March in D.C.

On March 24th of 2018 (over a week ago as I finish this post), I rode down in a bus to the Capitol with several other students to take part in the March for Our Lives.

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A random photo I took before my iPhone died (damn battery)

It was just last February that the Stoneman Douglas shooting in Parkland, Florida occurred, just one of many shootings to occur since the Massacre at Columbine shocked the nation. Every time we have had gun violence hit the media–be it at a school, a theater, or a church–there was strong request for change, for regulations on who can and who can’t use guns. The people in power have offered there sympathies to the bereaved, but time and time again have been either unable or unwilling to bring about strong reform.

After Columbine, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Vegas, and several other such tragedies, Parkland was basically the last straw; the Stoneman Douglas students got mobilized.

The crowd that day contained hundreds of thousands of people, loudly chanting for change and reparation. While otherwise a chilly day, the collective heat of the crowds was enough to make the air shimmer. Every now and again as we stood, some individuals would start a chant and it would rip like a tsunami right across the bulk of the gathered masses.

Between performances by various celebrities, survivors and advocates came up onstage and decried the violence they had been forced to endure, the NRA for stonewalling gun-control efforts, and the politicians who have allowed the violence to go on for this long.

Many relevant things were said during the main rally, most of which I can only barely recall through the haze of strong emotion (as well as due to getting a sunburn; it was very bright that day).

Stoneman Douglas survivors such as Emma Gonzales and David Hoggs gave us heartfelt and charged speeches regarding the trauma of surviving an event no student should ever have to endure, while emphasizing the need for change and the importance of our making ourselves heard. Gonzales’s speech in particular was powerful for the short silent break in it, roughly the same length of time as the six minutes in which the Parkland shooter killed its victims.

A portion of the crowd (either out of cluelessness or discomfort) attempted to fill the silence with chants. It was kind of disrespectful; I hope they weren’t too loud on the news coverage.

Naomi Wadler, a young african-american girl from Virginia, also spoke to remind us of the continued violence in minority communities that children like her have to endure, as did guest speakers Edna Chavez from Los Angeles and Trevon Bosley of Chicago, cities where people of color in poorer communities have come to live with everyday urban gun violence out on the street, where such violence has been a fact of life for a long while. Both Chavez and Bosley lost siblings to violence, and have seen it out and around in their neighborhood. Minority and impoverished communities are swarming in death and violence that goes unreported by the media, and I am glad to see that this rally included them as well.

My personal highlight for the event was when Yolanda King, the young granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr., came up on the stage and said her peace. As her assassinated grandfather dreamed of freedom from inequality, so she too stated she dreams that we would no more experience tragedy administered by random acts of gun violence.

There was plenty more that was said, plenty more that was expressed. The survivors of other shootings and urban violence came up and expressed support and commitment, there were tells and shouts and much expression, and so much hope that we could finally get something of substance to be accomplished.


There are those who oppose the advocation for gun legislature, the members of the NRA being the most influential (and the ones who got the loudest boos).

Despite what the button on my lapel might have said, I do not consider myself literal “anti-gun”. As someone who hunts game in the fall, I don’t personally have a problem with owning and knowing how to properly use a firearm. However, I do not see any reason why we should not regulate the sale and ownership of guns, especially the almost military-grade “sports” rifle such as the AR-15 often favored by public shooters.

Seriously, why do civilians need automatic or semiautomatic weaponry (which can be modified to be fully automatic)? They are practically the same thing that active duty soldiers use, and they are required to be fully trained and disciplined before they can use those types of gun in combat. An automatic weapon is not typically designed to be a toy nor a hunting rifle; it is designed to kill or maim as many PEOPLE as possible. And anyone can buy one in more states than not without any sort of background check or mental health evaluation. I mean, if the person holding the weapon is the problem rather than the weapon itself, then should we not be okay with refusing to let the problem has access to weapons?

While the AR15 is not an assault rifle ( is referred to as a modern sports rifle by various entities in the business), it is legally an assault weapon and is a favorite choice for mass shootings.

An 18 year old kid can’t drink beer, and they need to pass a crap ton of tests and practice before they can have a license, yet they are perfectly able to walk into a store or to the back of a white van and pick up an assault weapon for just the right amount of CASH.

For the love of God, we have limits on the First Amendment to prevent the use of free speech to harm (e.g. a person can be arrested if they shout “Fire!” into a crowded room for the sole purpose of causing panic), why not modify the Second Amendment to better work in the modern age? Sure, it won’t stop kids and crooks from being able to get guns illegally, but it will make it harder for disturbed individuals to access weapons in general (plus, any sort of background evaluation ought to raise red flags that would draw attention upon any suspicious character).

People talk about arming school teachers to better defend their students, and some schools have started perform lockdown drills with officers shooting blank rifles due to new safety regulations. There is nothing here about preventing the likelihood of a shooting occurring, just arming stressed-out and untrained civilians while teaching children that death and violence are things to which they should become accustomed.

Call me crazy, but I think a school should be a safe zone where we concentrate on learning and growing without wondering which of our classmates may one day decide to murder us (or which one of our students we might have to execute in the future).

The majority of Generation Z is has reached or is reaching voting age, and come this November those who have registered will have the power to vote out those who oppose change, whose indecision would allow the continued existence of policies and practices that allow such tragedies to continue.


On a related note, let us return to the topic of minority communities. To the day, black and hispanic people in this nation still often get the short end of the stick. Their schools are underfunded, their families often can’t make ends meet, and the people in charge are often either indifferent or hostile. The minority communities experience the largest amount of gun violence in the United States, yet they also receive the least amount of news coverage and reaction compared to predominately well-to-do white communities.

The #BlackLivesMatter movement started in 2014 in response in part to Michael Brown’s death (shot a total of 12 times by an allegedly  threatened Officer Darren Wilson, who was later cleared of charges), and has been continuing steadily. It has not been receiving the same amount of recognition and support as the #NeverAgain movement started by Emma Gonzales and the Parkland survivors. In fact, it has been classified as an extremist organization by the FBI (very same agency that was AT LEAST indirectly complicit to the assassination of Martin Luther King jr.) simply because they are protesting (peacefully, I might add) and unfair justice system. Apparently the FBI has pinned unrelated violent protests by individual black individuals as something everyone connected to the movement would sanction or commit. In the mean time, people of color still continue to leave in general poor, stressful, and unsafe conditions.

Because the Parkland shooting involved a rather well-to-do, predominantly white community, there was a lot more public outrage concerning the event. As a result, it was school shootings that got most of the coverage in debate over gun safety.

Incidentally, the Parkland Shooter (a 17 year old who definitely knew what he was doing) was often talked about as being a troubled child and bullying victim (the guy had a history of rage and brutality, and there were people at the school who tried to befriend him in spite of it) who is being kept safe in protective custody, whereas black boys get shot, beaten, and killed by dumbass officers who immediately assume they’re “threatening” them.

As I believe Edna Chavez described in her speech, the officers aren’t any help to the community because they are likely to profile and arrest the children of color rather than protect and aid them. I don’t care that not all officers are like that, it’s still a problem that there are at least a small crowd of them THAT ARE.

I live in a rural community, so this has always been a distant problem to me. None the less, I recognize the urban violence that occurs among the less well off and marginalized demographics is just as relevant a problem to the American people as the growing tendency we have towards experiencing school shootings. Circumstances like these should not be normal for anyone, people should not have to experience the trauma of live-or-death situations in their everyday lives, let alone live in neighborhoods that are practically war zones.

In the poor urban communities, people have no aid, no money, no jobs, and they often turn to crime and violence out of desperation and fear. They don’t use assault weapons (except for the bigger gangs) but the common pistol can just as easily kill you as any other projectile weapon. Here, the problem is definitely lack of care for those of us leaving poverty. When things happen to people of color in poverty (or really poor people in general), it tends to be seen as not a concern of the nation as a whole but just of that specific demographic.

There is a lot more about marginalized poor communities besides urban violence of which I am opinionated or infuriated, especially my inability to do shit about it, but that can be saved for later actions.

Anyway, the movement started by the Parkland crowd have an agenda I support and think others ought to as well, and people such as #BlackLivesMatter and other advocates for improving life in marginalized communities need the support too. I think it is important that those who can change things actually goddamn improve things. Granted, I can’t know everything about anything, and there will always be stuff of which I am incorrect, but I am damn well sure that a safer, kinder America is one I want to live in.

In the mean time, I need to get back to sorting out my thesis project (and probably go to bed at some point, it’s already past midnight where I am). Goodnight.

 

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Border Crossing

I recently read about this claim floating around about how a significantly higher number of people had been deported under the Obama administration than any other. Statistically, it is true that the numbers are higher. However, according to Snopes.com, this is due to a change in the definition of the term “deportation” rather than an increase in the number of people being deported. Before the Bush administration, someone caught in the act of crossing the border would just be turned back without being put on record. As of the Bush administration, however, such people get fingerprinted and officially deported.

There are, of course, other variables that must be taken into account, such as the fact that the number of people apprehended by Border Patrol officers has apparently risen since 2008 (coinciding with a slump in the amount of illegal crossings of the Mexican border), as well as the fact that the ICE has a quota of detainees that it needs to have its custody daily (established in 2009 by lawmakers who thought that there was not enough being done to deport unlawful immigrants), which means that they have been reaching deep into the legal justice system to round up any criminals potential eligible for deportation. This can possibly be part of a trend started in 1986 by the passing of the Immigration Reform and Control Act that encouraged the deportation of any immigrant guilty of an applicable offense and had allowed following legislations to bias against the discretion of a judge to grant relief from deportation in certain cases.

The number of people entering the US from Mexico apparently had gone significantly down back in 2015. According to this article I read, the net flow of mexicans entering the US was currently negative, meaning that immigrants who had entered previously were now moving back to Mexico in greater numbers than the people entering. Tougher Border Patrol practices were cited as a reason for less people entering, while a desire for reuniting with families was mentioned as a main reason for returning. A factor that influences both is the fact that opportunities in both Mexico and the US are now viewed as about the same by the citizens of the latter, which means that less desperate people are motivated to seek out their fortunes in the strange land up north. In some cases, the reason to return was apparently because there was not much opportunity for work in the US.

As the number of people from Mexico declined, the number of people immigrating from elsewhere apparently rose a bit, so the rate has been more or less stable in the past few years. As usual, more information about the topic can be found in the links below.

As of the tail end of 2016, uncertainty about the current administration could also be considered a factor in the decrease in immigration from the south.

For undocumented children raised in the US, the current atmosphere is one of anxiety and uncertainty. The immigration policy known as “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” provides limited protection from deportation for illegal immigrants brought in as children, as well as allowing them to earn money and attend schools. The Trump campaign site had promised to end DACA as part of the overall plan to toughen down on illegal immigrants, although it currently still remains in place.

As far as the wall across the border we’ve all been hearing about is concerned, while designs have been made, physical construction cannot begin before congress approves of it, and the President Nieto of Mexico consistently has stated that his country will not be paying for it as the US President has claimed. If the US government has to fund the entire project, they are going to make up for it with increased tariffs, increased travel visa /border crossing fees, and just a general border adjustment taxes on us citizens.

On a personal note, it has been almost five years since my passport expired, and I am currently working on renewing it.

Sources:

Snopes.com

Migration Flows Between the US and Mexico have Slowed

5 Facts about Illegal Immigration

Undocumented Students in US Face Anxious Future

Donald Trump’s Mexico Wall: Who is Going to Pay for It?

Left, Right, Ambidexterious

So, I recently got into a short “discussion” on Facebook concerning politics in general. The other individual was someone who had voted for Trump and frequently writes post criticizing the opposition. One thing that I found interesting is that he distinguished between being a liberal and being part of the left. The former was generically defined as being a supporter of free speech and tolerance, while being a “lefty” meant to him being an anti american, anti free speech, pro islam, identity politics loving individual.

I have seen the term “rabid left” used in a few other media posts by this individual (and members of his family). To summarize what has popped up in my newsfeed, he and his immediate relations are of the opinion that news sources like CNN are propagators of false information, that Trump’s presidency is in the nation’s best interests, and the majority of those aligned with the democratic party are prone to violent outbursts, attacking free speech, overusing the victim card, and a couple of other things that remind me of what Milo Yiannopoulos used to write in the Brietbart (before that video came went viral and he upset near everyone across the political spectrum). Heck, considering that at least two of them are into creative writing (as well as charming and visually attractive), perhaps one of them could become the next Yiannopoulos.

Anyway, due to the current presidential administration being run by such a polarizing figure who was the center of many controversial topics in recent history, it is not surprising that quite a number of people are being very vocal in their opinions on the matter. Of course, what I would like to know is where they are getting the information they use to back up their opinions.

So, what is the current situation with the left and the right? What does it mean to be “left” or “right” for that matter?

There is a rather long and interesting history of the terms left-wing and right-wing that can be traced back to the French Revolution (apparently they originally referred to literal “wings” of the governing building), but let’s focus on the contemporary definitions in relation to politics and public perception in the US.

For the most part, the left-wing has generally characterized as being composed of those parties that support progressiveness, internationalism, equality in the form of a level playing field, limited governing, and similar values. The right can be generally be characterized by tradition, nationalism, equality in the form of everyone has opportunity to advance, authority, and other mostly conservative values. Whether or not this simplistic, dichotomous explanation can actually be applied to the current political sphere is something I don’t really know (although I think it is obvious that the real situation is much more complex and nuanced; after all, socialism is considered a left-wing value yet historical socialist states have apparently required authoritarian governments to function).

In the contemporary US, there are two main political parties that have the most influence, The Democratic Party and the Republican Party, with the former generally supporting liberal values and the right conservative ones (however, there are plenty of individuals in both parties who do support values that are associated more with the other side).

During the 2016 presidential election, it seemed to me we had a lesser of two evils type of deal. On the one hand, we had Clinton, who was apparently seen as a tool of the establishment and too flexible in her political stance (ironically, she was disliked during the 1990s for being too naive and ideologically rigid). On the other hand, we had Donald Trump, who is famously nationalistic, anti-immigrant, prone to making false statements while accusing the media of making false statements, and rather rude.

Apparently, a lot of people were genuinely shocked by his winning of the election. I know that quite a few friends of mine were in a bad emotional place that Wednesday. It has also apparently instigated violence and irrationality among those viewed as members of the left, if pro-Trump media sources are anything to go by (meanwhile, other media sources–quiet a few of them probably biased in the other direction–will go into great detail about what repercussions Trump’s decisions are generating and how they will screw up the country).

There definitely were quite a few protests after the election, and I expect there to be more in the days to come. There will also continue to be people who strongly condemn or support the actions/goals of those protesting, and there will be a lot of selectiveness in which facts get cited to support predefined opinions (assuming they aren’t skewed in the first place).

I do not think the left has gone rabid. A think that a few fringe groups are definitely engaging in irrational behavior, but for the most part I suspect that people actively critical the current administration are being played up by media more focused on entertainment and pundits who just want to sway your opinion. Also, it seems to me that those of american conservative mindset (and this is just speculation based on only a few observations and second hand accounts) are defined by maintaining some sort of “traditional” set of values, and they view the left as being to cozy with those that would threaten those values, such as members of the LGBT community and immigrants from very different cultures. They are also more likely to trust in an authoritarian government if said government seems like it will protect the nations “fundamental” values. Of course, this is a general observation that does not include liberals who voted for Trump and conservatives who didn’t.

With rural conservatives in particular (I’m from a rural area, as are most of my conservative peers), the main fear seems to be that the interests of the perceived focus of the “left agenda” is centered on the social and economic developments of cities and urban environments with emphasis on social justice for minorities, and that the white-middle class worker has no place in this. If memory serves correct, these people are definitely worried about losing their jobs to corporations and immigrants (although why a billionaire businessman would help with that is beyond me). There were also a few people I am aware of (there are probably much more) who voted for the current president basically because he would shake up things, bringing about any sort change and new developments (for good or ill) that could not be expected from the opposition.

I recently learned about something called Terror Management Theory, which I think kind of explains a lot about human behavior. Basically, humans have the same instincts and drives to survive and avoid that which could kill them, while also having the cognitive ability to recognize that death is inevitable and that there is nothing they can do to change that. Pretty much every belief system ever functions to prevent the sort of mental breakdown that would otherwise result from this contradiction, and is reinforced when faced with reminders of death. Studies were done that show that subliminal exposure to reminders of death cause one to more strongly support their beliefs, while the possibility of ones beliefs being proven wrong results in greater contemplation of mortality. More information has been included in the links below.

The reason that I mentioned this theory is that I think that Trump managed to win in part by feeding into the unconscious desire for immortality that characterizes most belief systems. Any rhetoric of those who seek to destroy our nation is going to eventually tie into the fear of death, while his promise of making the nation “great again” is directly connected to the main ideals of the nationalist’s belief system. Also, the majority of people who voted for Trump were apparently Baby Boomers, people who are either at or past the halfway point of their expected life spans, and the closer one gets to death the more likely it is that they will have strong belief systems to manage their terror (that certainly explains colonoscopies).

Frankly, I think any sort of political victory can be tied to propaganda that takes advantage of the TMT (and I am pretty that anyone else with a brain has already concluded that).

Before 2016, I did not have any particular political views, except that I sympathized more with liberal ideals than conservative (as well as slightly more libertarian than authoritarian). I did not have much more than a passive interest in what was going on with the governing bodies in my country, although I did try to make informed decisions whenever I had to vote for something. These days, I find it difficult to do any sort of research without getting pissed off or assuming that which makes sense to me is actually accurate. I also find it emotionally difficult to get into any sort of discussion without wanting to back out after five minutes. It is also frustrating how biased information can be, as well as how easily I can be swayed about something by that which plays into my own biases and prejudices.

It is natural for people to have differing views of the world, and to align with those that share similar views while classifying the less similar as opposition. Every irrational, emotional tendency can be explained easily as instincts that allowed our ancestors to survive. However, in a world where first impressions are generated based on skewed secondhand reports and sensationalist media, one must strive to keep calm and dig out the facts from the hyperbolic mud. Of course, what one must often differs greatly from what one actually does.

 

Links

http://digital.library.pitt.edu/a/americanleft/about.html

http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/left-vs-right-us/

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/cover_story/2016/07/the_people_who_hate_hillary_clinton_the_most.html

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/06/the-left-right-political-spectrum-is-bogus/373139/

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2017/02/are-conservatives-more-scared-of-stuff-than-liberals.html

https://www.uni-ulm.de/fileadmin/website_uni_ulm/iui.inst.160/Psychologie/Sozialpsychologie/19_Greenberg_Arndt_Terror_Management_Theory.pdf