Why You Should Continue Meatless Meals After Lent
The Environmental Impacts of the Meat Industry
The return to campus after Easter break marks the end of meatless Fridays in observance of Lent. From an environmental perspective, eliminating meat on Fridays at Providence College has a positive impact on our planet. Annually, an average American diet produces 2,000 kilograms of greenhouse gasses. However, by eliminating meat from your diet for just one day a week, you can decrease this amount by 400 kilograms. Switching to a plant-based diet is arguably one of the best things we can do to live sustainably and help our planet. While this lifestyle might not be something everyone is able to adopt, the next best thing we can do is avoid eating meat for one day, one week, or even for one meal.
About one-third of greenhouse gasses emitted into our atmosphere are from food production. Of this number, about 60 percent can be attributed to meat production, while 29 percent is attributed to the production of plant-based foods. Animals raised for meat, specifically cows, also release a greenhouse gas called methane, which is 26 percent stronger and better at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. It’s estimated that these animals are responsible for one-third of our global methane emissions. Plant-based meat, however, releases about 90 percent fewer emissions.
Additionally, around 70 percent of our world’s deforestation is due to agriculture, most notably meat production. As meat consumption continues to increase over the years, deforestation and the loss of trees to meet demand will make it even more difficult to remove carbon dioxide emissions from our atmosphere and mitigate climate change. On the other hand, plant-based meat uses up to 95 percent less land according to the United Nations Environment Assembly.
Meat production also has a significant water footprint. 15,000 liters of water are required to produce just 1 kilogram of beef. Pork and chicken similarly require a lot of water, using about 6,000 and 4,300 liters of water respectively per kilogram of meat. More specifically, the UN Environment Assembly estimates that 2,500 liters of water are used to produce one beef burger, and just three slices of bacon require 408 liters. Think of all the water you can save by choosing to skip a burger for one day, as well as how much water we’ve preserved by not serving them on campus during Lent. The UN also estimates that plant-based meat substitutes use 75-95 percent less water.
Meat consumption has a significant environmental impact, requiring copious amounts of resources. By making small dietary changes to exclude meat partially or entirely, it’s possible to help preserve these resources, as well as minimize our greenhouse gas emissions. Adopting a plant-based diet in some form is one of the best ways we as individuals can help do our part in mitigating climate change.
Making Earth Day Every Day
Why We Need to Celebrate This Holiday Year-round
The 1960s was a critical decade for environmental policy in the United States, serving as the first time politicians began to recognize how humans play a large role in environmental destruction. Fortunately, this led to important policy changes and legislation to protect our planet. However, this relationship between human activity and ecological degradation was something already well-known among environmentalists prior to the 1960s.
Environmentalists including Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, and Gaylord Nelson were essential figures in the environmental movement. Carson’s Silent Spring is arguably one of the most influential texts of the movement. Published in 1962, it revealed the dangers of D.D.T. and pesticide use on both human and wildlife health, accusing chemical companies of hiding these dangerous side effects from the public. The publication resulted in the ban of D.D.T. across the country. With his Sand County Almanac published in 1949, Leopold introduced the term “land ethic” for the first time, an idea that humans need to coexist with nature, rather than continue to dominate and exploit it. This message is still prevalent today, as decades later, it seems as though we still have yet to adopt such a vision.
In 1969, environmentalist and Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed the idea for Earth Day, and in 1970, it was celebrated for the first time on April 22. Earth Day was a turning point for environmental awareness and advocacy in the U.S. The same year in 1970, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was formed, as well as the National Environmental Education Act and the Clean Air Act. In the next three years, the U.S. would also go on to establish the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act. The first Earth Day was an environmental breakthrough, resulting in some of the most important environmental legislation we have to date.
Still, just over 50 years later, it seems as though we have forgotten the importance of Earth Day and what it means as we continue to act in unsustainable ways that harm our planet. Every year, over one billion people in over 193 countries celebrate Earth Day. Imagine how much of an impact we could make if this many people treated every day like Earth Day.
From what the March 2023 I.P.C.C. report explains, it’s clear that we need people advocating for environmental change year-round. According to the report, we have already caused our planet to warm an additional 1.1 degrees Celsius, dangerously nearing the 1.5 degrees Celsius scientists constantly warn is the tipping point.
What happens if temperatures increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius? In terms of biodiversity, 14 percent of species could be threatened with extinction, and a loss of up to 90 percent of coral reefs is also expected. Additionally, 950 million people could start experiencing drought as well as extreme temperatures, with 45–58 days of the year likely to surpass 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Flooding is also expected to affect 24 percent more people with this increase.
We need to change our habits every day of the year, not just on Earth Day. We cannot combat climate change and other environmental issues by reflecting on our lifestyles and advocating for the planet only one day a year. It’s our responsibility to not only make sustainable choices each day but to push for environmental policy that is crucial for mitigating climate change. If we want to live on a planet that is equitable, sustainable, just, and habitable, this is something we have to do all year.
A Totally Original Rant About Originalism
In the latest example of Supreme Court hypocrisy, Justice Clarence Thomas—the self-styled “man of the people” who prefers “RV parks” and “Walmart parking lots” to “the beaches”—has, according to the Beacon Hill Times, “been accepting luxury vacations from a Texas billionaire for the past 25 years.” Out of all the countless instances of the Court’s moral decadence, this one is the most eye-catching. Setting aside the obvious conflicts of interest, these revelations show how Justice Thomas’ populism is nothing other than a cover for the interests of the rich and powerful. Nevertheless, lost in these conversations about the “Supreme Hypocrite” is perhaps the greatest hypocrisy of all: “originalism.”
According to its adherents, originalism is the belief “that the constitutional text ought to be given the original public meaning that it would have had at the time that it became law” (National Constitution Center). Put simply, originalists argue that the Courts should interpret the Constitution as the people who wrote it would have. If the Framers did not think the First Amendment forbade public prayers in public schools, then the Court must necessarily follow that opinion, and so on. Anything else, they say, would be a judicial overreach.
In practice, of course, originalism has been twisted to serve the needs of conservative justices and legal scholars. Consider the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. To many, he was the public face of originalism. Yet his comments during the Court’s hearings on Obamacare in 2012 suggest otherwise. Namely, in his questioning, Justice Scalia infamously likened Obamacare’s health insurance mandate to the government forcing people to buy broccoli. But, even if you somehow think this comparison holds (and I don’t), the U.S. government has had the power to make people buy things since the time of George Washington; indeed, “President Washington once signed a bill asking Americans to buy a musket and ammunition” (“One Document, Under Siege,” Richard Stengel, from Time’s The Constitution: An Essential User’s Guide). As Justice Scalia ought to have known, a bad policy does not always make an unconstitutional policy. Unless he was trying to “legislate from the bench.”
Scalia’s hypocrisy was not a one-off in the history of conservative originalism. In Citizens United, the Court—including none other than Justice Clarence Thomas—argued that the First Amendment protections of freedom of speech entailed a right for corporations to spend virtually unlimited amounts of money on campaigns with little to no transparency or accountability. In short, corporations have the same rights as people, even though modern corporations 1) did not exist in the Founding Era and 2) were and “are artificial creatures of the State, subject to government oversight to ensure that they do not abuse the special privileges granted to them to succeed in business” (David H. Gans, American Constitution Society). Corporate personhood goes against both the Founders’ original intentions and Court precedent.
Why is originalism so easily bent to the will of the American elite? Because it is a flimsy legal philosophy. To understand why, consider the following thought experiment: let’s say that the Framers did not consider the guillotine to be “cruel and unusual punishment.” In fact, let’s suppose that, like the 18th-century French doctor who first came up with the idea, the Framers thought the guillotine was a way of avoiding the brutal and barbaric executions of the past. Would that subsequently obligate the Court to proclaim that execution via the guillotine does not violate the Eighth Amendment? Better yet, what if the Framers wrote the Constitution in the 13th century instead of the 18th? Would that force the Court to stand by powerless if Texas decided to behead someone for a capital offense?
The Court never needed to take such a stance to preserve the Framers’ vision. The Constitution was always about timeless principles, not their application. The Framers undoubtedly understood that they were men, and that they could not foresee every development in science or technology or ethics. Especially since many of the Framers disagreed amongst themselves on how to apply the principles enshrined in the Constitution, why should we take their word on the matter as final?
The current Court knows all this well. Otherwise, they would follow originalism to its logical consequences (God help us if they ever change their minds). Instead, they take originalism to mean their peculiar form of “small government”—that is, small government for corporations and corporations only. But if the Court wishes to serve the American oligarchy, let them be honest, and not hide behind meaningless legal jargon.
It would certainly save Justice Thomas the time of filling out his disclosure forms.
Ten Years Later, Boston is Stronger
City’s Spirit of Resilience Grows with Time
For those of us from the Boston area, April 15, 2013, lives vividly in our memories. With schools closed on Patriots’ Day, the official state holiday commemorating the battles of Lexington and Concord, early risers assemble on Lexington Green to catch a view of the reenactments, and then crowds flock to the streets from Hopkinton to Boston to watch the Boston Marathon. The Red Sox always play at home on Patriots’ Day, as runners make the final gritty push past Fenway Park into the heart of the city.
Sunshine blanketed Boston and the heat felt more like July than April. On a picturesque New England day, without a cloud in the sky, our entire community cheered on family, friends, and strangers as they trotted through my hometown of Natick. As a fourth grader, everything about that day, from the sun to the community to the baseball and the history, was truly perfect in my eyes. Best of all was the larger-than-life Boston Marathon, an event I knew as an exciting, dependable, and seemingly indestructible part of life growing up. Until it wasn’t.
In the years that have followed the Boston Marathon bombing, I, like many others in the Greater Boston area, have returned to that day many times. The contrasting feelings of blissful joy turned to confusion, then horror, and despair that will stay with us forever when we recall April 15, 2013. As the city and the surrounding area locked down for days during the ensuing manhunt, the Boston Strong campaign was just getting started and the Red Sox made it a point to play baseball on April 20, five days after the attack. In what is now an iconic pregame ceremony speech honoring victims and first responders, Red Sox legend David Ortiz, “Big Papi,” declared that “this is our f*cking city. Nobody is going to dictate our freedom.” To my ten-year-old ears, that was pretty much the greatest thing I had ever heard. Papi’s speech has resonated with the community throughout the years, speaking to the resilience of the Greater Boston area.
During the aftermath of the tragedy, the strength of Boston and of its people was on full display, from the spectators and public safety officials who ran towards danger to help in the seconds after the attack, to the outpouring of financial support for the One Fund, a charity that was arranged to assist survivors. Even as a fourth grader, I was processing and internalizing this spirit, the timeless spirit of Boston, that those who sought to knock us down through cowardly acts of terror only revealed further strength.
Stephen Colbert summed it up nicely on his show the day after the marathon, saying: “These maniacs may have tried to make life bad for the people of Boston, but all they can ever do is show how good those people are.” Nothing could be more true. Now, ten years later, Patriots’ Day holds a reflective and proud meaning for people in Massachusetts and around the country.
Time has passed and our lives have changed since that week in 2013, but the spirit of Boston, the spirit of steadfast revolutionaries and hardworking immigrants, of valiant heroes and inspirational survivors, remains constant in the face of history. Bostonians have a reputation for being proud, but nothing makes me prouder than experiencing how the city, the Commonwealth, the country, and the world came together to rally and look out for neighbors and strangers alike following what is undoubtedly the hardest chapter in the modern history of Boston. A decade after the unthinkable, Boston has time and again shown itself to be a resilient city, its people turning to each other for support instead of turning on each other. It is full of people who wear their hearts on their sleeves, but who never back down from defending their own. It is full of people who have stared terror in the face and have emerged more united than ever, prouder than ever. They are people who truly define what it means to be Boston Strong.
The Fire is Catching: If the Books Burn, You Will Not Understand This Reference
Fahrenheit 451’s dystopian future may seem unfathomable, but modern society is inching closer to throwing books into the fire. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is one of the many recent examples of censoring curricula with the Stop Woke Act and installing conservative leadership at the New College of Florida. This problem, however, is not unique to Florida. As part of the Providence College community, each one of us is at the center of the debate between academic freedom and personal convictions. As an institution of higher education, the College does not have to question if certain topics are age-appropriate, but no one should take this freedom for granted since new arguments are gaining traction.
Reading should make one feel uncomfortable. A true work of literature pushes the reader to think beyond the confines of their own experience and leap into an unfamiliar world. Students should have the opportunity to explore their interests freely through the world of literature instead of operating within the boundaries of ideology. The new AP African American Studies curriculum bans authors such as bell hooks and Angela Davis simply to cater to the supporters of the right-wing agenda like Governor DeSantis. This does not serve as a valid justification for banning texts from the classroom.
Unfortunately, despite the efforts of many influential politicians, history cannot be erased. Even if the government mandates that racism cannot be discussed in the classroom, the impacts of such systems permeate American society to this day. Ignoring the discussion does not change the fact that several of the Founding Fathers were slave owners.
While many parents of K-12 students push back against certain texts for including graphic content, in the age of social media, explicit content is only a search away. 82 percent of the challenges made against certain content involved books while only two percent involved films in 2021 according to the American Library Association. Even though films often depict sexual content, violence, and injustice more graphically by nature, the data demonstrates that the public is more concerned about books. Introducing difficult concepts like sexual assault and violence in a constructive classroom setting is much more productive than a child witnessing it in a YouTube video or Instagram post.
The logic behind the argument for banning books is inherently flawed in its nature. If one considers any discussion of violence worthy of a ban, then the Bible, by this logic, should be banned from libraries and the classroom. However, the targets of book bans are texts such as The Hunger Games and The Hate U Give. The argument is not about violence; the argument has never been about violence. If the argument was about shielding children from violence, the people calling for book bans would work to prevent guns from entering schools instead.
If books could indoctrinate the masses, then Hitler’s Mein Kampf would appear on the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books more often than The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Of course, reading can shape one’s outlook on the world, but it does not produce individuals who blindly follow the words of one mind. In fact, reading creates well-rounded individuals capable of developing their own thoughts and opinions, which is the purpose of the entire education system.
If Americans read more books instead of scrolling through their social media feeds, the country would be better for it. With education being such a highly sought-after commodity, the nation should encourage intense critical thinking instead of close-minded ideological reassurance.
In Defense of the Electoral College
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene—on Presidents’ Day, no less—proposed a “national divorce,” a separation of red states from blue. At first glance, her proposal appears to have little to do with the electoral college. After all, the mechanics of a “national divorce” are and ever will be unworkable. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” as Lincoln once put it.
Yet we would be wrong to dismiss the sentiment behind Rep. Taylor Greene’s statement outright. Former Secretary of Labor and notable progressive activist Robert Reich shows us why. Just two days after Rep. Taylor Greene’s statements, he said, “The fact is, majorities both in red states and in blue states do seem to want fundamentally different things.”
Inadvertently, Reich gives us perhaps the strongest argument for the electoral college. I say “inadvertently” because Reich actually supports the abolition of the electoral college. Now, as a progressive Democrat, I understand his concerns. He calls the electoral college “antiquated,” and he claims it subverts the will of the people as expressed in the popular vote.
He misses an important point, though: Americans are not an undifferentiated mass of voters. If they were, we would not be talking about red states and blue states, and we almost certainly would not be talking about national divorces. The “will of the people” in Rhode Island is different from the “will of the people” in Wyoming. Reich himself tells us as much. Wouldn’t it be short-sighted of us to try to simply average out the difference?
To some I may appear to be engaging in political appeasement here. Don’t I recognize that blue cities exist within red states, and that blue states have red towns and red counties? Yes. Then why don’t I see the absurdity in allocating votes by state? Because, if voting by state is absurd, then so is having states at all. If those that wish to abolish the electoral college seek to replace it with a “simple national popular vote,” then why not have a government according to the “simple national popular will?” Why have different states with different laws, and why force the federal government to share power with and leave certain responsibilities to the state governments? Why, in short, treat states like they are something separate from the federal government?
In fact, many of the arguments used against the electoral college can be turned against the existence of states themselves. Does the electoral college cancel out the votes of Democrats in Ohio? Well, doesn’t that already happen on the statewide level, when Ohio elects its governor? If one is unfair and undemocratic, then why isn’t the other? And why should Democrats in Ohio have to obey laws a Republican governor signed into law? Shouldn’t they be governed according to the will of “the simple national majority,” and not the whims of the state of Ohio?
My point is this: if applied consistently, the logic behind abolishing the electoral college undermines the whole idea of federalism. Namely, that the United States is not just a collection of individual citizens; instead, it is a larger community consisting of smaller communities. And further, that these communities—even the smallest of them—should have a say in the workings of the federal government as a community.
Does my argument sound too much like “states’ rights” for you? It shouldn’t. It is why we have the European Union and not one giant country called “Europe.” In fact, imagine for a second that the European Union did not have votes by member country. Imagine if France or Germany or Spain was the deciding vote on every single policy proposal that ever came before the EU. Wouldn’t the people in smaller countries—like, say, Greece—be rightfully upset that their unique interests as a community were not taken into account? Wouldn’t they rightfully feel unfairly represented in such a system?
Far from being about states’ rights or appeasing the right, keeping the electoral college is about keeping the representative in representative democracy.
Holding Your Elected Officials Accountable
Defense of the Willow Project Contradicts Biden Administration’s Commitment to Clean Energy
The ConocoPhillips Willow project is an incredibly overlooked fossil fuel initiative despite the devastating toll it will have on our planet and its environmental injustice implications. If approved, the Willow project will be the largest oil project in the country, extracting over 600 million barrels of oil in just 30 years. The burning of this oil would release 280 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere.
Willow will also be dangerous to native communities, as living in close proximity to these sites can lead to a variety of health issues. One nearby native community, Nuiqsut, has already expressed their concern and disapproval of this project. Many members of this community are concerned about chemical and noise pollution and potential oil spills, factors that could cause serious health issues. ConocoPhillips already had a gas leak at another one of their Alaskan drilling sites last year.
The location of Willow in the fragile arctic ecosystem will have devastating effects on the area, making it even more susceptible to climate change. The Arctic is particularly vulnerable to climate change as its temperatures increase four times faster than the rest of the planet due to Arctic amplification. When arctic ice melts due to warming temperatures, the reflective white ice becomes absorbent dark ocean water. This causes the Arctic to heat at a faster rate. Willow will also have a detrimental effect on wildlife, threatening birds, caribou, and other important species.
The project has already been approved in the Alaska House of Representatives in a 36-0 vote and has unfortunately received support from the Biden Administration. With the Final Supplemental Impact Statement having already been released by the US Bureau of Land Management, it seems as though the government is moving even closer to approving the project.
Supporting the Willow Project is hypocritical and dangerous. Throughout his presidency, Biden has consistently denounced fossil fuels and supported clean energy, reaffirming his commitment to climate action. On his first day in office, the United States re-entered the Paris Climate Agreement; that same year, he signed an executive order for the federal government to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act was also seen as a breakthrough in climate action being the largest climate investment in US history. The over $350 billion bill would go towards decreasing emissions, important conservation efforts, making clean energy affordable, and combating environmental injustice.
Everything about the Willow project opposes these policies and the current Administration’s commitment to supporting conservation and clean energy, as well as their commitment to mitigating climate change and environmental injustice. If approved, the future of our planet will be even more uncertain as we move further away from mitigating climate change and decreasing our greenhouse gas emissions. Approving the Willow project would demonstrate not only a lack of support for our planet but a prioritization of money and support for the fossil fuel industry while overlooking the safety of native Alaskan communities and wildlife. We need to hold our elected officials accountable for the promises they make. You can take action by signing Protect the Arctic’s petition to “tell President Biden & Secretary Haaland to say no to Willow.”
Why I Will Never Join the DSA
Eugene Debs, George Orwell, Bernie Sanders: what do they all have in common? A commitment to democratic socialism. Once a dirty word in American politics, it has transformed into a rallying cry for economic and social justice. Youth membership in the Democratic Socialists of America has reached all-time highs, and likely will continue to do so. This raises the question: should I become an official DSA member? And should you?
In short, no. Now, I know what you’re thinking, and you’re wrong. I was an enthusiastic Bernie Sanders supporter in 2016 and 2020. I support Senator Sanders’ vision for this country and for working people, and I agree with probably about 80-90 percent of his policy positions (if not more). Still, I would never consider joining the Democratic Socialists of America.
Why? For one, I am not a socialist. I am not a socialist because, honestly, I’m not sure what the word means anymore. The DSA supports “the abolition of capitalism.” Okay, what does that entail? Much of what Bernie Sanders advocated for on the campaign trail, strictly speaking, is not socialist under that definition. President Truman proposed a nationwide universal healthcare program almost 80 years ago, well before Bernie Sanders brought it back into the national conversation. Yet Truman never called for the abolition of capitalism. And FDR—one of Bernie Sanders’ biggest political influences—is known for saving capitalism from itself. He’s obviously not a socialist either. So what makes the Bernie Sanders of 2016 and 2020 a socialist?
Perhaps I am being a bit cheeky, and maybe I am more eager to save capitalism from itself than my fellow progressives are. Even if you are not so optimistic about capitalism, consider this: even unabashedly “we need to abolish capitalism” democratic socialists will not agree on its replacement. Will there be competition? To what degree will the state control the economy? To what degree will the workers control the economy? An organization devoted to abolishing capitalism ought to have a better idea of what exactly they are trying to abolish. Finally, let’s say democratic socialists did come to an agreement on how to abolish capitalism best. Well, no matter what agreement they came to, they could no longer consult the mixed economies of Europe for guidance. They would be on their own, much like the free-market absolutists searching for that perfect capitalist state.
Now, I agree with the DSA that an organization devoted to changing the lives of working people needs a broad vision. For too long, many of our non-socialist Democratic politicians have failed us in that respect. They have not challenged us to help create a world where justice truly “roll[s] down like waters.” They have failed to stand up for our rights to decent medical care, a living wage, and a good education. They have hollowed out FDR’s agenda, turning the Democratic Party into an upholder of the status quo. In doing so, they have trampled on our rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” To life, because they have forced those at the bottom to sacrifice their livelihoods—and sometimes their lives—for those at the top. To liberty, because they have restricted equality of opportunity to certain zip codes and life circumstances. And to the pursuit of happiness, because that right is a cruel joke without the others.
Yes, I agree with the DSA about all that. Too many of the non-socialist Democratic politicians of the recent past have failed to connect economic justice to social justice, with disastrous consequences for their and our posterity. Yet it does not have to be this way. To those that propose the abolition of capitalism, I propose the reinstatement of democratic capitalism. Free markets with fairness, ownership with responsibility, and government with the power to ensure these things. As former United States Secretary of Labor Robert Reich put it, “democratic capitalism is neither socialism nor ‘big government;’” it is the government “[organizing] the market for the greater good.”
So no, I am not a democratic socialist, and I will never join the DSA. Does that mean I refuse to cooperate or work with them? Absolutely not. All movements will have their disagreements; why should the movement for economic and social justice be any different? We must support each other in our common struggle despite such disputes. That said, while I respect the DSA’s work and I appreciate their good intentions, their vision for economic justice is simply not mine.
UN’s Structure Does Not Ensure Women’s Equality
An organization committed to safeguarding human rights has members that violently suppress women. The United Nations produces numerous statements condemning gender-based violence and discrimination in foreign states, but given their inability to enforce the precedents in individual states, women’s inequality persists. The ideals presented by documents such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women would protect women across the globe, if the standards were enforced adequately.
According to the United Nations Charter, the organization “reaffirm[s] faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women.” State interests, however, prevent the United Nations from taking direct steps to carry out its mission globally, which harms vulnerable populations and shelters oppressive governments from facing consequences. In ideal circumstances, the United Nations would be an effective instrument of change on a global scale. Unfortunately, the world is far from ideal in the modern era.
Without enforcement mechanisms, the United Nations cannot force regimes to comply with basic statutes relating to human rights, including gender-based discrimination. Each state can choose whether to enter conventions, which allows certain nations to avoid having the United Nations review their progress in terms of gender equality. Recently, this standard was demonstrated following the death of Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian woman taken into custody by the country’s morality police. UN Women advocated “for the Iranian authorities to hold an independent, impartial, and prompt investigation into Ms. Amini’s death, to make the findings of the investigation public and to hold all perpetrators accountable.” Secret police physically assaulted a woman for having a lock of hair visible in public, but the United Nations cannot force the Iranian government to cooperate with the international community. The national sovereignty of oppressive regimes takes priority over human rights in the context of global politics. Without more oversight from the United Nations, women will continue to face various forms of persecution.
Selective participation within the United Nations prevents the organization from enacting changes that protect the dignity of women and girls worldwide. In the United Kingdom, the government finally incorporated the Istanbul Convention into their national law, but the state refused to provide the same level of protection against violence for migrant women. If a state wants to reap the benefits and privileges of being part of the United Nations, some matters should be non-negotiable, especially when issues relate to human rights. Actions speak louder than words, and the world is telling women they are second-class citizens. Unfortunately, the United Nations places an excessive amount of trust in states to enforce agreements and protect human dignity.
Conventions and statements are meaningless without change. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women attempts to facilitate action by asking states “to adopt appropriate legislative and other measures, including sanctions where appropriate, prohibiting all discrimination against women.” This declaration loses its weight and meaning when member states, including Egypt, Sudan, and Mali, allow a significant majority of their female populations to undergo genital mutilation procedures. This procedure has no medical advantages for patients. In fact, the practice causes serious complications including infection, complications during childbirth, and even death. The United Nations can issue thousands of statements advocating for states to safeguard women’s rights, but that does not prevent discrimination and violence from occurring in its member states. Without enforcement strategies, the United Nations is powerless against oppressive regimes.
If human rights are the main priority within the United Nations, the organization needs more power over its members. All member states should be required to abide by certain conventions and agreements concerning human rights to avoid facing repercussions within the organization. The world cannot sit idly by as historically disadvantaged populations, including women, face physical and mental torture at the hands of regimes recognized by the United Nations. International investigations should become the standard when states are suspected of violating human rights. This will provide a system of checks and balances that prevents states from ignoring benchmarks set by the United Nations.
The United Nations emerged from the horrors of two global wars to provide hope for the future, a future that included diplomacy and respect for human dignity. Unfortunately, states still refuse to cooperate to protect the most vulnerable populations. Nationalism obstructs the tools of international justice. If states refuse to accept principles set forth by the United Nations, then the organization must evolve to achieve its objectives. Ignoring the tragedies occurring across the world sets an appalling precedent that accepts violent discrimination.
Gendered Violence: Domestic Abuse and Gun Ownership
With mass shootings on the rise once again, inaction still runs rampant within the American legal system. Recently the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals released a new decision that will allow domestic abusers to own guns. Even though domestic abuse situations are closely tied to mass shootings, courts continue to uphold gun rights at the cost of human lives. Upon closer analysis, one must realize that allowing domestic abusers to legally own a firearm will have a disproportionate impact on women.
While one in nine men experience partner violence, domestic violence impacts women at a rate of 25 percent according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The new ruling from the Court of Appeals has consequences that will impact more women than men in America, which is often left out of headlines. The law continues to insinuate that women’s safety is less important than men’s right to own a gun. Women are not truly equal to men if such a ruling is considered constitutional.
The Appeals Court ruling not only allows domestic abusers to legally own a gun; but those with a restraining order against them also have a pathway to legal gun ownership. Any law that prevents domestic abusers from owning a firearm is unconstitutional according to the court’s interpretation of the Constitution. However, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the risk of homicide increases by 500 percent when a gun is present in a domestic violence situation.
The victim’s life should take precedence, but the American legal system casts them aside. This allows them to be sacrificed in the name of the Second Amendment before considering that a document written in 1789 might need reforms. Instead, survivors are forced to live in fear before the government will seize guns from a citizen.
While the ruling only applies to Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, court decisions have the power to set far-reaching precedents. If challenges to the ruling reach the Supreme Court, a decision could require that all states guarantee that domestic abusers have the right to firearm ownership. Ultimately, this decision sustains a culture of silence surrounding domestic violence as victims will fear for their lives when reporting abuse, which may even deter survivors from informing law enforcement altogether.
Any solution to gun violence must take into consideration how women are neglected in the name of American exceptionalism. Despite the gendered nature of gun violence, people of all identities will face the consequences of silence. Domestic violence is traumatic on its own; the last thing survivors need is the constant fear of gun violence as well.