As the CDC announces that staying home and wearing masks in public drastically reduces the chances of spreading the coronavirus, Americans flood the streets to protest mask requirements and stay-at-home orders. As more and more scientists discover frightening evidence for the existence of climate change and the immenseness of its danger, many Americans are quick to roll their eyes and “dismiss scientific findings for political ends.” As Black people and their allies rise up in response to the countless murders of people of color in this country, declaring that “Black Lives Matter”, the president calls them “thugs” and declares their words to be hate speech. And as far as women and queer people go, their simple humanity, too, has constantly been in the hands of straight male politicians. These issues concern nothing short of the lives, health, and survival of America’s people, yet they are tossed around in courtrooms and the news as if it’s normal and acceptable to debate the existence of science or the rights of a human being. In the era of President Trump, especially upon the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, it has become clearer than ever that there is nothing the American government, and even many citizens, can’t politicize. Whether it’s a woman’s body, the proved science of global warming, the fact that black and queer lives should, at the very least, matter, or even a global pandemic, every aspect of American life has become a political debate; it’s one thing to politically debate an issue, but not when people are dying because of it.
When the coronavirus reached the United States in March of this year, states began to lock down and stay-at-home orders were quickly issued across the country. At that time, many people were annoyed by the regulations, but they believed that if they just stayed home for a month or so, everything would be back to normal. However, these people overestimated the capacity of Americans to care about their fellow citizens and actually abide by safety guidelines backed by science. It didn’t take long for protests to begin, led by Americans refusing to wear a mask and/or stay home. They argued that it was un-American to restrict their freedom by forcing these limitations upon them, and they flooded city streets holding signs that said, “I want a haircut” and “My body, my choice”, in reference to mask wearing. Another one stated that the CDC’s guidelines were not providing real safety, just an illusion of safety. And thus, a global health crisis was politicized by the American people.
Since these early days of stay-at-home orders and protests, most states have not seen a real decrease in cases, and many have seen a significant increase. This is largely a result of the fact that Republican leaders, including the president, continue to be primarily concerned with the economy, rather than the health and safety of their people. As a result, many Republican state governors opened public spaces in their state far too early, allowing the virus to continue to spread rapidly. For example, Governor DeSantis of Florida was allowing beaches to reopen in his state on April 17th, far before the curve had been flattened. Now, Florida is the world’s epicenter for the virus, not just the country’s.
As case numbers continue to rise in the United States, the head of the World Health Organization is not surprised, due to the politicization of the virus in this country. “If you want to be exploited and if you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing [the virus],” he said. He has also spoken out about the importance of political parties working together to keep the nation safe, declaring that “the focus of all political parties should be to save their people.”
Climate Change Debate
The pandemic is not the only scientifically-founded issue that Donald Trump has downplayed and politicized. The president has led many Americans to believe climate change is a hoax, or if not completely fabricated, an insignificant non-issue. In addition, the politicians that push this agenda gain favor with their followers by emphasizing the importance of ignoring climate change for the economy. They remind Americans that if climate change is addressed, people might lose their jobs or be inconvenienced in their daily lives. However, what they seemingly “forget” to express is that if climate change is not addressed, people will lose their lives. And people already are. In January, Australia was on fire, and this wasn’t the first instance of damage at the hands of global warming.
The problem is, even when Americans read about these fires, and the new research coming in about the dangers of climate change, many struggle to do so with an unbiased mind. According to Alexa Jay, a writer for The Whistleblower, “…frequent exposure to a partisan divide on scientific issues that are not inherently political, [causes] the public [to lose] the ability to absorb new information without placing it into a predetermined framework.” In other words, the followers of Trump and other anti-climate change political leaders are already thinking the science is “fake news” before they even read it. Therefore, no matter how convincing the evidence is, their mind cannot be changed. To them, climate change is a political issue about which their mind is firmly set, rather than a serious danger backed by numerous experts.
LGBTQ+ Rights And Black Lives Matter
But Americans have not stopped with politicizing science, as for centuries they’ve policitized human rights, specifically those of marginalized groups. Even so many years after the end of slavery, Black people still find their sheer humanity and safety politicized by governments, companies, schools, and other American systems. As a result of the systemic oppression faced by Blacks for so many years, the Black Lives Matter Movement began in the 2010s. Since the murder of George Floyd has sparked a new Civil Rights Movement, cities are painting the phrase on the streets, citizens are putting signs up in public, and employees are wearing shirts inspired by the cause. Unfortunately, these actions have been criticized by many, who say that these are political statements. Starbucks banned its employees from wearing “Black Lives Matter” apparel (although this rule was quickly reversed due to criticism), and the president reacted angrily to the painting of the phrase on New York City’s Fifth Avenue, calling it “a symbol of hate.” What the critics fail to recognize is that the Black Lives Matter movement is not a political statement with the intent to oppress and denounce other racial groups. It’s a matter of recognizing and validating the humanity of people that this country has always oppressed and invalidated.
The situation is similar for members of the LGBTQ+ community, as they have experienced almost every aspect of their lives, including basic human rights, being politicized. Until very recently, it was illegal for people of the same-sex to be married. What’s more, it was less than 20 years ago, in 2003, that the simple act of sexual intercourse between people of the same sex became legal. Today, LGBTQ+ communities are still fighting for other basic rights. For example, it was only within the last month that the Supreme Court ruled against workplace discrimination based on gender and sexuality. Yet it was also recently that transgender people were stripped of their rights to basic healthcare and military participation. Even bathroom use has been politicized by some states for non-binary people. The basic human rights that LGBTQ+ communities have had to constantly fight for, such as marriage, sex, equal workplace treatment, and healthcare, are ones that straight and cis people so easily take for granted. Despite the fact that some people use religious or other beliefs to justify their opposition to same-sex marriage and basic rights for queer people, these preferences are not enough to strip anyone of their humanity. It is unjust for these rights to be in the hands of politicians, just as it is unjust that declaring that a Black life matters is considered too political.
Even more unjust is the way that intersectionality comes into play, making the obtention of basic rights and the avoidance of oppression that much harder for queer people of color. For example, according to Vox, queer students of color are pushed out of schools at much higher rates than their peers. Because of the bias that exists in so many people and the politicization of two or more of their intersecting identities, queer people of color are at an even greater risk for systemic oppression and the lack of basic human rights.
Female Bodies Politicized
While the government remains in control of Black and queer human rights, it also continues to politicize female bodies. The politicization of women’s rights has existed for as long as that of other marginalized groups, but birth control was not always a political issue. However, in the 1980’s, many began to turn against abortion, birth control, and Planned Parenthood. Many of these people were members of newly-forming and growing pro-life groups, as well as religious organizations that believed abortion was against God’s will. As a result of this growing support for the reversal of Roe v. Wade and the stripping of women’s rights to contraception, Planned Parenthood was forced to connect itself to the Democrats to gain support as these issues became more politicized. Unfortunately, this new partisan connection further politicized women’s healthcare. Soon, abortion and contraception were completely political issues, with an entire party of citizens and politicians attempting to control female bodies by limiting access to these services.
Nowadays, the Republican party is at the helm of anti-abortion and anti-contraception laws, although many religious organizations have been adding fuel to the fire. In fact, just this month, the Supreme Court ruled that women could be denied access to free birth control coverage from their employers due to religious concerns. This is a huge setback for women, as birth control is not only used for safer sex, but many women also need it for other reproductive health conditions, such as excessively painful menstrual cramps. Allowing someone’s religious beliefs to prevent a woman from getting the medication she needs for a condition or from purchasing a way to ensure she doesn’t get pregnant when she’s not ready is unjust. The legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State spoke out about this, saying “religious freedom is the right to believe and worship as you see fit. It’s never the right to use government to impose costs, burdens, or harms on other people.” And this is true, people have the freedom to hold their own beliefs about contraception and abortion. However, these beliefs should never be allowed to get in the way of a woman’s access to these necessary and important services or to politicize any woman’s body.
Right Vs. Wrong Not Right Vs. Left
It’s true that everyone has the right to their own opinions. In fact, differences in opinion are what make many political debates stimulating and enriching. However, certain issues should be about morals much more than about politics. This includes global pandemics, during which the primary goal of all political parties should be ensuring the health and safety of their people. This also includes climate change, which is a scientifically proven danger to the survival of all of humanity, and dismissing its existence for political gain is simply foolish. And finally, this includes the rights of people of all identities to things like equal treatment at work, marriage to their loved one, necessary healthcare, including birth control, and the ability to declare that their life matters without receiving any backlash. As Americans, we can’t continue to send the message to so many citizens that their life, health, and safety are no more than a topic for debate.