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In Light of Recent Unconstitutional Events, We Must Remember the Past

On January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order into action that banned immigration of Syrian refugees, halted immigration for 120 days from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, and gave priority to Christian immigrants from primarily Muslim countries. The promise to stop immigration, especially from Middle Eastern countries, and to favor Christians over Muslims was a hallmark of his presidential campaign. Many Americans thought he wouldn’t actually follow through with these promises. But he has. Unfortunately, though candidate Trump could say what he wanted and suffered little to no consequences, President Trump may soon find he can’t simply sign his every whims into law. His executive order is illegal, unconstitutional, contrary to American values, and simply wrong.

According to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, immigration laws cannot be created that discriminate on the basis of national origin, race, or ancestry. According to the Constitution, it is illegal to discriminate against people on the basis of religion. This executive action does both. Not only is it completely illegal, it is an insult to the Statue of Liberty, which has beckoned in millions of immigrants from Ellis Island throughout our history. It threatens to repeat some of America’s most shameful moments, such as Japanese internment camps, and the turning away of Jewish refugees from the Holocaust. It stands against everything American citizens are expected to uphold, and what President Trump has sworn to defend in his oath of office.

For those who hoped Mr. Trump would be humbled by his office and change after being elected, you see the clear evidence that this is not the case. Hoping otherwise is foolish. This man, who has laughed about rape, tweeted insulting comments to anyone who opposed him, who has advocated for Muslim profiling in the past, and thrown a fit anytime he was parodied on SNL, will not change. He is unfit to defend American values, as is clearly shown by his contempt for the United States Constitution and for our laws. He takes for granted the suffering that has led to this country becoming what it strives to be: a nation of immigrants in which people can express themselves and believe what they will and have equal opportunity. And he is the President of the United States.

Whatever Mr. Trump may think now, it is no easy job, not for someone accustomed to 3 AM Twitter rants. Whatever he signs into law, he is still subject to all the laws signed by his predecessors. But only if those laws are enforced. The “system” of our democracy only works when we, the people, defend it. We cannot be silent now, when we can make a difference. There is no better time to act. If this executive order is any indication of President Trump’s policy in the next four years, and it seems like it is, this is not the time for silence. He must learn that his supposed mandate to discriminate against those unlike him, to build walls, to exempt the wealthy of paying taxes, to openly profile, is nonexistent and contrary to the beliefs of many Americans.

We must remember that silence allowed the Holocaust to happen. Fear of strangers led to Japanese internment camps. Failure to act led to the Armenian and Rwandan genocides. Allowing discrimination on the basis of religion has led to countless crimes against humanity. Closing borders to specific countries has been a failed tactic in the past. And fear-mongering plays easily into the hands of terrorist organizations such as ISIL, who want us to be afraid, who want us to refuse entry to the people they terrorize. We must remember our Declaration of Independence, and the guiding belief that led us to separation from Great Britain: that we are all created equal. Saying that those words only apply to Americans is inherently defying that belief.

We are a country built by immigrants, fueled by patriotism and the understanding that we can always do better. I refuse to simply stand by as our president undermines our very core. This is not about left vs. right, about liberal vs. conservative, about Democrat vs. Republican. This is not about politics. This is about right vs. wrong, about standing for what is correct. This is about sending a message to the powers that be that abusing the office of the president is disgraceful. This is the moment in which we remember the never agains the world said after the Holocaust, after World War II, after the Armenian, Rwandan, Bangladesh, and Cambodian genocides.

I will not stay silent, will you?

Feminism and the Need for Gender Equality

feminism

noun fem·i·nism \ˈfe-mə-ˌni-zəm\
the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
There we go. The ever-elusive, often misunderstood and misquoted definition of feminism according to Merriam-Webster. For those who claim to support gender equality but are squeamish or unwilling to call themselves feminists, and therefore don’t know what to call yourselves, worry not. The definition of feminism is nothing more and nothing less than the belief that the sexes should be treated equally. Of course, the textbook definition of a word does not come close to encompassing its connotations, and feminism has gained an ugly one. The association of feminists with bra-burning, man-hating extremists is unfortunate but prevalent. The term “feminazi” has gained traction as a synonym. And men and women alike complain that feminists want too much, are too vocal, and are never satisfied. To those who argue feminism and the gender equality movement aren’t needed, one need only look at these connotations to find proof otherwise.
If feminism was unnecessary, then men wouldn’t have a problem loudly and proudly supporting women’s rights. That would be as easy as announcing pride in voting or democracy or any other personal belief. If gender equality had been achieved, then a word that compares a movement for basic rights and respect to a regime that was responsible for the deaths of millions would not be popular. If said movement was not needed anymore then college rape culture wouldn’t exist and women wouldn’t feel unsafe simply leaving their house after nightfall. If the fight for rights was not needed then women would get equal pay and recognition for their achievements in all fields of study.
Let’s dispel with the notion that gender equality has been achieved. One cannot look at employment and education statistics and objectively come to this conclusion. Women make significantly less income than men, are still pushed away from the hard sciences and into more “feminine” fields such as history or literature, and are not seen as equal employees to their male counterparts because of the possibility of pregnancy. Men and young boys are still derided and shamed for professing themselves to be feminists. Rape culture and the objectification of women still pervades almost every part of our culture. We cannot boast gender equality. Not even close.
So now we have determined there is still work to do until we break all the glass ceilings. But how much? Surely only a very little. We will only have to bear the burden of being called feminists for a short period of time. Think again.
Until every woman feels she is accepted and loved for her intelligence and personality and not judged for her body, we must still be feminists. Until everyone regardless of gender is paid the same income for the same job, we must still be feminists. Until men are unashamed and unabashed to stand for gender equality and women’s and transgender rights, we must still be feminists. Until career women are judged for their achievements and not for their husbands and families, we must still be feminists. And even after all this is achieved, after we put behind us the draconian stereotypes that haunt us daily, we cannot simply leave behind a label that represents the hard-fought battle for equality. Feminism should not be ridiculed or set aside, because it should carry with it the pain and struggle and strength that has brought the movement this far. Like the word democracy, with its original ugly implications, it is a banner that must be waved high and proud even after the war is long won.
So yes, feminism has a distasteful undercurrent. In a bitterly ironic way, it carries with it the sting of misogyny. Like the women and men who try to hold it up, it has suffered unfairly at the hands of the patriarchy, of the subtexts that read that a movement led and heralded by women is undeserving of respect. It is proof in one word that the fight is far from over. Feminism does not equal gender equality, it stands for the distance that must be breached to get there. And when that distance is closed and true equality is tangible and real, then rest assured the word “feminism” will bask in the same glow of respect and honor as is afforded to liberty, freedom, and democracy. The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes will finally be given the respect is has long since deserved.

What This Election Means for US-Cuba Relations

Since November 2014, Obama has made it a mission to bring the US and Cuba closer together. The steps he has taken to get closer to the small island country have been exalted and criticized in equal measure, but the tentative relationship the US has with Cuba now may be in danger as soon as President-elect Trump takes office. Through his preferred method of social media communication, Trump tweeted that he would halt relations with Cuba if he didn’t get a “better deal”.

Of course, it’s hard to know Trump’s position on anything, he flip-flops too much, but it is possible that he does nothing in the near future to try to change Cuban-American relations. His tweet shows if anything a lack of understanding about how these diplomatic moves are made. The relationship both countries have right now is an accumulation of different strategic moves and deals, not just one treaty or deal that can be rewritten. Not to mention Trump has been supportive of normalizing US-Cuba relations in the past, only saying that he would have made a “stronger deal” as president instead of the steps taken by President Obama. This lack of understanding or position could force him to simply keep relations where they are right now, if not continue to open up to the island nation. Unfortunately, Cuba may sense that the American president knows little to nothing about international diplomacy and try to take advantage of that.

What most likely will happen is that President Trump will leave dealing with Cuban relations to Congress, which holds a Republican majority and will probably push toward a tougher stance on the nation and try to re-add it to the list of States that Sponsor Terrorism. Interestingly enough, House Speaker Paul Ryan was at one point in favor of lifting the embargo against Cuba, saying it was a failure, so he may be more open-minded as to maintaining and working to continue open relations with the country. The best that can be expected is that nothing much happens in the next two years (until midterm elections in which the Democrats have a chance to retake at least the Senate).

Trump’s election has thrown a lot of questions in the air, especially about foreign policy. Trump’s inexperience and immature appearance to the rest of the world is much to our disadvantage. Though Trump said he would be America’s strongman, he gives off quite the opposite effect to other countries, who sense weakness in a president who has no government experience and who sees no problem in tweeting retaliatory and insulting comments at 3 AM in the morning. This appearance might be the most damaging for American foreign relations, especially with Cuba, with whom it is important to appear open but firm and strong. Trump so far has mastered neither, and it seems unlikely he will do so in the coming years. However it is important to look at how much the House and Senate are involved in fostering these good relations, especially when the president may not be able to do much good about them. Hopefully, Congress will serve as a check to Trump’s blatant lack of experience or governmental knowledge, and therefore preserve some of the progress that has been made in the last eight years, especially relating to Cuba, but that remains to be seen. Hopefully in these next four years, they will counteract the racist and anti-foreign policy image that Trump espouses. So, hopefully, the Washington insiders that Trump so despises will play a significant role in keeping him from ruining American foreign policy in the indefinite future.

To the Madam President Who Should Have Been

It must take a certain amount of courage to run for president of the United States as a woman. It is no secret that women in every walk of professional life are held to a higher standard than men. They must work twice as hard and be twice as prepared, they must say the right thing at every moment. Try to be strong and she will be called bossy, try to appear gentle and she will appear weak. Hillary Clinton, with a long career of defying gender stereotypes, must know that well.

Her historic nomination brought forward scrutiny to the umpteenth degree. Her husband’s career and his scandals were also on the chopping block. When President Obama ran, no one thought to derail his candidacy by attacking his wife. It would be ludicrous. But it seems impossible for our society to see Hillary Clinton for who she is, to see her without looking first at her husband. Experience is a valuable asset to any politician seeking high office, but not for her. She has been in politics so long and has been so successful, she must be cheating the system. There must be some secret to a woman having worked so hard and made it so far in the business of politics, after all. Her greatest crime, wanting to remain private, may be understandable as a person who has, for so long, been subject to ridiculous questioning and scrutiny. Many career politicians have made comparable blunders, and remain beloved and understood. It is understood that we must allow those people to make mistakes, and that no one is perfect. She has been given no such second chances. Any trip and the worst has been assumed. Worse still, her husband’s errors are also credited to her. It makes no sense to blame the wife for her husband cheating on her, but her critics have called her an enabler of his womanizing. It is as ludicrous as it sounds.

Hillary Clinton deserves better than the scrutiny she got, the misogyny her success awoke in America. Her historic nomination awoke the festering monster of sexism that had been admonished into silence for too long. It can’t be argued that extremists on almost every fringe have hailed Donald Trump as their candidate and have entered the mainstream to troll and insult others. Hillary Clinton, strong, prepared, experienced, and female, is the antithesis of the white nationalist and neo-Nazi movements that have embraced Trump. But her run did more than frenzy the fringe, it also brought to light the sexism that is deeply embedded in our society, how difficult it is for people to face and acknowledge a woman’s success of her own right.

Throughout American history, whenever there is a progressive push, like the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement, or the first black president, there always rises a counter movement to the change. It seems America has shown it wasn’t ready yet for this push to the future. The glass ceiling remains painfully intact, and with this election, white nationalists, the alt-right, and nativist movements have gained a traction they have not had in years. It is sad that Mrs. Clinton has had to see this as the culmination of a career of exemplary service. But in the end, I hope history will be kind to the first woman nominated by a major American party for president. Historians will remember her career as Senator of New York, her work for the Children’s Defense Fund, her involvement in taking down Osama bin Laden, her refusal as First Lady of Arkansas to bow to feminine norms of the time.

She should have been elected president. 2016 should have been the year in which we could first say Madam President with pride. But she wasn’t, and America now has to be introspective, and wonder where we went wrong. However, no less credit should be given to Mrs. Clinton for a campaign well-run and for the courage and grit it took to stand up and present herself as a candidate when people were not-so-patiently waiting to tear her down. Her campaign, her life, and even her concession speech, delivered on November 9, exemplify her drive, her will to work hard in the face of possible failure, and her absolute respect for American democracy. She deserved much more than the painful culmination of this election season.

At this moment, news of President-elect Trump’s cabinet appointments and tweets dominate the media. Protests and electoral college schemes get a highlight. And extremist groups grapple to claim a stake in the mainstream. But all this news overshadows Mrs. Clinton’s achievements, her best campaign moments. People are quick to analyze Trump now, and what possible strategy could he have used to win. They now wonder what will happen, and how these next four years will shape our history. How far back can we go? Is it possible to move forward? But in all this, Mrs. Clinton’s own strides forward are temporarily lost. And that is a sad reward for her bravery.

I hope that once the smoke clears and we settle into a new administration, America will remember Hillary Clinton for everything she has done, that she will take her place among such trailblazers as Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks. Someone new will take the baton from her and run. Every time a woman tries to run for major office, it will get easier. Whoever shatters the glass ceiling once and for all will have an advantage, a lead, that no American woman has had before. And she will owe it in part to Hillary Clinton.

Some Thoughts on this Election

There is a sick sinking feeling in my stomach today. I was hoping for relief on November 9, 2016, and I was hoping to start again on the trek to unity which we have strayed so far from this year. And now it is November 9, 2016 and Donald Trump is our President-elect. To say I am disappointed is an understatement. I am appalled. In the spirit of Brexit the American people have chosen to continue add to the legacies of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama a demagogue who jokes about sexual assault, who would ban a religion from entering the US, and who champions nativism and xenophobia. My dear America, we have a lot of work to do.

It hurts, I know, to admit this, but we are not as progressive and accepting as we had thought. Yes, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote (and barely at that), but 200,000 votes separated her from those who thought Trump would be a better option. There is no going around the fact that he is racist, xenophobic, sexist, and discriminatory. And yet almost half of the people who voted this election thought he was the best choice. We are far from our goal of achieving equality. It is a painful realization, and one we should have made quite a while back. We were barely ready to accept a black president. We are not yet ready for a woman.

I am a proud American, and therefore I think we should all strive toward a higher standard. We cannot settle here, assuaging ourselves with the empty idea that we’ve done enough for equality. It is not enough and perhaps won’t be in our lifetimes. So let’s not settle. As one of my friends says, we are still trying to reach the asymptote of y= we are all created equal. Perhaps we were farther away from that elusive point than we had expected. That is a slap in the face. Martin Luther King Jr, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, and every other person who has fought for social, economic, and political equality for all people, must all be shaking their heads now. But they would also say that we have to keep moving forward. We have to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and charge ahead in honor of them and in honor of every person who struggles because they do not enjoy the privileges we can call rights.

We cannot do it alone, however. The biggest challenge that faces our country is the divisiveness that is so deeply entrenched. Please, I implore everyone, let’s try to put it aside. I understand that some hurts go deep, and that sometimes it feels impossible to work with the other side. But we will get nowhere like this. For me, personally, it is difficult to throw aside the lightness with which some have been treating Mr. Trump’s disrespect for women and minorities. It is hard to disregard my feeling that an undercurrent of this election was the refusal to have a female president. And since these beliefs are so personally dear to my heart (and to the hearts of many) I will not let them go. Nor do I expect anyone to do so for their own causes. But I do ask that we all try to listen to each other a little more. We may all learn invaluable things from listening more to others. Diversity, in every shape and form, is good and will do us all good. This is no time for hurling insults. This is the time to rise above.

In these next four years I will advocate strongly for causes I hold dear, and I hope and pray that after the nastiness of this election, everyone is a little more willing to work together. Do we want another election like this? No. We, the people of the United States have the honor and responsibility of ensuring that no other election is characterized by such anger, hatred, insults, and division.

Three simple words in the Constitution give me comfort. We, the people. Not we, the white people. Not we, the men. Not we, the minorities. Not we, the women. We, the people of the United States. This is who we are. The word American encompasses hispanics, blacks, whites, men, women, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, Native Americans, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Mormons, pro-life, pro-choice, and so much more. We are the epitome of diversity. And in the spirit of moving forward, we must learn to embrace that wholeheartedly. It will be difficult. It may be painful. Progress might be slow. So let us start now.

The sinking feeling in my stomach might take some time to go away. But it will not replace hope. I have hope and belief in this country. We have a long history, and not all of it has been pretty. We have endured the Depression, the Civil War, two World Wars, Jim Crow laws, and slavery. We are now being tested again. But we shall overcome. And then we will go on in pursuit of that asymptote.

Why the Newest Emails Scandal is Ridiculous

FBI Director James Comey has drawn ire from both sides of the political spectrum for his letter to Congress on new emails that could relate to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s email server. Here’s a basic overview of what we know so far.  The FBI was conducting an investigation into Anthony Weiner’s most recent sexting scandal involving an underage teenager. Said investigation involved a search into one of his and Clinton advisor Huma Abedin’s computer. Sometime in early October the FBI uncovered some emails that may have something to do with Clinton’s email investigation. A few weeks later, the agents who discovered this information briefed Director Comey on this information and, against the Justice Department’s urging, he sent a letter to Congress, saying in essence that the FBI had uncovered more emails and was going to continue the email investigation. On Sunday November 6, Comey backtracked on his statements, saying these new emails did not change his previous conclusion on Clinton’s emails.

Leading up to this discovery, Clinton held a large lead in most national polls, but the days preceding saw a tightening in polls, and this event saw a significant drop in support for Clinton and a surge for Republican candidate Donald Trump, especially in highly contested states like Florida. Director Comey has faced sharp criticism for seemingly interfering in the election, seeing as he sent the letter less than a fortnight before election day. Democrats and Republicans alike have condemned his timing and the letter itself, saying he had no real motivation enough to send a letter to Congress other than to meddle with the election.

It’s incredibly important to note the timing of events leading up to Director Comey sending the letter. The emails in question were found by the FBI in early October. On Friday, October 28th, Comey sent a letter to Congress with information on the FBI’s finding. In the letter, he admitted he did not know the content of the email or their relevancy to the investigation he had closed in July. He did not have a warrant to search Ms. Abedin’s emails. This warrant was acquired a few days AFTER the letter was sent. FBI agents admitted to having known about this emails since early October, and the limited but nevertheless highly implicating information was released ten days before the election day. If this was meant as smooth a political move on Comey’s part, then it was ill-conceived, since the facts clearly point to the fact that this letter was meddling in the election. If Comey thought he was simply doing his job, then the move was irresponsible and extremely badly timed, since he of all people should know the effect such implications will have on the election.

Comey claimed he did not want people to assume the FBI was withholding information in case of a leak, but making a big deal and actually sending a formal letter to Congress about very limited information is unnecessary and parts completely with the Justice Department’s tradition of not divulging information within 60 days of a major election. It also parts with Comey’s own record. Though he stated he saw a connection between Russian hackers and Wikileaks, he was adamant that the FBI not be involved in those statements at all because it would not be appropriate. Following that same criteria,  he should not have sent a letter to Congress. But he did. The implication, therefore, is that he is interfering with the election. And even if he wasn’t and did not intend the fallout, the damage is already done. Hillary Clinton’s lead has shrunk from being at double-digits to a mere three-point lead in a recent Times/CBS poll.

It’s hard to justify Comey’s actions as unbiased or as having little effect on the election. He knew nothing about the content of the emails and should not have needed to alert Congress without a warrant or even a legitimate reason for concern. Upon reading his letter to Congress, one realizes that there is no sign of emergency, no information that would change the course of the campaign or even call into question Clinton’s fitness for president more than the already concluded investigation in July. But the immediate headlines that come after the letter, that the FBI would be reopening the investigation, that more emails were found, that some of those emails could be classified, do all those things. The headlines caused alarm in the Clinton camp and elation in the Trump camp. The Republican nominee’s campaign seized on this opportunity to try to sway undecided voters who were put off by Clinton’s questionable trustworthiness. The implications that even more emails had been deleted were huge. And of course, the assumption was that Comey had made a responsible and knowledgeable decision. If he alerted Congress, then there must have been something really bad in those emails. This assumption was more damaging to Clinton than any other.

Except, it seems Comey did not make a knowledgeable decision. After obtaining a warrant and causing a nationwide firestorm, he backtracked, saying that the emails would not change his recommendation in July. The FBI insisted the emails did not have anything classified in them and that there was no emergency. But too late. It doesn’t matter now that the FBI won’t reopen their investigation, because the scandal is already out. It doesn’t matter that Comey is saying “nevermind” every five seconds because undecided voters may have already made their decision based on this latest “information”. The FBI’s backtracking could not reinstate Clinton’s lead or wipe away her campaign’s newfound insecurity. And any seasoned public servant should understand that this deep reaction is normal in our political atmosphere. Comey should have known how the general people would jump on this news and how hard it is to take those actions back. There is no excuse for his sending that letter and there are only two explanations. Either Comey feared the information would be released after the election and he would face fire for keeping it quiet, or he caved to political pressure and sent the letter to shake up the election. If it was the first, then he should understand that in his job, some of his decision will inevitably face criticism. If it was the second, then he has given in to the growing political pressure of an increasingly polarized election when it was most important for him to stay unbiased.

Donald Trump: There is No Illusion, This is Who He is

For those who have chosen to forget Donald Trump’s past, his misogyny, his racism, his overall reputation, these past few weeks have been a rude awakening. Some have come out and said that in the face of defeat he is only now showing his true colors, but has he not shown them before? no matter how controversial or offensive they may be. Which begs the question, how far does he have to go? How many insults does it take for people to denounce him?

It took Trump calling his adversary a “nasty woman” and illegal immigrants “bad hombres”. It took a hot mic tape of him bragging about sexual assault. It took the 11 women who accused him of assault and his staunch denial of the fact. And for some it even took his threat to undermine American democracy to finally try to distance themselves from him. Many only now are saying that seeing his despicable behavior towards women and his refusal to say he would accept the election outcome, they realize that who Trump really is, and therefore cannot support him. Others say that these are his worst moments, but overall, he is a better person than the man we are witnessing now. What’s strange is that no previous statements from Trump were enough to convince many voters that he is unelectable. Miss Piggy? Birtherism? “If she wasn’t my daughter, I’d probably be dating her”? Belittling women and people of color are not new to Donald Trump. Neither is xenophobia.

While people accuse Hillary Clinton of the deaths of four in Benghazi (by the way, no other Secretary of State in our history has been solely blamed for an overseas attack of this nature), Donald Trump has been allowed to insult races, religions, women, and individuals in the most disgusting language with hardly any major reproof. The double standard is frighteningly clear in this election as people try to justify behavior in Trump that would be considered immature and abhorrent in the average teenager, while at the same time place the full responsibility of an overseas attack on Clinton though a House Select Committee has found no evidence of wrongdoing on her part. So for this whole election, the bar has been set at an all-time low for Trump and an all-time high for Clinton.

Trump is stooping below the base standards we have set for him, and now people are coming to the conclusion that he is unfit for office. He has been unfit for office since he stepped into the race. A man who spends his time feuding with celebrities on Twitter and bragging about the size of his hands, a man who cannot accept defeat or failure is unfit to be a government official. He does all the things teenagers are told not to do, because they hinder our chances of getting into a good college. His statements would earn many students detentions at least, if not more. Is this the person we want representing our country and its values to the world? No, I really don’t think so. But this is who Donald Trump is. He is a liar, he does cheat the system, he is biased against other races, other religions, other everything. He does take sexual assault lightly. He doesn’t meet our own society’s basic standards of decency. So we, as a society, cannot allow him to become the highest elected official in the United States.