In Memory of Accurate Journalism

“This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it” this is a quote from founding father John Adams. It is commonly quoted by those who are against freedom of religion. This quote can be quite damaging to those who reference Adams as being a patriotic man of God. But what those individuals who use this quote for their argument fail to do, is mention the sentence that follows directly behind it. “Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean Hell.” 

How many times have you read an article or listened to the news and had your mind made up? You are aware that there are always two sides to a story, but in this case the facts are solid and damaging, and your mind is made. Is there any harm in one sided news? 

Consider this story: A man admitted to authorities to killing 160 people. After further investigation, authorities find his gruesome claim to be true. The man admits to hiding in elevated areas where the unsuspected victims would not see him and he would shoot them before they knew what hit them. He told authorities that he killed in plain sight and got away with it. He seemed to be quite proud of his work.

Most of the population would think, the shooter is a murdering psycho path that needs life in prison, maybe even the death penalty. If they were left with that piece of information alone, they would be justified to think so. Let us ask, is there another side to the story?

Chris Kyle was the deadliest sniper in American history. He had at least 160 confirmed kills, although he and his Navy SEAL teammates say the number is closer to twice that. He served four tours, earned two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars with Valor. He was a loving husband, father, and decorated American hero and known among his SEAL brethren as “The Legend.” Does that change your perception on the shooter? 

More than ever we need journalism that is firmly planted on a foundation of integrity. If we are exposed to a one-sided story, we will form a one-sided opinion. This one-sided type of reporting as multiple motives. One being the manipulation of public opinion. The media can sway the public in the direction of doubt or fear with just one headline.

“Spike in Transgender Suicide Rates after Trump Elected” this rumor started circulating right after Donald Trump was elected president. This piece of information was never found to be true. Yet, it did not stop people from retweeting the false claim 13,000 times before it was removed. This claim was proven to be false by researchers, but not before it had its impact of being shared 100,000 times on Facebook creating panic and fear towards Trump’s election. 

 91 percent of news coverage on President Trump is spun negatively. Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. Previous polls done by ABC, NBC, and CBS said Clinton would be the clear winner. The news reporters did not hide their disappointment when the announcement was made. Who were they polling? The people’s vote did not match the medias reporting. Why would the media claim that the American people favored Clinton instead of Trump? Did they think that people would be more likely to vote for Clinton if they saw that others were?

 Recently, the world has been witnessing massive protests on behalf of the black community. People of all races and from all over, are raising awareness and demanding to stop racism. The media has been documenting this movement and giving the general public a play by play to this moment in history. But what happens when the media does not do their due diligence and gets it all wrong, causing people pain and outrage? Take this headline from the Washington Post for example, “Racist hate for Bubba Wallace was inevitable. Now NASCAR must stand with him.”  This headline is referring to a noose that was found in Wallace’s garage. Bubba Wallace is Nascar’s only black full-time driver. Finding a noose in a black man’s garage, during the black lives matter movement would make one believe that this is a hate crime. This would cause outrage and fuel a very emotional fire. NASCAR was outraged and determined to find the perpetrator, they installed cameras in Wallace’s garage and vowed to immediately expel the one guilty of the crime. This headline hit the press June 22nd, the very next day on June 23rd, this headline was released, “NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace was not target of hate crime, FBI finds.” The “noose” that was in Wallace’s garage had been there since 2019, before he was assigned to that garage. The rope that was described as a noose, was in fact the garage door rope. Not a hate crime, but a life hack to get a better grip on the garage door rope. We often see stories like this one, where the journalist jumps the gun before doing their research, causing stress, harm, and outrage to the public.

How can we obtain accurate, unadulterated journalism? We can start by evaluating our own integrity. Are we falling victim to obvious untrue stories because it lines up with our current beliefs? As imperfect human beings, we are constantly in search for validation of our thoughts and actions. If you look at social media you will witness a lot of people who want to be right. 

Are we willing to accept the fact that we may have been spoon fed wrong information, or jumped to a conclusion too soon? More importantly, are we humble enough to change our stance once the truth comes out? Or do we see the facts and refuse to change, but instead change the narrative to support our original opinion? The integrity of journalism starts with the integrity of ourselves. We should only accept the truth, even if it does not fall into our initial beliefs. We should be as aware and strategic with picking our news source, as we are with purchasing a car. Do your research. Search for facts, instead of opinion-based research. You would not go to Ford to find out about Chevy, so make sure your research is not coming from the direct competition. Do not only study your news source, but study your rights and freedoms of this country that were paid for, by the blood of man. Knowing your rights can help you defend them; ignorance is the oppressors most valuable tool. Poor journalism will always be around, it is up to you to filter through the false narrative and bias headlines. 

Modern Day Slavery

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For my advocacy class I gave a speech about child sex trafficking. If you follow my Facebook page, you will see that I am an advocate for Operation Underground Railroad or O.U.R. the non-profit organization that fights against child sex trafficking.

This dark organization of selling human beings is a $150 billion dollar industry and the highest demand for child sex, are Americans. I am going to share my speech with you as part of my journey to continue to enlighten others about what is happening in the world, right now. This could very well be your child and not something you want to ignore.

Disappearing Children

15-year old Lucy loves to watch the sun rise. She often closes her eyes and tries to imagine being on the receiving end of the sun: outside, free and warm. During this time of meditation, she finds herself reminiscing about, past family vacations. She would complain about being crammed in the car with 5 loud siblings. That was not her idea of a vacation, it was torture. But she knew that her family didn’t have much money, and so, close to home road trips were the only vacations her family could afford. Lucy’s thoughts would often drift to her mom, and how she would try her best to make the trip fun for her and her siblings. She would make up games and would bring everyone’s favorite snack. Her dad would try and sing loudly and purposely off key to make her younger siblings laugh. But Lucy ignored their efforts, and would complain to her parents that her friends were currently flying to Thailand, for their family vacation. Lucy begrudged her parents for not making enough money to take her on a more luxuries vacation like her friends. She promised herself that one day she would go to Thailand, with or without her parents. 

Lucy thinks about her Thailand promise every day, and wishes she could take it back. She would do anything to be on one of those torturous family vacations, listening to her dad sing off key, graciously accepting her mom’s homemade, crustless, sandwich, while listening to her siblings attempt to sing along with her dad. Lucy’s current reality comes back into focus and she knows her mother’s sandwiches are now replaced with rotten rice and drugs. Her father’s offkey singing is now replaced with crying, screaming and pleas for home. Lucy is 1 of a million children who have been trafficked for sexual exploitation. She is a child prostitute in Thailand, abused, drugged, beaten and raped repeatedly by men over, and over again until sunrise. 

The United States is one of the highest consumers for child sex in the world. All types of men from all walks of life, fly to vacation destinations to engage in sexual activities with minors. According to the National center for missing and exploited children…” Worldwide, prostituted children are exploited by both local and foreign patrons, trafficked across country borders to satisfy demand in the most popular sex-tourism destinations, and often held in virtual slavery or debt bondage. Children are increasingly sold and trafficked across frontiers– between developing and developed countries. The global child-sex trade, including the growth of child-sex tourism and the trafficking of children, has over the past decade gained attention and deserved outrage. The growing popularity of child-sex tourism can be attributed in part to sex tourists seeking out alternative, less restrictive destinations. These American men would travel to different countries rape children and then would return back to the United States where they knew, they were safe from prosecution. 

But in 2006, the game drastically changed when George W. Bush signed into law the Adam Walsh child protect act. Which removed the statutory requirement that if you wanted to go after an American pedophile who was hurting children overseas, you had to prove that they had the intent to rape the child, while standing on U.S. soil. That was impossible to prove, and before 2006 there were zero prosecutions. Now they only need to prove that the American went overseas, sexually exploited a child and that perpetrator can be held accountable as if they had committed that crime here in the United States. The penalties for illicit sexual conduct with another person include facing fines and up to 30 years in prison. Anti-human trafficking organizations can now team up with foreign officials and bring the abusers to justice. 

I feel that it is our duty to shine the light on these despicable human beings who are exploiting and abusing innocent children. We need more education in communities teaching about human trafficking on how to spot it and how to avoid becoming a victim. The Adam Walsh protect act is only serving a symptom. The answer to the root of the problem starts in the home with parents, who are emotionally available and listen without judgement. Our kids need to know that we are the safest place for them. 

THE FIRST BLOG SHOULD HAVE BEEN NAMED:UNFILTERED WRITING

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In 2010 I started my first blog, You’ve Got This. It’s much like this one in the sense of wanting people to laugh. But. Not at all like this one. This one gives you info about marriage and kids-mixed with God and faith. The first blog was sarcastic, rude, impatient… basically everything your momma told you to stay away from. I was young, a little rude, and had no writing filter. I basically complained and said what everyone, or most people, were thinking but didn’t say because it was offensive, or something you just didn’t say outloud. What can I say? You live and you grow up.

Well today I was taking a trip down memory lane to get some stories, because I have to write an English paper in the first person for school. I knew that blog was full of first person stories so I went there for inspiration. I was dying laughing, not becuase the stories were funny, but because I was freely saying whatever I wanted with no regard to anyones feelings! I obviously didn’t care if I got hate comments, and I got a few, but mainly, I got other moms thanking me for their morning laugh. I meant no harm, just making people laugh at other peoples expense. That was a joke. That was the “old blogger Aricka” coming out.

This one I am going to share is a MILD, I mean Mild! story from that blog. It is still embarrassing, but I was young and had young kids, and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Just keep in mind, I had 4 kids 5 and under!!

So do you ever go to the store and not want to talk or deal with anyone? Avoid eye contact?  Most of my shopping trips are that way. I love to walk into the store grab what I need and hit the self- check out line. I don’t have time to let a checker check my stuff out anymore and really, I don’t want to hear about your grand-kids. My kids are screaming and raising hell cause they want to leave just as much as I do.  Even at the library you can check out your own books. You don’t have to deal with the dude sitting behind the desk giving you the stank eye cause your two year old is pulling every book off the shelf. Which, he has pulled off some interesting ones. Such as: The First Hispanic Woman Pilot. Hmmm…

Early Tuesday, about 7 in the morning, I had to run into Albertsons for some cereal and  milk. I needed to hurry so I could get back to Zeke and feed him and send him on his little way to school. I am rushing through the isles grabbing stuff and putting it into my cart, I am done so I hurry towards the self- checkout line and right when I am about to get there this lady says, ” Did you find everything you need? I can help you right here.” Crap!!! She’s super old too! I wanted to say, “Yes, I found everything and no you can’t help me.” I can’t say that, I’m “too nice.” So she is pulling things out of my cart one at a time and telling me a story in between each item. Beep… “I watched my grandkids the other day for my daughter.” Beep…”She went on vacation with her husband.” Beep…”She was so surprised that I got them off to school on time.”

Not happening for me today!

Beep…”She asked me what I did to make that happen.” At this point I wanted to grab the rest of my items out of my cart and chuck them back into the isles. I was regretting the raspberries I got. Beep…”I just told my grand kids if any of you are late I am going to make you clean all the toilets.” 

Then when she finally got done checking all my regretted items, she held my receipt hostage, until she finished her story. My hand was in the air wanting to grab it, like a cat wants to grab a moth infront of a porch light.  I was staring at her like, what in the hell lady I have to leave!!! My kid is going to go to school starved cause I would rather him miss breakfast and catch the bus so I don’t have to load up my other three children and drive him. Yes, I just said that. I am never going to Albertsons again unless there is a plethora of very old people who want to have those five minute conversation with the checkers and leave me out of it!

Parenting: Again?

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I remember when I was a teenager I thought, I am never going to do that to my kids.

I am going to be understanding and listen and I am not going to yell at them.

I will let them eat whatever and whenever they want.

Haha, hahahaha, hahahahaha!

Yea, I didn’t hold true to myself in those sentiments. I actually find myself at a standstill trying to balance between, being a loving parent and using parental authority.

We don’t want to take away, stifle, abuse, be passive, ignore, be too strict, lose control, have disrespectful kids, lazy kids, we want them to be kids, we don’t want them to hate us, rob them of lessons, we want them to work hard, we want them to be good people, we want them to learn and grow from their mistakes, the wants and concerns are a contridicting, confusing mess.

The other day, I read that parents nowadays are not addressing their kids negative behavior because they are trying to find the root cause of that negative behavior. They are acting as therapists instead of parents. The author, who is a family therapist, says we should not be acting as a therapist to our kids. We are their parents and should address the disrespect immediatly. He told a story about a kindergartner who was calling his mom a “bitch” instead of the mom correcting her sons disrespectful behavior, she felt sorry for her son because he was so distraught. He called her the name and he got the sympathy.

Parents, including myself, are becoming afraid to exercise parental authority over their kids, for fear of doing something wrong. Most of these parents are trying to avoid the parenting “dislikes” their own parents did with them, so they are throwing everything out, the bad, along with the good.

You would think being in school for Marriage and Family Studies would make it easier for me to navigate through this parenting maze, but it doesn’t. In fact it makes things more confusing. In the same day, I can read an article about how we need to listen to our kids and be willing to negotiate with them and then turn around and read another article about how we do not need to explain ourselves to our kids and they need to be respectful no matter what.

So…we need to listen to them and be willing to negotiate…but we don’t need to explain ourselves to them or negotiate? They need to just be okay with what we tell them, because we are their parents. But we need to let them express their opinions so that they can learn how to express themselves and develop.

I think…

I believe…

what they are saying is there needs to be a balance and every situation is going to warrant a different handling technique.

For example: Here is a real situation that happened in my family recently.

My kids are all out of school because of the Corona Virus. They had to suddenly leave their friends and their normal routines and lock themselves in the house, avoiding contact with anyone outside our family. My boys started to fill their time with the PS4, NON-STOP, from around 3pm to 4-5am my boys were on the PS4. The reason they didn’t start earlier was because they were recovering from the all nighter they had just pulled. Dan and I let this go on for about month. We felt bad that they were not able to see their friends and we are also preoccupied with this virus and the effect it was having on the whole world. We knew the gaming was a problem and we knew it wasn’t healthy for them, but we let it go because they were stuck in a house and their whole world had just been turned upside down. They “claimed” they were finishing homework and they did do their chores, it is easy to keep a room clean when you are only sleeping in it.

Then…enter Aricka starting school again. Enter all the parenting articles and talks she has to read about parenting.( I am taking classes from a church college so I get the religious views and the secular views.) As I am reading a talk from a very respected spiritual church leader, I have this vision of my boys sitting infront of their PS4’s and their souls being sucked into the gaming system without their knowledge. It was like a scene from Harry Potter where the Dementors suck the happiness out of the wizards. (I know, a little extreme but that was my vision while reading this talk.) I have learned in my life to not ignore such “visions”. I needed to address the problem immediately while the impression was fresh. After talking with Dan, we both decided the PS4 gaming marathons needed to change. I was ready to throw all the gaming systems in the street but luckily I married a man who isn’t so “all or none” and he came up with a system to help the kids learn how to balance their time. We introduced a 1:1 ratio system. They did an hour of something productive or “healthy” and that would “bank” them an hour of “free time” where they can choose to play the PS4 if they want to.

Now, we had been letting them play non-stop without a word for a month. And now out of the blue, we are telling them they can’t play unless they have “banked” some time from a list we came up with.

Have you ever seen an intervention on an addict? Insert that reaction here…(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) They were not happy and turned into total different people. The more they yelled and cried the more Dan and I knew this needed to be done long ago.

After we talked them down from the ledge, we let them have input on the “healthy activities” list. We talked to them about what was expected of them, we let them know the consequences if the expectations were not met. We did listen to all their concerns and answered their questions, but ultimately, Dan and I were the ones who made the final decisions. We found a balance of listening to our kids and “negotiating” to a point, but in the end we exercised our parental authority. We kicked out the “I feel sorry their world has been turned upside down” and started to remember that our kids are more resilient then we were treating them.

We have been doing this 1:1 thing for about 4 days now and it has been working out exactly how I imagined it. The kids are talking to each other more and talking to us more. We have gotten a lot of family projects done together and they are doing things that they have been putting off…like their school work. Yea, they weren’t doing it. This system is living and breathing, it is changing and evolving over time, with the help from our kids.

So does balancing make more sense?

You are the ultimate decision maker, the authority, but letting the kids help you with executing the plan or evolving it can help them feel apart of the decision. If they feel part of the decision then they are more likely to get on board.

May the odds be ever in your favor. Happy parenting.