The Road Ahead

flower

Good day readers,

I am writing this post in my last night in southern France. I was tired of cloudy and rainy London, and hopped on a plane very early Thursday morning, landing in Montpellier to enjoy a long and hot weekend. No one knew that before the fireworks display commemorating Bastille Day would end, that it would be marked by tragedy.

A double whammy also hit yesterday with the retaliation shooting in Baton Rouge, where an ex-Marine Sargeant open fired and killed three police officers and wounded three others.

This is our world now; endless nights of  candle vigils, dyed flowers, and crumpled stuff toys at the site of death and massacre, to show victims that we care. However, not enough to prevent it from happening again.

mourning

Feel free to share your thoughts below, or send me your thoughts on Twitter or leave a comment on Facebook.

A Tough Week for Americans

kids hugging, american flag, national mourning, S.C. Rhyne, comforting each other

Events this week in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas has rocked the United States and also made headlines here in Europe. In fact, my BBC News text alerts came in the early morning hours as breaking news after these incidences.

As an American living abroad, I have been asked a lot of questions surrounding our political and social issues, as Europeans can’t seem to understand why we still have this kind of violence. Is it our obsession with guns? Is it from racists like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) etc…

This is not to say that there aren’t socioeconomic issues or problems with violence in Europe, but it is quite infrequent, even when you factor in the latest terror attacks. So while the problem of officer-involved shootings isn’t a clear cut problem, for my European counterparts– I say it is not a clear-cut solution. So here are a few of the questions that I have been asked this week, and before with the #OrlandoShooting.

The problem is guns

If America just outlaws all of its guns, the problem will go away. Realistically the United States will not repeal the second amendment (I have to phrase it this way, because not many Europeans know that owning firearms is a constitutional right as opposed to a “regular law”) as it would require 2/3 approval by Congress (both houses) or 3/4 approval from each state. I do not consider myself a gun advocate, however you define that; but we still have the problem of illegal firearms, which in some states, are easier to get than legal ones. Also, what would we do with all the current guns? When the U.K banned handguns, about .1% of the population turned in weapons, which is a much smaller percentage than America’s gun-owners.

Although enforcement of gun laws and better gun control are needed, it may help prevent some mass shootings, but not the case of officer-involved shootings. The majority of civilians killed by a police officer are White according to the Washington Post; however, a large number of them were brandishing (visibly threatening with) a weapon or had just attacked someone with a weapon. A smaller portion of the shootings are against unarmed civilians: it is this portion where Black and Latino civilians make up the pool. African Americans count for 40% killed in this pool, which is problematic when they are only 13% of the entire American population. Thus, my argument is for a change in police training and culture, some towns like Ferguson’s police force are not diverse at all, while in Baltimore where the force is mostly Black they are trained to “police” the community and not “protect” it. We have good examples where police chiefs recognized the need for reform and did so; however because our governing is not centralize as in Europe– its up for each town or state to catch on and make those changes to police training and culture (how they view the communities they work in).

Doesn’t All Lives Matter?

Of course it does!

The Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) grew as a political and social justice campaign due to officer-involved shootings of Black men who were stopped for minor (if any) infractions. Many Europeans (and Americans) have a broad understanding of the history of race relations, but not how deep or “institutionalized” it is.

Everyone knows the KKK and the kinds of people today that are a part of this White supremacist movement (usually uneducated or less educated White men from lower socioeconomic backgrounds). However, before their membership declined, pretty much any White person of standing was a part of this institution; and by standing I mean a police officer, a judge, doctor, politician, etc…Thus, for Black Americans of this time (my mother and father if they lived in the U.S– but you understand what I mean, the majority of people still alive today) the people who were part of the institutions to serve and protect us, were also a part of an institution that terrorized the Black community.

So there is a historical legacy of mistrust, tension, and the devaluing of a Black person as a human being. In short, all lives matter from every corner of the globe, but historically the deaths of Black persons have gone unnoticed or without justice. And now in 2016, very few of these unarmed deaths have seen prosecution. For the BLM movement the lack of prosecution, justice, or even attention to these cases (before cellphones or instagram) is seen as ongoing phenomena of the devalued life of a Black person (man). So as a principle, all lives are important, but the #AllLivesMatter hashtag ignores/hides the crisis of the disproportionate deaths of unarmed Black civilians.

America is so racist!

Is it more racist than the U.K or France (is the response I give)? Yes, racism is a problem, but depending who you ask you will get different answers of to what degree it is a problem. Hate groups, like the KKK, today are a small fraction of the population, maybe 10% (which translates to 30 million people). However, in recent years with right-wing populist movements across the globe, we have seen a re-awakening of divisive and racist rhetoric and the outcome of that has been the rise of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. However, Europe does have its own ethnic/religious relations problems too. In fact, I have criticized many European countries for their lack of assimilation of immigrants, which have marginalized many European-born Muslims.

Right-wing populism is also making waves in Europe such as the UKIP party in the U.K which grabbed a large amount of seats in local councils and the European parliament in 2015 and hence led the #Brexit campaign. The Alternative for Germany party has also gained traction since 2014 and the Norwegian Progress Party is currently part of a coalition government. Also if you remember, America had the Tea Party movement. These movements advocate on an anti-immigration platform and a return to “traditional values”. Thus, hate and fringe groups may not have been our biggest problems of race relations, but the changing landscape of politics that is more demagogue than policies threatens to re-open rather than heal old wounds.

At least until I heard this from Newt Gingrich this afternoon.

So it has been a tough week for Americans, as we had to reflect and hopefully engage in a very difficult dialogue (as opposed to yelling at each other). As always, share your questions or thoughts with me @ReporterandGirl or on Facebook.

Happy (belated) Independence Day.

 

 

 

3 Tips to Break Through Barriers and Achieve Your Goals

achieving goals, inspiration, breaking barriers, empowered woman, reaching destination, IR blog, S.C. Rhyne

If you’re like most people, you have probably set dozens of goals in your life. From trying to lose weight and getting rid of household clutter to wanting to get a better job and/or freeing yourself from credit card debt, it’s fairly easy to come up with at least one personal goal at any given time.

While thinking up goals you want to reach is pretty simple, achieving them is much more difficult. Why? Inevitably, a variety of issues will arise that prevent us from reaching them. But in order to finally break through these barriers, it’s important to identify some common obstacles and determine ways to overcome them.

Now, No More “Buts”

As soon as you set a goal, the word “but” may pop into your head, trying to undermine your efforts. If you want to eliminate credit card debt, you might think, “But I’m already working so hard, how can I make more money?” or “But I owe so much, it will take too long to pay off my cards.” The best way to get rid of the “buts,” notes Inc.com, is to acknowledge them and then ignore and move past them.

Bumps in the Road

In addition to the negative voices inside your head that discourage you from reaching your goal, you will also encounter figurative and literal roadblocks along the way that can be challenging to overcome. For example, if you are trying to be more punctual to both social and professional occasions — because you understand being on time is a telltale sign of being reliable and responsible — it can be extremely frustrating to be late due to a traffic jam or flat tire.

While some of these bumps in the road are unpredictable, anticipate them ahead of time by taking proactive steps to avoid them in the first place. Check traffic on Google Maps before heading to work or a party, and if you see an accident or realize construction activity will cause delays, give yourself more time or plan another route altogether. If you rely on public transportation like I do in London and New York City, always add on an extra 15 minutes to your journey. There’s not much more you can control once you’re underground in the subway or tube.

Avoid the Naysayers

As SelfGrowth.com notes, the people that we are closest to will sometimes sabotage our goals. If you’re trying to eat healthier and lose weight, your closest friend might repeatedly encourage you to join her for ice cream. Or your spouse might come up with different reasons why earning that awesome work promotion will interfere with your home life.

In some cases, these folks are afraid your dedication to achieving your goal will turn you into a different person, so they may consciously or subconsciously try to discourage you. Unfortunately, because you genuinely love these people and usually listen to their advice, you might end up being influenced by their negative attitudes. To prevent this from happening, you might not want to share your goals with certain people, or remind yourself to ignore them, as they are being naysayers due to their own underlying fears.

So my heroes and she-roes, what barriers are you working through right now? Is there anyway that I can help or advice that I give? Tweet me @ReporterandGirl or post it on Facebook.

The Monday After

everything will be OK

Well wouldn’t you know that since my last post on procrastination, I followed through on my deadlines, as well as followed up on some things lingering in the pipeline. I managed my time more efficiently by checking emails only once a day and saving social media for the evenings, and solidly dedicating the day light hours to my projects. During the late nights, I would reward myself with a movie or TV shows on Amazon prime.

I’m still struggling everyday to discipline myself to keep up with the many things that I have to do; but progress has been made! If you missed my post, Waiting for Tomorrow, you can read it here for some ideas on coping with a long list of items and getting things done today.

In other news, the atmosphere in London has been quite weird the last couple days. Since the #Brexit vote, it is almost as if most of the tension has been relieved. In fact, the few people that I know who want the U.K to remain in the E.U, seemed nonchalant about the vote and replied that today (Friday) is a new day forward. These are literally the same people who were preaching about the impending doomsday if the country left.

Meanwhile, the folks who did vote to leave, were also reserved and responded about how this was just a new path and regaining control of their country. One particular quote sums it up, “the British love the concept of the E.U., but we do not like the way its being run.”

Where was all this level-headed reasoning last week, I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure these people out.

There’s also the concept of identity that someone brought up: she didn’t feel European– she’s British. I don’t know if this is a widespread cultural identity, as I can tell you that outside of Europe, the inhabitants of the United Kingdom are looked upon as Europeans. But I know that politically and economically, the U.K have been adopting some nonEuropean traits in the last two decades or so.

I know people are concerned about the future, as there is much happening in the global political arena. Right-wing populist movements such as UKIP in the U.K, LePen in France, Petry in Germany, many nationalist parties in the Balkans and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump in the U.S have been gaining quite a bit of momentum in 2016. Well from what I understand, many of these parties have had a presence (even if just a minor one) in the parliaments of these countries for decades; but 2016 seems to be the year that they all  gained significant influence.

Now, each country is complex and are dealing with their internal socioeconomic problems; but if we can focus on a common theme that have led to the rise of these groups, in a simple term: ISIS/ISIL.

This extremist group has been the centerpiece for immigration reform, foreign policy agendas, social policies of integration, domestic and foreign security policies, and human rights laws. As Westerners (and people in the Middle East and Africa), we’re afraid of this movement and the many policies and initiatives that have passed can be linked to our fears of Islamic extremism (I use this term, because even though there are other forms of extremism, our media and politicians have focused on this form. Thus, its  convenient to identify for anyone to reading this).

Immigration reform lately has been due to the displacement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, many countries are towing the line between humanitarian and security efforts. There are many debates about this around the globe from recipient countries of refugees.

Foreign policy agendas surrounding the question about how to fight a group that have taken recruitment and jihad ideology to an unprecedented level. We can’t put soldiers everywhere, we can’t bomb every town, or raid every house.

Integration: One thing that I will say about Europe (sorry, I mean the U.K) is that racial and class politics are very different here. Americans, you know our terrible history of segregation and the legacy that continues today. There are certain neighborhoods that we (whichever racial group you belong to) just do not go to. Most London neighborhoods are quite integrated– you can see just about anyone shopping for veggies at an African food market, or get this — I’m eating at Nigerian or Turkish restaurant and most folks there, are not of that ethnicity. However, there is still a problem of integrating immigrants in Europe, not just economically (think slums and ghettos) but also culturally. I’m first generation American, but I have never had another American question my “Americaness” to me. However, for Europeans even after 2 or 3 generations, they may not be considered “French” or “English” or “Danish”. Especially if they still hold an ethnic-sounding name. A French friend that I spoke with, said that these immigrants (mind you, 2nd or 3rd generation) should try to integrate. This is a complex problem which not just ties into immigration, but also how Europeans see themselves and others. And there are some academic literature which links cultural identity to young European-born Muslims who end up being recruited.

Domestic and foreign security – wire tapping, NSA, Patriot Act, collecting data from other countries about suspected terrorists? Yep, that’s a whole ‘nother post about every country that is trying to manage and catch every suspect, before they can do something lethal.

Human rights — another issue that can tie into everything mentioned above, but many countries are passing laws or initiatives that disproportionately have a negative effect on the Muslim community. For example,  France’s law to ban all head coverings/religious garments in public, the NYPD’s surveillance of a Mosque, Denmark’s proposal to seize the bank accounts/assets of Syrian refugees so they could “pay back” the government for  benefits. Many of these reactive initiatives or legislation do more to single out a group of people and “otherize” them, rather than get to the roots of the problem. Thick and deeply buried roots that no politician wants to dirty their hands with. Hence, the issues that I mentioned beforehand.

There are many political and social contexts of how nationalist-populist movements are taking shape from the Americas to the E.U.; my small analysis just looks at one factor, that cuts across different sectors, regions, and countries: the fear of ISIS/ISIL and how that fear has manifested itself to scapegoating, blaming, nationalism, divisive rhetoric, etc…and my last point on this: ordinary persons know that some far right-wing leaders are wrong and maybe immoral. I have spoken to Brits, who state they do not believe in 95% of UKIP’s ideology but voted for them because of “uncontrolled immigration”. Likewise, many people do not agree with Donald Trump, but feel his solutions “to keep us safe” are the best solutions possible. Thus, people seem to be voting for these leaders for the 1% of things that they promise, which is indirectly/directly related to fear of the rising ISIS ideology. They are also ignoring the 99% of problematic and divisive politics, maybe thinking that the ends justify the means.

The politics of fear is a driving force for the electorate in many countries and it is beyond left or right wing politics. However, I will say that no strong country is born out of fear, but out of hope. And I’m optimistic that Monday after the Brexit, British and Europeans will still maintain this hope for new separate but mutually beneficial paths for both sides.

We’re at the end, share your thoughts, comments, questions, hopes and dreams with me! I am on twitter @ReporterandGirl or you can post on my wall on Facebook.

 

Waiting for Tomorrow

procrastination, S.C. Rhyne, the reporter and the girl

I came to the realization this week that I’m not going to be able to solve the world’s problems, and that most problems are very complex.

Surprise!

I’ve worked in politics and grassroots advocacy for fairer housing, health, and education policies in New York City; but it’s nothing like doing so in developing countries. Silly me for even trying. So now I have a literature review due this week, and all the ideas in my head are roaming, but I lack the energy to put them into coherent sentences on paper.

In other words, I’m procrastinating.

I love and hate deadlines: they keep things on track, but I don’t necessarily get a rush having to do things under pressure at the eleventh hour, although I have to admit some bright ideas do come out at the eleventh hour.

So knowing me I set some early deadlines to get started this weekend, and I swear I’ll get started once I finish this post. I know I’m not the only one who seems to wait until the last minute for things, so I wanted to find out from other folks what their experiences are and how they cope.

New Attitude

procrastination

If I can wake up every morning with this attitude, it would help me move forward items/projects. I mean hey, no one expected Rome to be built in a day — so it’s very feasible to take things one step at a time each day. But it has to be everyday, otherwise the night before the deadline will feel like running a marathon. So, I’m going to go back to list-making. I love writing things down and having a to-do list where I can cross-off items, helps me feel organize.

When I’m in my mindset — I can cross through an entire list within a couple hours– “Oh hey! Its lunchtime already”? This usually means that all the problems, worries, things to-do were not that big or time-consuming to deal with. I already started by adding key to-do things on my calendar this week. I live and die by my online calendar as it sends reminders to my phone/laptop/email. So once you adopt this new attitude, figure out a system that helps you to take baby steps everyday!

*Tip* Be specific. There’s a different between “I’ll start my report tomorrow” vs ” I’ll outline my three main points over lunch”.

Stuff Keeps Coming Up

The story of our lives. Even the most mundane life that is centered around Star Wars and and Comic Con will have something interrupt and demand for our precious time. Well procrastinators — let’s be honest, how much of these “really important things” are you looking rather than issues that come out of the blue? Don’t tell me you were about to sit down in front of the computer– when all of sudden– you noticed how dirty the top of your cupboards were and needed to take a half-hour to address that immediately.

The truth is, we all have things that come up: family, work, emergencies, friends, enemies, mini-crises, drama, terrors, and tragedies. Especially the later, sometimes when life hits you– it makes you feel like you just don’t want to “deal”. This weekend’s tragedy in Florida is a perfect example of this.

Unfortunately, everyone will have at least one problem/event everyday whether it is a single mother living in rural South Sudan or a wealthy banker living in London. All of our daily struggles are different but real; however we must persevere on! Deal, grieve, solve, or mediate with your family, tragedy, emergency, in-laws…then return to the drawing board.

I’m Not Good Enough

At the risk of sounding like a psychotherapist– this can be the crux of the matter for many procrastinators. We think, dwell, ponder, formulate, redraw, overthink, cry, breakdown, and manage to put something together at the final hour that everyone loves and applauds.

This is an emotionally taxing cycle to have to endure in any work/school lifestyle. We worry about the results not being perfect, and spend days or weeks stressing and feeling guilty for putting things off (I have even done this for months). Unfortunately, I don’t have any straight-forward advice about this except to say that we are all our own worst critics. So let’s be kinder to ourselves; the next time you start something or cross off an item on your list, congratulate yourself! Congratulate yourself everyday whether its with a little social media time, a drink at the pub, or even some ice cream (well, maybe not ice cream everyday…). The point is, you have adopted a new attitude and renewed your motivation to finish a project– today you laid the foundation and tomorrow you’ll be putting up the frame.

Hi, my name is S.C Rhyne and I am a procrastinator. About 1 in 5 people are chronic procrastinators, so I know I’m not alone. So how do you cope with the many things in life that you need to get done?

Tell me on Facebook or twitter, or you can even post it on my Google Plus page!

 

 

Balling on a Budget: Keeping Your Social Life Lively

S.C. Rhyne, the reporter and the girl, interracial blog, hiking, group of friend hiking, outdoors, outdoor adventure

Maintaining a flourishing and lively social life might seem near impossible on a budget, but it’s nothing a little imagination, creativity and open-mindedness can’t fix. Especially now that I’m living in a new city and I’m not working full time, but still want to exist in society! Below are budget-friendly and social ideas to inspire your next gathering.

The Great Outdoors

Spending time outdoors with friends is an inexpensive way to get together while enjoying nature and getting active. Explore the local hiking trails looking for waterfalls, swimming holes, panoramic views and unique wildlife. If you and your friends want to enjoy nature in a more laid back manner, picnics are a great way to get together. Pack a huge blanket, food, drinks, Frisbee, football, and a portable speaker to listen to your favorite music while lounging around and enjoy each other’s company. Picnic at the beach to get some sun and take advantage of activities the ocean offers, like swimming and body surfing. When spending time outdoors stay hydrated, apply sunscreen and protect your eyes with high-quality sunglasses.

Museums and Art Galleries

If you’re looking to soak up culture and history, a night at the museum or a visit to an art gallery are affordable options. Start by checking your local community events calendar for museums that offer discounts or even free admission on certain days. Most art galleries are donation based or offer discounted entrance fees if you’re a student, teacher or in the military. If you’re looking to get dressed up, sip on wine and be art critics for the night, visit a gallery on opening night for a new experience.

Spicing Up a Night In

Spice up the night-in with your friends or bae! Instead of meeting at a restaurant, have a potluck where everyone invited brings their favorite appetizer, entree, side dish or dessert. Rather than racking up a hefty bill at the bar, invite your friends over for a game night, asking everyone to bring their favorite beverage. Movie tickets cost $12 or more (not including concessions), having a movie night at home with a projector, white bed sheet hanging on the wall, sleeping bags, huge pillows and tons of snacks, bumps up the experience from “Netflix and chill” to a romantic night-in.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled for Deals

No matter how frugal you aim to be, sometimes you get an unavoidable urge to try a new restaurant, grab a few drinks or try a new activity with your friends. For those moments, hunt for bargains and scope out the best happy hours. When going out for drinks, hit your local brewery instead of the bar to avoid paying more than you should for a beer. At a brewery, you’ll find pints priced between $2 and $4, saving you money and providing you a more authentic experience. When visiting your favorite eateries, find out when happy hour is to save money on drinks, appetizers and even select entrees.

If you’re like me and are new to a city, here’s a great and cheap way to try an activity and meet new people. Many social groups will do free activities together, or if you join a group, you may pay an annual fee that covers most of the expenses for the group’s activities. Either way, living large doesn’t have to cost a lot; at least that’s what I’m learning now. So what are your tips for being social without going broke?

Please! Share all your ideas and the name of your accountant with me on Facebook or @ReporterandGirl. You can also circle me on G+.

Doing the Things that Scare You

believe in yourself, facing fear, S.C. Rhyne, the reporter and the girl, goals, challenging yourself, reaching goals, overcoming fear

We all know that life has its challenges at every stage. And while not all challenges are equal (the problem of having to evacuate your home due to war or natural disaster versus not being able to pay a credit card bill) they do make us who we are and can affect the way we look at the world.

Well, a lot of those challenges are scary. I, like most people, would rather not face them and just let things be…Don’t. Rock. The. Boat. However, our biggest test of integrity, character, and loyalty are never during calm waves.

So why shake things up? Whether you had enough at work or enough at home, or its come down to some ultimatum and you need to choose — sometimes you have to do the thing that scares you the most.

Overcome your worst enemy — You

Yes, you are. I know you read the self-help books about “loving yourself better”, but really when it comes to taking the big risks in life, sometimes we are our own worst enemy. We stay in denial (I’m still avoiding this month’s bank statement); we brood, procrastinate, and yes even put ourselves down. But honestly, how many people in your life have explicitly told you that you CAN’T do something? Now, take that very short list and order it by the one who is constantly saying it the most. I’m sure the number one spot is YOU.

Overcoming your enemy means having to face yourself and confront why you may be self-sabotaging. Simply put– you can’t move forward, if you’re holding  yourself back.

Life is too short to die with regrets

Why are you alive?

I don’t know why I’m alive today. I wish I could say that there is a higher calling for me, but a mix of luck and fate has brought me to today, May 29, 2016. I don’t know if it will extend tomorrow. I could have easily died in a car crash years ago or end up as one of those missing college co-eds…what I’m basically saying is that unless you live locked up in a padded room, you’ll never know when your ticket is up. There’s nothing you can do to prevent that. So, if you had 6 days left to live, could you look back and say that you lived life to the fullest and have no regrets?

If you hate your job, quit it. If you want to go somewhere, go. If you want to date/marry someone, ask him/her. If you want to break up, talk to him/her. If you need to talk, then talk. The time will never “be right”, but the time is now. I know it sounds too simple, but the truth is you already know what needs to be done, so stop waiting.

Your breakthrough will inspire others

Everyone has bullshit in their life that they can very well do without. Even that guy with the really green lawn that half the neighborhood is always talking about “crossing over to”. What they forget to mention is that although his grass is greener, the roof is caving in (and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have shitty lawn problems, than a leaky roof). However, not everyone deals with their problems in the same way.

Your breakthrough can inspire someone else to get out of their rut. It dares them to challenge themselves, “If Bob can do it, why can’t I?!” When I first started my blog, I was nervous about putting a very vulnerable part of me on the internet for people to critique or outright lambast. But nearly four years later, I can say it is the most rewarding thing I have chosen to do, and I didn’t even want to do it in the first place. Its even more rewarding when I can tell you how many other folks I know who also started blogging since I did, or even those curious in publishing too.

But heck, even if Joe doesn’t start to water his lawn like his neighbor, at least you have the triumph of defeating all the nay-sayers and haters who didn’t think you had the balls to do it: yourself.

So, let’s start small. If you can change something in your life, in the next 24 hours — what will (not could, but will) you do?

Tell me @ReporterandGirl or on Facebook.