Modern Politics: Civil War II

Modern Politics: Civil War II

On the ever-increasing polarization of American politics.

I have never been a very political person.

But the uproar over the recent election, combined with the fact that I attend (let’s face it) a primarily liberal-leaning university, means that I’ve been confronted with politics whether I like it or not.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing in the slightest; it’s undoubtedly important for us as young adults to take an interest, if not a definitive stance, on the issues shaping the future of our country and the world as a whole.

It’s just that, somehow, nearly every aspect of politics has become two-sided.

We’ve become very good at labeling; categorizing; filing people into sectors; shipping them off to one side or the other, but never in between the end-marks.

At some point it was decided that Democratic and Republican, liberal and conservative — these are the only categories that define a political viewpoint.

It’s become nearly impossible to remember that these groups, these sides, were formed in the first place because people who shared similar beliefs and values and visions decided to come together and work toward them.

And it wasn’t so that they could wage war against every idea that didn’t align with their own; it was to make their voices heard, to have a say in the great reservoir of opinions and ideals that comes hand in hand with free speech.

Somewhere along the line, we climbed out of that reservoir and onto a stage. We made it into a one-man show. We decided that dissenting views only came from enemies.

And that, as it turns out, is exactly where we went wrong.

I recently decided to follow both the Being Liberal and Being Conservative pages on Facebook, just to see if that would be conducive to attaining a more balanced idea of both ends of the political spectrum.

To my surprise, the parallels between the two pages were more visible than the discrepancies. The liberal page boasted a few more posts about its platform and values than did its conservative counterpart (one of them, for example, was a very readable and pertinent article on how to ensure that elected officials are truly representatives of the people they serve), but overall I found that both pages were overrun with insults and allegations against prominent members of the opposite party.

There was, however, one interesting difference: followers of the conservative page primarily reacted to these scathing posts with additional insults and anger, while those of the liberal page often responded with laughter.

This makes sense, of course, seeing as a fair amount of the liberal page’s party-bashing posts were presented as jokes, while almost none of the conservative page’s were, at least not explicitly.

But what does this say about the attitudes of the parties toward each other, about the demographics for each group, about the recent election?

The simplest answer I can give is a lack of understanding and an utter unwillingness to change it. Allow me to play devil’s advocate:

Are liberals progressive or supercilious? Are they speaking for minorities or putting words in their mouths? Are they acting for the good of the people or overstepping their bounds?

Are conservatives a voice of reason or of ignorance? Are their values righteous or outdated? Are they entitled to opinions or are they unconditionally racist and xenophobic bigots?

I ask you:

Are either of these parties really aggressive, or have they merely been forced by each other to become defensive?

I don’t pretend to be offering anything particularly insightful here, as I’m sure there are many other people who don’t quite know where they stand — or whether they should stand at all — in such a this-side, that-side national battle. I only hope that all of us can take the initiative to listen to the voice of dissent once in a while; to start conversations with people who are going to disagree; to acknowledge, if not completely accept or understand, the other point of view.

If nothing else, just try to visit the opposite party’s Facebook page and come to your own conclusions.

Cover Image Credit: Chicago Tribune

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Trump Vs. Food Stamp Recipients

His plan could be put into action despite being unconstitutional.

The Trump administration has made what many might consider it's most ludicrous proposal yet. The President, signed an executive order Tuesday calling on states should begin tightening restrictions on welfare programs. Among these was a plan to begin drug testing EBT recipients to determine whether or not they should receive benefits. The AP, claims that the plan is intended to target able-bodied people without dependents who are seeking, "certain specialized jobs."

The proposal itself is similar to proposals put forth by Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker. Many states, including Florida, have put forward similar proposals, only to have them thrown out due to the Supreme Court ruling them unconstitutional. While federal law prohibits drug screening of EBT recipient's, USDA secretary, Sonny Purdue, promised to provide states a greater amount of autonomy regarding the distribution of SNAP benefits.

"As a former governor, I know first-hand how important it is for states to be given the flexibility to achieve the desired goal of self-sufficiency for people," Purdue said. " We want to provide the nutrition people need, but we also want to help them transition from government programs, back to work, and into lives of independence."

This is not the first time Trump or the GOP have poked holes in the SNAP program. In Febru ay President Trump suggested Food Stamps be replaced by home-grown organic food with little regard to the food allergies of certain EBT recipients. In 2013 Republicans voted to cut EBT program funding by $40 billion dollars over the course of 10 years. The problem with replacing food stamps with Department of Agriculture foodstuffs and states drug testing recipients in that both plans would be more costly rather than less costly.

Former USDA Food and Nutrition Service Undersecretary, Kevin Concannon, agrees, calling the EBT proposal, "Costly and cumbersome." Concannon went on to say that the administration,"Is keen on weakening the programs developed to strengthen the health or fairness or access to programs and imposing populist requirements that aren't evidence-based, but often stigmatize people." In 2016 43.6 million U.S. citizens were enrolled in the SNAP program.

While this number might seem daunting, it is an improvement from 47.6 million recipients enrolled during the great recession from 2009-2013. "I think we just have to be ready because my guess is we might get an hours notice as opposed to days notice." SNAP associate director Jessica Shanin wrote regarding a possible announcement from the White House.

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The Petition To Rename George Wallace Drive Is Whack

History is history.

If you're a student at Troy University or a resident in Troy, Alabama, then you are probably aware of the current petition to rename South George Wallace Drive. The reason? Former Alabama governor George Wallace is quoted as saying the following in his 1963 inaugural address:

"I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever..."

The petition, started by a student at Troy, aims to see the road renamed after Congressman John Lewis.

Supporters of this say that having the road currently named after George Wallace is celebrating his ideas about segregation.

Does it bother me that George Wallace said this? Absolutely. I am a lover of peace and equality. At the end of the day though, history remains history. George Wallace, despite his accomplishments, sayings, and deeds, was the governor of Alabama. History remains history. If anything, this road is a reminder of where we’ve been and where we’re at now.

I don't think in any way, shape, or form, that keeping the road named as is, is supporting segregation or reflecting badly upon the city of Troy. It is just part of history that George Wallace was our state’s governor and we happen to have a road named after him. I don't think that naming the road after George Wallace is glorifying him for his opinion on segregation.

It’s not like every time I drive down George Wallace Drive I am wishing we could go back to a discriminatory portion of our country’s history. It does acknowledge that he was a key person in Alabama’s history (four-time governor) but I don’t think the name of this road as it stands points to any specific ideal expressed by Troy University or the city of Troy.

In no way am I supporting George Wallace for his prejudicial actions. Instead, I am proud to be a student at “Alabama’s International University” and part of its diverse population.

From now on, I will drive down George Wallace and be thankful for all the obstacles and adversity that has been overcome in Troy’s history.

Cover Image Credit: Faith Rosenwald

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