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Sponsored by the St. Olaf Political Awareness Committee (PAC)
Updated: 5 hours 6 min ago
By Olivia Slack ’15, PAC Political Outreach Coordinator (Abroad in Washington, DC)
I just turned 21 last week. Most people consider this a watershed moment in a person’s life, because it is! It’s when you finally become an adult, after 21 years of dependency on parents and other trusted adults. This entrance into adulthood is often fraught with concern about paying your own taxes, finding a job, and doing other things that “real” adults do. But what if there was one less “real” adult thing you had to do? What if you didn’t have to worry about health insurance, for instance?
Well, under the Affordable Care Act, you don’t (at least not until you’re 26)! The ACA covers young adults under their parents’ insurance until they are 26 years old, offering life-saving insurance to young adults like myself. Since I’m graduating in the next year, health insurance would have been something additional to worry about prior to 2012; now, I can focus on other things that require my attention as a responsible adult.
Beyond the peace of mind that the ACA gives me as an insured young adult until age 26, it is also a positive improvement for the larger community and our nation as a whole in the field of healthcare because health plans have to be better under the ACA. Health insurance companies now can’t deny me when I do turn 26 for a preexisting condition or charge me a higher premium just because I am a woman. There is now a certain standard of minimum coverage that health plans must offer, focused on preventive care to decrease costs down the road. The U.S. spends a larger percentage of its GDP on healthcare than any other developed nation—the ACA will help decrease costs so that money can be spent elsewhere.
Did you know that only 64% of young adults had health coverage in 2010? The 36% that didn’t (one of the highest uninsured rates in the country) mostly couldn’t because of prohibitive costs, losing their parents’ coverage, or suffering from discrimination due to preexisting conditions. This is dangerous for our country’s future and also just plain wrong. In my opinion, healthcare coverage is a right, not a privilege, and by privileging those with the resources to pay high costs for low quality care, inequality in the United States increases. The ACA attempts to reduce inequality by providing opportunities for even young adults to access healthcare.
So, as I look forward to a future of “real” adult things, I know there’s one thing that I won’t have to worry about: healthcare. Thank you ACA!
Olivia Slack ’15 is a Political Science major from Scottsdale, Arizona. She is spending this semester in Washington, DC at American University. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Nick Stumo-Langer ’15, PoliticOle Columnist
Dictators: Assad, Qaddafi, Hussein, Ahmadinejad, Abidine Ben Ali. From this laundry list of horrid human rights atrocity perpetuators you’d think that they all have one thing in common. The Middle East. And from that, one could extrapolate that the geopolitical region of the Middle East provides some sort of support system for extremism and violent dictatorship. Believing this would, however, be greatly disingenuous to the nearly 400 million people living in the Middle East who each has their own understanding of politics, of government, of authority and, of course, of religion.
I am not just basing these conclusions upon journalistic anecdotes or scholarly abstract assertions, I am basing it off of the fact that, for the month of January, I lived, learned and experienced the country of Jordan. The course was called Religion and Politics in Jordan and, through our experiences interviewing activists, political and religious leaders and government officials; we explored the complex relationship that religion holds to politics. This included speaking to an interesting group named the We Are All Jordan Youth Commission, a royally funded and operated organization whose goal is to integrate and provide an outlet for youth’s political engagement. In this 2½ hour long exchange of opinions a number of passionate and divergent viewpoints arose.
“I don’t understand why politics and religion should mix,” stated Fidaa unashamedly. “We have our own history and Islam has provided us with a lot of positive things but the time for those two to be together is over. It seems like all the government and its supporters say is that ‘we don’t want to be like the West, Islam stays as significant.’ But that doesn’t satisfy me, secular government isn’t just a Western phenomenon, we can organically raise it up.” Several hands shot into the air at the end of her statement, Americans and Jordanians, and the next person to speak was Amir.
“We need it. It’s plain and simple. Religion has formed the basis for our society and politics and religion are connected in Islam from the very beginning.” Amir then looked around while his fellow Jordanians were nodding and shaking their head in equal measure and intensity. “There is nothing wrong with having Islam influence politics, it’s the best we can do to try and represent the ideals and positivity of Islam.” This was, by no means, the majority viewpoint, however, and in fact many of the Jordanian youth rejected both the view that Islam should influence policy as well as the fact that policies should be dictated by the United States’ government. Each view is important and emphasizes the fact that one opinion does not dominate in the Middle East.
The arguments went further than this and were even complicated by the simple fact that Christians are involved in this national dialogue as well. This throws a wrench into the arguments of many American talking heads that associate the entire region as representative of “Islamic” values. Christians interacted with religion in much the same way as Muslims did and, for all of our talk of inter-religious dialogue, they have lived it every single day of their lives. This relationship has, obviously, been complicated further by the September 11th attacks and the further disenfranchisement of Christians in the “Muslim, Arab context.”
Delegitimizing as a Convenience
Too often, what those in the West call “the Middle East” is delegitimized politically in one of two ways, both of which are detrimental to the project of cross-cultural understanding, inter-religious dialogue and recognition of collective human experience.
Briefly, the first way those in the Middle East are delegitimized is by classifying those who live there as politically impotent and awash in a sea of ambivalence and cannot (read: will not) do much of anything to change their situation. This view has grown less popular in the wake of the Arab Spring, but has resurfaced somewhat as an unfortunate result of reassertions by oppressive (sometimes internationally supported) regimes such as Qaddafi’s Libya or Assad’s Syria. The second critique centers on a presupposition that those who are involved in politics in the Middle East, and, surely, those who are involved in conjoined religion and politics are extremists with the sole goal of destroying a laundry list of (apparently) agreed upon fundamentalist hatreds. These include those wonderful buzzwords such as their war on: freedom, secularism, women’s rights, capitalism, and Christianity to name a few.
The first critique is more insulting but the second is more incisive and, in fact, dehumanizes those legitimate concerns with each of the aforementioned topics. Homogeneity is, surely and wonderfully, declining in general prominence everywhere, and it should be recognized.
 A reference point utilized here more for ease and communication than for accuracy as what is East and West is based on Western-centric mapping.
 Names have been changed for sake of anonymity, and paraphrasing for ease of comprehension is necessary.
 This article has benefitted from the sage wisdom and advice of Dr. Ibtesam al Atiyat, professor of Sociology at St. Olaf College.
Nick Stumo-Langer ’15 is is a Junior History and Political Science major with a concentration in Middle Eastern Studies. Nick is a regular PoliticOle columnist. You can reach him at email@example.com.
By Bekah Engstrand ’14, Contributing Columnist
I recently saw the documentary “Why We Fight” on the history of conflict in America, mainly focusing on defense policies during the Bush administration. I anticipated gaining a greater understanding of defensive policies from the film. What I didn’t anticipate from the film was finding reason after reason to love President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The film draws on his farewell address to the nation from 1961. I went on to look up the entire speech and I highly recommend it (linked here). It is one of the most progressive and necessary addresses a president has made to our nation, one that remains incredibly relevant today. In fact, it may be more relevant now than ever before.
In his farewell, President Eisenhower conveys his concern for a nation, all too similar to our nation today, ”giddy with prosperity, infatuated with youth and glamour, and aiming increasingly for the easy life.” His address to the country he loved so much and served for over half a century was rooted in his feelings of unease for the future and a desire to direct the narrative of the nation to safer ground.
Eisenhower didn’t mince words when he called the nation out for its “impulse to live only for today” and the resulting detrimental impact on our future generations. It is funny to think of resource management at the time he issued his warning compared with now. What would he say about our current consumption bomb and how today our cows on their way to slaughter are better fed than one billion of our fellow global community members? President Eisenhower calls for balance, in resource use, in the growth of technology, whatever it may be, valuing balance as a way to sustain democracy for the future.
As a Republican president and the only president in the 20th century to be a general, let alone a five star general, the most progressive statements he made were regarding defense. He warned against the corruption that can easily result from the kind of military strength or “military-industrial complex” (a term he coined) that the nation had accumulated at his time, and has continued to do so following his administration. “We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.” Living in this new era of defense where drones are becoming a scary reality, and war is becoming faster-paced, more impersonal, and much more confusing than ever before, his words of caution need to be heard now more than ever before.
Eisenhower’s address can be summed up in the statement he made towards the beginning that “good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.” To borrow a phrase my grandma would often use, and perhaps Eisenhower was fond of too, his fear was that our nation would get too big for its britches. It is almost funny to think of the United States in the state it was in just over fifty years ago when these warnings were first given compared to the state of it now. Yes we have progressed, but the progress has yet to bring us to this place of balance for the sake of this nation and the others we so greatly impact in our global community. This address is one we need to continue to be mindful of. Maybe, and hopefully, in doing this, Eisenhower’s warnings will finally become irrelevant in generations to come and the world described in his final prayer will become reality.
“We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.”
Bekah Engstrand ’14 is a Religion major from Bloomington, Minnesota. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.