Sunday, 8 July 2018

New Law Should Prokove Bipartisan Outrage, Not Support

As international criticism of Israel mounts, the U.S. has continued to be their steadfast ally. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has accused the U.N. of antisemitism for disproportional targeting Israel and shifted blame to Hamas, the group that runs the West Bank and does engage in terrorism. Following the U.S. criticism of a U.N. resolution condemning Israel, the United States withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council. As a member of the all-powerful security council, the U.S. vetoed resolutions calling for the embargo and sanctions of Israel or its internationally disputed settlements.

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Nikki Haley speaks at the U.N.

The United States has as of late decided to crack down on BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions), a group that calls for nonviolent boycotts as a way of pressuring Israel to stop engaging in human rights abuses. The FBI investigated and questioned members of BDS recently. This provoked outrage among left-wing and free-speech groups who accuse the FBI of chilling political speech and relying on right-wing outlets for information. 

The most bold iteration of the anti-BDS trend is a bill introduced in the Senate, The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, and an equivalent bill in the house that would punish Americans who participate in and support boycotts of Israel. The bill goes further and says Americans who participate in boycotts of any U.S. allies could also face punishment. The language tries to mask its purpose, saying that this bill only applies to international government organizations propagating for a boycott, but many say it could still be used to punish individual Americans. The text in the bill tries to stay general, but it is clear that the organization they are targeting is B.D.S. and the U.S. ally they are protecting is Israel. Meeting public backlash, they have tried to amend the bill, but it's akin to putting lipstick on a pig: it's still a pig.

ACLU's Letter to Congress

The punishments range from a $20000 dollar fine to, at maximum, a $1 million fine and up to 20 years in prison. Before my Democrat-supporting friends jump in, the bill in the Senate is sponsored by Democratic senator Bill Cardin and supported by Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Senate Democrats. An equivalent bill in the House of Representatives is sponsored by dozens of Republicans and Democrats. 

It would also discriminate against businesses who do not work with Israel, as a matter of boycott or not, by denying their credit applications in the Export/Import bank, effectively cutting them off from the rest of the world.

Below is a list of members who support the bill. There are currently 55 Senators- enough to pass the Senate and 218 representatives- enough to pass the HOR. As it stands, the bill is very likely to pass. If your representative is a Democrat, he/she may be especially open to your thoughts. Especially if your congressmen is on it, or even if they aren't, I urge you to call, email, and write to them to tell them this bill is an affront to free speech.

Senate Members Who Support the Bill
House Members Who Support the Bill

Sunday, 18 March 2018

National Walkout

National Walkout

On March 14, at 10:00 everywhere, students across the country participated in a school walkout. Some faced suspension from angry school administrators, others had small numbers as they were in a conservative district, and still others risked themselves because of unsafe neighborhoods around their schools. They walked out for 17 minutes to honor the 17 students killed at the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland Florida. The march was one month after the shooting. They demanded gun reform and mental health reform, carried protest signs and chanted, and made sure gun reform stayed in the political conversation.

At our school amphitheater, we had speeches and held a moment of silence for the ones lost.

The school I go to is no exception. Including many of our teachers and me, nearly 2000 students turned out for the walkout. Our parents planned a rally alongside us.

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They gathered on the same day and time as us.

Conservative media did their best to fight back. They posted examples of conservative students who were anti-gun control and spread misleading reports of students who were punished for not walking out. First, the vast majority of young people support gun control. Second, the student who was punished for not walking out refused to go to the study hall where everyone else was because he was afraid that people wouldn't like him. He effectively ditched school and refused to listen to administrators, so his suspension was more than justified. Other conservatives said that kids are uninformed and that their opinions are worthless. In the spirit of this blog, I say exactly the opposite.

The rallies were a brilliant political move. It made sure guns stay in the national conversation. Gun control advocates note the media acts like a goldfish in a bowl, constantly changing the topic every week. This makes it nearly impossible to keep an issue in the public consciousness. When students planned these rallies, doing them simultaneously and loudly, they made sure gun control remained a topic of public discussion, putting pressure on right-wing congressmen who hoped the issue would go away before the midterms. 

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Why this shooting was different

After the tragic school shooting in Parkland, gun control advocates wearily prepared for the identical cycle of public discussion that happens after every mass shooting. Politicians would offer their much-mocked "thoughts and prayers" for the first few days. Then the vicious and unproductive online arguments, which involve the exact same arguments every time, would begin between gun control advocates and right-wingers. Democrats would filibuster and speak passionately on the Senate floor, but a vote on anything meaningful would fail to happen. 

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Something was different this time. This time the survivors spoke out. Normally the survivors of mass shootings try to be apolitical for various reasons. Some think it's disrespectful. Others are grieving and not in the position to take political fire. Still others are jaded and have lost all hope that Congress would do anything. The kids of Parkland, however, were different. They watched their friends die after hearing about other shootings on the news and realized that this had happened before and the government could have done something. Their friends didn't have to die. So, despite their grief and trauma, the kids of Parkland stood up and hurled themselves into the firestorm that is politics. They are uniquely positioned to be extremely effective activists.

They do not share the cynicism of the adults and know that if they act then action can happen. They are extremely motivated for obvious reasons. In the political arena, their experience gave them credibility and as trauma victims shielded them from some vicious political attacks. We see evidence of their effect. It's been ten days since the shooting and by now the conversation is winding down. Not this time. Recently President Trump hosted a public conversation with the survivors and CNN hosted a town hall where the kids publicly confronted politicians. The Oregon State legislature passed a bill banning domestic abusers from buying guns. Most significantly, businesses have begun to announce they would no longer give NRA members benefits as part of the #BoycottNRA movement. 

The crossed-out are businesses who renounced their sponsorship programs.

Part of the NRA's power is its five million members, the NRA's foot soldiers against gun control across the country. The NRA collects membership fees, which it uses to lobby and influence politicians in Washington. One of the reasons members join the NRA is that NRA members get benefits. For example, the Bank of Omaha offers NRA members a special credit card that gives them cash back on gas and sporting goods. Various other companies offer benefits. Recently, companies have began to dissociated themselves with the NRA and stop offering benefits citing public outcry. 

However, the public response has also been remarkable for its viciousness. Mainstream Republicans like Donald Trump Jr have accused the kids of speaking scripted lines. Some have started calling the kids "crisis actors." Conservative pundit Dinesh D'Souza mocked the kids.

Speaking of the online front, there is now a renewed pushback against right-wing gun rights arguments. Memes, which normally lean to the right after mass shootings, now mock "thoughts and prayers" and the proposal to arm teachers.

Where the adults have failed us, the next generation will not.