Tuesday, January 25, 2011

“American Politics: A Spoonful a Day Keeps the Ignorance Away.”

In light of tonight’s State of the Union address by President Barack Obama, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on how technology has changed America.

The Politics of Technology:

I remember when Ted and I sat in a common room in the dorm at Wheaton College and watched Bush and Kerry win in ’04 (and now he's blogging the "State of the Union" live from the House chamber in D.C. for WPRI News) and how this was the first election where major campaign contributions were made through the internet. Fast forward to 2008: Obama's grassroots internet campaign outspent McCain's 3:1 and secured enough swing vote states to take the Presidency. Technology shaped the outcome of these elections and by implication, our country. 

Technology also shaped the outcome of our national response to disasters. After the earthquake and disaster fall out in Haiti last January, $1.4B was pledged in funds through cell phones and the internet. (Although only 38% of that money has been spent.) Even though money was pledged with the right application of technology for Haiti, just six years ago: the technology was lacking, with the infamous mishandling of funds and supplies to the devastated Gulf coast after Hurricane Katrina. Even yesterday, people are still asking why Katrina victims aren't getting any press anymore or enough funds for fixing the city, such as the water systems, that are currently estimated to be leaking 50% of the water that flows through them. Has Katrina become a taboo topic? Does apathy overtake concern in the minds of Americans who are in the grind of the Great Recession? Or do people just not know where to start to begin helping? If it's the latter: I can help. 

Using Technology: No Excuses in the Present:

To get started: I checked out information on the current situation of New Orleans, L.A. here. I skipped to a link called katrinavictims.org which is outdated and useless. The blogs are full of people trying to help donate things but with nowhere to send them to or responses at all. More recently updated is the Charity Watch.org's list of "The Best Ways to Help Victims of Hurricane Katrina." Which grades the charities (Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army, etc... as they respond to the needs of the areas. 

While this might seem like a place to start: I am inundated with thoughts of other natural disasters, and events that also need our attention: the oil crisis in the Gulf of Mexico and the tar balls still rolling up on the shores of Mississippi today, and the Chilean earthquake/tsunami of '10. The earthquake in Haiti which sits front and foremost in my mind as one of my students just returned from Port au Prince yesterday and in tears related to me the horrors of the living situations, the diseases such as cholera (nearly 4,000 people have died of cholera, in Haiti since last October) running rampant, the displaced orphans, the lack of construction or clean up. She has bravely been fundraising for money to build a playground there for her Bat Mitzvah project, and has been traveling to aid her mother who is also helping the area.

Technology: No limits for the Future:

Tonight President Obama said: "What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight but whether we can work together tomorrow." So while you may be reading this article and this quotation, and deciding how you feel about it, and how you feel about our President by default, I want you to consider this: when you associate with a political agenda in a negative way, you disassociate from some of your colleagues and peers, and as a result close doors to relationships that could help you, us, or our country find solutions. "We will move forward together or not at all -- for the challenges we face are bigger than party and bigger than politics." -President Barack Obama, from tonight's "State of the Union Address." Full transcript here...