Lately I’ve been feeling particularly inspired by the droves of women who have found ways to empower each other through endeavors that feel genuine and altruistic and productive. Feminism isn’t a new interest of mine, but I’ve recently found my perspective growing and changing and expanding exponentially because of these women and I feel an increasing need to contribute to the community.
I was equally excited by the responses to my post on representation last week. You guys have continually solidified what I already knew: many women are interested in fashion and existentialism and humor and feminism and identity and society and the interlaced connections between them all, just like I am. This has inspired me to nudge Similarish further in the direction of reflecting that complexity. Hugest thank you for that!
I’d like to expand the topics covered here to those a little further beyond my immediate purview. I hope that in some small way I can contribute to this culture of woman leaning on each other and shouldering the responsibility of expanding our awareness of not only each other but also the world around us.
Today, in the spirit of catering to my fellow curious and complicated women, I want to talk about some stuff going on in the world that has less to do with turtlenecks and more to do with politics. I’ve been making a concerted effort to read more political news lately, and with the monumental week we’ve just had in the US, it felt fitting to put together a little roundup in case you haven’t had the time to do the reading yourself or simply share my interest in learning about it.
Here is some interesting stuff I read this week.
1. Obama announces a long overdue change to overtime regulations
My summary: President Obama made a bold move yesterday, enacting a new rule that will require employers to pay time-and-a-half overtime wages to those making $50,440 or less annually. The previous threshold was a mere $23,660. This policy was flirting with the poverty line and was thus enabling many companies to demand extra work from their low-paid employees without due compensation. Although it’s within the President’s jurisdiction to issue this rule-change, it doesn’t make it immune to challenges from Congress in the coming years or to employer efforts to go around the policy in new and creative ways. Still, it’s a step in the right direction.
“The president said he wanted to go big here and he did,” said Jared Bernstein, a former White House economist who co-wrote an influential report on the benefits of expanding overtime pay after leaving the administration in 2011. “I can’t think of any other rule change or executive order that would lift more middle-class workers.”
2. Why Obama’s Charleston eulogy was an important departure from his normal style
Article: Obama’s Grace
My summary: Obama’s Grace is a thoughtful interpretation of Obama’s eulogy in the aftermath of the tragic Charleston shootings. While I was initially turned off by the heavily religious rhetoric used by Obama in the outset, James Fallows did a beautiful job of exploring the nuance of this particularly moving speech (or as he calls it, “a performance”) and claims that it was perhaps one of Obama’s most profound.
A relevant excerpt:
When the families of the nine murdered churchgoers told the killer that they forgave him, one undertone of their saintliness was that we might be in for another “noble victim” episode. Black people would be killed or abused; their survivors and community would prove their goodness by remaining calm; and in part because of their magnanimity, nothing would change. But by characterizing their reaction as a reflection of grace rather than mere “forgiveness,” Obama was able to present it as something much different than patient victimhood.
3. An exploration of historical black oppression and why it’s still relevant
Article: The Case for Reparations
My summary: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ lengthy oped is about a year old but no less relevant today. In it he details American’s gruesome history of racial oppression that starts with slavery but goes much further beyond that (chronologically and emotionally). His “case for reparations” doesn’t outline a plan for fiscal handouts, but simply calls for a broader discussion about how we might combat, as a country, the setbacks that were set in motion during America’s founding that are still so deeply felt today. It’s a piece that’s equally moving as it is disturbing.
To celebrate freedom and democracy while forgetting America’s origins in a slavery economy is patriotism à la carte.
Perhaps no statistic better illustrates the enduring legacy of our country’s shameful history of treating black people as sub-citizens, sub-Americans, and sub-humans than the wealth gap. Reparations would seek to close this chasm. But as surely as the creation of the wealth gap required the cooperation of every aspect of the society, bridging it will require the same.
Perhaps after a serious discussion and debate—the kind that HR 40 proposes—we may find that the country can never fully repay African Americans. But we stand to discover much about ourselves in such a discussion—and that is perhaps what scares us. The idea of reparations is frightening not simply because we might lack the ability to pay. The idea of reparations threatens something much deeper—America’s heritage, history, and standing in the world.
4. An increased sensitivity around trans issues is sorely needed
My summary: While the increased awareness surrounding transphobia has spelled progress for the trans community, there is still a huge amount of work to be done in terms of how the media approaches the topic, even from those outlets who are coming from a seemingly supportive place. John Oliver calls for an increased education and sensitivity around the struggles of the trans community and points out some of the more absurd accusations that are lobbed against them. The underlying theme here is of course that people need to first seek to understand and respect trans people before approaching legislation that affects them. That may be Humanity 101 to some, but it’s outside of the public practice disturbingly often.
Oliver also joined the crusade against the media’s continued obsession with the state of trans people’s “private parts,” issuing a simple rule of thumb: “It is no more okay to ask transgender people about their sex organs than it is to ask Jimmy Carter whether or not he’s circumcised.”
Another view: It was a good start, but not enough.
5. What’s next for the LGBT civil rights movement
Article: Marriage Equality? Not so fast
My summary: The LGBT community and their millions of allies saw a huge victory last Friday when SCOTUS struck down any state’s attempt to ban same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. In his oped, Tim Holbook explains that while the historical decision is a monumental leap for humankind and a worthy cause for celebration, there is still work to be done. Until LGBT becomes a fully protected class in the eyes of federal law, shutting down some of the remaining discriminatory practices will be a challenge. Holbrook reminds us the fight is not over.
While that is an important step for equality and inclusion for LGBT people, it is just that — a step. Inequality and murky questions remain.
The reach of the Obergefell decision is somewhat limited. There are a number of areas in which the LGBT community will face unequal treatment.
6. Evidence of the GOP’s lack of empathy and why it matters
Article: The GOP Fails Its Empathy Test
My summary: Peter Bienart, a political pundit, believes the GOP will concede the 2016 race to the democrats if they don’t develop some empathy for the groups and classes outside the narrowly defined ones their desired policies continually aim to serve (affluent/straight/white/christian/male). In this oped, Bienart explores this at-once extremely relevant and painfully obvious concept by specifically calling out and examining some missed opportunities over the past months.
The rise of Millennials—who are more ethnically and racially diverse and more secular than any generation in American history—is making America a far more culturally tolerant nation than it was when Ronald Reagan, or even George W. Bush, occupied the White House. For the Republican presidential candidates, that means they’re starting from behind. They begin the 2016 race burdened by their party’s reputation for intolerance, a reputation that becomes more politically costly every year as the result of generational change.
7. The latest Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare affirms the policy’s future
My summary: Obamacare has afforded health insurance to millions of people who wouldn’t have otherwise received coverage. While the move towards universal healthcare has been lauded by many, this specific bill is widely thought to contain “more than a few examples of inartful drafting,” as Justice Roberts put it. When, for the second time, one such example was called into question, SCOTUS ruled in favor of upholding the original intention of the bill, much to the chagrin of certain GOP members who have made it their mission to tear it down.
In a hastily arranged appearance in the Rose Garden on Thursday morning, a triumphant Mr. Obama praised the ruling. “After multiple challenges to this law before the Supreme Court, the Affordable Care Act is here to stay,” he said, adding: “What we’re not going to do is unravel what has now been woven into the fabric of America.”
The ruling was a blow to Republicans, who have been trying to gut the law since it was enacted. But House Speaker John A. Boehner vowed that the political fight against it would continue.
8. A conservative’s view on how his party should change their approach to healthcare
My summary: David Frum, a Senior Editor at The Atlantic, a neoconservative, and former speech writer for President George W. Bush, urges the GOP to stop attempting to denounce and repeal Obamacare and instead focus on improving it. Millions of Americans who’ve received coverage from the new legislation (80% of which have reported their satisfaction with it) would stand to lose coverage should it be dismantled. He believes the republican party will lose the 2016 race if they don’t instead consider universal healthcare “a welcome aspect of any advanced democracy” and simply seek reformation for some of its “clunky irrationalities.” It’s a refreshing take that I think many liberals would at least partially agree with.
Aware of the power of the status quo, Republicans have promised not merely to repeal Obamacare but to “repeal and replace” it. But the party has never managed to coalesce around any replacement plan. The various ideas on offer remain stuck in the conceptual stage, vague about such important details as “how much would this cost,” “how many would be covered,” and “how will coverage be paid for.” What is clear, however, is that the Republican alternatives, such as they are, would remove coverage from many who have it now. In my opinion, that one fact is likely to cost Republicans the White House in 2016, no matter who they nominate.
9. The implications of the latest Supreme Court ruling on the death penalty
My summary: Four inmates on death row in Oklahoma sought to have a sedative called Midazolam used during the execution process banned due to possible violation of the Eighth Amendment which bars cruel and unusual punishment. The sedative is now in use by some states due to “a shortage” of the preferred barbituates and is believed to possibly cause excruciating pain based on a handful of botched executions since the drug came into use. Justice Breyer called into question whether the death penalty itself violates the Constitution, but was unfortunately on the losing side. SCOTUS ruled in favor of allowing the drug, reason being there is no way to completely remove the risk of pain caused by these drugs.
In a 46-page dissent that included charts and maps, he said that “it is highly likely that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment,” which bars cruel and unusual punishments. He said that there was evidence that innocent people have been executed, that death row exonerations were frequent, that death sentences were imposed arbitrarily and that the capital justice system was warped by racial discrimination and politics.