Archive for the ‘Public Relations’ Category

What if there was no Labor Day?

Posted: September 5, 2016 in Public Relations

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Our nation once again gathers around the table to recognize the federal holiday of Labor Day, the day that was made possible by the hard work and achievements by American workers for the centuries that our country has existed. Specifically, it has been founded to remember the sacrifices made during the period known as the Labor Movement (mid to late 1800s, and early 1900s), in which workers called labor strikes against corporate management for grossly unfair labor practices. It was through these major events that Americans recognized the power and influence of the worker in the US economy.

Looking outwards in today’s times, this kind of spirit embodied by Labor Day of the past has now changed to anything but such.  Labor Day is now known as the “end of summer” and just a day off before school starts.  The only folks who get Labor Day off anymore are government officials and white collared, corporate members – not the laborers who it is supposed to recognize. Retail outlets take advantage of the holiday to mark down prices by 50% in hopes that the people who have the day off will give them even more profits. Politicians and public officials will wish everyone a “Happy Labor Day” on twitter while they continue to press for legislation that will end labor unions and prevent living wages.  Is Labor Day really about recognizing labor anymore?

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What most people do not realize is that many of the little things that you know about your regular work week were made possible by labor unions, recognized under Labor Day. You think that all the days off and employee benefits were given to you out of the kindness of your manager?  Think again.  If the labor unions were eliminated and thus Labor Day did not exist, here are the things you would lose:

1. Weekends

If it weren’t for labor unions, businesses could legally make you work every single day with no weekend. Sure, your manager might allow you to go to church, but you’d have to go right back to work afterwards. Fortunately, most nations adopted a 6-day work week in order to recognize the day of religious activities (Sundays) as a day of rest. Thanks to the efforts of the Jewish workers of a New England Cotton Mill, the Sabbath (Saturday) became an additional day of religious activity that eventually became adopted as a day off for all workers.

2. Workday limits and compensatory time/overtime

Imagine being forced to work 12-hour days at whatever wage the manager says, with no overtime or bonuses for additional hours worked. That’s what you would be experiencing without Labor Day. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), introduced in 1938 single-handedly became one of the most important documents of legislation that resulted from the Labor Movement.  This bill introduced the 40-hour work week, minimum wage, as well as compensatory and time-and-a-half (aka overtime) wages for labor produced over the 40-hour time period. The bill was introduced by Senator Hugo Black, a man who experienced some hard lessons during his political career that would eventually shape him into a stark advocate for civil rights and labor relations. His original proposed 30-hour work week was modified to become a 40-hour work week for the final Act, but gave workers legal protection to enjoy limits on the work week, as well as be compensated for additional time worked.

3. Safety Standards

If Labor Day did not exist and there were no labor unions, I as the manager could make you work in any conditions necessary to get the job done. There would be no requirement for me to provide you with safety equipment or repair faulty machinery known to cause accidents, and if you developed a long-term medical condition due to chemical exposure during your time as a worker, I would not be held liable for your own problems. This kind of attitude has fortunately been recognized as immoral and illegal thanks to the reasoning of laborers around the world. A series of high profile accidents and chronic medical conditions developed by mineworkers in England during the mid-19th Century became a benchmark for the movement towards safe working conditions, a movement that continued into the 20th century. Similar work condition concerns in the steel industry and the meat packing industry (immortalized in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle) also led to labor strikes for safer work places.  Today, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) exists to guarantee these rights to a safe workplace for all laborers.

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4. Child Labor Restrictions

Child labor is something that is an unthinkable activity to most decent humans, but it is still one that exists in many corners of the world. Fortunately, also under the FLSA a clause exists to restrict the legal limits of child labor, recognizing that children under a certain age cannot safely perform necessary labor tasks under conditions usually endured by adults.  These restrictions include specific types of labor that children under certain age groups cannot perform, as well as limitations on hours that can be worked.  Child labor is still a major issue all over the world, and children are often slaves at the hands of wealthy overlords producing cheap goods in underground sweatshops. It is because of this reality that the International Labour Organization (ILO) still exists to end child labor around the world.

5. Health Insurance, Retirement Plans and other benefits

Those little things that you enjoy such as your employer paying for your doctor’s visits, paid sick days and vacation days, 401(K)s and options to invest in the company’s profits are all benefits brought to you by the blood, sweat and tears of labor unions. In the writings of Karl Marx and Max Weber, an economy is nothing without the labor of its workers.  Thus the proletariat or the management must constantly reinvest its earnings into the health and welfare of its workers in order to improve the quality of its products and services. Such an idea might be considered liberal, socialist or communist in today’s society, but it is still in line with multiple philosophies including the Protestant Work Ethic. All in all, the principle of investing in your people equals better work produced and better products and services given to the American people.  Failure to treat your laborers like human capital investments will result in a failed business.

6. Equal Employment Opportunity

The idea that a laborer is a laborer, regardless of age, gender, race, color, national origin, or sexual orientation has become a strong foundation of the modern labor movement, although some progress must still be made in certain areas. Many high profile statutes such as the FLSA, The Americans with Disabilities Act, the Equal Pay Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act have made it possible for Americans of all walks of life to work in the same environments and achieve the same goals and opportunities as anyone else. The National War Labor Board took one of the boldest stances during WWII with its elimination of “white laborers” and “colored laborers” labels and referring to all workers as “laborers,” thus guaranteeing them equal pay and benefits under law.  There is still much work to be done, and the struggle continues today in an ever-shifting world economy.

 

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Do you remember the first time you watched Star Wars? I’m sure that after watching the light saber duels, the stormtrooper battles and the X-Wing fighter dog fights, you probably wished that you were Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia or Chewbacca fighting the evil Galactic Empire.  You probably grew up to develop a vision that America was a lot like the Rebel Alliance, with its quest for defeating the “dark side” and bringing freedom to the universe. We had the most diverse beings and the most powerful sense of spirituality. The force was with us all.

However, when I watched the latest Star Wars movie, the story made me think twice about my idea of the Alliance and the Force. The thought that an entire star system of beings would want to resurrect something as evil as the Empire and build the “First Order” was intriguing. And the idea that they would build a new Death Star the size of a planet to completely annihilate the Republic in a purely emotionless strike gave me some emotion of my own. How would anyone pledge their loyalties to an ideology that committed genocide across the galaxy?

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Taking a deeper, more critical look into the direction in which our country is moving, the vision of the Rebel Alliance is not as clear as it used to be.  As we move further and further through time and certain people become more and more powerful, it is my belief that we are beginning to resemble more characteristics of the entity we focused so hard not to be: the Empire. No, we are not at the extremity of the Emperor or a starfleet just yet, Snoke or the First Order, but certain major trends indicate that such a reality is not far away. There are three areas that are currently becoming dominant in our society that are contributing to this destiny.

The Embracement of Hate

The Jedi taught us not to give into our hate. They taught us not to be swayed by the dark side and bring order to the galaxy.  However, in the current state of affairs the expressions of anger and hate are looked at with honor and pride by Americans everywhere.  From angry political rhetoric to extreme acts of civil disobedience, the act of dominating and infuriating people who disagree with an ideology is applauded and waved through the air like the star spangled banner. Good an honorable deeds are looked at as weakness, while hateful acts are the fuel that gives people strength. The Emperor knew this, as he encouraged Anakin and Luke to give into their hate, for it made them powerful. Americans are accepting this as a way to become powerful.

The Proliferation of Arms

There is nowhere in the world where it is easier to obtain arms than in America. Background checks, legislation, training…nothing will stop a motivated individual from getting their hands on weapons. Interest groups have a grip on Washington to ensure these restrictions are kept at a minimum.  And I’m not just talking about guns. Guns are the least of my worries, because pretty soon America will get bored of the power struggle over guns.  They will want something more.  Artillery systems, multiple launch rocket systems, gunships, laser-guided bombs…is it too far of a stretch that Americans will want laser guns?  Ones that are powerful enough to destroy a planet?  The motivation to obtain more and more arms is what an Empire needs to build its Army.  Put enough weapons in the hands of citizens and build their ideology towards the growth of a supreme power, and you have an Imperial Force that is to be reckoned with.

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Dependence on Technology

We depend on technology more than ever before. Communication, information, entertainment. Our entire lives are hooked into technological devices in one way or another. Very similar is the Star Wars universe, where droids are more than just phones – they are walking/rolling beings that interact with humans. And in the case of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, technology was what enabled them to reconstruct themselves. Technology will without a doubt increase its influence over human civilization, which might even lead to advancements in space travel, allowing humans to travel more freely into space, and subsequently dominate it. An Imperial Starfleet is not far fetched. But it was in that moment that Luke saw the wiring and hydraulics of his father’s robotic hand that he realized that he had to turn away from the Dark Side…

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The Empire thrives on rage and domination, giving it its power to rule the galaxy. My concern is that America, on multiple corners has accepted this ideology as the only way. Is there a way to reverse the tide?  I don’t think it will be easy.  After Darth Vader betrayed the Jedi, he essentially reached a point of no return in which he realized that he alone could not turn against the emperor but instead acquiesced to the Dark Side.  In my opinion, much of America has reached that point of no return, where to speak out against the majority will mean annihilation.  But it doesn’t mean that it is impossible.  It will just take an intervention with enough Force to bring good to the nation once again.

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The current generation of veterans who are leaving the service and reentering civilian society are undoubtedly a “scene.” Like the Brit punk scene and the skinhead reggae scene before it, the veterans are now forming cliques based on common interest and are repping their hoods across America. And like most scenes, these common interest groups usually become rivals amongst each other. Here are the most prominent groups that currently saturate the veteran scene:

The Legacy Legion

This is the most traditional group of veterans among the pack.  They hold memberships in long-renowned Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) such as The American Legion, The Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. They stand for veterans rights on may occasions, often taking a conservative approach towards peaceful assembly and lobbying by gathering on the Capitol steps.  While they have made great strides in some areas, they are often criticized by the current generation of veterans as being “behind the times” and often too indulgent in the old ways of drinking with the old boys clubs.  Innovative thinkers often have a hard time breaking into these camps, and female veterans are often placed in the Women’s Auxillary with the spouses, even though they are actually veterans.  And there is corruption among a select few, with some Vietnam era veterans spending donation money on personal rent payments. Those who continue to try to keep the legacy intact often become forgotten by time and are in danger of dying out, just the same way that the grunge scene did in ’98.

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The Rockstars

This clique is a diverse one, full of independent entrepreneurs, actors, musicians and politicians. They often have a cult following among them who wears velcro hats with IR flags, with social media being much of their method of engaging with the world.  Veterans clothing and arts are seen far and wide thanks to this group, which include organizations such as RangerUp, Nine Line Apparel, Veterans in Film and Television, and Sword and Plough. One of the most notorious of the veteran rockstars is the tongue-in-cheek humored Mat Best, the former Army Ranger turned DIY actor/director and CEO of Article 15 Clothing. The rockstars are by no means perfect.  They have their tendencies to show their aggressive, alpha stereotype by sporting overly proud apparel proclaiming their veteran-ness and sometimes end up saying things that should just be left unsaid.  At times they become the target of other less-successful veterans who accuse them of “selling out,” just like Blink 182 and Green Day.

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The Freedom Fighters

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Even more aggressive than the Rockstars are the often contested collection of freedom fighters.  Depending on who you talk to and what side of the political spectrum they are on, they will tell you that in one way or another your freedom is under attack by the corrupt system of corporate-owned politicians in Washington.  They will march in the streets of New York and at Walmart protesting for veterans rights to benefits, waging war on the Islamic State, or defending everyone’s entitlement to bear arms.  They will even tell average joes that they [veterans] are in the best position to talk about freedom because they spent their “whole lives” defending it and that the average joe who works at McDonalds is worthless. Despite their passion to stand up to the “Man,” these veterans are for the most part a confused bunch, who often become divided while trying to get everyone united. When asked to describe the issues they are protesting against in detail, they often need to turn to Google on the spot to do their research. Their emotions degenerate into violence, which leads to jail time. Sounds a lot like the crust/street/hardcore punk scene to me, all of which eventually ended up dying after the kids graduated from college.

The Third World Order

A smaller, more daring clique among the crowd includes a few warriors taking their military tactical skills into post-military life and looking to change the world. Unlike most other veterans who just talk about it on Youtube, these veterans take dangerous steps into the worst parts of the world in order to liberate indigenous populations and bring order to war-torn communities. Although some Americans might gawk at them as being crazy, the work that these veterans are doing is very bold in many aspects. Kinessa Johnson has been leading an armed rebellion against animal poachers in Africa for a few years now.  And Peter Kassig took a very brave journey into an expedition to bring peace to the Middle East, converting to Islam and building communities among Muslim populations. Tragically, it cost him his life at the hands of Daesh. No matter what the cost, these veterans continue their oath towards bringing peace to America and the Earth. Unfortunately, very few normal people have the same kind of courage these veterans have, which is the same reason why the xCourageCrewx Brotherhood is such a small community.

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The Transformers

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A newer group that has emerged from the shadows in recent years, these veterans are breaking boundaries of what we as society know as the norm. They may have lived their lives in a traditional way in the former, but they are now stepping out and showing their true colors among a majority who must learn to accept them. Of all the veteran cliques in the scene, they perhaps face the most hostility from within the veteran community, let alone society as a whole given that “transition” is an uncomfortable subject for so many normal people. However, a deeper look into the service records of these veterans reveals that many of them served honorably, some of which came from the Special Operations Forces community, and many continue to serve. They didn’t transition to make a statement or rebel against society; they made the transition because that’s who they really were inside, and by fully becoming themselves they could serve their country with greater integrity. Like Laura Jane Grace (formerly Thomas James Gabel) of Against Me! put it, “The cliché is that you’re a woman trapped in a man’s body, but it’s not that simple. It’s a feeling of detachment from your body and from yourself. And it’s shitty, man.”

So what’s the point?

If you’ve made it all the way down to this paragraph, you are probably wondering why I am calling out all of these different cliques and why I am making references to all of these obscure punk scene personalities. My point with this is that yes, today’s veterans are all unique and have their differences, some of which are more drastic than others.  However, it doesn’t mean that all veterans need to stay among only one group that looks, talks and acts all the same way and doesn’t associate with other veterans not the same as them. That’s how the punk scene ended up, and let’s face it: the punk scene is dead. We as veterans, on the other hand, don’t have to let our scene die the same way over petty differences. Instead of criticizing those who still take part in VSOs, why not find ways to inject new characteristics into those organizations, kind of like how VFW Post 1 in Denver is leading the way in innovative things for veterans to do?  How about invite the protestors to a fundraiser dinner where they can talk intelligently about politics while giving proceeds to homeless veterans who could actually benefit from it?  What about using your skills in the arts to make a documentary about LGBTQ veterans for the world to see, and invite former members of the SOF community to be in it?  After all, hanging out with a bunch of guys who all wear the same ballcaps all the time gets a little boring after a while. There are so many ways we can accept our differences and engage in healthy debate and fellowship so that the veteran scene doesn’t go away.  We all have the same values and share a common thread of service to our nation. Now more than ever, we need to bring that same spirit to the larger American community.

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Since long before the Declaration of Independence, the National Guard of the United States has played a significant role in defense of the American people at the state and local levels. The earliest militia minutemen conducted day and night skirmishes to defend townspeople of the early colonies, paving the way for the training and formation of the First Continental Army prepared to take on British forces. Since then, National Guard troops have been a force multiplier for the Federal armed forces in nearly every conflict. Additionally, the Guard has provided civil and humanitarian aid in the midst of natural disasters in the continental United States and other territories.  And in times of irrational expressions of anger in the streets of American cities, Guardsmen have been there to keep the peace and protect the rights of American people.

The idea of National Guardsmen being directly involved in the resolution of civil unrest is a sensitive subject, given that US troops are put directly in the line of sight of Americans who may or may not obey the law. In certain eras, the Guard has been seen as a sometimes lethal enforcer of martial law, such as during the Colorado miner strikes of the early 1900s.  Guardsmen were considered the last resort in resolving labor disputes, which tragically ended in the massacre of two dozen civilians. 50 years later, the Guard answered a new call to duty during the Civil Rights movement in the southern United States. The mission of the Guard was to prevent civil and police brutality, and to protect the rights of Americans taking part in peaceful expressions of speech and assembly. Thus the Guard became an ally for the American people to exercise such Constitutional rights.

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The role of the Guard changed once again following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. They once again took on a law enforcement role, restoring peace in major cities struck by riots and rage. This kind of role continued for the Guard as the Vietnam War continued through the late 1960s and early 1970s, as Guardsmen were emplaced to protect the establishment of government from a frustrated American public. 20 years later, National Guardsmen once again took to protect the streets, but were instead welcomed by citizens looking to restore peace in Los Angeles following the Rodney King riots.

Today, the Guard has retained its role in protecting citizens during times of civil unrest, no matter how violent things might become. The rebuilding of New Orleans, LA following Hurricane Katrina saw one of the biggest domestic activations of the National Guard since the 9/11 attacks. The Occupy Movement saw much mass protest sweep the nation in 2011, but very little National Guard response was seen as it was considered to resemble too closely to martial law.  However, the peaceful-turned-violent demonstrations witnessed in Ferguson, MO and the Baltimore, MD saw the necessity for activating of the Guard to enforce law and order. In all cases, the restoration of peace to these parts of the United States could arguably be attributed to the work of the Guard.

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So why the Guard? The answer is simple: the American people respect the troops. We live in a time now when service members and veterans are respected by American citizens everywhere. People have a sense of pride when viewing troops in uniform, as these troops represent all the values that everyday people aspire America to be.  Gone are the days of protest and disrespect towards the troops witnessed during the Vietnam War; the troops now hold a status that commands respect among American citizens, and to disrespect a troop is viewed the same as treason against one’s country. When total chaos erupts in the streets of America, the only one who can physically and fundamentally restore order is an American Soldier.

Now an even bigger question: will the National Guard see more activations in response to civil unrest in American cities? Given the history of the Guard’s role in restoring the peace and comparing it to the recent events in the country, and the answer is most surely yes. Why? Looking at the biggest events in the past century, all of them, including Hurricane Katrina, have involved some form of racial tension. The recent events involving the shootings of African Americans and the riots thereafter, to the debates over the symbolism of the Confederate Flag and the arson of African American churches, it is clear that racial tension is indeed alive and breathing in the United States and will continue to burn in the hearts of Americans for years to come. It appears that our nation is coming to a culminating point in the struggle for civil rights, where opinions that were kept silent for a long time are now in the open. And it is not limited simply to black and white; the development of the Islamic State has brought new voices in racism and ethnic cleansing that threaten the people of the United States.

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Whether such violence as that witnessed during Baltimore will be seen in other American cities is unknown, but what is known is that the National Guard will most definitely need to be prepared to intervene. In conducting such duties, Guardsmen must remain impartial and must remember their oath of swearing to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Their purpose is to protect the rights of citizens, no matter whether they agree with their points of view or not, and prevent anyone from infringing upon those rights. It will not be easy for Guardsmen to point their weapons against their own American brothers and sisters who disregard the rights of others, but ultimately in the current day and age, it is the American Soldier who stands the best chance of restoring order.

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Every year that our nation observes Martin Luther King, Jr., I take a few moments to look back at history and how it has affected both my life and the society in which I live. I look at all the changes brought on by society, small groups of people and individuals, and even to this day MLK still stands out as one of the most courageous and accomplished social movement figures in history. In the 21st Century as the millennial generation attempts to take the helm in continuing social change (and there is still much to be done), social movement groups have sprung up around the world, embracing social media, technology, and sometimes violent tactics. However, it is my opinion that the millennial generation is not living up to its potential in changing society.  They have become too compromised by fear and conformity to the norm to do some of the things that their ancestors did in the Civil Rights Movement. While it seems that the millennial generation has hit a standstill when it comes to social change, millennials of all groups can still learn from some of MLK’s tactics and principles to positively affect change in society. Even with the shortcuts of smartphones and social media, these concepts that MLK embraced have the power to make modern methods even more powerful.

Risk is Necessary

MLK took risks, sometimes dangerous ones, in order to communicate and teach the world about equality and the civil rights movement. He spoke things that he believed firmly in, even if a majority of people did not agree with him. His words provoked insults and even death threats from people around the country, while gaining the support from other people who believed in his struggle. He stood bravely in the face of hostility, risking his life time and time again.  As a result of his courage, he was jailed 20 times and had his house bombed. Yet, at the same time he earned recognition from world leaders and created awareness for equality. These kinds of risks are rarely taken by millennials in modern social movements due to the fear that the will be unemployable, socially rejected or chastised across the internet. But above all, it is fear itself that is preventing millennials from breaking ground in society. If the current generation never takes risks, they won’t know what they won’t know.

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Think outside the box

Throughout the civil rights movement, MLK led a number of demonstrations using tactics that very few others before him had ever tried or dared to do. The bus boycotts in Montgomery, the sit-ins at whites only restaurants, breaking laws that were unconstitutional – all of these tactics were actively utilized by MLK and his network of civil rights supporters to get people’s attention and to fundamentally demonstrate the injustice and unconstitutionality of the segregated society so many people experienced in the South. These same tactics can be employed on a global scale by the millennial generation. With the tools of Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and other social media networks, millennials can broadcast their demonstrations and gain attention and support worldwide.

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Nonviolence wins over violence

Too often in this day and age, young people resort to violence as a just reaction to injustice in this world. The demonstrations by Occupy and other modern civil rights groups have often turned violent tactics that not only make themselves look ignorant but also destroy existing communities. MLK did not do this – his tactics and strategies embraced nonviolence as a fundamental quality to truly create change. Some of his most effective non-violent methods were his public speeches.  Methods of civil disobedience serve to benefit social movement groups in a number of ways. Besides gaining initial attention, they demonstrate the group as intelligent and respectable, as well as keep the group protected under law. Millennials can embrace this same concept by exercising patience and channeling anger or rage into something constructive. Rather than set fire to cars and buildings, attempt to hold a social forum or march alongside police and authority figures who support your cause. The fruits of these methods could result in partnership on multiple fronts.

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Use your enemy’s words against him

MLK faced opposition without a doubt. He was the target of some of the most hateful speech ever spoken by mankind. However, MLK didn’t let such words stop him in his path to equality. Rather, he knew how to use the words of his enemies as tools to strengthen the civil rights movement and bring discredit upon the opposition. He exercised this very well in bringing down Bull Connor, the Commissioner of Public Safety in Birmingham, Alabama. Connor stood firmly against the civil rights movement, aggressively supporting segregation and vowing to destroy any civil disobedience in Alabama. Instead of attacking Connor, MLK used such speech to publicize the hostility that people in the South faced in the name of public office. He exploited not only Connor’s words but the actions of police for the nation to see, including John F. Kennedy. The result was a call for nationwide support to end segregation in Alabama and the South, as well as the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Millennials can surely do the same in modern times. Just think of all the public figures that speak openly against any social issues. Millennials have YouTube accounts; they can broadcast words and actions across the electromagnetic spectrum for the world to see.

All faith is fundamentally the same

MLK was deeply religious and he kept his faith as a major influence in his struggle for civil rights. Although he was a Christian, he read the teaching of Ghandi and leaders of other religions to understand their stories of struggle towards making the world a better place. He even traveled to India to witness Ghandi’s civil rights work firsthand. Through his studies, MLK learned that not did these religions teach nonviolence as a means of change, but also that the general idea of faith and believing in the human race is key to bringing about equality. In the 21st Century, society has taken to an idea that religion should be completely separated from all public aspects of life. Religion has been rejected by millennials in general, either due to political correctness or the idea that major churches are corrupt. However, what millennials must remember is that faith exists beyond religion. Faith encompasses the emotions and feelings of people that logic and rationality cannot explain. Faith is something that must be reached within people on a higher level than facts and numbers. Faith and spirituality, when channeled the right way, have the power to move mountains. If millennials can grasp how faith still guides so many people, they can embrace it the same way that MLK once did.

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The coverage of the Michael Brown killing and the riots and uproar resulting from it have dominated the channels of mainstream news and social media. Like the Watts riots and the Rodney King riots before it, the reactions of the community of Ferguson, Missouri have driven people to take to the streets and have opened up a mass debate over issues that continue to exist in our society, ranging from police brutality, representation, racism, and civil rights. One of the most alarming issues that has resulted from these reactions is the police response against members of the community. They have responded with more than just walls of cops in riot gear; the local police have brought armored vehicles, gas masks, semi-automatic carbines, ballistic vests, MARPAT uniforms, and night vision devices to “defend” against the protesters.

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Is it just me, or does this sound like a warzone rather than an American neighborhood? Being a veteran who has served in Afghanistan, I was equipped with all of these items as I rode in convoys from base to base and was fired upon with AK-47s and RPGs. For a threat like that, I would need that equipment to take the fight to the enemy. However, in the case of Ferguson we are referring to a community made up of American citizens. While the 2nd Amendment gives the people of Ferguson the right to bear arms, it is entirely possible that a few citizens could pose a threat with rifles or handguns against the police, but what realistically warrants the use of an armored vehicle and a camouflaged rifle platoon to restore the peace? By the way, the uniforms that many of these policemen are wearing are the exact same uniforms worn by Soldiers and Marines in combat zones.

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I have a some ethical issues with the actions of the police in this case. First of all, it has created a feeling of fear rather than safety. I grew up learning about police through hearing mottos such as “to care and protect” and “protect and serve.” A police officer was someone who was recognized as an authority figure for whom to call for help. When a policeman is dressed as a soldier, the environment changes from one of safety to hostility. The place you called home now becomes a battlefield, patrolled by infantrymen whose mission is to kill the enemy threat. In the case of the Ferguson Police Department, the police did not hesitate to fire their weapons at large crowds of civilians, many of whom were simply expressing their first amendment rights to freedom of speech.

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Secondly, this is not the first time that police departments in the United States have reacted using military gear within the community. The Boston Marathon bombing and the Colorado Foreclosure protests are only two recent examples of how police have arrived on scene in camo, ballistic vests and semi-automatic rifles to restore the peace. The equipping of law enforcement with military gear has been happening for the past three decades as a response to drug trafficking and increased threats of terrorism in the US… at least that’s what the official word is. And while the Armed Forces continues to face dwindling budgets and stunning of new equipment development, local police have weapons and uniforms that the active duty military doesn’t even get to touch.

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I truly believe that the militarized police presence during these recent events is a sign of a developing police state in America. It is more than just a deterrence for simple vandalism; it amplifies feelings of oppression and eradication. It is unclear whether this police state is being imposed at the state or federal level, or whether the goal of this police state would be to eliminate the “troublemakers” or attain full obedience of the American people, but the images presented through the media clearly display a militarized force taking action against civilians. If a volatile terrorist threat was that severe in America that responders would need camo and other military gear, then why not use the National Guard or the active duty military to deliver urgent action against it? It seems that more and more, entities like the National Guard are useless and simply unnecessary if the state is going to deploy heavily armed cops (who by the way lack the same kind of tactical training). As the Pentagon continues to give police more and more military gear for free, the police will become more like tax-funded killers than civilized upholders of the law, something that no police officer should ever become. It’s only a question now of who will be targeted next.

 

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In observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, I want to acknowledge the impact of King’s work through nonviolent means.  King did not drop bombs or fire bullets, nor did he advocate others who did such things.  Instead, he influenced the world through the power of his words that spoke against the inequality in the world.  The actions he took did not include nor require violence, and people indeed learned valuable lessons from these actions that would help to change society.  One of the most essential components to King’s work was his communication through the media.  King knew how to communicate powerful messages that gained attention of the people who needed to hear them.  And the entire world heard what he had to say, and in time these messages would help to change the world.

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Even in the face of great hostility, King learned how to channel the anger and opposition of those who sought to bring him down and transform it into a force of change.  One of the most impressive campaigns that King helped to coordinate as part of the Civil Rights Movement was in Birmingham, Alabama.  Like many other towns in the South during this era, Birmingham was known for its great hostility towards the Civil Rights Movement, notably proclaimed by the city’s public safety commissioner, Bull Connor.  Connor did not fear to make his point of view very vocal and would stop at nothing to ensure the Civil Rights Movement was suppressed by the most violent means.  Rather than attack the raging Bull, King found a way to amplify these comments and actions through local media, capturing every hateful remark from Connor and every incident of violence towards Negros in Birmingham.  The images captured through media made their way to national television and gained the attention of President John F. Kennedy, who then took action to stop such violence in the southern States.

With this, King formed an effective way to take the opposing side’s own words and proclaim then to the world in order to gain support for the Civil Rights Movement.  People became sympathetic towards those protesting for equality, and ironically with his hateful speech Bull Connor essentially sealed his fate.  Bull Connor arguably became just as influential to the civil rights movement as Martin Luther King, Jr. was, something Connor swore his soul against.  King did all of this through effective images and communication through the media, and the same can be done today.  With the tools we have these days, such a phenomenon could be achieved at an even more rapid rate.  It’s all about finding the right target and communicating the right messages. The next revolutions awaits…