The Needed Change of the Stigma Behind Mental Health
Many students have heard the phrase “school comes first,” from parents when they want to visit friends or relax. While some may need reminders about keeping track of their school work, mental health guidelines suggest that parents should be a little more careful before scolding their children.
Some parents fail to realize that their child might be working very hard in school and just needs a break to lower their stress. Mental health is important for everyone and should be checked often. Many people may not even realize they have a problem as it may be “normal” for them to feel so poor all the time. Mental health issues may provoke life-long issues if not resolved.
Mental health issues have been overlooked for generations and have often been taboo, although this status quo seems to be changing for younger generations.
Changing the Status Quo
Often, social issues develop in high school. This makes sense as that is the age when people try to figure out who they are, hormones change, and many realize that living in this world isn’t as easy as it once seemed when they were children. In addition, many teenagers constantly compare themselves to others which means they can develop insecurities which itself isn’t a mental health issue but can lead to one¹. Furthermore, students have lots of pressure to do well in school so they can get into a dignified university. Many students probably use their leftover time to participate in an extracurricular activity or hang out with friends, not to focus on mental health which can evolve into increased mental health issues. Some US students are trying to ease this pain by fighting for the incorporation of “mental health days” into the school system.
The Oregon Mental Health High School Activists who Fought for “Mental Health Days”: (From left) Sam Adamson, Lori Riddle, Hailey Hardcastle, and Derek Evans at the Oregon State Capitol.
Last year, high school student activists in Oregon pushed the state to pass a law allowing students to take mental health days. Their school calendar now includes days where students can choose to stay home and focus on their mental health. Students in states such as Colorado, Florida and Washington, are attempting to pass similar laws.¹
The idea to include mental health days in school came up at a summer camp for student leaders of high schools from Oregon. Many talked about suicides of friends and talked openly about their own mental health struggles. The student leaders created a group, “Students for a Healthy Oregon”, and enlisted the help of psychologists and lobbyists to volunteer as advisers.¹
“High school can be a lonely, difficult place to begin … but there’s so much more pressure these days, getting into college … even just the state of the world … climate change, and everything going on with politics. A lot of times it can feel like the world is about to end.” said Hailey Hardcastle, an Oregon high school activist.¹
One issue that serves as a cause for anxiety of high schoolers in the US is the dramatic rise of school shootings¹. This isn’t an issue that will go away on its own, and students fear their classrooms could be next. A student from a school in Colorado that had a school shooting suggested that people are still emotionally hurt and that mental health days like this would help.¹
Some legislators worried that students would use mental health days as an excuse to skip school or that this law would stop young people from resolving their issues. Oregon State Senator, Dallas Heard, said he believes students need to “toughen up” and that life is going to get a lot harder. One of the students responded to Heard, saying, “There will be students that will abuse the system but there will be students that this will save.”¹
Mental health problems among youths have risen in recent years. Suicidal thoughts among teens ages 18 or 19 increased 46% during a 9-year period, 2008-2017, and suicide attempts among people ages 22 or 23 doubled. Suicide has become the second-most-common cause of death among teens and young adults. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that rates of suicide increased by 56% from 2007 to 2017 among people ages 10 to 24.¹
While no one should have suicidal thoughts, it should be completely unacceptable for someone as innocent as a 10-year-old child to think them. This truly heartbreaking situation raises many serious questions about what has caused this increase.
Some experts linked the rising mental health epidemic to lack of community, the rise of social media, and bullying. Jennifer Rothman, a senior manager at the National Alliance on Mental Illness said, “… mental sick days are a way to at least end the silence and talk about the problem.”¹
After a year of fighting, the law was passed; and last year, 2019, was the first school year where the Oregon mental health law was put into action. This is a potential solution to a problem that has occurred for far too long and is a start for changing the status quo and stigma of mental health issues. The students are now trying to pass a second bill to incorporate mental health into annual physical-health checkups at Oregon schools.¹
No one should have these problems especially at such an early stage of life. The issue has grown so substantially that the anxiety levels an ordinary student has in this generation is more than those of a psych ward patient in the 1950’s.¹
Why Current Mental Health Issues Stand Out More Than Previous Generations
For a substantial amount of time in the 20th Century, prominently in the beginning, people were discouraged from focusing on mental health. Most people did what they were supposed to do and didn’t want to create more problems themselves.
During much of the 20th Century, the issues that could be discussed concerned war, racism, and financial trouble (in the course of the Great Depression in particular). It is great that people had opinions about these issues, but the average person was not encouraged to discuss personal issues, and especially not at the dinner table.
There were likely not many conversations back then about climate change, the massive amount of money college costs, LGBTQ+ issues, anxiety, and depression. Some of these issues are very old but only newly discussed.
It’s not that the mental health issues we have today didn’t plague older generations, it was just taboo for them to discuss¹ as it showed that the individual did not have the “perfect life”.
If a child showed signs of poor mental health, learning disabilities, said they were gay or wanted to change genders, some parents bundled them off to an asylum or a camp to make them “better” and keep them away from the rest of society. Knowing this, many children probably didn’t want to go through this torture, so they decided to keep quiet about their problems.
Were parents of children who sent their child to institutions only embarrassed of their child’s behavior and didn’t want to deal with it, or did they actually think that these institutions would help them? It could be a mix of both.
At West Ham Mental Hospital in London, visiting hours were restricted to two and a half hours per week and presents could only be given to inmates through the nurse in charge of the visiting room. Of the twenty-four children admitted to this asylum (between 1894-1920), only two are known to have left. What’s interesting about this is that the two that left were only sent to the asylum due to stress caused by work. The others were sent to the asylum for difficulties in learning and for poor behavior.¹
Green States: Banned Conversion Therapy, Yellow States: Have Not, Striped States: Have A Partial Ban
Some parents sent their LGBTQ+ child to a conversion therapy to convert them to becoming heterosexual. Homosexuality was considered sinful and even criminal for centuries. In the late 19th century, doctors began to try and “reverse” it through performing hypnosis, electroconvulsive therapy, lobotomies, or aversion therapy (electrically shocks or makes the patient vomit when looking at photos of LGBTQ+ activity). In the 1960s and 1970s, a gay rights movement demanded equality, and the practice of conversion therapy within the medical field fizzled out. However, religious groups took over the practice using talk therapy and exorcisms. James Guay, a gay man who attended weekly conversion seminars as a teen said he read books “about how to have a ‘corrective and healing relationship with Jesus Christ’…I was confused about why these methods supposedly worked for others but not for me.”¹ 13 states have fully banned gay conversion therapy practices, however some parents in the other 37 states still send their children to them to prevent their child from becoming LGBTQ+ even though it was never scientifically proven that this worked or that it was safe.¹
There was an incredible lack of understanding about mental health during this time. Most people know now that poor mental health or being LGBTQ+ isn’t going to be cured by receiving heavy amounts of drugs, no matter how well-intentioned the doctors might be. Firstly, if people want to have improved mental health, they may need to take some medication but they also need to talk about their problems with a trained therapist. Secondly, being a part of the LGBTQ+ community isn’t curable and there should be absolutely no shame of being in it. In very rare cases, should a person go to an asylum.
While treatment is better now, the old taboo of discussing mental health has still partially remained, which could be why it is hard for those who have poor mental health or are part of the LGBTQ+ community to come forward.
Why People Hide from Mental Health
Science and psychology have matured significantly in the past 50 years¹. With developed psychology, people and psychologists learn more about the behavior of people and in this case why people bottle up their issues and why that isn’t good.
People can bottle up their emotions for many reasons but one of the most common reasons is because they are scared of how they will be viewed by their peers. Generally, people want to be liked and seek approval in different ways in order to be liked. If people think others might not accept them for something, they may hide their true feelings out of shame¹. The flaw with this method is that the longer they hold in their emotions, the easier it becomes that this turns into a severe issue. For example, if one chooses to hide a negative emotion such as anger or sadness, it may lead to more serious problems such as anxiety, depression, or even having suicidal thoughts¹. A study from the University of Texas in 2011 even found that suppressing our emotions actually makes them stronger¹.
Counseling is a helpful tool that should be used in these cases and patients should try to be as open and honest as possible so they can receive help. Counselors are obligated to not show judgement because one can only get help if the patient is willing to receive help and is comfortable with sharing their problem to the counselor¹. Everyone should see a counselor at least once to make sure that they are truthfully okay.
People born in the 50’s were typically raised by parents born in the 20’s during the asylum era of mental health. Consequently, they were likely to have been brought up to not talk about their mental health issues. When Baby Boomers were growing up, cognitive and behavioral science started expanding. Due to the multiple scientific findings, people started to take mental health issues more seriously. Nevertheless, when the Baby Boomers raised Gen X’ers, the topic of mental health still might not have been discussed because they didn’t really know how to discuss it. Finally, when Millennials were being raised, mental health issues started to become normalized to talk about, in part, because they grew up with the Internet and social media¹.
The Internet spreads awareness of issues and diversity of individual opinions likely grew during the time as well. The Millennials were the first generation to be raised with this. The Internet can make life better but can also make life complicated. It is good that people could finally discuss issues online (climate change, political injustice, etcetera) that another may not know much about, but what someone reads or sees on the Internet can also trigger another mental health issue.
Another link could be related to the exceptionally fast development of the world in the past 30 years, which is faster than many humans can deal with. For example, an issue that has become a much bigger problem in recent years is the massive amount of money that college costs. In addition, college has become more competitive. This can lead to problems of one not being able to find a job because the job market is so competitive, and employers want to hire people from “the best school” which also tend to be the most expensive¹.
Millennial Expectation versus Reality
These are some reasons why Millennials are known as “the anxiety generation”¹ because so many factors of modern life contribute to anxiety. This contributes to the 47% increase since 2013 of major-depression diagnoses (of Millennials)¹. This led to increased rates of suicide as well¹. Previous generations didn’t have to worry about this, but these are some issues that plague Millennials, GenZ’ers, and probably future generations as well.
As the Internet has been around for some time, Gen-Z’ers discuss their concerns more publicly¹. People know more about how those around them think. The normalization of mental health issues have progressed, but that doesn’t mean that it is easy for someone to come forward of their own issues and that they will be accepted by those around them. Not everyone will agree with another’s thoughts towards a specific subject, but on the condition that the thought is inoffensive to another person or community, if someone truly cares about the person they will respect their opinion/concern. Obviously this can be easier said than done, but people should care about their mental health first before caring about how others might perceive them.
Older generations say that Millennials and Gen Z’ers are weak because they were able to deal with their problems and downplay them¹.But in my opinion, Millennials and Gen Z’ers are stronger because it is harder to come forward with an issue rather than just hiding from it. Fighting battles is much harder than ignoring the problem and not doing anything about it. And, those who receive help will become stronger in the end as they defeated their problem.
Admitting one’s problems used to be socially unacceptable and still sometimes is, which is why some people may find it hard to confess certain issues to loved ones. If someone ever trusts you enough to confess a problem they have had, such as that they have poor mental health or that they are LGBTQ+, just accept them for who they are. Additionally, while mental health issues are taken more seriously, those who suffer from them might not already be taking care of themselves as their focus lies elsewhere. Incorporating mental health days into the school system provides as an opportunity for people to focus on mental health, and could be a beautiful stop to an issue plaguing society. School is not everything, take care of yourself. If you genuinely have worked hard on school and just need a break, the next time your parents tell you, “school comes first”, tell them, “no, mental health does.”
Could the US Political Divide Result in a Second Civil War?
The first seven months of 2020 have seen many horrors. One can only be anxious about the future. What comes next? Is the US heading towards another Civil War as tensions rise between two increasingly entrenched political parties? Although no politician of either party has suggested that another Civil War is emerging, it is abundantly clear that the political divide is growing as public rage boils, and the calm center evaporates. The focus here lies on the expanding political differences within the US, how anger from each party could lead to a potential second US Civil War, and how to stop that from happening.
Expanding Differences Between Conservatives and Liberals
In the US one can almost distinguish a conservative or liberal based on who wears a facemask and who doesn’t. On average, liberals follow CDC guidelines¹ and wear facemasks to slow the transmission of the virus while conservatives believe this violates their freedom of expression and refuse to wear one¹.
A poll conducted in Utah showed that Democrats and moderates were far more likely to wear masks. 50% of moderates and liberals said they always wear masks in public, while only 26% of conservatives polled the same way¹.
2020 Red and Blue States: The more red the state is, the more conservative it is. The more blue the state is, the more liberal it is. Those that are brown are Swing States between the two political ideologies.
In red state Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott told a television station in June that “individual liberty is not infringed upon by government and cannot require individuals to wear a mask.¹” On the weekend before the 4th of July, Abbott changed his mind about liberty and said all counties in Texas with over 20 COVID-19 cases must wear a facemask in public and those who do not follow could be fined of up to $250 per violation after an initial warning¹. By contrast, in blue state California, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom never argued against wearing a facemask and announced in June everyone in California must wear a mask due to rising case numbers. “Science shows that face coverings and masks work…they are critical to keeping those who are around you safe¹.”
This specific political divide is motivated by conservative President Trump’s disapproval of facemasks. He indirectly encouraged supporters to follow by not wearing a mask themselves through suggesting that some Americans wear facemasks not as a preventive measure against this incurable pandemic – but merely to signal disapproval of him¹. However, no one has said this other than Trump, but in Trump’s world, everything is about Trump.
In contrast, Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, has worn a facemask at every socially distanced events attended¹. Trump recently changed his tune about facemasks, wearing a facemask only once publicly on July 11th.¹ The only reason why he went back on his old habits is probably because as the virus has worsened, Republicans urged him to wear a mask so his supporters would follow¹. A Fox co-host who Trump regularly watches, Steve Doocy, said “’MAGA’ should now stand for ‘Masks Are Great Again’”. If he did not do this soon enough, he may have lost supporters. But, Trump still says he is against making facemasks mandatory because it violates personal freedom¹.
It seems silly that something as unpolitical as covering your face during a pandemic has deepened the American political divide. This virus won’t go away any sooner if the president has effectively told his supporters not to use facemasks as a sign of loyalty to him.
Trump Campaign Rally in Tulsa: Notice how the audience is not wearing facemasks despite the area being jam-packed and that many are the elderly.
In June, Trump held his first rally since the pandemic began in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Around 6,200 people showed up¹; one would think that the majority would wear masks especially as ushers handed out masks and many attendees were elderly. However, only about 10% of the audience wore a mask, which seems quite idiotic given the large crowd during the middle of a pandemic. It is no coincidence that this is because of Trump’s aversion to facemasks and his ridicule of the disease. At the rally he called Coronavirus “Kung-flu disease”¹ which is racist and inaccurate. The disease might have originated in China, but the Chinese got rid of the disease while US numbers keep rising. So, maybe this isn’t the “Kung-flu disease,” but perhaps the US is the “land of the sneeze”.
From my experience of living in Tulsa for 8 years, I can say that the majority of citizens are not only conservatives but also fervent Trump supporters. In recent months I have become more vocal of my political views and as an effect, I have been ridiculed by a number of Tulsans. In one debate with a Trump supporter, I was told: “masks are stupid”, “why weren’t we forced to wear a mask when 1.5 million people died of tuberculosis last year”, “why isn’t the homeless population being wiped out”, and “you only do it [wear a mask] because the media tells you to”. I responded that their argument about tuberculosis was irrelevant as there are vaccines and medications while there are neither for the newly-found Coronavirus. I further explained that the CDC says the homeless population is impacted worse than those who aren’t homeless. In the CDC report¹ in March through April, 25% of residents in 19 shelters tested positive in homeless shelters in four U.S. cities. The only rebuttal argument was that I was only arguing because of my astrological sign. Very odd to argue science with astrology. Most arguments I have had against Trump supporters led to them making fun of me somehow which makes sense as ridicule is about the only rhetorical tactic known to Trump.
Two Different Outcomes, One Pandemic.
Trump aims everything to publicity. This can be seen from comments he’s made about Coronavirus such as his comment that the recent, dramatic increase of cases in the US, “makes us look bad,”¹ and to “slow the testing down” because of it.¹ Also, his reasoning for why he didn’t wear a facemask was because, “I don’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.¹” The outcome of Coronavirus in the US does make the US look bad, so why slow testing? Things will not improve until everyone socially distances and wears facemasks¹. I’m not an epidemiologist but to compare, most of Europe, a whole continent, was shut down for 2-3 months and now, during the time period where cities are opening¹, there’s less than 20,000 cases per day in the past month (except once)¹. In the US, cases have risen, and the most recent peak came in July with 74,710 cases in a single day¹. One could hypothesize that the US struggles because self-isolation and wearing a facemask has become political. Health shouldn’t be an argument; scientists proved how to protect ourselves.
The US is slowly progressing but nonetheless there is no federal law requiring citizens to wear facemasks. As private businesses, and state or city governors mandate for people to wear masks, groups have formed protesting across the nation against these efforts at public protection because they feel it is unconstitutional. These people who so proudly support freedom against facemasks probably do not support freedom of minorities (for equal treatment) and freedom for a woman to choose what she does with her own body.
It’s interesting to see how bad this virus had to become before some conservative leaders decided to act for public health over political gain. And even then, people still argue against it. Until either everyone wears a mask or quarantines again, this virus will not get better¹. Expanding the political divide over survival in a pandemic is not only completely moronic and risks lives but also causes more unneeded political tension which could result in something terrible.
Almost every event in the US turns political somehow, which seems a bit radical. Democrats and Republicans have always had their differences, but recently, the parties seem farther apart than ever. Moderation and compromise appear to be missing, especially since there are more “radical” sources for news information told from a point of view of a conservative or a liberal.
The reason for the lack of moderation in the US could be blamed on Trump because he deliberately appeals not to the center but to the far right. He does as he pleases without any hesitation about consequences, never offers a compromise, or apologizes for his wrongdoing. Trump could be considered the most radical and extremist Republican president ever. Examples of his extremism can be found easily: when he defended white nationalists during the statue removal of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee¹, when he blamed video games for mass shootings (which is disproven) instead of guns¹, his several misogynistic and racist remarks, his statements about mask-wearing, when he defended those going to the Michigan Capitol with rifles demanding for the pandemic lockdown to end¹, calling those who peacefully protest the Black Lives Matter movement “thugs”¹, saying he will ban LGBTQ+ persons from adopting¹, and saying the Confederate flag does not support the Confederacy but somehow “protects freedom of speech¹”.
There have always been radical presidents and some have brought needed changes. Abraham Lincoln could be considered radical because he was willing to risk a Civil War to stop the expansion of slavery. However, in today’s era of Trump, matters took a turn for the worst. Instead of fighting for Lincoln-style equality, Trump fights for white supremacy.
Trump’s extremist actions and words have rubbed off onto his supporters as The Southern Poverty Law Center said in 2019 the number of white nationalist groups has risen 55% since 2017 “when Trump’s campaign energized white nationalists…and anxiety over the country’s demographic changes¹.” The FBI also reported that personal attacks motivated by prejudice reached a 16-year high in 2018. Law enforcement agencies reported that 4,954 single-bias hate crime offenses were motivated by race/ethnicity/ancestry. The most common incidents were motivated by anti-Black bias (46.9%).¹
The word Republican in the United States has significantly changed over time. Conservative/Republican opinions aren’t what they were even a few years ago as the center between liberal and conservative values has shifted to the far right¹. Of course, one can be Republican without being a Trump supporter. For example, Republican US senator Mitt Romney, Obama’s opponent in the 2012 election, voted to remove Trump from power during his impeachment trial¹ and made an anti-Trump speech saying he was “a fraud” before the 2016 election.
The subject of “moderate” news sources no longer exists for the most part. Many Democrats and Republicans now go to specific websites to hear the news told from their point of view. It is known that a Republican would never receive their information from liberal biased CNN and that a Democrat would never look up news from conservative biased website FOX news¹. As the political divide deepens, like Trump, some conservatives have labeled formerly centric news sources as “radical” or “fake news” primarily because they sometimes point out Trump’s failures¹. I had a political debate with a Trump conservative who said NBC was a “radical source”. I had no idea that NBC was considered leftist, I always assumed NBC was unbiased because they tell the news without favoring any political party. In this article I quote from many types of sources to make it as unbiased as possible, I have even sourced FOX news.
Fight for Equality
The Black Lives Matter movement has always been political but recently arguments for and against it have made each political camp furious, causing further political separation. The recent upsurge was provoked by the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by police. The Black Lives Matter protestors want equality in the US, which some conservatives argue that such protests shouldn’t exist and that the title “Black Lives Matter” is not equitable.
Trump holds Bible in front of St. John’s while allowing police to tear gas peaceful protesters near.
Equality has always been a political issue in the US, but the present situation becomes even worse when the president firmly chooses the side of oppression. Trump said governors were “weak” for not using violence to stop protesters and that they “have to dominate”¹, which directly led to increased police aggression. This can be shown as Trump decided to walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church across Lafayette Square from the White House surrounded by massive amounts of officers who tear gassed peaceful protesters in the park just so he could be photographed outside the church holding a Bible. The Trump administration said it had “no regrets” about tear gassing¹. Trump was likely not holding the Bible as a show of solidarity with the black community to end racism because his unneeded violence against peaceful demonstrators show the opposite.
Most protests are actually peaceful; it’s odd that Trump orders police officers to be aggressive to stop violence when he is the one causing the violence. Referring to the police, Trump says people should not be upset because of “one bad apple”¹. If that was the standard, then shouldn’t Trump be willing to accept the few causing violence at protests because that could also be argued as being “one bad apple”.
The nearing 50 year fight towards equality with similar protests.
The goal of a protest is change, not to cause a riot. Many understand that rioting fuels the fire more which is why many protests are peaceful until police show up and start tear gassing, pushing, beating, and running over protesters¹. However, whenever a riot happens at a protest, conservatives will quickly say ‘look at the change that Martin Luther King Jr did¹’. But, these peaceful protests are similar to those led by Martin Luther King Jr. In addition, not all of the 1960s Civil Rights protests were peaceful, although Martin Luther King, Jr. was certainly a peaceful man. Plus, throughout history, the government is known to put agents in the crowd to advocate for violence to discredit the cause. The FBI did this many times during the 1960s. Some recent protests have also been joined by militia members from the Boogaloo movement, who are known to be violent.¹
It’s well known that Trump is a racist. The most evident act of hate he has done was towards the Mexicans when he demanded that they pay to build “the wall” which they rightly refused¹. He imposed a travel ban in 2017 directed to 7 majority Muslim practicing countries¹. At the time, only Iraq would’ve posed an actual threat towards the US because of ISIS. None of the 9/11 terrorists came from these countries. After reading that 40,000 people had visited from Nigeria, he said that after seeing America, the Nigerians would never “go back to their huts.”¹
In his most recent racist act he belittled the day honoring freedom for African-Americans, Juneteenth. This holiday has existed since a Union general in Texas freed slaves that his soldiers held on June 19, 1865.It is the longest known tradition celebrating slavery freedom.¹ After Trump decided that his rally in Tulsa would take place on Juneteenth, people were upset as this was extremely disrespectful because one of the biggest race riots in the US occurred there – whites killed blacks and burned their homes down. When changing the date of his rally, Trump naturally did not apologize and said he deserves credit for making Juneteenth “very famous”¹. He blatantly (or knowingly) took away a holiday that celebrates freedom for African-Americans. If anyone took away a holiday from white Americans, all hell would break loose.
Many whites relish their special privileges, and many of these whites are conservative. White privilege is defined as the societal privilege that benefits white skins over non-white skins in a society of all races. This means white skins have an advantage to succeed in society but can use this privilege to help minorities so there eventually can be equality. A way to help any oppressed community and fight for justice is to actively speak on its behalf and raise awareness. Abraham Lincoln used his white privilege to do this in 1861. Why can this problem not be solved?
Many Trump supporters criticize the Black Lives Matter movement probably because they are racist like Trump and want to keep things the way they are because it gives them an advantage. Racists debate against the movement by saying that whites are more often brutalized by police than black people¹ and support a counter argument called “All Lives Matter”. While white people may be killed more than black people by the police, the critical issue relates to proportion and not absolute numbers. According to the US Census Bureau in July 2019, 13% of the US population is black whereas 60% are white¹. While police should never kill anyone, in an equal society, the numbers of police killings per race would be the same. However, this is not the case. Of races known to be killed by police in 2019, 46.1% of those were white and 29.3% were black¹.The rate of fatal police shootings per million in the United States from 2015 to June 2020 for blacks was 31 and for whites, 13¹. The reason for this can be explained simply by racism.
The US judicial system is racist as many officers get away with brutality among black people and do not have to serve a prison sentence; some do not even get their badge taken away. A police officer in Tulsa killed Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man in 2016¹, the officer was fired from Tulsa Police Department but was also found not guilty of first-degree manslaughter¹. One year later, she was rehired as a deputy in Rogers County in Oklahoma. Despite the fatal encounter, Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton said he had no doubt about offering her a job. “The tragedy, I think, is that Betty Shelby went to work, served her duty and did her job.¹” Maybe I’m just delusional but isn’t killing an unarmed person inexcusable? How could a non-racist sheriff fathom that it would be a good idea to hire her and excuse the incident as “tragic” for the officer?
White Privilege: A white man got away with the same crime George Floyd got killed for.
In federal courts, the average sentence during 2008 and 2009 was 55 months for whites and 90 months for blacks¹ (US Sentencing Commission 2010). There is no proof because no officer will admit that they let someone get away with a crime, but it is widely assumed that a black person is far less likely to get away with a crime than a white person. One white man claims he counterfeited a $20 bill and got away with it and tells the story at parties which is the same crime George Floyd got killed for.
The people who are supposed to protect us from murderers are murderers themselves. Who are we supposed to call when we’re in trouble if those who we’re supposed to call are the ones creating the violence and stoking hatred? The system must change.
Until systemic racism is put to rest, there will always be needless inequality and unrest. Some say this can never be achieved because everyone holds stereotypes, but making governmental treatment at all levels would be a good start. Most debates for equality do not have to do with the way people see others, but rather for minority races to be treated as equal as whites in the government. While slavery ended 135 years ago, blacks are still not free in the same sense that whites are. One way that could help bring justice to everyone, especially non-whites, is to have police body cameras always turned on, therefore no white can receive special treatment and get away with a crime. If the police refuses to do so they must get their badge taken away. Police officers should be trained to not shoot anyone unless the suspect poses a very obvious threat that can be found on the police body camera, and even then the police should be trained well enough to not kill the suspect.
Moving on, the issue with the All Lives Matter movement is that even though it may sound like equality, it is associated with no effort to attain equality or justice. It basically says that the status quo is just fine, stop complaining.
The All Lives Matter movement started to counteract the Black Lives Matter movement¹, arguing that no life should be more important than another. This message opposes providing justice for the oppressed. By analogy, it would be rude to tell a parent of a school shooting victim that “all lives matter” instead of providing sympathy and trying to stop school shootings from happening. If one believes all lives should matter, they should support equality because that provides equal treatment to everyone. All Lives Matter provides the status quo: no one deserves special treatment even when they’re being oppressed.
While fighting for equality has always been political, the issue worsens when the president takes a firm stance to not change it. The ever deepening political divide is an effect of this issue that remains to be unchanged.
Religion Mixes In
While the US has no official religion, 65% of adult Americans are Christian¹. Another political debate is whether abortion should remain legal. This is nothing but a religious debate, barely masked as an issue for the government. As the US cannot make a law based on religion, anti-abortionists have to make their belief legal based on another existing law. This religious/political argument dates back to the 19th century.
Until 1873, abortion was legal in the United States before the fourth month of pregnancy. Following the Catholic Church which banned abortion, Congress passed the Comstock law, which made abortion illegal as well¹. Abortion was considered murder because the fetus is living, which raises a debate about when life begins. For the first few months of pregnancy, a body’s organs haven’t even formed. Even though a fetus can turn into a life, it is not a life on its own. If this is going to be argued then let’s argue whether eggs should be consumed or not because it is also something that can turn into a life but hasn’t yet. During the women rights movement in the 1960s, Roe v. Wade made abortion legal again because the US Supreme Court decided such laws violated “a constitutional right to privacy”.
This remains a political issue, even though it’s nothing but religious. Republican president Richard Nixon recruited Catholic Democratic voters to defect from their party over abortion. Later, Protestants and Evangelicals followed to unite Christians under conservative cultural issues. Today, 56% of Catholics believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, and 76% evangelical Protestants believe the same¹.
Protests Against the Alabama Abortion Law: Keep Your Politics out of My Uterus
Alabama is the only state where abortion is illegal, with no exceptions signed in May of 2019 further demonstrating this argument is still active. This law completely disregards “freedom”. If someone got raped and followed through with having an abortion in Alabama, they could go to prison longer than their own perpetrator as illegal abortions in Alabama are considered a Class A felony where minimum sentence is 10 years¹. In Alabama, if one engages in sexual intercourse without consent, it is considered a Class A misdemeanor¹ where minimum jail sentence is just one year with a fine of up to $6,000¹. While some argue against the ethics of abortion, where are the ethics in a law like this? The victim has to get punished for an experience that will traumatize them their whole life. This was applauded by vice president, Mike Pence who said that the law “embraced life”¹.
The Trump Republican ‘freedom’ argument is nonsense because they only argue for “freedom” when it is in their benefit. The same group of people who believe in freedom to not wear a facemask are the same to say a woman’s decision regarding her bodily freedom can be decided by legislators who she has no control over.
Why must religion mix in with politics, similar to science and race?
Common Liberal v. Conservative Debates
I have discussed current political debates that increased the rapid division of the US political environment. What should be said now is about what the main point of politics should be: to create an equal society and solve social and economic issues. At times in the past, political debates were far more civilized and focused on relevant issues, such as how government money should be divided and how the economy should develop.
Every developed country decides how to fund its various nationwide efforts. The political debates regarding these issues typically concern healthcare, education, and military spending¹. In the US, Democrats support universal healthcare supported by the government. Republicans believe private companies can provide healthcare services better than government-run programs. Nearly 75% of Democrats think the government should spend more on public schools, an idea opposed by 54% of Republicans.¹ Democrats generally feel that the government should spend less on national defense while Republicans think the opposite.
The economy makes up a country, this is a needed political topic. Democrats believe in a graduated income tax depending on a person’s income, so that the wealthy would pay taxes at higher rates while the poor pay at a lower rate. Republicans generally believe taxes should be at a uniform rate¹.
Debates on these topics tend to be calm and are actually political. It is unnecessary in politics to argue proven science behind something as trivial as wearing a facemask, have continuous arguments against equality, and promote a law entirely based on some religious belief in a country where there is no official religion. The parties are quickly growing apart and tensions between them are high but will it result in a Civil War?
Rising Tension Levels Correlating to the Beginning of the First Civil War
Let’s take a stroll back to the 1860s when the first Civil War began and compare tension levels then to now.
The Northern and Southern states were politically divided over the issue of slavery. Southern states were in favor of slavery and Northern were against it.
Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 which allowed for citizens to choose whether to have slavery or not. The location of this however was in Northern territory, creating tension.
When Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, Southern states withdrew from the United States to keep slavery. These states formed an alliance called the Confederacy. Northern states, the Union, remained part of the United States.
The US Civil War began April 12, 1861, in Charleston, South Carolina after Confederate troops captured Fort Sumter from the Union army. Afterward both sides formed large armies. After fighting the bloodiest war in US history, the Union won and freed the slaves.
If just one issue caused the Civil War and now there are multiple political issues including ones that should not be involved in politics, will blue and red states divide similar to the Confederacy and Union? The Confederacy formed because they were upset with the election of Lincoln, could this be the same for the presidential election in November? If Trump wins, Democrats will continue to be upset because Trump only says things or makes decisions that are radically right. If Biden wins, the Trump Republicans who almost always have their way will become angrier than they already are when they don’t get their way with miniscule things such as wearing a facemask. At some point, the continuation of rage may eventually result to another Civil War. No matter who wins the election, unity will continue tearing between citizens which could lead to tearing unity of the entire country.
During my lifetime I have seen nothing but growing rage between the two political parties. But, there have been eras of rage all throughout American politics and the country has had just one Civil War.
A Civil War theoretically could have broken out during the Vietnam war. It became evident that the US would win, but US troops would not leave Vietnam, leading to the anti-war movement causing political tension and protests.¹
Police Brutality During Antiwar Movement Similar to Current Black Lives Matter Protests
Protests started peaceful but became violent as activists felt demands were ignored. In Chicago, police arrived at protests to arrest protesters and charged in on vehicles beating anyone near the area. Hundreds were tear gassed. Eventually, street gangs worked with police to end the rebellion¹. This era of protests are similar to today’s Black Lives Matter protests.
When the war ended, protests stopped as well. This could happen today also regarding the Black Lives Matter movement if the government listened to protesters and enacted measures to make the country more equal. If there is no change, a Civil War could begin.
A Civil War didn’t start in the 1960s, and there were multiple issues within the country – anti-war protests and the fight for civil and women’s rights – similar to the US currently as there is also more than one issue. Therefore it’s possible that the US will not have to face a Civil War but change has to come. The US will not survive if tensions keep rising.
The current federal government was created in 1789 and since then much has changed, so it may be time to rethink how the government should run.
The fairest way to destroy political tension is to have an equal government. In order to do this, maybe a presidency held by one political party should end. Every president is either Republican or Democrat, therefore one party will not be happy for at least 4 years during the president’s time in office. Instead, maybe the government should be run by a parliamentary democracy – similar to many other countries. Most countries also have a permanent civil service that runs the country on a day-to-day basis with only the highest level of political decisions interfering. This would not take away voting rights because people can vote for Senators and House of Representatives which make up Congress. For that matter, maybe the government should be led by the speaker of the US House of Representatives – in every parliamentary democracy around the world, it is the leader of the lower body who runs the government. Justin Trudeau, Boris Johnson, and Angela Merkel actually hold the same position Nancy Pelosi holds in the US.
US tensions are rising out of control due to a growing number of intractable political differences, and a Civil War could result from this. Politics should be strictly about genuine political issues, not science, race, or religion which are currently common political issues. Inequality is an issue that has caused distress for years and will continue to cause problems until equality is rightfully served. The only way to save the US would be to change the foundation of the government.
Mass Shootings and Racism, Put Together and You Get America
Guns. Violence. Hate. America’s emerging face. There have been 325% more mass shootings in America since the beginning of 2017 compared to the entire 16-year period from 2000-2016. As of August 8, 2019, there have been 592 mass shootings since the beginning of 2017 while the previous 16 years totaled 182 mass shootings. It goes without saying that this is a dramatic increase. 2017 was the deadliest year in terms of lives lost due to mass shootings (156 lives). 2018 holds the year for most mass shootings in one year (323), but 2019 could beat that record if the frequency of mass shootings stays the same throughout the rest of the year (238 as of August 8th).
Unacceptable and heartbreaking. Innocent lives lost including children. There are obviously reasons for the increasing frequency, and there’s many solutions.
Who to Blame
Obviously, the gunman is to blame. But there’s a whole range of others to blame, too. Heading the list is the angry Tweety-bird Donald Trump, followed by a flock of fake conservative pundits and gun companies.
Statistics show that many more shootings in the United States have occurred since Trump’s reign of terror began. He has been in office for less than 3 years, and there have been more mass shootings, during his short presidency than all previous 44 presidents combined! There has been more damage inside the US, caused by American gun owners (mostly white, too), in the past 2 1/2 years than the prior 230 years fused together. This is no coincidence.
Without guns, shootings would not happen. Of course, there are other methods to killing people, but if you want to kill a lot of people, a knife just won’t do. Of course, Trump does nothing to stop these shootings and more-or-less encourages them.
After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida in February of 2018, Trump said that he would protect future students during school shootings by arming “teachers and coaches” with guns. If you want to stop something that means eliminating the cause of the problem. What other problem is solved by having more of it? Too fat? Eat more. No. I don’t think so. Drink too much? Solution: Give your friend a beer to relax! Uh. No.
Trump supports his half-baked reason for this “solution” because a football coach at the Parkland school ran at the shooter and according to Trump, “saved a lot of lives … I suspect.” It’s far from certain that if the coach was armed with a gun would have changed anything, and giving all teachers and coaches guns just in case they’re involved in a mass shooting is nuts. What if one of the teachers happens to go nuts – like if one of mine could in the future – now they’ve got a gun. Great.
Just because five teachers out of 27 were heroic enough to protect their students does not mean that all teachers in all schools should have guns, even if they have training. There is a likely chance that at least one teacher would be too nervous to shoot straight – like most soldiers and police officers – they only hit the target the first time in movies and on TV. Plus, it is very easy for a teacher to say that they would protect students in a massacre, but if it ever were to actually happen, they might not do anything except protect themselves. Also, even if the guns were kept in a “safe” place, it would probably be very easy for a student to break in and start the shooting themselves.
In addition, states tend to have skimpy requirements for obtaining a firearms license. Many so-called “gun advocates” believe that the government can’t be allowed to come between a citizen and his automatic weapon – in any way – and that includes safety regulations. Even if you decide to go through firearm’s training, it tends to be pretty light. Most gun owners don’t even go through this training anyways, they can just buy their gun from anywhere that sells guns without any requirements. I suppose it’s a pity that the sacred Second Amendment didn’t mention automobiles. (Yes, I know they didn’t exist in the 1790s.) But for a person under 18 to receive their driver’s license in the US, they need to go through at least 6 months of training. Some states have even higher requirements – by a long shot – and some states even require that you take a reading proficiency test to receive your license. But guns, no problem. You want ammo? Whatever you’d like.
Walmart employees removing violent video games
As significantly more shootings have occurred since the Parkland school shooting, Trump has proposed stopping mass shootings with other equally bad alternatives. After the two deadly shootings that happened only hours between each other and killed 29 people in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas on August 3, 2019 and Dayton, Ohio on August 4, 2019, Trump said video games were to blame because they “celebrate violence.”
Following the attacks, Walmart announced it would ban displays and signs of violent video games and all stores would work in “immediate action” to remove signage and displays that “contain violent themes or aggressive behavior.”
Of course, studies have shown that there is no significant link between increased aggression and time spent playing violent games. Director of research at Oxford’s Internet Institute, Professor Andrew Przybylski, said “the idea that violent video games drive real-world aggression is a popular one, but it hasn’t tested very well over time.” He added that the games could only perhaps provoke angry outbursts while playing online. “Anecdotally, you do see things such as trash-talking, competitiveness and trolling in gaming communities that could qualify as antisocial behaviour.” If a parent doesn’t want their child to play video games because of the online competitiveness, then fine; but if their reason is because they think their child will become violent in real life, video games alone won’t make them violent psychopaths.
The Walmart shooter in El Paso was very clear about why he shot up the store – He was a white supremacist who believed there was an “invasion” of “brown people” infesting the US, and he was doing his duty to stop it. Is there anything about this that shows it’s because of violent video games? No.
The US makes up less than 5% of the world’s population but has 31% of the world’s mass shooters – it’s an even crazier number if you adjust for race. The country has more guns per capita than any other developed country and many more gun deaths. Areas of the country that have more guns have higher rates of homicide. Homes with guns have higher rates of homicide and suicide.
There are solutions to America’s problem with violence. Yes, they all involve limiting guns and are easy solutions because none of them involve touching the seemingly sacred Second Amendment to the US constitution, the so-called “right to bear arms.”
One solution would be to require background checks of all people who want to buy a gun. Currently, the federal government only requires background checks from licensed firearms dealers. Research has shown that the states that require background checks on all gun sales had 35% fewer gun deaths per capita between 2009 and 2012, and researchers estimate universal background checks could prevent 1,100 homicides per year.
Another effective solution are red flag laws. These are laws in which a gun cannot be temporarily owned or possessed by a person if police or family members think that person poses as a danger to themselves or others. In order for this to happen, whoever is concerned must petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from that person. More states have these laws as gunmen of mass shootings are regularly proven to have displayed warning signs of deadly behavior before they attacked. Trump has not disapproved this, but he did say that those who have their guns taken away can fight back the order in court and receive their gun back. Why Trump is worried about the rights of lunatics to hold guns is unexplained.
An easy solution for school shootings would be to have faculty, staff, and students tune into the school climate and report alarming behaviors of a student’s potential desire to commit a violent attack. This could be found if the student has written or spoken threats against the school or other students or even drawn violent intentions or fantasies. These actions could have prevented the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school because the perpetrator, Nikolas Cruz, posted threatening messages on his Instagram account about killing others prior to the shooting. Rutgers Graduate School of Education Professor Matthew Mayer told NPR, “having the metal detector or the locked doors isn’t going to stop it … you’d better start thinking in a more comprehensive manner about prevention instead of reacting.”
In 2017, 28% of all arrests for weapon offenses were committed by people between the ages of 10 and 21, yet only 4% of the US population at the time were people between those ages. It might make sense to raise the age limit for gun ownership. After the Parkland shooting, Florida raised the age for purchasing any type of gun to 21, and Hawaii and Illinois have similar laws.
Those are some solutions to American gun violence which is one of the primary problems with the US society, but there are other important problems with America as well that need to be addressed as well.
Trump might not be the best choice for running a diverse country with over 350 million people. Many people voted for Trump because he was a familiar face. People thought they knew him because of his reality show, “The Apprentice.” But reality shows are fake. They might be called reality shows, but in reality, they are scripted, directed, and heavily edited. If anyone was actually filmed 24/7 and was shown on television without any script, direction, or editing, the show would be boring, and no one would want to watch it. Reality shows are meant for entertainment, that doesn’t mean that the person they’re filming is always going to be entertaining.
The important thing to remember about every movie, film, tv show … and reality show … is that there is no effort or requirement to depict reality. Only a tiny handful of people really know Donald Trump.
Trump has regularly changed his political views. In 1987 he voted Republican. In 1999 Trump claimed to have “no party affiliation,” although this is the era when he was “friends” with Bill Clinton. In 2001, Trump changed his party affiliation to Democratic. In September of 2009, Trump changed his party affiliation back to Republican. In December 2011, Trump changed back to “no party affiliation”. In April 2012, Trump once again identified as a Republican. What caused these great changes in political disposition? A change in philosophy? Or polling results? For the record, Trump defends this by saying that no one is exactly right and no one is exactly left. But no one can claim that Trump has a firm philosophy that he is keen to implement. Well, apart from racism and misogyny. Those seem to be firm Trump values.
Yes, I am aware that Trump was able to help get A$AP Rocky (who is half Somali) out of a Swedish jail. But for what reason? First of all, A$AP Rocky is another wealthy celebrity which likely helped his case, and we all know that celebrities get special treatment. There’s an additional reason as well, helping A$AP helped Trump get out of being pummeled with criticism about telling four colored, Democratic congresswomen (“the Squad”) to “go back” to where they came from, even though all were US citizens and three of them were born in the US.
Do not forget about Trump’s 2017 travel ban directed towards majority Muslim practicing countries including: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. At the time, only Iraq would’ve posed an actual threat towards the US because of ISIS. For the record, none of the 9/11 terrorists came from these countries. They mostly came from Saudi Arabia, a country that Trump seems to love, even though the heir to the throne reportedly had a journalist literally cut into tiny pieces in the country’s embassy in Turkey.
It goes without saying that Trump hates Africans, sorry A$AP. This is a Trump family value that comes at least from his father who discriminated against African Americans in renting housing units in New York. As for Trump himself, at a meeting with two officials, Trump read a paper stating that 15,000 persons had visited from Haiti, in which he commented, “They all have AIDS,” and when reading that 40,000 persons had visited from Nigeria, he said that after seeing America, the Nigerians would never “go back to their huts.”
Trump’s racist views seem particularly focused on Hispanics. The building of the Trump wall is one of his most infamous policies. When finished, this wall will completely barricade the US from Mexico. Trump tried to get the Mexicans to pay for the wall, but they rightly refused to subsidize Trump’s racism.
Trump is a misogynist. He has made rude remarks about women for years. He apparently hired at least one woman to provide him with sexual services during his wife’s pregnancy – what a gentleman. During the 2016 election, The Washington Post published a video about Trump and television host Billy Bush where Trump boasted that, “when you’re a star, [women] let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” Shock. Trump has made other disgusting comments about women and still does.
This is who Trump is, but he is not doing this alone. The US federal government itself contributes to hate, both intentional and unintentional.
It might seem odd but on average a person who rapes another adult for the first time only serves 5.4 years in prison, but a person who only possesses (not deals) a hard drug often serves more time in jail. Jail sentences for drug possession vary due to individual state laws but can range from a few days or weeks to 10 years or more in prison. A person who raped another person should be put in jail for a much longer period of time because they have probably scarred their victim for life; and instead of putting someone in jail for carrying drugs, help them get help, make them go to a rehabilitation facility. Only a society blind to violence could punish a violent crime with a lesser sentence than a non-violent crime.
Another issue with the US government is how it deals with undocumented immigrants. The living conditions in ICE custody are reportedly atrocious. According to CNN there is “dangerous overcrowding” along with unsanitary conditions which include inedible food, small space, and unsanitary bathrooms. These newcomers regardless of their immigration status, are still people and everyone deserves to be treated with some amount of respect.
There have also been many crackdowns on undocumented aliens, specifically Hispanics. Many of the people that ICE has put in captivity are fully documented. In fact, not all of the people they have captured are even immigrants. The people are just “suspected” to be illegal immigrants, largely because of the color of their skin.
On Aug. 7, 2019, the largest crackdown on undocumented immigrants occurred in Mississippi. By targeting workplaces across six different cities in southern Mississippi, ICE agents, with the help of the local district attorney’s office, apprehended 680 people. This has caused many families to split up, and many children who were born in the US will lose their parents, not knowing where to go or what to do. Of the 680 people arrested in the raids, 271 were released with orders to appear before an immigration judge, and 377 are still in ICE custody. In short, 40% of the people who were arrested, have been let go, which is good, but they shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place.
The Mississippi incident was not isolated. On June 27, 2019, a US born teenage citizen was held in ICE captivity for 3 weeks. Francisco Galicia and his brother and friends were driving to Houston from Edinburg, Texas to attend a college soccer scouting event. On the way, there was a CBP checkpoint in Falfurrias, about 100 miles north of the US-Mexico border. Francisco and his brother were detained, his brother does not have legal status in the US, so he was deported to Mexico. Francisco had his Texas state identification, a wallet-sized birth certificate and his social security card. But, he had a Mexican tourist visa with him that inaccurately lists his country of birth as Mexico, setting up a conflicting nationality claim. When ICE discovered that he was legitimately in the US, they let him go but they didn’t apologize to the family at all. His mother reported that he came back looking underfed and he did not have a shower the entire time he was held because the bathrooms were so dirty.
Dear the United States of America,
It comes with great regret that I am writing this article. During my childhood, I lived abroad in Sweden and attended an international preschool. My teachers always encouraged students to be proud of their country, and I wanted to learn more about my country because it is a part of who I am. My mom would tell me all of these great things about America, and when I moved back in 2009, I was so excited; I was finally able to experience where I am from.
In my elementary school in the US, my classmates and I were always taught that we were “free” and that the country we lived in embraced “freedom”. We were shown videos of immigrants who were delighted to move to a place that was so much kinder, accepting, and safer than where they came from. In middle school, I was taught that the Americans were “the good guys” World War II by defeating the Nazis. I used to be so proud of my homeland.
When the infamous 2016 election rolled around and Donald J. Trump won by virtue of a flaw in the US election system, my childhood dream was let down. I felt sorry for the Black and Hispanic people who make up 30% of the US population because I knew discrimination against them would get worse, not better.
I did not want to live in a place filled with so much hate. One of the reasons I was so delighted when I found out my dad and I could move back to Sweden was because of the hostile social environment that America was quickly becoming.
I know this is personal, but I am much happier in Sweden, and the fact that Sweden doesn’t have nearly as many cruel situations that one can find America is one reason why. When people ask me where I am from, I want to lie. I do not want strangers to think I agree with the worst traits America is currently known for, because I don’t. I slightly hesitate to answer their question, because I know how the US is viewed by many people who aren’t Americans. In the eyes of someone who isn’t American, America is now often viewed as a hateful place run by a flippant, racist, misogynist.
This can change. Activate gun restrictions. Elect a president who isn’t a celebrity, a racist, or a misogynist. Protect innocent people from mistreatment and unfairness. These are some solutions to very important problems that occur in America. After all of the damage that has already occurred, it will take a while to change things but take some baby steps.
It isn’t always a bad idea to revert to what you used to be, if you were better in the past. Of course there were heavy issues with racism during this time but, please go back to who you used to be during World War II. With both being not nearly as racist as you were back then and doing the things above then you truly can make America great again.
2019’s Motto for the Environmental Crisis: We Need to Change
Why do people ignore repeated warnings before finally taking action? It seems that only during 2019 people have finally begun to recognize – seriously recognize – that the world faces a catastrophic environmental crisis. Why now? We’ve been warned about this for years. Of course we need to solve these problems – but why did we wait so long? Are we just lazy? Is this some weird biological limitation in humans? Do other animals suffer from this problem, too? Of course, I am no saint, but my point is, why does the lightbulb now switch on for these problems?
“Only 12 years remain until the world is in an irreversible environmental crisis.” I am not sure how many times I have heard that warning phrase within the past year. This is perplexing because scientists have cautioned the public for years, decades even, that the environment is becoming crippled to a point where people and other species may shortly become extinct.
Up until recently, many people either didn’t believe or didn’t care that the environment would become as bad as scientists were saying. As a result of almost no one making significant changes to help the evolving crisis’, the world is now in an almost irreversible environmental crisis. People are only seeming to change their habits now because it is almost too late, this could have been easily prevented.
One of the first warnings for the environment dates all the way back to 1824 when French scientist Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier described the greenhouse effect. This is the observation that the Earth’s atmosphere traps heat and makes the planet warmer. Without the greenhouse effect, Earth would be a very cold place. It has been suspected that there may be a balance to the atmosphere that could be disrupted, leading to a “greenhouse” so hot that it could kill all plants. Since 1824, more environmental theories have been studied, including climate change.
Climate change has been thoroughly studied since the early 1900’s because scientists noticed ice ages were melting and other natural changes in paleoclimate were found. The natural greenhouse effect was first identified then. Climate change is a change in global or regional climate patterns. This has greatly attributed to the increased levels of carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels and global warming (a steady global rise in the average temperature which has caused a rise in sea level and melting glaciers.)
What Caused the Environmental Crisis?
People often don’t want to hear that they are the cause of any problem, but the environmental crisis happens solely because of humans. There have been continual environmental crisis’ during the past few decades. The Earth is sensitive and can easily be trashed by humans and the products we use. While this is true, there are ways we can solve this.
One environmental problem that people caused, but mostly fixed, was the problem with a hole in the ozone layer. The ozone layer prevents UV light from passing through the Earth’s atmosphere. This is vitally important to living species because without the ozone layer, harmful UV wavelengths can cause skin cancer, sunburn and cataracts. In 1974, scientists found that the ozone layer was getting thinner which was probably caused by human activities. In the mid-1980s, scientists discovered that holes in the ozone layer existed at the poles. According to World Economic Forum, the layer was being depleted by chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were at the time widely used in aerosol cans, fire retardants and refrigerators, among other things.
When inhaled, ozone can damage the lungs and can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath and throat irritation. Ozone may also worsen chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and compromise the ability of the body to fight respiratory infections. The particles in ozone can also contaminate the air which makes it hard to see objects even just a little far in the distance.
Los Angeles is a huge city that was strongly affected by ozone pollution from the 1970’s through the 1990’s and somewhat still today. My mom grew up in Los Angeles during this time frame and lived only 3 miles away from a 5700-foot-high mountain that would vanish on high pollution days. This always shocked me because I know whenever I visit, I can see the mountains clearly from a much greater distance. How was this problem resolved?
Ozone pollution in Los Angeles was slowly cleaned up by improving automobile emissions, in particular, and other anti-pollution controls. California is allowed to set higher air quality standards than the other US states.
As for the ozone hole, in 1987, 197 countries signed the Montreal Protocol to save the ozone layer. Simply put, the treaty stated that those countries would stop using and producing products that had CFCs and similar ozone-depleting chemicals. This went into effect in the beginning of 1989.
This treaty worked. More than 135 billion tons of CFCs emissions were prevented from rising into the atmosphere between 1990 and 2010. The World Economic Forum estimates that this action may have prevented up to 2 million cases of skin cancer worldwide by 2030. In 2016, scientists confirmed that the agreement was working. The ozone layer was healing.
While the levels of CFC emissions in the environment dropped after the Montreal Protocol, we’re now facing an even bigger program with CO2. When CO2 is produced methane is also present, these particles are released during the combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, to produce electricity. Similar to CO2, if methane leaks into the air before being used (from a leaky pipe,) it absorbs the sun’s heat, warming the atmosphere. In short, one major cause of dramatic climate change is due to the large amounts of methane and CO2 produced. About 63% of the US electricity is generated by fossil fuels; only 20% was from nuclear energy, and about 17% was from renewable energy sources. In 2017, 45 billion tons of global emissions were produced from all human activities, and there was a 2% rise in burning fossil fuels from 2016. An effective solution to solve this problem would be to use renewable resources for our energy including solar energy, wind energy, and hydropower.
Although there are problems that seem to have a permanent solution, such as the problem with ozone, there are other problems where a temporary solution can backfire overtime and lead to even greater trouble. For example, one of the causes of the current environmental crisis is because of the daily, global use of plastic. Plastic used to be considered environmentally good as it was seen as a “solution” to end another environmental crisis several years ago. How ironic.
The reason why plastic bags became globally used was not only due to the fact that plastic bags are cheaper and stronger than paper bags, but also because plastic bags were a solution to the problem of deforestation. In the 1980’s when plastic became mainstream, no one seemed to realize that this would become a contributing factor to one of the most devastating, nearly irreversible crisis in human history. Plastic has negatively affected many areas, such as the environment and human and animal health. As stated by TernGoods, plastic is environmentally bad because it contributes to global warming and ocean pollution. Plastic is bad for human health because the molecules in plastic are synthetic and can result in environmental degradation which can take a toll on human health if the particles are absorbed into our bodies, and even though the cost of plastic manufacture is low, the cost of disposal and clean-up of plastic bags is not trivial.
Plastic is everywhere, it is hard to know how much you are using since it is everywhere. When you are eating at a fast food restaurant, it probably doesn’t occur to you how much plastic and paper you are wasting. Think about it, almost any burger chain will give you a wad of napkins, ketchup packets, plastic straws, cups, and lids. It can be inferred that after this one use, that you will casually throw it away; or, you might not even use this product and still throw it away. If I had to guess, not many people after they are finished with their meal would go back up to the counter and give the unused product back to the employee for someone else to use, and imagine the startled look on the clerk’s face if you did.
Every day, large amounts of single-use disposable plastics are thrown away, but they will last forever, in landfills. Globally, we make 300 million tons of plastic waste each year. Disposable plastics are the largest component of ocean pollution. According to OceanConservancy, every year, 8 million metric tons of various plastics enter oceans along with the already existing estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate our marine environments. To help our friends in the ocean, we can give back the products we don’t use at fast food places, use reusable cups and straws, and when shopping we can bring our own backpack so we don’t have to use the plastic bags they give us.
There isn’t a way to stop new environmental problems from existing, but we have the ability to fix them as proven by the effective solution with ozone. We can solve the current problems of our environment by making a few changes.
What Can We Do to Help?
While there will likely be more environmental crisis’ in the years to come, this doesn’t mean we can’t help the crisis that is occurring right now. To help the crisis right now we should try to do everything in our power to clean up after ourselves. We can do this in many easy ways by: reusing single use products or not using them at all, recycling, reducing CO2 emissions by using public transportation, walking, and biking instead of primarily using individual cars to take us places. This is also good exercise, too. As of right now, this is what we should do to help the occurring situation and hopefully if it goes away, we can continue doing these minor changes to our daily lives to ensure a better future for ourselves, our following generations, and our animal friends.
A very quick and easy way to help out and do your part in helping this crisis is to donate money to a credible charity that will help clean the oceans, the air, or the animals that are going extinct.
Hopefully in the future, we as a society have learned a valuable lesson from this specific environmental crisis which is, do not wait until the last minute to fix our mistakes.
Which Websites Are Not Fake?
Many websites that say they’re “charities,” actually aren’t, so make sure you know where your putting your money towards and do your research but as for now, here are a few real charities you can donate money to:
As mentioned above, CO2 emissions are one of the main reasons for being in this crisis. Project Vesta is a charity to safely remove CO2 from the environment. First you go to the website, https://projectvesta.org/grain-of-hope/, and in the top bar of the website there is a tab that says “donate” and you click on that and you can make a one time purchase of however much money you want to donate over $25. In addition to donating, you will receive a necklace per every $25 you choose to donate. The website states that in the future when they have a beach, each $25 donation will equate to 1.25 tons of CO2 removed.
Previously explained, plastic pollution is a cause for death of sea animals and Plastic Oceans is a charity to clean the oceans of plastic. To donate money to the charity you go to the website, https://plasticoceans.org/, and the first thing that you will likely see is an option to donate money to the charity. After you click the “donate” button, it will lead you to a page that gives you the option to donate however much money you want and you can also do a one time, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual donation.
The Leonardo DiCaprio foundation is another charity that people can donate to. This was established more than 20 years ago and through partnership raises money to help the environment and the species living in it. Some of the areas the foundation tries to rehabilitate are wildlife and landscapes, marine life, and climate change. Although the foundation mainly raises money through partnerships, you can still donate to the causes. This can be easily done, first you go to the website, https://www.leonardodicaprio.org/, then you click on however many of the six areas they focus on, and the website will give you an option that says “support (whatever cause you choose)” and you can donate however much money you want either once or monthly.
We should always try to do anything we can to help the Earth not only for the current situation but for future situations as well.
I know that this article is only raising awareness towards the issues, but I am not trying to fool you that by reading this you are raising money towards these issues. Hopefully this article better informed you of your knowledge of the crisis’ and helped you decide to do something to help. In the end, these problems still exist, and the world has been crying out for help for so long. There’s more you can do than read about these problems, physically do something to change it. My final question, how will you actually help? It is not too late yet, but it will be soon, we as a society really do need to change.
Gillette Ad is Ahead of Its Time, Proven by the Alpha Males
Despite so much evidence to the contrary, I still believe people can fix modern day problems, including equality, men respecting women, and women not being harassed. There is a cry for help for improvement of men. We have not gotten to Gillette’s “the best a man can get” ad yet. But yes, I support the new Gillette ad because I think it raises awareness of enduring problem of the Alpha male. Some folks have already swiped left, but for anyone still willing to listen, I will discuss issues that the Gillette ad has raised, problems with messages getting twisted around, and how we as a society can fix these problems.
What is the Social Norm, And Why this Message is Important for Men?
This ad mainly received backlash because of the way it portrayed “all” men, and if a commercial used the same message against “all” women then feminists would attack it arguing that it perpetuated stereotypes. Well the thing is, there are plenty of commercials that have been sexist towards women, but because this is in the social norm it is easily forgotten. For example, remember that Doritos commercial where the male is eating the bag of chips and the women jogger stops to lick the crumbs off of his face and the next day he has an idea to put the crumbs where his crotch is? There’s really no end to using female sex to sell products to men (and women). I live in Sweden, and I cringed when I heard about the Old Milwaukee Beer ad involving the “Swedish bikini team” (who weren’t Swedish or a team). Such ads demean women and are sexist because the women are only useful for sex.
All things considered, sexist commercials involving woman haven’t typically received the backlash that this Gillette ad received. Although some of the sexist ads have been criticized, almost none of them have been the subject of an actual boycott. Doritos are still the third most bought chip in the world. This might be an extreme case but think about other commercials that are so “normal” people don’t think about how bigoted they really are.
Think of all the burger commercials you have ever seen with a woman in it. The women are depicted as a typically unhealthily skinny model with large breasts devouring a burger. Carl’s Jr does the best at this. Here is one of their ads that is the perfect description of this…Paris Hilton. The people that generally eat these high calorie burgers are not the people shown in the ad. Good god, if Carl’s Jr. ads instead showed the typical consumer of a Carl’s Western Bacon Cheeseburger (740 calories, 34 grams fat, 15 grams sugar) people would stop buying them.
Basically, sex sells. Simple. That shouldn’t be true but it is, and advertisers have known this for decades. Gillette has decided to test the proposition if “sexual politics” also sells. We’ll see.
The Gillette ad doesn’t belittle men at all. What it says, which has been misinterpreted by some Alpha Males (the guys the ad was aimed at), is that some men treat women badly and that some men need to improve their behavior and start treating women as equals and not as objects. The best illustration in the commercial that I saw was subjected to this were the reports about the #metoo movement with the men calling women as “sweeties” and not by their actual names. All the ad shows is that “the best a man can get” hasn’t been reached yet and there is room for improvement but they can get there.
Why this is Meaningful to Women
I noticed in the video that there was a dad telling his girl “I am strong” and she repeats it and given the message throughout the video it seems that he is a single dad. Out of all the scenes in this ad this was my favorite because I am currently being raised by a single dad. I have lived only with my dad since high school started. High school is hard, and I am not sure I would’ve made it this far if it weren’t for my dad. He is one of the most hard-working people that I know and the fact that he is able to take care of me and give guidance to me is truly incredible. Of course, my mom could do this, too, but women are historically “supposed to” do this, and men are “supposed to” go to their jobs and make money for the family. I love that my dad can do both and does a good job at both as well.
What I not only hope but truly believe is that men and women will eventually be 100% equal if messages, such as the Gillette ad, keep making an announcement and if people continue discussing the situation more and more. Once the alpha male notices these messages are unstoppable, maybe they would take the hint that there actually is a need for change and possibly rethink the way they not only respect and treat women, but other people as a whole. Maybe their entitlement they give themselves and their irrational thinking of “I am better than you” by privilege will come to end. I do not think that day will be today, but hopefully it will happen soon.
I think this ad takes a step towards a better future, but I think that Gillette might be ahead of its time in thinking that sexual politics will sell. I would love to say differently, but I cannot. My reasoning for this is because the very Alpha Males targeted by the ad have seemingly organized a boycott against it. This disturbs me because as a young woman, when I am older I want to be proud of the fact that I will be equal to men and that I am not being taken for granted by men and always feel that I am cheated on by society. I want to see a world where men aren’t always the one getting the job and where men aren’t always subjugating women. This was a bold move for Gillette, and I think they were aware of what might have happened by posting this advertisement, but they continued to do it anyways because they seemingly wanted to make a difference for today. And to that I say, that is “the best a man can get.” From Social Issues, I am Audrey Ewing.
Molloy, Shannon. “A Lot of Men Have Lost It over the Gillette Ad, Calling for a Furious Boycott of the Shaver Brand.” NewsComAu, Business Media, 17 Jan. 2019, www.news.com.au/finance/business/media/a-lot-of-men-have-lost-it-over-the-gillette-ad-calling-for-a-furious-boycott-of-the-shaver-brand/news-story/84040733902f27b023ff0b872ba23ae2.
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