Friday, April 22, 2011

Here's to you Todd Rokita - upholding the laws of the land.

I received a letter from congressman Todd Rokita quite some time ago and never posted my response. I read an article this morning declaring that the Indiana state senate has passed a bill that would de-fund Planned Parenthood. Apparently supporters don't want to "fund an organization that provides abortions." Apparently, the work that they do that extends beyond providing abortions isn't worth funding either. You'll find my response to Mr. Rokita below. 

Dear Congressman Todd Rokita:
I received your letter in response to my request to vote against defunding Planned Parenthood today and I must admit that I’m deeply saddened by it. I understand that you are someone that firmly believes in the rights of the unborn and I applaud you for standing by it.  What I don’t applaud, however, is that fact that you are misleading your constituents.  Planned Parenthood is barred from using federal dollars to pay for abortions, Congressman Rokita. As a leader of this country I would think that you would have educated yourself on this fact before attacking the funding that is afforded Planned Parenthood. I do not believe that taking away their funding is somehow stemming the tide of abortion.  Nor I do believe that they are “actively encouraging the practice” of abortion. Have you or a loved one ever been to Planned Parenthood? Have you or they seen any behavior that “actively encourages” abortions? How do you legally define active encouragement? I can assure you that during my visit to a Planned Parenthood facility, I was never once “actively encouraged” to have an abortion.
If you seek to decrease abortions in this country, why would you start with agreeing to cut funding to an organization that provides birth control to the uninsured? Why would you attack an organization that provides screenings and healthcare to women and men who would otherwise not be able to afford such services? You want abortion to be stopped, yet you are attacking one of the very organizations that work to teach communities about proper birth control, and the prevention of pregnancy. Does that make sense to you, as someone who is smart enough to become a congressman? Planned Parenthood is not also known as Abortions R’ Us. Planned Parenthood is about more than performing abortions – a service that is legal in the United States of America.  It is about providing men and women with cancer screenings, yearly check-ups, STD panels, etc. 
Employees in the healthcare profession do not get to pick and choose who they will or will not help.  Would it be acceptable to you if a doctor decided against performing life saving surgery on a patient because they did not agree with the person’s choices in life? Healthcare professionals are not being forced to do anything. They are doing their jobs. If they do not want to do their jobs, they can find another one.  I highly doubt that anyone is forcing healthcare workers to perform abortions “against their will.” Anyone that does not want to perform or participate in an abortion has the right to not do it. Their employer also has the right to relieve them of their position, considering that they are not fulfilling their oath and promise as a healthcare worker and employee. It’s all about choice.
I do not believe that our government should infiltrate countries and strike down innocent and defenseless men, women and children, but my taxes still pay for wars do they not? As an American citizen I benefit from the rights afforded me in the United States constitution while understanding that I may be subject to laws and taxes that I may or may not like, and have to endure the leadership of politicians that I do not like. I don’t get to pick and choose which laws I will obey, just as I do not get to pick and choose what programs my taxes will fund. You, dear congressman, also do not get to pick and choose which laws you will enforce and which taxes people have to pay.  This is the country we live in and the one that you’ve chosen to lead. Either accept it, or get out of office.
I understand your desire to protect the rights and lives of the unborn. But what about the rights and the lives of the people that put you in office? Unless, of course, you believe that the people that put you in office do not benefit from the services of Planned Parenthood. Roe v. Wade protects a woman’s right to choose. Until that is no longer true, you have an obligation to uphold the laws of this land whether or not you agree with them.  You also have a duty to stop propagating the lie that Planned Parenthood is using the hard earned money of taxpayers to pay for abortions.
Please be assured that I will always fight for and abide by the rights and laws of this land, whether I agree with them or not.
Thank you for contacting me. Please keep in touch. I’d love to read about your version of the truth in the future.

Kristen Reynolds
Educated Constituent

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On why graduate school is currently so pointless to me.

I graduated from Johnson C Smith University in 2009, firmly believing that I had the world in the palm of my hand. I didn’t have all the answers, but up until that point I’d asked all the right questions, and followed the itemized list that littered my path to success. I knew that whatever I wanted to do, I could do. I’d grown up surrounded by a loving and encouraging family, immediate and otherwise. I’d always been told of how proud I made them, how happy they were that I was graduating first high school, then college. My mother and father had instilled in me a deep sense of self-worth and made sure that I knew that I was capable of greatness.
When I arrived at JCSU in 2005 I was surrounded by young men and women from increasingly different backgrounds, that were my age, that had some of the same dreams – but that were so completely different from me it was astounding. I thought I would be around young people that would openly discuss the problems of the world, the state of Black America, the sort of people that would let go of petty high school tendencies and seek to better themselves. I hoped to better myself, and I like to believe that I did – but there are days that I am not so sure.

When I arrived at Purdue in 2010, I thought I would be surrounded by young men and women from increasingly different backgrounds, that were my age, that had some of the same dreams – and who would give me the sort of environment I believed I missed out on in college. I found myself quickly disenchanted with my life as a graduate student with respect to both social and educational aspects. Who was I helping? How was I helping them? Were my services at a lab bench, trapped in a dungeon-like lab for 8 hours a day (when I was only being paid for 4) really doing anything for anyone? I tried to tell myself that it was. I tried to tell myself that getting a PhD would allow me to be a better professor (as I wanted, and still would like, to teach at the college level). I had a plan – get a PhD, endure a post-doc, return to my alma mater, liberate the department chair position from the clutches of whichever professor currently held it, and create the department that I should have had when I was there.

But, I’ve grown to realize that I am meant to do so much more. I see the increasing need for mentors in the Black community. I see the need for constant encouragement of our young people – a funny thing for me to say since I am only currently 23. As I move further along in my education, I see less of me: outspoken Black men and women who envision a future for the world that is better than that which they found. Is it because I didn’t look, or because they simply aren’t there? Either option would result in the same – there should be more.

While a student at JCSU I only did a small part. I mentored for a year – and it was the most fulfilling job that I ever had the pleasure of taking part in. I cried when I couldn’t get a student to see how beautiful she was, when she couldn’t see what I saw. It broke my heart to see her in such pain. I wanted her to eventually get to the point where she could look in the mirror and say “I’m brilliant and I’m capable of anything. That alone makes me beautiful.” Did she ever get there? I don’t know. I failed her. I didn’t take the time to keep in touch. I left JCSU and I left her.

This realization wracks me. It makes me realize that our schools and our communities need a network of mentors and educators that will be willing to be dedicated to a life or lives for the long term. We need a network that will partner with middle and high schools in our community and mentor our growing children. I hear children every day talking about their dreams of being business executives, athletes, doctors and lawyers. JCSU has students that are on that very path. JCSU has graduated people that have embraced these very professions – who live in Charlotte and the surrounding areas. We need to connect the professionals with the students. Give them an opportunity to see a world that exists beyond their front doors. Give them an environment akin to the one in which I was cocooned – a family of people that are constantly saying not only, “you can do this,” but also, “you will do this.” A network of people that is unwilling to see their young people give up. A network that will have a hand in creating a generation that will enter graduate and professional schools, and graduate from them surrounded by people that look like them.

I propose this to you, Dr. Carter, because as a young woman of 23 I am unfulfilled with life. I know there is so much more that I can do for this world than sit at a lab bench all day. I can use the power of my experience and my words to help guide someone through their high school careers and into a college one. I envision a program that will raise money to fund scholarships for children to attend college. A program that will teach them about the different avenues they can pursue in life. One that will have a hand in increasing the literacy rates within the Black community. One that will as a byproduct, see the numbers of young Black men and women graduating from high school and beyond increase. I believe that JCSU and its students can do this. I would like to work with you, our current and past students to make this dream a reality so that we can help our young children live theirs.

We start with one school, with a few children. We ask them, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We ask them, “How do you think you get there?” And we help them achieve those goals. We help them study for their exams. We use our science majors to help them learn the differences between meiosis and mitosis, or English majors – the differences between adjectives and adverbs. Most importantly, we don’t just work with them for a year. We work with them for as long as we are able and as long as they are willing. I believe in this, I believe it can work because I have seen it work. I know personally what mentorship has the potential to do. I hope that you can see this dream as a reality as well. I hope that we can work together in the very near future to make this happen.

Kristen Reynolds