Prisoner of The Pill

May 16, 2008 at 8:16 pm (books, feminism, rants) (, )

I just finished reading a wonderful and hilarious book, Bonk by Mary Roach.  As the name may suggest, the book is about sex, well, sex research to be specific.  I’d recommend this book to pretty much anyone who is open to finding humor in the more bawdy and intimate aspects of our lives.  We’re all human, we all do it, and frankly, sometimes its pretty darned funny!  So anyway, after giggling throughout most of the book, I came to a part which nearly made me cry in outrage.  No, it wasn’t about sexual abuse or violence (that would have REALLY made me cry), it was a short section on something that is unfortunately near and dear to me, The Pill.

On the surface, The Pill is a wonder-drug.  No babies, no acne, regular and lighter periods.  For all of these reasons, I, and millions of women like me, are on The Pill and have been for some time. I have personally been on it for about 10 years (and I’m only 27).  I started it because NOTHING else would clear up my skin as a teenager, plus my cycles were infuriatingly irregular and unpredictable.  Little did my 17 year old self know that in 10 years, I would feel like a slave to these tiny pills.  Due to medication that I am on that can cause severe birth defects, I HAVE to be extremely vigilant about not getting pregnant.  My partner and I both feel that condoms are not a reasonable alternative due to their propensity for misuse as well as our simple desire not to have to use them.  And after condoms there are VERY FEW non-hormone based contraceptives.

About a year ago, I got fed up with The Pill and took my grievances to Planned Parenthood for the purpose of getting an IUD (intra-uterine device) – the copper kind, not the one that just sits in your uterus pouring hormones into it.  First of all, the entire visit to PP was unpleasant.  The nurse who took my vitals asked why in the world I wanted to get off The Pill.  She poo-pooed the idea of a diaphram (not that I want one, but she shouldn’t have made that assumption) as being “messy” and hard to use.  In my actual consultation with the doctor, she dismissed my complaint that The Pill was causing bloating and weight gain.  I’ve never been a skinny person, but I know my body and I knew that this constant stream of progesterone – the hormone that pregnant women produce that tells their bodies not to lose fat – was doing nothing good for my weight issues.  This doctor also told me that IUDs are only appropriate for women who have already had children.  While this may be the more standard application, I don’t feel that it is exclusive, this particular doctor just didn’t feel comfortable implanting them in childless women – and she told me as much.  So I left PP feeling demoralized, dejected and without any options.  They practically threw a new prescription for Pills at me.  I got the distinct feeling that PP is being subsidized by Pill-producing companies.  Probably not true, but that was my impression.

So this brings me back to Bonk.  Mary Roach was discussing how a woman’s hormonal cycle normally causes an increase in sexual drive during the time of month while she’s ovulating (makes sense).  But women on The Pill are receiving a constant and steady stream of estrogen and progesterone which levels out their hormones, basically dulling their natural cycle and urges.  Much worse yet, The Pill induces a protein which binds to and inactivates testosterone in the blood.  Why do women need testosterone you may ask?  Well, it is the “hormone of desire”.  Without testosterone, women have greatly lowered sexual drive.  I was enraged by this.  I was NEVER told of this side-effect.  I guess diminished sexual desire is not anything worth discussing as a possible reason women would not want to use a particular drug.  I knew that I was taking estrogen and progesterone and I was already none too happy with the possible and actual side-effects of those two hormones, but now to know that my testosterone levels are also being diminished?  Holy Hell.  Can you even imagine if a birth control medication for men blunted their libido?  There’d be outrage.  No no, there wouldn’t because no drug like that would be taken by millions of men for most of their lives.

I’d love to hear from anyone else interested in this topic as well.  Has anyone heard about the use of copper IUD’s in women who have not been pregnant?  Its still something I am seriously looking into.

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Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

December 8, 2007 at 2:44 pm (books, environment, food)

I finally finished Michael Pollan’s “Ominvore’s Dilemma”, it was brilliant and inspirational.  I said in my last post that I was convincing myself not to eat meat.  Well, that’s true to an extent.  I have been sufficiently convinced not to eat grain-fed meat from feed lot operations, including anything from fish to chicken to beef.  Not only does it go against nature and evolution, which must be respected, but it is just not sustainable.  We humans have evolved to eat food that has been nourished by the sun and the soil, and we are currently being fed by food nourished by petrochemicals and and artificially fixed nitrogen.  Why have we allowed this to happen?  The all mighty bottom line of course.  While we are willing to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on luxury SUVs, video game systems, gargantuan televisions (take your pick), we scoff at spending an extra $1/pound to buy quality meat to nourish our family.  And no, I’m not buying into the Whole Foods philosophy of only eating “organic”.  I am buying into sustainability.  Because while it is surely better to buy “organic” food free of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides, the farms that produce organic products are nearly as unsustainable as traditional industrial farms.  When I refer to sustainability, I mean how much damage it does to the land, the surrounding water resources and the consumers who ingest the food.

One of the most interesting facts highlighted in Pollan’s book is how industrially produced food is actually much worse for humans than meat and produce grown in more natural circumstances.  For instance, we all hear that we should eat fish for the health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids.  Those Omega-3 acids come from fish raised on krill and kelp (their natural diet), not corn.  Gee, isn’t it surprising that corn weren’t naturally evolved to eat corn?  Farm raised salmon raised on corn actually contain less Omega-3 and more Omega-6 (an unhealthy alternative).  Same goes for beef.  Grass fed beef contains Omega-3 and Omega-6 in a 1:1 ratio – not so bad, right?  Well, grain fed beef has Omega-6 fatty acids over Omega-3 in a ratio of 10:1.  Amazing.  Humans clearly evolved to eat meat higher in Omega-3’s, which is why we have such rampant health problems associated with the consumption of feed-lot beef.

OK, so clearly I could go on and on, but overall I would just recommend that if you are concerned about where your food comes from, read Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma”.

I guess it doesn’t matter how inspired I am by a book if I don’t practice what I preach, right?  So I have decided to change my consuming behaviors, especially where meat is concerned.  Anyone can go online and find local grass-fed beef suppliers in their area.  It may cost more and be much less convenient, but I feel its worth it.  We need to get back into the mind-set that meat is a “special occasion” food and not our god-given right for daily consumption.  I’ve been a vegetarian before, and I’m not going to go all the way back to that extreme.  After all, there is nothing more natural than humans eating meat.  However, there’s nothing less natural than how we go about mass producing our meat.

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The true cost of food

December 2, 2007 at 3:48 pm (books, environment, food)

Lately it seems that I have been trying to talk myself out of eating meat. Well, maybe not so much “talking” as “reading”. If you have any questions or doubts regarding the food production industry, and more specifically, the meat packing industry, I would highly recommend the following “suite” of books for you perusal. The books are “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclaire, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver, “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser, and “The Ominvore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. They are all vastly different books and I have different reasons for recommending each one. And just as a side note, I actually was a strict ovo-lacto vegetarian for 5 years during highschool/early undergrad. I did it mainly for health reasons, but never really was committed for ethical reasons. That may change in the near future!

“The Jungle” I read back in high school (not as an assignment, but because I picked it out). Luckily, I actually was a vegetarian at the time I read this, otherwise I would have definitely lost my lunch at several points in this book. Unlike the other books, this one is a novel, although much of it is historically accurate. It tells the story of eastern European immigrants who move to Chicago in the very early 20th century and find work in the meat-packing industry. The book is filled with the horrors of not only how dangerous and vile the meat packing plants were, but also of the terrible lack of human rights prevalent in that industry. Unfortunately, as I read more books, I realized that this has changed very little. Even with my limited high school brain, I picked up on the heavy socialist leanings of Sinclaire. His writing is full of thinly veiled socialist preaching, but the rest of the book stands strongly enough on its own to overlook that if it bothers you.

I read the other three books more recently. Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” is a book about the virtues of eating organically and locally. Especially in today’s culture of trying to live more “green”, it is crucial to be aware of how far our food must travel to reach our plates, because that all costs A LOT of gasoline. Kingsolver doesn’t really demonize any one industry, and certainly not the meat-packing industry. However, by reading her book, I really realized the importance of being fully conscience of the real “cost” of my food, and this applies to everything from beef to beets.

Perhaps the most disturbing of the books I’m recommending is Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation”, which most people have probably heard of. Although the title suggests that he targets the fast food industry, which he does in about half the book, he also reveals all the nasty little secrets of the meat packing industry. He gives a horrifying play-by-play of exactly how cows go from animals to pre-packaged beef portions. Perhaps what I found most enlightening was just how integrated politics is in this industry. The beef and fast food lobbies are very powerful and pretty much at every opportunity, they implement measure to maximize the production of cheap (and often dangerously contaminated meat) and to minimize the benefits of the under-privileged workers who keep this industry running. Meat packing plants primarily employ Hispanic immigrants (many illegal) and go to great lengths to avoid paying them health insurance or disability payments for their inevitable injuries. These exploited workers are not valued and therefore, no one tries to keep them safe from injury. As it turns out, the level of safety measures and precautions required by OSHA fluctuates depending on how Republican our government is. The beef and fast food lobbyists, as proponents of big industry, are by and large on the payrolls of powerful Republicans who care more about getting insanely cheap products to the masses than they do about maintaining any semblance of a safe work environment for its disposable work force.

The latest book that I’m reading (and have not yet completed) is “Ominvore’s Dilemma”. This is a unique book in that it explores our national addiction of cheap corn. What’s that? you may say…I don’t eat all that much corn! But yes, you do. Almost all of the meat we consume, from beef to chickens to salmon are fed diets of cheap, industrial grade corn. Some animals like chicken and pigs will readily and naturally eat grains like corn. Other animals, like cows and salmon, have to be bred and physically altered to tolerate this completely unnatural diet. Think about it. Cows (and other ruminants) are exquisitely evolved to turn grass, an otherwise indigestible energy source, into a rather tasty form of protein. But today, due to our insatiable appetite for cheap and fatty meat, cows are born and grass prairies, but then shipped to feedlots for the last few months of their short lives to gain hundreds of pounds on a daily regimen of corn, beef tallow (pure fat), hormones, antibiotics and a number of other unsavory items including “feather meal” and discarded feces/bedding from chicken coups. And salmon, natural carnivores in the wild, are now raised in fish farms being fed corn of all things, something they would not only never eat in the wild, but would never even encounter.

It seems to all go back to the American expectation of year-round availability of cheap food. We want to eat our asparagus and watermelons in December alongside our cheap piece of heavily marbled steak. For the most part, as long as our grocery bills aren’t affected, we don’t care how far our food has traveled, what atrocities the animals suffered, or how many workers were exploited. I am not advocating that everyone stop eating meat, I haven’t even quite done that yet. What I am hoping is that people will eat more consciously and be aware of the true cost of filling our plates.

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The Joys of Estrogen

November 24, 2007 at 2:41 am (books, feminism, gender issues)

I recently wrote about a transgendered individual who appeared on “Miami Ink” touting the intellectual benefits of testosterone. While I’m still not buying into that horse-shit, I did think it’d be an interesting topic to follow up on. I recently picked up the book “She’s Not There” by Jennifer Finney Boylan. It is the story of her transition from the male to female physical gender. I say “physical” because she was born psychologically and spiritually a female. The book is very interesting and well written. I was reading a section this evening wherein she begins to discuss how she changed upon taking estrogen. It was quite fascinating. We all know that estrogen dictates that women store fat in their hips and thighs. We know it is responsible breast growth, hair texture and skin softness. However, what I found most interesting are the things that women and men experience so differently, small and large differences that we find curious or bothersome about each other. Here are some of the examples I found most interesting, and I will quote because they are so well written to begin with!

  • “The strength in my upper body was another early casualty of hormones…I found it hard to open jars or even lift up my children.”
  • “I shook my arm again, and there it was-the loose flab of the middle-aged female triceps.”
  • “Estrogen and antiandrogens profoundly affected my libido. I certainly thought about sex a lot less often and with a different sensibility. As a man, my sex drive frequently resembled a monologue by a comic book hero succumbing to an evil spell. ‘Must-have! Must! Trying-to-resist! Getting harder to- Must have! Can’t resist!'”
  • “When people asked me, later, what the effects of the pills were, I cleverly said, ‘Well, the one pill makes you want to talk about relationships and eat salad. The other pill makes you dislike the Three Stooges” (in reference to taking both estrogen and antiandrogens)
  • “I noticed that I was more sensitive to stimuli now. I was much more aware of changes in heat and cold, and I was much more likely to complain that a car I was riding in was too hot or too cold, and I was frequently taking off sweaters and putting them back on again.”
  • “I used to cry at things like Pepsi commercials and It’s a Wonderful Life. Now I was less likely to cry at these things and more likely to tear up when a dinner I had cooked didn’t turn out right, or when someone said something cruel…And when I cried, it wasn’t just the stoic silent leaking I was accustomed to. These were big, sobbing tears, and my body shook as they poured out. It felt great.”
  • “Above all, I was aware of a change in the way I occupied my body.  I felt raw and vulnerable, exposed to the world…The thing that I felt testosterone had given me more than anything was a sense of protection, of invulnerability.  I had never imagined myself to be particularly invulnerable when testosterone had free rein in my system, but this new world I was approaching seemed to have no buffers.  Things that used to just bounce off me now got under my skin.”

Wow, those observations really hit home with me and jive with several conversations I have had with my fiance and several other men.  What I think is most interesting is that this is a person who has always identified psychologically as female, yet, didn’t experience things like vulnerability or emotional sensitivity about cruelty, or have the more reclusive “female” libido.  These traits that we associate as being “feminine” are very much the result of physical hormones coursing through our bodies.

I hope everyone else finds this topic as fascinating as I do, because I’m sure its not the last time I’ll discuss it!

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Emergence of the Domestic Goddess

September 9, 2007 at 5:44 pm (books, cooking, environment)

Inspired by the wonderful book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver (along with her husband and daughter), I’m bringing out my domestic side.  I’m doing some “putting up” this weekend.  Kingsolver’s book (in case you haven’t heard) is all about eating local, seasonal food for better health, global consciousness, and to support local economy.  Putting up food for the winter is an important part of being a “locavore”, it is the only way to eat vegetables and fruit year round without resorting to buying food imported in from South America or other distant places.  And to be clear, I’m definitely not joining the locavore movement completely.  For one thing, I don’t have the freezer or cellar space for a winter’s worth of canned and frozen food.  Also, I don’t have the time or energy to complete this task.  But for some foods, I think it may just be worth a little bit of effort to reap the rewards later.

Lately, I have gotten into cooking with roasted eggplant – and for those of you that read my other blog, I’m truly not obsessed with eggplant, I promise, just bare with me!  I remember from years past, its exceedingly hard to find edible looking eggplant during the winter at the local supermarket.  So this weekend, I am roasting, pureeing and freezing eggplants. It freezes remarkably well in roasted form in freezer bags.  While at the grocery store yesterday, I scurried gleefully over to the eggplants in the produce section.  I was more excited than I should have been at the sight of lots of big, beautiful eggplants – all for 99 cents a piece!!  So I bought six of them, and god knows what the cashier thought of me, but who cares.  I’m sure it wasn’t the weirdest purchase she encountered that day.  I also got a strange look for my cotton mesh produce bags that I bring from home, I’m sure she thought I was just some tree hugging freak, which is OK with me.

The undergraduate student that I’m training at work always asks me what kind of plans I have for the weekend.  No doubt she already views me as a total science geek, and I’m flinching a little to think how she’d view me if she knew that my weekend plans centered around putting up roasted eggplant.

So after the jump, I’ll put my two favorite roasted eggplant recipes (same ones I’ve put on my other blog).  One is Roasted Eggplant Orzo Soup and the other is Roasted Eggplant Marinara.  They really are tasty, easy and quite healthy.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Highly Sensitive People

August 23, 2007 at 3:17 am (books, evolution)

I have been to busy this week to even think.  Between the onset of classes, squeezing in last minute experiments and getting a big presentation ready I have been completely fried.  I feel like my brain has melted, not unlikely in the desert heat.

I did read something while I was scarfing down lunch today that I found kind of interesting.  I am currently reading “Evolution for Everyone” by David Sloane Wilson.  I thought it’d be good preparation for dealing with snarky undergrads questioning evolution in the class I’m TA’ing.  Anyway, the chapter I was reading dealt with the evolution of personality, something which is certainly not limited to humans, but was first demonstrated in a diverse range of animals.  Wilson discussed the the personality type “Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP) – basically a person who is, as the name implies, very sensitive to stimuli.  As I was reading the description of the HSP characteristics, it was like a mental checklist:  that’s me, uh huh, that sounds about right, oh yea I do that, that’s not normal???  Things like being extra sensitive to bright light, loud noise, pain, clothing texture as well as drugs and caffeine.  It also includes people who are easily overwhelmed by to many things to do or by change.  Also, people who are easily startled and very emotional about art and music.  Wilson provides a link to a self-test.  I scored 22/27 – that’s high in case anyone was wondering.  Apparently 15-20% of the population falls into this group, so it is by no means abnormal.

I was often made fun of as a child because I would come downstairs after I had gone to bed to tell whoever was downstairs watching TV to turn it down, even if it was just at normal volume.  I am completely incapable of tuning out noise or light, which is why I pretty much have to have pitch dark silence to sleep.  I have never understood people who could read or study with the radio on – I wish I could do that!

So great, every little thing bugs me, how is that a personality trait that would have evolved?  Well, it turns out HSPs are very sensitive to their surroundings and have been historically better equipped to be aware of things (predators, food, weather, etc) which might affect their health and livelihood.  This is obvious when you think about it.  I mean who’s going to survive to pass on their genes – me, who wakes up with the first drop of rain, or my brother, who would sleep through a tornado?  Isn’t evolution wonderful?!

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Blackwater, the finale

August 7, 2007 at 7:02 pm (books, politics)

I swear to everyone that this will be my last post about “Blackwater” by Jeremy Scahill.  I finally finished it this morning and found the most chilling part to be right near there end where Scahill outlines just why having a powerful mercenary army like Blackwater is so scary:

What is particularly disturbing about the “expanding role” of Blackwater specifically is the issue of the company’s right-wing leadership, its proximity to a whole slew of conservative causes and politicians, its Christian fundamentalist agenda and secretive nature, and its deep and long-standing ties to the Republican Party…Blackwater is quickly becoming one of the most powerful private armies in the world, and several of its top officials are extreme religious zealots, some of whome appear to believe they are engaged in the epic battle for the defense of Christendom.  The deployment of forces under this kind of leadership in Arab or Muslim countries reinforces the worst fears of many in the Islamic world about a neo-Crusader agenda masquerading as a U.S. mission to “liberate” them from their oppressors.  What Blackwater seemingly advocates and envisions is a private army of God-fearing patriots…

And Scahill certainly is not exaggerating when he calls the leaders of this company religious zealots.  Much evidence is provided in the book to back up this claim.  A point Scahill makes earlier in the book, one which I wrote about in my entry “Rise of Mercenaries, Fall of an Empire”, mercenary armies become necessary when the ruling government wants to carry out policies and operations that the majority of the population is not supportive of.  This is a truly scary trend, for our government to be able to literally hire out contracts to fight wars which are not democratically chosen or supported.  I’m not naive enough to think that in a free-market society, where there is clearly money to be made in rent-a-soldier companies, that these companies will go away any time soon.  What I am saying is that there is a clear need for more oversight and transparency when it comes to how our government spends our tax dollars and hiring these companies.

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Rendition

August 5, 2007 at 7:26 pm (books, movies, politics)

I don’t know if that happens to anyone else, but somewhat frequently, I will hear of something (a term, news article, book, etc) that I have never heard of before, but then with very quick succession, that thing will pop up again and again on my radar within the next day or so. This happened last night with the term “Rendition”. David Ignatius of the Washington post defines the term quite well in his article on the topic:

Rendition is the CIA’s antiseptic term for its practice of sending captured terrorist suspects to other countries for interrogation. Because some of those countries torture prisoners — and because some of the suspected terrorists “rendered” by the CIA say they were in fact tortured — the debate has tended to lump rendition and torture together. The implication is that the CIA is sending people to Egypt, Jordan or other Middle Eastern countries because they can be tortured there and coerced into providing information they wouldn’t give up otherwise.

This word came up in the context of two movies last night, a preview for the movie “Rendition” and it was also mentioned several times in “The Bourne Ultimatum”. Then later I happened to read about it in the book I’m still trudging through, “Blackwater; The rise of the world’s most powerful mercenary army” by Jeremy Scahill.

Now to me, the idea of practicing rendition sounds like something that Cheney or Rove would have had a wet-dream about and then presented to their puppet for implementation. I was wrong. Scahill writes:

The rendition program was not born under the Bush administration but rather during the Clinton administration in the mid-1990s. The CIA, with the approval of the Clinton White House and a presidential directive, began sending terror suspects to Egypt, where far removed from U.S. law and due process, they could be interrogated by mukhabarat agents. In 1998 , the U.S. congress passed legislation declaring that it is “the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite, or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture…After 9/11, this legislation was sidestepped under the Bush administration’s “New Paradigm,” which stripped alleged terror suspects of basic rights.”

It is of course no secret that the Bush administration, Cheney in particular, is not shy about working through “the dark side” “quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies” (quotes from Cheney). Part of the reason that anyone stands behind the war still (though there aren’t many left) is that, as Americans, we have enjoyed democracy, equality (well, kinda) and importantly due process of the law, and we want to spread those ideals to other countries. We look with disgust upon other countries who routinely abuse human rights and who treat some groups of citizens with less respect and legal rights than others.

There is a reason why a relatively well-informed citizen like me had never heard of rendition before. Our government does not want us to know about this. We are sending residents and citizens of the U.S. abroad with the clear intent of holding them without due process and torturing them into divulging information, a technique which is vial and ultimately very dangerous in the long run:

Scientific research on the efficacy of torture and rough interrogation is limited, because of the moral and legal impediments to experimentation. Tom Parker, a former officer for M.I.5, the British intelligence agency, who teaches at Yale, argued that, whether or not forceful interrogations yield accurate information from terrorist suspects, a larger problem is that many detainees “have nothing to tell.” …“The U.S. is doing what the British did in the nineteen-seventies, detaining people and violating their civil liberties,” he said. “It did nothing but exacerbate the situation. Most of those interned went back to terrorism. You’ll end up radicalizing the entire population.”

This quote is from a very in depth and complete article on the subject of rendition by Jane Mayer.

Its an unpleasant task, but we as U.S. citizens need to find ways to be aware of what our leaders are doing. They are certainly doing everything in their power to keep us in the dark, which is yet another characteristic of governments that we view as being totalitarian and corrupt.

p.s. I realized that I should say, just so everyone doesn’t think I’m a total dunce, that I did in fact know about the practice of extraditing and interrogating suspected terrorists.  I just didn’t know that it was called Rendition.

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Rise of Mercenaries and Fall of an Empire

July 28, 2007 at 3:51 pm (books, opinions, politics)

I am currently reading “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army” by Jeremy Scahill. This is one scary book. I am not yet even a third of the way through the book, so I’m not going to hazard a commentary on the back-alley deals our government leaders are making with some people even shadier people than themselves…yet.

What I did want to remark on was a sentence written in just the preface of the book. Scahill writes, quoting Machael Ratner, who is president of the Center for Constitutional Rights:

“To the extent a population is called upon to go to war, there is resistance, a necessary resistance to prevent wars of self-aggrandizement, foolish wars and in the case of the United States, hegemonic imperialist warms. Private forces are almost a necessity for a United States bent on retaining its declining empire. Think about Rome and its increasing need for mercenaries… Controlling an angry, abused population with a police force bound to obey the Constitution can be difficult – private forces can solve this ‘problem’.”

When I read this passage I stopped in my tracks and re-read it a couple of times. Not just because it is an exact description of our country at this juncture (or at least its approaching it very quickly), but because I have had several conversations with friends recently about how I see this time in American history as the downfall of our “empire”. If only our heads of state would pick up a history book instead of “Guns and Ammo” once in a while, they might realize this too. No matter how great or powerful an empire is, it will fall eventually. The need for the U.S. government to hire organizations like Haliburton and Blackwater is a concrete example of the lack of faith and support the American people have in our leaders.

As for the demise of the American empire, I’m not talking solely about how we are perceived and respected around the world, and by our own citizens. Obviously we are losing favor precipitously in those regards. I personally think that the biggest factor in our national downfall is our priorities. We all know how many billions/trillions this war is putting us in debt, but sometimes people don’t think about where that money used to go. It used to go toward all of the sectors that made our nation well respected and a desired location for scholars to flock to. Areas like education, technology and research. Sadly, thousands of people die from terrorism each year, but how many millions die from AIDS, cancer, heart disease, etc? If we’re going for the numbers game, why not throw money at medical research? We’ve heard the news stories about how American school children are quickly slipping in the ranks of science and math proficiency. At the same time, our right-wing Christian leaders are halting new and important areas of technology like stem cell research, and they’re trying to put MORE religion in school and LESS science (evolution anyone?). What’s that sound? Oh yea, that’s the rest of the world laughing at us.

I predict that if the U.S. were to continue along the same track, and I hope it doesn’t, that we will quickly be eclipsed by the likes of China, India, and progressive EU nations in all areas of education, science, technology, you name it. In today’s world, military might will get you oil, but in our technology-driven times, it is the wrong strategy for staying on top. Maybe it is time for a shift. Let someone else police the world for a while.

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