That is Patriotism!

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By Atiba Madyun

You’ve heard by now, that Rudy Giuliani who led NYC through 9/11, said that President Barack Obama is unpatriotic and doesn’t believe in America.  This led me to wonder, how do you define the President of the United States as unpatriotic?

How is a President, who led the nation out of its worst recession since the Great Depression, from double digit unemployment to 5.7%, unpatriotic?  How do you call the President unpatriotic, when he made the decision that led to our troops killing the mastermind of 9/11?

Mr. Giuliani’s comments were given on the heels of President Obama’s speech at the White House Summit on Countering Extremism.  In his speech, he referred to ISIL and other terrorists as “violent extremists” instead of linking terrorism directly to Islam.

As an American, raised in a Muslim family, I appreciated the President distinctly differentiating between violent extremists and Islam even when, some inside the White House wanted the President to link Islam with extremism. Instead, the President said to the nation and the World that, “We are not at war with Islam.  We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

Imagine what the world would be like if a man like Giuliani was President, perverting the issue for political reasons?  It would divide us as a nation and separate us from other good Muslims in the world.  That would be irresponsible and unpatriotic.

Mr. Giuliani, the President is the leader of all Americans.  He has a responsibility to protect Americans here and abroad.  Had he done what you wanted him to, it would have added fuel to the fire and helped ISIL recruit even more people.

I am glad the President didn’t cave to hysteria and Islamaphobia.  Instead, he called on the entire world and religious community, in particular Muslim clerics to work together to combat “violent extremism.”

It scares me to think of a world where Giuliani or someone like him was President.  There is a reason you failed to secure the GOP nomination.  A President’s tone in this day and age has to be patriotic and resonate with the American majority.

Last month, when President Obama gave the annual State of the Union address, I was appalled when members of my party, the GOP failed to stand and applaud when the President said that the “State of the Union is strong.”  This was unpatriotic Mr. Giuliani, but we didn’t hear you call out the party!

Lines are drawn by Democrats and Republicans, as if we were at war with one another.  This week, the GOP is threatening to shut down the government over the President’s executive actions on immigration. Patriotism should always rise above partisan divide.  That’s why we came together when our nation was attacked on 9/11.

This nation is 150 years removed from slavery, an institution that nearly tore our nation apart.  It took the life of one of our most beloved Presidents.  Today, a majority of Americans are coming together around issues that we used to be far apart on.  Mr. Giuliani, it should be unpatriotic to be against raising the minimum wage.  It should be unpatriotic to close pathways to prosperity for many, so that a few can succeed.

I see things every day that show the President’s love for this nation.  It can be seen in his manner and decisions to make America a better place for his children and all children.   Is that not patriotic?

Our nation is on a better course than it was six years ago.  At times, I have questioned the President’s leadership and policies.  But, I have never questioned his patriotism.  As an American, it is my patriotic duty to voice concern, just as it is my duty to vote and give whoever is the President, an opportunity to lead and succeed.  Today, six years into his Presidency, with no more campaigns to run, he is free to lead his way and I like what I see!

In light of violent extremism, Mr. Giuliani, I wholeheartedly appreciate the President’s decision to take out this enemy.  To do this successfully, he will need to build a large coalition.  I believe him when he says, we will defeat them.  So we should give the President a chance and if he is wrong, then come back and criticize that, but not his patriotism.

His record as Commander in Chief has earned him that privilege.  The President is doing his patriotic duty, by seeking ways to destroy an enemy like ISIL, without putting more young men and women in harm’s way, as we did in the last decade.  Isn’t that patriotic and commendable?

Our President has ushered in affordable healthcare for millions of uninsured Americans.  He seeks policies that provide greater mobility for the middle class.  Why?  Because he knows that this will strengthen the economic stability of our nation.  Leveling the playing field, so that every American has an opportunity to prosper in the world’s richest nation is good for our national security and it is patriotic!

Mr. Giuliani, we are grateful for the leadership you displayed on September 11, 2001.  We would be more grateful if you did one more patriotic thing.  Get out of the way.  Let our nation, fulfill its destiny and the course our nation’s founders set us on, to become a more perfect union for, WE THE PEOPLE. That is patriotism!

Atiba Atiba Madyun is the President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm based in Washington, D.C. and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP).

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The Cutting Season: The Horrifying Truth about Female Genital Mutilation

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By Kelly Loughery

“With the first slash of the razor blade, a bolt of agony shot through me like nothing I had ever experienced…But as the blade cut into me again I screamed, wide-eyed with terror and pain…I was a terrified child with all the adults in the world that I trusted causing me unspeakable pain…but the cutting and slicing just went on and on…I felt as if I was dying, and even death would have been preferable to where I was now” – Halima Bashir[1] 

For most children, the start of summer holidays is one of the most eagerly anticipated times of the year –  that final school bell, sunshine beckoning lazy play days, and homework-less evenings. Yet for some young girls (estimated to be as many as 2,000 in the UK and Wales alone[2]) – the start of summer holidays also represents the beginning of the “Cutting Season”. This appellation refers to the time of year when many young school girls are taken from Western countries to countries where female genital mutilation (FGM) is practiced. Because, FGM is generally performed on girls under the age of 12, the school holiday period offers sufficient time for the physical wounds to heal before the start of the subsequent school year.

For the majority of girls, the procedure is performed against their will, absent anesthetic. Rudimentary and unsanitary instruments such as razor blades and glass shards are often used to make the incisions. Infection, shock, hemorrhaging, post-traumatic stress disorder and lasting physical and psychological effects are all widely documented consequences of FGM. For these reasons the practice has been labeled a human rights violation by virtually every major international organization and banned in most developed countries. Yet the practice continues with as many as 60,000 girls in the UK and approximately 3 million girls in Africa still at risk.[3]

But what exactly is FGM?

FGM is commonly practiced in 29 countries with the percentage of women having undergone the procedures in Egypt, Somalia, Guinea, Djibouti and Sudan registering greater than 80%. Although illegal, there is also evidence FGM is taking place in Western countries in so-called “cutting parties” where multiple girls are mutilated at the same time by a practitioner frequently flown in from a country where it is widely practiced to limit costs. Generally the girl is physically restrained during the procedure, is given no pain relief and spends weeks in isolation for recovery (for infibulation this also involves physically binding the girl’s legs together from the hips to the ankles).

The term “female genital mutilation” refers to “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”[4] The World Health Organization (WHO) developed four broad categories of FGM:

  1. Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
  2. Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are “the lips” that surround the vagina).
  3. Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris. Recovery from infibulation generally involves binding the legs together from the hips to the ankles for several weeks after the procedure.
  4. Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.[5]

FGM has been used interchangeable with “female circumcision”, yet bears no relation to the widely performed male circumcision which has demonstrable medical benefits and involves far less genital trauma.[6] FGM, in contrast, has no health benefits and is linked to a host of both short and long term physical and psychological issues.

What are the Health Consequences?

The immediate health consequences most commonly associated with FGM are shock and hemorrhaging. Although the actual death rates directly related to FGM are unknown, in countries where antibiotics are not widely available estimates are that as many as one third of girls undergoing FGM will die.[7] Additionally, given that the instruments used for the procedure are often shared between girls the risk of transmitting HIV[8] between girls is heightened, along with the propensity for the spread of other types of infections between girls which can also prove fatal.

The longer-term health consequences are well-documented and extensive: chronic pain, sexual dysfunction, urogenital complications, infections, psychological disorders. The evidence of obstetric complications is particularly alarming and difficult to dispute – including significantly higher incidences of caesarean sections and post partum hemorrhage. The risk of such complications is directly correlated with the severity of the FGM performed.[9] Research further shows that the risk of newborn death increases in tandem with the severity of the FGM performed on the mother: 15% higher risk of newborn death for those whose mothers had Type I; 32% higher for those with Type II; and 55% higher for those with Type III.

What can we do?

FGM has been recognized as a violation of human rights law since the 1980s and is banned in virtually all developed countries, yet there has been little to no decline over time in a number of countries including Chad, Djibouti, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan or Yemen.[10] Other countries, such as Benin, Central African Republic, Iraq, Liberia and Nigeria show a moderate decline with countries like Kenya and Tanzania showing a dramatic decline over time. The reality is that if the current trend continues more than 30 million girls may be subject to FGM before their 15th birthday.[11]

As a violation of human rights law, the governments in countries where FGM is practiced have a responsibility to ensure basic human rights are sustained within their jurisdictions. These countries need to establish legislation banning the practice, continue to spread awareness for the health consequences associated with the procedure and create outreach programs to protect vulnerable girls. While the misinformed frequently label the practice a ‘religious’ issue, in fact it predates all formal religions (including Islam and Christianity) and is deeply rooted in certain cultural and societal frameworks. There are many misconceptions within these communities associated with the practice including the belief that women who have not undergone FGM are in some way ‘unclean’, subject to obstetric complications or not suitable for marriage. At the grassroots level, community leaders need to dispel misconceptions about the procedure and work to reverse traditional beliefs about female sexuality, chastity and suitability for marriage.

To compel action, the international community needs to confront the issue head on and speak unabashedly about the brutality of the procedure itself, the physical and psychological consequences and the human rights violations associated with the practice. All countries need to be vigilant in enforcing existing laws prohibiting the practice within their own jurisdictions.  Young women need to be educated about their rights and the risks associated with the practice, as well as aware of safe havens and reporting mechanisms available to them. FGM should be covered within child protection laws to enable authorities to remove a vulnerable child from the home where necessary. Likewise, the criminal repercussions for parents who facilitate FGM on their children should be swift and severe. Victims should also have civil remedies at their disposal – such as the right to pursue damages against practitioners – which could also act as deterrence.

Although this issue is mired with cultural and societal beliefs, gender inequality and medical misconceptions, at the most basic level the practice imposes grave physical and psychological harm on a child. Global leaders need to tackle this issue directly, speaking out unabashedly against the horror of the practice – even when discussing it is embarrassing and uncomfortable. Until the world’s most powerful take dramatic steps to protect its most vulnerable millions of girls will suffer, many will die and all will be denied basic human rights.

***

There are a number of organizations working to end FGM worldwide including the Orchid Project (http://orchidproject.org/), the End FGM European Network (www.endfgm.eu) and Equality Now (www.equalitynow.org). Please consider donating and take action within your own communities to bring awareness for this issue.

[1] Tears of the Desert (New York: One World Books, 2009), 56-57.

[2] According to the Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development, “A Statistical Study to Estimate the Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation in England and Wales’” October 7, 2007.

[3] World Health Organization, available at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/

[4] World Health Organization, Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: An interagency statement, WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNIFEM, OHCHR, UNHCR, UNECA, UNESCO, UNDP, UNAIDS, WHO, Geneva, 2008.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Specific benefits cited by the American Academy of Pediatrics include prevention of urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Policy statement available at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/3/585.full.

[7] Path.org – http://www.path.org/files/FGM-The-Facts.htm citing Women’s Policy, Inc. (July 12, 1996). “Female Genital Mutilation”. Women’s Health Equity Act of 1996: Legislative Summary and Overview. Women’s Policy, Inc. pp. 48.

[8] Mutenbei IB, Mwesiga MK. “The impact of obsolete traditions on HIV/AIDS rapid transmission in Africa: The case of compulsory circumcision on young girls in Tanzania”. (Abst 23473). Int Conf on AIDS 1998;12:436. As cited by Brady, Margaret “Female Genital Mutilation: Complications and Risks of HIV Transmission” AIDS PATIENT CARE AND STDs, Volume 13, Number 12: Pages 709-716. December 1999.

[9] Ibid.

[10] World Health Organization, Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: An Interagency statement, WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNIFEM, OHCHR, UNHCR, UNECA, UNESCO, UNDP, UNAIDS, WHO, Geneva, 2008.

[11] Ibid.

kelly  Kelly Loughery is an attorney for a Fortune 500 company and resides in Edgewater, Maryland with her twin boys and Italian greyhound.

State of the Union Priorities: A Path Forward

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By Atiba Madyun

This week, I attended a White House briefing on the President’s initiatives addressed in his State of the Union address.  His staff spoke on Cradle to Career education initiatives, My Brother’s Keeper, criminal justice reform, minimum wage and family sick leave.  They emphasized a sense of urgency and that the President has 22 months left to move an agenda focused on strengthening the middle class and investing in America’s future.

On education, the President believes no young person’s zip code should determine his/her future.  While the nation has its highest high school graduation rate ever (80%), it can link its high school dropout rate to 1,300 of the Nation’s schools. Therefore, the President has a new national goal to prepare the next generation(s) for high quality education and a bright future.

To achieve these new goals, it will require greater participation and accountability.  Like the old African proverb, It Takes a Village to raise a child, every child’s grandparents, parents, communities and schools should work collaboratively in this effort.  The President wants to increase America’s rank in providing high quality Pre-K access to high risk children.  Currently, according to Early Education for All, the U.S. ranks 28th out of 38 industrial nations that provide Pre-K and “the achievement gap between low-income children and their affluent peers is growing.[i]

By creating better pathways, students will have a better chance to graduate high school putting them on a pathway to college and enhanced career choices. To close the access gap, we have to address cost and make college more affordable for students that work hard and get good grades.  Opening access and making the first two years of community college free is a way to help students attain a higher education without going deep into debt before starting their career.

Increasing the minimum wage will help many Americans including some college students.  In 2017, 7 million Americans will benefit from minimum wage increases.[ii]  Making family sick leave available so employees working full time get at least seven days of sick leave a year makes sense for the employee and employer.  It can help businesses maintain low turnover while allowing employees to stay home when they are sick so they don’t get coworkers sick.  It also helps employees care for sick loved ones during episodes of illness.

Additionally, protecting and promoting family values also leads to success for America’s youth.  Each day, an average of eight children and teens are killed by guns.  Last year, we heard one too many stories of young men killed by police officers that set off a firestorm of protests.

Recognizing that too many young men are off track, the President one year ago this month, introduced My Brother’s Keeper (MBK).  Later in the year, a month after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, the President issued a challenge to cities, towns and tribes to become “MBK Communities” to implement coherent cradle to college and career strategy to improve outcomes for young people.  It addresses serious concerns in the African American, Hispanic and Native American tribal community.

MBK is seeking to find ways to save young people from a pathway that leads to prison. These are tied to his initiatives for education.  As early as pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, some 4 and 5 year olds have been suspended for negative behavior that can be typical of a child who is developing social-emotional skills. This is not how we should be supporting young children in their early years.  Data shows the nation’s greatest challenges dropout rates, crime, health-care costs, competing in the global marketplace – can be met by focusing on the development of all children, beginning at birth.

The President asserts a child’s future should not be predetermined by his/her zip code.  The Ounce of Prevention Fund research shows that at-risk children who don’t receive a high-quality early childhood education are[iii]:

  • 25% more likely to drop out of school
  • 40% more likely to become a teen parent
  • 50% more likely to be placed in special education
  • 60% more likely to never attend college
  • 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime

Early childhood programs are the most cost-effective way to ensure the healthy development of children in poverty and offer the greatest returns to society.In DC, where Pre-K is offered in every elementary school, Councilmember David Grosso recognized this and introduced legislation to positively address this growing trend to protect our 4 and 5 year olds and find better ways to promote positive social and emotional development.

MBK can be a vital instrument in impacting the lives of young American men.  To sustain and create greater opportunities, it is securing corporate, advocacy and community partners to better engage young men.  It is identifying long term solutions to their growth and prosperity in American society.  And all of the President’s cabinet agencies with focus on domestic policy are engaged in this effort.  More importantly, the President has expressed his and the First Lady’s commitment to work on MBK long after they leave the White House.

Mandatory sentencing laws have hurt families for too long.  The President’s staff and the Justice Department are looking for better ways to address re-entry, so that people can re-enter society better equipped to find employment, stay out of prison and empower them with the right to vote.  His Task Force on 21st Century Policing is looking at how billions of dollars are being spent in the militarization of police departments.  Body cameras and collaborative reform are great.  Here is not only a need, but an excellent opportunity on Capitol Hill for bipartisan support.

What the Administration and Congress might also consider is a national database to track the number of times police officers fire their weapons, injure and kill as well as kill unarmed individuals.  While body cameras are a great first step, it is vital to have policy guidelines defining when an officer turns them on and who views the footage.

As Americans, we can study the President’s proposals and look at like a shareholder of a company would.  Whether it is increasing the minimum wage, creating seamless pathways to attaining higher education, protecting our young men and law enforcement officials, providing greater upward mobility opportunities, they all look to strengthen our nation and our economy.  That’s a win-win as an American shareholder and a great way to invest in America’s future!

Atiba

Atiba Madyun is the President of The Madyun Group, a Public Affairs firm based in Washington, DC.

Learn more about My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) www.whitehouse.gov/MBK or visit www.mbk.org.

[i] Early Education for All –  http://www.strategiesforchildren.org/docs_research/14_International.pdf

 [ii] The White House – www.whitehouse.gov/raise-the-wage

 [iii] Ounce of Prevention Fund – http://www.ounceofprevention.org/about/why-early-childhood-investments-work.php

Mental Illness: When You Can’t Count on the Police

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Matthew Ajibade

Kristiana Coignard
Kristiana Coignard

Parminder Singh Shergill

Parminder Singh Shergill

By Dr. Samantha Madhosingh

Just last week, a friend called me because she was worried about another friend’s husband. He was not “acting in his right mind” (her words) and they were trying to get him to voluntarily go to the hospital without success.

She mentioned that they managed to get him to the hospital the previous evening, but the hospital released him without really doing anything.  Now he seemed to be getting worse and more agitated.

I thought about how best to advise them.  My primary concern was, “How can we get this man to the hospital safely without making it a bigger crisis?”

The reality is, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), 1 in 4 people in the US has a mental health problem and as many as 10 million have a serious mental illness.  This includes schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Mental illness crosses all gender, race, socio-economic, religious, region, culture, and sexual orientation lines.

Almost all families have a close or distant relative who has been or will be diagnosed with a mental health disorder.  Since the closing of many psychiatric facilities and decreased funding for mental health services, the police find themselves frequently engaged with the mentally ill. Families call the police out of desperation, scared both of and for their loved ones, but wanting them to receive help – not jail or death.

So as my mind scanned the possibilities two options came up, “the police or an ambulance.”

I quickly crossed off the police because he might refuse to go with them.  I’d just read about 22-year-old Matthew Ajibade whose family called police because he was exhibiting symptoms of bipolar disorder.  He died in the custody of Savannah, Georgia police at the beginning of January, reportedly alone in an isolation cell.

I recalled reading about 43-year-old Parminder Singh Shergill, a Gulf War veteran suffering from PTSD.  Shergill was killed by police in Lodi, California after his family called for their help to have him hospitalized.

With these incidents in mind, I advised my friend to call an ambulance and provide specific language to the dispatchers with hopes they would take the situation seriously without involving the police.

Thankfully, he went without incident.  He was hospitalized for several days undergoing observation, assessment, and treatment in a psychiatric unit.

After the call, I was saddened that I didn’t trust the police to handle a mental health crisis safely and effectively. The police have a very difficult job, but are woefully under trained to handle mental health emergencies and, more often than not, the mentally ill end up in jail or dead, instead of in a hospital. While many might argue that my concern is unwarranted, the statistics tell a different story.

According to a 2012 published report by the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram, almost half of the 375 to 500 people shot and killed by police each year nationally are mentally ill. In some states like New Mexico, that number may be as high as 75%.

Without proper crisis de-escalation and mental health training, the police, unfortunately, often end up escalating the situation – putting themselves, the individual, and the community at large at risk of harm. Their tactical training leads them to push too quickly to control a situation and enforce compliance, which can often make things much, much worse.

They don’t recognize that the erratic behavior associated with some mental illnesses cause individuals to not respond to authorities in the manner they think they should.  The police treat these situations as simple cases of noncompliance and situations escalate quickly. Police officers are trained to use deadly force. If they fire their weapon, they must shoot to kill – not maim.

The deaths of Matthew Ajibade, Parminder Singh Shergill, and most recently 17-year-old Kristiana Coignard (Texas), were completely preventable. After watching the publicly released video of Kristiana Coignard’s death, it’s hard to fathom why the 17 year-old was shot and killed.

There appeared to be multiple points when she could have been restrained and handcuffed. These victims do not have age, gender, race, religion, or region in common.  What they share is mental illness and a life cut short needlessly due to their interaction with police.

So what must we do?

In some jurisdictions, police departments are creating crisis intervention teams of officers who have specialized training to de-escalate situations with the mentally ill without using deadly force. However, it is imperative that all police officers be properly trained on how to identify people with a psychiatric illness and how to appropriately, effectively, and safely de-escalate crisis situations involving people with psychiatric problems who are in an erratic and agitated state.

Resources must be spent to improve the sensitivity and knowledge of the police force so they are not inappropriately acting out of fear.  Dispatchers should notify officers when the situation is a mental health emergency, so they are prepared for the situation.

Families with loved ones who are mentally ill are desperate for more mental health resources that provide assistance and support. Resources are needed for community mental health, community living for the seriously mentally ill, and psychiatric hospitals providing acute and long-term care.

As a society, we must also focus on reducing the stigma associated with receiving mental health support, as well as providing funding for prevention and early intervention programs.

145Dr. Samantha Madhosingh is a #1 bestselling author, psychologist & speaker.  A frequent media contributor and sought-after expert for both local and national media, she has appeared on FOX, NBC, CBC, Emotional MoJo, Daytime and Heart&Soul. Her book, Strike it Happy! 101 Reflections to Revolutionize Your Life is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DrSMadhosingh                Instagram: @DrSMadhosingh

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drsmadhosingh

www.askdrsamantha.com

Check out my bestselling book, Strike it Happy! 

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www.askdrsamantha.com/strike-it-happy

 Sam