Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

My name is Ashley Hale, and I’m a proud American. I am 21 years old, a female, and a senior Marketing Student at the University of the Pacific. I am from lower middle-class America, and have worked hard to finance this private education through the sacrifices my family has made and through the accumulation of heaping student loans I will begin to pay off after graduation. I will not pretend that I have the answers, but the best part of my education has been the conditioning to critically examine situations and determine for myself their implications as well as the intent behind them. I have never been as terrified as I am now, with the passing of the NDAA Martial Law. Before I voice my patriotic and informed dissent on the subject, may I lay the background for my New American Dream.

My mother and father are both American citizens. I am a proud product of an array of ethnic backgrounds as my ancestors married for love and in the pursuit of their own American Dreams. I am a proud Native American, as my great-grandmother hailed from the Wintu, Pitriver, and Chimariko tribes of Northern California. Due to the way land rights were handled for our Native People here, I am registered with the Bureau of Indian affairs as being of Native decent, but have no rights to my tribes as they were sold to the government before my birth. My grandmother was made to feel ashamed of her heritage, and used the little money she received in selling our rights to finance my mother’s college education, and for that I have been disconnected from my tribes. Though I do not hold any individual particularly responsible for the plight of my family, ignorance of a problem is not adequate justification for ignoring the systemized inequalities that still persist today in modern America. My Native American great-grandmother married my great-grandfather, an educated man of Russian decent that came to California escaping the Wars in Russia. He was disowned by his family for following his heart and marrying a Native American woman. They had many children together, including my beloved grandmother, before his wife died leaving my grandmother to raise her siblings in extreme poverty.

My grandmother learned the value of working hard, and in a time of historical discrimination she worked her way up the civilian ranks of the transportation department of the United State Air force in Sacramento, Ca. It was here she met my grandfather, a black man born of natural birth to two white Irish parents. He too overcame the discrimination of the time, and through unyielding hard work and an encompassing knowledge of all subordinate tasks, he fought his way to a ranking in the Department of Defense processing information for this same Air force Base. This was after he served his country as a cryptanalysis specialist in the “Forgotten War” in Korea. They had two children, my aunt and my mother, and no one has been more inspirational in the development of my own life than my family. My grandmother taught her daughters strength in the face of adversity, and sacrificed for them that they might receive the college education that was beyond her own grasp. She taught them, as she has me, that it is sometimes important to voice your dissenting opinion, because by your silence the opposition my incorrectly infer they have your support. So please do not misunderstand me, I love my country. However, I love my country so much that I will not quietly sit by as those chosen to represent and protect the American people pass laws that are not in accordance with the preservation of our founding freedoms.

On my father’s side, my grandparents have been similarly hardworking and patriotic. My grandfather’s family comes from Oklahoma. His schooling ended early, as he was needed to work and help the family. With a melodic voice presenting opportunities for him to be featured as a country western singer, he decided to enlist in the military and serve his country. My grandmother is a devoutly religious woman that has been the bedrock for my extended paternal family. The daughter of a pastor, she has taught our family to love our Lord and Savior above all things, and love our neighbors as ourselves. Though we can trace this side of my family back to Norway in the 1700’s, we have had American roots for a substantial period of time. Our family traveled to be Chicago, left during the Chicago fires, then came to settle in the lumber industry of Northern California. My grandfather'a military career brought him to travel before ending in the foothills of California, where he met my grandmother. They instantly fell in love, were married 3 months later, and had a beautiful 50+ year marriage.These grandparents raised 3 daughters and 3 sons, struggling to provide for them through unrelenting hard work. My grandfather held a number of blue collar positions to do the best he could to feed and house his large family. My grandmother exercised her management skills to contribute to the family income, while carrying a double load to also play full time mother to her children. I have never known such selfless love than I have felt from all of my grandparents through the sacrifices they made for their children, and in turn me, so that we could have a life greater than theirs in the pursuit of our own American Dream.

I am a product of the public school system. I attended public schools from Kindergarten through my graduation from high school, and feel I have been conditioned to feel a sense of patriotism through this education. It was during this time I learned the stories of the great history of our nation. I have been brought up to recognize the stories of our nation’s founding, and to respect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I do not respect them for being prefect laws and regulations to guide our nation through all of time, but rather recognize their significance in the context of their signing as well as the intentions of those who created this document. Humans are imperfect and even humans with the best intentions, intellect, and insight are subject to flaw and error. If nothing else, this is due to their lack of definitive foresight to deal with future developments. Combined with individual’s innate beliefs that their opinions are always correct, this can lead to catastrophic changes and laws. Our founding fathers were prepared for this, and it is the entire reason our three branches of government were established with checks and balances, to hold them accountable to each other and the American people. Our nation has made significant advancements since this time, and as the activity of the American citizens increases through their engagement in advancing technology, our laws need to have the capacity to be adjusted and modified to encompass these new developments and maintain protection of their natural rights.

Since graduating high school in 2008, my mind has been exponentially opened to the socioeconomic and political climates of our globe on whole. I have been an active and engaged Diversity Coordinator at the Multicultural Center on campus for three years. Here, I worked with the ALANA (African, Latino, Asian, Native American) Center, the Women’s Resource Center, and the LGBTQIA (Lesbian Gay Bi Transgender Queer Intersexual and Allies) Center as an Ally. In addition to promoting a Safe Zone where all people can feel welcome and safe without risk of judgment or persecution, it has been my duty to plan and implement events addressing cultural awareness and acceptance. During this time, I began my academic journey as an Honors Biology student on the path to becoming a Pediatrician. Through a careful evaluation of my passions and talents, I decided to switch to a Business Marketing Major to expand my business knowledge and my options upon graduation to pursue a career coupling events and concerts with Social Justice benefits. I do not believe handouts are sufficient to bring legitimate change. I believe teaching people how to help themselves is a much more sustainable solution than just giving people what they ask for. For this reason, I have joined my University’s Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship to learn how Social Entrepreneurship is approached in regards to helping global non-profits establish businesses to make themselves sustainable. Additionally, I serve as the President of the Native American Student Association for the past 2 years, and Vice President before that. I also serve as the President of the Social Media Club to evaluate the impact of Social Media on the development of Millenials and the way consumers engage with Marketing and Business. Last year I served on my University’s Senate and Cabinet as a Campus Affairs Commissioner, where I was the liason between student groups and the Associated Students of the University. In my free time, I have begun a blog to take all of the business knowledge I have learned and attempt to help my fellow Americans learn how to help themselves in this recession through self-empowerment.

To continue my personal development, I have had the privilege of attending multiple conferences on a National scale. Last year, through the assistance of supportive University Staff, Faculty, and Alum, I was able to attend the NASPA Conference in Philadelphia as a NUFP Fellow (Undergraduate Fellow interested in pursuing a Career in Higher Education). Eventually I hope to found a University in California that mirrors efforts in Johannesburg, South Africa, where students work for the University and subsidize their attendance which makes education accessible to low-income communities. This trip to Philadelphia allowed me to brush up on my American history, as well as learn from collective experience the current status of higher education and the problems to be overcome as administrators. Additionally, I have attended the Annual University of California Students of Color Conferences, which address the plight and obstacles faced by minority and traditionally disenfranchised students in this education circuit. It was here, at the University of California, Davis this year that I had my first legitimate encounter with Occupy Movement supporters, and learned the true history and context of the movement. During our conference, a yellow tree ribbon was vandalized with the words “You can use this as a noose” and our conference community joined stronger to ascend past the obvious ignorance and hate. The administration disseminated information that it was their duty to provide a safe environment for all students, just one week before the Davis tuition increase protests that resulted in the hospitalization of resistant students.

Though the movement has had substantial criticism for its tactics and apparent lack of direction, I can’t help but be reminded of my Marketing Classes. Before there is a Call to Action, Awareness must be established. After Awareness is made, Attention can be directed. After Attention is directed, Internalization becomes possible. It is then that this Internalization that will become a Call to Action or not. I see this movement as the first step in this process, to bring Awareness to the American public that our nation was founded on the right to peacefully dissent and choose our own destiny as well as representation to ensure that our government reflects our needs. I also see the invisible hand that is directing our economic plight facilitating how the media spins and runs with various stories to discourage all of those not persistent enough to do their own research.

As a business student, the biggest problem I see with America is that by allowing Corporations the rights of an individual, we are subjecting ourselves to be ruled by the corporate agenda. Corporations are not people, and whereas the rights of the individuals in a corporation do need to be protected as well to allow healthy Capitalism, by extending all of these rights we are institutionalizing measures that stratify the socioeconomic hierarchies and maintain an unjust and un-American status quo. The bottom-line Corporate Agenda is to maximize capital for the stockholders, period. Though it may be “hip” or “money conscious” for corporations to portray themselves as “green” entities of good serving the community, this is a byproduct of positioning themselves to maximize exposure and sales, not necessarily any true intrinsic good as the corporations like to personify themselves. Corporations do not have the moral obligations of a true American citizen, yet they have the rights of one? I do not see how this can be sustainable for our environment or our communities. As money is the source of corporate power, they can leverage their large bank accounts to influence fallible human beings in positions of power to “see things their way”. Humans by nature are fallible, subject to flaw or error, and the stricter the regulations, the better people get at hiding their deceit. It is not logical to believe if the system maintains our politicians and leaders will become any less susceptible to corruption, but as our checks and balances are worn away by this system, I thoroughly believe if action is not taken now it will be too late. The only way to ensure corporations do not have this unfair advantage is to lessen their individual rights so that living breathing American Citizens can experience true American Freedom once again. Please tell me Mr. President, other than your veto power how can we the citizens act in a way that preserves our right when our representatives are our friends by day and corporate mistresses by night?

I do not expect perfection, because as I stated we lack foresight as much as we want to believe we know what will happen next. However, relationships are built on trust extended between multiple parties. We trust you to lead us, and you can trust us as the middle and lower class to keep the economy rolling on the sweat of our brow. Not everyone is born into equal opportunity, and we have diverse roles in society which is ok, but we need transparency in our expectations of our government and in our government’s expectations of us as well as the risks and the rewards that will guide mass action. The middle class generally have ties to the lower class, but with the purchasing power of the upper class. I believe this has been the basis of many revolutions when the upper class has attempted to impose its agenda on all citizens to maintain their own standard of living, there is power in numbers so those in power attempt to pit these numbers against themselves to minimize risk of change. I have no problem working hard for the combined benefit of a nation I love. Here’s where I do have a problem. Corporations and the Government set the regulations and basal units for the American economy. I am all for Capitalism, I believe that individuals should be able to work hard and receive reward in accordance to how hard and smart they work. I do not believe that hard work should be so greatly rewarded when it is to the detriment of our entire society for the benefit of the few, so I believe that would put me at Socially Responsible Capitalism. However, I feel like the minority of citizens holding the majority of the nation’s wealth abuse their leveraging power to stratify and maintain these socioeconomic hierarchies. This makes advancement due to hard work the exception, not the norm, and the status quo can be maintained.

It is maintained in a number of ways, the most severe of which I believe to be the inequalities in and withholding of education. As student loans increase, it becomes more expensive to finance a quality education. Those who go to good schools to learn how to be teachers need to be employed in places they will be receiving enough income to justify the expenses of their loans and education. This moves us away from providing the best educators to the areas that need them the most, as they often have the least resources and reward to offer in return. Additionally, our subcultures have taught us hate, the biggest distraction of all. Spurred by media and entertainment, groups of Americans decide to pit themselves “us” against “them” for an array of trivial reasons, and have become so sidetracked by this they have lost sight that by killing your brothers you lose attention and power to collectively hold the parents responsible. As if this weren’t enough, vices such as drugs and alcohol and ensuing moral degradation have been dropped into our communities to distract our citizens and numb the eternal pain of living under an increasingly terrifying government with no visible sight of redemption. Rather than teach moderation and abstinence through the dissemination of truth, order is held through fear of retribution, which may bring compliance but will not bring true enlightenment of change or internalization of risks. Now circling back to the Corporate role in this mess, is the role these businesses play on individuals in the economy. If you are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you are aware that basal needs are the most crucial to be met before transcendental needs can even be considered. With steadily rising prices, citizens have to work so hard just to keep food on the table and rent paid that they could not possibly be expected to have the time to consider such transcendental philosophies as freedom equality and peace. This leaves the people in control more freedom to act as they please without the constant critical eye of the everyday consumer.

Additionally, these corporations have found that by breaking down the esteem needs of consumers, they can direct their purchasing power. By setting unrealistic ideals of beauty and success, they position themselves to the consumers as a savior, as their product will permit the consumer to experience the esteem and social acceptance they so desperately crave. My message to America – YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL AS YOU ARE, created in God’s image, so do not hide your unique talents but embrace them as they are a gift, and do not let any jealous party make you feel inferior for being true and real. It is tactics like this that have finally led many in my generation to become highly critical of mass media sources. The media uses framing, with certain established norms they always portray to facilitate the ease of telling the “point” of the story. However, it has been my experience that the function of traditional media is not to keep us informed on all counts of what’s happening around the world, but rather choose what were exposed to, spin it in a way that is beneficial to their needs and the stakeholders, and convince the masses to get used to living with the stated conditions.

Mr. President, I am a proud American. I come from a proud, hard-working family, and I have spent every one of my 21 years on this earth dedicated to understanding it and helping my brothers and sisters to follow in the footsteps of our predecessors and create a world we would be proud of leaving to our children. With the signing of this NDAA Martial Law, for the first time in my life you and the Senate and our Government have crushed my American Pride. I hope this letter does not find me to be considered a “terrorist”, because I assure you I am nothing of the sort, and I'm just trying to live my own American Dream. But as I draw my inspiration from the dedication and love of my family, I would not be able to live with myself unless I clearly and concisely voiced my pain, mistrust, and dissent. If this makes me a martyr by some means, so be it, but it will only be because my moral obligation to always speak the truth. When all is said and done, I KNOW I will not be remembered for the number of dollars I invested in my bank account, but rather what I invested in other people’s lives and how their existence has somehow been different because I am alive. My family taught me wrong from right. They taught me pride and hard work. My Aunt as a graduate from Pacific has taught me business and financial scrutiny, whereas my Mother graduated from Sac State as a Marketing Major and has taught me to be critical of everything I see and hear.

How many people have died for the freedom of the American people? How hard did our founding fathers work to ensure that we would have a NEW nation, free from persecution, with the ability to voice our dissent to hold our representatives accountable? Who are you in the grand scheme of our great nation to tell our citizens we can no longer appreciate those rights? This may only be the first step, because no one truly knows what is to come. However, for the first time in my life I have felt the unsurpassable shame and disappointment, and with all my knowledge and schooling the only thing I felt within my power to do was write a letter. So here it is. I may not have all the answers, but I hope I bring some awareness, to you and other American Citizens.

Once you’re aware, you can pay attention. When you pay attention, you can choose to internalize the message. And when the message is internalized, there can finally be a call-to-action. This may only be the first step in a long road, but I refuse to let conditioned stereotypes, prejudice, and greed determine the worth of my voice as a United States citizen. I am not a Republican, and I am not a Democrat. Our nation is not full of neat boxes and dichotomies that everything can be fit into, that't just how Western Society has tried to explain it to shape it. We have been conditioned to personify and vilify the extremes so that the unaware majority will realistically fall somewhere in the middle. I will continue to exercise my right to decide my future and my beliefs for myself. I will continue to voice my discontent with all established parties, and rather call for a new era of enlightened and educated politicians that will adequately reflect the American people with a true heart for our sustainable Freedom and Future. We need leaders to guide us, that all the lives laid down to establish and protect our freedom are not done so in vain, but lead us in the direction of a true Democracy, for the people and by the people.


Ashley Hale

No one wants to take responsibility, because it is associated with blame. But with great privilege comes great responsibility, and we need to get to the causes of the problems if we ever hope to truly fix them. Make your own conclusions, just look at this document:

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