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A new day was meant to dawn. But the apparent rising sun of progress and reform seems more and more to be only a mirage of a society lost in a desert without the free-flowing waters of justice. We passed the First Step Act at the end of last year, a historic criminal justice reform bill meant to unleash the tides of change that was, in light of its namesake, the first step in addressing the inequality and injustices of our nation’s criminal justice system.
Anti-Semitism continues to bloom in the fertile soil of bigotry and hate as the long and ugly history of Jews in Diaspora winds into the hate of contemporary times. There cannot be a denial of the Jewish people’s oppressed and persecuted history, just as there cannot be a dismissal of the continued attacks and demonization of the Jewish people. America was not immune to Nazism, this nation is not invulnerable to intolerance and there needs to be discourse on the widespread hate, xenophobia and racism from the representative leadership of this nation to the people.
Brinksmanship over taxes and the state budget brought New Jersey within inches of a state government shutdown last year. Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), after winning a decisive victory on a progressive platform, looked to fulfill his campaign promise of raising the marginal tax rate on those who make $1 million in a year.
An eruption of applause and cheers from conservative activists, clad in “Make America Great Again” merchandise, followed President Donald J. Trump’s announcement that he will make federal funding for universities conditional on their support of freedom of speech. No further announcements or policy outlines have been publicly released after Trump said that he “will be signing an executive order requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research dollars” at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
In 1982, the Supreme ruled in Plyler v. Doe that states did not have a compelling interest to deny access to kindergarten through 12th-grade public education on the basis of immigration status, and required states to extend the provision of public education to all students.
While hard-fought progress has been made for gender equality in America, institutionalized practices continue to hinder women in the workforce. The ordained ability to give birth has received patriarchal condemnation for the burden it places on companies. We have turned our backs on those who provide our future. We have stolen opportunity from those who give us the next generation. In the name of efficiency and profits, women face scrutiny in hiring for their potential to have maternity leave in the future, and if hired, they are neglected by society and government in the event that they require a leave of absence.
The era of indifference, of procrastination, of dense denial and soothing silence is coming to a close. We now find ourselves at the border of consequences, entering the era in which we reach the point of no return. The State Senate has proposed to amend our constitution to “recognize and protect an individual’s rights to clean air and water, and a healthy environment as inalienable human rights deserving of the highest constitutional and legal protection.”
Between the stars and stripes, swastikas hung heavily in front of thousands of saluting Americans. We want to remember ourselves as always being on the side of good in the fight against the evils of fascism that pulled the world into war, but this nation too witnessed the rise of Nazism in the 1930s.
The fifth largest economy in the world would be the U.S. healthcare system. Because of the costs of healthcare and the system’s immense profit margins in the U.S., were it to hypothetically break off from America this would be the reality. We spent $3.3 trillion, or 17.9 percent of the entire country's gross domestic product in 2016, on healthcare.
Bound and gagged, American democracy is held as a hostage of the rich and powerful. The system of power in our nation has closed off the faucet that flows to the people, diverting efficacy and influence to those at the top of the socioeconomic hierarchy. The policies governing society have been tilted to benefit the wealthy few of the elite class.
In the fomentation of crisis, authoritarianism blooms. An undemocratic concentration of power breathes freely behind rhetoric of security and national emergency. As James Madison noted, “The means of defence against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.”
The land not of milk and honey but rather handcuffs and jail cells. From the mountain top, one can see the 2.3 million incarcerated in America. Of those in shackles, some are waiting for the promises of justice and due process to be upheld. What happens to justice when it is deferred? “Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore — and then run? … Or does it explode?”
Institutions of learning are designed to be the grand guardians of democracy, wielding education as a great leveler of inequities, a ladder descending down to those born into circumstances beyond their control, ready for their ascension. Some professors and teachers collapse under the weight of their responsibility to place this ladder within reach.
Windows of Opportunity
Higher education ought to mold nails that refuse to be hammered into obscure passivity, not hollow the individual into complacency. The incoming students of the Fall 2019 semester enrollment will receive a core education that will allow them to not simply submit to the realities of society, but rather be active in the creation and betterment of it.
On Sunday, Feb. 3, Barbra “Babs” Casbar Siperstein died at the age of 76 as reported by the gay rights advocacy group Garden State Equality. Siperstein was a champion of LGBTQ+ rights as her legacy is marked by advocacy and progress of the community. She was the first elected transgender member of the Democratic National Committee and part of the advisory board for the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, as reported by The Daily Targum.
The mere loss of liberty has been supplemented with the absolute theft of human dignity. Our system of punishment begins before the crime and reaches its end when buried 6 feet below. But that is how we prefer our societal problems: buried, hidden, locked away, often off of a remote exit on a highway such that the commuters can reach work and the mall shoppers can expand their debt without the implosion of our national cognitive dissonance. A nation of inalienable rights, a world leader of human dignity and democracy, and yet America is a country of mass incarceration and abuse of the imprisoned.
Beneficiaries of the status quo are rarely among those who look to change it. Yet, the theft of the American Dream and the problems that have manifested out of the concentration of wealth demand confrontation. In the nation that invented progressive taxation, change can be won once again.
The status quo is an apparent quid pro quo of donations for power. We have branded those who have accumulated wealth through the financial sector as ordained leaders that can be placed, regardless of context or institutional mission, in any position of any industry and produce success. Such an ideology requires marketization. Rutgers has become a business, that in turn fallaciously requires CEOs and those with financial backgrounds to fill leadership positions.
Life was brought to a standstill. Streets were empty, businesses were barren and carts were filled with the dead. More than a century has passed since “the greatest medical holocaust in history,” the 1918 Flu Pandemic. Estimates of those who succumb to the virus range from 50 to 100 million. Even though modern medicine has advanced, salvation has been elusive.