Mr. President, My Mother Is Not A “Welfare Queen”

Over the course of American history, politicians have adopted a clever, yet nefarious way of using racial stereotypes as a tool for political gain.

From the War on Drugs that frames black men as “criminals” to the emergence of the so called “welfare queen,” history has shown us that framing particularly disadvantaged groups as “dangerous” or “unworthy” enables politicians to gain political support from the public, particularly white middle and low-class Americans.

If I had to sum up, in two words, the United States’ racial marginalization of the poor and financially dependent, “welfare queen” is as good and as bad as it gets.

The myth of the welfare queen is still a prominent weapon used today in U.S politics that tends to go unnoticed.

The U.S political system has maintained these false ideas about marginalized people in our society by reducing them to a second class citizen status and enacting discriminatory policies that perpetuate durable systems of injustice within our democracy.

The legacy of legal discrimination persists in our society today as low-income mother’s struggle to gain and maintain financial benefits from the government.

The burden of the welfare queen has become one of the most cutting stereotypes that plagues families across the United States.

It hurts because it has worked in changing policy.

The birth of this political myth emerged after the criminalization of Linda Taylor, an African American woman, who quickly became the embodiment of a pernicious stereotype after being sentenced to prison for welfare fraud in 1977.

Ronald Reagan gave a speech in his unsuccessful 1976 campaign for president that managed to frame poor African American and Latina mothers as “users of the system” without any concrete evidence other than the act of a single woman.

“She used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000 a year.”

One woman who cheated the system evidently became the face of all welfare recipients, despite the fact that white families, typically, have been more likely to be on welfare.

Although it is not entirely clear all of which she fraudulated, Reagan’s intent became less about exposing the ways in which “liberal policies” had fractured the economy and more about turning the white American majority against minorities as a tool for political gain.

You can thank Reagan. Photo Credit: kate gabrielle

Reagan’s attack on welfare suggested that programs such as these, paid by tax dollars, only aided irresponsible black people.

Using the story of Linda Taylor, Reagan labeled millions of America’s poorest people as “deceitful” and funneled the belief that welfare fraud was a nationwide epidemic that needed to be terminated.

This image of widespread and unbridled welfare fraud allowed Reagan to convince voters to support his cuts to public assistance spending.

This was not the first instance that an American politician used self serving tactics to turn the public against the poor and displaced.

Much like the coined term “American Negro” the welfare queen became a convenient target for hate by simply framing Linda Taylor as the stereotypical lazy, black con artist.

Despite the fact that Reagan gave Taylor the most critical identity, the welfare queen stemmed from a longer and much deeper racialized history of prejudice and animosity toward families receiving welfare benefits in the United States.

This inequitable idea of the “deserving poor” and “undeserving poor” became a political weapon that Reagan introduced into U.S politics that his forerunners would all sustain.

Today, over 20 years after the implementation of Bill Clinton era welfare reform, the unwarranted stigma against poor women of color remains.

This telling of the “welfare queen” as users of the system continues to influence public policy by distinguishing between those who are “deserving” of support and those who are not.

President Donald Trump’s administrative budget cuts are now putting Americans on edge, especially those who rely heavily on public assistance programs.

Trump’s budget will potentially force millions of poor people off of food stamps and benefit programs such as Medicaid.

A recent article from Time Magazine states:

Cuts include a whopping $193 billion from food stamps over the coming decade — a cut of more than 25 per cent — implemented by cutting back eligibility and imposing additional work requirements, according to talking points circulated by the White House. The program presently serves about 42 million people.

Among these 42 million people, is my own mother, a 59 year old, single Latina mother suffering from chronic kidney disease, who directly relies on welfare benefits.

Being raised by a single mother on public assistance has allotted me with a perspective that a majority of politicians and policy makers could never understand.

It is clear that public policy continues to reflect the interests of the elite rather than the needs of the poor.

Such conditions only further the economic and racial divide in the U.S and perpetuates existing stereotypes about families and women receiving government assistance.

Although my mother has been on welfare my whole life, she is not your stereotypical “welfare queen.”

She is not Linda Taylor nor is she a “user of the system.”

My mother is a woman who managed to raise six children on her own with the little help she did receive from programs like Food Stamps, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Yet, our story will remain under the scrutiny of those who may have never had to step foot in a welfare office.

Ending the myth of the welfare queen within public policy means acknowledging how we manifest these stereotypes in our everyday lives.

It means recognizing that one person’s mistake cannot suddenly be the burden of others that look like them.

For far too long, our society has reduced people of color to a second class citizen status, resulting in the unremitting struggle to overcome the burden of such baseless conclusions.

We must overcome this myth by restructuring and developing policy around families as they are—not who society deems them to be.

Rather than stigmatizing recipients of public assistance programs, the government must strengthen the ways in which these programs respond to critical social and economic needs.

Even more so, we must acknowledge how failure to reconcile the racial discrimination of our nation’s past infringes our ability to ensure that all Americans have the dignity they deserve in the present.

We can fight against this stigma by advocating for the full participation of all Americans our society and the economy.

Instead of dwelling on individual failures or mistakes, we should be asking ourselves how we got here and how we can move towards a more equitable society.

RISE NEWS is a news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Watch More: 96 Year Old WWII Veteran Still Works At His North Miami Beach Barbershop

Cover photo credit: U.S. Army



Aside From Donald Trump’s Win, The GOP Is Still Dying

While the GOP holds a majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives, Senators and Representatives alike have failed to unite themselves.

In fact, the Republicans were an opposition party for the better part of the last seven years.

While there was some skeleton of a plan to replace Obamacare, it was never given too much thought or reviewed by committees effectively.

When Donald Trump won the White House, although the Republican party became the majority, it was still an opposition party.

For Republicans to rally behind Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan seemed to be too much.

While Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer organized and filibustered, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell failed to unite behind one bill.

President Trump spent hours and hours on the phone from the early hours of the morning until late at night converting one senator after the other to his vision and plan for healthcare.

Key senators like Rand Paul also failed to unite behind the American Healthcare Act.

While the plan was flawed, in my opinion, it still improved upon the healthcare system that many found to be failing.

The GOP needs to transition from an opposing body and become a legislative and policy oriented body.

The Republicans no longer have an excuse.

They are now the majority party and must capitalize on the situations that are in front of them.

The Republicans now have the option to improve the Tax Code from millions of words into perhaps just thousands, which details what people owe their Government.

In fact, the Government owes us a system that works for and by the people.

The Republicans have the responsibility to get behind some of the bills and plans that the Trump Administration proposes even if they are mildly flawed, as most bills are.

Just because it isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it should be completely rejected.

Obamacare had flaws and it was still introduced.

Many American’s could not keep their doctors.

For many, the premiums or deductibles were too high.

For example, some were covered, but the deductible was too high and thus, they weren’t effectively covered.

The problems with Obamacare were real, but so was the solution that was put forth.

Sure, it had problems, but it was still better than Obamacare.

While Rand Paul and Paul Ryan had different visions of healthcare than Trump, they both believe that Obamacare is a disaster and should be repealed and replaced.

The question was never about if it should be replaced, but rather what should replace it.

If this failure to unite behind our President continues, the Republican party has a long four years ahead and will likely have a difficult time in the midterm elections.

Pelosi and Schumer need to capitalize on this opportunity if they want their party to succeed.

The Democratic party forgot to nominate Bernie Sanders and underwent some serious divisiveness during the presidential campaign.

The victory of the Republicans will be short lived if they can’t unite behind the man who won it all, President Donald Trump.

There is some great news though.

The Republican party can use the nuclear option to nominate Neil Gorsuch, who was unanimously nominated to be a judge back in 2006.

The Republicans have the ball in their court, it is up to Speaker Ryan and Mitch McConnell to not drop it.

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.

Cover Photo Credit: Patrick Feller/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Trump’s Constant Lying Is What Autocrats Do

By Christopher F. Arndt

First there was the birther theory, which Trump continued to champion in 2011 even after President Obama’s long-form birth certificate was shown to the world.

Then we heard statements like “Nobody really knows if climate change is real;” and, more recently, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

These are, of course, but a few of the countless lies Trump has uttered over the years, over the course of this past election cycle and since entering the White House.

To these we can now add the claim that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign – one that smacks all the more clearly of dishonesty now that House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes has stated that he will not disclose his sources.

Our President’s unprecedented lying has many utterly baffled, as does the fact that Trump supporters often accept these lies.

For example,  74% of Republican voters think it’s at least “somewhat likely” that Donald Trump’s offices were wiretapped during the campaign.

Both the dishonesty and the continued belief by Trump supporters in “alternative facts” can be understood in the context of changes within the conservative movement that have come to the fore over the past fifteen years.

A scene from the Las Vegas skyline. Photo Credit: João Martinho/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Under normal conditions, a politician fibs to exaggerate the appeal of a program they support or to undermine an opponent’s position.

But they generally try to avoid obvious falsehoods.

Some of Trump’s lies follow this pattern, but most of his lies are different.

They are intentionally brazen.

In this way, they are a show of power, demonstrating the acquiescence of others to his will and the comparative impotence of those who stand by facts and against his word.

In short, Trump’s lies have an autocratic twist. Matt Steinglass, the current European editor for the Economist, captured this dynamic well in a 2009 piece on why Iran’s Ahmadinejad insisted on showing an implausibly large vote margin for his election victory.

This piece is dismayingly relevant now and worth quoting at length:

“[B]ullies often find it more effective to force people to acquiesce in an obvious lie than in a plausible fiction. Check out the ludicrous charges in the Stalin show trials: children’s book writers in Leningrad confessing to being Japanese spies, and so forth. When you make people accept a plausible fiction, you’re just winning that one issue. But when you make them accept a lie which everyone knows is a lie, you’re destroying their integrity, destroying their will to describe the world as they see it, rather than as you tell them it is. It’s the bully on the playground holding the weaker kid’s arm and slapping his cheek with it, saying “Why are you hitting yourself?” Like Vaclav Havel’s grocer hanging “Workers of the world, unite!” in his shop window, once a person has acquiesced to something they do not believe, and which everyone knows they do not believe, they become complicit in their own oppression.”

In essence, Trump is making Republican leaders – who know he is lying – complicit in their own oppression.

To be clear, we’ve seen some independence on the part of Republicans like John McCain.

But not a lot.

And, most recently, it appears that Devin Nunes is simply bending to Trump’s will.

This fealty to authority over facts runs directly against the beating heart of liberal democracy.

Why, then, does Trump get away with it?

The brief answer is that the American Right has been moving in this direction for more than a decade.

The movement has coalesced around an older, “monarchical” conservatism.

This movement is best understood as a temperament and a set of tendencies opposing change rather than a set of principles.

It runs counter to the enlightenment liberalism that forms the basis of our Constitution.

In my book, The Right’s Road to Serfdom: The Danger of Conservatism Unbound From Hayek to Trump, I map out characteristics of this “conservative temperament” including:

  • Viewing a leader’s personality and its force above process, institutions and the rule of law.
  • An ease with diminishing the value of facts to support the right leader.
  • A preference for absolute certainty regarding both policy and a leader’s style. This requires black and white simplicity in the way both are presented.

Understanding conservatism as such explains the appeal of Trump on the Right and the embrace of blatant falsehoods.

So far, the firing of Michael Flynn was an exception.

On the Right, there have been no real consequences to Trump’s blatant – and disgraceful – lying or that of his inner circle.

Which brings us back to autocracy, defined by Merriam Webster as “government in which one person possesses unlimited power.”

Christopher Arndt is author of The Right’s Road to Serfdom: The Danger of Conservatism Unbound From Hayek to Trump.

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.

Cover Photo Credit: Isabelle Blanchemain/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Why America Really Needs A New “West Wing”

As chaos, deceit and lies are engulfing the White house, the sanctum sanctorum of American democracy; I find myself increasingly pining for the “cartoonishly optimistic” days of the Bartlet administration on my TV screen.

I watch the reruns of West Wing with a sense of nostalgia, where the White House staffers would do the “walk and talk” with charge, meet at the Oval Office with a distinguished President, and give press briefings that were transparent and not a battle ground for the war against media.

Watching West Wing nowadays is painful.

The Trump administration has destroyed the prestige of working at the White House.

The well- beloved CJ Cregg, who was known for her astute mind and performance of “The Jackal”, has been replaced in reality with the aggressive and dull Sean Spicer, whose lexicon leaves a lot to be desired.

Leo McGarry, the man who always stood behind President Bartlet, who always viewed everything with benevolent pragmatism, has been replaced with Reince Preibus, a man who believes that defensiveness is the shield that he must carry and not necessarily political acumen or sensitivity.

It is almost like the Trump administration is trying to be the total opposite of what idealists loved about West Wing.

For almost a decade Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing mesmerized the American psyche; depicting American democracy’s morals, values and diplomatic stance in the world, albeit with a few instances of infamy, all along having a scholarly president at the helm of affairs.

With his penchant for classical music, literature and finer sensibilities in life, President Bartlet and his team exuded a sense of fairness, liberalism and intellectualism that acted as a panacea for the troubled times of the Bush administration.

The fictitious West Wing gave all Democrats a ray of hope.

Sam, we need you right now.

The President’s failure to disclose his physical ailment was tantamount to a big scandal!

It would probably hardly earn a mention when compared to the missteps of Trump and his team.

What do we do now?

The country is split along party lines.

The chaos is palpable.

Intellectualism has been relegated to a secondary place.

The disregard for traditional institutions of democracy, including its fourth pillar known as the free press, is too blatant.

We need an escape from reality.

This time, we need an even bigger flight of imagination.

At the same time however, something too idealistic might be painful to watch amidst a sense of crumbling political values and lack of accountability displayed by the current administration.

We need a show that encompasses “American values”, one that believes in intellectualism, respect and equality and yet portrays the reality with sincerity.

In the last season of West Wing, Republican nominee Arnold Vinick and Democratic nominee Matt Santos were fighting for the presidency.

Their election season was intense, their campaigns were on full throttle; but throughout the entire political discourse they remained civil.

Do you remember when we thought this was a tough debate?

They fought on the basis of substantive arguments, not through personal attacks and the spread of abhorrent lies.

In fact, both candidates found mud-slinging repulsive, and they never launched any attacks that would defame their opponent.

Granted that at the end of the day, this election wasn’t real, and these campaigns were all part of Aaron Sorkin and Lawrence O’Donnell’s imagination, but they remind us that civility is not unnatural, that it should be the norm.

Shows such as Scandal and Designated Survivor do an excellent job in commanding the attention of their audience for the allotted one hour block they are given, but they are meant to act as a source of excitement and drama.

Scandal is a somewhat dystopian depiction of the White House, where corruption, bribery and murders are rampant.

It’s a political drama in some aspects, but it doesn’t do the job of alleviating the nerves of those who are already flustered by the Trump Administration.

I personally love West Wing.

The fast paced dialogue, sharp analysis and wit of the show are all very addictive.

There are days when I watch four episodes in a row, just to soak up the intense and realistic depiction of what goes on in the White House.

West Wing is unique because it shows the camaraderie of Presidents and political leaders despite partisanship and politics.

It romanticizes the White House and its occupants.

When the reality is filled with mundanity and crudity and when there is an obvious attempt at breaking away even from the age old tradition of honoring one’s predecessor; the only escape can come from the TV screen, when we can turn off CNN and indulge in the pure extravaganza of wishful thinking!

The country deserves and needs an updated, idealistic, version of this show so we can all make it through the next four years.

So help us Aaron Sorkin, you’re our only hope.

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.

How Can A High School Democrat Resist Trump’s Agenda?

President Donald Trump has wasted little time in trying to get his ambitious agenda enacted into law.

Responding to fierce anti-globalism sentiments, he railed against the Trans-Pacific Partnership on the campaign trail, a deal lobbied for by former president Obama that would significantly lower barriers to trade.

As one of his first executive actions on the job, he officially pulled the U.S out of the deal.

A Carrier air-conditioner production plant, which was in danger of being closed and moved to Mexico at a cheaper cost to the company, remained in Indiana.

Trump, who had been criticizing Carrier’s decision and lobbied the company to the contrary, took credit for the decision, which saved hundreds of jobs.

Most leaders and Americans of varying political ideologies would be supportive of these new, tangible changes.

The TPP received criticism from all sides of the aisle for the economic sacrifices it made, and without the Carrier plant, a community would be in economic catastrophe.

But the methods to achieve these ends were not without sacrifices themselves.

Without a strong trade deal, and especially with the strong tariffs that Trump has continued to support, America may fall behind in international competition.

And the Carrier plant success, which was purportedly achieved with a mix of tax incentives and contract threats, may be the beginning in a long line of crony capitalism in essence, money is given to already wealthy corporations rather than put to creating more efficient jobs.

Instead of working to strengthen communities, it seems as though some of President Trump’s first presidential actions have simply been poor economic choices.

In fact, however, the full picture of his time so far in office does not stop there.

Through a series of economic and social decisions he has weakened the power of communities in the face of capitalism.

Immigration raids have been ordered to increase, aggressively, not to mention the implementation of plans to build a border wall.

The ban on immigrants and refugees from 7 predominantly muslim countries, while reversed by the courts, also target to target and minimize important, American, communities.

The de-regulation of infrastructure projects like the Dakota Access and Keystone Pipeline open up vulnerable areas to potential environmental damage, and the freezing of federal workforce hirings is especially destructive for communities with minorities or people of color, both of which groups make up a large portion of the federal workforce.

The continued repeal process of the Affordable Care Act only serves to limit the medical care of working-class Americans, including the many men and women who voted for him. But all of these harmful executive actions also serve to overshadow what could be done, like working to strengthen labor laws, broaden environmental protections, fight climate change, invest in better job training, reform the justice system, all of which would build, rebuild, or protect communities in danger of flooding, subject to unjust sentencing, and still recovering from the economic recession.

President Trump criticizes America’s involvement in the world, claiming that his administration’s policies, in the classically simple slogan, support America First.

But even if closing America off to the rest of the world, and giving American businesses free rein strengthens rigid borders and gives the stock market a momentary boost, those policies also serve to destroy the communities that have, and will, define our country as a whole.

Facing this terrifying moment in U.S history as someone who considers themselves an activist, I am scared.

My state government is progressive and powerful, as are my elected officials on the national stage, and I know that organized political voices, in marches or letter writing campaigns, can make a difference.

But the election was in November, and in this country, that’s when democracy is in action- unless you’re donating money, the opportunity to make a direct, visible difference in your government before and during elections, through grassroots organizing and the simple act of voting.

Passionate leaders in congress may be able to resist the worst of Trump’s nominees and initiatives, and state leaders will have some room to resist, and enact strong legislation of their own.

But for the most past, Trump is in the driver’s seat at the federal level, and will be for the next two years, at the least.

So what do I do?

The concept of the American community is being attacked, and from the highest of levels. Even when unified, successful resistance pushes back against what must not be done, it fails to accomplish what must.

For the next year and a half, leading up to midterms and my graduation of high school, I’ve decided that I’m going to try and fight for my community.

Political organizing will be a crucial part of my community work.

Registering and pre-registering voters, the latter possible only recently in Massachusetts, is one of the best ways to get people involved and prepare for the strongest possible electoral impact.

Engagement in other ways, too, even networking, finds and retains potential activists who become more and more important as election day nears.

Local advocacy, manifested for my state group of young activists, the Massachusetts High School Democrats in letter writing campaigns, gets citizens and students excited about political issues and engaged with their representatives.

All of this political activity has the ability to make actual differences in local, state and even national government, when elections roll around.

But I’ve been thinking about settlement houses, too, the progressive-era community centers which sought to fit the community’s needs, from alleviating poverty, to education, to political mobilization.

Not only were they successful in giving aid to the people who needed it, but they unified neighborhood voices to fight for political issues when the moment demanded it.

In the face of a hostile, incompetent, unjust administration, my goal is not just to organize a political resistance, but to try and help fit my community’s needs.

It will be nowhere near simple, and the projects that I’ve envisioned and begun to work on, like a composting project and a school program advocating historical awareness, are also fairly small in scale.

I know that in the midst of our present political turmoil, I didn’t attend a single GSA meeting at my school.

The scale of the club is minor, but the power that even a single person can bring to the group is incredible. Instead, I organized.

That, too, was meaningful- giving politically passionate people an outlet is gratifying and made a small political difference.

But after Massachusetts High School Democrats canvassed and organized, making trips up to New Hampshire for Senator Hassan and through the phone lines to senators advocating against Senator DeVos, and my community is still threatened or limited by a lack of political change, I’m altering my strategy.

Political revolutions are good, but they don’t just come when we get angry.

Tangible community initiatives will help to fix the problems that we’re advocating about, and will help prepare our communities when it’s time to mobilize politically.

Before we can expect political change, we have to make community change.

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.

Cover Photo Credit: High School Democrats of America/ Facebook

Here’s A Reminder That Justin Trudeau Is Not A Disney Prince

By Criswell Lavery

Before starting this article, I didn’t know a lot about Justin Trudeau.

Many (white, liberal Americans) think of the young Prime Minister and immediately connect him with the monikers “feminist”, “pro-LGBT”, “pro-choice”, all of which are correct.

But very few know much more about him.

I had seen a few articles floating around talking about his stance on foreign policy, his interactions with the First Nations’ peoples, and his meeting with Donald Trump, but never stopped to read them or look further.

Like many, I was blinded by Trudeau’s liberal social values and his fabulous hair, and thought of him only with a vague fondness.

This is a trap that many fall into, even in our age of easily accessible information.

We see articles about how he’s let over 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada since he took office in 2015, and don’t see the one about the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA).

This agreement was set to reduce 98% of tariffs on trade between Canada and the European Union and cause a small increase in jobs.

It also has provisions which are very similar to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), providing corporations with a huge amount of privileges and legal rights, allowing for them to sue entire governments to change laws and standards that impede their function.

CETA gives Canadian and European corporations these same rights, as well as giving international companies bidding rights to areas in cities, First Nation communities, and providences.

Despite the job growth and tariff reduction, it’s heavily weighted to favor big business, which one would think our Disney prince Prime Minister would be against, right?


Prime Minister Trudeau had been pushing the agreement for months before it was signed in October 2016, and was ratified this February.

It’s been a big part of the reason recent press coverage has turned against Justin Trudeau, changing from their pretty steadily positive reporting to something a little more mixed.

He wholeheartedly supports CETA, which definitely did not fit with the ideal image of him that my little liberal heart had created.

And there’s plenty more where that came from.

A very controversial issue in Canada, just as it is in the USA, is indigenous peoples’ rights.

Like the tribes in the United States, the First Nations have been brutally treated and forced out of their lands since white people first got there, hundreds of years ago.

When Prime Minister Trudeau took office, he promised to bring the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into law in Canada.

This document affixes the inherent rights of indigenous people, including the right to self-determinism and the right to not be forced to assimilate to the incumbent culture.

While the protection of indigenous culture seems like it should be assumed and respected, it’s not currently legally required.

Despite frequent promises to bring this into the new Canadian administration, in July of 2016, Trudeau’s Justice Minister stated that they would not be adopting the UN’s Declaration into law, that it “makes no sense.”

In breaking this promise, Trudeau lost a lot of respect and trust among the First Nations.

In the following year, many new blunders involving the treatment of indigenous peoples have been made, one being the support of the Site C dam, a hydro-electric power generator being proposed to be built on the Peace River in British Columbia.

The dam would destroy ancient burial grounds and threaten traditional hunting and fishing grounds.

In addition, Canada’s energy need hasn’t grown in recent years, and they even have a surplus of clean energy.

The support of this project is another check on a list of broken promises and backtracking.

Here’s the thing, I don’t necessarily think that Justin Trudeau is a bad person.

I can’t make that judgement.

Do I disagree with many of his policies?


Do I agree with others?


I’m not trying to condemn everything he’s ever done, I’m trying to illustrate the very gray nature of politics today, and the dangerous habit people have to put things in black and white.

When we’re distracted by buzzwords and a certain Prime Minister’s blinding smile, we fail to hold people accountable for their actions.

We don’t demand answers or retribution when they mess up or don’t follow through.

As much as we might like to think so, Trudeau isn’t a Disney prince.

He’s human, and a powerful political figure.

Let your ideal go, and demand answers when you have questions, ask for retributions when promises are broken.

Disney princes are perfect.

People are not.

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.

Cover Photo Credit: Mohammad Jangda/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

My Parents Couldn’t Afford Health Care Until The Affordable Care Act. Please Don’t Take It Away From Them

If President Trump repeals the Affordable Care Act (ACA), both of my parents will lose their care.

Right now, I’m sitting at the airport in Kansas City, waiting to board my flight back to Washington.

I spent the weekend advocating for the ACA in Topeka with the Save My Care campaign and Senator Bernie Sanders.

Since the ACA became law in 2010, Republicans have called for repealing it ad nauseam.

Now that they hold the White House and both chambers of Congress, they have promised to act swiftly in scrapping health care.

They claim that it isn’t helping people, and that it costs too much.

But the reality is that repealing the ACA means as many as 30 million Americans would lose their care — my parents included. Further, rolling back the law would actually increase the federal deficit by $353 billion over 10 years.

That said, the most important consideration concerning ACA repeal is how this would affect the lives of everyday Americans.

We must focus our attention on how repealing health care could be the difference between pain and suffering, and wellbeing and happiness.

The Kitchel family.

Both of my parents are self-employed.

My father is a landscaper and my mother operates our small family farm.

Growing up, I was privileged to always have access to health care because California’s Healthy Families program provided an affordable option for children in working class families.

My parents only had to pay about $12 per month to cover my brother and me.

However, given my parents’ working class income level, purchasing their own health insurance was beyond what they could afford.

My mother hadn’t had health care coverage since I was a baby. My father hadn’t had coverage since he was in college in the 1970s.

Both of my parents work blue-collar professions that require a great deal of manual labor.

Every week, my father can be found digging ditches, installing sprinkler systems, laying sod, and planting trees.

While I was a kid, I remember several occasions when he severely injured his back.

Given that he didn’t have health care coverage, he didn’t see a doctor.

The result was chronic back pain that he still experiences today.

When I say my mother manages our family farm, by that I mean that she plants the crops, tends to the crops, and ultimately harvests and sells the crops — all by herself.

This often-grueling work has resulted in a rotator cuff tear and back pain.

She could not afford to see a doctor about these injuries and therefore has endured long-lasting pain.

If my parents had been able to afford health insurance throughout their careers, I can’t help but think about all the pain and suffering that would have otherwise been preventable.

Everything changed when the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010.

For the first time in decades, my parents could afford health insurance.

They started visiting the doctor again, both to address existing conditions and to receive preventative care.

Given that they are growing older now, both in their 60s, preventative care is critically important.

Sen. Bernie Sanders with the author.

The fact that President Trump and congressional Republicans are playing politics with my parents’ health absolutely infuriates me.

And compared to many Americans who would be impacted by an ACA repeal, my parents are relatively well off.

I think about those who have chronic conditions, where access to care is literally the difference between life and death.

The fact that Republicans would put these folks’ lives at risk, simply for political gain, is the most disdainful excuse for governance that I can imagine.

As Senator Bernie Sanders said in Topeka, KS:

“We are working overtime to tell Republicans in Congress: You are not going to repeal the Affordable Care Act!”

This is a fight that I plan to see through to the very end. I hope you’ll join me.

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.

Don’t Look Down At Your Non-College Educated High School Friend Who Talks Politics On FB. You Don’t Matter More Than Them

You’re the political junkie.

You’re getting educated in a big fancy college.

You idolize Trevor Noah.

You rub elbows with future lawyers, lobbyists and politicians.

You study the issues and think that you know more about politics than the average person- especially those that aren’t in school.

After all, you are spending a lot of time and money to expand your mind and find the “truth” behind what’s happening.

At least that is what you think.

So when you get on Facebook to express some of the recycled political ideas that you just learned, you see your high school friend from way back post, ‘Make America Great Again’.

It’s a trigger and you can’t help yourself.

An argument ensues between the two of you.

In your mind, you are going to school this guy.

He isn’t in college after all.

He doesn’t always use the right terms or have perfectly constructed arguments.

You should be able to wipe the floor with him and move on.

But the conversation doesn’t go the way you thought.

It becomes an actual debate.

This debate takes your blood from slightly warm to completely boiling.

How dare He?

You’re the second year political science major that sits down and dutifully learns at the foot of politically connected professors.

But your high school buddy on the other hand who got that landscaping job he was always talking about instead of spending thousands of dollars in housing, student loans and ‘sustainability’ fees doesn’t know anything about politics.

And as a result, you don’t really believe that his voice matters.

He shouldn’t be talking about politics because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about you surmise.

As a college student I’ve heard the claim.

We like to take the stance that these people back home who opted to stay away from tuition costs and auxiliary fees are significantly less informed than us on pretty much everything because we are en route to a college degree.

This is nowhere near the case.

In the era of alternative facts and fake news, the concept of being politically informed is one that we have to throw around very loosely.

You need to take a real look at yourself and make the assessment of what do you actually know about politics.

This assessment doesn’t come from knowing random facts.

It’s more of an overall assessment of your political footprint.

Where do you get your facts?

How did you get there?

How broad is your view?

How reliable is your source?

Media bias exists, it’s a thing that changes our perception of the world around us and can skew political opinions for the worse.

The nature of media bias is everywhere.

it still to this day saturates programs like the Late Show or Trevor Noah’s Daily Show.

Sources like these end up being some people’s only source of understanding politics and because of that they fail to get an unbiased opinion about the political world.

The reality isn’t better for 24 hour news channels either; stations like Fox News and MSNBC also provide underlying bias that people are exposed to as well.

The practice of media bias is so bad that people are arguing over which source (out of these specific two in fact) is the most bias.

To be the ‘politically informed citizen’ that us college students boast about being you need to take the time to look at all sources available.

Rather than this, we have an established culture that encourages us to look solely at the media that is favorable to us as individuals.

In addition to this, college students in general are considered unreliable voters, a fact that furthers the case against us being more politically informed or involved.

In the end, you should not look down at your high school buddy who wants to talk politics.

He may not always be right or say the right things.

Maybe he is more likely to buy into fake news, maybe not.

But he is still an American and he is entitled to as much of a voice as you are.

And who knows, maybe your political opinion is just as one sided, underdeveloped and wrong as his is.

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.

Cover Photo Credit: Infrogmation of New Orleans/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)


If Liberals Really Believe In Science Then They Have To Stop Attacking GMOs

My Facebook feed is littered with posts, articles, and opinions of my liberal friends posting about the overwhelming science that supports that climate change is real, and that the deniers need to look at the proof.

However, many of these same friends will turn around and post article after article on why GMOs are terrible for you and how they harm your body.

But where’s the actual science that supports that?

Seems like a problematic double standard.

The vast majority of scientific research points to the fact that GMOs are not harmful to the human body nor the environment.

In fact, the National Academy of Sciences just released a report of a review of hundreds of research articles, testimonies, and questions about the safety of GMOs.

So where is the disconnect – and why do so many liberals acknowledge the majority of scientists that support climate change, but not the majority that supports that GMOs are not bad for you?

If you look at political demographics, you see that 70% of Democrats trust scientists to research climate change, while only 15% of Republicans support that.

Many progressives are distrustful of GMO’s. Photo Credit: Donna Cleveland/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Alternatively, 56% of Democrats believe that GMOs are unsafe to eat, while 51% of Republicans say the same – with only 43% of Democrats and 38% of Republicans saying that they are safe to eat.

When you examine the perception of GMOs in the United States, you’ll see many arguments against GMOs – from the “evils” of the Monsanto Chemical company, to people boycotting and protesting Roundup Ready crops.

This opposition stems from scientific research that is full of fraudulent misinformation, and they don’t examine the good that GMOs are able to accomplish, like the papaya crop success in Hawaii ten years ago, or the fact that scientists are trying to modify cows to produce less methane gas to, ya know, reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The latter bit would help combat climate change in a real way. 

Now, personally, I identify as a liberal, and I am 110% for questioning scientific research and letting new discoveries and inventions be properly vetted before being released into the public.

But at some point, the line needs to be drawn.

And to my liberal friends – I only have one message: Get. It. Together.

If we’re going to promote and support the majority of science that says climate change is a reality, then let’s stay constant and support the majority that says GMOs are not bad for you.

If we’re going to fight to save this planet from drastic climate and environmental change, then support the people who are actually trying to do that.

You want to make sure that the projected 9.7 billion people on this world in 2050 are going to have food?

Photo Credit: Daniel Arauz/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Then let’s support the scientists who are trying to feed people.

Let’s support the science and the research that is going towards trying to make food more affordable, more nutritious, more accessible, and more easily grown.

The population of the world isn’t going to magically go stagnant or go down, and if you didn’t know, growing food is hard.

We are able to feed 155 people per farmer currently.

In 1960, that number was 25.8.

If y’all want to be able to affordably eat within the next 50 years, if you want to help feed those less fortunate than you, and if you want to protect our planet, then start supporting and trusting the scientists who know what they’re doing.

Be consistent.

If we’re going to say we support science and validated research, then hold up that promise and start supporting all the validated science, not just the ones you want to.

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.

Cover Photo Credit: Paul Sableman/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Rory, Obama, And Me

The last time I saw Rory Gilmore, it was 2007.

She sat nervously sipping a cup of coffee at Luke’s at 5 a.m, about to take off on the road to work as a journalist, covering the Obama campaign.

At the time, an unlikely black, underdog, born in Hawaii had unexpectedly become a presidential candidate and I, a young eleven year old girl was about to enter the daunting world of high school.

Although Rory, Obama, and I’s futures were uncertain, there was a palpable feeling of hope that outweighed any fears of the unknown.

During my young impressionable years, I had the privilege—in both my real and imaginative worlds—to be surrounded by truly remarkable characters.

In the real world of politics, I got to grow up in the ‘yes we can’ generation, believing that anyone regardless of gender, race, economic background, could carve out a place for themselves in even the most elite pockets of society.

In my world of fiction, I was fortunate to have two strong female heroines whose self-worth was anchored in their intelligence, independence, and capacity to eat more than their male counterparts.

As a young woman—navigating through a time often ridden with cliques and self-confidence issues—my real and fictitious role models helped me keep a touch on the pulse, whose steady and defined beats reminded me of the values I would grow up to cherish dearly.

When I was reunited with Rory Gilmore this past November, only weeks after a sexist tyrant was elected as Obama’s successor, I mourned the loss of feminism in the worlds I had once inhabited.

When I left Rory, she was a quiet, driven young woman, who acknowledged her flaws and her fears.

She chose a career she loved over a man she adored, and though terrified, fearlessly threw herself into the deep end.

The Rory I found in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, was virtually unrecognizable.

Her work-ethic I had once so preciously admired was replaced with a repulsive entitlement that manifested itself in her career, her love life, and even her relationship with her beloved mother and best-friend, Lorelai.

A poster promoting Gilmore Girls during its original run. Photo Credit: Zach Tirrell/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

She found satisfaction in her friendships with trust-fund babies she had once despised (Logan’s Life and Death Brigade friends) and seemed to have no qualms being Logan’s mistress, meanwhile walking all-over her caring boyfriend whose name and existence not even she could remember.

When I have expressed my disappointment with Rory’s character in the Gilmore Girls revival, people have told me—to my fervent frustration—that the old Rory was ‘unrealistic’.

But to say that a sincere, hard-working, and driven young woman who cares more about C-Span and Tolstoy than about fashion and parties is ‘unrealistic’ is to do a massive dis-service to every hard-working young woman out there who refuses to succumb to stereotypes of what a young woman is supposed to look like.

Like all of us, Rory was a flawed and imperfect character.

Throughout the seven seasons, Rory fell apart almost every time she received criticism.

When she hit a deer and missed her exam, she threw a tantrum in class; when a professor in Season Four told her to drop a class, she cried in Dean’s lap; when Mitchum Huntsburger told her she didn’t have ‘it’, she dropped out of school for a semester and moved into Richard and Emily’s pool house.

As Jess poignantly noted back in Season Two while driving Rory’s car—and Logan pointed out at a Life and Death Brigade retreat later in the series (You jump, I jump Jack)—Rory was scared of the world around her.

Gilmore Girls speaks for a certain generation of American women who are now coming into positions of influence. Photo Credit: jeffmason/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

She spent her first year of university hiding away after her mom slept at her dorm her first night of college, where I might add, she hardly made any new friends.

So no, Rory was not an unrealistic character because she was imperfect with flaws that I learnt from and whose attributes I grew to admire.

But because of Rory, I went through high school hardly worrying about my appearance or trying to be cool.

While I undoubtedly had my teenage moments where I rolled my kilt to show a little more leg, or worried about what party to go to on a Friday night, I spent more time reading and studying than I did drinking or sneaking out.

I wanted to be valued for my independence and intelligence rather than be judged by my appearance or who I was dating.

Though I would like to take credit for these character traits I have grown to be proud of, I can say with an utmost certainty that I inherited these attributes from Rory Gilmore and for that, I am thankful.

In her high school graduation speech, Rory said:

“I live in two worlds. One is a world of books. I’ve been a resident of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, hunted the white whale aboard the Pequod, fought alongside Napoleon, sailed a raft with Huck and Jim, committed absurdities with Ignatius J. Reilly, rode a sad train with Anna Karenina and strolled down Swann’s Way. It’s a rewarding world, but my second one is by far superior. My second one is populated with characters slightly less eccentric, but supremely real, made of flesh and bone, full of love, who are my ultimate inspiration for everything.”

For those of who grew up watching Gilmore Girls, we also grew up living in two worlds.

In one, we were part of a fictitious, eccentric town in Connecticut where two women taught us what it meant to be independent strong women in the 21st century.

In the other, Obama, an also imperfect character, reminded us that despite all the odds, hope could conquer.

In 2017, I am no longer inspired by the characters in my world of fiction nor in my world of politics—feminism seems to have temporarily escaped them both.

But perhaps this reminds us that progress is not an uphill process—it zigs and zags in surprising directions—but it’s up to us, the generation whose impressionable years were imprinted by impeccable role model to reshape the worlds that have shaped us.

It’s our turn to be someone worth imitating.

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.

Cover Photo Credit: Ed Schipul/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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