Here’s What It Means To “Decriminalize” Drugs

On November 3rd, without a thought of how high their screen time was getting, the entire country stared at their television and phone screens. However, many people did not see or just scrolled over the articles explaining the many different states that legalized marijuana and even more impressive, the only state that decriminalized drugs. In 44 states, weed is legal in some form, which may be medical, recreational, or both. Oregon took the next step in 2020’s election. They voted and officially decriminalized personal use and possession of all drugs which prompted a negative response from many people. The terms “decriminalized” and “legalized” are very distinct and crucial to understanding Oregon’s decision. So, today I will be discussing what it means to “decriminalize” drugs.

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Throughout the United States history, we can see that politicians have repeatedly passed laws and “waged wars” against drugs. However, “wars” and laws that criminalize drugs disproportionately target minority communities, which results in enormous populations of minorities imprisoned for even small amounts of drugs. Aggressive drug enforcement in the 1980s led to the mass incarceration of African Americans. The United States comprises about 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 4.25% of the world’s total population, and that is the issue with the criminalization of drugs.  

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“War On Drugs”

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There are several times when American Presidents took drastic measures against drugs. President Richard Nixon implemented one of the most infamous, “War on Drugs” during the 1980s. Nixon’s aggressive effort against drugs resulted in Black people, especially men, sent to prison in massive waves. These bold and targeted laws included longer minimums sentences, and hasher sentencing. Beverly Tatum, Ph.D., who has a doctorate in clinical psychology, addresses the many different aspects of racism in America throughout her career. In her book, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafeteria?”, Dr. Tatum addresses how Nixon’s war on drugs increased minimum sentences for drug-related offenses from just under two years in 1986 to a five-year minimum in 2004.

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Dr. Tatum continues to discuss how drug-related offenses make up approximately 50 percent of the federal population since 1980. Whereas, in state prisons, the number of drug offenders “has increased tenfold since 1980.” Furthermore, Dr. Tatum further shows the ridiculousness of such drastic drug targeting and states that many of the majority of people who make up the drug-related prison populations “are not major players in the drug trade” and do not have violent pasts. Therefore, we can infer that such aggressive tactics to criminalize drugs directly target African Americans and intentionally put more in prison.

What It Means to Decriminalize

We’re now in the wake of the late 1900s’ aggressive drug enforcement tactics. There are plenty of counteractive measures to reverse past presidents like Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan’s actions. However, please do not confuse that with the fact our prison population numbers are still at incredibly high numbers. In the book, “The New Jim Crow,” by Michelle Alexander, she states that there are “more African American adults under correctional control today in prison or jail, on probation or parole—than were enslaved in 1850.” This quote speaks volumes to our prison systems’ current state. Conditions have hardly changed since the 1800s; they only shifted, though the presidency of President Barack Obama would have you believe racism is long gone.

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There are plenty of counteractive programs that reversed things like the 3-Strike program and other aggressive drug enforcement laws. However, the disproportionate representation of minorities in prisons stays stagnant. This is where decriminalization comes in. Decriminalizing drugs turns drug abuse into a health or mental issue rather than a criminal issue. Looking at drug abuse from an empathetic, health point-of-view provides those addicted to drugs with more opportunity to break the addiction through rehabilitative programs. To send drug abusers with no priors or no violent history to prison for a minimum of five years is the same as giving them a life sentence of hardship and adversity. Additionally, once people are convicted of a crime, they are more than likely to become a reoffender. That’s not because they are or become bad people, but because the circumstances inside prison and the restrictions that surround their release, make it hard to live life as we consider, “normal.”

The rehabilitative approach towards drug addiction will help diminish the disproportionate numbers of minorities in prisons and jails. This approach also rehabilitates more people allowing them to be productive members of society. That is why Oregon decriminalizing low amounts of drugs is a significant step in the right direction.

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Sources

Here’s One Reason America’s Youth Is Increasingly Progressive

In the United States, different social groups have different perspectives of the nation’s history. Race, gender, or sexual orientation largely determine one’s view of history. Marginalized social groups remember the horrors of the past and the murdered ancestors. On the contrary, when people of dominant social groups look at history, they see the successes, and thus they want to “make America’ great’ again.” The vast differences between minority and dominant social groups’ perspectives of history help explain a lack of older generations’ progressiveness. Additionally, this also explains why America’s youth is increasingly progressive.   

Considering that 76.3% of the United States population is white, the trends in the nation are influenced the most by the white community. Additionally, at least 80% of Black people already identify as Democrat — and 29% identify as liberal. So, as you read about how America’s youth is increasingly progressive, it is rightful to assume that the white community’s perspective is most prominently changing.

Older Generations

The Silent Generation, Boomers, and the Gen X’s are the oldest generations still alive. The people who comprise these generations were alive to see the past 100 years or so. The things that younger generations look at as “history” are just the past moments for the older generations. They remember times when society was even more opportune and beneficial for white people than marginalized groups. A majority of the dominant groups’ members don’t think of the horrible history our country has, and so, therefore, the country was never anything but great for them. 

The other side of the society, however, sees a not-so-great American history. Older members of disenfranchised social groups personally, or through stories, remember segregation, Jim Crow, and the KKK. From this perspective, the United States has never been great. Indigenous American, Hispanic, and Latinx people share this not-so-great perspective of American history. For the Indigenous Americans, it’s the mass genocide of ancestral tribes and hundreds of other horrors. It is the enslavement, murder, and eviction from their land along the southern United States border Hispanic and Latinx people.

Younger Generations 

A protester in Washington DC holds a sign featuring George Floyd.
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Younger generations, such as Millennials Gen Z, are more progressive than their older counterparts. According to research by the Pew Research Center, the views of voters throughout the different generations have become increasingly progressive over time. In 2018, the Pew Research Center reported percentages on generations’ approval of Donald Trump. The numbers were as follows, 54% of the Silent Generation, 43% of Baby Boomers, 38% of Gen X, 29% of Millennials, and 30% of Gen Z. Overall, we can see a downward trend on average of 6% per generation. Despite an overall downward trend, Gen Z rose 1% from the previous Millenial generation. However, it’s important to note that Gen Z has the least number of eligible voters, which means significantly less of a sample size. That aside, since older generations experienced a different era of the United States, their perspective is different.

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The younger white population in America doesn’t remember when it was socially encouraged and accepted to overtly abuse people by the color of their skin, their orientation of sexuality, or any other identifying factors. Don’t confuse this with the eradication of racism or other prejudices. While the United States has mostly shifted away from blatant abuse of minority social groups, that does not mean that discrimination doesn’t exist through more inconspicuous forms. However, as I said, the younger white generation grew up in a seemingly more accepting society. So they are more likely to interact with a more diverse group of people and be more empathetic towards minority social groups.

Future Generations

As the less empathetic generations pass on, the newer generations will only become more and more progressive. I like to think about how my generation’s — Gen Z — kids will look at us and our parents as much more conservative than their views.

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We can see proof of younger generations becoming increasingly progressive in upcoming political leaders. Older generations think of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as too far left. However, ask anyone just out of college or younger, and they’ll most likely know AOC, and tell you how much they like her. She may have incredibly out-there ideas, but that’s what we, the United States, need. Because everything was impossible ‘til someone did it.


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The Star-Spangled Banner: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

As COVID cases increase and the flu creeps up behind us, professional sports have started to resume play. As customary, people remove their hats, hold their hand over their hearts and sometimes kneel for the “Star-Spangled Banner,” the American national anthem. However, when people listen to “Star-Spangled Banner,” it’s questionable whether they are really listening. Most people don’t think about the origins of and what the national anthem stands for. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

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The Origins

The song performed at significant events was initially a poem written by Francis Scott Key in 1814. His inspiration? “Alone U.S. flag still flying over Fort McHenry at daybreak” During Pen’s life, the British invaded America, and he witnessed many atrocities. However, in one instance, Pen saw British soldiers bombard Fort McHenry and fail to conquer the fort, and when he looked above the fort, the American flag still stood tall above it. This experience further fortified the patriotism throughout the poem.

This origin story above is what you’d probably hear in the whitewashed American history textbook. While the information may be accurate, it largely ignores the reality of the 1800s. Similar to how President Trump says, “Make America great again,” he’s essentially saying that a country full of exclusivity and prejudice are what made America great. Pen’s “Star-Spangled Banner” perspective of 1800-America ignores the African slaves’ perspective. It ignores the abused and suppressed housewives’ perspective, it ignores the perspective of the disregarded LGBTQ community of early America, and it ignores the Native Americans slain over colonization.

Pen glorifies the American experience by omitting marginalized people’s experiences. In 1814, when Pen wrote his poem, approximately 47,404 African slaves disembarked from slave boats at the American shores. This is on top of the 1,191,362 African slaves already enslaved. I understand that there’s no use complaining about the past, but I certainly will not celebrate it with song. 

When I write “the good, the bad, and the ugly,” I’m referring to the “bad” and the “ugly.” No matter how much textbooks will push it, there’s not much “good” in America’s history besides a handful of exceptional moments. Yes, we gained freedom this and democracy that. However, I believe all of that would’ve come with or without the African Diaspora. And I would’ve preferred the latter. 

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The Lyrics

You’ve heard the national anthem, but have you truly listened? While the entirety of the anthem is ridiculous, in my opinion, here are several lines that stand out the most— you can see all the lyrics here. If you read it, you’ll notice Pen uses joyful, courageous words to describe America in the 1800s.

“What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,”

“O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

Both lines showcase Pen’s glorification of America. His language depicts Americans as innocently courageous freedom fighters. Cowardness, however, is the word I use to describe pridefully prejudice hypocrites. As stated before, in 1814, 1,191,362 Africans were enslaved when Pen wrote home of the “brave” and land of the “free.”

Statistic: Black and slave population of the United States from 1790 to 1880 | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Another few lines that stand out are:

“Blest with vict’ ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land

Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

 And this be our motto – ‘In God is our trust.’”

Pen is essentially saying that the early Americans were given their land from God and that God sent the colonists to America to “rescue” it — white savior mentality. Pen continues to claim that the white colonists were given the right to conquer all of the lands in the Americas because God gave them his “blessing.” Pen refers to manifest destiny, which is “the 19th-century doctrine that the expansion of the U.S. throughout the American continents was justified and inevitable.”

In 1492, before Columbus came to not America, there were approximately 54 million inhabitants in North America, according to William Denevan. In 2019, World Population Review reported — based on the U.S. Census Bureau — that 6.79 million Native Americans remained in the U.S. Now I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t see the early colonists as peacekeepers. Moreover, I think that the sheer decline of Native Americans in a country’s otherwise growing population, best shows just how ridiculous and glorified our history books and Pen’s claims are.

A Black person's hand reaching out to a white person's hand.
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One last point that I want to make about the Star-Spangled Banner’s lyrics is how Pen so loosely refers to God and Christianity. I am a Christian, but I believe our nation is the “land of the free,” so by using God’s name in our national anthem, does that not force Christianity on everyone? Our pledge of allegiance does the same thing, and it is tone-deaf and hypocritical to boast religious freedom when the national anthem and pledge honor Christianity’s god.

Of course, there’s nowhere I’d rather live, and there are many, many amazing things about living in the United States, but that doesn’t mean we can forget our past. Our whitewashed history puts white men are the forefront of the United States. In reality, there were women leading revolutions, and Black people building the infrastructures, and indigenous Americans teaching us the lay of the land. I believe our national anthem needs to be revised because it honors said whitewashed history.

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Citations

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Here’s Why Veterans Still Vote For Trump

Election Day, 2020 is 46 days away today, and after the last four years, I still don’t understand how people could have voted for Trump even in 2016. Everyone’s got their excuses, “conservative” politics, and a “good” economy, but his racism was as blatant in 2016 as it is today. However, that’s not what this article is about; today, I beg the question, “How do veterans still support Trump?” Over the last four years, Trump has done nothing for the military besides abuse his power and insult their courageousness. Time and time again, he shows blatant disrespect for our armed forces, and yet, way too many veterans live and breathe to support Trump — and I can’t understand.  

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Lies, Lies, and More Lies

Someone recently pointed out to me— and I guess I knew this— if someone can support Trump through the last four years, they’re never going to change their mind. People are usually good at realizing when someone lies. It’s just a matter of whether we have too much pride to admit our mistakes. There have been quite intriguing studies on the different types of lies and how successful people are at pointing each one out, especially in Trump’s wake. PolitiFact— a website dedicated to uncovering the validity of statements— reports that only 4% of Trump’s claims were valid. Compare that to Obama’s 86% valid claims.

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Greater Good Magazine by Berkeley University explains that “blue” lies are “told on behalf of a group that can actually strengthen the bonds between members of that group. “White” lies are “generous,” and “black” lies have selfish intentions. Blue lies fall somewhere between “white” and “black” ones depending on the liar’s intentions. In Trump’s case, he lies because he preys on his supporters’ desire for a “voice” and a community. Therefore, he selfishly lies about anything and everything dealing with liberals, democrats, and anyone else who doesn’t blindly follow him. Jeremy Smith — an editor of the Greater Good Magazine — explains how Trump tells these “blue” lies to bring his supporters together against their mutual “enemy,” democrats.

These “blue” lies are considered a primary reason why Trump was able to win the 2016 election with a campaign based on nothing but lies and empty promises. This assumption is undoubtedly valid about the 2016 election, but what about in 2020? How do veterans still support Trump? “Blue” lies indeed play a role and are extremely powerful because no matter how ridiculous his claims get; his supporters will back it. However, he has openly— and bluntly— insulted everyone who’s served and serving. I thought that insulting John McCain and every other veteran would’ve “drawn a line in the sand,” but I stand corrected. 

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The Stats

According to the MilitaryTimes, Trump’s ratings have fallen due to his recent offensive language.

MilitaryTimes.com

While this is surprisingly good news, the ratings between Trump and Biden are far too close. In this election, “close” guarantees almost nothing, as seen in 2016. So while I won’t complain that only 3.9% more active-duty troops plan to vote for Biden, it’s not enough. Also understand this poll is solely active-duty troops. As for veterans, Pew Research Center found this:

Pew Research Center

With over 50% of veterans supporting Trump, in 2019, unless they had a sudden change in morals, I’m not sure if they’ll ever stop supporting Trump.

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Who Hasn’t Trump Insulted?

I’m going to stick to the last four years because I’d be writing for days if I ranted about Trump’s military insults. In August 2018, John McCain died from brain cancer. McCain was a highly-decorated veteran as well as a prisoner-of-war survivor. He laid his life on the line and experienced a soldier’s — very possible — worst nightmare. Despite his sacrifices, when McCain died, according to three sources — each directly involved with Trump — he said, ‘We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,’ and he became furious, according to witnesses, when he saw flags lowered to half-staff. ‘What the f*ck are we doing that for? Guy was a f*cking loser,’ the president told aides.” Mind you, McCain was republican, with conservative principles, so it wasn’t political. There’s just something utterly inappropriate about Trump’s morals.  

It seems as if every month — or every couple of weeks — some inappropriate comments that Trump said arise. And like everything else he says, it largely goes without protest from his supporters. Earlier this September, it came out that, in reference to visiting a veteran cemetery, Trump said, “Why would I want to go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” And according to The Atlantic, in another conversation referencing the same visit, Trump called the more than 1,800 marines who lay in those graves and sacrificed their lives, “suckers.”

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Trump has insulted just about every social, sexual, economic, and racial group to exist — sometimes multiple at once. Frankly, even the low socioeconomic white class (his biggest supporters) has no practical reason to support him. But if they stuck with him through the last four years of lies and misogyny, then there’s no changing their minds now. The only group in this country I can see having a “practical” reason to vote for him is rich white men, though that would require one to also have no morals. 

I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand why anyone, especially veterans, still support Trump. I guess I’ll toss this one up to the mysteries of human pride — once someone thinks they’re right, it can be impossible to convince them otherwise.

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“All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.” 

Socrates, Antigone

The Unbeatable Duo, Flu And Corona


Throughout 2020, we’ve encountered murderous hornets, raging fires, worldwide protests, and a pandemic. I haven’t been writing for a while, and there’s a lot to discuss over the last few months. However, what we’re headed for is what’s most concerning. Coronavirus has been rampant worldwide ever since early March 2020, and possibly even earlier. Minority communities have been devastated by coronavirus, and influenza season is coming quick, I’m afraid of the travesty minority communities will face if or when the flu and coronavirus attack at once.

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Researchers

We are nearing flu season, and coronavirus has yet to yield, so scientists are rushing to determine all the potentials and consequences. But, as with COVID, there are still no certainties. In early March 2020, many people naïvely compared Coronavirus’ deaths to influenza’s death rate. Influenza took between 24,000-62,000 lives in 2019-2020, according to the CDC. Meanwhile, COVID-19’s deaths are nearing one million cases. “The worst-case scenario is both [the coronavirus and the flu] are spreading fast and causing severe disease, complicating diagnoses and presenting a double burden on the health care system,” says Marc Lipsitch.

There has been some whisper of a cure going around. Trump mentioned that a vaccine should be ready by late 2020 a few times. However, according to many doctors, the CDC only recommended hospitals prepare for a vaccine mostly because they wanted them to be extra prepared. And even if the vaccine were to come out by the end of this year, only the at-risk citizens and essential workers are likely to receive it. The rest of the country will most likely receive the vaccine well into mid 2021.

Black man covering his face with his hands.
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Racial Crisis

You probably don’t hear about this issue very often, if at all, on the news. It’s not a new issue, it’s just exacerbated because of COVID-19. The point I’m referring to is the way our country’s medical infrastructure fails our minority communities time and time again. From birth complication rates to vaccination rates, minority communities are always hit the worst. With the influenza season coming, I have the privilege to go and get my flu shot without worry. However, I worry for the lower socioeconomic, minority community, who was already hit disproportionately worse by COVID-19. Add on top of that, minorities are less likely to receive a flu vaccination. In 2018, the CDC conducted a study examining the racial disparities within vaccinations. Here’s what they found:

Chart that shows the percentages of flu infections by race.

As you can see, the white community makes up most vaccinations in the United States, with numbers near 50%. Followed by Asian at 44%, Black at 40 %, and Hispanic at 37%. Hispanics and Blacks receive flu vaccinations around 10% less often than white people. This difference may not seem drastic but add this on top of the coronavirus rates by race.  According to the CDC, per a single case of a white person with coronavirus, there are 2.6 Black cases, 2.8 Hispanic cases, and 1.1 Asian cases. As you can see, COVID-19 is raging through minority communities at more than double the white neighborhoods’ rate. And with influenza season on the way, sadly, too many lives will be threatened.

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The Unpredictability

Sarah Cobey, an epidemiologist at the University of Chicago, says, “it is hard to predict” the flu season’s infection rate alongside COVID-19. Cobey explains that what’s to come is incredibly unpredictable because human behavior largely determines the infection rate. While it is possible to look at other nations for reference, there is no surefire way to tell what will happen. For instance, nations in the southern hemisphere experience flu season exactly opposite of us, due to the inverted seasons. Southern hemispheric countries acquired a surplus of flu vaccines. However, they haven’t seen any spikes in flu infections.

Consider This from NPR podcast suggests this could be because of already-in-place mask-wearing regulations and social distancing. While scientists may look to this as a reference for the northern hemispheric nations, there are significant differences. The podcast pointed out that winters are milder in the southern hemisphere than in the north, which means that people spend more time indoors in northern countries, which means more contact between people.

Human behavior comes into play when trying to predict the path influenza will take. Many other countries have been taking COVID-19 much more seriously than here in the United States, and Americans are much less likely to socially distance or wear masks. Therefore, there is no reason the flu will hit any less than it does every other year or worse. Scientists are hopeful for a vaccine come at the end of 2020, and while it may only reach the elderly and at-risk citizens, we’re going to need anything we can get if flu season and coronavirus team-up.

Thanks for reading I’m back to writing an article every week, so subscribe to stay up to date! Please leave a comment, any inaccurate statements, misspellings, or any opinions.

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