Archive for February, 2008

Prayers for NIU Shooting

Yesterday, Stephen Kazmierczak, a master’s in social work student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a former sociology graduate student of Northern Illinois University, entered a lecture hall during a geology class and opened fire. Kazmierczak shot 21 people, killing 5, and wounding 7 critically. Afterwards, Kazmierczak turned the gun on himself and ended his 27 year life: The definition of a tragedy.

I may have more comments in the next few days but for now I believe it is proper to express several prayers to offer in the midst of the occurrences.

          I pray that Kazmierczak’s father, who is immensely struggling, can find peace and condolence. Although his son took the lives of others, his son also lost his on life. This, regardless of the circumstances is heavy on the heart of a father. This heaviness compounded with the sense of guilt he may have knowing that his son, his flesh and blood took the lives of others and has caused much grievance on the part of not only the families and friends directly involved, but everyone who hears this story. May God send peace to this father. May he be surrounded by those who will show him compassion love and condolence.

 

I also pray for Kazmierczak’s sister, who has not spoken on camera. I pray that she does not feel isolated. I pray that God allows her to find peace and refuge in him.

 

          I pray for the victims and their families and friends. For those who lost their lives in this tragedy I pray that God will give their families and friends a sense of understanding and strength. I pray that they will have the fellowships and relationships that the need in this juncture. And I pray that at some point, even in years from now they are given the ability to forgive. It is perhaps the biggest hindrance to redemption and health when we, in our humanness choose to stay attached to pain and begrudged towards those who have pained us.   

And for those who are injured, as well as their families and friends, I pray that they realize this same understanding and strength I pray upon those who have lost a loved one. I pray that they rejoiced in the they fact that life has not been taken from that and that in that rejoicing they may realize those things that are most valuable in life.  In addition I pray that they can rely on one another and be support for those who were less fortunate than them

          I pray for Kazmierczak’s girlfriend/roommate. I can’t imagine the thoughts, worries and perhaps guilt running through her mind. I pray that she can find a source of comfort and trust those that are close to her.

          I pray for NIU, UIUC and for colleges and universities around the nation. This incident is perhaps most frightening because it can occur anywhere. Even when all laws are followed, all checks are apparently in place on cannot always predict what will occur, or the seriousness of any incident. I pray that NIU and UIUC students, administration and faculty can bond together and support one another as both campuses deal with the seriousness and proximity of these events.

 

I pray that colleges and universities realize that events such as there are serious threats, but that in that realization that there is no need to become paranoid. In this life tragedy is apart of existence, to counter act it one must not live in fear, but understand how to overcome tragedy; Honoring those effected, yet conquering the fears that so easily plaque our minds.

AMEN

Starbucks, Walmart and Urban Renewal

Downtown Starbucks

I am usually very weary of most national chains (and some regional). I like it when the greatest about of my money winds up back into the community and city where I am shopping. I am not a complete elitist, my wife and I shop at Aldi and sometimes go to national/regional chain restaurants (though I do prefer to go to local restaurants).

Wal-Mart’s and  its other Big Box relatives will always frustrated me, and I don’t think that I will ever be convinced that that type of “downtown/community killing” business if beneficial for anyone in the long run. However, I was humbled by an article I recently read. In the article, Taylor Clark argues that rather than stifling the mom & pop coffee shop, that Starbucks actually enhances this local business. This happens because Starbucks creates a coffee culture where it there maybe other wise would have been. People know Starbucks is coffee and coffee is hip so more people go to coffee shops (even if not Starbucks).

 Clark clarifies his argument further by explaining the financial and social differences between Starbucks and the typical big box business.

 

In contrast to so-called “downtown killers” like Home Depot or Wal-Mart, Starbucks doesn’t enjoy the kinds of competitive advantages that cut down its local rivals’ sales. Look at Wal-Mart. It offers lower prices and a wider array of goods than its small-town rivals, so it acts like a black hole on local consumers, sucking in virtually all of their business. Starbucks, on the other hand, is often more expensive than the local coffeehouse, and it offers a very limited menu; you’ll never see discounts or punch cards at Starbucks, nor will you see unique, localized fare (or—let’s be honest—fare that doesn’t make your tongue feel like it’s dying).

 

Along this his argument, I think that fact that many Starbucks has figured out a way to be trans-locational also attributes to this positive relationship. Starbucks truly IS everywhere. Rural, Suburban, and Urban America all have Starbucks, but each store has meshed elements of branding and local flair. Most Starbucks look similar, but they are not as identical as Wal-Mart superstores. Some Starbucks are drive-ups, some have concrete slab parking lots, and some are urban and have only on street parking.

Starbucks can be developed along side efforts for downtown revitalization, as well as with neo-urbanism. Big Boxes just can’t too that and because of that they have to be isolated. Unlike Starbucks it is more typical for Big Box stores to be the only player in the game, rather than just the strongest player on a team.

 But, like many all-star players Starbucks still wants to dominate. Clark acknowledges that Starbucks still has a desire to take over the game, sometimes through intimidation.

 

. . . I hasten to point out that the company isn’t exactly thrilled to have this effect on its local competitors’ sales. Starbucks is actually trying to be ruthless in its store placements; it wants those independents out of the way, and it frequently succeeds at displacing them through other means, such as buying a mom and pop’s lease or intimidating them into selling out.

 In conclusion, I still don’t really like most national chains, mostly because of their Manifest Destiny attitude towards other businesses, but I do think that rightly utilized they are great assets to our economy and cities. Perhaps if more national chains work together with ethical community development and with local business (maybe we would see more urban/downtown “superstores” using vertical space rather than sprawling) the economy and society would have great benefits.

Clinton’s Comments on MLK & Johnson

I am slow to comment on this, but. . .

In my opinion, I don’t believe that Hilary Clinton’s charge that Martin Luther King Jr’s dream was further realized by Lyndon Johnson’s actions as a president were intended to comment on Martin Luther King’s blackness. I believe that the point was to place her self in the role of Lyndon Johnson, and saying that she is the candidate that, in the White house, would further the dream of MLK and contemporary Black Americans.

Clinton wanted to remind people that JFK’s hopefulness –she intentionally and explicitly mentioned JFK- did not, legislatively, help Black America, but rather it was Johnson’s stability that lead to legislative change. Since the germination of his candidacy, Barack Obama has been considered the reincarnation of JFK. Barack is young, Christian (but not evangelical), handsome, and full of hopeful speech (Superficially I think that this comparisons stand true, but as many have said in recent days, certain policies and tactics vary). Clinton seemed to be recycling back to this comparison and analogously suggesting that Obama (JFK) was, in the long run, not going to be a great a conduit for change than herself (Johnson).

Because of how I consider the nature of her words, I was not offended. However I was shocked the statement. Although I was not offended I knew that this was going to garner serious backlash. In the time where the elections were so racially heated there is no way she couldn’t have considered that this might meet with disapproval from both African-Americans and Euro-American (I believe from other ethnicities as well, but as profoundly).

But, this doesn’t mean that Clinton’s statements will not have race-specific implications. I will say that perhaps in the long run this will actually help Clinton. I don’t think she is as concerned with African-American voters as one would think because in the African-American community Obama is not the overwhelming favorite. Clinton is concerned with getting white voters who also want to see change occur and who would either immediately or eventually grasp the connection I believe she was trying to make.