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10 Things to Ask About the News- Feb. 21st

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Black History Month Fact: Yesterday was President’s Day and George Washington’s Birthday. It is also 02/22/2022 on a Tuesday, so that’s also cool! In light of President’s Day, let’s shine a light on Shirley Chisholm. We all know who the first Black president Barack Obama is, but Chisholm is the first African-American woman elected to the United States Congress and also the first Black candidate to run for a major-party Presidential nomination.

10 Things to Ask About the News

Russia-Ukraine Tensions Escalate

On Sunday, after months of seemingly unsuccessful diplomacy, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian forces into eastern Ukraine, recognizing several breakaway regions as separatists states. The US has issued an executive order to restrict trade and investments to the regions and will discuss additional measures. The situation has evolved dramatically since then.

Engagement Questions

  • Imagine this crisis as a disagreement between two individuals (Russia and Ukraine). As one of the individual’s friends (US), how would you try to resolve the conflict?
    • What does the role of a friend, or mediator, look like? 
    • How might the power dynamic between the two individuals affect the way you resolve the conflict?
    • Would the relationship between the two individuals be toxic? 
    • Do you find yourself leaning towards a more proactive or passive approach? More violent or more peaceful?
  • What responsibilities, if any, do bystanders have towards a conflict, or specifically a violent or dangerous one?  
  • Do you believe working in alliances acts in favor or against violence?
    • What is the importance of alliances? What are the dangers?

Abortion Bans Across the Country

Yesterday, abortion laws made it to the headlines when Colombia’s highest court legalized abortion and became the fourth Latin American country to do so. However, in America, states are heading in a different direction. 

Last year, Texas passed an abortion law that made abortion illegal once a fetal heartbeat was detected. Ever since, the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision has been called into question and now, state legislators from Arizona, Florida, and West Virginia have also recently passed a 15-week ban where abortions would be banned 15 weeks after pregnancy. The Supreme Court is also considering an abortion case for the summer that challenges a Mississippi law that similarly bans abortions 15 weeks after pregnancy, a law that directly challenges Roe v. Wade.

Engagement Questions

  • How might abortion be a particularly sensitive issue for depolarization work? Why does it continue to cause such considerable discourse after all these years?
  • How should organizations like Braver Angels attempt to solve the discourse around sensitive topics like abortion, if at all?
  • Should older constitutional laws be able to be upturned or amended? What kind of risks or benefits might a change pose to democracy?

U.S. Speculation on Canada’s Emergency Act

Last week, the Canadian ‘Freedom Convoy’—a three-week-long demonstration of Canadian truckers protesting vaccine mandates—held large protests across the country in large cities of Ottawa, Toronto, and the Ambassador Bridge, a vital border crossing between the US and Canada. After a long six-day blockade of the bridge, government officials, with the help of the Biden administration, put an end to the protest with multiple arrests and ultimately reopened the border late on Sunday. With the continued protests, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the never-before-used Emergencies Act, which granted government authorities temporary powers during a crisis, to stop the protests for disrupting the peace. The use of the Emergencies Act has been called into question by many Canadians as well as their US counterparts, causing lots of discussion from members of Congress, media figures, and the general public. 

Engagement Questions

  • Where do we draw the line between protecting national security and suppressing freedom of expression? 
  • What kind of example might this set for other countries? Compare how Trump or Biden might have acted in response to this.
  • Was government action the answer to protests? What alternatives might have been possible? What was at stake? 
  • What is the role of the bystander in this position? Does the US have an obligation to protect democracy across national borders?


Editor’s Note: Every week, BA Media intern Janus Kwong compiles a briefing document for our national media staff’s reference, a guide for thinking through the major news items we and our fellow Americans might have at top of mind. These documents don’t assert a party-line or standard; they lay out some themes and guide us through key questions, and like the best of our work, they bring us a little closer to understanding things with a spirit of goodwill, through a commitment to process. They shouldn’t be seen as fact-sheets or strategic assessments, but as reflective little guides to help us cultivate the Braver Angels Way as we approach any issue at all. We in the media team are reflecting on these questions ourselves, and we invite interested BA members to do so too, and share your thoughts with us at media@braverangels.org or in the comments. -LNP

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2 thoughts on “10 Things to Ask About the News- Feb. 21st”

  1. Adrian Murillo

    As usual, you people frustrate me with the way you frame issues. Re: Russia-Ukraine, this is not a “disagreement” but an act of aggressive invasion after a prolonged period of intimidation. More like a home invasion by neighborhood bullies. Russia’s history with Ukraine for the last 100 hundred years contains genocidal acts of forced starvation under Stalin among other things. Hitler promised not invade Czechoslovakia then did, promised not to invade Poland then did. History is repeating itself. History shows you can’t stop fascist aggression with diplomacy. Only a show of organized international strength and the willingness to use will stop it. Once Ukraine’s independence is respected then negotiations around other issues (like resource allocation) can be negotiated.

    Re: abortion. You’re being disingenuous here. The question is: Theocracy or democracy? An extremist faction of a religion keeps trying to institutionalize it’s beliefs on all of America. To me, it’s a no-brainer. No one has the right to tell a woman what she can do with her body. If a deeply Catholic nation in Latin America can legalized abortion, what does it say about a nation that calls itself the land of the free? That’s the question you should ask. What to do about people who refuse to co-exist with differences rather than suppress the rights of those who don’t share their religious beliefs?, is the question. Theocracy depolarizes democracy.

    Re: Canada and protests. I believe in the right to protest as in stopping oil pipelines from crossing into the US. In both cases it seems the threat is to big business. As much as I don’t like who and why the protests happened up in Canada, I fail to see the threat to national security. They were right-wing bullies but I didn’t pay much attention to this issue. But for me acts of violence is where the line has to be drawn. Sowing chaos is a common tactic of fascists historically, trying to destabilize the flow of life. How to restore life, social obligations and services, etc. while anti-democracy tactics, efforts to undermine the health and welfare of all, are played out is the question. The question in my mind is was the goal of the truckers a morally justified one in response to the pandemic, the real threat to national security.

  2. Regarding abortion issues, I do think BA can play a role. My understanding is that a large chunk of Americans believe that laws such as Texas’s are too restrictive, but that Roe v Wade is not restrictive enough, so there is some room for building common understanding and goals. I think BA type discussions can help pro-life people learn that pro-choice people really do care about life, and pro-choice people learn that pro-life people really do care about women’s health and well-being.

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