Joe Manchin, a Democratic senator from West Virginia, has made headlines over the past week for objecting to a key part of President Biden’s climate bill. According to NPR, the portion of the bill Manchin opposes would “financially reward utilities that transition to renewable energy and penalize those which do not.” This is a key aspect of the bill that would apparently cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, which trap heat in the planet and warm it.
Manchin, on the surface, is looking out for his constituents and saving the country money — in 2019, nearly 20,000 West Virginians were employed by the coal industry, and the state was surpassed only by Wyoming in coal production. In addition, Manchin has reportedly indicated he is trying to keep the country from spending money unnecessarily. The Guardian reported that “Manchin has called the bill’s spending ‘reckless’ and said it ‘makes no sense’ to pay utilities to increase their share of renewable energy when they are doing so already.”
But his decision to stand in the way of climate change reduction efforts, and the gradual retirement of coal production, is ultimately shortsighted as the detrimental impact of coal on the environment far outweighs any potential benefits in the short-term. Biden’s bill originally intended to slowly retire the coal industry, which impacts the environment in two major ways. In some states, including W.Va, mining involves detonating the tops of mountains, changing the landscape and often sending pollutants into streams and other waterways. In addition, burning coal results in emissions of harmful gases, including carbon dioxide. Some of the effects of these emissions include acid rain, a warming globe, and neurological or developmental damage brought about by the release of mercury and similar heavy metals.
Manchin’s refusal to get on board with the climate plan means that Biden doesn’t have all 50 Democratic senators on his side. The Senate is currently split evenly down the middle, with 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats or Independents who vote (caucus) with the Democratic agenda. The tie will then broken by Vice President Kamala Harris. If just one member of the Democratic caucus breaks ranks, the Democratic agenda is without sufficient votes, because it’s highly unlikely that in today’s Trump-driven Republican atmosphere any member of the GOP would vote with Democrats.
Manchin’s steadfast refusal to bend has far-reaching consequences, meaning that the bill’s climate agenda will need to be significantly altered or even watered down. The thing is, every decision we make (or don’t make) today impacts the world of the future. I’m not a scientist, and I can’t bend my imagination to understand just what the world will look like if we don’t make any changes. But others have used their science and imagination to figure this out for me, and the picture they paint isn’t just ugly, it’s downright terrifying. Scientists are warning that much of what the world experienced this summer — from raging wildfires and droughts to floods and hurricanes — could continue and even get worse if we don’t change the way we treat the world.
While Manchin’s spokespeople have said they are trying to save the U.S. government money, indicating many companies are already moving in the direction the bill intends and thus do not need to be incentivized, nearly every article on the subject points out W.Va’s reliance on the coal industry as well as Manchin’s own ties to it. The truth of the matter is, whether Manchin’s reasons are the ones stated (a desire to not spend money on companies allegedly already taking their own steps) or whether the rationale is more nefarious (the senator has made millions from a coal company and raised astronomical amounts of funds from members of the fossil fuel industry), it is ultimately foolish.
The research has all been done to prove that we need to change our actions in order to keep the planet from warming even more than it already has. Manchin’s refusal to think innovatively and problem-solve is in no one’s best interests but his own, and only for a short period. If the planet continues in its current direction, with climate disaster upon disaster, all the saved money and jobs in the world will be worth very little during a climate apocalypse.
The day the SpaceX mission launched, I opened my social media to find various posts from friends and family members all saying the same thing: “They chose the right time to go,” “I wish I could go to space now,” “Now is the perfect time to leave Earth!” I understood what people were saying. It was a tough week, fraught with reports of coronavirus infections, murder hornets, and brutal police killings of Black Americans. The rest of the year continued to face more and more concerns. Nonetheless, all these posts seemed somewhat off to me for a reason I couldn’t pinpoint.
Now, I recognize what that feeling was. Looking over the posts again, I realized that almost every single one was made by a white person, and none were written by a single Black person. It made me wonder: why do we think we have the right to escape this? Don’t get me wrong. I understand that escapism is a natural human desire, and it’s hard to blame people for wanting to escape from a global pandemic and a racist government. But at the same time, what good does escape do?
These posts also reveal another strange phenomenon: how we view science as separate from the “real world.” Space, technology, and science are often considered exempt from our human world’s biases, wholly infallible and detached from racism, corruption, and inequality. But this isn’t true. Technology informs government policies, provides tools to corrupt police forces, and sows seeds of classism and inequality. Science informs health and medicine, two very unequal sectors of our society–as this pandemic has shown with difficulties in distributing vaccines to the most in need. Even the United States Space Program was pushed forward out of Cold-War era political tensions, driven by political motive and power. This isn’t to say that science is inherently evil or corrupt, but that it has an incredible capacity for political and social change.
Human problems don’t end when we go to space. They just change location.
Science is and has always been a human endeavor. As long as humans are involved, it will take on the biases of the people who create and study it. For example, NASA is not free from human prejudice and politics. NASA’s workforce is still about 72% white, and only a third of the employees are women. SpaceX founder Elon Musk certainly isn’t free from prejudice as well. Musk has expressed some progressive views, but he’s also courted controversy by speaking out against coronavirus lockdowns, spouting red pill rumors, and fighting union organizing. That doesn’t mean that SpaceX is necessarily racist or evil; it just means that the world of aerospace engineering is still capable of human biases.
These statements also show the wrong way we view science as totally disparate from our society. In reality, science and technology inform almost every aspect of our daily lives, from the information we receive daily to the medicine and hygiene we all need. Science is not separate from human endeavors but entirely integral to it. The world of science is not a detached fantasy world where one can ignore human problems. It is woven into every fiber of the world we inhabit now. We can use science and technology to create positive solutions, or we can ignore this opportunity and allow them to continue to enforce the status quo. Either way, we cannot ignore the impact of either of these sectors.
As attractive as it sounds, going to space will never be a true escape. People in space are still people, with all the biases, prejudices, fears, and traumas of people on Earth. Human problems don’t end when we go to space. They just change location. Science is an intrinsic part of every problem or solution that we have on Earth; it is not a distraction from our society but a fundamental aspect of it.
Most of us cannot go to space at this moment. It would be logically improbably and ethically wrong. Right now, the best thing we can do is stand our ground and stay on Earth. Hard as is it, we need you here, and now is not the time to run — or fly — away.
I had never visited Donald Trump’s Instagram page before but, when I went to check it for the first time, I found the oddest thing in the comments. Virtually every other comment was a teenager responding to his post with cyberbullying — yes, cyberbullying. All of these comments were various insulting puns with heart and fairy emojis. These comments tend to be witty bait and switches — “You made my day…worse!” or “You tried your best! Stop trying!” or other similar sentiments. Apparently, it got so bad that Trump turned off his comments. Some critics say that cyberbullying is back in a big way. But I don’t know if this is quite true.
What I do know is that members of Gen Z have been finding new ways to confront people online. Sometimes Zoomers will take aim at innocuous people they view as an easy target, such as millennial Buzzfeed readers or anime-loving band kids. Other times, they’ll go after peers and classmates. But something that has gained my interest is the “cyberbullying” of celebrities and politicians.
You might wonder: Is it cyberbullying if it’s a celebrity? Yes and no. Celebrities are still real people, as are politicians, and any form of harassment can hurt them. However, the act of bullying requires some kind of power imbalance.
Think of it this way: Back in school, bullies would usually target kids who were at least at their level or went after people they felt were less powerful. If a teenager on social media “bullies” the president, the same power imbalance isn’t there. The president isn’t a middle school child, even if he acts like one. He holds power over most of the population, meaning that the power imbalance necessary for bullying isn’t there. The same thing goes for other politicians.
What about celebrities? Well, from my experience, most celebrities who get “bullied” or “canceled” are targeted because of past problematic behavior. It can often be unfair, but most recently, people have been targeting celebrities who support Trump or refuse to speak in favor of Black Lives Matter.
One way this manifests itself is by pulling out “receipts” of racist incidents on social media. Within classrooms and college campuses, a similar pattern happens. Zoomers are perfectly willing to call out racist, sexist, and homophobic acts, especially if they can back up their claims with evidence. Most often, this involves digging up offensive social media posts or comments, rather than simply insulting someone. There are entire Instagram and Twitter accounts dedicated to exposing racists. Other generations might find it unusual, but it’s similar to the hate pages of millennials’ youth. The only difference is that these accounts have a social purpose.
These accounts function in a variety of different ways. Sometimes these accounts call for people to lose academic scholarships, college acceptances, or face disciplinary action for offensive behavior. Others have stated that they will remove the incriminating “receipts” if the person involved writes an apology or makes a donation to a relevant fund. In my experience, most just want to make sure that everyone is held accountable for their actions.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes these accounts go too far. Sometimes they “dox” the people involved and reveal personal information. Sometimes people go as far as to send death threats and hate mail. All of these actions constitute actual cyberbullying. However, we need to separate these actions: Sending death threats to a peer or exposing them to real harm is very different from simply calling them out for racist behavior. It’s certainly different from leaving a harmless comment with a fairy emoji on the president’s Instagram account.
Cyberbullying is alive and well, but so much of this so-called “political cyberbullying” is anything but that. Let me make one thing clear: Holding someone accountable for their reprehensible statements and actions isn’t bullying, it’s justice. We should all draw the line at doxing and threats, but it’s alright to hold people responsible for their actions. At the end of the day, let kids have fun with fairy emojis and puns, so long as they direct their mockery to the right people.
In the United States, the mass shooting crisis continues to increase at an alarming rate. While many of us believed the pandemic had put a pause on shootings, The New York Times reports “the shootings never stopped”, “they just weren’t as public.” In 2020, there were 600 mass shootings, compared to 417 in 2019. And, only four months into 2021, 157 mass shootings have occurred. This averages out to be more than one mass shooting a day.
The Gun Violence Archive defines mass shootings as four or more people injured or killed, not including the perpetrator. The FBI defines mass murderers as people who have killed four or more people in a single incident at a single location. In 2017, the U.S comprised only 5% of the world’s population and yet experienced 31% of the world’s mass shootings. In addition, gun violence kills an estimated 30,000 people each year.
Mass shootings are not a new occurrence in the U.S. One of the first mass shootings was in 1949 when Howard Unruh murdered 13 people and wounded three more in what has become known as his 20-minute “Walk of Death.” In recent weeks, mass shootings have resulted in eight people (six Asian and Asian American women) killed in Atlanta, ten people killed in Boulder, and eight people (four Sikh people) killed in Indianapolis.
These hate crimes and targeted attacks against people of color aren’t a new occurrence either. In fact, how the U.S. continues to uphold white supremacy and bigotry has further fanned the flames of the mass shooting crisis. I would argue the roots of this crisis date back to the inception of the U.S. In 1524, a string of bloody clashes between the Pilgrims and the indigenous Wampanoag set the tone for how future Americans would handle “disputes.” To this day, we celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday that came about after early English settlers killed thousands of Native people during King Philip’s War (1675-76).
Fast forward to the 21st century, and the U.S. continues to use violence and war as a solution. This has led the U.S. to prioritize its military—the U.S. is the top military spender in the world—over its people, creating a legacy of unchecked violence that continues with mass shootings.
As a country, we should never become desensitized to the loss of human life. This is a simple concept for many who have taken it upon themselves to protest women’s rights and legal abortion—but the same presence cannot be seen lining up to advocate for the children who have been brutally murdered by mass shooters in schools like Columbine, Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and so many more. What’s even more frustrating is that many of the perpetrators of mass shootings are arrested peacefully, while Black and brown people of all ages are murdered by law enforcement every day for reasons flimsy in rationale but solid in systematic racism.
It’s also hard to watch other countries quickly mobilize to protect their citizens. Immediately after the Christchurch mosque massacre that killed 50 people in 2019, New Zealand voted unanimously to ban military-style semi-automatic weapons. In the ’90s, Australia cut the total of its gun deaths in half after implementing a buyback program that purchased and destroyed 600,000+ automatic and semiautomatic weapons.
In Canada, a 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia, which killed 22 people, led Prime Minister Trudeau to ban 1,500+ makes and models of military-style assault weapons. In addition, the federal government introduced “red flag” laws, established new firearm offenses, and encouraged municipalities to ban handguns through local bylaws. A buyback program is also in the works. Japan has strict laws for obtaining firearms, which include mandatory classes, passing a written test, and achieving at least 95% accuracy on a shooting-range assessment. Citizens also have to pass a background check and mental-health evaluation at a hospital.
The United States should have rushed to implement similar legislation after the 2017 Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 people, or the 2016 Pulse massacre that killed 49 people, or the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting that killed 32 people. Instead, the U.S. has chosen to cross its arms over its chest like a petulant child and double down on the Second Amendment. Many pro-gun advocates cite the Second Amendment, which outlines the people’s right to keep and bear arms, as reason enough to block any gun reform. Varying interpretations of the Second Amendment have been one of the major obstacles in passing new gun regulations.
In 2021, President Biden began to take a firmer stance on gun control by directing the Justice Department to stop the spread of ghost guns. He also urged Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, pass “red flag” legislation, and support violence-intervention programs. It will be interesting to see whether Congress passes this legislation. But I’m not holding my breath.
Guns have become nuclear to American identity, and I’m tired of it. History is supposed to educate us on how society should evolve. Just because something has been a certain way for so long, doesn’t mean it should remain that way, especially when there are so many flaws in the system. U.S. government leaders need to be writing, pushing, and passing gun reform and bans—especially if they believe in truly serving the people of the United States.
People are dying. Is the right to bear arms more important to you than human life? I can already hear the responsible gun owners starting to speak, but we’ve all heard you speak ad nauseam, and I’m done.
If you’re really a responsible gun owner then surely, you’ll have realized that something has got to give at this point. Surely the responsible thing to do is remove guns from the equation—because nothing else we’ve done thus far has protected people.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah is celebrated as the founder of the Pakistani nation. Yet his sister, Fatima Jinnah, who served as a pillar of support for him, never got married and abandoned her medical profession to assist his political endeavors, remains obscured by his magnanimous legacy.
She was born in 1893. The epoch in which Fatima Jinnah was raised (colonial British India) was largely male-dominated, with fewer women belonging to the upper echelons of the professional and political world. In such a world, Jinnah heralded a new dawn for women.
She was an inspiring woman who was known for her power, perseverance, resilience, and fortitude—stuff that legends are made of. She received an excellent early education, which was rare for a woman during her time. This helped her eventually secure a position in a competitive medical college, Dr. Ahmad Dental College in Calcutta. She established herself professionally by running her own dental clinic in Bombay. She was financially independent and self-sufficient—the epitome of modern-day empowerment.
The years leading up to the birth of Pakistan in 1947, paralleled Fatima Jinnah’s transformation from a dental surgeon to a political figure, shadowing her brother. Choosing to not get married, she abandoned her profession and continued to manage the domestic front of the Jinnah household for 28 years. However, it would be a great disservice to restrict her contribution to the domestic sphere. When her brother embarked on his political journey and coped with widowerhood, she became her brother’s chief political confidante. Once Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, told ADC Ahsan “nobody had faith in me; everyone thought I was mad except Miss Jinnah.”
She accompanied him on numerous political tours. In 1932, she attended the Second Round Table Conference with Muhammad Ali Jinnah. She also became a part of the Working Committee of the Bombay Provincial Muslim League and held that position until 1947. In March 1940, she was present at the Lahore session of the Muslim League (the political party led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah), where she stood in favor of democracy. By this time, she was convinced that the Hindus would continue to practice dominance over Muslims, and the latter would have to wallow in poverty, oppression, and subjugation till the end. Because of her belief, she helped in organizing the All India Muslim Women Students Federation in Delhi in 1941.
After her brother passed away in September 1948, she assumed the role of taking his legacy forward and ran for the presidency of Pakistan as a candidate for the Combined Opposition Party of Pakistan (COPP) in 1960. Her opponent was Ayub Khan, whom she openly proclaimed to be a dictator. Her political campaigns attracted massive crowds, swarming all over Dhaka and Chittagong. Later, she famously came to be known as Madr-e-Millat (Mother of the Nation).
In 1965, she contested elections at the age of 71. She stood against Khan—the dictator and self-installed president of Pakistan. Khan’s victory was inevitable. He exercised complete power over the governmental apparatuses of the country and drew legislation over electoral matters as the head of the state. He lumped together with the discontented, yet equally fundamental aspects of the social spectrum in the country to his favor, and drew support from the ulema (Muslim scholars), bureaucrats, students, and journalists.
When the elections were finally held, Jinnah suffered a defeat, leaving the populace in disbelief. Some even claimed that Khan dabbled in filthy election tactics such as rigging, coercion, and manipulation. They believed Jinnah’s defeat was impossible and advocated her rightful and democratic claim to leadership.
Jinnah died on July 9th, 1967 under mysterious circumstances. The cause of her death continues to be ambiguous to this date; with interpretations ranging from political assassination to natural death.
She made enormous contributions to Pakistan’s political history. Yet in the historical archives, her existence is obscured by her brother’s dominant presence. Muhammad Ali Jinnah is revered in Pakistan as the man who outfoxed his political opponents and stood up to the British. The mantle of attention conveniently falls on him, while Fatima’s own political and personal participation in nursing the nascent country goes unappreciated.
Jinnah fought for all Muslim women—for equality, for their economic independence and liberation, and for their political empowerment. She became a symbol of hope for Muslim women.
She will always be remembered in the yellow, parched, and frail pages of history.
The streets of Banda, Uttar Pradesh were once filled with despair. Ranked 154 our 447 on the Planning Commission’s index of backwardness in 2003, caste-based violence, domestic abuse, and poverty were pervasive throughout Banda, with little to no police support. In the midst of such chaos, the Gulabi Gang formed to combat the widespread domestic abuse and violence against women.
Clad in “Gulabi”, or pink sarees, these women wield bamboo sticks as they accost male offenders. Most, if not all, members of the Gulabi Gang are of oppressed castes, as are the women they assist. The gang was initially created to “punish abusive husbands, fathers, and brothers in an effort to combat domestic violence and desertion”. The gang has various stations set up and each station has a “commander” that takes care of the problems of the women in her area. Through word of mouth, the location and purpose of these stations are spread to women in the district.
When a woman comes to the station to narrate the story of her abuse to the group, the police are immediately called. If the police fail to take charge, the Gulabi Gang takes over. Often, the gang accosts male members and calls upon them to understand their wrongdoings. If the men do not relent or resort to force, they are publicly shamed or beaten with bamboo sticks. Because the gang has over 200,000 members, they receive enough support from the women of each district, and by carrying bamboo sticks with them and walking in large groups, they prevent men from being able to successfully retaliate. Recently, the group has started to offer cost-effective services such as henna application, tailoring, and flower arrangements to provide their members with a source of income to sustain their lifestyle.
The work of Gulabi Gang has resulted in legislation to designate 33% of parliamentary seats for women in India. Even though this has brought upon many positive changes for women empowerment in India and legislation to promote gender equality, the Gulabi Gang continues to operate in their relevant areas. They prefer to work outside of politics because of the widespread corruption amongst Indian politicians.
Over time, the gang’s scope of issues has expanded from domestic violence to child marriage, dowry deaths, and access to education. They also target human rights and male oppression by actively encouraging men to get involved in activism. Many members of the Gulabi Gang are men who support the causes that the gang raises awareness for.
Because the scope of the gang has grown so much, the woman have been able to engage in undercover projects to bring deep-rooted government corruption to light. In 2007, the founder of the gang, Sampat Pal Devi, heard that government-run stores were not distributing food and grains in a village fairly. Due to widespread poverty, hundreds of families depended on this food to survive. The Gulabi Gang observed the shop undercover and found evidence that the store was shipping the allocated grains to open markets to make a higher profit. The gang reported the store to the local authorities, who ultimately ignored the complaints. However, this incident solidified Gulabi Gang’s reputation as an organization that fought for justice.
In 2008, Gulabi Gang stormed an electricity office in Banda to force them to turn the electricity back on. The office had cut the electricity to the district off in an effort to extract bribes. Additionally, the gang has stopped multiple child marriages and protested to receive justice for oppressed-caste rape victims. In India, police indifference to the rape of oppressed-caste women is pervasive, as is government action.
As an Indian-American feminist, I am blessed to be able to walk in the steps of the empowered women of the Gulabi Gang. India has a poor reputation with women’s rights and gender equality, which is often not acknowledged within the Indian community. The work of the Gulabi Gang is exposing how deep-rooted women’s oppression is in India, as well as creating solutions to empower women while fighting the patriarchy.
In the past year, there has been an increase in the Syrian targets hit by Israel where a large number of Iranian-backed militias have been able to regain control of the territory lost by Syrian President Bashar al Assad to insurgents in a decade-old civil war. The recent strikes hit the Kisswa region in the southern outskirts of Damascus. The area is used as a military base by the pro-Iranian, Lebanese Hezbollah. The bases hit by Israeli strikes in recent weeks are believed to have a strong presence of Iranian-backed militias. The strikes are believed to be a part of an anti-Iran policy to undermine Iran’s military power without triggering large-scale hostilities.
Israeli air raids increased in intensity this week. On Wednesday, Israeli air force carried out more than 18 attacks against multiple targets in an area stretching from the eastern town of Deir Az Zor to the al-Bukamal desert at the Syrian-Iraqi border. The recent raids have claimed to be the deadliest since 2018. At least 10 soldiers and 47 fighters have been killed. It is reported to be the second wave of Israeli air raids in less than a week.
The Syrian conflict is one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world with the conflict still ravaging the country. Approximately, 5.6 million Syrians are refugees, and another 6.2 million are displaced within the country. Nearly 12 million Syrians require humanitarian assistance. In recent years, there have been increased calls by humanitarian and international organizations to address the conflict and provide immediate relief to the Syrian people. As a result of this, we have seen a number of petitions being circulated across social media to help the Syrians. Online petitions were rather rampant in the past year due to increased online presence because of COVID restrictions. Many however have argued that the petitions are rather performative than anything else. The aid almost never reaches the people who most need it.
Certain threads that aim to “raise awareness about Syria” have received significant numbers of retweets. It has been contended, however, that such threads are feeding into Assadist propaganda more than anything else.
Social media has allowed the rampant flow of information from varying sources, which is both a blessing and a curse. When it comes to Syria, there is little knowledge about the conflict due to a lack of media coverage, political censorship, and people’s inability to access platforms to voice their stories. This can explain the confusion many of us may face when reading up on the issue. As an outsider, it becomes difficult to differentiate between what is political propaganda and what’s the actual truth.
When signing a petition or retweeting a thread about something as sensitive as the Syrian civil war, it is best to do quick research instead of walking into oblivion. There are several credible pages across different platforms to give voice to the Syrians. One such Twitter page @100facesyrev is dedicated to spread awareness about the Syrian uprising and debunk Assadist propaganda.
Another platform worth checking out is @SyriaUntold. The website is available in both English and Arabic. It features Syrian profiles and stories including the Syrian LGBTQ+ community. The website does a remarkable job in amplifying Syrian voices and opinions on a diverse range of topics including but not limited to politics, gender, cinema, and etc.
Each time you come across a petition, carefully read through what it says instead of signing it hastily. Watch out for propagandist wording that could help the different political actors. Look for sources within the country or diaspora citizens to gain a better understanding of the conflict and how to effectively help the people.
The recent Israeli attacks further signify that the Syrian conflict is no longer a civil war but a much larger conflict. It serves as a catalyst for different political and non-political actors to advance their own agendas. It is the Syrian citizens that remain the most vulnerable because no one comes to their aid. Considering that we are living in an increasingly global world, it is as much on all of us to remain vigilant about the conflict when raising awareness and not give in to political propaganda.
In the age of social media, it’s almost impossible to not see a meme. Viral memes such as ‘Roll Safe’ or the ‘Kombucha Girl’ are always somewhere on the timeline. Due to our regular encounters with memes, it would be undeniable to negate the impact that memes have had on consumers, whether it’s just for laughs or spreading bite sized chunks of information. However, the surge in political memes has brought into question the effectiveness of these memes and the validity of the information spread through these memes.
For instance, take the memes about ‘World War III’, due to the tensions between Iran and the US back at the beginning of the year. I personally wouldn’t be laughing about how wars and one of the most powerful and funded militaries on the Earth would destabilize – nothing new to them, they’ve done this many times – a country who has suffered at the hands of their military. But hey, that’s just me. Cultural awareness is pivotal, especially in an increasingly global village. Though it can be argued that humor is a coping mechanism, I still think it is important to remain culturally aware on how an event on one side of the world can negatively impact others.
But, what’s interesting is how meme culture has redefined our understanding of politics. It wouldn’t be shocking to say that perhaps due to more young activists, the way some Gen Z understand politics is through memes. Some politicians even attempt to relay this back to them, but they are not always successful. For example, Hilary Clinton’s tweetabout student loans conveyed how clearly she was out of touch with the youth and could be deemed as insensitive, when she asked, “How does your student loan make you feel? Tell us in 3 emojis or less.” It was an extremely poorly worded tweet, knowing that hundreds of thousands of American students are in college debt.
Despite living in evolving times, sometimes politicians need to understand that not every young person is the same. Whilst memes do have an influence, whether temporary or not, these attempts simply reduces all young people to a category, failing to take into consideration the different ways youth engage with politics. For instance, in the run up to the 2017 General Election in the UK, there were multiple political campaigns from the Labour party on Snapchat. Leaders like Boris Johnson attempted to engage the youth on Snapchat, only to end up as a temporal meme somewhere on the Internet.
The emergence of memes in political discourse, pioneered by social media, is due to humor. This enables society to consider how humor can be used in political contexts through shared meanings. It would be a lie to say that political memes don’t evoke the necessary discussions about issues such as taxes or healthcare. For example, if someone makes a meme about how incompetent Buhari or Trump is, it could act as an indirect conversation to engage with others on political topics through social media.
Acting as a cultural phenomenon, memes also enable us to recall political incidents and history. For example, there was a meme of ‘Tank Man’, who stood in front of tanks, protesting after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Due to Chinese censorship, the images of the tanks were replaced with rubber ducks. It highlights how we can still remember political events and can even safeguard those who may be censored from sharing certain pieces of information. Whilst they are powerful forms of social data, it’s important to consider what memes mean for public memory. How do we ensure that we remember genuine events rather than edited variations based on memes. Despite this, memes aren’t just used for negative purposes such as targeting politicians (though these are hilarious), but they simplify things and remain accessible for a lot of people.
“We can disagree and still be friends – Yeah, about pizza toppings, not racism. Gtfo my face”. I’ve seen this meme circulating lately, taken from William Vercetti’s Twitter Status, and it’s just so apt. There are some things on which you can agree to disagree – but if your partner tries to debate and justify any form of oppression, how is that not the ultimate deal breaker for you?
Read on for the biggest political reasons ending relationships world-wide:
Debates over Donald Trump:
The domestic disputes over Donald Trump are so huge, that it even has its own term: “The Trump Effect” – Coming to a Marriage Near You. Okay so I made the tagline up, but you must agree – it fits. A year into Trump;s service, a 2017 poll showed that 11% of Americans ended a serious relationships due to political differences. Because voting for Trump means voting for sexism, anti-abortion, racism, white supremacists, police brutality, xenophobia, the list goes on.
Ever heard of wokefishing? It’s a term writer Serena Smith coined to describe people (usually men) pretending they’re feminists, or into social justice, because it helps them score more with the ladies.
I’m not even American and Trump’s beliefs set me into a blind rage, so I can’t fathom waking up happily next to someone who’s marked a blasphemous, black X next to Donald Trump’s name.
Whilst catfishing may be a huge fear for men, womxn are more fearful of being wokefished and then waking up one day to realize their partner voted for Trump. I’m not even American and Trump’s beliefs set me into a blind rage, so I can’t fathom waking up happily next to someone who’s marked a blasphemous, black X next to Donald Trump’s name. “But honey, I did it for the economy!” he cries, as I set fire to all his belongings. Whilst non-Americans can’t end a relationship with someone for actually voting for Trump, it’s certainly a political debate rearing its ugly head and causing relationship unrest in many other countries, too.
Debates over BLM:
It still blows my mind that people try and argue against this ongoing protest. There are the well-known “buts” and “all lives matter!” which was met with “um that’s what we’re saying, yo!?”
If you ever hear someone advocating for equality and your first word in response is “but..”, I hate to break it to you, but you’re the problem.
Another classic but awful “but” is “Black people kill Black people too!” That’s like saying – hey I’m dying of cancer and someone pipes in that pneumonia can kill you too.
If you ever hear someone advocating for equality and your first word in response is “but..”, I hate to break it to you, but you’re the problem. If it’s your parent, colleague, or sister arguing with you, I get that maybe it’s tougher to end these bonds over what to them may be considered trivial (which it shouldn’t be). But if it’s who you thought you chose as your life partner; someone you’re about to make every life decision together with, it’s much more important to call it quits.
Debates over #MeToo:
What is it about society that doesn’t want to believe sexual abuse victims? Is it perhaps too traumatic for us to deal with that our brain just shuts down and yells too. much. to compute. Heck, I don’t want to believe a president, or priest, or policeman is capable of rape and murder, either.
But let’s leave it up to the facts, shall we: Out of all the sexual violence offenses reported in Europe , UK and the US, only 2-6% are found or suspected to be false. Of course that doesn’t include the millions of cases left unreported, or reported too late because of the ridiculous stigma attached to the victim and the high cost of legal bills.
I’ve had to unlearn and relearn a million things about my gender that I was once brainwashed to believe.
It’s like, why would someone lie about an experience like that? If your partner doesn’t believe rape survivors, or adds anything to the discussion with a “why do women wear revealing outfits”, or if they spit with wild ferocity: “not all men!”, then please, do yourself a favor and dump their ass.
Debates over Sexism:
Whilst I am a strong advocate for all the above, I’m gladly not under Trump’s reign. I am white, and I am thankfully not a victim of sexual violence. But as a woman, sexism is something I know everything about.
Because I promise you – that sexist “joke” is not funny, no matter how many times you are gaslit into believing it is.
I’ve had to unlearn and relearn a million things about my gender that I was once brainwashed to believe. Arguing with my father, my male friends, my colleagues, on issues I have formally studied as if they were just mere opinions of mine, makes my blood boil. While a lot of the time I bite my tongue and think, “choose your battles”, other times my beating heart tells me that I have chosen.
If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to stand even a sexist meme circling your boyfriend’s group chats. (And rightfully so!) So if your partner, friend, or family member is being sexist, you need to call them out and you need to have that discussion with them. And if you still don’t get through, it’s over boo. Because I promise you – that sexist “joke” is not funny, no matter how many times you are gaslit into believing it is.
You’re entitled to your opinion, of course. You and your partner can have debates on all sorts of things, from ice cream flavors to Netflix series; but basic human rights is not one of them. So watch out for those red flags everybody! Especially ones that read “Make America Great Again”.
During her nearly three decades on the high court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court opinions gave voice to women fighting for equal rights and opportunities. As a young lawyer, she argued a number of key gender equality cases in the courts before eventually being nominated to a federal appeals court in 1980 and then the Supreme Court in 1993.
During her early years on the court, Ginsburg was one of two women justices. After Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement in 2006, Ginsburg spent several years as the court’s lone female voice.
RBG fought all throughout her life for not just women’s rights, but the rights of all humans. In an interview with NPR, she explained the legal theory that she made her mission: “The words of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause — ‘nor shall any state deny to any person the equal protection of the laws.’ Well that word, ‘any person,’ covers women as well as men. And the Supreme Court woke up to that reality in 1971.”
Ginsburg’s own last words are a reminder of everything that is at stake upon her death. Days before her passing, she dictated to her daughter the following: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
1. Moritz v. Commissioner, 1972
Known more colloquially as the backstory to “On the Basis of Sex,” this monumental case headed by Ginsburg was brought before the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in which the Court held that discrimination on the basis of sex constitutes a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.
RBG defended Charles E. Moritz, a single man caring for his elder mother who was denied a caregiver’s tax deduction. The law only allowed this deduction for women or married men, and Moritz was neither. By focusing on how gender-based discrimination hurt a male, RBG was able to make the courts take an unprecedented stand.
The decision to extend the caregiver deduction to single men was historical, as it confirmed that the tax code conflicted with the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. This one single case cast an enormous shadow of doubt over hundreds of US laws and their potential unconstitutionality.
2. Reed v. Reed, 1971
The first brief that RGB wrote for the Supreme Court would end up becoming a historic one.
Ginsburg represented Sally Reed in the Reed v. Reed case. Sally was going to court because she thought she should be the executor of her son’s estate instead of her ex-husband. The core matter of the case was whether a court could automatically give preference to a man over a woman as executors of estates.
RBG fought all throughout her life for not just women’s rights, but the rights of all humans.
The Supreme Court’s decision? No.
Quite literally, the ruling outlined that the administrators of estates cannot be named in a way that discriminates between sexes. That became the first time ever that a court struck down a state law because of gender-based discrimination.
The Court argued that “[t]o give a mandatory preference to members of either sex over members of the other, merely to accomplish the elimination of hearings on the merits, is to make the very kind of arbitrary legislative choice forbidden by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. . .[T]he choice in this context may not lawfully be mandated solely on the basis of sex.”
3. Frontiero v. Richardson, 1973
RBG argued as amicus in this case in Sharron Frontiero’s favor. This case was a landmark the United States Supreme Court case that decided that benefits given by the United States military to the family of service members cannot be given out differently because of sex.
At the time, members of the military were “entitled to an increased basic allowance for quarters” and “comprehensive medical and dental care” for their dependents. However, for a husband to be considered a “dependent,” at least half of his material support had to come from his wife. This criterion did not apply to male servicemembers with wives.
Frontiero claimed that the statute “deprived servicewomen of due process” and violated the equality guarantee of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The district court ruled in favor of the Secretary of Defense; Frontiero appealed her case directly to the Supreme Court. Frontiero was a lieutenant in the US Air Force who was denied benefits for her husband Joseph, whom she claimed as a dependent.
“This absolute exclusion, based on gender per se, operates to the disadvantage of female workers, their surviving spouses, and their children,” Ginsburg stated during the case. The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in Frontiero’s favor. This case was fundamental in informing the military establishment that men and women must be considered equal in terms of pay, allowances, and general treatment.
4. Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 1975
In 1975, Ginsburg represented a man who sought survivor’s benefits to care for his child after his wife’s death in childbirth. The existing Social Security Law stated than only widows (not widowers) were entitled to this benefit.
In 1972, Wiesenfeld’s wife Paula Polatschek died in childbirth, which left Wiesenfeld with the care of their newborn son. Wiesenfeld applied for social security benefits for himself and his son and was told that his son could receive them but that he could not. Social Security Act provides benefits based on the earnings of a deceased husband and father that are available to both the children and the widow. The benefits for a deceased wife and mother, however, are only available to the children.
Men and women must be considered equal in terms of pay, allowances, and general treatment.
In 1973, Wiesenfeld sued on behalf of himself and similarly situated widowers. He claimed that the relevant section of the Social Security Act unfairly discriminated against on the basis of sex and sought summary judgment. A three-judge panel of the district court granted Wiesenfeld’s motion for summary judgment
Once again, the court decided in RBG’s favor and ruled that sex-based discrimination was unconstitutional.
5. Craig v. Boren, 1970
This case, which took place in 1970, had radical consequences.
Ginsburg filed a brief and sat with counsel to challenge an Oklahoma statute that stipulated different minimum drinking ages for men and women. In 1972, under Oklahoma law, a beer with an alcohol level of 3.2% could be purchased by women at age eighteen and men at age 21. The age differential could be traced back to the nineteenth century when Oklahoma, then a territory, established different ages of majority for men and women.
By the 1970s, however, the state’s explanation for treating men and women differently had changed. It was a matter of safety, the state argued; far more young men were arrested for drunk driving than women, and far more young men were injured or killed in car accidents related to drinking.
In the Supreme Court’s opinion, the fact that 2% of the men and just under 1% of the women between 18 and 21 had been arrested for alcohol-linked driving violations hardly constituted grounds for different treatment. Did the additional one percent justify the punishment of the remaining 98% who had never been arrested?
But of more lasting importance than the Court’s interpretation of the numbers was its interpretation of the criteria that it should use in evaluating laws of this sort.
Dumping the old easy-to-pass rational basis test, the Court argued that “classifications by gender must serve important governmental objectives and must be substantially related to the achievement of those objectives.” The court not only overruled this but also imposed, for the first time in history, intermediate scrutiny on laws pertaining to gender-based discrimination.
6. Durren v. Missouri, 1978
Ginsburg fought her last case as an attorney in 1978. Durren v Missouri challenged Missouri’s law which said that women could opt-out from jury service.
When RBG concluded her oral argument for this case, then-Associate Justice William Rehnquist asked her: “You won’t settle for putting Susan B. Anthony on the new dollar, then?”
Ginsburg later reported that she considered responding, “We won’t settle for tokens,” but instead opted not to answer the question.
7. United States v. Virginia, 1996
One of her most famous cases during her time in the Supreme Court was this 1996 case.
VMI was a prestigious state-run military-inspired institution that did not admit women. However, the state of Virginia argued not only that women weren’t properly suited for VMI’s rigorous training, but also that the state’s creation of a separate military program at the women’s only liberal arts school, Mary Baldwin University, was sufficiently equal. The court disagreed and struck down VMI’s all-male admissions policy, with Ginsburg writing the majority opinion-making it clear that gender equality is a constitutional right.
“Neither the goal of producing citizen-soldiers nor VMI’s implementing methodology is inherently unsuitable to women,” she wrote, later adding, “generalizations about ‘the way women are,’ estimates of what is appropriate for most women, no longer justify denying opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description.”
8. Olmstead v. LC, 1999
This landmark case focused on the rights of people with mental disabilities to live in their communities (known as the “integration mandate”), under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Supreme Court heard arguments on behalf of two women, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson.
Both were voluntarily admitted to the psychiatric unit of a state-run Georgia hospital but were then held there in isolation in the years following their initial treatments — even after being medically cleared to move to a more community-based setting.
The Supreme Court overruled this decision in a 6-3 vote. Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion, in which she reinforced an important right afforded to individuals with disabilities, including mental illnesses. The “unjustified isolation” of Curtis and Wilson “perpetuates assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life,” she wrote.
9. Stenberg v. Carhart, 2000 & Gonzales v. Carhart, 2003
Some of the landmark cases that she voted on where Stenberg v Carhart and Gonzales v. Carhart. The first of them made history for striking down Nebraska’s partial-birth law, which made performing ‘partial-birth abortion’ illegal without regard for the mother’s health.
RBG consistently supported abortion rights.
“A state regulation that ‘has the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus, violates the Constitution,” she wrote. Ginsburg later cited Stenberg v. Carhart in her dissent against the court’s opinion of Gonzalez v. Carhart.
In the second case, however, RBG dissented with the court’s decision. “Legal challenges to undue restrictions on abortion procedures do not seek to vindicate some generalized notion of privacy; rather, they center on a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature,” she said.
In its ruling on Gonzalez v. Carhart, the Supreme Court upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. In her dissent, Ginsburg called the decision “alarming.” She decried the ruling, stating that the decision banned “a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.”
She further took Congress to task for passing the legislation in the first place, citing ample evidence that they did so based on dubious “expert” testimony. “[N]one of the six physicians who testified before Congress had ever performed an intact D&E. Several did not provide abortion services at all, and one was not even an obgyn. . . . [T]he oral testimony before Congress was not only unbalanced, but intentionally polemic,” she wrote.
10. Bush v. Gore, 2000
Some of Ginsburg’s most notable Supreme Court opinions were actually dissents or disagreements from the majority decision — like in the case of Bush v. Gore.
The case determined the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. It ended at the Supreme Court after George W. Bush filed an emergency application to stop a Florida Supreme Court mandate for a manual recount of the ballots. The Court granted it, a decision that effectively handed Bush the victory in Florida, and in the election.
Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion made it clear that she disagreed with the court’s favoring of Bush. She famously wrote in her opinion, “I dissent.” The phrase was a somewhat harsh departure from the court’s decorum, in which dissenting justices usually note that they’re using the term “respectfully.”
11. Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, 2007
In Ledbetter v. Goodyear, which took place in 2007, Lilly Ledbetter filed a lawsuit against her employer claiming pay discrimination based on gender. Lilly Ledbetter sued her employer of 19 years, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, for gender discrimination, after she discovered the company had been paying her less than her male counterparts.
Ledbetter argued the pay disparity was due to her gender and a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Goodyear countered that the same clause required discrimination complaints to be filed within 180 days of the violation (aka the decision to pay her less money than the men) — so Ledbetter could only legally call into question the 180 days of unequal pay leading up to her official complaint, rather than the entirety of her nearly two-decade tenure with the company.
Although the Supreme Court voted 5-4 in favor of Goodyear, Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion.
“The Court’s insistence on immediate contest overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination,” she wrote. “Pay disparities often occur, as they did in Ledbetter’s case, in small increments; cause to suspect that discrimination is at work develops over time. Comparative pay information, moreover, is often hidden from the employee’s view.”
In RBG’s dissent to the Bush v. Gore decision, she famously wrote in her opinion, “I dissent.” The phrase was a harsh departure from the norm.
And Ginsburg didn’t just quietly file her dissent with a clerk, as The New Yorker reports is often the case. Instead, she translated the official, rather technical document into a more widely understandable version, which she read publicly from the bench, making sure the gender wage gap got its due attention.
In that version, she noted that as Title VII stood at the time, “each and every pay decision Ledbetter did not properly challenge wiped the slate clean. Never mind the cumulative effect of a series of decisions that together set her pay well below that of every male area manager.” She pressed Congress to amend the clause, which they eventually did. When President Barack Obama took office in 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill he signed.
12. Safford Unified School District v. Redding, 2009
While still serving as the only female voice on the Court, RBG is credited in influencing the ultimate ruling in which the court had to weigh whether a male assistant principal had violated a 13-year-old girl’s rights when he forced her to remove her bra and underpants when searching for drugs.
While the court decided that the assistant principal had violated the girl’s rights, the court also ruled that the school district was entitled to qualified immunity.
“They have never been a 13-year-old girl,” Ginsburg later told USA Today. “It’s a very sensitive age for a girl. I didn’t think that my colleagues, some of them, quite understood.”
13. Shelby County v. Holder, 2013
This is often referred to as the decision that “gutted” the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which enacted special requirements for certain parts of the country that had a particularly terrible track record of suppressing minority voters.
Section 4b of that landmark legislation, which was intended to bar racial discrimination in voting, enacted special requirements for certain parts of the country that had a particularly terrible track record of suppressing minority voters. Under Section 5 of the act, a policy known as “preclearance” required states like Alabama, Texas, and Arizona to receive approval from the attorney general or a three-judge panel in Washington, D.C. before making any changes to their voting requirements.
But in 2013, Alabama’s Shelby County challenged the constitutionality of the decades-old act. And in a 5-4 opinion, the Supreme Court agreed, claiming that the restrictions were outdated in the modern era and that it was an unconstitutional violation for Congress — rather than states themselves — to set the terms of elections.
“Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes,” Ginsburg wrote, “is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”
14. Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015
A number of same-sex couples sued their respective states over bans against same-sex marriages and not recognizing their legal marriages. Ginsburg’s vote helped overturn the marriage bans, legalizing same-sex marriage in all fifty states.
“Marriage was a relationship of a dominant male to a subordinate female,” she told them, according to a report by The Guardian. “That ended as a result of this court’s decision in 1982 when Louisiana’s Head and Master Rule was struck down … Would that be a choice that states should [still] be allowed to have? To cling to marriage the way it once was?” She also derided a procreation debate by asking whether a 70-year-old heterosexual couple would be allowed to marry when clearly they could not procreate either.
“We have changed our idea about marriage,” Ginsburg said during her oral argument. “Marriage today is not what it was under the common law tradition, under the civil law tradition.”
15. Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, 2016
This 2016 case tackled Texas’s Omnibus Abortion Bill (known widely as H.B. 2), which imposed strict restrictions and requirements on abortion providers, including a mandate that doctors performing procedures have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and that clinics meet the same standards as outpatient surgical centers.
RBG joined the majority in this 2016 case that struck down a restrictive 2013 Texas law that regulated abortion providers. She also authored a short concurring opinion that criticized the legislation on abortion. She said that the law was not aimed at protecting mothers, as Texas claimed, but to keep them from having abortions.
Ginsburg’s vote helped overturn the marriage bans, legalizing same-sex marriage in all fifty states.
“It is beyond rational belief that H.B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions,” she wrote. “When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners…at great risk to their health and safety. So long as this Court adheres to Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like H.B. 2 that do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion, cannot survive judicial inspection.”
16. Sherill v. Oneida, 2005
Although this list has shown Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s support for gender equity, not all her decisions made a positive impact. While we uphold her legacy, let’s also learn from her more debatable decisions, such as the majority opinion on the case Sherill v. Oneida.
At issue in the case was whether land parcels granted to the Oneida Nation by a treaty in 1794, which had since been sold and only recently repurchased by the tribe, should be considered part of its reservation and therefore be exempt from local taxes.
In her opinion, Ginsburg held that the Oneida Nation could not reassert its sovereignty over the land, and had to pay taxes to the city. “Given the longstanding, distinctly non-Indian character of the area and its inhabitants, the regulatory authority constantly exercised by New York State and its counties and towns, and the Oneidas’ long delay in seeking judicial relief against parties other than the United States, we hold that the Tribe cannot unilaterally revive its ancient sovereignty, in whole or in part, over the parcels at issue,” Ginsburg wrote. “The Oneidas long ago relinquished the reins of government and cannot regain them through open-market purchases from current titleholders.”
Not all her decisions made a positive impact.
In this case, the US Court held that the repurchase of traditional tribal lands two hundred years later did not restore tribal sovereignty to that land.
Over the years, however, Ginsburg spent considerable time and work seeking to work against her previously-bigoted opinions about America’s Indigenous People, citing her 2016 case around domestic violence within indigenous communities as hopeful proof of her changing relationship with the community.
17. Sessions v. Dimaya, 2018
This case was a big win for Ginsburg — she played a hand in striking down legislation that allows certain non-citizens to be expelled from the country.
According to Slate, the case was the first time in her entire court career that she assigned a majority opinion as the most senior justice in the majority.
According to the Court, the vagueness of the legislation struck down was in violation of the due process clause, making a strong precedent against legislative vagueness in future court cases.
Recently President Trump tweeted his desire to postpone the 2020 United States Presidential election. That’s right – postpone entirely. According to his tweet, a universal mail-in election would lead to the most “INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT election in history” (his words, not mine), with high rates of voter fraud. Apparently, according to Trump, the best option would be to postpone the election, therefore also securing his place in office for an extended term.
Just for some perspective, in Oregon over the past two decades, there have only been about a dozen of cases of voter fraud out of over 100 million mail in ballots. Some states have encountered delays in counting ballots, yes, but fraud has rarely, if ever been an issue. It is possible that there will be trouble processing requests for mail-in ballots, as well as the ballots themselves. Still, like all forms of voting, voter fraud is incredibly rare. It’s essentially a non-issue. Besides, Trump said in his Tweet that absentee voting was “good,” therefore, not fraudulent. Absentee ballots are essentially the same thing as mail-in ballots, the only difference is who can register for an absentee ballot. Where does he draw the line?
Trump has also suggested that non-American citizens might also meddle in the election if we use mail-in ballots. It’s a rather bold statement from someone whose own election has been haunted by claims of foreign interference. Earlier this year, a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee concluded that there was deep and significant Russian interference in the 2016 election, for the purpose of installing Donald Trump as President. Trump denied the allegations of course. Still, Democrats and Republicans alike, as well as national security efforts, are fairly certain that Russia did interfere. So, Trump cannot complain about foreign interference when it is the very force that launched him into office.
Let’s also consider the extreme circumstances around why an in-person election isn’t possible. The COVID-19 pandemic, which is currently ravaging the United States, has not come even close to ending and voting in person would be unsafe for many people across the country. Obviously, the extent of the pandemic here is partially the fault of the Trump administration, and the mentality it encourages, which has put remarkably few guidelines in place for a satisfactory pandemic response and has managed to defund a number of necessary medical programs.
It’s also important to note that while Trump has suggested postponing the election, he has been fighting to reopen schools and the economy. His erratic behavior makes it all the more clear that he doesn’t want to postpone the election out of safety. If this was the case, he’d want to postpone the school year or the economic reopening plan. So what’s his real motivation?
This is a power grab. Plain and simple.
Trump is setting up this narrative so that he can lean on it in case he doesn’t win the election. If Biden wins, Trump can claim that it’s fraudulent or invalid and push to continue his tenure in office. This is especially clear when you consider that Trump has consistently claimed that his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, only won the popular vote with the help of 3 to 5 million illegal voters. Sure, it sounds far fetched to us, but his supporters eat it up and follow his every word without any consideration, citing ‘patriotism’.
How can we respond to other countries having unfair elections with violence, and yet ignore attempts to do the same thing in our own country?
On another token, it’s also downright hypocritical to postpone the election. The Trump White House has recently criticized the year-long postponement of an election in Hong Kong. Not to mention that the United States has historically launched coups and regime change wars overseas against nations for having undemocratic elections. How can we respond to other countries having unfair elections with violence and ignore attempts to do the same thing in our own country?
We call ourselves the defender of democracy and use it as a guise to invade countries in Latin American and West Asia. In the same breath, we’ve also proven ourselves unable to protect our own people from a global pandemic. We even use violence against peaceful protestors calling for equal civil rights. And yet, we pride ourselves on maintaining an exemplary form of democracy. What, then, are we driven by? A desire for democracy, or a desire to protect our country’s monetary, capitalist interests? We are so swept up in the notion that we are the greatest country in the world that we never seek to examine how to make it better.
So yes, we should acknowledge our fear and anger in this scary time. But we shouldn’t be surprised. This administration has consistently violated basic human rights which are guaranteed to all citizens. Not only have war crimes been committed against peaceful protestors without remorse, but immigrant families have been cruelly detained for years, and currently people are “disappearing” (being abducted) from the streets of Portland and New York City in unmarked vans. The fact that Trump has authoritarian, maybe even bordering on fascist, tendencies should surprise no one.
Therefore, the move to postpone the election shouldn’t surprise us either. In fact, the United States has a shaky, even dangerous, history with voting rights to begin with. We can’t forget that women and Black communities were systematically disenfranchised for centuries. For a chunk of time, only wealthy, landowning, white men had the right.
Voting has always been deeply connected to power in America.
Here’s a helpful timeline. White women gained the right to vote nationwide in 1920. Black men technically gained the right to vote in 1870, but most black people were unable to vote for decades afterwards. Rigged literacy tests, poll taxes, and Grandfather clauses prevented the majority of Black American from voting. Most Black Americans were only able to vote after the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. Native Americans could not vote at all until 1924, and only in 1947 did all Native Americans gain this valuable right. Asian Americans couldn’t vote until 1943.
Voter suppression still exists to this day, in the form of gerrymandering, difficulty to access polling stations, and the mass exclusion of felons and the incarcerated. Such severe marginalization disproportionately affects people of color and low income people. The idea that the United States government would make it even more difficult for people to vote in 2020 is surely disappointing, but it would not be the first time.
Still, we need to acknowledge the magnitude of Trump’s statements. Even if the United States has a history of this kind of suppression, his Tweet remains troubling. It is also worth mentioing that Trump can’t postpone the election, not without Congress’ approval, but his blatant disregard for our Checks and Balances is stunning. Although he can’t outright change the election, the fact that he even wants to is a red flag.
What Trump is doing is insidiously delegitimizing the entire institution of democracy, and suggesting that limitations on presidential power are not necessary. If he allows his narrative of fraudulent elections to continue, he could try to stay in office indefinitely. It’s not a stretch to call his attempts fascist, because even Republicans are doing so. This isn’t just a partisan political debate; Trump is showing disregard for the entire system of democracy. The election is only 3 months away, and yet Trump is trying to turn it on its head.
We also need to acknowledge that if he succeeds, there will be disastrous consequences. Let’s not forget what this election result means for our country. It’s a matter of life or death for immigrant families in detention centers. It will determine whether or not we can protect our environment for the future. The lives of Black Americans are at stake, the land of Native Americans is at stake, the wellbeing of protestors is at stake, and the dignity and safety of Muslim and Jewish Americans is at stake. There have always been terrible presidents in American history, but Trump is a blatant racist, an alleged sexual assaulter, a wannabe fascist, and an incompetent bully. This is not just another election year. This election means everything, and Trump knows it.
Do you want to take action? Here are some organizations to donate to:
The ACLU is one of the foremost organizations making legal challenges to voter suppression laws.
The Brennan Center is also a great organization fighting for voting reform, specifically focusing on new, progressive voting legislation.
Let America Vote is a Democratic-leaning PAC currently fighting against Trump’s attempts to postpone the election.
If you’re interested in learning about more groups opposing this measure, here is a letter from 50 political action groups and nonprofits opposing Trump’s comments.
The Tempest Exclusive series Media Watch investigates and introspects on the intricacies of free speech around the world, right from The Tempest newsroom.
Matiullah Jan, a senior Pakistani journalist, was abducted from Islamabad’s sector G-6 on the 21st of July, in broad daylight.
His car was found parked outside a government school where his wife, Kaneez Sughra, is employed.
Sughra is reported to have said that more than five people—mostly clad in black police uniforms—abducted her husband. The security footage showed that almost a dozen men, mostly in uniforms, intercepted him and forced him into a car. Jan was also seen tossing his phone across the school fence, only for a security guard to return it to a uniformed man.
Sughra also mentioned that unknown men had been following her husband for the last few weeks. And this is not the first time. A few years back, an unidentified assailant threw a brick at his car.
In the same week, on Wednesday, Jan was due to appear in the Supreme Court after it took a suo moto notice of a purportedly contemptuous, defamatory tweet posted by him where he inveighed against the Supreme Court’s verdict against one of the judges, Justice Faiz Isa.
The news of Jan’s disappearance took the country by a storm. It spread like wildfire around and caught the attention of journalists, politicians, legal fraternity, and diplomatic circles alike. They pressured the government into recovering him safe and sound. His abduction sparked a movement on social media—soon after his disappearance, there were hashtags demanding his release cascading all across Twitter and Facebook.
He was released nearly 12 long hours after his abduction, in a secluded place in Fateh Jung.
Jan told multiple news sources that he was taken to an unknown location. Later on, he was driven around the city before being brought to Fateh Jung. There, some local residents helped him contact his family.
Pakistan classifies as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists and media workers to live in. The concept of press freedom is a faint speckle—it hardly exists. The state, especially under Imran Khan’s government, practices high-handed crackdown on “free speech” and “independent journalism”, and frequently receives severe criticism from journalists and other groups for its repressive attitudes.
In 2018, Jan was labeled anti-state by the military for his bitter criticism of the judiciary and army. Jan, it turns out, has never shied away from being the center of controversial subjects.
The case of Jan’s abduction is terrifying but not surprising; harrowing but not uncommon; illustrating an incident that is periodically re-enacted in Pakistan. It’s just another addition to the list of abductions that take place every year when people take the liberty to criticize state bodies in Pakistan. It’s not an aberration. And he isn’t the only one.
In the last few years, we saw the state’s intolerance of “freedom of speech” effervescing in myriads of cases.
Harsh measures were enacted against people from different walks of life—academia, politics, journalism, civil society—when they decided to speak freely.
Many of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement’s (PTM)—a movement that campaigns for Pashtun rights—leaders such as Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir were attacked and arrested for participating in rallies and corner meetings of the PTM. Even people who supported the movement faced dire consequences. Dr. Ammar Ali Jan, an academic and activist, for example, was arrested when he stood in solidarity with the PTM at a peaceful protest. Similarly, Ammar Rashid, along with a few other protestors, was arrested for demanding the release of Manzoor Pashteen—a Pashtun peace activist and the leader of the PTM.
Another example is Junaid Hafeez. The young lecturer was charged in a blasphemy case over a Facebook page and was held in solitary confinement beginning from 2014. Later, in 2019, he was convicted and sentenced to death under Pakistan’s barbarous blasphemy laws.
Asia Bibi’s case is similar. In 2009, a dispute with her neighbors culminated in an accusation by a group of local women who said that she had insulted the Prophet Muhammad. Following that harrowing episode, Asia Bibi spent eight years on death row after being convicted of blasphemy.
In 2018, new shows hosts such as Talat Hussain, Murtaza Solangi and Nusrat Javed either quit or lost their jobs as a consequence of heavily criticizing the jailing of the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, and his daughter, Maryam Nawaz.
Sometime in the same year, Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) sent out an advisory note to media outlets, asking them to report on topics such as “violence”, “kidnapping”, “sexual abuse” and “terrorism” in a restrained way.
Media outlets, news show hosts, newspapers, and journalists are often made to choke back on news that the state finds offensive in some way.
Matiullah Jan’s case makes me think of how disturbingly ordinary his story is. I’ve grown up listening to harrowing cases like his. Abductions, threats, and legal consequences are common for people who choose to speak their minds without dissembling.
This heavy-handed repression hangs chillingly over all facets of the state—civil society, media, politics—like murky gray storm clouds, ready to thunder.
As the residents of Pakistan, we’ve become accustomed to surviving in repressive environments. But for how long?
Today, it was Matiullah Jan. Tomorrow, it could be anyone—even you or me.