My spirit is tired of this country. Still, I won’t abandon it. As usual, the state of this country is molded around those who want more, but don’t want anyone to have more than they do. Obama presented his 2013 State of the Union speech with great emphasis on ” a rising, thriving middle class.” Seems mediocre is the best way to live.
       Our President explained that we, as a country, must make strides “on behalf of the many, not the few” by “put[ting] the nation’s interest before party.” I understand the tone beneath it all, but the “few” he speaks or are government officials/ the rich. I understand working for the greater good. I understand Democracy, but I don’t agree with casting off the other few – the poor. For a country that has, “In God We Trust” printed on its currency, I can’t help but to quote from the book: 
 
When you refused to help the least of these, 
my brothers and sisters, you refused to help me.   
Until our country fixes its weakest links, it will always be weak and self-destructing. Since I’ve already started this off in a semi-negative tone, please don’t think I disagree with everything he said, or that I’m Anti-Obama. I just understand that he is one person at the head of a unit & sometimes, it takes an ordinary person to consider ordinary people. Obama’s address to the union was well delivered and offered various points of improvement for our country. But the beauty of our country is in the freedoms it has granted its people; the same freedoms which have plagued us, in my opinion.



Forgive me, in advance. I listened to the the speech in its entirety, so this is a bit long, 
as I have a complete response. What follows is for whomever cares to read. 
Thanks ❤
     President Obama encouraged us all to “forge reasonable compromise where we can” as “the responsibilty of improving the union remains the task of us all”. Before broaching anything that has to do with the ordinary citizen, most of these reforms actually have to do with the government officials themselves. Most of this has to do with money and budgeting, but they certainly are attitudes we can transfer onto our daily lives. The reccomendations were as follow:
  • [Better, more strategic] decisions about our budget.
  • Everybody doing their fair share.
  • Shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep. But we must keep the promises we’ve already made.
  • Always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America.
  • Set priorities and invest in broad base growth. 

          We need an environmental change. A couple years back, most of the argument was on saving energy and turning everything green. The President himself applauded Americans’ efforts in saving energy with electricity and gas. If you make enough money, you can get any make and model vehicle in a hybrid version and install solar panels on the roof of your mansion. “For the sake of our children and our future… we must do more to combat climate change.” While the President went on to speak of droughts and heat waves, I think our children are drowning in their own souls. It’s not that I don’t care about trees (I’m planting some in East New York this Saturday with Million Trees NYC) but I know too many folks going to too many funerals. 
         We must save our children. “That has to start at the earliest possible age… the sooner a child beings learning, the better he or she does down the road.” The Obama administration proposed providing pre-school education to all children. I think this is a fantastic idea. Not only will children learn more, but it’ll provide a “baby-sitter” of sorts. This will allow parents the opportunity to work. While, in my ideal world, I would want to quit life and be a full-time and part-time mom, some women don’t have that luxury. If they can’t afford pre-school, they have to find some sort of arrangement for that child until they’re 5 years old and can enroll in kindergarten. This has left many a child running around his/her immigrant grandmother’s home with Don Francisco as principal. & there was no mention of after-school programs or more arts in schools. Those have been cut steadily over the passed couple of years and I wonder when they’ll come back –or if anyone cares anymore.

          “For poor kids, who need help the most, this lack of access to pre-school education can shadow them for the rest of their lives.” He explained that changes (or increases) in education can have a heavy hand in ” boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy and even reducing violent crime.” I’m all for this program. It’s still heart-wrenching that the children of today are still going unaccounted for –lost souls –but perhaps the next generations will be better than we 


    were. Most of the people I know had the unfortunate experience of “start[ing] the race of life already behind.” But… a strong spirit survives.

      
         I was a little uncomfortable with Obama defining the end goal of our lives being to “work your way into the middle class.” I don’t know what message I wanted, but “Middle Class” doesn’t sound as fabulous as they want me to believe. Perhaps because I’ve never experienced it. Or perhaps because those people aren’t perfect either. I’m not sure what I should be working towards. I understand income is important, but it just makes me feel like, as individuals, we are nothing more than how much we make or where we fall on the rich-to-poor scale. I’d rather be a brilliant ex-patriot, writing books on a beach of some beautiful “at-war” country. Living in a shack like the dopest version of Thoreau you’ve heard of. Obama spoke on continuing to fund scientific research programs and the likes, but I feel like most kids don’t have an accurate view of what they can do with their lives. If America is as great as we say it is, I’m not sure mediocrity should be encouraged. Or is mediocrity most of our reality? From the heart of the land of milk & honey, I ask, what kind of life is that, really? 
          What should be encouraged is acceptance, peace and friendship. I know it sounds corny & I don’t know how to write that into law, but unless you reach for ideals, I’m not sure what you’re aiming for. When it came to the topic of immigration, the President was brief. He mentioned “stronger boarder patrol”  to compliment the “shorter waiting periods” for visas and things like that. He encouraged his office to submit a recommendation for a full-out immigration reform.  I applaud this because it’s about damned time. I actually don’t know any answers to how to solve the immigration issue. As the child of a woman who lived 7 years in hiding, I know how immigration can tear a family apart. As a child of a woman who lived 7 years in hiding, I know what a benefit it is to have an American passport.
               Briefly, Obama touched upon the advances made by women in the structure of our society. Biden’s Violence Against Women Act (1994), which would call for the immediate arrest of accused parties (and would cover men who are victims of domestic violence) is making progress in congress. There is also the Paycheck Fairness Act (1963)  which hopes to ensure men and women are paid equal wages for equal work. It always sets a good mood when acts make progress (both have passed the House of Representatives, but will have to be approved by the Senate before signed into law), but it’s the enforcement of these acts that becomes the true testament of leadership. Women are abused and undervalued in our country, as well as the world on a whole. We still haven’t been able to overcome being over-shadowed by our bodies. (We are far too beautiful for men.) Paraphrasing the words of the fabulous Beyoncé, we have to redefine what it means to be a woman. Being a woman not a lower position than, nor equal to that of a man. Women have the same importance as men, but we are a different creature, in my opinion. It is time women are counted as strong leaders in our own rights… but it’s on us to start carving out that model for ourselves, particularly when it comes to our families.

             By “removing the financial deterrents of marriage” and “encouraging fatherhood” Obama hopes to strengthen the ideals of family for Americans. “What makes you a man isn’t having the ability to concieve a child, it’s having the courage to raise one,” he explained. I fully agree, but I feel the same for women. You are a woman for having a child, but being a mother is much more than giving birth. As I watched the Beyoncé documentary last night, I feel overwhelmed with joy for her and her happiness of having a child. But it is this same maternal drive that calls females to have children far too early without understanding what motherhood is. Some men won’t be around. Women should be encouraged and strengthened to bear that load alone if they should have to, beyond government assistance. Motherhood should be cherished, but humanity should come first. Being a mother does not dismiss you from the normal world, it simply becomes who you are. I think we need to speak to our daughters as well. Women know how to be mommy’s and baby momma’s but few have the understanding of what it means to be a wife. Perhaps the current First Lady is our guide as to what this means, but I just wish there would have been more said about it. Every president has his wife sit up in the balcony. The question we need an answer to is, How did she get there?

          “Stronger families, stronger communities. A strong America. It is this kind of prosperity – broad, shared, built on a thriving middle class – that has always been the source of our progress at home. It’s also the source of our power and influence across the world.” America is, indeed a spectacle. It is an honor to be an American, no matter how you slice it. The issue is that Americans are not as united as we seem. In the everything-stew we call New york City, we ride the same trains and shop the same stores, but people will sit next to who they feel most comfortable with. People still cross the street. We might all head into Times Square to do what pays the bills, but come dusk, we head back to whatever neighborhood we call (or reminds us of) home (S/O East New York. Broooooooklllllyynn). For someone like me, that means I go back to the reality of the few who seem too many.
            The minimum wage should raise to $9/hr by 2014. It would also be tied to the cost of living & raise accordingly without another presidential mandate. “No one who works full time should live below the poverty line,” said the President. This is a big move. To anyone whom it affects, that’s big news. To the big guys though, this is just more they have to spend. “We were looking forward to a speech about jobs and I’m not sure a minimum wage increase is a job creation tactic,” commented David French, Senior Vice President of Government Relations for The National Retail Federation, the self-proclaimed “voice of retail worldwide.” The article in Women’s Wear Daily laid out some reactions to the President’s proposals, and since that’s what lands on my desk, I had to give it a read. The real issue is that it’s tough to see things from a level you’re not at. Raising the minimum wage might not increase jobs directly, but it might help comebody get on their feet and start making moves to establish themselves and that company they’ve been working on. They might hire someone *shrugs*. But when your plate is full every morning, afternoon and night, it’s diffucult to understand that some people are magicians with the meals they can put together with what’s left in the cupboard. I’m one of them. But… I’m not a fan of hourly pay. I think everybody needs a salary already. People shouldn’t have to count their minutes to be paid for the work they put in. People should be hired to do a job, and they should be trained to do that job as efficiently as they can. Then, you should pay that person what you owe them. People are too greedy. We need to address the greed in this country.  “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38-42).

          “By this time next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over,” said the President. But… “There’s a war going on outside no man is safe from,” said Jay-Z. I’ve always been against the war because we have issues here at home. Our government is currently “training and equipping the Afghan forces” instead of training and equipping the boys in our own slums. In speaking about gun laws, Obama explained that American police captains are “tired of seeing their guys and girls outgunned.” Well, Mr. President, I’m tired of seeing my guys and gals hunted. There are no cops in “nice” areas, and it would be nice if they stayed off my block as well. I mean no disrespect to Hadiya Pendelton, as no child –or person– deserves to lose lose to frivolity, but… if you lived in a neighborhood like that, wouldn’t you carry a gun, too? Perhaps I’m from a different planet (I don’t mean to justify violence) but if people are shooting at me, it’s my right to shoot back. Maybe instead of hiding weapons and making them harder to get, people should be better trained to use them. Weapons should not be seen as hunting tools, rather a form of defense. We shouldn’t fear guns, as it gives them far too much power. I’m taking my kids to the range & teaching them to duck and move. 

        “Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in the country. In fact, no laws, no initiative, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight, but we were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can,” the President explained. It certainly is our obligation to lead by example. I’m a real person, so I must make a real comment here: It’s always “In God we Trust” but not to “to God we pray.” We, Americans, hide behind a pretty white veil, pretending to be perfect,just, accepting, kind and equal, but we tear each other apart within our own borders and then cast out our visitors. I encourage us to take a look at ourselve spiritually, because you can write anything down. Anything can be voted on, but will people act morally?  “Our ability to influence others depends on our willingness to lead and meet our obligations,” the President went on to say. “America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change…We can and will insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people… We must all do our part to make sure our God given rights are protected here at home.” but how? I say, pray. 
            Towards the end of his speech, Obama applauded Officer Brian Murphy  for his righteousness “even as he lay bleeding from 12 bullet wounds.” He was the first responder at a shooting at a Sikh Temple where 6 people were killed by the shooter, leaving 3 wounded. “That’s just the way we’re made,” Murphy explained in reasoning his sacrifice. Obama is hoping that this message will transfer on to the rest of society, encouraging us to care for one another and withstand trying times. My only offer to this is a conversation we have yet to speak on –whether or not people feel connected to this country. An “American” from the midwest will raise the flag high above his or her blonde hair and blue eyes with no epithet or introduction. On my side of the country, people of color will tell you they’re Black, not American. Even Hispanics in this country will tell you where they’re parents are from, no matter how star spangled their own passport is. When people ask me my nationality, I tell them “American”, but they don’t believe me. As if I can’t be. As if this country isn’t mine. As if people didn’t die for me. Let’s be real. We are Americans, but we are treated as second class citizens, at the most. We can’t be just American if our skin is too dark and until that feeling changes, you will forever have war within your boundaries. You have people of an undefined nation living on your soil (which is actually their soil). It amazes me that the same folks who built this nation own none of the land. We are not at home here, or anywhere. Until the racial climate of this country has changed, and we have a leader who isn’t afraid to speak on the subject, our people will remain in the same rut. I understand I live in a separate America from those who “matter.”  But… as you all may or may not know, I believe more in Jay-Z than I do any political figure cuz Where I’m From, we say “Fuck Government. N*ggas politic themselves…[so] if I ever blow I’ll let them know the stakes and exactly what takes place in the ghetto.”

           Separate but equal remains. “We may do different jobs, and wear different uniforms, and hold different views than the person beside us. But as Americans, we all share the same proud title: We are citizens,” argued the President. “[It‘s] a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status,” he proposed. “It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.”

    So Mr. Obama, I have a question with a comment:

    Why do I have to check a race/nationality bubble if I’m an American?

             I think it should be illegal to ask me what I “am”, as you can assume I’m human. I don’t care what kind of funding a place gets. If they get rewarded for having me, I should be rewarded for being me.  It is much more difficult to be me in a place where I don’t fit in than it is to pay me to be there. I don’t want to be counted on account of the color of my skin. Judge me by my resume and my work ethic just like everyone else, and pay me accordingly. I don’t want to be anywhere I’m not wanted or unappreciated anyway.
          “Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America,” Obama closed his speech with reverence. & I agree with this last statement the most. We need more God and blessings and not just printed on money. But I’ll take some of that, too.

    So… Ditto, 
    ❤ ELLA