America we have failed in basic liberties!

Belinda Mercado,  Zachman

Spring 2012


America is considered a flourishing democracy by some standards, although not my ideal democracy. For over 2000 years the United States has ruled by a democracy, however this does not make us the best country to live in. As published in The New American Democracy 7th addition 2007, Mayer and Peterson present an overall perspective including looking at the poverty and homeless rates because of the holes in our safety net system (Mayer, Peterson 26). Furthermore, we consider the fact of economic inequality, the murder rates, and the inadequate access to affordable medical care. With all these issues that face America today I believe our democracy does not work as well as it should.

In addition, I question whether the American democracy system serves the public as a whole or merely individual parties and interest groups.  The first thing to consider is although we are a very diverse nation there is a lot of conflicting stances on several issues and values. The single issue voters can have a strong stance on issues they want to see addressed. Consider gun control for example. There is a special interest group that is lobbying for internet sales of guns to have restrictions on people’s ability to purchase guns over the internet. This group wants to make it mandatory that internet sales of guns are registered within the state of origination and cannot complete a sales transaction without first running back ground security checks on the potential purchaser. The National Rifle Association (NRA) believes in the ability of this bill to create a safer America for responsible gun owners and donates the maximum amount allowed by law to see this bill through. The bill succeeds; therefore we have proven that it is the power of special interest groups that can easily influence public policies. This very ideal is backed up by authors, Mayer and Peterson within the new American democracy text which states:

Power of the few is incorporated into our democracy in many ways. Weak political parties, relentless media coverage has made American democracy more responsive to outside pressure. Yet it is not necessarily rule by the majority. Well organized groups focused on particular issues have a lot of influence on polices, which shifts power from majority’s to specific groups, small in numbers but powerful in operation (Mayer, Peterson 20).

Furthermore, the one percent of Americans that are extremely wealthy have a lot of power over polices in this country as well. Take the oil and gas industries for instance, they have attained record breaking profit margins by using controversial drilling procedures called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”. This process was originally engineered over sixty years ago by Halliburton. The geophysicists engineering operations are constantly improving through advances in technology, which are intended to translate into cost savings and enhanced production. However all the environmental impacts that are affecting Pennsylvania’s ground water is allowed. Why, because of politicians like Dick Cheney.    If we the citizens do not speak up and expose the true environmental impact of this type of drilling, the gas companies through special interest groups win hands down. Easily they are able to afford the hefty price tag of advertising campaigns to gain popularity among folks that have shown an opposition to fracking. . A commercial that was paid for by Halliburton puts emphasis on expanding opportunities for job creation, with no mention of ground water pollution. Now consider the dynamics of the whole equation. We have Dick Cheney whose campaign receives a substantial yearly donation from Halliburton which he in turn then supports by blocking any environmental bill that would prohibit regulation of “fracking” by the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s a viscous circle of deceit.

In order to rebut this type of commercial claim a citizen’s environmental group would have to match funds in research and have the ability to prove the facts that drilling using this “fracking” procedure would cause more damage to the environment, ground water supply and risk potentially more earthquakes, such as the 4.0 that hit Ohio in 2009.

It appears in our current democracy the environment is not a high priority.   Sadly none of this gas and oil exploration is to save American households money on their monthly utility bills and certainly not to save American drivers at the gas pumps. This whole process is about deeper pockets for the affluent, not preserving the institution of clean energy and a greener America. It is delusional for one to think that gas and oil companies alike care about the ecological impact of drilling. As Distinguished Scholar  Bill McKibben  of  declares [“After all they do not have to pay for any environmental damage their drilling causes, we’ve seen its effects on local water supplies—the dead creeks in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the wells poisoned to the point where residents can’t drink from their faucets.”]  It is a very corrupt democracy that protects the evils of the big gas and oil corporations. Any feasible loop hole is researched and contorted to fit the needs of the self-serving big guys.  Kickbacks, tax breaks, contributions to individual party’s and campaigns that help enable them to keep up and running these controversial practices. Where are the democratic principles when we are paying over four dollars a gallon at the gas pumps?

In the constitution, the first amendment states, “we the people have the right to freedom of speech, press and peaceful assembly.” Conversely, over the past eighteen months we have seen many occupies across the nation that have been disassembled with police force.  These are folks that hold the belief that they are the ninety-nine percent being held back economically by the one percent of the affluent population. If the intended first amendment were truly a working democratic device, then the “free assembly” rule should allow these gatherings to take place so long as they are peaceful and not causing any impendent danger to the public as a whole. We should have the right to stand up for what we believe in without the police intervening and disbursing peaceful demonstrations against the bailouts of major banks and corporate corruption.

“One of the difficult lessons we have learned,” wrote Martin Luther King Jr, “is that you cannot depend on American institutions to function without pressure. Any real change in the status quo depends on continued creative action to sharpen the conscience of the nation.” This is a very strong and true opinion about our civil rights and the ability to enact equal rights for African Americans. Our flourishing democracy has let this class of persons down. African Americans have gained monumental rights over the past century including the right to vote, the dismemberment of all white primaries and the abolition of poll taxes, the paramount accomplishment for African Americans was the abolishment of slavery and racial segregation!

In an accurate democracy under the theory we are all created equal under God, these atrocities against African Americans should never have been allowed, nor tolerated. The color of our skin, should not determine the rights we do or do not have. God loves all his children, regardless of race.  Civil rights in this nation are very complex when we consider the ability the Supreme Court Justice has over final rulings that are brought forth, emerging from clashes in the interpretation of the civil rights laws as written in the constitution. In the case of Brown V. Board Of Education. The Supreme Court Justice ruled that de jure segregation in schools was unconstitutional. Yet clearly it is evident that de facto segregation still exists today, in fact it has increased over the past two decades. Even in close proximity to home, in rural Detroit, Michigan.

We can see looking at a recent event reported in the New York Times, the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager. The accused gunman, George Zimmerman asserts he was acting in self-defense using Florida’s “stand your ground law” which has so far protected him from prosecution. Proving even in recent history civil rights are not properly enforced there an abundance of unsubstantiated discrimination that still exists in this country today. A flourishing democracy would not be so far astray from the civil rights movement of the 1960’s.

In the defense of our pronounced American western culture, I am grateful we are more civilized than other nations. In certain Muslim communities mothers and fathers take the life of their own children in “honor killings” as seen in a recent report on ABC’s 20/20 news show. A seventeen year old college student was run down by a 3,000 lb. vehicle, her own father behind the wheel. He viewed her as a dishonor to the family because she no longer obeyed the Muslim rule of arranged marriage and strict obedience to her father. In another non-western instance, Chinese government enforce a “one child rule”. They will and do enforce abortion in families that violate local regulations of the one child rule. In 2001 over 20,000 forced abortions were administered in remote villages (WIK). I am very thankful for the basic American freedom to act on material instinct without murderous birthing restrictions.

To sum it up, we are an irresponsible democratic republic that continues to ignore the ever growing environmental issues that face our country today, and allow for the majority to be ruled by the mobilized minority. Last of all, in a flourishing democracy this allegiance would hold true. “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

America we have failed in basic liberties and justice for all !!!

Belinda Mercado,  Political Science NMC

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Rick Santorum



Belinda Mercado   2012′


In attending the grassroots rally at Streeters last month, I formed a mixed opinion of Rick Santorum.

Rick was traveling with his daughter Elizabeth, leaving the other six siblings and his wife Karen behind.  He began his speech with heartfelt thanks for the prayers for his daughter Bella, who had been ill.

He then moved onto his beliefs: “This country is the greatest in history, America is a beacon.  This country was founded on the constitution and declaration of independence.” He implied both must be used because one won’t work without the other. In addition he spoke in high regard of going back to the basics as our founding fathers had planned. “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” He was clear in stating, “micro- managing America, does not work.”

Budget: In speaking of the budget he claimed that entitlements consumed 60% of the budget and defense which keeps our country free and our economy strong was a mere 17% of the budget. Some ideas he talked about were to cut the federal work force by 10% and freeze salaries.  As far as government, he declared “Get them off our backs and stop them from running our lives.” He also felt it was very important to reform the welfare system in this country. He is critical of the current Medicare system, concluding it to be very wasteful spending.

Economy: “We have a competitive disadvantage to the rest of the world” therefore he said he would cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 17% and in an additional effort to get jobs back to America from overseas. He would reward manufactures that did, by not taxing them. In this way of thinking he felt that there would be an explosion in the job market and we wouldn’t have enough workers to fill all the positions.

Energy: When the topic of energy came up, Rick spoke of cutting our forests for energy. He mocked the idea of “man-made global warming.” Furthermore he quoted in a biblical sense “Earth is here to serve man, not the other way around.” (loud applause) Thinking about gas and oil reserves in this country, he feels we should get rid of subsidies and open up Alaska. He suggests that we have the largest amount of natural gas reserves in the world. He asserted that we should be working towards vehicles that are powered by natural gas.

Healthcare: He was very proud of a health savings account bill he authored 20 years ago. (it was consumer driven, in the private sector) He also spoke briefly of the Obama care plan and how Mitt Romney’s healthcare plan in Massachutes was very much the same.

Overall it was interesting as I expected him to talk more about the “social issues” as the media had painted, however it was a very well rounded speech. I enjoyed it.

**Boring paper done purely for Extra Credit! 🙂  and um, I got an “A” in his Political Science class, Thanks John!!!

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Big Brother Manistee~



Belinda Mercado

English 111

Explaining Relationships

Big Brother Manistee

At six foot two inches, my eldest son Nick towers above me. One thought-provoking thing about Nick is the deep appreciation and overall relationship he has formed with the Manistee River. He is hooked. Since that first river trip, it was opening day of trout season, nineteen ninety-five.  He was just four years old back then.

Now at twenty-two he has developed into a delightful, compassionate young man.

He will tell you the river depends on its inhabitants, such as himself and he in turn depends on the river so it becomes a practical relationship between him and the River. When he was old enough to realize he must respect it as a whole. He  learned many valuable lessons over the years on how as a river occupant, you must respect the river.   He overturned in a canoe at the age of seven. Quickly sucked into a logjam where the river could have easily taken his last breath.  Sometimes you must learn from the natural unspoken relationships on how to reevaluate the meanings of life.  In the face of real danger, it taught him to respect the river. At that point, in time the river became his big brother.

He looks up to the serenity it provides, the food it puts on his table, the enjoyment of a refreshing swim on a lazy hot summer day. The family bonding time it enables by means of river trips.

Having recovered from the ravages of the 1880’s logging era, the river is once again considered one of the finest streams in America. Nick has an inherent respect for the river and its deep currents that can pull you under to your death; the eroding banks can give way under carless steps, without carful human intervention the rivers placid nature would surely cease again.   Therefore, the relationship works for both of them.  Nick aids in the river clean up every year.  He has lent his labor to the natural rivers act in “Rebuilding a bank movement.” and  ”Strategic tree top and log placement” to enable new fish habitats.

Through his teen-age years, Nick would disappear for hours at a time. Often I would find him on the scenic riverbank, reflecting on woe’s he was experiencing at the time.  Big Brother Manistee possessed spiritual healing properties within the water that flowed. Many a times Nick was a renewed soul after those hours of reflection.

Still today when I answer the phone and its Nick..  He says, “Hey Mama, how are you?”  “I am good son what are you up too?”  “Oh, I just left the river.”  In those moments I know he has experienced some sort of hurt, or has had, a difficult decision laid before him. Some issue that requires the solitudes found on the banks of the Manistee River. In those times, he looks up to his big brother the most. He gravitates to the rivers symbolic powers, which create a calming peace in which to wash his worries away. He can go to the rivers edge and sit for several hours, watching the currents twist and swirl in little pools then jet out to the center. Listen to cursing swift movements of the clear waters as they run over boulders jetting out from the bank, or the caressing sounds of a cool section flirting with a partially dislodged log…

In this time of deep connection with the river its healing properties lead Nick to answers in his life’s questions. Quirky as it sounds, its true!

At nineteen Nick was considering going off to join the Marines. He was very torn over leaving home and the comfort zone of what he knew best. To explore quite possibly a region of unknown realms of hostility and war fronts. He honors his country and the freedoms it has given him; he was uncertain however about making the right decision.   The majestic Manistee held him captive that hot July weekend. He camped on the muddy banks for three days and two nights. Pondering all the things in his life that the decision to join would affect, including his newborn son Aiden. The rivers energy somehow empowered him to a virtuous decision to stay with what was familiar here at home.

When faced with inner turmoil and angst, or harsh decisions in life you can surely find Nick along a stretch of river he knows best, which lies in Fife Lake’s Garfield Township. It’s a soul seeking, grounding ritual, performed at the river’s edge. He strides along the bank seeking the perfect spot on which to deflate his emotional tire or measurable anger. This day he sits back up to an ole cedar post. He grabs various stones, tossing them, cutting the surface with a splish-splash-gurgle.  He knows that the problems or issues he imaginatively engraved unto the stones, will not come back from the silt river bottom to invade his mind again. Instead sinking to the silt on the bottom and never be thought of again.   There is an invisible healing power in the headwaters of the Manistee River in a sense they run over Nick with their refreshing cool waters washing the hurt, the pain, the anguish in which he carried to its shore.  His bonding to that natural  relationship runs deeper and deeper with every visit. It is a constant emotion regulator in his life.

Above all else, in his life he can always count on the relationship he has with the Manistee, it will never let him down, nor desert him, nor dishonor him, nor leave him feeling empty. It is within the mutual respect they have for each other.

The circle slowly repeats itself.   After leaving the banks entombing its waters repeatedly with many of life’s uncertainties, Nick repays the Manistee by participation in the annual river clean-up day every May.

It is his deepest bond with nature in which he formed a lifetime big brother.  With so many irresponsible river goers these days, the Manistee is proud to have a friend in Nick, he cares for him.

His roots are there on the banks of that river, deeper and deeper they descend  with every visit he attends.

**Hmmm just re-read not sure how this paper earned me a 4.0? **  Humble 🙂

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Women in the Military..

Belinda Mercado

WICZachman   2011

PLS 101

Short Write #1

In the unique beauty of this country, the bittersweet legacy of equal rights for women is one step closer to the democratic ideals of liberty and equality. Contrary to the beliefs of so many oblivious masculine minds, women do have an equal right to serve their county. Be it in harm’s way with bayonet in hand, and families behind. Women can fight; they can kill! Look at the opinions of the American public on this heated military debate as once again it finds its way in recent debates.

(Oh shucks my pie charts didnt transfer over) UGH!!!

CBS News/New York Times Poll. July 24-28, 2009.

Quinnipiac University Poll. Feb 14-20, 2012.

N=1,050 adults nationwide. MOE ± 3.  N=2,605 registered voters nationwide. MOE ± 1.9.

Chart #1 Question minus (pie-chart graphic)

Women in the U.S. military are currently not allowed to join combat units but do serve in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan as support for the ground troops, for example as military police, medics and Humvee drivers. Do you favor/oppose allowing women?

14% opposed  83% supported 3% unsure 

Chart #2 Question minus (pie-chart graphic)

Do you support or oppose allowing women in the military to serve in ground units that engage in close combat?

22% opposed  75% supported 3% unsure

According to the simple random selection process the above data shows that adults nationwide were polled in both charts. Selection bias could be considered as chart one was composed of adults nationwide. In comparison, chart two was composed of registered voters nationwide.  There is a selection bias in the results. After all, “adults” nationwide in chart one could include the American population that does not normally step out to the voting booths and cast a vote, but happened to answer their phones and agreed to participate in the polling process.  On the other hand the second sampling was conducted on registered voters nationwide. This population of Americans is more adept to the current political arenas and hold opinions on current events. The second group would have a higher chance of including military personnel, as registered voters. Therefore according to the poll reports the chance of sampling error should be considered. Recall that less than eleven hundred opinions were included for the representative polling results. Such a small sample, that may or may not include military personal, could hardly accurately measure the characteristics of a larger population.

In thinking about measurement error, it would be evident that the wording in the two survey questions has a good amount of weight in the way the questions are answered.  Poll number one has a lot more categorical information and descriptive language when talking about the role of women in the combat zone.  In addition, it is written to include persuasive language such as “support roles” whereas poll number two refers to “close combat.”

The last thing to consider is the (margin of error) MOE. Chart one indicates the pool of Americans polled at 1,050 ± 3, while chart two indicates 2,605, twice as many respondents, with a smaller MOE ± 1.9. We could then conclude that a poll conducted with more respondents yields more advanced scientific results. That could in turn reflect the opinions of American voters as a whole.

When looking at the greatest difference between the two polls, the wording of the questions appears to have swayed the public opinion of Americans to be more supportive, at eighty-three percent. When it is expressed that women would be in a “support role” rather than direct “combat zone,” where results were nearly fifteen percent lower, coming in at seventy-five percent. The opinion of the unsure population is parallel in both surveys. This is due to the wording of the questions. In all the survey results should be inspiring to women.

In a democracy, political officials take into account the majority opinion of the people. Therefore, Americans make their opinions on specific issues heard, and this in turn leads to influencing government policies.  In the polls conducted we can see the majority of the American public feel women should be able to serve in the combat zone. This then will Influence our political leaders with spoken voices and will require a new look at the current law which prohibits women from serving their country in the combat zone.

Captain Barbara Wilson with the USAF authored the article, “Women in combat, why not?” it was an eye opener, removing any doubt I had of putting women up against men in combat.  It cites there have been field studies where women were tested at the same endurance levels of a man. It was proven in this 1995 study conducted by the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine that seventy-five percent of women were able to perform at the same level of men given the same vigorous training regimen. Additionally, Joshua Goldstein’s “Women in Combat” emphasizes that:

Women have in general carried out about as well as most men had… Women in combat bear roles, and have held their own when situations occasionally positioned them in combat…   Yet outstanding individual women who wanted to go to war had to either overcome mulish struggle from men or adopt male costume.  The reality is that there is utterly no intellectual, rational, levelheaded reason for women not to be in combat roles with the technical style of conflict that abounds today (Goldstein, 2001).

Undoubtedly there are politically ignorant motives to prevent women from serving in direct combat zones. Such as a socialist nominee that feels women belong at home not on the battle field, those ideologies all belong in a Baghdad roadside ditch, not in the mainstream media and definitely not in Congress where they warp the already inadequate minds there.

Works Cited

Goldstein, Joshua. “Women in Combat.”, 1 Sept. 2001. Web. 14 Feb.


Wilson, Barbara.  “Women in Combat why not?”, 13 Nov. 2001. Web. 14 Feb.

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“Cultural Cave”

Belinda Mercado

Phil 101 McCormick

Major Influence #1 Donna Mae Schaub, My mother

Donna was an articulate young lady, whom had many diverse ideas on life. She was a dedicated mother of four and an avid church goer. She spent many hours ministering in the local jails. In addition she spent a lot of time volunteering in the community. I remember her as a pillar of strength and integrity. She was a very creative woman, who loved to write and laugh and just be herself regardless of what others thought of her.   Donna passed away suddenly at the age of thirty leaving behind four small children including myself at the age of eight.

The loss of my mother was not fully realized until I was in my teens and could watch the relationships my best friends had with their mothers, while my diver side seat in life was occupied with a man, my dad.   Having been raised without a mother figure, helped me to realize the importance a women has in molding an impression on her children. I learned that you simply can never take one moment for granted, because you are not promised tomorrow.

I have integrated the strength and wisdom my mother portrayed in her life into my inner being.. Immediate family is my roots of strength; I am anchored by my beautiful children in the ever changing soils of life which sometimes erode from beneath me. In those difficult times I look within to what Donna left on my soul and stand firm on my beliefs that being a great mother and enduring all tribulations together as a unit will strengthen the platform on which our family stands. On the other hand, losing my mother at such a tender age has biased me against my own children’s independence.   I routinely find myself barking orders to Gracie, my eight year old. “You can do it yourself Grace! I did when I was eight, I didn’t have a Mom, remember?” In moments of sheer anxiety in acting as a single parent I tend to lash out unfairly at the kids and their abilities to do for themselves. After all I was cooking, cleaning and raising my younger siblings at Gracie’s age, why the hell can’t she make herself a sandwich? Some days I am left a lonely, prisoner in mothering hell, shackled by my own actions. I can only tread forward to another day and hope the hard work and lessons in the cell will help mold me into a better parent each day.


Major Influence #2  Seferino Mercado, My dad.

I have tried over the years to take both the good and the bad I have inherited in life from my parents. When I think about my father, Sefernio and his courage to continuing living without my mother by his side I feel pride and determination well up inside me.  Dad taught me to both, respect and fear that he was in charge at all times. Even though he worked three jobs to support us and was hardly home. We all knew we must pull our weight around the house. I inspire to be able to withstand the same difficulties in life with such grace as he has. . I learned from my dad that the color of our skin and our roots do not matter as much as what we do for others and how we carry ourselves in life. It was difficult to learn later in life that my mom’s parents never thought my dad was good enough for their beautiful little Irish girl “Donna Mae”.

My dad is full blooded Spanish and I am very proud of that heritage. From a life of heartache and sorrow that little Tex-mex man, Seferino rose from the ashes with his head held high and cape of pride flowing behind.  He taught us that to reap a good harvest in life we must become dedicated, hardworking, honest individuals. Most importantly, he reminded us when we were tending to the fields in our own lives not to be thrown off track to the ditches below just because we were sometimes labeled “Wetbacks”. I have become that person in which I do not care what others say of me. I am me and if you are offended or do not like me I do not care.

The bad in that attitude however has caused some strife in my life when it comes to personal relationships. My dad wove into my upbringing an independence that stands strong today!  It has caused failed, broken relationships with men in my life. I learned growing up to depend and lean on yourself to make sure things get taken care of because you cannot go through life depending on others.  Therefore I become the “Man of the house” in relationships.  I take care of everything. Whether it is to pay bills or fix a leaky sink..  I truly hate that part of me and the internal deep pain it has caused me.  I work on it because my children make me aware after failed relationships, that I need to allow a man to take care of me and it is ok to trust.


Major Influence #3 The Manistee River

I so love the soothing sounds of the Manistee as they rush past my window and lull me to sleep. Here is a place where I can be intimate with my deepest thoughts. All alone I can sit on the tattered dock and examine the glistening currents and occasional fish that may rise. It is in these moments I realize what my life has become and how the healing waters that flow can make it all right. I am very grateful to have made the acquaintance of the Majestic Manistee for without her I surely would not be me.  The river taught me how to cast a fly to the perfect trout, slurp!  It taught me to respect its natural beauty while kayaking its currents. Occasionally while wading, she curses round my waist then twisting, I see a reflection of Donna looking back at me. A tear falls now, cascading down my sober cheek. For it is here that I lost her oh this beautiful Manistee it can give life and it can take life. It is not fair I know!!!

It is a great place for reflecting, yet my children will never know her banks.  It is too dangerous you see.  Therefore to my children it will remain a mystery of picture books and fables. Is it fair that I keep them from her beauty, yes!  They are my anchor in the soil, I cannot lose them too!


Deeper into the cave I go, I do not like the reflections that I see, dancing on the lighted walls, it scares me.   All this time I’ve thought it was true, that I could not stand alone as a single mom and be accepted in this bias world. I now know that is not true, the shadows they were not real. They are just a mere illusion of the white picket fence with little Johnny, mommy and daddy.  You see I broke out of the cave to explore beyond the shadows dancing on the wall. I discovered through difficult travels and many mistakes along the way. That it is okay and I will be accepted in a world of one parent families

Many thanks to Donna, Seferino and the Manistee for showing me how life outside the cave can be..


Belinda, 2012

Philosophy 101

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What we buy and why?

Philosophy 12/2012

Reflective Writing, Christmas

“What we buy and why”

Mommy, Mommy wake up look what Santa brought for us!   We were bad this year and you said we would get coal in our stockings…  Look….Look… the doll house and the Ipad I saw on T.V.!!!     Ahhh consumerism and or parental guilt possibly a mix of both?

Yes, I am one of those guilt ridden crazy parents that always end up as the last minute consumer shopping on Christmas Eve. I usually grab up everything on my list plus more. I find myself cursing every time I run that card at the checkout. Or every time I come across an empty shelf. What was I thinking to come out on Christmas Eve and expect to have the year’s top selling toys still available for purchase.

Oh wait, did I just say “Top selling toys” yes indeed I have slipped myself right into that category of naïve “Consumer” even we adults can and are brain washed by various ads on T.V. the internet, newspaper ads. You must get this toy for your 4 year old, it will improve his ability to read and further more prepare him for kindergarten. Hmmm funny how even we parents gets sucked in to the advertising world and worse yet believe that the Leap pad explore at $100 bucks will improve the brain power in our toddlers. How about the Einstein DVDs that were so popular about 5 years ago?  Wow I was sucked into that advertising ploy too. Gosh darn I always thought I was smarter than that!

Why is it we go out of our way to provide all the fancy wrapped gifts under the tree at this one time during the year? Shouldn’t Christmas be celebrated every day? Not just once a year? I blame the T.V. and the Sunday newspaper ads.  In our home we do not have cable or satellite T.V. just a converter box which provides 5 basic channels. However that is all it takes for an 8 and 4 year old to get a visual taste of “Consumerism.”  Yes my little midgets have become part of the Now generation!  I want…I want…I want…..  It is never a need!

Shame on Big Bird for representing the Ipad ease of use! Damn can’t even put the kids in front of a PBS educational cartoon without a product being pushed as “You must have this, every child has one, you won’t be happy if you don’t buy one!”  What the hell is that all about?

Our eldest daughter Natosha has definitely been brainwashed by magazine ads and the internet. She is the perfect easily snagged consumer. Natosha could possibly be the best consumer of products advertised in the teen magazines. They all promise indirectly to make your skin glow, your hair shiny, your butt lifted and toned, your eye lashes thicker, and if you buy this $90 T-shirt you will even get a boyfriend?  What on earth is all that about. Some jack ass without kids is sitting in a cubicle somewhere being paid high dollar to think up these deceptive magazine ads. It’s a catcht 22 if he doesn’t perform a great job which presents deceitful ads targeted at vulnerable teens.  He faces the possibility of losing that career in advertising. How unfair the vicious cycle of consumerism is.   The only winners in my book are the fluffed up bank accounts of executives.

Look at the recent shortfall and bankruptcy of the beloved “Hostess, snack cake”   Seriously out of business? Wow hard to believe that a corporation that has advertising on the side of trucks, bill boards, magazines, etc. has went out of business after all these years.  However, the president of the company reportedly will be receiving a salary of $125,000 per month till further notice!!!!   Disgusting!   I would think as the president of the company he would have been indirectly in charge of the advertising of that product, yet he failed and will continue to be rewarded.  While we faithful consumers lose the ability to stop at the local hostess store and stock up on the all-time favorite “Twinkie” and he continues to get a paycheck. One good thing is we will be a little thinner around the waist line this Christmas in my house. No more seasonal hostess Christmas tree snack cakes.

As I write this paper Gracie is watching a Rudolf program on T.V. funny how we as a culture watch the same shows every year at Christmas time. We associate all the wrong things in my mind anyway with this time of year. It is so commercialized anymore. Quite sickening, actually. Look at the crazy people who actually put their lives at risk, YES at risk to go out and save $10 dollars on a $50 dollar item on Black Friday.  Really? Fighting for a parking space at the local Walmart at 3 am. Lining up and waiting in line in the 30* temperature for 4 hours, then scurrying through the isles hoping to grab up some great item that another shopper dropped in his haste to get more….  Yikes!  That is not what Christmas is about!

I must be honest I am tainted a little bit by the fact that my mother died just before Christmas when I was only 8 years old.  From that time on I did not believe in Santa and all the magic that went with a tinsel drenched tree.  I began to look for the real meaning of the season.

By the time I reached the age of 10 I was introduced to the ideals that “Jesus” is the real reason for the end of the year celebrations.  It did not take much coaxing from my peers at that point to understand the birth of Christ and the 3 Wiseman bearing gifts. I was very intrigued by this new set of ideals of thanks and counting our blessings rather than worrying about who received more pretty wrapped boxes under an over decorated tree.

I will admit from that time forward all the magic and mystery of the reindeer hooves on the roof top and baking special cookies for Santa was lost.   I would trade it all over again though, just to see the warmth and love in my father’s eyes as he explained my mother’s death and not to associate that event with having sadness loom around our house at Christmas but rather, realization of the real reason for the season being “Jesus”.

So while I am a guilty consumer at Christmas time, yes I fall into all the buy 1 get 1 free trap type ads. I still believe in the realness of giving and not receiving that really counts.   Sure I do love to see smiling faces and the wonderment on my young children’s faces when they realize that ole’ St. Nick has once again stopped at our house while everyone was sleeping. Yet I also try to explain to my kids that what is important this time of year is the idea that we are all together, happy and healthy. In addition that we should count our blessing because there is some little girl over in Africa or some other 3rd world country that doesn’t even own a pair of shoes much less know what a baby doll is.

In my experiences parenting both boys and girls, the boys seem most excepting when there are only a few gifts under the tree that morning. Some years it has been purely needs: Jeans, socks, boots that sort of thing.  We have had some hard years finically and I just couldn’t provide all I wanted to. Nicholas my now 23 year old was just happy as can be to have a new pair of Wrangler jeans. Forget the fact that he really wanted the Lego set. He was always content with what he had, he continues today to be a very appreciative adult male, who takes little for granted in this life.

The 3 girls I have raised so far are complete opposite of Nicholas. Natosha would actually cry in the privacy of her room after all the wrappings were pulled off and she didn’t get that one “Got to have this year item” not sure where I went wrong with the older girls. I obviously have many faults in parenting and getting them to understand we should appreciate each other as a unit and be thankful for having both parents on Christmas Morning, as I was deprived of that privilege growing up. It still hurts today when I reflect back on those holidays without Mom. I’ll be dammed if I cannot get my children to understand the value of having me here every day. Not just opening up my pocket book at Christmas.  I would give my right arm just to hear my mother’s voice. Forget the fancy ribbons and decorated cookies, I want my Mom!

Okay so I do realize I am human just like everyone else, so I guess getting the boys to understand the true meaning this time of year makes me, not a complete failure.

When I really dissect the idea of Christmas and what is important to me, the pot boils down to this:  Family both extended and immediate, health, happiness, gratefulness to God and all he has given me, thankfulness that Dads cancer has allowed him more time with my children, and lastly that my children will someday realize the real reason for the season being “Jesus and his birth” not gifts under the tree.   Once these last 2 get old enough and the commercial ideas of Christmas Eve fade they too will understand there really by gosh is not a Santa Clause, yes Grandpa was right all this time it was mom and Dad. Yes, Gracie I remember the standoff with you telling grandpa “No way! My mom is Santa, she is to cheap grandpa”.    I will always giggle when I run that little visual and her voice through my mind.   What will she think when she finds out it was always “Mom?”

With this last assignment in mind I would like to say thank you Mella!  It has made me realize I must begin this year again in teaching the little ones what is most important.  I have already giving them the gift of “Family memory” as we spent 2 weeks out west for the Thanksgiving holiday.  I wanted them to see and appreciate the beauty in nature that God has given us and the idea that spending time with family should be valued always.   As for this Christmas it is going to be about needs this year.  The older kids will get a $50 fuel card for their vehicles. Elijah the 4 year old will get new pants as his recent growth spurts have caused all his pants to shrink to resting an inch above his ankles.  Gracie the 8 year old desperately needs new snow pants, and a nice hat and warm gloves. Yes my friend it will be a Christmas of needs not ~consumerism and wants.~  With that said I should at least get to the basement and dig out the tree, it has been gathering dust all year and it wouldn’t be fair to deprive the kids of at least a tree. Oh and AFFLUENZA I’m to bank poor to ever suffer from this social consumer disease, yet I hold dear that I am rich in friends and family!

Thank you my friend for the eye opening assignment. May God bless you and yours this Christmas season.

**Yes this means u, do not use or  reproduce without prior consent!  Thanks!

Belinda Mercado  2012′    “Live Today, Cherish Yesterday, Dream Tomorrow” tshirt