Monday, June 1, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner

“If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, “‘You just blew your entire life’" – Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner has finally become the woman she has always wanted, and the world is a better place for it. To come out in front of the often cruel media—specifically, cheap magazines that sell because of their mean (and usually untruthful) cover stories—is no small task. She is courageous, open, and ready for a fresh start. But that isn’t all she is: Jenner is a role model.

"By sharing her journey with the world, Caitlyn Jenner is accelerating acceptance of transgender people everywhere and reminds us all how important it is to live as your most authentic self," said GLAAD President and Chief Executive Officer Sarah Kate Ellis.

Jenner took a huge step by coming out as transgender, showing everyone that she accepts who she is, and loves herself. Jenner knows that a life hiding one's true self is not a life worth living.

According to the organization Transgender Law, only two to five percent of the world’s population is transgender. Since the trans community is so small, it is easy for them to be isolated and overlooked. By Jenner, a high profile celebrity, representing the community, more people will educate themselves on what it means to be transgender.

With an increase in people talking about this issue, generally comes more acceptance. As reported on by, Caitlyn Jenner’s twitter account reached one million followers in four hours, breaking the world record. The star of 2 Broke Girls, Kat Dennings, tweeted “CAITLYN JENNER YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL”. This was one of many positive tweets, with the support coming from celebrities and other people alike.

Jenner will receive the Arthur Ashe Award at the 2015 ESPYS awards show on July 15. According to the ESPYS’ site, the award is given to those who possess “…strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost."

Jenner is the perfect recipient for this award. It’s her time to shine.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Maybe It's Just Love

But could it be what troubles me is not really a mystery
Maybe it's just love love love

Phoebe Kinzelman, a singer-songwriter, has just released her first original song, titled "Maybe It's Just Love." Here is the link to the video!

Want to know more about the artist? Here's a mini interview with Phoebe Kinzelman.

So Phoebe, when you were writing this song, what was going through your head?

PK: I think just excitement that I could actually write something, because when I had written something before I had always inadvertently copied a chord pattern from a different song and I'd get really sad about it and give up. It felt really good to produce something that was my own after a couple years of not knowing how to write songs.

Can your viewers expect more original songs from you in the future?

PK: I think so. Right now, I'm very busy doing school work and piano and voice lessons as well. But, I have uploaded a new video that's called "The Whisper Challenge." It's not a music video, but I intend to record more this weekend!

What was your proudest moment in your music career?

PK: In seventh grade, I auditioned for OAKE National Choir, and I got in as soprano which was very exciting for me because there are usually a lot of sopranos and it made me excited just because I hadn't auditioned for anything like that before and I was glad that I had the opportunity to. Also, last April, I went to New York with my choir and I auditioned for a solo line in front of the composer of the music we were singing, John Rutter. I was selected to sing the solo line with three other girls, and we comprised a quartet that sang in Carnegie Hall with the choir behind us. I was shaking because I was so nervous before the audition, and afterwards I came out of the audition room crying from relief.

Are you planning on continuing with music as a career path?

PK: I'm not sure, because I would really like to go into something concerning science, but I think I will continue making videos and maybe play outside of YouTube at an open mic kind of thing. I do always sign up for Glencoe's Got Talent and play my ukulele. I'm going do it this year and play some songs on the Fourth of July for people.

Which science are you thinking of majoring in?

PK: I have been thinking about a biology major because the class I take now is extremely interesting.

More interesting than music?

PK: Well music is something I have been doing for nine years, and I can't really imagine my life without it, and I feel like I can't equate the two. Science is one of my passions, but music is also one of my passions; I just love both. I would love to become an astronaut. I'm not sure how feasible that is in reality, but if I could study astronomy that would be very cool as well. I think I'm going to start in general studies in college and then if I find something I like there I will move into a specialized path of learning.

Thanks so much for speaking with me today Phoebe!

PK: Thank you! I enjoyed being interviewed.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Patriot Act

Unless there is a last minute effort to save certain provisions in the Patriot Act, they are going to expire this Sunday.

Let’s hope it’s finally time for the Patriot Act to come to a close. While the federal government should have the authority to investigate terrorism threats and suspected spies operating in the United States, it’s important that there are clear boundaries as to what lines the government may or may not cross. Currently, the Patriot Act allows room for the government to break the Sixth Amendment—which guarantees the rights of criminal defendants, including the right to a trial—as they did in the case of Yaser Hamidi. 

Hamidi is an American citizen. He was held in Guantánamo Bay for allegedly fighting for the Taliban, and later he was moved to a brig indefinitely; the government considered Hamidi an enemy combatant—meaning he was not entitled to rights afforded to American citizens. Hamidi was denied any judicial review.

Any criminal defendant has the constitutional right to have their case be judged in court. When the government can claim that an American citizen does not have any civil liberties, Americans need to stand up and fight for change. 

The decision this Sunday will be an indicator as to whether the American government wishes to continue to violate its people’s civil liberties for an act that has no proven value, or if it is willing to come up with an act that will keep Americans safe, and keep their privacy. Creating a bill that balances safety and privacy is no easy task, but it is one that is necessary.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

When Kidnapping Becomes a Game

 The body of six-year-old Christopher Mora was found buried in a ditch on Saturday. He was taken and killed by a group of five adolescents, ages twelve to fifteen, playing the game “kidnap.” The game reflects a crime that has been common everywhere in Mexico: abduction.

The residents of northern Mexico, the location of this horrific crime, are in turmoil. Some believe the children deserve adult charges—after all, the five criminals pelted Mora with rocks, strangled him with a stick, and then stabbed him. However, under Mexican law, there is no option to bring adult charges to minors.

The other side of the argument is that prison will not help the teenagers: only rehabilitation can—which is what will be provided for them by the Mexican government, if they are found guilty. Juvenile justice experts in Mexico claimed that putting the young offenders in prison would do little to help the problems of poverty, family and neighborhood dysfunction, as these factors often underlie cases of extreme violence.

While the five adolescents acted out a horrible crime, I agree that prison will not rehabilitate them. The maximum sentence that the two fifteen-year-olds can be given is ten years in prison, meaning that when they are set free, they will be more hardened than before, and will likely commit another crime. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the country of Mexico to attempt to rehabilitate the five adolescents, so that they can rejoin Mexican society in a safe fashion.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Rich and Faithless?

Economic stability has been linked to secularism. Two researchers found that the percentage of people in a state who are atheist or agnostic is positively and significantly correlated to the state’s “productive entrepreneurship” score, which was calculated using a combination of new businesses created, per-capita venture capital investments, patents per capita, and the growth rate of self-employment.

Interestingly, the researchers also found an inverse relationship between the practice of religion and economic growth. This may be because those who are religious may look more for spiritual fulfillment, while those who are not religious may look more towards monetary gains. However, it could also be that those who are unaffiliated have more time and energy to devote themselves to their work, while those who are religious spend more time worshiping and praying.

In a different study, it was found that countries that are the most peaceful have more atheists than other countries. The more secularists that live in a state, the more money that state will make, and the more peaceful it will be. The more money a state has and the more peaceful it is, the more economically and existentially secure it will be, and therefore the more atheists and agnostics it will gain. Those who are peaceful tend to be more accepting of the differences between people, in contrast to some religions that are very closed minded to different beliefs.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Secularization and Conservatism

Religion is sometimes associated with socially conservative beliefs. In a society that is becoming increasingly liberal, some people do not want to be associated with archaic thinking. 

For example, take Proposition 8, the California measure to ban same sex marriage. Mormons made up eighty to ninety percent of early on volunteers to help gain support for this measure. They have contributed more than $20 million to this cause. While some of the Mormons may have felt they were bettering mankind by attempting to ban gay marriage, they were not ensuring their popularity with others, outside and inside their church.

Fred Karger, and LGBT activist, stated that "The Mormon Church has lost so many members and suffered such a black eye because of all its anti-gay activities." 

Mormons tend to be homophobic, while a secularist worldview is very open to homosexuals, as they see gays and lesbians as people who deserve equal rights and dignity. As time goes on, Americans have proven to be more supportive of the LGBT community. The support for LGBT rights has doubled since 1996, and today nearly 60 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage. 

Identifying with a socially conservative religion labels an individual as socially conservative his or herself. As this viewpoint becomes less popular, more people will dissociate with those religions, and instead label themselves as secular.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Rise of the “Nones”

The rise of the “Nones”: The growth in the number of religiously unaffiliated people.

There is a decline in religiosity today. In total, one-fifth of Americans are religiously unaffiliated today, but for those who are under 30 years, one third are unaffiliated.

The increase in atheism and agnostics is largely due to generational replacement; just one-in-ten who are 65 and older have no religious affiliation. The generation today is much more likely to be unaffiliated than previous generations were at a similar stage in their lives.

So what is one of the factors that is causing this trend?

America is a nation with relatively high economic, political and existential stability. Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College, and author of Living the Secular Life, stated that, Security in society seems to diminish religious belief.” He also added that capitalism, the level of access to technology, and the quality of education seems to correlate with the decline of religiosity in some populations.

Religion often offers people solace when they are in times of need. “People want to escape suffering, but if they can’t get out of it, they want to find meaning,” Ara Norenzayan, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia, said. “For some reason, religion seems to give meaning to suffering – much more so than any secular ideal or belief that we know of.” However, when one is secure in their life, religion may not be as necessary to them. Therefore, the nations that report the highest stability are those with the highest rates of atheism.