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William Shakespeare’s, Chris Chistie; Plausible Deniability and Implicit Guilt on the Political Stage

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Henry II and Chris Christie share a lot in common 

In light of the recent Chris Christie I find that I am reminded of Shakespeare’s Richard II, particularly the actions of the king’s most trusted servant, Exton, who feels it is his duty as King Henry’s closest confidante and ally to do away with the king’s self-proclaimed ‘greatest foe’ (Richard II). Exton, recalling his encounter with the king to another servant, illustrates the king implicitly requesting that Exton kill even if he doesn’t say it explicitly.

Exton:
Didst thou not mark the king, what words he spake,
‘Have I no friend will rid me of this living fear?’
Was it not so?
Servant:
These were his very words.
Exton:
‘Have I no friend?’ quoth he: he spake it twice,
And urged it twice together, did he not?
Servant:
He did.
Exton:
And speaking it, he wistly [intently] look’d on me,
And who should say [as if to say], ‘I would thou wert the man
That would divorce this terror from my heart’;
Meaning the king at Pomfret. Come, let’s go:
I am the king’s friend, and will rid his foe.

It is clear that while not directly a call to commit suicide, the king’s well-chosen words call on Exton to be ‘rid’ of ‘his foe’. It’s a strategy employed by Christie as well in his most recent scandal, in which Christie is implicated as having insinuated that punishing Fort Lee’s mayor for his lack of support during his campaign for reelection would have been something that Christie might have looked upon favorably. Ina similar fashion to Henry casting out his servant Exton when he finds out he is responsible for the crimes he is initially accused of, Christie fired much of his key staff when accusations were initially generated by the media. Henry, perhaps fearing any implication of his personal involvement in the crime, ostracizes his loyal servant;
Henry:
“With Cain go wander through the shades of night
And never show thy head by day nor light.”

The fact these two leaders feel the need to so violently cast out anyone who might be responsible for the crimes in question points to the possibility of guilty conscience. Henry casts out Exton in the same way God casts out Cain for the murder of his brother, seemingly assuming the position of a figure of holiness casting out the insidious forces from his kingdom. The act of casting those implicated for crime may illustrate (though more clearly in Henry’s case) the guilt the leaders feel, and their need to remove themselves from any potential affiliation with the party that overtly committed the crime itself.
An essential difference between the two figures is their eventual abilities to come to terms with the events in question. Though Christie has yet to take on any personal responsibility or assume any knowledge of the traffic scandal, Henry eventually did in fact come to terms with the fact that he did, indeed, hold certain guilt within himself for the murder of Richard II.

Henry:
“Lords I protest, my soul is full of woe.
That blood should sprinkle me to make me grow.”

Henry eventually is able to understand his role that lead to the death of his enemy. He is filled with remorse and regret and can admit this candidly. This eventual reaction is in contrast to Christie’s reaction—that appears to be one of complete disgust with his staffers and the mere potential that their actions might implicate him in any possible way. Henry sees that he is responsible and feels guilty in turn that his actions have helped him to increase the amount of power he has. Christie’s inability to take any sort of responsibly may be indicative of a highly employed method of diversion of guilt taken by the leaders of today. By firing those staffers implicated almost immediately, if not intentionally implicates Christie as having a ‘guilty conscience’. Christie may feel that the fine line between guilt and plausible deniability can be more defined if he eschews any association with those charged directly with the crime. This distinction in reaction is important to note because I feel it points to a greater theme in our political climate at the moment.
In our ever scandal-eager society, political figures and organizations seem to be less and less inclined to take responsibility for their actions despite the blame that they may share in. They make adamant assertions that they are not personally explicitly responsible for their crimes—which may, indeed, be true. But their non-action, their implicit acquiescence does in fact make them culpable. Through their non-action, their ability to allow certain negative behaviors to continue while in positions of leadership, amounts to guilt, even if they are not the hands the dealt the actual crime.

A perfect example of this phenomenon of ‘implicit guilt’ can be found in a highly publicized recent announcement by Swarthmore University’s Hillel organization that they would now be ‘open’ to hearing both anti-Zionist and Zionist speakers on campus. Though the Hillel was not specifically saying they were in agreement with anti-Zionist teachings nor did they out rightly say they no longer stood with Israel and its right to exist, their subliminal acquiescence served to say more than they agreed with Anti-Zionist principles. It’s an occurrence that happens all too often in a political climate that can often be determined not just through our actions but often also through lack thereof. With this statement of ‘openness’ Swarthmore Hillel in a sense became complicit in allowing hate rhetoric spread often by anti-Zionist advocates on their campus that such syndicates try to disguise as simply disagreement with Israeli political policy at the moment.

This theme of nefarious covert action by our leaders, cleverly disguised behind carefully chosen syntax or hidden action, is repeated time and time again within American history. Our leaders may not have personally committed the crimes they are accused of, but sometimes their reticence or lack of action can make all the difference. This points to the greater importance of classes like AP Comparative Government, because it enlightens tomorrow’s young citizens and leaders to the cruel realties of politics in the 21rst century. An acute consciousness of even the tiniest details is necessary in order to appreciate, criticize, and understand the actions of our leaders. Knowing that such behavior is rampant within modern political action and discourse is essential to comprehending the various intricacies of such a fast-paced political environment. It is important to be aware that things are not always as they seems within the King’s court. Our leaders are capable of committing tremendous crimes, disguised by the careful appointment of underlings to carry out those things they don’t want the public to know about. Even our greatest leaders are capable of tremendous folly so it is therefore provident to become keenly aware of such conniving behavior.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Default

 

Importance of satire in political newscasting

When I, as a relatively politically informed, intelligent young American wish to watch the news, I do not turn to CNN, nor to Fox News. My main source of broadcasted political information is The Daily Show. One may scoff at this assertion, writing the program off as useless comedic drivel with no real value. Yes, the show is broadcast on Comedy Central- it is, at its heart, a comedic show. But honestly, when it comes to the news, I would rather laugh than cry.  When so much of the day-to-day happenings of the world do not encourage a particularly optimistic worldview it is important to be able to laugh at the sheer absurdity of modern political happenings.

 

Satire occupies a necessary position in the political process: it points out specific shortcomings and contradictions present in society. Without the social and political commentary provided by satire, some of the faults of the government would go unnoticed and be able to continue. Satire brings a spotlight into the broken places of government and society. Just as Voltaire used satire to make comments on society during the Enlightenment, programs such as The Daily Show do not allow the government to escape from its criticisms. A society devoid of detailed analysis and criticism of the government cannot be a truly informed, democratic one.

 

The line between what is constitutes “news” and what constitutes “entertainment” is a very thin one, and programs such as The Daily Show toes that line very carefully. Too much focus on reporting the news, and the comedy aspect lessens. Too much emphasis on comedy, and it loses reliability. After watching an episode of The Daily Show, I leave feeling informed and able to converse on recent news topics, but not disheartened by the state of affairs.

 

These satirical programs allow viewers who understand the highly sarcastic humor of the show to feel as if they are a part of the chosen few, the intellectual elite who can understand the humor. It sets up a dichotomy between “us”- the viewers of the program, and  “them”- those who share different political views.  This makes the viewers “in the know” feel good about themselves and their intellect, while those who do not quite get the humor or are not in agreement with the views feel degraded and left out. In an ideal world, this political satire would be accessible to all Americans, but with the extremely divided state of affairs when it comes to political ideology, it becomes nearly impossible to curry favor from both sides of the line.

 

Many people are tired of being constantly bombarded by news from stations such s CNN with their 24-hour reporting. Because these satirical shows are limited to only an hour of programming per day, they can do away with trivial, “filler” news pieces and focus on the major issues of the day. The Daily Show often uses clips from news sources, CNN included, to report on the news and, as it is not reporting live, can depend on having the most reliable information instead of grasping for whatever information it can find at the time.

All of these factors contribute to the importance and reliability of satirical news programs and prove their importance in the political system.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2013 in Default

 

Clearly, we, Americans, have a problem. While we have many issues to be with which to be concerned, the growing inequality gap is one of our most critical issues. This issue must be improved immediately because as the wealthy grow wealthier, the American Dream becomes less and less tangible for those not born into a middle class or upper class family. In fact, the late Nelson Mandela has stated that, “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity; it is an act of justice.” However, the cruel reality in America does not support this profound – and true – statement. Last year in America, the 46.5 million Americans were living in poverty. Within these 46.5 million Americans, 16.1 million children and 3.9 million senior citizens lived in poverty. In fact, our childhood poverty rate is one of the highest, besides that of Romania. This is unacceptable – especially if similar issues have occurred within a little over a decade ago.

As I mentioned earlier, America has experienced economic inequality for several decades throughout American history. This theme of an increasingly wide inequality gap is central to the “Gilded Age,” a term given by Mark Twain in his remarking that this time was tarnished. Similar to our current situation, wealth was in the hands of a few – the incredibly wealthy business owners. Additionally, workers had very few rights and easily could be replaced. The cities were overrun by the ghettos and crime.

     One would believe America would learn from its past of economic inequality, but this is far from the case. America’s policies and attitudes are not reflecting our vast knowledge of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Reforms to alleviate some of the economic injustice occurring at the time. For this reason, not only are we experiencing the issues of the Gilded Age, but we are experiencing those same issues (but in an elevated sense) and new issues that have risen from racism, education issues, affirmative action in education and employment, and many other current issues. 

For these reasons and many more, I present you with a charge: to demand economic equality in order to close the inequality gap. Maybe then will Americans be able to reach the American Dream.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2013 in Default

 

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The Death of the Filibuster—What Does it Mean?

For the past few days, I’ve been seeing a barrage of stories about the Senate’s recent reform of filibusters in the news, and I realized that I didn’t completely understand  what these changes actually were—or what they were going to mean in the long run—and decided to take the time to learn some more about it. For those of you that don’t know, a filibuster is when a member of the Senate attempts to prevent a certain bill or measure from reaching a vote by talking for a very long time. In the past, some senators have resorted reciting the Constitution, reading the phone book, or even reading Shakespeare aloud to pass time during their filibuster. A Senator can speak for as long as they wish and about whatever they want, as long as they don’t sit down or leave the Senate floor for bathroom, food, or drink break. The only time they are allowed to stop speaking is to answer questions.

The Senate has a “cloture rule” which allows Senators to vote to end a filibuster—this previously meant that sixteen members must initiate the cloture, and then 3/5 of the Senate must vote on it. If the cloture is passed, then the Senate can only debate the issue for a maximum of 30 more hours and no Senator may speak for more than 1 hour in this period.

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President Obama has criticized filibusters in the past for wasting the time of the Senate and resulting in a grid-locked Congress. While the Senate has threatened to impose the nuclear option (changing the Senate cloture rule to merely a majority rule instead of 3/5) in the past, they never actually followed through—until two weeks ago. This decision essentially forbids the minority Senate party from ever filibustering a presidential nominee.

Although I understand that a dead-locked Congress has been the root of most of the problems that our government has faced in recent months, I’m not sure if this is the right solution.

Freedom of speech is one of the basic tenets in our country, and our Senate has followed this principle by allowing unrestricted debate for the entirety our nation’s history. There have been many times when it seemed that opposing parties would never reach a compromise—regarding the National Bank, the nullification crisis, the list goes on—yet they always did; it just took time. That’s exactly what our founding fathers anticipated when they designed our government. Not only does the Senate equally represent each state, but it is also supposed to allow everyone an equal opportunity to voice their opinions. Without filibusters, there is nothing stopping the majority party from taking over every Senate decision.

Also, the decision to enforce the nuclear option is coming from Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader of the Senate. It’s obvious that the minority Republicans are not happy about this, and I think it will only serve to increase tensions between the two parties. If the Republicans happen to gain control of the Senate in next year’s midterm election, I think the Democrats could be in serious trouble.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2013 in Default

 

Nelson Mandela’s Eternal Legacy

On December 5, 2013, the world lost one of the most inspiring, determined, and humanitarian leaders it has ever seen. Nelson Mandela was the first black South African to hold office as President of South Africa, and his term lasted from 1994-1999. He was a member of the African National Congress, an organization that opposed apartheid and advocated willingness to break laws or go to prison as a result of that opposition. Mandela’s main goal was to abolish apartheid and establish racial equality in South Africa, goals similar to the leaders of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Mandela’s actions were inspired by Gandhi and many other civil and human rights activists all over the world, and his own actions continue to inspire political leaders today.

Apartheid had been apart of South African life for as long as the country had existed: racial discrimination and segregation were the norm and were not only accepted, but encouraged. There are multiple similarities between South African apartheid and the segregation and racism in the United States that was prevalent before the 1970’s, and black South Africans shared a struggle for human and civil rights similar to African Americans. For example, The African National Congress bears great similarity to the Black Panthers in the United States because of their ideology that violence is sometimes necessary in order to make a difference. The American Civil Rights movement served as an inspiration to many anti-apartheid supporters and gave South Africans hope that they could reform their country’s laws and eliminate social stigmas about race. Although apartheid was not abolished until the early 1990’s, the leaders and organizations who pushed for its removal made a huge splash in world politics and called global attention to the social injustices that had been kept quiet and off the global stage for hundreds of years. The leaders, such as Mandela, who led the charge against apartheid became role models for politicians everywhere by embodying courage, perseverance, and compassion.

Nelson Mandela’s legacy of equality and freedom will live on as long as people are free of discrimination based not only on race, but also on gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. and have the ability to choose their own paths in life free from racial prejudice. The United States strives to uphold those beliefs, and therefore honors Mandela’s memory and his vision of a world that much closer to being free from discrimination and prejudice.

 

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_Mandela#End_of_apartheid

http://consortiumnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/nelsonmandela.jpg

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2013 in Default

 

Where Does Your Loyalty Lie?

One of my favorite things about AP Government is that everything we learn ties directly back to the current events. Even the colonial history of our government is so prevalent in modern political issues, which is something I really enjoy. I think that presently, one of the buzzing issues the U.S. government is facing is the aftermath of Obamacare. It was really interesting as an AP Government student to follow this issue, particularly during the government shutdown. Now, there are a lot of questions being asked. Did President Obama foresee the complications? Did Republicans understand the impact of Obamacare, warranting their refusal to vote in favor of funding? Are Democrats, in the long run, going to stand by their decision to fund Obamacare in light of these complications? I think that out of all of these questions, the most important one is where voter and government employees’ loyalties will lie? 

This issue is not about choosing a common political enemy. Every day, there is opposition to our government, and these forces are united by the common enemy they believe to be the government. Instead, it is about deciding how far our elected officials will go to defend their beliefs, despite public backlash and failures. However, this decision does not make our officials more or less honorable. We change our views all the time, and our leaders have an obligation to change their minds as they see fit. At the end of the day, it’s about deciding what is best for the population, independent of personal feelings or agendas. If you put the conflict in a more personal context, you can begin to realize how difficult the decision at hand really is. Do you, empowered by your passion for you political ideologies, stand by what many call a failure or a disaster, or do you run the other way and hope no one notices? 

It may not seem like a big deal, but with mid term elections coming up, the true colors of our political leaders will come out. We get the chance to see how far our elected officials will go to defend or condemn their actions in office in the name of victory. It would be nice to think that their actions during a campaign are selfless and utterly unmotivated by a ravenous appetite for glory and for power. But every great political mind possesses this, and we feed the great beast with endorsements, bumper stickers, and ultimately, votes. Underneath all of this is passion, but we are too often swept up in the glitz and glam of political campaigns to really see it. Maybe Obamacare wasn’t the success everyone was hoping for, but that doesn’t matter as much as how our government decides to move forward. How will they address their actions and work towards a better tomorrow? Where will their loyalties lie? 

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2013 in Default

 

Stop the Skepticism!

            I can tell you the two most resonant things I’ve learned after taking this class for almost an entire semester: 1. I have more appreciation for my Congressmen than ever before, and 2. An absurdly large amount ofpeople are skeptical of our government. The latter is what I’ve decided to write about because I want it to change.

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            AP Government has really given me the opportunity to understand our government better. Obviously, we all grew up learning how a bill becomes a law, but I think the class really is meant to highlight the people behind the desks. The Congressmen work for our benefit and although politicians have a reputation of being sneaky and deceitful, I’ve come to the conclusion that they really are working for the benefit of the country. I have an enhanced appreciation of what they do on a day to day basis. Just because something they’re working on isn’t covered by the media doesn’t mean there are no progressions happening. There is a lot that the government does that we take for granted, and we don’t really understand how much of a quiet impact they have on our day to day lives–from the toothbrushes we use to the cars we drive. However, we tend to turn to government when things aren’t going well–because we look to them for an explanation. For this reason, many people are skeptical of the government because they only hear about the negative effects, and tend to blame a lot on the government.

            I can relate to the Congressmen because of my work in my school’s Student Government. It can be frustrating to work at something and have it be rejected by the administration. The students don’t see the behind-the-scenes action, they only see the visible progress. There are many things that we accomplish in our school that go unnoticed because they aren’t so obvious. Some students at our school are actually skeptical of Student Government because they don’t think that we accomplish enough on their behalf. This problem was addressed in our school in a similar way to many other problems: spreading awareness. Once we spoke to the students and gave them a glimpse of what we do every meeting, they appreciated our club more. I think that’s the problem with our government. Not enough citizens are aware of how hard Congressmen are working and the milestones they’re achieving–once they’re more evident to the public, there will be less skepticism in government.

            I also think that we should trust our government more because we need to realize how lucky we are. To be fair, we could have it a lot worse–although our government is far from a utopia, we are granted so much more than anyone living in a dictatorship or totalitarian state. People in the United States at least have the right to be skeptical of our government. We need to appreciate the strength of democracy–that system alone is why our Constitution has been so well preserved throughout American history. Democracy is the most powerful form of government because of its decentralization of power. It’s our obligation as members of this democracy to understand the inner workings of our government and really appreciate all they do for us.

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2013 in Default