In the Wake of Kentucky’s Tornadoes, It’s Time to Take Climate Change Action

Photo: Malcolm Lightbody

I was the first in the house to be woken up in the middle of the night by a tornado siren. It was the night after my grandmother’s funeral in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and I had the unfortunate task of sleeping on the couch in the living room as all the beds in the house were full of family members. My grandfather, like many others that night, turned on the television to look at the radar. It was red. Just red. My mom called to see if we were okay and convinced us to pile into the basement. As I tried to go back to sleep, the siren went off about four more times. The power then went out. I tried to call my mom back but there was no service. We hunkered down for the night with a single flashlight and no connection to the outside world. 

The next morning, we ventured outside. There were tree limbs down everywhere. One of my uncles had cell service and we called around to make sure everyone we knew was okay. Thankfully, they were. We still didn’t have power, but we were hearing reports that a lot of people had died. Down the road, the roof of a house had been ripped off. A block over, a tree was torn right out of the ground. My family and I were okay, and thankfully our house had been spared a lot of the damage. 

Looking back, that night raised a lot of questions for me. I have long been a proponent of addressing climate change, but I had never really been directly affected by its problems. It’s one thing to hear about flooding in India or a river drying up in Mexico, but it’s another to get passed over by a tornado in Kentucky. In a sense, that night made climate change real for me. There is certainly some speculation over the exact effects of rising temperatures on tornadoes, but severe weather patterns are only becoming more common, and it’s our responsibility as Kentuckians and as human beings to take care of our Earth for future generations.

Rising Temperatures

While there are some in the media that still argue that climate change, specifically rising temperature, is not attributed to human behaviors, this is patently false. The grain of truth in that argument is that Earth’s temperature has been trending up for centuries as we emerge from an Ice Age. Up until the Industrial Revolution, changes in climate and a slow rise in temperature over time can be explained by this trend. It is also true that a number of factors such as the tilt of Earth’s axis and variations in solar activity can affect temperatures. Over the past few decades, these factors have been tracked along with other human-caused factors such as the emission of greenhouse gasses.  

Scientists across the globe have found that while natural factors indeed affect the climate, overwhelming evidence shows that greenhouse gas emissions have a far greater effect. For example, although the volcanic release of carbon dioxide heats the planet as a result of the greenhouse effect, human activities emit 100 times more carbon dioxide every year than volcanoes. And though there is variation in solar activity (more light vs less light), the temperature has been rising steadily while solar activity follows an 11-year cycle with ups and downs that stay relatively consistent over time, meaning that there is not a correlation between rising temperature and solar activity. 

Of course, natural factors affect Earth’s climate, but the sharp rise in temperature since the 1950s is more than 95% attributable to the emission of greenhouse gasses by human activities. For reference, there are more greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere right now than there have been for at least 800,000 years. It is clear that greenhouse gasses are driving a rise in temperature, but specifically, carbon emissions are responsible for the majority of this crisis. Of the greenhouse gasses emitted in 2019, 80% was carbon dioxide. If there is any hope of reversing the damage already done or creating a future with steady temperature, carbon emissions must be cut. 

The Human Cost 

It is undeniably true that greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans are warming our planet. Since 1901, the temperature has risen 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. While this may not seem like a lot, it has had disastrous effects. Looking forward, the future of many cities and climate zones is in danger. One of the biggest impacts of this rise in temperature has been a rise in sea levels. We have all heard about the melting ice caps and the polar bears who starve, unable to venture out into the ever-thinning sheets of ice. There is a real environmental cost to climate change, but what is often ignored is the human cost. 

Polar bears and other arctic wildlife deserve to be protected, but there are millions of people also in danger. In fact, it’s forecasted that Bangladesh, a country with 164 million people, could lose up to 10% of its land to rising sea levels over the next couple of decades. California has experienced its most deadly wildfires which are only getting more frequent and extreme. In the United States alone, damage from events related to climate change has totaled in the billions. 

Even in Kentucky, a state obviously not threatened by rising sea levels or wildfires, less predictable weather coupled with stronger and more frequent storms has proved dangerous. The recent spate of tornadoes that took so many lives should not be brushed aside as an unfortunate happenstance. While the relationship between rising temperatures and tornadoes is complicated, a warmer and wetter climate certainly has an effect on storms. Though tornadoes do not seem to have become more frequent with a rise in temperature, they seem to be more clustered with multiple tornadoes occurring on the same day near to one another, a marked change. So while places like Kentucky are not at risk of being inundated, even slight rises in temperature can cause stronger weather patterns, wetter or drier conditions, more intense seasons, unpredictable weather, and changes to flora and fauna. The climate crisis is urgent, not just for coastal areas, but for the whole world. 

What Does Capitalism Have to Do with Temperature?

Since 1988, 100 companies have been responsible for 71% of all carbon emissions. There is a popular belief that using plastic coffee cups and not carpooling is causing climate change, but clearly individual consumers are not the problem. It’s amazing that some people are dedicated to doing their small part towards a larger goal, but personal carbon footprints were created by a marketing firm working for British Petroleum and they’re just a tool for corporations to deflect blame from the real issue: unfettered burning of fossil fuels. 

Companies under a capitalist system are driven solely by profit. In order to compete within a capitalist market, rapid growth is required to compete with the other companies in the same market. This growth often comes at the expense of future generations, as a market free of regulation carries little concern for its environmental impact. Even for companies that have an interest in sustaining the environment, a hypercompetitive market moves that priority down the list. It’s also important to note that the richest people on Earth have the largest carbon footprint by far, and even they do not compare to even modestly-sized companies. 

The 1.5-degree Celsius marker is the catastrophic turning point that scientists from across the globe identified at the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). At 1.5 degrees Celsius above the average temperature pre-Industrial Revolution, huge changes will occur such as desertification in the Middle East and North Africa. Precipitation patterns are likely to become more unpredictable, drought and famine will increase significantly, and rising sea levels will severely threaten coastal areas. 

The current best-case scenario is that the international community immediately decreases carbon emissions significantly, and even with that change, Earth will likely hit the 1.5-degree marker in the next couple of decades. It is certainly true that many businesses and countries have made promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and many companies are investing in alternative energy sources. However, companies are moving slowly and market forces are not creating the drop in carbon emissions that are immediately necessary. This begs the question of whether a capitalist organization of the economy can foster an effective response to climate change before irreversible damage is done. In America, ⅔ of people think that the answer to that question is “no”, as they believe the government should do more regarding climate change. 

The reality is that the more Earth’s temperature rises, the more drastic the consequences will be. Higher seawalls, an approach that was taken by many islands and coastal nations, are only a temporary solution. Passing the 1.5-degree mark will pose many problems, but continuing to rise 1.5 degrees every 50 or 100 years will prove deadly for not only the natural environment but also the people who live in vulnerable climates. Accepting rising temperatures is simply not an option when such small changes have huge effects. There will come a point where we are no longer able to adapt, and it would be exponentially easier to make changes now than after it’s too late. Whole biomes and regions of Earth could become unlivable if we don’t fix our carbon problem. 

There have been numerous proposals for policies and regulations that affect greenhouse gas emissions, but the bottom line is that substantial and radical change is urgently required. Unfortunately, despite irrefutable evidence that rising temperatures are man-made, many Republicans in Congress continue to push back. Even more frustrating, members of both parties are guilty of minimizing the issue in favor of the interests of corporate donors and the Holy Grail of American ideals: economic growth. It’s a well-known fact that many Congressional members are on the oil industry’s payroll, and of course, companies are interested in continuing to make money

This profit motive that captivates companies and lawmakers has so far failed to meet the challenge of the climate crisis, and we are nowhere near being carbon zero, much less carbon negative. The two options in front of America now are to wait for companies to realize it’s too late, or to drastically change our climate policy and reorder our priorities around sustainable growth and our planet’s future. One change America could make right now would be to reevaluate our use of  Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP is a good measure of how many goods and resources are being generated in a nation’s economy, but it does not take into account the environmental impact. Shifting to the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) is a great first step in addressing capitalism’s shortcomings. By prioritizing sustainability and social outcomes, a more comprehensive image of success can be measured. New Zealand as well as some U.S. states use this metric to account for energy efficiency, habitat gain/loss, and greenhouse gas emissions. 

Increasing government subsidies for renewable energy and decreasing subsidies and incentives for the oil, gas, and coal industries are the most obvious solutions within the United States. Promoting electric cars and other alternatives to fuel-burning is another approach the government should be more involved in. However, this issue will require international cooperation. The United States should take a more active role in pressuring the international market. China and India, for example, also produce significant carbon emissions. The question at the end of the policy road is if a capitalist organization of the economy can sufficiently fight carbon emissions on a global scale. In a world market dominated by capitalists’ motives (i.e. profit), it will be extremely difficult to make the level of change necessary. In the short term, the United States should use its considerable influence and power to assist other nations in a transition to greener forms of energy. Time will tell if the international market is able to respond to rising temperatures before it’s too late. 

The climate crisis calls for large-scale solutions to be implemented with a focus on immediately reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While companies are slowly moving towards greener investments, change is not coming soon enough. The 1.5-degree deadline rapidly approaches with climate change continuing to happen as it does. The only way to effectively prevent severe and irreversible damage to our Earth is a radical shift of our priorities towards a more sustainable future. This will require government regulation of businesses, it will require some level of personal sacrifice as our society adapts to new and sustainable products, and it will require global cooperation. If serious and dramatic action is not taken, we will be our own casualties. While tornadoes are extremely unpredictable, scientists are aware of exactly how rising sea levels and desertification will occur. Kentucky might be safe, but Florida, New York, and the 150 Million people that live in Bangladesh will not be so lucky.

The Practical Wisdom of Nonviolence in Black Activism

When a young Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was surprisingly voted spokesperson of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, there was no way he could have foreseen the immeasurable impact his actions would have not only in Montgomery, but across the South, the nation, and the world. The boycott was the first organized mass demonstration of what would eventually become the nationwide Civil Rights Movement, and as the movement grew in notoriety and passion, so too did its young leader, the recently installed pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. The struggle in Montgomery was revolutionary, resulting in many “firsts”. Chief among them was the first time a Gandhi-inspired nonviolent resistance was successfully utilized in a Black American context. It would not, however, be the last. 

Through a litany of demonstrations in the South protesting the shamefully racist effects of Jim Crow, Dr. King built upon his earlier readings of Gandhi and other philosophers, propagating nonviolence as a morally sound philosophy, and demonstrating its practical effectiveness repeatedly. His efforts were met with massive resistance from white political leaders and citizens, often violent resistance. In fact, in the early days of the boycott, King’s home was bombed by white supremacists with his wife and seven-week-old daughter inside. Although the King family was unharmed, a crowd of 300 Black people surrounded his home, with many ready to retaliate for the attack. Mirroring what would become the spirit of the struggle, King told the crowd, “Don’t get your weapons. He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword… We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies.” 

Dr. King’s Nonviolent Philosophy

Love? A man’s home is bombed, his wife and daughter placed in mortal danger, and his response is to love those who perpetrated the bombing? One must know what Dr. King meant when he said “love” to fully understand his commitment to nonviolence. In an article outlining the moral aspects of nonviolent activism, King wrote, “In speaking of love at this point, we are not referring to some sentimental emotion. It would be nonsense to urge men to love their oppressors in an affectionate sense.” So what type of love was King referring to when he urged peace in Montgomery? Agape love, taken from a Greek word in the New Testament that King explains, entails“nothing sentimental or basically affectionate; it means understanding, redeeming goodwill for all men, an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return.” Dr. King never advocated victims of racism to “senselessly” admire their oppressors, but simply to empathize with the ignorance and hate that fueled their actions. As he put it, “Here we rise to the position of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed he does.” 

This Christian notion of love, combined with the nonviolent noncooperation championed by Gandhi, formed Dr. King’s non-violent philosophy/theology. This doctrine’s implementation is directly responsible for many of the movement’s victories: the desegregation of city buses in Montgomery, continued attention on the movement due to demonstrations in Birmingham, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It was so successful and influential that the doctrine outlived the movement it was constructed for and has since been co-opted by various socio-political movements. Nevertheless, nonviolence had its detractors. The best known of which was Malcolm X; but even members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the youth arm of King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), did not all agree with his nonviolent doctrine. 

Many present activists have picked up on this same dissent, and have argued it is unfair to expect Black people to be nonviolent in their resistance to the daily physical, emotional, spiritual, and economic violence. Author and activist Kimberly Jones summarized the feelings of those who accept a refusal to rely on nonviolence alone in a passionate speech given during the 2020 widespread protests for racial equality, “If the social contract [between Black people and the state] is broken, then why the fuck do I give a shit about burning down the Pro Football Hall of Fame, about burning down a fucking Target. You broke the contract when you killed us in the streets and didn’t give a fuck… As far as I’m concerned, they could burn this bitch to the ground, and it still wouldn’t be enough. And they are lucky: that what Black people are looking for is equality, and not revenge.”

Jones is absolutely correct. Malcolm X was also correct when he said, “We should be peaceful, law-abiding—but the time has come for the American Negro to fight back in self-defense whenever and wherever he is being unjustly and unlawfully attacked.” The decision to use violent or nonviolent means of resistance belongs solely to the victims of oppression, not the perpetrators of it. If the victims of oppression find they would rather display the grace and mercy inherent in nonviolent noncooperation than retaliate in force, that’s their prerogative, but they should never be expected or pressured to be nonviolent by the same state that inflicts violence upon them. 

This objection to nonviolent resistance is fair, but proponents of violent stratagems to ignite social change and those who believe that people should be able to vent their frustrations with institutional racism violently and destructively, ignore two important things. First, what Black activism is supposed to achieve and what it must do to achieve it. Second, the practical reasons Black activism must be nonviolent to be successful. 

We Still Need Black Activism 

Some believe that Black activism is no longer a necessity in the United States. But as long as systemic racism exists: both in the form of the aftereffects of slavery and Jim Crow, and the current effects of systems still operating, Black activism will be necessary to pursue two goals: addressing the damaging effects of systemic racism and dismantling those racist systems. 

To achieve these goals, Black activists are forced to convince the “white moderate” to support their causes. This is due to both the nature of representative democracy in which white people are the majority and the prolonged, systematic economic abuse of Black people that leaves them with only the smallest fraction of wealth compared to their white counterparts. Activists are put in the unenviable position of convincing the white moderate to apply pressure on their elected officials if they desire any real possibility of political gains. Worse, they are compelled to convince them to open their pockets and bankroll the activists’ efforts. 

This would not be an issue if the white moderate was not so tenuous in their commitment to racial equality. Dr. King was so disillusioned with them, he wrote this in a letter from jail that responded to criticism of his demonstrations from white clergy, “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride towards freedom is not the White Citizens’ Councils or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than justice.” The white moderate includes those who claim to understand and empathize with Black plight but urge patience and passivity to the victims of it, hoping the problems will inevitably be solved. King claimed that their, “lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Unfortunately, the white moderate is the key to achieving tangible socio-political gains and the primary source of funding for those and other efforts. Even the smallest indication of violence scares them away. Their vacillations are part of the reason Black activism must be nonviolent to be successful.

The Media and the White Moderate’s Timidity

News media, regardless of format, style, and sometimes credibility, is largely responsible for shaping the perception of issues important to the American public. When Black activism is involved, the media’s already outsized influence on public opinion grows. The tone, frequency, and narrative employed in their coverage of Black activism can literally make or break the movement in question. The media is a double-edged sword to Black movements. On one hand, activists need the media to catch the attention of the public so that they can dramatize the conditions that drove them to demonstrate and engender support. So much so that former congressman John Lewis was driven to say, “The Civil Rights Movement without television, would’ve been like a bird without wings.” On the other hand, the media can quickly flip public opinion–specifically, that of the white moderate–against Black activists by producing negative coverage, especially coverage focused on violence, rioting, and looting. 

Unsurprisingly, the media mishandles this grave responsibility often. Research has shown the media to regularly frame protest coverage through the “protest paradigm”, a framework of coverage where “the press contributes to the political status quo by reinforcing whatever the government thinks.” In practice, this would look like the media portraying protests as public nuisances, ignoring the demands of protestors while still covering protests, using the passive voice to describe the actions of state actors while using the active voice to describe the actions of protestors, and focusing on instances of violence without contextualizing or quantifying them. 

Although there has been only minimal research conducted on this subject, the media’s ill-treatment of Black activists is common knowledge to them and anyone who watches coverage of a protest. It is what inspired Malcolm X to say, “If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” With the media always itching to tell the bad story about the Black activist, and the white moderate willing to listen, little room for error is available to the activist, and zero room for violence. 

Violence Has No End Goal Nor Direction 

In addition to the media hyper-fixating on acts of violence, there are more reasons violence does not work for Black activists. 

What would be the end goal of Black activism that employed violence as a tactic? Could progress and eventual reconciliation be achieved by those who espouse violence or violent self-defense as a strategy? Let history answer. Nat Turner was hanged after he lead a slave revolt, and Southerners retaliated by killing 200 Black people and passing even more oppressive legislation regarding the treatment of slaves. Fred Hampton, chairman of the Black Panther Party, was murdered in his sleep by the Chicago Police Department, in conjunction with the F.B.I., and the images of armed Black Panthers in the California statehouse moved then-governor Ronald Reagan and even the N.R.A. to support gun control laws. Thousands of largely forgotten Black insurrections following the end of the Civil Rights Movement were violently quelled by federal troops, increasingly militarized police departments, and white vigilantes. 

The majority-white power structure was, is, and will always be afraid of Black violence. Sadly, they have the power to back that fear with their own violence. No matter how many guns Black people own, no matter how much anxiety Black violent demonstrations can produce within American leadership, they possess highly organized, highly efficient, highly vicious means of violence that would make even the most well-armed Black Panther seem impotent. We cannot know if violent strategies can achieve the ends of racial equality or Black power because, throughout American history, those who utilized the strategies were expeditiously eliminated. 

Unless the goal of Black activism becomes revolution (actual regime change, not any other definition of the word), violence is useless to it, as it gives the state social permission to halt its use by any means necessary. And the goal of Black activism should not be revolution, because victory would be impossible. 

Violence as an Outlet for Frustrations?  

Some who support violence in Black activism do not view it as conducive to achieving the end goals, but still accept it because it can be used as an outlet to vent frustrations against racism and its effects. This is especially true of violence inflicted upon property, instead of humans. But is the point of activism to be cathartic? No, while working towards a future with more racial equality can certainly be a cathartic experience, venting frustrations for the sake of venting should not be anyone’s aim. This is especially true because violent venting hurts the movement much more than it helps it. 

The best way to release institutional frustrations would be to achieve progress that either dismantles those institutions or addresses the effects of those institutions, but that prospect becomes less and less likely every time the white moderate sees a corner store on fire. Black activism should focus on long-term gains, not short-term satisfaction. 

This article is not a condemnation of any Black activist, regardless of their opinion on the violence/nonviolence question. This is simply an argument for the nonviolent stance that considers the morality and the practical wisdom of that doctrine, in light of Black American history, the history of Black activism, and the current socio-political context of Black people. If that context were to change, it is possible that nonviolence could fade as the most effective option, but that has not happened, and likely will not. Nonviolence remains the most moral means of affecting social change, but if that is not enough to convince a person, it is also the most practical, most effective way to help Black people.

We Have the Responsibility to Help Our Fellow Kentuckians. Here’s How You Can Do So.

Photo by Shawn Triplett.

We at the Louisville Political Review extend our hearts to all UofL students, family, friends, and community members affected by the devastating tornadoes that hit Western Kentucky last Friday.

As very fortunate Kentuckians who were not directly affected by these disastrous events, we have the responsibility to help our neighbors to the west. Relief efforts are still very ongoing in these areas, and we want to encourage our readers to do one of the following to help your fellow Kentuckian:

  • Donate Blood
    • American Red Cross: Find locations near you to donate here.
  • Volunteer
    • Operation Unbridled Spirit: Team Rubicon Clean-up, Tarping, & Sifting Efforts. Dawson Springs, Mayfield, or Bowling Green,  register here. After preliminary online training is completed, and background check cleared, you may deploy with TR. Your food and lodging are provided. You may bring an air mattress- earmuffs and/or earplugs strongly recommended for sleeping. Will be in the areas at least into mid or late January. The group may return for house rebuilding if FEMA provides necessary funds.
    • Eight Days of Hope: A faith-based aid group doing similar work in Maysville, especially tarping, until January 8th. Sign up here.
    • Division of Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC) in Auburn, Kentucky: contact Mrs. Hope, FRYSC Director 270-542-6398, 
    • God’s Pit Crew Crisis Response Team: sign up here.
    • Volunteer in Greenville, KY: Please meet with an official at the Bremen Fire Department at 51 College St, Greenville, KY 42345. There’ll be plenty of assignments for volunteers, but please be orderly and coordinated, as they’ll be doing a more thorough search of the widespread damage.
    • Kentucky Emergency Management: sign up here.
    • Prepare and Serve food with Mercy Chefs: sign up here.
    • Spanish Translators Needed at Mayfield Independent Schools: email or call 270-804-1381
    • Clean up Efforts in South Warren County: Red Cross at 8140 Nashville Road, Bowling Green or (270) 467-7500 
    • Serve Food at Gasper Brewing Company (opens at 12 pm Central Time): 302 State Street, Bowling Green, KY 42101
    • Marshall County High School, 416 High School Rd. Benton, KY 42025: volunteers will be shuttled to impacted areas starting at 7 a.m. daily. (The Gilbertsville & Benton areas were hit just as hard as Mayfield & Dawson springs)
  • Donate Money
    • Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund: here.
    • American Red Cross: here.
    • Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief Fund: here.
    • Kentucky Counseling Center: here.
    • Venmo for Barrel & Bond/Paducah Bourbon Society: @BrianShemwell (cash donations go directly towards purchasing items requested by relief efforts at Mayfield High School)
    • Mayfield Strong Monetary Donations: here.
    • Venmo donations to Bowling Green Micro Pantry: Venmo handle @bgmicropantry
    • Mayfield-Graves County United Way: here.
    • Venmo donations to Marshall County- MC Nonprofit Foundation: Venmo handle @MCNPF.
    • Samaritan’s Purse: here.
    • Water with Blessings: here.
    • List of Community-based GoFundMe’s: here.
  • Donate Items (generators, non-perishable foods, space heaters, batteries, propane tanks, phone chargers, socks, undergarments, blankets, coats, warm clothes, shoes, toiletries, paper towels, plastic utensils, paper plates, feminine hygiene products, baby formula, diapers, wipes, water, snacks)
    • Salvation Army: locations here.
    • Hope 2 All Food Pantry in Drakesboro, KY: 307 W. Mose Rager Blvd. Drakesboro, KY 42337
    • Mount Zion Baptist Church:175 Graham Dr., Bowling Green, KY
    • Stepstone Family and Youth Services in Benton, KY: 78 Caky Dr, Benton, KY or (270) 527-8388 
    • Dawson Springs High School: 317 Eli Street, Dawson Springs, KY 42408 or 270-797-2957
    • Mayfield High School: 700 Douthitt St. Mayfield, KY 42066 or 270-247-4461
    • Marshall County Elks Lodge in Benton, KY: 97 Kashway Ln, Benton, KY or 270-703-2706
    • First Baptist Church in Paducah, KY: 2890 Broadway St, Paducah, KY or (270) 442-2728 
    • South Warren Middle School: 295 Rich Pond Rd or (270) 467-7510 
    • Mayfield/Graves County Fairgrounds: 1004 KY 121, Mayfield, KY 42066
    • Community Kitchen: 1237 Martin Luther King Jr Drive, Paducah, KY
    • Central Elementary School: 115 Jim Goheen Road, Benton, KY 42025 (accepting donations on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
    • Jefferson County Public Schools: VanHoose Education Center, 3332 Newburg Road, Louisville, KY 40218 (accepting donations from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m through Friday)
    • Highland Cleaners Coats and Book Drive: 2457 Bardstown Rd., Louisville, KY or 4007 Brownsboro Rd., Louisville, KY (in-person donations accepted through Jan. 7)
  • Adopt a pet, donate money or supplies to shelters of affected communities:
    • Mayfield-Graves County Animal Shelter: here.
    • Hopkins County Humane Society: here.
    • Mociso Farms Livestock Sanctuary & Rescue: here.
    • Warren County Humane Society: here.
    • Kentucky Humane Society: here.

The Direct Primary Care Model: Where You Can Get More for Less

Could patients ever pay less and get more?

The question seems almost ridiculous in America now, where an ER visit can cost thousands of dollars, but a growing group of primary care physicians think the answer is yes.

These primary care physicians use a business model called direct primary care. Think of it as a Netflix subscription: patients pay a flat monthly fee for nearly unlimited access to their physicians. 

A Solution to a Broken System 

For years now, doctors have been compensated under a fee-for-service model. In this system, doctors are paid for each patient they see, each test they order, each prescription they write, and any other service they give. This model incentivizes doctors to see as many patients as they can. Ultimately, this reduces the time a doctor gets to spend with each individual patient. It also incentivizes doctors to order more tests and write more prescriptions, some of which may be expensive and unnecessary. Additionally, because sicker patients tend to require more tests and more prescriptions, it incentivizes doctors to have sicker patients. This further incentivizes over-diagnosing and a decreased focus on preventative medicine.

Under a fee-for-service model, the patient is not just paying their doctor to take care of them. They pay insurance companies to pay their doctor to take care of them. The health insurance companies become a part of the doctor-patient relationship and profit off of it. Not only do they offer the questionable incentives above, but they charge the patient to do it. Around 90% of doctors operate under this model.

The direct primary care model was pioneered by Dr. Garrison Bliss. After becoming a doctor, Bliss found himself frustrated by the shortcomings of the healthcare system. And when his son became sick with a brain tumor, Dr. Bliss was disturbed by the number of doctors who had too many patients, spent less time with them, and were ordering tests and writing prescriptions that did not seem necessary.

Determined to solve these problems, Dr. Bliss began tinkering with a new model in his own practice. Eventually, he would help launch Qliance, one of the first major direct primary care practices. From then on, he spent his career advocating for and practicing direct primary care.  

But how does direct primary care get doctors to spend more time with patients and avoid charging them for unnecessary and expensive services?

It all comes down to the root of the problem: how physicians are paid. Instead of a fee-for-service model, direct primary care physicians use a subscription model. Patients at a direct primary care practice typically pay for a $30-150 monthly membership billed directly to them.

The direct billing to patients component is key here. In most cases, this eliminates the middleman. It kills the relationship between the doctor and insurance companies. Under a direct primary care model, doctors are paid the same, regardless of how many patients they see in a day, how many tests they order, or how many prescriptions they write. Their only incentive is to create a group of patients who deem their services valuable enough to continue to pay for them.

Additionally, without the burdensome insurance companies, doctors eliminate hours of paperwork a day. Without having to deal with hours of insurance paperwork, physicians can do more of what they actually went to medical school for: care for patients. Physicians at direct primary care facilities typically see patients for 30-60 minutes each visit. This starkly contrasts with insurance-dependent practices, where this number sits closer to 12-15 minutes.

Getting to do more of what they love and less paperwork reduces physician burnout – something especially important when around 42% of physicians report burnout. Physician burnout is a syndrome characterized by exhaustion and dissatisfaction relating to one’s career as a physician. Ultimately, it could lead to poorer work or leaving medicine entirely. This concern is especially relevant today, as more physicians are leaving medicine than ever before during a time in which they are needed the most. 

But back to the patients. Direct primary care patients are served in more ways than just office visits. Most direct primary care plans allow patients to access their physicians by phone calls, video calls, text messaging, email, and more. And when direct primary care physicians want to consult via these methods, they don’t have to wait and see how to bill it to insurance.

Patients save money on more than just office visits and physician contact, though. Most states allow physicians to prescribe and dispense drugs from their offices. In the same way that direct primary care physicians eliminate the middleman of insurance, they can eliminate the middleman of pharmacies. By dispensing drugs in-house, direct primary care physicians can save their patients hundreds of dollars on prescription drug costs. In addition, patients can save on testing too. One direct primary care practice in Florida reported their patients saving 95% on lab tests. Physicians typically achieve this tremendous cost reduction – yet again – by cutting out insurance. They can perform tests in-house or even negotiate with labs to reduce their patients’ prices. 

Where Direct Primary Care Draws Criticism

Direct primary care saves patients money and doctors time and hassle. Still, like anything, people have found reasons to criticize it. 

First, patients often need more than just primary care, and their membership fee does not include specialist visits. Thus, most direct primary care patients still need some form of health insurance. 

Often, their health insurance comes in the form of a high-deductible plan for catastrophic and medical emergencies. High-deductible plans have lower monthly costs, but patients are expected to pay more when healthcare costs begin to rack up.  

Given that patients often need more than just primary care, the monthly subscription fee can become expensive in addition to normal or alternative coverage. Patients might save money on primary care, but if they require more treatment, healthcare could become another expense on top of what they already pay. 

However, many direct primary care facilities are fairly inexpensive, staying on the lower end of that $30-150 range. In many cases, for less than the cost of a cell phone, patients have unlimited access to high-quality medical care. Furthermore, in direct primary care, there is no additional cost preventing the patient from seeing the doctor once they pay the monthly fee. As such, patients can expect more than just the twice-yearly visit. For no extra cost, they can call, text, or come into the office to see their doctor whenever anything might concern them. This close and time-intensive relationship with physicians, alongside reduced drug and test prices, helps prevent health emergencies for patients in the future.

Another criticism of direct primary care is that it could reduce access to primary care in a country with a shortage of primary care physicians. Most direct primary care physicians see significantly fewer patients than they otherwise would, meaning that fewer patients have access to them. Because of its smaller patient numbers and direct costs, direct primary care doctors can be seen as serving the wealthy and excluding the poor.

Dr. Garrison Bliss is trying to solve these problems. He believes that direct primary care practices can address these issues by reducing the monthly fees for less fortunate patients. Ideally, this would be balanced out by the hundreds of patients paying in full for membership at a given direct primary care practice. Furthermore, were health insurance plans to help with direct primary care, it might become a more viable option for many Americans. 

Increased access to direct primary care practices could become a realistic idea if insurance companies were willing to help pay for it. Instead of paying all primary care physicians based on a fee-for-service model, insurance companies could include an option to see physicians operating under a direct primary care model. If the companies helped pay by just contributing to the monthly fee and not interfering with the way the physician does business, this could become a viable option.

Regardless, however, physicians like Bliss work hard to ensure their direct primary care practices are equitable to all patients.

A Growing Model

Direct primary care is growing fast. According to the Direct Primary Care Coalition, there are now roughly 1,200 practices across 48 states serving 300,000 people. That’s around one in one thousand Americans. This is up from merely 620 practices in 2017 and 124 in 2014.

This growth is no exception in our home state of Kentucky, which is now home to around 20 direct primary care practices, with around half of those being in the Louisville area. Dr. Erin Coopers started a practice in Lexington around three years ago. She believes direct primary care appeals to Kentuckians looking for “better care” and lower costs. 

As the system grows, it’s also gaining more attention from lawmakers. By 2020, forty states had passed or were considering laws on direct primary care. Much of this legislation allows direct primary care practices to exist by treating them separately from insurance and permitting them to dispense drugs from their offices. This is the case in Kentucky, which became the eighteenth state to pass direct primary care legislation in 2017.

On the federal level, the Affordable Care Act has a provision that protects direct primary care plans. While Kentucky allows direct primary care practices to exist and dispense medicine directly, Medicaid still will not cover direct primary care fees.

Direct primary care is an undeniably successful and fast-growing business model that seeks to solve many of the problems within the current system of primary care in this country. By cutting out the often-criticized insurance companies, physicians get to spend more time with patients and save many of them money. With fewer patients and paperwork, direct primary care may even be a solution to physician burnout. 

Direct primary care’s success lies in its boldness. It challenges the existing model, freeing physicians from the paperwork and corrupt incentives of a healthcare system run not by healthcare providers, but by insurance companies. It exemplifies how businesses can thrive when allowed to operate independently and freely. For that, it is certainly worthy of praise and attention.

Furthermore, direct primary care, with its benefits and deficiencies, is continuing to expand and change the way Americans practice and experience medicine. As citizens and patients, we can work to explore how this business model might best serve us, and how we can work to increase access, not only within direct primary care but across the entire healthcare sector. 

An American Angst: What Keeps Young Voters From Traditional Political Participation?  

In May of 2016, a week after listening to former Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders at a rally on the Great Lawn in Louisville, I walked down to my polling station to cast my first-ever vote in the Democratic primary election. A few weeks later, Senator Sanders would go on to lose the nomination in a contested race that left many supporters heartbroken and even more frustrated with what they viewed as a broken political system. 

His promise of tuition-free college spoke volumes to someone like me who was in his senior year of high school, accepted into a university, and wondering how the hell he was going to pay for it all. His promise of universal health care greatly appealed to someone like me who had attended almost every doctor appointment with his mother and saw how much insulin cost and how little was covered under a Medicaid insurance plan. As someone coming of age, searching for a political identity, and living in a one-bedroom apartment with an infirm mother, his promises spoke to me. The idea that the government could provide me and my family with basic human necessities, and allow me and many other Americans the opportunity to pave a path for success truly inspired me. It gave me something to struggle for. 

Nearly five years later, with college tuition prices at an all-time high, a pandemic that has upended life as we know it, widespread political unrest, complexities, and injustices within this nation have become front and center, more so than at any other point in our lifetimes. Despite this, only 50% of eligible youth voters across the United States voted in the last presidential election. While that represents a notable increase in participation from the previous election, that is still a low turnout relative to other age groups. Sadly, in most elections youth turnout is regularly low. The most recent gubernatorial election in Virginia saw only 25% of eligible young voters come out and vote. 

One might ask themselves, what is it that keeps young people from getting out and voting? What are the driving factors behind disengagement with the political process? Some argue that it is a messaging problem. Others assert that there is a lack of concrete policy that benefits us: policy that could capture a generation, much like the New Deal, the Great Society, or even the Affordable Care Act. The problem is not just one particular fault. It is a toxic concoction of both government inaction and poor messaging. Young Americans deserve more than just empty promises and neglect from our political processes.

What Are Our Issues?

Among the issues that younger voters care about the most is climate change. Over the past five years, there have been massive demonstrations across the world calling for action by governments in stemming the rapid rise in global temperatures fueled by carbon emissions. More than a third of young voters sampled by Pew Research Center in a May 2021 poll identified climate change as a top concern, with more than 40% identifying it as one of many concerns. And though the infrastructure bill passed in Congress will address issues surrounding climate change, there are those who feel that it isn’t enough to meet the severity of the crisis. A report released by Princeton University found that what was passed by Congress would only result in a 1% drop in emissions over the next decade. 

On top of a failure to make transformational investments in climate change, Congress has failed to take any serious action on issues of police brutality. After millions made it clear they would not stand for state-sanctioned abuse and brutality, there were politicians making rounds on cable television– in stump speeches and in every medium possible– promising that something would change. And nothing happened. A failure to reach an agreement on qualified immunity as part of a larger congressional bill on policing resulted in the stalling of any effective legislation on police reform, and yet another promise broken. 

Simultaneously, efforts to cancel or otherwise drive down the rising cost of student debt have seemingly disappeared. During the 2020 campaign, then-candidate Joe Biden had promised to cancel up to $10,000 in student debt. Once elected, the administration went through a series of reviews to see if the President even had the legal authority to cancel student loans. It was revealed last month that a memo on the subject had actually been produced as early as February. The administration has not released the memo or even elaborated on its contents, and millions of young Americans are still saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. This, coupled with rising food, utility, and property prices only adds to the economic burden shouldered by the millions of current and former students trying to scratch out a living and an education at the same time. 

What Kind of Change? 

Without substantive change, young people won’t vote. All the outreach strategies in the world can’t make up for a static government that doesn’t address their issues and chooses to do nothing. The value of a slow process is derived from the ability for all members to have their input and for the minority to have adequate representation in making and passing laws. However, even the word “slow” implies some sort of speed. On the most serious issues, the government has effectively stalled. 

So how do we change this? It starts with voting. It starts with getting out there and showing those who are most resistant to change that we are tired of the way things are. Showing them that we want something done. It doesn’t just involve voting, however, it also involves community organizing, talking to people, and changing the narrative around issues. Fundamentally, the system has to adapt to counter growing problems in a more efficient manner. 

That starts with major corporate money being removed from the system. The billions of dollars that come from billionaires and corporate donors effectively prevent the government from doing its job. During the battle for the Build Back Better bill, lobbyists from across the political spectrum and various industries lobbied extensively to strike provisions from the bill. Dental industry lobbyists, for example, fought and succeeded so far in preventing an expansion of dental coverage for millions of Americans, despite the fact that voters consider dental coverage a top priority they want to see out of this bill.  This kind of money and influence thrives in a vacuum of civic engagement, particularly in districts where the officeholder is usually considered safe. The reason someone like Mitch Mcconnell might not think twice about taking donations from the American Petroleum Institute or Occidental Petroleum Group or the American Dental Association is that he isn’t concerned that voters will turn against him because of those donations.

In order to change that kind of thinking, we need to elect candidates that resist corporate influence and truly stand with the people. It’s no easy task, especially in a state like Kentucky, where oil, coal, gas, dental associations, and major healthcare companies are entrenched industries that still employ thousands of people and wield deep influence within the state political system. And while one candidate might not immediately solve the problems facing us, that transformative change could pave the road for the kind of action we want to see from our leaders. There’s no greater threat than seeing a “safe” candidate lose their seat. 

At the end of the day, however precious young voters may be, if the issues facing us aren’t addressed in a meaningful manner, the votes just won’t be there. People don’t vote if they’re not encouraged and activated. The omnipotent presence of money and power and their intersection must be challenged. Candidates, Democratic or Republican, can’t continue to simply paint one side as fascist or socialist and pray that the votes come around. Democrats in particular can’t completely rely on just the threat of authoritarianism. 

They have to take the fight to it. They have to challenge the system and present an alternative to their voters. At a time where economic conditions are tightening, and major companies are posting record earnings, we need something more than the status quo. We need fighters. We need people who will fight tooth and nail for the kind of changes we need to our political system and our society, in order to adapt to the new world on our horizon. We need to vote. Because when we vote, we hold our politicians accountable.

A Heart-Ache of a Process: Immigration in the United States

The United Nations defines a refugee as someone who has been forced to leave their country because they are facing persecution or some form of targeted violence. Typically, refugees do not live with the general public of their new country. Most live in refugee camps, as my family did. We lived in a refugee camp for nearly a decade before finally being granted visas to immigrate to the United States. 

The immigration process is the embodiment of burdensome bureaucracy. It is a process that actively ignores the cries of people who are on the verge of life and death situations. It takes courage, persistence, patience, and a stroke of luck to even be in contention for a visa. The entire process is flawed. The problems are dangerously copious and they impede the pursuit of life, liberty, and property for many refugees, potential immigrants, and immigrants currently living in the United States.

Could You Ever Take That Mile Walk?

To understand why immigrants seek to leave their own countries, we must first look at the context of their country of origin. It may be difficult for anyone to truly understand why my family left our beloved country to live in a refugee camp for nearly a decade. It should never take decades to receive a visa to go to the US when we were forced to live in perpetual fear under a government that gazed elsewhere when we sought help. For my parents, escaping an imminent danger of a civil war in the 1990s in the Democratic Republic of Congo only to find refuge in the poverty-ridden country of Mozambique may seem nonsensical, but when you are seeking aid your options are extremely limited. 

Many refugees like myself have experienced the nightmares of anxiously waiting for a month’s rationing of food from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ assistance program that may never arrive due to the corrupt local government that ransacks the distributing trucks and hoards all food and supplies only to sell them at rates that no refugee can afford to pay. Many could never truly understand that unless they too have lived it, so instead of explaining it, I just say that our family came to America for a better life. After all, who doesn’t love a good story of an African wanting to make it big in the US and to attain the elusive myth that is the American Dream? 

Comparative Immigration Policies of Past Presidents

Before the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980, there was not a comprehensive definition of a refugee in U.S. law. There was an annual average of 200,000 refugees entering the United States throughout the 1970s, a decade that had an influx of immigration from Vietnam to the United States. And the fall of Saigon in 1975 led to the U.S.-sponsored evacuation of an estimated 125,000 Vietnamese refugees who are known as the boat people. In response to such unprecedented events, Congress passed legislation that amended the previous Refugee Act and defined a refugee as “any person who is outside his or her country of residence or nationality, or without nationality, and is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” 

In 1982, after establishing who qualifies for refugee status, only 98,096 refugees were accepted. The trend of refugees arriving in the U.S. would slightly rise again under President George H.W. Bush’s administration, where it peaked at 125,548 in 1992. Unfortunately, there was a significant decrease in 2002 with the numbers plummeting to just 26,785. This was the result of increased travel restrictions following the devastating terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. 

After the attacks, the country saw a spike in xenophobia that renewed preexisting racial profiling, especially for those of Arabic descent and Muslims in the country. There was an estimated 500% spike in hate crimes directed toward Muslims in the years following 9/11. Under the Obama administration, we saw a greater acceptance of refugees, which then came in sharp contrast with the Trump administration, which openly spurred anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican attitudes and policies, as well as overall disdain towards immigrants. A case in point is the executive order that was taken to the Supreme Court after backlash for barring immigration from several Muslim-majority countries. 

Months ago, we saw a strategic failure befall under the Biden administration as they pulled troops out of Afghanistan, leaving the nation in the hands of the Taliban after 20 years of war and bloodshed. After the departure from Kabul, the total number of people who have entered the United States after leaving Afghanistan through Aug. 31st is 31,107 — a number that will only grow with time considering the positive stance on immigration that the Biden Administration has taken in comparison to the previous administration.

The 2019 census report reveals that the United States has a population of more than 330 million people. Of those millions of people, 280 million are born in the US, 22 million are citizens through naturalization, and an additional 22 million are not citizens or are in the process of becoming citizens of the United States. Our Bluegrass state has an overall population of 4.5 million, with 4.2 million being born in the US, 70,000 naturalized, and 100,000 not yet citizens. Jefferson County, Kentucky’s most populated county, has 700,000 US-born citizens, 27,000 naturalized citizens, and 33,000 who are not yet citizens. 

Despite making up such a large and important part of the U.S., immigrants fall short in many categories of societal development, such as higher education and affordable housing. These deficiencies lead to high rates of homelessness and ultimately an even greater exacerbation of the poverty crisis in the U.S.

Is the American Dream Attainable for Immigrants Today?

Most immigrant families share similar goals that they hope for their children to have the opportunity to pursue. The goal is simply to create a better life than your parents fought for you to have. This is obtained by going to school, getting exceptional grades, attending a university, and getting a diploma, most commonly in either engineering, medicine, or law school. These are the common pathways that immigrant parents want their children to take when they grow up. With arduous work and a touch of fortune, they may just strike a gold mine and create generational wealth for their entire family. 

Sadly, this goal is far out of reach for many. In 2018, 49.2% of immigrants’ level of education was a high school diploma or less, 18.8% had either an associate degree or had some type of college experience, and an astounding 32% had a bachelor’s degree or higher. In addition to that, most first-generation, soon-to-be college students that have undocumented family members do not file for the Free Application for Federal Assistance because they understand the risk posed when revealing the names of undocumented family members: the Department of Education could pass that information to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and/or the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services who could then take irreversible actions such as deporting those who do file the form. 

How can immigrants expect success in this country when they receive little to no meaningful government assistance? Due to the failure of the federal government to pass legislative measures that adequately create social programs that help immigrants succeed – outside of throwing cash at us in hopes that those monies land in the right place by some luck – immigrant youths age 16-24 are more likely to drop out of school with a dropout rate of 29.1 percent. This is nearly three times the rate of the 9.9 percent of native-born youths because the lack of assistance forces them to enter the workforce to aid their families financially. 

With the overwhelming evidence pointing to government failure in its current trajectory, it is not a bad idea for the government to create active social programs that do not rely on the traditional system of simply handing out cash. Significant and practical solutions that could be produced involve the establishment of a new and improved curriculum that can assist English learners instead of relying on a flawed system that has not worked well enough. Having an educational system that is propitious to immigrants will encourage better results, hiring teachers that have an ethnic background that could help foreign students to become comfortable and active in schools, and providing government support for immigrant housing.  

Throwing money at the problem instead of addressing the issue does not and has not worked in favor of many countries, as Efosa Ojomo, a senior research fellow at the Christensen Institute, points out: “At best, cash transfer programs are akin to using Band-Aids on a wound with a serious infection . . . why not learn from countries that were once poor and are now prosperous? Singapore, South Korea, and China didn’t lift over a billion people out of poverty by handing out cash.” The U.S. used this method to bring the nation out of poverty during the Great Depression by passing the New Deal which created many infrastructure projects that demanded a high concentration of workers, which in effect fixed the economy. The Roosevelt administration did not print more money to be distributed to the masses because it would not have worked. Instead, they devised programs that have had a lasting impact on the country to this day. The same formula can be applied to address the issue of the poor education system that greatly affects immigrants in the U.S. To provide nothing more than just cash handouts to immigrants who want to set their families up for success would be nothing short of a failure and could significantly affect the U.S. economy even more. 

The Importance of Active Assistance

Immigrant families that arrive in a distant country require assistance –there’s no doubt about that. Without it, they’re on the verge of becoming yet another heartbreaking tale of a shattered dream. Thankfully, there are private organizations that act as agents/caseworkers for immigrants by providing necessities when they arrive in the U.S. For example, my family and I had the help of the Catholic Charities of Louisville in our first couple of years here by providing services that were crucial for us to understand how to survive in the U.S. This included donating clothes to us, providing basic house appliances, teaching us American customs, and tutoring us to learn English. And this organization has done this for thousands of other immigrant families in Louisville as well. Unfortunately, these resources aren’t available to all refugees and immigrants. If the U.S. government could implement similar social programs to its system, we could see better results than what we have today. 

In Pursuit of Happiness

The poem on our Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door” by Emma Lazarus is self-evident in American history. Strength in unity and diversity: that is the core definition of the land of the free. America is a proud nation of immigrants, and depriving them of life, liberty, and happiness due to a flawed system would imply a betrayal of the United States of America’s founding principles.

Libertarians Can Support Mask Mandates Without Violating their Philosophy

Photo by Patrick Whalen, featuring Justus Kellond.

Rand Paul, whose father was a member of the Libertarian party, is often described as a Libertarian-leaning Republican. In 2018, Paul gave a talk at Duke University published as “How Libertarian Philosophy Can Connect Divided Partisans.” For Paul, libertarianism is about protecting liberty and preventing government overreach in the lives of citizens. When asked how he “can be against government intrusion into private lives yet oppose a woman’s right to an abortion,” Paul described the libertarian philosophy as one that is typically against aggression and said that “If you think the baby is not a person, do what you want. If you think it’s a person then Libertarians say the government has a role to stop it.” Why? Because the basic principle of libertarianism is this: Do whatever you want, so long as it doesn’t harm others.

Fast forward to 2021, and Rand Paul has become one of the nation’s leading opponents to mask and vaccine mandates. In November of 2020, Paul moved a presentation he was giving to WKU students outdoors instead of abiding by the university’s COVID-19 masking policy, calling it “ridiculous.” Paul said “each individual should get to make their choice on what their risks are,” and that, “For young people under age 25, the death rate from the coronavirus is one in a million.” In August, Paul released an op-ed expressing his aversion to mandates and other coronavirus policies from “petty tyrants and feckless bureaucrats.” He closed by calling readers to “stand together” and “choose freedom.” For Paul and others like him, mask mandates are deemed paternalistic, meaning they force people to do what the government considers best for them, and are in direct opposition to libertarian philosophy. However, is it possible that mask mandates are not totally paternalistic, but instead a blend of libertarian and paternal principles? 

The Libertarian Principle

John Stuart Mill, a classical liberal, is often noted as the father of Utilitarianism, and his essay, “On Liberty” has contributed to fundamental libertarian principles. Mill begins the essay by writing, “that the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” He goes on to say that man should not be forced to do something “because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right.” These sentences form the basis of libertarianism, and in many instances inform a simple and straightforward philosophy. It champions personal freedom and abhors any attempt to limit it because something is deemed “good” for an individual. Mill’s statement, though, creates an interesting problem in terms of mask mandates. On one hand, mask mandates compel individuals to do something because it would be beneficial for them to do so and because it would be “wise” or “right.” This is inherently paternalistic and goes against the second half of Mill’s principle. On the other hand, when individuals choose not to wear masks in public places during a global pandemic, they certainly put the health and safety of those around them at risk, which is the only time, according to Mill, that an individual should be compelled to do something. 

Paternalistic in Nature

Paternalism, in essence, is concerned with compelling the general public to do what the government deems best for them. It could also be thought of as something that coerces individuals into doing something good for them that they perhaps do not recognize as good on their own. Examples of paternalistic laws could be ones that require helmets while riding motorcycles, seatbelts while driving, or preventing swimming without a lifeguard on duty. 

Paternalism violates the second half of Mill’s principle and was a philosophy that he was adamantly against. Mill’s principle is not as simple as it seems at the outset, though, which is something that Gerald Dworkin discussed in his essay, “Paternalism,” long before the age of COVID-19. Dworkin writes that Mill’s principle is really two: one that deems individual protection and prevention of harm to others as a good reason for government or societal intervention, and another that asserts that the good of the individual is never a warrant for compulsion. Dworkin notes that Mill himself was not totally concrete in his opposition to paternalistic principles, though, as he favored things like an intervention to prevent someone from selling himself into slavery by his own will because it would limit the man’s liberty. It is easy to see, then, that even to Mill his principle was nuanced, and that it is important to consider the context of individual circumstances. 

Certainly, mask mandates are paternalistic in nature. In mandating the use of a mask in public places, the government essentially forces you to protect yourself from COVID-19, disregarding whether you would choose to do so on your own. Dworkin writes that when a motorcycle rider chooses to go without a helmet, it isn’t that he doesn’t care about his safety, but perhaps that he values his personal freedom more, or simply doesn’t think it is likely that he’ll become injured. Most people who wear masks voluntarily in public understand the benefits of doing so, while those who do not perhaps do not understand the benefit or deem personal freedom more important, which further shows how mask mandates, and feelings towards them, coincide with paternalism.

Though mask mandates are paternalistic in this sense (they force you to protect yourself), it isn’t entirely possible to be against them using libertarian principles as justification. Considering that the decision to not wear a mask can impact others around you, it is safe to say that libertarians can reasonably support mask mandates without violating their philosophy. After all, John Stuart Mill was a major proponent of Utilitarianism, which is all about the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. If everyone wore a mask, fewer people would fall ill, and the greatest amount of good would be created. 

Must a libertarian pick a side in an argument that tugs at both ends of their system? Not necessarily. According to Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler in their essay “Libertarian Paternalism is Not an Oxymoron,” libertarian paternalists can “attempt to steer people’s choices in welfare-promoting directions without eliminating freedom of choice.” While it could be hard to do this in relation to mask mandates, it is definitely possible to think of ways to incentivize mask-wearing while leaving choices open. In the essay, Sunstein and Thaler note that this is usually accomplished by leaving free choice available, but making the choice to avoid what the government deems as “the best choice” inconvenient. For instance, if libertarians were to adopt this approach, they could designate certain hours in stores and restaurants as mask-free hours. Those hours may be very early or near close, but nonetheless, they would be available to those who do not want to wear a mask. It could be tricky, but possible to leave options open.  

Is Rand Right?

It is evident that Rand Paul values personal freedom and dislikes paternalism as much as John Stuart Mill did. However, it is also apparent that Paul does, or has, valued the principle that you should do what you want so long as it doesn’t harm others, as evidenced in his 2018 statement on abortion. Given this, it is interesting that he has so staunchly opposed mask-wearing and mask mandates in general. 

With the rise in vaccination rates, though, the tide has started to turn on mask mandates. Since vaccinated individuals are much less likely to contract COVID-19 or to become seriously ill, it is up for debate whether those who are unmasked and unvaccinated really pose a risk to anyone but themselves. Undoubtedly, though, Paul is right about one thing––it is possible for libertarian philosophy to bring divided partisans together, especially if partisans and legislators unite to produce policies that protect individual freedom while encouraging practices that prevent harm to others. As we move forward in the discussion of COVID-19 vaccine mandates, this is important to remember. In politics, few issues are totally black or white, and keeping this in mind will produce policies that are more understanding of everyone’s concerns.  

Kentucky’s Rising Student Debt Crisis

The United States, the so-called “Land of Opportunity,” has a knack for leaving people behind. Take an example aside from the titular issue: the healthcare system. Virtually every other developed country in the world has one form or another of a single-payer healthcare system. The United States does not.

Government inaction exists most strikingly within American higher education. Tuition at public and private institutions has skyrocketed over the past 40 years, even with inflation fully factored in. To curb this, the federal government has become the primary financier of student loans. In total, student loan debt amounts to $1.3 trillion, and continues its steady rise at this very minute. 

Loans are not the solution, and the federal government is not guaranteeing anything to anyone by issuing loans. When a person signs off on their loans, they’re likely not told about the years of laborious work that will be put in to pay them off.

A trend that certainly doesn’t help is the methodical corporatization of the higher education system as a whole—an attack that seeks to corrupt and soil education’s very role as a cultivating institution. The effects are right before our eyes. Universities function, effectively, as corporations with a bottom line, seeking profit-making opportunities and cost reductions.

How is Kentucky Faring?

Let’s look at Kentucky. The picture is no less grim. Data released by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy reveals, ominously, the degree to which Kentucky is an indebted state. As wages and Federal Pell Grants fail to keep pace with the rising costs of college attendance, a rising share of Kentuckians are taking out student loans—an estimated 616,000 adults currently, or 18%, which is higher than the national rate of 12.9%. In the Commonwealth alone, principal and interest balance total almost $20.5 billion.

The median amount of loans owed is around $18,000. However, a shocking number of Kentucky residents—an estimated 125,000—owe more than $50,000. Upon closer inspection, borrower demographics tell us something as well: the fact that young college graduates are not the only age group with a heavy loan burden. Close to 20,000 borrowers—with an average of $38,000 of student debt—are at or near retirement age. This is attributable to a large share of parents who’ve taken out loans to finance their children’s education.

Of course, institutional factors play a large role in the mess. Hikes in tuition echo slashes in funding of public universities by state governments. As higher education becomes increasingly underfunded by individual states, the costs of attending college rise steeply—and of course, the student has to cough it up.

What’s the Plan?

At the end of the day, the key player in determining who can and cannot get a free, high-quality education is the federal government. As mentioned before, 92% of outstanding student debt in the United States was issued by the federal government—so they regulate the mass of it. Debt cancelation should be the common-sense position. Virtually every other developed country provides free education … and we certainly don’t want to be behind, do we?

Here’s how we put an end to this: current loans should be canceled by executive order. President Biden has already canceled $11.5 billion, so there’s your precedent. Additional fees, room and board, and other non-tuition costs should be covered by Pell Grants. After that, public colleges and universities should become tuition-free through legislation similar to the College for All Act proposed by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont). College for All guarantees free tuition for families that make up to $125,000, but it should go further. No family should be singled out. The only way to truly guarantee education to Americans is to finance it universally.

Want to talk economics? The cancelation of student debt creates financial security, allowing workers to make basic ends meet. It increases the likelihood of consumer investment, strengthens consumer protections, and provides people with more opportunities to buy. From this point of view, the ways in which student debt cancelation would change lives are innumerable.

Let’s think about this from an elementary moral position, though. The state of American education is unconscionable. Human beings are being refused the opportunity to flourish because there is an indefensible price tag on learning. If you can’t afford it, you can’t learn. If you can, well, guess what? Welcome aboard. You’ll learn to live with your debt until you pay it off — interest included, of course.

Look: education is the nourishment that leads a human being to their fullest potential, and there is an obstacle in the way of that pursuit. Americans know! Calls for federal relief programs are heard all across the United States—and exist as majorities within both parties.

Of course, pushback and resistance from private financiers is expected. It’s only natural that the business class will wage a relentless war to curb regulation of its wealth. This bitter struggle isn’t fought outright– instead, the wealthy opt for more subtle methods. All they have to do is tweak the narrative. Student debt cancelation is smeared as too far, too radical, and too extreme. 

Profiteers don’t want that. Limiting the spectrum of debate to acceptable barriers is their strategy. 

Their Achilles’ heel is that they don’t have the people.

Louisville Needs Affordable Housing

It’s fall now, and the days have turned colder. At night it dips into the 40s, and like most people, I don’t have to compete for a safe spot to sleep, I don’t have to worry about staying warm and dry, about my belongings getting stolen in the middle of the night, or about getting woken up and made to move. I have a warm bed and an apartment to shelter in, a privilege that sadly not all Kentuckians share. 

Homelessness in our communities is an issue easily overlooked, especially by people living in affluent and middle class neighborhoods. However, the reality of Kentucky’s homeless population is stark. The United States Council on Homelessness in January 2020 counted over 4,000 people who were homeless on any given day in the state of Kentucky. That Council also found that over the course of the 2018-2019 school year, more than 24,000 students experienced homelessness at some point. 

Homelessness is often featured on television as a problem major cities fail to solve, but it also exists right here in our communities. Most people who experience homelessness couldn’t make rent, lost their job, or experienced another financial emergency.  And while the majority of homeless people are not homeless for long, it’s horrific that anyone has to be homeless. It’s a traumatic and unsafe position to be in, and as we look towards another winter, another year, we cannot allow homelessness to persist. 

Exacerbated By COVID-19

Even before the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the number of homeless people in Kentucky was increasing for years. The most common type of homelessness is temporary, and temporary homelessness is often brought on by sudden financial crises. Unfortunately, COVID created the perfect storm for financial crises, with unemployment soaring during the pandemic and millions of people getting sick. Experts predict that the ramifications of this will be increased homelessness. 

This crisis is especially prominent in Louisville with our eviction rate being two times the national average. During the pandemic, Louisville evictions did not slow down to meet the needs of our community. Many evictions were concentrated in the West End and central neighborhoods. This increased housing insecurity left many people vulnerable to homelessness. On top of that, due to a lack of resources, COVID cases were particularly high among homeless people in Kentucky. Unfortunately, they were not given priority access to the vaccine despite their heightened vulnerability. One COVID precaution the state took was closing food pantries, so almost overnight, homeless people lost access to hot meals and nutritious food. 

One positive aspect of the pandemic was that the community of Louisville came together to help its homeless population.  Kerrigan Young, a volunteer at the nonprofit organization Feed Louisville, since its founding at the start of the pandemic, pointed out that, “it can be traumatic to sleep outside, especially for women. There is a lot of fear sleeping on the street, all of your belongings are exposed and you are incredibly vulnerable.” The nonprofit Feed Louisville really took off in March 2020, partly in response to food pantries closing, and in an interview with Kerrigan, she discussed how the pandemic opened people’s eyes to housing insecurity. While the numbers of homeless people increased, the community rallied to feed, house, and help those in need. Feed Louisville now has over 1000 volunteers, and in the last year has housed 50 people, most of whom were chronically homeless. Feed Louisville is also a proud partner of UofL, with UofL’s Alumni Club donating food to the organization.

Lack of Affordable Housing

Homelessness is a problem with an easy solution: putting people in houses. And this solution is by far the cheapest alternative to providing care for people without houses. The University of Louisville’s Kent School of Social Work conducted studies in 2004 and 2005 that determined homelessness cost the city of Louisville around $88,000,000. Much of that money was spent on correctional institutions, mental health services, and substance abuse services. The conclusion that the Coalition for the Homeless and many other advocacy organizations have come to is that the cheapest and most compassionate solution to alleviate homelessness is to put people in houses.

One of the best ways to alleviate homelessness is to provide affordable housing. The Department of Housing and Urban Development calculated that a fair market value for a two bedroom apartment in Louisville would be $694 a month including utilities. However, the average two bedroom apartment in Louisville goes for about $726 total. In order to afford that apartment, a minimum wage worker would have to work 77 hours a week. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, “Families living on… benefits and/or food stamps receive between $162 and $635 per month. Most of these individuals cannot even find an apartment where 100% of their income would cover rent and utilities. This does not take into account transportation, clothing, food, child care, medicine and other basic needs.” 

About 25% of homeless people have a job, so unemployment is not the only cause of homelessness. Clearly there is a need for more affordable housing as prices continue to rise while wages stay stagnant. If you cannot afford a place to live on minimum wage, housing prices are too high and wages are too low. In the short term, shelters and other resources are good, but in order to solve frequent and chronic homelessness, affordable housing is necessary. This is especially true for young adults. Over half of homeless young adults have jobs, but many are unable to pay first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit. Others have children that make it even more difficult to make ends meet. 

Once someone becomes homeless, obtaining and keeping a job can become extremely difficult. Many homeless people do not have all of their belongings. According to Kerrigan, many homeless people do not have access to their ID or Driver’s License, their birth certificate, or their Social Security information. It can be hard to prove citizenship and without proof of residence many jobs are unattainable. Without a car or a safe place to keep belongings, a job becomes more and more challenging to keep.  

Affordable housing provides a safety net for unexpected expenses and financial crises. It would help alleviate homelessness and would save money. COVID is the perfect example of an unforeseen crisis that caused huge financial insecurity, ultimately resulting in an uptick in the number of homeless people across the country. Having affordable housing is one way to ensure that those types of situations in the future don’t result in homelessness for Kentuckians. 

Respect for the Homeless

For various reasons, a lot of people don’t see the benefit of trying to help homeless people ‘who don’t want to be helped’. In America and especially in Louisville, many people have been desensitized to the realities that homeless people face, and may feel little sympathy for those facing mental health struggles and addiction. Marcus Stubbs, a writer for the Courier Journal who was once homeless himself, outlines a strategy for addressing the needs of the homeless community: notice, listen, learn, and engage. He advocates for treating homeless people like human beings, listening to their stories, learning about ways to help homeless people, and getting engaged in your community. Stubbs talks about how one of the most helpful people during the period of his life in which he experienced homelessness was his coach, simply because his coach saw him as human rather than homeless. 

There is a lot of stigma surrounding being homeless and other stigmas surrounding mental health, addiction, and poverty. The first step to getting homeless people the help they need is to treat them like human beings. Too often homeless people are viewed as a blight on society, as though they are less than ‘hard-working’ people. This perpetuates negative and untrue stereotypes about how and why people become homeless. Those living on the streets are looked down upon, facing constant harassment. At worst, people jeer and make fun. At best, they throw some change in their direction or ignore homeless people altogether. Kerrigan from Feed Louisville observed that LMPD purposefully throws away the belongings of homeless people while they are asleep or if they leave the camp. LMPD clears homeless camps often, forcing homeless people to and start over.

There have been many policy proposals to eliminate homelessness, and I hope that this issue continues to be talked about. Homeless people have voices, and they can and do talk about their experiences, so it’s important that we listen to them. At the end of the day, the only way to solve chronic homelessness is to put people in houses. And the only way to solve frequent and temporary homelessness is to provide affordable housing. Homeless people are people, and they deserve to have their basic needs met. Mental health services and addiction recovery services are vital for the health of our communities, but first and foremost, housing is needed.

Photo by Jon Tyson

The True Cost of a World Cup

Twenty-two players on the field, eleven on each side. The game plays for ninety minutes. Those ninety minutes will fly by. You blink, you might miss out on magic happening on the field. Every thunderous kick of the ball is packed with passion. Every step over, every flick of the ball is backed with a touch of glimmering bliss. Every goal scored reflects the result of determination from the players. Every joyous scream and jeers from fans in the stand reflect the beautiful game. One of the oldest sports in human history remains unscathed with an unmatched love. 

The game of football unites people around the world, with people from different backgrounds coming together to enjoy the occasion. A forty year study from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association has revealed that the percentage of 6- to 12-year-olds playing soccer regularly has dropped nearly 14 percent, to 2.3 million players. So why has the sport’s popularity dwindled in the past decade? How can the game that is known around the world be on the decline? These questions are answered by the nepotism of FIFA by allowing the beautiful game to be desecrated. 

A Middle Finger to the United Nations

Hosting their first World Cup starting in 1930, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the highest football governing body in the world. FIFA has hosted its World Cup every four years since its establishment in 1930 (with the exception of during World War II). Different countries host the tournament each time, with the last installment being hosted by Russia in 2018. In 2010, FIFA awarded the rights to host the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, an absolute monarchy run by the house of Thani since 1847. The past rulers have been notorious for committing numerous human rights violations for the sake of preserving their oil reserves. 

This proved to be extremely controversial; not only because of past corruption among high-ranking FIFA officials, but also because of the numerous human rights violations that have been committed by Qatar. Violations of the host nation include a modern form of slavery in the kafala system, failure to enforce health and safety standards in work environments that would not be addressed until a year prior the tournament could occur, worker exploitations that included short breaks while working long hours, no minimum wage, poor living conditions for workers,  predatory employment contracts that would not allow migrant workers to terminate their contracts, and if they could, they’d be required to pay a deployment fee that was significantly higher than a regular fee, sometimes migrant workers were promised high paying jobs in their contracts that were written in a foreign language that they could not comprehend, and the suppression of unionizing in Qatar could not allow migrant workers to stage any boycotts or attempt collective bargaining. All of these human rights violations occurred between 2011-2020, just shortly after the Qatari government began constructions on the World Cup.    

This is a cry for help from those who have been silenced by the football governing body and shunned upon by leaders around the world while these atrocities are being committed. Articles 4 and 5 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights state that, “everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person and that no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” All statutes listed in the document are mandated to all participating countries in the United Nations, yet Qatar has chosen to ignore this for the sake of football and enriching the shareholders who support the infrastructure of modern football.

Corrupted Officials

On May 10, 2011, former Football Association chairman Lord Triesman brought allegations forward against certain members who were influenced by gifts in exchange for their votes. Some of these allegations included a request from Jack Warner, former FIFA Vice President and Minister of National Security of Trinidad and Tobago, who asked for 2.5 million pounds to build an educational center in Trinidad in exchange for his vote. Ricardo Teixeira, former president of  Brazil’s football confederation reportedly told Triesman, “Tell me what you can do for me when you come to see me.” This statement infers Teixeira would not discuss anything with anyone without some type of advantage. These allegations did not vanish, instead, more arose with time. In 2010, Qatar paid FIFA officials an estimated $4oo million from Qatari news outlet Al Jazeera for television rights 21 days before the host country would be decided. They also paid another $480 million three years later. 

In addition to that, in 2014, The Telegraph discovered that former FIFA officials were paid up to $2 million from a firm that was connected to Qatar’s bid. As a result of the series of corruption, football officials were punished for their role in the fiasco. The FIFA president at the time, Sepp Blatter, resigned amidst the corruption scandal and was banned for 90 days from football activities before receiving an eight-year ban from footballing activities (he would ultimately receive a follow-up ban of six years in March of 2021). Former UEFA (a sub government body of FIFA that is dedicated to European countries) President Michel Platini was arrested on June 18th, 2019 due to tampering with the election, accepting bribes, and coercion in the process of awarding Qatar the World Cup. Other members who were influenced by third parties in the process were also arrested and indicted on several charges. Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter described allowing Qatar to host the World Cup as a “mistake” and followed up by saying, “The technical report into Qatar said clearly it was too hot but the executive committee – with a large majority – decided, all the same, to play it in Qatar.” In actuality, FIFA officials were paid large sums of money to elect a nation that was not suitable to host a World Cup. Unfortunately, it is now too late to change this decision and they will live with their mistakes and the potential harm that the cup will cause to the player’s health.

Kafala System

To understand the humanitarian crisis in Qatar, it is important to know about the system that perpetuates it. The Kafala system is the relationship between foreign workers and local sponsors who are their employers in most cases. If an immigrant from Pakistan, for instance, is offered a job in Qatar, he or she would need a sponsor to provide a passport, a plane fare, a place to stay when they land, equipment that they will need for their job, etc. Since these immigrants do not have the capacity to pay for their own entry into the country, they rely on their employers to do so. A common practice is that the migrant workers are given two choices: 1) they take a loan that has high interest, or 2) they have their wages reduced or withheld for months to cover the fees. There are reports that suggest these workers chose to receive little to no pay as long as they avoided the loan as they felt it was a “better option than taking out high-interest loans or paying up-front”. 

Another reason this system is flawed is that workers do have the option of returning home– but only at their own expense. While this seems plausible, “Interviews with government officials, recruiters, and migrant workers alike revealed that many could not afford to pay the deployment costs (which amounted to almost a year’s salary) and were forced to resume work and finish the length of their contracts.” This is known as prohibitive deployment cost, a vile act that traps migrant workers from leaving by exploiting their economic status.

The Desecration of the Beautiful Game for Now

Qatar’s population has exploded in the last decade. At the end of 2009, its population was listed at 1.7 million, just before their World Cup bid was accepted by FIFA. Ten years later, the population reached 2.4 million. By 2013, migrant workers already dominated Qatar’s labor force, comprising 94 percent of all workers and 86 percent of the country’s total population of nearly 2 million, the world’s highest ratio of migrants to citizens. Qatar’s own population could not build the infrastructure that was required by FIFA’s standards. Under provision III, clause 2 of FIFA’s standards it is stated that “All Team Delegation Members shall comply with the Laws of the Game and the FIFA Statutes and all applicable FIFA regulations (including these Regulations), in particular the FIFA Disciplinary Code, the FIFA Stadium Safety and Security Regulations, the FIFA Anti-Doping Regulations, the FIFA Code of Ethics, the FIFA Media and Marketing Regulations and the FIFA Equipment Regulations as well as all circulars, directives and decisions of FIFA bodies, unless these Regulations stipulate otherwise, and all further FIFA guidelines that have any significance regarding the FIFA World Cup.” 

They instead diverted to exploiting immigrants to work in vile conditions, a blatant violation of  FIFA’s code of ethics and the UN’s constitution. Since Qatar won the right to host this World Cup in 2010, there have been 5,927 deaths of migrant workers. These deaths come from the collapse of the Qatari government to protect them from the abuse by actively ignoring the issue at hand of abuse of these agencies toward migrant workers. There was a story in February 2021 where a 29-year-old migrant worker from Bangladesh passed away in his room via electrocution from flood water coming in contact with loose electric cables. Allowing nearly 6,000 people who had families back home to die in such a manner simply to build playgrounds for our entertainment should never be allowed by FIFA or the UN.

Where Do We Go From Here?

How do we remedy the loss of life in this grueling process? Does Qatar and/or FIFA provide restitution to the affected families? How about reforming the system altogether? These questions have been asked for years, yet FIFA and Qatar have been silent up until 2017 when the Qatari government proposed reforms to the flawed kafala system.  In 2018, Qatar ended the ‘exit permit’ requirement for most workers which allows them to leave the country without needing to pay prohibitive deployment fees to their employer’s before leaving. And recently in 2020, Qatar ended the No-Objective Certificate requirement which allows workers to change their jobs without needing the permission of their employer and they also created a new mandatory minimum wage for workers. 

These reformations have restored faith in the upcoming tournament for many American viewers who have been concerned about the ongoing abuses. Projected viewership for the cup as of April 2021 is around 30% in America. It’s time to boycott the tournament. Migrant workers are unable to call strikes, let alone boycott due to Qatar’s strict policies on unions. And while it may be too late to propose a new host country with less than a year to go, it’s not too late to boycott the tournament. Nearly 12% of Americans strongly support boycotting the tournament. This number must increase. The lives that have been lost in the making of the tournament should not be in vain. 

The 5,927 who died had families back home to which they can never go back to. We may not have the ability to bring them back, but we can honor them by boycotting the tournament. Lives should never be lost for our personal entertainment. If history has taught us something, it is that boycotting works. We can look at the Montgomery Bus Boycott which lasted over a year in response to segregation in busing. There was a mass hold out which resulted in the city losing money before they decided to revert their decision. We can look at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin where numerous Jewish athletes boycotted the games due to the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Hitler and the Nazis, and it was a successful movement that would provide structure for boycotting future sporting events. The U.S. has one of the highest viewerships of the World Cup across the world in recent years, and a boycott would send a strong message to the football governing body that we will not place our entertainment over people’s lives. As tough as it is for all of us football fans, I urge you to join me in boycotting the World Cup. For the sake of the 5,927 lives that were lost.

Photo by Fauzan Saari