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Access to information and knowledge is the liberating force that enlightens and fuels the democratic energies of society. As Thomas Jefferson said, "An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people." But for democracy to breathe, the current stranglehold on academic information must be dismantled.
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.
Reflecting the strained reality of America, on Friday, tense videos of a white teen wearing a Make America Great Again hat, staring at an older Native American man singing and playing a drum at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. saturated social media. The complicated conflict shown in the video depicting the crowd of students from Covington Catholic High School surrounding the man who was later identified as Nathan Phillips, a 64-year-old Vietnam War veteran there for the Indigenous Peoples March, has only grown more uncertain.
Policy differences have formed a seemingly insurmountable wedge locking the rusted democratic cogs of governance in place as the populace bears the brunt of the government shutdown. Bleeding in to day 33, the longest government shutdown has left open wounds across the nation, while also revealing the problematic realities of many Americans.
Politicians, economists and political pundits have touted the fall of joblessness and the growth of economic stability as the nation continues to recover from the Great Recession. While the used statistics and anecdotes depict an economy resuscitated and growing, the deep wounds of debt and economic immobility stretch across the country.
The partisan practice of manipulating district lines is an undemocratic crack in the foundation of America since the nation was first formed. From the rotten boroughs in England, to Patrick Henry attempting to gerrymander James Madison out of Virginia, to the cracking and packing of 2010, redistricting is one of the oldest continued abuses of power in our democratic experiment.
On the night of Jan. 23, 2018, networks of organizations and members of various communities took to the streets of New Jersey with Monarch Housing Associates to conduct the 2018 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count of homeless men, women and children across the state’s 21 counties. The 2018 report counted 9,303 homeless people on that night, which was a 9 percent increase from the 2017 report. This increase was smaller than the reported increase from 2016 to 2017, which was 20 percent, but still undeniably disheartening.
On Jan. 1, 2019, New Jersey’s minimum wage will increase. While the increase is by no means the act of state legislators or Gov. Phil Murphy (D) upholding his campaign promise, it is the result of New Jersey’s constitution, which requires the state’s minimum wage to be adjusted to consumer price index data. The minimum wage ought to be raised as the prices of goods and services increase, but it must also be set at a livable rate that is reflective of the realities of the economy.