Part 200- Where I stand

Oh, what’s that you say? This is my 200th post. Well, thanks for noticing!

I love to think I’m so hilarious in my delusional little mind, that I have top-tier jokes when they’re pretty super cheesy. But really, 200 posts is amazing. Well it’s not my 200th post, we’ve surpassed that a while ago, but rather my 200th part. Of whatever this series was. Originating from COVID when I was in late 6th grade into my final few months as a sophomore. Wow, time goes by quickly.

I’m not writing this under the guise of being told to. Most of my posts have been written under assigned topics, but also in my own growing interest as I delve into the topic. But this is more an indulgent one, and also because I’m so incredibly bored and unable to focus while studying for my AP Bio test tomorrow. But really, there was one real reason I decided to start typing. 

I like writing. And I realize that’s like stupid for me to say suddenly. Especially when I’ve been posting for so long and it’s to a point where one would be concerned if I didn’t enjoy it at some point. But really, I love it. Maybe I’m infatuated with it, but that may be too strong of a word to use. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just how I enjoy hearing my keyboard click when pressing keys rapidly, or how I can somehow express my thoughts better than when they’re in my mind, all jumbled together and sometimes demeaning. But I truly enjoy writing. I think it took me 200 posts of this series, about 170-something posts to realize that. There was a moment when I talked to my dad, and I got super emotional talking about writing to the point I started crying. Because I just truly enjoy it. I want to be someone who writes something incredible. Something touching and inspiring to others mostly, but something I can be so incredibly proud of and call my own. I think anyone gets that, especially if they’ve always enjoyed or pursued something.

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little insecure about myself. With school, my personality, my mindset, and especially my writing. Especially in English. I know I shouldn’t take English as the standard to compare things, but it really kind of crushed me a bit to see myself not doing that well in English, in writing especially when I know I can write well, when I know that I can make something intricate and emotional (I hope at least). So it was a bit disappointing to see that something I prided myself on being fairly good at, not be that great at all. But after my mock, I realized that maybe I wasn’t so bad after all. I probably just got lucky, or with the stress of having so much make-up work due to extracurriculars and missing school got to me that I just gave up on thinking too much and just wrote to what was asked. My only problem now is keeping that up and hoping I don’t get too overconfident for my final and doing poorly. It probably won’t be that bad, but I want to establish that I’m not looking for a low score on my final, regardless of whether I did well on the mock or not. 

That’s another thing I get worried about. Being too overconfident. I feel like I’ve been doing that lately, and sometimes maybe I’m not confident enough, and that’s just let me slip into this sinous pattern of success and ‘failures’. It’s not failures, but not a level of success I want and expect from myself. (Just me being harsh on myself) And I feel like that’s somehow affected my writing. Like I’ve grown into this uneasy feeling of whether my writing has been good or not. I’ve been uneasy about publishing. I’ve tried different resources, techniques, and styles, and while there are a few mistakes on my part I KNOW I can do better on remembering about them, I just don’t know how I feel about my writing. 

But you know, there are these small moments I get everyone so often, maybe when I’m reading someone else’s writing or out of the blue, where I fall in love. I just think about writing, the urge to just put words to paper- or keyboard to document- and just say something. Anything. Preferably serious, something alluring and impactful. But also something fun, witty, and worthy to represent myself. And when I think about it I get emotional. Because writing means so much to me. And I get really scared sometimes I might lose that, or that it may not be up to my expectations and I face disappointment because of that. But at that moment, I feel happy. More than anything, I just feel content with the idea of writing, being able to write, reading significant writing, and thinking about how I would do that, or coming up with ideas. Everything about it is just great to me. And it’s taken almost 9 years for me to realize that, 170-something posts into my COVID series, and possibly hundreds upon hundreds of posts later. (, I’m just checking this now, I think this may be the 499th post I’ll publish- maybe more but that’s what it says on the list) 

I realize I’m probably rambling or even just writing nonsense at this point. But I just felt like sharing that. Even if maybe only 3 or 4 people actually read my posts, and it’s mostly for myself, I just wanted to share. To make it official, and tell myself. (For what, I don’t know) But I hope that my future self doesn’t give this up. If I feel this way about writing now, and I feel determined to push myself through the uneasiness to just write something for my indulgence, then I know in the future I will keep writing, and it surely will reach the level I want to. 

So, for my 200th post, I just wanted to say how much I love writing, how grateful and incredibly happy I am to be able to do this for so long, and how I hope I keep this up for so much longer in the future. Then I can give up my uneasiness and push through confidently with my writing, and become the writer I’ve spent these 9 years looking up to be. So, good luck, future me. 

Part 199- Court from a Teen Attorney’s Perspective

Introduction

I’ve spent almost a year now, participating in Teen Courts. I’ve spent a few months, maybe half a year at least, being an attorney for two of them. Each time I show up, it’s always different. Same format, same cycle, same procession, but each case is different. Not every theft is the same. Not every speeding is the same. Nor is every fighting in public case. I’ve seen only a few of each, truthfully, but I can tell you honestly that each is different. Not every defendant shares the same story as the one before them, even if they are the same age and the same offense. I’ve spent nights listening and arguing stories of a wide range, and under this I’ve discovered a few things. With this, I ask that you allow me to share mine.

Reality crushes Expectations

Albeit, my first impression of teen court was rather stereotypical. Kids were being stupid and got caught. I have learned, now, that that is far from the truth sometimes. I was mostly afraid, focused more on me messing up and my impressions, rather than most other things. It was wrong, no doubt. I figured most kids would be older, maybe my age. They would be a little reckless and so they found themselves in Teen Court.

Most of the cases I saw were kids my age, and also younger. It was kinda rare to see a kid much older than me, this is within the teenage age gap up to 18 see, and it kind of surprised me. Although I was mostly right on the idea that most kids were, well, acting recklessly and stupidly. I saw that some kids were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some of them may have acted out before, but learned quickly to quit before they got caught, and found themselves in court for an entirely different reason altogether. Some kids, especially with speeding cases, just got caught without realizing they were committing an offense. Simple reasons such as being late for school and the sheer panic of a strict school with strict punishments, and even a kid who was just so thrilled with something prior that they didn’t realize they were speeding. There were some kids who committed an offense in an attempt to stand up for themselves, and were afraid to get in trouble. There were so many different stories and incidents it was really dawning. I think what I really saw throughout this, was fear. Fear from me about how these kids, my age and even younger than me were getting into these situations. I really wondered what made them do something like this, what would have affected them so much to do so, and I felt really bad for them.

More than an activity

I volunteer for two courts; one in Southlake one in Irving. There’s a judge who I’ve had for my cases every time I’ve volunteered for Irving. It’s kind of uncanny, really, but I feel like I’ve grown and actually learned a tremendous amount from them over the months I’ve been an attorney. They’re absolutely brilliant, while altogether strict and very passionate. Oh I’m semi-terrified of them, goodness yes, but I think that makes me admire them more. You see, every time we finish a case, not just each night but for EVERY single case, what they do is talk to the defendant. This is usually when the jury presents the sentence to the defendant, and they stand with their defense attorneys in front of the judge. Along with this, the judge takes time to explain the severity of their case. They share personal stories, from their life growing up and how dangerous it was to tidbits of information from the present day. And while I’ve heard most of these stories most often despite them being for the defendant to hear, I can’t help but also be thoroughly engaged when listening, because following each story, is a lesson. While the judge is incredibly strict and expects good manners and court behavior, I can see how they genuinely care for each defendant. They tell each defendant earnestly, hoping that while the defendant may not have cared too much to actually be helpful during the case or really take it seriously, they might at least listen to what they have to say and think about it. And, I think that’s really respectable. The judge doesn’t have to do it, in fact they’re the only judge I’ve seen do that so far, but they choose to because they genuinely hope for the defendant to take the offense as a warning, and an opportunity to start over and not make this mistake again.
There was this one kid I defended recently, just a few years younger than I, who actually wanted to be a lawyer as well. They were a nice kid, truthfully, as they were incredibly respectful to us defense attorneys, even if most weren’t or didn’t have to, and made sure to be as clear as they could be when telling us descriptions of the events that took place, their personal activities and school behavior and such. They were ambitious in pursuing law, having been accepted into this program that would help them learn more, and the fact they were already active in the community service field before being required to do so. Defending them really made me think, a lot about myself and them. I saw just how disastrous one small misstep could become, not only for the present but the potential future. This kid, they were a good kid, not really have been in fights or anything wrong before this offense, but just happened to get caught up in something that ended wrongly for them. If they weren’t a juvenile, their offense could have been disastrous for their future. For their acceptance into this law program, for their opportunities to achieve greater things. I really felt for them, and really for the number of other cases I had seen before. I realized, I could be one of them. I could accidentally be speeding without realizing it, maybe get caught up into a fight despite never having problems before, who knows. It’s frightening. I realized just how much of a blessing Teen Court is. More than a chance to erase a mistake made, a way to start over and change, more than a simple volunteering activity, than a courtroom experience, more than an opportunity to develop sound debating, reasoning, and argumentative skills for one. But also a greater chance to just learn. Learn about my current generation, the kids who experience things I don’t and do, how we all perceive it differently and the ways we react differently. A way for us to just depend and rely on each other. Help each other out, be more empathetic than adults than other law systems ever could be. Because, really, who understand teens better than teens themselves? Teen Court is more than solidly a foundation for kids to get a change to learn before going into the real world, but also just a way to actually be bale to see and rely on your fellow teens and in a way, in the least wanted way possible, connect with them. At least, that’s what I feel.

Maybe some of the attorney’s I’ve worked with could care less. Maybe to them this is really just a way to gain experience and volunteer hours. But to me, I think it’s surpassed that. I really want to help these guys out. I want them to learn from this, to the best they can. Help them through it, so they can hopefully pursue the ambitions and dreams they also want to pursue. Maybe it’s a small dream, they think it’s insignificant or not worth enough to work for, but i still want to help them be able to reach those. I know most kids through this program could care less. They’d just have to be more careful next time since they got away with an easy let go through the Teen Court program the first time. But still, I hope that in whatever way I do participate, I can somehow, maybe so, make a small difference that can help them.

Conclusion

So it’s more than just an after-school activity. More than that. I think it’s just transcended into something I genuinely love doing. I mean, yes it’s absolutely draining to work two maybe three cases for 4, maybe more hours straight following school, but I feel like it’s rewarding, in the end, where I can successfully get a lower minimum sentence for a defendant, or be able to contribute a significant number of hours for the defendant that would genuinely help them. And I realize, it may be a little strange to find excitement in this. Real cases, or real teens my age who are doing drugs or getting in fights. But, I feel like altogether, it’s just a way for us teens to help each other out, an din a way, it’s a relief to just you know, be contributing something that could ultimately help change their life for the better. Maybe it’s too much to think about, I’m overachieving, taking too much out of it. But really, I think Teen Court’s been one of teh greatest things for me to participate in. Really. And I genuinely hope I can keep doing it until college, maybe longer, to grow and learn, and really, just be there to make a difference.

Part 198- Neuralink

Part 198- Neuralink

There’s no denying the bounds of which humanity has advanced to. Beyond just cellphones and organ transplants, now, we’ve reached a level of human modification. Of being able to access human neural processing, effectively transmit and receive information from brain activity into code, and vice versa, in an attempt to change the issues we once deemed impossible, or even highly unlikely to modify so easily.

Background

First introduced in 2016/2017, the concept of Neuralink has grown significantly, growing increased funding and support over the years, eventually becoming approved for human trials in 2020, then 2023. Now, just recently, the first attempt of using Neuralink in a human patient has been carried out.

Neuralink is a new, groundbreaking neurotechnology company founded by Elon Musk, aiming to enable direct communication between the human brain and computers. In 2019, it was announced that Neuralink was working on a ‘sewing machine-like’ device that can implant thin threads into the brain. By doing so, it can wirelessly transmit detailed brain activity, allowing for communication between the brains and external technologies. The implants have a battery, processing chip, Bluetooth radio, and at least a thousand electrode contacts. These electrodes record neuron activity in the brain, and translate human thought into computer commands, and vice versa.
In a way, it’s similar to programming. Except with human activity and neural paths. The main focus of Neuralink is individuals with severe disaboilities; to help patients regain their ability to communicate and control external technologies simply using neural signals. This includes paralysis, motor disabilities, restoring sight in the blind and even sensation.

Previously only tested on animals, pigs and monkeys, Neuralink has progressed to human testing. Although there is little said so far about results, it begs the question of what legal complications these bring up, as well as what the successes of Neuralink could mean for the future of human advancement.

Legal Issues

The biggest aspect in legality with Neuralink is data protection and privacy, as well as human autonomy and control. With Neuralink, you’re giving over basic human function to someone else. A good portion of your brain activity is in the hands of someone else, someone you don’t know at all. Sure, a binding contract could be put in place to prevent any misuse of a person’s information to take place, but how good are contracts? Anyone with any access at all to this information has almost entire possession over that person, in terms of actions and thought. External parties have control over your body, can take control of your neural pathways to do things you may not want to do.

Legal contracts have to be as precise and in-depth to address all of these aspects, such as dat a protection and privacy, consent when dealing with brain-computer interfaces, liability and responsibility in case of unintended and unexpected malfunctions and consequences, as well as what human autonomy is given up in consent for doing so. Because, look at it.
Say someone does take advantage of the data entrusted with them at hand. Say they at first willingly signed the contract, knowing the consequences of breaking it, but decided to overstep that for the sakes of being a little bored. It’s not link anyone had to know, right? It’s just a little something. Besides, it’s not like it’ll hurt anyone. Maybe they’ll make the person ever so slightly wiggle their fingers. Just subconsciously. Or maybe twitch their nose ever so slightly. Or maybe perform a reflex. Say they do get away with it. after all, how would that person know? They can’t physically see who’s got access to their data at all times, and they did willingly give up some rights/human autonomy in signing this contract from their behalf. if they never get caught, who’s to say that person won’t attempt to do it again? Maybe something more drastic this time? With this, the person with access to the patient’s data will know what’s going on in their head.They can interpret thoughts into code and understand that, know what steps the patient would take, and they could prevent them from doing so. Implement new thoughts and actions instead. So there also need to be specification as to what data can be used, and when and how.

Furthermore, this can be applied vice versa. A patient with Neuralink can just as easily control a drone to kill another human being. What then? It open a whole other range of possibilities of potential crimes that can be committed. It also makes way for an extensive modification and altercation of the legal system to design new laws that can effectively punish such crimes. But until then, how would we prosecute criminals? Do we simply keep them in jail? Do we first revoke the Neuralink privileges or is there more to it? Would Neuralink also be held responsible for the crime, or is it just the person who committed it? But would Neuralink be considered as an accomplice in doing so, and would they, if they were to receive a punishment as well, then would it be to a similar to lesser extent? What if someone blames Neuralink for the crime committed. How do we know they’re lying? Or what if they blame it on someone else, saying they used Neuralink to control that person into committing a crime. What then?That aside, let’s picture a different scenario. Say Neuralink turns out to be revolutionary. Say we’ve distributed and inserted Neuralink to a wide majority of the population. In what ways would we implement the uses of Neuralink into our daily lives? Could employers make their employees use neurotechnologeis to monitor brain activity? Could employers penalize employees for lack of attention during meetings, for slacking during work or daydreaming? By doing so, would it be an act of maintaining work efficiency and results, or crossing into the personal lines of an employee’s business?

In all this, there’s also the matter of data being stolen. Just a while ago, there was major news regarding genetic testing firm 23andMe being hacked and having over 7 million people’s DNA information falling into the hands of the hackers. Given this, who’s the say the same couldn’t also happen with Neuralink? What if a hacker some how is able to manipulate Neuralink to be able to control all users, and have them commit a series of crimes or actions without their free will? Who is then the one to blame? Are the people held viable, or the company, or the hacker themselves? Furthermore, what measures are to be taken to prevent the risk of being hacked? What are the security measures, what restrictions are put on the information? Is there a limit to how much access a person has, and specifically who has access to the data information? With the advancement of Neuralink, and other possible neural technologies, we’re looking towards potentially writing up an entire new section of laws dedicated to this new technology.

Neuralink Advancements

Legality aside, Neuralink coudl be one of the biggest advancements for our future. Neuralink opens the number of possibilities to progress scientific and medical research and development, and help cure a number of conditions previously believed to be incurable. Things such as blindness, paralysis, and a number of other disabilities. We can figure out what exactly causes these conditions, and how we can create medication or even come up with cures to help solve these problems for those who are affected.

However, one of the bigger issues at play right now is the validity of Neuralink. Despite numerous logs of testing with monkeys and pigs to assure Neuralink’s functionality, there have been reports of the tests being rather rushed and hastily concluded to speed up the process. Such actions have lead to unnecessary and brutal deaths of the animals used for testing. There have also been complications with the placement of electrodes, resulting in partial paralysis, bloody diarrhea, lost fingers, and brain swelling.Given this, was it really okay to begin human trials? I feel like, even with anything in general, if we were to use something for human development and usage, we need to be extremely thorough with it and how useful it actually is. Especially since we’re working with neural technologies now, it serves as having an even greater need to take extra precautions in testing. At least it’s now being thoroughly reviewed by the FDA due to the improper use of animals during testing, but if Neuralink still can get away and proceed with more human trials with teh results hastily generated, then what would happen. Would Neuralink be shut down? Or would we be seeing Neuralink charged with the murder or harm of those who used Neuralink? Or is there a special contract signed between the two that states the patient cannot blame Neuralink ro any consequences shall they take place? Any of teh potential situations are uneasy to think about, but it just goes to show just how much the advancement of Neuralink would affect our society. If we can somehow create a way to define the loopholes and legal restrictions on neural technologies, then maybe we can start expanding Neuralink to more than just those with medical conditions.

Part 197- Drug Addiction: Why mandatory minimums don’t work

Part 197- Drug Addiction: Why mandatory minimums don’t work

Abstract:

In society, the idea of drugs and alcohol has become a stigma. More in some cultures than others, but the degree to which one ends up or consumes either of the substances determines the level of society viewing negatively upon them. Even without any or even little prior knowledge of a person, we automatically assume the wrong from them if we find out they were involved with drugs in any way. Alcohol is a different story, especially in American culture, where it’s typical to drink- at a legal age, at least. But with drugs, we look down- more with criticism than what should be an attempt to help them.

To truly understand the controversial aspects of the current solutions, we need to properly understand the reasons these offenders find themselves in the unrelenting chains of drug addiction, as well as the number of social and racial implications that fall upon them. 

Part 1: The Issue at Hand 

Drug addiction, like many other things, is often not willingly a choice of personal being; it emerges from several different factors such as genetic predisposition, environmental influences, mental health struggles, and socioeconomic challenges. The beginning of this addiction lies with one plunged into vulnerability, desperation, failure, profound isolation, and helplessness in one’s life. It is also the inability to take themselves out of the vicious cycle that puts them here that further aggravates the situation. These situations include poverty, trauma, lack of education or work opportunities, and even mental health disorders that all contribute to their vulnerability. 

Faced with little ability to do anything about the situation, they turn to something to comfort them. A way to help them cope with the situation, even help convince themselves that everything will be fine. They turn to alcohol or drugs, which soon turns into an addiction and abuse that slowly takes over their life to a point where they grow attached and can’t function without these substances. It consumes them and their life. Furthermore, the stigma placed upon these substances in society adds to this addiction.1 Social stigma has created a shroud of shame and secrecy around drug use, bringing out fear of judgment and discrimination from others, deterring individuals from reaching out to gain needed assistance to surmount the challenges of overcoming the addiction. Guilt and shame felt in turning to drugs at the moment of helplessness is worse, causing an exacerbated addiction, essentially worsening the situation. 2

Part 2: Attempted Solutions (Mandatory Minimums) 

At the moment, our definition of helping is time in jail, and the way we determine the amount of time is based predominantly on something called mandatory minimums: stringent, Congress and state legislature-made laws made to curb drug-related crimes but instead overlooking many of the complex roots of drug addictions that often lead an offender to their situation. Taking an analogy from an article I read, mandatory minimums very much encompass the entire ‘one-size-fits-all’ category3. However, like most who’ve owned one-size-fits-all items, they know that the name is false. Not everyone is the same, like not every medium is the same, just as not every drug addict is the same. Everyone has their own different life situations, environments, histories, and events at play that’s led them to the path they’re on, and to give a person the same punishment someone else with different circumstances has is extremely unjust. Unfair, even.

What’s also overlooked is the racial and social aspects at play in this area. While it is those surrounded by poverty who experience severe drug addiction, there are also the wealthy who end up along the same route. However, the conditions are different. While one is on the brink of failure and vulnerability and succumbs to the relieving getaway of drugs, the other indulges in it out of boredom and excitement due to excessive wealth. Those with more money can receive the minimum end more often due to adequate legal representation and possibly influence if caught in comparison to the others. Along with this are racial factors; statistics and studies have shown numerous times that those of minority communities are more likely to receive harsher sentences for similar offenses compared to their white counterparts.4 

Alongside these two, there is also the principal fact that mandatory minimums are rather lengthy sentences that often may not align with the severity of the offense committed but instead the type. These conditions stated before- environmental, mental health, socioeconomic, etc. play a little factor in the kind of punishment received, often leading to those only partially or innocently involved receiving the penalty. 

Such punishments include only a few months or weeks in jail to over 30 years.4 (Of course, depending on the type of offense, such as trafficking and location, drug kingpin, distribution, etc.) Simple possession of a controlled substance with one prior conviction is between 15 days and two years, while with two or more prior convictions, it’s 90 days to 3 years. It also further adds on based on the amount of substance and type. To name a few:5

5-year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment: 

  • 100 grams or more of heroin
  • 500 grams or more of cocaine
  • 10 grams or more of PCP
  • 1 gram or more of LSD
  • 100 kilograms or more of marijuana 

10-year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment:

  • 1 kilogram or more of heroin
  • 5 kilograms or more of cocaine
  • 100 grams or more of PCP
  • 10 grams or more of LSD
  • 1000 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing marijuana

20-year minimum mandatory term of imprisonment:

  • One prior felony drug conviction

mandatory life term of improvement:

  • Two or more prior felony drug convictions
(n.d.). FAMM – Families Against Mandatory Minimums. https://famm.org/wp-content/uploads/Chart-841-Fed-Drug-MMs.pdf

These minimums also change again based on states, as certain drugs like marijuana are now legal. Among these is Oregon, the pioneer state to decriminalize small amounts of certain hard drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl. Other states include Alaska, Washington, Maine, Virginia, Montana, Michigan, Illinois, Arizona, California, New York, etc. 

Unintended spillover effects of cannabis legalization for youth who use e-cigarettes. (2022, June 27). Recovery Research Institute. https://www.recoveryanswers.org/research-post/unintended-spillover-effects-cannabis-legalization-youth-who-use-e-cigarettes/

At the very least, an alternative to mandatory minimums is specific guidelines that give judges a little more flexibility about sentencing punishments based on the circumstances of both the offense and offender. However, lawyers handling these cases face a legal landscape that doesn’t always allow for tailored, specific approaches to an offender’s case, as these aren’t mandatory. 

Most lawyers can only advocate for a sentence that best suits their client’s circumstances within the punishments. And, as previously mentioned, most of these sentences include a high degree of years spent in jail rather than something more beneficial. 

What’s more, there are several laws designed to help drug addicts by seeking treatments, protecting individuals from arrest for substance abuse in emergencies, and even reducing the availability of illicit controlled substances in the United States. A few specific examples include:

  • Marijuana Tax Act of 1937
  • Controlled Substances Act in 1970 (Nixon)
  • Creation of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)

However, since then, this war on drugs has been put to a halt due to eleven states decriminalizing marijuana possession, as well as President Jimmy Carter running a political campaign to do so. Over time, there’s been a gradual decline in drug laws. There are lower penalties and shorter mandatory minimums- which would be effective for those who need it- but this has mainly increased the number of drug addicts and users. 

In 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA), which substantially reduced the discrepancy between crack and powder cocaine offenses from 100:1 to 18:1. 

Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) is a program that’s shifted officers from making low-level drug arrests to diverting individuals to social services and treatments, which has proven far more successful, with participants in this program 58% less likely to be rearrested. 

Part 3: Reforming Society

After all this, it’s clear where the root of the problem lies: society. Society’s perception of certain things becomes ingrained in the minds of its members, isolating those who fall out of the norm due to others looking down on them. 

Here, drug addiction is a problem. It always has been and always will be. President Nixon said so himself with his nationwide initiative plan to reduce the number of drug abuse cases in the United States. He called it the ‘war on drugs’; it was a “government-wide, nationwide ” all-out offensive. However, it was mainly only that last bit that stuck with most others. His plan of providing more federal resources to the ‘prevention of new addicts and rehabilitation of those who are addicted’ was not as heavily paid attention to by the widespread public. As a result, we’ve focused so much on criminalizing drug abuse and involvement and throwing people into jail we’ve forgotten about rehab being another better option.

Furthermore, we need to start paying more attention to the programs designed for treatments rather than immediate arrest or incarceration. Federal response to addressing these problems has gone down significantly over the years, bringing an increase in addicts and offenses. President Trump addressed this issue, the opioid war, quite recently and launched an initiative that analyzed the federal response to this crisis before deciding on the response. Following this, the Prescription Awareness Campaign was put in place, sharing real-life stories of those who have lost loved ones to opioid overdose, the FDA implementing new requirements on the manufacturers of prescription opioids, and the Department of Justice’s Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit targeting individuals that are contributing to the prescription opioid epidemic, to name a few. It’s a similar approach to Nixon’s war on drugs, establishing itself to be successful, with the number of heroin users between 12 and older falling more than 50% and a 20% increase in young adults receiving outpatient treatment. It’s a more significant amount of change in this crisis than seen before, showing that we need to take more initiatives such as this if we want to fight this problem. 

Now, rehab is also controversial. Rehab works for some and not for others. And even with rehab, who says those who went through it won’t continue on their previous path again? So many have lost faith in rehab due to the growing stigma around drug addiction in general that it’s become more difficult for rehab to work and be beneficial to those who need it. We truly need to address this social stigma more than anything and quit isolating those who face these problems. We must show that people are willing to help bring them out of the pit. Shift away from immediate punishment, start focusing on advancing mental health programs, rehab treatments, and comprehensive addiction treatment programs, and take down the systemic inequalities so many face when they go through these processes. It’ll be far more impactful and bring about meaningful change rather than sending them to jail, further crushing their spirit. We need to start changing the societal mindset these problems have brought about, start evoking more empathy for those who are suffering inside- suffering so much they couldn’t turn to anyone else but drugs or any other harmful substance- and show that we are there to help them. We are willing to pull them out of their predicament to who they were. We need to start advocating for better, more equal socially and racially just legal systems that will take in every case and assess it the same, regardless, and help allow those who need the help to feel empowered to speak up about it and seek it without feeling the fear of discriminatory consequences. 

Furthermore, even if rehab remains controversial and ineffective, we can focus more on being stricter on drugs. Targeting the problem head-on has proven itself to be the most successful in the past, so why not keep doing that? If we’re worried about the health and addiction these drugs can cause, why not just get rid of teh source altogether? With the amount of leniency in recent policies regarding drug consumption, it’s no wonder there’s a higher number of drug addicts, especially at younger ages. Lawyers can only do so much in attempts to gain a minimum for their defendant, and if we want to see results that can show that they won’t go through this again, why not cut down and limit drug access? 

With this, both legally and socially, it would be far more beneficial and lead to a significant decline in offenses. Drug addicts who face their first offense get directed to programs designed to treat their conditions and guarantee they won’t turn back to drugs rather than immediate arrest, which could more likely lead them to commit the offense again. For lawyers, it would allow them to make a more compelling case for those who need it- to let them go through the required programs and treatment to get them off this route- and prevent their client from gaining the mandatory minimum or even any other lengthy sentence. 

Because at the end of the day, they’re human, just like us, and they also deserve second chances.

References: 

St. Joseph Institute. (2023, October 19). Understanding the relationship between poverty and addiction. St. Joseph Institute for Addiction. https://stjosephinstitute.com/understanding-the-relationship-between-poverty-and-addiction/#:~:text=In%20some%20cases%2C%20financial%20troubles,of%20a%20substance%20use%20disorder.&text=There%20are%20several%20ways%20in,abuse%20and%20relapse%20after%20treatment

  1. Poverty, homelessness, and social stigma make addiction more deadly. (2021, September 28). Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/poverty-homelessness-and-social-stigma-make-addiction-more-deadly-202109282602 ↩︎
  2. Addressing the stigma of addiction | Advocacy. (n.d.). Hazelden Betty Ford | Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers. https://www.hazeldenbettyford.org/addiction/stigma-of-addiction#:~:text=Drug%20and%20alcohol%20addiction%20is,ve%20established%20long%2Dterm%20recovery ↩︎
  3. (n.d.). FAMM. https://famm.org/wp-content/uploads/FS-MMs-in-a-Nutshell.pdf ↩︎
  4. (n.d.). FAMM – Families Against Mandatory Minimums. https://famm.org/wp-content/uploads/Chart-All-Fed-MMs.pdf  ↩︎
  5. https://www.markjobrien.com/a-guide-to-federal-criminal-court/federal-narcotic-mandatory-minimum-sentences-sections-841-and-851/ ↩︎

Part 196- Change the Past

Part 196- Change the Past

Look, it’s undeniable that Europe can be linked to anything seen today. Current on-going wars, current social states, population, etc. Europe’s almost everywhere, which is quite remarkable for the number of landlocked, jammed together countries in the small continent. How did Britain, a mere island, manage to colonize a number of countries and nations, and manage to create a vastly powerful empire for so many years? How did so many of these countries manage to colonize the majority of Africa? How could they take over populations and groups of pre-living races, creating a product of their own will and control so easily? But more than that, why? What was the need to do so? Why did these countries feel so obligated to take from others for their own sole benefit? The answer to this is both simple and complicated. While these European powers simply had better plans, resources, and strategies, there were also other factors. Internal turmoil within these nations, amongst some. Being easily trusting, for another. Despite this, at the end, it was the Europeans who chose to take advantage of this to reap their own benefit. The outcome being a boost to their empire’s power, wealth, influence, and expanse. But once again, we ask, what was the need to do so? Power is a reason for anything, even wealth, but why did these things exactly matter at the time? What was going on for these European powers to set out and colonize the majority of the world? Here’s the answer: necessity.

European colonialism all stemmed from one major thing- and that fueled over 5 centuries of exploitation and influence of other countries. It’s because Europe lacked. For starters, Northern Europe doesn’t necessarily have the most ideal growing climates. With harsh weather of severe seasonal changes in temperature and light, prevailing winds, and months of cold, snow, and shortages, Europeans needed to take new measures to survive. Even today, to make ways of living easier or to solve any problem, we create new things. We adapt, advance, and create. It’s part of our nature, and exactly what Europeans did. These problems faced would have led them to start creating and planning for these things. They would have had to experiment with new techniques, tactics, resources, and much more. The way they solved this was by using trade routes. Trade routes would have been extremely crucial for most Europeans, as it linked them to other countries with needed resources, and also to sell what resources they had in return. Taking advantage of this, Europeans focused on civilizations near the Equator, as they had more consistent climates and stable weather patterns with year-round food. Europeans utilized this, and built ships. Specific ships that could sail against the prevailing winds, and allowed them to go anywhere.

Essentially, the entire lack of resources for Europe allowed them to develop further than other countries. They were able to create new machines, inventions, and ideas to support themselves and solve their problem given the pressure put upon them to survive. Furthermore, they were allowed to go through different movements that introduced new ideas into their culture. Religious movements dominated, with political and economic movements also following. Literacy and wealth grew, essentially boosting European powers, and giving them an advantage. With the rise of these trade routes, Europeans became dependent on Asian good such as silk, spices, and pottery. However, with the rise of the Ottoman Turks in power and the decline of the Mongolian Empire, these traditional trade routes were under threat. Alongside this, there were further improvements made in shipbuilding and navigation, allowing Europeans to travel further for longer period of time. With this, a new competition began: to secure better trade with Asia and finding new routes by sea to get there. In this, a little slogan also developed, if you’re familiar; ‘God, gold, and glory.’

The story of Christopher Columbus is familiar to many, if not, the majority of Americans. Why else would there be a holiday named after him? The legendary explorer who set out to find a quicker path to India for spices ended up discovering something completely different: the Americas. New unclaimed land with potential for expansions and resources? It was almost beckoning for the Europeans to come. However, the problem was that it was already inhabited. Natives, all of different tribes, cultures, lifestyles, and personalities who had created a sense of peace on these continents for generations long before the Europeans came. Not a problem. In fact, it served as an even greater benefit to the Europeans. ‘God; the first g. The idea to set out and convert others to Christianity had some good intention, but served as rather cruel to others. Converters wanted others to have a place to go to after death, heaven, and with many Native cultures this idea didn’t necessarily exist. They, the converters, felt it to be for the best to convert the natives so they could be safe. But with this, rather cruel approaches were taken. Discrimination, the stripping away of one’s identity into someone new, and even slavery. Amongst the countries that colonized the Americas- Spain, France, Britain, and the Netherlands- France had the best relations. For starters, they sought out to trade for fur, and treated the natives with respect. They did little to impose on their culture and homes, keeping peaceful separate lives. The British on the other hand were worse. At first, the British struggled to survive. They faced poor results in crop growth, and little unity amongst the group to survive. Given this, some natives helped them out, showing them ways to farm in the weather conditions. This eventually led to a friendly relationship between the two, and the first Thanksgiving dinner- a tradition still widely celebrated today. However, this wholesome dinner ended up being a betrayal, for shortly after the British continued to take land from the natives. Even after the American colonists declared independence from the British, they continued to encroach on native territory. Despite agreements and treaties being made between tribes and the U.S. on property restrictions, the U.S. continued to take. Manifest destiny and westward expansion served no help to this, as it further fueled the desire to control the continent. What vast land the native groups once had diminished exponentially. Today, they live in outskirts of cities built on their ancestral land, and suffer more than Americans do today. Today, when we celebrate Thanksgiving happily with families and good food, they’re reminded of the harsh betrayal that led to the loss of their homes, culture, and people. Gold came along the way, surging with the California Gold Rush in 1848 and even before that in small traces. And Glory did show up. Christopher Columbus being the most notable, but other discoveries and small accomplishments also were recognized. The Hudson River, an abundance of fish, other alternate attempts and routes to India by other explorers, and much more. And, the Americas aren’t the only to experience this. So have the Aboriginals in Australia.

Another way Europe developed further was through revolution. Now, hearing that word may lead you to think over overthrowing governments and rebelling. To challenge the norm and go a different way. And, yes, I guess that is true. But here, we’re talking about the Industrial Revolution. Not necessarily an insurrection, but rather a change and turn against the norm: agriculture. The Industrial Revolution was, well, revolutionary. With this event, they once agrarian and handicraft economy everyone depended on to make money from changed to become one dominated by industry and machine manufacturing. New, novel ways of working and living fundamentally transformed society. It made it better, faster, efficient, and more demanding. Demanding in the way that more resources were needed. This further called for exploration to other parts of the world to gain these resources.

One example of this is the Berlin Conference of 1884. European nations saw Africa as a reservoir for raw materials, labor, and even territory for future settlement. And so the Berlin Conference of 1884 took place, drawing lines across the land and between groups and families of people to mark each country’s claim. These countries only left when satisfied, or if they came upon a problem they had originally created. Alongside the development of machines, there also was the increased usage fo gunpowder. Although Europe was not the first to discover gunpowder, they were the ones to utilize it more than other civilizations. Gunpowder became important to conquer new territory, as it allowed a small number of people to exercise a lot of influence. Europeans standardized the usage of gunpowder in warfare, and it gave them an advantage over their enemies who were less prepared. (This including the Africans, natives, Indians, and other civilizations) Along with this, the European countries had predominantly looked towards becoming the most powerful among the others. They weren’t really unified as one- Europe- but were individually active, and each fought to increase their power and influence. They took different methods to succeed, that wasn’t really seen by these other countries before. One of these methods was to take advantage of the internal affairs at play. Many European countries exploited the internal feuds of many in order to gain an advantage over them. Methods such as bribes, offers of power and supplies in return for some position in the country, etc, they easily made their way into a different country this way.

And, really, you know the rest of the story. Slowly, as these colonized civilizations began to develop, they rebelled and declared independence from their European holders. But the last influence is still heavily seen today, even if they passed their colonization days. For starters, we see democratic institutions and systems of government, established human rights, increased literacy rates, poverty, and even today’s wars. Israel-Palestine (Hamas) had to do with European influence. Both World Wars began in Europe due to European issues. Ukraine-Russia War is between two European countries. Many African countries are in their current state following the Berlin Conference, and the genocides that took place happened due to the created divisions between families and groups by the Europeans. The United States based its founding principles due to European (British) actions. The list goes on.

But, what if we were to prevent all this from happening? What if we could stop a point in all of history, knowing of today’s current events and status, and change the current worlds? Well, the best way to do that would be to backtrack in time and stop European exploration from happening. The best way to do this would be to prevent the Ottomans from taking control of the Silk Route and other trade routes. This would have delayed the European expansion for a few decades or so, as there would be little need at the time to find alternate routes to Asia. However, due to the growing religious movements that were taking over the majority of Europe, along with the improvements in shipbuilding and navigation that would take place, there is no guarantee they wouldn’t have still sought out to colonize other countries. However, there could have been some more development in other civilizations before then, allowing them to grow. Although, it is possible they may not have been able to reach the Industrial Revolution until much after. One other thing we could attempt to change is Christopher Columbus’s success in the discovery of the New World. If he never came back, then it’s possible the Americas wouldn’t have been discovered or colonized for a while, as other explorers may not have further tried his route to reach Asia. With this, there would be a thriving native population, but no development of the United States. The United States probably wouldn’t have existed for another few centuries or so, and wouldn’t be at the current state it is now. In fact, lets say the natives had ben able to stop the Europeans. Well, we wouldn’t have the United States today, unless the Europeans attempted to come back again. The same goes for South America. But I wouldn’t even be here. In fact, the good majority of the entire United States population wouldn’t be here- as most come from generations of immigrants or are immigrants themselves. However, it is also likely, more likely actually, they would hav Beene just fine. Considering Europe solely came to these continents for resources, imagine what would have happened if those civilizations found and utilized these resources for themselves instead. They probably would have, at one point or another, advance and probably could have created a powerful nation. Europe would be pretty much distraught and would struggle, maybe being the ones in poverty and suffering. The roles could reverse. There would be a relatively homogenous population with some to little diversity though, depending on whether different groups either unify or clash to become more powerful. The idea of any group of people not being able to develop is almost impossible, since Europeans were the same. But going back to the idea of European colonization never happening, there would be far more cultural and linguistic diversity today. More cultures and ethnicities would have thrived and presumably would have had a bigger influence on the world. There would be much more different political boundaries and power dynamics. One country could end up becoming a number of smaller ones, or a number of smaller ones could become a larger one. There might still be a greater number of empires today. Furthermore, it is likely that there would be a much more different interconnectedness between nations. Given that colonialism linked many countries together in more ways than one, the relationships would be far different. In a way, European exploration has been more profound and integral in our world history than we realize. What a strange amount of influence from a small continent.

Part 195- Teenager’s Guide to the 2024 Election: Part 10

Part 195- Teenager’s Guide to the 2024 Election: Part 10

We are now left with 5 main Republican candidates fighting to become the Republican nominee to head against president Biden in 2024. From the third presidential debate that took place in November, Tim Scott dropped out. This finalized the main candidates to Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Chris Christie, and Vivek Ramaswamy, of which four of them showed up for the 4th and final presidential debate that took place a few days ago. They now have to wait until the Iowa Caucus and the final nominee is decided. It is with this, we now will finish with our 10th and final truth: The U.S. Constitution is the strongest guarantor of freedoms in history.

The U.S. Constitution

The U.S. Constitution is the “fundamental law of the U.S. federal system of government and a landmark document of the Western world.” The Constitution defines the basic rights of citizens, as well as the jurisdictions of the principal bodies of governments. This also includes the Bill of Rights- the first 10 amendments. This document was written after the failures of the 1st constitution- the Articles of Confederation- and was mainly written to give the central government enough power to act on a national level, but not so much that fundamental rights would be at risk. Overtime, it has slowly been ratified with new amendments to add new freedoms for the people. This includes the abolition of slavery, voting rights, and the salary of members of Congress (the most recent amendment to date).

U.S. Constitution in Politics

The definition of freedom can be a rather vague term. Is one’s definition of freedom the same as another’s? Are there limits to said freedoms that are implicitly stated? Are all freedoms put into the Constitution, and why is it that the last one added took place in 1992? We’ll find out, but first, the candidates.

From Ron DeSantis, I found an article emphasizing his desire to eliminate the First Amendment safeguards that prevent lawsuits from strong arming the press into silence. (Relating to the 9th truth: there are 3 branches of government not 4) Furthermore, DeSantis has attacked the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in New York Times v. Sullivan, a case that arose out of a “Jim Crow-era official’s attempt to silence civil rights protestors.” This decision established that “some accused of making false claims about a public figure regarding a matter of public concern may not be held liable for defamation, unless the statement was made ‘with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.’” Along with that, earlier this year a U.S. judge had dismissed a lawsuit against the governor after he removed an elected official from office solely due to his stance on abortions and transgender rights. The judge rules that DeSantis had violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Besides this, and Vivek’s Ramaswamy’s claim for this truth, there was little I could find on the matter.

My Perspective

I think it all depends on the inclusion of history. The Constitution has not ALWAYS been a guarantor of freedoms, and in history we see that with slavery and women’s voting rights. 3 new amendments needed to be added at the end of the Civil War to end slavery and establish them as citizens to guarantee them of rights as citizens, despite them having them far longer than these were added. Not only that, there were still loopholes in this as Black Codes and Jim Crow Laws curtailed these rights by an instance amount. It was almost like ‘legalized slavery’ with these new laws, taking away from the purpose of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendment that were added. Furthermore, it’s also seen that women were still not allowed to vote nor partake in many of the activities men could, even after freedmen were allowed to. Regardless of white or not, they just weren’t.

I also wanted to add how the Constitution specifically has the 9th Amendment which states that any unlisted rights were still protected and given to the people. Not only that, the entirely of America is literally freedom and in the Constitution is is literally written as “all men are created equal, that there are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” By default doesn’t this include the African Americans as well? Aren’t they also people with unalienable rights? Didn’t they also deserve to have the pursuit of happiness? Now while at that time, slavery was ‘normal’ and wasn’t thought much of, these principles are incredibly contradictory to what actually happened in history. African Americans weren’t even considered as people. They were property who could be captured if run away and sold to different people with little say.

Now if we’re to look at how the U.S. Constitution applies today, let’s talk about the U.S. territories. Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, etc. The entire American Revolution began with ‘no taxation without representation.’ Americans believed that the King was enforcing these new taxes upon them without any of their say on the matter. Now, isn’t this same thing happening again today, except with the U.S. as the ‘English’? The U.S. territories are taxed without having any too little representation in Congress. Not only that, they do not have any electoral votes to cast for the president or vice president, meaning they can’t really vote in elections. Now what’s the point of that? Hm? I’d think that America, a country that dedicated itself to its unalienable rights that included a say in government, would do the same with its territories but apparently not. At this point, why not just add them to the U.S. if we really want them to be taxed. Let me put it out there, the U.S. made a big deal about the no taxation part, but hardly care if they’re doin the sam thing to their territories. In fact, it’s always been like that. But seeing it now is really stupid.

So do I believe the Constitution is the highest guarantor of rights? No. I mean, if being pro-choice is a right, or even that a girl can do whatever she wants to her body, is a right, then shouldn’t abortions be allowed? Isn’t implementing abortion bans taking away this, especially when such a non-listed right is protected by the 9th Amendment? Think about it.

Part 194- Israel-Hamas War: What are we not seeing?

Part 194- Israel-Hamas War: What are we not seeing?

It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but is it really? The entire world is occupied with the Israel-Hamas war, drawing attention away from the topics we’d normally be conversing over. But why is this so? Is there a possibility that someone wants us to stay away from something? But what is this something? And who is this someone? It may not even be true at all, but it seems rather strange that as soon as the war came into view, everyone has been turning away from other topics they’d normally never forget about. So let’s talk about these topic people are forgetting, and let’s talk about the war itself. Has this war always been a result of two groups or where there other factors into play, and have we possibly seen these factors before as well? Let’s find out.

Israel- Hamas War Brief Overview:

The Israel-Hamas War is part of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, and is one of the longest continuing conflicts. The main aspects of this is between Jews and Arabs as each were focused towards attaining sovereignty for their people in the Middle East. Declarations to see a Jewish homeland established in Palestine, even by the British, was met with opposition by the already present Arab majority living there. Tensions grew as the number of Jews arriving increased, leading to the UN adopting Resolution 181- the Partition Plan. This called for the division of the ‘British Mandate of Palestine’ into Arab and Jewish states. Not long after, the first Arab-Israeli War began and resulted in the territory being divided into 3 parts: the State of Israel, the West Bank (of the Jordan River), and the Gaza Strip. Over the years, tensions have continued to rise in the region, eventually leading to the Israel- Hamas war seen today. 1

Analysis & Connections

Upon doing my research, I found something really, I guess you could say, interesting about all this. And, before I begin, let me say that there could be more to the story than I’ve read or heard or even that is out on the internet. This is my analysis based now what I’ve read and found out.

I’d like to say that I find it ridiculous how Europe likes to take everyone’s problems and make it their own in some way. Their idea of involvement and including people is by getting into their business when it’s not needed, and trying to ‘fix’ it which eventually ends up making it worse, setting up a series of events that lead to some conflict where they feel the need to ‘help’ once again all while saying the others are ‘problematic’ or do not know what to do. Or even, they just create a major problem. It’s just a common pattern I’ve noticed in many historical aspects over the years. Let me give a few examples.

  • Berlin Conference of 1884
    • Rwanda Genocide
  • India and Pakistan
  • Aboriginals and Native Americans

And even the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The Berlin Conference was a meeting of the major European powers where they negotiated and formalized claims to territory in Africa. It was to set up international rules for making claims to African land and maintain a strategic distance from strife between European powers. If you look at the map of Africa, you can see there are far more straight lines than irregular ones we usually see with other countries.

Comparing the two images above, we can see where former European countries occupied and how those make up countries today. Furthermore, we can see how there are countries in other countries. This is a part of how European countries wanted resources, such as rivers, to themselves, and created new areas surrounding that resource. These later became countries and created the country-in-country area we see today.

There was no African role in this mapping, as the Europeans did not include them in this, and this led to division in African. Division of ethnicities causing for conflict between the same people. Brothers against brothers, so to say. There were even conflicts started BY the Europeans, which lead to major conflicts we saw later on. One is the Rwanda genocide.

This is taken from a book by a Rwanda refugee- Clementine Wamariya- called The Girl Who Smiled Beads. In this, there is a section where she describes the conflict and its origins. She says,

”Almost eighty years before the genocide, the Belgians colonized Rwanda and infected the country with their cruel, bogus science of eugenics. Before that, Rwandans lived together in relative peace. Then the Belgians racialized the country. They measured people’s noses and skulls. They created and consulted pigmentation charts, dividing the citizens into Tutsis, Hutus, and Twas…Then, the three ethnicities established, the Belgians issued identity cards. Next they created social policy and propaganda campaigns designed to cause the races to antagonize each other, channeling Rwanda citizens’ hatred onto one another and away from them…Ten lives, and UN peacekeepers left Rwanda. The international community left Rwanda. What was going on in the country was too ghastly, too crude, too dangerous. All those countries that ended World War II by saying never again turned their backs. We Africans could kill each other if we wanted. We were not anybody else’s problem.”

The way there was peace between Rwandans initially, later turned into conflict amongst themselves as the Belgians divided and turned them against each other shows how European involvement caused this problem.

Another I want to talk about is India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan, along with a few other countries were one before British rule. At that time there was unison between Hindus and Muslims, but when split, there were problems. Brutal killings, riots, conflicts, and so many things through this division. What once was one became two, to a point where the hatred between the two is unchangeable.

Even with European influence on natives. The Native Americans with various different cultures, languages, territories, ways of living have been pushed from their own land, when they were the ones who offered a hand of friendship at first. These Native Americans who only wanted peace and showed signs of hostility when they were attacked and killed. These Native Americans who were here first, far longer than any other explorer who came to the Americas. These Native Americans who had their land taken away from them despite agreements to prevent this. These natives who witnessed their food sources and rivers die away, their homes torn apart and culture reduced, and used as labor for the benefit of others. While Americans celebrate Thanksgiving happily with good food and family sharing good memories, these natives are reminded of the terrible acts that ensued after an act of friendship. With the Aboriginals in Australia, while early relations were friendly and Indigenous rights were respected, the greed for land and resources by more European settlers ended this, leading to devastating results. The numbers of the Indigenous Australians were reduced by as much as 90% between 1788 and 1900. The introduction of foreign diseases by the colonists, the loss of their traditional territory that had once sustained the Indigenous peoples for thousands of years, and the violent conflicts with the colonists all changed the lives of the Indigenous.2

And we even see it here, with the Israel-Hamas war. The conflict that escalated between these two groups began with European involvement. In fact, much before the British Mandate, the Jews and Arabs lived in some peace together. The Jews were a minority, and were often treated as an inferior who were looked down upon by the Arabs. There were places where treatment varied, but for the most part, they weren’t treated the same. However, they still shared the same identity, in a way, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Furthermore, Jews were facing intense persecution in Europe, leading many to seek refuse elsewhere. There were many hostilities and different forces driving away these Jews, to a point there was an idea emerging across these countries. (At this time there were many European anti-Semitic and global nationalist movements going on) The idea was for the Jews to have their own land, a place where they wouldn’t be persecuted or have to face living in hostile countries. It would be a place where the Jews wouldn’t be a minority, and wouldn’t have to worry about having a country annihilating them. This led to waves of immigration from Jews to Palestine, as well as the British- which at the time was controlling the area of Palestine- promising land to the Jews. Not only that, following Hitler and the Holocaust, there was a greater call for the safety of an independent nation and home for the Jews. With the increasing number of Jews coming into the area, the dynamics slowly started to change. There were escalating tensions, and conflicts over land, resources, and national identity began to rise. Factors such as the Balfour Declaration and the Partition Plan further added onto this, complicating the previous coexistence the two groups once had. Following the establishment of a distinct Jewish state, the first war broke out, leading us to where we are today.

Change in the Israel-Palestine region over time

We can see how European influence caused a number of new conflicts for this situation. Firstly, they treated the Jews in a hostile manner, and then promised them land already occupied by a different group. Thus promised land created greater conflicts than previously seen, calling for Europeans- specifically the British- to try and solve this problem by establishing a separate state for the Jews, and essentially causing the conflict. Now, we see them today trying to solve this problem again by negotiating and trying to help the citizens. It’s unbelievable.

Another thing I wanted to point out was just how biased an article I found was. When initially researching for this post, I started with the surface- the overview of what caused this conflict to begin. I came across a BBC article, and this was what they said,

Tensions between the two peoples grew when the international community gave the UK the task of establishing a “national home” in Palestine for Jewish people.3

 I think it’s ridiculous how it pretty much states how things got out of hands DUE TO the fact that the UK was involved in this, and that they were ‘tasked’ with doing so. I mean, no you weren’t. There really was no need to do so, but the UK just HAD to try and fix this problem. Furthermore, when Palestine was previously under UK control, they had allowed Palestine self-government and independence. However, with the initiative to establish a “Jewish home” in Palestine, the Balfour Declaration promised to protect the civil and religious rights of Palestinians but not their political rights, which was once given to them. Fear of displacement in their own country lead Palestinians to resist British policy through non-violent diplomatic means- boycotting and civil disobedience- which people then tried to RESOLVE and restore order to. Furthermore, I want to add, from another I’ve read, that the British were anticipating another war in Europe- the Second World War- and “…looked to end the disturbances in Palestine and win over the support of independent Arab states.”4 So in addition to further adding onto this conflict and wanting to step in to solve this problem they further fueled, they wanted to end it quickly because they didn’t want to have something like this being another problem they have to deal with? Interesting.

Moving on, another topic I wanted to look into was Iran’s support of Hamas. The reason this alliance is so unusual is that the two groups are two very different groups of Muslims: Shia and Sunni. Hamas is a Sunni group while 90-95% of all Iranian Muslims are Shi’ites. One may think that there may not be a big difference between these two groups and everyone over exaggerates just how bad the divide is, but let me tell you just how very wrong you are. The divide is indeed a very big deal if it’s been going on for some 14 centuries. The difference between the two is the belief of who would be the next successor following Muhammad: Abu Bakr (Sunnis) or Ali (Shias). It’s lead to long-running civil wars in Syria, fighting in Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere, as well as terrorist violence on both sides.5 I highly doubt something like this can be classified as a simple divide.

So why would Iran be supporting Hamas then?

Well, let’s first start with recognition of Israel. At this time, there are already several Arab states in the Persian Gulf that have made peace with Israel, including Saudi Arabia. Both Iran and Hamas have every interest to make sure this doesn’t happen. Although Iran has denied involvement in planning the attack on Israel, the country’s Supreme Leader did state that they “…kiss the hands of those who planned the attack on the Zionist regime.” 6 Iran has also been involved in providing material support as well as training and money to Hamas. There’s not a definite relationship between the two groups, but a subtle support that goes back a bit. In 1979 a revolution brought in a hard-line Shia government that considered Israel usurpers on Muslim land, ultimately breaking off the once close economic and strategic ties Israel and Iran had. Iran considered the US as an enabler of this revolution, leading for the view that Israel was a Western colonial outpost and Zionism was a version of imperialism. Israel and Iran have also been engaged in a cold war against one another for a long time. So support between the two groups would be partially expected.

Lastly, let’s not forget that Jerusalem is a holy city that gave rise to the THREE major Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. We’ve seen conflicts between Islam and Judaism over Jerusalem, but what would happen if Christianity also gets involved? There would be a possibility of a world war. Even now, with the involvement of other countries in this matter, there could be a possible world war brewing. What do we do then?

What are we not seeing?

The Israel-Hamas war has been the hot topic of all news. It’s taken over American politics, now becoming a fundamental factor in who will become the next president based on candidate responses and plans for the matter. But what about the Ukraine-Russia war? When was the last time it’s been brought up in the news or even MENTIONED? What about the South China Sea and China’s new map that was made? What about the fact that Chinese President Xi Jinping who was actually in California just a few weeks ago to meet up with President Biden? What about abortion issues? What about gun rights and the second amendment? Weren’t these the most heavily debated and brought up topics only a few months ago? Why are they now almost ‘non-existent’? I mean, before, the Ukraine-Russia War was the biggest issue, but now with the Israel-Hamas War, almost any funding towards Ukraine has stopped. Is there some sort of correlation between the two? Could one be a coverup for the other? Maybe, maybe not. The assumption cannot be made, but it is fairly odd how these topics are no longer being brought up.

What do you think? Would the Israel-Hamas War have gotten to this point regardless of European interference? Could this war be something of a coverup, or is there more at play? Should we expect something worse to come? Who knows, but it is for certain that this Israel-Hamas War may not end quickly.

References:

  1. “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” Global Conflict Tracker, www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/israeli-palestinian-conflict. ↩︎
  2. “Indigenous and European Contact in Australia.” Britannica Kids, kids.britannica.com/students/article/Indigenous-and-European-Contact-in-Australia/631556#:~:text=Early%20relations%20were%20typically%20friendly,on%20Indigenous%20Australians%20were%20devastating. ↩︎
  3. BBC Breaking News, World News, U.S. News, Sports, Business, Innovation, Climate, Culture, Travel, Video & Audio, www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-44124396%20. ↩︎
  4. “The Palestine Mandate.” NCSC, www.gchq.gov.uk/information/palestine-mandate#. ↩︎
  5. “Islam’s Sunni-Shia Divide, Explained.” HISTORY, 31 July 2019, www.history.com/news/sunni-shia-divide-islam-muslim#. ↩︎
  6. Ioanes, Ellen. “How Does Iran Fit into the War Between Israel and Hamas?” Vox, 14 Oct. 2023, www.vox.com/world-politics/2023/10/14/23917078/israel-hamas-war-gaza-iran-hezbollah-khamenei-lebanon. ↩︎

Gathara, Patrick. “Berlin 1884: Remembering the Conference That Divided Africa.” Breaking News, World News and Video from Al Jazeera, 15 Nov. 2019, www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2019/11/15/berlin-1884-remembering-the-conference-that-divided-africa.

“Hamas And Israel: Iran’s Role.” Wilson Center, www.wilsoncenter.org/article/hamas-and-israel-irans-role.

Ioanes, Ellen. “How Does Iran Fit into the War Between Israel and Hamas?” Vox, 14 Oct. 2023, www.vox.com/world-politics/2023/10/14/23917078/israel-hamas-war-gaza-iran-hezbollah-khamenei-lebanon.

Magazine, +972. “Before Zionism: The Shared Life of Jews and Palestinians.” +972 Magazine, 6 Apr. 2016, www.972mag.com/before-zionism-the-shared-life-of-jews-and-palestinians/.

“Nytimes.com.” The New York Times – Breaking News, US News, World News and Videos, 2 May 1976, www.nytimes.com/1976/05/02/archives/europes-african-legacy-mostly-bad-some-good.html.

“Origins and Evolution of Zionism.” Foreign Policy Research Institute, www.fpri.org/article/2015/01/origins-and-evolution-of-zionism/.

“Reuters.com.” Reuters.com, www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israel-palestinian-dispute-hinges-statehood-land-jerusalem-refugees-2023-10-10/#.

“Was European Colonialism a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?” Psephizo, 24 Mar. 2023, www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/was-european-colonialism-a-good-thing-or-a-bad-thing/.

Part 193- Teenager’s Guide to the 2024 Election: Part 9

Part 193- Teenager’s Guide to the 2024 Election: Part 9

We’re back with the 9th truth: There are three branches of the U.S. government, not four.

The branches of government

The fourth branch of government is an unofficial term that refers to a belief that the media’s responsibility to inform the people is essential to the healthy functioning of democracy. It is a ‘widely accepted role’ the news media plays in providing citizens with information they can use to check the government power. However, it is said that the media went astray from its primary responsibility and corrupted itself. Let’s see what each of the candidates have to say about this.

Branches of government in politics

The only candidate I was able to find for this truth was Vivek Ramaswamy, but at most, all that was said was that e believed the fourth branch of government to be the administrative state. Ron DeSantis said it was the Department of Education. There was little further information about this from either of them, and any from other candidates.

My Perspective

I don’t now if I could consider the 4th branch of government to be the media. For what I’ve learned, the branches of government were designed to keep checks and balances, and prevent one branch from overpowering another. It also allowed for the people to have a say in the government. However, recently, you could say the media has become very biased. Different news networks will provide favorable news for one party or the other based on affiliation. It might even be very subtly, without you realizing it. Furthermore, media outlets could only provide information they want to provide, to get the reaction and support they want. It’s very influential, and can almost easily change the opinions of anyone in a matter of seconds.

Now, while the media is important in relaying information, it’s come to a point where they’ve taken advantage of it. In the First Amendment, freedom of press is given. It cannot be denied, and based on this, the media is essentially protected. They can, in a way, report what they want. This can lead to the people getting not enough information, and acting in favor of what the media outlet wants. That cannot happen. The media doesn’t have a power in politics. They aren’t making decisions, and often can have far more power than intentionally given.

For me, as a researcher and writer, I find it difficult sometimes, to find what is biased and what is not, and even when I can, I can see how those who may not even realize the bias exists, can get easily swayed. I agree, there aren’t four branches of government. The media isn’t “keeping” the government in check. I mean, yes it gives people information about updated events, but it shouldn’t have a greater power than that in the government. When people receive their information, they are the ones who should then make their decisions of what they want. They shouldn’t be influenced by a middle way that wants something that benefits them. It’s wrong. hence, there should be four branches not three.

Part 192- Teenager’s Guide to the 2024 Election: Part 8

Part 192- Teenager’s Guide to the 2024 Election: Part 8

Hello! Today we start with the next truth: The nuclear family is the greatest form of governance known to mankind.

The Nuclear Family

Let’s start by defining what exactly a Nuclear Family is. The Nuclear Family, is essentially, a group of people who are united by ties of partnership and parenthood and consisting of a pair of adults and their socially recognized children. It’s the essential idea of a family, when you first think about one, with parents and children in a one home residence. It’s heavily contrasted to a single-parent family, a larger extended family, or a family with more than two parents. Its primary focus is on a married couple, and emphasizes the advantages of a better financial stability, strong support systems for children, and consistency in raising children from established daily routines. Let’s see what each of the candidates have to say about it then.

Nuclear Families in Politics

Ron DeSantis has shown major support for this issue, working toward emphasizing the importance of fatherhood and the nuclear family, saying “there are those who diminish the importance of fatherhood and the nuclear family-we will not let that happen in our state.” He has taken a number of actions towards fulfilling this, such as securing nearly $70 million in funding to address the fatherlessness crisis in Florida. The usage of this money is dedicated to :educational programs, to increase mentorship opportunities for families, and to encourage responsible and involved fathers.” DeSantis has also “shown his commitment to supporting foster families by increasing monthly payments to those who serve as caregivers to foster children, increasing monthly support to cover childcare for foster children, and expanding postsecondary education opportunities for foster children.”

The only other, current contending candidate, who has spoken out about nuclear families is none other than Vivek Ramaswamy himself. Of course, he believes that the nuclear family is the strongest firm of governance known to mankind. Ramaswamy has pointed to marriage and family as a key driver of success in life, and often credits the groundwork of his own success due to two factors: being raised in a two-parent family and getting a good education. He has said, “I did have the ultimate privilege of two parents in the house with a focus on educational achievement, and I want every kid to enjoy that.” He believes that strong and stable families give men, women, and children an incomparable advantage when it comes to doing well in school, flourishing in life, and achieving the American dream. How goal is for policymakers to make it easier for children from lower-income families to access this privilege.

My Perspective

I feel as though, it’s rather stereotypical for people to always assume a family is two parents. It’s always been the common idea of a family, but with a changing society and with new factors, that can change just as easily. What exactly defines a family? A group of two or more persons related by brith, marriage, or adoption who live together? Those who live together as a unit? The descendants of a common ancestor? All of these are right answers, but we’re focused on only one of them- a typical two parent family with children.

Families are all unique. Not every two parent family will be amazing, nor will every single parent family be difficult. Although the chances of this happening is not very common, you cannot necessarily always assume it’ll be bad. Often, those who struggle have more motivation to work harder and get out of that setting they’re put in. They’re wanting to succeed, and will push themselves to work hard to prevent themselves from struggling. And, yes, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Not every two-parent family is perfect. You have changes of domestic abuse or violence, divorce, or just any other factor which can suddenly show up. That often creates a more negative effect on the family than in a single-parent household.

I can see why Vivek Ramaswamy or Ron DeSantis would want to emphasize the importance of nuclear families. They want to provide a better future and successful future for kids of the current generations and future generations. They want to help these kids be born and live in a stable, good environment where they can succeed and go on to do greater things. They want to take away the limitations one could get from lack of a parent so that they aren’t held back from other kids. It’s a fair ground for everyone to help everyone thrive. And I agree. I too have grown up in a two-parent family and have a good education, and I understand how much of a privilege that is compared to some other kids in my grade level. But also, we need to know, that we’re all still very different. Even if every child has a two-parent home and a good education and such, it’s still up to other factors that can impact this path. It’s not always going to be perfect, and I can see that they also realize that too. But in order to just slightly change that. In an effort to make the conditions slightly easier, and create an even footing for all children, they’re focusing on the importance of a nuclear family. And so, maybe the nuclear family is the greatest form of goevrnance to mankind.

Part 191- Teenager’s Guide to the 2024 Election: Part 7

PC: https://www.choose-denisontexas.com/higher-education/

Hello! We start of with Part 7 of the election series focusing on the 6th Truth: Parents determine the education of their children.

Parents and Education

There has been a lot of news lately regarding banning books, rewriting curriculums, specific staff boards, and removal/limitation of certain curriculums or classes from schools from parents as well as the government. We’ve seen a lot of it in Florida, under the steadfast action of Ron DeSantis, but a lot of similar actions are also taking part in other states. A lot of these actions take place under removing the ‘woke’ knowledge that can be sene from books. This includes race, racism, characters of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and anything that is felt to be ‘propaganda’ towards these ideas. The question has become quite prominent, ‘Should parents determine the education of their children?’ Let’s turn to our candidates and find out what they feel.

Education in Politics

Let’s start with the most active candidate in this field: Ron DeSantis. Although he isn’t the first governor to embrace ‘parental rights’ or limit how race and gender are discussed in schools he has built a ‘long legislative record as an “education governor”’, and is planning to pitch that across the nation. Ron DeSantis has taken a number of actions regarding education since becoming governor, including: codifying a ‘Parents Bill of Rights’ which calls for vastly expanding school choice, armed teachers, and a new workforce education; rolling back higher education diversity programs; engaging in feuds with College Board over it’s African American studies course; and has worked with many other republicans to reshape higher education in Florida. He has also fought with CollegeBoard over the AP Psychology course, calling for removal of a section talking about gender and identity. He calls it as ‘a war on truth’ and says he has no choice but to ‘wage a war on woke’. The Florida Parental Rights in Education Act, taking effect since last year, was created to give parents more control over their children’s education.

Nikki Haley feels the same way. She feels that the Education Department should have “a narrow mission of teaching children ‘basics so that they can be successful contributors to society.’” She believes that they’re not meant to do anything that doesn’t involve those basic core concepts of education. She’s called out transgenderism and believes that to be the last thing kids should be worrying about at school. She said that, as a parent, ‘we need full transparency in the classroom’ without wonder of what’s being said or taught in the classrooms.

Vivek Ramaswamy believes the same, given this is his truth. He believes that education decision should be pit in the hands of parents, and said he’d opt to send the ‘department’s $80 billion in funding back to taxpayers to “economically empower” them to choose a school for their children.’ President Trump has also unveiled a plan on 2024 education policy, calling for cutting federal funding for any school or program that includes ‘critical race theory, gender ideology, or other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content onto our children.’ His plan also calls for opening ‘civil rights investigations into ay school district that has engaged in race-based discrimination’ particularly against Asian-American students, and has promises to keep men out of women’s sports. Trump also calls for cutting administrative roles and adopting a parental bill of rights.

Mike Pence has said the same, calling to limit federal role in education and eliminate the Department of Education. Tim Scott says the same, supporting parents’ rights to be fully and actively involved in the education of their children, and has rolled out a technology and education plan arguing the President Biden has minimized the role of parents in their child’s education.

President Biden, on the other hand, along with the Democratic Party, believes that the purpose of public education in a public school is not to teach kids only what parents want them to be taught, but also what society wants them to know.

My Perspective

As a student myself, I have some very strong opinions on this. First, let me talk about school curriculums and classes. It may be different for other states or even other high schools, but this is based on what Ive experienced in my schools. I personally really love the variety of classes given to me at my school. Sure, there are a few classes I wish we had – like AP Latin or AP Japanese Language and Culture- but that’s a different story. In all, I really like that there are so many classes with different in-depth focuses we get the option of taking. And, one may say, hey you can do the same as well even with parent controls. That’s true, but in my opinion, I feel like even more than the parent, the child knows its interests the most.

Everyone’s different. The environment and ideals parents grow up when they were younger is far different than the ones we see today. Everyone has a varying opinion, even those bound by blood. We all like and dislike different things, and that’s the matter of being human. We are all unique as individuals, having varying yet similar tastes that brings us together.

Growing up, I’ve always invested my time and learning in areas I’ve grown to love or had an interest for. My parents always put me in classes that suited my abilities and skill levels when I was younger, but also made sure to take into account what I liked. Where did my core interests and passions lie, and what could I be put in to help me take action in these further? It’s how I’ve continued playing violin until today, how I’ve grown as a writer, how I’ve grown as a student, as an athlete, and so much more. I do violin because I wanted to play that sole instrument when I was younger, no matter what. I do kickboxing because I decided I wanted to learn how to use my strength properly. I’ve continued writing because I actually love the way I can create something informational or even impactful with words. Words I don’t have to say out loud, but can still cause change. (That may be a little bit of exaggeration) Now, you may say again, these apply to extracurricular. There’s nothing on education so far. Well yes, but this idea also ties into education.

What I’m saying is that children know the most what they’re interested in. Some kids are interested in Calculus while others are into Psychology. Some are linguists dying to learn a new language every second, while others are history and culture nerds looking for the next great revolution to learn about. Everyone is different. I feel that we as students and children, should be allowed to take the classes we feel most drawn to. The ones we want to learn about more. Students are meant to learn. The best thing a teacher wants from any student is the desire to learn, to work hard, do their best, and apply themself to the course and material. While some classes are required, causing a sense of boredom and disinterest by kids, others are purely by choice. For me, I feel that it’s unfair for some other kid’s parents to flag an entire course or book and ask it to be removed if I were to have a strong interest in it. Even if I didn’t it would be unfair to other students who are interested in those classes. You don’t want your child to learn about that, so why take it out so other students can’t learn? Why do you feel the need to limit another’s choices and interests simply because of your own ideals?

Simply because it’s a parent’s choice isn’t enough. Parents should know what’s going on in their child’s classrooms, but they should not be taking away the learning privileges of other students by doing so. Students should not have to be limited to a selection of 5-10 books because the others are banned for supposed ‘propaganda’ or ‘LGBTQ+ issues’ and race and racism. We need to learn, and that often goes far beyond the basics of knowledge. We need to know how to function in this world. It’s changing, and there are so many factors as to why. It’s said that history is repeated if we do not learn from it. Right now, we are attempting to hide bits of history simply because it has racism in it. You can’t do that. Race and racism has shaped and affected so many things that makes our world as it is today. You’re essentially trying to create this facade that everything is perfect in the world, that it doesn’t exist when it actually does. You cannot wipe out a detrimental part of history, a part that is the real truth. The ‘war for truth’ is trying to hide the real truth. We need to learn from this, from these actions and events, no matter how wrong or shameful or upsetting they are, in order to prevent that from happening. You cannot try to remove that. We need to know.

Furthermore, with identity and LGBTQ+ ideas, why do you care? You don’t like your child hearing that, then tell them to stay away. Someone’s identity should not be defined with by other people. You can’t restrict a person from expressing themselves or being who they are. Why does it bother you, when they don’t do anything to you at all? Why do you feel the need to influence others for your ideals, and then get upset when others do the same to you? If you believe certain things to be wrong, then stay away from them. Don’t engage with them if you really feel it that necessary. Just don’t go limiting, opposing, or restricting others for what they want to do, learn, think, say, or express. I’m saying this, the day I start getting limitations on which books are accessible to me in my school or which classes I can take, I will fight against it. I don’t want for someone to limit what I can learn about because you feel it as ‘woke’.

We’ll pick up with Part 8 and truth #7- The nuclear family is the greatest form of governance known to mankind- next week. See you then.