Posts in: PS200

Week TWO (time flies!)

It’s already second Wednesday! Every block I say, “Wow this block is going by so fast!” and then I forget just how fast it went by, and then I say the exact same thing the next block. Consistency is key!

Last week I was in a state of distress over writing my paper, but I did, rest assured, finish the paper and get it turned in on time. You all (my many devoted and loyal fans) can breathe a sigh of relief. I have another short paper due on Friday, same as last week. I’m not quite at the point of being stressed about this paper, but I’m sure I’ll get there. If you’re lucky, there will be another frantic blog post about my difficulties with engaging in complex thought.

A lot has happened in the last week! Both in class and in the world. On Monday in class we did a simulation of Congress. We each got assigned a specific Congressperson from the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and we had to try to think like that Congressperson while working to get a bill passed. The original bill we were given to discuss was one to ban junk food in public schools, but we amended it to just limit junk food. And we ended up passing the bill! I don’t know why the real Congress acts like it’s so hard to do!! Just kidding. Even just our seemingly innocuous bill made my head spin with all its possible effects and consequences. There were so many factors to consider! Making legislation at the national level is especially complicated because there are 50 states !! and hundreds of cities !! and thousands of towns !! And they all have different needs and wants and legislation impacts all of them differently. It’s actually a wonder that Congress manages to get anything done at all! (just kidding again, they don’t.) Despite my brain getting a little scrambled, I actually really enjoyed the Congressional simulation. I thought it was a great way to learn about both the formal procedures of Congress and the issues that Congresspeople have to consider. And it was just good old fashioned fun! Maybe if Mitch McConnell had a little more fun with the job he would be less inclined to act like an evil tyrant. (again I kid–he knows no other way.)

Yesterday we talked about presidents. We read two pieces by Ta-Nehisi Coates, one about Obama and one about Trump. Boy was that sad. The contrast between the two presidents was deeply disturbing. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to criticize Obama for, but I think overall he was a good president and a truly decent man. He wanted the best for the American people. I honestly don’t think the same can be said for Trump. Sit with that idea. The president of the United States of America does not want the best for the general public (particularly women and minorities) of this country. He doesn’t work for us. This brings me to last night’s debate… Actually, you know the saying “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all?” I guess I have nothing to say on that subject after all.

Today we talked about the Supreme Court and the Judiciary, which is my favorite topic in the world to discuss. Woohoo best day ever!!! I love thinking about and talking about legal philosophy and different interpretations of the Constitution and the role of the judiciary in our government. It is by far my favorite branch of government. It really saddens me to see the way that it has been coopted by explicitly political actors. I don’t believe the Supreme Court was ever truly an apolitical institution, but it has only become increasingly political in recent years, especially after the GOP’s refusal to give Merrick Garland a confirmation hearing in 2016. The damage that was done to the Court because of that one action is difficult for me to even comprehend, and it angers me to no end.

To end this blog post, I’d like to briefly acknowledge the life and legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her contributions to fairness, justice, and equality in this country are immense. My dreams are within reach in no small part because of her. Rest in peace, Justice Ginsburg.

US Politics and Government (oh my)

I am beginning this blog at 10:57 p.m. because I have a paper due tomorrow at 5:00 which, despite having all day, I have not begun. At least, I tell myself, this particular form of procrastination is productive.

We learned this week about power in US politics; what is it, who has it, and who should have it. We also learned about the founding of the US, specifically the drafting of the Constitution, and civil liberties and civil rights. It is difficult to be learning about the US government at a time like this, when our system seems to be devolving more and more into fascism every day. We read an excerpt from Robert Dahl’s book “Who Governs,” which was written in 1961. It was certainly an interesting and valuable read, but I do wonder how relevant his thoughts are today, when they are based on the assumption that legality and constitutionality, decorum and democracy, are highly valued in political culture. In our current state, we cannot pretend to value these things while a major question this election cycle is whether or not our President will allow for a peaceful transfer of power, should he lose in November. Politics in the US have never been simple or straightforward, but at this particular moment in history, trying to make sense of them feels utterly impossible. Every question has a thousand answers, which each raise a thousand more questions. Imagine a hydra with a hundred heads, where each head has a hundred heads of its own, and each of those heads has a hundred more heads, and every single one of the heads is screaming. You have just visualized my brain at this very moment.

Back to my paper. I need to relate a current event to something we have learned about so far. It is meant to be short; no longer than one page single-spaced. I think I’m going to write it about some emails that recently came to light, which show how the pesticide industry has influenced the US position in health talks concerning international guidelines on combating drug resistance. During these talks, the US insisted, in opposition to the other countries present as well as, you know, science, that the guidelines omit any mention of fungicides. This pro-fungicide sentiment has been traced fairly directly to CropLife America, a national trade association that represents various actors in the pesticide industry. When the US puts the profits of the pesticide industry over the health and safety of its people, it calls into question the legitimacy of our democracy, where supposedly the people have the power. Who is the government really responsible and accountable to? Who truly holds the power in our society? It also raises questions about our civil rights and liberties. Here, notions of positive and negative liberty come into play. Is it the government’s role to guarantee our health and safety? How far does that role extend, and when does it actually begin to encroach upon the rights of others? Can we have both liberty and guarantees to health and safety? I could go on for hours. And so, you see, a hydra is born.

It is now 12:23 a.m. Oops. The article I read about this paper topic used the word “antimicrobial” no less than TEN times. Seeing a science word this many times triggered a fight or flight response in my brain, so unfortunately I will be unable to work on my paper tonight. I leave the entirety of this herculean task for tomorrow.