Smoke and Ice
On October 7th, 2020, Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris debated for the first and possibly only time. The hottest ticket of the night (other than a very bold fly) was whether or not Vice President Joe Biden would ban fracking— the fracturing of shale bedrock with liquid to release natural gas trapped in fissure and cracks of shale— if he were to be elected. Pence adamantly claimed that Biden would do so, while Harris consistently denied it, claiming that Biden would preserve fracking and all of the jobs it sustains. Through this small encounter, the audience was led to believe that to ban fracking would be a bad thing and to preserve fracking would be in America’s best interest. However, fracking is believed to contaminate water, cause air pollution, trigger earthquakes, and essentially accelerate climate change. Why have the vice presidential and presidential candidates so short sightedly framed fracking as benevolent?
Because deniers, benefiters, and conservatives have particular agendas that are beyond morality and the desires of every American. With the overwhelming advantage of money over the population’s vote, the citizens that serve to gain off of the questionable actions of their government are specifically inclined to manipulate opinion and frame of any and all policy. This is a deadly practice.
With the help of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, corporations have been able to consistently play their hands in the functionality of our country and its individual state governments. ALEC makes governing easy by proposing big bills that encompass a wide array of policies to serve the needs of a few. “ALEC model legislation is also behind a plethora of other controversial laws, including the Arizona ‘show us your papers’ law (Steigerwald, 2012) and several similar state-level laws that criminalize aspects of the lives of undocumented people (Ackerman & Furman, 2013);” (Cooper, Heldman). Powered by the help of many corporate sponsors such as AT&T, ExxonMobil, Koch, State Farm, and UPS, these bills reach policymakers through massive funding from corporations that seek to gain from its results.
The ‘Living Wage Mandate Preemption Act’ bans cities from deciding how to spend taxpayer money. The ‘Crippling Collective Bargaining Law’ undermines labor rights and destroys unions. The Privatization of Schools, also mostly proposed by ALEC, introduces the school voucher system that aims public taxpayer money at private schools instead of public. ALEC also spearheaded discriminatory bills requiring voter ID which dramatically disenfranchise otherwise eligible voters by forcing them to possess particular identification solely for voting. Most notoriously, ALEC is also comprised of private prison sponsors that grant them boat loads of cash to continue making laws and has returned the favor by creating laws that continuously put immigrants, the lower classes, and people of color in those very private prisons. Often, these policies and decisions have global consequences that seem to reduce the quality of living in America to a hellish dystopia that thrives off of the misery of the people. ALEC is happily and profitably responsible for a variety of immoral or polarizing laws, the deadliest of which is the Stand Your Ground law.
The ‘Stand Your Ground’ law allows an individual to use deadly force if threatened— permitting the lawful death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin (for walking threateningly), 17 year old Jordan Davis (for playing loud music), 9 year old Sherdavia Jenkins (for being near a stand your ground dispute), and Ahmaud Arbery (for jogging).
While some believe that the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law offers people the unique ability to protect themselves as the police would, it only encourages a brand of vigilantism often fueled by one’s own fears, biases, and insecurities. The Stand Your Ground Law, or SYG as I will now call it, is the kill without consequence/license to kill/get out of jail free law. SYG allows regular citizens to respond to threats or force without fear of criminal prosecution in a special way.
In most states, laws on self-defense attest that you must retreat or attempt to retreat upon a threat. If the attacker persists, then you may use deadly force. SYG provides citizens absolutely no obligation to retreat, so upon the slightest inconvenience or threat, one may pull out a gun and aim for the head.
Racial stereotypes subconsciously (or consciously) view innocent behavior through a lens of threatening and/or violent shades. SYG justifies and preserves the escalation of violence and the need to be armed. The need to be armed is a special interest for guns rights groups and gun sellers, of course, and how convenient is it that the former president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), Marion Hammer, is one of the key figures that helped implement this law in so many states?
In the 25 states with SYG laws, if you are white, you are 350% more likely to go free and avoid charges if you kill a black person, instead of another white person. Florida, the NRA playground, saw a 35% increase in homicides in the years after SYG had been implemented. In 79% of SYG cases, the murderer had the ability to retreat, but SYG allows retreat to be merely an option and when a hateful citizen has the right to kill a citizen that they hate, they will rarely choose the less violent outcome. “Stand Your Ground laws in 2020 could justify and allow the murder of Emmett Till in 1955 and to me, that is an American Tragedy.” (Jackson, 2020). We’d prefer to think that if the public knew better, they’d do better but I am incapable of stating that no one knows better. People are committed to personal values, their political parties, and readily deduced worldviews that will always defeat science, facts, or even empathy when pitted against one another. The supporters of SYG laws are unsurprising, as they easily profit off of afraid Americans, but the opposition to SYG laws should serve as a shock that makes its wrongdoings very clear.
Every year we see a new protest swelling as a result of an unjust murder. Black Lives Matter and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People work tirelessly to repeal these laws and make their voices even acknowledged. The NRA is not coerced to fear these organizations because they are not outrightly being murdered by their oppositions’members. So long as the NRA profits from SYG laws, ALEC profits from the NRA, and policy makers profit from ALEC, the people’s interests and protesting actions will be in vain.
Not only is there a solution to ALEC, Stand Your Ground Laws, and an optimistic treatment for systemic corruption but we are deliberately being denied a better life. How could we come to trust a government that hides heaven in favor of money and power? How could policymakers find it permissible to do so?
As stated by Cailin O’Connor and James Owen Weatherall in “The Misinformation Age,” we must find a method for rerouting the spread of news so that propaganda may be easily disproved and snubbed out and unbiased news may be scientifically proven with facts, and the people may form their opinions based on something other than that of their self-assigned political party. For example, basic human rights and the same ability to live without fear, but even this may not be enough. We must use our information and political knowledge to not only vote out but shame the parties most responsible for this awful corruption. If this is not realistic and feasible, violence may be our only answer, as it had been for many peoples of the past.
If we are unable to cleanse our government of this corruption, we may find ourselves in the destructive path of a people’s revolution, secession, or civil unrest. We are staring down the barrel of a deadly human ailment that may not seek to destroy us directly but will surely wipe out the paradigm of democracy and crumble the United States of America to mere states with their own laws dipped in racial insecurity. Not only must we take steps to provide justice to any and all American citizens but we must also place political representatives in office that will not lie to us and that genuinely and equally have all of the people’s interests not only in mind but on the agenda.
Beans, L. (2016, June 27). Historic Wildfires Scorch Colorado While Fracking Industry Continues to Drain Water Supply. Retrieved October 17, 2020, from https://www.ecowatch.com/historic-wildfires-scorch-colorado-while-fracking-industry- continues-t-1881764598.html
Cooper, R. et. Al (2016) Hidden corporate profits in the U.S. prison system: the unorthodox policy-making of the American Legislative Exchange Council, Contemporary Justice Review, 19:3, 380- 400, DOI: 10.1080/10282580.2016.1185949
Fogerty, C. (2020, September 25). Severe Marine Heat Waves Linked to Human-Caused Warming. Retrieved October 17, 2020, from https://www.insidescience.org/news/severe- marine-heat-waves-linked-human-caused-warming
Hoffower, H. (2020, April 23). America's billionaires have become even richer since Donald Trump became president, and it says a lot about the country's record-high wealth gap. Retrieved October 17, 2020, from https://www.businessinsider.com/us-billionaire- wealth-increased-since-trump-became-president-2020-4
Jackson, B. (2020, September 06). Stand Your Ground. Retrieved November 17, 2020, from https://giffords.org/lawcenter/gun-laws/policy-areas/guns-in-public/stand-your- ground-laws/
Jilani, Z. (2012, March 28). The Top Five Most Despicable Laws Passed By Corporate Front Group ALEC. Retrieved October 17, 2020, from https://www.republicreport.org/2012/the-top-five-most-despicable-laws-passed-by- corporate-front-group-alec/
O’Connor, C. & Weatherall, J. O. (2019) The misinformation age: How false beliefs spread. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Scott, A., & Sigafoos, S. (2020, October 08). Harris, Pence clash over fracking, an industry employing thousands in Pennsylvania. Retrieved October 17, 2020, from https://www.mcall.com/news/elections/mc-nws-vice-presidential-debate-fracking- 20201008-toller3rxfgjpmxed7hmxvljue-story.html
Simmons, J. (2019, December 18). Bulldozers to Tear Through Heart of Sonoran Desert for Trump's Border Wall. Retrieved October 17, 2020, from https://www.ecowatch.com/border-wall-arizona-2639959635.html?rebelltitem=1