Other Current Issues

The Florida School Shooting Tragedy: Some Thoughts

(Photo by Nicole De Khors)

May the souls of those who perished rest in peace.

The nation is once again reeling after the recent high school Florida shooting tragedy which left seventeen people dead. In the aftermath come the questions: why did this happen? How do we prevent this from happening again? Theories abound: banning guns, more security in schools, make mental health care more widespread and accessible, etc.

All of these measures have merit: Enforce tougher background checks for those who want to buy a gun, increase security in the schools and provide more counseling and resources for those who are troubled and going through a rough patch in their lives. But there is one I would like to discuss in this article, which is to reduce the amount of violence in the media.

When I watch television, I am frequently repulsed by commercials for upcoming movies. Actors are constantly shooting at each other. I once joked to my family that if these brave, macho actors were dealing with these situations in real life, instead of fighting, they would be running for their lives. What happens is people get desensitized to violence—after all, they see it in the movies, on television shows, the news, books, video games, sports, etc.

And who are the most impressionable? Young people. They grow up immersed in this violent culture and some become convinced it is the only way the world will pay any attention to them.

Out of this tragedy came many heroes, people who showed tremendous bravery and even sacrificed their lives to protect others, but I am sure everyone would agree that it would be much better if these school shootings could be prevented in the first place.

Much work has to be done. Unstable people should not be allowed to buy guns, counseling should be available for all, every student has the right to be safe in school and the media has to stop its glorification of violence.

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The North Korean Crisis

(Note: Last week I was unable to post an article due to the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

The recent crisis with North Korea has led me to research and reflect on the outcome of the Korean War of the early 1950’s. More specifically, could this international tension have been averted 67 years ago?

First I need to give a short recap of the war based on my research: On June 25, 1950, 75,000 soldiers from the pro-Soviet Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north crossed the 38th parallel, which is the boundary between North and South Korea. The invasion surprised the United States, for South Korea was and still is a pro-Western nation. This invasion is considered the first military action of the Cold War. President Harry S. Truman sent American troops under UN auspices to the Korean peninsula in August 1950. He appointed World War II hero General Douglas MacArthur to lead the forces to protect South Korea. General MacArthur and his troops pushed the North Koreans back and landed at the Battle of Inchon toward the Yalu River, which is the border between North Korea and China. Alarmed, the communist Chinese sent troops to warn the Americans to stay away from the Yalu River unless they were prepared to go to war.

MacArthur’s plan was to go ahead and attack China’s supply bases near the Yalu River, but Truman feared this would provoke World War III. When MacArthur’s plan was leaked to the press, Truman fired him. From then on, the fighting continued for two more years as both sides attempted to reach an armistice. When it was finally achieved and signed on July 27, 1953, both sides agreed to draw a new boundary at the 38th parallel. As a result of the war, 5 million people died: more than half were civilians. 40,000 American troops lost their lives and 100,000 were injured.

Although the fighting ended, both North and South Korea are still in a state of war. No peace treaty was ever signed and each side considers themselves the only legitimate government of Korea. In the years following the Korean War, North Korea has committed numerous human rights violations, including using its resources to develop nuclear weapons rather than feeding its people. Free speech is nonexistent in North Korea and there are occasional skirmishes with South Korea along the border. The imprisonment and tragic death of Otto Warmbier, a US student who visited the country, only highlights the nefarious intentions of North Korea. The testy threats between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un has only increased the already tense atmosphere. It appears something has to give.

Did Truman make the right decision at the time? General MacArthur’s plan was no doubt reckless and dangerous, and Truman, of course, wanted to prevent World War III. To think there may have been a possibility that this conflict could have been resolved somehow 67 years ago may be wishful thinking on my part. If only there was some way to undo all the damage over the years.

Information for this blog comes from history.com and Wikipedia.

Idelle Kursman is the author of the thriller True Mercy. Read more of her posts on www.luckcanchange.com.

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Why are Scandinavians the Happiest People on the Planet?

I was working hard on an article for this week’s blog post but was unsure if it would be appropriate for the website. My writer friends advised it goes too far off the beaten path.

So at the last minute I made a switcheroo.

It’s an article I wrote for a publication a few months ago. Thinking about the struggles of high taxes, the cost of healthcare, and earning enough to cover all expenses that the typical American must contend with, I often wonder if there is a system for an easier life. It is debatable whether the Scandinavian government system would work in the United States, or if the system is as smooth as they claim, but I wanted to explore life in the Scandinavian countries. So here is the article. I hope readers enjoy it. It’s certainly food for thought and discussion.

Year after year the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network comes to the conclusion in their World Happiness Report that the Scandinavian countries rank number one in the category of happiest people on earth.

How come? you’re probably asking. Scandinavian countries must endure long winters, months of darkness, and short summers. What’s more, Scandinavian novelists depict their societies as glum and austere (ever read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?). Nevertheless, they are ranked number one in the world in terms of happiness.

Why?

The UN World Happiness Index uses specific variables to measure a nation’s happiness, including Gross Domestic Product, healthy life span, and citizens’ overall feelings of trust, freedom, and generosity. After extensive study, researchers have concluded the following factors contribute to the Nordic world’s happiness and contentment:

1.) Freebies—free education and healthcare. In addition, the government provides ample unemployment insurance and child support.

2.) Work/Life Balance—Ah, what we all strive for in the US! Many businesses close at 5 PM and no one works over the weekend. Plus, there is great emphasis on families eating and spending quality time together.

3.) The Great Outdoors—Despite the cold, Scandinavians don’t stay in during the long, dark, and frigid winters. They do cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing, and during the summer months, it’s hiking, cycling, sailing, and swimming.

4.) Travel—Scandinavians travel more than any other people in the world. They enjoy the most vacation days and make good use of this time by visiting countries with warmer climates.

5.) Northern Lights—Known as the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights is one of nature’s most dazzling spectacles in the sky. Scandinavians have front-row seats to this phenomenon because of their northern latitude location.

(Taken from “Discover 7 Reasons Why Scandinavians are the Happiest,” www.hoppa.com/en/discover/7-reasons-why-scandnavians-are-the-happiest)

Interested in learning more? I highly recommend The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth.

What is Their Secret?

In another article, Dr. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve and Professor John Helliwell, both affiliated with the World Happiness Report, sponsored by the UN, were interviewed why Northern Europeans were so content. They came up with these conclusions:

  • Neighborly support
  • Job security
  • Workplace satisfaction
  • State support programs for those in need, including child support
  • Community spirit
  • Support services for immigrants
  • Concern for strangers

(Taken from “Norway is the Happiest Country in the World. What’s the secret?” By Zamira Rahim.)

Note: Thanks to my writer friends for their advice. You ladies helped me make the right decision!

 

What is Their Secret?

, were interviewed why Northern European

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Where Has Our Humanity Gone?

Forty years ago this was a very different America. It used to be when an employee faithfully worked hard for a company for twenty-five years or more, a retirement party would be thrown in recognition of the employee’s efforts and contributions. Sometimes, the officers of the company rewarded this individual with an expensive watch or other gift as a form of appreciation and a fond farewell. The employee would then retire with dignity and satisfaction.

Those days are fading. Instead, a disturbing trend has taken over America that affects morale and destabilizes society. More and more, older employees that are only a few years shy of retirement are being let go. No party. No appreciation. Often, they are escorted out the door. And that’s just the beginning of the turmoil these individuals face.

Many still have mortgages, children in school, and other major expenses. They eventually lose their health care benefits, which often makes proper medical care unaffordable. Unemployment is a fraction of their previous salary and only lasts for so long. Thus, loss of income from employment can put these older employees and their families in financial straits. Unfortunately, that’s not all.

Many companies advertising open positions often subtly or not-so-subtly practice age discrimination. “You’re overqualified,” interviewers tell them when they apply for a comparable job. Of course, what they are really saying is they don’t want to pay older and experienced people what they’re worth. As a result, older workers looking for a new position face substantial hurdles added to the difficulty of finding a good-paying job. Often older workers settle for minimum wage jobs when their unemployment runs out just so they can pay their bills.

And lest we forget, the psychological effects of workers losing their jobs, particularly when they expected they would be working for the same company until retirement, are often profound: depression, feelings of failure, and lack of direction now that they don’t have somewhere to go every day. Arguably, people are the healthiest if they feel they are productive, making contributions to society, and providing for themselves and their loved ones. Added to that, those reentering the labor market after twenty-five years or so encounter an entirely changed job market and application process, which only heightens their stress.

These “forced retirements” destabilize not only the older workers’ lives but also those closest to them. They have to scale back their lifestyle and now struggle with paying their bills. Some lose their homes and must find a less expensive place to live. Their families or significant others must endure these cutbacks, college plans can be derailed, they must dig into their nest egg, and they’ll have less funds for their future plans when they thought they were going to retire.

Who benefits from letting older workers go? Companies may enjoy more profits in the short term: younger workers expect lower salaries. For instance, the pay scale of recently graduated teachers are half that of much more experienced educators. However, resentment for these inhumane practices will linger and putting older workers in financial straits will likely lead to serious repercussions to the nation’s economy in the long-term. In other words, greedy behavior may lead to benefits in the short run but will eventually backfire on them.

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Manchester

On May 22nd, a terrorist attack destroyed innocent lives and shattered their families. In the guise of religion, ISIS struck again, killing 22 innocent people, many of them children. I don’t understand how these destructive acts further their cause. It certainly doesn’t generate sympathy or understanding for these militants. I can only hope that justice will prevail sooner rather than later. In the meantime, what arises out of the ashes are heroes and villains. The heroes are our beacons of light and inspiration—they restore our faith in humanity and inspire us to keep working for a better future. The villains, on the other hand, demonstrate the long, long journey we have to go until evil is defeated. We saw both aspects in the suicide bombing after the Ariana Grande concert. The following are those participants thus far.

Heroes

We can never say homeless people have nothing to offer. Or a conscience. Upon hearing the massive explosions, Steve Jones, sleeping near the Manchester Arena, awoke with a start and helped rescue children, pulling nails out of their bodies. He and a friend also came to the aid of a woman who would have bled to death without their assistance.

Chris Parker, another homeless man, had intended to beg for money that evening. He rushed to assist victims. He comforted a girl who lost her legs and then cradled a woman until she died.

Paula Robinson was at the Victoria Train Station near the Manchester Arena when the bomb exploded. When she saw two young children saying “Where is my dad, get my dad,” Paula rushed over to them and told them she would take them away. As more children were running out of the arena, she directed them to run to the nearby Holiday Inn. Paula ended up leading about 50 children to safety.

Kim Dick and her husband Phil were waiting in the foyer for their family after the concert was over when the bomb went off. She took care of a 14 year-old girl who was fleeing the scene. She was covered in blood, her hair was burnt, and blood was oozing out of her mouth. Kim held her and stopped the blood spurting out of her legs and shoulder. The girl was hospitalized and fortunately survived, thanks to Kim Dick’s quick thinking.

Kelly Brewster made the ultimate sacrifice: she shielded her sister and niece when the bomb went off as they were leaving the arena. Her sister and niece suffered multiple injuries but will survive because Kelly protected them. She was an office worker who only the day before had put down a deposit on a house she was supposed to share with her boyfriend.

Villains

Very often there are evil perpetrators along with those shining lights of bravery. The one who decided his life objective was to bring tragedy and destruction to the world was a 22 year-old man named Salman Ramadan Abedi. He was a British Muslim whose parents came from Libya. Instead of contemplating a productive life now that he was living in a free country, Abedi embraced Islamic extremism. He studied business management at Manchester College but dropped out. Police believe he used his student loans, which are funded by taxpayers, to travel overseas and learn bomb-making.

This is what investigators have learned so far. It is certain more people were involved in this terrorist plot, their names most likely will be identified as more evidence comes to light.

Many times acts of evil bring out the best in humanity. Nevertheless, the 22 killed and the 116 injured have caused devastation for years to come. While we wish this evil did not exist, at the very least it gives us a clear perspective of who are the heroes and who are the villains.

Note: After I finished writing this piece, it happened again: On Saturday, June 3rd, three Muslim terrorists in a van ran over and knifed people before being shot dead by police. Seven were killed and 48 injured. When will it finally end?

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