By Steven HillSocial Security will always have somewhat of a perception problem among younger Americans. For a certain number, it will always be viewed as “money for old people who get it from the government.” For people of any age who are working and having taxes deducted from their paychecks, Social Security is a benefit for someone else—elderly retirees. But at some point in their life, those people will no longer be able to work, and, like any type of insurance, Social Security will be there to protect them with “wage insurance” from a complete loss of earned income. Social Security is self-insurance in that way, that is, protection against the risks we all face due to old age, disability, or death. That’s a point that must be brought home to every new generation of young Americans.
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By Ginny GilderMarching into Opening Ceremonies is a big moment for athletes all over the world, a public, and oh-so-welcome acknowledgement of the extraordinary effort and amazing accomplishment required to land in the middle of this global phenomenon. Unquestionably, it’s the right time to extol the assembly of top athletes, to marvel over their histories and imagine what lies directly ahead in the next sixteen days of Olympic competition. But it’s absolutely the wrong time to characterize the efforts these elites have made to reach the top echelons of their various sports as some kind of sacrifice.
By Melinda ChateauvertHysteria Alert! We’re heading into another international sporting event, so the predictable, hysterical, and utterly fantastical stories about international sex trafficking are on the rise. We heard this claptrap about “sex tourism” two years ago when Brazil hosted the World Cup, when some NGOs claimed “40,000” women and girls would be involved. Time Magazine’s numbers were moderate compared to the exaggerations made by others. They claimed 250,000 children would be working the streets during the tournament—or one in every sixty-eight adolescent girls in the country.
By Michael BronskiIt is impossible to overestimate the effect of World War II on American culture, and in particular on lesbians and gay men. The United States entered World War II, which had been ongoing since September 1939, after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941. This decisive turning point in U.S. history reordered American social life and mores, public and private space, and virtually all social interactions having to do with gender and sexual behavior.
By Ginny GilderThe Rio Games mark the end of the twelfth decade of the modern Olympics, an impressive track record, yet far outstripped by the tenure of the original Games, which started in 776 B.C. and lasted nearly twelve centuries. Given the most recent news that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) may now consider banning an entire country from participation for cheating, I’m not optimistic they will survive to the end of this century.
By Laura Erickson-Schroth, MD, MAThe most recent show of support for LGBTQ causes in professional sports was the July 21 announcement by the NBA that the men’s All-Star Game would be moved out of North Carolina because of the state’s new anti-LGBTQ law, which includes a section barring transgender people from using bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. I was surprised by the move, especially since the NBA has been slower to warm up to LGBTQ causes than the WNBA (despite being subsidiaries of the same parent organization). The NBA did participate in the Pride March, but, while Sheryl Swoopes, the first out lesbian in the WNBA, made her announcement in 2005, the first openly gay male player, Jason Collins, didn’t come out until 2013. Homophobia remains rampant in men’s sports.
By Alex DixonStudies in neuroscience and psychology have shown that the brain is wired to respond quickly to possible threats, and in American culture at least, people may have been socially conditioned to see black male faces as one of these threats. This process can even affect people who consciously shun racial bias in any form, police officers who swear to uphold the law without prejudice, and people of color themselves.
By Suzanne KamataOn July 27, twenty-six-year-old Satoshi Uematsu, a former employee of Tsukui Yamayuri En, a care facility for the disabled in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, broke into the residential area in the early hours of the morning. After restraining staff members with zip ties, he proceeded to slash the throats of disabled residents, killing nineteen and injuring twenty-six. His motive, according to a letter that he wrote and sent to House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima, was to relieve exhausted parents and unenthusiastic caregivers of the burden of looking after the disabled.
The Reverend William J. Barber II brought the crowd to its feet with his rousing speech last night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. His impassioned call for a moral awakening to combat divide-and-conquer politics with justice illustrates the foundation of Moral Mondays, the fusion movement he helped start to bridge America’s racial and economic divide. He writes movingly about how he laid the groundwork for this diverse movement in his book The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement. This appearance is part of Rev. Barber’s fifteen-state Revival Tour, launched in April to imbue love, mercy, and morality into politics. Here are some of last night’s highlights.
By S. Craig WatkinsOver the last few days, several people have asked me about the Pokémon Go phenomenon, especially friends who are not likely to play the game but are curious about why so many others have joined the crowd. In my own research, I’m constantly exploring how our engagement with digital media transforms our world. It is important to realize that technology, by itself, is not that significant. It is only when humans, for example, began to adopt and use technology that the social implications and consequences truly take shape. This is equally true with Pokémon Go. As the game has become a cultural sensation, a number of issues have emerged.
By Mary Frances Berry and Josh GottheimerIt’s fair to say that no one could have expected what resulted from Barack Obama’s prime-time speech at the July 2004 Democratic National Convention. Not the Senate candidate himself nor his two key aides and traveling companions, David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, nor Mary Beth Cahill, the campaign manager for John Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president. No one could have imagined how that seventeen-minute speech would catapult Obama into stardom and onto the national political stage and eventually into the White House itself. After all, no one had even heard of Barack Obama before he took the podium. On the morning of the speech, the Philadelphia Inquirer headlined, “Who the Heck Is This Guy?”
A Q&A with Dennis A. HeniganCertainly the horror of the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in which twenty first graders and six adults were struck down, has been a key turning point in the national gun debate. The loss of those innocent young children shocked the conscience of the nation. Prior to Sandy Hook, the conventional wisdom in the Democratic Party was that advocacy of gun control was simply not worth the political risk, although this thinking was based on an exaggeration of the NRA’s actual influence over election results.
A Q&A with Atef Abu SaifI have to say that I did not write a diary to publish. I had a habit of writing sort of personal narratives now and then, to use in writing my fiction and to keep for future memoirs. I was shocked with the dialogue that took place between me and my friends (day one) at the time that the strikes started. What shocked me is our search for a meaning of what happens. All our life is a search for meaning. This search is much harder in a very uncertain context like the one in Gaza. I wrote down this dialogue while the sounds of explosions and attacks negated my wish that this was just another escalation.
By Martin MoranTommy and I were on the outskirts of Johannesburg, zooming past vacant lots and former gold mines on our way to a large cheetah preserve. It was our third day together and I was especially excited. This being Africa, I had to squeeze in a safari! I’d found out about a large animal preserve not far from the city that offered excursions promising large cats and wild dogs, zebras and ostriches and all manner of wildlife. Since I’d made my reservation for the tour, a vision kept washing over me—a perfect moment tripping upon primordial Africa, a glimpse of a nature-filled Eden.
By Melinda ChateauvertThree decades before “Nothing about us, without us” became the axiom for policymaking by the sex workers’ rights movement, the national prostitutes’ rights organization COYOTE conducted a “Prostitute Study” which demonstrated that community-based participatory research had the power to revolutionize scientific paradigms. At the start of the AIDS epidemic, almost no one used community-based research to study critical health issues. But San Francisco sex workers, working as peer researchers interviewing and testing marginalized women like themselves, mapped the epidemiology of HIV in 1985. This forgotten study by sex workers on HIV/AIDS was an essential element of their political activism, using evidence-based research for making public policy, designing future medical research and changing public attitudes about the sex industry.
By Michael BronskiThe HIV/AIDS epidemic and the success of the battle for marriage equality have been, over the past thirty-five years, the two events that have most affected LGBT lives. These two phenomena—first the spread of a deadly virus that has killed thirty-four million people worldwide and close to 660,000 in the United States, and second a prolonged, well-funded, culturally bitter fight to grant a basic right of legal contact to same-sex couples—are rarely linked in the political or public imagination. Yet, numerous cultural and social interconnections, resonances, and ramifications link these events.
By Frederick S. LaneHaving spent a fair amount of time reading the writings of America's founding statesmen, I feel qualified to ask the following question: Is there anything that Franklin, Madison, Jefferson, or Washington would have found more ludicrous than the sight of thousands of Americans wandering around colonial Philadelphia trying to capture imaginary Japanese monsters known as Pokémon?
By Karl GibersonThe flamboyant creationist and enthusiastic biblical literalist Ken Ham has just opened his controversial and long-awaited “Ark Encounter” theme park in Williamstown, Kentucky. At a cost of almost 100 million dollars, the park promises visitors—who pay $60 for admission—an encounter with “one of the greatest reminders we have of salvation.” In Ham’s view, Christians must accept all the stories in the Bible, no matter how fanciful, as literal history. Compromising on one Bible story compromises everything else.
By Mark TreckaWhen Postcommodity documents the installation, the materials list will read: the Earth, cinderblock, parachute cord, PVC spheres, helium. But that list will be incomplete. The Mexican Consulate was a material. The local cafe owners in Douglas who spearheaded a corresponding art walk, the teenagers of Agua Prieta who danced in celebration of the launch, they were materials.
By Bill McKibbenThoreau posed the two practical questions that must come dominate this age if we’re to make those changes: How much is enough? and How do I know what I want? For him, I repeat, those were not environmental questions; they were not even practical questions, exactly. If you could answer them you might improve your own life, but that was the extent of his concern. He could not guess about the greenhouse gas effect. Instead, he was the American avatar in a long line that stretches back at least to Buddha, the line that runs straight through Jesus and St. Francis and a hundred other cranks and gurus.