As many of my students will remember, I’m big on bringing up current events, history, and moments of major change to inform our understanding of the fiction and nonfiction we address in various classes. I’ve been adding to my Contemporary Era section which has meant reading quite a bit of news and digging up related, interesting information (not all of which makes it into the Miscellany—my 300+ pages document covering everything I think is important for my students to know in order to be well-rounded, critical thinkers).
The news over the last couple of weeks has prompted this latest revision. I try to keep my bias to minimum and I try to be accurate in how I word my notes so that I can be accurate with the information I give my students and the directions I point them toward for finding additional information.
I’m sure there are some errors in this section of notes (typos and facts), so please feel free to let me know where to look or what you know that I might want to include in this document.
Thank you to anyone who takes the time to read through my Contemporary Era notes. Thank you to anyone who drops me a line on WordPress, Instagram, Twitter, or via email.
Contemporary Era (2001-Present)
War On Terrorism
• September 11, 2001: Two planes crash into and destroy the World Trade Centers, another plane crashes into the Pentagon, and a fourth plane crashes in a cornfield; thousands die. For people living in the United States life changes dramatically in one day.
– George W. Bush (2001-2009)—oversees “War on Terrorism”
The Bank Bailout
• September 14, 2008: Lehman Brothers, a world-wide financial services firm, announced it would file for bankruptcy causing a cascade of failures in banks around the world which resulted in massive lay-offs, massive bankruptcies, and thousands of home foreclosures
• George W. Bush begins the “Bank Bailout” in his last months of office
• Barak Obama continued “Bank Bailout”; worked toward ending “War on Terrorism”
First Black President elected in 2008, Barack Obama; he successfully completed two terms.
Neo-Progressive Movement & The Affordable Care Act (2010)
The 2013 Sequester
• National Senators and Congressmen chose party politics over the good of the American people and refused to approve a budget putting hundreds of thousands of people’s paychecks in jeopardy while still collecting their own.
• Many economists openly worried this would increase the worldwide recession brought on by the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and its ripples.
#BlackLivesMatter which increased in social awareness as police officers around the country were caught using more violence than the individual crimes seemed to warrant, leading to hundreds of deaths around the country. This has caused a rise in tension between police, their families, and the African American activists who are seeking justice across the board.
• Violence against African Americans came again to the forefront of National awareness in February 2012 after Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman who was later acquitted of all charges.
• Many whites Americans don’t understand why the hashtag isn’t AllLivesMatter; when they take the time to talk to #BlackLivesMatter activists or supporters, they can learn that this is a reference to the long-standing fight for true equality in the United States since the end of the American Civil War in 1865 (it all comes around again).
• Regional differences impact the level of understanding and the experiences of people on all sides of the situation.
• In 2015 many professional and college athletes began to show their solidarity with Black Lives Matter by walking onto the field of play with their hands raised (to show they have no weapons) or by taking a knee during the National Anthem (refusing to support and government that so clearly doesn’t support them; this is reminiscent of Alice Paul and her contemporary suffragettes who refused to plead guiltily or not guilty in the courts of the early 20th century, because the government of the day refused to see women as individuals or full citizens).
• Colin Kaepernick became a lightening rod figure by being nominated Person of the Year for Time Magazine after his press explaining his National Anthem protest which had supporters and detractors from the current and former military. He lost his contract with the San Francisco 49ers and has not yet received another contract with another team (he may have been blacklisted or he may have been a less than awesome quarterback)
-In what have been dubbed by some news outlets as “Sacred Lands Protests” Native American Tribes, First Nation Tribes, and Indigenous Islander Tribes (Polynesia, Micronesia, Oceana, etcetera) have used social media to band together to protect lands that are considered sacred and being once again co-opted for big business, big science, or pet government projects.
•Oak Flats, Arizona—since early 2015, the San Carlos Apache Reservation Tribes protest against Resolution Copper Mines plans to swap parcels of land for this sacred space in order to tap into a huge copper vein running underneath Oak Flats which would devastate the landscape and the natural resources of the area.
•Protest at Standing Rock—Members of the Sioux Nation started a sacred circle to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) that would go through their territory, disrupt a gravesite, and potentially contaminate their water supply and land.
– In April 2016, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard and other elders established their sacred camp to reinforce the Sioux claim on the land and show the world what kind of a heritage they were destroying.
– As of December 2017, the protests have pulled in the famous, the white far-left liberals, tribal members from across the United States, donations, and so much violence against the protestors.
– President Obama only called for a look at other solutions during his last months of office.
– Four thousand military veterans went to Standing Rock to ask forgiveness from the Natives; Lakota medicine man Leonard Crow Dog offered the official forgiveness to Wesley Clark Jr.—there has been just as much controversy as there has been warm feelings after the ceremony.
– The Army Corp of Engineers denied the DAPL easement through Standing Rock at the beginning of December 2016, but no one thinks that President-elect Trump will side with the protestors who remained at Standing Rock through February of 2017 when they were forcibly removed..
•Longview, Washington—during the summer of 2016 the Lummi Nation Tribes protest against the SSA Marine Coal Terminal which would have been the biggest coal exporting site in the US with huge impacts on the Longview Peninsula environmentally and socially
•Mauana Kea, Hawaii—Hawaiian Protectors versus the Thirty Myers Telescope Project’s Deep Space telescope which is the latest in a long line (13 already) of telescopes already planted on a mountain sacred to Native Hawaiians as the birthplace of their peoples. Considered by many Native Hawaiians to be an illegally occupied sovereign nation since the 1870’s, it was granted statehood in 1959; however, as with many of the Polynesian/Oceana islands, it has been made increasingly reliant on the mainland US government for goods, services, and various monies since then.
•San Juan, Puerto Rico—while not a Sacred Land protest the leak of nearly 900 pages of a “private” group chat between Puerto Rico’s top politicians and their business allies brought together Puerto Ricans still living on the island and those who life in the mainland US (and many other parts of the world) together in a massive political protest at the end on July 2019. Between “the chat” and the glacially slow government-led Hurricane Maria Recovery, Puerto Ricans are fed up. They have been second class citizens of the US since 1917 and still have not been granted statehood.
Donald Trump was elected President in November of 2016 causing protests and greater political division. Democratic politicians who opposed him are careful to wish him well and aid in the peaceful transition of power to keep the democratic republic safe from potential threats from the inside. Immigrants and various minorities worry about their safety and freedoms.
Disaster Year: 2017
• Wildfires devastate parts of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana (July/Aug. 2017)
• Hurricane Harvey floods Houston, TX—people rely on Longhorn Navy and Coastguard for rescue (Aug. 2017)
• Earthquake hits Mexico City and surrounding areas causing much devastation (Sept. 2017)
– Topos Mexico, Mexican Red Cross, Direct Relief, Global Giving, #bestrong (Bethenny Frankel) and many other charities do what they can
– All people who donate have to double check that they are giving to charities and not scams
• Hurricane Irma takes Florida’s power (Sept. 2017)
• Hurricane Maria devastates Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands (Sept. 2017)
– Red Cross, UNICEF, Catholic Relief Services, Hispanic Federation, Save the Children, #bestrong and many other charities do what they can
– All people who donate have to double check that they are giving to charities and not scams
• Wildfires devastate California wine country and surrounding areas (Sept/Oct. 2017)
– Direct Relief, Humane Society of Sonoma County, Jewish Community Federation, and #bestrong do what they can
Ending the 2018 session of both Houses, the Republican majority passed a budget without President Trump’s Border Wall causing President Trump to refuse to sign the budget which resulted in a government shutdown.
– The new class of national representatives to The House were made up of enough Democrats to flip its orientation from Republican to Democrat ensuring that any budget with a Wall provision or clause will not pass both houses.
– President Trump chose a Southern Border Wall over the needs of hundreds of thousands of government workers (causing a negative economic ripple throughout the United States) by shutting down the federal government on December 21, 2018. On January 8, he addressed the nation claiming there was a real and present danger on the southern border of the United States, threatening to call a “State of Emergency” which would co-opt billions of dollars to build his Wall.
• Some parts of the government are fully funded, others partially funded, and many not funded at all.
– White House Staff are still getting paid
– National Senators and Congressmen are still getting paid.
– The only military branch receiving paychecks as of January 9, 2019 is The National Guard.
• A new budget was finally approved January 25, 2109
Border Detention Camps are the latest in a long history of displacing people and separating them from general American Society without traditional due process
• President Bill Clinton signed into law the Immigrant Reform & Immigrant Responsibility Acts in 1996 which includes “mandatory detention” for illegal immigrants.
• President George W. Bush created the Immigrant and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE)
• ICE began running “detention camps” that separated children from their families under President Donald Trump at the beginning of 2019
– Conditions at the camps for children are described by politicians and humanitarians who have forced their visits to be far below social expectations of what fits the needs of children (education, supervision, punishments, food, comfort)
– The immigrant status and lack of legal guardians or parents are often cited for the conditions and duration of time children spend in these facilities.
Contemporary: Short research & discussion topics
• European Union, Brexit
• Climate Change
• Worldwide Terrorism
• Interconnected cultures and economies versus Isolationism