The Benefits of Learning About Other Cultures

As far as we’ve come as nation, many Americans express fear, hatred, intolerance, or confusion towards other cultures. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, when someone has a fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners, he or she suffers from xenophobia. Sadly, xenophobia can lead to violence and discrimination.


America has been a “melting pot” since its inception, so for many Americans it may be surprising that such negative feelings towards other cultures can exist. Xenophobia can affect your neighbors, your family members, your friends, trusted officials in your community, and even you. Rather than fueling the harmful negativity, here are some benefits to learning about other cultures:

Reducing Xenophobia


When someone suffers from xenophobia, he or she likely feels hatred or fear towards strangers or foreigners because he or she is simply lacking accurate information about another culture. If more people took the chance to learn about different cultures, xenophobia could be less prevalent. For example, your neighbor may fear the Muslim family that just moved into the neighborhood. When you ask her why she’s so fearful and hateful, all of her feelings stem from what she perceives from the media. If your neighbor took the time to get to know the new family, she would most likely see that she shares some commonalities such as a love for gardening, cats, and reality television. One of the major problems of xenophobia is that many people are too “set” in their feelings that they aren’t willing to branch out and learn about other cultures.

Enhance Your Lifestyle


Think about some of your favorite cuisine. Without cultural influence, your daily food options would be pretty boring. Love the artistry of sushi or the rich, comforting flavors of Indian food? You can thank other cultures for the variety in your life. Not only can other cultures make for a more colorful dining experience, but learning about other cultures is interesting and can broaden your views on everything from food to clothing to religion and politics.

Learn How to Interact with Other Cultures


Some people, who are xenophobic, base their negative feelings off of how they perceive the actions of strangers. For instance, some Asian cultures do not use direct eye contact and many Americans may view that as a sign of disrespect, where in fact it is a way of showing respect. Cultural differences can cause a lot of misunderstandings and may lead to irrational feelings of hate and fear. You may gain a better understanding of nonverbal communication by simply taking the time to learn about another culture. However, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t assume that everyone of a certain culture is the same (as Americans are not all the same).

See the World Through Another Person’s Eyes


By taking the time to learn about someone’s cultural background, you may have a better understand of their life. For example, many people assume that refugees and immigrants come to the U.S. for “free” things, but in reality many of them are escaping a war torn country. Learning about another culture can open your mind, your heart, allow you to express empathy, and reevaluate your own life and culture.


resolving conflict

Resolving Conflict

Whether we read a seemingly endless thread of conflicting comments about a news article, watch a political debate on television, listen to parents and referees arguing at a Little League game, or even if you can’t agree with your family about what to order for dinner, conflict is present in our daily lives, it’s a natural part of life, and humans have been hardwired for conflict since the beginning of time. Although conflict is natural, it can be upsetting, unhealthy, and make our world an unsafe place to live. So it is important that we focus on resolving conflict. 

Why Resolving Conflict is Important


If disagreements are part of life and everyone is entitled to their own opinions, why is resolving conflict so important? While many people would avoid conflict altogether out of fear of argument, addressing conflict doesn’t need to be a bad thing. Conflict resolution is important to consider in our daily lives, whether in the workplace or in personal relationships. Here are a few reasons why resolving conflict is important:


  • Gain a Better Understanding: When you take the time to engage in conflict resolution, you are not only showing empathy, but you are gaining a better understanding about a person or the world around you. Understanding that there are multiple sides to every story is valuable.



  • Strengthening Relationships: Many people don’t think they can have a healthy relationship with someone that they disagree with, but only surrounding yourself with people who share the viewpoints can be very isolating. Think of your own relationships at work and in your family. Do you agree with them all of the time? Learning how to resolve conflict in a healthy and peaceful way can result in stronger relationships and can also open you up to making new relationships.




  • Being a Good Role Model: Whether you have children or young people in your life, you want them to have their opinions respected, having healthy relationships, and engage peacefully with others. If you are successful at resolving conflict, you are being a good role model and are more likely to raise children who are successful at resolving conflict.


How to Resolve Conflict


Anyone has the capability to resolve conflict, but it takes patience, practice, and dedication. Here are the steps to resolving conflict:



  • Understanding the Conflict: If you don’t understand the conflict, you won’t get very far. Think about why the conflict may be happening, how it affects you, and want you’d like to see come from the resolution




  • Communicate with Those Who Oppose: It’s important to communicate calmly, fairly, and give everyone a chance to speak his or her mind (regardless if you agree or not). You don’t need to agree, but you need to listen and give everyone a chance.



  • Brainstorm: Conflict resolution is like an ongoing project. In addition to seeing all the sides, you need to brainstorm any and all possible resolutions, keeping an open mind.



  • Choosing the Best Resolution: Choosing the best resolution may seem like an argument waiting to happen, but pick the resolution that will benefit everyone. If you can’t decide, ask a third party or seek advice from someone who is not facing the same conflict.



Marijuana Contributing to Increase of Highway Deaths?

Without a doubt, marijuana use is controversial and with more states legalizing marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, it’s important to continue to be aware of any potential dangers on our roadways. In states, where marijuana use is legal, there’s a greater chance that more drivers will be under the influence. Even more controversial is whether or not marijuana use contributes to the increase of car accidents and roadway deaths.


It’s illegal to drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol in all states. Marijuana, whether legal or not, is treated like any other drug and drivers can be faced with DUI offenses. Although DUI charges are usually given to drivers who are under the influence of alcohol, it is an offense that can be given to any driver who is under the influence of any drug, including but not limited to prescription drugs, legal and illicit drugs.

Drivers Testing Positive for Marijuana Use


There’s a significant increase in the number of drugged drivers on our roads, particularly with the increase of prescription painkillers dispensed and the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana. Despite the possible positive effects these various drugs are having on people’s health and wellbeing, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that drugged driving is on the incline while drunk driving is on the decline; though both, particularly together, are still very risky and potentially fatal.


Recent studies show that 40% of fatally-injured drivers tested positive for drugs, which is about the same as the number of fatally-injured drivers who tested positive for alcohol. It is important to note, however, that drivers who test positive for THC (found in marijuana) may not be “high” at the time of the crash, unlike alcohol related crashes where drivers have a more accurate BAC. THC can stay in one’s system for hours, days, and even weeks.

Should Marijuana and Alcohol Be Treated Differently?


Many people feel strongly about how marijuana use should be charged, others are on the fence. Given that marijuana and alcohol have the ability to impair one’s ability to drive it is important to come up with appropriate offenses, but since both can affect drivers so differently they shouldn’t necessarily have the same testing or offenses. The statistics surrounding drivers who test positive for marijuana, drug use, and alcohol aren’t completely clear, some of them are lumped together, making data less accurate.


Here are some recommendations how each state, whether a legal marijuana state or not, can make decisions about how to treat drugged driving or how to teach drivers of all ages about driving under the influence.


  • Planning: Current data should be assessed to understand what is happening now. Older data can be helpful, but it’s difficult to get a clear picture of what is happening if the data is not relevant.



  • Laws: Every law needs to be revisited and reexamined from time to time. For example, if a state that has recently legalized marijuana for medicinal use, that state will want to revisit their drugged driving laws and make sure it’s up to date (how they will incorporate medical marijuana).



  • Training and Testing: Law enforcement, particularly those responsible for patrolling the roads and pulling people over, should be trained in what drug impairment looks like and even smells like. Focusing on the differences between alcohol impairment and marijuana impairment. Additionally, all fatally-injured drivers should be tested for the presence of drugs and the crash data should be tracked separately from alcohol.


3 Diseases We No Longer Have to Worry About Thanks to Vaccines

The vaccine is a modern miracle. First discovered in 1796 by Edward Jenner, this disease fighting technique is the product of hard science, thorough testing, and a long communications battle. Vaccines work using a counterintuitive trick. Scientists give the human body a weakened or dead version of a specific pathogen, which the body’s immune system uses as both target practice and research; your systems develops resistance techniques and learns from its battles. Then, when the virus attacks for real, your body has the skills and knowledge to fight it off.


Neat, huh? But vaccines aren’t just an interesting science experiment. They are one of public health’s most important weapons. Vaccines have eradicated many once-lethal and near-ubiquitous diseases from the modern world. Think of these diseases the next time you realize that, well, you don’t ever need to think about these diseases.


Between the late 19th century and the mid 50s, roughly 35,000 people developed polio, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Polio was a terrifying childhood disease, causing meningitis, paralysis, and even death. And it hit children. Polio was one of the America’s most serious public health crises until the advent of the vaccine in the 1950s. And this vaccine has been incredibly effective. As of this writing, not a single case of polio has been reported in the United States since 1979.


The smallpox vaccine has been called “one of the greatest achievements in human history” by medical professionals. Prior to vaccine, smallpox killed millions of people. Ancient Rome, ancient China, Africa, and Europe were all hit by the disease. Smallpox killed entire cultures when Europeans introduced it the Americas. Smallpox is a nasty disease. Sufferers develop rashes, lesions, and fevers. 30% of people infected with die, usually within the first few weeks. Or at least they to. Thanks to vaccines, this horrifying disease, which wreaked havoc on our species for nearly two thousand years, is gone. It’s simply gone. The last case of smallpox (not including one from a lab accident the following year) was reported in 1977. The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared smallpox dead in 1980. The only remaining  copies exist in a few labs for research purposes, and officials have often discussed killing even those.


Measles still exists in the world, and in 2013 killed about 16 people an hour, according to WHO. And most of its victims were not even five years old. But in most industrialized countries, people do not have to worry about measles. Prior to widespread vaccination programs that began in 1980, 2.6 million people died every year from measles. That simply is not the case any more. The measles vaccine is incredibly effective and saves countless children from a terrible disease every year. The only danger most people in the industrialized world most people face is parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, due to fear-mongering spread by anti-science conspiracy theorists.  


One year after Newtown

One Year After Newtown: Guns & Children

One year after Newtown

Letting Go

In the days and weeks immediately after the December 14, 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook  Elementary School when 20 elementary school children and 6 adults were killed by a gunman, cries for stiffer gun control laws reached a fever pitch.  The screams to leave gun laws alone or even to relax them were just as loud.  Seemingly everyone had an opinion from the President, to politicians on both sides of the aisle, to gun lobby groups, to gun control advocacy groups, to parents of Sandy Hook victims, to other moms and dads.  Even children weighed in on the issue.  It is now a little over a year since the shooting.  Sandy Hook is no longer regularly making national headlines.  Sound bites from the National Rifle Association no longer top the evening news.  It seems as if little has changed in the last 12 months.  Or has it?

Changes in State Law

While Congress did not make any changes to gun control laws, state legislatures did.  In the year since Sandy Hook, over 114 measures were passed that affected state gun laws.

Strengthening Gun Control

Eleven states, plus the District of Columbia passed laws that strengthened gun control.  Two states made it harder to carry guns in public.  Eighteen states and the District of Columbia passed laws that made it easier for the government to track guns.  For example, Maryland and New York now require that lost or stolen firearms be reported, and Rhode Island makes it illegal to tamper with identification marks on firearms.  Fifteen states strengthened mental health restrictions related to gun ownership.   California, for example, now requires psychotherapists whose patients threaten violence to report the threats, and Colorado requires that mental health records be reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Weakening Gun Control

Twenty-nine states passed laws that made it easier for people to own guns and carry them in public places such as schools, bars, and casinos.  Twenty-six states added laws that strengthened the ability to carry concealed firearms in public.   Seven states now allow guns to be carried in schools.  For example, Alabama now allows school security personnel and resource officers to carry firearms, and Oklahoma allows handguns in private schools and on private school buses.  Alabama, Alaska, Kansas and Missouri all passed laws that prohibited state officials from enforcing certain aspects of federal gun control laws or nullified federal gun control laws.

A Kansas city personal injury attorney remarks that clearly most people believe that the gun violence in the United States needs to stop.  No one wants even one more child injury from gun violence.  No one wants a repeat of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Columbine High School, the Aurora, Colorado movie theater, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, or the Tucson, Arizona Safeway.  However, people disagree on the most effective way to stop the gun violence.  Some believe that fewer guns in society will result in fewer shootings.  Others believe that more guns in the hands of lawful citizens will result in fewer gun deaths by criminals.  What types of policies do you believe will have a meaningful affect on gun violence in the United States?