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September 2018

Artificial Intelligence: An Investment in the Future

in Miscellaneous/Science & Technology by

On September 7th, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) unveiled its next large investment: artificial intelligence. DARPA plans to invest close to $2 billion dollars in a program known as “AI Next.” The promise? DARPA director Steven Walker wants to “transform computers from specialized tools to problem-solving partners.”

DARPA, which leads research for the U.S. Department of Defense, announced its plan during its 60th Anniversary Conference, marking a landmark date in both the history of defense and the transition towards artificial intelligence. Authorized by President Eisenhower in 1959, DARPA’s desire to pour resources into the development of artificial intelligence is beneficial to the US, especially as rival countries such as China, India and France have begun prioritizing AI. The goal of DARPA is to match the methods that humans learn to how AI can process information. Once this is attainable, basic functions such as making a bed or tying shoelaces (Nike has already introduced this) can be done with the press of a button or a word spoken. Personally, I believe that the nation should seriously consider allocating as much as possible towards fueling the artificial intelligence boom. The economy is moving towards technology, and in order to remain globally competitive, investing in artificial intelligence is key.

By increasing the usage of artificial intelligence, basic tasks and impossible problems alike can be done easily. DARPA should continue its research and  pursue an eventual goal of making artificial intelligence a staple in every future American household.

 

https://money.cnn.com/2018/09/07/technology/darpa-artificial-intelligence/index.html

https://www.afcea.org/content/darpa-pumps-2-billion-next-gen-ai

https://bgr.com/2018/09/07/darpa-artificial-intelligence-2-billion-investment/

 

The Psychological Horrors of Family Separation

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

It has been 53 days since July 26th, the date on which separated families at the border were supposed to be reunited. So, why are we still talking about it?  

Despite the myriad of promises from the Trump White House about reuniting these families, many still remain apart, wondering if they will see their loved ones ever again.

The backlash sparked by the Trump administration’s “Zero Tolerance Policy” and the forced parting of parents and children garnered national attention and outrage. It seemed that wherever you looked, you couldn’t help but see some mention of children being put into cages, screaming and crying for their parents. Horrific reports of abuse and mistreatment in detention centers and harrowing depictions of children forced to defend themselves in courts of law emerged as the summer went on. But, as time dragged on and the sensationalism of the story disappeared, so did the outrage.

The articles and anger can still be found, but they are few and far between. Without the considerable weight of the American public, I wonder if the current administration will make good on its promise to reunite all families.

Even if all those separated are returned to each other, the consequences of the current administration’s actions will live long beyond the policy and anger it sparked. Videos of children who no longer trust their parents, believing they gave them up and sent them away to the detention centers, have gone viral. But those feelings can’t last long, right?

Charles Nelson, a pediatric professor at the Harvard Medical School, has done extensive research on the effects of long term separation on children’s brains. Citing research based off a 2000 study done in Romania, Nelson and his colleagues found disturbing differences in the brains of children separated from their families compared to the brains of those who had not been separated.

Children separated from their families at a young age had “much less white….and gray matter,” the fibers that transmit information throughout our bodies, as well as the brain-cells that process and solve problems. Nelson compares the brain to a lightbulb saying: “it’s as though there was a dimmer that had reduced [their brains] from a 100-watt bulb to 30 watts.” These children scored lower on IQ tests, and seemed unable to react to stress. Simply put, our brain cells do not regrow and repair the damaged areas in the same way that the rest of our body does.

Why does the brain begin to malfunction? Contact is incredibly important to us as humans–we literally need to touch and have skin-to-skin contact with other humans in order grow and thrive. The sense of safety and comfort that comes from our families supports this, allowing us to grow emotionally, physically, and mentally. Children separated from a young age lose this sense of security, and their brain develops differently. According to Lisa Fortuna, the medical director for child and adolescent psychiatry at Boston Medical Center, “the part of the brain that sorts things into safe or dangerous does not work…things that are not threatening seem threatening.

These consequences are seen not only in the immigration populations in the US, but also in children separated from their parents due to divorce, foster care, death, or any other extreme scenario that forces family separation. According to Susan Hois, a Child Developmental Specialist, family separation causes slower development of linguistic abilities and higher anxiety and depression rates. The loss of control and general feeling of helplessness makes children more likely to act in ways detrimental to both themselves and others. PTSD is also more likely to form in children who have been separated from their parents–the younger the child and the longer the separation, the more likely an extreme reaction.

It has been 53 days since all the families were supposed to be reunited. The longer that the current administration waits to reunite families, the more likely the mental strain on these innocent children. The long term effects of these actions will have a profound impact on our society, especially concerning we have created a generation that has grown up with these traumatic memories. The Trump administration has ensured a legacy that will long outlive their time in the White House–the psychological effects produced by the separations will take a lifetime to undo, if not more.

 

Why I’m Supporting Lizzie Pannill Fletcher For U.S. Congress

in Contemporary Politics/Miscellaneous by

The other day, while at a Lizzie Fletcher campaign event, I heard someone ask a very interesting question: “What makes Houston different?” It’s a question I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about—and the answer to that is ultimately what convinced me to support Lizzie Fletcher for Congress.  I believe, ultimately, Houston’s people distinguish it from just about any other place in the world. Our people, in many ways, are largely divided. Politically, socially, and linguistically, Houston’s community is a heterogeneous blend of cultures. Yet this is true of a lot of places. However, what sets Houston apart is how these differences enrich and strengthen our community. We’re approaching the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, but its effects still linger: as we continue to recover from the storm, I still feel that sense of unity—despite our differences—remains pervasive in Houston. Harvey highlighted the mindset of a Houstonian pretty directly; it’s one that treats people with dignity regardless of the color of their skin, how they vote, or what language they speak. That attitude makes Houston different.  And this election is different.

This election is about more than voting Republican or Democrat. This election is about more than signaling a referendum on President Trump. This election is about Houston, our city, and the values it wants to convey to the rest of the country—because Houston has a storied history of leading the country. Our unparalleled doctors and nurses in the medical center lead America’s medical community. Our ingenious scientists at NASA lead the world in space exploration. Our city, made up of people from all different backgrounds, leads the country in diversity. We deserve a leader who can reflect the needs and values of our city instead of those of a political party. We deserve a leader who can bring Houston’s spirit of leadership to Washington DC. We deserve a leader who is not afraid to vote to protect our children from being shot at their schools. We deserve a leader who is willing to listen to the scientists who warn a that worse version of Hurricane Harvey could hit Houston if we do not address global warming. We deserve a leader that’s for Houston.

Instead, we have a representative who shows us again and again that he stands with his party before his city. Representative Culberson voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act—choosing to stand with his party instead of the thousands of Houstonians who rely on that bill for quality healthcare. Culberson’s record raises important questions. Why does our representative vote nearly 100% of the time with a President who our district voted against? Why does the elected official of the most diverse city in America have an F from the American Civil Liberties Union but an A from the NRA? Congressman Culberson has consistently used his seat in Congress to benefit his party instead of his constituency. It’s time to elect a congresswoman that will serve Houstonnot a political party.

Lizzie Fletcher will serve Houston before her party. It’s all in her catchphrase: “We need a little more Houston in Washington D.C.”

The Constitutional Argument for Sanctuary Cities

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

Imagine you have two undocumented immigrants who enter the country and settle down in a certain city. One of them, a 27 old male named Joseph, illegally entered the country seeking a no skill needed minimum wage job to support himself and his family back home. Unable to find a secure job in his hometown, he emigrated to the states in hopes of finding a stable source of income. The other is a 24 year old female named Jane who came to the US illegally in an effort to escape government corruption in her home country. Anyways, last week, Joseph was pulled over for a traffic violation and was brought into the local police station because he did not have a valid driver’s license. He was identified in the federal database and ICE was alerted. Also that week, Jane was arrested for theft and was similarly identified in the federal database; ICE was alerted. Under federal law, both these people should be detained and deported back to their home countries. However, it’s entirely unjust that a man who was charged with a harmless traffic violation receives the same penalty as the woman who committed a felony. Some cities today back this idea, calling themselves sanctuary cities, and choose to only honor federal immigration law to a certain degree. While the federal government and the Trump administration seems to target these sanctuary cities because they interfere with the larger scheme of mass deportation, municipal governments in these cities choose to not help with the enforcement of federal law.

This presents us with a conflict of interests. On one hand, the federal government is strictly pushing for the defunding of these sanctuary cities, while select municipal governments fight for their right to be free of federal control. So who should have the final say?

The constitution declares that the power ultimately falls to the state — or a city — under the 10th amendment. Author Ilya Somin of The Washington Post supports this claim in his article, “Trump Can’t Stop the Sanctuary Movement,” stating that regardless of the federal government’s pressure on a municipal government, the city is free to carry on with their plans (without facing consequences from the federal government). He cites a Supreme Court case, New York v. United States, to show that rulings have been made saying that it is illegal for federal governments to take control of state governments in order to execute their will. He continues to suggest that, although Trump’s threats of defunding of sanctuary cities may seem looming, they are in fact much more harmless because the federal government does not have the ability to simply cut off funding because they disagree with a state’s views.

His claims appear to be generally unbiased and well-supported, but lean more toward support of the state’s ability to execute their will over the requests of the federal government. He acknowledges the argument toward federal powers having the final say over the matter, but argues against it with constitutional support and relevant court rulings.

Furthermore, although Somin’s argument is structured around the theoretical inability of the federal government to interfere with state affairs, another article published by The New York Times examines a specific case: Trump’s attempted interference in the sanctuary city movement. Author Peter Markowitz discusses the Justice Department’s lawsuit against California, which is centered against 3 California laws that basically outline their sanctuary laws. He says the case is based off a similar case in which Arizona changed their legislation to one that did not require state police to aid federal efforts to enforce immigration laws. The lawsuit against California mirrors that lawsuit; if Arizona is not allowed to interfere in federal immigration enforcement, California shouldn’t either. He argues that California is not impeding federal enforcement of immigration laws, but simply taking themselves out of the equation, which he believes to be absolutely legal.

The choice to integrate sanctuary laws into state or municipal legislation falls outside the realm of the federal government. Pursuant to the 10th amendment, any power not enumerated to the federal government becomes the power of the state. Although immigration overall is a federal power, the federal government should be only able to use their resources to enforce its policies, not those of the individual states. The resources of the state should be utilized in enforcing the law of the state, rather than being at the hands of the federal government. If we allow for the federal government to interfere with matters that are clearly under the jurisdiction of the state, what will stop them from expanding their power from restrictions on sanctuary cities to a multitude of federal interests?  

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/09/opinion/trump-california-sanctuary-movement.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/11/26/federalism-the-constitution-and-sanctuary-cities/?utm_term=.a23e9144eb4b

 

Standing Up for Colin Kaepernick

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

When Colin Kaepernick knelt during the National Anthem to raise awareness for the “[oppression of] black people and people of color” in 2016, his protest elicited instantaneous backlash. Dubbed spoiled, selfish, and anti-American, Kaepernick felt the ramifications of his protest immediately: he was shortly benched for the remainder of the season and has not returned to the field since the season of his protests. The fervor of the backlash to his protests raged from talk show hosts to congressmen to, unsurprisingly, President Trump

For instance, consider the prominent Fox News host Jeanine Pirro’s reaction to Kaepernick’s protests. She questions whether “we have the fortitude, courage, and determination to stand up to those who threaten our values” in the context of the NFL protests. Her ominous inquisition begs a few questions: What values, exactly, does Pirro see threatened by Kaepernick’s protests? To whom is she referring with the collective pronoun ‘we’? The answer, sadly, has little to do with Kaepernick or his protest. Pirro knowingly implies that black people are “threatening” the status quo—which oftentimes favors white people above minorities. At its crux, the protests are rooted in seemingly non-controversial ideas (the idea that black people should be treated justly should not outrage anyone); however, the fact that they are coming from black Americans rather than white ones provokes widespread backlash and “threaten our values” —referring to the values of white Americans.  The backlash to the protests reveal a dark truth about America: white people still control most of the power and influence in this country, and they do not intend to cede their power. Pirro’s intimations are reminiscent of the ominous “you will not replace us” language of the Charlottesville’s white supremacist riots. Perhaps more troublingly, President Donald Trump recently describes his personal utopia as a fantasy world where NFL owners would say to protesting athletes, “Get that son of a b*tch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired!” There is nothing anti-American about expressing an opinion; however, using the presidency to silence an opinion runs counter to the most fundamental of American values. Unfortunately, Trump and Pirro are not anomalous exceptions in their reactions; they are part of a systemic pattern against challenges to the status quo, which, ironically, is exactly what the football players are protesting.

Kaepernick’s protests proved effective — Google reports Kaepernick was within the Top 10 most searched athletes of 2016, an especially difficult feat to achieve during an Olympics year.  Eventually, Kaepernick’s movement spread across the NFL — players and teams across the league unified in an attempt to use their platform to raise awareness to the largely ignored or underemphasized issue of the unfair treatment of black Americans, ranging from the police shootings of innocent black people to the flawed criminal justice system that puts black Americans at a significant disadvantage. His reputation tarnished and his career effectively over, Kaepernick incited further controversy when he was unveiled as the face of Nike’s newest advertisement campaign. While many praised Nike and the ad, others burned their Nike shoes and made #BoycottNike trend on Twitter.

Shortly after the announcement of Kaepernick as the face of their ad campaign, Nike released a video, narrated by and starring Kaepernick, which features numerous young athletes who have pursued their athletic dreams—often overcoming rough beginnings or physical disabilities to do so. In fact, Kaepernick is the only prominent person featured in the ad who is not featured demonstrating his athleticism. Rather, Kaepernick, once a starting NFL quarterback, now walks alone through a city, while the buildings behind him project the successes of the other athletes from the video—a woman wearing a Nike hijab, a refugee who played soccer in the world cup, a young Serena Williams, alongside others. The symbolism is powerful: Kaepernick, instead of quarterbacking, is ushering in a more diverse, inclusive sporting world.

Colin Kaepernick—like all other people—is not perfect. Perhaps he did not sacrifice everything in his protests. Perhaps he has used the traction from the movement he created to fill his pockets. Perhaps he did turn down an offer to play as a backup quarterback. Maybe not. But what he has done—and what SPEC so tirelessly strives to do—is start a conversation. Kaepernick, if nothing else, has sparked a movement that has challenged people to thoughtfully examine the treatment of black people. People often talk about the merits of sparking a conversation or protesting civilly. Kaepernick just did it.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fq2CvmgoO7I

www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/09/24/judge-jeanine-pirro

www.nytimes.com/2017/09/23/sports/trump-nfl-nba.html

trends.google.com/trends/topcharts#vm=cat&geo=US&date=2016&cid

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000691077/article/

 

A New Look on Feminism: Breaking Misplaced Labels

in Gender Issues/Political Issues by

When I was growing up, my family members made very clear that gender does not limit a person’s abilities. When I was in 8th grade, I realized they were wrong. I thought sexism had died off with cooties in elementary school, but learning about things such as the wage gap and cat calling opened my eyes to a whole new world of discrimination. Yes, I had mocked double standards growing up. However, that did not mean that the rest of the world had necessarily caught on. At 14 years old, I grew outraged at our world. How dare my gender determine my opportunities in life. How dare I get unequal treatment. And that’s when I discovered feminism, the idea that men and women should be given equal opportunities.

At first, my rush to feminism was personal: I did not want these obstacles in my path, and feminism promised to remove them. I spoke to classmates about how ridiculous sexism is, and encouraged them to slap on the label as well. But there were two major issues with this: first, I didn’t entirely understand feminism. I thought it was merely a group that required unconditional support for all other women. Second, I gave little to no thought on the wide variety of causes feminism advocated for, and instead focused on the ones that specifically pertained to me.

And then one fateful day I saw a post bash Taylor Swift in my instagram feed, complaining about her “white feminism” and subsequent lack of actual activism. I was confused; this feminist account literally just bashed another girl, which according to my idea of feminism wasn’t supposed to happen. My confusion and the further research led me to my first breakthrough; feminism isn’t about unconditionally supporting other girls, it’s about judging them using the same criteria you’d judge males. You’re “allowed” to dislike other women, but feminism just says if you do, then it better be for legitimate reasons and not because of the way she dresses or a misguided sense of jealousy.

And then the phrase “white feminism.” I had no idea what this term meant, so yet again I googled it. Wikipedia informed me that “white feminism is a form of feminism that focuses on the struggles of white women while failing to address distinct forms of oppression faced by ethnic minority women and women lacking other privileges.” Having grown up relatively sheltered, I had to do a solid bit of research to find out what oppression these non-white women were experiencing. And that’s when my privilege hit me.

While I was angry at the wage gap, particularly those 19 cents I felt personally robbed of, as of 2017 African American and Hispanic women were only making 68 and 62 cents to the man’s dollar respectively. More frighteningly, African American women experience domestic violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white females. Even yet still, American Indians are twice as likely to experience a rape/sexual assault compared to all races. I realized that women of color experience exponentially greater discrimination than I would ever ordeal; on the daily they encounter obstacles I have never faced and won’t ever have to. But race is only one factor in the broad spectrum of sexism; class and religion also determine the levels of discrimination a woman can experience. It was humbling and scary to think of all the ways the circumstances of my birth, my natural-born privilege, had shielded me from the harsher realities some women have to face every day. I did not deserve to be born to this life any more than a struggling sex worker on the street deserved to be born into hers. This is not to say that all sex workers are struggling or all of them were forced into the industry, but the point still stands: no one earns their privilege. Conversely, no one deserves to be discriminated against for factors outside of their control. Cue intersectionality.

Intersectionality is another form of feminist ideology that is almost the opposite of white feminism. The concept states all oppression in a society stems from the same certain ideals. Therefore, advocating against your one specific form of oppression creates limited progress, progress only for you and your small minority. In short, you need to tackle the roots of oppression, the ideals creating an environment of oppression for all, to enact real change.

For example, toxic masculinity leads to the belittlement of both women and the LGBTQ community, cutting down anyone who displays “feminine” characteristics. So women could either focus on just themselves and advocate for more female CEOs, or we could protest toxic masculinity and work to create a healthier environment for boys and girls alike, regardless of sexual orientation or pronouns. Both paths have an impact, but there’s no question as to which one benefits a wider range of people.  

White feminism is the opposite. It’s the advocacy of privileged women, whether by race or socioeconomic status, for increased representation in society. Although it can align with problems feminists in general deal with (catcalling, wage gap, workplace discrimination), white feminists tend to ignore the issues that disproportionately affect less privileged women (such as increased rape statistics, police brutality, and the cycle of poverty). This is what Taylor Swift had been called out for. The most prominent example of white feminism excluding less fortunate women is a highly educated woman advocating for paid maternal leave in her company but not giving her housekeeper the same parity. The white feminist isn’t malicious; her heart is most likely in the right place. She is most likely just unaware of the misfortune around her. If you see a hint of white feminism in you, take some time to introspect, but don’t dwell too much. You’re still leagues ahead of the people who insist they can’t be feminist “cuz they’re guys.”

So there you have it: while white feminists give priority to certain causes pertaining to the privileged few, intersectional feminists advocate for all. This means they don’t just show up to the Women’s March, but also Pride and Black Lives Matter marches.

While such unwavering solidarity sounds ideal, this exposes one of intersectional feminism’s biggest flaws: though it “creates a unified idea of anti-oppression politics”, it “requires a lot out of its adherents, often more than can reasonably be expected,” resulting in a lack of action. Basically, it’s hard to advocate for so many groups of people in all aspects of your life. While this criticism is definitely warranted, I personally find it worthwhile to at least try.

Having finished my research, I realized I was a white feminist and felt ashamed. While I thought I was advocating for feminism, I was really just advocating for myself. The idea of feminism is to uplift all women everywhere. That day I chose the intersectional interpretation: all women everywhere regardless of race, sexual orientation, ability, or socioeconomic background. And while it may be impossible to implement perfectly in reality, the awareness it champions for and the small steps we can take together make me a proud intersectional feminist to this day.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards

https://www.google.com/search?q=define+feminism&oq=define+feminism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_feminism

https://www.doj.state.or.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/

https://rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

 

 

The Events that Shape a Generation

in Gun Control/Political Issues by

Undeniably, aspects of life evolve with each generation that, in turn, forces our government to change as it adapts to the changing world. However, this change in the government typically takes time, as the affected generation must grow up and finish their educational career before they begin reshaping government policies. The Greatest Generation grew up during the Great Depression, Baby Boomers with the Vietnam War, Gen X with the removal of the Berlin Wall, and Millennials with 9/11.  The typical period of waiting for the government to adapt is not satisfying to today’s American teenagers—the generation of mass shootings. The future of our country is being killed in movie theaters, concerts, and classrooms; they are no longer waiting for these tragedies to fade away. They demand “Gun Reform,” but that, depending on your perspective, can vary drastically in meaning.

The most prominent demands include the raising of the age at which you can buy a rifle to at least 21, the addition of a waiting period, universal background checks, and closing of all gun show, hereditary, and boyfriend loopholes. These might appear extreme at first glance, but the generation(s) with the power to change the laws are unable to fully understand and process why they are demands. As a child born in December of 2001, I cannot possibly fathom what it was like to live during the Great Depression, to hear the news of JFK’s assassination, or to hear the news of 9/11. An adult, similarly, can not imagine growing up in a seemingly endless pattern of mass shootings. Until the current representatives have been traumatized by having active shooter drills in the middle of class, the current representatives do not have the right—nor experience— to claim these solutions unreasonable. Moreover, the Constitutional interpretation that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” means that any person can buy a weapon specifically designed to kill as many people as quickly possible at a gun show without even showing an ID is both than outdated and dangerous. Implementing a waiting period would decrease murders and suicides, as it forces a person to contemplate their decision, often preventing dangerous and rash decisions. Universal background checks will promote a safer society, keeping weapons away from convicted criminals and people with a history of mental illnesses. Lastly, raising the age from 18 prevents children from endangering themselves or the people around them. Personally, I believe the legal age to purchase a gun should be 25—when scientists say the brain is fully matured.

With generational changes, the government should strive to change at the pace of an evolving world. In some ways it’s been able to evolve successfully; however, the Second Amendment remains a very controversial topic, where the government has failed to implement the adaptations its citizens demand. Despite the founding fathers’ envisioning the Constitution as a document that would adapt with the country (Thomas Jefferson hoped it would be rewritten with every generation), the US finds itself hesitant and resistant to desperately needed gun reform that will save lives.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards

An Open Letter to Mohamed Salah: How a Simple Gesture is Combatting Islamophobia

in Miscellaneous/Political Issues by

Dear Mohamed Salah,

In spite of the hate you are unfairly receiving for your Muslim faith, I would like to congratulate your successes this year.  As a fellow soccer player, your skill on the pitch leaves me speechless. I was watching one of your games with my friends, and once you got the ball the room fell silent. We were caught in a trance, watching you weave through City’s defense as if you were playing a video game. Also, taking Liverpool to the Champions League Final and Egypt to the World Cup is an incredible feat! Ballon d’Or candidate and Premiership Player of the Month! You have truly put on a show.

Although most people focus on your wonderful play, I’m more amazed by something else: your celebration.  Anyone who watches Liverpool frequently probably knows it by now: You score, you run to the stands, you cheer with your teammates, then, you jog back to the circle, drop to your knees, raise your hands to the sky, then bow, prostrating yourself to the world.  When you perform this ritual, the crowd seems to go silent, letting you connect with Allah; then you stand up and everyone goes crazy again. This is what should be celebrated.

While Britain is fighting Islamophobia and the amount of hate crimes against Muslims are rising each year, you, a Muslim from North Africa, are unifying England, one goal at a time. Your brave actions in a country that seemingly hates your faith make you a role model to anyone, Muslim or other, who is scared to practice their religion in a non-inclusive environment. However well you perform on the soccer field, nothing will outweigh your influence on Islamophobia in England.  No, I’m not saying that you will suddenly make all Brits tolerant of other religions, but you could play a major role in creating a more accepting England and, by extension, world. All I know is that fans sing songs about you when you take the field, and whether you intend to or not, you are making British Muslims proud and making the world a more inclusive place. Please continue what you are doing. Thank you on behalf of everyone you’ve inspired, on and off the pitch.

From,

Jack Trent

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/02/world/europe/mo-salah-liverpool-champions-league.html

Where do you draw the Lifeline?

in Gender Issues/Political Issues by

Men should take a backseat when it comes to the discussion of abortion.

Allow me to explain.

More often than not, men are not present in the room while women give birth or receive abortions, and this is just one example of how they fail to comprehend the magnitude of these procedures on a woman’s life. Without this comprehension, it is easy to take an unrealistic stance on women’s rights. This is an issue because in our historically and currently sexist society, men have used and often still use their voice to shout over the woman’s position and opinion.* We see this when our male-dominated society calls female firebrands “crazy”, labels women irrational due to PMS, or even, such as in the issue of abortion, claims the moral high ground — even while lacking the understanding of how it feels to be pregnant in the first place. Men actually have the power in society to dictate what women do with their bodies despite not comprehending them, which is why excluding them from the abortion narrative would lead to more productive conversations. So, in an ironic twist of fate, allow me to dismiss the majority of men’s opinions on abortion. Simply put, there is no male equivalent. Abortion is an issue that is specific to people with uteruses.**

Let’s say you define life as beginning as soon as the egg meets the sperm. Good for you. While your opinion is certainly valuable if you yourself are pregnant and considering an abortion, it has absolutely no bearing on a woman whose circumstances you do not know. You are allowed and encouraged to define for yourself when life begins, but calling others murderers for not adhering to your definition is not okay. Determining when an embryo is considered a person is a personal choice and a personal decision, as is the decision to get an abortion. Furthermore, you don’t have to personally want an abortion, or want your mother or sister to get an abortion to be pro-choice. Pro-choice is simply recognizing that abortion is a deeply personal decision that each woman deserves to make for herself and should not have regulated for them by the male majority in Washington.

However, just because a woman can get pregnant does not mean that she should necessarily grapple with the question of abortion alone. Since it does take a man and a woman to create a fetus, if the mother wishes the father to be included in the conversation then by all means he should be. That is one thing. It is another thing entirely to offer a half-baked opinion limiting the rights of uteruses when you yourself do not have one. This is why I take issue when men who are excessively privileged and/or ignorant take the “morally superior” point of view, shaming women in the process. They equivocate abortion to murder, thus painting women who get abortions as murderers. Saying the zygote/blastocyst/embryo have the same rights as a fully fledged human being, and that those supposed rights trump those of the living, breathing mother is essentially taking away the mother’s right to choose what happens to her own body.

For lack of a better comparison: men, how painful is a swift kick to a sensitive area? Painful, yes? You could describe it to me at length and I will still never truly comprehend. Just as empathy is the closest I will get to understanding that kick, empathy is also the closest you will get to understanding what it’s like to be pregnant. You’ve never personally felt what it is like to have a pregnancy scare; it’s called a scare because women disproportionately bear burden of child-rearing, so if they are indeed pregnant their educations/careers/plans are essentially over. Now let’s take the social retaliation into account. As a woman, if you are unmarried and get pregnant by accident, from rape to a broken condom, society instantly labels you a slut.*** The automatic assumption is that the child was created by irresponsible parents, and the majority of the responsibility, blame, and shame gets placed on the woman, disproportionately so. We’re all familiar with single mothers, but there are much fewer single fathers, who are somehow held in higher regard. By contrast, our society tends to only celebrate mothers that are married and financially stable. Otherwise, you’re irresponsible.**** Taking the moral high ground in these situations is a slap in the face to all the women struggling against derision for carrying an unwanted child’s life to term and a slap in the face to all women who decide to forego the painful social, emotional, and physical backlash. It’s a lose-lose situation. You shame women for getting pregnant and then you shame women for wanting to undo it.

That being said, it turns out a majority of abortion seekers are actually mothers that know they can’t afford another child without hurting their existing children. Proof for this lies in the data before and after the 2008 economic crash: “every year since 2008, a whopping 72 percent of NAF clients looking to terminate a pregnancy were already mothers, up at least 10 percent from the years before the economy crashed.” If this is the case, why is there a stigma that abortion seekers are usually just misguided teens? Perhaps it’s because this fact only serves to undermine the pro-life cause. After all, it’s harder to demonize a working mother than a presumed ‘sexually indiscriminate’ teen. (Which shouldn’t invalidate their desire for an abortion anyways.)

That’s not even considering all the women who get pregnant and realize carrying the baby to term could kill them. One in 50 pregnancies is ectopic — meaning instead of developing in the uterus, the zygote takes root in the fallopian tube, putting the mother at risk of fatal internal bleeding as it grows. The national maternal mortality rate itself is actually on the rise, even as a study conducted in Michigan found “maternal mortality figures in this country may be underreported by as much as a half.” So in summation, lots of pregnancies endanger the life of the mother and this crucial argument is not getting the attention it deserves. There are also mothers who wish to spare their child with a known genetic disorder from a short, pain-filled life. Not to mention the mothers that are financially incapable of providing for their children’s diseases, as heartbreaking as that is. Though these cases are few, they provide another example of a choice that men could only ever empathize with, and prove that each woman should be free to choose for their individual cases whether or not to get an abortion.

Even if women receive proper education about sexual health, it is difficult for some to access the birth control they need. Proof for this lies in the National Organization for Women’s practice of recruiting volunteers to escort women into Planned Parenthoods. Why is this necessary? Because to this very day, hoards of pro-lifers surround the clinics that provide much-needed birth control and women’s health services and harass those who enter, regardless of whether they are seeking an abortion or merely a check-up. Without access to adequate birth control, how can we expect women to shoulder the burden of unwanted motherhood? And without access to proper sexual education, how could we blame them? Abortion has become increasingly concentrated among poor women, who accounted for 49% of patients in 2014.

If abortions are disproportionately needed by poor women, it makes no sense to have it be regulated by the affluent men that dominate Washington. Especially since when faced with the same dilemma, these men have the resources to discreetly seek out the same treatment without any consequences whatsoever. All this even as poor women resort to the only abortions they can access or afford — unsafe ones, putting themselves at risk of becoming pariahs, or even worse, suffering complications and even death. Furthermore, when poor women carry their unwanted child to term, especially without the social services a more affluent family could provide them, common sense tells us the odds of that child succeeding are astoundingly low, continuing the cycle of poverty.

And finally, the argument for adoption. The idea that, if you don’t want a child, you should let the zygote drastically change your body, develop it for 9 months, put your career on pause (regardless of whether or not you can afford to), and go through the life-altering experience of giving birth just to then give the child away. Regardless of the traumatizing emotions that accompany creating life and then giving a fully-formed child up to an uncertain fate, emotions men can never fully experience, adoption sounds a lot more pleasant than it is. There are already 428,000 children in the foster care system. Of those, 126,000 children are currently available for adoption. These children have on average three different foster care placements. That being said, it is not uncommon to hear of children who have been in 20 or 30 different homes. These harrowing statistics reveal there are already more children in America than families that can provide for them, and help explain why only 4% of women with unwanted pregnancies place their children through adoption.

It takes a special kind of person to deny the right to abortion to rape victims, mothers with mouths to feed, and women at risk of dying, so I hope this is something we can all agree they deserve. But I personally do not believe you have to be molested, destitute, or dying to earn the right to determine what happens to your own body. The experience of being pregnant for 9 months and giving birth is physically and emotionally life-changing. Forcing it on any woman who does not want it, regardless of the circumstances, is in short, cruel. And invalidating that experience by insisting they “just give the child up for adoption” without knowing the realities foster kids face every day is ignorant and insensitive.

So I have a proposition. If you are “pro-life”, you can claim the Moral High Ground, shaming women that desperately need an abortion for personal reasons in the process. Or you could use your pro-life label and find a way to improve social services for unwanted children. Almost 20 percent of children in the foster system wait five years or more to get adopted or reunited with their families. What if we changed this? Improved social services for children and families in the foster system might make adoption a more appealing alternative to abortion. Widespread sexual education and accessible birth control would lessen unwanted pregnancy rates. By providing more affordable healthcare and paid maternal leave, maybe mothers wouldn’t be forced to abandon a pregnancy due to monetary concerns. And even if the mother keeps the child, how can we help ensure that child leads a good life? A more comprehensive public education might help. Until we provide women with the means to care for an unexpected child, abortions will continue to be the leading solution, and denying women that solution while also denying them alternatives is just plain wrong.

*If your reaction to this sentence was “not all men”, you are missing the entire point of the argument. (Read this)
**This includes trans men! We see you!
***Obviously not all of society, but enough to where being pregnant and unmarried is making a statement at the very least. It’s also easier to shame someone for their choices when you’re never going to be faced with the same issues.
****And perhaps if we as a society provided more support and love to unwed mothers abortion would not seem like such an appealing choice.
Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
https://www.guttmacher.org/report/characteristics-us-abortion-patients-2008
http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2011/10/html
http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A59832578/AONE?u=tlc209178764&sid=AONE&xid=4f8d6bee
https://www.npr.org/2017/05/12/528098789/u-s-has-the-worst-rate-of-maternal-deaths-in-the-developed-world
http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/ectopic-pregnancy/
https://www.guttmacher.org/news-release/2017/abortion-common-experience-us-women-despite-dramatic-declines-rates

 

Honoring McCain’s Legacy

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

“I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him and he’s not, um, he’s an Arab. He’s not—”

John McCain, his often stoic face failing to conceal his disappointment, snatched the microphone from the woman wearing a McCain/Palin ‘08 shirt, cutting her off before she could finish her thought. “No ma’am. He’s a decent family man and citizen that just I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what the campaign’s all about,” McCain responded, much to the confusion of the woman who asked him the overtly racist question.

How America’s political landscape transformed from this type of respectful discourse to electing a President who famously claimed that Obama wasn’t born in United States remains one of modern history’s greatest mysteries. John McCain lived a life of service to America and its ideals. In his passing, America lost one of her most devout believers. His life was not in service to a political party or President; rather, he served a nation and its values.

Time and time again did McCain’s actions highlight his—and his country’s—greatest virtues. Enduring unimaginable torture as a prisoner of war, aviator John McCain repeatedly refused freedom from his prison unless his men could return alongside him. Campaigning against then Senator Barack Obama, Presidential Nominee John McCain refused to succumb to the cheap, petty insults and name-calling that plagues American politics today. Representing his Arizonan Constituents in the Senate, Senator (and deciding vote) John McCain, broke with his party and rejected a bill that would have stripped 391,000 Arizonans of their health insurance.

John McCain embodied the bipartisan approach to politics that SPEC strives to achieve. His actions repeatedly placed civil discourse and bipartisanship above polarization and partisanship. He worked tirelessly to help America reach her fullest potential. History will undoubtedly remember and honor his life of service to America—even if the President will not.  

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/07/27/us/people-who-gained-insurance-by-state.html

 

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