I keep checking the calendar. It is 2019, a time of equality, science, and reason, yes? A smattering of recent news events has me wondering.
The U.S. women’s national team (USWNT) brought home the World Cup last week, but not before causing a stir by suing the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) for “gender and pay discrimination.” After its World Cup victory, the team received $4 million from the international soccer governing body (FIFA) while the men’s French team earned $38 million after winning the World Cup last year. Further, “the women will get bonuses from the USSF about five times less than the men would have earned for winning the World Cup.”
Pay disparity is not news to American women; they know quite well they are paid 85% of what men earn, according to the Pew Research Center. “Based on this estimate, it would take an extra 39 days of work for women to earn what men did in 2018.”
The counter-arguments to the pay gap run from “men’s sports attract more revenue than women’s sports” to “women simply choose lower-paying careers.” I could readily debate these points, but I’ll just note the most glaring reality: Many men are flat-out scared.
Specifically, USWNT co-captain Megan Rapinoe frightens the bejesus out of them. Already outspoken in her support of equal pay, LGBTQ rights, and Colin Kaepernick, Rapinoe enraged many men — including the president — when she “told a magazine she would not visit the White House if the team should win.”
As Rapinoe’s girlfriend, former UConn women’s basketball star Sue Bird, wrote in a now-viral tribute, “You just cannot shake that girl. She’s going to do her thing, at her own damn speed, to her own damn rhythm, and she’s going to apologize to exactly NO ONE for it.”
In short, Rapinoe terrifies American men who sense their top-dog status coming to an end.
The Threat of Climate Change Is Real
The facts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration speak for themselves: The number of high-tide flood days in 2018 rose significantly in more than 40 coastal communities; 12 municipalities broke or tied previous records for the number of days with high-tide flooding, and; the city of Boston saw 19 high-tide flood days in 2018.
The Union of Concerned Scientists, meanwhile, just released an exhaustive report: Killer Heat in the United States. Among the abundance of alarming findings: “The Northeast is projected to regularly experience extreme heat that has, historically, been rare. Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, for example, have historically averaged seven to 10 days per year with a heat index above 90°F. By midcentury, with no climate action, these New England states can expect the equivalent of four to six weeks of such conditions, on average, each year.”
Rhode Island faces an especially grave climate-related challenge with its municipal sewage treatment plants, reports the Providence Journal. The plants “perform an essential function in cleaning up 120 million gallons of wastewater every day so it can be released safely back into the water cycle.”
In 2010, a succession of floods forced the Pawtuxet facility out of commission for five days, resulting in untreated material directly entering the Narragansett Bay. Considering the fact that “extreme rain events” of more than one inch or more have increased in Rhode Island from seven or eight per year in the 1930s to 22 in 2018, the situation is grim.
Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., the Trump administration has responded to mounting climate-related threats by “refus[ing] to publicize dozens of government-funded studies that carry warnings about the effects of climate change.”
White House Pretends to Address Social-Media Concerns
Social media raises concerns, including privacy questions, digital bullying, and partisanship. So the White House organized a summit last week. Funny thing: the summit didn’t address any of these issues.
According to NPR, representatives from Twitter and Facebook were not invited. Instead, attendees included many of Donald Trump’s online supporters — people like “CarpeDonktum,” a stay-at-home dad in Kansas who has more than 100,000 Twitter followers. Among CarpeDonktum’s essential tweets are “pro-Trump images and videos mocking the left,” many of which Trump has re-tweeted.
The summit, essentially, was a soapbox for Trump, who “repeatedly suggested there was a conspiracy that was preventing him from having more followers and viewers on social media platforms.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind that I should have millions and millions,” Trump said. “I have millions of people, so many people I wouldn’t believe it, but I know that we’ve been blocked.” This, despite a lack of evidence that Trump or any other conservative voice has been systematically censored. (For a real example of censorship, refer back to the White House’s handling of climate-change reports.)
Fittingly, the summit concluded with a verbal spat worthy of the WWE, according to the New York Post: “When Trump finished his remarks in the Rose Garden, [former presidential adviser Sebastian] Gorka walked past the White House press pool where he got into a brief shouting match with Playboy correspondent Brian Karem,” while “Mark Dice, a right-wing pundit, also shouted at CNN’s Jim Acosta as he walked by the press corps.”
Yes, indeed. It’s 2019, a time of equality, science, and reason. Except that it isn’t. And we’ll all pay for it in the end.
Barth Keck is an English teacher and assistant football coach who teaches courses in journalism, media literacy, and AP English Language & Composition at Haddam-Killingworth High School.
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