The Land of Immigrants… Is Dead.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

This is the quote engraved on the Statue of Liberty from “The New Colossus” by American poet Emma Lazarus.

This used to be the sentiment that made the United States of America such an incredible land. Perhaps my title is a bit extreme, but the current attitude towards the arrival of new peoples into our country has been quite negative and definitely not as welcoming as the Statue of Liberty leads immigrants to believe. Honig’s explanation on the myth of immigrant America is quite fascinating, and I feel it really captures modern views on immigration.

Speaking economically, there is this concept of the “American Dream”, where the US provides the soil of opportunity for anyone to come, work hard, and improve their standard of living through the capitalistic economic structure. There’s the simple attitude that hard work directly correlates with one’s wealth and achievement, this is the belief in meritocracy.  This appealing ideal reached out to people across the globe, inspiring people to come to the US in hopes for a fresh start and a new life. But recently America’s open arms have been clenched into fists, as a negative attitude has emerged, where the immigrant is viewed as a threat to current citizens. The new idea is that these new immigrants are stealing jobs from current citizens, and many people are upset about that. It is quite ironic because people will boast of capitalism, yet get upset when it doesn’t work in their favor. This anger has been most recently directed at people of Mexican dissent taking many unskilled labor jobs down south. This idea of meritocracy fades as the new White American attitude grips the conservative right, driving away the ideals of the “American dream”. The Trump administration fuels this fire by blaming the Mexican people for this trouble with the scapegoat tactics described by Honig. The Mexicans aren’t the only people this administration has targeted. The travel ban that they crafted was geared to prevent refugees and specifically Muslims from entering the country, which also ironically goes against the values America claims to stand for. The current attitude for immigration seems to welcome anyone who fits a specific mold of Western ideals and religion, and is disapproves of anything different. There still lies racial tension within our country as well, which doesn’t help the case of the melting pot culture the US claims to have. We are more of a boiling pot of conflict and anger towards diversity.

I hope this attitude can change, and I know there is a large population of people who are working to bring better change to the US, but the current state is quite concerning. Even at America’s “best” there was still racial conflict between the current population and immigrants moving in. There will always need to be improvement because perfection is inhuman. It would be great if we could become the democracy that pays equal respect to all rational beings, we could become the democracy and country that would make Benhabib proud.

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Trump and the Power that he seems to have

(Just writing the title of the blog has made me realize how many of my blogs deal with Trump)

It seems that everyday there is something in the news about our current President. And such is the case with most Presidents, however, how many presidents have a disapproval rating that drops significantly before his first 100 days in office. So far, there has been one. You guessed it. It’s old Donald. Most recently, Trump was in the news because he fired the Director of the FBI, James Comey. This is Trump’s third firing of his presidency, starting with the Acting Attorney General, followed by his National Security Advisor. What’s worst is that Mr. Comey found out that he was fired from the TV,  while of course speaking to an audience. How does that even happen? To tell you one thing, the FBI was not very fond of this event.

How does one person, who is supposed to have limited powers, can decide on a whim to fire someone without proper reason. Trump was being investigated with his ties to the Russians and how that had influence on the 2016 Presidential election. And without rationally thinking (no surprise at all), he freaked out because he was worried about getting caught and decided to fire the person in charge.

I wanted to find out more about how this could actually happen. So I went to  The New York Times. I found this article to be well written. This article says that Trump fired Mr. Comey because of the way he was handling the investigation regarding Clinton’s email server. As SNL says, “ENOUGH WITH THE EMAILS”. For some time now, all that can be linked to Hilary Clinton is her use of her private email when she was Secretary of State, which happened during President’s Obama first term.

I kind of feel that maybe President Trump became scared of Mr. Comey. May be Trump was worried that Comey would find out that the Trump had the Russians help him so he could win the election. He fired him because maybe Comey was finding the cherry on top to the perfect ice cream sundae. The article writes that the “reaction in Washington was swift and fierce. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said the firing could make Americans suspect a cover-up”, which is exactly what most Americans think. In this state of our political climate, we can’t help but think which action of Trump’s is a cover up to something bigger and dramatic.

I remember when we were reading Carl Schmitt in class and how he talked about how there are many types of democracies, including ones where it’s dictatorship. That always mind boggled me, however, with the current state of the country it sounds more believable. I’m not arguing that we are a dictatorship, but when the President is firing people on the whim, you start to think about that the power he has is undemocratic.





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For the people… But not by the people.

One thing we can learn from the recent health care bill that just went through congress is that elected officials do not care for their constituents, nor do they care to hear out any input from them either. This is problematic. Benhabib brings up a great point that all peoples affected by a piece of legislation should have voice and vote in the matter. I know we live in a representative republic, however it frightens me that republican legislators pushed a bill so quickly without consulting anyone on the matter. To make things worse, there is a number of congressmen haven’t even bothered to take the time to read the document, and blindly voted just to support their party. In a Rousseau-ian mindset, these people aren’t thinking whats best for the general will of the people, but selfishly for whatever political agenda these politicians are following. In the sense of Hill, these politicians aren’t thinking for themselves as individuals serving a people, but they are trapped in the partisan hive. It’s disheartening to see people mutilate such powers.

It currently seems as if the Republican party is trying to muscle its way around with American politics, and everything is currently spinning into a deeper mess than it already is. First the Trump administration fires Sally Yates, the attorney general, for disagreeing with a discriminatory travel ban (which also ironically goes against the whole idea of a country of immigrants idea and everything the Statue of Liberty stands for). Secondly, the first time the new health care bill came around was a total disaster, and republican officials were scrambling to live up to their 8 year promise to get rid of the affordable care act. Their efforts failed, which led to the current situation where they funneled a new bill out too quickly for anyone to understand and forced new legislation down the throat of the American people. And most recently, the Trump administration suspiciously fired FBI Director James Comey, while he was conducting an investigation on the the administration to look for any ties with Russia.  The one thing that all these actions have in common is that the citizens had no say in any of these actions what so ever. Those who are affected aren’t granted a vote in this totalitarian administration, and Benhabib would be pissed.

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USA is NOT a Democracy

After the first in class discussion about which countries we think are democratic, I began to question if the USA truly was a democracy. Here are my thoughts on the topic.

Despite popular belief, the United States of America is not a democracy. In a true democracy, the citizens have the right to vote on legislation on all levels, and they are not to be excluded from any form of selection or legislation. Recent events has showed our nation that it is not the true will of the people that will dictate how we are governed. Aspects of the government are semi-democratic, such as state and district level positions, but the executive branch is out of our control.

This past election, the American people did not receive the President the majority voted for. Candidate Hillary Clinton managed to win 65,844,610 votes, where was candidate Donald Trump won the presidency with only 62,979,636 votes. The fact that Clinton won the popular vote and did not win the presidency is a clear indication that the United States of America is NOT a democracy. Instead of using the votes of the people to determine our president, 538 electors gather to vote on who actually will become president. This is the Electoral College. Each state has a number of electoral votes, and typically which ever president wins the popular vote of the state, they will also win the electoral votes. This puts the emphasis on candidates to focus on winning states with high electoral votes. This system was initially put in place as a safety net from our founding fathers to prevent as Alexander Hamilton put it, ““ensures that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”. The Electoral college was designed to prevent the White house from falling in the wrong hands. I could go into several reasons why Donald Trump is not qualified to hold the highest position of office in the USA, but that would be a different topic entirely. The main point is, the electoral college and its existence in American politics is exactly why America wasn’t and isn’t a democracy. The founders merely allowed the people to believe that their voice actually mattered. The ironic thing about the electoral college in this past election, is that it did what it was told to do, instead of what it was designed to do. Also, unlike the representatives of the House and Senate, American citizens are not the people who vote on these electors. The every day man and woman has no say on who these electors are. The Electoral College is a huge reason why America isn’t a Democracy.

Another example of America’s nonexistence of democracy is the selection of the presidential cabinet members. The American people have slight control over the electoral congress, however they have absolutely no voice in the selection of the cabinet members, one example being the Secretary of Education. These members are selected by the president, and then are confirmed by the senate. These cabinet members are in charge of huge departments of the United States, and can make or break a lot of America’s infrastructure. With where the power currently lies, people with the inability to govern are being selected to be candidates for these huge positions. This year, these cabinet members are gaining influence and control through their massive corporations, and are more than likely using their business to influence the president. When in these positions, they will have a large grip on American politics, taking it further from the hands of the people. The fact major corporations can take control of the National Government with ease drives America further and further away from any form of democracy.

These are only two examples of why the United States of America is not a democracy, contrary to popular belief. I am open to people’s opinions on the matter and proposals of what America’s true system of government is.

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Immigration in America

Immigration is something that is always in the news. More so now because of President Trump’s opinions on immigration. If you read the news, you can see that Donald Trump does not approve of immigration, only if it’s a model coming from some Eastern European country that somehow agrees to be his wife. Since the beginning of announcing his presidency, Trump has discussed ideas about building a wall between the borders of the United States and Mexico. He has also implemented an executive order that causes immigration ban. This immigration ban affects people coming from every middle eastern country that Trump doesn’t do business with. This New York Times article explains in detail the people that are affected. This whole ban caused concerns, but people who were already flying in a plane when this ban was initiated really had trouble.

This past week in our Democratic  Theory class, we discussed Bonnie Honig’s point of view on immigration. This is a topic that I’m very familiar with, one of the few that we’ve discussed in class. I, like many people in this country, am a first generation American. My parents came to America from a country called Azerbaijan, which was part of the USSR before it fell. My parents were Russian-Armenians. Before the collapse of the USSR, Armenians were welcomed in the country of Azerbaijan and Azeris were welcomed in the country of Armenia. For those of you who don’t know much about the countries, the two share a border. Azerbaijan being on the East of Armenia.  As soon as the USSR fell, tensions started to arise between the two countries, and guess what it was about? The border that they share. The tensions came mostly from religious differences. Armenia is a Christian country and Azerbaijan is a prominent Muslim country. As you can imagine, the two don’t go well together.

My parents’ daily life became difficult. They would often face threats or be chastised for being Armenian. In the city of Baku, tensions became really high and and military action was called. My family realized that it was time to leave. Most of my family escaped to Russia. My uncle, and then later my parents came as refugees to America and somehow managed to be together in the same state. The story goes like most immigrant stories. My parents started work as soon as they got here and continued to work. They didn’t have white collar jobs or a mansion.

In 2005, my mom passed her citizenship test. There’s a newspaper cover with her, and many other people, on the front. The whole group was saying the “Pledge of Allegiance”. Because that’s what you do when you become a citizen of the United States. I wasn’t there but I can assure you that the whole process was extremely patriotic.

What I found interesting in Tuesday’s class was that I can relate to what Honig is arguing. In her opinion, there are four main types of immigrants. And no matter what story of the immigrants it is, there will always be a negative story and a positive story. Honig argues that we shouldn’t debate on whether or not immigration is bad for the country or good. Instead, we need to acknowledge that there will always be a positive story and a negative story. That really caught my attention. So many times, we hear something debating either for immigration or against immigration. There isn’t anyone who says that there will always be two sides. I wonder why Honig argues for that. I would think she would be the type of person to take on the positive side of immigration.

So, with the current state of the country, it’s a wonder of what will happen next. What other countries will be frowned upon by Trump? His overall political stride reminds me of a two year with a terrible tantrum. Always getting mad at someone or something. I will never understand why certain people are against immigration, but of course, I’m a little bit biased.

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A Personal Narrative About Reasoned Debate

Our class discussions on both Benhabib and Schmitt got me thinking about a personal experience I had in high school regarding trying to make a decision as a group through “reasoned debate”. My sophomore year of high school, I was part of an organization called, Youth Leadership Lincoln (YLL for short). The organization was designed so that you spend the majority of the year learning about how to be community leaders, and at the end of the course, all members of the program work together to design and then carry out a community service project. Through reasoned debate, we were assigned to both create the project, and assign tasks to certain members, and coordinate it terhrough various aspects of the community as required by the project.

To begin the process of developing a community service project, we first brainstormed possible abstract ideas about what the project would be about. From the beginning, I was determined that acquiring a plot of land in inner-city Lincoln and starting a community garden program was the best possible project for our class of YLL. In most of the years prior to our class, people usually decided just to help out at an elementary school fun-night or school fair. This option was usually the easiest logistically as well as the simplest project to pull off. However, I was determined to make our project more meaningful and have more of a lasting impact on the greater community of Lincoln, Nebraska. I assembled enough information and data to generate a relatively thorough presentation to the group for when it was my turn to present my idea for the service project. I described how we might get donors to help us by a plot of land, how we might work with a local chef to give out free classes to the community to explain how to cook the vegetables and store the produce from the community garden. I also laid out a few plans for how we could integrate the garden into the curriculum for before and after school programs for the reduced-income families in the area. To me, it seemed my idea was relatively thorough and at least warranted serious consideration by my peers. However as soon as I finished presenting my case and opened it up to my peers for their opinions, I was almost immediately shut down. People said my plan was too far-fetched, and impossible for us to execute.

This is when Schmitt comes into play, instead of having a logical discussion about how we might make my plan more feasible, or how we could improve upon it, we fell into a huge illogical debate about our service project. We soon began arguing about each other’s presentation methods, and even what high schools we were all coming from. Schmitt would have been smirking at all of this “debating and reasoning”. When the plan was thrown onto the discussion table, instead of discussing the idea, we attacked each other, and I was not innocent either. I found myself attacking people for not listening to my idea. In fact, this whole process, looking back on it, makes me loose a lot of faith in Benhabib’s deliberative democracy. It makes me wonder whether or not her outline of the deliberative process it truly an effective solution.

After reading this, do you have any personal experiences with deliberation in a group of people that have resulted in either or positive or negative outcome? From your own personal experience, do you think Schmitt or Benhabib is more accurate in their view of deliberation?

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Fake News (is) on Facebook.

During the past election season (November of 2016), I would often find myself astonished  by the titles of news articles people would post on Facebook. The topics of these sensational articles varied from doomsday epics, crazy claims about Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump, and also some very interesting international news. Upon visiting the NPR website this morning, I found a few interesting articles about this very issue. The first is a correspondence between David Folkenflik, an NPR media correspondent and journalist, and Linda Wertheimer, NPR’s senior national correspondent. The Link to the transcript can be found here:

To briefly summarize, their conversation mainly deals with Mark Zuckerberg’s stance on the particular issue, which is the fact he believes people should be able to post whatever they so choose to on Facebook, but he also believes that Facebook needs to have more correct and accurate content, a rather paradoxical stance. Folkenflik states that because Facebook’s influence is just as, if not more far-reaching than TV and other more traditional forms of news, it should be filtered and looked at with the same scrutiny we look at other sources of news with. Folkenflik does acknowledge that Zuckerberg has announced that he is going to start using outside companies, like Snopes or PolitiFact to filter out the spread of inaccurate information.

A second article I found, is actually under the same link I attached above if you scroll down the page. This article is by Bill Chappell, a writer and producer for NPR. This article mainly focuses on the strategies Zuckerberg is taking on limiting the spread of fake news (even though he does point out that if people just used their brains when reading articles, none of this would be a an issue). A few of the methods Zuckerberg plans on using to stop the spread of fake news include ways to curb the financial incentive from the spread of “viral” fake news, and also ways to flag articles as untrue, but still leave them on the website.

For me, these two articles bring up a very interesting issue, and one that I knew existed, but never consciously thought about before, which is how Facebook can act as a way to spread significant amounts of inaccurate and misinformed sensationalist news, and how the roles of CEOs of social media companies roles must now include making sure their companies aren’t contributing to the problem of misinforming the public. This relates back to our class discussions when we were talking of a people who don’t know their general will. It also reminds me of how we discussed the concept Schmitt brought up, with how debating an issue doesn’t really lead to a logical solution (think about all the times you see illogical arguments on comments in Facebook). I will be very curious to see how Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg tackle these challenges in the months and years to come!

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