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Freezing temperatures for days, for weeks and even months, are what several thousands of immigrants and refugees have faced in Serbia. The country is perhaps facing one of the most brutal refugee and humanitarian crises at the moment. In March of 2016, the European Union (EU) and Turkey signed a £4.7 billion ($5.9B) deal to address the migrant crisis. The deal declared that all refugees and migrants traveling to Greece were to be sent back to Turkey if they did not apply for asylum or if their claims were rejected. But in return, the EU promised to welcome one Syrian refugee for resettlement in Europe for every person deported back to Turkey. As a result, multiple countries in the area, simultaneously, began closing their borders to such migrants. The fencing of these countries shut down the direct migrant path to central Europe, known as the Western Balkans route.Those that had failed to tread this path on time are now facing crippling apprehension. Those that are still brave and desperate enough to push through, end up in Serbia, a non-European country.
GREEN FOR GREEN
One might not expect that administrative officials at a public university would make their political views known and openly endorse specific legislation, but apparently, this is normal at Rutgers. Within the past two weeks, University President Robert L. Barchi has sent three distinctly political emails concerning the uncertainty of undocumented students during President Donald J. Trump’s first few weeks in office. Not only that, but Barchi also gave a speech at Tuesday’s #NoBanNoWall protest in front of a thousand students in response to Trump’s executive order suspending the entry of refugees and immigrants from certain Middle Eastern countries temporarily — and he is not a fan of Trump’s policy.
In this age of hyper-polarization and divisiveness, one cannot make a political point without stroking the ire of the opposing side. No matter if the issue regards matters of fact or opinion, you can bet that most people either fall into one of those categories. This was a major issue during Barack Obama's presidency, where Republicans and conservatives alike made life difficult for the former president, and it is shaping up to be the same for President Donald J. Trump à la irate Democrats and liberals. This era of partisanship is not only degrading the ideals this country was founded upon but is also driving a wedge between citizens in a way reminiscent of the period immediately preceding the Civil War.
A policy that is created and enforced on the pretense of public safety can be fueled by discriminatory rhetoric. First, it was President Donald J. Trump’s blocking of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries popularly referred to as the "Muslim Ban," and today, it is the Austrian government's move to consider a ban on full-face veils. Primarily Muslim women would be prohibited from wearing full-face veils — known as “burqas” and “niqabs,” — in public spaces. But this is not all. Austria wants to take this initiative one step further and ban the headscarf — fabric that is on a woman's head and does not fully cover the face — from being worn by civil servants, ranging from police officers to judges and prosecutors.
On Tuesday evening, disparate student groups found themselves gathering in solidarity defensively against President Donald J. Trump’s policies on immigration, which would move forward building the wall and continue the travel ban targeting Muslim-majority nations. Before the march to Old Queens, University President Robert L. Barchi spoke out not as a leader of Rutgers, but as a faculty member in favor of protecting Muslim and immigrant students’ welfare at the #NoBanNoWall rally. As students who are historically critical of the administrators’ apathy in making adjunct professors and staff workers’ contracts fair, making tuition affordable and creating an environment that has its first priority in learning rather than extracurricular sports, we must remain critical of our institutions even in the age of Trump.
President Donald J. Trump’s executive order barring refugees from seven countries sent shockwaves throughout the world, fanning the flames of liberal resistance toward the new commander-in-chief. Tens of thousands of people across political parties flooded American streets and airports to put pressure on Trump to pull back or ease the order. They presented the idea that this order was a violation of fundamental American ideals and of the universal notions of humanity and compassion. While this case is immensely important and must be a part of any resistance to the order, an equally important case must be made against it, one that hasn’t been as widely-cited — the public policy perspective.
It’s Dec. 27, 2016. The time is 1:25 p.m. I’m spending the day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida. I hold up my phone to capture an image of the Star Wars Launch Bay area, but am interrupted by a pop-up on the screen that reads, "Breaking News." My curiosity gets the better of me — I hastily exit camera mode, open the news app and wait for the articles to load, biting my lip in anticipation. After what feels like the longest 60 seconds of my life, letters and images filter onto the screen so abruptly and simultaneously that my eyes need a moment to adjust to the information overflow. When I can finally make sense of the words staring back at me, boy do I wish I hadn’t looked. The wind was knocked out of me so intensely, I may as well have been riding the Tower of Terror. Variants of the same headline impound my screen: “Carrie Fisher, Dead at 60.” I didn’t think 2016 could get any worse, but clearly it had one more dirty trick up its wicked sleeve. Later I would be proved wrong once again, when Fisher’s mother and iconic Hollywood star, Debbie Reynolds, was also pronounced dead the very next day.
The nation seems to be in a state of hysteria as the effects of President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order settle in. Trump’s orders, referred to by the public as the “Muslim Ban,” entails the temporary halting of refugees from entering the United States for several months. This order also blocks new visas for people who are from any of the seven Muslim-majority countries listed in the statute. These countries include Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. There have also been incidents of green card holders, who are legal U.S. residents, being blocked from U.S.-bound flights. This means that this order, although not stated explicitly, blocks people who have legal access to the U.S. and have lived here for many years, from coming home. Trump has waged war against the very values that this nation functions upon.
By the time this article will be published, a massive protest on the College Avenue campus will have taken place. I am speaking about the rally against the “Muslim Ban,” or the Executive Order put forth by President Donald J. Trump that prohibits immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries including Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Somalia. And while in the midst of being immersed in the planning of this rally — spreading the news of it, drafting emails, planning out logistics, meeting with the University administration — I can’t help but right now pose myself this question: Why am I doing any of this? Why am I expending any effort for this type of activism? Activism is not easy, or exactly fun, nor is it immediately rewarding. More often than not, it is draining — physically and mentally. It requires stamina and endurance. Qualities that I don’t really find in myself. Despite all of this, I still find myself submerged within the activist culture. I usually tend to prioritize matters of belief, introspection and activities that require solitude, and yet, here I am, most likely one of the people who was marching and chanting amidst a sea of protesters.
In a time where the differences of others are being condemned rather than celebrated, Rutgers and the Public Service Enterprise Group (PSE&G) seem to be shining a hopeful light. The energy services company has teamed up with the University’s Tyler Clementi Center to create an “LGBT Youth Empowerment Initiative.” This daylong event, targeted at high school students, is offered at the University because of a $10,000 grant offered by PSE&G. Most people would wonder why Rutgers would offer a program to high school students, but Rutgers is doing more than merely advertising itself as a university. The University is opening the conversation to larger issues in America and providing a way for young adults to transition into another stage of their lives.
Kanye West made the news again last week when Washington University in St. Louis announced it would be offering a course dedicated to the rapper. The class, titled “Politics of Kanye West: Black Genius and Sonic Aesthetics,” discusses the socio-political and cultural impacts of West’s work. Kanye West, now more than ever, is a controversial figure. Whether it was his meltdown during his Saint Pablo tour, where he stopped performing to call out Beyonce and the media, or his public declaration of support for President Donald J. Trump after declaring that he did not even vote during the presidential election, he’s been turning heads. Regardless of what your opinions toward him are, there’s one thing you can not deny: A course dedicated to the impact of Kanye sounds intriguing.
The issues surrounding paid maternity leave are prevalent in the United States even though they are often overlooked. America does not offer many sustainable options for paid maternity leave that agree with the reality women are faced with. Eighty-eight percent of working women do not have paid maternity leave available to them. In other words, weeks or sometimes even days after delivering a child, their only option is to return to work. But the United States is one of the most powerful and developed countries in the world, which would lead many to (incorrectly) believe that we are not far behind in the progress towards proper treatment. The surprising but unfortunate truth is that of all the developed countries in the world, the United States is last in compensating for women postpartum. In a compilation of 41 countries comparing mandated weeks of paid leave worldwide, including countries like Chile, Lithuania, Malta, Korea, Romania and Bulgaria, the United States stands alone at zero weeks, according to a Pew Research article. Countries such as Estonia go to the lengths of providing 87 full weeks of paid parental leave. The minimum required amount of paid leave in New Zealand is around two months. The astonishingly few maternal leave policies that our country holds leads to severe health, psychological and economic problems. It is only appropriate to compare America to other countries to even begin to initiate the much-needed change that new mothers everywhere are calling for.
From 2013 to 2015, 47 percent of school shootings occurred at colleges and at universities. So it is appropriate that the Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD) executed a drill in order to practice what faculty and staff should do in the case of an active-shooter threat on campus.
In its first days, President Donald J. Trump's administration has been in a rush to change many of their campaign promises into executive orders. Be it the revival of the Keystone XL Project and the Dakota Access Pipeline, or the multi-pronged anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim directives, these orders are causing many to become fearful and anxious. While the political climate toward the end of former President Barack Obama's administration was extremely divisive, no one could predict such a hurried change of direction for the nation. Instead of attempting to unite the country during these turbulent times, the new president not only continues his hate-filled rhetoric that garnered him such vast populist support during the election but is now acting upon it, giving us an ominous and dark picture of the days to come.
In the months following President Donald J. Trump’s election, pundits and personalities from across the political spectrum have suggested various strategies for “resisting Trump” and his administration’s policies. I’m going to assume you already disagree with Trump’s policies. Starting there, let’s go over which of these strategies work and which don’t work.
The most recent election cycle revealed the dissatisfaction with the establishment on both sides of the aisle. Populist movements emanated from both the Democratic and Republican Parties in the form of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and President Donald J. Trump respectively. Sanders was unable to obtain the Democratic nomination, but Trump was successful in winning both the Republican nomination and the presidency. His right-wing populist message was sharply critical of trade deals, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), of which he has already disposed and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He even went so far as to call NAFTA, “the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere, but certainly ever signed in this country” in one of the presidential debates. Now that he is president, Trump is maintaining his stance on the trade deal advocating for its renegotiation. Revoking or renegotiating the trade deal with a protectionist mindset would be damaging to the American consumer and both the American and Mexican economies.
RUTGERS IS TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS
The infamous presidential election of 2016 is finally over but opposition, pushback and acts of civil disobedience toward President Donald J. Trump’s policies from progressives and liberals will continue to be relentless. Many of the looming implications and feelings of uncertainty have worsened in communities across America. Millions of average working-class Americans, immigrants, women, environmentalists, social justice activists and members of marginalized groups are ready and willing to stand up in opposition to Trump all while members of the corporate Democratic Party establishment have been telling everyone that it was Russian interference, fake news and lack of campaigning in certain states that caused Trump's securement of the presidency. Yes, these factors did play minor roles in assuring Trump’s victory, but they are primarily just scapegoats to avoid talking about why Democrats really were defeated in House, Senate and gubernatorial elections across the country. Corporate Democrats refuse to fight for real progressive economic change and continue to listen to their campaign donors instead of the people. Justice Democrats seek to replace them.
If this past presidential election has taught us one thing, it is that America is not as united as we may have thought. As the New York Times recently put it, “Rather than being a one two-party nation, we are becoming two one-party nations.” What is the explanation for this deep bisection of the country? It has less to do with political policy and more to do with the fundamental values of America. Specifically, the (mis)interpretation of these fundamental values. In other words, I believe that a large portion of America has simply forgotten what it means to be American.