Sunday, August 10, 2008

Why Did We Go to War, Again?

A political mind is a delicate thing; it holds power, perhaps the capacity for our utmost power, the ability to be free- to be sure that we are... but the aspect of truly understanding and pointing a finger on things is more tricky than our nation wishes to agree. Most political statements are probably opinions, theories, or trends. See? I just made one.

I keep hearing scads of general statements about the condition of our country- either concerning the war and our present, economic state- statements on the support or lack thereof for President Bush, and generalizations about the fast approaching Presidential Election. One of the most popular theories (or mysteries) that citizens seem to bring up, appears to be: Why exactly did we go to war, again? Was it oil? Was it to bring democracy to the Middle East? Are we doing it, or failing? Is Bush a total failure, or did he do the most that he could? Did Bush and the Administration lie to Congress, or did Congress know full well the situation in the Middle East before the declaration of war? Do we need to leave- or should we stick around and get something done?

Nobody seems to think it could be a little of everything- everybody seems to have an opinion, conflicting or otherwise. But perhaps that's the stuff of democracy.

If studies show that American's interest in political interest is on the decline, parties have scattered, and present generations are more self-driven... I believe it; I believe that current society thinks war sucks- and it does- but I feel almost a sense of entitlement radiating throughout society. It has been stated that, "Americans don't like long, unproductive wars." Obviously economies suffer during times of war, obviously it's heart wrenching when soldiers come home broken- or not at all. War isn't glamorous; it cannot be romanticized as we like to with the era of the 1940s. When it comes down to it, war is ugly and is ultimately the President's call- but let's not forget the overwhelming support Bush's actions received initially. I guess the war has grown unfashionable, really- I mean, who likes having to save for things- or worse, losing their home?

Where has the backbone of America gone? There's not a draft (yet) and as far as I can tell, no one's forced to render wedding bands, tiaras, or gold fillings to support the war. Most of us still go to work and school, drive cars, keep on reproducing, and stuff our faces with popcorn at movie theaters. Of course, things could get worse, but maybe it's not a bad thing that American's careless spending found itself in check after the economic boom of the 90s? On a positive stretch, I finally understand why my grandmother chewed half pieces of gum at a time and tore paper napkins in half.

Current society doesn't pay attention to politics as a whole and what little information the media (meaning television) generates is incomplete and summarized. It's not a wonder to me that most of the country is shocked by our present state- that nobody for the life of them, can pin point what's really going on!

Is it really as "Gone with the Wind's" Ashley Wilkes put it: Most of the miseries of the world were caused by war- and when the wars were over, nobody knew what they were really about? Perhaps...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Lesson in Profanity

I'm back in college and I enjoy the life of a student for the most part; I always make high grades because I work for them and stay on top of assignments. I take clear notes, ask questions, and participate in general- I'm a natural student because I like it; what comes easily is generally welcomed.

While I do appreciate my summer school class- American Political and Economic Issues, and am in fact fascinated by its nature, my classmates leave something to be desired. As a majority, they feel class time is something to be wasted. Apparently, they would rather ask my teacher personal questions as opposed to something actually related to lecture topics. You know- they're so smart they don't need to learn.

This is what bothers me: If i am paying several hundred American dollars to learn something, I want to learn it. I don't care what it's like working at your location of Outback Steakhouse; I'm not there to hear girls discuss why they hate others of their same gender. Monopolizing class time is both bad for the individual and for the masses.

While the front of the class (I sit in the front- center desk) discussed the Electoral College in general, today, the back half of the room played around on the internet, laughed and giggled loudly at their leisure, and pretty much blew off the lecture. Another student addressed our teacher by his first name (this is not our common practice) and later actually used the "F-word" and lied saying they said, "duck."

After a light reprimand from our instructor, a student from the middle location actually challenged my teacher; she asked who my teacher was to tell a 20 year old girl ("a grown girl") what could and could not come out of her mouth? Another student tried to break the ice by asking the origin of profanity?

The teacher didn't know, but all were shocked to learn that I did: during the Middle Ages, those found "guilty" of premarital sex, were locked in guillotines with the acronym, "F U C K" posted above; it stood for, "Found Under Carnal Knowledge." I wish I could have taken a picture of the expressions which swept over the back of the room; it was priceless.

I just can't imagine using profanity in class, wasting class time, asking my teacher inappropriate/ personal questions, reprimanding him, or jeopardizing the flow in general. Sadly, maybe it is true what my grandparents always preached: maybe each generation does further its ability to go to "Hell in a hand-basket?" Is insolence the new norm? Is disrespect OK? I want my teacher to organize and take my the class- I want him to excuse students for being disruptive, like any good instructor should.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Human Trafficking

Human trafficking may be loosely defined as, "modern-day slavery." This is a topic of personal note; one of my very good friends lost his fiancee 2 years ago to this act, and I have been intrigued by the notion ever since. Like most Americans, I had no idea that such a thing could go on in our modern world- let alone the United States; I thought we had that figured out after the Civil War, right? In a recent lecture on the topic, I learned that 80% of modern slavery is comprised of women ages 15-30; this statistic is astonishing, yet believable. Most often, captives are of the same race as the victim as well.

Although seemingly sounding like an urban legend, I personally assure this scenario to be true: my friend's fiancee left her bachelorette party with her best friend- through a series of events and a fight, the best friend got out of the bachelorette's convertible at a rural gas station, and hitched a ride home with another friend. Several men pulled into the gas station in a pick up truck and taunted the girl until she drove off; they followed her. That is the last anyone saw her and security cameras offer no other evidence. The abandoned car was found a few miles from the gas station. Beside himself, my friend and his sister combed the area, fruitlessly seeking the bachelorette, until they met a pair of local prostitutes- they encouraged my friends to leave, as driving around the white ghetto in a Corvette, was asking for trouble. They said they knew her- they had seen her, but to turn back and make no mention of them, or else both they and the bachelorette would be killed.

Alabama State Police explained that there are hundreds of brothels in the US- they may be run from homes and generally contain nothing but a few mattresses. These women are virtually untraceable, as they are rarely in the same state or town for more than a few days. They are not flown on air planes or chained to the back seat of a car; they are shoved into dog crates and shipped to the next destination. Literally, these women live like caged animals- forced to obey the most degrading and damaging commands, before being locked up. In addition, the heads of such organizations often use drug dependency as a strong hold. They inject the victims with drugs until fully addicted, as a means for control.

These sex slaves are not always the victims of kidnapping. Often, teenage slaves come in the form of runaways. They may meet a man who is initially very good to them- offering love, care, and understanding they had not previously experienced at home. Eventually, their young minds are manipulated and through a series of lies, force, and coercion, are pushed into prostitution.

Another example was given about a 20 year old Russian woman who was forced into slavery after she came to America with a 2 week VISA; she was befriended by another Russian woman, who seemed to thrive financially since becoming a US resident. The woman suggested that they take a trip to Disney World and to mingle with other Russian- Americans in the Orlando area. The Russian girl said the other woman started her physical strong hold on her by simply pinching her arm to get her attention. While still visiting Orlando, the woman secured a very nice apartment in the Russian girl's name and set up housekeeping. One night, the Russian woman invited 3 men to the apartment; they had drinks and appetizers, until the Russian woman left the apartment- leaving the girl with the 3 strangers. From 9pm that vening until 11pm the following night, the men brutally raped her- they "gang banged" her (*side note: this is how the girl lost her virginity). Through physical and mental force, the girl became a prisoner, forced to sexually gratify for 4 months. One night, the Russian woman intructed the girl to kneel on the bathroom floor and not to move, or else she would be beaten. In the morning, the girl was found lying on the tile and was kicked nearly dead; she was beaten with a cooking pot until the handle broke off and then stabbed in the eye, sides, and stomach with the sharp end of the handle. Within hours, the girl was sold to a businessman for 48 hours. Over her 4 months in slavery, the girls earned well over $20,000 for the Russian woman, who was later caught and convicted.

Another form of slavery comes in the form of orphaned children. Highly popular in 3rd world countries, hundreds of people travel each year to adopt or buy these orphans; they are not selected for rescue, but rather to live in household slavery. They are not allowed to attend school or to play like other children. They may have but one purpose, such as scrubbing toilets, preparing dinner, or even looking after he household's children who may be 2-3 years older than the enslaved! Rarely are these children brought into the public, as they may be ethnically different looking than the "parents."

The coyote (people who smuggle others into the US) are largely responsible for another aspect of slavery; outside sources often home in the form of large-scale farm owners, who pay the debt per person (about $2,000), and thus "own" the workers; they provide food and housing for the workers, but at a highly inflated price. For example, a single roll of toilet paper may cost $5, while a box of tampons costs $20, and so on. Unable to get our of debt and without legal documentation, these people become prisoners to wealthy farm owners.

Who else could be in on this? Although previously funded by guns and drugs, the Mafia and other organized crime groups, facilitate a large portion of this problem. Drug sales has a one time turnover, while women may be used hundreds- or thousands of times! Organized crime groups have much financial wealth to gain from this new interest.

So what do we look for? Apparently, there are a LOT of common warning signs that I personally, have seen.
1. Nail Salons: women who do not look you in the eye, nor answer questions. If you notice a "house mama" yanking a girl from her position when spoken to, only to have another girl finish your salon service, this is a red flag. In addition, nail salons or massage parlors which offer a "happy ending" (this means sexual massage) to a salon service, are generally harboring sex slaves. Does this all sound terribly familiar?
2. Churches: for some reason, captives are often allowed to attend worship. A warning sign may be a van driven by a male and a female couple, filled with generally Hispanic, female passengers. They are instructed to go in and to immediately reenter the van upon the service's completion.
3. Mail Order Brides: although not usually requested as such, these brides may be forced into slavery over time.
4., shockingly enough is filled with such candidates! They often offer "companionship" or "a good time" for traveling businessmen, or visitors to certain areas. The posters of such ads agree to deliver a girl to a hotel room or a designated destination, to be rented for an hour- or even a weekend!

Should you suspect such danger, contact the police immediately! You could be saving the quality and actuality of someones life; these victims are most often killed once the captors have run our of use for them.

President Bush addressed the issue at the United Nations General Assembly, in 2003. He stated: "There's a special evil in the abuse and exploitation of the most innocent and vulnerable. The victims of sex trade see little of life before they see the worst of life- an underground of brutality and lonely fear. Those who create these victims and profit from their suffering must be severely punished. Those who patronize this industry debase themselves and deepen the misery of others. And governments who tolerate this trade are tolerating a form of slavery."

In addition, Hillary Clinton actively works to end this abuse; John McCain has vowed if elected, to put more government funding into the research and understanding of this topic. Barack Obama has agreed that the act is wrong, but has made no focus on the issue.

While I do feel we should help Haitian, Russian, and Asian people in slavery- I would like to focus on my own country. Do not misunderstand my thinking; I do not mean to suggest that any nationality is fair to be captive. However, I feel that because we are a superpower, American society reaches out to other countries, ignoring ways our own country may be at risk. I literally cannot think of any more unjust an issue or act. Upon leaving this lecture, I vomited in my car.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Sand Dollar- Proposed to Replace the Eurodollar?

Since I literally live 20 feet from the beach, I try to frequent the sand and sea as often as my schedule allows. Usually, I spend an hour or so, after school, thinking and people watching as I soak up the sunshine (I always wear sunscreen as the #1 cause of aging is indeed, the sun)- this is my time to unwind and relax.

Shelling is a major part of my beach activities, inherited by my mother; she is meticulous in her quest for the perfect shells- no crap for Mama. No broken bits, or ordinary contraband will do. This inherent shell snobbery also correlates to the fact that I've lived on, or near the beach for 2/3 of my life; I've had plenty of time to gather "less than" shells. That is to say, I no longer shell as the tourists do- picking up any old shell just because it's there.

My collection is fierce and although I've found a lush array of shells in New Smyrna Beach, including several starfish, I have yet to find a perfect sand dollar.

This morning, one of my good girlfriends called me on my way to school. "Let's go to the beach when I get out at 2," I suggested.

"Sure," she squealed. "Call me when you get home!"

I drove like a maniac down I95 until I reached A1A and was near home. "Okay, girl," I said over the phone. "Let's meet up in 15 minutes!"

At first, my friend balked. Apparently she was overheated and couldn't stand the idea of sitting in the sun for hours. Slightly upset, I decided to forge on to the beach alone. Who knows, I wondered, maybe you'll find a sand dollar or another starfish? Sand dollars are starfish are kindof important in the shelling world; the ultimate find might be an intact conch shell (but I've already found those gems). Before I could walk out the door, my friend called back and stated that she was on her way.

We had a beautiful afternoon at the beach: we laughed and talked about whatever girls talk about, and made small talk with the tourists, left over from the 4th of July weekend. Eventually, the sun proved a little strong for me and I suggested that we sit in the water to cool off.

I've always believed in Karma, but today made me want to throw the notion by the wayside. Before heading to the water, I consciously moved our belongings further back from the water's edge- the tide was making its way inland and I didn't want to swim to collect our things. This was both my mistake and misfortune:

Literally, as my eyes set sight on an enormous sand dollar- perfectly intact- my friend squealed loudly, staking her claim on the treasure! This is the unwritten law of shelling: it does not necessarily matter who picks up the shell first, but whomever sets sights on it and makes a verbal claim, is the rightful keeper. Indeed, my friend was the true or first finder of the shell, to my complete dismay. For 6 years, I've combed the beach before my house in search of a sand dollar and on the day that one appeared, the prize was snatched from me!

Trying not to whine or completely pack up and ditch my friend, we assumed our positions in our chairs and continued random conversation. Even though I smiled, I was fuming inside as if my friend had stolen my birthright.

"You know what," she asked?

"What," I tried not to ask too dryly.

"I think God put that shell in my path as good luck- I think it's telling me that it was OK to take that $30 out of the register at work- and not to worry about it- my boss is such a bitch."

Her statement both mortified and infuriated me; I laughed in her face. "I don't think God gave you the ultimate find to reward you for stealing... I don't think that's how it works."

If her suggestion is true, I am giving up on Karma. I don't think Karma would reward such an act either- especially not for stealing- especially when I wanted to skip school that day, but forced myself into attendance. So what did I get? Not the ever- precious sand dollar- just sand in my bathing suit bottoms!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Just-Right Chicks OR I'm a Sucker for Animals in Need

i woke up from a night out w/the apopka crew, with a major beer hangover; i was in a foul mood & didn't want to meet mama for brunch, nor ride to the feed store to get hay for the horses; she coaxed me into it with promises of omelette and coffee.

after placing an order for the feed, i looked at the baby chicks, wishing for my 24th year that i could have them. while some children chased after baby goats, lambs, or ponies at petting zoos, i could always be found hanging around the hen house; my mother was always mortified to find "that kid" was indeed, her own. anyway, one baby chick popped his head up & startled me; his beak was deformed and somewhat resembled backwards siccors. i was astonished by his handicap and felt so bad for the little thing.

we paid for the hay and grain for the horses, but a mile down the road i began to sob over the poor baby chick... did i say sob? i meant WAIL (in the car, in the store). i just couldn't stand the thought of someone or other animals being mean to it on a farm... or no one ever wanting it...


we set them in their cage in the yard to let them settle in, thinking this a caring and wise action... not more than 15min after we got home, who should emerge from the river, but a cotton mouth hissing & licking his chops for my peeps!

i have a scream truly unique and unlike any other i have ever heard. when i was about 10 years old, a representative from nickelodeon studios stopped me at universal and asked if i had any hidden talents? sure, i could sing. yes, i could dance... but i wondered if he wanted to hear me scream? "sure, kid," he laughed... but he didn't laugh for long. as i opened my mouth and uttered the banshee cry, his mouth hung open and the entire park seemed to come to a hault.

as i saw the snake slither toward my chicks, that scream was relived and possibly still echoes somewhere in the Swiss Alps, today.

of course, mama heard my cry and ran to the rescue. brandishing an unbrella like a spear, she sent the weapon through the air and missed the snake by mere inches- which sent him slithering away in a fury; the scene was tense.

i am so excited and i love them both- the deformed one the most- my jerk neighbor told me the unfortunate peep was retarded, but i don't believe him. the chick appears to be rather strong and keen, aside from aesthetic defects. they are very sweet and cuddly (i know it sounds ridiculous)... they're beach chicks :)

Making My Introduction...

My name's Ashley Evelyn and I am a former journalist and/or Assistant Editor of several local publications. Currently, I'm back in school and working on my second novel (the former was a work loosely based on my life, but gave more of a ficticious feel; my new work is by the book, narrative nonfiction, memoir).

This blog is a way for me to share my ideas, insights, and from time to time I'll post chapters from the novel itself! My posts will range from dog advice, current events, to beauty tricks of the trade (I am a licensed Aesthetician & Eyelash Extensions Specialist).

Please check out my