Dig Two Graves

I’m going to preface this blog post by saying that the events of last week – the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris and in Beirut, Lebanon – are utterly inexcusable. The people who committed these atrocities have proven that they lack any compassion or humanity, and their actions should never, ever be defended, no matter the cause they claim. These killers attacked indiscriminately, slaughtering by the hundreds people who had never hurt them – had never done anything wrong, in fact, but live a different kind of life. For that reason, they can never deserve our forgiveness, nor our sympathy.

That being said, the idea of bombing Syria is absurd. In 2003, reason upon reason was laid out before George W. Bush explaining why a war in the Middle East could never result in anything but further violence and pain; these reasons were summarily ignored, and the result is what we see today – widespread chaos and misery, murder, sadism and fear, and the ascendancy of a brand-new plague of terrorism. Aggression wasn’t the answer then, and it isn’t the answer now – escalating military operations in Syria as France has claimed it will can surely only provoke greater violence from our enemies, and fuel the fire of ISIS’ brand of extremism, a brand which paints a picture of a deep and insurmountable divide between Islam and the rest of the world. If we surrender to the idea that these murderers are truly representative of Islam, then we are doing them a favour. Nothing would please them more than the West indulging in the Islamaphobic and racist rhetoric being pedalled by the right-wing press, so let’s clear this up: Syrian refugees were not to blame for last week’s acts of savagery, and neither were Muslims. The bombers and gunmen who so monstrously attacked may ascribe any number of labels to themselves, but just as we do not judge Christians by the acts of the KKK or Westboro Baptist Church, so we cannot allow the acts of a small, cruel minority to colour our view of people who live perfectly harmless lives.

We cannot, in good conscience, perpetuate this violence. If we so abhor the terrorists for the damage they inflict on our innocents, then surely we must hold ourselves to the same standards. The people of Syria are, for the most part, victims of ISIS, just like the Parisiens and Lebanese who have recently suffered so greatly. They are faced with the same threat to their safety as we in the Western world are, but for them, the danger is more immediate. How can we blame them for wanting to flee westward, to safer pastures? And equally, how can we make their homeland any more dangerous, and still live with ourselves?

When, in 2014, MPs voted in favour of air strikes in Iraq, I had my doubts. Now, I am more certain than ever that brute force is far, far from being the solution to the risk ISIS poses to the rest of the world. Yes, they need to be stopped, but they are not a single, composite unit to be picked off easily in Syria, and air strikes there can only give rise to civilian casualties, strengthening ISIS’ hatred of the West, leading, most probably, to an increase in the attacks levied against us.

I do not pretend to know how to solve this conflict. All I can do is repeat the wisdom of the quote from which the title of this post has been taken warns – “before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

  • Lana Wrigley, ex-Politics Student
    (Now studying at the University of Birmingham)
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No Justice, No Peace

It’s been 116 days since white police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. 116 days since Michael Brown was killed, and less than a fortnight since a Grand Jury (a Grand Jury of 9 white and 3 black people, in spite of the fact that Ferguson’s population is 67.5% black) ruled that Wilson would not be indicted for murder. As I’m sure you’re all aware, the verdict did not go down well, with furious protesters staging riots and demonstrations all over America, and encouraging them overseas as well – on Wednesday 26th of November, solidarity protesters in London shut down Oxford Street.

This is a case which has sparked national and international outrage. Even the UN has condemned the injustice of letting Wilson free. It is a case which, in isolation, would no doubt have been forgotten very quickly. But it was not in isolation. Michael Brown is only one name on an increasingly and disturbingly long list of black people in America being murdered by police officers, and so these protests are not just about him, but about a cultural phenomenon which has been the elephant in the room for a long time now. I am, of course, talking about institutional and systemic racism.

Tamir Rice, DeAndre Joshua, Eric Garner, Vonderrit Myers, Kajieme Powell, John Crawford. These are some of the names of black people who have been killed by police officers since Michael Brown. Tamir Rice was 12 years old, asthmatic Eric Garner was kept in a chokehold by officers even while he protested that he couldn’t breathe. With stories like these appearing almost daily – according to this study, one black man in the USA is killed by police every 28 hours – it seems absurd that anyone, black or white or any colour in between, would even think to deny that there is a serious problem with racism in America.

In the case of Michael Brown, legal experts have expressed their disgust with the way that prosecutor Bob McCulloch did – or rather, failed to do – his job, claiming that his failure to cross-examine Wilson properly was tantamount to defending the officer. The inconsistencies in Wilson’s story, the mishandling of evidence, neither of these was followed up on by McCulloch, a prosecutor with known ties to the St. Louis police department, a reputation of siding with law enforcement and a history of lying to ensure a win. It was as if he didn’t want a trial or conviction, which, I’m sure, he didn’t. As I said in a previous blog, the conviction of Darren Wilson would have set a precedent for how cases of police brutality are handled, and it seems that that is the last thing the so-called ‘justice’ system wants.

I have been following the developments of the Michael Brown story since it happened, so I think I know what I’m talking about when I say that I do not believe that Darren Wilson was not guilty of murder. But that’s not even what the Grand jury was there to decide. As I saw one heart-breaking tweet put it, “This jury wasn’t to decide whether or not Darren Wilson was guilty. It was to decide if we were allowed to ask.”

I know many people will have seen footage of looters and violence in America. I know many people are convinced that Michael Brown was a criminal, that he attacked Darren Wilson and went for his gun, that Darren Wilson (describing himself as “a five year-old wrestling Hulk Hogan” when he spoke about the altercation between himself and Brown despite the fact that they were of equal height), genuinely feared for his life. I know all of this already, but I’m not interested in it. What I am interested in is the social epidemic consuming America, where it is perfectly legal to commit murder as long as you’re a white police officer. I am interested in the bravery and strength of protesters who are doing everything in their power to honour Michael Brown. I am interested in a country having a debate which should have happened a long, long time ago.

In short, what I am interested in is justice. Which is why I offer my unconditional support to the protesters who are out there right now, trying to make their country a better place. The world is watching them, and, I hope, taking note. What they are doing is extraordinary. Whether their slogan is “Black Lives Matter” or “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” they are doing something important – and I support them 100%. No justice, no peace, indeed.

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics

American Horror Story: 2014 Mid-terms.

So the American mid-terms happened on Tuesday, and in a result that surprised no-one, the Republicans took control of the Senate.

Now, when I say that the result wasn’t surprising, that doesn’t mean I approve of it in the slightest. Honestly? After two years of political and legislative gridlock worse than the US has ever seen, all down to Republican congressman who have since admitted that they have, literally since Obama’s 2008 inauguration, done everything they can to make sure that none of his legislation passes, regardless of public support, I’d hoped that the result would be different.

I suppose that was a naive hope, but the Republicans’ blatant and obvious misogyny, racism, homophobia and general nastiness surely should have been enough to persuade voters the other way, shouldn’t it? This is a party whose members and supporters have said, in the past, that women who protest sexual harassment want to be sexually harassed, that in cases of “legitimate rape,” a woman’s body has a way of “shutting that whole thing down,” and that “Obama is the most racist president America has ever had” – this last comment in spite of the fact that a significant proportion of American presidents have actually been slave-owners.

It seems surreal to me that a party which has consistently expressed views as absurd and offensive as this has actually become the most powerful party in the USA, especially since America has always tried to portray itself as a beacon of freedom and equality. Given all this, I literally cannot comprehend the popularity of the Grand Old Party, and I begin to feel desperately sorry for President Obama, who, having already had to fight tooth-and-nail against Congress for the past two years of his presidency, is now going to be completely ineffective. A lot of people like to talk about Obama as someone who hasn’t kept their promises, but how can he have hoped to, after inheriting the worst economy since the Great Depression, and with Republicans fighting him every step of the way?

If this mid-term was a referendum on the president, the negative feeling towards Obama has won a decisive victory, but I can’t help but view him as a victim. After all, he’s been fighting a losing battle since his 2008 win, and, at this point, I honestly wouldn’t blame him if he was looking forward to the end of his second term in 2016.

– Lana Wrigley, A2 Politics

What makes Americans attracted to Presidents from Mars rather than Venus and what will it take for a woman to break through America’s most exclusive glass ceiling?

Every year in Luton Sixth Form College the Politics department holds the Politics Prize competition. Last year Adam Deacon won the prize with his article on North Korea. This year Sophy Lelliot won with her excellent piece on the glass women that American females face on the quest for political power which you can read below.

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ABOVE: Sophy Lelliot receiving her Politics Prize from the principal, Chris Nicholls.

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OMG Ed Mili!

Ed Mili has finally grown a pair! I must admit, he made a bold move. After listening to him on Tuesday when he said that the Labour Party would support intervention in Syria if it “was legal”, I thought “right…we’re in.” But no! Mili shocks us all by proposing an amendment to the government’s resolution.

The debate started in the Commons yesterday at 2.30 pm and ended very late into the evening when my BBC app alerted me that the Commons had voted; no! The government motion was defeated 285 to 272, a majority of 13 votes!

Mr Miliband has certainly up-graded himself within the Labour Party. As a member of the Party I received an email explaining the amendment put forward and I honestly got really excited for British politics. Historians last night were debating whether the last time a PM was defeated on a matter of peace and war was 1782 or 1855- either way it was a very long time ago! Not only was it an embarrassing defeat, but the fact that Cameron didn’t get full support from his own party and the fact that he recalled Parliament further adds to his embarrassment. Poor guy. If only the Commons had voted logically years ago, arguably tens, if not thousands of Arabs would still be alive today.
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Putin: Defender of ‘Traditionalist Values’ or Homo-Erotic Hypocrite?

So what IS happening in Russia?

Persecution of Russians due to their sexuality is not new. I, myself have been on an emailing list that signs petitions to attempt to end the persecution of hundreds in Russia for a few years now. However, this year Vladimir Putin signed a law which stated that gay couples in ANY country could not adopt children who had been born in Russia. This was followed by Putin signing a law which said tourists who the police believed were homosexual could be arrested and then detained for 14 days. Not exactly great publicity for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, seeing as any athlete, coach, team member, or spectator could be threatened with arrest. Recently, perhaps the most public of all of Putin’s anti-gay reforms was his decision to outlaw what he describes as ‘homosexual propaganda’ – essentially if you tell anybody that being gay is okay, you can face fines, or even worse can be arrested. According to the New York Times, it is even rumoured that he wants to pass a law which would remove children from their families if the parents are even suspected of being gay.

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Eleven Years On: Freedom in a Post 9/11 America

In 1776 Thomas Jefferson began the Declaration of Independence; ‘We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal’. America then went on to discriminate against women, African-Americans and Hispanics for over two hundred years. Hypocrisy is arguably synonymous with the American constitution. The First Amendment states;

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The First Amendment essentially outlines freedom. Freedom from government intervention. The Freedom of speech, press and assembly that America consistently criticises totalitarian regimes of not upholding.  Most recently, criticisms against the North Korean regime but also in the past America has heavily criticised the USSR and China for the lack of political freedoms in their country. Of course, on no level is the USA an equivalent to these dictatorial regimes but it begs to question how much the America people, and indeed we in Britain, know how much we’re being lied to. A cynical joke from the Cold War can be applied to this question:

‘What’s the difference between East Germany and West Germany?’
‘The People of East Germany know they’re being lied to.’

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