Books, Trump, and the “inner city”

About three years ago, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenéz was looking to make room in the annual budget by closing down 22 public libraries; next thing you knew, town halls were packed with angry Miamians, the Miami New Times was writing about it, and WLRN (our local NPR station) was reporting on it. The public outrage was so strong that the mayor removed closing any libraries from the budget proposal altogether.

If you don’t go to libraries regularly, it’s easy to forget or be unaware of how imperative they are to the success of a community. Public libraries are known for their impact in improving children’s education, lowering crime rates, and reducing unemployment in their respective areas. The library I grew up going to was (and continues to be) filled with children, teenagers, college students, adults, and retirees. The Miami-Dade public library system has community enrichment classes and activities like resume writing, music lessons, computer and computer software lessons, chess tournaments, and tutoring. Imagine the enormous impact libraries like these could have on a child whose parents can’t afford a book, an instrument, a chess set, or a computer. A library has the potential to totally change the life of someone like that.

Something similar to what happened in Miami-Dade is happening now: President Trump’s federal budget proposal removes federal library funding from the budget. Trump wants to cut all funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services ($231 million), which provides money to the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums, and he wants to cut funding from other sources of library funding like the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. For a President who talks a lot about building up the “inner city,” he’s doing a lot of damage to it. How much harder will this make it for low-income communities to progress without the basic tools a library provides for an individual to succeed?

I’ve been going to the library since I can remember–from the Children’s floor, to the young adult fiction section, to the french audiobooks in the multimedia section, to the Neuroscience atlas on the non-fiction wall– the public library has shaped me in unique ways that the internet alone never could. Walking through rows of books, stumbling upon a title I liked, and flipping through the pages before deciding to check something out–that’s how I learned about myself and the world.

Have you ever been to a public library? How have libraries helped you become who you are today? Tell me about your experience!

Check out these beautiful libraries around the world.

Trump’s Playground: Feb 20-March 20

Executive Orders:

  • Second Muslim Banthis article clearly outlines the big differences between the first and second travel bans
  • Light initiative to improve historically black colleges – seemingly well-intentioned order that could’ve been better if year-round pell grants would’ve been granted for students, critics say. This order is more rhetoric than action.
  • Dismantling of Clean Water Rule – the Clean Water Rule was intended to identify bodies of water that could be drinking water for the people of the United States so that these waters could be protected by the Clean Water Act of 1972.

  • Reorganizing the Executive Branch – this orders cabinet secretaries to present a plan to the president on how to restructure the agency they lead.

In the news:

The Environmental Vegan

The world’s leading cause of climate change is animal agriculture, an industry contributing more than 51% of greenhouse gas emissions (a conservative estimate).

Beef is a huge product among consumers, and the love affair Americans have with the industry valued it at $60 billion (in the U.S. alone) in 2015. There is a financial incentive to perpetuate this environmental and health hazardous industry and discredit facts presented by its opposers to maintain the industry’s foothold at the nuclear family’s dinner table. Our consumption of these animals is continuing to enrich this $60 billion industry while we, the consumers, harm our health and our environment.

As you may know, many vegans and vegetarians choose their diets for different reasons, the environment being one of those reasons.  The environmental vegan refuses to accept and contribute to an industry that exists in the environmentally irresponsible way that the animal agriculture industry does. The facts below are some of the environmental reasons vegans and vegetarians choose to refrain from contributing to the animal agriculture industry, thereby “voting with their dollars” against it.

Quick facts about animal agriculture and climate change (Sources: Cowspiracy Documentary, this article):

  • The methane produced by cows in the animal agriculture industry is 86 times more destructive than CO2 in its contribution to climate change
  • Cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day
  • Livestock contributes 65% of all nitrous oxide greenhouse gas emissions
  • Nitrous oxide is almost 300 times more destructive than CO2

What if we all changed our diets for the better? (Sources: this research paper, this article)

  • If everyone ate a vegetarian diet, emissions would fall by 44 percent ($973 billion savings in health costs)
  • If everyone ate a vegan diet, emissions would fall by 55 percent ($1 trillion savings in health costs)

So what could it mean for humans if we chose a diet that would be better for our health and our environment? We could live longer, healthier lives and we could have an environment capable of sustaining our extended lifetimes.

Climate change is no longer a problem of the future. The future is here and it’s us– it’s how you and me and everyone else decides to shape it. As soon as 2050, much of our land above sea-level is predicted to be below it. That means that there will be no Miami Beach for me to spend my retirement in (I don’t know about you but I don’t want to lose that view).

Two important documentaries on the subject of climate change and the animal agriculture industry’s contribution to it are Before the Flood and Cowspiracy. I recommend these to anyone who has an interest in knowing the scope of humanity’s impact on the health of the planet.

Informative, easy-to-read articles on this subject from Vegan and Conservation websites:

Can Veganism Save The Planet?

The World’s Leading Driver of Climate Change: Animal Agriculture

What If The Whole World Went Vegan?

 

Living in a bubble

Miami is one of the few cities in the United States where I am not considered a minority. Nearly everyone here is Latino-American or Hispanic-American. There’s a big community of Haitian-Americans, Chinese-Americans, and Arab-Americans on this little corner of the Florida peninsula. People from all over the world live in this city and I can honestly say that I have never once experienced overt racism or racial profiling here. I didn’t even know about ethnic slurs and insults toward latinos until I was in my late teens.

Now, I can’t tell if the incidents of racism that have been increasingly reported on the news speaks of a malignant majority or a vocal minority in the United States (I hope it is the latter), but it is concerning either way. In 2011, I traveled to Paris, Virginia on an animal rights trip. We stayed in a small town that had a confederate cemetery and mostly old people. On our third day there, me and some animal rights activists (sorry for breaking a grammar rule but that’s how I wanted to write it😂 ) were racially profiled– the first time ever for me. We were greeted at 9 in morning by two cops asking us why we were there, if we had any identification on us, and what our social security numbers were. It was a bizarre and uncomfortable experience to be made felt an outsider inside a country I was born in and my parents immigrated legally into, especially since we had done nothing but help animals since we got there.

Surprisingly, I’d never thought about my skin color until that year (and I wasn’t aware that many people view hispanics as a race, not an ethnicity). Sure, I’d thought about racism and xenophobia, but I’d never thought about how I fit into that narrative, and I was naïve in the sense that, until I experienced it myself, I thought about it as a thing of the past. It is an incredible privilege to exist as the majority in any place (unless you lived in the South Africa Apartheid), and that is the bubble I’d lived in my entire life in Miami, as a part of the majority. Here, I can speak Spanish without worrying about comments like “learn English (English and Spanish are my first languages)” or “go back to Mexico (I’m not Mexican).” Here, I’m not subject to racial profiling or racial slurs because I am part of the dominant “race.” Traveling to a place where (for the first time) I was a minority was an eyeopening experience and if it’s something you’ve never done, I think it’s an important experience that you should give yourself.

Have you ever experienced being a minority (maybe you’ve been a part of the minority your entire life)? What was it like? Was your experience negative or positive? I’d like to hear your stories!

Trump’s Playground: Jan 20-Feb 20

If you follow the news you know it’s been a hectic month in the United States. Trump’s presidency has been riddled with protests, controversies, and a cascade of executive orders. I’ll be writing one of these posts every month with links to the “news highlights” of that month that relate to the President, his cabinet, and his orders.

Executive Orders

Total of 11 executive orders (if you don’t count the Muslim ban since federal courts ruled against it).

Big Stories

Silencing the EPA

Sean Spicer scolds the media during his first press conference

Kellyanne Conway coins the term “alternative facts”

Federal appeals court rules against the Muslim Ban 

Kellyanne Conway cites Bowling Green Massacre that never happened

National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigns over conversations with Russian ambassador 

Trump advisor Stephen Miller turns hype-man

Trump tells Netanyahu to “hold off on settlements for a bit”  Trump says he can live with a one-state or two-state solution in Israeli-Palestinian deal

Trump scolds reporter for asking about claims that his campaign spurred anti-Semitism

Trump makes Sweden terror comment

Illegal Immigration into the U.S.

People don’t come here illegally because they want to break the law, they come here illegally because it’s the only way they can in their desperate situation (meaning waiting X amount of years isn’t an option). Illegal immigrants pay thousands of dollars to get here (that they would contribute to the U.S. if there was an avenue for that)…they don’t just walk in here…there are people along the way who they have to pay and there are risks to their lives that they take just to be here. Instead of building a wall on taxpayer dollars (especially given that the majority of taxpayers did not vote for President Trump), build an immigration system that works (immigrants made, and continue to make, this country great). To those criminalizing immigrants, how do you think America was made? You think they asked the Native Americans for permission? You want to criminalize immigrants in search for a better life, start with the ones in your U.S. history book.

Petty Politics

My dad is an old school Cuban; born right before the Cuban Revolution of 1959, he witnessed enough crimes committed by the Castro Regime to despise anything that resembles communism. My great grandfather immigrated to Cuba from Catalonia, Spain in the late 1800s, my grandfather built on the work of his father, and my father was destined to do the same. But as a child, my dad had to watch as the Castro Regime took his family’s businesses, lands, and any surplus my grandparents and great grandparents had ever worked for and distributed it to people who hadn’t earned it. My dad had to watch as the Castro militia murdered by firing squad anyone who opposed the revolutionaries. As a result, my dad had nothing but grit to his name when he left Cuba in the early eighties (grit that you can still see today). When he arrived to America he saw the land of opportunity and the chance to rebuild a legacy the way my great grandfather did when he had arrived in Cuba from Spain. My dad, by all accounts, achieved the American Dream and he is the perfect example of what it means to be a hard-worker and to put family first.

Back when my dad emigrated from Cuba to the U.S., the U.S. president was Ronald Reagan. Reagan was an anti-communist roast master and a champion for amnesty and immigration; that combination was all it took to make my dad a loyal Republican for decades to come. In 2007, my dad voted for John McCain (in spite of his VP pick) who is one of the most stand-up, honorable republicans I’ve had the pleasure to watch; I’m a registered Independent, and while I don’t agree with everything the republicans (or democrats) believe, I know a decent human being when I see one.

John McCain was the last presidential nominee my dad voted for who was a republican.

If you ask my dad why he doesn’t vote republican anymore he’ll tell you it’s because there aren’t any decent republicans running against the democrats for the oval. My dad has an immeasurable amount of respect for the office of the president and he finds it impossible to stand behind any person or party that doesn’t hold the office of the president to the same high standard. While both parties can be “petty,” one party outdoes the other in pettiness (the republicans were staunch against helping the Obama administration make changes, and are now staunchly silent at the Trump administration’s serious faults).

I want to see a lot of changes in Washington, and if the next four years serve only to make the condition of Washington worse, then I have hope that within the next ten years we can see it get that much better. I know that our government can work, but we need to elect people who will fight for everyone and do so with integrity. And that starts with us, the voters. That means hearing each other out, that means compromise, that means meeting somewhere in the middle, that means respect, that means no name-calling. I really can’t wait to see a Reagan or McCain type of Republican run for president. Those are the kind of republicans who respect the oval and respect the American people. Until then, my dad and I are voting blue.