Category Archives: viewpoint

OPINION: Drone attacks: bad policy, inhumane, unconstitutional

Turn on the news and chances are there will be a report of terrorist casualties due to a drone strike. Many will be pleased that the military and the CIA are simultaneously taking out enemy combatants and keeping troops out of harm’s way. Although this was also my initial reaction to drone attacks, recent developments have changed my perception of the drone program.
The Department of Justice recently released a 16-page memo detailing their legal reasoning for the government’s ability to coordinate strategic assassinations of U.S. citizens with a drone strike. In order for drones to be used, a citizen must be an “imminent threat” to the United States and “senior operational leaders of Al-Qaeda.” The government already put this rationale to use in September, 2011, when it killed Al-Qaeda operative, 9/11 co-conspirator, and American citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki in a drone strike. There was no attempt to capture him once his location was confirmed, and no trial, just an aerial assassination coordinated by the CIA and U.S. Air Force.
I am not defending terrorists, nor am I proposing the complete elimination of drones in warfare, but I am merely pointing out the dangers of allowing the government to assassinate citizens.
The Constitution gives American citizens a right to a fair trial, and there is no exception. The government cannot justify the intentional elimination of an American citizen where capture is possible, or in this case, not even attempted. The governments’ legal rationale is completely arbitrary and is subject to the interpretation of the executive branch. Since all of the information on Al-Qaeda comes from the CIA, no one, no media entity or activist group, can challenge whether someone is actually a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda. Since the memo is a DOJ policy statement, Congress cannot challenge it; it is up to the Supreme Court to rule on its constitutionality and that doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon.
Further research on the history of the drone program has made me realize the problem runs much deeper.
The drone has become President Obama’s weapon of choice in the War on Terror. His administration accounts for over 370 of the 420 strikes in Pakistan and Yemen since 2004. Although no official numbers have been released of the total estimated casualties caused by U.S. drone strikes, Senator Lindsey Graham recently estimated the number to be around 4,700, with more than a quarter of these deaths described as non-militant civilians.
How does a weapon praised for its accuracy have such a large percentage of civilians in its kill totals? What was originally used as an alternative to the insertion of special forces teams has now become a full-fledged tool of destruction. In kill-or-capture situations, drones are at a huge disadvantage because they are incapable of taking hostages and have difficulty distinguishing between enemies and civilians. Special forces operations may involve more risk to U.S. soldiers, but they can perform valuable tasks drones can’t, and they are substantially less likely to cause civilian casualties.
The large number of civilian deaths caused by these drone strikes has been met with protest from all over the Middle East. Perhaps the country most affected by these operations is Pakistan. Recently, during a speech in New York, Pakistan’s foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar said, “If they’re going for terrorists, we do not disagree. But we have to find ways which are lawful, which are legal. The use of unilateral strikes on Pakistani territory is illegal.” Obviously the drone policies are not doing our foreign relationships any favors, and President Obama is in danger of damaging his reputation.
This administration’s drone program is based on an indiscriminate and militaristic policy that kills innocent civilians of other countries, threatens international relations, and infringes upon the rights of American citizens, all in the name of safety. First it was the Patriot Act under President Bush, and now it is the justification of drone strikes that include the assassination of U.S. citizens. It’s time for the president to reconsider the abuse of human rights and how it’s impacting our already poor relationships with governments in the Middle East. He also needs to realize that the DOJ memo shows him following right in his predecessor’s footsteps, something I’m sure he’d prefer not to do. As for the American people, it’s about time for us to take a long, hard look at ourselves and ask, “How much more of my freedom am I willing to sacrifice in order to feel safe?”

~Kerian McDonald, staff reporter

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OPINION: School rivalries exasperate

School rivalries are inevitable. One sports team starts talking smack about a team from another school; then the rival players get involved, followed by the fans. At FHS, we have the privilege of having not one, but TWO schools to constantly gripe with, so one would think the students would divide the animosity, right? Wrong. We multiply it – and it’s getting out of hand.
It seems that since Kettle Run High School opened in 2008, the county rivalries have escalated to more than just talking big at sports games. Nowadays, we compete daily to see who has the better students, better classes, and even better buildings. Why would anyone even argue about that? Unless the students secretly built the new addition, I don’t think we have any control over the design. And sure, one can argue about which school has the best students, but what is the standard unit for measuring the coolness of the student body anyways?
Students here compare themselves to Kettle Run and Liberty simply based on broad stereotypes. I’m not saying that Kettle Run and Liberty students don’t make stereotyped judgements; goodness knows every time I scroll through my Twitter feed after any sports game with rivals, it’s full of people from all three schools arguing about how their school is sooooooo much better and the other schools are soooooo awful. There’s nothing wrong with saying you love your school or how excited you are about a team’s victory – I’m all for school pride. I have a vicious bias, however, against people who celebrate personal victory by putting down everyone else, and I have seen countless people from all three schools being arrogant, rude, and unnecessarily insulting. Ask almost anyone here and they’ll say Kettle Run is the worst in regards to this, but I’d say we’re all pretty bad.
I can understand feeling a little prejudice towards other schools. I have a tiny bit of a personal vendetta against Liberty for stealing the 2010 Bird Bowl from us, and honestly, Kettle Run just annoys me and I have no logical reason for that. Now, does that mean I’m going to repeat ad nauseam how much I “hate” them, or tell those students that their existence is somehow worth less because they live in an area that happened to be zoned for that school? Maybe I’ll privately think that while I wallow in bitterness when either school beats us in football, but I will never say that out loud and mean it, and if I ever become that idiotic, somebody please kick some sense into me.
Recently, our county rivalries have included daily Twitter drama and the pointless practice of rock painting. Really, guys? Painting each other’s rocks? Sometimes I feel like Freud would have a field day with us. Why does absolutely everything have to become a competition? I can barely breathe Kettle Run’s name without some belligerent jerk yelling, “I hate those arrogant…,” followed by a string of words not suitable to be printed. And heaven knows if I went to Kettle Run or Liberty any given day, I might get spit on for saying I loved FHS. I get it. We all love our schools. Awesome. There’s just no reason to take ourselves so seriously, because no one else in the world does. We’re here for four years, and then we leave. Let’s all calm down a bit.

~Fiona McCarthy, staff reporter

OPINION: Student laziness sets bad example

Laziness is a horrible disease that has con- taminated the minds of students. Laziness shines through in our work, our ethic, and even in our posture. Do you have a hard time getting motivated to do math homework? Do you slump when you walk? If so, do not ignore the common signs of laziness. There is only one way to rid yourselves of this disease. You have to actually get up and do something, anything!
Some may ask, why is being lazy such a bad thing? Why not live our lives like potatoes? Well, the problem is that life is kind of tough. Take for instance, this woman I know who works 11 hours a day, five days a week, and occasionally weekends. Lazy is not a word in her vocabulary. That woman is my mom. Argu- ably, she set the best work-ethic standard a child could have. However, I got a rude awakening when I had a job over the summer that required I work only seven hours a day, four days a week. The problem was that I had gotten used to my summer rut. Every year was the same; hang out with friends occasionally, sit inside and play videogames mostly. I had never had to work at one thing for so long. My laziness bit me in the butt, and it cost me money because I wouldn’t work as long as I could have. I had opportunities to stay and do extra work, but instead, I would leave early. I had been lazy for so long that I was unprepared to enter the work force, to even begin having a real job.
Laziness affects our work, but have you ever noticed how it affects us as people? Not wanting to work can have a horrible effect on basic man- ners. When a teacher or parent gives work to a teen, they must be prepared to take an absolute storm of sass before we will do it. I feel bad for teachers. Anytime they give students a project or massive homework assignment (actually any assignment, for that matter), they feel the wrath of the teenagers. Berating comments, constant excuses, multiple complaints; I have even seen people storm out of the classroom because of assignments.
The fact of the matter is that we are all better than this. Whether you plan to go to college or not, you are at school, so why not do some- thing? Seriously, if we are all forced to be here, why not make it worthwhile? If we all keep up our lazy tendencies, and we do enter the real work force (I’m talking nine to five, people), then we are going to get smacked in the mouth with a big, “You are fired” sign. It is time for all of us to step up, me, you, your best friend, it doesn’t matter. If we just put in some effort, it can change our outlook on everything.

~Josh Henry, design editor

Gun control: Common sense solutions require compromise

The gun control debate is complicated to say the least. I’m not a bleeding-heart liberal who wants to ban all guns from every aspect of American life. As much as I’d like to say that this country can consist entirely of puppies and rainbows, I know that if any progress is to be made on this issue, realism and open-mindedness are key.
Nevertheless, it’s far past time for America to take action on gun control. I’m a staunch supporter of the Constitution; the Second Amendment guarantees citizens the right to arm themselves against tyranny. The amendment, however, was written in a time where firearms were not as efficient, not as easily accessible, and certainly did not have near the capacity for mass murder as modern guns. So, like any constitutional right, the interpretation needs to change in accordance with the times.
The bill introduced by Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein covers only a small portion of what really needs to be done to prevent mass killings. The bill would ban around 120 guns, classified as “assault weapons,” which is a loose definition that doesn’t include any of the 900 exempted guns that are used for “hunting and sporting purposes” even though most of those guns could easily be used in mass murders with the right accessories. The bill would also ban high-capacity magazines that can fire 10 or more rounds.
Unlike “banning assault weapons,” banning high-capacity magazines would substantially diminish a shooter’s ability to inflict mass casualties in seconds. High-capacity magazines have been used to carry out almost every mass murder committed in the United States over the past decades, including the 2011 Tucson shooting that injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six people, including a nine-year-old girl. The shooter, who does not deserve the notoriety that comes from being named, fired 31 bullets in 15 seconds. Had the man not modified his Glock 19 handgun, which has a capacity for only 15 rounds, bullets 16-31 would not have been fired so easily, and at least one life would likely have been saved. Opponents say that it is easy to change clips and takes very little time, but in the Tucson shooting, bystanders had enough time to take down the shooter as he was changing clips, and that finally ended the carnage.
A popular argument by gun control opponents is that “guns don’t kill people – people kill people.” While a gun by itself will not go on a shooting rampage, when a person with evil intentions picks it up, then it does become an inherently dangerous tool. Could a person with a hammer walk into a public place and kill 30 people before he or she was taken down? Since the right to own guns is guaranteed and will not be taken away without another constitutional amendment, America should pay very, very, very close attention to whose hands that our guns fall into. That doesn’t strictly mean more limits on the guns we are so reluctant to relinquish – what we need is enforcement of sensible limits set on gun ownership. Currently, it is possible for people with no criminal background in states like Virginia to purchase and transport guns to a state with stricter gun laws, such as New York, and sell them to people who would not pass the requirements to own a gun there. According to a 2010 investigation, Virginia is the number one supplier of illegal guns to New York. In many states, including our own, anyone – anyone – can buy any type of gun at a gun show from a private dealer without even giving his or her name. That is the loophole that allowed the Virginia Tech shooter, to buy a gun despite his known mental health issues. This country needs to close these loopholes by enacting a federal gun trafficking law, requiring every gun purchaser to pass a mental health check and a thorough background check, and amping up state and federal laws and enforcement that deal with private gun sellers. That is gun control. That is what we need.
Yes, even with effective laws and enforcement, there will still be those that slip through the cracks. As long as these weapons are available, they will find their way into the wrong hands. Still, we owe it to the people of Newtown, of Aurora, of Tucson, of Fort Hood, of Blacksburg, of Columbine and of too many others, to try and stop future tragedies, to stop another town from achieving that kind of notoriety, to save innocent children. The fascination with violence in the media will never end, and neither will violence. All the guns and bullets in the world, however, will never be worth even one human life, and no one – no one – should have to die because we are too proud to compromise.

~Fiona McCarthy, staff reporter

Double standards do real harm

It’s the same thing every time I log onto Facebook; I see pictures split into quadrants. ‘Hey girls,’ the first picture reads. ‘Did you know,’ the second one says. ‘That your boobs,’ asks the third. ‘Belong inside your shirt,’ reads the last one. Hey, I feel like asking, did you know that you sound like a jerk?
This degrading trend is what is known as “slut-shaming,” when people mock or humiliate a woman because of her sexuality. This can mean the number of her sexual partners, her way of dressing, or her attitude. The shaming part can be accomplished by calling a woman a name such as “skank” or “whore,” spreading rumors about her sexual exploits, or by posting pictures like the one I just described. In short, it’s a way to fill a woman with self-doubt and keep women down as a whole. And, quite frankly, I’m sick of it.
For some reason, society accepts men who have multiple sexual partners. Men can have casual hook-ups and advertise this information to anyone who will listen, and still suffer no consequences. The same rule, however, does not apply to women. If a woman has an active sex life, people will say that she has low self-esteem or that she isn’t “serious girlfriend material.” If she talks openly about said sex life, people will call her a “ho” or say she has no class. It’s a double standard and every time someone “likes” one of these idiotic photos on the internet or calls a girl a demeaning name, they’re feeding into this mind set.
Not only is slut shaming disrespectful (and everyone is deserving of respect regardless of the number of sexual partners), but it can also be incredibly dangerous. Many times when a woman is sexually assaulted, the question is not who did this and how can they be punished, but rather what was the victim wearing and is she known for being promiscuous. We can look at pop culture and see blatant evidence of this. When basketball superstar Kobe Bryant was accused of rape in 2003, his alleged victim was bullied to the point that she finally dropped the case. Bryant’s female defense attorney dug up every sordid detail of the girl’s past in a brutal attack on her character. Bryant shed a few crocodile tears for ESPN, bought his wife a number of guilt-baubles, and was back to being the Laker’s golden boy. His victim, on the other hand, had her reputation destroyed. She was accused of everything from having sex with two other men that week, to being an “attention whore” and worse. I, for one, don’t understand how a man can be accused of rape and cop to cheating on his wife and mother of his child, while the alleged victim is treated like a criminal.
Ladies, we need to support and empower each other. We need to let people know that we won’t be bullied. We need to be free to wear whatever we want to, to feel sexually liberated, and not feel the need to apologize for it. Guys, you need to recognize women as equals and respect them, their boundaries, and beliefs.
Don’t be one of those those self-proclaimed nice guys, who turn into sore losers when you get rejected. Teachers, at homecoming and prom, squelch your first instinct to call out the girls dancing provocatively, but not the boys dancing behind them. It is 2013. We should be past these judgmental and harmful attitudes. It is time to stop treating women like inferior creatures and set an example for the next generation.

~Jordyn Elliot, guest writer

Glorification of torture as entertainment is reprehensible

As I sat in the darkened theatre, tears poured down my face in a ceaseless flow. A man is hanging from the ceiling by his wrists, a bag has been placed over his head, and the conservative Muslim has his genitals exposed before a female intelligence agent. He has been deprived of sleep for over 96 hours, only receives enough food and water to survive, and is routinely beaten and water-boarded. At one point, he is led around on a dog leash and then crammed into a drawer-sized box. Zero Dark Thirty, I quickly realize, is not for the faint of heart. And I’m barely 10 minutes into the movie.
It is the scene that has made the otherwise gripping film about the 10-year manhunt and eventual takedown of al-Qaeda figurehead and 9/11 mastermind, Osama Bin Laden, one of the most controversial movies of the decade. The film begins with a statement that the movie is “based on firsthand accounts of actual events.” Now, some may say I take things too literally, but when a film studio makes that kind of declaration, it has a responsibility to do just that – portray the events as accurately as possible.
While the tactics used in the opening 10 to 15 minutes of the film capture one’s attention, the scene leads viewers to believe that torture led the CIA directly to Bin Laden.  That was not the case, and glorifying this kind of sadistic treatment is reprehensible. Former CIA director and current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has repeatedly stated, along with many other government officials, that “enhanced interrogation methods,” such as water-boarding, stress positions, and ice baths, are counterproductive, often lead to unreliable information, and are unethical and immoral.
So why does the film emphasize this grisly part of the American history? The screenwriter and director are sensationalizing these Machiavellian methods and offering them up for our entertainment.  As Jane Mayer, author of The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, said, the movie “distorts a difficult history and seems to turn torture into morally neutral entertainment.”
One of the issues I have with the torture presented and sensationalized is that it is in blatant violation of international law and the Geneva Convention. Leaders of numerous foreign countries have been prosecuted because of their crimes against humanity, including torture. The United States, however, seems to get a pass for it’s (albeit rare) severe discrepancies in regards to torture. Scandals like Abu Ghraib, in which prisoners were subjected to rape, sodomy, electric shock, and being forced to eat pork (which is against the Islamic faith) offer a clear example of this. The military personnel involved were given slaps on the wrists legally and most were simply given a dishonorable discharge. The photos of this incident are absolutely horrific and left my stomach churning. I shudder to think about the photos President Obama and the CIA refused to release. This is not a moral grey area. Torture is wrong, and it doesn’t work.
I understand that war is always brutal and I understand that the United States is in a war against terror and, by proxy, terrorists. That does not mean that torture, a despicable war crime, should be pardoned, much less glamorized. We are a country that stresses values like humanity, ethics, the rule of law, and basic human dignity. These principles apply both at home and abroad. Any violations of these ideals should not be tolerated. Movies that are “based on first hand events,” like Zero Dark Thirty, have a responsibility to focus on the actual “interviews” and intelligence gathering that led us to Bin Laden, not on a torturous interrogation that is riveting but disgraceful.

~Jordyn Elliot, guest reporter

Opinion: Adolescent mental health system is failing patients

In a country where one in five Americans under 18 have a diagnosable mental disorder, there is a major gap in both understanding and treating mental illness among adolescents. The flawed mental health system results from a lack of quality treatment and the crippling stigma surrounding those suffering from a disorder. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, half of all lifetime cases of mental illness are developed by age 14; however, only one-third of diagnosed teenagers receive professional help. Americans seem surprised when a tragedy due to a lack of proper treatment occurs, yet there has not been a serious initiative to improve the mental health system since Nellie Bly exposed the dirty secrets of mental institutions in 1887.

The most common mental disorders among adolescents are mood, anxiety, personality, and eating disorders. Schizophrenia, ADHD, and autism are also prevalent. According to Fauquier County Public Schools psychologist Alan Cameron, younger children are more commonly diagnosed with autism or behavioral and developmental problems, while depression and anxiety often manifest in middle and high school students. The school system’s involvement in a student’s mental health can vary from case to case.

“The counseling department is the first line of defense,” Cameron said. “Sometimes the school psychologist is called in for a second opinion, especially if there are questions about risk of harm to self or others.  In extreme cases, as with a student who is actively suicidal, we work collaboratively with Regional Behavioral Health to facilitate admission to the nearest adolescent mental health facility. For both legal and pragmatic reasons, schools often have difficulty maintaining communication with the child’s psychiatrist and/or out-of-school counselor.”

Treating a student with mental health issues extends beyond the jurisdiction of the school, as responsibilities for treatment are often turned over to the parents. However, Cameron says receiving effective treatment through medication and/or therapy can be challenging.

“It can be very difficult for parents to find counselors and psychiatrists who specialize in children and adolescents,” Cameron said. “The wait time for an appointment is typically weeks and sometimes months.  There is still a lot of trial-and-error involved in finding the right medication, and insurance companies are quite spotty in what they will cover.”

The mental health system is a topic for debate in the media nearly every month, whether a school shooting occurs or a new study is released about teenagers and eating disorders. Statistics support a constant spotlight on mental health – suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents in America, yet only 37 percent of those diagnosed receive treatment for depression. Somehow, the issue is on America’s mind, however, little is being done to help those suffering. The stigma surrounding mental health is as alive as ever, which does not help in any way. At all.

It’s considered out of line to tell a diabetic kid to go eat a cupcake, yet terms such as “schizophrenia,” “bipolar,” and “suicidal” are easily associated by the general public with “violent” and “crazy.” Teenagers suffering from mood and personality disorders are told their condition is just a phase, while those with an eating disorder are told to go eat a cheeseburger. The stigma pushes those who need help into a world of silence and shame. Teens often worry that if they seek help, they could lose friends, college admission, or social status. Mental disorders are often the result of a genetic disposition or a biological imbalance – two factors that are just as out of a patient’s control as asthma or cancer. Until there is a general understanding that mental health is equivalent to physical health, the advancement of proper treatment will be stunted, especially among reputation-conscious teenagers.

The media and Hollywood are partially to blame for society’s perception of mental illness. Every time a tragedy happens, news outlets are quick to ask what was wrong with the perpetrator. The media immediately labels the perpetrator as crazy because they are schizophrenic or autistic, while the tragedy likely occurred because the perpetrator received low quality treatment for their disorder, if they received any help at all. Hollywood has a similar problem – television shows such as Law & Order portray mentally ill criminals in a stereotypical and negative light. A connection between jail, dangerous, and mental illness is forged in viewers minds. However, in Breaking Bad, Hollywood tells America it’s okay to make meth in an RV and murder anyone who gets in your way if you’re dying of cancer. You know, because physical health is tragic and not your fault, while mental health is something you really need to get over.

One way to help eliminate social stigma is a mainstream, national campaign. Through advertisements and publicity, a campaign that puts a face on the issue could be extremely effective. Demi Lovato, for example, has been a wonderful pioneer in eliminating eating disorder stigma – she has admitted her own past problem, given hope to those struggling, and even called out Disney Channel for making a joke in a movie. If more celebrities would stand up like Lovato, many minds could be changed, especially those of the teenagers who are doing the bullying.

Sadly, even if the stigma surrounding mental illness was eliminated completely, the flaws of the health system still exist. A teenage source who wishes to remain anonymous described his stay in a mental hospital as “degrading” and “cruel.”

“I tried to kill myself, and I had anxiety problems, too,” the source said. “We weren’t allowed to even have pencils, because the staff thought we would hurt ourselves. We weren’t allowed outside, and I barely even talked to any real doctors while I was there. I wasn’t even allowed to call home. It was basically like jail, except in jail, you at least get a call.”

When asked if his stay was beneficial to his recovery, the source said the negative effects still linger nearly a year later.

“I still have nightmares about that place,” the source said. “If anything, my entire stay made me want to succeed if I ever tried to kill myself again, so I wouldn’t end up back there. All they cared about was labeling me as crazy, getting me on drugs, and getting the money that comes with the entire corrupted psychiatry industry.”

The filthy profit-driven corruption manifests through the 49 million Americans taking a psychiatric drug. Insurance companies have psychiatrists wrapped around their finger, pressuring unnecessary prescriptions and labeling patients with disorders they may not ever have. Everyone is bound to experience a symptom of depression or anxiety in their lifetime, however, not everyone needs to be on Prozac. When it comes to teens, psychological treatment should only resort to medication in extreme cases. By drugging up vulnerable teens, the symptoms of the disorder are being treated, yet the original problem remains. It’s a lot like when your shoe falls apart and you cover the hole with duct tape. No matter how much duct tape you put on, the shoe still has a hole in it, and the duct tape doesn’t do anything except hide that.

Corruption in the psychiatric system can be addressed with legislation. To avoid inappropriate prescribing, the FDA needs to enact tighter requirements for prescriptions drugs – currently, any FDA approved drug may be prescribed by a licensed doctor for anything.

Americans need to face the raw facts. Psychiatry is corrupted. Depression is not a phase, eating disorders aren’t joke material, and schizophrenia does not make someone crazy. Bad things will happen. There will be another school shooting. Kids are going to keep killing themselves. Someone you know might develop a disorder, whether it’s your brother or your own child. There is no pretty way to put it. However, as a country, we need to start working to at least improve statistics surrounding mental health. If adolescents with mental health issues were treated more effectively, America would see fewer headlines about mental illness gone wrong. We can keep pointing fingers at the parents who must have raised them wrong, the doctors who over-drug the nut cases, or the children who need to act more normal, but in reality, voting and pushing for legislation and eliminating the social stigma are what we can do on a day-to-day basis to keep adolescents from falling through the system’s cracks.

~Abby Seitz, sports director