Stem Cell Halt

I was so excited by President Obamas reinstatement of federally funded stem cell research last year that, in a fit of passion, I almost threw myself into research full time to take advantage of the success. I know that research is not my destiny now, but the milestone in the blurring boundaries between science and politics gave me reassurance that maybe the guys running our country aren’t idiots after all. That is, until I read the news today: Court Halts Stem Cell Expansion.

WTF, seriously.

Do the courts want to push our country further and further behind Europe and Asian in science? Because they are sure doing a hell of a good job what with virtually eliminating caps on campaign fund raising and now this.

I’m too upset to do justice to this post now but I’ll add some thoughts in a few days when more on this court “halt” comes out.

-JS

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.

-JS

The Moment

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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.

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Godspeed Barack Obama. I hope you can do it.

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.

-JS

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.

-JS

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.”

barack_obama00001.jpgAhem.

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.

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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.