New Year’s promise to change perspective

Jessica Bursztynsky, IV Leader Associate Editor

The promise of a new year always brings a rush of excitement to the American culture. This can finally be the year that one runs a marathon, asks for a raise or pursues that obscure hobby.

Since our culture tends to be composed of people that bask in the promise of new beginnings, society, as a whole, should attempt to bring actual change to 2016.

This past year has been filled with an unbelievable amount of tragedy. The Gun Violence Archive reports that, in 2015, there were 330 mass shootings in the United States.

Over half of the state governors, including Illinois Gov. Rauner, have rejected accepting Syrian refugees escaping from ISIS. Protests are occurring across the nation rejecting police brutality and rejecting the way murders of innocent teens are being handled, such as the case of Laquan McDonald, who was fatally shot 16 times by a police officer.

It’s simple to go through the cycle that usually occurs after a tragedy. The media covers the event on a loop, people grieve, call for reform, yet we go back to our normal lives. We like to remain blissfully unaware that nothing has changed until another event rattles our routines.

This needs to be the year that calls for change, with people refusing to wait for another tragedy to spark a conversation.

The resolution of change has been made apparent in several attempts, such as President Obama’s town hall meeting on gun reforms, or in protesters cries for the recall of Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel. Yet we, as citizens, need to hold government officials accountable for their actions and make sure changes are being made. With every decision being politicized, we need to call for changes to be enacted and not just debated. Too much has occurred in 2015 for things to stay the same.

Robert Dear walked into Planned Parenthood’s Colorado Spring’s facility with a gun and murdered two civilians and a university police officer. After Dear declared himself a “warrior for the babies,” many attributed Dear’s violence to his mental health. Yet, no actual government policy changes had been made to focus on the mental health crisis.

“The clinic shooting…left many lamenting the continued lack of legislative action to address the mass shootings that have become all too common,” published The New York Times. House Speaker Paul Ryan has been pushing for congress to pass the Murphey Bill, which overhauls the current mental health system.

“That bill has become unfortunately a partisan bill, when it could have been a totally bipartisan bill,” stated Democratic representative Xavier Becerra, referring to the negative feedback from Democrats. Becerra also referred to the disagreement in government parties as “unfortunate.”

Deciding to reform the mental health system should not be a war between Democrats and Republicans and only fueled after a mass murder. There needs to be a serious conversation in the government that focuses on what can be done to prevent mass shootings.

By reforming gun policies, or even mental health policies, at a national level, states will have an easier time communicating and managing the abundance of weapons in the United States.

Political motives are preventing proper reforms from taking place. With a presidential election taking place later this year, Democrats and Republicans are allowing their chances of gaining votes to form their policies and statements.

After two journalists were murdered on air, Republican candidate Donald Trump stated that he does not believe there is a gun problem, but a mental health problem. He would consider himself a “very strong Second Amendment person.”

Trump pointed listeners toward Chicago’s tough gun restrictions and how the city still produces a high crime rate. However, Trump failed to mention gun policies and restrictions at a national level. While an individual may be unable to obtain a gun in Chicago, that same individual may go to another state where gun sales are extremely lax and return with a plethora of legally purchased weapons.

Many other Republican candidates have given statements attacking President Obama’s town hall address, in which he gave new measures for gun reforms. The Chief Executive of the National Rifle Association gave a statement calling for a one-on-one debate between the two on gun regulations, fighting Obama on the policy.

On the other side, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton tweeted a statement encouraging the balance of the Second Amendment with preventative measures of gun sales. Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley also gave statements discussing their approval on reforming the gun control system.

While Republican candidates are fighting for mental health reform, and Democrats are pushing gun reform, there needs to be an agreement between both parties. In order to prevent tragedy, politicians should be working toward fighting for change, instead of simply fighting for their own agenda.

While attending a holiday party in San Bernardino, Calif., a couple opened fire and killed 14, injuring 22. The two suspects were later killed while engaging in gun battle with the police.

After the attacks, many questioned the link that the couple had to terror networks, such as ISIS. The San Bernardino attacks had taken place shortly after the Paris terror attacks, intensifying the public’s fear of terrorism.

Aside from the usual gun reform discussions, some politicians decided to use these attacks as a gateway to push their immigration agenda. Most of the Republican candidates posed that the only solution to preventing terrorism on U.S. soil would be to refuse the 10,000 expected Syrian refugees from entering the country.
Ohio Gov. and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich stated, “[The way] we should treat Syrian refugees, it ought to be an affirmation where we are clear we’re not bringing ISIS into this country.”

“I stated that we should not admit those claiming to be Syrian refugees and was condemned by the left for that position. I was right, and the events in Paris affirm that,” stated former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Huckabee was referring to a false report, which stated that a Syrian refugee had taken part in orchestrating the Paris attacks.
While humanity was coming together as one after the terrorist attacks, presidential candidates were using the events to elevate themselves on the political platform.

“Marco [Rubio] has been warning for months that ISIS terrorists could hide among refugees,” stated Alex Conant, a spokesperson for the Republican candidate.

There was no rational, humane solution offered that did not affect the lives of thousands of innocent refugees.
Instead of worrying about the background-checked refugees, we should be focusing on those in Syria who are held captive under ISIS’s regime.

The U.N. reported that Madaya, a town held under tight regulations since July, has only been allowed humanitarian relief once, in October. It was only after photos of starving, hollow children were released that the Syrian forces allowed for another round of international relief.

The aid, which is currently being distributed, is only expected to last the town of 30,000 for a month, stated The Guardian.
While the new relief is a current fix, a single delivery of food and medical supplies is unable to sustain a starving town. The UN stated that 4.5 million Syrians are being prevented from accepting humanitarian aid or from leaving their areas for help.
These people, being forced to eat grass and bacteria-ridden water, are the ones escaping from the forces of ISIS. They come from war-torn lives, where immigrating to the U.S. or other countries is the only option for a future. Many are facing death on a daily basis.

We need to come together as one with the people of Syria, as we have come together with the people of Paris.
2016 brings with it a new opportunity to address two major issues: gun violence and providing shelter to refugees who are victimized in their home country. It is up to us to become educated about the real facts and urge our elected officials to enact change.

Arguably, the biggest change we face this year will be the upcoming presidential elections. It is up to us, as individuals, to research the facts and vote on the person who can make change that is consistent with the United States’ values.
As we implement our New Year resolutions, we should keep in mind the changes that will make our lives better as a whole. It is up to us to make the decisions and changes that will continue to affect the future generations.