Over the Years: A Brief Summary of My Political Journey

My first political memory was of the 2004 presidential election, and from that point on, politics became my obsession. I remember asking my fellow preschoolers whether their parents were supporting Bush or Kerry. By 2008, after reading articles about different issues and how elections worked, I had a slightly better sense of where I leaned politically, but not enough to have legitimate conversations about them.

In 2010, Massachusetts had a US Senate election; I wanted to see what it was like from the grassroots, so I begged my mom to bring me to the Scott Brown’s campaign office in Framingham. When we got there, I was enamored by all the big signs, phones, and optimism that gave the office a unique charisma.

2012 was the first national election that I followed religiously. I remember talking with my friends at school, which taught me firsthand that most kids don’t care about or understand politics. I learned more every day by reading and talking to adults, two activities crucial to my understanding today.

Governor Charlie Baker’s victory in 2014 cemented my desire to understand and be involved in the political world. He embodies collaboration and compromise, and I respect how well and effectively he manages the state government. During his governance, I have become involved in state politics. I’m able to understand why certain Democrats chose him over their own party’s nominee, and why many conservative Republicans didn’t vote for him at all. I know which towns lean one way and which towns swing. I’ve learned how to navigate the vibrant emotions of election season when I interact with voters.

Today, I’m involved with elections, legislation, activism, and engagement. I’ve learned how to address certain crowds of people depending on their beliefs and how to effectively testify for a bipartisan bill I support. I’ve learned how to encourage youth to play more active roles in their communities. Combining all the small “talents” I’ve picked up along the way creates the talent of being a successful political activist. That’s my greatest talent, and I’m still just getting started.

Put the Phones Down

After placing our usual order of half parmesan garlic and half medium buffalo wings, my friend reaches down to grab his phone, pauses, and looks up at me. He says, “I’m not forgetting about the no phone policy, I just have to text my dad real quick.” I laugh and say, “no worries.” My friends like to joke that I sound like their mothers when I essentially call them out for using phones while we’re out to eat, but they’ve come to understand its importance and appreciate its effect. While checking Instagram is fun and looking through sports scores can be intriguing, it’s always bothered me when it happens in the presence of others and in a place meant for human interaction.

Human beings are social creatures. Through time, eating has been a chance for humans to share stories and laugh about whatever they desire. But over the past decade, this tradition has slowly faded, much to my dismay. It bothers me deeply, in a way that I can’t completely explain in words, because words, like texts, can only convey so much emotion compared to the physical communication with another human being. Looking over at a friend and sharing laughs fuels me in an indescribable way. So every time I order some wings, I know it’ll come with an hour with my friend to fully enjoy what makes humans truly happy: the presence and interaction of another without the interruption of technology.  

Politics: Misconstrued and Underdiscussed

Sounds of excited students awaiting Christmas vacation rang throughout the lobby as my friends and I were debating the future role of the U.S. in Afghanistan, health care reform, the role of government in general, and even how young people would affect the presidential election just eleven months away.

Suddenly an idea popped into my head. “This should be a club that has an actual classroom and set topics.” Not only would founding PolitiX Club provide a better space to engage in political discourse, but it would also educate less politically aware students. The election was always a hot topic, but when it came to discussing actual policy, many students were unexposed to the current facts and proposals from various sides of the political spectrum.

As club president, I was torn between topics week to week. Some easy topics were sure to attract many more students, those that were certainly popular in the halls of a high school: gun control, abortion, and marijuana legalization. But what about the role of the US in a foreign genocide, the ramifications of net neutrality, and the intricate details of the tax code? “That’s too boring,” many would say when I announced one of these topics on a Monday afternoon. I believe what made these topics “boring” was that they were underdiscussed, nuanced, complicated, and required deep exploration of detailed facts to discover where one stands on the particular issue.

While club attendance was lower when we broke down tax rates and deductions, it was this type of underdiscussed topic that created productive and insightful discussion. Coming in with a fresh mind, unable to pick a verbal fight, allowed students to form their own opinions and have meaningful discussions. But, outside the walls of our club’s classroom, these crucial discussions were rare.

It’s always seemed counterproductive to me that at school, a supposed center for academic learning, real world awakening, and productive discussion, politics is suppressed. It’s like an evil spirit that lingers among minds and builds barriers of distrust and separation. It causes fists to clench and mouths to seal shut as verbal opinions stick to the tips of tongues. The unwritten rules and taboos dominate in the spirit’s presence, often overpowering it and keeping it away, creating an ignorant fantasy that the tension doesn’t exist.

Political conversations are not easy. It’s safer to bring up football scores or tell childhood stories over Thanksgiving dinner. But how productive and necessary are those conversations compared to politics? The foundation of our American republic relies on openly discussed political ideas. Our system exists to promote the rights and will of the people, but the people often choose communicative security over freedom and progress. Our own representatives in Congress often choose to only promote bills in line with their own party ideologies in order to pass easy and quick “solutions” because they’re terrified of admitting they’re wrong, and terrified of bipartisan dialogue and compromise.

Progress cannot occur without widespread and productive discussion. Politics has the ability to save and improve lives; it affects every single one of us, and ignoring it only allows others to dictate our lives and futures. It’s my mission to empower my generation to become active citizens and to enlighten young people of the immense capabilities we have to progress if we simply discuss politics openly and collaboratively.

I created PolitiX Club at my school to provide students with a firsthand, positive experience of discussing issues affecting our generation. From creating our own gun-related bills to discussing possible compromises on health care reform, PolitiX Club has boldly lived true to its mission. Empowering the youth and encouraging political activism is my passion because I firmly believe that my generation has the capacity to become a leader of progress in the world. Bringing this passion to my own school community and eventually college will help inspire my peers to learn, understand, and engage in a way that cannot be taught in a traditional classroom.

Contacto europeo y la psicología de (des)igualdad

The following essay is an investigation into the psychology and historical context behind how the natives’ perception of the Spanish determined the outcome of the encounters rather than the physical capabilities of the Spanish.

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Aunque los conquistadores de España tenían armas más avanzadas y educaciones más formales que los indios que querían conquistar, el resultado de la conquista dependía más de la conciencia de los indios que las capacidades de los españoles. Las primeras impresiones de las españoles eran más importantes para el éxito de los indios. Si los indios hubieran visto a los españoles como si hubieran sido iguales, los indios habrían tenido una mayor probabilidad de victoria. El estado psicológico con respecto a la igualdad daba a los indios una confianza necesaria para controlar su destino. Pero, si los indios hubieran creído que los españoles eran dioses y eran de una clase inexplicablemente superior, los españoles los habían conquistado con inmensa fuerza y brutalidad.

Es muy impresionante y extraño que Hernán Cortés y sus 500 hombres fueran capaces de derrotar a un imperio con una civilización sofisticada y una fuerza militar. Esta hazaña provoca una investigación sobre cómo los españoles ganaron. Cuando los españoles llegaron por primera vez a Veracruz, el rey Azteca, Moctezuma, envió a Cortés un manto religioso del dios Quetzalcoatl. Porque Cortés pensaba que el manto era un regalo, se lo puso. Sin embargo, los aztecas creían que el portador del manto era el dios y por lo tanto, Moctezuma y los aztecas creían que Cortés era un dios. Además, los aztecas no estaban familiarizados con el impresionante arsenal de las armas y los barcos españoles. Los aztecas creían que la tecnología superior tenía que ser de los dioses (Our Worldviews). La creencia inmediata de clases diferentes causaba que los aztecas actuaran sumisamente. Además, los miedos de los ciudades estado les causaban aliarse con los españoles. Estos ciudades estado odiaban a los aztecas y por lo tanto, ellos ayudaban a los españoles debido a un objetivo común de derrota también (Our Worldviews). Si algunos ciudades estado no quisieran juntar con los españoles, Cortés mataría a los líderes y demostraría su potencia de fuego. Por lo tanto, la creencia de los españoles como dioses proporcionaba a los españoles una multitud de aliados. Eventualmente, Moctezuma permitía que Cortés visitara Tenochtitlan para una reunión. Moctezuma proporcionaba lujosos alojamientos y trataba a Cortés con tremendo respeto (Our Worldviews). Moctezuma físicamente tenía el poder para matar Cortés y sus hombres, pero su estado psicológico le daba a Cortés la ventaja. Cortés era consciente de su reputación. Él sabía que los aztecas creían que era un dios. Por lo tanto, Cortés aprovechaba las falacias psicológicas de los aztecas y capturó Moctezuma. Para terminar la conquista, Cortés regresó a Tenochtitlan con sus aliados Tlaxcalan y Texcoco (Our Worldviews). Si los nativos hubieran reconocido inmediatamente la amenaza que los españoles planteaban a todos los nativos, los nativos habrían prevenido las alianzas que ayudaban a los españoles a continuar su conquista. Además, si Moctezuma se hubiera dado cuenta que Cortés era un invasor y un humano, habría matado fácilmente a Cortés y sus hombres para acabar la conquista y preserva el imperio azteca. El estado psicológico de la desigualdad determinaba definitivamente el resultado de la conquista. Los aztecas no estaban en desventaja, pero ellos pensaban que estaban en desventaja y por lo tanto, los españoles podían brutalmente conquistar a los aztecas con solamente 500 hombres españoles.

En Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias, Bartolomé de Las Casas describe la brutalidad y la conquista violenta de los indios en las Indias. ¿Tienen los indios verdaderamente la desventaja o sus impresiones iniciales y miedos psicológicos impulsan a los españoles a la victoria? Los españoles descubren las Indias en el año 1492. Las Casas describe a los indios como “naturales gentes” que implica que los indios no son ni sofisticados ni educados. También, este es el primer viaje europeo al nuevo mundo y por lo tanto, los indios no son conscientes de la identidad de los españoles. Las Casas describe a los indios como los “más humildes, más pacientes, más pacíficas y quietas, sin rencillas ni bollicios, no rijosos, no querulosos, sin rancores, sin odios, sin desear venganzas” y esta descripción demuestra que los indios no asumen que los españoles son una amenaza (Las Casas, 12-13). Porque los indios no tienen contacto previo con los españoles, su estado psicológico es pasivo. De hecho, los indios creen que los españoles son dioses porque Las Casas dice, “los tuvieron por venidos del cielo,” (83). Esta creencia no disuade a los indios de luchar contra los invasores como en la situación de los aztecas, sino la creencia causa a los indios asumir que los españoles no quieren hacerles daño. Por esto, los “españoles, por su crueldades y nefandas obras, han despoblado y asolado y que están hoy desiertas.” (Las Casas, 54-55) Los españoles no tienen resistencia porque los indios no pueden comprender que los españoles son humanos y invasores crueles. Si los indios reconocieran inmediatamente que los españoles quieran hacer daño, los indios serían capaces de dar alguna nivel de resistencia. Pero, esta situación es otro ejemplo de un estado psicológico de desigualdad e ignorancia que provoca una brutal derrota para los indios.

En la mayoría de los encuentros entre los españoles y los nativos, los indios no tenían conciencia de la meta de los españoles y no estaban preparados para defenderse. Pero, hay algunos ejemplos notables cuando los indios ganaban. Después de colonizar Puerto Rico, Juan Ponce de León llegaba en Florida. La tribu predominante en la área era los calusa (Indian Country). Willie Johns, un historiador para la tribu seminole de Florida, dice “They were civilized, really.” Profesor Jerald Milanich dice, “Ponce de León twice encountered indigenous people on the east coast, where he likely took captives to serve as guides and to get information.” Los encuentros anteriores daba a los indios un presentimiento de la meta de Ponde de León. Porque los indios eran civilizados, ellos podían comunicar los presentimientos anteriores a toda la tribu. En esencia, los calusa eran preparados para contacto futuro. Milanich dice, “The calusa proved to be a match for the Spaniards. They refused to cooperate.” Por eso, “early attempts at nearby settlements flopped.” (Milanich) Aylsa Landry, la autora del artículo, dice “The tribe had a chief, a complex government and a warrior class, and it thwarted Ponce de Leon’s efforts to infiltrate.” Estos hechos demuestran que la consciencia colectiva de los calusa en relación con la meta de los españoles les permitían defender su tierra. Claramente, los calusa no pensaban que los españoles fueran dioses. Ellos estaban dispuestos y preparados a combatir los españoles. Ocho años después, Ponce de León devolví a Florida y de nuevo encontraba los calusa. Los calusa acataron los españoles rápidamente y le dio a Ponce de León un flechazo mortal (Indian Country). Este encuentro fortalecía la victoria de los calusa sobre los españoles y demuestra que el conocimiento colectivo de los calusa permite que una tribu con armas inferiores venza a un imperio con armas mejores.

Después de la expedición fallida de Ponce de León, Pánfilo de Narváez llegó en la costa oeste de Florida con 300 hombres. Los indios en el área eran hostiles y por eso los españoles viajaban al norte. Eventualmente, ellos encontraron el territorio de los indios apalachee (Wikipedia). Esta decisión demuestra que los indios apalachee sabían la meta violenta de los españoles porque los españoles habían atacado la Florida en el pasado. Narváez se cansaba de la expedición porque los españoles no descubrían el oro y fueron atacados por los indios. Los españoles construían balsas para volverse al mar vía el interior. Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, el segundo a cargo, dirigía una de ellas. Esta balsa se separaba de las otras y cuando llegaba en la costa, la historia de primera mano de Núñez de Vaca empieza (Wikipedia). Núñez de Vaca describe, “íbamos desnudos, y el frío que hacía era muy grande,” (Núñez de Vaca, 13-14). Esta descripción revela la humanidad de los españoles porque están sufriendo. El sufrimiento indica que los españoles no son dioses y no proponen una amenaza a los indios. De hecho, los indios exhiben compasión humana. Núñez de Vaca relata, “Los indios, de ver el desastre que nos había venido y el desastre en que estábamos, con tanta desventura y miseria se sentaron entre nosotros, y con gran dolor y lástima que hubieron de vernos en tanta fortuna comenzaron todos a llorar recio.” (Núñez de Vaca, 36-39) Aunque los indios no tienen información anterior de los españoles como los indios en Florida, el reconocimiento de los indios que los españoles son humanos permite una victoria en esencia para los indios. Ellos no combaten los españoles, pero mantienen su territorio y aun cuidan por los españoles como resultado de compasión humana. Los indios tienen un estado psicológico de igualdad desde el principio, y por eso esta tribu permanece en contacto antes del contacto europeo.

Los enfrentamientos entre los indio y los españoles tienen muchas semejanzas con la guerra asimétrica entre el talibán y los Estados Unidos en la guerra contra el terror. El talibán claramente tenía una desventaja tácticamente, pero ellos creían que pertenecían a una religión superior y que estaban cumpliendo​ ​la voluntad de Alá. Por lo tanto, el talibán tenía un estado psicológico que eran personas superiores aunque el ejército estadounidense era superior militarmente. El talibán tenía una motivación radical y este estado psicológico le daba algunas victorias sobre una superpotencia mundial al igual que los indios.

 

Article: Students push for education about government

Excited to get behind House Bill 2016! Here is the link to the article.

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While I firmly believe that our generation has the capacity to become a leader of progress in the political world, students must be aided by civics education and engagement. Without an apt knowledge and understanding regarding how our political system works, it will be very difficult to make the changes needed for progress and cooperation in the years to come.

Written Testimony in Support of Massachusetts House Bill 1582

Proud to have publicly testified in support of this legislation. Below is a transcript of the written testimony.

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Joint Committee on Revenue

Testimony in support of H.1582, An Act establishing a college tuition tax deduction

Chairperson Michael Brady, Chairperson Jay Kaufman, and members of the committee,

The Teenage Republicans of Massachusetts and the Youth Conservatives of Massachusetts strongly encourage the approval of H.1582, an Act establishing a college tuition tax deduction.

House Bill 1582 establishes a college tuition tax deduction that allows the individual (whether it be student or guardian) paying the tuition to deduct 50% of the cost of in-state public college tuition from their income.

As we high school students gear up for college, affordability and possible debt linger on our minds. We all value our education and seek to extend it to the college level, but many students our age across the Commonwealth simply cannot afford to attain that high level of education. We believe that government should strive to make a public college education cheaper through a bipartisan approach of tax deductions, not free tuition.

At the core, House Bill 1582 is a reward for students who choose to invest in their education and future. Students that choose to attend the public institutions in Massachusetts should be rewarded because they are generating more revenue for the state by staying here. While this tax deduction does not dramatically lower the cost of higher education, it still has a positive impact. For example, the current in-state tuition at UMass Amherst is $15,411 per year. As a result of this tax deduction, the individual paying tuition would save $392.98 per academic year, which would total $1571.92 over four years if there are no changes in tuition costs.

This tax deduction can be a deciding factor in choosing a public school versus a private school meaning there is a possibility that it would bring more revenue to the state. This bill incentivizes students to stay in-state for higher education, thus further pushing Massachusetts’ education system higher than it currently is (ie. makes it more competitive and successful).

Another positive effect of this bill is that the money that is saved by the students will either be put in the bank or reinvested in the economy while providing the students or guardians with more monetary flexibility without reducing any funding going toward the school directly.

Ideally we would support the 20% college tuition tax credit (S. 1590) to further enhance economic flexibility and college affordability, but we understand that in the budget’s current situation this credit would result in too much lost revenue for the state.

Ultimately, this bill serves as a bipartisan compromise that can appeal to those who want to provide relief from college costs as well as those who want to lower taxes.

Today more than yesterday, and yesterday more than the day before, students and their families are burdened with student debt. It is often reflected in our friends, our families, our neighbors, and our communities. Student debt has become a fundamental component of society, and therefore these struggling families ask you as legislators to aid them in a reasonable manner.

This bill incentivizes use of our public schools, allowing maintenance and growth, keeping Massachusetts at the forefront of education. As our schools continue to collect the unaffected cost of tuition, they will be able to further invest in on-campus developments.

This bill drives achievement, and achievement is bipartisan. We kindly ask for support of this bill regardless of political affiliation so that we can deliver common sense higher education reform to the people of the Commonwealth.

Sincerely, Mike Brodo, Brandon Fontaine and Samuel Leone

Trump is Wrong to End Michelle Obama’s Girls Education Program

I have linked my friend Sara’s article at the bottom. The text below includes some of my thoughts.

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As some of you know, I aspire to be a diplomat for the US State Department. Over the past few years, I have become more and more interested in being a diplomat in Africa with my primary focus being empowering women through education and achieving gender equality. Most of the problems in Africa are not as purely economic or material as they seem, but rather consequences of a society where half of the population’s knowledge, talents, and possible contributions are disregarded solely due to their sex. I am disappointed with the Trump administration for ending this more than worthy program. As the leading nation of the free world, we should be a shining example of gender equality, and thus promote female education programs around the world.

Source: Trump is Wrong to End Michelle Obama’s Girls’ Education Program