for the black community.
Chuck D. is actually an incredibly smart and intellectual man which is especially shown through his declination of the offer of an architecture scholarship so that he could pursue his own dreams and study graphic design. This small sign shows that he, in fact, is quite unlike the stereotypical rappers of today that rap about girls and partying just so that they can live the very lifestyle they rap about. His main influence lies in the genre of hip-hop after his involvement with Public Enemy and he is apparently known for his ‘distinct’ rapping voice above anything else. However, upon listening to some of his music, I found nothing out of the ordinary, though again that could just be the fault of my personal opinion as I do not ordinarily listen to much rap music.

During the mid-1980’s he helped to create politically and socially conscious rap music, a great alternative to the modern day rapping concerning partying, drinking and taking drugs. His music had actual meaning and he used his position of power to help to influence American society in a positive manner, which is portrayed through his countless television interviews as the way he speaks just oozes passion on the subject.

As the founder of Public Enemy, Chuck D. is one of the most colossal figures in the history of hip-hop, not to mention its most respected intellectual. He redefined hip-hop as music with a message, and his strident radicalism ushered in an era when rap was closely scrutinized for its content; although rap's primary concerns have changed over the years, its status as America's most controversial art form has only gotten stronger since Public Enemy hit the scene.
As mentioned in the article above, Chuck D. is considered to have “redefined hip-hop as music with a message” which links to my earlier point on his attempts to use his position of power to influence society positively. His songs contain social and political messages that help create a politically and socially conscious society. He is not like the other rappers of today in that he wants that ‘rich’ and ‘famous’ lifestyle, he genuinely wanted, and still wants to, make a positive difference in American society which, I feel, is the best way to define someone that should be considered an American contemporary icon.
Chuck D.’s legacy is secure enough to keep him a respected voice on the American cultural landscape.
            From <>