8 John Oliver Segments On Hot-Button Issues For Your Political Education

8 John Oliver Segments On Hot-Button Issues For Your Political Education

Welcome, welcome, welcome to Last Week Tonight!

John Oliver is the most recent Emmy winner for "Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series" for Last Week Tonight. You could argue that perhaps Stephen Colbert's "The Late Show" was more deserving, or even "The Daily Show" with Trevor Noah, but what you can't argue is that John Oliver lays out complicated political issues with humor and grace (sometimes).

I've been a fiercely loyal Last Week Tonight fan for years because even when I was bawling my eyes out at the election of Donald Trump, John Oliver found a way to make me laugh and give me hope. However, some of his segments boil my blood and make me shake with fury, because why the heck haven't we done anything about these things when we know about them?

1. The NRA

In this segment, John Oliver tackles the hold that the NRA has on policy in this country, and specifically how an organization with fewer members than Planet Fitness are able to control the House, the Senate AND the Oval Office into doing exactly what they want: passing laws which routinely put people's lives in danger.

Favorite quote: "If you want to see serious changes, you actually have to show up, every fucking day."

2. Gerrymandering

This segment is especially prudent now that the gerrymandering case has gone to the Supreme Court. Gerrymandering is the practice of redrawing district lines to favor ... well, whoever's drawing the lines. This is how Republicans have gotten an advantage in the House, and it is goddamn infuriating. However, John Oliver calls out Democrats for gerrymandering as well, so hell yeah for bipartisan call-outs.

Favorite quote: "Gerrymandering has become a very precise science, and interestingly, it's one of the few remaining types of science in which the Republican party currently believes."

3. Opioids

In this segment, John Oliver discusses how the opioid epidemic in this country began, where it's going, and who is responsible. Hint: It's Big Pharma and Congress/the House who have been preventing the DEA from running their opioid investigations. Oh yeah, you read that right. Going to school in Ohio has opened my eyes to this problem, and the fact that there are at least six people from my high school who have overdosed on opioids. There are enough opioid prescriptions written each year to give every adult in America a bottle of pills and then some. That's horrifying.

Favorite quote: "First of all, of course, babies feel pain, how the fuck did we ever think otherwise?"

4. Sex Education

Another relevant segment from today's news, John Oliver covers what sex education looks like around the country and the impacts that education (or lack thereof) has on people. Ever wonder why teen pregnancy is higher in the South? It's because of the lack of sex education. Shocking, right?

Favorite quote: Just all the old school sex ed videos. So awkward. So awful.

5. Death Penalty

This segment talks about the botched executions from 2014, and whether or not the death penalty can even be done humanely and whether it should be done at all. This segment helped me begin to form my opinion on the death penalty because it provides information rather than opinions.

Favorite quote: "Bold idea. We shouldn't execute innocent people [...] You sir, are a regular Atticus Finch."

6. LGBT Discrimination

This segment focuses on how despite gay marriage being legalized, there are still a large number of very legal ways to discriminate against LGBT people. It'll boil your blood and make you wanna pull your hair out for damn sure!

Favorite quote: "People believe it because it feels like it should be true. It's optimistic but wrong. Like people thinking vertical stripes are flattering or making your first condom purchase Magnums. Optimistic, but statistically wrong."

7. Abortion Laws

This kind of explains itself. This segment goes into how difficult it is to get an abortion, even if it is legal in your state. I bawled my eyes out watching this segment, because goddammit, why are old white men deciding what I can do with my uterus?

Favorite quote: "Meaning women can be asked a few hoops, just not too many. Which might sound a little less insulting if those weren't also the rules for a dog agility course."

8. Mental Illness

In this segment, John Oliver talks about how the treatment of mental illness works in this country. Or, more accurately, how we have royally screwed up our treatment of mental illness in this country. This one is particularly hard to watch as someone who has experienced the hopes I had to jump through just to get SSRIs to treat my obviously crippling mental illness.

Favorite quote: "Mental illness or the thing actors pretend to have to win Oscars."

If these haven't convinced you, that's fair. However, I hope you'll listen to the Youtube suggestions on these videos and fall down a rabbit hole of John Oliver like I have many, many times before and find out you don't really know shit about our country.

Cover Image Credit: HBO

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The Dangers Of Ideology And The Importance Of Free Speech & Debate

Universities are currently policing thought, indoctrinating students into a radical egalitarian ideology, and crushing dissenting opinion.

It’s truly amazing to consider how quickly the culture on college campuses has changed over the last several years. Once staunch defenders of speech and academic freedom, modern universities are quickly turning into ideological echo chambers, indoctrinating students into a radical left-wing egalitarian worldview, while crushing dissenting opinion.

The disturbingly Orwellian trend to quell free expression on campuses can best be illustrated by an event that unfolded last year at James Madison University’s freshman orientation, when “student leaders” distributed a list of 35 things that incoming students should avoid saying, including phrases such as “you have a pretty face,” “love the sinner, hate the sin,” “we’re all part of the human race,” “I treat all people the same,” “people just need to pick themselves up by their bootstraps,” among other expressions.

You might find yourself laughing this off as nonsense, an isolated set of events perpetuated by a select group of fringe radicals. Unfortunately, I can assure you that this is not an isolated incident. In addition to the slew of protests that erupted at universities last year in response to conservative speakers being invited to campus, these kinds of events are indicative of a larger, and more pernicious attempt by the radical left to control the linguistic territory.

At universities across America, the campus left now demands that people accept certain preconditions for discussion. Not the kind of reasonable preconditions such as “treat people with respect,” or “don’t resort to personal attacks.” Rather, It is demanded that you accept a neo-Marxian worldview, rooted in the notion that the world is nothing more than a power struggle between two groups of people: those who oppress and those who are oppressed. They demand that people accept notions like white-male privilege as axiomatic – not to be debated – and force people to acknowledge how they've been privileged by the current socio-economic structure.

Refusing to accept these presuppositions not only bars someone from participating in the discussion. To challenge an idea, such as white privilege, is to reject the fact that racism and bigotry exist in our society. To challenge the notion that being white necessarily means you must be more privileged than a person of color is akin to blasphemy. To push against the idea that certain classes of people in America are ‘victims of systemic oppression’ is to deny the humanity and individual experiences of people of color, women, and other minority groups.

The campus left emphatically espouse the notion that “the personal is political.” Thus they believe, unequivocally, that the primary responsibility of the University should be to ensure students from “diverse cultural backgrounds” feel safe – and by safe they mean “not having their identities challenged;” and by identities they are referring to their belief systems – the lens by which they perceive the word.

From the perspective of a radical leftist, to participate in debate is not seen as merely engaging in criticism of some abstract idea. To challenge an idea is to challenge someone’s identity, and to challenge someone’s identity is to debate their humanity.

And that is one of the axiomatic rules of the campus Left – you cannot debate someone’s humanity.

Indeed, with more than a fifth of college undergrads now believing its okay to use physical force to silence a speaker who makes “offensive or hurtful statement,” the future of the First Amendment itself is currently uncertain.

What exactly is so dangerous about this movement?

For starters, the freedom of speech has wrongly been construed as just another value that we in the West hold in high regard. But it is more than a Right that we share as citizens of this nation. It is, ultimately, the mechanism by which keep our psyches and societies functioning.

See, most people just aren’t that good at thinking. I don't mean this as a sleight against anyone, but we’re all insufficient and we have limited awareness of most things because we just can’t know everything. We rely on communication with one another to facilitate the process of learning about things outside our realm of knowledge. Often we have to, first, stumble around like the blithering idiots we are, espousing our biased beliefs in a public forum, and subjecting our ideas to criticism before we can properly orient our thoughts.

When the open exchange of ideas is allowed, you get the opportunity for multiple people to put forward their biased oversimplifications and engage in debate that raises the resolution of the particular question and answer at hand. Ideas are hit with hammers, combed for contradictions, inadequacies and even falsehoods. On an individual level, this kind of scrutiny sharpens the schema you use to navigate the world because other people can tell you things you can’t know by yourself.

Maybe it’s an opinion espoused, or a behavior that manifests itself, or a misconception you hold- in any event, subjecting your beliefs to criticism is, in the short term sometimes painful because we often learn things about the world and ourselves that are uncomfortable; but, in the long term, it is the only way method we have for moving closer towards something that more closely resembles truth – and if not anything true, at least something less wrong. As a result, the lens by which you look at the world becomes clearer.

Further, it is also through a collective process of dialectic that we identify problems in our societies, formulate solutions, and come to some sort of consensus.

Thus the right to say what you believe should not just considered as "just another value." It's a conical value, without which all the other values we hold dear, that people have fought so hard, in such an unlikely manner, to preserve and produce all disappear.

Without it, there can be no progress. Without it, individuals abdicate their responsibility to engage in the sacred process of discovery and renewal. Without it, we can’t think. Without it, there can be no truth. Without it, there can be nothing but nihilistic psychopathology. The end result is a populist that is not only afraid to say what they think, but that doesn't even know what they think because they haven’t been allowed to stumble around in the dark to find some tiny fragment of light.

Therefore, when we consider placing restrictions on the freedom of speech we must do so with the most extreme caution. By setting ridiculous preconditions for discussion, the campus left not only makes the process by which we solve the problems with our society more difficult, but also, if taken to its extreme, it can lead to totalitarianism.

In the wake of dozens of campus protests last year, universities are now in a position where they have to choose between two incompatible values: truth or social justice. The former will lead us to a greater understanding, while the latter can only divide.

Cover Image Credit: Teen Vogue

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Being An English Speaker Is A Privileged Status

Multi-lingual is the way to go

English is not the official language of the United States of America. But even if it was, a country apparently founded on the idea of valuing every citizen as a free individual could do a much better job welcoming people who do not speak English.

While it is natural that one language became the most common, and that this has simplified many processes, this same simplification is not afforded to those who do not speak the language.

Language barriers can reduce one’s job opportunities, meaning that even if one has degrees and plenty of experience, many jobs are simply not available. Many employers are unfortunately unaccepting of those who do not speak English fluently, and some even discriminate against those who do not natively speak English.

Education becomes extremely complex for non-English-speakers. On the student side, while many schools offer English as a Second Language programs, which is wonderful, it should be acknowledged that these students face more work and less support than students who are native English speakers. To add to this, if parents do not speak English, communication from the school or with teachers becomes harder to access.

One of the greatest privileges of English speakers lies in healthcare. They can be sure that they will find a doctor who speaks their language and can clearly explain their medical situation in that language. The same goes for psychologists, social workers, and others in the health professions.

This becomes especially complicated for those who speak languages that are not commonly studied.

A friend of mine who teaches was mentioning recently that while there are many students and families in her district who speak Arabic, there are so few people working in psychology, social work, or other support services who speak the language that for the district to access them is not only difficult but expensive.

This too often means that schools fail to offer students and parents speaking these less-commonly studied languages sufficient aid.

So what is the answer? To adopt English as an official language would be so wrong in our country full of diverse and wonderful languages, backgrounds, and cultures. Instead of attempting to make English more and more widespread, we should focus our efforts on ensuring that people in this country who do not speak English can receive all of the same support as those who do speak English.

Some of this lies in ensuring that systems and institutions offer resources in several languages and that employers will not discriminate against those who are not native English speakers.

Much of the solution, however, is on us, especially if we are students entering a people-oriented profession. In fact, in all professions, becoming multi-lingual does not merely open doors for us but creates a society where more people have access to the services they need.

Cover Image Credit: Maialisa

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