Sunday, October 26, 2014

Getting Off the Hook Too Easily?

I usually do not pay much attention to the Chicago Tribune newspaper that sits on my kitchen counter everyday. However, a recent article on the front page caught my attention, specifically because I am a new driver. The article discusses the consequences one has to face after being convicted of a DUI in Illinois. There is a law that states when a person is arrested for DUI, one must pay a maximum fine of $2,500 and their license will be taken away for a minimum of one year; however, some suburbs are taking this law too lightly by letting people get away with just paying a higher fine in lieu of losing their license temporarily.

Jesse White, the Secretary of State, agrees that town prosectuors need to obey the state law, which states no matter the circumstances, a license is lost after a DUI. In the Chicago Tribune, he was quoted and said, "'DUI offenders should have to face the consequences of driving drunk. Paying steeper fines should not allow offenders to escape the penalties of their actions.'"

With an alcohol limit of 0.08, one can consume approximately four drinks.

Jesse White stated it perfectly. This is yet another law that favors wealthy members of society. People in suburbs are taking advantage of their wealth and using it as an excuse to avoid losing their license for a year, if not more. By simply paying a larger fine, they do not have to deal with the severe consequence of losing their license, so they will not effectively learn the severity of drinking and drinking. The middle-upper-class Americans who pay a larger fine are typically not very concerned about their money. While spending more of their money is not ideal, it will not be detrimental to their everyday lives, unlike losing a license. A license loss forces them to live with their consequence for a longer period of time and reflect upon their actions. By not being able to drive, they can learn the value of driving and learn to not take it for granted by drinking and driving.

In Downers Grove, by simply paying a fine 26% higher (280 dollars more) than the average fine that includes a temporary removal of a license, they are allowed to keep their license. For members of middle-upper class, this number is so minuscule and people would happily pay an extra 280 if it means keeping their license. This is hardly a punishment for residents of wealthier suburbs like Downers Grove.

If someone convicted of a DUI and did not lose their license, they could just drive drunk the next day and risk getting into a crash yet again. This is particularly concerning to me, for I just got my license a couple of weeks ago. Driving itself is already intimidating and frightening, and when you add drunk drivers into the mix, it puts drivers, like myself, at a greater risk of getting in an accident. I, like many other teenagers, usually drive on weekend nights (when the most drunk drivers are out), and would prefer to drive on streets where everyone is aware and safe.

The state law regarding DUIs in Illinois right now is severe, but it is what we need to limit the amount of drunk drivers. If the law continues being used loosely, people will continue to drink and drive and put more people in danger of being injured, or possibly dying. Everyday in America, approximately 28 people die a day (10,220 people a year) as a result of drunk driving crashes, one being Sarah McCausland, a New Trier graduate who was killed by a drunk driver at the beginning of this year. Maybe all this could have been prevented if people saw drinking and driving as a serious matter and obeyed the consequences presented in the state law.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Is the Catholic Church Outdated?

It is no surprise that our world is constantly changing. Life in America in 2014 is far different than life in the 1900s, 1800s, etc... so imagine life during the Biblical times. The Catholic Church uses the Bible to guide their beliefs, a holy book created thousands of years ago. However, society has changed tremendously since then, and now I believe the Catholic Church needs to modernize their beliefs, especially about homosexuality.

This week, Pope Francis called a meeting to discuss modernizing the Catholic Church by becoming more welcoming toward gay people, along with unmarried couples and divorced Catholics who choose to remarry. Years ago, these situations would have been described by the church as "living in sin"; however, now, more and more people are proving to be tolerant and accepting toward these situations. While nothing has been changed yet, the pope's synod called attention to the issue, and it will be rediscussed next October in another synod. Many bishops are still resisting the idea of becoming more welcoming to homosexuals.

From what I see around me, many people are very accepting toward gay marriage and gay rights, despite their Catholic religion. In 31 states, gay marriage is legal. America is progressing in tolerance regardless of what the Bible states. There are Catholic homosexuals in America today, who long to feel accepted in the church. Just because they like people the same sex as them, does not mean they cannot contribute everything a heterosexual person could to the church.

It would not be the first time Catholics have changed what they value in order to keep up with society. Long ago, marriage was seen as "a lesser path to holiness". It was not until the 16th Century that marriage became a sacrament for Catholics and was fully welcomed. The Catholic Church adjusted to change in society then, and it needs to do the same now in response to tolerance toward homosexuals. Many Americans value religion, but like many other aspects of our world - technology, medicine, etc. - it needs to be updated to keep up with our rapidly growing world.

To what extent does religion need to keep up with society? What would be the effects if religions, such as Catholicism, did not update their beliefs?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Our Past Still Affects Us

In class the other day, a question was posed at the end of the period - is economic inequality today between whites and African-Americans a result of slavery?  After thinking more about this question, I realized that every racial inequality traces back to one of the greatest flaws our nation has had - slavery.  While it is in the past, its repercussions cannot go unnoticed.

The graph above clearly demonstrates that out of all the races portrayed, blacks have the lowest median income during every year.  Whites have an average income almost twice the income of blacks, and Asians are over two times the $33,321 the average African American household made in 2012.  Clearly, there is an trend regarding the income of different races - and African Americans are always on the bottom.

Generally, if a family is wealthy, then the kids in that family will grow up to have a fair amount of wealth, which will be passed down to their kids and so on.  The same goes for families in poverty - it is difficult to break the poverty chain and acquire wealth.  Financial situations tend to be similar for a given family tree.  Generations ago, whites were able to make a profit on enslaved people, while African Americans were forced to be enslaved and unable to make money for themselves.  Therefore, whites were able to start a chain of wealth, while African Americans had to start from nothing.

Graziella Bertocchi from the University of Modena in Italy and Arcangelo Dimico from Queen's University in Beflast did a study on the role of slavery in the U.S. economy.  They stated, "Those U.S. counties that in the past exhibited a higher slave share over population turn out to be still more unequal in the present day."  It is evident that some states exhibited greater amounts of slavery than others, and if these states and their counties are the ones with the greatest amount of inequality, than it makes sense that it is a result of their past with slavery.

Slavery also led to the idea that whites were superior to African Americans, which resulted in better education for whites.  The Soiling of Old Glory discussed the extent to which whites were granted a better education, which would allow them to prosper and obtain a high income.  African Americans did not have a sufficient education and therefore, were unable to secure adequate jobs.  This education imbalance leads to an imbalance in quality of jobs, ultimately ending in a difference of income.  None of these imbalances would not have occurred if whites were not once the "owners" of African Americans, which created the idea that whites must be superior, even after the end of slavery.

Is economic inequality today a result of slavery?  Is there a way to break this chain, or is it something that will continue to be apparent no matter how much time has passed?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Trend or Coincidence?

As Americans, we value many things, sports (specifically football) being one of them; however, this week, there was not much to value about football.  Three high school football players all passed away due to an injury from football in just the past week.  17-year-old, Demario Harris Jr., died on Sunday after being tackled in a football game at Charles Henderson High School in Alabama, and Isaiah Langston, another 17-year-old from Rolesville High School in North Carolina, died even before the game started while the players were warming up.  The most recent of the three happened on Wednesday, when Tom Cutinella from Shoreham-Wading River High School died from a collision that resulted in a serious head injury during the third quarter of their high school football game.

The superintendent from Cutinella's school, Steven Cohen, said, "It was just a freak accident", which I might have believed if it was not the third football death within one week.

In the 1970s, there were 119 deaths from football, while in the 1990s, there were only 33.  Unfortunately, the progress was short-lived, as there were 35 deaths from 2000-2009 and already eight deaths in this decade.  These numbers do not even take into account the indirect deaths that also come from participating in football, such as heat stroke.  Football is the only sport having these problems, for no other high school sports have had any deaths within this decade.

Football has become an American tradition, so no matter what people do, Americans are going to continue to play; however, we can improve the safety of football games to wane the number of deaths each year, or in our current state, each week.  According to the Center for Disease Control, as many as 70 percent of high school football athletes will get a concussion, and the NFL admits that almost 30 percent of former football players will suffer through severe brain conditions like Alzheimer's.   Teenagers' bodies are not fully developed, so their brains are not at the state they will be in adulthood and their necks are not as strong as an adult's neck yet, so they are more prone to serious injuries.  By finding new ways to protect football players, such as better helmets, headgear and other safety equipment, the number of deaths and injuries should decline, making football a safer sport, but still allowing Americans to participate in the classic sport.

Do you think the three incidents this week were just a coincidence, or is there a trend starting to occur with high school football deaths?  Are Americans taking their love for sports too far?