Google+ Badge

Monday, June 29, 2015

Serial Killer or Human Trafficking? Chillicothe and Scioto County Links

Six women have disappeared. Four of them have been found dead. As talk in a small central Ohio city, population 23,000, turns to the possibility of a serial killer or killers, the FBI has joined the case, trying to figure out who or what is happening to these women.

Some were sex workers, most had problems with drug abuse and at least three were addicted to heroin, according to ABC News.

"They all ran in the same circle -- the drug scene and things like that," Chillicothe Police Sgt. Ron Meyers told the Huffington Post.

"They've all lived similar lifestyles. We know they all have drugs addictions -- heroin being the drug of choice for most of them. Also, some prostitution issues in their lives -- so we know that's kind of a link,” Chillicothe Police Officer Bud Lytle said.

(Joe Rosemeyer. "Missing Chillicothe women: Who or what is killing women in small
central Ohio city?" WCPO Cincinnati. June 25, 2015)

It is time to face reality. The public has an important obligation to ALL community members. That obligation is to respond to help the victims of crime no matter their lifestyle or their addiction.

I cannot imagine the huge public outcry if these women had not carried the stigma of being people struggling with terrible personal demons. Although many have answered the call to help, many others show much less concern when so-called "secondary citizens" are victims of criminal acts. The fact is that all of these women are human beings seeking a fruitful existence -- each is an essential piece of the community in which they live. Their peril must be a top concern for all of us.

I would be greatly surprised if the deaths and the disappearances are not part of a highly organized human trafficking network that has roots extending far beyond Chillicothe, Ohio. Here in Scioto County -- less than 50 miles from Chillicothe -- we have experienced a terrible rash of our own missing women.

Connections among the missing are evident to those who seek answers. And, it is true that drug abuse and prostitution here provide "hunting grounds" for sick criminals, especially those who choose to take advantage of human flesh in exchange for money and favor.

These victims are manipulated as slaves in a system that remains "a dirty little secret" to many. Most are fully controlled by substances. They become dependent and addicted while fixes and fear keep them in tow and silent about any abuse. One only has to follow the love of money to find links to the organization of control. These slave masters use the vulnerable to satisfy their own carnal desires, to offer favors to associates, and to make money from the local sex trade.

Portsmouth, Chillicothe, so many other nearby places -- we are the communities in which this obscene human trafficking takes place. We are the communities that suffer the losses and inherit the fears of brutal kidnappings and murder. We are the communities who choose to "let it ride" because drugs and prostitution are beneath us, and, therefore, not really our concern. We are the communities that refuses to "dig deeper" into the disappearances.

And ...

We all have become another community in which our own populace continues to lose lives for lack of full support in helping stop this control and manipulation. Do we in Portsmouth need to join the task force to find missing people in Chillicothe. Of course we do. But just as important, we need to join together to shed daylight onto the terrible abuses of human beings right here in our own community. It is our obligation to do so.

Who in a position of authority is willing to vow the following: "I will not rest until unsolved cases are solved and the evil people among us come to justice"?

Make no mistake, the sex trade and drug connection you see in Portsmouth are parts of a much larger network of human trafficking with NO regard for life. Those with answers need to speak out now to prevent further tragedies. No matter if truths are revealed that expose a dark underbelly that thrives through politics and favor -- our duty is to bring criminals to justice. Our duty is to care for all of our fellow citizens by insuring equality of justice.

Click here for access to the Missing Person Hotline:

Friday, June 26, 2015

Will Portsmouth Police Follow "The New Reality" and Heal a Fractured Relationship With the People?

"Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware said the Kasich administration, by way of an Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations, has mandated additional training for police officers — and that training will most likely be paid for by what remains of local government funds which have been diminishing over the last several years and will, for all intents and purposes continue to diminish.

“'It’s probably a catch-22,' Ware said. 'I think we’re probably going to lose some local government funding and we’ll receive some of it back.'

"Ware said the additional training is the new reality in policing and it will continue to be required."

(Frank Lewis. "Ware: additional training mandatory." Portsmouth Daily Times. June 25, 2015)

I believe police in Ohio, and especially in Portsmouth, need additional, mandatory training. As public servants, policeman need special skills -- not only expertise in enforcing the law but also greater aptitude in communicating with people. I feel the police here have a poor relationship with the public that, in part, causes a negative reputation to thrive.

Honesty, transparency, and a caring attitude about equal justice are essential to good policing. Too many times the unwillingness of enforcement to respect the rights of common people have led these citizens to feel neglected in a system that favors power, control, and politics.

In December, 2014, Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich appointed 18 members to the Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations after a series of incidents in Ohio and around the nation that highlighted tensions between communities and police.

The charge of the Task Force was threefold:

1. To explore the cause of fractured relationships that exist between some law enforcement and
the communities they serve;

2. To examine strategies to strengthen trust between communities and law enforcement in order to resolve the underlying causes of friction;

3. To provide the Governor with a report including recommendations about best practices available to communities.

U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach from the Northern District of Ohio said improvements can be made.
"In this nation we need to be able to acknowledge and thank officers, but when the facts dictate it, hold police officers accountable," Dettelbach says. Additional training, updated policies, new equipment, and better community policing procedures could help alleviate the department's issues, Dettelbach said.

David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, said, "The single most important fact that I have learned in 30 years working in these neighborhoods is that those of us on the outside focus on the incidents, and people in those neighborhoods focus on the history."

Mistrust exists between residents and police in many neighborhoods, Kennedy said.

"This is not nearly as much about race as we think it is," he said. "This is about community and the police, and they're not getting along."

Kasich then asked the task force to issue a report by April 30, 2015, to provide ideas for how communities across the state can build constructive relationships between communities and police that are built on mutual understanding and respect.

Here are some of the findings of the task force:

* Citizens were adamant that action must be taken to ensure that agencies and officers be held accountable by the communities they serve. All actions -- administratively and criminally performed.

* Universally, it was felt that the police need to be more engaged with communities in which they work. Police must have relationships with communities that evoke trust. They must be proactive partners with the public.

* One suggestion was that police should live in the communities in which they work.

* There exists a need for law enforcement to have more positive interactions with youth at an early age so that these children begin to see police as someone they can trust.

* Citizens noted that the community must make more of an effort to engage with law enforcement, and that mechanisms need to be in place to engage in open, honest dialogue.

* The community perceives race to be an issue among some police officers. Racism is as underlying the fractured relationship between the community and police.

* Citizens perceive law enforcement to be procedurally unjust. Citizens spoke of being treated unfairly and disrespectfully by law enforcement, being subject to unspoken ‘rules’ to which
they must abide, and being denied a voice when interacting with police. Over time, these
factors generate citizens’ perceptions of a procedurally unjust justice system. As a result, law
enforcement officers are no longer viewed as legitimate authority figures.

* Citizens noted that transparency in agency policies and procedures is a critical step toward being viewed as being neutral and fair. In order for law enforcement to be viewed as just and fair.

* The timely, accurate, and ongoing release of information to the public on critical incidents is another very important step in being seen as transparent, and all law enforcement agencies should have a policy that emphasizes this.

* Some felt it is important to have specially trained officers to interact with persons who have mental illness and other disabling conditions, as agencies must be accountable to all members of their community. Roughly 10 percent of the calls for which officers are dispatched involves a mentally ill person in crisis, and agencies can be found ‘deliberately indifferent’ by not having the ability to effectively interact with this population.


(Senator Nina Turner Director John Born. Executive Summary: Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations. April 29, 2015)

(Evan MacDonald. "Five takeaways from task force forum on police and community relations." Cleveland Plain Dealer. January 20, 2015)

I think Police Chief Ware needs to commit fully to what he calls "the new reality in policing." Without a doubt, the public in Portsmouth is sorely aware that police need to be more engaged and to be held more accountable. Time and time again, I hear citizens complaining about a system that seemingly doles our measures of justice based upon a person's social standing, power, and influence. In fact, I know this from my own personal experience.

Transparency is also lacking in the Portsmouth Police Department. Without common access to needed reports and statistics, people are left to wonder why "policy" denies them disclosure. Is it any wonder that policing for the needs of the power structure continues to oppress a community in which the poor have few opportunities for success and advancement? There appears to be an agenda that lies beneath a blanket of purposeful design.

The basis of a strong community is its ability to recognize and support all social strata. People point fingers at the poor and struggling claiming they are nothing but "lazy welfare recipients" and "ignorant bums without initiative," and the authorities are no exception to contributing to that kind of ad hominem character attack. This prejudice helps assure a division between classes that contributes to political control because people without knowledge jump into the bandwagon and scapegoat the poor for all of the ills of the community.

Hope, direction, and a real chance for a positive future strengthens those in peril. But, you can't provide these things if you truly do not understand the population. Some here have never known the struggles of those living in the Projects, the Bottoms, or the Ville, and while willing to pay lip service to understanding the needs of those less fortunate, they offer tokens of help if they offer help at all. The folks in poverty don't need charity as much as they need equality.

A share in the real decisions of the direction of the town would give the poor immeasurable happiness and real stimulus for initiative. This can only happen when public servants recognize they must provide poor citizens with equal justice and equal standing as far as their basic rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It's been a long time coming. I am hopeful for major improvement very soon.

"Ohio earned a 'D' in the recent State Integrity Investigation
looking at transparency, accountability and anti-corruption
mechanisms in place in all 50 states. The state fared poorly
in the area of effective access to information."

("How bright are Ohio's Sunshine Laws in Southwest Ohio?" WVXU - Cincinnati)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

All Americans Must Possess "The Gift Outright"

The Gift Outright

By Robert Frost (1874–1963)       

The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

With due apologies to Native Americans, I believe Robert Frost's poem solidifies the understanding that not only are we stewards of our land, but also we are dependent upon it for our free existence. Living in a depressed area of Appalachia, I see the need for a community commitment to save this beautiful environment from ravages that occur through indifference and neglect.

Frost recited “The Gift Outright” at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy on January 20, 1961. Frost had originally planned to recite a poem entitled “Dedication” that he had written for the event. However, because of the glare of the sun and his poor eyesight (he was eighty-seven years old at the time), he was unable to read his copy of the poem and instead recited “The Gift Outright.”

The tone of the poem can be seen as defensive and even belligerent in terms of its approach to the land. Frost repeats the term “ours” numerous times in the text, but insists that the “we” of the poem is the white settlers from Europe, rather than the original “owners” of the land: the Native Americans.

One may assume that the charge -- "The land was ours before we were the land’s" -- applies to natives and to colonists alike, but "Frost ignores the conflict between the colonists and the Native Americans and instead focuses on the clash between the Old World and the New World, the European world of tradition and oppression and the new American world of freedom and destiny."

(The Poetry of Robert Frost. Analysis of "The Gift Outright." 1941)

She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.

At first, the colonists owned the land; however, they could not draw a true national identity from it because they were still tied to England. By embracing the lessons of the land, they were able to establish an American identity.

Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.

The source of weakness for the colonists is symbolized as a lack of surrender to the fact that a manifest destiny gave them the right to build a land that was not based on the traditions of Europe. They had to offer themselves to the land itself, not to the British, and become inhabitants who were willing to establish their own American identities in a new nation.

Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

This gift Americans gave themselves -- "a deed of land" -- required human payments of war and tremendous deeds of personal valor. It took a great toll of human suffering and death to acquire and to defend. And, later a Westward expansion as yet "vaguely realized" by the colonists of the time led to land "still unstoried" -- a great nation from humble beginnings that eventually spanned sea to sea.

I believe without a vision and an understanding of "a gift outright" we still must honor and strive to achieve, we have no connection to America, in particular to the literal "land" beneath our feet. It is this land, the earth itself, that we possess with great obligations to enrich it in every way. I wish the birthright of every American included a deed to a plot of soil so important to our way of life.

We can never be proud of our area until we develop an appreciation of our surroundings that includes a duty to improve what we have, no matter how dilapidated or how sorely ignored. This pride has nothing to do with the rich acquiring more and building new, fabulous structures as monuments to personal achievement. It has nothing to do with the maintenance of the power and the strength of one political segment of the community.

Instead, it has everything to do with common citizens grasping the land -- their gift -- and the ownership of their own rights, freedoms, and dreams. The American Dream is suffering so much that a cancer of poverty threatens to snuff it out forever. We are still "possessed by what we now no more possessed."

People must have the land, and after acquiring it, they must repeat the actions of their forefathers: They must find salvation in the soil where they live. If not, the land must be taken by new and better common stewards.

A Note: My sincere apologies to Native Americans who so nobly fought to defend their land. As a descendent of immigrants, I feel ashamed of the brutal tactics which Europeans used to drive natives from their homes. I do realize all immigrants are interlopers and subject to the accusations of unspeakable deeds. I can only wish immigration wasn't full of these horrible deeds. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Meet the Poor of 2015 -- Alone and Forgotten

"I-me-me mine, I-me-me mine,
I-me-me mine, I-me-me mine.

"All I can hear I-me-mine, I-me-mine, I-me-mine,
Even those tears I-me-mine, I-me-mine, I-me-mine,
No one's frightened of playing it,
Everyone's saying it,
Flowing more freely than wine,
All through the day I-me-mine."

From "I Me Mine" by the Beatles 

Taking all you can get... and even a little more at the expense of others less fortunate... seems to be the overpowering desire of so many. The gap between those who "have" and those who "have not" is increasingly widening. I believe the love of money causes greed that leaves little concern for a large segment of American society who struggle just to survive.

In an editorial titled "The Invisible Poor" (2000), James Fallows wrote the following:

"The way a rich nation thinks about its poor will always be convoluted. The richer people become in general, the easier it theoretically becomes for them to share with people who are left out. But the richer people become, the less they naturally stay in touch with the realities of life on the bottom, and the more they naturally prefer to be excited about their own prospects rather than concerned about someone else's."

(James Fallows. "The Invisible Poor." The New York Times. March 19, 2000)

Fallows saw a social and imaginative separation between the rich and the poor. He continued ...

"This is not the embattled distance of the 'Bonfire of the Vanities' period, with its gated communities and atmosphere of urban armed camps. It's more like simple invisibility, because of increasing geographic, occupational and social barriers that block one group from the other's view.

"Prosperous America does not seem hostile to the poor, and often responds generously when reminded. But our poor are like people in Madagascar. We feel bad for them, but they live someplace else."

By standard measures of real income and wages, the poorest and least educated Americans have experienced a falling standard of living since 1975. Rising inequality in family incomes reflects rising inequality in wages, the most important source of income for most Americans. Wage inequality has increased dramatically for both men and women. Although many compelling moral arguments for reducing economic inequality exist, richer Americans seem to have a high tolerance for economic inequality and often prefer to blame the poor for all of their ills.

(William A. Sundstrom. "The Income Gap." Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.
Santa Clara University)

According to a new study, the wealth gap between the top 1% and the bottom 99% in the U.S. is as wide as it's been in nearly 100 years. Between 1993 and 2012, the real incomes of the 1% grew 86.1%, while those of the 99% grew 6.6%, according to the research based on Internal Revenue Service statistics examined by economists at UC Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics and Oxford University.

From 2009 to 2012, as the U.S. economy improved, incomes of the top 1% grew more than 31%, while the incomes of the 99% grew 0.4% - less than half a percentage point. Economist Emmanuel Saez of UC Berkeley reports, "This implies that the top 1% incomes captured just over two-thirds of the overall economic growth of real incomes per family over the period 1993-2012."

(Connie Stewart. "Income gap between rich and poor is biggest in a century."
Los Angeles Times. September 11, 2013)

A famous quote from Voltaire still holds true: “The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor.”
It is imperative not to forget that the poor are still a very important component of today’s society. As consumers and workers, they comprise a segment of the population that provides obvious economic and social benefits for all. Yet, for all practical purposes, they are a neglected minority. Politicians rave about the importance of helping the middle class while any mention of the poor has become a “dirty word” in American politics.

A basic tenet of sociological practice is that to solve a social problem, people must begin by seeing it as social. If a society is set in its beliefs that poverty is caused by failures of individual initiative and effort, and people are poor because "there’s something lacking in them," then, in the eyes of other classes, the poor have no right to complain about their condition. Yet, who can deny the inequality in how the system and all its advancements are organized? Who can deny the poor are oppressed?

A primary characteristic of the class system is social mobility. In other words an individual can move up, or down, the class structure. In fact, now, more than ever, the underclass lives in areas with high concentrations of poverty and fewer opportunities to improve their lives.

Dr. D. Stanley Eitzen, professor emeritus in sociology from Colorado State University, argues that the so-called "new-poor" are much more trapped by poverty than the poor in previous generations mainly because there is little need for hard physical labor. Eitzen says ...

"The new poor are the poor who are displaced by new technologies or whose jobs have moved away to the suburbs, to other regions of the country, or out of the country. The new poor have little hope of breaking out of poverty."

(D. Stanley Eitzen and Maxine Baca-Zinn. Social Problems. 2003)

Oh, there are government anti-poverty programs which are basically in place to "help poor individuals" but they do nothing to change the social system that dooms so many to poverty. Novelist and sociologist Allan G. Johnson puts it this way ...

"The easiest way to see this is to look at the antipoverty programs themselves. They come in two main varieties. The first holds individuals responsible by assuming that financial success is solely a matter of individual qualifications and behavior. In other words, if you just run faster, you’ll finish the race ahead of people who are currently beating you, and then they’ll be poor instead of you. We get people to run faster by providing training and motivation. What we don’t do, however, is look at the rules of the race or question whether the basic necessities of life should be distributed through competition.

"The result is that some people rise out of poverty by improving their competitive advantage, while others sink into it when their advantages no longer work and they get laid off or their company relocates to another country or gets swallowed up in a merger that boosts the stock price for shareholders and earns the CEO a salary that in 2005 averaged more than 262 times the average worker’s pay. But nothing is even said – much less done – about an economic system that allows a small elite to own and control most of the wealth and sets up the rest of the population to compete over what’s left."

(Allan G. Johnson. The Forest and the Trees. 2013)

It has been nearly half a century since President Lyndon Johnson declared "war on poverty." That initiative produced great successes, and many of its programs have been very effective -- the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps); Head Start; Medicaid; the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program; school breakfast programs; and federal aid for poor schools and students.

Dan Glickman, US Secretary of Agriculture from 1995 until 2001 and now a Senior Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, says ...

"After years of erosion of wages and benefits, the U.S. poverty rate has risen and approaches a 50-year high. Yet poverty has become an almost invisible issue for policymakers and the press. It feels today like a "war on poverty" would need to begin with a battle just to gain recognition that poverty even exists."

(Dan Glickman. "America's Invisible Poor." U.S. News & World Report. May 01, 2013)

Meet the Poor of 2015

A 2012 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed alarming child poverty rates in the United States, particularly when compared to other developed nations. For example, the United States ranks second highest among all measured countries with 23.1 percent of children living in poverty, just under Romania, with 25.6 percent.

Allow Dr. César Chelala, an international public health consultant, to introduce the neglected and struggling poor of our nation:

"Today, four out of five adults in the United States struggle to find jobs, are near poverty, or rely on welfare for at least part of their lives, and there is fear that the situation is going to get worse, at least for those in the lower echelons of the economic scale.

"The number of America’s poor remains at a record 46.2 million, or approximately 15 percent of the population, due in part to still-high unemployment levels. Despite their high numbers, they are sometimes called 'the invisible poor' since they tend to live in small rural towns in America’s heartland, far away from politicians and government officials to see, or 'feel their pain.'

"According to the Agricultural and Development Economics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 'food security' refers to the availability of food and a person’s access to it. A household is considered food-secure when its occupants do not live in hunger or fear of starvation. Based on this criterion, 50.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households (33.5 million adults and 16.7 million children.)

"'Economic insecurity' has been defined as a year or more of periodic lack of jobs, reliance on government assistance such as food stamps, or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. If current trends continue, by 2030, close to 85 percent of all working-class adults in the United States will experience bouts of economic insecurity, according to Mark Rank, a professor of social welfare at Washington University in St. Louis. In 2011, 4.8 million seniors (over age 60) were food insecure.

"Poverty affects individuals’ access to quality education and quality health care. Low-income communities cannot afford the same quality of education as high-income communities. Females in poverty are more likely to become pregnant at younger ages, and have fewer resources to care for their children. Many among them end up dropping out of school.

"The significant proportion of children living in food insecure households makes them more prone to have nutritional and other associated health problems. Poor children have higher infant mortality rates, more frequent and severe chronic diseases such as respiratory infections, less access to quality health care, lower immunization rates, and increased obesity and its complications."

(Dr. César Chelala. America’s Neglected Poor. Epoch Times. September 4, 2013)

Despite the railing about welfare and the apparent stigma that exists toward the poor, America is full of hard-working Americans whose jobs pay less than a living wage and whose existence provides them little dignity with few offers of paths for advancement.

Meanwhile, the rich do not depend upon a spirit of cooperation and equity to ensure happiness in their lives -- their fortunes are not fixed to the success of a cooperative society. The rich do not worry about crime next door, affordable accessible health care, job security, educational opportunities, or food on the table and gas in the tank. Instead, they worry about acquiring a bigger share for themselves.

I think the rich have placed themselves as a group politically and socially "more than equal" than others in our society. Power of command over others is something they use, not to cooperate with the poor, but to enjoy and insure their independence from the less-fortunate. Hardly mixing with ordinary people except those who serve them, they have no idea what being poor in America is about. And, all indications are that this ignorance will increase over time as the invisible poor are blamed for their own conditions.

"We must make our choice. We may have democracy,
or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few,
but we can't have both."  

--Justice Louis Brandeis

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The "American Way" -- Learning Lessons From the Man of Steel

As a kid, I used to watch episodes of the series "The Adventures of Superman" on black and white television. From 1952 to 1958, George Reeves played Clark Kent/Superman, the Man of Steel who battled crooks, gangsters, and other villains in the fictional city of Metropolis. Of course, the show was based on the legendary comic book series published by National Comics Publications which date back to 1938.

Each episode started with the music of the "Superman Theme" and this stirring narration:

"Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! ("Look! Up in the sky!" "It's a bird!" "It's a plane!" "It's Superman!")...

"Yes, it's Superman... strange visitor from another planet, who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men! Superman... who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!"

What American kid didn't love this show that proved to us that truth and justice prevailed in the United States. As children, we learned many a civics lesson from Superman, and we believed in the promised land of equality and justice not for a few, but for all.

Perhaps, then it was a black and white world not only in relation to the television screen but also in the absolute division between good and bad behavior. Superman used to speak straight to us in simple terms that helped mold our concept of being good, responsible citizens. It may have been a fictional show, but we kids believed.

Consider this message from the Man of Steel:

"Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And on my soul I swear... until my dream of a world where dignity, honor and justice become the reality we all share... I’ll never stop fighting. Ever."

When you grew up with parents from what Tom Brokaw called "the Greatest Generation," they constantly reinforced "Superman values" in your life. Time and time again, your parents made sure to chaperone your activities, preach important ethics, monitor your whereabouts, and discipline you when necessary. Being a kid in the 1950s, you understood the need for positive beliefs and important ideals that would eventually mold your being as a positive, loving person. After all, Superman wouldn't have it any other way, and he could defeat all evil.

Truth and justice are synonymous in that one cannot function properly without the other. When either becomes skewed or falsely manipulated, there is no longer "an American Way." And, the most insidious manipulation occurs when those in places of trust betray us. For example, when a doctor, a judge, a lawyer, a policeman, or a politician soils the system, humans suffer terrible consequences. As Jim Croce so aptly put it in his song: "You don't tug on Superman's cape." In essence, Croce means you simply do not smear the basics of freedom.

But, what has become of our Superman belief system now when we find ourselves battling with villains within the very elements we are supposed to respect and to honor? I believe it simply goes to hell. Those capable of standing up against inequality and injustice face overwhelming odds because many wrong ideals are so firmly engrained in the system that the abuse is passé. Freedom is not as treasured by common people as is manipulation and control of the masses by those in power. Even those good individuals in the system are indifferent to the sins of their associates.

I have never grown up. I admit it. At age 64, I still, in many respects, believe in the power and might of the fictional Superman, an incredible being who defends the lofty vision of the American way of life. The poor, the needy, the underprivileged, the ignored -- all of these folks need to find the spirit to fight their own "never-ending battles," and they need to discover ways in which to do so with honest love and determination that will not fail to disrupt the unfair power structure that has a boot on their necks.

I remember how reserved and meek Clark Kent appeared, but I also remember how Superman, his alter-ego, defeated evil with his strength and stamina. Isn't a real-life hero like that? Most of them I have ever known are able to deal with situations on two levels -- reservation and unwavering lionhearted courage.

We need to be able to discern the kryptonite of injustice that threatens our free existence and we need to be determined to stand up against it at all costs. The "talk" is cheap, but the Superman "walk" requires great expense -- mainly the expense of untold time and peaceful effort.

"Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice
and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress."

--Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Twisted "R-E-S-P-E-C-T"

As children you are taught to respect your parents, your teachers, and your elders. You are also encouraged to respect rules, laws, traditions, and the feelings of other people. As you mature, you inevitably develop great respect for people whom you consider to exhibit exemplary character, and, at the same time, you lose respect for those you discover to have erred in some manner which is repulsive to you.

Our English word respect is derived directly from the Latin word respectus meaning "regard, a looking at." As you "look at" someone and discover who they are and what they do, you must thoroughly investigate them to accurately judge them worthy of your respect.

Judging someone at first sight or upon first meeting is fraught with potential misinterpretations. And, you are often prone to judge those you don't even know. You may even give respect to celebrities and popular people without regard for their true characters.

In truth, human beings are complex creations that are not easily judged from afar or from casual meetings. You should carefully examine a person whom you deem worthy of respect. While you may perceive qualities deserving of respect differently from others, true character depends upon truth, integrity, and consistency.

Thus, respect is acknowledged as an epistemic virtue: a virtue relating to knowledge and cognition and to its degree of validation. Still, respect is both subjective and objective. You tend to gravitate toward others with similar views as you assign those people respect.

American author, critic, and scholar William Lyon Phelps (1865-1943) once said: "The final test of a gentleman is his respect for those who can be of no possible service to him." When you degrade or disrespect others for lack of reason, you dehumanize them, and this may escalate and cause serious social conflict.

German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), a central figure in modern philosophy, was "the first major Western philosopher to put respect for persons, including oneself as a person, at the very center of moral theory, and his insistence that persons are ends in themselves with an absolute dignity who must always be respected has become a core ideal of modern humanism and political liberalism."

("Respect." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. February 04, 2014)

Your Right to Respect

I believe we live in a time where any right to respect you believe you have -- being treated with dignity, with courtesy, with honor, with love -- is most often viewed in terms of your power, your money, and your position. This twisted judgment denies admiration and even tolerance to those less fortunate.

Denying respect to "those other people" because of their low social class effectively prevents their active participation in the community and thwarts individual development so crucial to guaranteeing integration into their cultural advancement. Strong division is certain without common respect and the simple acknowledgment of absolute equality.

Perhaps, as a human being, the respect you assume others hold for you is merely a figment of your imagination. It seems so many now respect qualities associated with roughness and domination. They practice intimidation of others as they seek to gain a higher place in the pecking order. To me, it is apparent that being "bad" is the new "being good."

If you believe you are respected by someone, I assure you, you can lose that standing in a heartbeat. Make a mistake or disagree with a view and you are no longer respected. Understand that a person tends to see his respect for you in terms of what he can derive from the mutual association. When that dwindles, for any reason, then he begins to think of you as defective and unworthy of common dignity. Without respect, you become refuse in the dump of disregard.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Megan Lancaster -- Lack of Active Participation For the Stigmatized Missing

Imagine the unspeakable agony of having a loved one still missing for over two years (since April 3, 2013). Then, consider all the hundreds of false hopes that have arisen during that time and enduring these continual "ups and downs" of elation and depression. It would be enough for most people to say, "We just have to move on and let the past be."

That is not the case for the family of Megan Lancaster, a local missing woman and mother of a nine year-old son. She was 25 years-old at the time of her disappearance. Her family vows never to stop their phenomenal search for Megan. They have actually opened their arms wide to include concern and help in searches for other missing local people.

Before she went missing, Megan had experienced a life troubled by drugs, addiction, and prostitution. The stigma of that lifestyle is an undeniable hindrance in efforts to find her. Yet, the family has fought public reproach and has conducted a series of Herculean efforts to find Megan -- on-going searches, investigations, public events, walks, and many other active endeavors since Megan was last seen.

Kadie Lancaster, her sister-in-law and best friend said, "It broke my heart to see her go down that road (of addiction) because I knew what she could be. I knew how she could change her life. God bless her, she just couldn't beat it."

Addiction is something Megan had in common with three Ross County women who've disappeared in the last year: Charlotte Trego, Wanda Lemons, and Tiffany Sayre. Kadie wants to help find all of them. She insisted, “They are human beings. They are not disposable."

Finally, giving the investigation a huge boost, the FBI has recently entered a task force now looking for similarities between three missing persons cases in Chillicothe (Charlotte Trego, Wanda Lemons, and Tiffany Sayre), two in Columbus, and those in the Portsmouth area.

The federal investigation is possibly the best news the Lancasters have heard, and they are begging anyone with clues to Megan's disappearance to call the Chillicothe Police or the FBI hotline. Here is the contact from the Chillicothe Police:

The Missing Person joint Task Force now has a phone number and email for anyone that has information regarding our missing persons. The number, (740) 774-FIND (3463), has a voicemail system. If an investigator does not answer, please leave a message and the call will be followed up on. Anyone having information that needs immediate attention should call the PD at 740-773-1191. The email for the taskforce is

There is still a reward being offered through Southern Ohio Crime Stoppers for information regarding the missing persons.

 Anonymous tips can be made through Southern Ohio Crime Stoppers by calling (740)773-TIPS or (800)222-TIPS, by texting keyword LOWDOWN to CRIMES (274637) or on their website at

Late last Thursday afternoon, Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware told the Portsmouth Daily Times after meeting with Ross County authorities, "there is apparently no correlation to any women missing in Scioto County."

Ware said as of this time, the Portsmouth Police Department "is not an active participant in the working group or task force that has been set up by Ross County authorities, but he said in the best interest of the public, the Portsmouth Police Department will continue to communicate with members of the working group to exchange information that may be of importance to their investigations as well as any investigations in which such exchange could result in bringing closure to the families and resolution to open investigations."

(Frank Lewis. "Search continues for missing Ross County women."
Portsmouth Daily Times. June 15, 2015)

This news is not deterring brother Jeremy and sister-in-law Kadie Lancaster. In an effort to raise community interest about information concerning all of the missing people from Scioto County to Franklin County, they are holding yet another event titled "In Plain Sight... Help Break the Chains" on Sunday, July 12, in Portsmouth's Tracy Park.

The event will feature awareness of human trafficking and drug addiction, community support, food, music, activities for children, and vendors. All money raised will help support the missing in the community.

I hope "active participation" from the local and state communities will unite efforts to solve these cases of missing persons. What could be more important than to take an active role in all efforts to save human lives and to convict criminals still on the loose who threaten us all?

The Night

by Hilaire Belloc

Still a mystery,
I can’t figure out;
Race home from work,
Where life is without.

I race to see you,
And hold you to me;
My mind says you’re there,
And my heart won’t see.

I open the door,
It’s still a surprise:
You’re not there,
And tears fill my eyes.

I need someone,
Or call on the phone;
But nothing breaks the silence,
Of these walls made of stone.

I punish myself,
By refusing to eat:
Depression is silent,
I hear my heart beat.

Where can I go,
Or should I stay:
Shy to choose,
In bed I lay.

Time will pass,
And the dark sets in;
Lying there wishing,
I could still touch your skin.

Lying there hurting,
I wish I could die;
Missing you so much,
Again I start to cry.

Sometimes I wonder,
If you even know;
The way that I need you,
Would you still go.

I can’t sleep now,
Again a long night;
Are you this lonely?
Do you share in my fright?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Building Permits Required for Small Projects in Portsmouth

"The city is embarking on a zero tolerance policy toward un-permitted construction within the city limits. Building permits are required to insure the construction performed is up to the applicable building codes and projects started or completed without a building permit are subject to remediation including, but not limited to, tear down.

"A fee, based on the size of the job, is collected to cover the cost of the application, the review and the inspection process. On-site inspections will be required to make certain the work conforms to the permit, building codes and plans. The city engineer will let you know approximately how many inspections may be needed for your project."

(Frank Lewis. "City reiterates permit requirement." Portsmouth Daily Times. June 13, 2015)

The city manager and the city engineer say projects such as these require a permit:

* New buildings, additions such as bedrooms, bathrooms, family rooms, etc.,
* Residential work such as decks, garages, fences, fireplaces, pools, water heaters and more,
* Renovations which include garage conversions, basement furnishings, kitchen expansions, re-roofing, electrical systems, plumbing systems and HVAC systems.

You need to understand that even when you hire a respected, licensed and insured contractor, you are still required to obtain and pay for a building permit. This was a vital part of the permit requirement missing in the Daily Times report.

I recently had two spans of guttering replaced at my house by a trusted, licensed firm with insurance. I was shocked to find out I was required to get a building permit for this small improvement. I went to the city engineer's office and got the permit for the small project that was later completed in about an hour. The permit cost me $25.00, or about one-eighteenth of the entire cost of the repair.

I found out that something as minor as replacing a screen door is considered a renovation requiring a permit. Of course, hundreds and hundreds of city residents consistently do such work without acquiring a work permit. So, I have learned if you do so, you put yourself in jeopardy of paying fines or having your costly project torn down.

In addition, anyone you pay -- even a small, token fee -- to help you do a home improvement is considered a contractor. That includes offspring, relatives, or friends. And, all licensed contractors must be on the city's list of approved workers, or they cannot assist. Once, as I dutifully requested a building permit for a major project and truthfully admitted I was paying some friends to help, I was threatened with huge fines because the friends helping me were not licensed contractors, yet the city considered them so.

Now, I understand the need for obtaining a building permit for a substantial addition or improvement. That insures that all the local codes are followed perfectly and that a contractor does a thorough, good job. I have always obtained a permit for major work. I strongly believe that in such cases a building permit is needed.

What I do not understand is how city homeowners now seem to be penalized with building permit fees for making simple home improvements that not only raise the worth of their property but also beautify their Portsmouth neighborhoods and, in many cases, help protect the general public. It is a requirement that hasn't been followed by the vast majority, and I believe it is a requirement that will never be effectively enforced as written.

Why the sudden interest in pushing a zero tolerance policy toward un-permitted construction within the city limits? We are constantly reminded of how the coffers are empty and the city will "go under" without taxes and public assistance. Oh, we residents don't want that. But, are we, in effect, criminalizing simple construction done by caring citizens who hire competent companies or who perform their own residential work by requiring them to get building permits for nearly everything done or suffer the consequences?

I wonder how many old, derelict buildings and houses in town owned by those who don't care enough to make improvements presently stand as testaments to safety and health violations. Perhaps, these unmindful owners should be the first people the city requires to take necessary steps to work on their property and to acquire building permits. I believe that enforcement would do much more to increase city pride of ownership as well as to enhance the environment than making people get a permit for simple work.

Part of the uncomfortable feeling of living in Portsmouth these days stems directly from "things held over your head." The atmosphere in city hall is cold (and, quite frankly, in need of upkeep), and the viewpoints from those within always seem to be pointed without need for acceptable explanation.

This is a very small town of approximately 20,000 inhabitants. It seems to me that many times instead of communication efforts that would make residents feel togetherness and encourage a sense of mutual progress, the hall pushes back its own population. Many others have told me the same thing. Respect requires mutual respect, no matter the opinion of those opposed to certain measures in place. I pray for equality of justice, not for a chosen few but for all.

As a last thought, I realize many people work for the city and live in the county where they are not bound by these stringent regulations. Perhaps if all city workers had a taste of living within the city limits, some might commiserate with those who feel justified in voicing their displeasure with inequality here. I love my town. I am not moving. I must try to work for change.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

National, Ohio, and Scioto: Poverty Statistics

U.S. Federal Poverty Guidelines

Persons in family/householdPoverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,160 for each additional person.

In 2012, 46.5 million people were living in poverty in the United States—the largest number in the 54 years the Census has measured poverty. This means one out of seven people in the USA are living in poverty.

The poverty rate (the percentage of all people in the United States who were poor) also remained at high levels: 15% for all Americans and 21.8% for children under age 18.

People with income 50% below the poverty line are commonly referred to as living in deep poverty; Census figures show that, in 2012, 6.6% of our population, or 20.4 million people, were living in deep poverty. Children represent more than one-third of the people living in poverty and deep poverty.

In addition, over one-fourth of adults with a disability live in poverty. In 2012, the poverty rate for Americans aged 18 to 64 living with a disability was 28.4% (4.3 million) compared to 12.5% (22 million) of Americans aged 18 to 64 who did not have disability.

("Poverty in the United States: A Snapshot." National Center for Law and Economic Justice. Figures from U.S. Census Bureau. 2013 Data)

Ohio's poverty rate is 16 percent. 1.8 million people in Ohio fall below the poverty line. Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director for the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, said, “What we find most alarming is that these data indicate that one-third of Ohioans live in households at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of three, that’s less than $39,580 a year.”

(Jack Torrey. "State poverty rate dips" The Columbus Dispatch. September 19, 2014)

The Buckeye State's poverty rate increased from 13.1 percent in 2007 to that alarming figure of 16.3 percent in 2012. During that six-year period covering the start of the recession and a supposed economic recovery, the median income for Ohio's 4.6 million households fell by almost $4,800, after adjustment for inflation.

The Dayton Daily News reported that the 9.2-percent drop was the 10th-worst slide among the 50 states and the District of Columbia during the six-year period.

Poverty has devastating effects. The rate of food insecurity in Ohio is 16%. 27.5% of jobs in Ohio are ranked as "low wage" positions. Jobs often pay the $7.95/$7.25 minimum wage or even lower. Demographics show that 24% of Ohio children are living at the poverty rate; 16.7% of women rank there; and 8% of seniors share that rate.
( Ohio)

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's latest report, persons in Scioto County living below poverty level from 2009-2013 was 23.3%. Habitat For Humanity reported Scioto County was the second in Ohio Appalachian counties for its poverty rate based on latest census figures. Scioto ranks 81st of the 88 counties in Ohio in the highest poverty levels. That means a full quarter of Scioto County residents are living in poverty, and indications are that it is getting worse.

Look at this 2013 report in the Daily Times:

Anita Casper, director of The Potter's House Ministry - on Winchester Avenue in Sciotoville, said there is a recent phenomenon the ministry has not seen in the past at the food bank.“We are seeing more of the working class coming in,” she said. “That's a new trend for us. More of the working class not making ends meet.”

Casper said The Potter's House is providing food for people who may have more than one job.

“Some of these people are working a minimum wage and sometimes two minimum wage jobs, and they still can't make ends meet,” she said.

Casper said the ministry serves a lot of people who have become regular clients of the food bank.

“We do roughly about 800 people a month. That's about 250 families,” she said. “There's always a need.”
Maureen Cadogan, director of the Scioto County Homeless Shelter, also sees a large number of, as she called them, “the working poor.”

“We're seeing a growing demand in the needs of the working poor,” she said. “They're not even living hand to mouth. It's not even, ‘pay this and that.' It's ‘pay this or that.'”

Cadogan said she has noticed an increase in the number of people who just are looking for what most people consider the necessities of life.

“We probably get about 25 calls a day asking for help with rent, gas, utilities,” she said. “It takes 100 percent of your income just to maintain occupancy, and you haven't eaten yet.”

Cadogan said the real victims are the children of poverty-stricken families.

“The number of people struggling is mind-boggling,” she said. “You wouldn't believe the number of children in our area without health care.”
Cadogan said 2007 was the first year her agency handled Federal Emergency Management Agency funds for the county.

“You don't even get to hold it in your coffers for the month,” she said. “As fast as it comes in, it goes out. And people are still calling, and we're having to tell them to call back possibly in mid-February. These are people who just want to stay warm, just basic stuff.”

"I have been doing research on Athens and surrounding communities, and typically, when there is a downturn in the economy here - where there is a lot of poverty already- they are going to be among the first and hardest hit,” said Ohio University anthropology and sociology professor Ann Tickamyer. “What we do know is that things like food pantries are getting hit harder and harder all the time.”

(Frank Lewis. "Poverty rate is second highest." Portsmouth Daily Times. July 22, 2013)

In terms of race, who owns businesses in the county? That comes as no surprise -- the white community (93,6%).

Of 2007 total number of firms in Scioto, Black-owned firms and Asian-owned firms received an "S" rating, meaning findings were "Suppressed" and didn't meet publication standards. In Ohio, Black-owned firms stood at 5.8% while Asian-owned firms were reported as 2%.

Hispanic-owned firms and American Indian-owned firms both received an "F" rating, meaning there were fewer than 25 firms. In Ohio, Hispanic-owned firms were reported as 1.1% and American Indian-owned firms came in at 0.3%.

The living wage for Scioto County is shown as the hourly rate that an individual must earn to support their family, if they are the sole provider and are working full-time (2080 hours per year).

All values are per adult in a family unless otherwise noted. The state minimum wage is the same for all individuals, regardless of how many dependents they may have. The poverty rate is typically quoted as gross annual income. We site "Living Wage Calculator" has converted it to an hourly wage for the sake of comparison.

Here are results from the "Living Wage Calculator":

Hourly Wages1 Adult1 Adult 1 Child1 Adult 2 Children1 Adult 3 Children2 Adults (One Working)2 Adults (One Working) 1 Child2 Adults (One Working) 2 Children2 Adults (One Working) 3 Children2 Adults2 Adults 1 Child2 Adults 2 Children2 Adults 3 Children
Living Wage$9.13 $19.29 $23.53 $29.35 $15.20 $18.02 $20.51 $22.10 $7.60 $10.70 $13.07 $14.98
Poverty Wage$5.00 $7.00 $9.00 $11.00 $7.00 $9.00 $11.00 $13.00 $3.00 $4.00 $5.00 $6.00
Minimum Wage$7.95 $7.95 $7.95 $7.95 $7.95 $

(Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier. "Living Wage Calculator." Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. 2015) 

This site from the Scioto County Commissioners hasn't updated poverty figures here since the year 2000:

People leave the county for work. The commissioners reported that the population in Scioto "is expected to increase to 85,800 by 2015." In reality, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the 2014 population as 77,258 (-2.8% from April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014). Citizens must be able to make an adequate "living wage," and, for many that doesn't happen here. Estimates for a single person concerning annual expenses in Scioto include $3,087 for food, $2,060 for medical, $5,028 for housing, $4,569 for transportation, and $2,124 for taxes.

One must wonder what a more prosperous Scioto County would be like. Without looking back and reminiscing about the good old days, a pipedream that holds no promise for a glorious return, the county must find new perspectives to deal with the current plight of poverty and boldly face a firm dedication to new strategies that embrace and help heal the suffering of a quarter of our residents.

And, I believe this should be done now. Amid speculation about new businesses opening here that will employ thousands of people is a current distaste for the poor, especially for those on welfare. How can this bitterness endure when facts show Southern Ohio and Appalachia have tremendous poverty not because people choose to be poor, but because opportunities for them to lift themselves up from their own bootstraps are so very limited?

And, even if the poor with exemplary initiative can reach for the American Dream, the wages for their hard work, in most cases, do not support a good life. How many jobs, likely all part-time employment with no benefits, must a poor person get? Two, three ... more?

And, yes, getting a college education can help elevate the poor. But, just remember that good old Mom and Dad do not pay the educational costs of the poor: poor students are left with staggering debts after completing a four-year degree. Will they have to move back home just to begin their careers?

The National Center for Education Statistics estimates for the 2012–13 academic year, annual current dollar prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board were $15,022 at public institutions, $39,173 at private nonprofit institutions, and $23,158 at private for-profit institutions. The latest figure from Ohio State on total list price for in-state Ohio residents to go to the Main Campus is $23,025 for the 2013/2014 academic year.

I truly believe the poor here have become the forgotten and the despised. The division of wealth allows so much distance between the wealthy and the poor that all perspective is lost. Walls between social classes make ugly barriers that impede employment, education, and equality of precious justice.

“Our people are good people; our people are kind people. Pray God some day kind people won't all be poor.”
― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

Friday, June 12, 2015

What Do You Really Know About the Poor in Scioto County?

I have come to a conclusion after talking with a lot of folks, digesting what they have told me, and finding proof for their accounts -- oppression has contributed so much to so many of the problems of common people that it is hard for those who are more fortunate to realize the roots of many traps and snares into which the unfortunate fall.

“There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
  --John Bradford (1510-1555), 16th Century English Protestant clergyman
who said this while a prisoner in the Tower of London
and later was burned at the stake for heresy

If you have a good social connection, if you get a decent and fair "shake," if you have a good job, it you have funds and resources to get a good education, and if you have the good graces of those who occupy the higher classes of Southern Ohio society, you probably lack the perspective to see the plight of the downtrodden common people. In fact, you may blame them for many of your ills, and, in some respects, rightly so.

But let me try to express how those without favor, luck, and opportunity feel.

I understand why so many feel there is no excuse for misbehavior while living a life in which poverty creates misery that leads to bad choices; however, I know so many people who share a common story of failure and who, because of their lack or resources and knowledge and just plain common respect, remain "outsiders" for the remainder of their lives. These people are no strangers to stereotyping: they are known as "druggies," "scuds," "welfare people," "bums," and "losers." They are the unwanted.

Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post reports on stereotyping the poor ... 

"The content of stereotypes is only partially organic, only partially based upon a measured consideration of the totality of our experiences. Stereotypes grow, as well, from how we’re socialized They are the result of what we are taught to think about poor people, for instance, even if we are poor, through celebrations of “meritocracy” or by watching a parent lock the car doors when driving through certain parts of town. They grow, as well, from a desire to find self-meaning by distinguishing between social and cultural in groups with which we do and do not identify  That’s the heady science of it...."

(Valerie Strauss. "Five stereotypes about poor families and education. 
The Washington Post. October 28, 2013)

Stereotypes about poor people simply ruin their opportunities. You have heard them:

Poor people are lazy.
They don’t care about education.
They’re alcoholics and drug abusers.
They don’t want to work; instead, they are addicted to the welfare system.
They don't even take care of their children. 

Most people in America believe that poor people are poor because of their own deficiencies rather than inequitable access to services and opportunities. This is simply not true.

Do You Know the Poor?

Do you know wealthy people have a greater propensity for alcohol abuse than do the poor? 

Alcohol use and alcohol addiction are less prevalent overall among low-income people than among their wealthier counterparts.

Do you know wealthy people use more marijuana than the poor?

(Galea et al. "Neighborhood Income and Income Distribution..." Am J Prev Med. 2007)  

Do you know that drug use in the U.S. is distributed fairly evenly across income levels, regardless of age and other factors?

People in poverty who are struggling with substance abuse generally do not have at their disposal the sorts of recovery opportunities available to wealthier families. People in poverty who are struggling with substance abuse generally do not have at their disposal the sorts of recovery opportunities available to wealthier families. Nor do they have access to preventative medical attention that might catch and treat growing dependencies before they become full-fledged addictions.

(Degenhardt et al, 2008; Saxe, et al., 2001)

Do you know low-income parents and guardians engage in home-based involvement strategies, such as encouraging children to read and limiting television watching, more frequently than their wealthier counterparts?

It is true that these parents are less likely to participate in in-school involvement -- the kind of involvement that requires parents and guardians to visit their children’s schools or classrooms. You may want to consider the reason for less in-school involvement.

(Lee & Bowen, 2006)

Do you know the weight of low-income parents’ and guardians’ own school experiences, which often were hostile and unwelcoming, may keep them from engaging in in-school experiences?

Still, poor people value education just as much as wealthy people.

(Compton-Lilly, 2003; Grenfell & James, 1998)

Do you know poor people work just as hard as, and perhaps harder than, people from higher socioeconomic brackets?

In fact, poor working adults work, on average, 2,500 hours per year, the rough equivalent of 1.2 full time, often patching together several part-time jobs in order to support their families. People living in poverty who are working part-time are more likely than people from other socioeconomic conditions to be doing so involuntarily, despite seeking full-time work. And, you should understand that more than one out of five jobs in the U.S. pays at a rate that is below the poverty threshold

(Reamer, Waldron, Hatcher, & Hayes, 2008)

Do you know low-income youth have considerably less access to a whole range of after school and extracurricular activities, as well as to recreational facilities, than their wealthier peers?

 (Macleod et al., 2008; Shann, 2001).

Do you know working class and poor parents are no less deeply committed to the well being of their children than are middle class parents?

(Annette Lareau. Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life. 2000)

(Annette Laueau and Elliot Weininger. "Time, Work, and Family Life."
Sociological Forum. 2008)

Listen to what people say when they explain the difficulties they encounter because they are poor. And, especially consider the fact that these people are so often stereotyped for bad things they do not do. Granted, some have lost so much hope for better conditions that they engage in harmful criminal activities instead of making the best of their insufficient conditions. I am not making excuses for bad decisions; instead, I am trying to make you see why living in a depressed area under extremely oppressive conditions can lead to desperate acts. They feel they receive unequal justice.

I believe we need to do everything in our power to help the poor -- especially after they graduate and leave school. Surviving primary grades and high school can be extremely difficult for those who occupy classes with other privileged children. They are taught equality and justice, but soon after school -- in the real world -- they realize the cold, hard facts of reality on their own.

What has become the status of their American Dream for the poor? They too want to marry, start a family, own a home, and find peace and tranquility. But, what chance do they really have of achieving their objectives unless they find a generous, helping hand? And, what slim, minuscule opportunity will they have to climb the ladder of success if they are the common scapegoats for everything wrong in their communities.

A large part of whom we become depends upon how others treat us. If you are treated like a loser, a failure, or a pariah, you develop strong negative feelings about others who are more fortunate than you and who consider you inherently "bad." We should take some blame for caring too little about our unfortunate fellow man.

"We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry,
naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted,
unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.
We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty."

--Mother Teresa

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Civic Responsibility As a Citizen of Southern Ohio

civic responsibility is defined as "a socially good behavior to perform." While a civic duty is required by law, a civic responsibility is not necessarily required by law. Civic responsibilities can include participation in government or in church. They can also include being a volunteer or a member of voluntary associations. And, of course, actions of civic responsibility can be displayed in advocacy for various causes, such as political, economic, civil, environmental or quality of life issues.

Civic responsibility was officially sanctioned as a blueprint for democracy in 1787 by the ratification of the United States Constitution. The Constitution declared:

 "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide
for the common defense, promote the general welfare,
and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States."

Especially in the 18th and 19th centuries, civil responsibility in America was tied to the understanding of commonwealth citizenship. It was understood in terms of the labors of ordinary people who created goods and undertook projects to benefit the public, as opposed to the high-minded, virtuous and leisure activities of gentlemen. This kind of civic identify helped create an important balance between pursuit of individual wealth and the creation of public things.

(Harry Boye and Nancy N. Kari. "Renewing the Democratic Spirit in
American Colleges and Universities: Higher Education as Public Work."
In Higher Education and Civic Responsibility. 1999)

In the 1960s, nuclear threats, the war in Vietnam, and the civil rights movement caused many grassroots organizations to protest as citizens learned the value of expressing civic responsibility through marches, gatherings, and civil disobedience. At that time, people relied on each other in order to correct injustice and achieve greatness in the nation.

(R.D. Putnam, R.D. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Renewal of American Community. 2000)

Citizens ensure and uphold certain democratic values written in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights by engaging in civic responsibility. Those values or duties include justice, freedom, equality, diversity, authority, privacy, due process, property, participation, truth, patriotism, human rights, rule of law, tolerance, mutual assistance, self restraint and self respect.

Schools have the duty to teach civic responsibility to students with the goal being to produce responsible citizens and active participants in community and government.

In action and in mass, civic responsibility has great power, but it must be engaged by citizens who feel an obligation to participate. Each citizen should discover his or her own voice and its potential in order that they may work toward a common goal of allowing everyone to have the same basic human rights. To sit passively and ignore civic responsibility limits freedom. Civic responsibility starts with education about the problems of neighborhoods, towns and cities, states, and the nation.

Even before the ratification of the Constitution, on June 12, 1776, George Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights became the first bill of rights created by the soon-to-be-independent states of America. It began by stating the simple but profound tenet that rights and privileges were vested in the individual. It refuted the long-held philosophy of the divine right of kings, which deemed that God vested all authority in monarchs and those rulers doled out rights and privileges to their subjects.

William E. White -- Vice President of Productions, Publications, and Learning Ventures for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and for Colonial Williamsburg’s educational media outreach programs -- reminds us of the importance of the document ...

"Instead, Virginians stated, rights were vested in the individual, who in turn granted rights and privileges to a government which is accountable to rule in the people's best interest. Article two stated the principle explicitly: 'That all power is vested in . . . the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants....' The purpose of government is to ensure the 'common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community.' The act of implementing these enlightenment ideals in the creation of Virginia's new government was truly revolutionary."

(William E. White. "Responsible Freedom." The Huffington Post. June 17, 2014)

In this new order, no inherited aristocracy and no special privileges were to be assigned to any individual. The power of the state was to be divided into separate branches of government able to check any abuses of power. Those who served in government were encouraged to return often to "private station" to participate in and experience "the burden of the people."

So, from the beginning, citizens of the United States of America have been instructed to practice civic responsibility to preserve democracy. It was a command to them and it remains a command to us living in America 229 years later -- in order to sustain self-government, each individual must learn, cultivate, and practice the qualities of responsible citizens in a republic.

We have reduced civic responsibility to voting, and that is too bad. History is ripe with wonderful stories of those who created new relationships between citizens and their government. So many of these historical accounts have little to do with government officials but instead speak of private citizens "doing the right thing at the right time." A voter merely casts a ballot allowing someone else to make decisions, but a responsible citizen goes far beyond that simple duty.

 White says ...

"These stories remind us that responsible citizens are engaged in their communities every day. Responsible citizens collaborate. They find common ground and compromise. They form coalitions to accomplish the things that are most important to them. History reminds us that it is our responsibility as citizens to be informed -- to educate ourselves and understand the issues. History reminds us that citizens with whom we disagree have strong ideas and opinions, and it is our responsibility to do our best to understand them.

"Most importantly, American history reminds us that we all share important, fundamental ideals. We all believe passionately in individual freedom as well as the necessity for equality. We all believe in the ownership of private property and also understand that we must build together the communities, states, and the nation in which we live. We all believe in the rule of law, but we also understand that government cannot legislate ethics. When asked to describe ourselves we declare that we are a unified American people, but we celebrate our differences and proudly identify with our racial, ethnic, national, and religious heritage."

(William E. White. "Teach Responsibility -- Teach History.
The Huffington Post. September 26, 2012)

So many people wait for a great leader to vanquish our enemies and to come to our rescue. We continually ask, "Why isn't someone making needed changes to bring power back to the people and stop injustice?"

Well, perhaps a mirror would be a helpful device. The truth is that we are the ones we have been waiting for -- the ones to make critical decisions, and we can do this only by exercising our civic responsibilities. Fight injustice and inequality to preserve our birthrights. Speak, walk, write, organize, and defy those in a system who defile the commonwealth and who continue to dole out special treatment to certain favored subjects. When you and I see the need for change, we must take action with our civic responsibility and protect the blueprint for democracy. Our children and grandchildren will gain the guarantee to be much safer as we step up.