Freedom of Speech

The Series

Freedom of speech and of the press has long been considered part of America’s Constitutional, inalienable rights. These rights are not incorporated in every culture. I wanted to develop a series exploring the differences between the expression and history of free speech laws in our American culture, especially compared to a country with tighter restrictions, like China.

This series, based on informative research, will primarily compare history and practice between America and China. By examining specific examples, I will explore how each country approaches the execution of their respective free speech laws. This includes the extent to which citizens can exercise freedom of expression. It also includes the censorship of the Internet and social media. Then, we will discuss how their approaches affect the freedom of the press.

This series will explore the similarities and differences in the freedom of the press. It will briefly discuss where each country’s media experiences freedom, and it will touch on where each country’s media is limited. Finally, it will delve into how informed their citizens are based on how easily they can access the truth. Considering the other complexities, the series will assess how easily each country’s citizens can find research coming from uncensored facts and unbiased sources.

Don’t Boo, Vote

At a rally for the 2016 Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton, an elderly man dressed in military attire stood up. Everyone looked on as he stood silently, holding a sign in support of her opponent, Donald Trump. While he was being escorted from the building, the crowd booed and jeered at him. President Barack Obama promptly told the audience to quiet down, discouraging them from creating an uproar. Kate Abbey-Lambertz for The Huffington Post reported that he told them:

“You’ve got an older gentleman who’s supporting his candidate. He’s not doing nothing. You don’t have to worry about him. […] We live in a country that respects free speech. Don’t boo, vote.”

Obama Shouts Over Crowd To Defend Trump Supporter At Rally, par. 5-7
Obama at the 2016 DNC rally for Clinton. Image courtesy of Vox.

Here, it is clearly seen that even the head of the American government is a proponent of free speech. Other countries are not so fortunate. Imagine what might have happened if someone in China stood up in opposition to the Communist Party. Without a doubt, they would have been silenced. How would it feel to live in a world without free speech? How can one country justify stripping their citizens of their ability to express their opinion?

For the United States, freedom of the press is a First Amendment right, but for China, there are clearly some stricter regulations. Some would argue that the independence of the American media has led to issues being blown out of proportion; thus, many American citizens are misinformed. On the other hand, the limitations experienced by the Chinese press means that their citizens are uninformed.

Comparatively, Chinese free speech laws are more oppressive than the American laws; therefore, the United States’ press is less censored. An examination of both American and Chinese free speech laws reveals contrasts in the following major complexities: the execution of free speech laws, the freedom of the press, and the accessibility of the truth for the citizens.

Abbey-Lambertz, Kate. “Obama Shouts Over Crowd To Defend Trump Supporter At Rally.” The Huffington Post. HPMG News, 04 Nov. 2016. Web. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/obama-defends-trump-supporter-video_us_581cebe0e4b0d9ce6fbc0910

Lopez, German. “Obama to Democrats booing Donald Trump: “Don’t boo. Vote.” Vox.com. 27 July 2016. Web. https://www.vox.com/2016/7/27/12306628/obama-trump-boo-dnc-democratic-convention

Working Two Jobs: A Fracture on America’s Broken Backbone

Listen to a podcast on this topic.

THE BROKEN BACKBONE

As of 2017, it is estimated that 7.5 million Americans work two or more jobs. That is roughly 5% of the American workforce.

People in urban areas are choosing to juggle multiple jobs, and it is probably due to the rising costs of living. No city has seen a jump in the cost of living quite like Denver has recently. As higher costs push out lower earners, some people are choosing to take on more responsibility in order to maintain their lives.

I met with some of these people, all working the same primary job but at different stages of life, to talk to them about their experience.

THE FRACTURES

Mike, 20, is a Starbucks employee and Pizza Cook at a local Italian restaurant. To pay for college and rent, Mike has to work two part-time jobs. He has found that companies are reluctant to give him a full-time position because they do not want to give him benefits. On a typical day where he has to work both jobs, he has left his home at 6 AM only to return after 9:30 PM, then get up to open again the next day. For Mike, he feels that maintaining two jobs is depriving him of a social life. He has “no chance to release his energy into anything other than work,” and when he finally sees his checks, “it’s really not worth it.”

Waseem, 22, is a Starbucks employee who also works the box office at the Alamo Drafthouse, where he says that people get to see his “beaming sunshine of a face.” Waseem has maintained both part-time positions for 2 years. Right now, he is grateful that his jobs are different enough that they tax different parts of his work ethic. For a while, he worked two jobs that drained the same kinds of energy, and he called that “doubly-exhausting.” He remembers a time when 40 hours at Starbucks was enough to sustain $620 a month for rent in Denver, but rent can no longer be found that low and Starbucks can no longer give him that many hours. Now, he often pulls double-shifts, working over 10 hours a day in order to afford rent.

Micah, 32, is an Ebar Barista and an Excavation Operator. He has worked two jobs for most of his adult life. As a single male, he says that he uses two jobs to keep himself busy and make extra money. He believes that if he were able to find and keep a full-time job, he would be able to live off of just one salary. Unfortunately for now, he must keep both part-time jobs to maintain his standard of living. In his opinion, one of the biggest struggles of working two jobs is finding spare time to run important errands. He told the story of how his registration had been expired for weeks, and he had to spend one of his first days off in over a month at the DMV.

Steve, 50, is now a full-time Ebar Barista. However, for 34 years prior, he consistently held two jobs. Typically, Steve worked one full-time job and one part-time job. In 1999, he decided to be a full-time barista, a choice that he described as the “best decision he’s ever made.” However, baristas typically do not make a living wage, so he always held another job. His secondary positions included bartending and sales. Steve likes working in the service industry because it gives him the chance to work with younger people. “I never had kids of my own, and this way, it’s like I get to have other people’s kids,” he joked. For Steve, the most frustrating part of balancing two jobs was time management. He lamented the fact that he never had time to do anything he wanted and that left him with no chance to spend any of the money he was making.

THE SURGERY

All of the people I talked to expressed their discontent with this job juggle. In my time at their coffee shops, I met more people with similar situations. I even met a girl who needed to find a second part-time job but was unable to because she was required to keep open availability for the job she already has.

The number of Americans juggling multiple jobs hit an all-time high back in 2016, and USA Today explored why this was happening. Employers frequently reported that it cost them less to hire multiple part-time employees than it would cost them to fill one full-time position.

In response, people are now making this balancing act their full-time gig, in a move that is coming to be known as “plural careerism.” For some, perhaps this is feasible. But clearly for others, this is a move that is made purely out of necessity.

Sweet Cases for Sweet Faces: Giving Foster Kids the Care They Need

One of America’s most glaring problems involves its most vulnerable citizens, and the people in power need to be more informed on how to help. Children in foster care are facing serious problems that demand to be addressed, and California-based non-profit Together We Rise just hosted a successful campaign in Colorado that will directly impact the lives of some foster children in Denver.

For more insight into this article, you can listen to the podcast here.

IN COLORADO

Between Jefferson, Arapahoe, and Douglas Counties, there are around 1,000 kids living in foster care. In the state of Colorado, there are 2,131 total children and teens living in foster care. By far, the biggest need of the foster care system in the state is the need for more foster parents. Colorado has a shortage of foster homes, with only 2,000 homes currently certified.

Many potential foster parents are hesitant to open their homes to the scrutiny of the homestudy. This is the test that parents must undergo in order to be certified as a safe home for children. Kate Feeback, the director of the international adoption program at the Nightlight Christian Adoptions agency in Loveland, Colorado, tried to put this fear to rest, saying, “Homestudy programs are 30% clearances and 70% education because a parent needs to be prepared for the challenges of raising an adopted child.”

Foster children are taken from their homes and their parents. They are often rushed to pack all of their belongings into a trash bag, then placed with strangers for an indefinite amount of time. These children need a space to live.

One adoptive mother confirmed that all the hard work is well worth it. In an interview with Rachel Auch, the third time mother stated, “Now that he’s home, I ask myself, ‘How did we do life without this kid?’ He is the most pleasant person. It’s like seeing the world through new eyes.”

THE CAMPAIGN

Together We Rise is a non-profit based in California that was started by a group of young adults who are passionate about improving the lives of foster kids in America. They advocate and fundraise for foster kids around the nation.

TWR hires interns across the country to run their own fundraising campaigns for the organization. A recent campaign across Fort Collins and Denver used social media to raise awareness while fundraising. This campaign raised over $1,100, enough for 42 Sweet Cases. The Sweet Cases project raises enough money for brand new duffel bags filled with essentials so that foster children have something nice to move their belongings in.

At the time, Emma-lee Jordan was the intern manager for Together We Rise. In a meeting with her, she once said, “One of the biggest challenges we face is that people just don’t know much about the foster care system. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and one of our missions is to educate people.”

“Most people don’t realize that they can help out without opening up their home. That’s a big commitment that not everyone can do. But there are smaller things that anyone can do,” says Jordan. TWR wants to offer people the chance to give these children something they would not have otherwise. Through their programs, foster children can receive a bike, a birthday gift, a duffel bag, or even a college scholarship.

TWR collaborates with volunteers, social workers, CASA advocates, and others. They also work with various communities to meet kids’ specific needs. Through fundraising with these partners, they can give foster kids unique opportunities that otherwise would have been missed.

THE FOSTER CARE SYSTEM

There is a small and silent demographic in our nation. Its members are unable to affect their story’s ending. They are forced to trust the people around them to have their best interests in mind, even when that may not be the case. This group is defenseless and often forgotten. These are the children in foster care.

On any given day, there are about 428,000 children in foster care in the US. Around 75% of foster children come into care because they were neglected.  One study found that one in three children had been abused while in foster care. They often struggle in school and have a hard time finding employment. Children in foster care also report significantly worse mental health, citing that they are 12 times more likely to be prescribed psychotropic drugs.

More children, especially teenagers, are in group homes than they are placed with families. Group settings are more expensive and less supportive for the child. Teens often age out of the system without the proper support needed for that transition, making it harder for them to go to college or even finish high school. Siblings are often separated from each other and kids are separated from their parents with very little focus on reunification. Children’s needs often go unheard and unmet.

These statistics begin to explain why many foster youth are used to feeling overlooked, neglected, and traumatized. Foster children may never feel stable or connected, and instead they risk missing out on the family and community ties critical for development.

Children are placed in foster care at no fault of their own. They are there to be taken care of, and Together We Rise wants to ensure that they are indeed receiving the proper care.