Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Good news: #Listentowomen

The developing rough draft of a project focused on celebrating some of the women in my life:


A special shout out to Jacqueline Anne for the hash tag idea!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Good news: A poem for your day

Life is a journey,

And we are all travelers --




-Yours Truly

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Great news: Kayla got into all her desired colleges!

"My high school counselor said I wouldn't get accepted into any of the schools I applied to, but I got accepted into all of them 👊."

This was 18-year-young Kayla Harrell's Facebook post on March 23, 2016. Since then, close to 100 people have liked -- or reacted to -- it in some way, and the post has more than 20 supportive comments and a few shares. 

While the excitement of her success is elevating, the high school senior remembers when the discussions with her counselor about college brought her down.

"I kind of believed her," Kayla told Nessessary Daily News during an exclusive interview, adding that her counselor told her in January that her grades were not good enough for her to gain acceptance into the three schools she applied to. "I was like, 'I'm just gonna hope that I get into these schools anyway.'"

And she did. Not only did Kayla get accepted to Forbes list's George Fox University in Oregon, Southern California's Vanguard University, and Seattle's Cornish College of the Arts, but she has also been offered hefty scholarships to two of those three schools.

"It was because of my talent," said Kayla, who plays and wants to continue studying classic guitar in college. "Your school may try to make you think it's all about your grades. But really, [colleges] want to know who you are, what your work ethic is.

"Things happen throughout high school, throughout middle school -- you're not always in the best place," she continued. "Schools understand that.

"It's OK to fall and come back."

Saturday, March 26, 2016

To vote or not to vote: Arguments for and against the ballot

This article was originally published in the Viet Tide on March 25, 2016. It was written by Ness white and has been edited accordingly.

Last week, we covered the topic of voter apathy -- specifically sharing that while there are reports about the mainstream American public not fully participating in its electoral rights, the Vietnamese-American community largely exercises its vote. We also pointed out that the leading presidential candidates’ campaigns that are galvanizing American voters this year do not seem to be aligned with the Vietnamese-American community’s interests.

We raise a question then: If none of the leading presidential candidates seem worthy of the Vietnamese-American vote, will the community that turned out in large numbers in 2012 do the same this year? Should members of the community even vote for the next president if there is not a viable candidate to choose?

To help us with our dilemma, we offer some arguments for and against voting this year.

Against voting

In a Waking Times article published last week, contributor Stephen Parato laid out the case for not voting, sharing that he is not going to vote this year because he does not want to comply with a “broken system.”

“I choose not to vote, not out of ignorance, nor out of apathy (actually quite the opposite), but out of noncompliance with a broken, fundamentally corrupt and laughably ineffective system,” Parato wrote. “If given the choice between stabbing myself with a knife or stabbing myself with a fork, I would choose neither (after questioning why I would even stab myself in the first place).
“We shape society based on our daily actions, not by hoping someone else will come and save us.”
Delving more deeply into his reasoning, Parato wrote that the system is corrupt because the U.S. government is basically controlled by big banks, and U.S. lawmakers are nothing more than “lapdogs” for big business. Rather than support such a system, he opts to use the “power of noncompliance” by peacefully resisting the vote. Instead of voting, he urges, Americans can work  to create real changes within themselves before seeking a cure for their woes from the outside.
“We’ve been focusing all of our energy on external authority figures for so long that we can’t even fathom what the world would look like if we all stepped into our inherent power,” Parato said. “And that is exactly what needs to happen for any real change to take place.”
For voting
Unlike Parato, Sara AbiBoutros -- a Queens, New York-based community coordinator, activist and law student we interviewed for an article on the importance of open, public space earlier this month -- believes “voting is a real threat to those in power”; and if the right people are voted into office, social and political change can be enacted.
“The laws that politicians pass really do have an impact on our day-to-day life,” AbiBoutros told the Viet Tide recently, adding that these laws can be life-altering -- as is the case with laws governing abortions and rent increases -- or not so much, like laws that provide free lunch in public schools. “If having the right to vote was not a powerful tool, then those in power would not try to take it away from us.”

Though, showing some understanding for views against voting, AbiBoutros said that plenty of people feel as though voting is pointless because the people being elected are not truly committed to social and political change. Yet, it’s difficult for well-intentioned politicians to pass progressive laws because of the way the U.S. system of government works. This can be disheartening and lead to people becoming apathetic and disinterested in politics as they feel their voices are not being heard, regardless of who they vote for.

But this election, people are not going silent, AbiBoutros continued, adding that the same fervor was present during President Barack Obama’s first election in 2008.

“Eventually people get tired of the status quo and start to raise their voice so loud that it's impossible not to hear it,” she said. “It's the people who organize and are actively putting pressure on politicians to push a progressive agenda.

“[The people] are the real champions of social and political change.”

Friday, March 18, 2016

Is 2016 the year of voter resurgence? What this could mean for the Vietnamese-American community

This article was originally published in the Viet Tide on March 18, 2016. It was written by Ness White and has been edited accordingly.

The rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were jokes to political pundits and junkies last year. This year, the mainstream media has begun to take these jokes seriously, as they could dramatically change not just the outcome but the mood of the 2016 presidential elections.

While business mogul Trump is the frontrunning Republican candidate and independent U.S. Sen. Sanders is running as a Democrat, the support these two polar opposites have gained appears to show that a growing portion of the right and left bases are fed up with the political establishment. As such, this could be the year voter turnout surges, as Americans seek to keep establishment candidates -- notably Hillary Clinton, former
Democratic secretary of state under President Barack Obama -- out of the White House.

For example, in the March 8 Michigan Primaries -- where Trump and Sanders gained the most votes for their parties -- 2.5 million voters cast their ballots. This is the highest voter turnout in Michigan primary history. Both candidates have been reported to draw record crowds at their campaign rallies; and Sanders has raised the most individual campaign contributions, while Trump has been reported to be responsible for a revolution among Republicans, having created a spike in voter turnout for the party this campaign season.

The Viet Tide has reported on low voter turnout in the past, particularly during its 2014 midterm elections coverage. Specifically, the magazine shared that some 36 percent of voters nationwide made it to the polls during the general elections in November that year. Historically, midterm elections years -- when only local, statewide and congressional elections are held -- tend to have lower voter turnout than presidential elections years.

However, even during the 2012 presidential elections voter turnout was considered problematic nationwide, and particularly for states like California and Texas -- where a large portion of our readership resides. Part of what has been called voter apathy in the mainstream and even alternative media has been attributed to the promises President Obama made during the 2008 campaign cycle, but never actualized.

“Ignoring the fact that Obama was always a well-marketed corporate candidate with moderate conservative (neoliberal) positions, a lot of people got their hopes up that he might be different,” political writer Tim Hjersted wrote in a Films For Action article this month. “It's understandable people don't want to get their hopes up again.

“It's not surprising that so many people say the game is rigged and elections are pointless.”

At least, this has been the story for mainstream Americans. But for the Vietnamese-American community, things might be different.

For example, according to a 2013 National Asian American Survey report, Vietnamese-American voter turnout was at 81 percent nationwide during the 2012 presidential elections, higher than the national average of 57.5 percent. Vietnamese Americans also supported President Obama over rival and former Republican Massachusetts gov. Mitt Romney by 61 percent -- again, higher than the national percentage of 51 percent.

Remembering a history of political repression in Vietnam, Vietnamese Americans perhaps see voting differently than the average mainstream American. While voter apathy for a mainstream voter might seem an appropriate response to a feeling that one’s voice doesn’t matter, this does not appear to be the case for voters in the Vietnamese-American community.

But the far-left and far-right leading candidates who are galvanizing the mainstream American public do not seem to hold Vietnamese Americans’ best interest. For example, the Viet Tide has reported that Trump’s immigration proposal released last year and his rhetoric during much of his campaign has been highly anti-immigrant -- which could impact the Vietnamese-American community that is among the largest foreign-born Asian-American communities. Sanders, on the other hand, has been described as a Democratic socialist, which might conjure up images of the very political concept Vietnamese Americans escaped when fleeing Vietnam.

In essence, what might be driving forces for the mainstream American vote this year could be something of a threat to the Vietnamese-American vote. Further, if Vietnamese-American voters do not back Trump or Sanders, would they put their weight behind Clinton?

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Gather around: An important elections topic is not being addressed

This article was originally published on March 4, 2016,  in the Viet Tide. It was written by Ness White. It has since been updated and edited accordingly.

During my nearly one year of 2016 presidential elections coverage, I have reported for the Viet Tide on many issues -- from immigration, the economy and wars abroad to trade deals, race issues and gun control. However, I have been made aware that there is an important issue that has not been discussed -- an issue that greatly impacts the public on a collective scale.

Sara AbiBoutros, a Queens, New York-based community coordinator, activist and law student, told the Viet Tide that the use of public and private space is not a "sexy" topic and does not resonate with the American public. As such, mainstream candidates are not likely to talk about it much -- if at all.

"To make the connection about how the dichotomy between public and private space impacts their lives is not so simple," she said. "There is a connection, but when people are worrying about how they are going to pay their rent next month and things like that, the issue doesn't seem so relevant."

But to  readers paying attention to national news, mainstream or otherwise, the issue of public and private space might be considered an important one. Not only are there racial, environmental, labor, pro- and anti-immigration, and anti-war protests happening throughout the country, there are also protests against the potential Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement -- which involves the U.S., Vietnam and 10 other countries, and has been criticized for its possibility to increase human rights abuses, despite the jobs and economic boost it is projected to encourage. Public space is considered to make these protests possible, to make space available to the public so people can voice their concerns and grievances. It can assist in bringing about change.

AbiBoutros said that the use of public space has a long history in various social movements throughout U.S.
history. In a graduate paper she had published in the CUNY Law Review, "The Issue is not the Issue," she
detailed some of this history, specifically focusing on the 1960s Free Speech Movement (FSM) and the 2011 Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. In both instances, public space was used as a medium to address social issues that were largely being ignored in the national mainstream discussion, and in both instances the public spaces being used were violently targeted by the government and private institutions that sought to squash the public discourse -- especially as that discourse was directed at their institutions.

"The use of public space was critical for both movements to create a confrontation in which society could no
longer ignore the systemic issues plaguing the country," AbiBoutros, who participated in the OWS movement, wrote. "By centering their issues around public space, the FSM and OWS were able to gain political victories, but most importantly they were able to foster a sense of community.

"Without a space for people to come together, it would be impossible to engage with one another, to plan, and to make our civil disobedience visible to the public."

Although mainstream candidates have not focused on the issue of public and private space, AbiBoutros said that of the candidates running, Republican frontrunner and business mogul Donald Trump is the most likely to support reducing public space to expand private space, as he is pro-big business and a land developer whose rhetoric is "public space [is] disposable for the right price, or any price for that matter." While AbiBoutros did not specifically say that Democratic candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders would support the expanding of public space, she did mention that his rhetoric is similar to what OWS focused on: one percent of the population accumulates the wealth in the U.S., while 99 percent of the population's economic situation remains stagnant.

Added to the probability that mainstream candidates will not likely discuss public and private space this
elections cycle, the mainstream media is not likely to bring it up either. AbiBoutros said that the media seems to view social media presence as more important than physical presence. Not only is everything analyzed by
polling, she said, but if someone wants their viewpoint recognized, they have to sign an online petition or be
part of a poll. Mainstream media outlets, she continued, will show clips of Tweets and have entire discussions about them.

"All of this has had a negative impact on the importance of public space and the use of it because when the
[public] space is not being used, governments and private entities will try to take it away,"AbiBoutros said.
"Before the internet existed, people took to the streets.

"The use of public space to peacefully assemble is essential to the success of any social movement fighting for social justice."

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

News from my notebook

This article comes straight from my notebook. It was written in the fall of 2014. Not new, but definitely newsworthy.

If I do say so myself ...

What object is truly important to me? My notebook.

It is open, waiting for me to imprint on it, waiting for my mark. Who I am inside meets its pages, its spaces, lines. I write between, within the lines -- revealing the possibilities of being discursive within the box. This notebook, the white pages awaiting my colored ink, reveals the power dynamics outside of it.

The color working on the white background, doing the work, being the substance, the feeling, giving the white background meaning, even if it is always known as a notebook -- not known by its words, characters.

This notebook reflects the outside world: the color, the white. The open page awaiting our contribution, waiting to claim it, capture, contain, take credit for what is within us.

Monday, February 1, 2016

How the Iowa Caucuses can impact the presidential election

This article was originally published in the Viet Tide on Jan. 29, 2016. It was written by Ness White and has since been updated, edited accordingly.

Readers paying attention to mainstream media elections coverage might be aware that the Iowa Caucuses are happening today. However, they might not be aware of how the caucuses can affect the outcome of the presidential election.

According to various media outlets reporting on the caucuses, in 1972 the Democratic Party took advantage of an Iowan tradition of meeting during the winter to handle politics and held their caucuses there in January that year. The result? A little-known candidate before the caucuses -- former U.S. Sen. George McGovern -- gained recognition and eventually received the Democratic presidential nomination. The same strategy was used four years later -- with Republicans also noticing the effects and implementing the strategy. Again, another little-known Democratic candidate -- Jimmy Carter -- gained his party’s nomination and would later be elected president.

So what exactly happens during the Iowa Caucuses?
Iowa’s Democratic and Republican parties hold their caucuses at the same time, with this year’s taking place today, Monday, Feb. 1, at 8 p.m. EST. The caucuses are being held at more than 1,000 meeting sites -- varying from people’s homes to schools, town halls and other venues -- across the state.

The Iowa caucus process is different for Democrats and Republicans, and considered more complicated for Democrats. While Republicans basically cast their vote by ballot for the presidential candidates they feel should be in the lead and win the caucuses, the Democratic process involves caucus-goers breaking up into groups based on their desired candidate, then voting.

Although the winners of the caucuses are not automatically guaranteed the presidency, they can gain much-welcomed media attention and campaign donations -- which can help increase their chances of winning the presidency, or at least their party’s nomination.

But there’s more to the Iowa Caucuses -- and caucuses in various states leading up to the presidential nomination. This is arguably the most important aspect of the caucuses and also the most underreported.

While each state and state political party has different methods for their caucus process, the outcome is similar. Based on the caucus voting results, delegates are chosen to represent voters at their party’s local, then state and ultimately national conventions. These delegates have vowed to voters that they would support a particular candidate throughout the convention process. However, depending on the state, this promise is not binding.

At the national convention, the delegates who have made it through all of the various conventions will vote on their party’s nominee. The Democratic and Republican nominees will be the main two options for Americans to choose from during the November elections.

Impacts on November’s decision?

While mainstream media outlets seem to be betting on Democratic candidate and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton to be the party’s frontrunner, her and independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont have been fluctuating in the Iowa polls. Although Clinton is in the lead today, a previous CNN/ORC poll has shown that Iowa voters support the Sen. Sanders on the issues of the economy and health care, while putting their weight behind Clinton on foreign policy. The senator is also polling higher than Clinton in New Hampshire, where primary debates will be held eight days after the Iowa Caucuses.

On the Republican side, business mogul Donald Trump holds a lead over U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Trump, who has been a frontrunner nationwide, has garnered Iowa Republicans’ support on the issues of the economy, immigration and foreign policy, though falls behind Sen. Cruz with support for social issues -- such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

Stay tuned for more coverage on how the candidates placed at the Iowa Caucuses.

Monday, January 25, 2016

President Obama's legacy and the 2016 presidential elections

This article was originally published in the Viet Tide on Jan. 22, 2016, and is posted on this site with VT's permission. It was written by Ness white and has been updated, edited accordingly.

With President Barack Obama in his final year of office, scholars are pointing to the implications his legacy could have on this year’s presidential and congressional elections. They are also saying his legacy could itself be impacted by the decision made on who assumes the presidency.

Speaking on a Jan. 15 Brookings Institution podcast, Brookings senior fellows in governance studies Bill Galston and Sarah Binder agreed that a Democrat being elected president this year would depend on whether voters view President Obama’s policies as having been beneficial to them overall. However, if voters think the president’s policies have worked against them, a Republican will likely be elected.

Binder said, specifically, that Democrats will use the president’s record to rally voters and affirm their own platforms on healthcare and financial regulation. Galston added that the president’s two-term job approval ratings would largely shape the political playing field to the Democrats’ advantage or disadvantage. For example, during the 2008 elections -- following former president George W. Bush’s two terms in office -- Republican candidate John McCain failed largely as a result of the public’s perception of Bush’s policies as insufficient. Wishing not to continue such policies, Americans elected President Obama, a Democrat.

“He presented himself as a healer,” Galston said of President Obama, adding that while the president’s push for hope and change has been praised, it might have actually hurt his legacy a bit.

President Obama’s policy changes in the healthcare field, as well as executive actions to make reforms in the areas of financial regulation and environment were definitely seen as progressive actions, Galston said. However, because of their progressiveness, the changes served to widen the political gap between Republicans and Democrats.

Binder agreed, saying that President Obama can be credited with turning around the economy -- which was at its worst since the Great Depression -- after Bush’s two terms. However, policy changes like the federal expansion of healthcare were too big, turning off half of the American public.

The president’s legacy, then, Galston said, will be considered successful if voters elect a Democrat to the office this year but repudiated if they elect a Republican. If a Republican becomes president, and Republicans keep control of the House of Representatives (lower house of Congress) and Senate (upper house of Congress), the party will likely enjoy a full two years of undoing many of the executive actions and policies President Obama put into place during his eight years in office.

Whoever, then, becomes the Democratic nominee for president will have to build on President Obama’s legacy, not run away from it or on it, Galston said. Currently, based on surveys, he added, voters are not indicating that they want more of the same when it comes to policy.

According to a Gallup poll released this month, the U.S. government -- including President Obama himself -- was named the most important problem facing the country. Further, according to a year-end CNN/ORC poll, 75 percent of Americans are not satisfied with how the U.S. is governed, 69 percent are angry at its direction and 52 percent disapprove of the president’s handling of his job responsibilities.

Moreover, the president’s approval ratings are at 45 percent, Galston said. If they decrease before the end of the year, Republicans could have a better chance in November; though if they increase, Democrats will hold advantage.

But is there another option? For example, while running as a Democratic candidate, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is an Independent. Could his election be a true win for Democrats or a true blow to Republicans? Would Republicans vote for him as a Democratic candidate? Could he help bridge the gap between the two parties? Might his perspective as a longtime Independent help him bring about the changes President Obama was unable to?

The government won’t improve until the American people demand with a loud voice that improvement occurs, Galston said. As long as political parties are rewarded with public votes for the status quo, it will persist.

Remember, this is just what some scholars say. Based on your own experiences and/or research, what do you think?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

So I have the breath key ... how do I use it?

By Ness white

In yesterday's article I wrote about the breath being an important key, a tool the Black Lives Matter organization -- and offshoots -- can use in their fight against oppression. I'd like to broaden my view, opening it to include all people who consider themselves oppressed or part of an oppressed group -- with their oppression particularly resulting in high stress.

To recap briefly, I wrote a graduate paper in 2013 that talked about how feminists of various races, classes and orientations can use the breath as a tool to fight oppression. Because research shows that oppression of all forms has been directly and unapologetically related to stress and stress has been directly related to breath, my belief is that breath can be used to address and combat stress, therefore addressing and combating the oppression meant to cause it.

"If focused, directed, breath can be developed, slowed down, relaxed -- even during stress -- enough to aid us in consciously addressing the effects our oppressions have on our entire beings," I wrote. "At its best, unhindered, unstressed, breath flows throughout our bodies, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually promoting life, health, vitality, calm, peace.

"Upon receiving stress signals from our brain, our breaths -- due to what is considered the natural 'fight or flight' response -- become shallow, quick. While considered to be a natural response to stress, helping us fight or flee immediate danger, if our stressed breathes are prolonged, they can have damaging, adverse effects on our bodies, hearts, minds, spirits.

"However, interestingly, breath utilizes the only muscle in our bodies that functions voluntarily and involuntarily, allowing it to be controlled: the diaphragm. With this ability to control the diaphragm, we are able to control our breathing -- more specifically its rate and depth -- reducing the harmful effects of stress on our bodies, hearts, minds, spirits."

Diaphragmatic breathing

During our interview for yesterday's article, yoga instructor Markedia "Moka" Hinds, brought up the term "diaphragmatic breathing." Other leaders and experts on breathing also call it "abdominal breathing" or "belly breathing," as it involves gently pushing the belly out upon inhalation and gently pulling the belly in when exhaling. This type of breathing is believed to help counter the harmful results of stress, as it induces a relaxing, calming response.

While the term "diaphragmatic breathing" might sound daunting, there are various articles online that offer insight on this type of breathing, particularly how to do it. For example, a recent article I came across on the Frederick (Maryland) News-Post website, "Ask Doctor K.: Fight Stress with Relaxed Breathing," shares some knowledge for beginners:

1. Sit down or lie down in a quiet and comfortable place.
2. Close your eyes so you won't be distracted.
3. Relax the muscles in your abdomen.
4. Inhale slowly, deeply. As you do this, allow the air entering your nose to move down into your lower belly. You should then feel your belly expand.
5. Exhale through your mouth. As you do this, your abdomen will become smaller.

Over the past few years during my own practice with diaphragmatic breathing, I've come across people who visualize images when they breathe in and out -- particularly inhaling life force energy and exhaling the parts of themselves they want to share with the world. Not necessarily necessary during this exercise, it's an added option for those who wish to do so.

Also, there are plenty of other resources available online. If you happen to come across some, feel free to leave links to them in the comment section for other readers to check out.

Breathe well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Black health matters: Understanding and implementing the key ... the tool

By Ness white

It's been all over the mainstream news: An offshoot of the Black Lives Matter organization, Black.Seed, shut down the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on Martin Luther King Jr., Day. Their action was reportedly meant to be seen as a "strong, courageous stand in solidarity" with King's message of radical, non-violent protest.

What has been less reported -- or focused on -- is the message on the banner the protesters' cars were lined in front of. It read "Black health matters."

Upon reading this statement, it might seem obvious that black health would matter to activists who state that black lives matter. Health is a part of life, so naturally, it would be important. But when the BLM movement has been largely associated with police-related killings and brutality for more than a year, the statement that black health matters greatly expands the discussion.

For some readers, the discussion on black health might extend as far as pointing out the health disparities between blacks and the general U.S. population. These readers would be correct to name those disparities as studies and statistics have repeatedly done so over the past few years. Because of this, today's article will not delve deeply into said health disparities, but will focus instead on one way in which black health can be maximized.

The key

Rooftop yoga instructor and psychology student Markedia "Moka" Hinds recently told me that yoga -- a moving meditation -- allows her to be rejuvenated, livelier, and more balanced and centered. She added that while the exercise is physically and mentally beneficial, pushing her past her limitations, there is another important aspect of it.

"Awareness of breath is what's key to that whole experience," she said.

Talking more about breath awareness, Moka explained that we begin to breathe through our chests as we get older -- a completely normal anxiety-ridden response to the daily stresses we experience. However, we don't get much air -- or oxygen -- when breathing this way, and our years on Earth are greatly reduced. Babies, on the other hand, breathe through their bellies -- which is also considered diaphragmatic breathing, and a slower, calmer form of respiration.

Focusing on and being conscious of our breathing here and there throughout the day is helpful in slowing the pace of our thoughts, Moka said. It can be done anywhere, at any time and is accessible to anyone.

"Take a step back and breathe," she advised, adding that it is helpful particularly during emotionally charged situations. "As you practice awareness more, awareness becomes more natural.

"Come back to the breath."

Now, [what we can do] about those disparities

Remember those aforementioned health disparities? Well, here is where they come into play. Many of the health disparities black people experience are directly related to stress. High blood pressure, heart disease and asthma, for example, are all believed to be worsened by heightened stress levels.

How far will Black.Seed and, perhaps, other BLM offshoot groups go to promote black health? Will they incorporate breath awareness and breath work into their practices?

At the end of 2013, I wrote a graduate paper discussing the importance of breath as a tool for feminists of all races, classes and orientations to use against oppression. As the official BLM organization is a partially-feminist group, I believe what I wrote in that paper can apply and add to the movement.

"The breath has been directly linked to stress and stress has been directly linked to various oppressions," I wrote. "For example, according to the American Psychological Association, racism has been considered a contributor to stress among racial minorities, many of us unaware of the impacts such stress even has on our beings, given that we are even aware of the stress at all.

"These oppressions, steeped in fear, promote hate, death ... in not just the physical sense, but death to our mental, emotional, as well as spiritual planes of being. One way in which these oppressions continue their long-term effects on us is through stress, targeting the breath as a crucial ingredient of life.

"Considering its very nature as a life force driving our emotions, thoughts, [and] actions ... I offer a view of the breath as a tool that -- already in use -- we can wield to lessen the deadly effects oppression(s) has/have on our bodies, hearts, minds, [and] spirits, instead of exacerbating them."

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Not "too old": Presidential candidates help transform aged, old argument

Ness White wrote this article for Viet Tide (published Dec. 18, 2015) with support from the Journalists in Aging Fellows Program, a project of The Gerontological Society of America and New America Media, supported by the Silver Century Foundation. It has since been updated and edited accordingly, last posted on the New America Media website on Jan. 5 as "Too Old to Be President? Ageism a Political Undercurrent in U.S."

ORLANDO, Fla.-- Ageist comments have been made against three leading 2016 presidential contenders so far -- both of whom are older than what is considered to be the middle-aged bracket.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 68, a Democrat, has been called “too old to run” for president, in the mainstream media. And political independent U. S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, 74, of Vermont, has been called an “unlikely white-haired rock star.”  

While Republican frontrunner, and business mogul Donald Trump, 69, has mostly managed to avoid questions based on his age to date, largely because he is so controversial, he has not completely escaped the negative perception of him based on his age.

Trevor Noah on The Daily Show (Jan. 5) mocked his New Year’s Eve appearance on Fox stating, “Donald Trump is the human embodiment of Times Square: Their both old, loud, flashy and full of garbage.” Why “old”?

Negativity Persist

How Americans view aging was brought up throughout the five-day 68th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) in Orlando, Fla., in November. The event attracted over 4,000 researchers in aging from around the world.

During one press presentation, for example, The FrameWorks Institute shared a video of street interviews with people being asked to describe aging. For the most part, people highlighted the negative aspects of aging, focusing on illness and disability.

GSA’s opening keynote speaker, Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, brother of Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, was key in shaping Obamacare policies. He had shared similar -- though perhaps extreme -- views about aging, particularly the end years. 

In October 2014, The Atlantic published his article, “Why I Hope to Die at 75,” in which he focused on some of the horrors of care at the end of life and the difficulties he expects might await him as he ages.

“Doubtless, death is a loss,” he wrote. “Living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world.”

Emanuel went on in the article, “We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.”

Interestingly, his view might be challenged by the vast amounts of energy emitted by most of the leading presidential contenders during debates and on the campaign trail. More directly, however, various health journalists, experts and academics have criticized Emanuel’s stance, pointing to the larger issue of how Americans view aging.

A Different View

Even though Emanuel avoided mentioning his provocative ideas in his keynote speech, a panel of experts on aging zeroed in on his negative views of living beyond age 75 and how his ideas reflect U.S. culture, as well as ways in which to transform such narratives.

Author Wendy Lustbader, a lecturer at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work, said that some of the most important opportunities for growth occur when people are vulnerable, as they age. Further, she added, illness, frailty, disability and the approach of death can be “vehicles for change,” allowing people the opportunity to make sense of the past and make peace with their loved ones as they urgently desire to become complete.

Emmanuel’s article, Lustbader said, “[gave] us a catalogue of fear.” She countered his view by adding that the deprivation some people feel when aging can lead for some to creativity, which “brings up the needs of the soul.”

Jennifer Sasser, who chairs the Department of Human Sciences at Marylhurst University in Portland, Ore., said what Emanuel described in his piece could really apply to people of any age, as all people are subject to frailty and pain. 

“We need to shift consciousness,” said Sasser, who directs Maryhurst’s Gerontology Program. “This is about being a human being.” 

Expanding on the Positives

Members of the audience contributed their views, some alluding to a fear and anxiety around death that is pervasive in U.S. culture. One woman mentioned that in dictionaries, the word “geriatric” is defined in negative terms, suggesting nothing about health in older years. 

For example, the online Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “geriatrics” as “the process of growing old and the medical care of old people” and adds the metaphorical definition, “being old and outmoded (geriatric airplanes).”

Even though we might not be able to change those negative terms, Sasser added, we can expand on the positives of aging.

When it comes to the leading presidential candidates, none are showing signs of decline from old age. Despite what voters might think of their views, these candidates are challenging and maybe even changing some stereotypes about aging.


Friday, January 15, 2016

California’s Motor Voter Program creates auto(matic) voter registration

This article originally appeared in the Viet Tide on Jan. 15, 2016. It was written by Ness white and has been updated, edited accordingly.

A new law that has taken effect in California this month could have interesting implications for this year’s local and state elections. It could even impact federal elections if similar or identical laws spread to other states.

The result of Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of the California State Legislature’s Assembly Bill (A.B.)  1461 in October, the California New Motor Voter Program went into effect on Jan. 1 and is expected to be fully implemented in time for the state’s June primaries. In short, under the program people are automatically registered to vote when they visit the DMV to apply for, renew or change their address on their driver’s licenses. Prior to the law’s implementation, drivers had to opt-in to be registered to vote.

California is the second state to have implemented such a law, following Oregon, and advocates say it will help give more Californians easier access to the voting process. Critics, however, say the law will contribute to voter fraud as people who are not eligible to vote but are eligible to drive could easily slip into the state’s voter rolls.

For example, critics -- including organizations like the conservative-leaning True the Vote and liberal-leaning American Civil Liberties Union  -- have said that non-naturalized immigrants eligible to receive driver’s licenses in California could accidentally be automatically registered to vote, which they are not legally allowed to do. While AB 1461’s language reflects that the California Secretary of State’s Office and DMV will be collaborating to ensure that only people eligible to vote will be registered and state officials will be held responsible for anyone participating in illegal voting, critics do not believe the state has the capabilities to avoid making a mistake.
Additionally, critics believe that the Democratic-controlled state legislature and Democratic governor have pushed the law forward in efforts to further lessen the influence Republicans have in the state. As a result, some critics believe citizens will give up on voting because the process will be corrupted by an influx of ineligible voters.

“[AB 1461] will effectively change the form of governance in California from a Republic whose elected officials are determined by United States citizens and will guarantee that non-citizens will participate in all California elections going forward,” Election Integrity Project of California President Linda Paine has said.
Critics’ fears are not completely unfounded. During the summer of 2014, we reported on the changing political demographics of Orange County, Calif. -- a longtime Republican stronghold and home to largely immigrant communities. For example, in the Viet Tide's July 11 article, “Orange County stands on the cusp of social, political change,” we reported on the Republican Party losing its influence in the county as the ethnic minority population has been increasing in the OC. More specifically, we reported on the OC Vietnamese-American community’s support for Democratic policies lauded by President Barack Obama and Gov. Brown.
In contrast, advocates of the law -- like Democratic state lawmakers -- have said it will help more people have access to voting. It seems to be something of a counteraction against various Republican-backed voter-related laws throughout the country that Democrats have said restrict voter rights for millions of people, particularly racial, ethnic and language minorities, women, younger and elderly individuals, people who are considered disabled and people who have little to no income. These individuals are considered to have less time to register to vote and fewer locations available for them to do so.

“In a free society, the right to vote is fundamental,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has said. “Citizens should not be required to opt in to their fundamental right to vote.

“The New Motor Voter Act will make our democracy stronger by removing a key barrier to voting for millions of California citizens.”

When it comes to voters, it seems the law has support as a Public Policy Institute of California poll conducted last year shows two thirds of Californians surveyed were in favor of automatic voter registration at the DMV.

But what do readers feel, think and believe? Can California’s Motor Voter law increase voter turnout in a state the Pew Charitable Trust Elections Performance Index rated the third-lowest in electoral performance in 2014? Or is the law a setup to give non-citizens an opportunity to participate in the voting process?

Could it be both -- and how might that possibility change conversations about voting and immigration?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

We, (some of) the people: Supreme Court case raises questions on electoral representation

This article was originally published in the Viet Tide on Jan. 1, 2016. It was written by Ness white and has been updated, edited accordingly.

Readers are probably aware that Republicans and Democrats have been historically and ideologically divided on a number of issues. What readers might not know is that a recently heard Supreme Court case could not only prove to keep that divide in tact, but it could pit the two parties more strongly against each other just in time for the scheduled 2022 mid-terms elections.

On Dec. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the Evenwel vs. Abbott case regarding redistricting in Texas. Redistricting is done after the U.S. Census is taken every 10 years and is meant to ensure that local, state and federal voting districts are created for all Americans to be fairly represented as populations increase, decrease, shift and change. The plaintiffs -- Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger -- are arguing that only registered voters should be considered when redistricting lines are redrawn, not the currently used total populations. They argue against the State of Texas that considering the total population when redrawing districts makes districts with large populations of non-voters more electorally powerful than districts with smaller populations of more eligible voters.

The case could impact urban cities, where Democrats tend to be localized, critics have said, as these areas tend to have higher populations of non-voters. If these districts were redrawn to reflect eligible voters rather than total population, could Republicans see some gains?

Who are the eligible voters? Are there ineligible ones?

Evenwel and Pfenninger argue that non-residents, undocumented immigrants and children are among those who should not be counted in redistricting tallies, as they are not eligible to vote. All others who are eligible to vote should be counted.

However, as media outlets have sporadically reported over the past few years, there are obstacles that can keep people from registering to vote -- which is required for anyone to become an eligible voter -- and obstacles that can keep people from remaining recognized as eligible voters. For example, registered voters in Indiana who are considered to be inactive are stripped from voter rolls; and in Tennessee, voters who have been deemed potential non-citizens by a database check are required to prove they are citizens in order to register to vote.

Obtaining the required documents for such proof can be costly, time-consuming and inconvenient --
similar to what critics have said about voter ID laws, which require voters to present state-issued, photo ID in order to vote. Several states, including Texas, have implemented such laws, which have been considered to disproportionately impact lower-income individuals who depend on public services and transportation -- namely people of color, language minorities, women, young people, the elderly and those considered disabled. These people also tend to be located collectively in larger, urban cities and vote Democrat.

Is the Evenwel vs. Abbott case currently awaiting decision in the Supreme Court an extension of the voter ID push that the Republican Party has been a part of since at least 2011? While Republicans -- including 2016 presidential candidates -- supporting the IDs have argued they decrease voter fraud, Democrats have argued they keep people who would otherwise be considered eligible from voting.

In other words, such laws could be considered to make certain voters ineligible -- therefore keeping them from being part of the eligible voter pool that would be counted if the plaintiffs in the Evenwel vs. Abbott case win.

But, do the plaintiffs have a case? Should marginalized groups of eligible voters have their voices silenced or not well heard because their representatives are working on behalf of a larger population that did not even vote for them?

The high court is not expected to decide the case for months, though the court of public opinion could begin ruling at any time.