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With Papa And Bro Who Waged Unnecessary Wars, Can America Afford To Have Jeb Bush As POTUS?

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By Nikhil Umesh

Jeb Bush, the brother and son of former presidents, announced on Monday that he will be bidding for the top seat in the White House. But he’s finding himself in a bit of a dilemma re: his surname — one can’t simultaneously run on a name and run from it. Wars that didn’t need to be fought, thousands of lives lost, and the financial collapse of 2008 ring in people’s heads when the name Bush is uttered.

jeb bush

The United States might operate as a representative democracy, but this does not mean it is immune to dynastic rule. Of the last 34 years, 25 of them have involved a Bush in the office of the Presidency, Vice-Presidency, or Governorship. But does Jeb Bush’s track record qualify him to distance himself from his family’s presidential legacy?

He is running as a political moderate, towing a fine line between associating himself with the shift of the Republican party to the far right and sufficiently distancing himself from the likes of Democrat juggernaut, Hillary Clinton. However, his purported moderation is more rhetorical. Bush’s tenure as Florida’s first two-term Republican Governor (1999-2007) paints a picture of a hardline conservative rather than a political mediator.

The 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin, a Black teenager, at the hands of George Zimmerman sparked national outcry, igniting the Black Lives Matter movement which has been calling attention to the extra-judicial killing of Black people, among other manifestations of institutional racism. In 2005, Bush signed the nation’s first Stand Your Ground law. It gave Zimmerman legal entitlement to use deadly force under the guise of feeling threatened in public space. Bush still supports the law, praising it at a National Rifle Association meeting in April.

[I]n Florida we protected people’s rights to protect themselves,” he said.

Like Trayvon’s killing, also well remembered by racial and ethnic minorities living in Florida is Bush’s “One Florida” initiative which put an end to race-based affirmative action in state college admissions and government contracting and hiring. And the results of his executive action from 2000 aren’t pretty. Mother Jones reports that “Black freshmen enrollment at state universities has declined under One Florida, from about 18 percent in 2000 down to 13 percent in 2013. (The state’s black population has remained stable at around 20 percent).

One need not rely on Bush’s past policies to garner a sense of his politics. At Monday’s announcement, a group of immigration activists stood up during his speech, donning shirts saying “LEGAL STATUS IS NOT ENOUGH.” They were referencing Bush’s unwillingness to support granting citizenship and full rights to America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.

To the surprise of journalists and the audience he responded to the protesters, guaranteeing passage of comprehensive immigration “reform,” while chiding President Obama for resorting to executive orders. Simply claiming that he will sign off an immigration law in some unknown point in the future seems to be done more for political expediency than genuine care for millions of immigrants who currently live under fear of deportation.

During Bush’s unsuccessful bid for the Governor’s office in 1994, he was asked on the campaign trail what he would do for Black voters, to which he replied “probably nothing.” These words echo in the wake of his now desire for the highest office in the land.

The state-sanctioned halt to race-conscious admissions and contracting, his support for Stand Your Ground and pro-gun policies, and an unwillingness to ensure that displaced populations are not relegated to the status of second class citizens signal to me callous disregard. Not political “moderation.”

As Obama finishes his term as the first Black President, we must remember that his election was heralded as a great stride in racial justice, to the point of playing into the myth of America’s evolution into a post-racial society. Yet, we can assume from the current candidates and hard evidence of America’s deeply embedded racial antagonisms that there probably won’t be a long line of Black Presidents to come.

The Obama era postures many, especially white Americans, to forget that Jeb Bush’s candidacy is emblematic of the oligarchy that structures American politics. Here we are, watching the brother of Obama’s predecessor aspire to be the 44th white man in the Oval Office.

Follow me on Twitter @nikhilumesh to know more.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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