Political Review: Summer 2013

By Anna Vandergriff

Trayvon Martin Case

The Trayvon Martin case has brought up many concerns of racism in our justice system from people all around the country. Martin, a 17-year-old African American high school student, was shot dead on February 26, 2012, by George Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch coordinator in Sanford, Florida. Although Martin was unarmed, the police chief stated that Zimmerman had the right to defend himself by lethal force, according to the stand-your-ground law. The law states that a person has the right to use deadly force to defend themselves in a dangerous situation.

Zimmerman was charged with murder but was acquitted of all charges on July 13, 2013 by a Florida jury. President Obama made a speech shortly after the trial. “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” Obama said. “There are probably very few African-American men who have not had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me – at least before I was a senator.”

The case affected citizens from all over the United States, especially the teenage population. “[The Trayvon Martin case] affects us a lot as teenagers, because Trayvon was our age. It’s been brought up in class already and it’s very controversial,” senior Shannon Lee said.

After the verdict was announced, Zimmerman’s brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr., told CNN, “I don’t think this a time for high-fiving. I acknowledge — we all have acknowledged — that Trayvon Martin lost his life. [But] it was not an act of murder. It was not an act of manslaughter.”

Many argue that the prejudice and racism of others have pervaded our government. “One of my biggest concerns is the racism that permeates our justice system,” American Government and Economy teacher Bettina Mow said. “I am not a lawyer nor do I understand legal technicalities, however, if we look at our prison system, it is clear that innocent people, people who have not received adequate legal representation, and those sentenced to death are often people of color and people who live in poverty. In other words we have a classist and racist system.”


DOMA Repealed

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in June 2013. DOMA allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted under the laws of other states, and was enacted September 21, 1996 by Congress and former president Bill Clinton.

“[The repeal of DOMA] gave me hope that all people will be treated equal no matter the sexual preference,” Mow said. “Love is love and to deny people of their right to share love is to deny people of what is most important to the human heart. The fact that marriage and partnership and its meaning get caught up in political and economic dissection and debate is difficult for me to comprehend.”



The situation in Syria is changing daily. There has been conflict in Syria for decades, if not longer, but the current issue began when Russia supported President Hafez al-Assad’s party (father of the current president, Bashar al-Assad).

The majority of Syrians are Sunni Muslims, who are being overshadowed by the minority group, the Alawites, another religious group with especially secretive practices. The Alawites are overrepresented in the Syrian government, which means the the majority of Syrians are not being represented in their government.

Peaceful protests in support of democracy were punished by the Assad regime. When the protests started, the protesters were put in jail, but since then the Assad regime has begun killing protesters as well as murdering and torturing their families. The protests have developed into rebel groups with strongly conflicting ideas.

Problems escalated to an international scale when Assad’s regime began using chemical weapons against Syrian citizens. They targeted enemies of the Assad government. The United Nations (U.N.) has confirmed that the Assad government used chemical weapons on the Syrian citizens. Obama has spoken in support of bombing Syria, which the U.N. does not support. The U.N. has never been able to take any kind of action against the Assad regime because of Russia’s positive relationship with Syria and Russia has veto power in the U.N. security council.

Secretary of State, John Kerry, spoke with the Russian government in the hopes of gaining their support in removing chemical weapons from Syria, which is being considered as an alternative to bombing Syria. As reported by the Huffington Post, Obama said that the deal between Russia and the United States, “represents an important, concrete step toward the goal of moving Syria’s chemical weapons under international control so that they may ultimately be destroyed.”