Tag Archives: social issues

Mr. Liberation Theology

Mr. Liberation Theology

 

The house of sand you built at last.

Tell me, friend, do you think it will withstand a world so vast?

 

You wrecked sandcastles just to build signs seeking justice.

Children sleep out in the cold.

Oh heavens watching above, is this justice?

 

The blanket the child holds onto is an oasis.

Its warmth mimics that of a home so far away.

The desert was his home; a long-forgotten friend.

Every wind feeds him the false promise of freedom.

 

What do they know?

What do they know of the sun’s kiran* when mother would feed us šāy.*

 

USA!

Is that how they play?

The warplanes outnumber the birds.

Children close your eyes, they are fighting for pay.

 

You can not hide in this world.

You are solely bare, exposed, naked even!

What man was born with cloth? Point me to him and then I will abandon my home.

 

And though you can drink your coffee

So black, filling up the glass

That same coffee will stare you back.

Black is the oil you pull from a land so boundless.

 

Who is brave enough to claim the desert as his own?

You can not rule. You fool!

Many tried and failed to seize this land.

For centuries it stands, unbroken by your nuclear adornments.

For the Desert is a lion, no simple house cat.

 

He who dares to challenge shall be left broken in the end.

The pools of oil have all dried up;

Your thirst can never be quenched.

 

* Kiran: ray;    šāy: thick creamy top layer on boiled milk

By Suprya Sarkar, age 16, originally from Bangladesh, now lives in Connecticut. She adds:

“What we call casual poetry—verses written on kitchen napkins, often forgotten—reminds us that poems are a natural part of human expression… or at least, they should be. My hope is to capture the antagonistic nature of humanity in the 21st century. How does one capture such corruption on paper? The ethics of industries and modern work culture are major topics of debate. What good is individualism if it leads to the downfall of one’s well-being? Each poem is a cry from humanity. The pieces explore the lives of various people and their environments. Both a billionaire oil company CEO and a burned-out office worker have a connection to their environments. My hope is to preserve the fleeting present. Each poem follows how industrial, political, and economic changes have influenced humanity as a whole. The poems are meant to bring attention to the peculiarities… or struggles of various people.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consumption

Consumption 

By Lucy Jones, age 15, Wales, U.K.

I wish to consume every piece of media that adorns the Earth
Every book, film, and song
Every day I panic, thinking about how little time I have
How little in my minuscule life I can truly consume
I wish to cry every tear and smile every smile
I wish to feel the most harrowing heartbreak and the most jovial joy
I wish to travel the world
I wish to play every game
I wish to meet every person 
In all my wishing, I never seem to take action
In all the endless possibilities, I take after none of them
In the end, all I do is wait
I wait for the right moment
Just the right book
Just the right film
Just the right person
When all I wish for is everything, I achieve nothing.

—Lucy Jones, Age 15, Wales, United Kingdom.

 

What Peace Is to Me

What Peace Is to Me by Paulette Ansari, Georgia.
 
Peace within is so many different things to each of us.
 
Peace is being able to sit in the grass reading a good book and not be devoured by insects.
 
Peace is being able to speak passionately about one’s life and not be labeled “angry black woman”.
 
Peace is being able to go to any public place in the U.S. (in the world even) and not have to worry about being treated badly or unfairly because you are a different race, creed, or religion or because you happen to be a woman.
 
Peace is having enough time to read a great book, knowing you won’t be disturbed.
 
Peace is knowing all is well with the people you love.
 
Peace is being able to laugh with others at yourself.
 
Peace is knowing God’s will for your life and walking in it.
 

Keeping Sane in a Digital World

By Skipping Stones Staff

In our society, we are constantly glued to our screens—phones, computers, and tablets (in addition to television). Thanks to online and remote classes, pandemic lockdowns, and restrictions against in-person social gatherings, our screentime has greatly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is much research that shows how this negatively impacts peoples’ mental health, physical wellbeing, and brain development—especially for teenagers. In this era of reduced in-person contact, where our daily lives often revolve around a screen, it can be hard to stay sane and safe. But it is very much possible with some effort and support.

Screentime. One effective way to do this is to set screen limits on the amount of time we spend on our phones, computers, and social media. Some days it may be hard to do, especially if we need to finish schoolwork or have a looming deadline. However, just the act of setting limits can help us reduce our screen time, even if we are not always able to fall within those limits. The result of setting limits is often a self-imposed pressure to finish a project faster or work more efficiently, and thus help make us more productive. There are settings on your phone and apps you use to help set screen limits and keep yourself accountable. If you do this, you may find that you get work done more quickly and have more time to engage with friends, family, and the real world.

Bedtime is Not Screentime. Another way to protect against too much social media or screentime is to end each day away from your phone or computer before you go to sleep. It may be difficult at first but you will feel so much more meaning in your life if you set time to engage with the real world. For example, instead of scrolling through Tik Tok or Instagram right before you go to bed, consider reading a book, playing with your pet if you have one, drawing, or even journaling about the highlights of your day. Not only will this help you sleep better and relax your brain, but you will likely find yourself being more fulfilled because you are able to engage with the real world in some way.

TV and News. We are constantly checking for the latest news and events around the world. Since the news has been so gloomy, especially the last few years, it can be easy to let this get us down and affect our moods. However, it is important to remember that news organizations try to frame news events in ways that get their outlet the most attention, so we should always be critical of how we understand issues. See if there are exaggerations or hyperbole in what you are watching or reading. Also, if you find yourself feeling extra gloomy or consistently depressed because of the news, take a break from it. After all, you won’t be able to solve the issues in society or the world if you are not doing well yourself.

Friends and Likes on Social Media. Another reason that the Internet, particularly social media, can be a toxic place is that young people often put too much stock in how much engagement they get on their social media posts. Many base their self worth on whether they get lots of “likes” or comments on social media posts. However, it is important to not get too caught up in this, as the number of “likes” or comments you get does not reflect reality. There are a number of factors that affect who your posts will even reach, so some of your best friends might not always even see your posts. Therefore, it is not beneficial, healthy, or accurate to think people care less about you just because you don’t get as much engagement on your social media posts. Conversely, if you get a lot of attention on social media, it is important to avoid getting caught up in the hype, because it still is not real life. Just because you are popular on social media does not give you the right to be arrogant, rude, or condescending in real life. Many young people also get jealous of others based on what they see on social media. If you see someone from school posting pictures from tropical vacation trips, for example, that doesn’t mean their life is always fun and happy. They likely have their fair share of hardships, but we generally only see the fun, happy moments from people’s lives posted on social media.

Online Scams. Online scams are nothing new, but scammers are now targeting young people with sly techniques. One of these newer scams targets teenagers. Scammers might impersonate social media personality accounts, hold fake contests, or ask you to be a brand ambassador for them. They may then tell you that you won the contest, and ask for your bank account information, or for you to pay them. The best way to recognize these kinds of scams is to see if they ask you to pay upfront fees, or for sensitive information. We should always do diligent research on any communications that ask for our personal information. You might search their website yourself to see if the offer you received is real or not. Ask questions to figure out if the organization is legitimate. If they ask you for upfront fees with a promise of a prize or commission later on, you should be very wary, as it may be a scam. 

In addition to these newer scams, there are of course the older kinds, which often involve scammers sending you an email link, or unexpectedly asking you to “change a password” or otherwise provide them with personal information. You should always be wary when you get an email like this. Sometimes scammers impersonate organizations or people you know. Often, we can check the actual email address where it came from. If you get an email from a person or organization you do not recognize, do not open it and always be critical. As a rule, do not open attachments from people you do not know.

Real Life versus Virtual Life. For better or for worse, our lives are increasingly built around the Internet and digital technologies. While these technologies can help us, they can also degrade our mental health and quality of our friendships. Texting friends or seeing their Facebook messages, for example, is not the same as going for a hike with them. By setting limits on screen-time and social media use, remembering that social media is not a true depiction of your life or the lives of other people, and making time to engage with the real world, we can help maintain fulfilling lives. In addition, being critical of what you see online is very important, whether that’s from friends on social media, or messages from potential scammers.

We believe being aware of these issues and having media literacy can help you keep your personal information, money, and mental health protected.

Perhaps you might get some recommendations from a trusted adult—teacher, librarian, counselor, or a parent—about resources to learn more on this vital issue.

A New Home

James was lying on the back seat of the car with his feet outstretched. He looked at his mother through the rearview mirror to see if she was watching, and then he peeked through the zipper on his bag to check on his phone. The phone was at seven percent–James was pleased that his tactics had worked. He had set his screen brightness to the maximum and turned on his mobile flashlight when he had gotten into the car at school.

“Mom, my phone died already. It was like fifty percent when I got in the car!”

“Give me the phone.” James’ mom snatched it from his hands and inspected it. “How did the battery die so quickly?” 

“I don’t know! Why can’t you just buy me a new phone?”

“I bought this for you a week ago and you’re telling me you already need a new one? We’ll deal with this later; for now, let’s just get going.”

“But Mom, I need my phone for school tomorrow and all the Apple shops close at seven.”

“I can always buy you a flip phone or give you your dad’s old one.”

“But Mom, I need…” 

“Not now, James.”

Impatiently, James tossed his phone onto the seat beside him. The real reason he wanted a new phone was that it had gotten scratched in his bag, but now he might be stuck with his dad’s old phone. 

Instead of turning the car back on, James’ mom pulled the key out of the ignition. 

“Why’d we stop?”

“The streets are too narrow. We’ll get out here, travel by foot. The apartment is over there,” she said.

James looked around. Unlike downtown Seoul, the streets were dark and the sidewalks were empty. The usually smooth pavement in the road was severely cracked and gray.

“Mom, why aren’t we going home?” he asked.

“I already told you. Weren’t you listening? We’re going to look at a few homes and hopefully make a deposit on one.” 

“We already have a home. Why are we buying a house in this filthy neighborhood?”

James already knew exactly why his mom was trying to buy a house. He was only hoping that she would realize how ridiculous the whole idea sounded. She had explained how Korea’s taxes were unreasonably high but that because of a loophole, families could save a little bit on their taxes by adding a second address and pretending to live separately. 

With an irritated sigh, James got out of the car and dragged his feet through the streets. A sudden movement caught him by surprise. On the other side of the tall gate he was passing through, he saw a young boy staring right back at him. James took a few steps back. The boy was wearing sandals and two t-shirts in the middle of a cold winter afternoon.  

“Hello,” said the boy quietly. He awkwardly scratched his left ear and continued staring.

James had never engaged in a conversation with someone so poor. He was unsure what to say, so he remained silent. After a few seconds, James turned away and ran to catch up with his mom. 

Entering the building, the first thing he noticed was the lack of an elevator. Wasn’t this apartment supposed to be on the third floor? As he pulled himself up the stairs with a scowl on his face, James could smell a different odor on every floor. A strong smell of cats on one floor, then burnt plastics on the next. 

The stairs opened directly onto the roof. All there was to see up here were a few empty flower pots and a greasy grill.

“Why are we on the roof? Where’s the third floor?”

“This is it. This is our home.”

“The roof? The roof is our home?”

“There it is over there. Isn’t it cute?”

James looked doubtfully at his mom’s face, checking to see if she was cracking a joke, but she seemed to be completely serious. Was she delusional? Then James noticed the small shack in the center of the roof. He walked over to it and cranked open the rusty door that had drooped and embedded itself into the floor. Inside, there was barely enough room for a mattress and a sink. Behind it was a separate, even tinier room with a toilet and a showerhead attached above.

“How do you expect anyone to live here?”

“Well, we won’t really be living here. We’re just here to see what we’re buying.”

Right as James was about to exit the shack, he accidentally kicked a can of cola. The can was nearly empty and only a few drops spilled out. 

“Do people live here?” he asked. 

“This has been a home to many people. The most recent people living here were a couple, and they were fine.”

James tried to imagine how people in his neighborhood could endure living in such a small and wretched home. He remembered the foul smells coming from the floors below and wondered what the conditions were like on those levels. The buildings to the right and left–an entire landscape of old, deteriorating apartments–were all homes to people without the chance to enjoy anything that he had. 

After not even four minutes in their new home, James and his mom decided to stroll back to the car. After all, there wasn’t much to look at. When he reached the car, he paused and looked over his shoulder. He had hoped the boy from earlier would still be there, but he seemed to have gone back inside to avoid the cold weather. After taking off his goose-fur jacket, James gently hung it over the boy’s fence.

James’ mom was focused on her phone screen. “Hurry, Apple stores close at seven!” she said.

“What?”

“Didn’t you say you needed a new phone?”

“No, my phone’s working again,” James said as he shivered and stepped back into the car.

By Ace Yeom, age 15, Seoul, South Korea. This was selected as one of the Noteworthy Entries in our 2021 Youth Honor Awards program.

Intoxicated: My Life with Social Media

By Isaac Choi, 16, Oregon.

As one critic of social media observed, “There are only two industries that call their customersusers‘: illegal drugs and software,” said Edward Tufte, a computer scientist in The Social Dilemma. According to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey of 750 teens, 97 percent used social media and 45 percent were addicted to it. I was one of those teens. I first tasted the social media world on my 12th birthday. I had nagged my mother for months, and now it was in my grasp. I quickly became absorbed by the features and abilities that social media possessed. In my first few days, social media consumed my mind. I thought about it during school, at dinner, and even in my sleep. Its presence stalked me like a tiger in a forest and lingered like a ghost at night. I fell into an abyss of likes, followers, and posts. From the moment my eyes landed on the scrolling screen, a habit instantly formed, beginning the intoxication of my mind.

About a year after developing my profile, I developed a daily routine. After school, I would seize my phone to browse social media apps. It was supposed to be a positive way to connect to the outside world and join the online community. But that was not the case. Instead, I became obsessed with how many followers and likes I had. It separated me from reality and presented me with a false identity. I had become a salesman and an addict; I thought of ways to appeal to people to follow me, just as a CEO would handle marketing. For example, if I took photos from my chin up, my insights showed deflation in followers, whereas if I took pictures from a head to heel angle, I would experience inflation. I would try to recreate the bios and profile pictures they had. It made me feel invincible, numbing my mind with ecstasy. This kid who never touched social media before was now living the high life.

By the end of next year, I was a living disaster. I was consumed by social media. Instead of spending time with family on holidays, I sneaked into my account, and I scrolled through posts, instead of completing schoolwork. Consequently, my life was full of procrastination and constant fights with my family. I was stressed by the pressure of trying to support my “perfect” reality online. But thankfully, this cycle came to a sudden halt. 

 It was around seven or eight p.m. on a Saturday when my mother called me to the living room. She wanted to show me a documentary on Netflix. My mother is not a lukewarm parent; instead, she is the total opposite- a “tiger” mom. With that being said, my mother watched my social media addiction with an eagle eye. She saw that I was not able to live with both social media and school, and realized that I needed change; not by a minor fix through small talk but by a dramatic metamorphosis. At first, I had no idea what it was about, but I just stayed until I saw the title. 

As soon as I saw the words, The Social Dilemma, sweat droplets rose from my palms and my back. I had heard from a blog that the documentary could turn the lives of addicts completely around. It motivated people to delete their social media apps and renew their lives. But I did not want to be a part of that. I detested the thought of quitting social media and giving up my “perfect” reality. But, my mother insisted that I just watch and listen. So to avoid any conflict, I stayed, but the sweat slowly rolling down my back added to my uneasiness.

The Social Dilemma resurrected me from the gorges of temptation and deceit. As I watched former employees of tech companies like Facebook and Google give their testimonies on how the industry managed social media, everything they said was an explanation for my addiction. One employee said that the companies looked at people’s views on posts and recommended similar content. This led to addiction. Another employee said that companies would send notifications to attract users. This led to distraction. From that point on, I told myself that I would not be brainwashed by money-loving trolls who took advantage of the vulnerable, which led me to believe that social media was not an app, but a drug.

After the documentary ended, my mother asked me how I felt about it. I hid my true feelings and said that it was boring because I still had the desire for social media within me. But suddenly, my mother wanted me to make a decision: either choose social media or my life. I did not want to do this, so conflict was the only alternative. While I was resting my hoarse voice, a calm rushed over me. Instead of resuming the conflict, I suddenly wished for a newer life, full of meaning and purpose. That was when I made the choice that changed my life, one that would influence my future. With that, I quit and deleted all my social media apps and accounts.

The aftermath of this decision led to so many great results. I started a successful club at my school, became number one in my class, and started a new sport. What began as a tumultuous odyssey to becoming an addict eventually evolved into a tour of reflection. I had no sense of reality and most importantly, I was intoxicated by false illusions of perfectness. But I found a light that shines my true self, revealing my potential and purpose.

The first step to any recovery is seeking help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline combats addictions from drugs to social media. For more information, visit: samhsa.gov. Thus, will you linger intoxicated or refresh into a successful life? Your choice will direct your path in life. Social media may get dopamine rushing all over the body, but there are many other highs in life which we can all embrace.

By Isaac Choi, age 16, Oregon. This was selected as one of the Noteworthy Entries in our 2021 Youth Honor Awards program.

The Perfect Family

The Perfect Family

By Zsuzsanna Juhasz, age 15, Maryland.

The father figure stands above,

No one can compare, just because.

Goes to work, and brings home the money,

While the rest stay at home, and wait for daddy.

We eat when he does, we smile when he looks,

We do what he says, or we get into trouble.

His word above ours. That’s how it has always been,

Because a change in tradition goes against everything he says.

The mother of the house doesn’t leave,

She’s not a human, she’s property.

When they wed, the maiden names goes too,

That’s the way it’s been, what should we do?

She cooks, she cleans, she obeys every word,

No speaking out, or she gets hurt.

She’s the uplifting spirit that we all need,

Unless she’s hushed, she just washes and feeds.

The eldest daughter, the pride and joy,

The one to go on and have kids of her own.

She must leave college, to marry a man,

She must do what she’s told, because she’s a woman.

Soon she will learn, what she must do,

It’s her “honor,” it’s her “duty” to be told what to do.

She takes the abuse, she holds it all in,

A sound out of her, would ruin the perfect image.

The youngest son, who learns from the father,

Does anything he says, and learns from his lectures.

He takes careful notes, so he knows what to do,

Like how to sit on the couch and work a grill too.

Looking at girls, poking at skirts,

Blaming their impulses on simply being a flirt.

Growing older, carrying his father’s beliefs,

One day he’ll become who his father turned out to be.

Men go to work, and women just stay at home,

Why change now? That’s the way it’s always been!

“Stop nagging and speaking, and clean the house!”

It’s written in cold blood to be as quiet as a mouse.

Nothing will really change, it’s all an illusion,

To make you grow up to be just like your father.

“What do you mean you don’t like it? That’s how it’s always been!

One day you’ll know when you’re married and have three kids.”

By Zsuzsanna Juhasz, age 15, Maryland. She adds: “My inspiration for this poem was the study of family norms in history, during the 50s and 60s. I’m currently enrolled in AP United States History, and when I wrote the poem, we were learning about how the average middle class family lived, and what life was like for the typical family. I thought it was incredibly interesting topic, especially when learning about Betty Friedan and how she challenged this observation, eventually publishing her own novel, The Feminie Mystique.

“I am Hungarian; I was born in the capitol, Budapest. My parents are from there, and my family and I moved here when I was just one year old.”

A $15 Minimum Wage for all Working Americans

By Amelia Christensen, 16, Minnesota.

Raising the federal minimum could will save millions of Americans from financial burden and stress!

As a working high school student, I get paid $11 an hour, which is $3.75 above the minimum wage in America (currently at $7.25 per hour). My paycheck for two weeks covers a few meals at a fast-food restaurant, one small grocery bill, and maybe a few miscellaneous items. Now imagine a single mom living on a $7.25 per hour wage with kids, a mortgage, grocery bills, and student debt to pay. To put this in perspective, she would need to work 139 hours a week to meet her expenses. This would translate into working almost 20 hours a day, seven days a week!

A $7.25 hourly wage would mean earning about $15,080 per year. This pay is extremely low, leaving an individual living barely above the poverty line, surviving paycheck to paycheck. A full-time worker living on federal minimum wage would even qualify for food stamps. It’s extremely hard to comprehend how an individual can live on this paycheck, but imagine a whole family living on a yearly salary of $15,080. Quality of life goes down, mental health issues increase and basic needs aren’t met.

Money and financial problems play a huge factor in increased suicide rates. The American Journal of Epidemiology found that financial stressors like unemployment and low income might make someone 20 times more likely to attempt suicide.

Fortunately, there is a solution to the problem. According to a 2020 study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, raising the minimum wage by even one dollar an hour would cause suicide rates to drop. As shown in these statistics, people living in poverty don’t just struggle financially, but also have mental health issues. Many low-income workers are struggling to make ends meet, provoking them to have extreme stress, anxiety disorders, depression, or other mental illnesses. Raising the minimum wage could not only help the quality of life for many struggling Americans but it could also save thousands of lives.

Raising the federal minimum is a long process and doesn’t just happen overnight. Biden has proposed to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. If his plan is successful, he would pull 900,000 people out of poverty, increase pay for 17 million workers, and help narrow the chronic economic gap between white Americans and Black and Hispanic Americans. The minimum wage has been stagnant at $7.25 an hour since 2009, but with the Raise the Wage Act the federal minimum wage would go to $9.50 an hour in June. Then it would continue to rise until it hits $15 in June of 2025. The Liberal Economic Policy estimates that 31 percent of African Americans and 26 percent of Latinos would receive a raise if the minimum wage was increased, which would play a crucial role in reducing racial economic disparities.

Some concerns about raising the federal minimum wage are: it would take a toll on the economy and take away millions of jobs, as employers are required to pay their employees more. Two economists from Princeton University, Card and Krueger surveyed 410 fast-food restaurants and found that with higher minimum wage, job openings increased rather than decreased. Professor Arindrajit Dube of Univ. of Massachusetts at Amherst, a leading minimum wage researcher, points out that companies would benefit from a wage increase because employees would be less likely to quit, which would save time, money, and resources.

Raising the minimum wage will not completely solve all financial problems for an American living on federal minimum wage, but it will provide some financial freedom. If we start to raise the minimum wage gradually, even by a dollar an hour, it would relieve financial stress and anxiety, and even save lives for struggling individuals living paycheck to paycheck.

References:

https://livingwage.mit.edu/articles/19-new-data-calculating-the-living-wage-for-u-s-states-counties-and-metro-areas

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-raising-the-minimum-wage-can-be-a-win-for-mental-health#Suicide-rates-drop

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/how-economists-see-bidens-15-wage-proposal

Why I Need My Cell Phone

By Beatriz Lindemann, age 13, Florida.

People sometimes wonder why kids are always on their phones. Adults think that kids just play dumb games on their phones. That is not true. Being on my phone does not mean that I am being unsocial. You can “talk” to people in many different ways. Texting, social media, phone calls, Facetime, letters, emails, and in person, are the ways that I communicate with people. My parents call my phone “my precious” because it is so important to me. To be honest, it really is. My phone is the best present my parents ever gave me.

I learn things from my phone. I can ask my phone a question and it gives me the answer immediately. I use it to communicate with friends across the world, too. I have a friend that lives in Melbourne, Australia while I live in Florida. If I did not have my phone, I would not be able to talk to her. A phone allows friends to keep in touch though time and geography may separate them. It really is a gift that other generations did not have. Phones give us so many options. My phone allows me to creatively express myself. For example, I can use a videography app to make mini movies. Or, I can edit photos adding cool lighting and even put designs and drawings in them. My phone allows me to share funny things that happened to me with my friends. My phone lets me capture memories so that I have them forever.  I can find news articles about current events or even history. The access inspires me and allows me to do what I want to do with the click of a button. I have learned so much from my phone, and I’m just getting started.

I can listen to music, watch a video about how to do something, or to even write this essay, all on my phone. That is what makes it so special.

Then there’s the excitement. Every buzz could be something or someone important. I don’t want to miss anything. Someone could have messaged me or liked something I did or posted and I don’t want to miss it. Every beep or ding is mysterious, and I just want to click to find out what’s waiting in store for me. 

It amazes me how far technology has come, and I wonder where it will go? It is really quite fascinating. I can research anything, and millions of links will come up immediately. People sometimes wonder why kids are always on their phones. We are on our phones because the world in there is so huge it takes time to explore, to understand, to create.

And, fortunately, if we get lost in there, we can always find our way back—I’m sure there’s an app for that.

By Beatriz Lindemann, age 13, Florida.