Monday, July 21, 2008

Words Are Powerful

Words. Words are powerful.

Whether they are coming out of mouths, books, or computer screens (like this one) they can physiologically change us because they evoke deep feelings and past memories.

Sometimes words are used to describe reality like Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.” Other times they are used to distort reality like Bush’s speeches. So as much as there are truths in words, there are lies in words.

When used deceitfully, words are like Trojan Horses invading our minds. “Yes,” “Terrorists,” “Love,” “God,” Do I have to say it again? Words are powerful!

For politicians, words are great allies and great foes. One good slogan (“Yes We Can!”) can put you in the Oval Office, while one bad line can destroy a career.

For couples, it’s the same. Stringing together words beautifully can lead to a romantic evening, while the wrong words can mean a night alone in the uncomfortable couch.

Use your words wisely because words are powerful like missiles that explode on contact.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

What’s Up, Mommies & Daddies?

With over half of marriages ending in divorce or separation, and with record percentages of fathers in prison, mothers facing new economic pressures are entering the workforce to provide for the household.

Single mothers, especially in the Latino and African American communities, are increasingly responsible for feeding, clothing, and sheltering their children. Often their greatest challenge, however, is instilling firm discipline, a role fathers traditionally held.

At home, today’s single mothers are like kindergarten teachers, since they simultaneously care for and give rules to their children. The care-giving usually comes more natural than the rule-giving, though both are equally central in a child’s upbringing.

For conservatives, the difficulties families are encountering are mainly due to a departure from Christian values and the weakening of the institution of marriage.

For me, however, the basis to the problem is parents’ unsatisfactory adaptation to modern life.

When dealing with adolescent females, for example, many parents
particularly immigrant parents fostering a small town, conservative mentalitystill declare sex off limits and, in the process, they fail to offer their daughters candid answers to serious questions.

Yet when their daughters end up pregnant, they wonder why. Surely, conversations on contraceptives would help and so would conversations on STDs and HIV.

With mothers mentally absent and dads physically absent, older siblings are progressively becoming important because of their firsthand understanding of teenage experiences. But they won’t be enough.

In the end, the best mothers will be those who revise their strategies, while the best fathers will be those who stick around.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

New York: The Pretty, The Ugly

With skyscrapers that soar above puffy, vanilla clouds and colossal housing projects covered by thick, gloomy clouds, New York is the glamour and the gritty tied into one.

Traveling through the city’s neighborhoods is like roaming different worlds.

Some are like the Upper East Side, a paradise with light men, wearing pricey business suits reminiscent of those in
Men in Black, opening golden doors that lead to penthouses with cinematic views of Central Park.

Others are like the South Bronx, a nightmare with dark men, wearing raggedy shirts that ripped while evading cops, begging as they hold silver doors that lead to cholesterol and heart disease:

Yet despite its legacy of grotesque wealth distribution, annually New York’s flavorful cultures and historic landmarks compel thousands to visit, while its wide-ranging employment opportunities convince thousands more to settle.

Constructed by poor immigrants with loads of cement, bricks, and steel, this grand metropolis may be the greatest achievement of human civilization.

Of course, however, some think that there is nothing special about living in filthy conditions and sending children to crowded schools with outdated books.

Ultimately, New York is as flawed as it is impressive: It is like the human species.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Inside The Gray Box

I remember February 5th like it was yesterday.

It was an average winter day, both cold and long. 

When I came home from school, I dropped my worn out book bag on the couch adjacent to my bedroom door

Soon, my mother, who was watching Univision while gossiping on the phone, yelled, “Chris, Como Te Fue?” “Good,” I responded.

But then I realized there was something I had to do.

So even before eating or drinking anything, I went down the steps of my house, headed up the hill where my house lies, and marched two blocks eastward.

I reached my assigned place quickly: It was Saint Frances De Chantal, the local church. At the door, I was greeted by an elderly white woman who smiled almost as if she was proud of me. She directed me towards a table with a serious-looking, middle-aged white woman.

At the table, I was asked for my name and for ID. She flipped threw the Cs in her large binder until she arrived at Cabral. I then signed my name, walked inside the gray box, which strangely reminded me of a porta-potty, and pulled the curtain behind me.

After making my choices, I pushed the lever of the outdated polling machine to the left and went home feeling empowered.

I did something for our deteriorating democracy: I voted.

Yet my mother couldn’t vote because she wasn’t registered with the local polling place. I, therefore, got her an application from the postal office, so that she can vote in November. Recently, she received a letter saying that she is registered to vote where I did.

Undoubtedly, the failures of our government are largely due to the culture of political indifference—an attitude that it doesn’t matter if we vote or how we vote.

I’m working to reverse that trend.