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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Today... I need a soap box

Things in this post have been on my mind for a long time. I realize they will offend people, but I believe they need to be said. I shall attempt to be as civil and factual as possible. However, if anyone chooses to get up and walk out after reading this, I will not blame them.

On Hillary Clinton

Her using private server for business e-mails does not make her a "lying piece of shit" (something I actually read on one of the public forums). Many of us, especially those who work remotely, use home e-mail to send work file backups or save business contact information somewhere other than the work computer in case it crashes. Network connection problems are very common, and having backups of work on a home computer is a normal thing people do. How would you feel if you were called a lying piece of shit for copying your teammate's e-mail address into your home contact list? Give it a break. Had Mrs. Clinton not been a presidential candidate, no one would have blinked an eye at this.

On GMOs and organic foods

For crying out loud! Stop generalizing! Don't you understand that most of the fruits and vegetables today have been genetically modified? This has been done since the dawn of time, when humanity discovered farming as an alternative to gathering and started cultivating stronger strains of various plants. Learn to differentiate between things that have been genetically modified through cuttings and transplants and things modified by using scary chemicals. Not the same thing.

In addition, stop telling people what they can't eat and being snooty toward those who prefer brands you don't like. If you want to be helpful publish lists of brands that are better and places where they can be purchased at lower costs. It is a well-known fact that organic foods and heirloom vegetables are significantly more expensive than other comparable foods in most parts of the country. The difference can be as low as 10% for organic brown rice (manageable, especially if you buy in bulk) to the whooping 134% for organic beef (definitely not manageable). Average difference between organic and non-organic foods is 68%. (The data comes from a report published in a Colby College study in 2011. More recent information is available here and here.)So, unless you are prepared to foot the grocery bill of every person who has to get by on food stamps, shut the hell up. And if you threw out Amy's products when it was bought by General Mills? That was an idiotic thing to do. You are no better than Russian government burning foreign foods just to spite Europe and US.

On race and poverty(US only)

What is wrong with you - all of you? White people, if you don't think racial divide exists you are delusional. A simple example - look at the wage scale. It is a well-known fact that, given the same job and the same skill level, the highest salary goes to a white man. There is a toss-up between a white woman and a black man, depending on the location and the industry. Black and Hispanic women fall at the bottom of the scale, frequently earning 50 - 65 cents per every dollar earned by a white man. (Information on the wage gap is available here and here). This is out there. It exists. Deal with it. The same trend permeates other aspects of workplace and society in general. Probability of getting a job, all things being equal... Probability of getting good customer service... Probability of being treated well on the job and in social situations... Likelihood of getting arrested... Likelihood of being treated crappy by the police regardless of guilt... Everything is affected. Acknowledge it. Deal with it.

Black people, for goodness sake, stop treating everything so black and white (pun completely and utterly intended.) You can't force white people to treat you better, but you do have a choice as to whether or not you treat white people like shit when they live in predominantly black neighborhoods or work in predominantly black workplaces. I've done some of both - having lived and work in places including mostly minorities. I never offended anyone, I did my job, I was polite - I was treated like shit. When I was nice, I was accused of trying to weasel my way into the group where I didn't belong - I wasn't trying anything, I was just being nice. When I kept to myself because I got tired of such accusations, I was accused of being snooty. For no reason other than being white. That's racism too. And it too is out there. I quit saying "Some of my friends are black" because I know what I'll hear in response is "That's what you ALL say". Whatever. Some of my friends are Jews, whose ancestors died in the Holocaust, and they don't choose to treat German people like crap - but nobody gives a damn about that.

I don't care whether your ancestors were slaves (so were some of mine - there was such a thing as slavery in Russia, which you know nothing about), I don't care how horrible you may have been treated, it is your choice and your responsibility to decide how you want to treat others. Quit blaming history, quit blaming jerks in your life, think for yourself. And quit assuming that white poor have it any better than black poor - they don't. Their life is shit too - they don't lose the right to have problems and struggles just because they are white.

News item - neither American white poor nor American black poor have it the worst in the world, be it in terms of living conditions, income, racial, or religious persecution. You know who has it worse? It's a long list - are your ready? Women in certain Middle Eastern nations. Jews in Russia (well, actually, just about anyone who is not Russian these days). Jews in Palestine. Palestinians in Israel. Aborigines in Australia. Immigrants - legal and illegal - in America and Europe. Heck, Africans who were actually born in Africa. All these people right this second have it worse than you. So, be thankful for hitting the cosmic jackpot of being born in America, by all means acknowledge you have struggles, but handle them like a grownup, instead of waiting to win a lottery. Yes, we have tons of enormous holes in our welfare and social security systems. It's common knowledge. All you can do is work with them - one thing at a time. There is no formula, no panacea for overcoming extreme poverty, near-homelessness, near-deportation. I can only tell you it can be done - with no money and no connection. I know because I've done it.

On race, crime, and publicity

Having reviewed US Department of Justice prison mortality reports for 2012 and 2013, I discovered something fascinating and counter-intuitive. Unlike those overblown Facebook videos, this really will make you question a lot of things. The person likeliest to die in a US prison is not, in fact, a young black or Hispanic male from police brutality. It is a white male, aged 45-50, with no prior conviction, from an illness or a suicide. There are no protests or riots on the subject because, I suspect, most people don't know this and think they know something altogether different. So much for making assumptions solely on your own personal perception of the world.

Of course, our darling media does little to alleviate the ignorance on the subject and makes a concerted effort to frame racially- and gender-charged events in as inflammatory manner as possible. Here are what I think certain headlines should have read at the time these events happened:

- In Ferguson, Missouri, a policeman oversteps the use of force boundaries and kills an unarmed local petty thief while trying to arrest him.

- In Tulsa, Oklahoma a policeman bungles an arrest and shoots an unarmed suspect in a drug sting.

- In New York, a harmless man dies in police custody after being arrested on bogus charges and put in an illegal chokehold.

- In Salt Lake City, Utah, a policeman shoots an unarmed man at 7-Eleven after mistaking him for a suspect in a 911 call.

- Young woman dies in police custody under suspicious circumstances, having been arrested after a disagreement over a traffic violation.

- In Clairmont, South Dakota, a young woman dies in police custody after being arrested for a bond violation.

- In Seneca, South Carolina, undercover police officer shoots a teen trying to sell weed.

- In Lynn, Mass., a drug dealer dies in a hospital after being shot by a police officer.

Yes, there are crimes that are obviously and unequivocally racially, sexually, or religiously charged. The recent Charleston church shooting. The recent Louisiana shooting. Heck - 9/11! But not all of them are like that, and we must learn to differentiate on a case-by-case basis. If any riots ensued after headlines formulated as I described above, they may have taken place for the right reasons: like, yeah, petty thievery and bullying is bad, as is driving like a jerk or breaking bond, but they don't deserve a death sentence. As it was... some of these cases might not even come across as very familiar. They weren't publicized because those who died in them were not of the specific race. That should not be ok. Nor should it be ok, that I could not bring some of them up on par with the others without being called racist.

On crime and mental illness

There is one huge point that upsets non-white people in this country, and this one I totally agree with. I support them with arms and legs, because it's preposterous. Mental illness as a crime diagnosis. When a crime, particularly a mass shooting, is committed by a black or a Hispanic suspect, the media immediately says "thug", "gang member", etc. But when it's committed by a white suspect it's "aww, he's had a history of mental illness". Bullshit.

First of all, mental illness is not race-exclusive. So, why isn't it being looked at or publicized when the suspect is non-white? Second, there were plenty of mass murderers in the history of crime who were, for all intents and purposes normal. We could argue that someone cannot be normal if he or she is ok with killing a whole bunch of people. Great. Then we are back to point one - the investigation into the mental health history should not be race-exclusive. If that is going to be the first question asked in some mass shootings - it should become the first question asked in all mass shootings.

Race aside, it pisses me off as someone who has a legitimate, certified, confirmed by four doctors mental health diagnosis. And, because many mental patients reach out for support, I have many friends and acquaintances who also struggle with mental illness. None of them have gone out and killed people. Not one. So, why is this such a common conclusion. Instead of "suspect with a history of mental illness shoots ten people" I want to see "suspect shoots ten people because he is an asshole". Mental illness already carries plenty of stigma, thank you very much. We don't need to have the label of "potential mass murderer" added to the list. Most functioning mental patients are also responsible adults, who realize their mental illness is not society's responsibility, and work hard to operate within the boundaries defined by normal people. They do not use their mental illness as an excuse to commit crimes.

Rant over. Until next time.

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