Having your cake (And eating it too)

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macguire

A hot commodity in the news this week is the story of 53-year-old Dennis McGuire, a death row inmate from Ohio who was recently executed by lethal injection using an untested combination of drugs. Normally, a lethal injection consists of one drug: pentobarbital. However, the manufacturers of this drug (a Danish company, Lundbeck Inc.) have recently prohibited the sale of pentobarbital for use in capital punishment. Thus, Dennis McGuire was given an alternative. It was a combination of two drugs: the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone. It didn’t go well.

Nearly 20 minutes went by before McGuire finally succumbed–an uncharacteristically long time for death by lethal injection. Also uncharacteristic was the way in which he died. Witnesses to the execution, notably McGuire’s three adult children, likened his final moments to “torture”. Subsequently, the McGuire’s have announced their intention to file a federal lawsuit against the state of Ohio, alleging that the execution violated their father’s constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment:

“I watched him try to sit up against the straps on the gurney. I watched him repeatedly clench his fist. It appeared to me he was fighting for his life but suffocating. The agony and terror of watching my father suffocate to death lasted more than 19 minutes. It was the most awful moment in my life.” –Dennis McGuire, son

Family to sue over execution

The firsthand account of McGuire’s death is harrowing. It’s understandably upsetting to all bleeding heart liberals who respect the right to one’s dignity in death. But it’s less upsetting when you take an objective approach. When you realize why McGuire was sentenced to death in the first place. There’s been so much noise surrounding how McGuire was put to death that people easily forget to find out why. In fact, most articles I researched concerning this issue failed to mention it at all. Primarily, because the media is trying to frame this story as a human interest piece. But to do so, is not sensitive. It’s only manipulative.

Dennis McGuire was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of Joy Stewart, a 22-year-old woman who was seven months pregnant. Because of this, I find it easy to absolve myself of any apathy toward how McGuire was killed. I understand why his children are upset. But I don’t understand how the media has suddenly taken an empathetic approach to this story.

To be clear, I’m not supporting the notion that death row inmates should suffer as they’re put to death. I believe years in prison and subsequent execution is enough of a punishment. But I also don’t feel sympathy towards this piece of shit and I’ve read enough about criminal psychology to know some people cannot be fixed. Full disclosure, I support capital punishment. My real issue is with the media, who have framed this story as if to suggest that the state of Ohio “tortured” a father of three as his children watched in horror. Yet they fail to reiterate the fact that he raped and killed a pregnant woman. Are we really supposed to feel sorry for him?

Read his son’s eyewitness account: “I watched him repeatedly clench his fist” and “he was fighting for his life” and “the agony and terror of watching my father suffocate to death.” I bet Joy Stewart felt the same way: clenching her fists, fighting for her life, experiencing agony and terror at the hands of Dennis McGuire. How can one not see the bitter irony?

There’s an old saying: “Having your cake and eating it too.” It puts this whole issue into context. In fact, it reminds me of an episode of South Park…

Now, before rolling your eyes at the juvenile idea of drawing parallels between the execution of a man and an episode of South Park, you might want to reconsider you’re perspective. If you think South Park is nothing more than foul-mouthed children making dick jokes then you’re mistaken. At times, yes. But it also offers intelligent social commentary and scathing satire, more so than anything else on television. So, indulge me for a moment.

In the episode, entitled “I’m a Little Bit Country”, the town of South Park becomes embroiled in a debate between pro-war and anti-war supporters. Thus, the children of South Park Elementary are given a school project to present their own opinions on war. In order to ace his school project, young Eric Cartman devices an elaborate plan to render himself unconscious, inducing a flashback, thus, allowing him to travel back in time to 1776 to speak with our founding fathers. (Bear with me)

sp1

His plan works. Cartman suddenly finds himself in a flashback. Independence Hall, 1776.

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The founding fathers, like the people of South Park, are in the midst of debating the morality of war.

sp3

“We cannot found a country based on war!” One delegate shouts.

Another quickly replies, “We cannot found a country that is afraid to fight!”

The room quickly descends into collective chaos: “RABBLE! RABBLE! RABBLE!”

Suddenly, Benjamin Franklin enters the room. The shouting stops. Franklin says to them:

“I believe, that if we are to form a new country, we cannot be a country that appears war-hungry and violent, to the rest of the world. However, we also cannot be a country that appears weak and unwilling to fight, to the rest of the world. So, what if we form a country that appears to want both?”

A delegate responds with enthusiasm, “Yes, of course! We go to war and protest going to war at the same time!”

“Right! If the people of our new country are allowed to do whatever they wish, then some will support the war and some will protest it…” Another chimes in.

Benjamin Franklin concludes, “And that means, as a nation, we can go to war with whomever we wish but at the same time act like we didn’t want to. If we allow the people to protest what the government does, then the country will be forever blameless.”

“It’s like having your cake and eating it too.”

(Try coming up with a better analogy for America)

Those who sympathize with Dennis McGuire reflect the same idea: “Having your cake and eating it too”. They don’t actually take issue with the fact that a man is going to die. They only care about how he is going to die. As if that makes them less morally culpable.

The media is mostly to blame. They approached this story with disingenuous sensitivity. If McGuire died under normal circumstances, no one in the news would be concerned in the slightest about the fact that he died. No one would have cared if the media didn’t blow it out of proportion and try milking this story for everything it was worth. But they did. Suddenly, we’re all talking about shortages in lethal injection drugs. Whether firing squads or hanging would be more humane. Whether we should abolish capital punishment now because one convicted felon had a bad reaction to something that was supposed to kill him.

In this country, we can appear to care while not caring at all. Some Americans think that makes you a better person. But it doesn’t. It only makes you a hypocrite. Have your cake or eat it.

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You tell me that it’s evolution (Well, you know)

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Despite straying from a traditional Christian upbringing, I still enjoy commenting on religion. Because, no matter what you say, there’s no chance of ever offending someone. (Ha! Get it?)

(It’s funny because it’s not true)

I enjoy discussing religion because it fascinates me. In it’s purest form, it has been the guiding force of civilizations since the dawn of mankind. I respect faith in the sense that it is necessary for a functioning society. As well as the fact that many Americans take it for granted. It’s easy to become a non-believer in the U.S. due to the fact there are far less daily existential threats (disease, famine, war, etc.). But in places like the Middle East, Africa, and Texas, I believe people truly need spirituality as a crutch. That’s what faith is for. And that’s fine. But it’s not fine when religious beliefs nullify logic. It’s not fine when conclusions are made based on blind faith. Not when it infringes on the beliefs of others. Especially not in American politics.

In a recent Pew Research poll titled “Public Views on Human Evolution”, 64% of white American evangelical Protestants believe in creationism (the belief that “God” created man). Now, you’re probably asking, how is that related to policymakers in D.C.? Here’s another poll by the Pew Research Center, illustrating The Religious Composition of the 113th Congress. 57% of the House identifies as protestant, as well as 52% of the Senate. How does that relate to Republicans? According to the first poll, 48% of Republicans deny evolution (a 9% increase over 4 years) (astonishing). The majority of protestants in both the House and Senate are Republican. So, basically, there’s a chance that the majority of policymakers in D.C. believe science is a lie.

evo house evo senateIn America, policy decisions on a federal level are normally unaffected by the religious beliefs of policy makers. However, state and local governments are more vulnerable. In November 2013, the Texas Board of Education delayed approval of a widely used biology textbook because of concerns that it presents evolution as fact rather than theory. (For the record, a “theory” is defined as a collection of facts intended to explain something) (but that’s beside the point). According to the New York Times,  Ide P. Trotter, a chemical engineer and financial adviser, was a member of the review panel chosen to evaluate the textbook. He raised concerns, citing “[the book] gives a misleading impression that we have a fairly close understanding of how random processes could lead to us.” If you told me that same quote was from someone referring to the Bible, I would have believed it.

It sounds alarmist but it’s unnerving when the majority religion in Congress is also (overwhelming) the majority religion of evolution-deniers. Now, I doubt that the majority of Protestants in the House and Senate are creationists. Where they fall on the spectrum of conservative evangelical and mainline Protestant is unclear. But their faith (regardless of denomination) is still relevant.

evo religion

My generalization is that Protestants likely vote for fellow Protestants to represent them in congress. These congressmen and congresswomen probably have similar beliefs if they were able to convince their constituents to elect them in the first place. So, where do their beliefs align? The thought of someone in a position of power who denies evolution is concerning. Because to deny the theory of evolution is to deny truth. Denying truth is to embrace blind faith. And blind faith, as we know, can be dangerous.

The majority of my childhood was spent in Catholic school. I’ve not only read the “The Bible” but I’ve studied it. I’ve also studied “The Origin of Species”. One is a book of parables that can be loosely applied to someone’s life in order to better themselves. The other is a foundation of a theory supported by indisputable facts. That’s the difference between a creationist and myself: objectivity. I’ve seen both sides. As much as religion fascinates me, it equally frightens me. Because despite being responsible for so much good in the world, religion is equally responsible for so much evil. As long as organized religion exists, extremism will exist, and there will never be world peace. To believe otherwise is to assume the sentimentality of a child.

But is that not why people choose to have faith? To be childlike? To be a child is to shed responsibility. To have faith in god is to shed the burden of choice. When you have faith, you don’t need to make choices. Choices are made for you by others. There’s no reason to think critically. There’s no reason to question your existence. There’s no reason to do anything besides kneel when you’re told and stand when you’re told. Our childhood is easy in the sense that it is absent of free will. Life is simpler when our choices are predetermined.

We choose to believe in creationism for the same purpose. Because it’s easier to believe there is someone watching over us–someone who created us–a parent or guardian. It’s more comforting to believe that than to believe we’re responsible for every choice in our lives–while at the same time–our life is ultimately random. It’s easier to believe that than to believe we’re alone in the universe (and descended from apes). It’s easier because having faith in a greater purpose is inherently human. It is instinctual. Religion is instinct.

“The very essence of instinct is that it’s followed independently of reason.”

-Charles Darwin

UPDATE: Texas charter schools teaching creationism (Slate)

Analysis of the 2014 World Cup

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FIFA WC 14

On Friday, December 6th, the entire world awoke with childlike anticipation, mentally preparing themselves for the results of the 2014 World Cup draw. In short, it was incredibly unkind to the U.S. My feelings about our group can be expressed by this Ron Swanson GIF:

swansonchair

To get a better sense of which groups are the toughest in 2014, I first calculated averages within each group based on FIFA world rankings. After struggling through basic math for roughly an hour, I found a chart online showing the same thing (only more organized and aesthetically-pleasing). Here it is (via Guardian U.K.):

wc groups

Group A: The Brazilians, with their immense talent and home field advantage, should advance easily. Supporters will expect to see Brazil’s characteristic trifecta of pace, ball control, and relentless attack in 2014. But the Brazilian defense shouldn’t be overlooked. Pound-for-pound, they have one of the most experienced and talented back lines in the world. Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, and Marcelo are all starting players on top clubs in their respective leagues. The midfield has young talent in Lucas, Oscar, and Ramires. As well as veterans, like Kaka and Ronaldinho. Rising star Neymar won MVP at the Confederations Cup this summer, where Brazil defeated Spain 3-0 in the final. They’ve already proven they can capitalize on home field advantage. And they’ve already proven they can beat the best team in the world.

Croatia, Mexico, and Cameroon, are all average. However, Croatia and Mexico are likely more favored. The Cameroon squad failed to even qualify for the 2013 African Cup, which doesn’t bode well for their prospects in the World Cup. Likely, Croatia and Mexico will face a dogfight to advance.

Top 2: Brazil/Croatia

Group B: Spain, #1 in the world and defending World Cup champions, are the easy favorite in Group B. Like Germany, the Spanish squad boasts incredible depth, with few (if any) weaknesses. Their defense is slower but arguably tougher and more experienced than Brazil’s. Spain’s midfield, however, is where their power lies. The Spanish squad boasts an unrivaled surplus of world class talent in the middle of the field. Veterans Xavi and Iniesta have both frequented the shortlist for FIFA Player of the Year as of lately:

Fifa ballon d'or

There’s also Juan Mata, David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Jesus Navas, Santi Cazorla, and Isco (i.e. ridiculous). Forward David Villa won the Silver Boot (2nd most goals) in 2010. He’ll be returning in 2014. Also returning are the 6 players named to the all-tournament team in 2010 (the 11 best players of the competition). 6 of the 11 were Spanish. All are returning to Rio.

The Chilean squad has one of the toughest center midfielders in the world with Arturo Vidal. Chile advanced to the knockout round in 2010 and could repeat their efforts if they can at least defeat the Netherlands. But that’s a big “if”. The Dutch were World Cup finalists in 2010 and boast a threatening attack with veteran forwards Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben. And of course, there’s Wesley Sneijder, who played stellar in South Africa. In 2010, Sneijder won the Bronze Boot (3rd most goals) and was awarded the Silver Ball (2nd best player overall) and, deservedly, was named to the all-tournament team. That was 4 years ago, however. A scrappy Chilean squad could easily surprise the Dutch in 2014.

Top 2: Spain/Netherlands

Group C: This is one of those groups where any two teams could possibly advance. But Columbia is the clear frontrunner with a brutal attack in Monaco teammates Falcao and James Rodriguez (who are already accustomed to playing with one another in club football). This should serve as an advantage come 2014. Young talents like Luis Muriel and Victor Ibarbo further strengthen Columbia’s attack. In 2012, FIFA awarded Columbia the “Best Mover of the Year” award (the team who progresses farthest in the FIFA world rankings). The 2014 squad will be keen to continue their form.

Greece, Ivory Coast, and Japan, seem evenly matched. Greece always proves to be a wildcard. In 2004, they shocked Europe by winning the UEFA Cup. Yet, they failed to make it past the group stage in the 2010 World Cup. Ivory Coast also has the potential to surprise. They boast a strong roster with Yaya Toure controlling the midfield and captain Didier Drogba upfront. Rio will likely be Drogba’s last World Cup appearance. If the team rallies around his goal-scoring ability, Cote d’Ivoire have a good chance of continuing to the knockout round. Japan advanced in 2010 but showed lackluster results recently in the Confederations Cup, losing all three matches in the group stage.

Top 2: Columbia/Ivory Coast

Group D: This group highlights an interesting phenomenon within the psyche of World Cup fans. If you’re American (or anyone else in the world besides a Brit) you agree that Group G is obviously the “group of death”. However, if you’re English, you tend to disagree. I partially sympathize with them. Group D will certainly be difficult. But I would trade Ghana for Costa Rica any day of the week.

The average world ranking of Group D is 14 overall. The next toughest is Group C with an average of 20. There’s definitely a wide gap. Both Italy and Uruguay are top 10 in the world and will prove to be very tough opponents for England. The Italian squad were finalists in the 2012 Euro Cup and advanced to the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup this summer, only losing to Spain in penalty kicks. They’re clear favorites, with good results in recent competition and a squad with a lot of experience.

Uruguay, on the other hand, is a top squad hiding under the radar. If you don’t closely follow the sport of football, Uruguay is a team that can be easily dismissed. Because, when you think of elite South American football, most people think Argentina and Brazil. But to discount this team would be foolish, for two reasons. First, Uruguay were nearly finalists in the 2010 World Cup, losing a close match to the Netherlands 3-2 in the semi-finals. They were also semi-finalists in the 2013 Confederations Cup. Second, Uruguay arguably has the strongest striking duo in the world, aside from Argentina. Luiz Suarez and Edison Cavani will be a nightmare for defenders.

England’s biggest opponent, however, is England. They have a lot talent, albeit young talent (Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley, Danny Welbeck, Oxlade-Chamberlain). The veteran players are world class but mostly past their prime. Rooney is only 28 but always proves to be unpredictable. Gerrard and Lampard are both mid-30s and will likely be appearing in their last World Cup in 2014. Joe Hart, at least, will be reliable in goal. We shouldn’t expect the same antics we saw from England goalkeeper Robert Green in the group stage against the U.S. in 2010. Although, as an American, I will always be grateful for this epic fail:

RG gif

My favorite club team in the world is Everton, so I’m predisposed to liking the England squad. I honestly want to see them win. But something is telling me they face an early exit in 2014. In South Africa, the U.S. and England both narrowly advanced to the knockout stage. I have a sneaking suspicion that, once again, we both are destined to the same fate. This time, in the form of defeat. That being said, with England’s abundance of youth prospects, they should find themselves back in the top 10 come 2018.

Top 2: Italy/Uruguay

Group E: Switzerland is the most surprising squad in the top 10, with scarce big name talent. Granit Xhaka (21) and Xherdan Shaqiri (22) are exciting youth prospects. The Swiss will rely on them in 2014. Switzerland went undefeated over 10 games in the World Cup qualifying round (7-3-0). Then again, the toughest team in their group was Slovenia (#29 in the world). The Swiss are probably the weakest top 10 team in the world. However, in a group like the one they find themselves, expect to see them advance.

Normally, France would be favorites in Group E. But lately, the French national team is anything but normal. Stunningly, they barely qualified for this year’s World Cup. They find themselves uncharacteristically outside the top 10 (#19 in the world). And let’s not forget about the drama that unfolded at the 2010 World Cup, when an argument between captain Patrice Evra and an assistant coach led to a team revolt.

The French have the personnel to go far. But their still the French. Like England, France is their own worst enemy. Thanks to an easy group, they’ll likely advance. But the sweet 16 might be as far as they go.

Top 2: Switzerland/France

Group F: Argentina will undoubtedly have the easiest path to the knockout round (as if they needed it). Lionel Messi (4-time back-to-back FIFA World Player of the Year) shares the attack with Sergio Aguero (together, two of the top 10 best strikers in the world). Mascherano and Di Maria add depth in the midfield. Wingers Lavezzi and Palacio further bolster an intimidating attack. Argentina’s defense is nothing to write home about. But they clearly compensate for it. If Messi and Aguero get hot, the Argentines could win the cup.

First-timers Bosnia and Herzegovina will be looking to make a name for themselves on the international stage. They’re the second highest ranked team in the group but it doesn’t necessarily make them favorites to advance. #36 in the world Nigeria won the 2013 African Cup. This shouldn’t count for nothing. It’s entirely possible for the African champions to knockout higher-ranked Bosnia/Herzegovina. Iran, on the other hand, will be lucky to earn a single point in this group.

Top 2: Argentina/Nigeria

Group G: If you’re familiar with the World Cup then you’re probably familiar with the term “group of death”. If you’re unfamiliar, then get familiar with Group G. In 2014, the U.S. will face the toughest group in the tournament. Germany (#2 in the world) is an absolute powerhouse and favorites to win it all. I could name their top players but I would have to name their entire starting 11. Germany s good. Period. But let’s not forget about Portugal (#5 in the world) and Christiano Ronaldo. Love him or hate him (hate him), he’s one of the best players in the world. In 2013, Portugal were the biggest “movers” within the FIFA top 20 (shifting nine places within the rankings from #14 to #5).

Last but not least, in some cruel twist of fate, the U.S. will be playing Ghana. F***ing Ghana. If you watched the 2010 World Cup, you understand why Americans are apprehensive. The U.S. were eliminated by Ghana during the knockout round in a heartbreaking loss in extra time. Now, a rematch is inevitable, alongside the likes of Germany and Portugal. Group G is unquestionably the “group of death”. Alas, if the U.S. want to be taken seriously in the eyes of international football, this is their chance. Lucky for us, the Americans have a secret weapon…

Aston Villa v Everton - Premier League

TIM HOWARD’S BEARD

Top 2: Germany/Portugal

Group H: Expect the Belgians to sweep the group stage. Aside from Uruguay, they’re the most underrated team in the tournament. Belgium will likely be top 5 in the world come 2018, with some of the best youth prospects in football. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is only 21 and already on his way to becoming world class. In the midfield, there’s Dembele, Fellaini, Witsel, Eden Hazard, and De Bruyne (with an average age of 24). Belgian’s attack is young and talented as well, with Mirallas, Lukaku, and Benteke (average age of 23). And let’s not forget about 17 year-old forward Zakaria Bakkali (rumored to be Belgium’s next wonder kid). In the back field is where Belgium’s maturity lies, with Vermaelen, Vertonghen, and Kompany on defense (still, all three are under 30).

If the Belgians play to their full potential, they have the ability to compete for the cup. But their inexperience will likely cost them in the knockout round against veteran squads like Spain and Germany. Despite their talent, Belgium is unpredictable. They dropped 6 places in the FIFA world rankings prior to the draw, falling farther than any other team in the top 20.

Advancing to the knockout round alongside Belgium will likely be Russia, who finished top of their table in World Cup qualifications (above Portugal).

Top 2: Belgium/Russia

wc match by match

Why the Acquittal of George Zimmerman Was a Good Thing

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Several months have passed since a jury in Florida acquitted George Zimmerman of the charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The decision was sadly unsurprising to many. But to many, including myself, it still filled our hearts with anger. Many of us felt the decision was unjust. After the trial, we were left with nothing but the bitter irony of one’s life undeservedly lost and one’s innocence undeservedly gained. The worst case scenario for Trayvon Martin supporters following the trial was to watch George Zimmerman walk free. Which is exactly what he did.

I have wrestled with my own emotions, repressing the pent-up anger I have towards Zimmerman’s “innocence”. My opinion of the jury’s decision is that it was a systematic failure of due process (They were clearly misled by the jury instructions). Yet, despite my strong feelings, a small part of me is convinced that it was for the best. Here’s why.

Following his acquittal in July, Zimmerman hoped to fade back into society, unnoticed. However, despite his efforts, Zimmerman has been arrested not once, but twice for violent domestic disputes.

In September, at the home of Zimmerman’s parents-in-law, his estranged wife Shellie called 9-1-1 reporting that Zimmerman had smashed her iPad and punched her father in the nose. Zimmerman was not charged following the incident. Allegedly, there was video evidence of the fight on the iPad, which was conveniently destroyed beyond repair. The argument occurred only days after Shellie announced she was divorcing Zimmerman due to his increasingly aggressive behavior and also because she was starting to doubt his innocence in the death of Trayvon Martin (her words, not mine).

Two months later, it happened again. This time, at the residence of Zimmerman’s (now ex) girlfriend–Samantha Scheibe. This time, he was charged with aggravated assault plus one count of misdemeanor battery. Zimmerman allegedly pushed Scheibe out of her home after threatening her with a shotgun and then barricaded himself inside until police arrived. According to the judge, there was an unreported incident ten days earlier wherein Zimmerman choked Scheibe after a similar dispute.

Most people (normally, including myself) look at Zimmerman’s recent behavior and are refueled by anger, as the truth slowly reveals itself; a truth they have known all along. It has become increasingly clear that Zimmerman was likely the aggressor on the night he shot Travon Martin. Subsequently, causing insult to injury months after the trial ended.

I shared this sentiment at first. Even though Zimmerman had finally been charged with a crime, even though the judge banned him from using firearms, it was barely recompense for the life he took away and the lives he changed forever.

It should be known that I’m inherently cynical about almost everyone and everything. But despite my cynicism–in rare form–I am optimistic. Because, if anything, this proves we [supporters of Trayvon Martin] were right. I consider all of those around the country who supported Zimmerman (a lot more than you would think). People who actually searched deep-down within themselves and came to the conclusion that it was justified for a man to pursue and kill an unarmed teen out of suspicion. I consider these simple-minded American folk–in lieu of recent events–and I smile. I think about the jurors–who are sitting at home watching this on the news–and I smile. Because now they must witness how wrong they were. Now they must bare witness to the true character of a man they wrongfully defended.

If Zimmerman had been found guilty for the murder of Trayvon Martin, he would have been locked away for the world to forget. In accordance, he would have ostensibly become a martyr for everyone who defended him. Sure, hypothetically, justice would be served if he spent the rest of his life in prison. But the perceived ambiguity surrounding whether or not Zimmerman was actually the aggressor that evening, would continue to perpetuate the same uncertainty surrounding Trayvon’s death. Instead, Zimmerman’s persona has been revealed: someone who is (undoubtedly) gun-obsessed, irrational, and violent. The prosecutor’s couldn’t have painted a better picture themselves.

A reaffirmation of our beliefs is a small victory in the grand scheme of things (not to mention, self-satisfying). In a way, the recent events are disheartening. Because Zimmerman’s behavior only confirms what many of us have believed for so long. It’s easy to become further enraged about the fact he was acquitted in the first place. But, at the same time, I believe it’s subtle retribution. If the jury couldn’t incriminate him, at least he’s doing it to himself on public display. It’s certainly better than Zimmerman simply fading into obscurity, enjoying his freedom unhindered.

The big problem with a disguise is that, however hard you try, its always a self-portrait. In other words, George Zimmerman can’t stop himself from being George Zimmerman. Perhaps, having to live with himself, is an existential punishment to fit the crime.

To all those who might one-day contemplate the fate of someone like this:

Think hard about your decision. This is what being wrong looks like.

zimmyUPDATE: Zimmerman charges dropped (New York Times)

America: Through the Eyes of Pop Culture

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Some argue that the idea of American “culture” is nonexistent. Some say we are simply a disorganized homogenization with no true identity. I attempted to debunk this assertion through extensive online research, combing the daily minutia of the internet–specifically, entertainment news. What I discovered is that pop-culture illustrates more than just the over-glorification of celebrity. It also serves as a mind-numbing reflection of American values.

The following images represent a vignette of American culture–albeit a vignette of disappointment and embarrassment. Nevertheless, it is a reflection of culture indigenous to America. It begins on a holiday, on the night of Halloween, in the Hills of Beverly:hugh hefner miley cyrus On October 28th, 2013, Hugh Hefner tweeted this photo of himself with 27-year-old wife, Crystal Harris. Hugh Hefner is 87, by the way. He was 60 when she was born. I’ll let that sink-in…

Crystal was dressed as Miley Cyrus from her now-infamous VMA performance, while Hugh was dressed as…I don’t know. He looks like a Madam Tussauds wax sculpture of a death row inmate. No. Wait. Sorry. He’s supposed to be Robin Thicke. Now I see it.

First of all, let’s start with Hugh Hefner. Essentially, this man’s entire career justified what Miley Cyrus did on stage at the VMAs. He made promiscuity acceptable in society. He turned the Hollywood image of empowered women like Marilyn Munroe into sex objects. We’ve grown to celebrate this type of “freedom” in American culture. Some might call that “empowerment”. But I dare those same people to watch one episode of The Girls Next Door and try making an argument for feminism. I’m not saying women in this country should be wearing burqas but there has to be self-conscious limitations on freedom of expression.

While it’s true that “progressive” values have ushered much-needed social change throughout history, America’s idea of “progression” seems to be limitless in certain aspects. Because as far as we’ve progressed, we’ve also taken steps backwards in terms of cultivating intellectual culture. We have completely lost sight of our moral boundaries. We’re becoming culturally desensitized to what is right and wrong.

Even our childhood institutions are no longer sacred. Look at Disney. Look what they did to Miley.

And Vanessa Hudgens. And Selena Gomez.

And Britney Spears. And Christina Aguilera.

And Bambi’s mom! WHY?! I was just a child, Walt! You twisted, bastard!

Over the past decade, Disney went from this:

before

To this:disney gals 75

[Side note: It was Nickelodeon who discovered Emily Ratajkowski (below), who, coincidentally, was one of the topless models in Robin Thicke’s controversial “Blurred Lines” video, which, subsequently, facilitated the controversial Miley Cyrus VMA performance, thus, culminating in the controversial aforementioned Halloween outfit of October 28th, 2013]

The circle of life:

emily r

The second image comes to us from Nashville, Tennessee. It’s Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood singing a scathing duet about Obamacare during the Country Music Awards: rednecks First of all, I don’t identify as a Democrat nor as a Republican. I’m not trying to defend the president here. But I bet 90% of people in attendance/watching the CMAs, couldn’t speak intelligently about America’s healthcare system for more than 5 seconds (and that’s being generous). So, why make the joke? Why involve topical political commentary? What’s the point? There is none.

That’s my point. Ask yourself, how many in attendance at the CMAs are likely Republican? Not to generalize but considering most country music comes from the south and most southerners are Republican, logic dictates that it’s probably a correct assumption. Let’s say a majority are Republican. Also ask yourself, how many people in attendance at the CMAs likely have health insurance? I would also guess, a majority. If you have the financial means to be a country music star, you probably have the means to be insured (e.g. millionaires like Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood).  Their motive is clear. They’re pandering to rich, white Republicans who already have healthcare and who already hate Obama because he’s a Democrat. For the producers, it’s a win-win. Everyone in the audience laughs while at the same time grasping the opportunity of a national stage to criticize the president.

However, from an outside perspective, an out-of-context parody about healthcare doesn’t appear tongue-in-cheek. Instead, it appears to be cheap banter for a like-minded audience, most of whom are probably hoping Obamacare fails, if for no other reason than out of spite. It’s pathetic how desperate the producers were to politicize an issue and turn it into entertainment in the name of petty dissonance.

I don’t recall Toby Keith ever getting on stage and singing a parody about the Iraq War during the Bush administration. Of course not. Because, according to country music, supporting your president for waging war is called being “patriotic”. But criticizing your president for trying to offer healthcare to millions of uninsured Americans? That’s worthy of cheap laughs and “Yee-haws!”.

Miley Cyrus “twerking” on stage while wearing a confederate flag bikini would have been more appropriate than singing a song about a failing healthcare system in a country whose government was recently shutdown because the people running it forgot how to be civil. There’s nothing funny about that. Accordingly, country music stars have no right to criticize something for being shitty. That’s hypocritical. After all, they’re country music stars.

The “joke” offers no alternative nor solution. There’s no productive discourse. It only contributes to an increasingly polarized public sphere, solely intent on being controversial for the purpose of ratings. The producers decided pandering to their predominately Republican viewership was opportunistic given their audience demographic. And they were right. Because, for the majority of attendees at the CMAs that evening, the reality of millions of uninsured Americans was nothing more than a laughable inconvenience, whose blame can be placed entirely on the people whose viewpoints they oppose. It’s too convenient for them not to laugh. It’s this same combination of stubborn ignorance and unashamed idealism that contributes to the ineffective bureaucracy in American politics. It’s the same thing that shutdown our government. Both sides must stop.

Last but not least, Miley Cyrus (who has somehow become the focal point of this essay) (dammit):

miley joints

After Miley’s provocative twerk-filled performance at the 2013 VMAs, it was presumable we could expect similar antics from her at the more liberal EMAs (European Music Awards). Because Europeans are floozies. That’s why our ancestors left and came to America in the first place.

The 2013 EMAs were held in Amsterdam. Which, as we all know, is famous for their scones (as well as prostitution and marijuana). Accordingly, when Miley Cyrus was accepting an award on stage (dressed as a prostitute), she pulled a joint from her purse and smoked it in front of everyone.

The fact that Ms. Cyrus smoked “drugs” on stage is irrelevant. If you’ve ever seen VH1’s Behind the Music with Motley Crue, you’ll understand that everything that Miley has ever done, only scratches the surface of inappropriate things musicians have done throughout American history. But that didn’t stop broadcasters from censoring the entire EMA pot-smoking incident from American viewers.

Seriously?

For weeks after Miley Cyrus’ controversial VMA performance, media outlets across the country shamelessly replayed images of her simulating sex onstage, barely wearing clothing. Yet, the image of her smoking a joint is too offensive for our delicate sensibilities? Our priorities are in need of serious reevaluation.

It has nothing to do with whether legalizing weed is right or wrong. It’s about how American society dictates what is right and wrong–with an unreasonable disregard for common sense. A new poll suggests 60% of Americans support legalization. Nearly half the states in the U.S. have legalized weed in some form or another. What purpose does censorship accomplish? What is it fulfilling besides accordance with arbitrary FCC laws? Nothing. It only intensifies the idiocy in American culture, surrounding the debate between what we deem moral and immoral.

I don’t know what the future of America holds. If our culture is any indication, it doesn’t look promising. We constantly bear witness to the loss of innocence, the loss of decency, and the loss of common sense. At times, it seems as though we’ve lost our minds. America is one of the most perverted, opinionated, self-righteous, and greatest countries in the world.

If only we were more self-aware.

Reefer Madness: The Hypocrisy of Prohibition

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In 1936, an American propaganda film was released to the public, notoriously titled Reefer Madness. The story centers around the melodramatic events that ensue when high school students are lured by dealers to try marijuana. Which leads to a hit and run accident, to manslaughter, suicide, attempted rape and descent into madness. It’s like Breaking Bad without the meth.

“Public enemy No. 1”

The American public is far less naïve about marijuana use today, evident in the thriving pot subculture that exists in contemporary society. Nonetheless, for nearly half a century it has remained illegal in the United States on a federal level. Cannabis is classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic under federal law. It is deemed to have “a high potential for abuse and no legitimate medical uses”.

In early July 2011, the federal government ruled (once again) that marijuana has no accepted medicinal purposes. The decision marks the third time in over three decades that the reclassification of cannabis has failed. The first request was filed in 1972 and denied 17 years later. The second was filed in 1995 and denied in 2001. Both decisions were appealed, but the courts ultimately sided with the federal government.

Regardless of failed legislature, mainstream opinion of marijuana has shifted ten-fold. A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in March 2013 found that 52% of participants supported legalization opposed to 45%. Not since 1969 has a majority been reached in favor of legalization. U.S. public support for legalizing marijuana was fixed in the 25% range from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, but support jumped to 31% in 2000 and has continued to grow throughout the decade (Gallup). In fact, support has risen steadily by 11% since 2010.

pew 1

Support for legalization increased during the 70s. And then Ronald Reagan happened.

Marijuana is like the boyfriend a girl brings home to meet her parents for the first time. Of course, the parents are apprehensive of him [the parents, in this case, being the federal government]. It doesn’t matter if she swears, “He’s really great, you just don’t know him like I do,” Mom and Dad refuse to believe he’s good enough for their daughter [the American people]. She’s alone, awake at night, wondering, “Why can’t they see what I see in him?” They are cursed by forbidden love, forced to live their lives in secrecy. It’s tragic enough to be Shakespearean.

What legalization advocates find most infuriating about the classification of cannabis is the pure hypocrisy behind it. Alcohol and tobacco (both legal) demonstrate the exact characteristics of a Schedule 1 narcotic: a.) A high potential for abuse, and b.) No legitimate medical uses. Alcohol is linked to 50,000 deaths a year, which pales in comparison to tobacco: 400,000. I believe those numbers are reflective of “abuse”.

FDA-approved prescription drugs also display a “high potential for abuse” coupled with a higher risk of overdose than alcohol or tobacco. Drug overdose death rates in the United States have more than tripled since 1990 and have never been higher. In 2008, more than 36,000 people died from drug overdoses (avg. 100/day) (CDC).

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The misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers was responsible for more than 475,000 emergency department visits in 2009, a number that nearly doubled in just five years. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

In contrast, there has never been a documented human fatality from overdosing on tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (cannabis) in its natural form (“Cannabinoid analgesia” Pharmacology & Therapeutics). Marijuana, in its natural form, is non-toxic, virtually impossible to overdose on. One estimate for humans indicates that about 1,500 pounds would have to be smoked within 14 minutes (New England Journal of Medicine).

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Above all, cannabis has proven, in contrast to its classification as a Schedule 1 drug, to clearly possess a multitude of medicinal purposes.

Benefits include the use of treatment in various conditions: cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, anorexia nervosa, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, anxiety, depression, insomnia, migraines, and chronic pain. “No legitimate medical uses”?

In addition, studies indicate that THC has an “anti-cholinesterase” effect. Anti-cholinesterase is a chemical compound that inhibits the acetylcholinesterase enzyme from breaking down “acetylcholine”, thereby increasing the functionality of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.  The function of acetylcholine in the brain relates to the nervous system. Specifically, sensory perception and motor skills. In layman’s terms, THC has the ability to promote elasticity in neurotransmission. This may implicate it as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and Myasthenia Gravis (all severely debilitating neurological disorders). This research also helps debunk the widely-held stereotypical belief that marijuana kills brain cells (it doesn’t).

weed

Recently, Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN reversed his long-standing objection to medical marijuana after extensively researching the benefits in patients across the country. The byproduct of his research is a documentary, titled: “Weed”. Accompanying this documentary, Dr. Gupta wrote an open apology concerning his stance on medical marijuana:

“I am here to apologize. I apologize because I didn’t look hard enough, until now. I didn’t look far enough. I didn’t review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis.

Instead, I lumped them with the high-visibility malingerers, just looking to get high. I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic because of sound scientific proof. Surely, they must have quality reasoning as to why marijuana is in the category of the most dangerous drugs that have “no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse”.

They didn’t have the science to support that claim, and I now know that when it comes to marijuana neither of those things are true. It doesn’t have a high potential for abuse and there are very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works.-Dr. Sanjay Gupta

c figiCharlotte Figi

A focal point of the documentary is Charlotte Figi, a 6-year-old girl from Colorado who was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome as an infant. Dravet syndrome, also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI), is a rare and catastrophic form of intractable epilepsy that begins in infancy. According to Dr. Gupta, “[Charlotte] started having seizures soon after birth. By age 3, she was having 300 a week, despite being on seven different medications.” He adds, “Medical marijuana has calmed her brain, limiting her seizures to 2 or 3 per month.

Dr. Gupta’s credibility as a neurosurgeon and his subsequent endorsement is appreciated. But it’s also understandably frustrating to those who advocated for years–claiming the same facts–despite being systematically ignored and undermined by the federal government.

A third precursor to being classified as a “Schedule 1” is: a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision. However, the effective dose of THC is at least 1000 times lower than the estimated lethal dose; this means the amount it takes a person to feel the effects of cannabis is one thousand times lower than what it would take for them to overdose. This is measured by a “therapeutic ratio”. Marijuana has a therapeutic ratio of 1000:1. By comparison, the ratio of alcohol is 100 times less: 10:1. Heroin is 6:1. (“Comparison of acute lethal toxicity of commonly abused psychoactive substances” Addiction)

Using cannabis is no different than drinking a glass of wine with dinner or smoking a cigarette during your work break. The only difference is, people aren’t incarcerated for the latter. The reality of modern-day prohibition is evident in the heavy price that we–the people–have paid since its inception. In 2009 alone, approximately 850,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges (more than all violent crimes combined, i.e. rape, murder, assault). 88% of people convicted were charged with only minor possession–a misdemeanor (30% were under the age of 19). Taxpayers are left spending an estimated $10 billion/year to enforce marijuana prohibition (NORML).

pot cartoon

In America, there is still no legally controlled market for marijuana. Dealing and buying is most commonly accomplished through the underground black market, which is widespread and overwhelmingly successful. In a 2012 report titled, “Marijuana Production in the United States,” by marijuana policy researcher Jon Gettman, the author cites marijuana as the top cash crop in 12 states and among the top three cash crops in 30 others. The study estimates that marijuana production exceeds the combined value of corn ($23.3 billion) and wheat ($7.5 billion). It’s difficult to estimate an annual market price for the entire U.S., considering most transactions are unregulated and illegal. However, estimates place it anywhere from $10 billion to $120 billion annually.

pot prices

The price of marijuana per state: Top-producing states according to DEA search and seizures are California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, and West Virginia.

Overall, in contrast to it’s classification as a Schedule 1, cannabis displays less evidence of abuse than it’s legal predecessors, more evidence of medical benefits, and financial opportunity for a subpar economy (e.g. increased state revenue as well as job creation). So, despite all the evidence, why does cannabis remain illegal on a national scale? What is the real impetus behind prohibition? It’s easy to point fingers and place blame on the DEA. But this a common misconception. Yes, the DEA enforce the laws that are already in place, contributing to the failed policies of the drug war. But the real reason why enforcement of marijuana laws still exist, can be blamed entirely on a separate culprit.

The pharmaceutical industry has been–and continues to be–by far the most profitable of all businesses in the U.S. In 2006, the global market raked in $643 billion. The U.S. accounts for more than half of the entire market (11 out of 19 of the top grossing pharmaceutical companies are American). According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, pharmaceutical companies spent $900 million on anti-marijuana lobbying between 1998 and 2005, more than any other industry in America. During the same period, they donated $90 million to federal candidates and political parties, giving approximately three times as much to Republicans as to Democrats. This is particularly noteworthy, considering the Republican Party routinely supports prohibition with a strict, conservative, anti-drug agenda.

According to the 2013 Pew Research Poll, only 37% of Republicans supported marijuana legalization, opposed to 59% of Democrats in favor and 60% of Independents in favor. The one issue Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on is whether or not “government efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they’re worth”. On average, regardless of party affiliation, 72% agree. When Democrats and Republicans openly agree on something, it’s a testament to legitimacy.

partisans

The FDA’s motives are illustrated by the success of their top-selling product. In 2008, antipsychotic medication became the single top-selling therapeutic class of drugs at $14 billion a year in the U.S. alone. Antipsychotics are a group of tranquilizing drugs used to treat psychiatric conditions; the most commonly prescribed medication in the U.S. Coincidentally, many of these drugs are the same used to treat several conditions cannabis would treat if it were decriminalized. Simply put, legalizing marijuana would be a threat to the profit margin of the American drug industry.

In 2009, prescriptions written for antipsychotics totaled 20 million. That amounts to nearly 1 in 15 Americans. In an article for Al-Jazeera, Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, points out that a study the same year showed that 18 of the 20 psychiatrists who wrote the APA’s (American Psychiatry Association) most recent clinical guidelines for treating depression, bipolar disorders, and schizophrenia, had financial ties to drug companies, whether through research grants or stock holdings. This seems like an egregious conflict of interest. Yet, it is perfectly legal. Not only do pharmaceutical companies pay doctors to speak on behalf of their drugs, they pay sales representatives based on the number of prescriptions written by doctors. Their not focused on curing the most people. Their focused on selling the most drugs. That’s not an opinion. That’s a fact.

The over-prescribing of medications is compounded by the nature of psychiatric diagnoses. They’re primarily subjective. That is, therapists make a diagnosis through the process of observation. The lack of biological tests for mental disorders makes psychiatry especially vulnerable to industry influence. It doesn’t help that we are constantly expanding the criteria for mental illness, so that nearly everyone has one. Expanding the variety of diagnoses leads to a cornucopia of new, relevant drugs. As Marcia Angell puts it, “Psychiatrists are in the pocket of industry.”

Consider the pharmaceutical industry as the kingpin of the American drug market. It’s bad for business to be competing with cannabis: a potential medicine that treats an array of psychiatric conditions, with little to no side effects. This is reinforced by the fact that the drug industry’s top-selling products (anti-psychotics/painkillers) are used to treat the same conditions that cannabis would treat, if legal.

commonly abused

What is most threatening to the pharmaceutical industry is that marijuana is all-natural. More importantly, it is most effective in it’s natural form. Cannabis can be grown by anyone with seed, soil, water and sunlight. Cultivation relies on farming. It relies on investment in agriculture. If marijuana laws are reformed, cannabis would be a contender. Imagine: an organic, sustainable medicine in America. That’s potentially stiff competition. The process doesn’t require chemicals nor does it require synthetic manufacturing by technicians in a lab. There is no need for pharmaceutical companies to produce and distribute it. Additionally, there is no legal parameter for patenting something that grows in the ground (unless you’re Monsanto). In summary, there is no money to be made by the drug industry. Although, that hasn’t stopped them from trying.

Synthesized THC is known as dronabinol. It is available in the United States as a prescription drug under the generic name Marinol. It is classified as a Schedule III, available by prescription, considered to be “non-narcotic and to have a low risk of physical or mental dependence.” However, Marinol was cited by the FDA as being responsible for 4 deaths in a study of 17 different FDA-approved drugs between January 1, 1997 to June 30, 2005 (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) (SAMHSA). Four deaths in eight years might seem negligible to some. But reconsider the fact that the “toxicity” of natural THC has failed to report killing anyone, ever.

marinol

A list of side effects for the prescription drug Marinol:

More common

  • Clumsiness or unsteadiness
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • false sense of well-being
  • nausea
  • trouble with thinking
  • vomiting

Less common

  • Changes in mood
  • confusion
  • delusions
  • fast or pounding heartbeat
  • feelings of unreality
  • hallucinations
  • loss of memory
  • mental depression
  • nervousness or anxiety
  • problems with memory

Millions of Americans remain comfortably numb, hooked on FDA-approved drugs (Oxycontin is practically synthetic heroin). The pharmaceutical industry makes billions annually, pushing pills toward a vague definition of psychiatric disorders ranging from hypochondria to restless leg syndrome. On the other end of the spectrum, nearly one million Americans a year are incarcerated for a plant that grows in the ground.

Although medical marijuana has made progress on a state level, the medicinal dispensary system is being widely abused. In Seattle, there are currently more weed dispensaries than Starbucks. In Denver, there are more weed dispensaries than Starbucks, liquor stores, and public schools. In California, a medical marijuana card can be purchased with ease. As Esquire’s John Richardson puts it, “[In California] the law is nothing but a fig leaf that can be purchased with an $80 medical exam… It’s a joke. And it’s not good policy to make the law into a joke.”

Richardson aptly describes the hypocrisy of medical marijuana policy in CA: “California has the worst of both worlds. Marijuana is essentially legal, but people still go to jail for it and the state still spends millions of dollars in police time, court costs, and prison cells for no reason. It’s stupid. There’s no other word for it, no rational justification. We are paying for our hypocrisy with wasted taxes and the wreckage of other people’s lives.”

Meanwhile, most non-residents are still out-of-luck:

medi marijuana graph

America’s prohibition of marijuana offers a sentiment that suggests: “Why heal people if we can’t make profit?” Anti-drug law enforcement is rooted in hypocrisy, furthering an increasingly counterproductive dichotomy between state and federal regulations.

If we legalize, we can begin helping people—all people—who actually need it. We can stop placing stigmas on recreational users and stop filling prisons with harmless offenders. Collectively, we can come to accept the overwhelming truth over hypocrisy.

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UPDATE: Support for marijuana legalization spikes to 58% (Washington Post)

Uruguay becomes first nation to fully legalize marijuana (Reuters)

GSK announces it will no longer pay doctors for drug endorsements (WSJ)

Syria: The Thick Red Line

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homs

An inherent sense of irony surrounds the issue of intervention in Syria. Not due to the perceived parallels between Iraq (which opponents to U.S. military action openly cite as their main deterrent) (a comparison often filled with conspiracy-theories). Instead, there is a sad irony in the sense that the debate over intervention has taken this long to come to fruition. It’s ironic for a number of reasons: ironic because the estimated death toll in Syria’s civil war has already surpassed 100,000, ironic because over one million refugees have been displaced, and above all, ironic because this wasn’t the first reported chemical weapons attack in Syria–an action which President Obama classified a year ago as crossing a “red line”.

Until last week, U.S. rhetoric seemed to be typical American saber-rattling, nothing more than a complimentary acknowledgement of the suffering in Syria. But that was before last week, before chemical weapons were used against a civilian population in Damascus, killing hundreds. The images of the dead have been relayed around the world, serving as a manifestation of the “red line”, a provocation of international outcry, and a revelation of the hellish reality of war.

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The sudden relevancy of intervention in Syria begs a pressing question: since when is a “massacre” defined by the use of chemical weapons? I’m aware that the use of chemical weapons is forbidden in compliance with U.N. law. But why is it that over 100,000 dead and one million displaced is not enough of a reason to intervene? Shouldn’t there be a threshold that doesn’t include the necessary proof of a devastating chemical weapons attack on civilians? U.S. foreign policy seems to be adhering to the old newspaper adage, “If it bleeds, it leads.” How is it that 100,000 killed by conventional warfare over a long period of time is acceptable while a few hundred killed by chemical weapons in one day is suddenly immoral? Intervention in Libya was justified for much less than what happened in Damascus last week.

Although I support intervention, I’m not here to justify the reasons why. My only justification is my perspective of the world as a humanitarian. If there is overwhelming and disturbing evidence that a civilian population is being brutally massacred by their own government, I will always support military actions which help bring that to an end. I supported intervention in Libya and I support intervention in Syria. Suggesting that we simply turn our backs is asinine.

Regardless of how America has come to assume the role of international watchdog (i.e. through military force), it’s more important to remember that we are the international watchdog (whether we like it or not). As a geopolitical superpower–who has repeatedly placed an overabundance of effort into misguided wars–I do not believe we deserve the luxury of turning our responsibility on and off like a switch. If we truly believe we represent the moral high ground, turning our backs is never an option. Ignorance is bliss but rarely moral.

I respect someone’s apprehension towards U.S. military action, given our past. However, assuming that Syria is “Iraq 2.0” is a gross miscalculation of the options available. I am an outspoken critique of the Iraq War as well as the Bush administration. I would never support a blueprint of the Iraq invasion nor would I ever support the military occupation of another country (especially not in the Middle East). But this is where most Americans seem to be entirely misinformed. They hear war drums and assume that future military action is black and white: invade or don’t.

If you recall, limited U.N. intervention in Libya helped topple a dictator. Regardless, the U.S. has made it clear that the end goal of military involvement in Syria will not be regime overthrow. It’s also clear that the U.S. are not alone in agreement that sending a message to Assad is of utmost importance. We have the evidence to justify that. The U.S. will not be entering Syria with boots on the ground based on false intelligence and warmongering. Instead, military intervention will aim to reinforce confidence in the international community that this type of violence will not be tolerated in the 21st century. Now is the time for pragmatism, not ideology.

Crossing the “red line” has taken too long and cost too many innocent lives in the process. The only remaining option in Syria is to make certain the line is never crossed again.

UPDATE: “Should We Strike Syria? The Six Best Opinion Columns” (Daily Beast)

Syria chemical weapons disarmament begins (BBC)