The Young Leader

Change only comes to those who fight for it.

Would The Discovery Of Alien Life Cause A Crisis For Religion?

Many people have asked the question, “Are there aliens out there in the universe?”, but the one question that rarely gets asked is “what would their discovery mean for the very foundation of organized religions here on Earth”?

In the course of writing this article, I took the time to ponder the question myself, as well as ask people of different faiths how they think people would react given substantial evidence that intelligent life exists outside of our planet.

It should be known that this article is entirely theoretical and opinion based, but it’s certainly fun to think about.

I firmly believe that there is intelligent life out in the universe; it is not a matter of if we will get in contact with these beings, but a question of when.

In the year 2000 it was known that astronomers had located about 50 “exoplanets,” and in the year 2013, that number had grown to 850.

In just 13 years, out of the 850 that have been discovered, 20 of the planets have been found to be “Earth-size exoplanets that occupy a habitable zone around their star, including the most recently discovered Proxima b, which orbits Proxima Centauri,” according to the BBC.

The idea that something could be going on outside of Earth would surely be something that God would have told us about, right?

It is estimated that by the year 2045 the number of exoplanets discovered will be well over one million.

At a certain point, it just becomes silly to think that we are actually alone in the universe.

Now that the framework for this conversation has been laid out, and the argument made that it is only a matter of time before we find a form of advanced life that resides outside of our world; we can begin to examine the question of what the discovery of alien life would mean for religion on earth.

Photo Credit: William Murphy/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The very first thing that would probably happen is that there would be a period of denial for many people that have a religious life and background.

The idea that something could be going on outside of Earth would surely be something that God would have told us about, right?

The denial would just be dismissive at first, but then we would move into our second stage: anger.

Anger would envelop the masses of religious people, and for the first time in the history of religion, there might even be a shared understanding among all faiths to combat the false lies that are being spread about alien life that exists in the universe.

There would be a strong effort to dispel any rumor or fact that there is extraterrestrial life, and people would gather en masse to protest and show their anger for the contempt of their religion.

This brings us to step three and three and a half: denial and depression.

After being shown substantial evidence that alien life exists outside of our earth, and with all their theories and rhetoric thoroughly exhausted, the religious people that have no accepted the reality of this fact will have a severe attack of cognitive dissonance.

Photo Credit: Chris Murtagh/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

It’s a very unfortunate thing to say, but some people will no doubt be so overcome with doubt and depression that they will likely take their own lives as they see everything that they have ever known fundamentally shaken.

Luckily, I see this as a short period of time, and slowly the fog will begin to clear.

This will lead us to step four: acceptance and rationalization.

When I asked people of different faiths the question about how they would personally feel about being show substantial evidence of the existence of alien life, and how it would affect their belief in their religion I was generally given the same answer: “There are things that we just don’t know about, and in due time God will reveal them.”

It is no secret that the Bible, Torah, Qur’an and other religious text were all written by man.

I believe that these religious texts have been drafted through divine inspiration from a higher being and that higher being only gives us as much information that we are able to handle at any given time.

Photo Credit: Jason Trbovich/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

If you were to tell the people of the world back in 300 A.D. that we would have these magical machines that could fly us across vast oceans in a matter of hours they probably would have looked at you like you had four heads.

We are only given as much information that we can cognitively process, and that will continue to happen if people have a truth faith and allegiance to their religion.

Religion is rarely based on things that can definitively be proven.

Religion is based on belief and faith.

When there is tangible evidence of alien life existing outside of our Earth, the true believers of faith will continue to believe that there is a supreme being in the heavens that is looking out for all that it created, and in this circumstance, the creation extends to extraterrestrial beings.

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: DeeAshley/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

NC State Elects Its First Latina Student Body President

The sound of shattering glass was all that you could hear on North Carolina State University’s campus on March 2, as the results from Student Government elections were announced.

Jackie Gonzalez and Mia Connell were elected to be the next Student Body President and Vice President.

Gonzalez and Connell went through two separate elections, winning the general election with 28.6% of the votes cast, advancing to the run-off election that took place two days later, securing the win with 64.4% of the votes cast in the run-off.

This win was historic, and that night, four glass ceilings were shattered to pieces.

Mia Connell (L) and Jackie Gonzalez (R). Photo Credit: Mia Connell/ Facebook

Gonzalez was the first Latinx identified individual elected to the office of Student Body President, and Connell was both the first female, and female of color elected to become Vice President.

Together, they made history by becoming the first all female ticket to win the dual-ticket race.

I was able to sit down with both Gonzalez and Connell to discuss their want to be President and Vice President, their historic win, and their goals for the next year.

RISE NEWS: Why did you want to become the Student Body President?

Gonzalez: I’ve always been drawn to NC State. It was the first college I ever really stepped foot on and I did that at orientation. I’m a first generation college student, so I didn’t really know about the college application process. I didn’t know you were supposed to tour schools before applying. I came NC State immediately and I loved it so there was no other option. Then I started getting involved in Student Government and loved it. The reason that I ran was because NC State has shown their acceptance of me and has helped me grow as a person so I want to make sure other students have those experiences as well.

RN: Why did you want to become the Student Body Vice President?

Connell: I want to run because I have been involved in Student Government my entire time here at State, and I’m really passionate about Student Government. I have been able to see many of the great initiatives that other individuals have been able to accomplish through Student Government and I think that can be expanded upon and improved. Even though we’re already doing great things, it can always be strenghtened.

RN: How do you feel about winning the election?

Gonzalez: I was absolutely taken back by our lead in the end. I think both of our leads were interesting. We knew it was going to be a difficult campaign season because all of the candidates were really great, but winning with 7 votes in the general and then winning with over 1000 in the run-off was just ridiculous. It was absolutely insane and we’re really grateful that what we did actually worked. What it really went down to was speaking with students and getting out there and getting to students that didn’t know to vote.

Connell: I feel grateful. It was a really tough process. Every campaign season is different. I was expecting it to be like last year’s and it was very different, so it was hard to adjust, so I’m very grateful for how quickly we adjusted to changes in the election. We were able to capitalize off the strengths and weaknesses of the team throughout the election season, so I’m grateful that we ran at the time that we did, that we had the support that we did, and that we ended up coming out on top.

RN: What does it mean to become the first all-female ticket to win?

Gonzalez: When I went into the decision process of whether to apply or not, I knew that I wanted to do it with another woman of color. I knew it was time to prove to NC State that two women of color are qualified and capable of standing up for others and representing others in a higher institution. So it feels GREAT. People actually listen to us and people actually care and that’s something we appreciate. Knowing that our team was as diverse as it was, we made sure to stick with our guts and to do what was right for the campaign.

Connell: People like to vote for people that look like themselves, and I don’t always look like every student on our campus, which can be considered a strength, but can also be considered a weakness. Jackie and I were both very nervous to run together. That was one of the first conversations we had together – that we would be viewed differently because we were an all female ticket. And it’s not something that people consciously do, but you are viewed differently when you’re an all female ticket, and it worked in our favor this year, but it other years it hasn’t. I look at it as the fact that less people are starting to look at gender or sex as a qualification for a role.

RN: What are you looking forward to accomplishing in the next year?

Gonzalez: I think the thing I am most passionate about is sexual assault education. It was very big for me. It’s something I want to make sure that other students have their resources and know what their resources are and are educated on this topic. I think what I campaigned on was something similar to that, where my biggest goal was to make sure that students know their resources, and to know that they don’t have to go through Student Government to talk to administrators – that they can go directly to them because they are students here and administrators are willing to listen to them. To take down that barrier between administrators and students is another big goal.

Connell: When I think of the upcoming year I’m very excited because we have a very cohesive team of Student Body Officers. I’m here to create a cohesive Student Government that can serve the student body in a useful way. As Vice President, I am internally focused. I am focused on running the Executive departments, and making sure that Student Government as a whole is working cohesively. I really want to improve our Retreat experience. Our Retreat experience is something that can be more engaging for our student leaders, and more useful. I think we can bring more tools to that setting, more training, more initiative and idea building, and connecting them to more University resources so they know who to go to. If we start off on the right foot and the proper training and guidance, it make the whole year run more smoothly.

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: NC State University/ Facebook

The Most Important Thing I Learned In SGA

There are two ways by which something can spread.

The first is by darkness.

It is by meeting others with the same hostility that they have met you with.

Fighting fire with fire, if you will.

The second way is by light.

It is greeting every person with a smile and genuine happiness despite the fact that they might have no interest in what you are saying or what you stand for.

There are endless opportunities offered by SGA.

The positions that I was lucky enough to serve in have proven to me that you can do as much as you wish to if you are willing to put in the work.

That; however, is not the big lesson behind running for an SGA office.

The most important thing is how you earn your votes and gain your supporters.

I learned the importance of this on the very first day of active campaigning when I ran for office as a freshman.

I was very eager to get my name out to people across campus and to talk with other students about our campaign’s goals for the future.

The students; however, were not always as eager to stop and talk to us.

Many times people put in headphones and walked passed without giving us a second thought.

Photo Credit: Jen Burleigh

It began to make me feel like I was doing something wrong.

While there were plenty of people stopping to talk to me who were more than interested in what I had to say, I was still insecure about those who ignored me when I tried to reach out to them.

There was another campaign member who was facing the same struggle and made a comment about how he wanted to reply to them with the same disregard as they had shown us.

Without thinking I told him, “I’m just going to be really nice to them.”

And that is what I did.

With every person that walked by I smiled at them and wished them all a good day, especially when they looked like they were exhausted or all-around defeated.

I focused more on them than I did on the campaign and I just started talking to them.

It took longer to get around to my point, but in the end, they were able to get a few things off their chests and I got the opportunity to tell them how our campaign could potentially help them in the future.

The changes in people’s responses were almost immediate.

Photo Credit: Jen Burleigh

I stopped telling them about what I was planning on doing and starting asking them what I could be doing.

I took the happiness and excitement that I had and channeled into making them happier in the end.

It would have been easy to disregard every person who disregarded me but if I did that then no one wins.

I don’t get to share my message and they continue on with whatever struggles that they are facing.

That’s why I learned to be better.

I learned to recognize their dark clouds and I learned to help them to find their light.

No one will ever fully understand what someone else is going through so the least that we can do is try to make it better instead of worse.

I made my active campaign time matter because of this and I led with the light that I had within me rather than returning the disinterest that I was occasionally faced with.

I learned to ask, “How can I help?” rather than, “Let me tell you[…]” and people actually responded.

It didn’t take long for people noticed this new found approach to getting students’ attention.

Before long, I was known as ‘the girl one who could talk to anybody’ and a ‘light’ in the campaign.

For me, that was a success.

I built up my recognition through kindness rather than coldness and I became approachable to those around me.

This has followed me throughout every leadership role that I have taken on and will continue to follow me into the future.

So when you make your way into SGA remember that a little dose of kindness and understanding can go much farther than the immediate end that comes from turning your back.

Be open with your peers and help them.

Be the one to ask what you can do because you’ll quickly find that many people are in need of a helping hand.

If you do this then you can be one of the good ones who spreads light among the dark.

You can make a difference in your position with people who support you and trust you because you helped them get through their rough patch.

You helped them to be better and through that you became better.

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: LSU Student Government/ Facebook

The Mainstream Media Is Starting To Win Back The Trust Of Liberals

Have a conversation with a handful of Americans and you will quickly discover that they don’t agree on much.

But as of recently, many Americans (and even foreigners) have come to the consensus that the mainstream media is failing at its job and some have gone as far as to treat it as the enemy.

Ask a conservative, and you will hear that CNN is “fake news”.

Ask a liberal, and you’ll hear that the mainstream media’s been bought out by the interests of billionaires and multinational corporations.

Ask an Israeli and she will say that the American media treats Israel as the aggressor in the Middle East.

Ask a Palestinian and he will say that the American media is far too sympathetic to Israel.

But as I thought more about this, this common narrative about the media is strikingly paradoxical.

If the mainstream media continues to write pieces and broadcast news, then it is clearly supported as a necessary and important source of information by the bulk of American society.

Yet it seems to be the easy target for all sides to pick on.

So it attempting to revise this false indictment of the media, I thought about the stated premise of the media, to report and inform the public on events as they occur.

However I realized that this simple task has often been convoluted, for two reasons.

One, because in the current political climate, the information presented by cultural and institutional authorities for the media to report out is not reflective of the truth.

In these cases, the media is left with few options, as reporting on reality is no longer consistent with reporting on the presented reality.

Secondly, the media has traditionally functioned with a certain structure that has now become particularly vulnerable to manipulation.

This has made it even more difficult to confront falsified information, a problem that has become acute as liberals attempt to confront the rhetoric and posturing of conservatives, who currently dominate the government in numbers.

Photo Credit: Esther Vargas/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Generally speaking, mainstream media rarely denies airtime to advisors in President Trump’s administration.

They are viewed as trusted authority figures that give the public greater insight into the wishes and policy positions of the president.

Perhaps Trump’s most recognized advisor, Kellyanne Conway has appeared frequently on TV to do interviews.

But she has been much more of a distraction than an illuminating agent.

She runs the clock on interviewers, speaking around criticisms of Trump.

She refuses to answer interviewers’ questions, instead, picking out a central word in the question that she can use to promote ideas that paint Trump in favorable light.

This answering structure confuses audiences, while simultaneously making it appear as if she is answering questions.

Worse of all, she has proven to lack credibility, reinterpreting and changing positions to portray a false image of Trump’s administration.

Following Kellyanne Conway’s reference to the non-existent Bowling Green Massacre, CNN placed a temporary ban on Conway, turning her down for the Sunday “State of the Union” public affairs show.

Later, they reiterated their position, citing their concerns about Conway’s credibility.

These are essential steps for the liberals and even people of all political affiliations to take to confront conservative falsehoods and distortions of the truth.

The mainstream media has also hit difficulties with the content of conservative sources.

Traditionally, representatives of the media avoid using the word “lie”.

In an enlightening article by Philip Bump, a correspondent for The Washington Post, Bump discusses the difficulties associated with confronting a lie by Donald Trump or others in his administration through the media.

First, according to Bump, reporters feel that the word “lie” carries a judgment of the intentions of the person telling the lie and because it is difficult to pin down intent, media outlets are hesitant to go as far as to call something a “lie”.

Secondly, there is a general social expectation that members of the media are polite towards their subjects of reporting, especially in person.

Asking difficult questions to reveal inconsistencies, to repeat questions that are not answered and to outright call out lies are not accepted as typically polite behavior on the part of the media, so when members of the media are confronted with falsehood and unanswered questions, push back is viewed as overly aggressive, while yielding simply allows for a reiteration of inaccurate information.

Thirdly, these media outlets want to maintain the trust of their readership and the risk of the making an accusation as strong as suggesting a person of authority is “lying” is far too great.

Even if a media outlet has concluded that something is inaccurate with the information they have access to, the cost of being wrong in light of potentially hidden information is too dangerous, as it harms the media’s reputation even further, providing more evidence to the Trump administration that the media has an anti-Trump agenda and delegitimizing its future reporting.

Hence, it is often much easier for the media to repeat what has been presented as fact instead of addressing its dissonance from truth.

However, recently, some TV hosts and journalists have begun to confront these false facts. Dan Barry of The New York Times wrote an article explaining the importance of “calling a lie a lie”.

NBC’s Chuck Todd boldly confronted Conway in interview, exclaiming that “Alternative facts are not facts, they’re falsehoods!”

This breaking from previous hesitancies has restored the trust of liberals in the role of the media, while simultaneously fueling the fire of Trump’s “fake news” claims, supported by some conservatives.

But from a more removed perspective, this newfound strategy is necessary, not just for liberals confronting conservatives through the media, but also for the sake of maintaining a basic journalistic standard.

A large part of the distrust in media originates from a casual treatment as truth as entirely relative, which fosters public ignorance and a pseudo-reality of disinformation.

The media should adhere to a far more discerning view of the truth, to preserve liberal dissent in a conservative government and to work towards a greater pursuit of truthful information, regardless its affiliation.

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: hannesdesmet/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Could Oprah Be Elected President?

I’d like to say celebrate it with a HUGE, YES!

Oprah is one of the most successful moguls of our time.

A self made billionaire who did it all without her daddy’s money.

She’s an icon who has great sway over millions of people across the country, especially in areas where Democrats performed poorly in 2016.

Some even say she’s the reason why Barack Obama became President.

A ubiquitous celebrity with a successful business record?

Sounds like the perfect person to take down Donald Trump in 2020.

But while it sounds like a good idea, there are reasons why it probably will never happen.

We are the same society who lets a rapist off with a slap on the wrist because he also swam on the Stanford swim team.

Then there’s the President.

President Trump had 20+ allegations of sexual assault come out while he was running to be president.

Many people in this country did not care.

America voted for a man with dozens of allegations of sexual misconduct because Hillary Clinton had a private email server.

It is just harder to do it as a woman in this country.

Oprah is everything Trump lied about being, but it still wouldn’t be enough. Photo Credit: aphrodite-in-nyc/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

So the American people spoke and chose the person who has the characteristics and personality traits of a racist, misogynist, xenophobe, homophobe, etc.

So when I’m asked if I think Oprah could ever be president I unfortunately have to think that we as a country have a problem with women in powerful positions.

Not to mention black women in positions of power.

Remember how long it took to confirm Loretta Lynch to be Attorney General?

The United States is not ready to be blessed by Oprah.

She’s a humanitarian who actually gives a great deal to charity unlike our current President who just pretends to.

The country has spoken on how qualified one must be to be President and Oprah certainly fits the new qualifications.

Of course anyone does as long as they were on a middling reality show and are willing to “grab it”.

Many people spoke up and made it very clear they did not like President Barack Obama, of course what specifically they didn’t like about him was never made clear.

The moment President Trump was inaugurated it was clear that President Obama’s blackness was the problem greatly affecting our nation.

The moment he was sworn in “we took our country back” and America became great again.

In their eyes, Obama could never be truly American due to his blackness.

Even for those who don’t take it that far, the idea that Trump and Obama have been treated equally is laughable.

The Trump administration has what is an alarming amount of ties to Russia- not a conspiracy but a fact.

“Fired up and ready to O?” Ok, on second thought, that probably won’t work as a slogan. Photo Credit: aphrodite-in-nyc/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Had this been President Obama he would have been impeached already, and have had 20 different investigations on his involvement with Russia.

So it doesn’t take much stretching to say that Hillary Clinton lost because she was not the right gender for the job, and President Obama’s so called horrific job was due to him being a black man.

So unfortunately, America is not ready for an African-American female president- not even one who was forged in the same 1980s daytime television/ tabloid milieu as the current White House occupant.

The double standard has proven itself true too many times in the past few years for us to ignore it.

Someday, hopefully in our lifetime we are able to see that diversity siting in the oval office.

But it won’t be in 2020.

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: Alan Light/ Flickr (CC By 2.00

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

Does the Philippines Have A Dictator Now?

The president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte has become an internationally known figure in a remarkably short amount of time.

Oh course, so has Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

While only being in office for 253 days (as of March 10, 2017) Duterte has become an alarmingly important figure in global politics due to his awful human rights record and a penchant for bucking the status quo.

Some, including Duterte himself, have even started calling him by a new name- dictator.

Duterte was recently quoted as saying, “I will be a dictator against all bad guys, evil, I will do it at the cost of my position or my life. I won’t stop. That’s a solemn commitment.”

The world should probably start listening to him.

Human Rights Watch, an American-founded international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights, believes that Duterte may have committed crimes against humanity by, “inciting killings during his bloody antidrug campaign.”

Crimes against humanity aren’t something to scoff at, and it certainly isn’t something to take lightly.

Other high-profile political people who have been indicted for crimes against humanity include the now dead Muammar Gaddafi, and Bashar al-Assad, the current President of war-torn Syria.

Duterte meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2016.

Some people might look at what Duterte is doing for his country as an act of patriotism.

His stated goal is to rid his country of drug lords, their dealers, and anyone who is addicted to drugs.

Of course he is not creating massive amounts of new treatment facilities or encouraging other public health fixes, instead he is literally telling people to murder those who abuse drugs.

So has he already crossed the line from democratically elected leader to dictator?

The answer is obviously yes.

No one would argue against the fact that drugs and the trafficking of drugs are a global issue that has had disastrous ramifications for so many communities, but Duterte’s policy of slaughtering his own people in the name of reform cannot be tolerated by the people of the Philippines or the international community.

In the short time span of Duterte’s presidency, thousands of people have been killed by police or vigilantes, and the killings will only continue if no one is willing to speak up and demand a stop to an unjust judicial system.

The reason that many developing countries look to the west for a guiding hand in the building of their countries is for our rule of law.

A belief that all individuals are innocent until proven guilty in a court of justice.

Photo Credit: Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The people of the Philippines are not being given this fundamental human right, and they are suffering in silence.

The principle of human rights is universal, and it is the basis for all democracies.

What Duterte, a democratically elected official, has done is spit in the face of democracy.

He has turned around and made the Philippines his own personal killing field, and “his people” are the targets.

The saddest part about the current situation in the Philippines is that by Philippine law, the president has immunity from prosecution while in office.

What this means to the rest of the world is that it is now our solemn duty to hold Duterte and his cronies responsible for their systematic attack against the civilian population.

The International Criminal Court and the U.N. have an obligation to launch an expedient investigation into this matter and stop these policies from continuing.

How many more people must die from extrajudicial killings before the rest of the world opens their eyes and sees Rodrigo Duterte for what he truly is: a malicious dictator?

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.

Why Politics Is Actually Personal

“I love you, but I just don’t really agree with your lifestyle.”

“Just because I voted for Trump doesn’t mean I don’t care for you.”

“Trump’s policies aren’t actually going to affect you.”

“It’s just politics, it’s nothing personal.”

I’ve heard every single one of these comments – whether it was over lunch in high school, with friends both before and after the election, and just through everyday interactions with people with different personal and political ideologies from myself.

I’m used to it, it happens to everybody from all walks of life and from all political parties.

You’re going to come face to face with people that don’t agree with you politically, and sometimes you’re just not going to like them.

Which is fine.

It’s one thing to acknowledge that you don’t agree with someone’s views.

It’s one thing to acknowledge that you can still try to maintain a relationship regardless of different ideologies.

It’s one thing to acknowledge that you simply can’t get along with someone due to their views.

But it’s a completely different, and frankly ludicrous, thing to pretend and ignore the fact that your political thoughts, opinions, and choices are not personal, nor that they will be taken personally by someone.

When I tell someone that supports ‘traditional’ marriage that I support marriage equality, that’s a direct assault on their belief system.

When people tell me that they don’t believe in evolution, that’s a direct assault against my scientific beliefs.

When people tell me they don’t want non-Christians in the United States, that’s a direct assault against my personal belief system.

Let me be clear, I identify as a Christian, but I also strongly believe that under the Constitution, people have the right to identify with what religion they so choose – which is a core value I hold.

When people choose sides on key political policies and issues, they are attacking the other side, and it gets personal.

Want an example of how personal politics can be?

Look at the last election.

Both sides attacked the other’s character.

Politics is often about identity, which means its personal. Photo Credit: 5chw4r7z/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

They focused not on the policy issues or promises while in office, and instead fixated on how corrupt the other was, how self-serving the other was, and how they were bad for the American people – not because of their policies, but because of their person.

The most remembered question of the debates was, “What is one nice thing you can say about your opponent?”

That question served no true purpose in the sense of the debate or in persuading voters’ opinions, and, in my opinion, was just used to continue the ongoing personal fight between candidates.

This piece isn’t supposed to be a liberal whining session, but instead to show everyone that politics is personal, and that everyone takes it personally.

The only times you’re truly not going to take politics personally is when your party is winning and in control.

And that’s okay.

It’s okay to be upset when there’s a policy that affects you in a negative way.

It’s okay to be elated when the Supreme Court rules in favor of a case that positively impacts your life.

It’s okay to not get along and to have different sides on issues.

What isn’t okay, and what is downright dangerous, is to ignore the notion that politics is anything but personal.

You’re going to be biased, and when someone attacks your values, they’re attacking you.

My collegiate career in NC State’s Student Senate has been defined by the debates and bills I have worked on, and even though people may say it’s not the case, every attack on my bill is an attack on me, my values, and my work.

And frankly, I don’t know of a way to get around this.

Politics is so ingrained in our society and the impact of the government on people’s lives is so pronounced that people take all policy changes personally – and that’s just the world we live in.

Just be sure to acknowledge that you’re biased, and remember what it feels like when you’re party isn’t the party in charge next time your friend complains about what’s going on in politics.

You don’t have to be impartial or remove all emotions and preconceptions of your ideologies – just have some compassion and empathy towards your fellow political junkie.

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.

Photo Credit: Robert Couse-Baker/Flikr (CC by 2.0)

The DNC Is In An Impossible Situation

On Feb. 25, the Democratic National Committee chose former Labor Secretary Tom Perez to lead the party into the disarrayed, foggy wilderness of modern American politics.

As the Bernie Sanders-backed candidate Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) was denied the position, the bifurcation of the mainstay liberal party continues.

The DNC is in an impossible situation.

They are pitted against two raging participants, both with heads angry and fierce, who have vastly different visions of the party moving forward.

Questions surrounding how to combat the efforts of President Trump and how to regain what the Democratic party has lost in recent decades, most notably the populace squeezed between the liberal coasts, is stoking the inner frustrations.

Left-ward bound are the progressives, closely aligned with the ‘social justice warrior’ mindset who are diligent activists that have shaped a lot of the dialogue of the past election.

Their strategy is defined by identity politics, safe spaces and trigger warnings.

Their goals are post-national and rabidly unpatriotic.

They have come to dominate what hordes of Americans see as modern day liberalism.

There are hints of anarchic chaos in this camp as well.

When we watched the Berkeley anti-fascist protesters erupt into violence at the very thought of Milo opening his mouth, very few of us imagined the existence of a master plan.

There was no commanding officer directing deployments, only low-level infantry grasping at whatever could become a flaming projectile.

There is, coincidentally, a Trump-like element to their anti-Trump beliefs.

What unites them is the ultimate desire to just burn the whole thing to the ground.

This group aims to wholeheartedly refuse to work with President Trump on anything, as that would be shaking the metaphorical hand of a genocidal, Hitlerian ruler whose only wish is to inflict harm on non-white persons from any and all nations. This strategy won’t go over well in dispatched corners of Trump country.

The progressives on the left are fed up with the Democratic establishment just like the pro-Trump movement is fed up with the Republican establishment.

They did find some success when Sen. Bernie Sanders sounded the horn of economic populism, a core message used by both sides during the campaign cycle.

New DNC chair Tom Perez has an impossibly tough job ahead. Photo Credit: Maryland GovPics/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

As he talked of the harmful trade deals and low wages, millions found him to be speaking their long-awaited mother tongue.

On the other hand, there is the establishment end of the party.

A moderate, less-rebellious brand of liberal politics with the expectation of some compromise with those on the other side.

Tom Perez falls squarely in this camp, as does Hillary Clinton and similar figureheads in Democratic politics.

If there was a section of the Democratic party that was to undergo a serious self-reflection as to why 2016 became the year for the GOP, it would be from this end.

That is a big if, but for disaffected areas that saw promise in Trump, a steadied working-class approach by level-headed Democrats would entice them more than Antifa protests or an extra dose of virtue signaling.

The establishment’s main problem is, well, the fact that they are the establishment.

The big money, shadowy donors, corporatist leanings, the hawkish Democrats who resemble neocons instead of war-weary liberals.

There is the perceived rigging of the 2016 nomination in favor of Clinton over Sanders and the inside baseball we all characterize as a symptom, or possibly the definition, of the Washington machine.

Ultimately, they lack the intoxicant of change – the most potent reason to overlook them in the ballot box.

Upholding the status quo doesn’t feed the hungry masses, it doesn’t put people in the seats, nor does it fire people up to ‘make history’, even if it is to elect the first female President of the United States.

This is why Perez and the DNC have a virtually impossible challenge to overcome.

They must choose one side over the other, and both are undoubtedly flawed.

Can Democrats compete in parking lots like these all over America again? Photo Credit: Jimmy Jim Jim Shabadoo/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The division won’t naturally melt away.

The progressives can unite the young, the energetic, and the squadrons of protestors at a Trump hotel or a dance-off outside of Vice President Mike Pence’s house.

However, they struggle to connect with ‘fly-over’ country.

The people who are concerned with overspending at Wal-Mart, not the amount of gender identities recognized in the legal code.

To people outside of major cities and college campuses, the progressives are consumed with trivial anger and idealistic revolutions the world has tried over and over again.

The establishment of the Democratic Party can show that they aren’t identical to the social justice warrior type.

If they, for example, promote a pro-business campaign that isn’t completely anti-gun, they could compete in some of these rural areas, places where American flags fly high but Main Street is all but abandoned.

But doing that will alienate the anti-capitalist, anti-establishment thread running through the party.

They would lose the progressives to the Jill Stein’s of the world, only to be inevitably shut out of the power structure again.

Choose the progressives, you lose those within the margin of persuasion.

Choose the moderates, and the hatred of the elites may sweep them further away from elected office.

Republicans have factions erupting as well, but with controlling so much power their movement isn’t in the same state as the left.

I’m not a Democrat so I don’t have skin in this game.

However, I can acknowledge that Tom Perez has very little room to work with.

He must walk on the edge of a razor blade.

Every move he makes will infuriate half of his party and embolden the rest.

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.

Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann/flickr (CC by-SA 2.0)

Cover Photo Credit: Kim Love/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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