USA Politics The World Policy

Here’s why your right to bear arms means nothing to me

Trigger Warnings: Gun violence, Death.

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.


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USA The World

Here’s what you need to know about the ongoing fight to unionize Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama

Last week, 6,000 workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, voted on whether to unionize. If a majority vote in favor of unionizing, this will be a historic win for workers in the United States. Even if the union doesn’t pass, The New York Times describes the recent efforts in Bessemer as “the most significant unionization effort in Amazon’s history.” 

Over the last few decades, progress has occurred at a rapid pace. There have been new innovations intending to transform all walks of life. Amazon has largely been at the forefront of this change, introducing technological advancements to many of its operations across retail, grocery, entertainment, and more. However, as Amazon continues to expand, its employees are drawing attention to the cost of this aggressive advancement: workers’ health, wellbeing, and dignity.

As the second-largest private employer in the U.S., Amazon’s growth has helped to create thousands of jobs. The behemoth has also been applauded for paying its workers above the federal minimum wage, which at the time of publishing is $7.25; most Amazon employees start at $15 per hour.

Bessemer warehouse workers are arguing that compensation is still too low in light of the grueling conditions they endure while at work. 

AP News reports that Bessemer Amazon employees work on their feet for 10 hours a day and only receive two 30-minute breaks. At a Senate hearing, one worker testified that people are punished or even fired for taking more breaks than the allotted two. This has prevented warehouse workers from using the restroom a “normal amount,” according to Vice—which echoes complaints by Amazon’s delivery drivers, who often have to urinate in bottles to meet quotas.

Reveal investigated a “mounting injury crisis” at Amazon warehouses. After obtaining company records, Reveal found that injuries have increased over the past four years, with Amazon failing to hit its internal safety targets because of its rapid rate of production. Vice adds that during the pandemic, Amazon failed to properly protect its warehouse workers, resulting in almost 20,000 workers testing positive for COVID-19. 

In addition, Bessemer workers say they do not feel valued or respected. Many have noted that they are monitored throughout the day in order to ensure productivity goals are met. This surveillance on top of what  TIME describes as a “punishing pace of work,” has created low morale as workers feel dehumanized and disposable. 

The culmination of both the Black Lives Matter movement and the pandemic has brought to light employers’ responsibility to respect, protect, and listen to their employees. In addition to fairer compensation, many of the Bessemer workers who voted in favor of the union simply want to feel dignified in their workplace and have their complaints heard by Amazon. Vox reports that 80% of Bessemer Amazon employees are Black, with Amazon’s “overall front-line workforce disproportionately composed of people of color,” leading union organizers to also focus on issues of racial empowerment and equality. 

Historically, big businesses have discriminated against workers of color, often paying BIPOC less than their white counterparts. In the South, unions have long supported racial empowerment and equality, with sanitation, steel, and mining unions, to name a few, championing for Black workers’ rights during the Civil Rights Movement between 1954 and 1968. Unions are also who we have to thank for creating the framework of today’s work conditions. CNN lists weekends, 8-hour workdays, better pay, health care and retirement benefits, and banning child labor as the results of unions tirelessly working to protect workers and advance their interests.  

However, not all employers and employees support unionizing. Business Insider spoke to two Bessemer employees who voted against the union. They asserted that Amazon already provides what a union would, such as decent pay and benefits, and that a union would not be able to protect workers against termination. 

Amazon is also opposed to the union, preferring to speak with its employees directly on workplace issues. The company has taken an aggressive approach, including a PR campaign and papering employee bathrooms with anti-union rhetoric.  

While Amazon is doubling down on its treatment of workers, Vox notes that Amazon could be more worried that a union would “upend the speed and agility of warehouse operations; typically, the faster Amazon pushes warehouse workers, the quicker the company can get orders out the door to customers.”

It’s also important to note that Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO,  continues to amass billions of dollars in wealth, while his employees do not. Brookings reports Amazon has “shared little of its astonishing profits” with its workforce. Specifically, Amazon earned an additional $9.7 billion in profit last year while Bezos added $67.9 billion to his personal wealth—and yet the company chose to end its $2 per hour pandemic wage increase.  

March 29, 2021 was the last day for Bessemer employees to vote on unionizing. After months of advocating, lobbying, and organizing, the results of the vote are expected to arrive any day now. No matter the result, many labor experts are expecting the efforts of Bessemer Amazon workers to inspire other warehouses, with Vox predicting a possible reshaping of the future of warehouse work in the U.S. 

However, the question remains: what is the price of progress? How far we are willing to go in the name of innovation must take into account individuals. It is people who make up a company, and it is people who are helping to drive digitalization. Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, remind us that the price of progress cannot and should not be people’s lives, wellbeing, and dignity.

If we sacrifice that, what will remain?


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Historical Badasses Gender Politics Inequality

Let’s look at female Presidential leadership in the United States vs everywhere else in the world

I remember it was a hot Texan summer morning during my semester abroad in 2016. The possibility of the infamous and impenetrable “Presidential glass ceiling” finally breaking was the talk of the town. In the progressive air of pre-Trump America, I sat as an international student in a political science class. A fervent discussion broke out; with a student saying “Hillary Clinton’s journey has been an unprecedented milestone in history. She has managed to do what no woman has ever been able to do.” “Well, no woman ever in the United States,” I thought to myself. Except, I was wrong. I later learned that the first female Presidential candidate was actually Shirley Chisholm, an African American who ran for election in 1972. But how conveniently does history leave out people of color? 

Anyway, fun history facts aside, the mention of no female President in American history was a shocking revelation. 

You see, hailing from a region where most public spheres are male-dominated, my country has already seen the tenure of a female Prime Minister. And if you think it was rare, check again. Research conducted by PEW shows that around 70 countries around the world have already had female political leaders. With Elizabeth Warren dropping out of the 2020 Presidential elections, the United States will now be lagging behind AT LEAST 65 years in political equality at the presidential level. 

So, are the electoral results a manifestation of the internalized misogyny? If so, how is it that so-called developing countries where the economic and health gender gap is greater, have still had female political leadership?

Let’s scroll through to see which inspiring women have rebelled against norms and convention to be trailblazers in such countries.

  1. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Sri Lanka  

[Image Description: Sirimavo Bandaranaike 1960.] via The famous people
Sirimavo Bandaranaike was the first female Prime Minister of the World. When she first resumed office in 1960, the London Evening News wrote: “There will be a need for a new word. Presumably, we shall have to call her a stateswoman.” With her husband assassinated just a year before, she quickly transitioned from homemaker to politician to Prime Minister. Her opponents mocked her saying she will be running a “kitchen cabinet”. But her resilient legacy saw her serve three terms between 1960 and 2000.

2. Indira Gandhi, India 

[Image Description: Indira Gandhi during a visit to the US.] via the Bettman Archive, The Hindustan Times
Assuming office in 1980, her tempestuous personal life was often under public scrutiny. But how are you supposed to balance the personal and the professional when your very existence is political? She was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. She was born, bred, and raised into politics. She was immersed in the struggle for independence from an early age, shadowing her father. After several ups and downs of power, she was assassinated by her own bodyguards. Last year, Time Magazine included her in the list of 100 of the most powerful women of the past century. 

3. Maria Corazon Aquino, Philippines 

[Image Description: Corazon Aquino at her inauguration in 1986.] via Women’s
Envision this. The year is 1986 and the Philippines has been under a dictatorship for the past 20 years. The constitution has been suspended by the leader of the country. And through nothing but sheer resilience and peaceful persistence, Aquino, brings the history of martial law to an end. 

She has been immortalized as the Mother of Democracy by the international diplomatic community. But I believe it is important to humanize her legacy. Her journey from an introverted law student to a “plain housewife” to the first female President-elect was not an easy one. After her husband’s assassination just a year before, she became a widow at the age of 50. And it was in that very moment of vulnerability, she led the country and the People Power’s revolution to victory. 

4. Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan

[Image Description: Benazir Bhutto waves to the crowd during an election campaign meeting in Larkana, 23 December 2007]  via Asif Hasan, Newsweek
A military coup, her father’s execution, and exile – Bhutto experienced most trials a political figure can imagine. Elected as the Prime Minister in 1988, Bhutto shared her father’s penchant for charisma. When she spoke to crowds of people, she left them mesmerized. Years later, her slogan of “bread, clothes and shelter” for the masses continues to echo through people. And thirteen years after her assassination, she is still known as a martyr in the name of democracy.

5. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia 

[Image Description: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf] via BBC
When Sirleaf assumed office in 2006, she became the first elected head of state in all of Africa. Her achievement was unprecedented. But so were her challenges. When she assumed office, the social fabric of her country was ravaged by war and the economy crippled with debt. In her 8 years of Presidency, she was congratulated for incorporating women into the peacekeeping process and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011

This history has been one of incredible resilience, some painstaking loss, and extraordinary courage in the face of social convention. Many of these women were products of political dynasties. But sexism can be unforgiving. Even to political insiders. Public skepticism for female leaders is pretty consistent. Yet these women from the past century showed us how the glass ceiling was broken in their countries.

And if it can be broken, then, it can certainly be broken now and again.


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USA Politics The World

You don’t always have to agree with your politicians

We all seek the perfect embodiment of our personal beliefs and ideologies in those whom we support politically. We look to them for guidance, leadership, justice, and integrity. We also might look to them to affirm and validate our own convictions or perspectives. As global citizens, we are hoping to find political representation that perfectly aligns with our vision of what society should be. However, as strong as this desire is, it’s an impossible reality. Unfortunately, time and time again we are disappointed by the politicians we support, and often we disagree with their policies and actions, too. I’m here to say that this frustration is completely justified.

You don’t always have to agree with your politician. In fact, you don’t even have to consistently agree with just one singular politician. You don’t have to advocate for just one particular person to represent your beliefs, either. It is okay to be disappointed by your politicians because politicians are, by default, problematic.

But first, I’d like to make a distinction between problematic and corrupt. Politicians are often problematic which means they sometimes defend policies that you don’t agree with. Or they vote on a bill with a decision you never expected. Or they endorse a candidate you despise. Or a scandal from their past surfaces. A corrupt person, on the other hand, is someone who is tyrannical. It is someone who actively acts in favor of their own selfish gain and in opposition to society as a collective whole. A corrupt person’s goal is solely to gain control and oppress. So, Bernie Sanders? Problematic. Mitch McConnell? Corrupt and tyrannical. They fall under two different categories.

But, to some degree, all politicians are problematic from one perspective or another. This is simply due to human difference—differences in lived experiences or growth, differences in epistemologies or ideologies, and differences in intention. And still, it is acceptable for us to support someone despite those differences.

It took me a while to accept this. I, like many others, naively wished for a political hero to save us from all of the corruption within the American government. Once upon a time, I supported Andrew Yang as a viable democratic presidential candidate; he was logical and intelligent, personable and charismatic. Many of his policies seemed like great solutions to some of the economic, political, and societal problems we have in the United States today. Universal basic income to combat artificial intelligence taking over some of the most common jobs in America? Yes, sign me up. Ranked choice voting so we never have to vote for just one person for any office ever again? That could solve so much in terms of party politics.

However, as Yang continued to share more of his proposed policies and took actions I opposed, he became just as problematic as any other political figure in my eyes.

Yang didn’t support universal healthcare. He also wanted to keep American troops deployed overseas. Both things I personally disagree with. This confliction didn’t sit right with me. I kept thinking: How could I support someone who may ultimately have a hand in shaping the future of my country, while opposing some of the things he believes in? Would it be right for me to support him? I felt unsure.

He also sometimes reaffirmed Asian stereotypes with catchphrases like, “The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math!” and his MATH caps. For Yang to use this phrase and capitalize on it was, in a way, to cater to his white audience by essentially legitimating a stereotype that claims that all Asians are good at math—a stereotype many non-Asian people perpetuate.

When the spread of COVID-19 fueled anti-Asian racism and xenophobia, and Trump himself deemed coronavirus the “Chinese virus,” many Asian Americans looked to Andrew Yang to call this behavior out. In an attempt to address this racism, Yang wrote an opinion letter in the Washington Post that was published in April. Rather than condemning this racist rhetoric, Yang called for Asians to step up as Americans saying “Asian Americans need to embrace and show [their] American-ness in ways [they] never have before…. [they] should show without a shadow of a doubt that [they] are Americans who will do [their] part for [their] country in this time of need.”

This was, as many critics have expressed, an unsettling message. Yang, as an Asian American, was not explicitly defending his fellow Asian Americans. Instead, he made a flawed argument that states Asian Americans need to make themselves appear more agreeable to white Americans to combat this racism. Yang faced backlash from Asian communities across the country. Simu Liu, who is set to play an Asian American superhero in the Marvel universe, called Yang’s op-ed a “slap in the face.” Conversely, writer Hannah Nguyen defended Yang stating Yang did not call for Asians to assimilate into American society, but rather to embrace the American identity—a statement she supports. Others appreciated what they perceived as a message for Asian Americans to come together with all Americans. But, in my eyes, Yang made a grave error in wording which led me to rethink what his values about race, ethnicity, and diversity are.

So much of the public seemed to hate Yang after his opinion letter was published. I almost hopped on that bandwagon, too, until I realized that criticism is not the same thing as hate, and frankly it should not be the same thing. People are undeniably quick to attack those with whom they disagree. This is a major problem in American politics today. Elizabeth Warren claimed Native American ancestry and was, rightly, vehemently attacked for it. But this dire mistake should not overshadow her efforts to fight for Medicare for All and affordable college. Ilhan Omar voted “present” on the Armenian genocide resolution. This was also justifiably criticized, but it shouldn’t take away from her agenda to establish proper paid family and sick leave. So, despite my disagreements with Andrew Yang, I realized these don’t cancel out the things I do agree with.

I still think Yang would be a great leader despite his being problematic. Many of his ideas would do wonders to improve America both economically and societally. That said, I also continue to be disappointed by some of his ideas and some of the things he has done—but this is natural. Let’s keep critiquing those in power, but let’s also normalize disagreement and disappointment without blacklisting our problematic politicians.

Politics The World Inequality

Law students are using their skills to challenge the Trump administration

The Martin Luther King Junior Law School at the University of California, Davis is one of the few law schools in the country to prepare students to practice immigration law. There is an on-campus immigration law clinic there and the students receive real-life opportunities to gain experience in the immigration field. According to the immigration law clinic’s website, supervising attorneys guide the students, “to research and develop legal arguments, collect facts, write trial briefs, and prepare clients and witnesses. The students also prepare federal court challenges to conditions of confinement and custody and represent clients before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit with cutting-edge appellate representation.”

Most of the students that participate in the immigration law clinic are given opportunities to defend immigrants that face detainment for unlawful entry. Some students even participate in challenging unjust executive orders signed by the current President of the United States, Donald Trump.

One of the major cases that students from the University of Davis School of Law immigration clinic made an impact on is Singh v. Holder. Law students from the University of California, Davis give testimony to defend Mr. Singh. Mr. Singh was in jail for about four years because of a minor felony regarding his immigration status.  Students challenged the due process violations and their efforts swayed the judge

In 2017, when Donald Trump signed the travel ban executive orders, law students from the immigration clinic commuted to San Francisco International Airport to represent the incoming travelers impacted by the ban. President Donald Trump ordered I.C.E. raids and the incarceration of many migrants causing separation and strife. Students and faculty from the immigration law clinic were at the forefront of the crisis lending a helping hand.

Currently, students from the immigration clinic travel mostly around the state of California to different detention centers to interview migrant children. They collect testimonies and evidence to help reunite them with their families and gain better care. Students document the horrid experiences and conditions that the children experience in these detention centers.

In February, I had the opportunity to hear Holly Cooper, the Co-Director of the Immigration Law Clinic at the University of California, Davis speak at the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, CA. She spoke about the Flores Settlement which the immigration law clinic supports. The Flores Settlement Agreement requires the government to release children from immigration detention centers back to their families within 20 days and it requires the government to give the migrant children a certain quality of life.  No more kids cramped in cages without their basic needs being met.

As of September, the Trump Administration planned to nullify the Flores Settlement Agreement which makes immigration law more important now than ever. Although impeachment proceedings have begun, our current President has shown that he has no regard for human life. As a result, it is important to advocate for human rights. By treating people with dignity and respect when coming into the United States, we are truly the land of the free.

USA Politics Inequality

After the midterms, can we dub 2018 the new “Year of the woman”?

We’re a month out from November 6th and I still feel warm and giddy from all the gains made by women this past midterm election. Anyone else? We might have not gotten all the wins we wanted but considering the number of women who ran for office this year, it’s completely worth throwing our fists in the air.

One hundred and twenty-four women have been elected. That’s 102 women elected to the House, 13 to the Senate, and nine will serve as governor. The amount of women in politics has been growing at a steady rate, but this year’s election, we made a huge jump, to say the least.

I promise you it’s not fake news, it’s real! Here’s a quick run-down of some of the big wins that women made this midterm election.

Kansas Democrat Sharice Davids and New Mexico Democrat Deb Haaland will become the first Native American women elected to Congress. Davids is also the first openly LGBTQ+ member of Congress for Kansas.

Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib and Democrat Ilhan Omar of Minnesota will become the first Muslim women elected to Congress. In addition, Omar will also be the first Somali-American member. She came to the U.S. as a refugee when she was eight years old.

Democrats Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia will be the first Latinas from Texas to represent the state in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona is the first elected Democrat to the Senate since 1988. She is also the first female senator elected in the state and the first openly bisexual senator in the country.

Democrat Ayanna Pressley is the first African-American woman elected to the House from Massachusetts.

Ok, so this is pretty cool but one could ask where is it coming from, and why now?

One place of comparison we can look at is the 1992 “Year of the woman elections. NPR reporter Danielle Kurtzleben stated how, “democratic women, in particular, were galvanized that year after watching a panel made up entirely of white men grill Anita Hill over her sexual harassment allegations against the then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. As a result of that election, the number of women in Congress climbed by two-thirds.” 

Now in 2018, watching that same demographic grill Christine Blasey Ford, could have ignited a similar fire in women today.

[bctt tweet=”Now in 2018, watching that same panel grill Christine Blasey Ford, could have ignited a similar fire in women today.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Unfortunately, that climb in 1992 resulted in a decline the following years before becoming stagnant.

So if this is really the new “Year of the woman,” how do we continue this engagement in a way that women in 1992 could not?

One step is acknowledging how women are more likely to step up to the plate if an opportunity presents itself. In conversation with Kurtzleben, Democrat Lauren Underwood states how she decided to run after a conversation with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  “At the end of that conversation, [they said], ‘we’re looking for someone to run in the 14th. Is there any chance you’d be remotely interested?’ That opened the door for me.”

Kurtzleben follows up by saying, “[the] fact that she only really started thinking seriously about running after she was asked makes her a lot like many other women candidates.”

Another example is Republican State Senator Elaine Bowers from Kansas. She shares with the New York Times how she was originally asked to run by a retired male senator. “Women running for office isn’t always their idea,” she said. “I think that’s a shame. I said, ‘Am I qualified to do this?’ And I was more than qualified to do it. How do we change that perception?”

We could change this perception by looking at the impact women have in politics.

In a 2011 study, researchers found that women elected to office performed better than their male counterparts.

“Congresswomen secure roughly nine percent more spending from federal discretionary programs than congressmen,” the study says. “Women also sponsor and cosponsor significantly more bills than their male colleagues.”

While it’s easier said than done, these are still strong places to start! Seeing women step up, makes me feel empowered and hopeful. Is that naive of me? Maybe. But it could also be a reflection on how strong representation can really be. 

Deborah Walsh, director of Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics, said she feels hopeful about this year. “It feels like this moment is different — that there is potential for this to be more than a one-off,” she told NPR. “The momentum and the energy behind these women running feels like it has the potential to last — you know, to have some legs.”

So let’s ask ourselves, how did it feel to fill in the box for a woman candidate or see a more familiar face represent your values and goals? How does this motivate YOU as a womxn?

Let’s make this moment different than the one in 1992. Let’s create space for sustainable engagement and give it some legs. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, watch us run—for office!

Food & Drinks Life

My dad’s cooking let me explore the world and relive his experiences

When you think of exploring the world, what comes to mind may be traveling. While I have been fortunate to be able to travel, I have explored the world in other ways. Mainly, I have explored the world through my dad’s cooking.

I’ve had a close relationship with my dad for most of my life. The biggest thing that we have in common is our love of food. My dad’s an amazing cook. Meanwhile, I cannot cook to save my life.  Ok, maybe some pasta, but that’s it. I have always appreciated his cooking and the stories that accompanied them.

My dad has had the opportunity to live in many different countries. He tried to immerse himself in their cultures. This includes their food. He was born in Switzerland and has since lived in Germany, England, Bangladesh, Holland, Canada and now the United States. He has had the opportunity to travel to even more countries for work, like China and Cuba.

While my dad lived in various countries in the world, he told me that he tried his best to assimilate and learn from each culture. For my dad, a major foodie like myself, this meant eating and learning to make their cuisine.

I was born in Canada, and by this point, my dad had lived in Germany, England, Bangladesh, and Holland. I grew up eating food and delicacies that can be considered to be traditional food from all these countries, from naan to raclette to sauerkraut.  While it was great on its own to be able to eat a wide variety of food, my dad’s enthusiasm also led me to appreciate these foods.

Every meal that I ate for dinner was a feast in my dad’s eyes. I did not understand why he had this approach when I was younger. This likely came from his joy in remembering the countries that he lived in and the experiences that he had. In a way, I have been able to explore my dad’s life through his cooking.

His cuisine also allowed me to learn about my Swiss-French heritage. My dad, being from the French part of Switzerland, loved any meal that involved cheese. This led to us having raclette or fondue for dinner. During these meals, my dad would talk about the times when he would go up to the mountains with his church when he was younger. These involved mundane stories about card games. While boring, it gave me insight into parts of my dad’s life before I was born.

I will likely not have the opportunity to travel and live in as many places as my dad due to health reasons. Honestly, this is a major source of frustration. I’ve always wanted to travel the world and live in an endless number of countries. For the specific condition I have, there are only 70-something doctors who treat it in the world. And most of them are in the United States.

My dad’s health did not impact his ability to move. To be honest, I’m a bit jealous. But I will take his love of cuisine and culture with me as I continue on to various phases of my life. Food is an important part of culture, and I hope to be able to see and experience as many cultures as I can.

Editor's Picks Life Stories Race Policy Inequality

It doesn’t feel right to celebrate Thanksgiving anymore

Thanksgiving, before my parents separated, was a major holiday in my household. I enjoyed it, as I loved the food. But Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday that feels right to celebrate anymore.

The Thanksgiving “story” that my school told us was not particularly unique. Native Americans and Pilgrims came together on Thanksgiving and had a feast. They became friends. That was it.

One of my friends invited me to come with her to an anti-colonial Thanksgiving dinner. The term “anti-colonial Thanksgiving” is not something I had heard of before. My Ashkenazi and Calvinist family was never affected by colonialism.

My friend, who I will call Dana, that I went with is Palestinian. Dana’s dad and grandparents had to leave when the Israeli government seized their land. Dana has very much been affected by colonialism.

Most of the people at that dinner were members of a Palestinian human rights group at my school. Like with the Thanksgiving meals I had growing up, we had good food. What was different were the conversations at this anti-colonial Thanksgiving.

Many of the speeches discussed colonialism and its continued impact. Many struggles that Palestinians and Native Americans face are similar. The support of Native Americans is necessary if you take part in Palestinian solidarity. Both are supporting the rights of indigenous peoples.

Later that night, Dana and I walked back to our dorm. I can’t remember what we were talking about. Instead, I remember what I was thinking about. I wondered what I could do as an individual to confront colonialism. I still wonder about this now. My first step was confronting the false history that I was taught when I was younger.

I was taught a white-washed, imperialist version of Thanksgiving. One that erased the brutality that Native Americans faced and continue to face at the hands of white settlers. One that also erased the fact that these white settlers stole land from Native Americans.

I grew up in Massachusetts, which is where Plymouth Plantation is located. Plymouth Plantation is considered to be the second successful settlement. But successful according to whom? It could be considered a successful settlement for people of European descent. I doubt Native Americans share the same sentiments.

I also started to think of the arguments people would give to defend Thanksgiving. It’s a good time to give thanks and that the United States was first colonialized centuries ago.

Well, I now have planned-out rebuttals for anyone who makes either of these arguments.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to give thanks to people in your life. Giving thanks should not come at the expense of erasing the pain that Native Americans faced and continue to face. A person can give thanks to people every day. They could give thanks by donating to or volunteering for charities that support Native Americans.

For people who complain that this happened centuries ago so we should not care: I ask them to look at any religions that they follow or practice. Catholics mourn the death of Jesus Christ every year. Christ died over 2,000 years ago. Jews mourn the brutality that their ancestors faced and their freedom. This was over 2,000 years ago, and I honor them every Passover.

Why do we celebrate the colonialization of Native Americans instead of mourning it?

Anti-colonial Thanksgivings are only a step in recognizing the pain that Native Americans continue to face, but it’s still a step. Settlers like myself need to recognize our continued participation in colonialism. If you are comfortable and able to, try to have a conversation about this at your own Thanksgiving tables this year. Acknowledging our history is maybe the best way to appreciate the U.S. and make it a better place.

USA Gender Politics The World Inequality

Rashida Tlaib, the midterms, and the pursuit of politicians who look like us

For those not living in Michigan, Rashida Tlaib’s congressional win seemingly came out of nowhere. And yet, Muslims and Palestinian Americans everywhere didn’t hesitate to celebrate following Tlaib’s victories.  Pleasantly surprised and inspired, I decided to do my own research on Tlaib.

Rashida Tlaib ran on a platform of being a non-traditional candidate who saw herself as more of an activist than a politician; a sentiment that helped propel her to victory in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District as they looked to replace former Representative John Conyers Jr. Before resigning last year amid sexual harassment allegations, Conyers’ resume included co-founding the Congressional Black Caucus and being the first lawmaker to propose the making of a national Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. As a result, those vying for his seat needed a history of standing by minority communities.

Rashida Tlaib had it.

From protesting President Trump during a speech at the Detroit Economic Club in 2016 to trespassing on corporate land to test for pollution, Tlaib was truly an activist. When speaking to the New York Times, Tlaib said “much of her strength came from being Palestinian” and never shying away from her identity.

Even on the night of her primary win, Tlaib’s mother draped her in a Palestinian flag.

This strong identification with her Palestinian-American background alongside her history of activism helped her win MI-13. Yet, no matter how proud Tlaib was of her identity, she advocated for policies that hurt the very group of Palestinian Americans she championed.

During the race, we saw a candidate endorsed by lobby group J Street, an organization that required a candidate to oppose the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement, and support the continued military aid to Israel. This deeply concerned me and many other Palestinian-Americans who believed that the BDS movement and the use of aid as a bargaining tool was vital in encouraging Israel to end their human rights violations. Both of which Tlaib didn’t support.

Today, the situation is different. A week after having won the primary election, Tlaib finally spoke out on the issue and reversed her decision by no longer supporting aid to Israel until it complied with international law. Moreover, she’d declared that she was willing to stand behind the BDS movement. With that,  J Street removed its endorsement and the worries of her followers subsided.

It was then, and only then, did it seem that Tlaib might truly stand to do her part in providing a Palestinian-American voice in Congress.

Though, what is troubling to me is how so many supporters beyond MI-13 were satisfied with the fact that a Palestinian-American Muslim woman had even won the primary despite not doing anything to guarantee that this victory was truly one beneficial for Palestinian and Muslim Americans alike. Thousands from beyond MI-13 were ready to cheer her on without a second thought, even if her stance was more harmful to Palestinians compared to those of other members in Congress with no connection to Palestine.

This election cycle, therefore, taught me something especially valuable as more minorities run for office: we can’t quietly assume that those who look like us will always support us. More importantly, we can’t tell ourselves that the fact they’ve made it that far as a minority in America is enough. This notion of “existence is resistance” cannot allow us to accept politicians who enact harmful policies. It is an injustice to ourselves.

Election Day has come and gone, and Rashida Tlaib is no longer the Democratic candidate for MI-13. She’s the representative. Yes, we can celebrate her. However, it’s also our responsibility to continue diligently watching her and her policies.

After all, Tlaib only spoke out and lost J Street’s endorsement after the public showed their outrage. So we must let any politician seeking to represent us know that we are watching and listening because, at the end of the day, the election of any politician is dependent on our satisfaction.

Health Care Love Wellness

As a chronically ill person, I understand #DoctorsAreDickheads

Having health issues which impact your life really sucks. Having doctors that don’t take your concerns seriously and even mock you can make this so much harder. Recently, the #DoctorsAreDickheads hashtag has shed light on how common and degrading this can be for patients.

The #DoctorsAreDickheads hashtag was met with some pushback from the medical community. While some doctors understood that their colleagues often gaslight and are condescending to patients, others believed the hashtag was divisive and rude.

Twitter user Lindsey (@VMLDSMom) pointed out that many patients who have had bad experiences with doctors have a chronic illness, including people with rare diseases. This hits very close to home, as I have a chronic illness, which also is a rare disease, and I’ve had my fair share of doctors who were dickheads.

Even when I see good news doctors, my past experiences with bad doctors continue to impact me. As I sat down in the waiting room a few weeks ago to a new doctor, my stomach felt like it was going to burst. Sure, this could have been a symptom of my autoimmune disease, vasculitis, but I blame my anxiety. I am afraid of hospitals because I nearly died as a result of medical negligence less than a year ago.

I found myself stuck in a Montreal hospital due to hives, being unable to eat or drink, and anaphylaxis-like symptoms in October 2016. I had no idea what was happening, and neither did my doctors. They didn’t seem to really care about finding what was making me sick. The hospital tested me for HIV, lupus, and syphilis – and that was it. A rheumatologist a spoke to before leaving said I was probably just stressed.

I asked them to continue testing me and to see a doctor to follow-up. They told me that they did not think I had an underlying condition and that I would have to go on a waiting list to see a doctor. I knew absolutely nothing about medicine, but I knew that they were wrong. I also did not want to spend all my time looking up possible conditions on the internet. I knew doing that would make my anxiety worse. After a year of Emergency Room visits and still waiting for a rheumatologist, I left Montreal. At the time, it felt like I fleeing to save my life. In a way, I almost was.

After briefly returning home to the United States, I went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with my family on vacation. My body felt like it was crushing itself, and my morale was low because my family was criticizing me for leaving school. The day after my birthday, I was hospitalized again for over a week. I almost didn’t make it that time. My c-reactive protein, which measures inflammation levels, was at a level akin to someone who had just had a heart attack. I also had to receive nutrients through an IV and was incubated. Not receiving treatment, or a diagnosis, put my life on the line.

Unlike the hospitals in Montreal, the doctors in Puerto Vallarta tested me for a variety of rare diseases until I was diagnosed with vasculitis. They took me seriously.  Although I am grateful for their care, I am now terrified of going to hospitals.

I am afraid, after what happened to me in Montreal, that I will be told that all my symptoms are in my head. Like most people sharing their story through the hashtag #DoctorsAreDickheads, I’ve had my symptoms played down many times before. I am afraid that they will miss something, and then I will have to fight for my life again and again and again. I can assure you, being afraid of hospitals is not the best thing in the world when you have a chronic illness. I have found myself at a hospital for a scheduled appointment or an Emergency Room visit every week for the past two years. This does not look like it will change any time soon.

I need to work on my anxiety and not be afraid of hospitals anymore, but it is hard. My anxiety and what happened to me are not my fault, but I need to take my life back. Hospitals will never be a good place for me; frankly, they aren’t for anyone. But I do need to find a way to feel safe and not terrified in them.

Health Care Science Wellness Now + Beyond

If science is right, you could actually live forever

I’m very forgetful. Really. I’d be talking to you and if I’m interrupted by someone, I will lose my train of thought. Now that being said, I can’t even imagine understanding what an Alzheimer’s patient might experience.

Alzheimer’s is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. The NIH estimates that more than 5 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s in the United States. People with Alzheimer’s have trouble performing regular everyday tasks like driving a car, cooking a meal, or paying bills. They may ask the same questions repeatedly, get lost easily, forget where they’ve kept things, and find even simple things confusing.

As the disorder progresses, people can become worried, angry, or violent. Who could blame them?

Imagine forgetting friends or the people you live with. Or everyday muscle movements or how to maintain basic personal hygiene?

You used to know how to do this. In fact, you did this, day in and day out 24/7, 365 days a year, multiply by say 65 years (Assuming you’re 70 and the first five years don’t count, because who remembers those anyway!). Scary, isn’t it?

So, do we have a solution yet? Well, maybe.

Welcome to the 21st century.

In a recent study, scientists have now managed to erase damage caused by Alzheimer’s in a human brain cell. So if you have a particular gene, you’re susceptible to Alzheimer’s, but if you have two copies of it, your chances of getting Alzheimer’s increases by 12-fold. This gene forms a certain kind of protein that loves to clump together. This means that your brain cells (neurons) can’t pass messages to each other like they normally do. When these cells can’t perform their regular functions over time, they die. Researchers found that by just by changing the structure of this annoying protein and making it harmless, they could increase the survival of brain cells!

In another study, scientists may have figured out how to transfer memories in sea snails. They gave electric shocks to one group and then transferred some RNA from them to another group that didn’t receive shocks. The new group had the same shock-avoiding reflexes as the first one! I can’t wait for this study to be replicated in humans. Imagine being in research and working hard to prove your theory. You work really hard and just when you’re about to have a breakthrough, you drop dead (yes, literally).

Why? Well, life sucks and you never know what will happen.

The person who works the same job after you will have to begin from scratch. Moreso, if you never had the chance to document your most recent research or your most brilliant but yet un-proved findings. If you could transfer your memories, the person could pick up right where you left off, thus not only carrying on your legacy of work but saving, perhaps millions of dollars, in redoing experiments.

When great minds like Einstein, or more recently, Steve Jobs or Stephen Hawking died, imagine the possibilities had we been capable of transferring their memories. We may have even been able to understand their thought processes.

If this study is scaled up, each of us may possibly benefit completely from the wisdom of our forefathers.

If the snail study can be replicated successfully in humans, we may also have a better idea on how memory is stored. We can then work on treatments that combat and possibly even reduce memory loss in patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

We could also possibly enhance the suppression of specific memories in cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The brain is one of the most complex and unpredictable organs to work with. Let’s hope the 21st century brings in an additional understanding of how it works, so that if not physically, at least mentally, we might live forever.

USA Politics Race The World Policy

If the “Blue Lives Matter” bills pass, it’ll be easier for cops to end Black lives

Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the “Protect and Serve Act of 2018.”

The euphemistically named bill offers protections modeled on hate crimes laws to police officers. Harming a police officer is already a federal crime, and laws enhancing penalties for violence against police are already on the books in all 50 states. So if all these protections already exist, what purpose does the “Protect and Serve Act” really serve? 

Well, according to the ACLU, “It serves no purpose other than to further dangerous and divisive narratives that there is a ‘war on police’.” The ACLU also points out that hate crimes laws were specifically designed to provide justice to people who were often denied it, people from marginalized groups in society. They were meant to protect people based on immutable characteristics, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

The US first began to enact hate crimes bills in the wake of the Civil Rights movement, when violence against people of color often went unpunished, as white jurors voted to acquit white defendants accused of crimes against Black Americans in particular. It was a way to take judgment out of the hands of the accused’s white sympathetic friends and neighbors and achieve some measure of justice by putting it in the hands of a federal jury. It was a way to finally start taking violence based on prejudice seriously in a country that has so often enabled or ignored that violence.  

In contrast, violence against police is already being taken seriously.

It leads to manhunts and lengthy prison sentences or the death penalty, not to jury nullifications and impunity. On the contrary, the real impunity is often enjoyed by police officers who have assaulted and/or killed civilians and rarely face charges. While the people currently protected by hate crime legislation are the victims of targeted violence, police are often its perpetrators, harassing, brutalizing, and killing disproportionate numbers of people of color.

The federal “Protect and Serve Act” is similar to a number of bills that have been circulating the country in state legislatures. These “Blue Lives Matter” bills, as they are often called, are a reaction to the calls for police accountability by Black Lives matter and other activist groups. They’re meant to cast the police as a targeted minority, despite the fact that actual violence against police is near record lows. And they are meant to implicitly link that Black activism against police brutality to an invented surge in violence against police when the reality is that the majority of people who do attack and kill cops are white and often associated with far-right groups.

Some critics have said the “Protect and Serve Act” is a “solution in search of a problem,” given the relatively low levels of violence against police officers in recent years. The truth is, it’s worse than that. The false narrative of the war on cops reinforces a mentality that leads them to view the communities they should be serving as enemies. It makes them feel more justified in enacting precisely the violence that Black Lives Matter and other anti-brutality activists are trying to stop. And Republicans and Democrats alike in the House of Representatives just lined up to vote for it.

The next step is for the Senate to consider their version of the bill, which civil rights groups believe is even worse.

If it gets past that stage, there’s little doubt Trump would sign it into law.  So let’s not let it get that far. Call your Senators and tell them not to pass any version of this bill. For help on talking points, check out the first part of Human Rights Watch’s letter about the Protect and Serve Act of 2018.