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Archive for the ‘political action’ Category

Every election year, a crisis seems to rear its ugly head, staring us all right in the face, daring us to take action. Every election year, we hear the same depressing story, over, and over again. Like a broken record, the needle just keeps skipping, replaying the same doom story. Every election year, we hear the demographic voting data, and every year, we hear how poorly the 18-24 year old bracket did with voter turnout.

It’s sad, really. The future fails to care about the present time and time again. Sure, there are those of us who genuinely care, care not only about which candidate seems “cooler,” but care how their foreign policy stance will affect the country long-term, or how their economic plan details success. But let’s face it. Those people are not the majority, never have been, and probably never will be. Not just in the aforementioned “youth” bracket, but every single age demographic in the country seems to be in large part uninformed, and if they the don’t fall into that boat, then they often take propaganda they hear and act as if it was written in stone, making them misinformed, often stubbornly so.

What can a nation do when its foundational aspect of electing the leader of the free world, the people, make their own criterion for selection who looked the best during the debate, or what color/creed they are, or what their stance is on a single issue?  This is the message we as young people get from the older generations, the ones running the country. There is such apathy for complete knowledge of candidates’ platforms from the majority of the older generation, that when it comes time for our turn to walk into the booth, most of us seem to care even less than our parents do.

But we cannot blame others for our own folly, at least not completely. Somewhere along the way, the partial apathy of our elders get amplified on us, so much so that many of us don’t even travel to the polls. There is a large gap between current events and politics and the average young voter. Why? Is it the audience politics usually caters to, the life-experienced and intelligent adult, or it is more that we don’t feel connected to the issues? At what point should we start caring? When we buy a house? When we pay our first real taxes on our own, and actually feel compelled to see what the government is doing with it? Or should we start caring once the economy falls completely apart, and we can’t afford to buy that new laptop, or even get a job coming of out college?

The answer: we need to care now, because however our parents leave us this country is how we’re going to inherit it.  The fact is, people often don’t care about what’s going on around them that does not directly affect them( see world hunger), and this is not lost on us, the youth. But we are ignorant, ignorant to the fact that politics DOES affect us directly, we just cannot see it right in front us all of the time.  As long we get everything we want short-term, the majority are complacent. I suppose that increased responsibility, such as income taxes and home ownership tends to break us of complete apathy, but for some, not even that is enough.

There is a reason we have a voice at age 18 in this government. It is not an ancient, outdated law, it has a purpose. We have a voice at 18 because we are expected to take an active part in this country’s affairs at 18. More than that, we should WANT to take part! So many have died to give us this right, it’s almost disrespectful not to take advantage of it. However, that being said, it is never alright to vote for the sake of voting-part of that privilege requires that we make intelligent choices.

For our own good, we have to care. And it has to be a team effort. Politicians should make redoubled efforts to reach out to the youth, and the youth need to wake up and embrace their legacy. The vicious cycle of political apathy needs to stop if we are to survive as a nation long-term. What better time than now?

This last presidential election showed increased youth voters across the board. Are we finally showing progress?

When the future fails to care about the present, the future destroys itself.

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Previously this semester, I came across a blog post written by one of my peers surrounding the issue of tyranny. This student had connected Machiavelli’s view on tyrannical power with a recent episode of House M.D., a popular television show that is part of the Fox Network. Being a devoted fan of the House M.D. series, I began thinking about how this particular episode connected to our other readings, specifically Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s piece “Letter From Birmingham Jail”. Based on my observations, I have found that Dr. King would deem Dr. Chase’s actions in this episode unacceptable, because they do not follow his regulations about how to conduct a proper protest.

On this particular episode, Dr. House and his team have the unique opportunity of treating a violent leader of a nation in Africa. During his visit to the United States, he experiences health complications that land him in Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. The leader’s goal is to return to a healthy state so he can return to his country and execute thousands of innocent minorities that he believes are having a negative impact on his nation. During his treatment, Dr. Chase is involved in an argument with him because the leader tries to convince chase that the execution of these people will be done for the good of the country. After a correct diagnosis is reached, Dr. Chase takes it upon himself to alter a blood test, which leads to the purposeful death of the tyrant.

In “Letter From Birmingham Jail” Dr. King indicates what he believes is the correct way to stage a protest. He designates four stages in the process: collection of facts, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action. Unlike Dr. Chase, Dr. King’s protests are always nonviolent, but that does not stop him from taking what he calls “direct action”. One might interpret this to be similar to what Dr. Chase takes on: substituting beneficial negotiation for a sometimes-violent action on the part of the opposition- but Dr. King’s form of direct action is different. He defines it as “presenting our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community”. Examples of this would include staging sit-ins, marches, or boycotting certain services. The difference between Chase and King’s version of protests are that Dr. Chase is in no way sacrificing anything himself. Dr. King emphasizes the importance of “presenting our very bodies”, and being vulnerable but ready to accept any consequences that may come of their actions. Dr. Chase on the other hand, plans only to execute and hide, ultimately escaping any punishment he deserves.

Another important difference between these two “protesters” are they’re views on the negotiation component of a proper protest. Dr. King views negotiation as a precursor to action. In his piece, he explains his interaction with members of the economic community in Birmingham, and how their promises soon turned out to be broken. These instances are what push non-violent protestors into action, but only if there is no possible way to effectively communicate their needs to the majority. Dr. Chase, on the other hand, reserves no room for communication or the proper steps preceding direct action. As a result, he takes the wrong path and ultimately commits a crime that he is unwilling to accept the consequences for, and will end his career entirely.

All in all, Dr. King and Dr. Chase vary in the ways in which they chose to take action in a “positive” way. Although Dr. Chase’s intentions may be honorable, we have learned from many past political figures that no one man can take away the rights of another, and that is what Chase does. Ultimately, it comes down to the issue of respect: Dr. King was wise enough to see that a respectful opposition- that is, not infringing on the rights of others- to rules he sees as oppressive is the best course of action. It is as we learned in kindergarten: treat other’s how you want to be treated.

Works Cited

Jr., Dr. Martin Luther King. “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” (1963).

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Politics and Religion in America:
Where is This Religious Tolerance I Have Heard About?

Section 011

I have decided to post this blog this late in the term because it does not directly correlate to any of our readings, however, I do believe this is an important political issue that should be discussed.

How many senators and representatives in congress believe in some form of a God? How many do not? The 111th congress opened this year with, at most, 7 “non-believers”. Breaking that down, there were actually two Buddhists and five who declined to answer the question. This means that a confirmed 1% of congress does not believe in a God. Is this just because 1% of America does not believe in a God? Not quite, only about 80% of Americans believe in a God, leaving 20% who have declared not to be affiliated with any God religion. Thinking about this in a larger sense, how many presidents have declared to not believe in a God? Zero. So, one may be asking oneself, what’s the issue here? The issue is that those who do not believe in a God are put at a disadvantage on the political level by many of the American people and there is something seriously wrong with this.

A USA Today/Gallup poll in 2007 showed that only 45% of respondents would vote for an Atheist. So, theoretically, even if a non-believer ran for president and would clearly be the best candidate for the position, he would still not win, because of his lack of belief in a God. Does this seem right? Does this seem like it is in the best interest of the country? I do not see how the answer to this could be yes. Some may claim that because he does not believe in a God, he would be immoral and therefore advocate immoral laws. However, this attack against political atheists has relatively little ground. Just because religions with a God advocate some kind of moral position on almost everything, why is it that without a belief in God, someone cannot be moral? This is blatant prejudice thought. Also, since when did everyone who believes in a God follow all those morals anyway? (We all have at least heard one story of a politician who has been “unfaithful” to their spouse).

Maybe one could argue that, “people should have the right to vote for who they want.” This is true, but that does not make this issue any less of a problem. The issue of stereotyping race, sex, gender, etc. has come to discussion in American politics, so why not religion? Just like there is no reason not to vote for an African-American who is most suitable to be the Commander-in-Chief, there is no reason to not vote for a non-believer in the same situation. Too many voters are unfairly stereotyping those who do not believe in God and consequently voting their religion in office and not voting based on merit. Once again, this can in no way benefit America and can only hurt it.

The United States claims to have a government that is separate from religion, but the word “God” is on our national currency and is said during almost any political address. We claim to have freedom of opportunity, but the political scene looks grim for anyone who enters without a belief in God. I am not advocating “Godlessness” in America, only in American politics. We should vote for our public officials based on merit, not on religion. Government and religion need to be in two separate spheres: just as the government has no place in religion, religion has no place in American government.

Sources:

Lin, Joanna. “111th Congress reflects greater religious diversity in

the U.S. .” L.A. Times 05 Jan 2009: n. pag. Web. 13 Dec 2009.

<http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jan/05/local/me-beliefs5?pg=2&gt;.

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“A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source” (Madison, The Federalist Paper 10).

 

In this passage from the Federalist Paper 10, Madison predicts that the variety of factions in a nation protects that nation from becoming endangered. In other words, the many different factions will prevent any one from becoming too powerful. I suppose Madison thought that the United States was such a melting pot of political ideals that a widespread movement would have been impossible. This is understandable, however, because at the time when the Federalist Papers were published, there was a great debate between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. This may have motivated Madison to assume that factions were not to be feared.

Did Madison realize, or was he ignoring the existence of political parties? If political parties are indeed considered factions, his assumption clearly does not hold true. He must have thought that the Federalist/Anti-Federalist would be over with after the Constitution was ratified.

In ratifying the Constitution, the constitutional committee tried to ignore the issue of slavery. Many thought that the issue would die down eventually, but they were very wrong. Slavery remained an important part of the Southern economy until the Civil War.

Besides the advent of political parties, however, it seemed Madison was generally correct in his assumption that factions would cancel each other out. It took 100 years after the Civil War for a movement of great magnitude to disprove Madison.

The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s provides a great counterexample to Madison’s opinion on factions. The movement started with a single baptist minister who preached equality, justice, and liberty for all, and culminated in a movement that changed American ideals forever. Through non-violent actions and civil disobedience, Martin Luther King Jr. led the civil rights movement and his ideas traveled throughout the United States without being stopped by the “variety of factions.” His March on Washington alone brought over 300,000 people to the streets of the capitol in support of the cause.

The remarkable thing was that the ideas truly traveled between “factions.” Supporters of the Civil Rights movement came from many different backgrounds and political ideologies. Supporters, black and white, came together under the common idea that there should be justice for all.

While other factions existed in opposition to the Civil Rights Movement, the people persevered and made real changes. In 2008, we elected an African-American President in Barack Obama.

Because of the example of the Civil Rights movement, Madison’s assumption is disproved. Ideas can indeed travel between factions, and it occurs regularly. Once in a great while an idea will inspire so many that it will become a movement and demand change.

 

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Tomorrow, Friday the 13th, marks an ominous day in my hometown. In Bethesda, Maryland, at Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School the infamous Westboro Baptist Church is coming to protest a number of student run groups on campus. At my high school, they are protesting The Diversity Club, The Feminist Club, The Gay Straight Alliance, The Jewish Culture Club, and The Special Olympics Club. All of these clubs are well known at my school for fostering acceptance and tolerance for all people worldwide. This Westboro protest really strikes home for me because I know a number of friends in these clubs and can personally attest that what they advocate and promote are both progressive and peaceful ideas not the kind to be protested. The Westboro Baptist Church is known nationwide for its controversial protests of LGBT groups and its radical beliefs about homosexuality. There was a prominent play entitled The Laramie Project, which document one of their protests at Matthew Shepard’s funeral, because he was gay. Their website is here for those interested in learning more about them http://www.godhatesfags.com/. The most interesting part of this controversy, however, is the student’s reactions. Our high school has issued a request that students do not cause too much of a commotion due to the protest and want any counter-protest to be silent and peaceful. Students at my high school created two rival facebook groups to combat the protest, one entitled “Counter Protest Against Westboro Baptist Church!” focused on being “a SILENT and PEACEFUL protest” And the other “VOCALLY protest Westboro!!!” which advocated disobeying the high school administration’s request for a silent protest. These two opposite protest methods seem highly reminiscent of the Civil rights movement and both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X’s theories on protest. Like the civil rights movement, Gays and Lesbians across the country are currently denied their civil rights and groups like the Westboro Church are likened to racists and anti-civil rights supporters back in the 1960’s.  In their respective essays, A Letter from a Birmingham Jail and The Ballot or the Bullet, both King and X argue for their protesting methods. I believe that were they alive today King and X would support the corresponding methods by which students are counter-protesting.  In his essay, King states that “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.” In this case, the nonviolent, non-vocal, and peaceful protest of the first group personifies King’s ideals. They create tension through counter-protest, while simultaneously bringing positive attention to the cause because of their respectful dissent to their opponents. Malcolm X on the other hand advocates a different type of protest. In his essay, X says that we should remain “nonviolent as long as the enemy is nonviolent” By being vocal and trying to instigate emotional and negative responses, the Westboro church, by X’s standards, validates an equally vocal response. The Westboro church is known for trying to spark emotional responses to their protests. One of the main concerns that both the students of the first group and the school administration share is that the Westboro Group loves attracting news coverage through the response that those they are protesting provide. The harsher the reaction to their protest, the more coverage they can generate. The debate becomes this: which is a better method of protesting? I believe, in both this situation and the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King’s protesting strategy has many more positive results. It is responsible of the majority of students, shown through the number of members in the respective Facebook groups, to choose to silently protest. They show their disagreement with the church’s views while simultaneously being respectful, more mature, and denying them their desired press coverage. Just like in the Civil Rights Movement, being peaceful and passive makes their opponents look worse for seeming more radical. The excessive force used to put down the non-violent protests generated a lot of positive media coverage for the movement. In this case, by being peaceful and silently rejecting the church’s protest, B-CC students will rise above their opponents. Simultaneously, if the students had adopted X’s ideals in their protest they would be playing into the hands of their opponents by generating more media coverage. In conclusion, it is easy to see why King’s strategy for protesting is a superior one, both in the Civil Rights Movement and for tomorrow. By being peaceful and not regressing to emotional responses, protesters can make their message heard and seem mature and right while doing it.

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Politically speaking, can you have dirty hands even though you are not per say “politically involved” in a direct way?  Just because the mayor decided to corrupt the system by taking money from taxpayers of the city, does not mean that he/she is the only one who has in a political aspect “dirty hands”.  In fact shouldn’t we blame the citizens who voted for him, or even the committee who nominated them in the first place?  That raises some curiosity as to if we as the voters or “tax payers” are involved in what we would call having politically dirty hands in a more indirect manner.  But to be convicted with dirty hands even though we are only but voting, why aren’t we directly involved with the politics?  Is it a case of being guilty by association, or do we have a destined curse of having dirty hands intentionally?

As Martin L. Gross Quotes “We live in a world in which politics has replaced philosophy” (A Call for Revolution 1993), we as Americans show that it is the philosophers that has sculpted and predicted what our modern day political system is of, and the flaws of how human error could cause what is now “dirty hands”, but of my opinion is just pure sin.  Socrates argued that the way the government was run in Athens was in inadequately governed.  Dr. Martian Luther King fought hard and long just for African Americans to have the same equality as the white man had, as the government and political system was inaccurate and unsatisfactory as well. Its as if we set ourselves up for political error.  I mean I know that sometimes you are put in difficult situations in which you have to make effective and logical decisions, but you also have to think of how effective the outcome will be.  We as tax payers must make the logical decisions as to who we must wisely put in the political office not knowing if we will in the future have dirty hands.  So that raises the question as to how could we avoid dirty hands?  We as Americans as well as me as an African American male would be letting Dr. King down for giving up my privilege to vote, after he waited and died for this vivid vision.

It’s just a hex or a curse that is put on us as humans.  All around the world people might not know it, but we all have dirty hands whether we are politically involved a direct or an indirect way.  We force the blame mainly on the politicians when it is the people as well as we as the taxpayers who are the masterminds behind getting the politicians hands dirty in the first place.  We nominate these figures from Nixon to Bush, and yet we blame all of these political errors, mistakes, sins on the same figures that we (the tax payers) have elected into office, thus we dirty our own hands.  It’s lose lose situation in this system, and I believe that with logical conversation and convincing, that we could make an effort to come up with a new political term of our own “hands of honor” in which we can satisfy Americans and Passover both political and other world problems that hinder us from taking politics to the next level.

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            Abiding by most rules, regulations, and restrictions is often times easier said than done. Upholding the most righteous and high-minded of principles sounds good in theory but often times proves difficult in practice. Throughout its history, the United States has been an unfortunate paradigm of this truth, consistently disappointing that which we stand for as we bend our own rules, stomp on our own ideals and act hypocritically while our every move is both guided and excused by our unofficially adopted rationalization, “might makes right”. At our very core, from our past of oppression and our philosophy rooted in the enlightenment, we have declared ourselves the world’s great experiment; the great democracy guaranteeing each equal being freedom and liberty – natural rights, intrinsically awarded to each and every man, woman, and child of every race and creed. Yet it seems obvious many centuries later that our promises were either unrealistic or undeserving of the effort needed to uphold them. We have effectively neglected our responsibility to follow through with so much of what we profess to stand for.

            Our nation has become the real-world embodiment of the politician exercising power in Michael Walzer’s, “Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands”, originally alluded to on page 164 and discussed between pages 166-167. Like the politician who “believes that torture is wrong, indeed abominable, not just sometimes, but always” and “had expressed this belief often and angrily” (167), America was never supposed to be a “torture” nation. Additionally, like the politician, who fancies himself a good man, yet authorizes the use of torture, in recent months, it seems clear that America’s stance against such measures was little more than another one of our empty promises, since broken and subsequently justified. And as Walzer, quoting Austin, points out, “a justification is typically a denial of fault and an assertion of innocence” (170).

            The United States is signed to multiple multilateral peace conventions and wartime treaties in which the use of torture to any extent is unabashedly, explicitly, and unequivocally denounced and outlawed (for example, the United Nations Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions). Yet in the last year it surfaced that what first emerged as a seemingly singular, contained scandal executed by rogue officials (Abu Ghraib) was, in reality, something of a systematic, institutionalized policy ordered from the very top. And the infractions that we are now known to have perpetrated make embarrassing photographs sound about as frivolous as a bad hair day at a Thursday night mixer.

            Walzer’s politician, who is implied to have campaigned on an anti-torture platform, is no different than the United States, a nation that has, for many years now, arrogantly asserted its moral superiority. It is on the strength of such campaign promises that Walzer’s politician was elected to govern, just as the United States authorizes itself to police the world and bend its own rules on the strength of the professed ethical high ground behind which it hides. 

            There are those in our country who wish to continue to hide. Essentially, their defense is two-fold. They can either argue for the necessity or the effectiveness of these tactics, or they can intentionally allow the dialogue to devolve into a battle of semantics in which they instead characterize the methods being used as “enhanced interrogation”.  The former of these arguments is an essentially irrelevant claim which holds no water in any reasonable consideration of the situation unless accompanied by a movement to change both national and international law. The latter, however, serves as a more complicated rebuttal. It seems self-evident that the techniques employed fit the definition of torture. Unfortunately, common sense seems insufficient in the battle to convince ideological zealots.  

            As Walzer summarizes, his politician “committed a moral crime and he accepted a moral burden” (167); his hands are dirty. The United States must, too, hold itself accountable for its crimes. We must acknowledge that our hands are dirty if we are to wash them. The only alternative is to go on pretending that they are clean, but we’re not fooling anybody. Until we accept responsibility and punish those responsible, it is likely that nobody will shake our hands.

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