(Mostly) Unnecessary Update

I suppose this is one of those posts that don’t make a whole lot of sense to anyone reading it but is still necessary for me, the writer, in order to make sense of myself and the place I am living right now. I’ve been spending a great deal of time getting angry with people who ask me “how was Ecuador?” expecting anything other the very long-winded truth that leaves me near tears and them wishing they’d never asked. I cannot tell you how Ecuador was in three words, if you really wanted to know, you would choose to be important enough in my life to see how it was just by looking at the circles under my eyes and the stars in them. Everyone that got to stay in Ecuador keeps posting pictures of the things they are doing and it makes me want to peel off all my skin and put someone else in that frame, so that Hannah Asfeldt wouldn’t be able to remember the might of last semester. I guess to put it plainly, I am jealous and I already feel forgotten, two things that I haven’t ever let get the best of me before, but now it seems they are. I want someone to say, “I wish you were still here”, heck, I wish I was still there. Do you realize how lucky you are? Do you realize how easy it is for a place that once felt like home to start feeling like a coffin?

 

I’ve been staring at my homework for hours lately, just staring, not doing. I’ve been staring and wondering if any of it is worth it, if I wouldn’t actually be happier running away into the Great Unknown, (seriously attempting to make money off of my words and my music), buying some little trailer and just driving and camping wherever I need to. I could settle down in Glacier National Park and strengthen my new found faith in ice people. I could crash in the Redwood National Forest and speak to trees all day long and tell God that He did well. Or I could (finally) conquer my fear of Utah and discover canyons and rock I have never experienced before. I still do not know what the desert looks like. I had real fun for the first time last night in a while and it had a little bit to do with the phenomenal company and whole lot to do with the wind in my hair and the lack of a destination. The call of the Great Adventure is turning into an incessant pounding of drums at the forefront of my ears and I’m wondering how long I can resist for the sake of ‘adulthood’ before I go and once more join in that song.

 

It seems I’ve started thinking three years ahead of everyone else around me and that makes justifying anything Undergraduate related seem positively ridiculous. My degree is now the only thing that matters at college, and I can’t even muster the motivation to work better at that. Everything is foggy.

 

God has been making me trust Him more as of late. I always trusted Him, in the way a trapeze artist trusts that the net beneath her will catch her, but she does the whole show perfectly anyways so it doesn’t even matter that the net is there. Now that I know life doesn’t have a safety net – if you believe it does, you haven’t lived – God is telling me to give the show all I’ve got anyways because He will catch me when I fall. Note that I said when not if. He’s been telling me lately that I really don’t know anything of true trust, that I’ve never actually let anyone in that deep. Sometimes we talk for hours and sometimes we don’t even speak for a minute, sometimes I can’t look Him in the eye without my walls up, but He tends to take them down in the most violently loving way possible, so I’m learning to just leave them there, down.

 

Scandinavian music has become the soundtrack to my life as I have finally realized that I have to stop chasing the understanding of everyone else’s background and finally start chasing my own. So far one of the most surprising things I’ve found is that my old Viking ancestors were way more religious than I thought. Naturally, they believed in different gods than I do, but their faith was just as much if not more guiding than the compass of the man at the helm of those ships. Even though I don’t believe in those gods, I’ve found their stories to be a comfort; I’ve found their truths in my own blood regardless of their level of fiction. I’ve found Loki hopping between my neurons when I sit down to write, I’ve found Thor chasing behind me when I run, I’ve found Forseti perched upon my shoulders when I read the news, I’ve found Vidar hold my chin up when it starts to fall, and I’ve found Skadi placing a crown of ice on my head when I feel my beauty is a thing to be ashamed of. I wonder if they know they aren’t real. There is a reason people keep writing books when the world already has enough to fill several lifetimes. Stories are what keep us alive.

 

Basically, being alive is really good. My future is unknown but it’s bright. My body is doing things it’s never done before and my mind is falling in love with what it’s convinced itself to do. I miss Ecuador and it’s mountains and the way everything felt alive always. I miss feeling alive always. I’m at about a 77/23 where I am now. But I’m learning, as one tends to do in college, and I’m listening in places where I’ve previously heard silence and the whole of it is beautifully loud. I sometimes wonder if people want to hear the things I have to say. Is there anyone out there who would listen if I wrote more than this website? Maybe it doesn’t matter, I think that’s part of being an artist, making art for creation and not for reception. The more I listen the more I have to say and to me, that’s why God is an empowering God. He never tells me to be quiet, not the way the god I thought was God used to.

 

That’s all for now. Hopefully I’ll be going to South Dakota for the summer (which is surprisingly sooner than you would think) and hopefully the openness of that place will help clear the fog away. Life is good but the future is confusing. Or maybe it’s life is confusing but the future is good. I’ll take it either way.

International Group: The Informed Citizens Discussion Group Fall 2016

For my sophomore year of college, I decided to shift from an international book club to a discussion group which focuses on diving into the deep issues of current events, both domestic and foreign.

The Informed Citizens Discussion Group(ICDG) is an organization on campus which organizes small discussion sections to spread awareness and understanding of pressing issues from all around the world.

I was initially attracted to the group because I have a deep-rooted interest in current events and global affairs. Since I was old enough to understand the dynamics of politics and related issues I have been drawn to talking to anyone and everyone about what is occurring in the world. Since starting college and with the introduction to larger classes, there have been less opportunities to sit down and have a discussion with a group of equally invested individuals.

I decided to join the Informed Citizens Discussion Group because I knew of a few other Global Engagement Fellows who were involved in the program and really enjoyed themselves. I signed up for the Wednesday time slot which held a meeting every Wednesday from 4:30-5:20.

The experience was exactly as I have imagined and hoped it would be. Every week I was able to engage in conversations about a wide array of current events. The group gave me another reason to stay up to date with articles and be actively involved in seeking out information about news.

Being the presidential election season, the discussions were definitely interesting, to say the least. I am glad to have been able to be a part of a gathering of students who were each so passionate about what they were discussing. Most of the students held generally liberal views, yet there was a pleasant sprinkling of differing opinions which kept the meetings from becoming an echo-box of reinforcement.

Discussions ranged from talking of Kim Jong-un’s recent theatrics to an in-depth analysis of the Oklahoma state questions which were on the ballot in November. We discussed the human right’s abuses being carried about by Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, the cabinet appointments that president-elect Donald Trump has been making, the formation and rising prominence of the ‘Alt-Right’, the death and history of Fidel Castro, immigration reform and polarizing issues.

The discussion group taught me to sit and listen rather than thinking of only of what I am going to say next. It was interesting and exciting to sit and listen to 10 different voices and opinions engaging with each other. Some were very conflicting while others were reinforcing and supportive. Being exposed to differing thought processes encouraged me to be introspective, analyzing my own opinions and the reasoning behind them. Surprisingly I found myself taking a different stance on a topic by the end of a discussion session, more than once.

The Informed Citizens Discussion Group gave me a safe spot to engage in serious conversation once a week with no ties to grades or repercussions for having a lack of understanding on a topic.

I look forward to continuing participation in the group for the Spring 2017 semester, especially as the Trump presidency begins to take hold and effect the United States and global community.

A Response to the 2016 Oklahoma State Questions

The 2016 general election is just around the corner, in five days to be exact. Who would have thought the presidential election would come down to Hilary Clinton vs Donald Trump? It’s something out of an SNL skit, for sure.

But what is often overlooked in these elections are the smaller ballot decisions which have effects on one’s local life. The presidential election outcome is actually less likely to have an effect on the average person than local elections, obviously. In this upcoming election, there are state questions on the ballot which have the ability to drastically change Oklahoman life.

Allow me to elaborate on my views of them. The quick descriptions of these ballots were brought to you by ballotpedia.org and okpolicy.org.

State Question 776 was designed to assert that all methods of execution would be constitutionally allowed unless prohibited by the United States Constitution and designated statutorily by the legislature.  It gives the Legislature the power to designate any method of execution, prohibits the reduction of death sentence due to an invalid method of execution, and prohibits the death penalty from being ruled “cruel and unusual punishment” or unconstitutional according to the Oklahoma Constitution

My vote? No

The question would essentially make it so that Oklahoma cannot deem the death penalty unconstitutional. It would place the death penalty above the law, bypassing the system of checks and balances that keeps justice.

Furthermore, 776  is likely to be opposed by higher courts as soon as it is passed. Why waste the time and resources?

State Question 777 was designed to establish a constitutional right for farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices. The amendment bans any new law regulating or prohibiting an agricultural practice unless it can be shown to have a “compelling state interest.” That means any new agricultural regulations would have to pass strict scrutiny, the legal standard used for laws that deprive people of fundamental rights like free speech, gun ownership, or religious freedom.

NO. NO NO NO. 

A huge, loud, resounding, echoing NO.

This bill would make it so that “farming” is a constitutional right; any new laws and farming can easily be dismissed as an infringement on “constitutional rights.” If technology currently used by farmers is later found to be environmentally harmful, or inhumane, new regulations would be extremely likely to be turned down on this defense.

State Question 777 would allow an unchecked farming industry to develop in Oklahoma under the guise of giving citizens the “right to farm.” Big farming industries would be drawn to Oklahoma because they could claim protection under this amendment.

Think about this: ANY NEW LAW proposed to regulate farming practices would be held under the same level of scrutiny as new gun laws! I’m sorry, but the freedom to farm is not equal to the rights to freedom of speech, religion, and the right to bare arms. It shouldn’t receive the same protections as these fundamental rights. Farming ought to be regulated by ever changing environmental regulations, and Oklahoma shouldn’t become a safe haven for big corporations to farm without fear of checks on their farming practices.

State Question 779 was designed to increase the state sales tax by 1 percent to generate revenue for education funding. Of the total revenue generated by the new tax, 60 percent would go to providing a salary increase of at least $5,000 for every public school teacher. The remaining funds would be divided between public schools (9.5 percent), higher education (19.25 percent), career and technology education (3.25 percent), and early childhood education (8 percent). The State Board of Equalization would be required to certify that revenues from the new tax are not being used to supplant existing funds.

Yes. While it feels odd to be to vote to increase taxes, I’m confident this measure would be successful in improving education in the state of Oklahoma. It’s estimated that, if passed,  State Question 779 would add $615 million per year in education funding.

According to Oklahoma Watch. Org , in the 2012-2013 school year, the amount spent on individual students, at $7,912 ranked 49th in the nation along side teacher pay, which shared the same ranking. Oklahoma is struggling to keep and recruit teachers, even the ones who are educated at the University of Oklahoma.

While some claim that a penny tax would harm the poor, one also has to understand that teachers in Oklahoma ARE the poor. The students who are receiving one of the worst educations in the United States, they BECOME the poor. Oklahoma desperately needs this tax if it wishes to reverse the state of it’s education.

State Question 780 and 781: 780 was designed to reclassify certain property offenses and simple drug possession as misdemeanor crimes, and 781 was designed to use money saved by reclassifying certain property and drug crimes as misdemeanors, as outlined in State Question 780, to fund rehabilitative programs.

This is a simple yes for me, to both measures.

I don’t believe the state should be spending ludicrous amounts of money to imprison people for small offenses. The money saved by altering the charge severity would be used for rehabilitation programs, in turn reducing the amount of crime and drug abuse in Oklahoma, and in turn saving even more money.

Take these facts from the Vera Institute of Justice:

IN FISCAL YEAR 2010, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC) had $441.8 million in prison expenditures. However, the state also had $11.6 million in prison-related costs outside the department’s budget. The total cost of Oklahoma’s prisons—to incarcerate an average daily population of 24,549—was therefore $453.4 million, of which 2.6 percent were costs outside the corrections budget.

Though some would like to say this measure would “legalize marijuana” and “make criminals commit more crimes,” it is simply not true. The measure would aim to rehabilitate and help those caught with small amounts of drugs, rather than sending them to prison, an expensive process which also has been proven to lead to harder drug exposure and abuse. It’s time for Oklahoma to fix it’s overgrown prison problem.

State Question 790 was designed to repeal Section 5 of Article 2 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which prohibits public money from being spent for religious purposes.

Coming from a Christian, I have to say, no. This is for a couple of reasons.

Being that religious institutions are already tax exempt, it doesn’t make sense for them to receive tax-generated money.

The state should not endorse or fund any one religion, nor should it endorse and fund any processes related to all of them.

Scholarships given to students who then decide to attend a private religious school have already been held constitutional.

Even if the bill is passed, the ten commandments will still most likely be removed from the state capitol grounds.

State Question 792 was designed to allow grocery stores and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer and wine. Currently these stores are prohibited from selling beer containing above 3.2 percent alcohol by volume, as well as all wine and all liquor. SQ 792 would also allow Oklahoma liquor stores to sell refrigerated beer and alcohol accessories (i.e., sodas, corkscrews). The measure would allow multiple beer and wine stores to be owned by one corporation (ownership would be limited to two stores per person if spirits are sold). Currently individual liquor store owners are not allowed to have more than one store. If SQ 792 passes, these changes would take effect on October 1, 2018

There is ALSO a companion bill which will go into effect if this bill passes, SB 383. It allows direct shipment of wine into Oklahoma, increases the clerk age for selling beer from 16 to 18, and establishes other regulations on the sale of alcohol.

Yes. 

Oklahoma currently has the strictest laws regulating alcohol. It is time for Oklahoma to drop the outdated laws.

Being that this practice is legal in almost every other state, the proposed negative effects on liquor stores are unlikely to be realized. Passage of this bill would make the purchase of alcohol more convenient for consumers and it would open the industry in Oklahoma. Liquor stores would be allowed to sell corkscrews and mixers, increasing the likelihood that customers will use these stores as a “one-stop” place for their alcohol needs.

The bill would also allow liquor stores to sell refrigerated beer, allowing crafted and specialty beer to be sold in these stores. It would open the door for Oklahoma beer makers, at a time when beer crafting is an up and rising hobby. Some crafted beers cannot be stored without refrigeration.

The only negative part of this bill is that it could possibly allow larger corporations to open chains of beer and wine stores in Oklahoma.

The measure would allow multiple beer and wine stores to be owned by one corporation (ownership would be limited to two stores per person if spirits are sold). Currently individual liquor store owners are not allowed to have more than one store.

While these stores wouldn’t be able to sell liquor, it is still something to consider. However, the benefits outweigh the negatives.

 

This coming Tuesday is going to change a lot for both America as well as the state of Oklahoma. If you’re over 18 years old, please vote. Don’t brag about not being registered to vote. Don’t let the mudslinging convince you that political action is arbitrary. Don’t allow yourself to concede to political apathy. If you’re not voting, you DO NOT lose responsibility for things that may go wrong, because you have the opportunity to make a difference.

Not acting on your right to vote is a vote for whatever side you oppose.

 

 

 

 

Oklahoma Weather

This post will be a two parter! First, I shall complain/report on the odd weather that takes place in Oklahoma. All this week, it has been bitterly cold. Today, however, has been nice. It’s cold, but not too cold. My roommate shared that it will be warmer this weekend. If the weather could stop being so crazy, I’d be fine with that.

But this has me thinking…
What will the weather be like in Italy?

I shall do some research over the weekend, and post past weather trends for Italy.

Then, when I actually go to Italy, I will report on the weather!

On a side note, I had the opportunity to donate/voluenteer for the blood drive today!

Until next time,
Alexis Hall