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 184- Teen Attorney

Part 184- Teen Attorney

Tuesday, August 15th, 2023.

After almost a year, I finally accomplished., for the first time, what I have been working towards; becoming a teen attorney. From observing trials, to volunteering for being a juror in three different courts, to training to become an attorney in two of them, becoming a bailiff, and now…officially acting as a teen attorney. It’s something I never would have imagined doing last summer, when I only first discovered that Teen Court exists. Through these proceedings, I’ve learned so much despite it only being the tip of the iceberg! Let me take you on a trip through the past to share some of these experience I’ve gained over these past few months.

Discovering Teen Court

The first time I heard of teen court, I felt burdened. One of my biggest flaws is my reluctance to work. I’d rather stick to doing the amount I’m currently doing, than doing more and expanding my schedule and adjusting until it’s normal again. That’s why Teen Court was so upsetting to me. I immediately dreaded it.

I first started at the Metroport Teen Court. I was genuinely terrified. Before I became a volunteer, I was able to observe a court proceeding to understand how it worked. It was my first time young to a court. I was scared, nervous even. What do I Wear? Is this not fancy enough? Is it too fancy? What if I start sweating? What if my phone goes off? So many questions but so few answers and time to process them. The good news was that my phone didn’t go off and I wasn’t too overdressed. The jurors really didn’t care that much of dress code- which I see pretty often- and end up wearing sweatshirts, jeans, t-shirts, shorts, etc. Often I’d be one of the few in dress code when arriving to other volunteering sessions. For the bad news, I did sweat and panic when talking to the Court supervisor. (She scares me, and I’m pretty sure she does not like me based on the number of questions and emails I’ve sent her up to today)

Observing Cases

The first observation was pretty fun. I got to see a close representation of a court proceeding, except done by teenagers my age. This was one of the first turning points in my journey. The acceptance and realization of what a great opportunity this could be. I clearly remember seeing two attorneys who absolutely amazed me. Their cod finder e, persuasion, preparedness, and quick thinking skills when on the floor were everything. Not to mention, I’m pretty sure they both won the amount of hours they were setting as the prosecutors. They were actual professionals despite their age. It was remarkable seeing them. Afterwards, after a little convincing by my inner self, I decided to give it a try.

I went to the second observing case, where I got to participate as a juror.

In Teen Court there are two different trials. A court case and a Master Jury case. Cases that are taken to court with a judge and in a courtroom are generally for a Class between 1 and 4. Class 5 and 6 cases are for the Master Jury. In the Master Jury, about 5-6 jurors including a bailiff sit at a table with the defendant and their parent on one side, and a supervisor on the other. In this, everyone gets to listen to the case and the defendant’s recollection, and then get to do a round of questioning or more if needed. This is similar to the questioning attorneys do in a court night, but a little different. Following this, the defendant can make any last remarks before stepping out and allowing the jury to make a decision on the hours to be given. Once done, the hours are read to the defendant by the bailiff, and the case finishes.

About 2-3 cases take place per night, and afterwards jurors can leave. My second observing period was as a part of the Master Jury. The biggest thing I remember from there was the guy sitting next to me asking if I assaulted a person, to which I looked at him horrified and said, “I’m just volunteering here.” It then clicked that I was sitting with kids who were former defendants and were now helping current defendants out. The other thing that stood out to me was seeing this one guy who stood out to me for his fashion style, who I later discovered was a senior in my school, was in Orchestra, and happened to be on at least three different routes to my other classes during Freshman year. (That’s a story for another time)

Volunteering as a Juror

After that I became an official juror for the Metroport court. In my opinion, I think the Metroport Court is one of my least favorites because of the listing and some of the procedures. For the Metroport Court, I was put on a roster and called to a case night when my name came up. This is different to my other court volunteering periods, but I’ll get to that later.

It would be 3 or 4 months before I got called to a new case for the Metroport Court. Most of the time I would be on the Master Jury. Despite this, I only really became a juror for a few nights before signing up for the Attorney roster. A lot of emailing and Court supervisor bothering went into this. It’s partially due to my father’s persistence for information, as well as my want to become an Attorney, but we’ll say it was mainly me.

Some of the volunteer nights were slow, others fast. Some happened when unexpected situations came into play hours before and I was left thinking about it the whole case night, and others were of utmost boredom and desperation to leave. Regardless, I enjoyed the experience all the more. However, this whole roster part bothered me. At this rate, I would end up having very little experience in 2-3 years. I started looking for other Teen Courts to volunteer at. My first was North Richland Hills.

North Richland Hills was better than Southlake (Metroport) Court. It was a little more professional, nicer, and had more availabilities to participate in case nights than I did at Southlake. I then started looking at attorney opportunities for NRH. They had a policy of attending two nights before signing up for an attorney. That I could do, but it was difficult. I started NRH near the end of my school year, when AP exams and finals took place. There was more focus on school than court, so finding nights to volunteer at were harder.

I started looking for more courts. Then, I finally found it. The court I most love out of the three I’ve volunteered at so far: Irving. Irving,as I’ve heard, is the oldest Teen Court in the area, making it more defined and professional. When signing up, they provided different areas you could apply for. Lead Attorney, Assistant, etc. If I remember right, I’m sure I did assistant attorney to start for my training. After submitting my form it provided me a date. The date I would receive my Attorney training.

Attorney Training

Irving is amazing. I think my expectations for court and attorney training are slightly higher than they were at first solely because of the wya Irving did it. In my training there were a good 10-12 people. We all came and sat at tables in a room early morning and did introductions. We spent a good 5-6 hours in training that day. From the morning to afternoon we learned. Our court supervisor gave us handouts with notes on how to do things. From objections to questioning and more, it was there. We walked through the building and rooms. (Far more complex by the way) We were shown where we could hang out and where we would be working. We took a trip to the court room and Master Jury room, and returned back to where we were previously.

In our training we did a lot of application scenarios. For an hour or so we focused on one aspect, like openings per se. When focusing on openings, we would get into groups and then decide to be defense or prosecution. Based on this and the practice cases given we formed an opening based on what we wanted to prove and further explain using the trial. We did this with closing, questioning, and objections as well. We ate pizza and had snacks while asking questions for real life scenarios. It was REALLY fun. We then proceeded with a mock trial where we applied everything we learned, and then wrapped up for the day. This was the second turning point. I got really excited to become an Attorney at this point, as I am now qualified to become one in Irving. Being a part of the training was like a reality check. It kind of opened me up to the fact that me becoming an Attorney was very much real, and a big possibility. I unfortunately couldn’t attend the two sessions but I finally got to and it was AWESOME. More on that later.

Shortly after my Irving court volunteering, I finally had Southlake attorney training. Southlake, like I said isn’t as great as the others but it’s still a Teen Court. The training was pretty short and it felt rushed. They tried to squeeze everything into the 3 hours, but I felt like they could have kept it running longer and earlier in the day. Not only that, I feel like we didn’t get to process a lot of information that well. Things such as openings and questioning could have been practiced or given in demonstrations rather than just having.a reference to our given binders with the information. One thing I really liked was having experienced attorneys come join us during the training. We later split into 4 groups (2 cases with defense and prosecution each) and had the current attorneys give us advice and act as our defendant. One of the attorneys who is now a former attorney (off to college) was actually really helpful and incredibly knowledgeable and experienced. I really appreciate his help. He gave us a lot of key factors to consider, like establishing a timeline when questioning the defendant before trial (for the defense) and finding the information that could really help us when everything else wasn’t looking in their favor. He really walked us through.a lot of vague points that were covered during the training, such as how to relate the questioning into the opening and closing, as well as how to act and what details we should keep in mind of. The mock trial was okay since I messed up for my closing and rushed through it, but otherwise it was a fun learning experience. Now comes the fun part.

Being an Attorney

Irving first! So the procedure for Irving is a little different than the other two courts. In this the supervisor sends an email to which we reply if we can participate that day, and she later emails us back with the positions given. For new attorneys that were recently trained she likes to give us juror positions so we can observe before working. I was meant to be a juror but the assigned bailiff couldn’t make it and I opted in for it instead. I had the option to be an attorney as well, but I felt that being a bailiff would be better for my nerves as well as for learning. It was right.

This is my final turning point, the moment I decided that I did want to be an attorney no matter what. I was a little nervous as the bailiff, but it was an easy enough position to be able to relax while working. I think I found the variety of defendants in all three courts to be most interesting. When one city is more heavily populated with brown kids you see more of those in the court room and vice versa. That was interesting to see, as well as how that played into who the attorneys were. More Asian kids in Irving compared to Southlake and NRH. Disregarding that, I really admired the Irving attorneys.

I’m assuming they all were pretty experienced since they had lead attorneys and they were familiar with the cases and judges than I was that day. Not only that, they were really comfortable and confident with the courtroom. You could feel it in the way they talked to the defendant or the way they spoke to the jury. It’s the small things like hand movements, eye contact, tone, pace. It was bewitching, in a way, to see how they worked. (Especially this one girl who was absolutely amazing during the cases) Being a bailiff allowed me to see the court proceedings without having to make a decision on the process. I could sit through both cases and hear them out, make my own opinions or what I think should be the next question and compare to what the attorneys did. It helped let me see things from a better experience than I could as a juror. ( On a side note, I’m pretty sure one of the jurors tried to act cool when I was around so that was awkward, but that’s something else)

Finally, Southlake. Tuesday was a big day. Not only was it the last day of summer for me- the first and last few hours of ‘summer’ I had gotten all break- but I would also be an Attorney for the first time. It would be the first time ever, I got to act as an attorney. It was TERRIFYING. I had a panic attack-like event a few hours prior to that so I was not in the best condition but I had to go. (I’m glad I did) It gave me my first taste of reality. This is my defendant. They did an actual crime. I am helping them. I am an ATTORNEY. This court was all rookies to give us a court experience – and because the experienced attorneys would grab at the sign up the second it was posted- so we all struggled in our own ways. For me, I froze up and I spoke too quietly. I couldn’t decide if I had to introduce myself or not, and furthermore I didn’t know HOW to do that so I hesitated at the beginning. Questioning went fine since I had a list of the information I needed to give the right questions. The only problem was that the defendant, although incredibly compliant and doing their best, kept giving extra information and too little information at times. They even changed their information once or twice during the questioning. I’d assume that was a mistake on our part. As the defendant’s attorneys we should have walked them through the process and what to expect before bringing them inside. At least we’ll remember for next time.

Other than that we actually managed to give the defendant the minimum hours! It was unexpected but still exciting. (Both cases got the minimum hours so major win) At least I’ve had my first real taste of court and now know what it’s like as an attorney. It’s scary, but fun. I think what’s holding me back is my fear. I actually really like the experience. It’s new, it’s different than what I usually do, and I only get to do this every month or so. The more I get involved in this the easier it’l become, I’m sure. It’s a good thing that I’ in two courts at the moment so I can keep going between the two without a gap in between. It also gives me different experiences with different supervisors. I can get twice the amount of feedback and learning opportunities. (It’s also twice the more time to work on my speaking) Otherwise, I’m excited. I finally debuted as a teen attorney, after a little more than a year later.

From an observer, to a volunteer juror, to a bailiff and now an official attorney, it’s crazy. I never thought to do something like this in my entire life, so it’s new to me. It’s a change of mindset and setting. Instead of just school and my house, it’s something else. A real world experience designed for my age where I can do something impactful and helpful for my community as well as other teens my age. Am I exhausted after these trials though? Very much so. That’s all right though! I’m more willing to put in the hours for Teen Court than I was at the beginning of all this. Soon I’ll be practically fighting the others to be at every case night. (Maybe not but you’d never know) Time will only tell!

Anyways, that’s all for this post. See you next time!

Part 177- Police Brutality and Social Injustice

There’s a line between ‘enforcing the law’, and ‘police brutality’. Enforcing the law is making sure the law is obeyed and punishing people who do not do so, while police brutality is the excessive and unwarranted use of force by law enforcement against an individual or group. We’ve seen these cases with the BLM movement in 2020 and now the recent one with Tyre Nichols. Back in 2020 we tried to come up with ways to end the police violence that caused these problems, yet we’re here once again, fighting. 

The reality is, we can’t just stop something like this by taking away power or certain methods. People will always find a different way to take a course of action. The way we can do something about this is something psychologically. We, as a society, need to change our mindset. We need to stop stereotyping and having a set prejudice about people. 
Stereotypes/prejudice is something set and rooted in our minds and our thoughts that is difficult to change. We may not see or realize it at first, but there are certain actions we do that shows it. Sometimes it’s a minor thing that isn’t a problem, while other times it’s a major issue. Let’s take a stereotype we are familiar with in the past year. Asian discrimination. Now, the stereotype towards Asians could be at a minor or a major scale. 
For me, I’m a fan of Korean groups like Seventeen and TXT, so whenever I see someone Korean or Asian, my mind goes back to that. I unknowingly associate the two together, leading to a stereotype. On a major scale, there’s Asian hate. Due to the fact that COVID came from China, people have started to discriminate against Asians and Asian-Americans. This has lead to Asian violence, hate crimes, and many other terrible incidences. The fact whether that person was actually the “cause” of a problem or whether they were actually Chinese or not didn’t matter. Violence/ hate was the immediate though towards an Asian because of the pandemic origins. 
Now, with the police, stereotyping can be seen with police brutality. People say police brutality is the human rights violations by the police, when reality, it’s more of a racism/stereotyping issue. It’s a social injustice issue. The police could be given less power, given fewer weapons, or something of the kind. But that won’t change the mindset. The given mindset is that people of color like black people are dangerous. They cause trouble. They commit crimes. This reasoning causes a stereotype to think that all people of the same color or ethnicity are the same- just as dangerous and troublesome. This, deeply engraved in the mind, causes one to act wary or take extra precaution around them. This ‘extra precaution’ could mean using more force than necessary in certain situations. This leads to police brutality. Here’s another example. After 9/11 Muslim-Americans or even people with brown skin- like Indians- were discriminated against. There are reports of increased police attacks against Muslim-Americans after the attacks, despite them being innocent. Today, in airports, people of brown skin are watched with extra caution, simply because of the stereotype they could be a terrorist. The brown skin color is what causes this stereotype. That’s racism.
In America, black people are more strongly discriminated against because of our history. Relating to what I said earlier, the discrimination comes from the perception they- black people- cause trouble. The bleak history of slavery and segregation in the United States is still faintly present in today’s laws, mindsets, and thoughts. Policies and laws are made ever so cautiously in a way to be against black people because of how we thought in the past. Although it’s not directly pointed out, it still exists. 
History and experiences cause these stereotypes, and they as a result get rooted in our inns over time until they become an unconscious perception or even mindset. It alters how we act, how we think, and how we react, leading to problems. Like I said before, this is not a simple issue that can be fixed by taking away power or access to things. It’s a psychological matter. It’s a matter of removing that stereotype from policies, laws, and even minds in order to prevent violence, racism, and discrimination against different races, genders, or ethnicities. Without this, we’ll never be able to change and actually make an impact. 

Part 169- Queen Elizabeth II’s Death

Part 169- Queen Elizabeth II’s Death

As you may know, there was a major event that happened on Thursday. Queen Elizabeth II passed away at 96. Everyone has been sending condolences and tributes for her, a beloved monarch. However, I’m not going to do that. I’m sorry if you would expect me to, but I’m not. The main purpose of this is to remember the former Queen, yes, but I’m not going to talk about how kind and amazing she was. I’m going to talk about what no one talks about. 

{Source: BBC}
Before I get into this blog, I first want to point out a few things. First, I don’t know the specific titles or way to address the Queen other than Her Majesty or the Queen, so forgive me if I don’t address her properly or mess up. Secondly, I’m going to be extremely honest here. I know the Queen has passed away just recently, but I want to express my honest opinions and thoughts on Her Majesty, no matter what. If anything offends you, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to take back anything I say.

Anyways, let’s get started.

In general, I’m not a big fan of the British Royal Family. I wouldn’t say I hate them, but then again I also don’t love/like them either. Being Indian-American gives you two different perspectives on this. As an Indian, my family has a very strong dislike towards the British Royal Family for their actions towards my people in the past. They have a right to-considering the British empire stole, destroyed, and practically killed our culture, history, people, future, and much more. They left the country with almost nothing, taking everything for themselves. However, as an American, they’re seen as allies. We don’t exactly treat Her as a great figure in our lives such as the President, but she still remains a huge celebrity that many admire and follow. I don’t necessarily get into that, but that has a mild influence on me. So when I have these two things clashing in me- one that hates the Royal family and one that admires them, it’s hard to have a proper opinion. 

You see, every time I hear about how the British ruined the culture of my people, I get frustrated. I feel that same burning hatred for them as my family. But it’s not as strong. I can’t really feel upset at them as strongly as my family, despite knowing what they’ve done. For example, when I heard about the Queen’s passing, I was shocked. It felt like something fake. I mean, the Queen had lived to be 96 and celebrated 70 years of reign. For as long as I had known, she was the Queen. The great Queen of the United Kingdom, who I’ve heard and known all my life. It was an unexpected moment to suddenly know she was gone. At that time I felt a little remorseful for the British. (Perhaps I’m too sympathetic, but I felt bad for them.) For the British, the Queen was someone dear to them. Seeing the number of people mourning for her, I felt bad for them.

When I came home from school that day, my parents and I had a conversation on this. We talked about what was happening, the responses towards Her passing, and what we thought of it. Or mainly, what my parents thought of it.

I keep talking about knowing “what she did” and about this burning hatred, but I’m not explaining it very well, aren’t I? Let’s break it down.

The British Royal Family are racist, lying, thieves who have not only stolen from India, but also many other countries during their reign. They stole artifacts, precious treasures, wealth, knowledge, spices, and destroyed the culture, history, and life of them, as well as brutally killed and tortured so many people. All while the Royal Family enjoyed the goods and treasures stolen. Let’s go back to the beginning.

Queen Victoria. Among many titles, she is also given one that I find completely ridiculous. ‘Empress of India’. I find it quite ridiculous how she can be considered the ‘Empress of India’ when she barely cared for us as her subjects. It is stated that she ”had a particular fascination with the country, and a passion for Indian culture swept through Britain in the late 19th century.” She supposedly was so in love with a country she had never stepped foot in, and fought so hard for the title of “Empress of India.” But what has she ever done to deserve that title? She’s never stepped foot there, nor spared anything for the people. She loves their curry and culture, yet her own people take the Indians’ land and spices for her to experience it. 

{Source: History.com}
When Indians rebelled in 1857, they felt that their traditions were undermined. The British were trying to westernize India. They replaced Indian aristocracy with British officials, challenging the religious beliefs of Hindus, and tried to break down the caste system as well as remove legal obstacles for remarriage of Hindu widows. First of all, that’s wrong. Although what traditions and practices were followed at that time were wrong and messed up, getting in the middle of it and trying to completely change a culture is worse. The British completely interfered and tried to change an entire society into someone they’re not. The British wished to “create. A properly articulated system of education from the primary school to the university”. Sure, that would be helpful. However, it doesn’t mean to wipe out the entire history and knowledge we already had, and starting over from scratch. Yes, some other things that probably weren’t taught in India at that time could have been learned as well. But that does not mean you wipe out everything for your own ways. 
Indians brutally murdered British women and children in that rebellion. Yes, it’s wrong and unjust. However, the results after were so much worse. The Queen called it “revolting barbarity” after the Indians’ actions, and not when other worse things were already going on before the rebellion. The punishment of sentenced rebels being tied over the mouths of cannons and firing them, forcing Muslims or Hindus to eat beef and pork, licking buildings freshly stained with blood of the dead, tortures including searing with hot irons, dipping in wells and rivers until the victim is half suffocated, squeezing the testicles, putting pepper an families in the eyes or introducing them into the private parts of men and women, prevention fo sleep, nipping the flesh with pincers, suspension from the branches of a tree, imprisonment in a room used for storing line, or committing sexual violence against women. Both sides caused atrocities to innocent civilians. But how bad? Did the Queen even look at the civilians of the country she “loved so much”? If she did, wouldn’t she have taken better care of them and prevented a rebellion from forming? 
{Source: rediff.com}

Was it so necessary to introduce Western culture into an already blooming one? One more successful? What started out as a simple business led to a colonization and rule. A horrific one.

Over time as the British monarchy progressed, even worse, more cruel events occurred. One more significant event is the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. An estimate of those killed is between 379 and 1500+ people. And over 1,200 injured with 192 of whom were seriously injured. A large peaceful crowd gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh, and in response, the temporary Brigadier general, R.E.H. Dyer blocked the exits of Jallianwala Bagh before ordering his troops to shoot at the crowd.

{Source: theprint.in }
 They continued to shoot even as the protestors tried to flee. They continued firing until their ammunition was exhausted. General Dyer even reported to his superiors he had been “confronted by a revolutionary army” and to which they said his action was correct. In contrast, Winston Churchill called it an “unutterably monstrous” attack and a dreadful outrage in the whole of their history.

It’s funny. The same man who once called my people “ghastly people” and treated my culture as some useless nonsense condemned this barbaric act? How interesting.

Not only that, Queen Elizabeth II herself visited the site of the massacre, and said there were difficult episodes in the history of colonial rule. I’m sorry, but I didn’t know us Indians were such difficulties in your family’s reign. Even at that time, as she stood at that place and made a speech, she made no official apology. She placed a wreath at the memorial and still never apologized. How hypocritical is it to demand for an apology from Germany for their acts on Jews, when you still haven’t apologized for your acts towards Indians? Not just Indians, but also people from Ghana, Barbados, Kenya, Nigeria, The Gambia, Pakistan, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, and so many more.

Not to mention the numerous amounts of history, wealth, artifacts,and treasures these countries have. In this, I have to say some Indians were incredibly stupid and upright idiots for actually giving away such important relics simply for a King who was visiting. But apart from that, the British took away so many things. An Indian prince who was supposedly a son to Queen Victoria gave her such an important diamond because she cared for him. But for what? He couldn’t even go back to his home, and died in a filthy motel in France. A prince. Especially one who was “like a son” to the Queen.

Unrelated but related note. I saw an Instagram reel a while ago. The girl was like, “Hey, I found out where to find lost/stolen things”, and she showed us The British Museum. (I’m not sure if it was The British Museum or another in the U.K.)

Another ironic thing for me is how Americans are so invested in this as well. I mean, I understand the U.K. is an ally and a great friend with the U.S., but wasn’t the entire purpose for America to get away from the British? Weren’t we the ones who wanted to create a nation for the people and created a government specifically designed to prevent one from having all the power? Wasn’t the entire Constitution written to give us rights that we were denied when we were under British rule? I understand that things are now clear between the two, but it’s incredibly ironic to me.

Not only that, in India, when an important event in such a sacred festival is taking place, the Queen’s funeral is being aired. I mean, pay full respects to the Queen all you want, but why are you airing this when something more precious to us is happening right now?

Another ironic and amusing thing about the British Royal Family is how they spent years treating those of a different color as trash and dirt, yet one of the members is actually a mixed race. Rachel Meghan Markle- now Meghan, Duchess of Sussex- is a mixed race of African American and Caucasian. The same Family who treated Africans and Indians like dirt, stole them from their families and brutally killed them, destroyed their culture and lifestyle, now has members of the same race in line for the throne. (Referring to Meghan and Harry’s children.)

{Source: elle.com}
Anyways, the main point I have is that I have very little to say regarding the death of the former Queen. She was a beloved monarch and leader for many, but not for me. I respect the love others had for her and have for the other members of the Royal Family, however I cannot reciprocate the same, nor should be expected to. I feel sympathy for the Commonwealth and U.K. Citizens that someone they cherish has passed away, however I cannot feel the same they do. I have no reason to, and most likely won’t until they have owned up to all their actions, and provided a sincere apology. Even then, I still may not like them nor forgive them.

At times like this where my parents express their dislike for the Royal Family, I can’t relate as much. I feel awful when I can’t reciprocate the same feelings. I’ve never grown up learning about British rule and I’ve never learned about these events in Indian history like my parents have. I’ve always been exposed to American history and culture, and that makes it harder for me to relate to my family. I’ve never grown up that way. I can only feel anger and frustration but not what my parents, along with many others whose families and people have suffered from the British, feel.

Speaking of that, Uju Anya, an associate professor of second language acquisition at Carnegie Mellon University tweeted about the Queen’s death. She said, “I heard the chief monarch of a thieving raping genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating.” Although she deleted it, Jeff Bezos quoted her tweet and said, “This is someone supposedly working to make the world better? I don’t think so. Wow.” To that, she tweeted, “If anyone expects me to express anything but disdain for the monarch who supervised a government that sponsored the genocide that massacred and displaced half my family and the consequence of which those are alive today are still staying to overcome, you can keep wishing upon a star.”

To that, I agree with her. Why should she express anything other than disdain for someone who lets people get killed and wiped out. Especially when that person hasn’t even apologized for those actions, and refers to them as “difficult episodes”.

Anyways, that’s what I have to say regarding the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. Although it’s devastating she passed away, I cannot be expected to show anything but sympathy for those who loved her. ( I really don’t want to include the Royal Family, but seeing them as a family who lost a very cherished member of their family, I do feel a little sorry for them.) Everyone have a wonderful weekend, and see you next week.

Sources:

Livemint. “Carneige Mellon Prof’s Tweet on Queen Sparks Fury.” Mint, 9 Sept. 2022, https://www.livemint.com/news/world/queen-elizabeth-ii-s-death-reignites-britain-s-colonialism-scars-11662706870795.html.

“When Queen Elizabeth II Stopped Short of Apologising for Jallianwala Massacre, Husband Phillip Questioned Number of dead-India News ,.” Firstpost, 9 Sept. 2022, www.firstpost.com/india/when-queen-elizabeth-ii-stopped-short-of-apologising-for-jallianwala-massacre-husband-phillip-questioned-number-of-dead-11215011.html.

Evans, Elinor. Queen Victoria: How and Why Did She Become Empress of India? 30 Aug. 2022, www.historyextra.com/period/victorian/victoria-rise-of-an-empress.

Holmes, Elizabeth. “We Will Never See Another Queen of England.” The Cut, 10 Sept. 2022, www.thecut.com/2022/09/elizabeth-was-the-last-queen-of-england.html.

“Indian Mutiny | History, Causes, Effects, Summary, and Facts.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 22 Aug. 2022, www.britannica.com/event/Indian-Mutiny.

Dugan, Emily. “British Royal Family’s New Line of Succession After Queen’s Death.” The Guardian, 10 Sept. 2022, www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/sep/09/british-royal-family-line-of-succession-queen-death.

“Jallianwala Bagh Massacre | Causes, History, and Significance.” Encyclopedia Britannica, www.britannica.com/event/Jallianwala-Bagh-Massacre. Accessed 10 Sept. 2022.

“Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II.” Commonwealth, thecommonwealth.org. Accessed 10 Sept. 2022. 

Part 166- Abortion rights

Part 166- Abortion rights

Hello! Were you expecting me? I know it’s been a while- ok a really long while- since I’ve last posted, and I’m truly sorry about that. I’ve had a handful of things to do this summer and have been so busy I haven’t been able to do many other things. Although some would argue it’s not that busy compared to what others do, it has been extremely busy for me and so because of that I have not been able to work on posting. But enough about my busy summer, I have a new post over something recent- not really recent- but a major event within political history. The overturning of Roe v. Wade.

The main reason I chose this topic is because a) it’s a landmark Supreme Court Case – now overturned- that is used in so many other cases throughout the years, b) because it is something that can alter so many things in the upcoming future for so many people, and c) because me being a girl means I am one of those people whose lives are now changed.

Roe v. Wade:

Roe v. Wade is a legal case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (7-2) on January 22, 1973, that “unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional.” (Britannica: Roe v. Wade) It struck down many federal and state abortion laws, as well as fueled an ongoing abortion debate in the United States about, “whether, or to what extent, abortion shoudl be legal, who could decide the legality of abortion, and what the role of moral and religious views in the political sphere should be.” (Wikipedia: Roe v. Wade)

The case was brought by Norma McCorvey- legal pseudonym “Jane Roe”- who in 1969 became pregnant with her 3rd child. She wanted to get an abortion, yet she was living in Texas where abortion is illegal except when necessary to save the mother’s life. After a ruling in her favor from a special three-judge court of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Texas, it was taken to the Supreme Court. On January 22, 1973 the Supreme Court issued a 7-2 decision holding that the Due process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides a fundamental “right to privacy”, which protects a pregnant woman’s right to an abortion.

Before I start with what I think, I wanted to share a small opinion about the case itself. Not the decisions but rather the people involved. I feel like the basis on why Roe wanted to get an abortion is wrong. She had originally wanted an abortion, but since Texas says it is illegal to have one, many of her friends said that she should assert falsely that she had been raped by a group of black men in order to gain a legal abortion. Although it was never successful, I feel like making up a lie using something realistic and widely happening in our society isn’t right. Rape isn’t something to joke about, and in my opinion shouldn’t be used lightly. I don’t know the full context on the decisions and on what really happened so I can’t say much, but I do want to point out that using a false statement wasn’t right, and by doing so it felt as if rape was taken lightly to use for her own personal reasons. Probably not, but to me it feels that way.

Opinions:

For me, I would say I’m more pro-choice. I believe that it should be a woman’s right to decide what to do, especially since this is her body. Giving birth is a huge thing. Even just being pregnant is something huge within itself. It’s not easy, and requires full dedication towards the full time. Giving birth itself is very dangerous. It’s strenuous , painful, and can be a life-threatening thing.

However, it is proven that abortion is a safe medical procedure that protects lives. Compared to child birth, the death rate for legal abortions is 0.7 deaths for every 100,000 abortions, and 9 deaths per 100,000 deliveries. Medication abortion has a mortality rate of 6.5 deaths per one million patients.

Having an abortion in itself isn’t easy either. It’s not as if the mother/woman is so willingly going to give up her child. It’s not an easy decision for her as well. However, based on the circumstances of her situation or anything else, she has a reason why she needs to. It’s not a “convenience” and an “easy way out”. Abortions are often because of family obligations and concerns about future children. They base their decision mainly on the ability to stay financially stable and care for their current children. It’s not an easy way out, but instead a painful and difficult decision. They do this while considering what’s right for the baby. They look ahead at the kind of life the baby would have based on finances and the ability to care for other children and dependents.

According to verywellhealth.com, there are many, similar, reasons why a decision for an abortion is made.

  • Not financially prepared: 40%
  • Bad timing, not ready, or unplanned: 36%
  • Partner related reasons- New or bad relationship, would be a single parent, partner isn’t supportive, partner doesn’t want the baby, partner is abusive, partner is the “wrong guy”
  • Need to focus on other children: 29%
  • Interferes with educational or job plans” 20%
  • Not emotionally or mentally prepared: 19%
  • Health-related reasons: 12% – concern for their own health; concern for fetus’ health; use of medications, other drugs, alcohol, or tobacco
  • Want a better life for a baby than they could provide: 12%
  • Not independent or mature enough: 7%
  • Doesn’t want a baby or to place the baby up for adoption: 4%

Another reason is also disease and genetics. (Inherited diseases) According to theconversation.com, “…each of us is more likely than not to be carriers for a disorder that would be legal before adulthood. As carriers, we are not affected by the disease, but are at risk of transmitting the disease to children if a partner is also a carrier.” For families that have experienced a serious inherited disorder, subsequent pregnancies are traumatic. Abortions are a critical option and are a security feature that allows them to consider having children again. While there are other options such as adopting, sperm or egg donations, or pre-implantation diagnosis of embryos, these all can become financial, social, or even moral burdens that some women can find impossible. Abortion should be seen as an available option if necessary. It doesn’t necessarily ALWAYS have to be used, but in certain times when truly necessary, something that can be considered and done. It can help prevent watching children die of untreatable disease.

People who often oppose abortions often criticize people with unplanned pregnancies, saying it’s irresponsible and those people should have used birth control. And that’s partially true. However, even with birth control, there are more than half of pregnancies that still occur.

Adoption. People also say, if you don’t want the child just give it up for adoption. It’s not that simple. Although that could be an option, it’s still quite dangerous for a woman who is not fit (emotionally or mentally) to have a child, give birth.

Another thing I want to bring up is rape abortions. There was a recent article of a 10-year-old being raped and getting pregnant. 10-year-old. That poor child had to travel to another state to get an abortion, since her state doesn’t allow abortions. Are you seriously going to force a 10 year old child, someone who is still learning, still maturing, still is a child and is dependent on their own parents, to become a mother and raise a child themselves??? Do you not understand how bad this is? How much pain and trauma can this have on her? Do you seriously want this poor child to suffer and go through pain, and a life-threatening thing just because you think abortion is wrong and the fetus is a living person? What if she dies??? Who knows what could happen.

In short, it should be a woman’s decision on what they should do. Some politicians should not be given the right to put their own beliefs and opinions into a decision that affects my body. The thought of having someone who I don’t even know make a decision about my own body and choice is a bit uncomfortable. I should have the right to decide what I do to my body and why. (I refer to women/ me as a woman/girl) I’m the one who knows it best. Not only that, I’m the one who knows what happens in my life. Those mothers and women have the strongest connection with the fetus and baby. They are the ones who should decide. It’s not like they willingly want to for fun and because all of a sudden they don’t want a baby anymore. Sometimes they’re not ready for it. If they give birth, based on their current life/status, the baby may not have a happy life. Or maybe the baby may not get all the love they deserve. Those mothers/women don’t want the baby to go through that. They want to raise a child with life and care in a good, steady, comfortable part of their life where they can emotionally, mentally, and financially support the child and their needs. They look forward and try to hope for the best for their child. This decision they make is difficult, but often necessary.

Abortion should be a choice made by the person having one. I believe that they are the only ones who can make the best decision for themselves and the fetus/baby. They should be the judge on what to do, and apply their own morals, experiences, opinions, etc. into a decision for themselves. They should not be pushed nor forced by others to do something they don’t want to or prevent them from doing. It should be an available option when necessary, no matter what. 
The last thing I want to talk about is rights. After the overturn of Roe v. Wade, there have been so many claims and protests saying abortion is their rights. I agree as well. But, for how long will we continue saying this? Will we continue protesting and demanding for a change and that abortion rights are women’s rights until the decision is flipped again? And then what happens after that? What happens then if it is once again flipped? Will we continue going back and forth? Instead of blaming these politicians and governors for making these decisions, shouldn’t we instead try to make it an official declaration? Shouldn’t we make it final, make it an official law that abortion is women’s rights? The job of the Supreme Court is to interpret the meaning of the law, and decide whether a law is relevant to a particular set of given facts. That means, based upon the majority of what the judges believe in the Court at that time, the decision/law will be interpreted differently. You can interpret something differently based on your beliefs or opinions, and that changes the outcome of things. 
A Supreme Court Justice remains in office as long as they choose and can only be removed by impeachment. That means we probably won’t be able to flip the decision again until the judges change to become in favor of pro-choice. Who knows how long that will take. So instead of continuously blaming governors and so many other people for making a decision that a state can have abortions or not, why not go and make it a law. Put it into the Constitution. 
The Bill of Rights are the first 10 amendments added to our Constitution. They were made for us to have rights and the freedom to do things. For example, the right to speech or religion, the right to not incriminate yourself in court, the rights not written yet still given to the people, etc. The entire purpose of the Constitution is to guarantee certain rights to the people.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

That is the exact wording of the Constitution. It articulates the rights of citizens that institutions, procedures or legislation must not infringe, and which the state must strive to ensure. This being said, if you want to have abortion rights, shouldn’t we make it an amendment to the Constitution? By doing so we could establish it is a right, and no one, not even the states can infringe our right from it. Make it official. 
Before Roe v. Wade was overturned, people were able to get abortions. This being said, now that it is illegal in some states, are those women who want an abortion, no longer equal to those who previously could? We believe and try so hard to promote equality, equity, and bring everyone to the same level as one another within our needs, yet by not giving these rights, aren’t the two not equal anymore? 
The United States is often an example for others. We’re seen as a role model, a country that supports our allies and is the land of the free and home of the brave. Our entire government was built upon establishing our rights and freedoms we were denied of in England. When we don’t give equal rights to women to have abortions, wouldn’t other countries follow suit? Wouldn’t they see us differently? Aren’t we pretty much contradicting what we stand for? So is it really fair to remove a woman of her rights to have an abortion, when this not only makes her less equal to those who have before, but also to those in other countries who can today? (I’m not trying to compare countries or other people living in them, but trying to show how by banning abortion rights women are no longer equal to one another as well as others-not just women- in the world as well.)
Below I’ve linked some sources that helped me during my research on this topic. They give both sides to the debate and were interesting to read though:

Part 165- Sri Lanka Crisis

Part 165- Sri Lanka Crisis

Sri Lanka is currently going through the worst economic downturn faced since independence from Britain in 1948. Facing power outages, lack of food, bankruptcy, and overwhelmed by numerous loans, the island nation is struggling. However, it hasn’t always been this way. 

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Sri Lanka became a plantation economy famous for it’s cinnamon, rubber, and Ceylon tea, something that remains a trademark national export. The development of ports under British rule strengthened the island and made it a center of trade. It’s major economic sectors are tourism, tea export, clothing, rice production, other agricultural products, and overseas employment, especially in the Middle East. From 2005-2011, Sri Lanka’s per capita income doubled. 

However, in 2016, it’s debt started to accumulate as infrastructure started to develop. This led to a near state of bankruptcy. In the fourth quarter of 2016, there was an estimated debt of $64.9 billion. In 2018, China agreed to bail out the country with a loan of $1.25 billion to deal with foreign debt repayment spikes in 2019-2021. In September of 2021, Sri Lanka declared a major economical crisis. But how exactly did Sri Lanka fall into debt? How did such a thriving economy crash? There are three main factors that caused this. Infrastructure, COVID, and the previous ban of chemical fertilizers.

Toruism and overseas employment, both of which provided the country with an input of foreign currency, crashed due to the pandemic. People stopped traveling, during this period, and people were also losing jobs. Prior to the pandemic, the country had proudly achieved upper-middle-income status, yet today half a million people have sunk back into poverty.Apart from that, there was also a ban on fertilizers put in place, partly to save foreign exchange. However, this led to domestic rice production falling 20% in the first six months. As a result, they were forced to import $450 million worth of rice. The ban also devastates the nation’s tea crop, the primary export and source of foreign exchange. Although the policy has been suspended and the government is offering $200 million to farmers as direct compensation, it hardly makes up for the damage and suffering the ban produced. 

Today, they now heavily rely on imports from other countries. “Soaring inflation and a rapidly depreciating currency have forced Sri Lankans to cut down on food and fuel purchases as prices surge.” (foreign policy.com) This has led to power cuts lasting up to 13 hours a day. The Rajapaksa government also promised tax cuts, which were enacted before the pandemic. With less money from the taxes, the government was unable to make some of these necessary purchases. 

Sri Lanka has also fallen into debt due to loans from other countries. One of them is China. Sri Lanka, situated between the key shipping route between the Malacca Straits and the Suez Canal, which links Asia and Europe. However, the only major port in Sri Lanka is the Port of Colombo, and it is catered towards container handling and is unable to provide facilities for port related industries and services. Therefore, a new port near the city of Hambantota, which has a natural harbor and is close to international shipping routes, was proposed. With the help of the Chinese government and workers, this port was built.

This relates to China’s Belt and Road Initiative; a global infrastructure development strategy developed by the Chinese government to invest in nearly 70 countries and international organizations. It’s about improving the physical infrastructure through land corridors that roughly equate to the old Silk Road. This also includes a maritime Silk Road along ports. Hambantota was built with Chinese investment to become part of this. “But the billion dollar project using loans and contractors from China became mired in controversy, and struggled to prove viable, leaving Sri Lanka saddled with growing debts.” (bbc.com) In 2017, Sri Lanka agreed to give “state-owned China Merchants a controlling 70% stake in the export on a 99-year lease in return for further Chinese investment.” So basically, using a loan from China, Sri Lanka is paying Chinese workers to build this port, causing the money to go directly back to China itself. So they’ve pretty much fallen in what is called a ‘debt-trap.’ This has been seen in other parts of the world, where, “Chinese lending has also proved controversial, with contracts whose terms could give China leverage over important assets”, can be seen. Some examples include:

  • Pakistan
  • Ethiopia
  • Djibouti
  • Mongolia
  • Sri Lanka
Many more included. (These are countries listed part of the Belt and Road Initiative, and are in debt. Not all countries part of the Initiative essentially owe debt.) But what China does, is step in, offer some assistance through money/loans to solve a problem a country has. This is mainly related to large infrastructure projects like roads, railways, ports, and also the mining and energy industry. As of right now, there are more than 40 countries in this category whose debt exposure to Chinese leaders is more than 10% the size of their annual economic GDP. 
Apart from that, it’s interesting how this works. There’s not really any international law that says China cannot do something like this. There are laws for it being domestic, but not internationally. We have loan sharks domestically, and just foreign/international debt. 
Overall, I think that Sri Lanka made the mistake of doing something they couldn’t afford. At that time, during the agreement of building the port, Sri Lanka was already in debt. This was a huge risk they had to take. If it didn’t prove to be viable, as it didn’t, Sri Lanka ended up being in more debt. They shouldn’t have done something they weren’t sure about and weren’t stable to proceed with. Although China was helping them pay off some debt they had at that time, by doing so, they got themselves into a more deeper problem. Not only that, I think that the government was taking really hasty decisions just for the sake of getting money and trying to get out of the problem. This whole Hambantota port project was thought of for decades, but only now put in because China was offering to invest in it to pay off debts. I feel like they should have started this project much before instead of when they had a problem. I can’t really say much regarding the pandemic, as that was something no one could have expected. However, I think that at that time, when rice-production and other agricultural products were still going strong within exports, the government shouldn’t have done anything about it. Maybe waited until later to put in tax cuts and the chemical fertilizer ban. Wait until the country was able to pull itself out instead of doing it quickly. So pretty much, don’t do something you can’t afford to do. 






Part 162- Dallas Holocaust Museum Trip

So this quarter in ELA, we’ve begun learning about the Holocaust. Or really, we’re learning more about the Holocaust. It’s been more than halfway through, and we’ve talked about many different themes and factors that contributed and could be seen in the Holocaust, as well as the novel we’re focusing on, Night. We’ve talked about genocide, propaganda, cruelty and inhumanity, and even silence. To get more involved regarding this unit, we’ve had a major summarize project to do on the book Night, and just this Wednesday, we- my entire grade level- went on a field trip to the Dallas Holocaust & Human Rights Museum. 

I’m not going to give a step by step explanation of my trip, as that would be boring. However, I wanted to share some of the things that caught my eye and really interested me. For example, how the museum is split into three wings.

The Holocaust/Shoah Wing, Human Rights Wing, and a Pivot to America Wing. Although the main focus of this museum is about the Holocaust, it also incorporates a section about human rights, something which the Jews had taken from by the Nazis, and how the rights of people are restored in America over the course of history.

First, the Holocaust Wing. I would say one of the most interesting things to see was a map of all the concentration camps. When we think of the Holocaust, the most common names such as Auschwitz, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Buna, and many others come to mind. But we don’t really comprehend that there were more than 1,200 until we get a visual. Seeing all the concentration camps put onto one big picture was really eye-opening. It was put into context and I was pretty much just shocked at how many there were. Another thing was the propaganda. 

Obviously this isn’t an immediate effect, but rather something continuous over some time in order to really sway the opinion. But seeing the posters and commercials of the propaganda at that time really is interesting to look at. It was fascinating to watch and read about the views and ideals that the party and Hitler were trying to enforce, and seeing how that slowly changed the public’s opinion and led to the crimes made against the Jews. Hearing about the Holocaust makes us think about the cruelty of teh Nazis and Germans against teh Jews. We have this sense of, not necessarily disgust, but resentment towards them for their actions. We don’t realize that some of these people were swayed and “manipulated” to do so. Although they were the ones who ended up being swayed and carried out Hitler’s orders, they were merely influenced by someone who took advantage of power. Some people, though, didn’t need swaying and did so almost proudly. 
I also liked the small details in between the sections. For example, displays of the clothing worn- The Boy in Striped Pajamas reference- and the different versions of the yellow star the Jews were forced to wear. There were also artifacts of stamps, shoes, and even silverware that was made or used. There was even a ‘shower head’ from the gas chambers, as well as a solid form of Zyklon B. ( Displayed and secured of course) There was also a part about religion, and how leaders of different religions- like the Pope- responded to this situation.

My other favorite part of this wing was the box car they had. You were able to sit inside and watch a video on the deportation of Jews. Reading books and listening to testimonies of survivors about deportation and the journey isn’t broad enough to understand how poorly they were treated. There were very few, if not no windows, and no room at all as at a time hundreds of people were shoved into one car at once. Being able to sit in one and actually picture and see how many people would have fit in it is really something. Watching the video and imagining the situation while sitting inside is a new level of understanding, for me at least. I was able to picture the conditions they had and try to visualize how it must have looked like when they got in the cars. The Germans carelessly shoved them in, and promised them it would be a few hours, when it was really days. ( In some cases, 5 or more) Another thing is the sound. I never thought about how it must sound inside. I’ve read about the space and conditions, but never about how LOUD it was. In the video, a survivor talks about how loud it is inside the boxcar. Some people were praying, some were singing, some were crying, and some had gone mad. And one by one, people would be dropping like flies. The only times the doors opened would be to take out the dead. Otherwise, they were inside. 

The Human Rights Wing was, I think, the smallest. This mainly was about what happened after the Holocaust, like the formation of the UN, and some of the activists such as Eleanor Roosevelt. The thing that stood out to me was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There was a 3D visual of the rights people from different countries put in. There were many similar to the first 10 amendments in the Constitution. However, what really intrigued me was that the United States did not sign the UDHR until 1992. Why? Because one of the rights was that everyone was equal. At that time, however, a big issue was slavery. I’ll get back to this part later when we move to the Pivot on America Wing.

The other part of the Human Rights Wing was the 10 stages of genocide. I absolutely loved how it was made. ( The exhibit to be clear.) It highlights the 10 main signs of genocide and how they can be seen throughout history all over the world. The ten stages are:

  • Polarization
  • Dehumanization
  • Organization
  • Preparation 
  • Extermination 
  • Denial
  • Persecution 
  • Classification 
  • Symbolization
  • Discrimination 

I think what really amazed me by this exhibit was how you could define something so…brutal into these 10 stages. How do you even classify that? That’s what really amazes me. How people are changing, or trying to change. Genocide has been- not exactly common- but present throughout history, and even today with the Uyghur Muslims in China.

However, it’s never been seen as a problem. It’s never been addressed or seen as a problem we need to fix, until the Holocaust happened. I think that was a major turning point in history that really made people stop and think. Although our world is not perfect, and there are still many injustices being faced by people today, we’re working towards solving this to not repeat the past.

The final wing: Pivot to America Wing. This wing was made to show how hindu rights are changing in America. Similar to the other wings, it included testimonies and interactive displays and kiosks that talk about making a difference. Most of the displays were about slavery, as that is a big part in American history. There were some activists who were working or worked on creating foundations and improving the lives of many others who faced injustice. I think there was one on Native Americans, but I unfortunately did not get much time to see the entire wing. During our field trip we were given a packet to fill out as a grade. However, under the worry that it’ll be graded, I ended up spending my time trying to get everything filled out. Because of this, I ended up not being able to actually read and learn more about the wings. I was – and still am- upset and disappointed it turned out this way, but I am hoping to go again and be able to actually learn this time. It really was an excellent experience and I really enjoyed the trip. I really just wished we didn’t have an assignment, as that prevented a lot of students, including myself, from learning properly.

The final part of our visit was a film called Voices of Courage. This was a “documentary” or a collection of interviews put together of Holocaust survivors that live in Dallas today. The one thing that stood out to me was the interview with a man from the military who liberated those in the camps. You always hear about the survivors’ experience, but never about the liberators. That was a new perspective. He explained that when they had entered the concentration camp, they were cautious. They had no idea what was happening. They were expecting Nazis seeing the barracks, but instead they were shocked to see Jews, malnourished and abnormally thin and sick. They had no idea what was happening, and seeing all these Jews completely surprised them. Listening to how the Jews were overjoyed and crying seeing their liberators was just devastating. They had been taken from their homes, dehumanized, starved, and lived under the fear of being sent to the crematoria everyday. They became malnourished and frail, most of them becoming living corpses with decaying skin and frail limbs, and hoped everyday to be saved. Most of them lost hope, and now they were finally saved. After going through all that, it must be overwhelming. They’ve lost almost everything, including their own identities.

Something I want to add is that the world is changing. I mentioned before that we’re working to stop genocide and injustices in human rights, but never exactly how. We’re doing so by speaking up. Let me backtrack to the very beginning. Remember when I mentioned a summative project we had to do over Night? Well, our main idea in this entire book is about silence. “…to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all…” . This is our main quote. The Holocaust could have been stopped before if people had not remained silent or indifferent to wards the crime. By remaining silent, the crime is only being increased and fueled to continue. The Jews didn’t know what was happening, and that made their death even more painful. Yes, they had warnings, but those were unclear as no one could confirm what was really happening. The world was too preoccupied by the war, and didn’t notice them. And those who did notice, chose not to say anything. This is what helped the Holocaust continue.

However, after the Holocaust, people began to deny it ever happening, and that it was a myth. In response, Holocaust survivors decided to speak up. If people forgot about the Holocaust, it would be bound to happen again. In Night, Elie Wiesel- a Holocaust survivor- himself writes that it is their responsibility to speak out about this so that the future generation don’t have to go through another Holocaust again. Similar to the UN. The United Nations is dedicated to protecting human rights after witnessing what happened with the Holocaust. That’s why the Uyghur Muslim genocide is a problem that the countries are trying to stop. To prevent another Holocaust from happening, and because the Uyghur Muslims are facing injustices against their human rights.

I really enjoyed this field trip. I haven’t been on a. Field trip in like 3 years so it was really fun to go on one again. I also definitely enjoy the museum. I really liked the experience. I haven’t been to a history museum in a one time, and I think that I was able to learn a lot about how the Holocaust has influenced and changed our modern society today. I really really hope I can go again though in order to go through EVERY exhibit and read through everything again so I can actually have a good experience, but other than that I really liked it. I was able to see so many new perspectives in the Holocaust, be Abel to listen and hear about teh small details and events that went on between the event, how the UN was formed and why it’s important, 10 stages of genocide which I didn’t even know existed, and got to get a brief introduction on how this has helped shape our society today, So, I hope you all have an excellent weekend, and also got to learn something new through this post. Bye!

https://www.dhhrm.org/exhibitions/holocaust-shoah-wing/ – Museum link for more information and picture of the wings

Part 161- Native Americans and History

So in History we’ve started a new unit. We’ve finished Madison’s Presidency, War of 1812, Industrial Revolution, and Monroe’s Presidency. Now, we’ve started Jackson’s Presidency. We’ve only just started the unit, so I’m still learning. However, we did a brief insight on what the unit covers. One of the things that stood out to me- well two- were the Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears.

The Indian Removal Act authorized President Andrew Jackson to negotiate land-exchange treaties with tribes living east of the Mississippi. The treaties enacted under this act’s provisions led to the reluctant-and often forcible- emigration of tens of thousands of American Indians to plots of land west of the Mississippi. This is more commonly known as the Trail of Tears. The Cherokee Indians, and many other tribes, were forced to leave their lands and travel from North Carolina and Georgia through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas. More than 800 miles ( 1,287 km)- to the Indian Territory. It’s said that President Jackson did so for the good of the Natives, and so they would be able to live away from the colonies and not be affected by them. However, if that was the intention, then why couldn’t the Natives be transported by train or cart? We had just gotten out of the Industrial Revolution at that time, and had developed all these amazing, efficient ways to travel yet we forced the Indians to travel by FOOT on a 116 day journey, and on which more than 4,000 out of 15,000 Cherokees died of cold, disease, and lack of food? We were doing this for their better good, yet we ended up killing a fourth of their population! And for what? The land we promised them, eventually was taken away. Again! By the US! Couldn’t we have provided them with food or clothing or even better transportation in order to help them safely reach their destination? It’s called the Trail of Tears because of the tears shed for the loved ones lost from this journey. However, this is only one event.

 In the past, the Treaty of Hopewell was signed in Georgia, protecting Cherokee Native Americans in the United States, yet we sectioned off their land. Then there’s the Treaty of Houston, in which all of their land outside of the borders previously established is given up. All within 6 years. 

The Battle of Timbers was the last major battle over the Northwest territory following the American Revolution. Then we have the Louisiana Purchase. France pretty much just sold it to us without caring about who lived there or not.

In 1814, US forces and Native American allies attacked Creek Indians who opposed American expansion and encroachment of their territory. The Creeks cede more than 20 million acres of land after their loss.

After President Jackson, President Martin Van Buren did a similar thing. In order to speed up the process of the Cherokees leaving their land, he enlists 7,000 troops to hold them at gunpoint and marches them 1,200 miles. GUNPOINT! Firstly, we strip them of their own land without their consent and force them to walk 800 miles to new land. Then, because there are still some left and we want to speed it up, we ( the US) decide to make them march 1,200 miles at gunpoint. How absurd is that?! 

Not only that, we start passing acts that forbid them from leaving their reservations unless they have permission. We basically trap them in a plot of land smaller than they once had, just because we want to settle further west and expand. What happened to ‘the good of the Indians’?

Daily living on the reservations was difficult. It was almost impossible for tribes to maintain their culture and traditions inside a confined area. Not only that, feuding tribes were carelessly thrown together, and Indians who once were hunters, struggled as farmers. They were forced to get out of their spiritual beliefs by converting to Christianity, learn English, and wear non-Indian clothing.

Although the intention of this was to help the natives improve their quality of life by assimilating into white culture easier and faster, it really didn’t do anything. As the land owned by the Indians grew smaller and smaller, more land was opened to white settlers and railroads. Much of the reservation wasn’t even good farmland, and many Indians couldn’t afford the supplies needed to reap a harvest.

After all this, in 1934 a new act was passed. The Indian Reorganization Act. It was passed with the goals of restoring Native American culture and returning surplus land to tribes. It also encouraged tribes to self-govern and write their own constitutions and provided financial aid for any reservation infrastructure.

Today, modern Indian reservations still exist, and fall under the umbrella of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The BIA is a United States federal agency within the Department of the Interior, and is responsible for implementing federal laws and policies related to American Indians and Alaskan Natives. It works with tribal governments to help administer law enforcement and justice; promote development in agriculture, infrastructure, and the economy; enhance tribal governance; manage natural resources; and generally advance the quality of life in tribal communities.

Despite that this is meant to help the Natives, I can’t help but feel it’s ironic. I mean, before they literally pushed the Natives as far as they could to help the US develop and expand, and this led to the reason they suffered and could barely survive. They did this without caring about the conditions there or how it could affect their lifestyle, and now they have an entire agency that helps advance the quality of their life. It’s basically like, okay we’re gonna take all your land despite the kindness you’ve shown, expand our own country and develop it first, and then we’ll create this agency to help you have a better life and help take care of your tribe. If only we had never pushed the natives, we wouldn’t be like this.

Even though we have an agency that helps the tribes, living conditions on the reservations aren’t ideal and are often compared to that of a third-world or try. Housing is overcrowded and often below standards, and many people on the reservations are stuck in a cycle of poverty. Health care is provided on reservations, but it’s underfunded and, in some cases, practically non-existent. I get that the BIA may be doing as much as it can to help the natives, but this is really ridiculous.

We’ve pretty much forced them to adapt and live in a home smaller than what was theirs, and get used to our modern society while they’re still struggling to survive and improve their living conditions. While it’s a good thing that we’re trying to fix our mistakes by helping them, it really just seems a bit ironic to me.

Another thing I want to add is the Worcester v. Georgia case. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Cherokee nation was a “domestic dependent nation” with no rights binding on a state. That being said, they should be able to do what they want, right? Well, no. Even though they lost in court because they were ruled as a distinct nation, they were never treated like one. They were practically treated like animals as they were forced to move and give up their land. The land that was rightfully theirs first.

But why would this have happened? Why is it that now we started caring instead of back then? Well, the same reason why slavery existed. Because of the race and color. The Europeans fought with each other for territory. They didn’t just take it and say, oh this is mine now. Why? Well because they were mostly of the same color. They looked similar. They were white. But when they come to the New World and see the natives of a different color ( darker than them) they think it’s okay for them to ignore the natives. The color isn’t the same, so why should they care? It’s because they’re different that settlers pushed them back. If the natives weren’t, most likely there wouldn’t have been the same problems as there were in history.

But, even after all the problems and challenges they’ve had to go through in the past and even now, the natives continue to hold onto their heritage and thrive as a community. I admire that. Although they’ve experienced pain, and suffering, and gone through so many hardships, they continue to persist and pass down their traditions and beliefs. They continue to, and forever will. They’ve never given up, and that’s truly remarkable. 

I feel guilty knowing how the settlers pretty much kicked the natives out of their own homes. It’s upsetting how this part of history is skimmed over and not thoroughly understood. I know slavery and the actions with the natives are two different things, but they are similar in some ways. Recently, people have been taking out evidence of the Confederate to erase that part in history. If they’re taking that out, then shouldn’t they remove everything we did to the natives as well? Or at least bring it to light, as that’s what we’ve been doing with the BLM movement.  I find it hypocritical.The United States is always trying to defend human rights and speak out against genocide. However, what people don’t realize is that what we’ve done to natives in the past is similar. For example, Uyghur genocide in China, or the  Holocaust. I know that these topic are far more brutal and much much more worse than the history with Native Americans. It does not come onto the same level as them. The Holocaust was a genocide of European Jews, of which over 6 million were killed. Extermination through labor in concentration camps, mass shootings, gas chambers, extermination camps, and so many other ways to implement the persecution. In China, the Uyghur genocide is being done through state-sponsored internment camps, forced labor, suppression of Uyghur religious practices, forced sterilization, etc. I don’t even know how to describe them. It’s horrible. Although I cannot compare it to the situations with the Native Americans in the past, it is only slightly similar. It’s hypocritical of us to speak out and do so much to change all the racial persecution and discrimination in the world when it’s what we’ve done in the past. We need to change this. The United States is the land of the free. It’s shown in a good light. We’re always trying to make a change and show ourselves as a protector. But how do we do that if we never protected the people who welcomed us on their land. Who helped us survive and actually helped us grow? This brings up another thing. Thanksgiving. The whole idea behind this holiday is ironic. We celebrate Thanksgiving as a reminder of how the Native Americans helped us and treated us kindly when we arrived on their land. To be thankful. In reality though, we’ve never returned their kindness. We took it for granted and drive them out of their homes. While there are thousands out there suffering, and living in poverty, we sit at a table with the original Thanksgiving meal, thanking them for their kindness. How ironic is that. I don’t mind Thanksgiving. At least we’re acknowledging their kindness. But ho ware we going to repay it? That’s what we should  be doing instead. On Thanksgiving, instead of sitting and having a grand meal as a tradition, isn’t there something else we can do? A way to show we’re actually thankful? Maybe help get them out of poverty? Or even give back a proper compensation for all the land we’ve taken from them? Maybe not just in money, but if possible, in the land that is left?I only mention this because I think this is also an important part of history we should understand. We need to understand how 13 colonies grew to a country. Not just by the presidents and wars, but also by how we took the land from others. We need to know our mistakes and be able to fix them, or at least compensate for them in order to move on and progress. That’s how we understand history. 

Part 156- Volunteering

When I was first told I would be volunteering this weekend, I agreed, mainly for two reasons. One, because my parents told me to. Two, I needed the hours for my school’s Silver Star program, and for the future. Before I tell you about what happened, let me tell you about a previous volunteer experience. 

{Source: students.1fbusa.com}
I had volunteered at a different event before for a different “group”, but my problem there was that I wasn’t very social. I didn’t talk to the people I was working with, or try to talk much with them. I wasn’t trying to be rude. I had only wanted to get my work done perfectly and ended up getting a little too engrossed in it to realize I didn’t talk much. I wanted to correct that, so at this next event I would be helping out, my goal was to interact and talk more. But, like I said, that’s slightly more overwhelming than what it should be.

Here’s the thing with me. In unknown/new situations, I’m the type of person to be very hesitant when it comes to the moment of decision. Times when I’m in a comfortable, more known situation, I’ll be able to give an immediate answer and be able to do things without doubting myself. But when I’m not, I start questioning every action I do. For example, reaching out and doing something, including helping people. I do want to step in and ask if they need anything or offer assistance, or even just do something. But I start questioning it. I plan the scenario in my mind, but for one reason I can’t do it. I have to internally scream at myself at least ten times to just do it, before I actually do it.

When we first arrived, there was this girl who was volunteering as well, and she complimented my dad’s truck. My dad then pointed out how she easily initiated a conversation. And that’s where my anxiety kicked in. I started getting nervous about my performance and behavior at the event. Despite all the tips and conversation starter examples my parents had given me moments before, I was still panicking about how to initiate a conversation. Seeing her do it so easily made me worry even more, and put even more pressure on myself to not mess up. This mindset resonated a lot within the first 2 hours or so of the event.

There were three junior volunteers that day, including myself, and so we had decided to switch stations if necessary. One would be in charge of the popcorn, another in the wheel-spinning prizes, and the other in the bouncy house. I started at the wheel-spinning game, and awkwardly stood behind the table for some time as people came in. In all honesty, I was really bad. Yes, I would greet each family and ask how they were, but I was so…stiff. I didn’t talk with emotion or make attempts to start a conversation. I also didn’t make that much commentary or tried hyping the kids for their prizes as much. It was like I was following procedures, and not a natural behavior.

After I and the girl at the bouncy house switched, I observed what she was doing. I saw how she would actually lean down and speak to the kids, and show them what they get instead of picking it out. I saw how enthusiastic and helpful she was to the kids. Instead of standing behind a table and motioning to things, she would actually hand them out and make small talk or commentary about it. Things I didn’t do. I realized that, and tried it out as I stood near the bouncy house. Although it wasn’t much interaction, I got to talk to a few kids and have fun with them.

After our next switch, I took in what I saw the other girl do and tried interacting further again. I tried making some commentary on what they won’t, and helping them with their prizes. I also tried making more talk with the adults and asking how their day was going or complementing them. And actually, because of this, one of my favorite moments of that day was made. There were these two ladies, and when they came to me, I complimented one of them on her bag. She was so happy at that moment and thanked me, saying that was nice of me. She then asked me for my name and in return I asked for hers. After that she and the other lady both thanked me for coming out to help. That moment made me feel really good about what I was doing. It made me more confident in what I was doing,and helped push myself to try and be better in what I was doing. That small assurance really boosted my confidence in myself and what I was doing at that moment, and really made my day. There was another gentleman who had also done the same for other volunteers. He told them he had googled the definition of awesome, and the picture of the volunteers was there. It was such a nice compliment, and it really made their day. 

After our final switch, the mood became more relaxed. By the end, I had dropped some of my formalities/stiff behavior and was more confident in talking and interacting. There are still a couple of things where I can improve upon, but definitely, by the end of the event, I had gotten better at interacting and helping out than before. Now, if I have to do a similar thing, most likely I will be able to have more confidence and knowledge about what I’m doing from the previous experience. Hopefully, it’ll be better as well. 

Another thing I want to talk about is the members of the fire department. Miss Suzanne, the president, and Miss Gretchen, the secretary, were both, along with many others, incredibly appreciative of the volunteers. There were so many times where they and other volunteers working would come up to me and check if I needed a break or some water or even if I wanted a chair. Despite the numerous things they had to manage, they still would come and check up and make sure I was doing fine or not. I was extremely grateful each time they did. Even though I politely declined each time, it was extremely thoughtful of them to come and ask if I needed anything. They also kept thanking me and the other volunteers for taking time out of our days to come and help them. At those moments, they never acted as firemen or a president. They were really just people who were appreciative of us coming and helping them even though we were busy as well.

Above all this, the biggest thing was volunteering. This experience has actually changed my own perspective on volunteering. Before I did this, like I said in the beginning, I only really wanted to volunteer for hours. It may be a bit selfish of me, but I had only thought of it that way. I didn’t realize what other importance volunteering had. Volunteerism is the “principle of donating time and energy for the benefit of other people in the community as a social responsibility, rather than for any financial reward.” When people volunteer, they donate time and money that can help cover events such as the open house, leaving money the department can use to buy more or better equipment.

The purpose of this open house was for the firemen and members working there to create a closer relationship with the people, especially the kids, and even influence them into being a firefighter in the future. It brings the community together, and closer.

I also want to say how I think volunteers are amazing people. Not because I’m one myself, but because of how hard they work. One of the girls I was working with had a midterm on Monday, yet she chose to come and take valuable study time to help our community. Volunteers are taking hours of their days, helping organizations and people even when they can have jam-packed schedules, all because they want to do something for their community. They work hard and interact with each other, and that really shows.

So, to sum it up. As I had my second experience with volunteering, I got to see a different side of what it is that volunteers do. I saw what volunteerism really is, and why volunteers are so important. I also got to have a better experience and interaction with my community by volunteering, and hopefully will be able to go volunteer again.

Part 140- Society

I honestly don’t know why society is more strict towards a woman than a man. So many rules are put in place for a woman that it’s almost like she has no control over what she can or cannot do. It’s like society doesn’t want her to be who she wants and instead forces her to be someone else just for everyone else.

 To a woman, they’ll tell her to change her dress or cover-up, but won’t say anything to a man even when they don’t tuck in their pants? What’s up with that?  Then, women are expected to reach or be at this unattainable beauty standard, but when they use surgery to meet the standard they get judged? Why is that? Society wants us to fit in a specific category and continuously stay in, but it becomes overwhelming and almost a weight, to keep complying and keep changing ourselves to fit in. It’s almost like we can’t be who we want anymore simply because we’re too afraid that we’ll be judged or criticized if we don’t.

After that, there are gender norms in clothing. Sneakers or shirts are gender-neutral but a dress or heels are not. This is simply because society considers ‘men’ as the default. Something ‘girly’ or feminine is inferior, causing ‘neutral’ to be biased towards most ‘boyish’ or masculine things. Because of this, young girls are to not be like the others, while young boys are afraid of being considered feminine if not boyish enough. Who makes something like this? Why is almost everything, even the simplest things like clothing, categorized by man or woman? Why is it that when things are not categorized it is immediately criticized? Why? Is it wrong if a woman prefers to wear a suit or pants rather than a dress? Is it wrong if a man likes to wear jewelry or wear makeup? Who says makeup is just for girls? Even though girls use makeup more than men, is it immediately labeled as a girl thing and boys shouldn’t wear makeup? 

Not to forget Abortion. I may be a little late to speak about this but I now will. High School Valedictorian Paxton Smith spoke out about Texas’s new abortion law, the Heartbeat Bill, during her graduation. Abortion in Texas is prohibited as early as six weeks a woman is pregnant. 6 weeks. Most women don’t realize they are pregnant within 6 weeks. Who knows if bringing another being into the world is something they are willing to do. The pregnancy could be a result of rape or even be something they are not able to do, mentally, physically, emotionally, or even financially. If it is something they are not ready for, yet have to comply with because of this law, wouldn’t it be a burden upon them? Wouldn’t it be something they would be pressured and forced to do by a stranger even though they are not ready for it? It’s like taking away a woman’s rights. Taking away something that is her decision. Something that will affect her life and is up to her whether she wants it or not. 

https://www.npr.org/2021/06/03/1002831545/high-school-valedictorian-swaps-speech-to-speak-out-against-texas-new-abortion-l