Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Question: How do we explain this to post-9/11 children?

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Pres. Obama last night announced that Osama bin Laden was killed in a raid on a compound in Pakistan.

The initial U.S. reaction was celebratory. People partied in the streets outside of the White House.

There are a lot of young people in these photos. Probably a lot of students from Georgetown, a lot of young professionals who were up late.

I remember where I was on Sept. 11, 2001. I was at school. It happened during my first period class, then I went to lunch, and when I got to Earth-Space Science the Twin Towers were falling on TV. I didn’t understand. I thought we were going to be talking about gravity and its effects via a fun lesson using demolition as an example. My enthusiasm for what I thought was going to be a lesson was shut down quickly by my teacher, who already had expressed his dislike for me and what he declared my “incredible ability to put science on the back burner.” (I hated him so much.)

This was tenth grade. I was cognizant enough to know the differences in national emotion. It was like someone snapped their fingers and, suddenly, everything changed. I turned 16 about two months later, and I remember reading 9/11-related news the morning of my birthday. I also remember the night after the towers fell. I remember moving a TV into my room to watch round-the-clock coverage on MSNBC. I watched Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw with a sense of complete awe — part of the reason I decided to go into journalism.

Many of these kids look like they’re 18. I would estimate that on 9/11, they were between 7 and 9 years old. They may have a pretty good idea of what life was like before 9/11. They may remember their parents being emotional, watching the news, stowing away the newspaper the next morning in a safe place. Children in New York understand this well, I’m sure, as do those in Washington, D.C.

But I guarantee there are kids here in Florida who can’t comprehend the real, powerful emotions people feel when hearing that Osama bin Laden is dead. There are kids in elementary school today who can’t understand why their teachers are sneaking looks at the news on their cellphones, or keeping one tab of an internet browser open on CNN. There are kids who heard their parents cheer when the news broke last night and, roused from sleep, asked for an explanation.

But how do you explain something like that to a child? How can you justify being jubilant when you hear the news that someone has died? How are parents handling this? You have to be handling it somehow; it’s the top story on the news, and it’s on every newsstand, and there’s no way they haven’t seen it or heard it from friends.

Do you tell them the back story? Do you explain the event of 9/11 first to put the current situation in context? When you tell them, do you tell them about the people falling from the towers before the towers themselves crumbled to the ground? Do you gauge how much you can tell them by their age, or do you assume they’ll learn about it later anyways? When you come to today, do you first ask how much they know? Do you show them Pres. Obama’s address? Do you let him tell your children, because you’re too speechless to say it yourself?

I’m asking these questions not to be critical, but to get a better idea of how parents are handling this. As someone who only has had pets, I can’t comprehend the difficulty of being in this situation where there are images of people partying — revelry in the streets — and it’s in response to the news of someone’s death. I have so much sympathy for parents trying to deal with this right now.

It’s a huge event, sure to be in history books in the future, and obviously it’s important to put it into perspective for the little ones. So how is that achieved? It’s a question I can’t answer, and I think it certainly is one with which we’ll struggle more as this war continues.

Another rough draft op-ed.

Please let me know what you think of this.
Who knew that a political practice invented 207 years ago in Massachusetts would have so much effect on current politics in Florida? That’s right kids, it’s time to talk about gerrymandering again, that practice first used by Gov. Elbridge Gerry in 1812 as a way to have better control over sparring political parties in his state and effectively control his bid for reelection. Florida is now one of the worst offenders in this practice, especially through the southeast part of the state. And an upcoming election is a prime example of how gerrymandering has been used to control Florida’s elections and partisan representation in the state Legislature.

On Tuesday, it was announced that Pete Burkert, a Democrat from Ft. Myers, is running for the Florida Senate seat of District 27. Currently occupied by Democrat Dave Aronberg, who announced his resignation to pursue the title of Florida Attorney General, District 27 spans five counties — Palm Beach, Hendry, Glades, Charlotte and Lee counties — and includes parts of Wellington and Loxahatchee. The people of Lee County have been lobbying for years to have representation from their county; however, the gerrymandering process has sliced and diced the county into three districts, none of which have a State Senator from Lee County.

The newest move of the Democratic Party to select a representative from Ft. Myers to run for the currently-Democratic seat in District 27 seems like an attempt to placate a group of people who are tired of being disenfranchised. However, why should the people of the western communities in Palm Beach County have to sacrifice representation so that people on the opposite side of the state will feel that they now have full representation for themselves? Here lies the primary flaw of gerrymandering, perfectly summed up by now-President Barack Obama in a quote from 2006: “Our representatives are selecting their voters, as opposed to the voters selecting the representatives.”

Essentially, most politicians don’t want districts that are non-partisan and contiguous. This makes their job more difficult. They have to pay more attention to census statistics, and send out surveys asking what the voters want in a representative. Why go through all of that when they can just appeal to the state legislature when the time comes for redistricting, and beg for a district shaped like a caterpillar that encompasses primarily lower-income Caucasians who vote along the Republican Party line? In a 2007 opinion piece written in support of redistricting following the 2004 elections, Aronberg stated, “The political process benefits when candidates must reach out to voters from other political parties. But when districts are drawn so that only a Republican or only a Democrat can be elected, the other part of the electorate can be ignored. The result is more hard-line conservatives and liberals and fewer moderates.”

There is a way to fix the nest of snakes that tries to pass itself off as a district map: following the census in 2010, the process of redistricting will again take place. A non-partisan group that claims no affiliation to the state Legislature must be allowed to take charge and work to draw the district lines along existing geographical landmarks that are more reasonable than those already in place. If this is done, the state will be one step closer to a fair vote, instead of the calculated manipulation of voters that has taken place for the past three decades under the rule of both Republicans and Democrats.

We would like to encourage everyone to contact your voting precinct to obtain a constitutional amendment petition form (request the form for the non-partisan redistricting petition). You must be registered to vote to fill out the form, and you may not fill it out more than once. For more information on what is being done to ensure a non-partisan redistricting, visit http://www.fairdistrictsflorida.org.