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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sex, Violence, and the U.S.

By Silvia Uribe
Sex represents many things for human beings. From the most sublime to the most sinful, anything related to sex has always a high rating. We know that "sex sells", and that is why the media keeps including sexy scenes in everything. Whether it makes sense or not, we get at least a couple of bed scenes almost in every T.V. show, every movie, and every play; books are not the exception, and music too, is plagued with sexual references.
One would think that the over-exposure to the sex theme would make us immune to its spell, but that's not the case.
But, if sex sells, violence and blood don't sell any less. It would seem that we are more interested in knowing who harassed, attacked, or killed someone, than in most important things that happen in our town, and in the world. We seem to crave all the gruesome details of say, a deadly attack on the street. We want to know which type of weapon was used, how many times was the person hurt, and where the wounds were located. If we can see the pictures of the gory scene, it is even better.
Like little leaches, we are never satisfied. The more blood the merrier.
As consumers, we are guilty of the extremely low level of intellectual content that we get in the media. We demand either instant gratification, in the case of sex, or ultimate disgust sprinkled with touches of anxiety, irritation and fear in the case of violence.
That's how we end up watching Nancy Grace type shows (you know that screechy voice repeating the same thing a hundred times) , or all the investigative shows like Dr. ‘G', Coroner, and other similar ones. Decades ago, it would have been unthinkable to have shows involving real dead bodies. It would've been not only disrespectful, but probably also illegal.
Whatever the reasons, we remain in front of the T.V. or buying books, or movies, that may shock us, but do not make us think. We are too lazy, or too afraid to put our upstairs machinery to work. "No thinking" could be our motto. We're becoming an instinct based society. Our desires, and adrenaline rushes take more and more of our time and energy, particularly our youth's, the future of our country and of our world.
By allowing our intellect's downhill trend to continue, we will have no one to blame but us when others, making good use of their brain, take over the leadership of our world. China is already, at least financially, stronger than the U.S. If children in China are not intellectually starved as ours seem to be both at school (in a broken system), and elsewhere in society, our destiny as a country is sealed. In China kids are having something more than video games as main dish, with sex and violence on the side.
While I was visiting there and struggling between my very rudimentary Mandarin and their no better English, I noticed many youngsters hanging out, and having animated, intelligent conversations with adults. They were enjoying each other, and learning from each other. Today, our perpetually "on the go" American culture neglects to promote this type of exchange. Our family interactions, for the most part, are limited to watching the extremely violent "24", the bed stories of "Gray's Anatomy" and the sexy bodies in skimpy dresses in "Dancing with the Stars". When these series end, our family "connection" is over.
Are we missing the point in looking for our country's enemies elsewhere? Maybe not, but if we continue overlooking the fact that what can bring our country down faster than anything else is our lack of deep personal connection with each other, and our lack of thought processing capabilities, we will be in deep trouble, real fast.
The good news is that it is not too late to change this downhill path.
Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.
Cross-posted at

Monday, May 17, 2010

Community Values Forum

Discussion of Car Impoundments and Secure Communities Program

By Silvia Uribe

Yesterday in Goleta, immigrants and their allies came together to talk about what’s happening in Santa Barbara County in relation to immigration.

The goal of the Community Values Forum, organized by P.U.E.B.L.O at San Raphael’s Church, on Hollister Avenue, was to create an opportunity for community members and elected leaders to learn about and discuss issues of immigration reform and local enforcement policies that affect our immigrant community.

Around 100 people, including a handful of elected officials, including Supervisor Salud Carbajal, Santa Barbara City Council members Grant House and Das Williams, and Goleta City Council member Ed Easton, were present at the forum. A representative of Congresswoman Lois Capps read a message from her boss, and a representative of Police Chief Cam Sanchez was also present.

Those attending the event listened to a very informative panel touching on two main topics. The first was titled “Car Impoundments in Santa Barbara: Good for Public Safety?” The second topic was the Secure Communities Program, and how it operates in our criminal justice system. Attendees were also able to hear a couple of very touching testimonies on how our immigrant community suffers the most consequences from these programs.

A study presented by Greg Prieto, from UCSB, showed that in 2007 and in 2008 the number of cars impounded at check points from people whose licenses were suspended or revoked due to previous DUI’s or for some other reason, was around 300 both years; whereas the number of cars impounded from those who had no license at all (as distinct from a suspended or revoked license) went from 900 in 2007, to 1250 in 2008. What this means, Prieto said, is that those checkpoints are not making our roads safer from dangerous drivers, as they’re supposed to, but are instead hurting the immigrant population.

From this presentation, attendees learned that the law states that if a person who has no license gets pulled over by the police, the officer can use his discretion to not have the car impounded immediately, but to give the driver a chance to have someone with a valid California driver’s license pick up the car and take it away. However, this discretion is rarely practiced, and the car is almost always immediately impounded. Prieto said that in San Francisco, as a result of public pressure, police allow for a 20-minute window for a licensed driver to show up.

Mateo, a 39-year-old man, in his testimony on this issue (in a compilation published by PUEBLO, called En Las Sombras del Paraiso, or In the Shadows of Paradise) said: “It is very traumatic having to drive without a license all the time. I fear an encounter with police. Because of this fear, and my nervousness, I make mistakes that give me away with police. Now I drive a $500 car, to reduce my loss in case the police stop me and impound my car simply because I don’t have a license.”

Melissa Keaney, from the National Immigration Law Center, informed the audience that Santa Barbara’s agreement with Secure Communities was made with the Sheriff’s Office, and that it started on January 5, 2010. She ennumerated some of this program’s irregularities.

1) ICE (Immigration Control and Enforcement) is not paying attention to racial profiling cases or to arrests with no reason.

2) There is no transparency: The Department of Homeland Security has not regulated any part of this program, and there are no records to be reviewed.

3) The numbers are not clear: None of ICE publications have information on Secure Communities and there’s no provision for data collection or for audits.

After listening to these presentations and the testimonies of a couple of people, Supervisor Carbajal made the commitment to meet with Sheriff Bill Brown to talk about the current situation and how we want Santa Barbara County to be fair with all its residents.

Likewise, Das Williams and Grant House said that they will start the conversation at the Santa Barbara City Council to talk about these issues. Ed Easton said that he will do as much as he can to promote this conversation within the City of Goleta government. A committee put together by PUEBLO will be formed to follow up on these commitments in order to further the movement against discriminatory and un-American Legislation.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-posted at

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Scrabble and Brunch

This One’s for the Library

By Silvia Uribe

For the most part, and no matter our origin, we grew up and raised our children counting on board games as a perennial source of family entertainment.

You name it, from Monopoly and Checkers to Taboo and Lotería (a Latino version of Bingo but with images instead of numbers), there were always games to remove any chance that a rainy, snowy, or extremely hot day would be boring. We knew that during those times we would get our share of laughter, praise or complaints, and, at times, sporadic tantrums, depending on the outcome of the game. It was all part of the fun.

In my family, Scrabble was highly ranked among our favorite games. Not only was it entertaining, but it put our brains and creativity to extreme work, and I liked that. I still do. That’s why I was excited when I found out that the Goleta Branch Library (500 N. Fairview Ave.) would host a Scrabble fundraising event on Sunday, May 16, from 10 a.m. to noon. The event benefits the Santa Barbara Public Library System’s Adult and Family Literacy Programs.

“Hundreds of adult learners receive free, confidential tutoring through the Santa Barbara Public Library System’s Adult Literacy Program,” said Adult Literacy Coordinator Beverly Schwartzberg. “One hundred and fifty volunteer tutors, who receive free training and materials, work in Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, and Solvang. The library’s literacy service also offers free family literacy programs and free books to adult learners and their young children.”

For this Scrabble event, players of all levels are welcome. Schwartzberg explained, “This event is intended to be fun, not competitive. We usually have players that are outstanding, and players that are in the process of becoming outstanding. Players will be matched by experience levels, from novice to expert, according to how they rank themselves. All of them are incredibly focused on their games.”

Participants will play two timed-Scrabble rounds and enjoy a scrumptious brunch assortment of fruit, bagels, coffee, juice, and other breakfast treats. The entry fee is only $15 per person (or parent/child pair playing as a single player) and players will have a chance to win great door prizes from local businesses. You can come by yourself or bring all your friends!

I found out that this event is a warm-up for the Sixth Annual Scrabble Night for Literacy, to be held Friday evening, September 24, 2010, at the Santa Barbara Central Library. In order to put this event together, Schwartzberg has the help of AmeriCorps volunteers, and the Friends of the Santa Barbara Public Library.

Among other great programs, held at the library, there is the Outreach Program that offers free story times at local preschools in English or Spanish, free book distribution to elementary schools, and more. Their soon-to-come Summer Reading Program offers book reading contests and summer performances. They also offer computer coaching for adults (a very popular course) and many other interesting things.

No wonder volunteers love to give their time to the Public Library. They are constantly active behind the scenes.

For more information about literacy programs and for reservations and inquiries about “Scrabble and Brunch” send an email to, call (805) 564-5619, or check the library’s Web site.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-posted at

In Politics Words Matter

By Silvia Uribe

Wordle: Words Matter

During election times more than ever, negative words and comments are at the forefront of our minds and our attention. Candidates seem not to understand that voters get as tired of dirty tactics and low blows, as we get discouraged from voting for those who cannot have a clean campaign.

We all use words in many different ways. How we use them, however, says more than the words themselves. The way we communicate, and the words we choose show who we really are, and what we're about. They show our intentions, our feelings, and even our ulterior motives. We can have problems with others due to our words, or we can create long-term alliances.

Hate words, as we know, can promote dissension and division between individuals, groups, governments, and even among countries.

Some politicians take words very lightly, and people around them would like to think that the repercussions of a word said are as short- lived as the sound of such word. They forget that a simple word can break strong bonds, separate friends, siblings, parents and children, and that certain words that are carelessly said at a given moment could be engraved in others' memory forever.

The fact is that some candidates take many liberties and many risks with their words. In their pursuit of power, some politicians say regrettable things, and then they act surprised and offended when others call them on it. They don't learn the lesson. They do this over and over, pretending that those to whom their harsh words are directed, and the voters in general, have the obligation to forgive them, and forget their lies and whatever negative discourse they've created, just with the purpose of winning an election.

The main thing, however, that they forget to take into consideration is that other candidates are not the only ones who are negatively impacted or the only ones who suffer the consequences of the detrimental words they use. It is they too, who fall victim to those negative, hurtful, or mean expressions of their ambition.

Some politicians may think that by bad-mouthing, criticizing, or trying to hurt another person's reputation, people will be convinced to turn their backs to such person, and choose to be on their side. But, much to their surprise, their own name, reputation, and motivation is being judged as much, or even more, than the object of their criticism.

We, as voters, tend to doubt the motives of those who throw attacks at another person just to accomplish whatever they want to achieve. We immediately wonder how someone can invest so much effort, energy, and money to soil another person's name. It definitely leaves us with a bad taste, and with a great deal of distrust for the attacker.

To the contrary, those who use positive words and messages, and focus on their campaigns and on their own accomplishments (because they do have them), even in the face of baseless attacks, take the high road. By doing that, they are showing us their strength, their compassion and the way they'll react in the future when things become difficult. This is a much more effective way to convince voters, if you ask me.

In the end, the words we use are the most accurate expression of our inner selves, and the best proof of who we could be during those tough moments that we all go through, no matter who we are, what we do, or what social position we're in.

Hopefully, politicians will soon realize this and stop the negative campaigns that reflect so poorly on them, and are so disgusting to most voters.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-posted at

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

El Ciinco de Mayo

Por Silvia Uribe

Los Mexicanos en los Estados Unidos celebramos cada año el Cinco de Mayo con una fiesta. Dicha celebración es tan reconocida, que muchas personas piensan que en esta fecha México celebra el día de la Independencia. Nada más alejado de la realidad.

El Cinco de Mayo se celebra la Batalla de Puebla. Principalmente se celebra en el estado de Puebla, México y se le da cierto reconocimiento en otras partes de la República. Lo que esta fecha conmemora es la inesperada victoria de la armada Mexicana sobre las fuerzas militares Francesas durante el 5 de Mayo de 1862, bajo el mando del general Ignacio Zaragoza.

¿Pero por qué comenzó este problema entre las dos naciones? Lo que sucedió es que en 1861, Benito Juárez dejó de pagar los intereses que México le debía a otros países. En respuesta, Francia atacó a México para obligarle a pagar su deuda y además, Francia decidió que trataría de ocupar México. Durante la primera invasión Francia tuvo éxito. Sin embargo, el 5 de Mayo de 1862, en la ciudad de Puebla, las fuerzas Mexicanas pudieron derrotar a un ejército Francés mucho más grande en el número de soldados y que contaba con mucho mejor armamento.

Aunque la armada Mexicana salió victoriosa en Puebla, esta victoria solamente retrasó la entrada de los franceses a la ciudad de México. Un año después, los franceses ocuparon México y nombraron a Maximiliano I, Emperador de México en 1864. Los franceses, bajo la presión de los Estados Unidos, eventualmente se salieron de México en 1866-1867. Benito Juárez gobernó en lugar de Maximiliano, quien fue ejecutado, cinco años después de la Batalla de Puebla.

La Batalla de Puebla fue importante por dos razones principales. La primera, porque a pesar que el número de soldados Mexicanos era mucho más reducido, éstos vencieron a un ejército Francés mucho mejor armado. Se dice que los soldados Mexicanos eran 4,000 y los Franceses eran cerca de 8,000 y éstos no habían sido derrotados por casi 50 años. La segunda razón por lo que la Batalla de Puebla fue importante es que desde entonces, ningún país en las Américas ha sido invadido por una armada de otro continente.

El Cinco de Mayo no es un día festivo obligatorio en México, sino un día festivo voluntario. Si bien esta fecha tiene una cierta importancia en todo México, ésta se observa en los Estados Unidos, también de manera voluntaria, así como en otras partes del mundo, para celebrar la herencia del orgullo Mexicano.

Para preguntas o sugerencias para Silvia Uribe llame al 805-699-6013