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Category Archives: Rights and Liberties

The Art of Compromise

Compromises. There is so much in the world that we have to compromise on – such as the show we watch on T.V. and especially our opinion. While we all understand the importance of making compromises, we can empathize with others when they choose not to compromise for we have often felt the same urge. An example of our not wanting to compromise is found in our childhood. Do you remember those play- dates with a classmate in Kindergarten when you insisted that your Barbie drives the Mustang instead of the Miata although your friend insisted the same car?  I remember that in order to solve this conflict, one would have to compromise. Because I was the guest, my friend was made to compromise by her parents and allow my Barbie to drive the Mustang. If she protested about compromising with me, her parents would threaten her with the end of a play- date and a potential time-out in her room.  Although we did not appreciate learning the art of compromise at this age, it is a lesson we have come to value as we have matured and grown to realize the critical role it plays in our daily lives.

However, some Americans seemed to have forgotten this childhood lesson of compromise. For example, because of the controversial debate over “The Affordable Care Act”, which both the Democrats and Republicans have strong opinions, there has been no action taken to agree on legislation needed to keep our National Government open. Thus, Americans have been outraged because of Congress’ lack of ability to compromise, which has resulted in a shutdown of our Federal Government. In fact, one could even call their refusal to compromise with one another an act of “political grandstanding” as President Obama calls it – or a tantrum. Yes, ladies and gentlemen! Our Congressional Representatives are throwing a tantrum and they need a time-out: childhood style. Who is going to put Congress in time- out? “We, the People” will put our representatives in Congress in time- out by using our democratic- republic to achieve our goal: the grand re- opening of the Federal Government. In times of American disproval of the actions taken by our government, it is especially important that we take advantage of our civil liberties of freedom of speech and our government system and communicate with our Senators and Representatives. We must share with them our feelings of disappointment and defeat and tell them our views on “The Affordable Care Act” in order for them to best represent us. Due to our government structure, if our elected officials do not represent us in our democratic- republic, then we can elect someone that will actually represent our voices in this nation. We must emphasize the importance of our government re-opening because a closed government sends a message to the world: that we are too divided to reach our goals. We, as Americans, know that this message is not the truth at all for we are strong people united in making our democratic- republic the “city upon a hill” it was intended to be. Therefore it is crucial that we require Congress to compromise in order to re- open our federal government.

 

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Does the War on Women Exist?

In this upcoming election, one of the most common   statements made is that the Republican Party is waging   a “war on women.”  This phrase has been used most frequently in the debate on abortion and contraception in the U.S.  Just this week, “the war on women” conversation was revived once again, due to Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s comments about the legality of abortion in the case of rape.  Mourdock stated that “Life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Mourdock later apologized (or did he?) for his comments, but Democrats still eagerly jumped to paint the candidate– and the rest of the Republican Party– as ignorant conservatives.
Mourdock’s comments were obviously inappropriate and ignorant, but they’ve helped to raise a prominent question: is “the war on women” really a war on women?  Or is it actually a war on the unborn child?

The Democratic Party and liberals believe that this war is indeed directly aimed at denigrating women at large, and argue that the right to abortion is a woman’s right to her body.  Most articles written about abortion in the liberal news media, such as the New York Times and Time Magazine, mention the “war on women.”  The Huffington Post has even gone so far as to have a playlist entitled “The War on Women,” with tracks such as “99 Problems” and “Butterfly Fly Away.”

The Republican Party and conservatives tend to believe that they aren’t waging a war at all, but rather that their opposition is waging a war on the unborn child.  Many Republicans and social conservatives insist that they are fighting for the unborn child rather than directly attacking the women who are, or will be, carrying one of these unborn children.  Some Republicans also insist that “the war on women” is sexist fiction contrived by Democrats as party propaganda.

So does “the war on women” really exist?  And if so, is it really a “war on women?”  I have to say that, yes, the “war on women” exists, but not in my state.  I live in New York, a historically liberal state, and there aren’t particularly strict abortion laws or politicians who make rape comments on a frequent basis.  But there are states where   both events happen frequently, and I find it hard to believe that most women in those states are happy to hear that their representatives believe that rape is intended by God.  I also find it hard to believe that women in Virginia who wanted, or needed, an abortion were happy with being forced to get a trans-vaginal ultrasound before they could have an abortion before this bill was repealed.  I’ll admit that the Republican party has a decent point when they say that a war is being waged on the unborn child.  But I also have problem with the fact that they’re more concerned with a war waged on a person who isn’t alive than they are about a war on their current citizens.

It’s true that the “war on women” will someday come to an end.  But if politicians keep making ignorant comments and attempting to pass what a Nebraska judge called “Draconian” abortion restrictions, it’s going to be a long time before we see that day.

 

What’s Race got to do with it?

Disclaimer: Below is a very controversial topic. I mean no offense whatsoever to anyone; I only wish to talk about a subject that deserves some discussion! Please do not take offense to anything I say. If I am wrong, please do correct me!

We’ve all seen it. That one question on the survey, SAT information, school registration, or political ballot:

“What is your ethnicity/Race? Check all that apply”

Is this really necessary? Do defining questions and the demographics based on these questions help or hinder us as we try to be less discriminatory?

We are now in an age of equality. There is no more slavery in America, women can vote, and skin color is not an acceptable reason for denial. But to every improvement there are exceptions. As we strive to provide equal opportunities for all, are we limiting the opportunities of others?

I have grown up as a minority. As a white girl in America, that is pretty rare! My school has called itself “97% people of Asian descent” for six years now. I’ve learned to appreciate other cultures, and don’t bat an eye when my Asian friends and white friends talk. It’s normal, since for us, race just doesn’t matter! So when I am asked “what is your ethnicity/race?” and my only option is “white,” I get a little confused.

Race is often used to categorize problems. Areas with economic problems often have a correlation with race, so that is what people focus on. They assume that there is a direct correlation between race and the problem, and to solve the problem, you need to eliminate the racial barriers. That is great. Really, it is! There is no reason why someone should face poverty just because they have a different skin color.

But here’s where it gets complicated. Say, to solve the economic problem, we plan to eliminate racial barriers. To do this, we need to have more minority students in a particular college. Because of this, a quota system is set up. A certain number of students of each color are needed to fill these quotas….and we are back to where we started: race is the determining factor in acceptances and denials.

The problem has gone beyond simply skin color. Now, the lack of diversity in a certain location is not just because of discrimination, but also because of family history, different cultures between towns, and personal finances, to name a few. These are not issues directly related to minority races, but issues that everyone faces. Instead of seeing the problem differently for different people, why don’t we look at the entire issue? Everyone has a different opinion on the issue. A California school actual made a short documentary on how race factors into our lives, and how opinions can vary (the trailer is above). As one speaker explained,

“[the problem is above and beyond [race]”.

I agree with this speaker. Things have changed. It is time to change our ways of thinking as well!

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Culture, Current Events, Rights and Liberties

 

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The Pine Ridge Reserve: America’s Own Third World Country

In 1889, the Pine Ridge Native American Reserve was established for the preservation of the Lakota nation within South Dakota. However, little is ever heard about this reserve, and many citizens of the United States are unaware of its existence. You may think, “What does it matter if I know about the Pine Ridge Reservation or any other Indian reservation?” Well, hopefully the information I am about to disclose to you will change your mind.

In 1889, the Pine Ridge Reservation was allocated for the Lakota Nation. This was after the Lakota Nation had unjustly loss the Black Hills to the United States Government without receiving any compensation. This was just the beginning of a whirlwind of unjust actions directed to the Great Sioux Nation and the Lakota tribe. Since this, the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation have experienced consistent violence with US government, despite their own abilities to govern themselves. The most recent documented violence occurred in the 1970s. This event was known as the Pine Ridge Shootout between FBI agents and Indian officials.

Why am I telling you, the reader, all this history? I am telling you this in order to lead up to the shocking statistics of the present day situation within the Pine Ridge Reserve. When I heard these numbers, I cried.

    • 97% of Pine Ridge residents live below the federal poverty line.
    • The unemployment rate is between 85% to 95%.
    • Death due to Heart Disease is twice the National Average.
    • 60% of homes lack electricity, are infested with Black Mold, or do not have running water.
    • The infant mortality rate is the highest on the continent, and 300% higher than the national average.
    • The average income per household is between $2,600 to $3,500.
    • The life expectancy is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere.
    • High school dropout rate is above 70%.
    • The Pine Ridge Reservation Schools are in the bottom 10% of the Government’s education funding.

When I read these statistics, it shocked me. The idea that a group of people in America are living under these conditions, and no one has done anything to help it is upsetting to me. The fact that I was not even aware of these statistics until recently shocked me again. As Americans, it is our duty to help those in need, especially our citizens. I personally believe that this has not been accomplished in the case of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Something must be done.

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2012 in Rights and Liberties

 

Mad Man Mitt: Stuck in Sixties’ Style Sexism

This presidential election has focused a lot of attention on women and winning the female vote, and last night’s debate returned to the topic again when a young woman asked the candidates what they would do to address the problem of unequal pay for equal work. In response, Governor Romney recounted how as governor of Massachusetts, he hired numerous women to work in his administration. He also said that he had to make work hours “more flexible” in order to accommodate his female chief of staff, citing her desire to get home earlier to make dinner for her family and be with her children. On the surface, this response might seem like a good one; Mitt Romney is flexible and doesn’t discriminate against women. In fact, he went out of his way to hire them. But this attitude comes with deeply sexist implications.

Maybe it was true in the fifties and sixties that women were the primary homemakers for their families, and needed to be home to make dinner. But times have changed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2011 that 70.6% of all mothers with children under the age of 18 are in the labor force. You can find more specifics in this study: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/famee.nr0.htm. In addition, more and more men are becoming the primary caretakers for their children (although the number is still relatively low). Mitt Romney’s assumptions on what issues are relevant to women in the workforce aren’t necessarily true anymore as gender roles in our society become less defined.

And frankly, those assumptions are offensive. Women don’t need special accommodation so that they can be home in time to make dinner. They need a partner who is willing to share childcare and homemaking responsibilities equally, and America needs employers who understand that men and women deserve equally flexible hours, to give both parents the opportunity to care for and spend time with their family, as well as equal pay for equal work. (Both candidates somewhat avoided the question regarding equal pay, but if you’re interested, here is a description of the Lilly Ledbetter Act: http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2008/09/15/080915ta_talk_surowiecki.)

This isn’t a problem exclusive to Mitt Romney; politicians and journalists alike often talk about “women’s issues” and the “women’s vote”, as if all women have the same problems and vote the same way. Some issues, of course, are more specific to women, such as access to contraception and gender discrimination. But not all women care about those issues on the same level. And in the twenty-first century, childcare and flexible work hours are no more exclusive to women than unemployment is to men.

The comments Mitt Romney made in the debate Tuesday night, and those other politicians have made before him, are just another kind of sexism. It might be easier for politicians to keep gender roles strict, so they can fit the electorate inside little boxes (or binders) and pander to those issues. But it’s time for us to realize that the structure of our society is changing, and we need to change with it.

 

Freedom of Speech (So long as…)

ImageThis week, as we’ve been learning about civil liberties and rights, I’ve done a lot of thinking about one of the most important rights of Americans: The freedom of speech. This right is the reason the revolutionaries of the eighteenth century were able to justify criticizing the king of England, an integral part in the establishment of the United States. To this day, all Americans are perfectly free to criticize our government. However, a commonly asked question is: how do these rights apply to minors? The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence don’t mention how rights apply to legal minors.

During our research on different court cases, I learned the details of the case Tinker v Des Moines School District (1968). This case explored the rights of minors to free speech in public schools. Essentially, the students in the case wore black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War, and were suspended from school until the protest ended. In the ruling, the Supreme Court classified the armbands as freedom of expression, and since they weren’t disruptive to the running of the school, it was within the rights of the students to wear them. This ruling set a precedence of freedom of speech for minors. Judging by later limitations set on the case ruling, it has been established that minors have the rights to free speech and expression so long as they are not indecent or disruptive during school functions.

So what about other rights? Are minors entitled to freedom of press? According to another case, not quite. Schools have the right over students to censor newspaper publications, screening for appropriate topics and the like. This case makes it clear that no, minors do not have the true freedom of press the way the Bill of Rights outlines it. And despite Tinker v Des Moines, minors don’t have the full freedom of speech. It appears that the rights of the American citizen do not apply to minors, and are instead limited by higher authority (such as school officials and guardians).

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My thought is that minors need to know their rights. There are various protective acts that outline things that can’t be done to minors, or what can be done in certain situations concerning minors. I propose that an amendment, law, or act be created with the purpose of outlining the individual rights of minors in regards to the rights of an American citizen. Not many average high school students will be able to reference Tinker v Des Moines when faced with their school principal. IF all that minors have to go by are court cases, then how are they supposed to know their rights? This law, amendment, or act would provide a comparison of full adult rights to those of minors, letting everyone know what minors can and can’t do. The benefits of such an outline would be great. It would provide schools and parents with a concept of laws as they apply to children, and it would give minors knowledge of the full extent of their power.

As of right now, I’m still not sure what rights I am entitled to as a minor. Am I granted the right to petition? Am I granted the right to assembly? I’m not even sure what the proceedings are for search warrants granting search and seizure rights to the police. It’s a little scary, knowing the freedoms that are granted to Americans but not knowing how many of them you hold. So my thought is that minors should be educated in their government classes not only about how government was established and how it works, but also about what that means for them before they are adult citizens of the United States.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

 
 

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There’s Still a Point

yep, those are my big feet in that voting booth.

As the presidential election looms closer and closer, there are ads everywhere urging us to pick the “right” candidate for whom to vote.  However, I think the more pressing issue than deciding whom to vote for is lurking beneath the surface: young people have begun to stop voting.

All across the country, politicians, business-owners, and everyday people are insisting that young people are becoming increasingly apathetic towards the idea of voting.   A poll published in Gallup recently said, “Young people are losing interest in voting.  Just 58 percent of voters 18 to 29 years old said they are “definitely likely to vote” this November, down from 78 percent in a poll taken in October ahead of the 2008 election, and 81 percent in 2004. “

This seriously alarms me in multiple ways: first, I have a hard time understanding why young people- or for that matter, any group of people- would voluntarily choose not to vote.  Voting is how we express our beliefs as citizens, and is more effective than protesting ninety-nine percent of the time.  If we don’t believe our representatives are serving our needs as a people, we are able to nominate someone else who will represent us better.  We’re able to select who we want in our government, pushing for our needs, caring for our safety, and bettering our lives.  If people don’t vote, they can’t complain about not being appropriately politically represented.

Second, I think that to not vote is a disgraceful waste of our abilities as citizens in a democratic society.  Our Founding Fathers gave us the right to vote and the right to express our political beliefs, however directly or indirectly we choose to do so.   Reading the papers of Madison, Jefferson, and Hamilton in APGOV has shown me how much they believed in a republican society, and how much they desired that their citizens be able to vote and express their beliefs.

I’ll be eighteen this October, about a week before the presidential election.  I’ve been registered to vote since this March, and it’s all I’ve been talking about for the past six months.  I firmly believe that there’s still a point in voting, despite the apathy of some members of my generation.  No matter whom I end up voting for, I won’t be part of the youth demographic who remained silent during one of the most important elections of this century.  I’ll have chosen whom I want to represent me and serve my needs, and whom I genuinely believe will do a good job leading our country for the next four years.  For me, that’s all the motivation I need to get to the voting booth.

they want you to vote as much as i do!

 

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