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Music Therapy Student Mission Trip

Student Cole Eisenmenger, 22, wore a sports a graphic art, baseball tee, cargo shorts, and Birkenstocks. He flips shoulder-length, hazel hair from his face, that reveal dark brown eyes and a sincere look.

“Some people may look at my long hair and judge me or call me a hippie,” he said with a chuckle. “Which is totally fine, because I’m doing something I see as positive for the world. And that’s what really matters, in my opinion.”

Recently, he mixed music therapy with missionary work. Eisenmenger is a senior majoring in Music Therapy in KU’s School of Music. The first week of June, Eisenmenger travelled to Kingston, Jamaica with the Sacred Heart Church Parish from his hometown, Norfolk, Neb. This was the church’s 13th annual trip to the Mustard Seed Communities.

“These communities take in children whose parents can’t take care of them, or even just pick them up off of the street and take them in. It’s an orphanage, essentially,” Eisenmenger said. “But they do so much despite how little they may have. Some of the communities are 100 percent self-sustaining. It’s incredibly inspiring.”

Although this was not his first mission trip, it was his first based on spiritual and musical connection, both with the children and with himself.

And, he says learning music is an important part of understanding and implementing music therapy properly.

Students in music therapy are trained to learn and research how music and its elements, such as:  pitch, harmony, melody and dynamics. These elements are used to change people’s behaviors for the better.

“My other goal, other than helping the overall state of the communities, was to use music to bring the children joy,” Eisenmenger said.

Eisenmenger described music therapy as “manipulation of different aspects of musical elements” including pitch, harmony, melody, dynamics.

“These aspects are used towards a non-musical goal, be it social, emotional, academic, or, such as this case, spiritual,” Eisenmenger said.

As he began to play the guitar, Eisenmenger says,  a group of 15 or so kids stormed into the room because they heard music.

Eisenmenger brought egg shakers, drum sticks, buckets, and gathered other instruments so the children could join. Children crowded the room, played along, and began to sing with him.

“I started playing a lot of Bob Marley, which they all knew by heart. It was really powerful. For 20 or 30 minutes, we all became one,” Eisenmenger said. “And, it was all because of the power of music.”

Eisenmenger said he achieved both main goals for the trip. He helped improve construction for the orphanage, and created a connection with the children. What’s more, it inspired him to return after he receives his diploma next May.

“I absolutely want to return to make at least a short-term career there with music therapy,” he said.

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Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold

The recurring revenge theme for underrepresented populations in Quentin Tarantino Films

The theme of revenge is one of the oldest recurring subjects in literature; it is used in numerous works of art from Greek mythology to Shakespearian tales. A thin line exists between justice and revenge, but the biggest difference between the two is that the desire to seek revenge is actually a natural instinct towards certain situations. It is true, in reality, that seeking forgiveness within one’s own heart is better than to become consumed by seeking vengeance upon others. In fantasy, however; not only is anything possible, but also the lines between justice and morality become more than blurry—they become non-existent.

Although the spiritual activist Gandhi once said, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” that hasn’t stopped the media from promoting revenge, or audiences from enjoying every second. During the past 16 weeks, I have gathered research and investigated the connection between diversity and revenge in the media. More specifically, I’ve studied and will elaborate on the recurring theme of revenge with regards to underrepresented populations in renowned director Quentin Tarantino’s four most recent films: Kill Bill Vol. 1, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained.

Quentin Tarantino, probably best known for his film Pulp Fiction, is one of the most famous directors in Hollywood, and perhaps of all time. He is known for many recurring elements within his movies including: foot fetishes, lip close-ups and, most of all, tons of blood and gore. “His filmic signature is the signature of what it’s like to be alive right now – the frenetic energy, the black humour, the Shakespearean bloodbaths, the mishmash of themes and images and dialogue,” (J.S. Porter, InRetro). The underlying theme of a movie is undoubtedly the most important aspect to Tarantino’s work, as it is the heart of the ultimate impact said piece will have on an audience member. It is for this reason that the theme of underrepresented populations receiving revenge was the choice trend for media advocacy with regards to Quentin Tarantino’s four most recent films.

While Tarantino has many other films that give a subtle whisper to the means of revenge, Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2 mark the first two of the four most recent and revenge-centered films, which each include a member of an underrepresented population as the plot’s protagonist. The plot of Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 center on the character Beatrix Kiddo and her journey to find vengeance for the man and his assailants responsible for shooting her and, as she later finds out, for stealing her baby.

The theme of these movies is immediately evident with the first screenshot of the Kill Bill Vol. 1. Before the credits or movie begins, a black screen reveals white text and a very famous quote, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” As the plot thickens and the audience is shown the act and aftermath of the domestic violence lain upon Kiddo, the opening quote ties in with Tarantino’s tale.

While it certainly isn’t legal for victims of domestic violence to go about killing their abusers, these two action-packed, rage-fueled and blood-galore films invoke emotions of justice anyway. “Nowadays, with the use of elaborate legal systems of trial and punishment, personal revenge is often perceived as ‘barbaric’ and unnecessary. On the other hand people can often sympathize with revenge plots, if it is obvious that the ‘law’ provides insufficient retaliation,” (Suzanne Klatton, MA Thesis). In other words, audiences set aside their legislative beliefs if an act is seen to be unjustifiable by the law, or is simply too horrific to not take action in to one’s own hands.

In the second film, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Bill speaks with his brother about Kiddo recently awaking from a four-year-long coma. His brother, Bud, states, “That woman deserves her revenge, and we deserve to die.”



Not only does this quote reinforce the audience’s desire to root for her bloody vengeance, but it also shows that the abusers are, in fact, aware of the punishment they deserve for their past actions.

The third most recent film in his installments of revenge-seeking plots is Inglorious Basterds. “The film tracks two separate, though converging, plotlines: the revenge conspiracy of Shoshanna, who, after her escape from the almost comically evil SS officer Hans Landa, recreates herself as a cinema owner in Paris; and the deployment in occupied France of the ‘Basterds,’ a squad of American Jewish Nazi-hunters led by an officer nicknamed ‘Aldo the Apache,’” (Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic). This film was the first of Tarantino’s to ‘recreate’ history.

A critic from Rense eloquently explains, “Tarantino manages to resolve the clear discrepancy between the cinematic ‘Jewish innocence’ and the Jewish nationalist ‘murderous reality’. He does it all through a fantasy,” (Gilad Atzmon). In that, he took historical events that ended horrifically, and created a satisfying fantasy of what could have, should have or would have happened according to the director.

Inglourious Basterds is, in a nutshell, about Jews dealing out justice to the Nazis who are trying to exterminate them. “Through a cinematic fictional plot, history has become a homogenous continuum in which Jewish past and Israeli present are unified into a relentless expedition of suicidal vengeance,” (Atzmon). Tarantino blurred the lines between fiction, non-fiction and vengeful desire in this piece that will forever represent the emotion behind the Jewish community because of the Holocaust.

It takes the blood and horror of the actual historical event, and plays role reversal. As Aldo the Apache, leader of the Basterds states, “We will be cruel to the Germans, and through our cruelty they will know who we are. They will find the evidence of our cruelty in the disemboweled, dismembered, and disfigured bodies of their brothers we leave behind us.”

Undoubtedly Aldo, the Basterds, and Shoshana are all seeking the utmost revenge on Hitler and the Nazis: torturous death. Not only are swastikas carved into Nazi foreheads, but we also see a character known as The Bear Jew cave a German soldier’s head in with a baseball bat. The carnage in this film is abundant, to say the least. While this may sound disturbing, Tarantino’s presentation and approach to said subject is a form of gory eloquence that spatters across the screen.

As an audience member, Tarantino certainly doesn’t disappoint. “There’s just nothing quite so satisfying as seeing some of history’s greatest injustices fixed through two hours of big screen slaughter,” (Scott Harris, Next Movie). The film ends with the mass-incineration of Hitler and a movie theatre full of Nazis, and Shoshana proclaiming on the projected screen, “This is the face of Jewish vengeance!’’ While carving swastikas into Nazi’s foreheads and scalping SS soldiers sounds as though it would be quite controversial as a movie, the film has become a classic and is revered for its courageous premiere of rewriting history through fantastical fiction.

The most recent film by Tarantino also focuses on revenge through the recreation of history as well. Django Unchained, stars Jamie Foxx as a slave and Leonardo Di Caprio as a slave owner. Django sets out to reclaim the love of his life from Di Caprio’s property, and to reclaim the freedom of the land our constitution promised for all people.

After Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino declared that he would continue with a trilogy of revenge-based films tied in with his own version of what should have happened in history. “Perhaps the best thing to be said for Django Unchained is that it shows that Inglourious Basterds was no anomaly. Tarantino leaped forward in that film – in his ability, skill, meaning and purpose – and he gives nothing back with Django. He has found that elusive spot that all artists strive for, complete spontaneity and absolute control,” (Mick LaSell, SF Gate). Similar to his previous revenge films, Django’s character does indeed get his bloody revenge on the white southerners, and the movie ends with him and his love rejoicing on horseback for their bright future ahead.

Due to the success of his previous two films, he will complete a trilogy of ‘recreated’ historical revenge films with his newest project, but has yet to reveal the minority group chosen to receive revenge. “He also knows where the good scenes are, and by now he’s developed a repertory company of actors who can pitch their performances right on that Tarantino border between real and unreal, farce and tragedy,” (LaSell). Although there hasn’t been a reveal yet, the audience can be sure it will be as satisfying, if not more so, than the previous three.

The distinction between reality and fantasy is most important when discussing Tarantino’s use of revenge in filmmaking. Although his previous four films have done extremely well with regards to the every day audience, there has been quite a bit of political controversy surrounding his work. Specifically, the political issues surround his two most recent films, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained.

Certain movie critics and political journalists have criticized these films for, not surprisingly, racial reasons. “The racial situation in America has swung so far to the other side of the pendulum that Hollywood is now making racially inflammatory movies to cater to the bloodlust in an emerging market of anti-White racial snuff films,” (Hunter Wallace, Occidental). It has been argued that the portrayal of white and black people is one-sided and static in the two most recent of Tarantino’s vengeance fueled films. “There isn’t a ‘racial double standard’ here: it is a single standard that blacks and Jews are noble beings and Southerners and Germans are savage beasts who occupy another rung of the racial ladder somewhere below them,” (Wallace). Django Unchained certainly stirred up more controversy than the two previous films before it, but why?

The lack of controversy over Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 and Inglourious Basterds shows no comparison to that of Django Unchained. The three previous films don’t put the entirety or even a large sector of American whites in a negative light. In fact, white southerners are actually the heroic gang of Nazi killers in Inglourious Basterds. However, when Tarantino unleashed a film about blacks getting their revenge on whites for their enslavement, controversy turned into a divide.

Many critics argue about the film’s historical inaccuracy, one-sidedness and purposefully imposed ‘white guilt.’ The amount of controversy over Tarantino’s three movies prior to Django Unchained simply doesn’t match up. But the only difference between this movie and the previous three is the fact that blacks are staked against whites, and, in this version, blacks prevail over their abusive oppressors. Once again, the underrepresented population is set as the protagonist, and the oppressors of history are ultimately turned into victims by the oppressed. This most recent installment of his revenge-driven films may have been the most controversial thus far; however, controversy is not something that will get in the way of Tarantino’s filmmaking.

A notion that I’ve previously quoted and mentioned throughout this paper is the difference between reality and fantasy. Criticism of these films about revenge for underrepresented populations isn’t justifiably supported. Art isn’t something one can put limitations, boundaries or political institutions on. Quentin Tarantino is in the art of making films, and therefore has the right to create whatever fantastical re-envisioning of history’s horrors that he desires. Not only does he have the right to continue this cinematic art form, but he also has the inspiration to do so in a manner with the utmost balance between reality and fantasy regarding historical accuracy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Barshad, Amos. “QT&A: Quentin Tarantino on Django Unchained: ‘I Cut Their Heads Off. They Grew Another Head, But They Were a Little Traumatized'” Grantland. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2014. <http://grantland.com/hollywood-prospectus/qta-quentin-tarantino-on-django-unchained/&gt;.

Goldberg, Jeffrey. “Hollywood’s Jewish Avenger.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 01 Sept. 2009. Web. 14 May 2014. <http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/09/hollywoods-jewish-avenger/307619/?single_page=true&gt;.

“Just Another Movie Blog.” : Redeeming Violence: Tarantino’s Revenge Philosophy. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2014. <http://bloggingmoviesrus.blogspot.com/2013/02/redeeming-violence-tarantinos-revenge.html&gt;.

“Oscar Countdown: The Hidden Message in Inglourious Basterds.” Do Something. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2014. <https://www.dosomething.org/news/inglourious-basterds-was-there-hidden-message&gt;.

Porter, J.S. “Quentin Tarantino & the Theme of Revenge.” InRetro Magazine InRetro Radio. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2014. <http://www.inretro.ca/2013/03/quentin-tarantinos-revenge/&gt;.

“Quentin Tarantino Talks about the Appeal of Revenge Movies.” Total Film Movie News RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2014. <http://www.totalfilm.com/news/quentin-tarantino-talks-about-the-appeal-of-revenge-movies#null&gt;.

Wallace, Hunter. “Django Unchained: Quentin Tarantino’s New Anti-Southern Racial Revenge Film.” Occidental Dissent. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2014. <http://www.occidentaldissent.com/2011/05/05/django-unchained-quentin-tarantino-anti-southern-racial-revenge-film/&gt;.

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The Cycle of Abuse:

Why Awareness of Battered Woman Syndrome is Important

By Terran Smith

For 18 years, Mary Metz lost her identity to the control of an abuser. She was beaten, humiliated and isolated. Like many battered women, she thought she’d never escape the cycle of abuse

But she did. She escaped victimization and became a survivor.

Now 60-years old, and 15 years removed from her tormentor, Mary helps others battle through Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) as both a survivor and an advocate for The Willow Domestic Violence Center in Lawrence.

Awareness of Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) helps people to better recognize, understand and even overcome the cycle of abuse.

“Recognition is one thing and acknowledgement is another, but you can’t acknowledge a problem if you can’t recognize it,” Mary said.

The cycle of abuse follows a pattern of abusive behavior.

Power and Control Wheel

Click here for other informative wheels provided by the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence.

“It starts out with controlling, second is tension building, third is the violence stage, and fourth is the honeymoon stage.” Mary said. “It follows an addictive cycle. The same elements in an abusive relationship are present in addictive behaviors.”

A common misconception about domestic violence is women choose to stay in abusive relationships.

There’s a belief system in society that women look for these types of relationships,” Becca Burns, director of volunteer services with The Willow, said. “With battered woman syndrome, it is not something that is inherent in the woman, but is caused by continuous abuse.”

BWS is defined as “a pattern of signs and symptoms, such as fear and a perceived inability to escape, appearing in women who are physically and mentally abused over an extended period by a husband or other dominant individual,” according to the Farlex Medical Dictionary.

Symptoms of the syndrome also include:

  • denial
  • detachment
  • guilt
  • isolation
  • depression/anxiety
  • low self-esteem
  • general inability to cope with life’s demands

Along with denial, Mary said she displayed other characteristics of the disorder.

“I had all of the symptoms of BWS even though I didn’t recognize them as such,” Mary said. “I didn’t know who to ask if our relationship was normal because many women are lumped together, rather than understanding that it’s an actual illness.”

She was later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – the parent category of BWS.

“What my diagnosis says to me is that an outside force caused mental and emotional scars along with the physical ones,” Mary said. “It’s appropriate to have a label that explicates you were terrorized, that the mental health community acknowledges it and that it is not your fault.”

“These Hands Don’t Hurt,” artwork by children of The Willow

While many survivors aren’t diagnosed with BWS, being informed of the syndrome helps to understand and overcome experience of abuse. It is more difficult to justify behavior of an abuser when looking at symptoms of a disorder instead of the actions of the abuser.

“It’s easier to identify your feelings rather than trying to identify abuse,” Burns said.

Volunteers at The Willow are often frustrated when survivors return to abusers.

“By understanding these symptoms, it would help volunteers be more patient and helpful to survivors,” Rachel, a volunteer advocate for the shelter, said.

Along with survivors and volunteers, it is equally important for the community to understand BWS. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Organization, “One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.”

If community awareness of BWS spreads, people would be more likely and able to distinguish between abusive and normal behavior.

“Many people haven’t heard of the cycle of abuse or BWS,” Rachel said. “Understanding the disorder would better inform the public – especially for people in unhealthy relationships and unaware of it.”

Understanding of BWS in the community is also important to provide support for survivors of domestic abuse.

“Ultimately, what a survivor needs, whether experiencing BWS or not, is understanding and validation that their experience is real,” Burns said. “It’s critical that anyone, whether community members or someone at The Willow, be a supportive person for them no matter what.”

Click here to visit The Willow Domestic Violence Center’s Website.

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Exciting Stuff! Listen up!

This morning at 11:00am (central time), my colleagues and I are putting on a live broadcast covering local and national news this summer thus far. I will be one of the head co-anchors. There will be three different stories all related to non-profits and advocacy (if you know me at all I’m sure this won’t come as a shock to you hehe)

Go to http://www.journalism.ku.edu/media-crossroads to watch the broadcast streaming live promptly at 11! :)

 

Thank you so much for giving me such a great following. It’s because of each of you that I continue my work.

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Hunter S. Thompson: A Legacy Living

“No. We can’t stop here. This is…BAT COUNTRY!” 

Summary:

Hunter Stockton Thompson was a countercultural icon that bridged the gap between fiction and journalism. Famous for his work with Rolling Stone and for books such as “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” this quirky writer had a tone so unique; his writing was given its own genre called gonzo journalism. It is a journalistic style still in use today. This profile delves more extensively into the life of Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo journalism and the legacy he left behind.

 

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

The late Hunter Stockton Thompson (born 1937 in Louisville, Ky.) believed, “There is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms” (Maria Popova). It was this belief that helped Thompson to construct a new journalistic genre contradictory to the very core of said topic’s definition. “That once-radical, now-ubiquitous style of New Journalism that does away with claims of capital-O objectivity,” is known today as gonzo journalism and “instead inserts the author into the story as an active first-person narrator,” (Popova).

On February 20, 2005, Thompson died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at age 67; however, the firsthand, personal reporting approach, which first made Thompson so radically iconic, now lives as the literary legacy to the original gonzo journalist.

Thompson, like his works, did not waste any time beating around the bush. He found writing his forte and was inducted into the local Athenaeum Literary Association for his fiction and poetry while still attending high school.

Thompson Yearbook Picture

 “I was not proud of what I had learned, but I never doubted that it was worth knowing.”

As talented as young Thompson was, his run-ins with the local law eventually caught up to him. At age 17 a judge gave Thompson the ultimatum between prison and military. Choosing the latter, the young man enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1956. Here, he continued to develop his craft and wrote a weekly sports column for the base for his two years of service.

Upon discharge in 1957, Thompson worked a number of newspaper jobs, but found satisfaction in none off them. He began freelancing from Puerto Rico and South America for The New York Herald Tribune, the National Observer and various other publications.

An article entitled, “Hunter S. Thompson, The Art of Journalism No. 1,” from The Paris Review foreshadows, “The vocation quickly developed into a compulsion,” (Douglas Brinkley, Terry McDonell). Before the ripe age of 25, Thompson completed his first (and only) novel, The Rum Diary. Based upon his experiences in South America, the colorful adaptation was not actually published until 1998.

Thompson got his foot in the door of journalism with his foreign correspondent work, but it was the publication of his first non-fiction book Hell’s Angels in 1967 that first established his reputation. This work, arguably the first to emulate true gonzo journalism, was supported by over a year of Thompson’s travels with the infamous gang.

This firsthand account supported Thompson’s gonzo strategy, which, according to an interview from the Quietus, aims to, “place the journalist at the very heart of a story, until he becomes the central protagonist” (Ian Johnston). His first book set the tone for future pieces and forced the public to take a second look at things, but gonzo journalism would need more propellant to solidify itself as a new genre.

It was the publication of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in 1972 that fortified the vitality of Thompson’s presence in American journalism. The Encyclopedia Britannica describes, “First serialized in Rolling Stone, it documents the drug-addled road trip taken by Thompson (as his alter ego Raoul Duke) and his lawyer (Dr. Gonzo) while also discussing the end of the 1960s counterculture.” The success of the excerpt caused the magazine to offer Thompson a job as its national political reporter.

"Some people get rich and others eat shit & die."

 

“I feel the same way about disco as I do about herpes.”


As Thompson paved the pathway to possibility by bridging the gap between fiction and journalism, this opportunity from Rolling Stone, “brought Mr. Thompson’s rule-breaking style to a broader audience, where his outrageous voice helped refocus the nation’s customarily straitlaced political dialogue” (Michael Slackman).

Thompson had the perfect blend of rage and fantasy to resonate with cultural frustrations. “At his peak Mr. Thompson reached out in his writing to a generation made cynical by the Vietnam War and the Watergate political scandal and that was prepared to respond to Mr. Thompson’s visceral honest[y],” (Slackman). This mixture left an heir of drama and reveal lingering at the end of Thompson’s articles.

Along with this journalistic style come natural questions of virtue and validity. One of the most fundamental ideas of journalism is the idea of objectivity and the ability to account without bias. Slackman quotes an Associated Press interview conducted in 2003, in which Thompson states, “Fiction is based on reality unless you’re a fairy-tale artist. You have to get your knowledge of life from somewhere. You have to know the material you’re writing about before you alter it.” Thompson did not argue for bias in order to get his personal outlook across or simply to make for better readership; he argued for it because he believed it to be a necessity. 

Hunter S. Thompson was a bold, innovative journalist who never ceased to test the boundaries of every rule. He refused to believe that journalism was something objective or that stories could be told from the outside looking inward. This defiance was replaced with wholehearted subjectivity.

Thompson became enveloped in first-person accounts. This made them all the more edgy, and, for Thompson, perhaps, all the more destructive. Thompson’s firsthand, semi-fictional style was so consistently successful it became the genre, still known today, as gonzo journalism.

 

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Poll Results: And the winner is…

With 61% of the vote….

Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo journalism takes the win!

Stay tuned for the article , “Bat Country,” coming very, VERY soon :)

 

-Terran Rae

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What do YOU want to learn more about?

Attention! It’s time for LNP’s first ever Reader’s Choice Poll! It’s up to YOU to decide which article I’ll post next! Poll closes Thursday. Just choose between the two topics below–it’s as simple as that! I can’t wait for your feedback!

 

As always, thank you for visiting. I’ll post the winning article on Thursday evening.
 
Be the change,
 
 
Terran Rae Smith
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Happy Birthday, Daddy:

Father of Mine: Reflective Analysis of Moral Development

By Terran Rae Smith
Preface: This is dedicated to both of my parents. To my mother, thank you for constantly striving to improve under the unfortunate and harsh conditions life has given you. To my father, I thank you for helping me to see through the ailments, and into my mother’s beautiful heart.
2006: Dad, 47, and myself, 13

2006: Dad, 47, and myself, 13

I am told that my mother was once vibrant, charismatic and breathtakingly beautiful inside and out. I don’t remember her this way because my mother began abusing prescription pills during my infancy, and developed many mental illnesses as the addiction continued throughout my childhood. Today, only a glimmer of that happy, outgoing woman I’m told about remains.

My mother suffers from a number of mental illnesses, some of which include: Bi-Polar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Hypochondria and Munchhausen Syndrome. Because of her illnesses, she was very abusive, manipulative and made unethical decisions, to say the very least. Although my father divorced her when I was nine, my mother fought for custody of me until the day I graduated high school.

 Other than my father and I, my sister and the rest of my family have been estranged from my mother for over eight years. She has been able to maintain a lifestyle of lounging and pill popping by using the technology of today to her advantage, much like the following topic discussed in chapter two of Rushworth M. Kidder’s, How Good People Make Tough Choices. “Widespread, designed for great speed, often decentralized, [our] systems are increasingly susceptible to misuse or manipulation by a single individual making a single wrong decision” (Kidder 24). My mother receives Social Security, Disability and other government paid leisure because she knows how to manipulate, at all costs, anyone and anything until she gets what she wants.

2006: Dad, 47 and myself, 13

2006: Dad, 47 and myself, 13

My mother is abusive, clinically insane and is the most unethical person that I personally know. Seeing the woman I didn’t want to become did teach me what not do to in life, but seeing my father forgive and empathize with my mother truly shaped my character as a person, and gave me the strength and wisdom to forgive her as well.

After my parents divorced, my father raised my half sister and I as if we were both his own. During one of the many custody battles my mother pursued, my father purchased a car and a house for my mother simply out of the kindness of his heart. This woman had committed adultery, drove our family to bankruptcy to feed her addiction and abused his children. For the rest of my family, that was enough. But my father saw something that no one else did: the illness.

To be completely honest,  I once hated my mother with my entire being. But my father’s actions and explanations taught me a lesson synonymous with one of Kidder’s. “Most wrongdoing arises instead from immorality—a violation of the precepts of morality,” (33). My father helped me to understand it is because of my mother’s long-time drug use and mental health that marred her moral judgment. Since graduating high school in 2010, I’ve forgiven my mother’s actions and, although we continue to be estranged from one another, my heart is and always will be filled with love for her.

 Today, the strongest person I know turns 55 years old. Michael Scott Smith watched the mother of his children succumb to addiction, raised two daughters as a single parent and still manages to be hopeful helpful and sympathetic to the woman who tore his life, family and heart apart. He is my father, my warrior—my best friend. Without his guidance, I would not be able to, as Kidder puts it, “ identify, systematically and deliberately, the values [I] and [my community] hold” (33). Today is his birthday. From his perspective, it’s just another day and another year put on his tab, but from my perspective, July 6th not only celebrates the birth of one man, but also the birth of two parents. For that is exactly the role he has and continues to play in my and my sister’s lives.

2009: My Mom and I

2009: My Mom and I

My mother may have made a lot of unethical decisions in life, but my father’s altruistic actions and wise words taught me to look beyond the surface and to realized that she is not an unethical person, or, more importantly to myself, an unethical mother. “She’s not a bad person; she just has a lot of bad problems,” my father says when my frustration reaches its limit. “She may not be able to show it sometimes, but she loves you and your sister so much, Terran,” he says. There is more to my mother than repercussions from poor decisions; behind the mistakes, pills and sunken eye sockets, lies the woman my father fell in love with—my mother, Stephanie Joy Smith.

 

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Please take a few minutes to view the info-graphic below. 61 million Americans, including myself, have mental illness. Some wounds are invisible, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still heal <3

 

NAMI NYC-Metro IWL Infographic FINAL

 

SOURCE: How Good People Make Tough Choices by Rushworth M. Kidder

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Immigration: Friend or Foe?

Read the article below prior to my blog’s analysis for a better understanding of my stance.

Debating Immigration

The following is an opinion-based analysis of two opposing arguments proposed in the PDF file located above.

 

By Terran Smith–

 

Immigration is, arguably, one of the founding principles of our nation. However, in modern society, illegal or “undocumented” immigration is a very hot topic in politics. Although liberals and conservatives both have strong points to contribute to each side of the matter, the debate continues with passionate ferocity. Kurt Finsterbusch’s Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Social Issues presents each side of the immigration debate from two credible, unrelated sources. Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, holds the stance that immigration is a threat to the American lifestyle of today. The polar perspective, advocated by an editor named Jason L. Riley of the Wall Street Journal, bears the encouraging notion that immigration is, in fact, beneficial for the American way of life in the present and the future. Valid points are made from each narrator’s perspective; however, I found the reasoning behind Krikorian’s overall outlook to be the more relevant and longstanding than the opposing excerpt.

            One of the recurring themes Krikorian mentions is modern society’s accountability as the key elements preventing prosperity and perpetuating problems from immigration. Unlike many arguments, (both for and against immigration), Krikorian refreshes his side of this prolific political problem by focusing on the modernity of America as the main obstacle toward immigrant assimilation, rather than the weak and, arguably ignorant, blow of blame towards the immigrants themselves.

            The American identity is essential to the core of our nation. Because the country was built on shared beliefs rather than shared blood, assimilation has always been an important American value that’s held as necessary to become a part of the unified culture that is this country’s shared identity. As ‘modern’ as Americans may consider themselves, Krikorian claims that societal advances, from technological to multicultural, are all actually making the process of assimilation more difficult for immigrants. Krikorian addresses the obvious inquiry of how immigration economically impacts America’s market individually and overall. While the number of employed persons increases the technical ‘size’ of our economy, the fiscal outcome has shown lowered wages for native employees of equal skill levels, which results in a largely populated economic pool with lowered profit.

            Jason L. Riley makes many thought-provoking points while proposing the idealistic assets of immigration today. Riley focuses on the fiscal aspect of this argument for much of the piece. Economic predictions may be helpful when investing in the stock market; however, educated guessing is not, in my opinion, a concrete argument. The fortuitous future Riley believes immigration will provide our economy depends greatly on one of Krikorian’s main issues with modern immigration—achieving assimilation. After he presents the overall necessity for linguistic assimilation for work-related functioning, Riley defends this key conflict component with the lack of evidence that Latinos are against English assimilation. Using the absence of information as evidence for an argument makes me question the accountability of the author, and, unfortunately, takes away from previous persuasion towards said writer’s argument.

            I often find myself torn between both sides of the the issue of modern immigration to America; however, in this specific instance, Mark Krikorian undoubtedly made a stronger argument by: focusing on well-rounded representations of unique American characteristics as a society, addressing both sides of the topic without losing focus or merit, and, most importantly, explaining the origin and solution of a social issue without placing blame on the subject or the opposing side at hand.

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“A Family that Vapes Together”

Short Documentary by Terran Smith

Graduating 2015 from the WIlliam Allen White School of Journalism

Graduating 2015 from the WIlliam Allen White School of Journalism

Former smoker and vape enthusiast, Robby Swonger, has two main concerns in life: family, and helping others. He discovered electronic cigarettes are a successful alternative to quitting smoking, and realized a way to change the lives of his family members, and countless others in the community forever.

This is the story of three generations working together under one roof to become closer as a family while aiding others in the journey to put down cigarettes, and pick up a vape. This is more than just a  story about Lawrence’s latest local business.

After spending the past semester with the Swonger family at The Vapor’s Edge E-Cig shop, it’s become apparent; this is a story about family. These, are the Swongers.

 

I was lucky enough to document the Swonger family and their business for the first 15 weeks of this semester. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to include all of the information I had originally intended. So, I’ve put together a couple of infographics I believe will be helpful to those interested in learning more about this topic.

This graphic is one of the more inspiring and less ‘shame on you’ sources of information I’ve found about cigarettes and quitting the detrimental addiction. As you can see from the first bullet on the timeline below, it only takes 20 minutes after one’s last cigarette before positive changes in the body begin occurring.

The timeline goes on to explain the benefits and regeneration of your body for the next fifteen years after not smoking.

http://www.statschat.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Smokers-Timeline-1.jpg
[Infographic courtesy of http://www.cancer.org]

We all know that cigarettes are addictive, bad for our health and a waste of money. However, this infographic not only includes some of the most valid points about the literal and figurative costs of cigarettes, but it also includes information on what an individual saves in the long-run after switching to electronic cigarettes.


[Infographic courtesy of http://www.VaporXpress.com]

 

 

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