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The Modern Constitution

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

Imagine a roomful of politicians with disparate beliefs, tasked with creating a document to govern an entirely new country. In 1787, America’s founding fathers faced this seemingly impossible challenge. Countless debates, numerous committees, and five months later, the newly formed United States of America had the Constitution, the guiding document for our nation and the supreme law of the land. In the process of creating the Constitution, every word was deliberately calculated—the founders sought to create a document that protected America from humanity’s worst impulses. Yet, when reading the Constitution, perhaps the most notable aspect of its prose is its lack of specificity in many places. The preamble includes phrases such as “general welfare,”  an assertion of “establish[ing] justice,” and a declaration of “secur[ing] the Blessings of Liberty for ourselves and our Posterity,”   Furthermore, the Bill of Rights enumerated a list of rights without specifying the extent (or lack thereof) of those rights. Many cite this vagueness as a flaw. Counterintuitively, the ambiguity of the Constitution actually serves as its greatest strength—allowing for each generation to adapt it to its needs, as the Founders intended. Thus, the Founders effectively created a “living” Constitution through their use of ambiguous diction.

Nearly a quarter of a millennium later, our Constitution feels as if it’s being stretched nearly to its limits. On the left, many call for radical changes to our political system—including “abolishing the Senate” and electoral college. Meanwhile, on the right, the so-called “Constitutional Conservatives” are seeking to exploit Article V of the Constitution to trigger a Constitutional Convention, which would theoretically allow the quick implementation of “an amendment to the Constitution requiring Congress to balance its budget” and potentially other new amendments. As a matter of fact, 28 out of the needed 34 states have already called for a convention. Some, such as The Atlantic’s Jeremi Suri, suggest scaling-back the role of the Presidency to adapt to today’s multifaceted challenges. In this age of uncertainty for the viability and sustainability of our Constitution, Americans should not forget that the United States has been built upon the premise of our Constitution—and impulsively abandoning it to find quick fixes to a few of today’s political issues would be unthinkably short-sighted.

First, the Constitution must be established as deliberately written vaguely in order to ensure that the Constitution would be able to fit the needs of each generation. Second, historical rulings and evolving interpretations of the Constitution must be shown to support a living Constitution. Third, the US must identify how the Constitution can be interpreted today to address the challenges of the 21st Century.

The first aspect I will examine is the Constitution’s intentional ambiguity. The first—and perhaps most compelling—piece of evidence supporting the Constitution’s deliberate vagueness is the ongoing lively debate concerning its meaning. From Supreme Court Justices to politicians to lawyer to citizens, nearly every person has some way of interpreting the Constitution—and the range of interpretations are a testament to its ambiguity. For instance, Ruth Bader Ginsburg practices a philosophy that embraces the Constitution as a “living” document—one which adapts with the needs of the society. Others, most prominently the late Justice Scalia, practice textualism or originalism—which interpret the Constitution in modern-day as it would have been interpreted in the 1700s. In fact, Scalia called the Constitution is “dead, dead, dead” — refuting the notion of a living Constitution. Beyond just the disparity in philosophies, word choices like “general,” “well-regulated,” “liberty,” and “justice” are intentionally not clearly defined—leaving its meaning up to interpretation.  

However, to evaluate Scalia’s philosophy on his own terms, perhaps the best people to consult would be the Founders themselves. Thomas Jefferson proposed that the Constitution be redrafted with each generation to ensure that it suited the needs of the changing society. Moreover, Alexander Hamilton, Jefferson’s famous rival, also argued when referencing the Constitution that he never expects to see “perfect work from imperfect man.” That being said, other Founders argued for a more “dead” Constitution; James Madison, for instance, claimed, “The important distinction so well understood in America, between a Constitution established by the people and unalterable by the government, and a law established by the government and alterable by the government, seems to have been little understood and less observed in any other country.” Evidently, even the Founders struggled with how the Constitution should be interpreted. Yet, the unavoidable fact that the Constitution was written in such abstract terms—“well-regulated,” “general welfare,” and “establish justice” (to name a few)—implies that the Founders did indeed intend for the Constitution’s meaning to evolve to face the issues facing each generation.  

Secondly, I will consider the changing historical interpretations of the Constitution within our body politic. History—quite irrefutably—seems to support the interpretation of a living Constitution. For, in the original draft of the Constitution, African-Americans were considered “”three fifths of” white people. From an Originalist perspective, the Constitution supports the degradation of non-white people. However, through the lens of a living Constitution, Americans can recognize—and work to account for—the dark chapters of its history without remaining inextricably connected to overtly racist policies. A recent Pew Research poll found that 50% of Americans believe that the Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution’s meaning in light of its current meaning, while only 45% argued that it should be interpreted as it was originally written. For our Constitution to remain non-racist and viable, we must consider it in the context of modern society and contemporary issues.

Simultaneously, we must accredit the Constitution—identified in The Atlantic’s “How American Politics Went Insane” as the “DNA” of our country—with the success of America. The US is the wealthiest country in the history of the world, in no small part due to our Constitution.  As Ruth Bader Ginsburg recognizes, America has “the oldest written constitution still in force in the world.” The Constitution has immortalized America’s central values—forcing Americans to compromise to compromise so that “the few could not oppress the many, and the many could not oppress the few.” The Atlantic’s “How American Politics Went Insane” also supports this interpretation, arguing that the vagueness of the Constitution catalyzed the creation of vessels such as “state and national party committees, county party chairs, congressional subcommittees, leadership pacs, convention delegates, bundlers, and countless more” in order to execute the vision of the Constitution. To continue the scientific analogy, these “middlemen” were “RNA” to the Constitution’s DNA. Certainly, as arguably the oldest democracy in the world, America has its Constitution to thank for its comparatively unwavering adherence to democratic principles. Yet, the Constitution was designed to create gridlock if politicians “refuse to compromise.” In President George Washington’s farewell address, he warned against such partisanship, well-aware of the risk of devastating political gridlock as a result of such partisanship. Today, the tribalism that plagues contemporary politics—combined with attempts to subvert democratic processes to maintain power—threaten the sanctity of the Constitution. Essentially, these middlemen have began subverting—not supporting—the Constitution. In other words, the “RNA” that once helped realize the Constitution’s vision has grown defective—largely from this notion of Originalism. Textualists—both legislators and judges—often use the antiquated meanings of the Constitution to prevent progressive policies from passing. Even in seminal cases such as Brown v. Board of Education, court precedent was less emphasized in the decision than social science revelations. Decisions like that one underscore the vitality of using a living Constitution to account for the flaws of—as Hamilton famously said—“imperfect men.”           Finally, I will consider how the Constitution’s values have shaped the success of the US. Our Constitution has guided the US to a position of great power and wealth; coupled with a shrewd interpretation of the Constitution, that power and wealth can help lead the world towards solutions to challenges of the 21st Century. However, rather than just discarding the Constitution that has guided our nation for almost 250 years, we must put to rest the notion that the Constitution must be interpreted as the Founders intended—their intent was to ensure wealthy white men exclusively controlled the government.  If you believe that our government should function that way, then you absolutely can preach the necessity of Originalism. However, if you do not believe that only white men should control the government, then you—to some degree—believe in a living Constitution. Interpreting the Constitution as living certainly offers solutions to today’s most pressing issues: promoting the general welfare for “our Posterity” likely means ensuring the general survival of our species—mandating immediate action against climate change (a recent IPCC report suggests we have 12 years to act on climate change before it threatens millions of lives). Establishing justice probably implies executing a criminal justice system that does not disproportionately attack one race, as ours currently does (for instance, African-Americans represented just over 10% of illicit drug use, yet also represented over a third of all drug arrests).  Through a living interpretation of our Constitution—built on its deliberate vagueness—it certainly is equipped to face the challenges of the 21st Century.

Who’s Responsible for Solving the Opioid Crisis?

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

The opioid crisis unequivocally threatens the general welfare of the United States of America. In 2016, the opioid crisis single handedly caused more American fatalities than the entire Vietnam War. Regardless of whether the Constitution is interpreted through an originalist lens or as a living document, both readings seem to support the notion that Congress is delegated the powers to “lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common defense and general Welfare of the United States. When viewed through the definition of welfare—“the health, happiness, and fortunes of a person or group,” it becomes abundantly clear that the opioid crisis is violating the general welfare of thousands of American citizens. When tens of thousands of Americans are dying annually from an opioid epidemic that is only worsening, Congress must adhere to the Constitution and provide for the general welfare of the American people.

Admittedly, there is no overt enumerated power that explicitly gives the federal government power to remedy a drug crisis, yet, even so, the Constitutional support remains particularly compelling for as to why the federal government has a Constitutional mandate to help remedy the Opioid crisis. The general welfare clause seems especially noteworthy when coupled with the Supremacy clause, which states “this Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” Put simply, the Opioid Crisis is threatening the literal, physical (and thereby general) welfare of Americans. Therefore, Congress (supported with the Supremacy Clause’s power over state laws) carries the burden of solving the Opioid Crisis. Moreover, given the alarming number of pharmaceuticals that are imported internationally or between states, the Commerce Clause further delegates the federal government power in fixing the Opioid Crisis. The Commerce Clause explicitly gives Congress the power “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” Barring the antiquated Indian Tribes phrase, the Opioid Crisis pertains to both interstate trade and trade between foreign nations. Pharmaceutical companies distribute opioids between states, and numerous amounts of synthetic opioids (which are quickly gaining popularity) come from countries such as China. Thus, the Commerce Clause also gives the federal government an obligation to remedy the ongoing opioid crisis.

Yet some, such as Real Clear Health’s Earl Baker, argue that the states are complicit in fixing the Opioid Crisis. Baker, in his article “The States Need to Step Up to Opioid Crisis,” calls for concurrent coordination between the state and federal government to remedy the Opioid epidemic. From Real Clear Health, an expert source for health-related issues, Baker explains how the states are not being vigilant enough in fighting the Opioid Crisis. He acknowledges that there must be coordination between the state and federal governments but seemingly suggests the states ought to orchestrate both the preventative and treatment efforts. In today’s world of intertwined, cooperative federalism, suggesting that the state government works alongside the federal one is far from an unreasonable or radical proposal. However, the real issue in Baker’s analysis lies in the fact that he largely places the responsibility of solving the Opioid crisis on the state governments and local communities. For instance, he unapologetically argues, “It’s time for the states to step up in the critical fight against opioids with more than just rhetoric.” In doing so, Baker misguidedly places the responsibility of a solution on the states. Sure, the states do in fact have a better idea of their communities’ specific needs. But the states cannot raise the funds necessary to solve their respective crises in a politically viable manner. The Federal Government must, at the very least, designate categorical grants to the states in order to ensure that states can afford to enact meaningful, reactive, and preventative reforms.

However, as previously mentioned, a reasonable reading of the Constitution implies that the Federal Government should be more involved in solving the Opioid crisis than just granting funds. Congress, to effectively fulfill their Constitutional duty of promoting general welfare, must put aside petty partisanship to legislate solving the Opioid epidemic with the interdisciplinary, multifaceted solutions it demands. They must consider the roles of pharmaceutical companies, doctors, foreign powers, and the black market in creating and exacerbating the Opioid Crisis. There simply is no quick and easy fix to such a widespread, devastating crisis.

As the Editorial Board of The New York Times say in “An Opioid Crisis Foretold,” legislators would be wise to treat the Opioid epidemic as a “complex, multidimensional problem.” The article uses historical events—ranging from China’s Opium Wars to the AIDS crisis—to evaluate how America should proceed in dealing with its newest drug epidemic. Comparing today’s Opioid Crisis with the fairly recent AIDS crisis, the Editorial Board recommends that Congress funds “prevention, treatment, support services, and research.”  Further supporting the Constitutional interpretation that the federal government must play a hand in solving the Opioid Crisis, the article calls for “stronger leadership” from the federal government.  Thus far, almost all of the funding designated to the Opioid Crisis has been spent on reactionary treatment services.  Although adequate funding for treatment is incredibly important, the already worsening Opioid Crisis seems likely to only become more devastating if Congress does not attack its root causes.  

Failing to respond to the deaths of thousands of Americans annually—a clear violation of the public’s general welfare—is an abdication of Congress’s Constitutionally-outlined duties. The federal government, working alongside state and local governments, must take charge in preventing the growth of the Opioid crisis, treating its victims, and funding research to best understand the causes and effects of this devastating epidemic.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards

www.realclearhealth.com/articles/2018/08/23/the_states_need_to_step_up_to_opioid_crisis_110820.html

www.nytimes.com/2018/04/21/opinion/an-opioid-crisis-foretold.html?rref=collection%2Fsection

 

Thoughts on the Trump Op-Ed

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

The past couple of months have been a blow to the Trump administration. From Michael Cohen’s pleading guilty to federal fraud charges, implicating Trump in many of the Russian collusion claims made by the Mueller investigation, to Trump himself being criticized for fist bumping while entering a 9/11 memorial service, it would be safe to say President Trump has angered a significant portion of the American population. However, one of the most controversial topics concerning the Trump administration is the release of an Op-Ed by the New York Times containing an anonymous letter written by somebody in the Trump administration. In this letter, the anonymous writer admitted to covertly undermining Trump’s actions from inside his administration in order to curb Trump’s “misguided impulses until he is out of office”. The anonymous writer further stated that he is in agreement with the goals of the Republican Party, but believes that Trump is a “petty” leader. The writer of the op-ed reveals that even the members of Trump’s cabinet, who are often perceived as unreliable, actively try to slow the agenda of our even more unreliable president. In comparison to all of the other revelations against Trump, the release of the Op-Ed has the most damaging consequences due to the fact that a member of his own administration is defaming him. The Op-Ed has obviously caused unrest in the Trump administration, with Kellyanne Conway leading a manhunt for the author. How can we trust a president that is stopped by cabinet members that he chose? How can the American public trust an administration whose goal is the subversion of the president? With the upcoming election in November, I hope that more Democratic members are elected to Congress in order to provide more checks on our misguided president.

Since his election, Trump has been praised by members of his party for taking action. However, is this action safe for our country? Only time can tell.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/opinion/trump-white-house-anonymous-resistance.html

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/

 

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

 

Should Boy Scouts Include Girls?

in Contemporary Politics/Gender Issues/Political Issues by

Recently, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that they would be introducing girls into their Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs, which among other things, would allow girls to earn the coveted Eagle Scout rank, the highest award available to Scouts. Obviously, this announcement has met all types of criticism. As a scout myself, a few months away from becoming an Eagle Scout, I feel it necessary to respond to some common arguments against this controversial move.

#1. The Boy Scouts of America are just doing this to be politically correct.

The most common complaint I hear when people discuss this matter is political correctness. For some reason, they come to the conclusion that the BSA has felt pressure from outside authorities, such as the government or others, to open its doors to girls. This is absolutely not the case. During an interview, BSA Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh stated that the decision to allow girls arose from the demand from families already involved in scouting. These families simply wanted their daughters to also be able to take part in the unique activities BSA has to offer (see point 3). BSA’s motivation behind the change comes from their goal to extend scouting’s values and lessons to as many people as possible. Through numerous studies, they found this to be in the public’s best interests as well.

#2. The Boy Scouts are just doing this to boost their membership.

Technically, this is true. As stated above, the BSA wants as many young people to be involved in scouting as possible, in order to better achieve their goal of teaching people strong moral codes and excellent leadership skills that could one day make a positive difference in our world (Some notable Eagle Scouts include Neil Armstrong, President Gerald Ford and Sam Walton). Allowing girls to join means twice the potential for this.

#3. Girls can join Girl Scouts, they don’t need to be in Boy Scouts.

Well, yes and no. Girls can indeed join Girl Scouts, but why should that stop them from having the option to join Boy Scouts as well? Girl Scouts of the USA and the Boy Scouts of America are two very different organizations. Some girls would much rather be hiking the mountains of New Mexico at Philmont Scout Ranch, or serving their community through the completion of an Eagle Scout Project, instead of selling cookies or learning how to sew. In my opinion, the Boy Scouts of America is a great organization full of tons of great experiences, and there’s no reason why girls must be barred from this opportunity.

#4. Will Boy Scouts really be a good fit for girls, and will they get the same experience as boys?

Absolutely. The BSA would not be making this change if they did not feel it was in everyone’s best interest. They have made it abundantly clear that the girls who decide to join will absolutely not be put in a second-rate program. Everything will be the same, from the requirements to achieve Eagle, to the wide selection of over 130 merit badges scouts can choose to complete. Some argue that girls will feel unwelcome, as if they are barging in to something uninvited. I don’t believe this will be an issue at all. The Scout Oath and Law teach scouts to be open and kind to everyone, regardless of their differences. I feel that this value, which is ingrained in every scout’s head, will be evident as girls start to join Scouts BSA (which will be the new name for Boy Scouts).

#5. Allowing girls into the Boy Scouts will ruin the organization.

I hear this a lot from people not familiar with scouting. In fact, girls have been involved in Boy Scouts since 1971! Back then, girls were able to join a program called Exploring. Today, there are still notable co-ed programs in Boy Scouts like the Venturing Scouts. In this program for 14-21 year olds, both genders are able to take full advantage of scouting by going on campouts, attending youth leadership programs like NYLT and NAYLE, and braving high-adventure outdoor courses like Philmont and Northern Tier. The success of this co-ed branch of Scouting gives the BSA a good template for how to successfully allow girls into Boy Scouts, which brings me to my next point.

#6. How will the BSA accommodate both boys and girls in Scouts BSA?

Well, for one, girls and boys will be separated into single-gender troops, meaning they will NOT be mixed together. Many people complain that allowing girls into their troops will make both the boys and the girls feel uncomfortable. What they don’t realize is girls and boys won’t even be in the same troops. The troops would meet separately and would operate independently from each other. The only time different gendered troops might meet up would be during special inter-troop events (like the national jamboree) and certain summer camps. Additionally, sponsors such as churches, schools, and youth groups will be able to decide if they want to host a girls troop, boys troop, or both (St. John the Divine will have both a girls and boys troop starting in February). The BSA has been preparing for this change for years, and have determined that their program is 100% relevant to girls as it is to boys, so the lesson plan won’t be much different between the genders.

Through Boy Scouts, the BSA has been teaching young men invaluable lessons and skills for over a century now, and it’s great that they are finally extending this opportunity to young women as well. I urge everyone; if you know someone going into 5th grade or older, boy or girl, to encourage them to join scouting, as its a great organization full of awesome experiences that stick with you for life.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
https://www.cnn.com/2017/10/11/us/boy-scouts-will-allow-girls-to-join/index.html
https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/oct/12/boy-scouts-america-are-boys-not-girls/
https://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2017/10/11/bsa-welcomes-girls/
https://livestream.com/bsa/nationalcouncil

Political Correctness: How it’s Being Weaponized to Stifle Free Speech

in Contemporary Politics/Miscellaneous/Political Issues by

“There is this idea that speech is violent, that by simply espousing a view you don’t like I’m attacking you, I’m oppressing you, I’m assaulting you. That view is fundamentally incompatible with a Western, liberal democratic society” (Berkeley College Republicans). The main enemy of western advancement and freedoms is the far left. Some believe freedom of speech doesn’t protect hate speech and that the person should be defenseless against governmental tyranny. The question I ask is, what is hate speech? I say hate speech doesn’t exist; its meaning changes from person to person. Hate speech laws are what could destroy this country.

I disagree completely with hateful rhetoric; however, as an American, it is my job to fight for people’s freedom to express themselves. Look at Canada and Europe for example—people can be jailed for having different opinions than the state, or “offending” someone. Theoretically, I could be punished for legally crossing the Canadian border if I did something that i) offended a minority, ii) criticized the government, or iii) criticized Islam. Now, I could be fined or jailed if I misgender somebody in Canada. Hate speech laws are nothing more than an excuse to censor the opinions of political adversaries. My personal criticisms of the government under Obama landed me a flurry of screams particularly claims that I am racist, which morphed into criticisms of my being bigoted, transphobic, sexist, homophobic and on and on. Even without hearing my opinions, just my statement that I was a proud citizen of the United States or Conservative causes people to form preconceived notions about what I believe.

Hate speech laws are nothing more than a cowardly excuse to throw political adversaries in jail. Political correctness was glorified by fascists in the German Reich to silence other voices than the states, and made mandatory in Red China when they first took power. This political correctness revolved around aligning one’s views with the state, making speech that was unorthodox illegal. This term has just recently resurfaced; “political correctness” is an iceberg that the US must avoid to preserve the torch of western democracy. While Europe is falling into the clutches of socialist revolutionaries and radical islamic terrorism, the US must strive protect its own citizens and its allies abroad. No country’s people enjoy such great freedoms as those of United States, and all its citizens should take pride in its greatness. The moment we lose the right to say what we think, the United States of America as we know it ceases to exist.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
http://www.dailywire.com/news/17756/orwellian-canadians-can-now-be-fined-or-jailed-amanda-prestigiacomo
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/how-politically-correct-went-from-compliment-to-insult/2016/01/13/b1cf5918-b61a-11e5-a76a-0b5145e8679a_story.html?utm_term=.c4e04c7c9511
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