Monthly Archives: January 2021

News/Op-Ed: Autocracy Abroad Reveals The Principles Uniting Americans

by Joshua Hernandez, Editor-in-Chief

Historically, the United States has been a beacon of hope and a standard pillar of Democracy around the world, upholding values of freedom and liberty while maintaining peaceful transitions of power between Presidents. While American Democracy has been polarized as of late, it pales in comparison to the autocracies that plague Russia and China, where corruption and genocide are the norm. 

People gather in Pushkin Square during a protest against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. Russian police on Saturday arrested hundreds of protesters who took to the streets in temperatures as low as minus-50 C (minus-58 F) to demand the release of Alexei Navalny, the country’s top opposition figure. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

After the arrest of Alexei Navalny upon his return to Russia on January 17th, supporters of the opposition leader and anti-corruption activist find themselves in the middle of a battle against their own President Vladimir Putin and his corrupt counterparts, whose autocratic leadership and power has created an endless realm of Russian toxicity.  The Russian people’s desire for anti-corrupt leadership is warranted, even palpable. The autocratic leadership of Vladimir Putin has ignited a spark in Russian citizens who are disgruntled with the corruption and injustices that occur within their country daily. 

Of course, over the past few years, President Putin has fundamentally changed Russia’s election system to heavily favor himself staying in power – and while Russia was once a country with elections, even dating back to their days as the Soviet Union, they are a full fledged autocracy today where elections are merely for show. 

A direct opposition to the United States, President Putin and Russian government officials heavily discourage any sort of vocal opposition to their corrupt leadership, meaning many Russians don’t have a voice. A false, preconceived notion that President Putin has tried to project to the rest of the world is that he is popular within his country. 

While that may be true in a certain sense, Alexei Navalny has emerged as a staunch anti-Putin advocate, and as the only man with the courage to vocally oppose the Kremlin. He has become somewhat of a novelty, amassing a huge pool of supporters who are tired of the domestic oppression they combat daily under Putin’s reign of terror. 

The immediate arrest of Navalny is specifically what has enraged anti-Putin Russians and the international community. Navalny was in Germany being medically treated following a nerve agent poisoning in August, supposedly an assassination attempt by the Kremlin coordinated by President Putin himself.

In different cities around Russia, where protests have broken out in support of Navalny, the voices of Russian opposition to President Putin are being actively suppressed by the denials of the Kremlin and brute police forces. Any Russian figures who have advocated for organization of legal aid in support of protestors have been detained by Russian authorities; Navalny’s wife, Yuliya, was arrested herself, although she was released from custody just a few hours later. According to the Associated Press, Moscow police also arrested Oleg Navalny, the brother of Alexei, in their continuous efforts to send a message to any Navalny associates and supporters. 

While protests have been largely peaceful and full of anti-Putin rhetoric, other protestors in different cities were met with violent police presence. Needless to say, the Russian people are protesting against the corruption and injustice that is plaguing their country. The arrest of Navalny – considered an influential, historically courageous figure among some Russians for his anti-Putin rhetoric – has only amplified those concerns. In Russia, the people are organizing protests against an unjust arrest, President Putin and his Kremlin associates, literal autocrats who run questionable elections that skews heavily in the favor of a sole political party. 

While there may be on the surface striking similarities with the domestic tensions faced by the United States and Russia within the past year, it is imperative to remember that Russia is a true Autocracy, and while America’s Democracy may have been vulnerable for just a few hours on January 6th, it was never at risk of serious collapse.

In Russia, the people don’t have the opportunity to hold their leaders accountable. In Russia, accountability is a distant fantasy in a world with a dismal reality. In the United States, accountability is an expectation – a given. In Russia, elections are essentially skewed toward one party, thus keeping one party – that of President Putin – in power. 

Meanwhile, just down south of President Putin’s Russia and the civil unrest occurring there, President Xi Jinping of China is leading a genocide of Muslims and is not being held accountable for his actions. 

In the Northwestern Region of Xinjiang, China is leading a genocidal campaign against Uighur Muslims and a plethora of other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities. Plain and simple, there are human rights abuses going on in China – the epicenter of a communist dictatorship – that is largely going unchecked due to Xi Jinping’s willingness to use force against other nations who may intervene. On the final day of the Trump Presidency, the U.S. State Department finally decided to declare China’s attack against the Uighurs as genocide. 

While many have disputed the use of the term “genocide” against China, President Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken carried over similar concerns of President Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, stating that he believed forcing individuals into concentration camps was indeed genocide.

A big part of China’s attack on Uighurs in Xinjiang is forcing these groups to attend classes that promote the ideals of China’s Communist Party, Chinese language and job training skills. 

Furthermore, since 2017, thousands of religious sites, such as mosques, have been destroyed, and Chinese forces are separating Uighur families from one another, with the children of detained adult Uighurs being sent to boarding schools and orphanages run by the government. 

China is forcing Uighurs to conform to the countries values, forcefully assimilate to Chinese culture and ridding them of their own culture. Yet, while the risk of economic sanctions is certainly there for China, almost no other practical actions can be taken.

In China, accountability does not exist. Indoctrination of Chinese culture and full assimilation is expected, not recommended, and collectivist pro-Communist rhetoric is the norm.

President Xi Jinping is an autocratic leader with little to no moral merit in a Communist country that seldom allows its people to have views of dissent. It is a government that allows its leader to purge an entire culture and minority group of their own culture.

It is much like Russia, where any leader or activist who is against corruption, injustice and unchecked leaders are unfairly arrested or, worse, assassinated. 

While the United States certainly has its own domestic issues as a country, no Democratically elected American President would lead a Genocide of minority groups within their country. No Democratically elected American President would unfairly arrest an activist for speaking out against injustice.

When Americans protest, they do so with the support of American politicians, even if one political party embraces it more than the other. When Americans dislike their President, they have the power to oust them in a free and fair election. When Americans want to bring new ideas to the table, they can run for political office on their own and make those changes by exercising their First Amendment rights.

In the United States of America, advocacy is encouraged. Peaceful protesting has become the norm. Voting is encouraged, and holding politicians accountable allows our Democracy to maintain integrity.

Due to the tumultuous times the United States has experienced recently, it is often difficult to remember just what makes America so great and truly separates us from our enemies – simple decency and being standard bearers of life, liberty, freedom and power of the people are just a few things. 

If it is still hard to see what distinguished the United States of America from our enemies, look no further than the brute abuses of human rights occurring in China and Russia due to true autocratic rule. 

The voices of American Democracy are our national hymns, and America’s Democracy will always prevail. Luckily, Americans don’t experience these horrors of autocracy – because we are not one.

News/Op-Ed: Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Inaugurated as 46th President of the United States

by Joshua Hernandez, Editor-In-Chief

At 78 years old, President Joe Biden becomes the oldest man to ever rise to the presidency. After decades of public service as a Senator from Delaware and two terms as Vice President, President Biden finally ascends to the office he has long sought. In a historic election cycle, Vice President Kamala Harris was inaugurated as the first African American and female to hold the Vice Presidency. 

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts as Jill Biden holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, as their children Ashley and Hunter watch.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

The journey to the White House has not been an easy one for President Biden. Despite earning the trust and admiration of many nationally for his public service, President Biden has battled through adversity, personal hardships and loss throughout his political career. The story of President Joe Biden is one that can simply be described as tragic, yet also an emboldening symbol of the power of perseverance, hope and optimism. 

In 1972, shortly before he would take his oath of office to become a United States Senator from Delaware, tragedy struck Biden: his wife, Neilia Hunter, and daughter, Naomi, only a year old, were killed in a tragic car accident that also injured his sons Beau and Hunter Biden. 

Out of the depths of despair, he was not swayed away from public service. On January 5, 1973, Biden was sworn in as a Senator from Delaware inside Delaware Division of the Wilmington Medical Center, where his two sons were still recovering. After the accident, then Senator Biden took the Amtrak from Delaware to Washington, D.C. daily just to be able to see his sons on a daily basis. The travel took a total of 3 hours and 90 minutes to and from work. 

In 1987, Senator Biden kicked off a longshot Presidential Campaign. While a respected and trusted Senator, his campaign failed to gain enough traction after being plagued by accusations of plagiarizing speeches. After just a few months of campaigning, Senator Biden withdrew from the race for the 1988 Democratic Nomination. 

In February 1988, just a few months after his tumultuous, failed campaign, Senator Biden suffered two life threatening brain aneurysms, which presented yet another roadblock and long road to recovery. 

Decades later, Senator Biden believed that he could once again be the Democratic nominee for the presidency in 2007. However, Biden, the experienced Senator, was no match for the two shining stars he was running against – Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and Senator Hillary Clinton of New York. Biden later dropped out of the race in January of 2008. 

Eventually, to-be President Obama chose Senator Biden to be his running mate. The rest is history, with Biden serving as President Obama’s Vice President from 2009-2017. 

In 2015, though, tragedy struck then-Vice President Biden once again – his son, Beau Biden, died from Glioblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer, after a long battle. The death of his son devastated Vice President Biden, eventually leading to him believing that his political career was over, a large reason why he did not run for the Democratic Nomination in 2016. 

Still, President Biden persevered, choosing to seek the Democratic Nomination in 2020 after his family urged him to take on Incumbent President Donald Trump. Running on a reputation of being a strong Senator, Vice President and generally a decent person, Biden was seen as one of the most likely candidates to win the nomination.

However, in a field of strong, emerging candidates including Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, Biden stumbled out of the gate. Many believed the former-Vice President to be out of touch with the current generation and unable to pass the torch to the future of the Democratic party. 

Thus, Biden took losses in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, before a huge endorsement by Rep. Jim Clyburn helped him win South Carolina, which saved his campaign. As history would play its course, South Carolina was the turning point the Biden Campaign needed, as it led to victories on Super Tuesday that essentially put his final opponent Bernie Sanders out of the race. 

Biden became the Democratic Nominee, chose Kamala Harris as his running mate in August, and defeated Donald Trump in November. Life has come full circle for President Biden – and his story is one of perseverance, hope, optimism and resilience, as famed news anchor Dan Rather stated on twitter: 

The rhetoric of unity that President Biden employed throughout his campaign was a highlight in his Inaugural Address, which became even more imperative after the Insurrection at Capitol Hill two weeks ago.

While President Biden made a litany of optimistic statements throughout his address, he ensured to lay out his visions of what a Biden America may look like.

“Today on this January day, my whole soul is in this. Bringing America together. Uniting our people. Uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause. Uniting to fight the foes we face: anger, resentment, and hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness and hopelessness. With unity, we can do great things, important things. We can right wrongs. We can put people to work in good jobs. We can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome the deadly virus,” President Biden said.

After Democracy prevailed once again and a peaceful transfer of power was carried out, President Biden signed 17 executive orders, including a national mask mandate, rejoining the World Health Organization, ending the “Muslim ban,” rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, stopping the construction of the border wall and extending eviction and foreclosure moratoriums.

News/OP-ED: How A Nation Divided Can Glean Inspiration From King’s Dream

by Joshua Hernandez, Editor-In-Chief, and Joaquin Medrano, Managing Editor

The nonviolent civic legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. runs deep, and one of the greatest ways America could honor his memory is by listening to his rhetoric and transforming current politics into an environment that is welcoming for everyone.

With a domestic state of affairs that can simply be described as chaotic, unjust and perilous, the toxicity level between Americans with different social and political opinions has reached an unforeseen height. In turn, it deprives the masses of the ability to unite during times of strife, agony, despair and confusion. 

During the battle for Civil Rights between the 1950s and 1960s within the United States, Dr. King emerged as a central voice for African Americans nationally who simply wanted justice and to have a shot at living a life where they weren’t hated or discriminated against solely because of the color of their skin.  

In opposition to the segregationist Jim Crow laws in the South as well as oppression in other areas of the country, Dr. King emphasized the need for his people to choose peace and use nonviolent means to reach their just end. 

At that point in American history, African Americans had been through indescribable injustice, oppression and marginalization. Why try to resonate and be nonviolent with a group of people and a country that has long oppressed, marginalized and institutionalized you and your people? 

Through the use of Biblical references, Dr. King was able to rally the fervor of his listeners, to unite both blacks and whites in America to fight for the same cause. A very devout man who was undeniably devoted to the cause of justice for his people and those oppressed everywhere, he saw no value in violent resistance. Instead, he wanted to appeal to the better half of the oppressor and protest, mobilize, organize and fight in a way that was respectful, defendable and just. 

Dr. King preached on the importance of joining the oppressors and the oppressed. He called for the oppressed to be the “bigger person” and show love for their oppressors, while he called the oppressors to be in the shoes of those they oppressed for a second and think of how it feels to be mistreated in a changing society.

However, the incidents of the Insurrection at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on January 6th were anything but nonviolent, respectful, defendable or just. Indubitably, it was an act of domestic terrorism – an attack on America’s ever so sacred Democracy. The dream envisioned by Dr. King was much less clear across America that day. People died outside and inside the Capitol, and Confederate flags graced Capitol halls for the first time ever.

Importantly, the rioters committed insurrection and sedition for a cause that has been debunked and is rooted in denial and conspiracy. In comparison, Dr. King and those who supported his battle for Civil Rights never once raided federal property or responded with violence against our Democracy, and there actually was a legitimate reason for them to protest.

As America heads into a new administration and reflects on the good that Dr. King brought to this country, let’s remember his powerful nonviolent rhetoric in the face of mass scrutiny, violent pushback and oppressive discrimination.

In retrospect, Dr. King’s message is not a part of American history that can be left on textbooks as a memory of what America was, but instead a measure of what American should be like. Dr. King left a message for the masses- a message that can be shared with the world full of peace, love and acceptance. Dr. King’s message should be regarded as a message not only for those living in a pre-Civil Rights Movement era, but also in a time where parallels can be drawn between the past and the present.

In the end, a society cannot move forward without recognition of its past and looking for ways to fix what is broken. Dr. King did not die a martyr because he caused a change in the 1960s, but he died a martyr because his vision remains true long after his death, as many people have decided to lead inspired by his work.

A country should never forget the work of social justice martyrs; a country should fight for their work to be completed and for their dreams to be fulfilled.

News/Op-Ed: President Trump Impeached A Second Time For His Role In Inciting Insurrection At Capitol Hill

by Joshua Hernandez, Editor-In-Chief

On Wednesday, President Trump was impeached on the Capitol Hill insurrection’s one week anniversary, becoming the first President in U.S. history to be impeached twice. After already being embroiled in controversy for spreading baseless claims of a “rigged” election after his loss to President-Elect Joe Biden last November, President Trump’s last two weeks in office have been sent into a downward spiral after he incited his supporters to violently storm the U.S. Capitol.

Top: Image from an unidentified Presidential Inauguration. Bottom: A picture of the insurrection at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Image via Reuters).

The House of Representatives voted to impeach President Trump for a historical second time in a 232-197 vote. The impeachment comes merely one week after he incited his supporters to commit seditious acts and storm Capitol Hill in a last-ditch attempt to overturn his election loss to President-Elect Joe Biden.

As the votes on impeachment were finalized, it was revealed that 10 Republican Representatives sided with Democrats and voted in favor of impeachment, making President Trump’s second impeachment the most bipartisan impeachment effort in American history. Most notably, Representatives Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Peter Meijer (R-MI) were three of the ten GOP House members to vote in favor of impeachment.

Since the House of Representatives has sped through the impeachment process in record time, President Trump’s fate lies in the hands of the Senate, although a formal Senate vote isn’t expected until after President Trump leaves office on January 20th, according to Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.

Already, there is speculation that many Republican Senators can join Senate Democrats in formally convicting President Trump. If President Trump is convicted, there is growing belief that the Senate may also vote to ban President Trump from ever running for President again, as he has publicly considered runs in 2024.

The impeachment effort came on the heels of last week’s attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The Orwellian chaos will forever be remembered by not just Americans, but folks around the globe, as a protest-turned-riot dented our nation’s Capital and within an instant became one of the most appalling moments in American history. 

Sparked by a rally from President Trump just moments before, his supporters invaded our nation’s capitol as Congress was in the process of certifying the Electoral College results that solidified the victory of President-Elect Joe Biden, who will take office in just a week in a D.C. area now being patrolled by the National Guard.

The United States of America stopped for a few hours, as the country glued themselves to their TVs and screens and watched as Trump supporters raided Capitol Hill and disregarded the rule of law. 

The Presidency – as former President Ronald Reagan loved to say – is a bully pulpit. Usually, Presidents use their platform and higher office to provide words of optimism, hope and unity to the American people, while also being sure to speak out and bring awareness to specific domestic and foreign issues that the nation must address. Essentially, the Presidency being a bully pulpit means it’s the highest platform for social awareness and advocacy. 

On Wednesday, January 6th, however, the Presidency was anything but a bully pulpit. In lieu of finally conceding his election loss to President-Elect Joe Biden, President Donald Trump used his Presidential position to foment violence and sedition. 

Since his election loss to Joe Biden in November, President Trump has continued to repeat baseless accusations of widespread voter fraud, after filing lawsuits that have since been thrown out or lost by the President and his campaign. 

As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) pleaded for their Republican colleagues to rethink their objections to the Electoral College results inside the Senate chamber, Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill and fought Capitol Hill police as they stormed their way and breached not just federal property, but one of the most important houses of power in the world. 

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) were the two main Republican Senators who objected to Biden’s election victories in the swing states of Arizona and Pennsylvania, amongst others.

As the two Senators presented their cases before Vice President Pence and the rest of the Senate, a mass of Trump supporters began to break into Capitol Hill, damaging federal property, breaking into the offices of Representatives and Senators and striking Capitol Hill police and security guards. 

On a day that was supposed to be a day of celebration for Democracy, President-Elect Biden and his supporters as the Senate convened to certify the results of the Electoral College, terror riddled the hearts and minds of Americans nationally.

Merely a day after the Democrats flipped the Senate in the Georgia runoff elections and historically elected a Southern Jewish Millenial in Jon Ossoff and a liberal, black Minister in Reverend Raphael Warnock, sweatshirts bearing “Camp Auschwitz” and T-shirts bearing “6MWE” – which stands for “6 Million Wasn’t Enough” – in reference to the Holocaust – were seen being worn by Trump supporters on Capitol Hill.

Furthermore, as Trump supporters infiltrated the halls of the Capitol, many carried Confederate Flags – the first time in American history that the Confederate Flag was present inside the Capitol halls. Not even during the Civil War was the symbol for the Confederacy present within the Capitol. 

The same Capitol that has been roamed throughout American history by various Senators, Representatives and Presidents saw itself being vandalized, looted and invaded with vile words and symbols of hate. 

Blood was even spilled in the Capitol, with a woman being shot to death by Capitol Hill police for attempting to get through a barrier. 

However, the woman who was shot to death wasn’t the only individual who died – three other individuals died of what was said to be “medical emergencies”, while policeman, Brian Sicknick, was killed by injuries inflicted in the riot.

In the aftermath, Congress returned safely and did their jobs – with Vice President Mike Pence formally announcing the certification of the Electoral College results which saw the Biden-Harris ticket win convincingly. 

However, the successes and joys Democrats achieved by flipping the Senate, retaining the House and winning the Presidency were quickly washed away as days passed. As new information was released on the Capitol Hill riots due to pictures, news and CIA investigations, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle were livid at the fact that President Trump’s rhetoric was mostly to blame for inciting such violence – and, thus, the death of six Americans. 

Congresswoman Cori Bush of Missouri was among the first Democrat to introduce legislation for Articles of Impeachment against President Trump despite Inauguration Day for President-Elect Biden being on January 20th. 

Despite Vice President Pence denying the pleas of Congress to invoke the 25th Amendment against President Trump and become acting President for the remaining weeks of his term, the House of Representatives voted 223-205 on Tuesday, January 12th to call on Vice President Pence to strip President Trump of his power, primarily due to concerns with the President’s dangerous state of mind and uncertainty surrounding what he may do next. 

The concerns over President Trump’s worsening mental state were made even more evident after he was banned from a litany of social media sites, most notably Twitter, Snapchat, Youtube, and Google. 

As arrests continue to be made for those participating in the Capitol riots and no-fly list travel bans are imposed, Capitol Hill police and Washington, D.C. as a whole are already preparing for the next challenge of quelling any dangers that may arise on Inauguration Day on Wednesday, January 20th. 

While President Trump has already announced he will not be in attendance to President-Elect Biden’s Inauguration, with Vice President Pence taking his place, threats were made by Trump supporters and the far-right extremist group “Proud Boys” on the now-defunct conservative social media platform Parler that more violence was to be expected on Inauguration Day.

President Trump becomes the first outgoing President since Woodrow Wilson in 1921 to not attend their successor’s Inauguration, although Wilson remained inside the Capitol Building during Warren G. Harding’s Inauguration due to poor health. 

In response, Capitol Hill police is beefening up their procedures and preparing for any scenario possible, in conjunction with the National Guard and Secret Service.

While the Insurrection at Capitol Hill is certainly going down in history books as one of the most shocking moments in American history and an attack against our Democracy by domestic forces, one thing is certain: bright days may very well be ahead.