Alma’s thoughts on the outside world: The American Dream

SAM NELSON
POLITICS

Like it or not, identity is at the core of our politics. Who you are and what you value drives the whole thing.

Recently, Senator Elizabeth Warren (DMA) capitulated too the demands of President Donald Trump’s demand for proof of Native American heritage, by publicizing the results of a DNA test.

This is not the first time Trump (and many others) have demanded some sort of proof of identity — we cannot forget the enduring “birther” conspiracy demands for a “long form birth certificate” that followed former President Barack Obama throughout his presidency.

Given the history and structure of our country, there will always be an undercurrent of those who demand the highest of proof for citizenship and identity, often on the basis of some purity of heritage or circumstances of birth.

Let’s ignore it. However, I do think we need to acknowledge the presence of such forces to actively ignore it, to make a point of removing platforms for such heinous demands. Instead, let’s move upward and forward.

Pew Research surveyed adults on their thoughts regarding the “American Dream” last year.

Despite a lot of warranted pessimism in our news cycle, 46% of Americans say they are “on their way to achieving [the American Dream],” compared to the 36% who feel as if they’ve achieved it and 17% who say it’s out of reach.

Even as factors of life get more severe, such as rising income inequality or a worsening climate, perhaps these numbers speak to a special kind of optimism.

I decided to talk to a few of our peers on how they feel about the American Dream. I asked them about how they identify, what they care about, what the American Dream is, and if they think it’s something attainable.

Kailen Roop (‘21) talked about a personal mission to make the world better.

“If I were to say one thing that made me who I am…in a word I’d say empathy,” she said. “I’d like to be able to say that I made a difference.”

Roop expressed some pessimism about the attainability of the American Dream for everyone.

“When I think of the words ‘American Dream’ I think about opportunity,” said Roop. “You can’t really be focused on finding your intellectual foods when you can’t find food every day.”

Max Carey (‘21) felt his goals fit the mold. “I really want to do something medical when I leave Alma; I have these goals for myself,” he said.

“I’m white, I come from a middle class family… do I think it’s achievable for me? I think so.”

Carey hoped for more equal opportunities for everyone in the future.

“You would like to think [that everyone has equal opportunities], but things are definitely not equal for everyone. There are people seeking to change that, I’m glad that there are,” Carey said.

Most of these conversations I had were brief, but incredibly meaningful. As you navigate through your week, ask a friend what keeps them going, and what the big picture is for them. Maybe you’ll be surprised. You certainly won’t regret it

Alma’s thoughts on the outside world: Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court appointment

SAM NELSON
POLITICS

In the summer of 1982, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford alleged that Justice Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a house party.

In 2018, Dr. Ford wrote to her Senator, Diane Feinstein, about this incident in a letter she hoped to keep private. Senator Feinstein gave the letter to the FBI, and at the same time, news leaked that there are sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. Upon news of several allegations against Kavanaugh, the Senate held a hearing to determine the fate of his nomination. During the hearing, the Senate heard testimony from Dr. Ford.

Ultimately, Kavanaugh was made a Supreme Court Justice with a vote of 50 to 48 on October 6th, 2018.

Our political atmosphere is already tense. An alleged sexual assaulter on the court further validates so much anger. I was curious as to what our peers thought of the nomination process, and what they plan on doing in light of it.

“Honestly, I’m not happy about it. I feel it’s an injustice to women and it shows that America doesn’t care about bringing this stuff to justice,” said Matt Nagy (’19).

Other students seem to share this sentiment.

“It truly was scary because now they just tilted the entire Supreme Court. It’s a shame what’s going on right now that even though women are coming out, their voices still aren’t being heard,” said Karina Ankrom (’19).

Ankrom found out about the nomination within moments of it being released, and was with junior Eryn Corinth (‘20) at the time.

“I freaked out when we found out,” said Corinth.

I polled several students about this issue in Joe’s Place, and of the eight people I polled, there were six that hadn’t even heard about Kavanaugh or the significance of his nomination, and now confirmation, to the Supreme Court.

At this point in history, it is more important than ever to be aware of what our government is doing, given that this confirmation of Kavanaugh into the Supreme Court may jeopardize basic rights regarding abortion, LGBT rights, and religion.

As of right now, the Supreme Court is weighted in favor of the Republican Party, with five justices appointed by Republican presidents and four appointed by Democratic presidents.

“I stand before you today on the heels of a tremendous victory for our nation, our people and our beloved Constitution,” said Trump on Saturday.

Kavanaugh is the second Justice that Trump has appointed to the Supreme Court, along with Neil Gorsuch.

 

Alma’s thoughts on the outside world (Vote or Lose)

SAM NELSON
POLITICS

I am exhausted. We are exhausted. Our education is costly. Our labor feels undervalued. We are taunted by the complaints and threats of a generation that took advantage of every opportunity available to white America in the post-World War II way of life, all while we must live in a society they crafted that had no regard for our opportunity.

In life, we basically have two tools: what we do, and what we say. There is no doubt that we need to invest our labor and time into thoughtful institutions and communities – places that reward (and properly credit!) the perspectives that extend from our unique identities properly.

We need ways of life that can be sustained, ways that are resilient against violence and hatred. Democracy must be key to this, and when we demand more democracy in our education, work, and life.

We should also engage with our current democratic institutions. Maybe I sound like some old guy telling you it’s your civic duty to vote, but it’s more than that. To see real, material benefits from our society, we need to reject a political class that has a vested interest in working against us.

Anyone who cares about their bank account, healthcare, environment, education, and more need to look at the zero-sum game of our (effectively two party) democracy and make a decision.

Politics and ethics are worlds more nuanced, but in our system, your electoral loss is your opposition’s gain.

Here’s how you win that zero sum game.

1. Register to vote

By the time you’re reading this, you likely have about a week left to register if you plan on voting in Michigan, on or off campus. Go to michigan.gov/ vote, click on “How do I register to vote?” and follow those steps. In person or by mail, you’ll need your driver’s license, personal ID card, paycheck stub, utility bill, bank document or government document that lists both your name and your address (a photocopy of those if it’s by mail). Do this before October 9th!

2. Make a plan to vote

Experts working in redistricting and voter discrimination believe that state law requires that you either register in person or vote once in person before you can vote absentee in an effort to reduce the turnout of students and those with disabilities.

This poses a challenge, so be careful when you decide whether to register to vote on campus, or back home (you can choose either-don’t listen to those who say it will complicate things like car insurance, this address only matters for where you vote).

If you are voting on campus, identify your polling place. If you are voting back home, make sure you have a plan to get there in time , as the polls close at 8 PM. However, if you are in line by 8 PM, poll workers have to let you vote. If you choose to vote absentee, make that decision as soon as possible.

The final deadline is November 3rd, but you should make sure to have as much time as possible to get your ballot. The absentee application can be found on michigan.gov/vote

3. Turn out to vote

Once you’ve made your plan, talk with your friends here at Alma. Talk to friends back home, or elsewhere around the country. Get as many of your allies out to vote on November 6th. Please, don’t sit this one out.

Alma’s thoughts on the outside world

BY SAM NELSON
POLITICS

On August 28, the National Hurricane Center started tracking some movement off the western coast of Africa, movement that would eventually become Hurricane Florence.

One week earlier on August 21, prisoners around the country went on strike, with a list of demands that runs the gamut from demanding compensation for labor, to a restoration of voting rights.

These two events should be entirely irrelevant to one another – why should severe weather patterns in the Atlantic have any bearing on the rights of the incarcerated?

“By punishing inmates we end up making them tougher and more likely to return to gang life or their pre-prison life and that isn’t doing anyone any good,” said Jake Holt (‘20).

The South Carolina Department of Corrections brought the two together with their announcement on Sept. 10, when they announced that prisoners would not be evacuated from the Ridgeland Correctional Institution, despite its location in the middle of a mandatory evacuation zone.

These elements together start to pose a question – what are our prisons for?

To some, we must use incarceration as a deterrent and a punishment for crimes committed. One would be hard pressed to find folks who argue that individuals who have carried out inhumane violent acts should be let off the hook.

 

We can look to the prosecution of Larry Nassar, the sexually abusive physician who worked for MSU for years. Without a doubt, Nassar is depraved, and has no place in our society. Looking back a bit further from our current news cycle, we could consider the crimes of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the men who carried out the Boston Bombing. While Tamerlan was killed in a police shootout after the incident, Dzhokhar lived to see his case brought through our justice system.

There is no doubt an obvious terrorist isn’t the prime candidate for rehabilitation. However, the high profile stories that capture our attention are not the typical cases of people who have been imprisoned.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 46.1% of current prisoners are incarcerated for drug offenses. Are people likely to be deterred from drug use, possession, and distribution with the threat of prison?

 

Some other students agree with this opinion. “Prisons should be used first and foremost to correct behaviors of prisoners so that they can reenter society. It should focus on rehabilitation,” said Asiel Clark (‘20).

If we are to base our justice system off of punishment, are we doing it effectively? The fact of the matter could be that if you commit the crime, you’re obligated to do the time, even in the severe conditions of a hurricane.

If you are for rehabilitation, what steps can be taken to align prisons with the demands of those on strike?

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