Zócalo Public SquareVideo Archive – Zócalo Public Square http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org Ideas Journalism With a Head and a Heart Fri, 23 Feb 2018 08:01:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Childhood Trauma Can Make You Physically Sick in Adulthoodhttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2018/02/08/childhood-trauma-can-make-physically-sick-adulthood/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2018/02/08/childhood-trauma-can-make-physically-sick-adulthood/events/the-takeaway/#respond Thu, 08 Feb 2018 11:00:16 +0000 By Reed Johnson http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=91076 At her Bay Area children’s clinic, in interviews, and in her new book, Nadine Burke Harris addresses two questions time and again: Does childhood trauma live in the body forever? And, if it does, is there hope for treating it?

Burke Harris—a pediatrician, founder and CEO of the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco, and author of The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity—described childhood trauma as persistent, but treatable, during a Zócalo Public Square event at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles.

Before an overflow crowd, Burke Harris and moderator Carol S. Larson, president and CEO of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, unpacked the body of research showing that adverse childhood experiences can trigger lifelong physical problems, just as surely as they can lead to profound psychological and emotional afflictions.

But, said Burke Harris,

The post Childhood Trauma Can Make You Physically Sick in Adulthood appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
At her Bay Area children’s clinic, in interviews, and in her new book, Nadine Burke Harris addresses two questions time and again: Does childhood trauma live in the body forever? And, if it does, is there hope for treating it?

Burke Harris—a pediatrician, founder and CEO of the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco, and author of The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity—described childhood trauma as persistent, but treatable, during a Zócalo Public Square event at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles.

Before an overflow crowd, Burke Harris and moderator Carol S. Larson, president and CEO of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, unpacked the body of research showing that adverse childhood experiences can trigger lifelong physical problems, just as surely as they can lead to profound psychological and emotional afflictions.

But, said Burke Harris, “it doesn’t have to.” While adversity at an early age can alter children’s biology, “for me,” she said, “the science is profoundly hopeful, because we can get in and interrupt it.” Some keys to that, she suggested, are early identification and intervention; building and utilizing networks that connect pediatricians to other service professionals; and, crucially, addressing the problems and needs not only of the child, but also of the parents, caregivers, and adults who create the environment around the child.

Burke Harris is the rare medical expert whose accessible style of speaking and mediagenic personality have made her a popular public figure. The daughter of Jamaican immigrants and a mother of four, she has been lauded by peers for combining cutting-edge practices with an instinctive empathy for children, parents, and the caregivers trying to assist them.

Medical studies have conclusively shown that extreme forms of childhood trauma—divorce, parental substance abuse, physical and emotional abuse, sexual abuse—can inflict permanent psychological and emotional wounds that in adulthood can lead to severe depression, broken relationships, and even suicide. Burke Harris’ research has helped demonstrate that such traumas, known as adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, also can trigger serious, lifelong physical ailments, from asthma and high blood pressure to diabetes, cancer, chronic lung disease, and even Alzheimer’s.

Much of Burke Harris’ pioneering work stems from her clinical practice in the Hunters Point neighborhood, a few miles southeast of San Francisco’s fashionable precincts. She began observing that many children who were referred to her for attention deficit issues had been exposed to other types of environmental trauma, such as an adult with mental illness or addiction problems.

When research began linking these phenomena, it “blew the top off my mind,” Burke Harris said. One of the largest foundational studies, the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), conducted in the late 1990s, has had a particularly galvanizing impact, and a list of 10 questions developed through that study has been instrumental in identifying children at high-risk for health problems.

“The two big things they found are that ACEs are incredibly common,” and that having four or more of them puts a person at very high risk of developing a serious health condition, Burke Harris said. At her clinic, children are initially checked not only for height, weight, and blood pressure, but for their ACE score as well. A score of zero indicates low-risk for over-activity of the child’s stress response; a score of up to three ACEs indicates a moderate risk; and four or more indicates a high risk.

Larson, the moderator, observed that everyone possesses “some gut-level sense” about how stress can get under the skin. But science is now providing hard empirical evidence to support this.

Burke Harris agreed, then used an analogy to illustrate the challenge of applying what the science is telling us. If we encounter a bear in the forest, our bodies will unleash “fight or flight” stress hormones to help us act quickly to remove ourselves from harm. “What happens when the bear comes home every night?” she said.

That’s where early identification of high-risk children, and early intervention, come in. It’s also where it becomes essential to make sure that the parents and other adults in the picture are being supported and (when necessary) treated as well.

“We have the capacity to be a buffer for our children, but in order to do that we have to put our own oxygen masks on,” Burke Harris said. Healthy diets, exercise, and stress-reducing practices such as meditation and mindfulness can help in this regard, she added, but the most important thing is for each individual to determine which stress-reduction methods work best for her or him.

The greater challenge facing Burke Harris and her colleagues may be that, at present, only about four percent of U.S. pediatricians are screening for ACEs. Information-sharing networks are springing up, but many clinicians still lack the formal training that would make them feel confident and competent to handle the follow-up steps in dealing with ACEs.

“Many folks have expressed to me that they’re just afraid of opening a Pandora’s Box,” Burke Harris said. One clinician suggested that this approach might be too “invasive.”

“And I’m like, ‘Really? Cause I remember when I was in medical school and I had to do a prostate exam. It can’t be more invasive than that!’” Burke Harris said.

Audience members, a number of them health professionals, posed questions in urgent voices. Why don’t they implement ACE screenings in schools? one asked. Burke Harris replied that she doesn’t think this would be a good idea, “because teachers have a hard enough job.” But she does think that schools should be connected to the right care providers, and she’d like to see every child get an ACE screening before they start school.

Another audience member asked whether researchers are examining the impact of “socially constructed traumas” such as racist discrimination. Burke Harris said that “there’s a fundamental biology that unites” all human beings, irrespective of race, class, and other social factors. But she suggested that people of color, for example, may have heightened stress responses simply from being more likely to be harassed while walking down the street.

Is it ever too late to do something about this? Larson asked. Is it hopeful at every stage?

Burke Harris said that she believes “that it absolutely is.” The number-one thing that needs to happen, she said, is to raise awareness of the impacts of child trauma, and give tools and resources to the school districts, mommy bloggers, and other institutions that can help identify and address it.

“As parents, we can’t white-knuckle it. We need the village,” she said.

“We all need to be shouting this from the rooftops.”

The post Childhood Trauma Can Make You Physically Sick in Adulthood appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2018/02/08/childhood-trauma-can-make-physically-sick-adulthood/events/the-takeaway/feed/ 0
Trump Might Be the Best Foil American Democracy Can Havehttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2018/01/25/trump-might-best-foil-american-democracy-can/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2018/01/25/trump-might-best-foil-american-democracy-can/events/the-takeaway/#respond Thu, 25 Jan 2018 11:00:16 +0000 By Reed Johnson http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=90685 Should the Trump presidency make us more optimistic about America’s future?

E.J. Dionne—a prominent liberal pundit who is both a nationally syndicated columnist for The Washington Post and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution—thinks so.

“My grounds for optimism are looking at how the country has reacted to Trump’s election and mobilized,” Dionne told an overflow audience at the Artistry Honolulu, where he was the featured guest in a Zócalo/Daniel K. Inouye Institute “Pau Hana” event titled “Will the Trump Administration Renew American Democracy?”

Moderated by Bill Dorman, news director of Hawaiʻi Public Radio, the event offered Dionne’s Washington insider perspective on year one of the Trump presidency and the massive resistance to it, which Dionne believes may signal better times ahead for American democracy.

Dionne—co-author of the new book, One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported (2017)—laid out

The post Trump Might Be the Best Foil American Democracy Can Have appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
Should the Trump presidency make us more optimistic about America’s future?

E.J. Dionne—a prominent liberal pundit who is both a nationally syndicated columnist for The Washington Post and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution—thinks so.

“My grounds for optimism are looking at how the country has reacted to Trump’s election and mobilized,” Dionne told an overflow audience at the Artistry Honolulu, where he was the featured guest in a Zócalo/Daniel K. Inouye Institute “Pau Hana” event titled “Will the Trump Administration Renew American Democracy?”

Moderated by Bill Dorman, news director of Hawaiʻi Public Radio, the event offered Dionne’s Washington insider perspective on year one of the Trump presidency and the massive resistance to it, which Dionne believes may signal better times ahead for American democracy.

Dionne—co-author of the new book, One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported (2017)—laid out the evidence Trump is inadvertently energizing a renewed civic spirit and a desire, especially among younger people, to get active in government. Dionne pointed out that 60 percent of Americans now say there’s something wrong with the country, and Trump’s support is eroding even among his base of non-college-educated whites.

In some ways, Dionne suggested, Trump’s policies have awakened Americans to their responsibilities as citizens, a duty that many had been neglecting.

“It’s our job to be civically engaged, it’s our job to be politically engaged,” said Dionne, who paraphrased his own activist son to the effect that “sitting around drinking wine and complaining about Trump” (or any other politician) won’t make the country better.

If Dionne isn’t ready to write democracy’s obit, he concedes that his new volume is “a worried book.” He’s concerned about the future of self-government not only in the United States but globally. But he doesn’t believe that democracy is under siege to the degree it was in the 1930s.

“We saw from the very moment of his [Trump’s] election that large numbers of people in the country were ready to act,” Dionne said, citing the large-scale women’s marches that took place in cities across the country and around the world. “It sent a really powerful message.”

Then, when Trump started trying to implement policies “that people thought were dangerous,” such as the ill-fated travel ban against people from predominantly Muslim nations, he was met with a flurry of legal challenges.

“Lawyers were heroes!” Dionne said.

But has that oppositional energy been sustained, Dorman asked.

Dionne thinks that it has, pointing to election outcomes last year in places like Virginia and Alabama.

Later in the evening, Dionne and Dorman were joined onstage by Colleen Wakako Hanabusa, the Democratic U.S. representative for Hawaii’s 1st congressional district since 2016, and now a candidate for governor of the Aloha State.

Hanabusa predicted a “swing” in American politics, by which states like Hawaii will move further left, while other regions move further right. Eventually, that could allow the nation to find a middle ground, she ventured, but “the problem is whether the rest of the country wants to be in the middle.”

And she underscored the increasing factionalism with the major parties themselves, as shown by the rise of the Tea Party on the right, and an invigorated progressive wing on the left.

“I have colleagues in Congress who consider themselves very progressive who are more afraid of the progressives than anything else,” said Hanabusa, who marveled at Trump’s ability to carry blue-collar strongholds like Michigan.

Hanabusa said her hope is that bi-partisanship somehow will return to fashion in Washington, and that a creeping cynicism about all politicians won’t further paralyze our political culture.

Dionne concurred. After all, he said, in the post-World War II period, politics had been regarded as a positive thing. It was only after the disillusionment of the Vietnam War, the disgrace of Watergate, and a string of disappointments and setbacks up to the Great Recession and beyond that record numbers of Americans started seeing all politics (and politicians) as poisonous.

Dionne and Hanabusa agreed that our politics might improve if our federal representatives actually spent more time living in Washington, socializing informally with the folks seated across the aisle.

Despite his optimism, Dionne fears that the longer-term damages from Trump’s presidency are piling up, and that already “we have lost some things in this period that are going to be hard to get back.” While the United States withdraws from the world stage and backs away from its advocacy of human rights, China is pushing itself as a rival Great Power.

As Trump and his appointees chip away at the machinery of government, corruption is seeping into our system, Dionne indicated.

But Dionne managed to find another silver lining. Trump’s election “did point toward problems that we actually need to deal with in the country,” including the economic decline of the type of old manufacturing town like Fall River, Massachusetts, where Dionne grew up.

“You have places around the country that have been hammered for decades,” Dionne said—and voters in many of those places thought that Trump, not Hillary Clinton, was more likely to improve their lives.

Dionne drew a laugh by referring to one of his most unpopular positions: being a New England Patriots fan. The so-called Deflategate episode, when the Patriots star quarterback was accused of cheating, “taught me the joy of being a Fox News commentator, because I didn’t care what the facts were I just knew what side I was on.”

As a journalist, Dionne said he is troubled by the country’s growing inability to agree on basic facts. Today, “we’re in a very much more difficult environment now for truth, partly because the president doesn’t seem to know what it is,” he said.

It was an evening punctuated by literary references (George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language”) and breezy pop-culture allusions (Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”), with an impassioned soliloquy by Hanabusa that a new generation of elected women won’t suffer the same prejudices that their mothers did.

And it was Dionne who summed up—optimistically, of course.

“I do think hope is a good thing,” he said, “and I think it’s a plausible thing right now.”

The post Trump Might Be the Best Foil American Democracy Can Have appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2018/01/25/trump-might-best-foil-american-democracy-can/events/the-takeaway/feed/ 0
Latino? Sí. Latin American? Not So Much.http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2018/01/17/latino-si-latin-american-not-much/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2018/01/17/latino-si-latin-american-not-much/events/the-takeaway/#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 11:00:48 +0000 By Reed Johnson http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=90512 Los Angeles has a Spanish-language name, a distinctly Latino ambience, and a mayor who puffs up with pride whenever he talks about his family’s Mexican roots.

Yet it’s also a city where most people of Latin American heritage are native-born, not immigrants, and where recent waves of white non-Latino newcomers are displacing Latinos across some neighborhoods.

So is Los Angeles really part of Latin America? That was the multi-layered topic of a Zócalo/Getty “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA” panel discussion at The Getty Center.

Univisión nightly news anchor León Krauze, The New York Times national correspondent Jennifer Medina, and actor-director-art collector-and bon vivant Cheech Marin joined moderator Gregory Rodriguez, founder and editor-in-chief of Zócalo Public Square, to parse what Rodriguez acknowledged was “a little bit of an unwieldy question.”

“The majority of us are home-grown,” said Rodriguez, who framed the discussion by telling the audience that he was born at the

The post Latino? Sí. Latin American? Not So Much. appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
Los Angeles has a Spanish-language name, a distinctly Latino ambience, and a mayor who puffs up with pride whenever he talks about his family’s Mexican roots.

Yet it’s also a city where most people of Latin American heritage are native-born, not immigrants, and where recent waves of white non-Latino newcomers are displacing Latinos across some neighborhoods.

So is Los Angeles really part of Latin America? That was the multi-layered topic of a Zócalo/Getty “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA” panel discussion at The Getty Center.

Univisión nightly news anchor León Krauze, The New York Times national correspondent Jennifer Medina, and actor-director-art collector-and bon vivant Cheech Marin joined moderator Gregory Rodriguez, founder and editor-in-chief of Zócalo Public Square, to parse what Rodriguez acknowledged was “a little bit of an unwieldy question.”

“The majority of us are home-grown,” said Rodriguez, who framed the discussion by telling the audience that he was born at the corner of Sunset and Vermont, and that his family had been in the United States so long that he sometimes felt tempted to wear a Pilgrim hat.

Yet many Latino Angelenos, including those native-born, still feel a strong affinity with their ancestral homelands, and wrestle with the “weird distance and tension and affection and allure” of the vast Spanish-speaking universe that spins beyond California’s southern border.

Much of the discussion turned on personal stories and reminiscences. Marin grew up in the San Fernando Valley, the son of an LAPD cop; his parents always spoke Spanish when they didn’t want him to understand what they were saying. “That’s how I understood!”

Marin said that the inspiration for his 1987 satire Born In East L.A. was, fittingly, the offspring of a hybrid cultural encounter. He was reading a newspaper account about a young Mexican American, a U.S. citizen, who’d been deported to Mexico, at the same time Marin was listening to Bruce Springsteen’s hit “Born In the U.S.A.” on the radio.

Marin said that, one time, he himself had experienced the same surreal revelation as the character in his film, when he was touring the U.S.-Mexico border at Tijuana border and saw Mexican migrants waiting for nightfall to cross into the United States.

“I’m living in this twilight zone, like, ‘What is going on?’” Marin said. The comic fantasy depicted in his movie—of the American deported—is a reverse-reality for many Latin American migrants.

Medina, the Times correspondent, spoke of her own occasional feelings of cultural dislocation. Growing up in Riverside County, the child of Panamanian immigrants, she didn’t speak Spanish and all her friends at her predominantly Mexican high school called her guera (white girl). Back then, she had a Salvadoran boyfriend whose parents spoke only Spanish, and she tried to polish up her ancestral language to impress them.

“I still have a terrible vocabulary, I still have terrible grammar, and it’s still a considerable embarrassment,” said Medina, who joked that she also still guilt-trips her mom and dad about not doing more to make her learn Spanish as a child. Over time, she said, she adopted the phrase “Neither from here, nor from there” to describe her sense of bi-cultural identity. “I remember being so profoundly moved by that description. I thought, finally, ‘That’s what I am.’”

Krauze, a native of Mexico City—“East Mexico City,” he deadpanned–described his first quintessential Angeleno experience in 1981, when he was a boy and his father brought him to a Dodgers game to see the Mexican prodigy Fernando Valenzuela pitch.

“We sat in the last seat in Dodger Stadium, right by the lights,” Krauze recalled. Thirty years later he had the honor of throwing out the first pitch for a Dodgers game.

“I felt like I had made it. It was like a fast-track immigration story right there in Chavez Ravine.”

Now an L.A. resident who has no intention of ever returning to live in Mexico, Krauze suggested that he’s recognized in his adopted city by the restaurant workers and other immigrant laborers he encounters around town, while to many non-Latinos he might as well be invisible. Whenever he goes to a restaurant, he makes a point of talking to the kitchen staff, he said, “just to see the face of the uppity maître d’, who has no idea who I am.”

“I bet you get your car parked right away,” Marin joked. “And for free!”

“It’s a privilege, and it’s lots of fun, when I get to acknowledge the people who are the real protagonists,” Krauze said, referring to immigrant workers. “I found my calling here, and my calling is to tell the story of this place. That’s what I want to do with the rest of my life, and do it here.”

Rodriguez asked Marin about a T-shirt the actor wears, inscribed with the words, “Chicano Art Is American Art.” That statement may seem axiomatic, but Marin, a prominent collector of Chicano art, said that for decades many U.S. art museums resisted treating Chicano art as American art, or granting it the same prestige as they did to Latin American art.

“Where does the presumption of foreignness come from?” Rodriguez asked him. Marin suggested that in order to gain recognition for Chicano culture as being simply part of American culture, you must not cater to people’s preconceptions. To date, his private art collection has been exhibited in some 50 museums worldwide, Marin said.

Rodriguez challenged the panel to envision what L.A. will look like 20 years from now, as its native-born population grows ever larger. Medina said she had no idea, but that when she returned to L.A. after living in New York for a decade, she felt she was truly home when she went to a coffee shop and there was a bottle of Tapatío hot sauce on the table.

“I think the mishmash of L.A. is going to get deeper and deeper and more intrinsic. On the other hand, the gentrification is real,” Medina said. Many of her non-Latino friends have no idea they live in a city that is majority non-white, she added.

Another question from the moderator—Which is more Latin American, Miami or Los Angeles?—elicited a range of responses. Absolutely Los Angeles, Krauze affirmed. Medina said she’s never lived in Miami, “and I kind of hate it, too,” but she conceded that in Miami everyone presumes that everyone else speaks Spanish, giving that Florida metropolis a truly pan-Latin feel.

“I have been to Miami, I wanted to hate it and I totally loved it,” Rodriguez said. “The sense that ‘We own this joint’ was just a pleasure to watch, and I wanted to live there.”

Krauze described L.A. as “a lot more tender city” than Miami, because its immigrants have to “wrestle” with their “invisibility all the time.”

When the panel took questions from the audience, one man pointed out that Mexican identity itself is hardly monolithic, but is informed by its own multifarious indigenous cultures and languages.

“You’re absolutely right,” replied Krauze, who said he recently interviewed the Mexican Consul General in New York about the large proportion of Mexican immigrants who primarily or only speak an indigenous language.

“I think it’s a fascinating topic, these sub-divisions,” he said.

Another audience member asked about the strictures that are imposed by tying an individual’s identity to the primary language that she or he speaks. Marin agreed, noting that his father used to get punished at school for not speaking English.

“Why wouldn’t you want to speak as many languages as you can?” asked Marin, who earlier had recalled the heated cultural debates of the 1980s, when he would tell “English-only” proponents that they would have to give up all those all-American Spanish words like “Arizona,” “Colorado,” “San Francisco” ….

And, he hardly needed to add, “Los Angeles.”

The post Latino? Sí. Latin American? Not So Much. appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2018/01/17/latino-si-latin-american-not-much/events/the-takeaway/feed/ 0
Depression Isn’t Just a Global Epidemic. It’s a Silent One.http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/12/12/depression-isnt-just-global-epidemic-silent-one/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/12/12/depression-isnt-just-global-epidemic-silent-one/events/the-takeaway/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 11:00:00 +0000 By Reed Johnson http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=89926 Depression is still the illness that dares not speak its name. Taboos persist. Social stigmas endure. Many confounding mysteries remain about exactly what causes depression and how best to treat it—even though it affects tens of millions of people worldwide, and even as the number of suicides globally has soared to 1 million.

Those painful realities formed the backdrop to a Zócalo/UCLA event titled “How Can We Reverse the Depression Epidemic?” at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown Los Angeles. But over the course of a wide-ranging hour-long discussion, panelists pointed to several signs of progress in recognizing and dealing with depression.

Moderator Anna Gorman, senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News, opened the conversation by asking panelist Gene Block, the chancellor of UCLA, about his university’s UCLA Depression Grand Challenge (DGC), a campus-wide initiative aimed at reducing depression both within the school’s community and beyond. Some

The post Depression Isn’t Just a Global Epidemic. It’s a Silent One. appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
Depression is still the illness that dares not speak its name. Taboos persist. Social stigmas endure. Many confounding mysteries remain about exactly what causes depression and how best to treat it—even though it affects tens of millions of people worldwide, and even as the number of suicides globally has soared to 1 million.

Those painful realities formed the backdrop to a Zócalo/UCLA event titled “How Can We Reverse the Depression Epidemic?” at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown Los Angeles. But over the course of a wide-ranging hour-long discussion, panelists pointed to several signs of progress in recognizing and dealing with depression.

Moderator Anna Gorman, senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News, opened the conversation by asking panelist Gene Block, the chancellor of UCLA, about his university’s UCLA Depression Grand Challenge (DGC), a campus-wide initiative aimed at reducing depression both within the school’s community and beyond. Some 25 university departments and thousands of students are taking part in the initiative, which deals with an area that Block said “maybe wasn’t ignored, but wasn’t focused on” as extensively as it needs to be.

One of the DGC’s components is offering free depression screening to all UCLA students. “If you can catch some of these conditions early,” Block said, you can do more about them. However, he added, follow-up treatment has to be individually tailored. “When you go from retail to wholesale with an issue like this, you can’t treat everybody the same way,” he said.

The need for “personalized medicine” in treating depression was emphasized by another panelist, Dr. Rhonda Robinson Beale, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer at Blue Cross of Idaho. Robinson Beale said that, although popular culture often depicts some type of pill (usually Prozac) as the standard treatment for depression, these medications unfortunately only affect a minority of the patient population on a first trial.

“There’s nothing that tells you when a patient walks through the door which one of these treatments is going to be effective with them,” Robinson Beale said. But although a host of activities can help to promote positive brain chemistry—exercise, managing stress, going to a stage or film comedy, taking time out every day to relax—she added, there’s no one-size-fits-all prescription.

“It’s really trial and error, and I think that’s one of the most unfortunate things about it,” Robinson Beale said.

Dr. Jonathan Flint, a UCLA behavioral geneticist and expert in the genetic causes of depression, discussed in detail the limitations of scientific insight into what triggers depression and, accordingly, what to do about it.

Isolating the possible genetic roots of one person’s depression isn’t as simple as finding a gene for Huntington’s Disease or Cystic Fibrosis, Flint said. The symptoms of various individuals can be similar, and yet they may be suffering from different forms of depression. Gender also seems to have a part in susceptibility to depression: Flint said that, on average, about 15 to 20 percent of women, and 12 percent of men, would be likely to acknowledge having experienced at least one episode of depression.

Socioeconomic factors, and physical trauma such as violence or sexual abuse, can also play crucial roles in precipitating depression, the panelists said.

“There’s a big environmental component. Everyone knows that,” said Flint, who was part of a research team that conducted a large study of depression in China.

“We went to China because we needed to find a large group of people who were very, very depressed,” Flint deadpanned. When Gorman asked why Chinese people should be any more depressed than we are, Flint responded, “You should go there.”

Acute depression is not only agonizing for individuals and families, the panelists concurred. It’s also costly to society, a toll that can be measured in worker absenteeism, lost productivity, disability rates, and alcohol and drug abuse, among many other indices.

Darcy Gruttadaro, director of the American Psychiatric Foundation’s Center for Workplace Mental Health, said that employers are looking more closely at these issues and trying to figure out how to address depression in the workplace. New technologies are offering new forms of treatment, Gruttadaro said, but “It’s a little bit of a Wild West right now because there’s not really a process for evaluating some of this technology.”

Getting access to mental health care can be much more complex and convoluted than getting treatment for physical ailments, and workers may hesitate to seek help for depression because they fear it won’t stay confidential, and could hurt their careers. Similarly, said Block, the UCLA chancellor, some college students struggle alone with depression out of concern that admitting it could sabotage their futures. One of the more hopeful, relatively new lines of research into depression involves using artificial intelligence and other interactive technologies to identify symptoms more readily. “This is an area that’s a little spooky, but promising as well,” Block said.

But older technologies, even one in particular that conjures fearful associations—Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), in which tiny electric currents are applied to the brain—can be highly effective for certain patients as a last resort, Flint said.

When the floor was opened for questions, one audience member asked whether people could become depressed by comparing their lives and achievements on social media. It’s a factor worth studying more, Flint suggested. Another man asked about whether there’s evidence that depression could be linked to the release of electromagnetic energy from cellphones and other devices. No evidence so far bears this out, the panelists replied.

A third audience member asked the panelists whether comic entertainers such as Robin Williams, who took his own life, may be especially prone to depression. In response, Robinson Beale said that bi-polar manic-depression can occur in very outwardly successful people. “Just as they get that high, they can also get that low,” she said.

What’s the biggest aid in addressing the global pandemic of depression? Frank and open talk, the panelists suggested. Gruttadaro said that less than half of people with depression get treatment. Many people fear that, if diagnosed, they will be perceived as weak or as someone who can’t handle life, she said.

“Mental health is still for so many a taboo topic, so we all have a responsibility to normalize” it, Gruttadaro said. “Research shows that if you’re afraid that someone may be suicidal, the best thing to do is to ask them.”

“I think the more we do that, we can really put a dent in suicide in this country.”

The post Depression Isn’t Just a Global Epidemic. It’s a Silent One. appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/12/12/depression-isnt-just-global-epidemic-silent-one/events/the-takeaway/feed/ 0
Barack Obama Had an ‘Iron Will’ to Succeed—but What Was at His Core?http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/12/07/barack-obama-iron-will-succeed-core/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/12/07/barack-obama-iron-will-succeed-core/events/the-takeaway/#respond Thu, 07 Dec 2017 11:00:47 +0000 By Reed Johnson http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=89839 Historian David J. Garrow acknowledges that he’s “cynical” about Barack Obama, a conclusion that he reached while conducting 1,000 interviews and spending nine years researching the formation and political rise of America’s 44th president.

Garrow shared some of his reasons for what he called his “huge disappointment” with the Obama presidency at a Zócalo/KCRW “Critical Thinking with Warren Olney” event, “How Did Barack Obama Create Himself?”.

Hosted by Olney, the longtime KCRW radio personality and dean of Los Angeles news broadcasters, the evening echoed many of the thematic lines—and withering criticisms—that surface in Garrow’s 1,400-page biography Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama. “It’s worth reading,” Olney quipped, “but it takes a long time.” (Most reviewers agreed: The New York Times appraised Rising Star as “impressive if gratuitously snarly,” while Politico judged it to be “a masterwork of historical and journalistic research.”)

Published last spring, the book charts his

The post Barack Obama Had an ‘Iron Will’ to Succeed—but What Was at His Core? appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
Historian David J. Garrow acknowledges that he’s “cynical” about Barack Obama, a conclusion that he reached while conducting 1,000 interviews and spending nine years researching the formation and political rise of America’s 44th president.

Garrow shared some of his reasons for what he called his “huge disappointment” with the Obama presidency at a Zócalo/KCRW “Critical Thinking with Warren Olney” event, “How Did Barack Obama Create Himself?”.

Hosted by Olney, the longtime KCRW radio personality and dean of Los Angeles news broadcasters, the evening echoed many of the thematic lines—and withering criticisms—that surface in Garrow’s 1,400-page biography Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama. “It’s worth reading,” Olney quipped, “but it takes a long time.” (Most reviewers agreed: The New York Times appraised Rising Star as “impressive if gratuitously snarly,” while Politico judged it to be “a masterwork of historical and journalistic research.”)

Published last spring, the book charts his subject’s transformation from a highly intelligent, rather aimless young man into a calculatingly ambitious politician who, according to Garrow, wore various masks at various life stages, walled off his emotions when it served his career goals, and remained an enigma even to friends and lovers.

“It has to be said that from at least 2001, 2002, Barack Obama has been first and foremost, fundamentally, a politician,” said Garrow, the author of well-regarded books on the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case, the Civil Rights Movement, and the FBI. “There’s a very absolute compartmentalization that Barack imposes on his life, even as a 25-year-old.”

Garrow sketched out an abbreviated version of his book’s sometimes unflattering portrait of Obama, drawing applause and nodding assents, as well as occasional gasps and murmured objections, from the overflow audience.

Following Olney’s line of questioning, Garrow started out by discussing Obama’s high school and college career, his stint as a Chicago community organizer, and his youthful romantic life. Garrow faulted the future president for dumping Sheila Jager, the half-Dutch, half-Japanese woman with whom he lived for two years in the late 1980s, because Obama had made a determination that having a white wife would have been “a political non-starter” for a black politician in the Chicago of that time.

He said that Obama, born in Hawaii and raised with a “friendship network” of international students, only really began living among African Americans once he moved to Chicago and set his sights on a political career.

In Garrow’s view, Exhibit A in the saga of how Obama selectively re-invented himself is his 1995 best-selling memoir, Dreams From My Father, a reflection on his upbringing and his absentee Kenyan father. In Rising Star, Garrow describes Obama’s book as “a work of historical fiction.”

Garrow said that, in Dreams of My Father, Obama was “making a very conscious effort to reconstruct his life as dramatically more African American than it really was.” He also was attempting to re-cast himself as a rebellious tough guy, rather than the academically gifted nerd he really was, according to Garrow.

At one point, Olney quoted from the Rising Star epilogue that Obama had “willed himself into being” and that “the crucible of self-creation had produced an iron will,” but “the vessel was hollow at the core.”

“That’s pretty rough,” Olney said.

Garrow—who late in the evening described himself as “a Bernie Sanders Democrat” and “a great fan of Edward Snowden”—conceded that it was. But the author’s strongest criticisms centered on what Garrow regards as three key ways in which Obama walked back key campaign promises: by accepting large amounts of private campaign financing; by presiding over the growth of the federal government’s surveillance and anti-terrorist apparatus; and by retreating from support for same-sex marriage until Vice-President Joe Biden “got out there first.”

In response to Garrow’s comments, Olney asked whether Obama was really so different from other politicians who realized, once they got elected, that their campaign promises had to yield to more pragmatic considerations. Had Abraham Lincoln been “absolutely consistent in the things he said and the things that he did?” Olney asked, drawing one of the night’s biggest applause lines.

“I probably frankly have never read an Abraham Lincoln biography because I am almost entirely a post-1945 person,” Garrow replied.

Noting that Obama had read the first 10 chapters of Garrow’s book, Olney wanted to know what the former president thought of its less-than-glowing appraisal.

“The impression I came away with,” Garrow responded, “is that when someone has written up a version of their life story, at that point 20 years earlier, they remember better and remain attached to the version of their life which they wrote than the version which they lived.”

But if Garrow was unsparing in his remarks on Obama, he saved perhaps his harshest rebukes for Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, and the current U.S. Senate candidate from Alabama, Roy Moore—and for the American people themselves.

“The last 13 months again highlight, to me as a political historian, how American public opinion, oftentimes, lots of times, at a mass level gets huge numbers of things fundamentally wrong,” Garrow said. “I think there is a deep weakness in the American people, in American public opinion. I think there is a deep vulnerability to ignorance in American culture and American opinion that we continue to see, and that I fear we will see again next Tuesday, Dec. 12 in Alabama.”

The post Barack Obama Had an ‘Iron Will’ to Succeed—but What Was at His Core? appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/12/07/barack-obama-iron-will-succeed-core/events/the-takeaway/feed/ 0
Hawaii Isn’t So Beautiful at the Ballot Boxhttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/11/30/hawaii-isnt-beautiful-ballot-box/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/11/30/hawaii-isnt-beautiful-ballot-box/events/the-takeaway/#respond Thu, 30 Nov 2017 11:00:57 +0000 By Reed Johnson http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=89689 During Hawaii’s early days as an American state, the late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye would boast about its high voter participation rate.

But since that mid-20th-century high watermark, Hawaii has fallen behind the mainland in measures of civic participation and engagement. Its voters ranked dead last among the 50 states in the 2016 presidential election, and, despite its reputation as a warm, personable place, Hawaii ranks low in charitable activity, volunteering, and public service.

“If We Love Hawaii So Much, Why Don’t We Vote?” was the question in a Zócalo/Daniel K. Inouye Institute “Pau Hana” event at Artistry Honolulu in Hawaii’s state capital.

Moderator Gina Mangieri, an investigative reporter for KHON2 in Honolulu, asked panelists how to explain the plummeting voter participation rate.

Over an hour, many suspects were blamed for Hawaii’s statistically dismal performance in civic affairs: cellphones that distract young voters from interacting with live human beings;

The post Hawaii Isn’t So Beautiful at the Ballot Box appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
During Hawaii’s early days as an American state, the late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye would boast about its high voter participation rate.

But since that mid-20th-century high watermark, Hawaii has fallen behind the mainland in measures of civic participation and engagement. Its voters ranked dead last among the 50 states in the 2016 presidential election, and, despite its reputation as a warm, personable place, Hawaii ranks low in charitable activity, volunteering, and public service.

“If We Love Hawaii So Much, Why Don’t We Vote?” was the question in a Zócalo/Daniel K. Inouye Institute “Pau Hana” event at Artistry Honolulu in Hawaii’s state capital.

Moderator Gina Mangieri, an investigative reporter for KHON2 in Honolulu, asked panelists how to explain the plummeting voter participation rate.

Over an hour, many suspects were blamed for Hawaii’s statistically dismal performance in civic affairs: cellphones that distract young voters from interacting with live human beings; partisan loudmouths who hog the microphone and monopolize public forums; elected officials who regard their constituents as mere props to be used at will, then tossed aside after election day; the state’s indigo-blue political culture, which makes it nearly impossible for non-Democrats to win statewide office; and the fun-packed lifestyles that encourage many Hawaii residents to hit the beaches rather than the voting booth.

“There’s just a myriad of—I’m going to call them excuses,” said Barbara Ankersmit, president of research at marketing and communications firm Anthology, ticking off the list of reasons some Hawaii residents offer. “If the weather was too nice, they went to a football game instead. They had to [do] this, they had to [do] that.”

But Ankersmit also blamed a “creeping cynicism” that causes people to believe that their votes don’t count, even when evidence shows that major electoral contests can turn on a mere handful of ballots. And she said that Hawaii has become “a state of activists and non-participants.”

“You’re one or the other; there’s not the average person who’s willing to step up and state your opinion”—a dynamic in which small groups of angry hyper-partisans can drown out quieter, less strident, more thoughtful voices, Ankersmit said.

Randy Perreira, director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the state’s largest union, said that voting isn’t a problem among his 42,000 members. But he cited a basic ignorance among voters of how their political system is supposed to work—and why it doesn’t.

“I think people today don’t understand the different jurisdictions of government, they don’t understand how it works,” Perreira said.

“I’m not going to blame a one-party system, but they’re not interested in the candidates. And it just fuels this apathy.”

Mangieri turned next to Pete Peterson, dean of the Pepperdine School of Public Policy in Malibu, California, to ask which mainland states have been most successful in finding ways to engage the public as active citizens.

Peterson confirmed that sagging civic engagement is a national form of malaise, citing a recent Malibu mayoral election for which voter turnout was a piffling 20 percent.

Peterson said that younger voters, in particular, have shown a disinclination to vote, and that regions with greater ethnic diversity also tend to have lower voting rates. Hawaii’s relative youthfulness, as well as its ethnic mix, contribute to its low turnout, he said.

Later, Peterson said that voters have been turned off by indifferent and unresponsive elected officials who don’t seem to pay attention to what their constituents say, or who ask for input only after an issue is already a fait accompli. He recalled, for example, that many local town hall meetings on the Affordable Care Act were held after Congress already had voted back in Washington. Local constituents who turned up to give their representatives an earful realized that no one was taking notes, and their opinions weren’t really being tallied.

But although “everybody knows” that public meetings are broken, Peterson said, there’s some reason for hope: Hundreds of local and state government officials have received training from various institutes about how to run more effective and transparent public meetings, Peterson said. “Just showing up at a dais and sitting and listening, those days are over.”

Peterson said that California has tried to encourage voter participation by automatically granting voter registration to people receiving their driver’s licenses. Voting by absentee ballot also has helped swell electoral participation in some parts of the United States, the panelists noted.

But this kind of technical, procedural tinkering only “dances around the edges of the problem,” without really changing deeper modes of behavior, Peterson said.

The panelists agreed that elected officials, educators, and others need to do a better job of motivating voters by helping them perceive the impact that particular issues can have on their own lives.

But that’s a challenge in a state—and, it seems, a nation—that votes for people and personalities more than issues.

“That’s how former wrestlers and Arnold Schwarzenegger and perhaps our president got elected,” Perreira said.

The panelists proposed some basic measures that could encourage more young voters to get active. Ankersmit, who grew up in Chicago, said that her family used to vote together, a hands-on approach that she has instilled in her own children.

The panelists also agreed that, in order to get civically engaged, people need to believe that going to a town hall meeting or casting a vote will yield practical, personal benefits, such as helping to land a job so that they can move out of their parents’ basement, or help their grandmother get the medicine she needs.

When it came time for audience questions, a retired police lieutenant wanted to know whether an increase in electronic voting could provide a partial antidote to voter apathy.

“It’s going to be a while,” said Peterson, because of the threat of hacking. “Most of the research that’s been done on online voting is very disturbing. Most of the technology that’s available is not up to the security that would be necessary in order to do this.”

The panelists wrapped up by urging Hawaii residents and non-residents alike: get informed; do your part; believe you can make a difference.

“If you don’t know who your mayor is, shame on you,” Peterson said. “If you don’t know the difference between what a city council decides on and what a school board decides on, you should.”

The post Hawaii Isn’t So Beautiful at the Ballot Box appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/11/30/hawaii-isnt-beautiful-ballot-box/events/the-takeaway/feed/ 0
China Soon Could Dominate the Global Economy—but Leading It Will Be Tougherhttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/11/17/china-soon-dominate-global-economy-leading-will-tougher/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/11/17/china-soon-dominate-global-economy-leading-will-tougher/events/the-takeaway/#respond Fri, 17 Nov 2017 11:00:20 +0000 By Joe Mathews http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=89424 For China, pursuing global economic leadership is not just a goal. It’s an imperative.

That was the message from panelists at a Zòcalo/UCLA Anderson School of Management event, “Is China Prepared to Lead the Global Economy?” at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown Los Angeles.

China is seeking global economic leadership, panelists said, as Chinese President Xi Jinping made clear at the recently concluded 19th National Congress of the Chinese Community Party. “They want to make China great again,” quipped panelist Jerry Nickelsburg, director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast.

And, 40 years after the opening up of China under Deng Xiaoping, China has achieved global leadership in several areas, including mobile platforms and mobile finance. The event moderator, former Los Angeles Times Beijing bureau chief Julie Makinen, lamented that when she returned to the United States, she lost the ability to pay easily for items—even flowers

The post China Soon Could Dominate the Global Economy—but Leading It Will Be Tougher appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
For China, pursuing global economic leadership is not just a goal. It’s an imperative.

That was the message from panelists at a Zòcalo/UCLA Anderson School of Management event, “Is China Prepared to Lead the Global Economy?” at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown Los Angeles.

China is seeking global economic leadership, panelists said, as Chinese President Xi Jinping made clear at the recently concluded 19th National Congress of the Chinese Community Party. “They want to make China great again,” quipped panelist Jerry Nickelsburg, director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast.

And, 40 years after the opening up of China under Deng Xiaoping, China has achieved global leadership in several areas, including mobile platforms and mobile finance. The event moderator, former Los Angeles Times Beijing bureau chief Julie Makinen, lamented that when she returned to the United States, she lost the ability to pay easily for items—even flowers from a street vendor—with WeChat, which is ubiquitous in China.

But the panelists, in a variety of ways, suggested another Chinese motive for pursuing global economic leadership: It has to—if it’s going to deal with its own internal challenges.

Ruixue Jia, a political economist at UC San Diego, said that the Chinese push to dominate global trade and infrastructure reflects the reality of the country’s high savings rate. Since Chinese growth is slowing, “the investment opportunities within China are likely to be reduced,” she said. So it makes sense, Jia said, that China is pursuing initiatives such as One Belt and One Road, a plan to recreate the old Silk Road, via rail and maritime links, all the way to Africa. And “many of these countries” along the One Belt and One Road routes “do need a lot of this infrastructure.”

Christopher S. Tang, the Edward W. Carter Chair in Business Administration at UCLA Anderson, said China was following the path of previous empires, including the British, that conquered the world by global trade. It’s also seizing an opening left by the United States, which pulled out of the Paris climate accords, to seize environmental leadership. But China also needs to make big environmental strides to address its own problems with water and air pollution.

“Now China is thinking maybe they can take the lead. Why not turn it around and be a leader?” Tang said. He noted the country’s pioneering efforts in solar panels and its aggressive development of electric cars.

China is also seeking to lead in innovation—not only as a way of earning global respect, but because of its own economic challenges. “The hidden message” of government calls for more entrepreneurship and innovation, Tang said, “is the economy is slowing down. There are not that many jobs. Labor costs are growing rapidly.” So entrepreneurs are needed to produce new jobs.

Nickelsburg, director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast, said that China, although it now rivals the United States in the size of its overall economy and in trade, remains a poor country that is not blessed in natural resources or farmland. So it needs to trade and build infrastructure links in other countries in order to procure an adequate food supply—which, in turn, is essential if the communist regime wants to keep control over the country’s massive population. “They need to trade, because having hungry citizens is not really a recipe for staying in power,” Nickelsburg said.

Yiwen Li, a young biotech executive who works for U.S. companies that expand globally, marveled at the changes in her native city of Wuhan, where her family lives, that have resulted from China’s growing links to the world. More progress—and more global leadership—is essential internally, she argued, in part because of changes in demography.

She pointed in particular to the need for China to become a leader in health care, because its longtime one-child policy and other demographic factors are causing the country to age rapidly. China also is home to the world’s largest number of people with cancer and other diseases requiring lengthy and expensive treatment. “China is going to be the oldest country in the world,” she said. “China has to innovate.” To illustrate the scale of the challenge, she noted that when the Obama administration invested $250 million in personalized medicine at one point, China countered with a $9 billion investment.

The harder question, panelists suggested, is whether China can achieve leadership. Xia, the UCSD political economist, said that Chinese manufacturers are struggling, and that its economy’s heavy competition and the lack of intellectual and other property rights discourage innovation.

Tang, of UCLA Anderson, said that China has huge strengths that put it in a strong position—he called them the four C’s, for Culture (of trade and entrepreneurialism among its people), Customers (given China’s massive and growing middle class), Capabilities (it’s producing 500,000 graduates in STEM fields annually), and Cash (given the high savings rate).

But in order to lead globally, China needs to make the difficult shift to a service economy, and become better at building global brands and developing leadership of major companies that allows for succession between generations. “Take Alibaba—what happens after Jack Ma? No one knows,” Tang said.

During the question-and-answer session with the audience, panelists were pressed on whether China could ever really lead without becoming an open society, or without becoming more of a market economy and less of a planned one.

In response, Nickelsburg noted that China has made tremendous advances as a planned economy, and should continue to make progress on its current path, given its political leadership, for the foreseeable future, even without market changes. “Don’t mistake Xi Jinping for Adam Smith,” he cautioned.

Nickelsburg said that China wouldn’t set the rules of the global economy in the United States or the European Union. But, he added, “in the part of the world where they are most interested—which is Asia and Africa—they really do have the possibility of doing it.”

The post China Soon Could Dominate the Global Economy—but Leading It Will Be Tougher appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/11/17/china-soon-dominate-global-economy-leading-will-tougher/events/the-takeaway/feed/ 0
Before Going to War in North Korea, Try Understanding the Place Firsthttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/25/going-war-north-korea-try-understanding-place-first/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/25/going-war-north-korea-try-understanding-place-first/events/the-takeaway/#respond Wed, 25 Oct 2017 10:00:07 +0000 By Reed Johnson http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=88964 With schoolyard taunts hurtling between Washington and Pyongyang, and fears of nuclear Armageddon escalating from Seoul to Tokyo to Los Angeles, the once-unthinkable idea of a military showdown between North Korea and the United States has become frighteningly plausible.

On an October evening when many Angelenos were pondering the opening game of the World Series rather than end-of-the-world scenarios, a Zócalo/UCLA panel discussion explored the question, “Is War With North Korea Inevitable?” By the end of an intense hour-long discussion at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown Los Angeles, the consensus was that a catastrophic confrontation isn’t unavoidable. But to lower the odds of it happening, America’s policymakers and its public need a more nuanced and humanistic perspective on the reclusive rogue Asian nation, the panelists said.

As President Donald Trump and North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un have waged a battle of insults this year,

The post Before Going to War in North Korea, Try Understanding the Place First appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
With schoolyard taunts hurtling between Washington and Pyongyang, and fears of nuclear Armageddon escalating from Seoul to Tokyo to Los Angeles, the once-unthinkable idea of a military showdown between North Korea and the United States has become frighteningly plausible.

On an October evening when many Angelenos were pondering the opening game of the World Series rather than end-of-the-world scenarios, a Zócalo/UCLA panel discussion explored the question, “Is War With North Korea Inevitable?” By the end of an intense hour-long discussion at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown Los Angeles, the consensus was that a catastrophic confrontation isn’t unavoidable. But to lower the odds of it happening, America’s policymakers and its public need a more nuanced and humanistic perspective on the reclusive rogue Asian nation, the panelists said.

As President Donald Trump and North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un have waged a battle of insults this year, Western attention has focused on the dueling egos and chest-thumping rhetoric of the two leaders. But the panelists stressed instead the importance of understanding Korea’s complex history, the motivations and fears driving its leadership, and the yearnings and hardships of its 25 million people.

Suk-Young Kim—a South Korea native who is a professor and cultural researcher at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television, and an expert on North Korean propaganda—said that North Koreans are a very proud people who crave respect from the outside world. Their country’s well-oiled propaganda machine encourages North Koreans to see themselves as the true protectors of Korea’s historic and cultural essence—and to view their South Korean neighbors as the lapdogs of an imperialistic United States, she said.

Despite the suffering inflicted on North Koreans by their own regime, and further imposed on them by Western economic sanctions, “Pride is what keeps them going,” Kim said. And if it’s the case that the North Korean state dehumanizes Americans—who often are depicted as sadistic, war-mongering barbarians in official propaganda—the American media likewise tends to stereotype North Koreans as a monolithic, brainwashed population in thrall to a demagogic madman, she suggested.

Hannah Song, President and CEO of Liberty in North Korea, an international NGO that helps North Korean refugees with escape and resettlement, said the United States and the West need to develop a “holistic understanding” of North Korea, cognizant of the important economic, social, and informational changes that have swept the country in recent decades, such as the epic 1990s famine.

Prior to that government-abetted disaster, the North Korean state was at the center of everything, Song said. Since the famine, during which some starving North Koreans were reduced to eating tree bark, North Korea’s relatively miniscule but growing economic markets have taken on a much more important role. The famine also exposed the profound inequalities between the lives of ordinary North Koreans and the ruling military and political elite. Refugees fleeing famine conditions bolstered the population of roughly 30,000 North Koreans now living in South Korea, where, as outsiders, they often face harsh discrimination and are stereotyped as backward by the South Koreans.

Since the famine, ordinary North Korean citizens’ knowledge of the outside world has increased, said Song, adding: “A lot of people don’t realize that North Korea has really changed a lot in the last 20 years on the ground level.” Song said that the vast majority of North Korean refugees who work with her NGO have little or no interest in Kim Jong Un’s machinations. They’re far more concerned about sending money back to their family members in the north, and trying to adjust to the competitive rigors of South Korea’s capitalist system.

Citing an old Korean proverb about survival, moderator Jean H. Lee, a journalist and former Pyongyang Bureau Chief for the Associated Press, asked the panelists how Korea’s historically precarious position in a tough part of the world has shaped its identity.

John B. Duncan, a UCLA scholar of Korean history, said one reason Koreans are so proud is because they’ve lived for 2,000 years under the shadow of an economic, military, and cultural giant—China, which at times has looked down on Korea while trumpeting the presumed superiority of Chinese culture. For their part, Koreans—north and south—have responded by asserting their own nationalistic pride, Duncan said. (Later during the panel, Duncan noted that North Korea was outpacing South Korea in per capita income until the latter part of the 1970s.)

But even if North Korea can’t be judged solely by the outlandish acts of its young leader, the panelists agreed that the potential for a resumption of war exists on the Korean peninsula, particularly as North Korea has accelerated its testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles, while boasting about its development of atomic weapons.

Since the famine, ordinary North Korean citizens’ knowledge of the outside world has increased, said Song, adding: “A lot of people don’t realize that North Korea has really changed a lot in the last 20 years on the ground level.”

Paul Carroll, the senior advisor at N Square, a nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation collaborative, said that the United States must learn to live with North Korea “as it is, not as how we wish it to be.”

“We need to assume that North Korea could make a nuclear weapon with a ballistic missile that can reach North America,” he said. “Their pace also shows that they are doubling down.”

Lee, the moderator, asked how President Trump factors into this equation—she didn’t specifically mention his derisive nickname for Kim Jong Un (“Little Rocket Man”) or his declaration last month at the United Nations that if the United States “is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
Carroll shot back in response: “He’s not helping.”

Duncan, who was stationed in Korea in the 1960s while serving with the U.S. Army, said that period also was marked by severe tensions, as a flurry of North Korean cross-border attacks killed South Korean and U.S. troops. That decade’s tensions culminated in the January 1968 seizure by North Korean forces of the USS Pueblo, a U.S. Navy spy ship.

“I was in the U.S. Army, and we thought we were going to war,” said Duncan, who credited the avoidance of war to the restraint shown by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“I hope the current occupant of the White House shows the same good sense,” Duncan said.

During a question-and-answer session with the audience, one attendee asked how much influence China could wield in holding back North Korea from war. Not a lot, the panelists said, despite the two countries’ historical symbiosis and North Korea’s role as a buffer state between China and its Japanese rival, as well as the Western powers.

A final audience question asked the panelists to review the question that had framed the discussion: Is war inevitable?

“Let me say this: Kim Jong Un will not fire first,” Duncan replied.

Carroll said that “inevitable is a pretty high bar” to set, but human behavior is harder to calculate, and we could blunder into war by accident or misunderstanding.

“Humans are incredibly fallible,” he said. “The odds need to be lower.”

The post Before Going to War in North Korea, Try Understanding the Place First appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/25/going-war-north-korea-try-understanding-place-first/events/the-takeaway/feed/ 0
California’s Housing Crisis Is a Nasty Intersection of the State’s Worst Problemshttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/13/californias-housing-crisis-nasty-intersection-states-worst-problems/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/13/californias-housing-crisis-nasty-intersection-states-worst-problems/events/the-takeaway/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 10:00:07 +0000 By Joe Mathews http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=88773 California’s sky-high housing prices haven’t just made it hard to find and afford a place to live. They’ve put pressures on the economy, the environment, transportation, and health that threaten the California dream itself, said panelists at a Zócalo/AARP event at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Los Angeles.

The event—entitled “Are Housing Prices Destroying the California Dream?”—brought together a scholar, a politician, a leading journalist, the head of a nonprofit housing organization, and a national expert on housing to examine a crisis that the panelists said touches every person in every region of the state.

This problem “affects all ends of the economic distribution, and all ends of the age distribution,” said Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, adding: “I am one of millions of Californians who cannot afford my house the day I retire.”

Moderator David Lesher, CEO and editor

The post California’s Housing Crisis Is a Nasty Intersection of the State’s Worst Problems appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
California’s sky-high housing prices haven’t just made it hard to find and afford a place to live. They’ve put pressures on the economy, the environment, transportation, and health that threaten the California dream itself, said panelists at a Zócalo/AARP event at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Los Angeles.

The event—entitled “Are Housing Prices Destroying the California Dream?”—brought together a scholar, a politician, a leading journalist, the head of a nonprofit housing organization, and a national expert on housing to examine a crisis that the panelists said touches every person in every region of the state.

This problem “affects all ends of the economic distribution, and all ends of the age distribution,” said Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, adding: “I am one of millions of Californians who cannot afford my house the day I retire.”

Moderator David Lesher, CEO and editor of the nonprofit media organization CALMatters, framed the conversation around three questions: “How big of a problem is housing? What’s the cause of the problem? And what are we going to do about it?”

The panelists said the housing crisis involves the intersection of many different problems: zoning, planning, taxation, environment, infrastructure, transportation, mental health, homelessness, demands on developers, financing, and Californians’ high expectations for the places where they live.

This complicated intersection makes the housing situation difficult to understand. One panelist, Kevin de León, president pro tem of the California State Senate, recalled a day he spent in downtown L.A. with a wide variety of people—from housing advocates to police and local officials—to learn more about housing and homelessness. “My conclusion was the following: The left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing,” he said.

But that can’t be an excuse, given how high the stakes are. “We have a housing crisis, and it’s a big driver without a doubt when it comes to poverty,” de León said. He cited the statistic that a Californian who makes minimum wage would need to work three full-time jobs to afford the average two-bedroom apartment.

Another panelist, AARP housing policy expert Rodney Harrell, said that affordable housing is a national crisis, but it’s even worse in California. An AARP survey, he noted, found that almost two-thirds of Californians have thought about leaving the state because of high housing costs.

He said the heart of the matter is a lack of supply, but fixing it is not just a matter of building more places to live. “There are not enough housing units of the types that people need”—affordable, near jobs or transit, and with designs for people who may have special needs because of their age or health. And high costs leave people very vulnerable. “The folks I worry about most are the people who have not planned for an emergency—something happens to your spouse, you have a health crisis, you lose a job” and then you can no longer afford your housing.

Segura, of UCLA, spoke of the need to reduce the costs that local governments put on developers, by demanding they widen streets, provide parking, or take on wage issues as a condition of building housing. Such demands add to the cost of housing and make “pulling a building permit the most expensive thing you can do in California.”

He also argued that linkage fees, which make developers pay for affordable housing, reflect attempts by local governments to make up for some of the control and revenue they lost under Proposition 13, the 1978 ballot initiative that limited property taxes. While noting that it’s unpopular to free up developers, he warned, “We cannot use developers and development to solve all issues.”

Lisa Hershey, executive director of the nonprofit Housing California, said that too much public money goes into tax subsidies for our homes—she mentioned the mortgage interest rate deduction—and not enough into infrastructure, transit, access to schools, and livable community policies that stabilize neighborhoods, and keep people in their homes. “The stability of home makes everything else possible” in terms of improving people’s lives, she said.

She also lamented how efforts to address the housing crisis—by building more transit and housing—can end up pushing out longstanding residents of certain neighborhoods, as land values, rents, and home prices rise. Many Californians are being pushed out of established neighborhoods to places far from jobs, creating longer commutes.

De León noted that a development in Boyle Heights, which is part of his Senate district, was blocked because of concerns about such displacement. “People are thinking, ‘If I’m going to be displaced, where am I going to live? My cultural identity, my linguistic identity—everything is in this neighborhood, this block,’” he said.

Hershey and de León both touted a package of 15 bills that the legislature passed in the just concluded session, and that Governor Jerry Brown signed into law. It includes a dedicated funding source for affordable housing, a housing bond that will go to voters, and legislation that should speed up permitting in localities. De León said that the push on housing would be enhanced by other new laws that promote road and infrastructure repair, boost transit, add parks, and reduce pollution.

“This package we’ve moved forward—I’m hoping it will be the first step of many steps,” he said.

De León also noted that the housing package—in combination with previously allocated state money for the homeless and mentally ill and local measures for funding housing and homeless programs—meant that an unprecedented amount of money is flowing to address housing issues. But that doesn’t guarantee that local leaders will find ways to turn money into housing that meets people’s needs.

“At a macro level we can move all the capital that is necessary to catalyze and attract money,” de León said. “But if at the local level, the leadership is lacking, it just takes a really bad problem and makes it even worse.”

During a question-and-answer session with the audience, one person asked why, if California is producing so little housing, she sees so much development as she drives around.

Harrell, of AARP, responded that “not all supply is created equal—just because a building is going up, it doesn’t mean it has enough units that folks can afford.” And UCLA’s Segura noted that the housing being built is simply not enough for a state that’s reaching a population of 40 million.

Hershey, of Housing California, called this “a historic moment,” with opportunities to address the housing crisis given the resources, the focus on the problem, and “a gubernatorial campaign with several candidates who are interested in housing.”

But she cautioned that such a complex problem won’t be solved quickly. “This is the long game,” she said.

At that, Harrell added, “We all need to take part.”

The post California’s Housing Crisis Is a Nasty Intersection of the State’s Worst Problems appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/13/californias-housing-crisis-nasty-intersection-states-worst-problems/events/the-takeaway/feed/ 0
Can Colleges Teach America What Consensual Sex Looks Like?http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/12/can-colleges-teach-america-what-consensual-sex-looks-like/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/12/can-colleges-teach-america-what-consensual-sex-looks-like/events/the-takeaway/#respond Thu, 12 Oct 2017 10:00:06 +0000 By Joe Mathews http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=88730 American college campuses, after considerable struggle, are succeeding in drawing a clearer line between consensual and non-consensual sex. But it’s far from clear when the rest of society will follow suit and adopt a similar standard.

That was the message of a Zócalo lecture entitled, “Are College Campuses Rewriting the Rules of Sex in America?” by journalist Vanessa Grigoriadis, contributing editor at The New York Times Magazine and author of Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus.

Grigoriadis, speaking at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Los Angeles, detailed the difficult and messy story of how universities have come to confront sexual assault on campus—and the backlash against these efforts.

“What’s happening on college campuses has a lot to do with the meaning of consent, and the need for us to change that meaning for a new generation,” she said. Through her extensive reporting

The post Can Colleges Teach America What Consensual Sex Looks Like? appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
American college campuses, after considerable struggle, are succeeding in drawing a clearer line between consensual and non-consensual sex. But it’s far from clear when the rest of society will follow suit and adopt a similar standard.

That was the message of a Zócalo lecture entitled, “Are College Campuses Rewriting the Rules of Sex in America?” by journalist Vanessa Grigoriadis, contributing editor at The New York Times Magazine and author of Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus.

Grigoriadis, speaking at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Los Angeles, detailed the difficult and messy story of how universities have come to confront sexual assault on campus—and the backlash against these efforts.

“What’s happening on college campuses has a lot to do with the meaning of consent, and the need for us to change that meaning for a new generation,” she said. Through her extensive reporting on campuses, which involved spending time with students and others in social situations, she witnessed how a standard of affirmative consent before sex—also known as “yes means yes”—has taken hold among college students.

She also praised the state of California for adopting “yes means yes” in state law, and requiring it be part of the high school curriculum. But the standard is still largely confined to universities.

“The rules on college campuses are not the rules in the rest of America,” she said.

Grigoriadis offered a history of the movement to adopt affirmative consent that began with the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which bars discrimination in education. More progress was made thanks to efforts by the Obama administration to make clear that Title IX applied to sexual assault, and to force universities to reckon more aggressively and clearly with the problem, she said.

She credited President Obama—who wrote about his two daughters—personally with acting on data that showed sexual assault on campus was a significant problem. But she added that the government and universities only got serious under pressure from students who organized to make sure new federal rules for handling sexual assault cases on campus were followed. Students at east coast universities were successful in lobbying schools and Washington politicians on the issue, and students at west coast universities led the way in making the issue bigger in the media.

But the momentum of the past few years has been reversed since Rolling Stone published a story in late 2014 on a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity that was later proved to be false. The resulting backlash came from fraternities, conservative and libertarian lawyers, religious institutions, and especially from the parents of accused students, who organized to push back against the Obama administration’s rules on sexual assault cases. “It turned out that there were problems with the campus courts, and there were some boys being railroaded,” she said. As a result, “what we’ve been watching since early 2015 is the death of the campus movement.”

This culminated recently in U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s decision to reverse two sets of the Obama guidelines on sexual assault. DeVos argued that the guidelines—specifically a standard of “preponderance of the evidence,” or proving that an assault occurred “more likely than not”—did not do enough to protect the rights of accused students.

Grigoriadis countered that the preponderance standard is high—and justified—because such cases are so messy and hard to prove.

And she added that DeVos’ decision, and statements by the secretary and her aides that exaggerate the incidence of wrongly accused students, are part of a major problem with misinformation on the campus sexual assault issue.

Grigoriadis warned that extreme or exceptional cases of sexual assault were creating false impressions. Made-up stories and railroaded students are actually exceptional, she said. So are cases of fraternity brothers using drugs to rape students. She also said perceptions of universities as having failed in this area—a claim made by the documentary The Hunting Ground—are exaggerated.

The problem, she said, is that sexual assault has become a hot button issue. “I can’t tell you how many parties I’ve been to where I’ve been cornered by someone who tells I’m totally wrong about sexual assault, or I’m totally right about this,” she said, adding that people are basing their opinions on preconceptions rather than facts.

At the same time, Grigoriadis was critical of universities for tolerating fraternities and protecting important athletes. And she called the online webinars and trainings that universities require students to take on sexual assault “a total mess.” In particular, while trainings often focus on “bystander education” for people who may witness sexual assault, she said that teaching self-defense strategies was more effective. In particular, people can avoid dangerous encounters by learning ways to identify students who were most likely to commit sexual assault by their behavior (“It’s the guys who are very misogynistic, who interrupt women, who make sexualized jokes,” she said.)

In response to questions from audience members about specific high-profile cases, Grigoriadis argued for not getting trapped in the back and forth of particular controversies. We should focus instead on establishing and teaching affirmative consent, she said, which requires changing social norms. And the good news is that today’s college students have already made that shift and support affirmative consent. Fundamentally, changing the definition of consent to “yes means yes” is “about gender parity in the bedroom.”

This is a shift, and a subject, that “is kind of a mess,” she concluded. “The last few years have been very messy. But the point is getting across.”

The post Can Colleges Teach America What Consensual Sex Looks Like? appeared first on Zócalo Public Square.

]]>
http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/12/can-colleges-teach-america-what-consensual-sex-looks-like/events/the-takeaway/feed/ 0