I originally had no intention of watching President Biden’s State of the Union Address. The only reason that I did was because I was assisting with the watch party hosted by the Eisenhower Institute. With recent events in Ukraine, I was optimistic for President Biden’s State of the Union Address, as he had an opportunity to give a unifying and career changing speech. The President began his address with that very issue, highlighting not only how it has brought us together as a nation, but also how it has strengthened relationships on an international scale. This reflected the patriotic and determined qualities that many people value and the United States; qualities that I have not seen in our society for quite some time.
COVID-19. Russia’s invasion. The Supreme Court. Inflation. Mass resignations. Student debt. Global warming. The United State’s role in the world. Recently, these are at the forefront of our thoughts at one time or another, and for some, every day. This week, President Biden will likely address all of those and more at the 2022 State of the Union (SOTU).
People are smoking more marijuana than ever before. As the usage and social acceptance of this substance continues to increase, more Americans are in favor of its decriminalization and legalization for medical use. In spite of these favorable national trends, marijuana is still federally considered a Schedule 1 drug, a substance with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. This federal ruling contradicts various literature and scientific findings. Studies show that marijuana is not a gateway drug and its usage does not contribute to subsequent addiction later on in life— at least not any more than stress and “life-course variables.” Legislation must change to reflect changing American values and scientific findings. In doing so, the MORE Act will promote racial equity, economic prosperity, and well-being as it would ensure the protection of minorities, is fiscally beneficial, and protects consumers.
Most Americans are aware of the Plessy V. Ferguson Supreme Court case, however many are not familiar with the Insular cases, which were decided by the same Supreme Court justices. The Insular cases were a series of Supreme Court cases from the early 20th century which determined the constitutional rights of those who live in United States territories. Currently, the United States territories are composed of Puerto Rico, the American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S Virgin Islands. In these cases, the courts concluded that Americans living in American territories are not granted automatic citizenship and that Congress has the authority to grant citizenship to these territories. Although there have been several improvements to their conditions, these cases have yet to be overturned; in some of the American territories, citizenship continues to not be an automatic right.
From the third of November to the sixth, I had the privilege of attending West Point’s Student Conference on United States Affairs. This annual gathering grants students from across America the opportunity to get together and draft memos for future policy initiatives. Each year, there is an overarching theme, with this years’ being Disruptive Technology. This broad theme is split into more specific topics, which vary table-to-table. From the impacts of social media to space technology, students gathered to discuss varying matters; my table was assigned the concern of China.
In the 1990s, Five Mualimm-ak was a successful real estate investor, a passionate community leader, and a loving father of a 5-year-old boy. In 2000, he was wrongfully arrested for possession of illegal weapons and spent twelveyears in prison until the Innocence Project exonerated him. During his imprisonment, Mualimm-ak spent five years in solitary confinement. He was not put in solitary for dangerous behavior, but rather for minor infractions that include having too many postage stamps in his cell and not eating his apple. While in confinement, Mualimm-ak would spend 23 hours a day in his 6×9 foot cell with no social interactions. Another former inmate, who spent over seven years in isolation, described the smell as a combination of “defecation, unwashed armpits … [mixed] with the pepper spray officers use to extract prisoners from their cells”. After being released, Five Mualimm-ak was dropped off in Times Square by a bus filled with inmates who had also been in solitary confinement. Of the 15 people who were on the bus, 5 committed suicide within a year.
The Coronavirus pandemic has profoundly furthered the existing schism between the “global North” and the “global South.” The North-South divergence emerged after WWII as developed nations transitioned into industrialized manufacturing-based economies. The largely agricultural developing nations had not been a part of the post-war discourse, excluding them from politics thereafter and thus, becoming the global South. Since WWII, many of those developing nations have transitioned into or surpassed a manufacturing-based economy. While this has greatly minimized the divide between developed and developing nations, those of the global South still lack equal status with members of the global North. As a result, developing nations are entering a predefined international system that excludes them from any level of ascendancy established post WWII.
The water scarcity crisis in the American West is an imminent threat that directly affects more than 78 million people. As climate change unleashes its devastating impacts, the local groundwater supply is drying up and creating optimal conditions for droughts, wildfires, and desertification. Although California Governor Gavin Newsom has not yet ordered statewide water restrictions, many local municipalities have instated limitations on water usage guidelines. These restrictions prevent the non-essential use of water, such as washing a car, landscape irrigation, and drawn-out showers. As California residents have had their water usage restricted and their lives threatened by wildfires and droughts, local governments must turn their heads to an industry that has continued to use exorbitant amounts of water to cultivate their crops: the almond industry.