The Issues Raised by Ebola and the Humanity of Others

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/19/ebola-america-fear-barack-obama-virus

This article discusses the Conservative anxieties raised as a result of Ebola. With the spread of the virus to the U.S. the issues of immigration, race, terrorism and big government have all come to the fore and the writer states that Ebola is a metaphor for many issues that those on the right detest.  Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis is quoted as using the Ebola outbreak for greater justification for increased border controls with Mexico, as is South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson. Yet the irony is there have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in Mexico and 3 in the U.S. Other issues raised by Ebola that irk those on the right are that tackling such an epidemic advocates big government and more universal healthcare. I think that one possible consequence of Ebola may be an exaggeration in the political spectrum of the world given that the virus highlights the increased connectedness we share in the 21st century. The spread of the virus demonstrates that “you cannot escape both your own humanity and the humanity of others, and the fact that our fates are tied.” I think it is likely that there could be significant exaggerations in the political spectrum, as there will be those that choose to embrace the increased connectivity of societies, whilst there will be those that wish to detach themselves from the rest of the world and who will be willing to go to increasingly large extents to do so – such as more extreme border controls. Despite the fact it has taken the spread of a deadly disease to bring it to public attention, I think the ethical issue of whether we should embrace the humanity of others is at the heart of many of the topics we cover in class and is something that defines parties across the political spectrum.

Ferguson vs. The World

Ferguson-MO

Amnesty International recently released a report detailing the human rights abuses and policing failures committed by the agencies that policed the Ferguson protests. Some of the acts include restricting individuals’ rights to protest, excessive police force, law enforcement accountability, intimidation of protestors, and restrictions on the media, legal and human rights observers (On the Streets of America: Human Rights Abuses in Ferguson). The report also brings into light the fact that “the United States government can and must to do much more to ensure policing practices nationwide are brought into line with international human rights standards, and to address systemic racial discrimination” (On the Streets of America: Human Rights Abuses in Ferguson).

I find it interesting to see how our nation’s use of fear is put into practice especially during policing protests. A spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Department responded to the Amnesty report by saying they “had one mission, and that was the preservation of life.” This example mirrors topics discussed in our upcoming reading about globalization and its effects on state boarders, international law and how fear is used as a form of social control. These practices are put into place to protect us yet the legislation ultimately leads to the destruction of basic human rights and sovereignty.

The Amnesty International report can be found here: http://www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/onthestreetsofamericaamnestyinternational.pdf

Child Incarceration in Missouri

http://www.stlamerican.com/news/local_news/article_f6ec7cb8-4a7a-11e4-aabf-eb032087368e.html

The article that I’ve chosen to talk about is titled “State taskforce working to curb child incarceration”. To an extent, I believe that this relates to the extra credit movie Kids for Cash that we screened last Sunday. Both the article and the movie deal with a low age for children to be incarcerated at, in this case 12, but this article critiques the judicial system behind this flaw and offers remedial action. The article mentions how some cases are “certified” as adult cases wrongly, and how these transfer hearings often try children as adults. Although Kids for Cash had a bad judge at the core of the problem, in this case it’s the Missouri judicial system. The remedies to the judicial system are all based around this transfer process, where a child is tried as an adult due to a certain aspect of their original trial, i.e. drugs. Child incarceration at its most fundamental level raises some ethical questions: first and foremost, how young is too young to be incarcerated? Past 12 years of age is the current situation in Missouri, and there is a push for this age to be raised. I believe that this is due to the realization of the mental effects of incarceration on children and their families, which Kids for Cash does a fantastic job of illustrating. Although child incarceration is still an issue, I believe that the film along with recent campaigns and articles have done a good job in raising awareness and pushing for change.

Those taken, those left behind

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/26/us/immigration-parents-deported-children-left-behind/

I chose this article because I thought it highlighted an important part of immigration that sometimes people do not consider- that of lives of certain family members once others have been deported. This article highlights a family that serves as an example of what many others are going through. In the article, there was a family that consisted of undocumented parents, a daughter with partial rights to live in the United States, and a fully “American” son. The mother was deported to Nicaragua and five years later the father was taken. Both the son and the daughter were left alone in the United States under the care of a guardian. These kids were fortunate enough to have a guardian, but many do not. In that event, the kids are often put into the foster care system and forced to relocate to wherever there is space.

The loss of their parents not only has a severe impact on their location, but also on their emotional and mental health. All of a sudden kids go from having the constant presence of some parental family member to not having any. It therefore makes sense that they begin to withdraw themselves from school activities, social circles, etc. These sentiments also lead rise to the question of whether they should go and meet their parents or stay in the United States without them. It becomes a question of reunion with the family or to continue living in the country that to them represents home? Immigrants, and undocumented immigrants face many questions. One aspect that people do not think about as much is what happens to the family members that are left behind in the United States.

“WHITE PEOPLE ARE MOSTLY AFRAID OF IT, BUT IT’S KILLING MOSTLY BLACK PEOPLE”

Weekend Update, Oct 25, 2014, Part 1 (1:18-2:00)

I was distractedly watching Saturday Night Live last night when Michael Che unexpectedly started talking about race relations and bioethics. The bit, apart of SNL’s Weekend Update, opened with the story about the first confirmed case of Ebola in New York City. The segment then moved to relate our concern about Ebola to our concern about the black population. As he says, “I’m not saying black people are like Ebola, I’m saying they’re treated like Ebola.” He made the point that the white population tends to ignore the black community until something happens that makes white people feel threatened or scared. Would the majority of the American white community have paid mind to Michael Brown’s murder if those people had not felt threatened by the demonstrations held in Ferguson? Probably not.

While sometimes people choose to ignore the issue, I think more often the problem is that people don’t know the issue exists. I grew up in a small, white town in Vermont that did not have a visible black community. I wasn’t really aware of race relations in the United States until my sister went to college, started taking classes like this one, and began sharing what she was learning. It’s not that I purposefully avoided thinking about the issue, it’s that it had never entered my radar. In my experience, the “average” white school doesn’t facilitate conversations about white privilege or systemic racism outside of learning about the Civil Rights Movement in the 50’s and 60’s. News coverage about atrocities like the Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin shootings is often a one-sided report of facts that may or may not be true.

As Che says, this lack of concern relates to Ebola. It seemed like there was little international attention to the rapid spread of the disease before the first white person contracted it, as if it was Africa’s problem while black Africans were the only ones being affected. Now that it has found its way to the States, Ebola is all the rage. But still, no one seems to care about ALL the people sick and dying from the disease overseas. We only care that the very, very small handful of Americans who got it will make a full recovery. And the Americans are making full recoveries have access to treatments and medicines that aren’t being distributed to the countries that really need them.

Obama Postpones his Self-Imposed Deadline for Reform and Separated Families are Upset

In this post I chose to talk about deportation and the families that become separated because of this. President Obama set a self-imposed deadline for an Immigration Reform which was by the end of summer this year. As the end of summer approached Obama began to hint at the idea that the deadline would not be met. This is because Congress cannot make a decision as to how to go about the issue. With the upcoming elections in November, many democrats didn’t want him to act because they felt it would “doom” their chances to win in the elections. So now the White House has set a new deadline which is for the end of this year. Many advocates were upset about this and they protested outside the White House last month. Within that protest there was a boy named Andres Jimenez who spoke with a microphone in tears telling the President that he wanted a family like his and explaining how his missed his father. The sad thing is that Andres is only one of millions of families who are torn apart each year. I come from Phoenix Arizona and as everyone knows Arizona is one of the most targeted places for deportation. It wasn’t uncommon for me to hear that someone I knew didn’t have one of their parents around because they were deported. Life becomes a struggle for their family because they first have to spend money they don’t have to get an attorney. Then there is still the high risk that the person in jail will get deported. If they do get deported the family just lost either the primary income provider or care giver. The ones who end up suffering most are the children because the people who they love and depend on are taken away from them. They don’t really get to have a childhood since at an early age they have to become responsible for the family while also constantly wondering if they will see their father or mother ever again. When I read this article it stood out to me because I have seen many families separated just like Andres’s and I felt it was necessary to share this story with the class. I urge you to watch the 7 minute video so you can hear the sadness in Andres’s voice as tell President Obama that he wishes he had a family like his.

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/oct/15/immigration-boy-reform-obama-deportations-families-separated

Impartial Jury Allowed By Judge In Boston Bombing Trial

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/10/20/dzhokhar-tsarnaev-boston-marathon-bombing-trial/17610077/

This article reminded me slightly of what we watched in the movie “Kids For Cash”. Although, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is being charged with being a terrorist who worked with his brother to explode two bombs near the Boston Marathon last year. While many people want to seek justice for lost or injured family members or loved ones, I think it morally wrong for a judge to allow the jurors of this case to consist of Boston residents. This goes against U.S human rights such as “Innocent until proven guilty” and “Everyone has the right to fair and speedy trial”. Being from Boston, the jurors despite their involvement in the marathon and more likely to be impartial because the bombings involved and impacted everyone living in Boston and even in the U.S even if there was no direct involvement or impact.

This was similar to the movie because this judge should know the laws and even though what Tsarnaev is being charged with is horrible, why does he not deserve a fair trial? This brings the ethical question: does everyone truly deserve and get a fair trial when charged with criminal offenses in the United States? Personally I think this is immoral even though Judge O’Toole said that the Boston area is large enough to generate a sufficient pool of qualified jurors, I do believe that is ethical to allow. I do not agree that the jurors generated will be unbiased because they are all living in the area where the attacks to took place and to displace one’s self from a situation like that to become impartial is extremely difficult if not impossible.

Tarpischev Refers to Williams Sisters as “Brothers”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/20/sports/tennis/williams-and-sharapova-blast-russian-for-sexist-remarks.html?_r=0

http://espn.go.com/tennis/story/_/id/11718876/russian-tennis-federation-president-shamil-tarpischev-sanctioned-serena-venus-williams-gender-comments

Both of these articles discuss the inappropriate comments made about Serena and Venus Williams’ gender by Russian Tennis Federation President Shamil Tarpischev. Tarpischev referred to the Williams sisters as “brothers” several times when interviewed on a late night show. While both Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova criticized Tarpischev’s comments for their demeaning nature, Tarpischev tried to soften the impact of his statement by calling it a joke. When further questioned about it, he claimed that he did not understand why he was being suspended, because he felt that what he had done was not a big deal. Although I understand that Tarpischev’s comments may not have been meant maliciously, I believe that what he did was very insensitive. As someone with such a high standing in the tennis nation, Tarpischev should know better than to make a sexist joke about the Williams sisters, without suffering repercussions. Tarpischev’s denial of his mistake and lack of a direct apology shows that even today, people find sexist jokes to be “not a big deal”. The overall attitude regarding sexist remarks in today’s society is usually very flippant; most people do not have issues with making sexist jokes because of the label of it being a “joke”. However, people need to realize that regardless of whether a statement about gender is a joke or not, it reflects how the person inherently views gender. Therefore, Tarpischev should not write off his statement as a mere joke; instead, he should take responsibility for what he said, and give a sincere apology.

“Attorney General Eric Holder Calls for Review of Police Tactics”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/09/us/attorney-general-holder-calls-for-review-of-police-tactics.html?_r=0

There are elements of this article that I definitely agree with, as well as some parts that I think contribute to the issues that they are attempting to address. We have a spent a large amount of time in class and in our reading learning about the problems that exist concerning racial prejudice and a corrupt criminal justice system. In studying Michelle Alexander’s book, we also learned about the changes she wants to see made to our nation’s criminal justice system. I chose to share this article because it highlights some our country’s political leaders’ views regarding the problems of inequality and injustice and provides a specific example of the action that is being taken in response to the recent tragedy in Ferguson. While I genuinely appreciate Attorney General Eric Holden and the Justice Department’s efforts to improve their ability to “swiftly confront emerging threats, better address persistent challenges, and thoroughly examine the latest tools and technologies to enhance the safety and the effectiveness of law enforcement” I think something more is necessary to prevent another tragedy like the one that occurred in Ferguson. I think in addition to “a broad review of policing tactics, techniques, and training” an entire change in philosophy is essential to the process of extinguishing racial prejudice from our criminal justice system. I think that besides simply reminding police officers that it’s not okay to shoot an unarmed man because he is black, police officers need to be placed in situations in which they will learn to relate to people of a different skin color and learn to see them as equal and familiar rather than inferior and threatening. I think police departments should make an effort to have their officers engaged in their communities rather than just enforcing laws. The article quotes Commissioner Charles Ramsey who said, ”There’s a basic mistrust of police departments in many American cities. We need to find a way to break down those barriers.” I strongly believe the way to break down those barriers is to teach the people of the community, specifically the youth, to see police officers as positive role models that genuinely concerned about their safety as opposed to someone who just out looking for people to punish. Police officers claim to serve the community so they should actually get out, get to know people, and spend some time serving with time and kindness rather than guns and handcuffs.

Saving the Sacred Wirikuta Land- “Wirikuta no se vende! Wirikuta se defende!”

 

Since we are talking more about borders and the racial prejudice against the hispanic population, I wanted to talk about Latin America.  For the past two years the Wirikuta people have been fighting for their sacred land.  A Canadian mining company is threatening to take over their sacred lake and use it for mineral mining.  These people are indigenous to Mexico and have been making pilgrimages to their sacred lake as long as they have been in Mexico.  Now they are facing the consequences of globalization and a lack of appreciation for native cultures.  The economic profits that the Mexican government will gain if the company is able to take over the land are again being held at a higher value than the preservation and respect of the indigenous culture’s traditions.  What I wanted to highlight with this issue is the intersection between globalization, racism, economic gains, and the fact that indigenous racism is not something unique to the United State.  This Canadian company is able to move onto Mexican soil because of globalization and has solidified its relationship with the Mexican government because some believe that the mining company will bring jobs into Mexico.  Then we have the indigenous people who are being walked over by the government.  These people’s sacred land is being given away by the government without their permission.  However, there is a positive aspect to the story.  The Wirikuta people have started a cross country campaign in order to save their land.  They have gained widespread public support against the mining company. They have created a documentary about their land and why it is sacred to them and with the help of many famous Latin American musicians a one day concert was put on to support the Wirikuta and donate 40% of the proceeds to protecting the land. Here we see the positive effects of a grassroots movement against a government.  What can be taken from this story and translated into American society in regards to the attitude against Indigenous peoples?  Why is there so much hate against indigenous peoples all over the world?  And how can music and fame be used in a political campaign in America to topple some of the oppressive systems we have been discussing in class?