Dylann Roof is mentally ill.

Those who claim that only people of color are labeled "thugs" don't seem to realize that the type of situations for which this label is given differs from what happened in South Carolina.

For example, when Aaron Alexis shot up the Navy Yard, I don't recall him being slapped with the "thug" label — I recall "mental illness" being thrown around. To me, that makes sense.

When Miriam Carey crashed her car into a White House checkpoint then sped down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., I don't recall her being labeled a "thug." Again, mental illness was the topic of discussion surrounding what happened.

Both these Alexis and Carey were people of color.

I've heard the term "thug" used in reference to protests and riots (committed by a small number of individuals in comparison to the number of peaceful protestors whose actions were unfortunately not publicized as much as those who looted and rioted) in Ferguson and Baltimore.

Protest and riots are not what occurred in the cases involving Dylann Roof, Aaron Alexis and Miriam Carey. These three individuals are/were mentally ill.

I've heard people saying that if a person of color had committed the same crime Dylann Roof committed, he or she would have been labeled a "thug." However, I don't think that would be the case. But hey, that's just my opinion.

Osama bin Laden's death fixes...what?

Osama Bin Laden.
Around 10:30 p.m. last night, an important message was broadcasted to the nation: Osama bin Laden was dead.

Although many seemed excited about the news, I felt mixed emotions towards it. Bin Laden is deadnow what?

As of Aug. 10, 2010, there have been over 19,629 causalities and 48,644 injuries in the War in Afghanistan since 2001 and millions of dollars have gone into the 10-year-hunt of one manBin Ladenand the cost of the war is continuously rising, as seen below, showing that even though we've captured public enemy number one, the effects of the effort is continuing to harm our nation.

We can jump for joy and celebrate the death of a man who did cause the death of thousands of innocent Americans on Sept. 11, 2001, but what's the use? What has changed since 10:30 p.m. last night? Do Americans truly feel any safer now that Bin Laden is deceased? I don't.

Accepting Ignorance

Greek philosopher Socrates once said, "I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance," and this is something that I've learned to understand and accept, and what I believe many—if not all—people should realize.

Religion and science, two branches of "understanding" that people base their knowledge of life upon. Each makes up for what the other lacks in explaining how and why the world works the way it does. Although I come from a Christian family, was baptized, and used to go to church, my mom and dad never pushed religious teachings upon me. As a result, I was able to easily discover my own beliefs, which incorporate religion and science—I’m an agnostic theist.

What’s agnostic theism? The philosophical view that encompasses both agnosticism (the belief that there can be no proof either that God exists or that God does not exist) and theism (belief in the existence of a god or gods). As an agnostic theist, I believe that the proposition that at least one deity exists is true, but I also believe that this proposition is unknown or inherently unknowable.

The experiences, trials and tribulations I endured throughout the past four years of my life have "taught" me that there are no clear-cut answers or explanation s to anything, and that even if they are just that, there is no way for us to know.

For example, the things that science "teaches" us may not even be what it authentically is—maybe it's just a minuscule portion of a larger, more elaborate and complex phenomena that we as human beings will never be able to grasp in our minds.

I feel as though there is some higher form of power, but unlike people whose religions provide characteristics and traits of their deity or deities, I do not have a description of the power in which I believe. Why? Because there's no indisputable proof for me to base such a statement upon.

I don't look down upon people who hold beliefs that I find unreasonable, but I believe there comes a point when such people need to just admit to themselves that they do not actually know what they claim to know. Perhaps I am wrong, but the way I see it: the "knowledge" gained through religion is, in actuality, just hope—nothing more.

No matter how intelligent, knowledgeable, or enlightened someone claims to be, the truth is that it is impossible for someone to actually know or understand the raw truth behind life and all it contains. If everyone could just realize or admit this, I believe life would become at least somewhat less stressful.

Here is the bigger picture: although we believe we have control, or believe we are capable of gaining control, over things during our lifetime on earth, we ultimately have no way of controlling, or knowing how to control, what happens to us after we die.

Admit, accept, and just be. If ignorance is bliss, why would anyone chose not to live blissfully? I've realized and accepted this intrinsic ignorance, and I feel happier and less stressed than I did prior to this realization.

Facebook: increasing sadness, one user at a time

In a matter of only seven years, Facebook has become one of, if not the most, popular social networking site on the web. With approximately 500 million active users to date, this website has clearly become a part of a vast number of people's lives.

While it's fun to post pictures, information, and statuses about yourself—which some people believe is causing Facebook users to become narcissistic—many users overlook the popular social media website's negative effects that can have a major impact on the psyche and self-esteem of its users.

I read an article on that said, "Facebook makes us all sad because everyone is happy but us," and as I continued reading, I realized how much sense that statement makes.

Think about this: people generally showcase their accomplishments on Facebook rather than the hardships or failures they encounter, and if they do, they usually express them with self-deprecating humor; users are also able to un-tag themselves from unflattering pictures, and basically create a selective online identity.

Facebook users construct their identities by posting things like photos and statuses that display the good aspects of their lives rather than the bad, and their fellow users—referred to as "friends"—tend to wrongfully assume that their friends' lives are happier, or at least funnier, than their own.

Why is this? Overestimating the happiness of others is a human habit, as well as comparing oneself to others. So, if an unhappy Facebook user signs on to Facebook and sees their friends' funny, happy, and overall optimistic posts, that individual's sadness will most likely increase as they see how happy other people's lives appear to be on Facebook.

In a nutshell, seeing other people's happiness while we are unhappy just makes us feel even more alone in our sadness, and Facebook is an excellent way for a disheartened individual to feel even more down in the dumps.

Although a study conducted at Cornell University showed that "Facebook can have a positive influence on the self-esteem of college students" (Cornell University Press Release), that doesn't mean simply editing your profile will help you out of your depression.

What I recommend someone do if they're not having the best day is to not log on to Facebook, unless they're able to remind themselves that what their friends post online is only what they want other people to see. It doesn't mean that their lives are better or easier—in fact, they may even be dealing with the same issues as you, but to broadcast such things wouldn't fit the online identities they've created.

News Times article leads to false assumptions

Western Connecticut State University Police arrested 24-year-old Marcus Smith of Spring Street for trespassing on midtown campus around 8:30 p.m. after he was seen loitering outside Litchfield Hall.

I am aware that there are laws against loitering and trespassing, but what doesn't make sense to me is how an individual like Smith, who is roughly of college-age, is considered to be trespassing on a college campus at 8:30 p.m. outside of a residence hall, where friends of his could/probably live.

WCSU police station.
An article by the News Times reports that Smith has a history of run-ins with campus police but does not elaborate on that; the only detail the News Times provides is that "Smith was twice cited for loitering on campus [in 2009] and was arrested for first-degree criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor, following the second incident."

The News Times' article lacks any sort of insight as to what led to the incidents, and leaves me and I'm sure other readers as wellwondering: what is Smith doing to get himself into this kind of trouble, or why is he seemingly being targeted by campus police?

The News Times should have gathered and provided more information on Smith before publishing their article. I understand the urgency for newspapers to get stories out for the public as soon as they arise, but I do not believe they should publish a story with such vague factual statements that leave readers wondering and making possibly false assumptions on the subject.

Yale student's accidental death: a cautionary message to all

New Haven authorities received a call around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday about an accident at a Yale University chemistry lab machine shop in which Michele Dufault, a senior astronomy major, was killed inside when her hair was pulled into a piece of machine equipment.

The university told the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration that Dufault had been operating the machinery for a senior project when she died from accidental asphyxia by neck compression.

From Michele Dufualt's Facebook.
Remembered as "a living saint," "a math and science whiz," and "brilliant;" it seems as though Dufault was a young woman with very much potential in her future, but I wonder why such an amazing and intelligent individual--I mean, she did go to Yale after all--did not take precautionary measures while operating lab equipment and tie back her hair.

From wood-shop classes in middle school up to science classes in high school, one thing instructors have always drilled into students' heads is to tie back hair--along with roll up your sleeves, wear proper eye protection, etc. The machinery found in labs and work shops have always looked like rickety, complex contraptions to me, so I never risked the chance of injury when I'd use them.

Of course, there are people who either forget or just neglect to take precautionary measures when operating machinery, but for those who have used such machinery before--which I'm sure Dufault had, considering how she had been described as a "science whiz" and probably used such equipment before this one fatal incident--ignoring such measures to insure one's own safety does not make sense to me, no matter how familiar they are with the equipment.

It is clear that Dufault will be missed very much and as Yale Vice President Linda Lorimer announced, the university will be "[finding] ways in the next day to gather to celebrate her life and grieve her loss." However, I believe Dufualt's tragic and unfortunate death should also be seen as a warning to those who ignore or easily forget precautionary measures.

'Black? White? Asian? More Young Americans Choose All of the Above'

Photo from Today @ Colorado State website.
Susan Saulny recently wrote an article for The New York Times entitled "Black? White? Asian? More Young Americans Choose All of the Above" about the demographic shift in the United States due to immigration and intermarriage, which really interested me since I myself am of Jamaica, German, and Italian descent.

Saulny opened her article with coverage of how students from the Multiracial and Biracial Student Association at the University of Maryland played a game of "What Are You?" in which they picked apart their peers' every feature in an effort to guess their race, and then Saulny went on to address the significant changes and impacts that people of mixed races are having on our nation's demographics, culture, and society.

Among the interesting facts and statistics Saulny presented in her article include the fact that "the crop of students moving through college right now includes the largest group of mixed-race people ever to come of age in the United States[,] one in seven new marriages is between spouses of different races or ethnicities, according to data from 2008 and 2009, [...] multiracial and multiethnic Americans (usually grouped together as "mixed race") are one of the country's fastest-growing demographic groups [and that] experts expect the racial results of the 2010 census, which will start to be released next month, to show the trend continuing or accelerating."

However, the thing I found most interesting that Saulny pointed out in her article was how "many young adults of mixed backgrounds are rejecting the color lines that have defined Americans for generations in favor of a much more fluid sense of identity." For example, when individuals are asked to mark their race on forms such as the census, many mixed race Americans like Michelle López-Mullins, say that "it depends on the day, and it depends on the options" (Saulny). Saulny points out that this is just one way in which they are "using the strength in their growing numbers to affirm roots that were once portrayed as tragic or pitiable," and I can definitely understand and relate to this.

On forms where I am asked to mark my race, I always check off two boxes (even if the instructions clearly say to only mark one option) with "Black," "African-American," or "West Indian/Virgin Isander" and "white" or "Caucasian." The option of "other" is almost always available for me to check off, and many people say I should just mark that off as my race, but I do not see why I should have to resort to classifying myself as an "other" when my races are all clearly listed on a form.

Laura Wood, 19-year-old vice president of the Multiracial and Biracial Student Association made a very valid point when she said, "I think it's really important to acknowledge who you are and everything that makes you that. If someone tries to call me black I say, 'yes — and white.' People have the right not to acknowledge everything, but don’t do it because society tells you that you can't."

In other words, individuals of mixed race are "asserting their freedom to identify as they choose" (Saulny), and as Wood further explains, "society is trying to tear you apart and make you pick a side," and I do not believe that is fair, reasonable, or respectful to those of us who are not simply one race but are composed of two or more ethnicities and are, as I see it at least, walking examples of one of the American dreams.