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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

Opinions

[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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Opinions

[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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2020 Election

[OPINION] Yes, American Democracy is at Risk

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Smoke grenade goes off at insurrection led by supporters of President Trump, Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021. Photo by Eric Lee/Bloomberg.

ORLANDO, Fla. – On January 6, 2021, the United States witnessed more history in the making. As United States representatives and senators went to work to confirm the electoral college votes for the duly elected President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, thousands of people showed up to persuade congress to overturn the election results. All of this overshadowed the historic victories of United States Senators-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia.

To be clear, this was not a protest, this was an insurrection put together with leaders of QAnon and white supremacist organizations such as the Proud Boys at the forefront. These were terrorists. After the insurrection died down, 66% of Republican House members voted to overturn the election results and eight Republican Senators – including Rick Scott of Florida – voted to overturn the election results. 147 Congressmen effectively voted in favor of terrorists. The worst part of this insurrection is that it was led by a powerful leader: President Donald J. Trump.

2020 broke many records, including the Black Lives Matter protests. Between 15 and 26 million protestors gathered, possibly becoming the largest protest in the history of the United States. Of the tens of thousands of BLM demonstrations that took place, 93% of them were entirely peaceful, meaning not one brick was thrown. However, the peaceful nature of BLM protestors did not stop law enforcement from using unnecessary force against them, it was common to see the use of rubber bullets and tear gas. In fact, President Trump condemned BLM protestors numerous times and even had peaceful protestors tear-gassed just so he could get a photo-op in front of St. John’s Church around Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C.

When far-right Trump supporters with confederate flags and Trump flags barreled into the United States Capitol breaking glass, assaulting officers, calling black officers racist slurs, erecting nooses, and breaking into congressional office buildings, the presence of officers were low. There was a large contrast between the officer response to peaceful BLM protests and the violent insurrection that got blood in the halls of the nations’ capitol. Instead of seeing violent arrests or racial profiling that occurs during BLM protests, people saw officers helping terrorists and members of guerilla movements walk down the stairs of the Capitol building and even take selfies with them.

Don’t be mistaken. This discrepancy between the response of law enforcement for left-leaning protests involving climate change or racial justice and right-leaning “protests” such as the so-called “Stop the Steal” protests and Wednesday’s violent riot are not completely unintentional. Over a decade ago, the FBI expressed concern about white supremacy in law enforcement, but those fears were not taken seriously by the U.S. government and over the past four years with a racist President Trump in office, law enforcement has only doubled down on racial bias.

For far too long, right-wingers have stood up for what they refer to as “blue lives” against the calls for reform and accountability in the law enforcement system to counteract efforts of social justice. The primarily white terrorists who launched the insurrection at the nations’ capitol were significantly more comfortable breaking glass and hurling insults at officers than BLM protestors were when they peacefully marched the streets. This comfort was caused by a sense of entitlement among right-wingers.

Since BLM protests first started, right-wingers flooded their social media pages with seven-point stars, placed thin blue hearts on their cars, and flew thin blue flags on their homes. This allegiance to police officers was viewed more as an alliance, so when the time came for them to start protesting, police officers would inevitably be on their side. Even when some officers retaliated against these terrorists, it was met with shock and anger.

If the pandemic didn’t get citizens thinking about how developed the U.S. is, this insurrection certainly should. The United States is supposedly one of the wealthiest and most developed countries, but the wealth inequality is high, right-wing demagoguery is on the rise, and more evidence is pointing to the idea that members of the Capitol Police colluded with terrorists to possibly harm members of Congress along with their staff. The U.S.’s status as a developed democracy is at risk, but it could be fixed.

The members of Congress who constantly voted to appease this dangerous president over the past four years and the members who chose to vote against certifying the results of a democratically held election must be held accountable. This means removing them from committees and even expelling those members, including Senator Rick Scott. The U.S. should also do more to hold law enforcement officers accountable and make them follow the same laws that ordinary citizens follow by getting rid of qualified immunity. There must be a stronger movement to shift funding to mental health resources in local communities to counter this large increase in white supremacy in law enforcement.

Democracy is at risk and the United States must do everything it takes to protect it from the same people who damaged it by placing this dangerous and corrupt administration at the top.

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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 to be elected to public office in the state of Florida during the 2020 election. He is a Florida National News political contributor. | info@floridanationalnews.com

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