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–Enchanted Place is one of South Florida’s most unique community traditions.
-A group of around 30 houses on North Miami’s NE 137th Terrace go all out each December by putting up thousands of lights and holiday decorations.
-Tens of thousands of people travel from around the area to drive down the street and take a picture with Santa Claus.
-The tradition started in the late 1980s as a neighborly rivalry between Ken DiGenova and a few of his friends. It quickly grew to the entire street and has lasted 29 years.
-DiGenova puts many of the lights up himself and he organizes the effort each year.
If You Go:
Location: 1600 NE 137th Terrace, North Miami
Time: Sunset to 11:00 PM
Cost: Free (Voluntary donations to a local charity are collected if you want to give)
-Santa Claus will be on the street to take pictures every night until Christmas.
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WATCH ANOTHER STORY: The World’s Greatest Sign Spinners Live In South Florida. Seriously.
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About the AuthorRich Robinson is the CEO and publisher of Rise News. He is also a journalist and a native of Miami. Robinson graduated from the University of Alabama and can be followed on Twitter @RichRobMiami.
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It’s no secret that young people in the U.S. are less involved in politics than other age groups.
More accurately, it is clear that young people between the ages 18 to 25 vote at a lower rate than the rest of the population.
There have been so many theories as to why our generation is the most inactive demographic, but instead of jumping to conclusions, rather, let’s refer to statistics around the world.
The U.S., among many other countries has a voting age of 18.
An article in The Guardian made a list of the various countries around the world with a lower voting age.
They found that “The voting age is 16 and above in Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina […] Austria is the only country in the EU where 16 years olds can vote in general elections. Turnout is roughly the same as in other age groups.”
Austria presents an interesting example.
This suggests that lowering the voting age might cause younger individuals to be more or in this case, equally involved in politics as the rest of the country.
So the ultimate question is whether or not 16 year olds understand politics well enough to vote?
The answer is, they could.
Countries with a lower voting age have a greater amount of civic education in schools. In an interview with Bill Maher, Michael Moore argues, “It’s like drivers ed., at 16 they should be learning about how the government really works”.
Civics has never been any high school student’s favorite class, and that is because it serves to satisfy a required curriculum rather than to actually teach students how politics work.
In this same interview with Bill Maher, Bob Graham explains that we need to “reintroduce serious study of what it means to be a citizen in this country”.
He also suggests that our lack of civic education might be why “Donald Trump thinks he is going to be elected to be George III rather than president of the United States”. Graham is a very witty man.
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If the U.S. decided to lower the voting age, there would be some valid initial concerns. Debatewise.org released information that compared the reasons for and against a voting age of 16. One of the reasons against the change is that “18-25 year olds are the least likely to cast a vote at election time. […] Lowering the voting age still further is therefore likely to reduce turnout even more”.
Though this concern is valid, it focuses less on the voting age and more on the true underlying issues with youth voting in general.
Many young people who are eligible to vote claim that they do not want to participate in an election either because they do not like or understand politics, or they feel that the system is corrupt.
The second reason can be chalked up as normal, historical evidence of youth rebellion against “the man”, but the first reason is very concerning.
When asked, some eligible voters between the ages of 18-25 claimed they don’t like politics because it is so divided.
They said that they didn’t like the process of an election in general, or that candidates never seem genuine.
Every one can agree that these complaints come from a long history of politicians and/or candidates tap dancing around controversial questions, catering to a particular political party, or reiterating the same ideologies over and over again.
But everyone feels that way about politics to some degree. So while this is a turnoff for any intelligent voter, it does not get right down to the reasons why young people just don’t vote.
Young people’s complaints that they do not understand politics should be at the forefront of these low voting rate theories.
A polling website called, The Top Tens, did a polling to rate school subjects from best to worst according to anyone who visits the site.
Best, being the subject of the most value and importance, and worst being the least useful.
Their ranking is as follows:
And social studies, (i.e. politics) is not even in the top ten. Schools stress the importance of math and science to students starting at a very young age.
Perhaps, it is why our generation is so concerned about the environment.
The evidence clearly demonstrates that when students are given more opportunity to focus on a subject, (like millennials have been with environmental sciences), they carry that subject’s importance with them throughout their lives.
If social studies are so low on this poll, it is clear that the subject did not ensure the same kind of interest or importance as much as other subjects.
With inadequate curriculum for civic studies, it is no wonder that when asked why young people do not like politics they reply that they do not understand how it works!
It is even worse in college.
By this point in time, individuals have developed an understanding of their interests and aspirations for the most part.
Politics becomes this arduous and tedious practice of American culture that students feel apathetic towards.
Emory College’s newspaper, “Southern Changes” wrote an article about why the youth don’t vote.
They interviewed different students to get their opinions. One student explains, “Being a young person myself, I understand both the importance of being an active citizen of the United States, and the overwhelming, “it doesn’t affect me” syndrome”.
Topics like social security and welfare reform are things that young people have never needed to learn about, nor are they very interested in how these issues are dealt with by the government.
It becomes much easier to focus on their individual lives and studies than to be an active voice in the debate of social security benefits.
However, this way of thinking caters towards the stereotypical belief that millennials have a short attention span and lack of interest for things that do not affect their personal lives. But wait, these things really do.
In a recent New York Times article, Tamar Lewin explains that millennials are more likely to move back in with their parents than any other generation before them due to a decline in marriages and a terrible job market.
The economy has affected new graduates in a very bad way. Jobs are scarce and pay is poor, therefore, all of that student loan debt seems a bit problematic to pay back when one barely can find a minimum wage job.
These are things that come up in elections; these are things young people should be at the forefront of in politics.
Young people have to decide as a whole to actively participate in local and national reform that lessens the amount of acquired debt from school, and opens up more jobs with better wages.
This is not to say that young people turn a blind eye to these kinds of issues, this election has been an especially noisy one from this demographic due to candidate Bernie Sanders.
And yet, even with a candidate such as him, it is difficult to rely on 18 to 25 years old to participate in politics past the presidential election.
Young people initially were active supporters of President Obama, but quickly ceased any political action and barely voted in the most recent midterm elections.
The scary part is that if Sanders is not the Democratic candidate, many young people and their disdain for Hilary Clinton have declared that they will not participate in this election.
So do we blame millennials for being the things they are so often accused of being, or do we look at other countries and their youth voter participation, and decide that this is a systematic issue?
Reflecting back on the initial question of whether or not 16 year olds understand politics well enough to vote, the answer as of now is definitely not because our 18 to 25 year olds even claim to be uninformed and uneducated in politics.
But this does not have to be the case.
Evidence confirms that when you include citizens in civic endeavors at a young age, and you provide them adequate means of education for the subject, they do participate as much as other age groups.
For the U.S. it might not be the time to discuss lowering the voting age if we still do not have a more effective curriculum to educate and motivate young people in politics.
That should be the priority and then perhaps we can follow in other countries footsteps and lower our voting age.
Photo Credit: Denali National Park and Preserver /Flickr (CC By 2.0)
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.Post Views: 406
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By Joy Pamnani
HONG KONG-It’s been two years since Hong Kong people took to the streets to fight for genuine universal suffrage.
The protests drew global attention, as protestors expressed their demands in peaceful, artistic ways.
The movement seems to have worked in bringing about a different political reality in Hong Kong.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the major events throughout the protests, and changes in Hong Kong’s political scene since.
Political background in the 852
Hong Kong was ruled by the British in the 20th century, and got handed over to China in 1997.
The great difference between Hong Kong and the mainland’s political atmosphere at the time saw both sides reach a deal of “one country, two systems”, granting the city a semi-autonomous status.
That deal lasts until 2047.
Debate however, continues about liberties granted under the agreement. A hot topic being universal suffrage.
According to Article 45 of the Basic Law, “the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be selected by election or through consultations held locally and be appointed by the Central People’s Government.”
Moreover, the article states “ the ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.”
Controversy began in August 2014 when Beijing ruled out public nomination, saying Hong Kong voters would only be able to choose from a list of two or three candidates selected by a nominating committee.
The committee likely to contain pro-Beijing election candidates, saw democracy activists argue the announcement was a way for China the ability to screen out any candidates it disapproves of.
Criticism was ignited across the city.
Young people’s call for action
On September 22, 2014, a student class boycott was held at the Chinese University in Hong Kong, at the same time some of Hong Kong’s top tycoons crossed the border to discuss politics with President Xi Jinping.
Students from more than 20 universities and colleges joined the movement.
During the week of 26 September, activist groups Scholarism and the Hong Kong Federation of Students, had staged protests outside government offices in Admiralty.
The Galvanizing Effect
As the protests escalated, police used pepper spray against the demonstrators.
Benny Tai, initiator of the Occupy Central movement, officially declared the start of Occupy Central at the central government offices.
Later that evening, police also used the tear gas in dismissing the protests.
The tear gas surprisingly proved galvanizing, drawing Hong Kongers from all walks of life to occupy streets for 79 days.
— Occupy Toronto (@OccupyToronto) September 29, 2015
— Dr. Imran H Sarker (@deborahrubio191) July 11, 2016
During the days, activists blocked several traffic junctions, shutting down the city’s central business districts.
Aside from the Admiralty camp outside government offices, protestors occupied areas in Causeway Bay, Mong Kok and Canton Road.
The protest spirits were held high in the city, as the yellow ribbon symbol was seen across social media sites in the city.
Many artists contributed to the protest’s peaceful forms of expression, from creating paintings of politicians, origami-inspired yellow umbrellas, and periodic tables defining Hong Kong core values.
— Anonymous (@CovertAnonymous) June 4, 2015
— DW | Politik (@dw_politik) September 27, 2015
Artists gathered to express political opinions of Hong Kong people
— Fion Li (@fion_li) May 31, 2015
A periodic table defining Hong Kong’s core values.
— Joy Pamnani (@joypamnani) November 2, 2014
— Joy Pamnani (@joypamnani) October 17, 2014
Protestors even hung a banner on Lion Rock Tunnel, calling on CY Leung to step down
— P H Yang Photography (@TravelFoto) December 14, 2014
Subjects of debate
According to an article by the Australian news network ABC, ANZ economists sent out a research estimating the protests may have cost retailers $400 million, given occupation of roads at core business districts such as Tsim Sha Tsui.
Ordinary citizens fed up of the demonstrations formed an anti-Occupy group in an attempt to dismantle camps across core business districts in the city.
Another debate triggered was the role of police in the protests.
Throughout the protest, a viral video showing police beating up protestors went viral in the city, triggering a debate about police violence.
City opinion was divided on the issue, but those who supported the police wore blue ribbons.
A man was filmed being kicked and punched by seven police officers near government headquarters in Admiralty during the movement:
Yellow ribbon photos spread across social media sites in Hong Kong.
— Bridget Johnson (@Bridget_PJM) December 31, 2014
Students managed to hold talks with the government, yet didn’t gain much ground through official channels.
Alex Chow of the Hong Kong Federation of Students and two other activists sought a meeting with China’s leaders to discuss the issue.
However, their visas were declared invalid after they tried to cross the border.
In later stages of the movement, camps began to be cleared off after the High Court stepped in.
In early December, three organizers of Hong Kong’s Occupy Central movement turned themselves in to the police for “participating in an unauthorized assembly”, calling their act a symbolic way to end the street protests.
They called for a shift in the movement’s focus to a long-term march towards democracy.
The three leaders were quickly released.
On 11 December, over 7,000 police arrived at the protest sites, and began making arrests.
The main camp was cleared out, thereby putting an end to the 79-day political movement.
— 2cats (@2cats4) December 15, 2015
Success of the movement
Despite securing international attention, the Umbrella Revolution failed to win concessions from Beijing.
As of now, Hong Kong isn’t seeing universal suffrage, and many believe the movement wasn’t successful in changing the longterm political agenda.
Some, however, disagree, on the grounds of the fact that political momentum was gained among the population.
“Even if we cannot change the system immediately, if the movement provided more momentum for the fight for democracy, then it’s not a failure,” Dr Chan Kin-man, an Occupy organizer said in an interview with the South China Morning Post.
Two years on
Hong Kongers gathered to commemorate the second anniversary of the Umbrella Revolution last Wednesday (28 Sept).
Right before 6pm, protestors stood in silence to mark police firing tear gas on those who gathered early in the protest timelines.
Although the Umbrella Revolution isn’t occupying the streets of Hong Kong, its leaders have continued to persist in their democratic demands, as evidenced in the July 1st March and June 4th Tiananmen Massacre Anniversary gatherings celebrated every year.
In April 2015, the government formally announced a new voting system, but it failed to gather two-thirds vote at the Legislative Council because it had ignored calls for a more democratic process.
This would leave Hong Kong with the same political system that brought the current chief executive to power.
However, the city’s political scene saw hope after lawmaker elections were held last month.
Being the city’s first major elections since Occupy Central, the results spoke volumes for political sentiment.
A few Occupy politicians secured seats, including student leader Nathan Law, who participated in the protests and is Legco’s youngest ever lawmaker.
Law sees people voting for a democratic future, and with the trust and support of the public, he hopes to bring about political change in the future. “We inherited some spirit from the (Umbrella) Movement and I hope that that can continue in the future,” Law said, in an interview with Hong Kong Free Press.
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.
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