Things That Matter

AOC Has Made Roasting Her Twitter Trolls And Haters An Art Form And We’re Mesmerized

ocasio2018 / Instagram

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a political figure who has risen on the national (and even international) political platform like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This powerful and hyper-smart Latina has taken the Washington establishment by storm through intelligent remarks, thorough knowledge of facts and policies, and a capacity for verbal sparring that verges on the prodigious. Since her successful and much-publicized campaign, she made her political platform clear: social, economic and racial justice.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a proud Puerto Rican from the Bronx.

Taboo topics like race were not swept under the rug by this New York Latina but rather spoken about loudly and clearly.

Credit: https://ocasio2018.com/splash

Regardless of your political beliefs, it is undeniable that since the rise of Barack Obama in 2006-2007 as a legitimate contender for the presidency, no person of color had gathered so much attention. She has even inspired a comic that portrays her as a kick-ass superhero! The US Representative for the 14th District of New York was elected on November 6, 2018, and since she took office has put forward promising policies such as the New Green Deal, a thorough plan to tackle climate change.

Her no-nonsense attitude has earned her the love and support of millions of Americans who are tired of the establishment.

Credit: aoc3-662×1024. Digital image. artnet NEWS. 

Alexandria is anything but reckless. Her arguments are well constructed and she has become an expert at cross-examining witnesses in congressional hearings. She is only 29-years-old but wise beyond her years, at least in a political sense. Most likely because she is non-white and because she is a woman, the conservative end of the political spectrum (and particularly the alt-right) has often gone on the attack on basically ANYTHING Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez does. Really, it sometimes verges on the ridiculous, like when . Even within the Democratic Party AOC has raised some eyebrows. And really, if she was a man wouldn’t she be mentioned alongside other presidential hopefuls such as Beto O’Rourke? 

Just like Barack Obama ten years before her, AOC has used social media as a tool to engage with her constituents and to engage with other politicians on both sides of the aisle. AOC has become famous for her Twitter takedowns, in which she uses irony and reason (a lethal one-two combination!) to counter her adversaries. 

1. Andrew Pollack, school safety activist, founder of Americans for Children’s Lives and School Safety

Credit: @AOC / Twitter

Policies towards Israel are always a touchy subject in American politics. In this exchange, AOC clearly sets her values: her vote is for protecting kids, regardless of their heritage. 

2. Andy Barr, US Representative for Kentucky through an exchange with Sahil Kapur, political commentator, national political reporter for Bloomberg News 

Credit: @AOC / Twitter

AOC has upset some colleagues who play it very traditional… she offered to debate Barr and he refused for personal reasons, so she offered to fly him and accommodate his every need. Owned. 

3. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

Credit: @AOC / Twitter

AOC has been described by conservatives as a socialist, a bad word in American politics (there are few cases of people who are openly socialist and successful in politics, like Bernie Sanders). In this tweet, AOC breaks apart propaganda efforts to discredit her. 

4. Chris Cox, National Rifle Association lobbyist

Credit: @AOC / Twitter

It is no secret that AOC has a tough stance regarding gun laws: she thinks they need to change. Here, she totally owns an NRA lobbyist who told her that her district is not “real America.” Well, AOC argues, millions of American citizens would beg to disagree. 

5. Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to President Donald Trump

Credit: @AOC / Twitter
Credit: @AOC / Twitter

Things recently got ugly between Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Kellyanne Conway, one of the most controversial faces of the Trump presidency. Conway questioned why AOC hadn’t voiced her condolences after the Sri Lankan terrorist attacks that targeted Christians. In a masterful stroke of political rhetorics, AOC did the following: critiqued Trump’s handling of relief efforts in Puerto Rico, unmasked Conway’s attempt to delegitimize AOC’s religious life (a textbook maneuver to discredit candidates and something that Obama also faced), and, finally, proposed that the administration be more welcoming of immigrants that are feeling religious prosecution all around the world. Ouch, eso duele

6. The Judicial System

Credit: @AOC / Twitter

The recent college admissions scandal that rocked Hollywood brought to light cases in which other parents, particularly people of color, have been jailed for lying to the education system. Being consistent with her motto of achieving racial justice, AOC highlighted the contradictions of how Americans of different origins are treated by the law. 

7. Andy Barr, again… 

Credit: @AOC / Twitter

Ocasio-Cortez retweeted this story by Michael Deibert, an author and scholar. In the story, he points out that Barr had no idea there were no coal miners in his district. This was after he invited AOC to meet them and see for herself how “damaging” her Green New Deal would be. 

8. Her Opponents 

Credit: @AOC / Twitter

Remember Obama’s famous photograph with his feed on the desk showing off the beaten down soles of his shoes? Well, this political trope was replicated by AOC, who posted this photograph of her shoes. The message is clear: it was her work ethic that got her the election, and nothing else. Get of your traseros if you wanna beat her! 

9. John Cardillo, journalist

Credit: @AOC / Twitter

When this dude questioned her electorate, she not only defended them but also took a stab at a certain type of conservative (el tio conservador). 

10. Charlie Kirk, conservative and founder of Turning Point USA, who first posted this, after AOC did a photoshoot with a magazine: 

Credit: @CharlieKirk11 / Twitter
Credit: @AOC / Twitter

Bam! AOC totally owned this dude. First, she let him know how menso he is. Then, she name-dropped two of the issues she fights for (a fair living wage and public health for all) and then she presumes her shopping skills. Dolor!

11. Ryan Saavedra (and Ben Shapiro for good measure)

Credit: @AOC / Twitter

The message is here: her politics are action, not reaction. Women do not have to dance at the beat of men or just make themselves available when dudes wish to. You go, AOC! 

12. Eddie Scarry, journalist for the Washington Examiner

Credit: @AOC / Twitter

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has received all sorts of banal critiques during her short but high profile political career. How dare she dance? Who does she think she is, right? Look at her, look at her.

13. Fox News

Credit: @AOC / Twitter

Fox News published this screen to point fingers at AOC. Her reply: yes, that is pretty much what I believe in, which her supporters, such as online journalist Liz Plank, applauded.

If there is anything we can all agree on is that AOC is not shy about putting people in their place on social media.

Credit: Giphy. Anonymous. 

Who can forget the moment Conservatives thought they caught AOC in a scandal because of a dancing video form college? Somehow, the GOP thought this was the scandal that would end the Congresswoman. It backfired spectacularly.

READ: AOC Is Putting The GOP On Notice For Preventing Science From Saving American Lives From Climate Change

Some People Claim This Sandy Hook PSA Has Gone “Too Far” In Illustrating the Impact of School Shootings

Things That Matter

Some People Claim This Sandy Hook PSA Has Gone “Too Far” In Illustrating the Impact of School Shootings

We’ve come to the point in American history where deaths due to gun violence have become what many would call a crisis. According to data collected by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017, guns were responsible for more deaths than car accidents were. So it comes to no surprise when certain activists take it upon themselves to bring attention to what many label an epidemic. On Wednesday, the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, a non-profit organization founded with the goal of “protecting children from gun violence with programs that work”, did just that. The NPO released a short video, titled “Back-To-School-Essentials” that made waves through the internet.

The video begins exactly the way so many back-to-school commercials start: discussing the coolest new gadgets to buy for your kids this Fall.

Sandy Hook Promise / Youtube.com

A smiling boy pulls a backpack out of a locker, bragging that his mom got him the “perfect bag for back to school”. A young girl shows off the colorful binders that are “just what she needs to help her stay organized” for the school year. But things take an odd turn with the third student. As the student describes his headphones as “just what [he] needs for studying”, we can see that not all is quite right in the background. As the boy listens to his music, oblivious, we see students running in the behind him, appearing to be panicked.

As the commercial wears on, it becomes even eerier when students are speaking carefree to the camera while scenes of carnage unfold around them. The commercial wears on with each scenario becoming eerier: a girl uses her sweater to bar a door shut, keeping an active shooter out of the gymnasium. A different student uses her new socks as a tourniquet to keep a bleeding student alive. The video ends on a chilling note: a young girl hides in a bathroom stall, tears running down her face. The camera closes up on her as we hear an active shooter enter the bathroom. “I love you, Mom,” she types into her phone.

The video ends with a simple title-card over a black screen: “School shooting is preventable when you know the signs.”

Sandy Hook Promise / Youtube.com

The PSA then directs the viewer to find out more about the organization at sandyhookpromise.org. According to Sandy Hook Promise’s About page, the “above-the-politics” organization is made up of “several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012”. Their mission is to “honor all victims of gun violence by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation”. Their main action-items are to target mental health programs to individuals who are “at-risk” at engaging in gun violence and by advocating for policy changes in order to prevent school shootings. 

As of now, the video has racked up over 1 million views on YouTube in under 24 hours.

The virality of the PSA is likely due to its execution: we’re all used to seeing vacuous back-to-school commercials whose sole intentions are to sell us something. “Back-To-School Essentials” lulls us into a sense of comfort with its upbeat music before jerking us into the current violent reality of school-aged students’ lives. According to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks every mass shooting in the country, the US has had 283 mass shootings since September 1st of 2019. 

The video isn’t without controversy–some Twitter users are disturbed by how close to home the video’s scenarios are.

In fact, many viewers are finding the PSA hard to watch. On Twitter, users are complaining of tearing up after watching the video. Some even claim to “feeling sick” by the video’s contents. 

In response, some Twitter users are glad of the reality-check the PSA is providing:

It’s evident that making their audience uncomfortable from watching the video was one of the organization’s goals. That way, it makes it harder to ignore the reality of school shootings and their impact on children’s lives.

This woman explained how the video hit a little too close to home:

It seems we’ve come to the point in our culture where we feel we need to buy phones for our children in the event that they experience a school shooting. 

This Twitter user applauded the Sandy Hook Promise Organization’s bravery in committing to their message:

Sometimes the only way to get your point across is to explain, in the starkest terms possible, how dire the situation is. This video managed to convey that in a powerful way.

This Latina was effected by the PSA on a visceral level:

Reactions like this prove that public service announcements, when done right, can achieve exactly what they set out to achieve.

Simply from the Twitter reaction, it’s clear that this video has touched a lot of people.

To learn more about Sandy Hook Promise and its mission to prevent gun violence, visit www.sandyhookpromise.org.

An Incoming International Harvard Student Has Been Denied Entry To The United States

Things That Matter

An Incoming International Harvard Student Has Been Denied Entry To The United States

Cengiz Yar / Getty Images

The Trump administration’s immigration policies are criminalizing survivors, tearing families apart and emboldening racists and xenophobes throughout the country. But President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration agenda is also negatively impacting higher education in the US. According to multiple recent reports, it has become increasingly difficult for international students to receive their visas, also adding a greater workload on universities and their employees who try to help students work through the red tape and advocate on their behalf.

Those in higher education and immigration law say that the process for international students to attain their visas have become harder under Trump.

 According to government data, approval of student visas is down and many remain in limbo for longer periods. The latest available department data show that student visas declined by more than 100 thousand from 2016 to 2018. This has led to an overall decrease in the number of new international students enrolled at US colleges. For instance, survey data collected by the Institute of International Education during the 2016–17 school year found that enrollment of international students fell by 3 percent from the previous year. In the most recent data, which looks at the 2017–18 school year, it fell by close to 7 percent.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators reports that these visa obstacles started after Trump issued a memorandum in 2017 that called for the “heightened screening and vetting of applications for visas and other immigration benefits” as well as new or updated requirements for visa holders studying or working at US colleges. Additionally, the Atlantic reports that changes initiated by the Trump administration in 2018 made it even harder for recent graduates with student visas to continue living in the country legally. 

“I’ve been in the field for almost 20 years, and the amount of immigration changes during the last three years has been exponential,” Kristy Magner, who oversees Tulane University’s Office of International Students and Scholars, told the publication. 

One of the most high-profile cases was that of Ismail B. Ajjawi

In August of 2019, the incoming Harvard Palestinian freshman from Lebanon was detained by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a Boston airport. The 17-year-old was denied entry after CBO officers found social media posts from his friends that criticize the US. As a result, Ajjawi’s visa was canceled. However, because the teen was detained at an airport, sparing him from being officially deported, he was able to re-apply for a visa back home. Ten days later, Ajjawi returned to Boston and was able to start school.

Also in August, nine Chinese students who were returning to the US as undergraduate students at Arizona State University were detained at Los Angeles International Airport.

 According to the university, the students were in CBP custody for a week and were “denied admission to the U.S. to continue their studies.” They were ultimately forced to return to China, despite being “academically eligible to return to ASU and to the United States under their visas.”

“[I]t is beyond my comprehension how the U.S. government could establish and implement policies that bring about the outcomes we are now witnessing,” ASU president Michael Crow wrote in a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan. 

While these cases are among the most extreme, they follow a growing pattern of increased difficulty for international students. 

Many institutions, including New York University, expressed seeing more students denied travel in advance of their trips.

NYU was one of the first schools to establish support for immigrant students upon the start of Trump’s presidency. In January 2017, just days after Trump’s inauguration, it created the Immigrant Defense Initiative, which offers “free, confidential advice and representation” to students and staff who could be at risk for deportation. Other universities, including Columbia University, the California State University system and George Washington University, now also offer free immigration-related legal services for students. 

But students, and now university employees who are tasked with new responsibilities in helping the international academics, need more help. Back in July, Harvard University president Lawrence Bacow sent a letter to Pompeo and McAleenan sharing his grievances. “Students report difficulties getting initial visas — from delays to denials,” he wrote. “Scholars have experienced postponements and disruptions for what have previously been routine immigra­tion processes such as family visas, renewals of status, or clearance for international travel.”

Dr. Hironao Okahana, associate vice president of policy and research analysis at the Council of Graduate Schools, told Teen Vogue the rise in incidents like Ajjawi’s are concerning and worth further investigation. 

“[W]e’ll be carefully observing to see if any additional incidents occur as quarter-system schools begin their term in a few weeks,” he said.

In addition to the denial of visas and slowed-down processes, universities face another problem: Trump’s anti-immigration agenda is stopping international students from applying to US institutions. 

“I think that both [the Trump administration’s] immigration policy and the messaging of the day are literally turning [international] students away … and making them less inclined to want to study in the United States,” Brian Rosenberg, the president of Macalester College, a liberal-arts institution in St. Paul, Minnesota, told the Atlantic.

As a result, some schools are doing additional work to ensure international students that they are welcome at their universities.

Philip A. Glotzbach, the president of Skidmore College, told the Atlantic that his staff has had to “work a lot harder” to recruit and retain international students. Additionally, Barbara K. Altmann, the president of Franklin & Marshall College, said that her school has been taking “extraordinary measures … so international students know [they’re welcome here].” For instance, because one in five students at the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, liberal-arts school is from outside of the US, mostly China, it has created a network of Chinese nationals that send reassuring messages to incoming students from the Asian country. 

“These incidents,” said Okahana, “as isolated as they may be, are troubling and have created chilling effects.”

Read: Migrants Are Dying In US Immigration Custody And Here’s What You Need To Know About The Victims