My Evolving Political Ideology

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My political ideology has evolved over my lifetime as I have grown and changed as a person. Growing up, I considered myself a conservative Republican almost 100% because my parents were and I attended a conservative high school. When politicians were campaigning for the 2008 Presidential Election, I attended a rally for Mike Huckabee. Now, the very sight of Huckabee makes me gag. For me, college was a time in my life where I was cliche-ingly discovering myself. Why do I think what I think? It was a very perplexing time in my life.

Today, I consider myself a democratic socialist but have a hard time putting into words what that means, especially when I am put on the spot. There is an organization that I reference often to educate myself and put words to my feelings and thoughts: Democratic Socialists of America.

The text below is NOT my own writing. I am taking information from the DSA website to inform and share the knowledge of what democratic socialism is with others. 

What is Democratic Socialism?

Democratic socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives.

Democracy and socialism go hand in hand. All over the world, wherever the idea of democracy has taken root, the vision of socialism has taken root as well—everywhere but in the United States. Because of this, many false ideas about socialism have developed in the US.

Doesn’t socialism mean the government will own and control everything?

Democratic socialists do not want to create an all-powerful government bureaucracy. But we do not want big corporate bureaucracies to control our society either. Rather, we believe that social and economic decisions should be made by those whom they most affect.

Today, corporate executives who answer only to themselves and a few wealthy stockholders make basic economic decisions affecting millions of people. Resources are used to make money for capitalists rather than to meet human needs. We believe that the workers and consumers who are affected by economic institutions should own and control them.

Social ownership could take many forms, such as worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. Democratic socialists favor as much decentralization as possible.

Isn’t socialism essentially communism? Or will lead to it?

Socialists have been among the harshest critics of authoritarian Communist states. Just because their bureaucratic elites called them “socialist” did not make it so; they also called their regimes “democratic.” Democratic socialists always opposed the ruling party-states of those societies, just as we oppose the ruling classes of capitalist societies. We applaud the democratic revolutions that have transformed the former Communist bloc. However, the improvement of people’s lives requires real democracy without ethnic rivalries and/or new forms of authoritarianism. Democratic socialists will continue to play a key role in that struggle throughout the world.

Moreover, the fall of Communism should not blind us to injustices at home. We cannot allow all radicalism to be dismissed as “Communist.” That suppression of dissent and diversity undermines America’s ability to live up to its promise of equality of opportunity, not to mention the freedoms of speech and assembly.

Why are there no models of democratic socialism?

Although no country has fully instituted democratic socialism, the socialist parties and labor movements of other countries have won many victories for their people. We can learn from the comprehensive welfare state maintained by the Swedes, from Canada’s national health care system, France’s nationwide childcare program, and Nicaragua’s literacy programs. Lastly, we can learn from efforts initiated right here in the US, such as the community health centers created by the government in the 1960s. They provided high quality family care, with community involvement in decision-making.

Aren’t you a party that is in competition with the Democratic party?

No, we are not a separate party. Like our friends and allies in the feminist, labor, civil rights, religious, and community organizing movements, many of us have been active in the Democratic Party. We work with those movements to strengthen the party’s left wing, represented by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

If I am going to devote time to politics, why shouldn’t I focus on something more immediate?

Although capitalism will be with us for a long time, reforms we win now—raising the minimum wage, securing a national health plan, and demanding passage of right-to-strike legislation—can bring us closer to socialism. Many democratic socialists actively work in the single-issue organizations that advocate for those reforms. We are visible in the reproductive freedom movement, the fight for student aid, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered organizations, anti-racist groups, and the labor movement.

Back to my thoughts:

Whatever you think, just make sure you do so because YOU believe it. Don’t take your parents, teachers, or friends word for fact. Challenge yourself, make yourself uncomfortable, and think out of the box. And if you come back to your original beliefs, great. If you change your worldview or political ideology (politics is far from the only thing I encourage you to challenge yourself on), that’s great too. Some of my best friends are conservative. Hell, my own mother is. And I love all of them to pieces. We also have some interesting, heated conversations-which typically end with agreeing to disagree. And that is OK.

Just think for yourself, dammit.

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diversity in the USA

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I am often asked by international students and scholars at my job what my favorite part of being American is and what I like most about the U.S. And for me- that is an easy answer: the diversity.

I love that this is a land of diverse cultures, languages, religions, and ways of life.

It is because of this love and appreciation of diversity that I want to projectile vomit when I hear suggestions that:

-The US should make English the national language

-Immigrants are ruining this country

These are just two ideas that get my panties all in a bunch.

Allow me to rant:

English should be the national language.

No. Nah. Nuh-uh. No brah. I don’t think the US should have a national language at all. The beauty of the US is that there is not ONE language, ONE religion, or ONE culture represented. If you can’t appreciate that diversity, then maybe you should move to an isolated island where you only see people that look like you, think like you, and talk like you. And maybe take Donald Trump with you.

Immigrants are ruining this country!

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Well, you’re not alone in that thought! I predict Native people would have a thing or two to say along those lines.

But seriously- are you of European descent? THEN YOUR ancestors came to this land as immigrants. And actually- not really even immigrants. Isn’t colonization technically the same as illegal immigration? Or did all of those European colonizers ask politely if they could come and just take possession of another population’s land? NOT only did Europeans come to this land and just assume ownership of the land- they expected and forced Native People to assimilate to THEIR culture. TALK ABOUT BASS ACKWARDS. Native people were forced to get hair cuts and change their clothing; they were not allowed to “look” native. They were forbidden from speaking their native tongue and were re-named with a “Euro-Christian” name. Children were forcibaly removed from their homes and put in boarding schools thousands of miles from home, so that they had no chance of learning their native culture. The motto of one of the most famous Indian schools, The Carlisle Industrial Indian School, was literally- “Kill the Indian, save the man.” What. The. Fuq.

PS. I have recently learned that native people prefer the term “native people” or even “Indian” rather than “Native American.” They DO NOT consider themselves American because they were here before the existence of such a nation was forced upon them; that was a name given to them without their permission. 

Carrying on…

Please- tell me HOW $%^&ed it is that now (primarily white Americans) are complaining about immigrants coming and not assimilating (what does that even mean?! not being white and christian?!).

PPS. If you want to talk immigrants taking American jobs, just read this. I don’t have the energy for another rant on that right meow.

I challenge you to this: try to get to know people that are different from yourself, whether or not they are immigrants (also do NOT just assume that someone is an immigrant because they do not appear to be white/of European descent; NEVER ask, “but where are you really from?” Just don’t. Ever.). Appreciate the beauty of diversity that is this country. There is no one way to look, be, or act American. Before you criticize and marginalize an entire population of people, get to know some of them. Be curious. Be friendly. Be respectful.

And at the end of the day-like I always say- just be a decent human being.

Peace and love,

Jessica

My Walmart Complex

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press
Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Have you ever walked into Walmart and felt like you’re selling your soul to the devil? I have.

But haven’t we all been in a place when all that mattered was getting food to put on the table for the cheapest price possible? I have. For me that time period was mostly my undergraduate education- I was also on Medicaid and receiving food stamps. I needed the best deal available to me and didn’t have time to think about anything else.

But in the back of my mind there was always the lingering questions: at what cost is this food or clothing from Walmart coming? Is this really my cheapest option? Are there more ethical choices that I can afford?

To be honest, I think one often needs to be in a place of financial comfort and/or privilege to be able to think about these things. I am the last person that is going to judge someone whose focus is on survival and getting their basic needs met. I get it. We all gotta eat.

However, now that I am in a slightly better place in my life financially (LOL, slightly…student loans eat that social worker salary), I wanted to dig a little deeper.

Stay with me.

Here are some of the arguments for or against Walmart and some of my thoughts.

Walmart creates jobs!

I hear this often in the media. After doing a little further research with the Googs, this is not necessarily true. Between 2001 and 2006 Walmart cost the US almost 200,000 jobs- primarily manufacturing- because of their imports from China (AKA employing and exploiting people for lower wages overseas). The average wage of a Walmart employee is $8.81 and healthcare coverage continues to get slashed, which means that even employees working full-time need public assistance to get by. One Walmart store is estimated to cost US tax payers one million dollars in public assistance.

Yes, it may appear to be the cheapest option in the short-run. However, it is costing Americans (all of us) in the long-run. And while this is happening, Walmart is enjoying some hefty benefits. A 2007 study found that Walmart had received more than $1.2 billion in tax breaks, free land, infrastructure assistance, low-cost financing and grants from state and local governments.

I can’t find a cheaper deal anywhere else.

Honestly, maybe sometimes this is true. But here are some things to consider:

As Singlemomsincome.com says, “Walmart doesn’t have sales. Their “everyday low prices” are their everyday prices. Grocery stores (like Kroger) have sales. Heck, even K-Mart has sales. I can save so much more money by buying in bulk during a sale than I can shopping Walmart’s everyday low prices.”

Consider buying bulk, using coupons, and shopping sales. Again, I know that often these things can take time and not everyone has that time. But also consider that many people have complained that Walmart products are cheap and often need to be replaced; obviously having to buy 2 or 3 of an item is not cheaper in the long end.

Consider the environment.

Walmart has argued that the company is taking steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. According to Walmart1percent.org, “Walmart’s greenhouse gas emissions are growing, not shrinking. Between 2005 and 2011, its global climate change emissions grew from 18.9 to 21.5 million metric tons.” EEEEK. In 2009, the Guardian reported that ONE large container ship can emit the same amount of pollution as FIFTY MILLION cars. As of now, only 16% of Walmart’s energy is created with wind or solar power (Other large corporations, such as Starbucks are at almost 70% Green Power. Check out this awesome chart compiled by the EPA; you can search how much green power a company/organization near you is using)

These are just SOME of the issues. What about what Walmart is doing to small businesses and entrepreneurs? Say good bye to the times of Ma or Pop stores; they have no chance.

What about the exploitation and poor working conditions of overseas workers manufacturing Walmart products?

Well, now that I have ruined your day, let me leave you on a positive note of things you CAN do.

Well, what the hell CAN I do?

Truth-out.org organized a list of options (some more realistic than others) that you can considering doing other than shopping at Walmart:

1. Community-supported agriculture means you can buy a share in a farm to have fresh vegetables every week during the growing season.

2. Cooperative extensions and other community groups teach how to can, freeze and dry food for the months when things aren’t growing.

3. You can grow herbs and salad leaves, including the increasingly popular microgreens, indoors on a windowsill and add vitamins to your family’s diet.

4. If your family eats meat, it is much more economical to arrange with a farmerto buy one-quarter or one-half a pig or bull or lamb, or so many chickens or ducks or turkeys, or split an order with a neighbor.

5. Switch to a vegetarian diet, and you will really save money (and almost certainly feel better).

6. Buy dry goods such as beans, rice, cereal, grains, flour, sugar, nuts and dried fruits in bulk.

7. Use cloth napkins instead of paper and reusable blotters instead of paper towels

8. Switch to a menstrual cup and cloth pads instead of tampons and disposable pads.

9. Challenge yourself to buy only goods made in the United States, and check the labels on everything.

10. Go to or start a swap meet, where people bring clothing or items they no longer want and pick up your discards.

11. Do a seedswapor plant swap or plant-pots swap to get your flower and vegetable garden started, or boost your indoor garden. Start an indoor garden per number 3.

12. Try to wean yourself off plastic of every kind.

13. When things break that shouldn’t, mail them back to the manufacturer COD (collect on delivery, so they pay), with a letter saying you are not satisfied with their shoddy products.

14. There are scores more ideas. Visit your cooperative extension site for ways to save. There are plenty of websites and blogs devoted to stopping consumerism and becoming more self-reliant.

I would be a complete liar if I said I ALWAYS shop at farmer’s markets or co-ops. But even at some of the larger grocery stores you can now buy locally grown food.

Here are some of my favorite places to shop in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Michigan:

Ypsi Food Co-op

Ann Arbor People’s Food Co-op

-I am often seen at Kroger! Those 10 for 10 deals are BEAUTIFUL. Kroger has started to sell some locally sourced food as well. Also, their organic section has continued to multiply in size!

I feel like I am forgetting some other stores…

Where do you shop? 

What are your thoughts or ethical dilemmas regarding Walmart?

What WE CAN do to help Syrian refugees

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The U.N. estimates that 7.6 million people are internally displaced. When you also consider refugees, more than half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, whether they still remain in the country or have escaped across the borders.

Perhaps you have read about the conflict in Syria or maybe you have seen one of the many horrifying images that have made its way across the internet.

I am NOT an expert on the Syrian crisis. I thought this article from Mercy Corps was very helpful in breaking down WHAT is happening, to WHO, and at what COST to people. People are FIGHTING FOR THEIR LIVES.

It’s hard to comprehend, especially when I have no real way to understand or empathize. The pictures illustrate the atrocities, the pain, and the inhumanity that is happening. I won’t post them here. I don’t want to see them every time I look at the blog; it’s too painful.

BUT. We cannot ignore the reality of what is happening. We cannot pretend that people are not suffering…that children are not losing their lives. They are…and at an alarming rate.

What can we do?

I asked myself this very question last week as I cried looking at photos of Syrian children washed up on shore. What the fuck is happening? What can I do?

Below are SOME options. Have more ideas? Share them in the comments section.

Donate. I created a fundraiser with a goal of $750 of humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees with Mercy Corps, a non-profit I have supported before. Friends- I don’t have a lot of money. I am just one person. My personal contribution was a mere $15. Have $5 to give? PLEASE DO.

Donate HERE: https://www.mercycorps.org/people/jessicagreenfield14/syria

What can your money do?

Every dollar we contribute makes a powerful difference in the lives of these courageous people. Now, and for the future.

• $10 will provide a month’s supply of clean water
• $15 will provide three blankets
• $42 will provide a welcome kit with mattress and bedding
• $70 will enroll a child in our Comfort for Kids program
• $100 will provide a school uniform and books

Advocate. Sign this petition Mercy Corps created on Change.org. Congress is debating budget cuts to our humanitarian aid budget (ONLY ONE PERCENT of the United States $4 trillion federal budget goes to foreign aid). We cannot allow this budget to be cut.

Educate. Share these links with your social media community. Encourage others to be involved. Encourage others to sign the petition, donate, or come up with other ideas to help.

Whatever you do, DO SOMETHING.

Peace and love, my friends.

US is the ONLY industrialized nation that does not have paid maternity leave

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Yes, it’s true. And it is repulsive. The image above is from ThinkProgress.org. I also encourage you to check out this link for a more thorough display of countries’ policies around the world.

Yes, the United States has the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA allows for eligible employees to take twelve weeks of unpaid leave.   Unpaid.

Quick note: I FULLY support paternal paid leave, as well. But for purposes of this post, I am focusing on maternal leave- we have to start somewhere.

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How are women supposed to be able to afford TWELVE WEEKS of unpaid leave? Or- they just don’t take it, right? I have known plenty of women that have had to sacrifice healing time and time with their newborns to rush back to work. It’s not uncommon. It’s horrific, but not uncommon.

Paid maternity leave is already becoming a prime topic of discussion amongst 2016 presidential candidates. What is being said?

Bernie Sanders supports 12 weeks of paid family leave (not even specific to just the mother!).

Hillary Clinton has vocally supported paid maternal leave and even made this video honoring her mother for Mother’s Day.

Carly Fiorina opposes mandated maternal leave, “What I’m saying is I oppose the federal government mandating paid maternity leave to every company out there.”

While reading up on Jeb Bush, I was able to find past records indicating his efforts to have more “involved” fathers. He talks a lot about family values. But I can’t find anything in regards to paid maternal (or family) leave. J. Bush has been making noise lately about getting Americans to work more. He has suggested that Americans work longer hours and also increase the normal retirement age for social security.

I couldn’t find anything from Ben Carson about paid family/maternal leave.

In general, opposition to paid leave is due to predicted costs to businesses.

The US Council of Economic Advisers published a report in June of 2014, “The Economics of Paid and Unpaid Leave.” Their findings are reported below.

IV. The Business Case for Paid Leave

A key argument posed by skeptics of paid family leave or flexible workplace policies is that such practices are costly and place an unfair burden on employers. However, the birth of a child or a serious illness is not a frequent event, and evidence from the states that have paid leave policies in place, as well as other developed countries, shows that these policies do not 17 cause undue interruptions in the workplace. In fact, a body of research finds that these practices can benefit employers by improving their ability to recruit and retain talent, lowering costly worker turnover and minimizing loss of firm-specific skills and human capital, as well as boosting morale and worker productivity. Paid leave policies can help business recruit talented workers who plan to stay with a firm after having children. In a survey of two hundred human resource managers, two-thirds cited family-supportive policies, including flexible schedules, as the single most important factor in attracting and retaining employees. 31 Paid leave has been shown to increase the probability that women continue in their job after having a child, rather than quitting permanently, saving employers the expense of recruiting and training additional employees.32 A review of 27 separate case studies found that the median cost of replacing an employee was 21 percent of that employee’s annual salary – a substantial cost that can be reduced with family-friendly leave policies.

I encourage you to do some research of your own. What does your desired 2016 presidential candidate think?

Idris Elba…..not suave enough to play next James Bond?

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Actor, Idres Elba

Anthony Horowitz, the author writing the next James Bond novel, claims that Idris Elba is not suave enough to play the next James Bond. In fact, he said Elba is “too street.” **screams** Too street= too black?

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Anthony Horowitz (surprisingly white!)

Just another example of overt racism.

In my opinion, I really don’t give a FUQ what Horowitz has to say. Have you seen one of Elba’s films? I think he would make a rad James Bond.

Another example of slightly less overt racism in Hollywood, is Miley Cyrus’ comments towards Nicki Minaj about her tweets re: not getting a VMA award. If you didn’t hear about the interactions between Minaj and T. Swift, read this. Essentially, Minaj was critiquing mass media because of the under-representation of black women that get acknowledged for their work. She called out the media for crowning and honoring the “other” (white) women with slim bodies. And Miley later responded to Minaj’s tweets, “… You made it about you. Not to sound like a bitch, but that’s like, “Eh, I didn’t get my V.M.A.”

At MTV’s Music Video Awards, Minaj accepted her award for best hip-hop video and returned the mic to host, Miley Cyrus, while saying, “And now,” she said, “back to this bitch that had a lot to say about me the other day in the press. Miley, what’s good?” BOOOOOM. 

Miley Cyrus went on to rant in the show about how she has not won an award before and she didn’t make a scene of it….”it’s just an award.” I didn’t win, she says, and i am fine!

What Miley and so many other “white feminists” don’t understand is that Minaj’s comments were BIGGER than just some award. She was referencing the lack of representation black women get in the media. This is not just a feud over a single award. This is a discussion about systemic racism and absence of black women being recognized and awarded for their work.

Can we really not all agree that the media worships THIN, WHITE women? Is that really a question? Just go to your local grocery store and walk down the magazine isle. What do you see on and in the majority of the magazines? No-who do you see?

Racism is alive and well.