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[OPINION] 2020 Will Go Down in History, But Also for the Good

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ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – COVID-19 has killed over 330k Americans so far, making 2020 America’s deadliest year by far. Amid a deadly pandemic, America has dealt with one of the most incompetent leaders and a government unwilling to put the interests of American workers ahead of the interests of large corporations. Temporary restrictions due to COVID-19 have failed to slow down climate change as much as climate scientists were hoping and record amounts of Americans are experiencing food insecurity. 2020 seems like one of the worst years in recent history. It probably is, but to lighten up the holidays, here are some positives that have happened throughout the year.

First, one of the most positive events taking place in 2020 was the broad and diverse coalitions of decentralized protests taking place after the tragic incidents involving the murders of Armaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. Although these protests happened on the backs of police brutality and murder amid heightened tensions between police officers and black communities, they displayed solidarity between diverse groups of people. Protests in 2020 marked a new wave of the civil rights movement, where different races and ethnicities – that have seldom had anything in common throughout history – unite with each other for a common cause. America’s youth is now hungry for justice and they displayed that they would do whatever it takes to end the systems of injustice in the middle of a deadly pandemic.

2020 Black Lives Matter protest

Many people have been afraid to go out since the pandemic began, so they stayed home. Not everyone has been given the choice to stay home during the pandemic though, with millions of workers forced to stay home due to job losses while others lacked shelter. However, while many people are staying home and others are trying to find a place to stay, many in the community are standing in solidarity with families impacted most by COVID-19. The United States has seen a surge in volunteering according to data collected by LinkedIn. LinkedIn users from the United States have added over 110,000 volunteer activities per month to their profiles, as organizations like Crisis Text Line, a 21st century mental health texting service saw a 310% spike in volunteering compared to 2019. A lot of volunteering activities have also been geared toward civil rights activism, climate activism, and political advocacy: NAACP volunteers have organized cleanups in numerous cities such as Chicago, 4Ocean organized community cleanups in coastal areas such as Daytona Beach, and left-leaning organizations and candidates have seen a surge of volunteer activity.

Volunteer event in Ocoee, Florida

2020 has already appeared to be a script taken right out of a Hulu drama, with the unlikely global events that have occurred, it is a year people are eager to escape. As much as the year has been nail-biting, it has not been a nail-biting as the South Korean drama feature Parasite. Directed by South Korean screen writer Bong Joon-ho, Parasite became the first foreign language film to win the Oscar Academy Awards for Best Picture in its 91-year history. This is an important victory because it encourages many hesitant film buffs to consider stepping outside of their comfort zones and watching foreign films with subtitles, helping them gain appreciation for the diverse nature of the film industry. Parasite also provides positive commentary on class struggles and social inequalities. This ranks as one of the top positive events of 2020.

Parasite is the first foreign language film to win the Academy Awards for Best Motion in the awards’ 91-year history

For the past four years, American democracy has been subjected to a great test. The values that America holds has been suffering tremendous injuries from the hard blow of revitalization of the southern strategy and the growth of far-right activism. Although the horror has not ended and the wounds are far from healing, November 7th, 2020 marks the day when Americans finally saw some of the storm clouds clearing as Democrats managed to repair the “blue wall.” Although progress may not have been reached, America is approaching that progress. Amid a deadly pandemic, over 81 million Americans voted against populist racism, xenophobia, and kleptocracy.

President Donald Trump lost his bid for reelection after devastating losses in Georgia and Arizona

Finally, to finish off 2020, millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccinations are being administered for COVID-19. As many Americans are experiencing the death of a loved one due to COVID-19 complications, the vaccinations provide hope where it seems hopeless. There are two more vaccinations currently undergoing phase three of testing: AstraZeneca and Janssen. The listed COVID-19 vaccinations are also expected to effectively fight against the new strand found in the UK.

The general public is expected to get COVID-19 vaccinations by spring or summer of 2021

Overall, 2020 has been a painful year for many families because of COVID-19, corruption, and greed at the top. Many are looking forward to a fresh start to the new year, but others already feel like they have lost everything. Although 2020 has been a stressful year for the nation, during the holidays, it is worth taking a moment to look back at the positive moments of 2020, whether they have been personal or not. As 2021 rounds the corner, it is time to go in with a positive outlook and yearn for positive changes. Happy New Year.

Click here for resources on how to help and how to get help during the pandemic.

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Nathaniel Douglas is a newly elected Supervisor on the Orange Soil & Water Conservation District Board, making history as the youngest to ever be elected to that board, and was the youngest elected official in the state of Florida during the 2020 election. He is a Florida National News political contributor. | info@floridanationalnews.com

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[OPINION] The Pro-Life Party is Now Targeting Children

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George Washington University's Kye Allums competing at the BankUnited Center against the University of Miami Women's Basketball Team on December 28th, 2010. Photo via the Miami Herald.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Despite the current host of urgent issues plaguing America, Florida Republicans (and the national Republican Party) have chosen to focus their efforts on curbing civil liberties for historically underprivileged minority groups.

We’re grappling with the substantial increase in chronic homelessness, Florida being the fourth most uninsured state in the nation, an uptick in racist attacks against AAPI and other marginalized minority groups, and a rise in white supremacy.

And they are getting away with it.

Aside from the excessive voter suppression laws and anti-protest laws that give little regard for the first amendment or fifteenth amendment to the United States Constitution, Florida Republicans waited until the last minute of their retaliatory legislative session ending in the last week of April to strike a blow against school children who identify as trans, particularly trans girls.

One of the fiercest proponents of the bill, Senator Kelli Stargel (R – Polk County), has tried to frame the language of the bill around equality, arguing that girls’ sports should not be open to “male students” and competitors should have “equal” genetic dispositions. Senator Stargel has faced opposition not only from Democrats, but from her own daughter. Laura Stargel, a climate activist, wrote an op-ed reasoning with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to veto the transphobic legislation, at one point stating:

“This legislation relies on birth certificates at the time of the player’s birth to determine the gender-assigned team. The policy is rooted in a false stereotype of girls being unable to compete against boys. It oversimplifies sex-neutral characteristics such as skill, weight, height, strength and/or testosterone level, and the tremendous variation in athleticism within the sexes; variation that has produced incredible female athletes like Serena Williams and Simone Biles.”

The legislation has caused a series of disagreements about whether trans kids should be forced to sit out on sports or a league of their own must be instituted. In fact, neither should be the case. Transgender individuals playing sports has been a non-issue and Republicans are attempting to spark a so-called culture war.

Unfortunately, there is a grey area: One side of this culture war is completely misinformed. According to Dr. Eric Vilain, Molecular Geneticist at George Washington University in conjunction with NPR, people born with XY chromosomes often perform 10% to 12% better than those with XX chromosomes due to testosterone and that is typically presented in a small number of athletic competitions such as 400 meter runs and hand-tossing.

The difference between athletes is even smaller for Florida’s target, which are little kids. Before the age of 13, there are very minimal differences in athletic competition between those born with XY chromosomes and those born with XX chromosomes.

Without even counting the significant changes that transgender individuals go through when taking hormone-blockers – which lowers bone density, making them weaker – there are natural advantages in certain sports that far outweigh the average differences between those with XY chromosomes and XX chromosomes. To deny the significance of training, other differences would have to be made in regards to athletic competitions if legislators want to lock transgender women out or make them separate but equal by promoting a league of their own. Taller individuals have an advantage over shorter individuals when playing basketball or volleyball and shorter individuals have an advantage over taller individuals when ice skating or rock climbing, therefore, it would only be “fair” to exclude certain people from those sports as well. Instead, people appreciate the diversity between athletes.

Furthermore, such blatant legislation will only increase discrimination against transgender individuals, especially in women’s sports where many women are already targeted for the way they look or the way their body is built.

Florida is one of the fastest growing states in the country, and it is truly unfortunate to see Florida Republicans taking significant steps to curb civil liberties and rights, especially now targeting those they frequently toss into speeches about protecting. The Republican Party is no longer the conservative party of the past built on fiscal responsibility or so-called family values–they are a reactionary party grounded on conspiracy theories and social discrimination.

I urge readers to take the NCAA’s word on this: transgender individuals in sports is a non-issue. Stand with those who are transgender and defend every child’s right to play the sport that they love while learning how to work with a team and improve themselves physically and mentally.

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Orange Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Nate Douglas is a Florida National News contributor. He was the youngest person elected to public office in the state of Florida during the 2020 election is currently Vice Chair on the Orange Soil & Water Conservation District board. | info@floridanationalnews.com

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[OPINION] Destroy Gerrymandering Before it Destroys Democracy

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ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – In 2010, more than 60% of Florida voters opted for an amendment that would outlaw gerrymandering. This was ten years ago, yet the amendment is still relevant today. In the United States, only six states have non-partisan commissions to redraw legislative and congressional districts, apart from those six states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, and Washington – districts are redrawn by state lawmakers (with exception of New Jersey, which has a more complex process).

Partisan redrawing presents an issue for voters, especially Asian, Latino, and black voters. One of the most famous examples of this disenfranchisement is Florida’s 5th congressional district after the 2010 census. Prior to the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to take it upon themselves to fairly redraw districts, Florida lawmakers drew a district that stretched from Jacksonville to Orlando, encompassing primarily diverse urban areas.

Gerrymandering is worrying activists as well, particularly in southern states like Georgia, where there were increases in the black turnout.

GOP operatives have also made their intentions to gerrymander districts clear, with states like Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia set as the primary targets. This will be a problem for Americans because partisan gridlock in government does not help deliver promises, it only benefits Wall Street and those at the top.

The conservative-leaning United States Supreme Court ruled less than two years ago that federal courts do not have the authority to block gerrymandering. This Supreme Court vote was gross negligence that had little regard for the racial discrimination and voter suppression that gerrymandering presented for American voters.

Although the Supreme Court neglected its duties to protect American voters, there are solutions that could be considered to bring gerrymandering to a halt.

States should be responsible enough to put independent commissions in charge of the redistricting process. Independent commissions ensure that voters are picking their representatives in a fair manner instead of the system that many states have, where representatives are picking their voters. Redistricting commissions should be headed by citizens as opposed to politicians.

Furthermore, gerrymandering hurts voters in communities of color most, by ensuring that their representation is capped to only a few representatives. Independent commissions must make it a priority to get communities of color equitable and fair representation in the redistricting process, ensuring that their votes are no longer drowned out.

Gerrymandering is a corrupt process that prohibits citizens from getting equal and fair representation, oftentimes subjecting citizens to minority rule. Gerrymandering has usually been a tool used to keep members of congress in power, but states like Pennsylvania are now trying to extend the minority rule to judicial representation as well. This effort was first brought about during Republicans efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, seeing how unrealistic that was, state Republicans put their energy into retaking power of the legislative and judicial branches.

During the 2022 redistricting process, gerrymandering may help Republicans secure the seats of the representatives who voted in favor of overturning the election results after the Capitol riots on January 6th. Gerrymandering will not only have an adverse impact of communities of color, it will also lead to increased corruption. United States Representatives who undermine the democracy of the United States, such as Marjory Taylor Greene of Georgia will not be held accountable because as long as their party is able to hang on to state legislatures (through the process of gerrymandering), they will be able to gerrymander their way to holding on to those seats.

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Supervisor Nathaniel Douglas is the youngest ever elected to the Orange Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors in Orange County, Florida, and the youngest elected to public office during the 2020 election. He is a contributing political opinion writer for Florida National News. | info@floridanationalnews.com

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[OPINION] Joe Biden: An Extraordinarily Normal Inauguration

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President Joe Biden takes the Oath of Office on January 20th, 2021. Photo: Sgt. Charlotte Carulli.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Under the circumstances, I think it’s safe to say that everyone expected Joe Biden’s inauguration to be extraordinary. And in a very real way, it was…by being anything but. From the moment the guests arrived at the Capitol to the one where the 46th President took his seat in the Oval Office, I was surprised by how absolutely… normal everything felt.

Nothing leading up to that day could be considered normal by any definition of the word. The fact that Biden himself would have been the Democratic contender. The absurdity of that first debate. The cries of fraud on Election Day. The horrifying assault on Congress on January 6th, just a week before. And how can we forget all that happened while a pandemic erased so much of what we considered a normal life?

I watched the ceremony with something akin to envy. Where I come from, there hasn’t been an actual inauguration in over twenty years. While democracy has been assaulted here in the States in a very real sense, in Venezuela the word itself has lost all meaning. I did not welcome, in fact, the feeling of familiarity that came over me on the 6th (not the first time I’d felt it in the past four years, by the way). It was one of the reasons why I was still nervous, even scared, two weeks later. If things like this could happen in one of the oldest democracies in the world, how could we, as a nation, recover?

Please don’t get me wrong. I believe the Inauguration was filled with many out-of-the-norm details. Let’s start with the fact that a woman of color and Asian descent took oath as vice president. Let’s single out a breathtaking poetic performance that promised, “we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.” While we’re at it, let’s see how many women were front and center, what a diversity of faces and races graced the audience. We even had a moment that was charmingly meme-worthy.

Did I feel hope, though? I’m sad to say, I didn’t. Not much. Biden takes office in a country sliced in half. He will have to work with people who question his legitimacy. He has to convince citizens (especially many of my countrypeople) that think he is part of a plot to destroy us all that he is, in fact, there to unite, to repair. He faces a world where America’s spot at the table is not as close to the head as it was. And he faces a pandemic.

But Biden knows this. And the first thing he grabbed was a pen, to sign twenty-three executive orders to start repairing damages. His first hour in the office was spent working. That told me, “I’m not here to mess around.”

Though the uneventful-yet-event-filled inauguration didn’t bring me the hope I longed for, it did bring me something that perhaps was more needed. It brought me peace.

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Juan Carlos Rodriguez is an entertainment and politics writer for Florida National News. | info@floridanationalnews.com

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