I Know, Science and Religion…

Cloning has been a much debated subject for most of my conscious life. I am proud to live in a time where these discoveries are being made, and I have the chance to be on the forefront of research within this field given the opportunity. But our country is much divided on the ‘rightness’ of the issue: Is cloning a miraculous discovery of science, or an attempt at playing God? The article “Cloning Trevor” by Kyla Dunn in Taking Sides gives some thoughts on the subject that I found interesting and disheartening at the same time. Therapeutic cloning has the potential to save so many lives, yet the Congress of the first Bush Admin and Bush Admin itself had the gall to pass laws saying that these lives weren’t worth the using the cells of embryos needed for research. An entire branch of research has been practically halted based on religious assumptions, and my reaction to this was anger, the honorable kind.

I have many complaints about the government for the past eight years. I can honestly say there were very few times I was proud to call myself an American until this past November. I have traveled abroad and have been ashamed to admit rumors were true like the laxness of financial regulation, the actions that take place at the prison in Guantanamo Bay, and the government inaction during Hurricane Katrina. These are only a few of the things that have disappointed me, but the amount of meddling in scientific research has put me on edge for a while now.

I am a biology major, and plan on working in the medical field either in patient care or research. This has been a passion of mine since I was very young, and it continues to grow the more I understand about the human body and about the condition of our nation’s health care system. I have read and been taught on the importance of keeping medical research in America on the forefront, that it is one of our advantages as a major world player. But for the past few years I feel like this sector has been severely neglected, as have others. Reading this article fanned the flames a bit on something I had been feeling for sometime, and in a way I felt it put my own reactions into words I couldn’t find before.

I grew up non-denominational Christian. I’ve had a passion for God and his creation for as long as I can remember. I believe, as a Christian, I am here to help bring healing and well-being to the world and I feel I can do that through medicine on one level, and through my treatment of people on another. Knowing this about my faith, I find it ridiculous for religious groups to say that cloning of any kind is ‘playing God.’ If by helping save lives we are ‘playing God’ then I will gladly play God for the rest of my career. Therapeutic cloning has potential to heal that we haven’t even imagined yet, and with lack of support and funding, we may never imagine in this country. I think the people that believe this wonderful technology is something against the Christian religion haven’t researched it to know otherwise. They don’t know the facts, or know too little of the process to see what good it could do. I have a major problem with the type of people that attend church and call themselves social conservatives for the purpose of being Pro-Life, or anti-stem cell research, without out reading up on what they are actually against first.

Therapeutic cloning could reduce or even undo damage caused by heart attacks, diabetes, strokes, Alzheimer’s, spinal injuries, and multiple other diseases and conditions that cause irreversible tissue damage. The possibilities are endless, though the risks are great. Anyone knowing the potential reactions the implanted stem cells have on the host body knows that this procedure and theory is far from perfect, but only with more research can it be improved. Stem cells are not taken from a fetus that has specialized cells already. They are taken from an embryo in its early stages, before its true fetal development has been determined (more fully explained in article). These are also things done in a Petri dish, not a human. Since when do we conceive children in Petri dishes? I don’t think anyone would agree that the future of the human race should depend on this process. It’s too sci-fi. Too frightening to thing of having a brother than was born in a lab. The best place to have a child develop is in a womb, in a mother, in a loving, caring situation. No one is trying to create human life here. The scientists that have devoted their lives to this research have been trying to enhance the human life that is already present and hopeless in hospitals and homes across the nation. And to cheapen that intention and call it ‘playing God’ angers me to a great extent.

I think a quote from a distressed mother sums up my thoughts for this subject very well: “How dare they tell me that I cannot save my son’s life?…’Let your child die, because my religious belief is more important than your child’s life.’…[they] have no right to stop me from saving my son’s life (Taking Sides 67).” We are concerned about human rights in America, supposedly. I think to say an embryo in a Petri dish has more rights to be protected than the people who are alive now and suffering from incurable conditions is completely outrageous. We need a reality check in this country. Social conservatives are afraid of something like cloning coming to be a commonplace reality here and they have it in their minds that this is something evil that has to be stopped. They have lost sight of the ultimate human right, which is the right to live and choose what they please. I agree with this mother. Choose what you want for your own embryos and children, but let everyone else choose to do what is right for their families and themselves. Let them choose a less risky option if they want, but at least let them make the choice on their own. For all the hope that’s been lost in the past eight years, we owe them that.

I think these religious interests groups and churches have forgotten what Jesus did when he came here: he healed the sick. If the only representation of God in the flesh we have is Jesus shouldn’t we be following that example? There is so much negative thinking in the realm of science by religious activists. People that think they can’t possibly coincide. If God truly created the world, science is the tool to discover how he did it, and what laws and patterns he set in place at the beginning so that millions of years later human life would surface and have the consciousness and ability to think about things before we start pointing fingers and making laws and accusing people of trying to play God. Stem-cell research is the beginning of something very big. Are we going to let our closed-mindedness stopper the success it could mean for the field of medicine? Or are we going to accept progress, and see where it takes us, what it lets us learn about God’s world? As believers, we forget that even our own faith was called wrong and people were killed for it… Sure, we don’t kill people for it anymore, but killing hopes and dreams may be even worse. Instead of persecution, they call it politics.

Lucky for us there is a new administration and Congress. I have high hopes, but there is a lot going on with the economy and foreign affairs that it may be a while before medical research gets a chance to shine again. Hopefully it begins to get the attention and praise it deserves soon, or I should start looking into a new career path.



The Moment


I will admit I had my doubts. And I still have my concerns about him being our next president. But on Tuesday night during his speech I feel a great amount of inspiration and… well, hope, for lack of a better word. This truly is a great moment in our history. I’m finally proud to call myself an American for the first time in six years.


Godspeed Barack Obama. I hope you can do it.

Supporting Role is Misdirected; or Just Limelight Hungry

Please tell me why.

Of all the capable Republican females in government out there that are much more able to win over the women’s vote. Why? I was not surprised by the debate tonight. I knew the media was exaggerating her coverage beforehand and she was going to do fine. But fine. She had nothing extraordinary to say. Nothing we didn’t already know. Nothing we haven’t already seen. I don’t know if it’s just me, or if others agree with me on this– I am an average American. I know the types of educated decisions I make, and it scares me that so many of our politicians run on that idea. I do not want an average undereducated American running the nation. I want someone educated, connected, persuasive, extraordinary. I don’t want someone I can have a beer and go golfing with. I want someone who will go go go 24/7 to make sure my country is being run properly. No golf, no beer. Get a cup of coffee and an ironed tie and get to work.

I would love to see a woman in the White House, but the right woman. Of course, to me that woman is Hillary Clinton. If we are going to have a woman with that type of executive power I want one that knows more about nukes and fiscal repsonsibility than hunting and where Russia is in relation to Alaska.

But enough about her. I am tired of seeing her on the news. I want to see McCain’s cranky face in the screen telling us more about how he’s fuck up America. I think she has had her time and it’s time for her to get backstage and let the real players run their scene. But I think she loves the spotlight too much.


Just Relativity

So I had an epiphany Friday night while watching the debate–

How much do we really know about what is happening in the Middle East?

I think I’ve heard a dozen different stories about what exactly is going on and how I should feel about it. There is so much propaganda on both sides of the war that I feel like reality is being lost and we are all just using whatever information we can get our hands on to get our points across. I’m not going to pretend I know about foreign policy. I pay taxes to pay those that know much more than I do. I do know that borders mean nothing in most places. There are countries that have been broken up within boarders and certain ethnic groups living within these territories get screwed because they are either underrepresented or not represented at all. Or they get split up into two or several different territories on account of the ruling party’s (or another ruling country’s) disregard. I also understand that the American ideals do not stretch into other parts of the world. I have finally experienced this first hand in Asia and plan to see it in Turkey soon. People do not uphold human rights and democracy as first priority in many places. We are ridiculous to assume that other countries should be able to uphold a democratic nation in a few years when it has taken us centuries to get to this point and it is still not perfect. We still do not uphold human rights in perfection. Even if all parts of a country were completely nonresistant to as drastic a change as moving from dictatorship to democracy, it would take many resources and much time. There is no instant reform.

Now, pertaining to Iraq, I have heard what the Bush Administration says about it. We need to focus there. They will be a great ally in the war against terror. We need to win there as a big step in the war on terror. War on terror. Blah blah. I’ve also heard what my own party has said about it: it was a mistake, we are misdirecting our focus in the war on terror. We are spending too much money there when we are failing in domestic policy. We need to get out as soon as safely possible. The war on terror is better fought in Afghanistan where major terrorist organizations are located. I’ve heard military friends tell me their experiences. They feel like they are glorified babysitters in a poor sweltering country where they are unwanted. People hate and fear them because they wear American uniforms. They are bored and restless and are sick of constantly watching their backs and feeling like they have no strategy for staying or leaving. And then I read articles about Iraqi leaders saying they want U.S. troops out and are thinking about giving us a time line to leave. They would rather be talking to Iran than America and respect their international policies better than ours.

And then there is Israel. What is the big deal about it? Americans can’t get enough of them, Iran wants to wipe them off the face of the earth. I realize that the area is prime to control trade, allies, nuclear weapons, etc. But other than strategic placement for the conflicts taking place there, how are they an asset or a burden to anyone? I feel like Israel is some kind of red herring but no can figure out what its supposed to be distracting us from.

There is so much relativity going on in these situations. There is no way for me to actually know in truth what is more correct to believe unless I go see everything for myself. But even then I’m seeing it from a skewed perspective– I want to see our taxes spent elsewhere. Yes, it is a purely selfish reason. But I work hard for my money and I’m not seeing any of it come back to benefit me. I have no health insurance, no college grants, there are potholes in my streets, parking tickets are ridiculously expensive, my school and work have no budget because my state leaders cant come to a compromise, and I can barely afford food, rent, and gas every month because the people I pay to run the country are stuck in a corporate-ass-kissing sickness. It’s sad that I focus on my own struggles when others have it so much worse, but that’s the price of a capitalistic country: a sense of ownership. We want it that way so we better deal with the consequences. Period.

Please vote this election. It’s not hard to do. It’s the only say you get for the next four years because as far as I’m concerned you shouldn’t complain if you didn’t vote. As much as I railed on Obama for his mantra for change, I’m really wanting some change right about now.


How Am I Supposed to Care for My Health?

My dad is retiring and I now have health insurance for another month. Since my girl Hillary is undeniably out of the race for good reason, which candidate is going to give me an option that will make it so I can pay for health care on top of rent, education, bills, and groceries? I’m not sold on McCain or Obama. I think they both have policy flaws, McCain much more so than Obama, and frankly, I’m just sick of this corrupt two-party system. But unfortunately I’m a realist and so I will vote accordingly because I know no one has a chance outside the two major parties.

But enough about politics. I’m in college. I’m a waitress. I have no career, but in order to get my career started I have to finish college. In order to get good health insurance I need to have a career that gives me that option, and I also need to be living in an economy good enough to find companies that are actually hiring skilled people.

I feel like all of us are in a catch-22. And I feel like I understand my friend Lucky from Cambodia more and more. All I can say for now is that I hope I don’t come down with West Nile Virus before I graduate. And I also hope the economy gets noticeably better before then too.

I hope a lot of things.


My Hope for the Khmer

In June of this year I went to Cambodia. I went for a study abroad program with school. Before I left I heard all about how studying in a different country changes you forever. How it broadens your perspectives and changes your life forever. You meet people you will never forget and see things you will keep with you forever. Now, being a cynic on anyone else’s opinion but mine, I thought this was a load of bull. I was going to one of the poorest countries in the world– I knew I would think about things differently. I’m not ignorant. But I didn’t realize the extent to how I would be changed. How it would change my motives, my aspirations, my story. My existence.

Before my trip to Cambodia, I did not know much about its history or about the Khmer Rouge. In fact, I had never stopped to think about how WWII and the Cold War had affected Cambodia at all. The required reading was my first taste of the Khmer story. And its wretchedness left me in grief for all of those like Loung Ung that lost so much.

Loung Ung , author of First They Killed My Father, is a survivor from the desperate years of the Khmer Rouge regime– a time when over two million Cambodian people were killed by slaughter, starvation, or being worked to death. When Sihanouk was moved to Beijing and denounced as head of state, the Lon Nol government was in control, and it was very corrupt. The Khmer Rouge was just a whisper before, but now it gained more support and followers out of the crooked political situation and sour sentiment. In 1975, they evacuated the entirety of Phnom Penh and it was the beginning of a four year struggle for the Khmer Rouge to stay in power and for the people of Cambodia to stay alive and sane.

Ung’s father was a member of the Lon Nol government and thus was a victim of the regime’s antagonism. Her family was forced to leave Phnom Penh, traveling the countryside searching for food and anonymity from Pol Pot’s spies. They made a living at various work camps, but the family was gradually split up and broken. After losing her father, mother, two sisters, a brother, and her childhood innocence, Ung was left alone to fend for herself. Without her determined spirit and strong resolve it would have difficult for her survive, though it is amazing to think she did survive this terrible time. She was eventually reunited with her brothers and sister, and fled to America, where she now resides and works as an activist and author.

Ung’s story captivated me. I started reading it on the plane ride to Bangkok and was finished in less than six hours. I knew how her story would end, because she is obviously still alive and well, but I had to know how it happened. My sick sense of curiosity had to know the suffering, the starvation, the despair– I had to experience it with her in her five-year-old mind. For those six hours I was running with her and the other frightened people from Phnom Penh. I was scared of being caught, scared of never seeing my home again, and scared of losing my family. I was salivating with her at every grain of rice she picked, except every time the food cart on the airplane came by it was a sickening reminder of how privileged my life is and how I will probably never know what it is like to be truly starving and afraid. I was immersed in that book. Everything was so incredibly real to me. And then it was over. We landed in Bangkok (eventually) and I got caught up in the excitement of a big foreign city with my friends and forgot about the land of literature that I had just come from. Because that was all it was to me then—literature. I read my fair share of books every year: memoirs, classics, fantasy, thrillers, religious works, political analysis, histories. And yes, this was a memoir, but I forgot that. I was thinking it was just another one of my fantasy books and that someone dreamed this out of their own disturbed mind and though that it was touching and profound and desperately sad, it couldn’t have been real. Deep down, I really thought this, until we got to Battamgbang.

The first thing that I remember feeling uneasy about on the way to Battambang was the red checked Khmer Rouge scarf in the dirt next to the bus. It was eerie how it was so visible to everyday people, of course the type of village we were in wasn’t exactly westernized and wouldn’t have been the object of wrath from the communist ideals of the regime, but the visual was still startling. It was the first thing I had seen that was described in Ung’s memoir. I had other moments of uneasiness in that city, but when we got to the Killing Caves I had a hard time separating fact from fiction, until I realized that what I was seeing and what I had read were both real. The book from the plane was finally becoming more than just a book. As my hands shook and my lips trembled I tried to keep my calm and not be too emotional about the fact that people rolled down into those caves dead or spent the last moments of their lives lying in a pit surrounded by corpses. I had a hard time walking back down the mountain after seeing where infants were thrown into the cave while their mothers watched. And that night I wept for humanity and all the evil it is capable of. I cried out my sorrow for families that had to see their loved ones die like that. I have experienced much death in my short life but I couldn’t even fathom having to witness something that barbaric and hateful. I sobbed in self pity because I felt helpless to do anything to make the world a better place. How could anyone be in their right mind commit a crime as heinous as murdering innocents? My reaction to the Killing Caves put me in a more somber mindset but the S-21 prison was an even bigger reality check for me, and also a lesson in world views.

I knew seeing the Killing Fields Memorial and S-21 was going to be heavy. I had prepared myself for it quite well actually.

Of course, that was before I knew there would be mug shots in the prison. I wandered into the B building first, which was a mistake because it numbed me to the rest of the prison and made me angry.

Icouldn’t believe they had kept all the pictures of the inmates. But I still walked through very slowly. I told myself, “This is what you have read about. Real people. The real people are right here. They lived here and they died here.” And so I forced myself to look at every photograph. I saw dejected children that looked like my sister and hopeless women with black eyes that looked like my stepmother. Those similarities didn’t get past me either; these people were the same as me and my family. They were living life as they always had, and then in one day their families were ripped apart forever. They were pushed into a tiny cell and treated like something less than human. It made me so angry, so I went and opened the door to every cell on the second floor in the prison. There is no reason for them to be closed anymore. The people are gone. That era is gone and a new generation that wishes change upon their country is coming into their moment to be revolutionary.

I talked with a few young people while in Battambang and Phnom Penh about the political status of Cambodia. There is so much passion and love for their country and yet so much hopelessness and frustration with their government. But the spark is still there. I would love to see them turn Cambodia into a flourishing country again. I would love to see that spark ignited into something beautiful and into some uniquely Khmer. The students in the democracy forum we attended were asking how they can have a democracy like America’s. I think the key to Cambodia’s future is realizing that they have to become a democracy in their own way. Ung has turned her experience into a stepping stone for activism, and so many other survivors could do the same.

I had a lot of time to think about Cambodia when I got back. I have been reading more on its history and I look for news articles on the upcoming elections—of course there are not many. But I still look. I will remember the temples, the botany, the monkeys, the nightlife, and the friends I made. Although most of all I promised myself I would always remember the people. I want to remember the people and their stories. I need to remember because if I don’t I may as well have gone to Europe or Australia for a study abroad program. I used to scoff at people who came back from studying abroad saying it had changed their life. Now I understand, and now I have a passion for helping people like I have never had before. Now, I know I am eating my words, but Cambodia changed my life. It made my experience as a young adult richer, more beautiful, and it gave me a story that needs to be told, a story of sadness and brutality, but also of hope.


My Only Take on the Race for Presidency… For Now

I think it’s funny how all these Democrats are so keen on change in government, and yet they express that in a presidential primary. “Obama will bring a fresh new change to American government! He’s young and uncorrupted by Washington.”


Is there any evidence in recent American history where change was brought about by a single person? Doesn’t anyone know that the Presidency works within an entire branch and is restricted by the Supreme Court and Congress? Doesn’t anyone know that every politician has to compromise during their time in office?

I’m sure you could throw some arguments in defense of any of those questions, but I still wouldn’t be convinced. America is very different from what it was during the Civil Rights Movement or even from the Reagan Era. People don’t like change anymore. We’re Americans. We like our nice comfortable lives with our designer clothes and iPods and fake social circles and job security. The economy is changing- therefore we don’t like that. But in reality it hasn’t effected people so much that they have stopped traveling or driving their cars or sending letters and packages. We still do things that we have always done and we like it that way (though we complain about how it empties our wallets when really would could just stop spending that money and buy a scooter). We don’t have activists rioting in the streets anymore. And why is that? Who wants to disrupt their nice quiet lives to further a social or political cause? Why get arrested or shot over something that isn’t affecting you directly? Hm.

This is why I don’t get the hype going on with Obama. He will compromise- I hope all you Obama fans know this. So will Hillary if she gets elected. They project an aura of change all over the place, all the while the senators and congressmen are chuckling in their comfortable armchairs because they know they will be roadblocks for much of that change that wants to drive through Congress.

A friend of mine expressed to me that being president must not be that big of a deal anymore if a woman and a black man are running for office now. It doesn’t matter how highly educated you are, how big your social sphere is, or how wealthy your family is (George W. Bush proved this to us). What matters is how influential and persuasive and eloquent you can be. And Hillary has my vote for those things along with the fact that I believe her to be a very intelligent and decisive woman.


My biggest complaint on the new “pro-change” voter turnout in these primaries is that they are voting in Presidential primaries. The changes we want don’t necessarily occur because of a good president. Every president brings something new and, of course, things are going to be different, but the big things don’t change. For the big things you have to elect good senators and congressman. People who want to see things change should be voting in Congressional elections and local elections, not just Presidential elections. I am happy to see more focusing in on politics though. We have this great privilege and more than half of the population doesn’t use it to their advantage. No wonder Americans aren’t open to change. They aren’t out there caring enough to make a difference.

So anyway, this is the last time I’ll comment on this until November. I never wanted to put something like this up here, but it needs to be said.