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Trump and the exploitation of ignorance

Trump and the exploitation of ignorance

Immigration was, is, and always shall be one of America’s chief long term controversies. Public opinion is perpetually shattered in half—liberals calling conservatives heartless bigots and conservatives firing back with arguments that suggest amnesty can’t realistically be sustained. Differing political philosophies clash like the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.

In turn, it’s become very easy for American’s perspectives to become awash with rhetoric—rhetoric laced with misinformation that has inadvertently encouraged xenophobic attitudes. So, it’s become necessary to take a more realistic look at the state of immigration in America today.

Let’s first consider Donald Trump’s wildly controversial statements—statements mind you that have given him feverous support from millions of right leaning Americans. Trump has gone as far to call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Muslims haven’t been the only target of Trump. Earlier in his campaign he made extremely inflammatory remarks towards Mexican immigrants saying, “What can be simpler or more accurately stated? The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists.”

Trump has repeated this mantra ad nauseam with little in the way of actual facts. Unfortunately, because of his position as a major presidential candidate, many Americans are inclined to take his every word as truth. After all, what he’s been proudly proclaiming is based on very common preconceived negative stereotypes that many Americans have also falsely accepted as fact.

There is a strong reason to believe his outrageous remarks, which are repeatedly devoid of factual information, are made to exploit and piggyback on the support of xenophobic right wing Americans.

The Washington Post did some fact checking homework on Trump’s big claim that “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Not surprisingly, Trump has been exaggerating quite heavily. Washington Post writer Michelle Ye Hee Lee found that, “Of 78,022 primary offense cases in fiscal year 2013, 38.6 percent were illegal immigrant offenders. The majority of their cases (76 percent) were immigration related. Of total primary offenses, 17.6 percent of drug trafficking offenses and 3.8 percent of sex abuse were illegal immigrants. Of 22,878 drug crime cases, 17.2 percent were illegal immigrants.”

Lee also addressed more facts that disprove much of what Trump says about immigrants. Lee explains, “2010 Census data in a report from the American Immigration Council, a pro-immigration group, shows that 1.6 percent of immigrant males 18 to 39 years old were incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of native-born males. That disparity in incarceration rates has been consistent in the decennial Census since 1980, the report says.”

Regardless of Trump’s comments against Latino immigrants, the evidence is not there. Doing actual research proves that most of what he’s said, is simply hyperbole based on misconceptions.

It’s not just the Washington Post that’s taken the issue to task. In a similar article written by Albert R. Hunt for The New York Times, more damning facts were found that put the immigration issue into a different context. The reality of the immigration situation is not in alignment with the frenzied image Trump has created with his hateful rhetoric.

What Hunt found is that “Net migration from Mexico is negative, many experts say; more people are returning to Mexico than are illegally crossing the border into the United States.” This is a fact that many people in Trump’s camp, do not seem to be aware of.

There’s a myriad of other facts that dismantle a lot of popular notions about immigration. Namely that the number of undocumented immigrants is actually decreasing. There are currently 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, as compared to the more than 12 million there were in 2007. Also, the Obama Administration is actually responsible for more deportations than any other president in history, according to government data.

Obama has developed a reputation for being soft on immigration, for seemingly no real reason. Republicans like Trump have ridden this image with serious success, rallying an anti-immigration base that believes these candidates are the strict lawmakers that will squelch immigration. Ironically, the presidency currently spends more on fighting undocumented immigration than any other federal crime.

A large portion of the United States seems to be in a collective agreement with Trump. Sadly, many have not put much in the way of critical thought and are content with letting ignorance drive their thoughts on the crisis at hand.

Trump has been allowing his dangerous hyperbole to dehumanize multiple sects of people who are really just trying to live their lives. Like every single population to have ever existed, some turn to crime, but not nearly to the extent of which Trump preaches like the end all be all truth. Placing blame on problems that have very diverse factors causing them is highly irresponsible for a politician with such a large audience. One can only hope that primaries nominate candidates that don’t exploit ignorance for votes.

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Syrian refugees and the Paris attacks: Americans’ disappointing reaction

The people of the United States have collectively taken a giant step backwards with their appalling reaction in regards to Syrian refugees.

Sadly, many have not put much in the way of critical thought and are content with letting ignorance drive their thoughts on the crisis at hand. I’m sure if you’ve looked at your Facebook lately, you’ve seen exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about.

Photo via Creative Commons.

Photo via Creative Commons.

Social media has become the ultimate breeding ground for people to go all out and let the prejudice flag fly. There are many points that expose some of the hypocrisy involved.

Many seem to fear that letting refugees in seems to guarantee a future terrorist attack in the United States. After all, it was Syrian refugees that attacked Paris!

Not quite.

The evidence isn’t absolutely solid. In fact, the attackers that have been identified so far were citizens of European Union nations. This doesn’t exactly fit the profile that the paranoid masses have been pushing.

Nor does it make much sense logically. Refugees are fleeing terrorism, they have been the sole victims – they are not in any way aggressors. They are the ones who have been left homeless and without much hope. In response, Americans have truly made it entirely about themselves, fearing for our country while theirs has already been destroyed.

Furthermore, the rigorous process of entering the United States as a refugee is already quite the deterrent for would be terrorists.

Governors across the nation, including Michigan’s own Rick Snyder, have been declaring they will not participate and are going to refuse refugees altogether.

While this sentiment is surely disappointing, it’s also misguided as governors can’t make that decision. It’s up to the federal government.

Many have rallied around the point that we should be taking care of our own — the homeless, the veterans or any other American citizen that’s been left out in the cold. Yes, this is true, but nobody claiming this seemed to care before the Paris attacks. By and large this position has been used to mask prejudice against the refugees.

People also seem to grossly overestimate the amount of refugees that would actually be coming through. The number is 10,000 and people are treating it like 10 million. If the United States can’t figure out what to do with 10,000 people, whose home country has been annihilated, then the words on the Statue of Liberty mean nothing.

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I suppose the offer has expired.


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Global Corner: Reopening the gun conversation

Global Corner: Reopening the gun conversation


With every new mass shooting tragedy, which by the way is defined as a shooting with at least 4 casualties, the gun debate ignites like wildfire. Not every mass shooting is widely broadcasted across the national media; they would have a hard time keeping track of the 298 that have occurred so far. Sadly, a lot of people who were wounded or killed never had their story make it past the local news. We tend to focus on the especially horrible ones, most recently being the Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

It doesn’t need to be said that this was an absolute shame; something that caused nothing but pain, pain some may never overcome and none deserve. It’s easy to write this because I am privileged and unaffected, I cannot begin to imagine how the victim’s friends and families feel. They deserve nothing but empathy and understanding and I hope they are able to find it.

Death should never be the exploited talking point it is today, but that’s the culture we live in sadly. However, some of what’s been said regarding the issue needs to be checked. Just take notice that despite what you may read in this article, I am not anti-gun. I think any gun that hasn’t been banned now should stay legal and I am not for the idea of repossessing the legally purchased guns that are currently out there. To be honest, that whole idea is a paranoid fallacy anyway, I don’t see the United States descending into that level of fascism, that’s viciously absurd.

However, there have been talking points that deserve some criticism. “This isn’t about guns, this is about mental illness.” Donald Trump said it, Mike Huckabee said it, Ben Carson said it and countless others have said it. We do have an outstanding mental health care problem, but let’s not stigmatize victims of mental illness.

John Oliver brought a great article to attention on his HBO program and shared the important statistic that “fewer than 5% of the 120,000 gun-related killings in the United States between 2001 and 2010 were perpetrated by people diagnosed with mental illness.” I hate to parrot a television personality.

Just take it from my friend Collin Spencer, who works in mental health and had this to say:

“Don’t let the stigma fool you. The amount of people that are actually a threat to the safety of others because of a mental illness is miniscule next to the amount of people walking around without treatment or even realizing that they need it. These people need your help and support. Not to be feared.”

With that mess out of the way, let’s discuss something else: two arguments that have been tossed around forever about guns preventing crime. First, we have that criminals become reluctant to target a well-armed populace. Fair enough, that’s probably true. Secondly, we hear that such a populace can easily defend itself when crime arises. I’ll allow it.

The problem with basing our policies on arguments like this is that these are both purely hypothetical situations. These are not the sorts of claims that crime statistics have been able to prove true, especially when crime can be carried out with the same legal firearms that are supposed to prevent it. April Zeoli, an associate professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University, said:

“We live in a world of infinite possibilities, absolutely there are cases where someone was able to thwart a crime using a firearm. However, having said that, the idea that more firearms leading to less crime, has not truly been supported by the research that’s out there.”

Zeoli is referring to statistics that, more often than not, show that guns are disproportionately used to commit crime rather than prevent it. For example, in 2012 the FBI reported that across the U.S. there were 409 justifiable homicides perpetrated with firearms, as opposed to the 8,897 that were deemed criminal. There’s no reason to believe that guns can’t prevent crime in certain situations, sure, but we shouldn’t tote that claim like it is a scientific fact.

So, there you have it, my take on this controversy. There’s a lot of work to be done and I do not have all the answers. All I suggest is keep an open mind and don’t fall for what is being said by people and organizations that have ulterior motives. Remember that when it comes to gun control there’s a lot of money to be made and a lot of voters to sway.

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Global Corner: Donald Trump and the Refugee Crisis

Global Corner: Donald Trump and the Refugee Crisis

Is it possible to write an introduction to a column without it being redundant? The most brilliant writers of the world could probably do it, but I don’t think I can; I’m just a Midwestern college student that can barely wake up before 10 a.m. Just look at that cheese right there, I’m sorry for using a semicolon, Vonnegut. Equal parts of me want to say, “everything written here is the absolute truth” and “take everything I write with a grain of salt, because I am very poor and stupid.” I’m going to take up this space talking about things that are supposed to be categorized under the umbrella of “Global Views,” yet these are always going to be my views. You’re young, you’re smart, and I won’t punish you by dragging this part out anymore.

Donald Trump

“America, You Can be My Ex-Wife,” reads Donald Trump’s campaign slogan in a March 19, 2000 episode of The Simpsons. Yet, here we are dangerously close to having a man who said he’d date his own daughter, if she weren’t his daughter, winning the Republican nomination. His 2012 campaign was rightfully laughed into oblivion, but he has gained much more strength this time around. To everyone who isn’t interested in turning the world into an absurdist dream sequence from a cartoon, this is an actual nightmare. Donald Trump becoming president would be like living in a dystopia run by Bozo the Clown.

Photo via Flickr

Photo via Flickr

I understand why he has so much support; the skeleton of his policies is just the basic conservative approach–businessman economic ethics, tough on immigration and defending Israel. Trump just goes about it like a cartoon character, I mean building “the Great Wall of Trump” on the border of Mexico? The other thing he said that was just amazing was that he didn’t think John McCain was a war hero because “he got caught.” Ouch. Trump realizes he can say whatever he wants, because ultimately none of this matters to him; he loses and he retreats to his fortune and his supermodel wife. He is not a politician; he’s a loudmouth billionaire. Not even Herman Cain would ask a reporter if she was on her period. Donald Trump is your rich uncle that gives you a  $10 iTunes gift card for Christmas, not your straight talking savior.     

Refugee Crisis

The people living in war torn countries, where bombs eviscerate the landscape and sporadic bloody gunfights are constant, are always going to flee eventually. Who can blame them? Apparently a lot of people can. We spend most of our lives in the comfort of the typical American life. Our quarrels are so much more mundane than finding shelter or food to eat, or worrying about your entire family suddenly dying in the midst of a war that you wish would just go away.

Photo via Flickr

Photo via Flickr

The perspective of these people shouldn’t be misconstrued into leeches looking to game the system, but unfortunately the world is a pretty racist place. In these complicated political issues, I urge you at the very least to take the smallest look at the humanity of the situation. Even if you are against immigration at all costs and are the staunchest conservative around, at the very least you can observe the struggle of people desperately wishing for a better life. It’s an important instance to set politics aside and try to take care of the people living on this Earth with us.

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