Saturday, October 2, 2010

The DREAM Act, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and Senator Scott Brown

Recently as some people may have noticed, the military appropriations bill that went before the Senate was filibustered by Republicans and thus failed. This bill had attached to it, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and the DREAM Act. Now admittedly, clumping these bills together without significant guarantees of success was an awful plan. Instead of forcing Senators to take a stand on two different and equally important issues, they were lumped together in such a way that the Republicans could fairly blame whichever cause seemed most beneficial to them, or even the procedure itself. I consider this a failure on Harry Reid’s part. However, the bulk of my focus and my rage has truly fallen on comments from a Senator of my home state known as “Downtown Scotty Brown”.

Scott Brown voted against the bill, and one of the many people who commented on his decision was the University of Harvard. They had separately given both the DREAM Act and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell their full endorsement. Scott Brown then had the audacity to attack Harvard saying their “priorities are upside down”. Harvard is an institution that has been educating our nation since 1636, and they have never made any outlandish claims about their own importance. Scott Brown has been a Senator for about a year, and he has explained on numerous occasions how he is both key vote number 41 and key vote number 60. He is already on his way to publishing his autobiography. To see the full length of his vanity, see the following video where in a speech before the Senate he explains how he’s working despite a difficult sickness because he’s just that dedicated. (Note: Huffington Post has obviously significantly edited this video to play with a comparison to Michael Jordan’s Flu Game. It’s hilarious.)

Now, let’s return to the quarrel with Harvard. For those who don’t know the reason their stance on DADT has such impact is that due to their anti-discrimination rules, ROTC is not allowed on campus. Students are still able to serve in ROTC via MIT. Scott Brown using the opportunity afforded him by the combined bill said Harvard valued amnesty for illegal immigrants over the military. These are two completely separate issues which Harvard takes a stand on for separate reasons, making the comparison completely unfair. Again, I blame Reid for enabling this whole situation. However, I will address the two issues separately to examine why both pieces of the legislation ought to have passed.

First, let’s examine the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. This policy is so outdated, it barely merits debate. The part that makes this most ridiculous is our army has ALREADY served side by side with openly gay men. Remember those British forces that have helped us out and fought beside us? They don’t have any limits on who serves in their army. When they offered to help, we didn’t say, “We’ll take your straight soldiers, but send the gay ones home.” We realized that we needed help at all costs. Why should we treat American soldiers with less dignity then we have given to foreign soldiers fighting beside us? Back at Harvard they have said openly that they would consider allowing ROTC back on campus if DADT was repealed. So Senator Brown, maybe, rather than starting a petition to allow ROTC back on campus, (PS Harvard is private, and according to your own rhetoric the government shouldn’t interfere), you could consider repealing an offensive policy, which would accomplish the exact same result.

Next there is the DREAM Act, which Scott Brown characterized as, something that “welcomes students who are in this country illegally”. Nice generalization, but it’s too bad that it leaves out all of those minor details that make the bill sensible. For example, there are requirements to this “welcoming”. This bill would apply only to people who were brought into this country by the parents when they are under the age of 16. Why should children suffer for the decisions made by their parents? These children had no choice in the crime that was committed and have no choice for their future other than returning to a country that they do not know or understand. Most importantly, all we are doing is giving them a PATH to citizenship. We aren’t offering them anything for free. We are requiring that they give something back to the nation. They MUST graduate high school in order to even begin to qualify. After that they would have six years of temporary residence to complete either two years of college or two years of military service. They would serve their country wither in war or by becoming better educated, just as immigrants throughout American history have done. During this six year period if they were convicted of any drug-related crime, or any felony, their temporary residency would be revoked. In short, we would give children who had no choice in their status as an illegal immigrant the chance to become a citizen if they proved that they would be productive members of society who would give something back. I would legitimately like to know what reason (other than fear and bigotry) would there be to oppose this bill.

These two critical pieces of legislation tacked onto a military spending bill have failed. And while their packaging allowed for many excuses we still need to stand up on both of these issues and challenge those Republicans who think that they’re “part of history”, when they fight a cold, instead of fighting for equality and the American Dream.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Power and Permanence of Cyber Abuse

Last week a Rutgers freshman jumped off a bridge after footage of his sexual encounter with another man was leaked onto the internet. Tyler Clementi was secretly videotaped by his roommate, Dharun Ravi, who streamed the video live on the internet and tweeted “"Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay,” and later “"I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it's happening again."

The awfulness of this whole affair blows my mind. Gay Rights groups are calling for the suicide to be classified as a hate crime, and Ravi has already been charged with invasion of privacy. Let there be no mistake: Clementi was bullied into suicide, and he deserves justice, his roommate must be apprehended. But more importantly, we all need to confront why this happened.

We live in the 21st century. Rutgers is not in a particularly conservative part of the country. Some of our biggest talk show hosts and TV stars are openly gay, we have gay senators, journalists, athletes and pastors. And yet Ravi victimized his roommate for his sexuality, and Clementi felt that life would never get any better, that his future was empty.

We need to take a two-pronged approach to this tragedy. First, we need to spread awareness about sexuality. Everyone, and especially young people, need to understand that sexuality is not a choice, and, more importantly, that all forms of sexuality should be embraced and celebrated. At the risk of sounding maudlin, love is love, love is beautiful, love is gender neutral, and every university has a duty to teach that. Second, we need to reach out to people like Clementi, we need to work actively to create a world in which he can feel comfortable with himself, and feel hopeful for his future as a gay man.

How can we do that? Let’s start with the internet. We can take a cue from Dan Savage, who started It Gets Better, an online video project in which people sit down in front of a camera and share their experiences as gays, lesbians or bisexuals who have suffered, survived, and moved on to happy, full lives. Clementi’s death showed us just how powerful and permanent the internet can be, let’s harness that power to publicly announce that cyber-bullying is not okay, that homophobia is not okay, that love and life are more than okay, they are magnificent.

Check out It Gets Better Here

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Progressive Republican Challenge!!

One of the greatest issues in US politics today is that there is no accountability in the debates between members of congress and the RNC and DNC. The sunday shows like Meet the Press, This Week, and Face the Nation are no longer real discussions about government, strategy and ideology. Instead they, like the rest of the political exchange, have disintegrated into an exchange of talking points left unchallenged by non-partisan analysis. It is with these thoughts in mind that I read the College Republican's Viewpoint response to Progressive Day held on Notre Dame's campus Tuesday, September 28.

While I know Josh Varanelli, the new President of the College Republicans, and have a lot of respect for the direction he wants to take the College Republicans at Notre Dame, I cannot let the words of his club's leadership in Why we wore red for Progressive Day go unchallenged.

Excerpt from the posts read,
Indeed, social justice, the environment, an equitable and sustainable society, human dignity, and the American Dream aren't what Republicans are looking to destroy. Quite to the contrary, the ideals embodied in yesterday's event, vague as they may be, constitute nothing that the Republican Party opposes. 
If the ideals being promoted by College Democrats comprise Progressivism, please let the College Republicans into the movement. If that seems at all unfitting, perhaps Progressivism should be explained further. 
To be clear, the posters advertising Progressive Day included the following ideals:
Social Justice and environmental harmony, an equal and sustainable society, based on tolerance and respect for human dignity that demands access to the American dream for ALL.
Before I write a critique of their column, I am challenging the members of the College Republicans and the authors of the September 29th column titled, Why we wore red for Progressive Day, to post 10 pieces of legislation authored, or co-sponsored by a Republican from the US or Indiana Congress in the last two years that live up to the ideals described in the advertisement from above.  (you can post them one by one or all together)

As you may know, I am no longer serving in any formal role with the College Democrats and I mean it sincerely that I am searching for issues where the parties, especially young members of the parties can find agreement.  I am a progressive who will usually vote Democratic, not the other way around.  Please Notre Dame Republicans, take this opportunity to provide evidence of how the people you are working to elect will legislate the ideals of progressivism.  Prove my skepticism wrong.

To participate in this discussion, and provide examples of progressive legislation put forth by Republicans, simply write comments on this post.  Thank you!

Dearest College Republicans

Written in response to this Viewpoint from the College Republicans. Hopefully this will be in the Observer tomorrow.*

Your Viewpoint taking grievance at your perceived lack-of-inclusion during Tuesday’s Progressive Day would be admirable if it weren’t so laughable. Either you are truly committed to the progressive ideals of "social justice and environmental harmony, an equitable and sustainable society based on tolerance and a respect for human dignity that demands access to the American Dream for all" and simply don’t understand the political party you have chosen to align yourself with, or you truly believe in what the Republicans have done lately and you wrote an entirely insincere letter to the Observer. Given the actions and words of the Republican elite in the past decade, I see no other options.

Let’s go to South Carolina, where Republican Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer argued against government assistance for those at or below the poverty line, saying “My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better.'' A more well-known Republican leader, former House Republican leader Tom Delay, has said that “People are unemployed because they want to be.” During the process that led to health-care reform, one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in decades, Texas Republican representative Randy Neugebauer decided to forgo civilized debate and instead yell “Baby killer!” on the House floor, poisoning the well on a bill that does not provide funding for abortions. During the worst environmental catastrophe in American history, Texas Republican representative Joe Barton, instead of standing by the interests of his country and his planet, actually apologized to BP for the government making them put aside funds to pay for the disaster they caused.

The Republican Party may have once been a haven for progressives. Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Reagan (yes, even Reagan, to an extent) were all Republican presidents who pushed progressive ideals. But the last decade brought with it a shift in the party dynamics. Instead of pushing for civil rights, as Lincoln did, the modern Republican Party supports legislation like that which we have seen in Arizona. Instead of being a steward of the environment, as Roosevelt was, the modern Republican Party has turned a blind eye to our increasingly worrisome direction, instead choosing to protect the big business whose unsustainable practices are responsible for our current troubles. And when President Obama works diplomatically with Russia to try to reduce the amount of nuclear weapons in this world, as Reagan did, the modern Republican Party cries foul, choosing instead to wage a domestic campaign of fear against all outsiders. Nobody is claiming that conservatives cannot be progressive. If you were conservative and still wished to be noted as a progressive, all you had to do was put on some blue. But if you say that today’s Republican Party is a place for progressive values, you are either lying or not paying attention.

*Due to a miscommunication amongst the ranks, this column will not be the response in tomorrow's Viewpoint. Read this as my opinion only, not the official CDems position. I hope you enjoyed my rant. Have a lovely day.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Rally Progressives of Notre Dame

It's time to show our numbers. No matter your issue, whether it's gay rights, clean energy, health care, social security, education, women's rights, voter's rights or hell, all of them, rally with us and show your true colors. Join the movement by wearing the always flattering shade of royal blue (or any blue, really) and if you can make it, come out to South Quad at 6:00 PM for a rally with three progressive professors, an awesome banner to sign, and of course, free food. Progressives have a place on this campus, and it's high time we proved it. And if you won't be around Notre Dame tomorrow, please join us in spirit: send us a picture of your blue-wearing selves and we'll share the events pictures here in a follow-up post.