Looking back at 2020

In our last lesson before Christmas we brainstormed what has happened during the autumn of 2020, since we have discussed the events in class on a weekly basis, but not maintained the blog for future reference. We proved to ourselves that not only are we able to dig deep into our memories and remember the important events when we put our heads together; we are also better at seeing how events are linked, influence each other and how they can twist, turn and develop in expected and unexpected ways. The items below are the most important events of the last half year, even though we touched upon other topics as well.

The US Supreme Court

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on 18 September 2020. That started a race for the president to get a third justice nominated and approved before the election, ending in the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett on 29 September and her confirmation on 26 October 2020. The Democrats were none too pleased that the Republicans refused to confirm President Obama’s nominee 10 months before the 2016 election, arguing that the electorate should have their say in choosing the president who would get to nominate someone for such an important position. That did not stop the Republicans from doing a one-eighty four years later, nominating and confirming their candidate only weeks before the presidential election on 3 November 2020. Rather they can congratulate themselves on having confirmed three Supreme Court Justices during one single presidential term.

The US presidential election

On 3 November 2020 the US experienced record voter turnout. It took days to count and recount the votes, though by the Saturday Joseph R. Biden, Jr was announced the winner and for the first time in American history a woman, and a woman of colour, was elected vice president: California Senator Kamala Harris. The incumbent president, Donald J. Trump, has filed more than 50 lawsuits in a pursuit to overturn the election results in several states. Most have been rejected, some are still being processed. The two Senate seats in Georgia could not be filled in the November election, so they held a runoff election on 5 January 2021. That proved to be quite exciting, since the November Senate election left the Republicans with 50 Senators, the Democrats with 48.

Campaigning for the presidential election and the aftermath of the election has been highly partisan and with some unprecedented behaviour and accusations. The first presidential debate, for instance, did not leave either candidate a good option for the American electorate and the candidates failed gravely in both rhetoric, behaviour and appeal. Trump’s later comment to the right-wing organization Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” did nothing to calm matters.

The pandemic

Under the current Administration, Covid 19 has run rampant in the American society making the USA one of the hardest hit countries during the entire 2020. In October it reached the White House. Central politicians in the administration took part in so-called “superspreader events” both at the White House and at campaign rallies through the summer and autumn, all the while rejecting wearing face masks as effective. Well, the problem might really have been that many people in the USA do not regard Covid 19 as particularly dangerous the President even initially claiming that the common flu is more lethal.  

The UK has not got off scot-free either. They have had several lockdowns, central politicians have been affected just like in the US, and the UK are exhausted and tired from the restrictions in society, like everyone else. Additionally, they, like in the USA, are experiencing higher unemployment and a growing number of poor people. It has gone so far that UNICEF has started a domestic emergency response in Britain.

Congress in the USA has had difficulties agreeing on financial relief funds for their citizens as well.

#BlackLivesMatter

The year has seen many killings of and attacks on people of colour. It all came to a peak with the death of George Floyd in May. But many Black people have been killed both before and after, in intentional and accidental attacks, by civilians and police alike. During the summer and autumn of 2020 there have been several attacks on police headquarters, many demonstrations and protests, more violent than non-violent, and the national guard has been sent to help (or incite) in many affected areas.

Brexit

After years of negotiations and changing Cabinets thrice since the 2016 Brexit referendum, the UK and the EU finally agreed on an exit deal in December. The deal was officially approved by both Houses of Parliament on 31 December 2020, ensuring soft Brexit and not a no-deal hard Brexit.

The British monarchy

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex stepped down as senior members of the royal family in 2020. They also left the UK and moved to California. The Duke is still the sixth in line to the throne.

In the news – Corona

Read/watch these two articles/videos about the strain on the health care system in the UK and the USA due to corona.

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/22/uk/boris-johnson-mothers-day-coronavirus-gbr-intl/index.html

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/3/16/21173766/coronavirus-covid-19-us-cases-health-care-system

How well do you think the two countries are prepared for what is to come in terms of their health care system? Write your comments below:)

In the news – read and discuss

On the topic of homelessless: In A-magasinet this Saturday (28.2.20) there was an article on people living in hotels in the USA because they cannot afford their own place to live… sounds nice, doesn’t it? Well, only at first glance… The Norwegian photographer Monica Strømdahl has made a photo documentation of this, see picture below.

Ett av flere bilder i serien «Flophouse America», om de som velger å bo på billige amerikanske hotell på ubestemt tid. Dette bildet er nå utstilt på kunstsenteret Hennie Onstad og publisert i 2019-boken fra Norwegian Journal of Photography. Foto: Monica Strømdahl
Ett av flere bilder i serien «Flophouse America», om de som velger å bo på billige amerikanske hotell på ubestemt tid. Dette bildet er nå utstilt på kunstsenteret Hennie Onstad og publisert i 2019-boken fra Norwegian Journal of Photography. Foto: Monica Strømdahl

https://journalisten.no/dokumentarfoto-foto-henie-onstad/i-2005-sa-monica-stromdahl-etter-et-billig-sted-a-bo-det-startet-et-14-ar-langt-fotoprosjekt/374102

On any given night last year, 568 000 people in the USA were homeless, up 3 % from the year before, after a period of steady decline. About 37% of the homeless live on the streets. in cars, in tents or vacated buidings. The rest got shelter in temporary housing like for example cheap motels and emergency centers (A-Magasinet/Anette Aasheim: De som sjelden sjekker ut, 28.2.20)

  • What do you think are the biggest challenges of being homeless?

From the UK: you have probably heard of the artist Banksy, who uses street art to get his message across? Now there’s another oppositional voice critisizing the British establishment; Stormzy. Check out the article below:

Stormzy at the Mercury prize ceremony – of which he was a judge – London, 19 September 2019.
Stormzy makes cover of Time magazine as ‘next generation leader’ 
The rapper features alongside Greta Thunberg on the magazine’s annual list of young trailblazers
https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/oct/10/stormzy-makes-cover-of-time-magazine-as-next-generation-leader-great-thunberg-annual-list
  • Had you heard of this artist & activist before? What are his songs about? He calls himself a “political analyst” – why?
  • One of the issues he addresses is the rise in knife crimes in the UK. In 2018 alone, 76 people were killed in knife crimes in Lodon. You can read more about that in the post from May 14, 2019 below.
  • Another issue is Grenfell Tower – What happened here in 2017?

Another person you need to have heard about is Alexandia Ocasio-Cortez. She is a Democratic Congresswoman from New York, elected to the House of Representatives in 2018. Her story is told in the Netflix documentary Knock Down the House (2019): https://knockdownthehouse.com/

Bilderesultater for alexandria ocasio cortez full speech religious freedom
  • Read this article and discuss the speech she gave on religious freedom and its implications.

Issues in British politics

It’s hard to believe these days, but British politics is not all about Brexit… In class today, you’ve read about other political issues that are of importance to the British public. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/01/political-issues-2018-homelessness-universal-credit-social-care-child-poverty

https://uk.isidewith.com/poll/49841143

Write a blog post about one or more of these issues that you find interesting and/or surprising. Include facts and viewpoints in your post.

Knife Crime in the UK

As Brexit tends to overshadow every other issue in the UK, there are other challenges the Brits face, too. One of them is knife crime, which unfortunately takes place on a daily basis.

This week we will work with the competence aim “current affairs in an English-speaking country”. Read this BBC news article and sum up what you learn about the reasons for the increased knife crime. Then read CNN’s article about the same topic. What reasons does this article give for the increased knife crime? In pairs, share your findings.

Watch this documentary about knife crime. Take notes as you watch and try to find answers to these questions:

-why does knife crime happen?

-who are the victims?

-what are the consequences of knife crime?

and

-what can be done to prevent it?

Then read this anonymous letter written by a policeman in London. Identify the reasons he gives for the increased knife crime.

Finally, read British actor Lennie James’ open letter to the knife carriers, which was first published in the Guardian on June 8, 2008.

What literary and/or linguistic features does James use to enhance the message of his letter?

This is your last assignment before the written exam, and you should write a blog post where you sum up your findings about knife crime in the UK. Deadline: Friday, May 24 at 12:00.

Current issues in UK society



https://21stcenturychallenges.org/poverty-in-britain/





As PM Theresa May is obliged by her duty to ensure that the UK leaves the EU, negotiating with EU leaders as well as MPs, we want to take a closer look at British society. How are the Brits doing in terms of poverty, unemployment and migrants, for instance? What will happen to the numerous laborers who work in the agriculture sector once Brexit takes place? These are questions that we should try to find an answer to. Start by watching this documentary:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEhC0oM1aAo

Find out about poverty in the UK and do some research: Who are most affected by it?

Find out about the UK welfare system and its weaknesses.

Study the text handed out in class and make a list of what characterizes the UK labor market. Discuss your findings with a partner.