TIME politics

Iowa, Step Aside: Arizona Should Be the Next Primary Leader

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Arizona State Capitol - Phoenix KingWu—Getty Images

Mike Saucier is the founder of Soss Communications. Chip Scutari is co-founder of Scutari and Cieslak Public Relations.

Despite its reputation as a redder-than-Red State, Arizona could glow purple in the coming years

Cue the scripted photo-op of the corn-dog eating candidate.

Yes, the quadrennial cliché has begun anew. The parade of presidential wannabes “exploring” their way through the homogenous hamlets of Iowa and New Hampshire is upon us. An annual Steak Fry with outgoing Iowa Senator Tom Harkin drew 200 or so requests from reporters seeking credentials, according to POLITICO. That news came as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie headed to an appearance at a bakery in Nashua, New Hampshire. Similar scenarios will play out in the coming months in both states as a smorgasbord of first, second and-third tier candidates from both sides of the aisle enter the first real “tests” of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Des Moines. Cedar Rapids. Manchester. Concord. Quaint places that put the V in Vanilla.

Nice people but not riveting testing grounds for presidential candidates. The American people deserve better.

Let’s say you could design a job interview that puts candidates through a grueling series of tests with a diverse set of issues and a diverse population. You would want to challenge the candidate in different environments and landscapes, all with a range of issues that resonate with the rest of the country and with people of all ranges of political stripes, class and ethnicities.

You might want a more challenging gauntlet than the predictable and parochial path set by Iowa and New Hampshire. Times change. Let’s not forget that Iowa leapt ahead of New Hampshire (mostly by accident) about 40 years ago.

If you are willing to look beyond some of its hard-won stereotypes, then Arizona is the choice to replace Iowa or New Hampshire as the first presidential contest. Before that can happen, however, Arizona has to be willing to provoke the wrath of both parties, which protect the Iowa and New Hampshire tradition by threatening not to seat delegates from states whose primaries are held too early.

No sweat. One thing about Arizona is that it does not take kindly to being told what to do by Washington.

It’s for that and other reasons that Arizona is the perfect host to determine presidential fitness.

Sure, we’ve supplied Jon Stewart with some comedy gold in recent memory with our proud federal defiance of pretty much everything and those tiny controversies about the “show us your papers” law in 2010 (which has been emaciated by the courts) and a refuse-to-serve-gays legislation (which was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer).

Yup. Three cheers for the Grand Canyon State.

Despite our generous contributions to Comedy Central and depictions as a redder-than-Red State, Arizona could glow purple in the coming years. Our demographics and growing population represent the future of our country. (Iowa and New Hampshire represent a shrinking slice of the past.) Latinos make up a third of our state’s population. We are home to 22 federally recognized Native American tribes. Independents are our largest voting bloc. The Land of Barry Goldwater now has five of nine congressional seats controlled by Democrats. The population of the Phoenix metropolitan area, known as the Valley, just about equals the population of Iowa and New Hampshire combined.

We share a border with Mexico, standing on the front lines of the immigration/border security debate. (Just picture presidential aspirants heading to Nogales to do the requisite border tour.) As one of the most gun-friendly states in the country, we are a flashpoint for gun rights or gun control—depending on who is campaigning.

We are TV-ready with amazing geographical diversity. Candidates weary of Phoenix and Tucson can campaign in a roster of quirky smaller cities and towns such as Jerome, Bisbee, Sedona, Tombstone, Patagonia and Williams. Tamales, enchiladas and other Mexican cuisine can replace corn dogs as the meal of choice on the trail.

At a time when both parties talk about expanding their bases—both courting Latinos—it makes more strategic sense to put our presidential wannabes right in front of those same constituencies. What better atmosphere for presidential candidates to walk into than an energized core of Independents?

Meanwhile, Iowa’s presidential beauty contest looks a bit unseemly these days. In August, a former Iowa state senator pleaded guilty to federal charges for receiving thousands of dollars in payments for switching loyalties from Rep. Michele Bachmann to then-Rep. Ron Paul before the 2012 caucuses. He had headed Bachmann’s effort there. While those kinds of shenanigans can happen anywhere, it did spark the question in the minds of two transplanted Arizonans: Are there better alternatives than these two states for us to first gauge the merit of our future presidents? The answer: Hell yes.

Of course, this will not be easy. State legislators signed a bill earlier this year that moved the Arizona presidential primary back to the middle of March, which brought it back into compliance with the national party delegate selection rules.

Gov. Brewer proudly touts “Arizona’s Comeback” with the arrival or expansion of iconic brands like Apple, General Motors and Go Daddy. But there is more to do. The next Arizona governor, whomever that is come Nov. 4th, can build on Brewer’s legacy by having the guts to stand up to the national party primary bullies. The presidential candidates, and their parties, love to talk about change, the need for reform and getting things done. Why not apply that to the primaries?

The first primary state is where we should see which candidates have the gravitas, the chutzpah, to be leader of the free world. Arizona is a vastly diverse political environment with a built-in slate of issues that matter to Joe Six Pack.

Iowa and New Hampshire. Been there. Done that. It’s Arizona’s turn to be the first float in the presidential parade.

Mike Saucier, a former newspaper editor, is a writer and founder of Soss Communications, a public relations company in Arizona. Chip Scutari, who covered politics for The Arizona Republic, is co-founder of Scutari and Cieslak Public Relations and a political consultant in Phoenix.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

What Happened Last Time Scotland Tried for Greater Independence?

SNP from Oct. 28, 1974, issue
Douglas Crawford, then vice chairman of the Scottish National Party, pictured in the Oct. 28, 1974, issue of TIME TIME

Back in 1974, TIME reported that Scots had a "general feeling" of England that "she's a tired old ship that is foundering at sea."

On Thursday, when Scottish voters put their relationship with the U.K. to the ballot, three hundred years of membership in the United Kingdom will be at stake. But those 307 years of togetherness haven’t passed unquestioned. In fact, it was almost exactly 40 years ago that the movement for an independent Scotland reached a similar tipping point.

The Scottish National Party had spent nearly half a century as a mere footnote to Scottish history when, in the mid-1970s, it became a force to be reckoned with. In 1974, running on a self-government platform, the party secured 30% of the vote, driven largely by Scottish interest in gaining control over North Sea oil production. “There is no rancor toward England in most cases, no implied violence or even incivility, just a general feeling that she’s a tired old ship that is foundering at sea,” TIME reported on Oct. 28 of that year. Polls at the time found that 17% of Scots wanted complete independence and 85% wanted self-governance without a split. By the end of the following year, Prime Minister Harold Wilson had announced that there could be a vote in Parliament delegating some of its duties to the regional governments in Scotland and Wales.

It took years for that promise to go anywhere, but in 1979 Scotland and Wales voted on “devolution,” that process of delegating authority. Wales rejected the referendum — and, in a surprise, Scotland did too. This despite the fact that polls one month prior to the vote had shown a 2-to-1 preference for devolution. The final count? A mere 33% voted yes.

“Appealing to local pride, the Scottish Nationalists argued that if devolution failed to pass, Scotland would ‘be good for nothing more than to tart up a few British ceremonies.’ But the antidevolution forces, led by the Conservative Party, mounted a late-blooming campaign that focused on an even more basic Scottish instinct: they charged that the cost of home rule would be quickly felt in the form of higher taxes,” TIME reported.

For this week’s vote, a large majority of Scots are expected to turn out to vote, and recent polls have shown that the yes/no votes could be close. But the 1979 vote, over a much less drastic change, was supposed to be a win for devolution. Instead, the status quo won handily. If this week’s vote follows the pattern of the 1970s decision, then a large percentage of the yes votes indicated in early polling will disappear when the decision must be made.

Support for increased Scottish independence has been fairly steady since the ’70s, according to the Scottish Parliament’s own historical records. In fact, that Parliament — which had been dissolved April 28, 1707, in order that a united Parliament of Great Britain could come into session — only exists because of that support. The first meeting of the Scottish Constitutional Convention took place in 1989, and in 1997 the U.K. government published a white paper on the topic of a Scottish Parliament. A referendum for devolution was held in September of that year, and the resulting “yes” vote led to the 1998 passage of the Scotland Bill, which established a Parliament that opened the following year. The powers of the Scottish Parliament, known as “devolved powers,” included education and housing; the “reserved powers” that stayed with the U.K. Parliament included immigration and defense. In 2012, another Scotland Act added — for example, setting a national speed limit — to the list of devolved powers.

The last time Scottish self-governance lost at the polls, TIME posited that the “no” vote wasn’t just a matter of taxes: “Some Scots also began to ponder the fact that devolution might lead to the breakup of the United Kingdom, which none but the most extreme nationalists want.”

Which is, of course, exactly what the Sept. 18 referendum — no matter of mere devolution — will determine. It’s no longer such an extreme-sounding prospect. In fact, Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, told TIME in 2011 that he believes Scotland will join the list of nations that used to live under English rule sooner or later.

Read the full interview with Alex Salmond here: Is Scotland’s Independence from the U.K. Inevitable?

TIME politics

Congress Must Vote on War

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US President Barack Obama speaks at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, September 11, 2014, during a ceremony marking the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is a Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and author of legislation to sunset the post-9/11 authorization for use of military force.

We need to repeal the authorization of force against Iraq

In his address to the nation last week, President Obama made a compelling case for a concerted effort to destroy the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL), a terrorist group that has spread chaos and bloodshed across Syria and Iraq. But even as the Administration has acknowledged that taking the offensive against ISIL amounts to war, it has paradoxically taken the position that Congressional approval—while desirable—is not required.

The Constitution says otherwise.

The President has broad authority as commander in chief to defend the nation, but that authority is not without limit. It does not extend to situations like the present where the Administration has acknowledged that ISIL does not pose an immediate threat to our homeland. As one former constitutional law professor and then-Senator named Barrack Obama told an interviewer in 2007, “the President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

The Administration has asserted that it has the requisite authority to act based on the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) passed in the days immediately following September 11th—this reasoning is tenuous at best.

The 2001 AUMF authorized military force against those who “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the September 11th attacks. The logic connecting this vote to ISIL stretches an already thin reed past its breaking point. ISIL did not exist in 2001 and has been formally disavowed by al Qaeda, both because of the barbarity of its tactics and for a set of aims that is distinct from those of al Qaeda’s leadership. The al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, is more likely to fight against than alongside ISIL, and al Qaeda has rejected both its declaration of a caliphate and its would-be caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Although the Administration makes a colorable claim that ISIL’s prior al Qaeda iteration and common desire to attack the west should be sufficient to bring it within the AUMF, the real question is not whether an ingenious lawyer can make the argument—that can always be done—but whether such an interpretation is consistent with a Constitution that vests the power to declare war in the Congress. Having said the military campaign against ISIL will take years and amounts to war, surely the separation of powers principles behind the declaration clause preclude executive reliance on an old authorization focused on a different enemy in a different land at a very different time.

The President’s reluctance to seek a Congressional authorization is understandable. Even in matters of national security, the dysfunction of Congress and the determination of some Republicans to foil the President at every turn have made Congressional approval a dicey proposition. This is true even here, where the nation is broadly united on the need to act against ISIL and supportive of the plan the President has put forward.

Nevertheless, there is a path that will provide the President the authority to act, permits Congress to assert its constitutional prerogative in the matter of war and peace, and will allow us to turn the page on the post 9/11 era so that we can focus on today’s threats—and tomorrow’s. It is a course the President invited us to take more than a year ago at the National Defense University when he pledged to work with Congress “to refine, and ultimately repeal, the [2001] AUMF’s mandate.”

The House and Senate should quickly take up a tailored and narrow authorization for the use of force in Iraq and Syria. Such an authorization should specify the enemy, declare that we are not authorizing the large-scale deployment of troops to fight in, or occupy either country, and contain an 18-month sunset clause so that Congress can insist on its oversight role. In doing so, Congress should also immediately repeal the 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, and provide the same 18-month sunset for the 2001 AUMF, to harmonize the legal authority we provide to wage war against any foe and to ensure that no future President can use it as a basis for unilateral action. I plan on introducing an authorization bill this week to accomplish these limited goals.

In matters of war, Congress is not some suitor that must be asked by the President to dance. Requested or not, Congress must exercise its responsibility to decide whether to send the nation’s sons and daughters to war. We should not go to war—let alone adjourn—without a vote.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is a Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and author of legislation to sunset the post-9/11 authorization for use of military force.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Opinion

How I Got Out of the Vietnam Draft — And Why That Still Matters

amnesty: Sept. 9, 1974
The Sept. 9, 1974, issue of TIME reports on the amnesty proposal, which was issued on Sept. 16, 1974. TIME

The Vietnam draft dodgers were offered amnesty 40 years ago today, but their story isn't over

My ’60s high-school experience was close to the stereotype — smoking pot, trying LSD, seeing the world in a new way, and questioning authority: If the government lied about drugs, why not about other things?

It turned out that the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, the justification for the Vietnam War, was one of those lies — as have been the justifications for most of our wars, I believe — but I didn’t find that out until later. Still, even before I knew that war was based on a lie, I could see that our nation was divided and confused about it. No one could give me a good, clear, convincing explanation of what was going on. Wasn’t that uncertainty a sufficient reason to refrain from killing millions of people? That’s how I felt at the time, though I couldn’t have articulated it so well back then.

I didn’t figure that out all by myself. I had the good fortune to fall in with some other teenagers who were also figuring it out. We spent many hot summer afternoons in someone’s cool basement, playing peace music and reading counterculture comic books. We listened to the sound track of Hair over and over. Clear Light’s cover of “Mr. Blue” was a stunning indictment of authoritarianism, though I didn’t learn the word “authoritarianism” until years later.

We felt that the war and the draft were bad, but I didn’t fully understand what my friends were going through; my own experience was too different. I was good at math, so I knew I’d be going to college, and I’d automatically get a draft deferment. Also, I felt less nationalism than most people. For me it would be just an inconvenience, not a great hardship, to flee to Canada, at that time a safe haven for draft dodgers. I knew that I would never wear a uniform.

Then, in November 1969, after I’d been in college for a year, the rules changed. A lottery began phasing out student deferments. My roommates and I started thinking and talking more about the draft. It occurred to me that the people on the draft board were human beings who deserved a friendly hello as much as anyone did, so I wrote them a letter.

The letter was very brief. I don’t remember the exact words, but they were something like this: “Dear Draft Board, I feel sorry for President Nixon. He must have had a terrible childhood. Why else would he be bombing all those Cambodians?”

It wasn’t just ink on paper. I thought anyone on a draft board must have a terribly drab life and deserved some cheering up – so, when my breakfast cereal box was empty, I cut out the front panel, which included a colorful cartoon character. I flipped it over to the blank cardboard that had faced the inside of the box. In crayon, with the great innocence that can come from LSD, I wrote the letter that I sent to my draft board.

It wasn’t a conscious attempt to get out of the draft. That payoff hadn’t even occurred to me. But my draft board promptly decided I was crazy, and classified me 4F, unfit for military service. They even phoned my parents to offer condolences. I got off lucky; a more authoritarian board would have drafted my sorry ass right then and there.

Perhaps I was crazy, but not as crazy as war. At any rate, I was safe, and home free, and no longer affected by the draft. I hardly noticed the draft-related events of the next few years: In 1973 the draft ended, in 1974 President Ford offered conditional amnesty to the draft dodgers — 40 years ago today — and in 1975 the war ended. But by then the draft had already done great damage to the U.S. military and its image. I’ve heard many stories of soldiers who didn’t like what they were forced to do.

During my college years, at first I joined in a few antiwar marches. But I found political arguments frustrating, so after a while I put them aside; I left the world in the hands of people who claimed to know what they were doing. I grew into a middle-class life, with spouse, house, two kids, and a tenured mathematics professorship at a prestigious university. I didn’t think about political ideas again for decades. Then, in 2006, a number of changes in my life gave me time to think, and I woke up. I realized the world was a mess, and taking care of it is the responsibility of all of us; it seems to me that the people in whose hands I’d left it did not know what they were doing. Since then I’ve been marching for many causes, and reading and writing about politics. Among other things, I’ve formed much stronger opinions about war and the draft.

It turned out that the Vietnam War never really ended — it changed its name and location, but as far as I can see, the questionable justifications have not changed. Politicians tell us that the people “over there” are different from us, but really those people are our cousins. I think we need politicians who will try harder to make diplomacy work.

And the draft never really ended either — now it’s a poverty draft. I hear stories all the time about people joining the military because they can’t find a decent job. Forty years after the draft dodgers were offered pardon, their message still matters: being able to choose what you’ll fight for is a freedom worth fighting for.

Eric Schechter is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Vanderbilt University. Since his retirement in 2013, he has devoted his time to political causes.

Read 1974 coverage of President Ford’s decision to grant amnesty to draft evaders here, in TIME’s archives: Choices on Amnesty

TIME politics

The History Behind the Other ‘United Nations’

united nations - Jan. 19, 1942
From the Jan. 19, 1942, issue of TIME TIME

In 1942, the group known as the United Nations was convened to accomplish one goal: defeat the Axis powers

The United Nations was created in 1942 — but not the United Nations as we know it, the group whose representatives are this week converging in New York City for the 69th General Assembly.

When the phrase first “slipped into the world’s vocabulary,” as TIME wrote, the world was in the midst of war, and the concept of wide-scale international collaboration was fraught. World War II had already exposed the failure of the League of Nations, the international organization set up after the previous world war. Still, in January of 1942, 26 nations, including the U.S., the U.K., Russia and China, signed a pact uniting them in one goal: to defeat the Axis powers. The name, which had been proposed by the Roosevelt administration, became the official title for the Allied powers.

“For the people of the Axis countries that fact could not be other than sobering: 26 nations—count them—26, all determined that Hitler and his tyranny shall be destroyed,” TIME wrote at the time.

Even then there was skepticism that the United Nations could be effective. Some called for a cooperative body to oversee the war effort, while others continued to call for a union of peoples and not just an intergovernmental pact.

But the United Nations prevailed, and when, after the war, world leaders descended on San Francisco for the conference to hash out the details of an intergovernmental organization to jointly confront the world’s problems, they called it the United Nations. The first session of the United Nations General Assembly opened in 1946.

Take a look at TIME’s coverage of the signing of the declaration of the original United Nations in 1942:

The significance of the pact was slower being digested. In Washington, enthusiasts compared it to the Articles of Confederation that had held the 13 States together until the Constitutional Convention. Advocates of Union Now thought it did not go far enough, wanted a union of peoples, rather than of governments. Josephus Daniels recalled his last talk with Woodrow Wilson, when Wilson had said: “The things we have fought for are sure to prevail . . . [and] may come in a better way than we proposed.” Advocates of a revived, strengthened League of Nations hoped the United Nations would prove the better way.

Taken at its face value, the Declaration was impressive. If the signing nations could actually employ their “full resources,” their power would be staggering. Their combined populations came to almost 1,500,000,000 of the world’s 2,145,000,000. They held twice as much of the world’s steel capacity as the Axis, most of its wheat, most of the materials needed for making war or prospering in peace.

Today’s United Nations, by those standards, is even more impressive: instead of 26 member nations, there are 193.

Read the 1942 story about the original United Nations here, in TIME’s archives: The United Nations

TIME Books

I’m a Woman Who Lived as a Boy: My Years as a Bacha Posh

The Underground Girls of Kabul
The Underground Girls of Kabul Crown

For 9 years of her youth in Afghanistan, Faheema lived as Faheem—a boy, one free from the societal barriers and stigmas women face

Jenny Nordberg’s The Underground Girls of Kabul, published Sept. 16, is the result of five years of research into why it’s not uncommon for girls in Afghanistan to be brought up as boys. Nordberg, an investigative reporter, discovered the practice in 2009, and detailed it in a story for The New York Times.

The Underground Girls of Kabul explores the reasons for, and the consequences of, this longstanding practice, which has affected many Afghan girls and women. It also offers a glimpse into the situation for women there, which remains precarious.

What happens to such a person, Nordberg wondered, when they relocate to a society that values women more, and there is no longer a need to hide? She recently connected with another young Afghan woman, now living in the U.S., who once passed as a boy in her home country.

Exclusively for TIME, this is the story of Faheema.

**

Liberating. That’s how it felt, walking out the door for the first time as a boy. I was 12. I was no longer Faheema, who needed to be proper and watch her every move, but Faheem, who had guts and could go where he wanted. That was my right as a bacha posh—from Dari, it translates to, “dressed up as a boy.” It’s what they call girls who live their lives disguised as boys in Afghanistan. And I suppose those who eventually become boys on the inside, too.

My family had returned to Kabul after the Taliban, and in 2002, society was so much more conservative there than in Pakistan, where we had lived as refugees. Girls were looked down upon, and being one was made very difficult.

With short hair and in pants, I found that no one would look at me on the street, or harass me. I did not have to wear the scarf. I could look people in the eyes. I could speak to other boys, and adult men too. I did not have to make myself smaller by hunching over. I could walk fast. Or run, if I felt like it.

In fact, I had been brought up as a boy—I just didn’t look like one at first.

At home, I was the one who got things done. We were carpet weavers, and I ran the family enterprise from our house. Seven other, younger, children took orders from me. My parents often told me they wished I had been born a boy. They have said it for as long as I can remember; my father in particular. It would have made more sense, he said, since I was a harder worker than any of my brothers.

Even while living as a girl, I tried to do everything Afghan society and culture said I couldn’t do. I became strong. I took responsibility. I educated myself and my siblings. I helped my father with his guests and all the technical work at the house. But I still felt inadequate.

Most bacha posh in Afghanistan are made that way by their parents. But my story is different. One day I made the decision for myself to switch. I gave them what they asked for.

It worked.

The attitude, the lowered voice; how I moved with more confidence. I could disappear in a crowd. The more divided a society, the easier it is to change the outside. Others bought it. It shocked me that I could trick those harassing eyes just by how I looked. Being a boy allowed me to function as a more of a whole person in society. It was practical. I could protect my sisters, and escort them to class in winter. It pleased my parents, too. At least they did not protest.

I spent nine years as a boy. I continued trying to please my parents like that until a few years ago, when I came to a small town in America to go to college. My turning point was when I started thinking about being a woman. Why should I need to hide? Could I not have the same pride, and the same abilities, as a girl? Why did only my male self have that strength? I had been so proud to be a boy, in that I had figured it out and outsmarted everyone. That I had won. But I began feeling more and more angry. I was like, “How long will I have to do this?”

To be honest, I had always thought of being a bacha posh as my own choice; that I was doing something also for myself, and of my own free will. But that was not entirely true, I realize now. My parents’ wish for me to be a boy forced me to become one. I took it too literally. So a few years ago, I wanted to try and accept myself as a girl. I knew it was inevitable at some point anyway.

By then, I was 18 but I still had no breasts, and my periods were irregular. When my mother had sought out a doctor in Kabul, he said that my psyche may be turning into that of a man’s. It scared her. She worried I may never be able to turn back.

It was hard. I began letting my hair grow out. Now it’s almost all the way down to my waist. I also went to see a psychologist at my university. We talked about what is male and what is female in me. I don’t know what normal is, but I am not as angry anymore. The differences between men and women exist here too, but there is no need for me to pretend to be a man in order to go outside, or to count as a full person. In some ways America is a conservative society too, and it’s so important for many people to be either male or female. I have both in me now and that’s how I’ll always be.

I think often about what it means.

Being a man gives you so many privileges, you don’t see the small things. You own the world and everything is yours. As a boy, I was very busy thinking of everything I needed and wanted. That’s what you do. You just don’t take much of it in. You focus on yourself. A lot is expected of you as a man, so you have to.

As a woman, you see more. You notice what’s around you. To me, that is the essence of it. You relate to others. As a woman, I have a soft core that melts with everything. As a woman, I can feel what others feel. I see what they see. And I cry with them. I think of that as the female in me. I allow that now.

I’m in my twenties now, and I don’t expect to live long. A woman’s average life in Afghanistan is 44 years, so I’m halfway done. I would like to stay here and become an anthropologist, but my American visa expires in a few months, and then I have to return home.

My father still only accepts me as a boy, not as a girl. We talk on Skype: He is a macho colonel in Afghanistan who calls me every day. Like my close friends, he is still allowed to call me by my boy name. But I know now that both my family and much of my society was wrong in saying that only boys can do certain things. They are the ones who don’t allow girls to do anything.

I have complicated feelings about the freedom I have here in the West. It’s borrowed. It’s not really mine. Deep down you know it’s going to be taken away at any moment. Just like that of a bacha posh.

As told to and edited by Jenny Nordberg.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

Hate Immigrants? Good Luck With Women Voters

Elena, 14, her mother Lucia, and Andrea Mercado, Co-Chair of We Belong Together. Elena and Lucia live in Homestead, FL. Elena's father was deported two years ago, leaving Lucia to raise Elena and her four younger siblings by herself with the meager salary she earns cleaning houses. Les Talusan

Terry O’Neill is the president of NOW. Pramila Jayapal is a Co-Chair of We Belong Together.

Fixing our broken immigration system is a crucial part of the struggle for women’s equality

Why did we both get arrested outside the U.S. Capitol last year demanding Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform? Why did Terry join more than 140 other activists outside the White House last week in an act of civil disobedience to demand that President Obama stop deporting workers, parents and children? Why did over 30 Floridian children whose parents have been deported hold a vigil in front of the White House on Monday afternoon to urge the President to stop separating families?

Because we had to. None of us can march into the Oval Office, pound on the President’s desk and tell Barack Obama to reverse the delay that he announced on Saturday. But we can give the President and members of Congress something to think about when they look out their windows. The question is whether they can muster the political will to do the right thing.

Barack Obama said he would act on his own if the do-nothing Congress continued to block reform—but now, he seems to be listening to cautious political advisors who believe they can siphon away votes from Republican Senate candidates by parroting their hard line on immigration. That’s the wrong way to go.

The 11 million undocumented men, women, and children cannot vote in the U.S. But members of their families and communities, who recognize the incredible contributions immigrants have made to our nation, can and will vote. In the year since the Senate immigration reform bill was passed, while the House refused to act, 1.5 million immigrants became newly eligible voters. For immigrant and Latino voters, relief from deportations and family separation will be a key issue in the upcoming elections.

And women vote. We know that fixing our broken immigration system is a crucial part of the struggle for women’s equality. Women and children make up 75% of immigrants in the US and they bear the brunt of harsh enforcement measures, backlogs in the family immigration process, and a biased visa system that doesn’t credit women’s contributions in informal labor sectors. Creating an immigration process that is fair to women and children is a priority for women voters, with 70% supporting immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.

The power of this voting bloc should be enough to make this a pressing issue for every candidate, but it seems almost nothing will move Republicans in the House to act. With Congress refusing to listen to their hearts, minds, and pollsters, President Obama must step in to make common-sense changes that provide relief from deportations and the separation of families.

Republicans allege that the President is overstepping his authority and disrespecting our system of checks and balances. But this Congress has pledged not to work with the President on the issue; it is the obstinacy and inaction of Congress that has tipped the scale, and the President must balance it out for the sake of millions.

There are several things that President Obama can do today to provide relief to millions of families and to live up to his campaign promises: use his legal authority to allow immigrants to remain and work legally in the U.S without burdensome requirements that could exclude women; alleviate the 4 million backlogged cases in the family visa system that jam the path to citizenship; repeal enforcement programs like “Secure Communities” and 287 (g) initiatives that are rife with racial profiling and create barriers for survivors of sexual and domestic violence to life-saving services and protection; allow spouses of visa holders to work to give women the ability to support themselves and contribute to our economy; immediately end the detention of families with children; and prioritize family unity in any Department of Homeland Security enforcement mandates.

By taking bold action now President Obama will live up to his promise and set us on the path to an immigration process that values families, is fair to women, and recognizes the invaluable contributions of immigrants to our nation. House Republicans have underestimated the power of immigrant communities, and the power of women who espouse true family values. People who care about their immigrant neighbors, relatives, friends, and co-workers will vote their values come November. Politicians who gambled on xenophobia and misanthropy will have to find a new line of work.

Terry O’Neill is the president of NOW. Pramila Jayapal is a Co-Chair of We Belong Together.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

How Little Has Changed on Gun Control Since 1967

Lyndon Johnson
President Lyndon Johnson speaks to members of his advisory commission on civil disorders at the group's first meeting on July 29, 1967 at the White House in Washington. WX/AP

Two arguments from Lyndon Johnson and Barack Obama for limitations on gun purchasing, five decades apart

If you want a reminder of how little some things change in American politics, look no further than the modern discussion about gun control. On this day, Sept. 15, all the way back in 1967, President Johnson released a letter to Congress urging both houses to take quick action on gun control. Comparing Johnson’s letter to a more recent presidential text with the same topic — President Obama’s speech last April after Congress failed to pass the post-Sandy Hook gun control bill — reveals how much has stayed the same in how politicians talk about guns during the past five decades.

The most obvious similarity may be, to modern observers, the most surprising. Mass school shootings, like the one that took place in Newtown, Conn., in December of 2012, are often discussed as a tragedy of our time. Video games are blamed, for example, and few accounts refer to events earlier than 1999’s Columbine massacre. But they’re not actually a 21st-century tragedy: on Aug. 1, 1966, Charles Whitman — who appeared on the cover of TIME two weeks later — brought several guns with him to the observation deck of a 307-foot tower at the University of Texas, where he was a student. He killed 13 people and wounded 31 before being shot by police; later, police discovered the bodies of his wife and mother, whom he had killed before coming to campus. The Whitman shooting was the context for Johnson’s urgency when writing to Congress, and that’s the information with which he began his letter.

Then Johnson, like Obama would decades later, clarified that the people the bill in question would affect are people whom nobody wants armed. “There is no excuse,” Johnson wrote, for selling guns to “hardened criminals” and “mental defectives.” Likewise, “we’re talking about convicted felons, people convicted of domestic violence, people with severe mental illness,” Obama said.

Furthermore, both stressed that the bill wouldn’t even change all that much. Here’s Johnson in 1967: “[The bill's] basic approach is to limit out-of-state purchases and interstate mail order sales of firearms.” Here’s Obama in 2013, with a modern take on mail-order problems: “All [the bill] did was extend the same background check rules that already apply to guns purchased from a dealer to guns purchased at gun shows or over the Internet.” (There was one big change here: while both are concerned with gun-buying by mail, Johnson’s bill was much stricter and would have stopped interstate mail order sales altogether.)

Then, both appeal to the law-abiding gun owners. “The measure now before Congress is aimed solely at keeping deadly weapons out of the wrong hands. It interferes neither with sportsmen nor law-abiding citizens with a legitimate need. This legislation will impose no real inconvenience on gun buyers,” in 1967, and “Nobody could honestly claim that [the bill] infringed on our Second Amendment rights,” in 2013.

Finally, both end with an appeal to the safety of “the American people” and a call for Congress to act. And for Johnson, at least, it worked: a Gun Control Act passed in 1968.

Read TIME’s 1968 cover story about guns here, in the archive: The Gun in America

TIME politics

Gabrielle Giffords: 20 Years After VAWA, There’s Much More Work To Do

Business Leaders Speak At New York Ideas Event
Retired Congresswoman and co-founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions, Gabby Giffords, speaks at New York Ideas, a conference that brings together leaders from a variety of industries on May 6, 2014 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

Even though many couples are choosing to marry later in life, our laws haven’t been updated to address dating partner abuse

Some said it would be too hard – impossible, even.

Two decades ago, a broad and brave coalition of determined women’s advocates, domestic violence survivors and fair-minded leaders in Congress set out to do what some said could not be done: pass a law that helped protect women and their families from the scourge of domestic violence.

The proposal, called the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), took badly needed steps toward protecting women. It gave judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials new tools to combat violence; it strengthened services for survivors and their families; and, for the first time under federal law, ensured that dangerous individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders couldn’t have easy access to guns.

Still, securing the needed support for the law was no easy fight. There was obstruction, willful misrepresentation, and needless gridlock. Entrenched special interests sprang into action; inaction was their goal.

But Americans made their voices heard, and Congress passed VAWA with the votes of Democrats and Republicans alike. And so, 20 years ago this weekend, then-President Bill Clinton made the Violence Against Women Act the law of the land – a real victory of common sense and courage over the status quo.

Since its passage, VAWA has been a staggering success in making our communities safer. Annual rates of domestic violence have dropped by more than half. The law has saved lives and kept guns out of the hands of countless domestic abusers.

But 20 years later, there is still more work to do to make women safer from gun violence.

Because of VAWA and subsequent updates to the law, individuals who are under domestic violence protection orders or have misdemeanor domestic violence convictions can’t legally buy or own guns. But even though many couples are choosing to marry later in life, our laws haven’t been updated to address dating partner abuse. And convicted stalkers can still get guns.

With such glaring loopholes in our gun laws, guns sometimes fall into the wrong hands – and the results for women are often tragic.

Most of the time, women are murdered with guns by someone they know, either by a family member or an intimate partner, like a former or current husband or boyfriend. In domestic abuse situations, if the abuser has access to a gun, it increases the chance that a woman will die by 500 percent.

This is one reason why American women are 11 times more likely to be shot to death than their peers in other countries, and why more American women were killed by gunfire by a partner between 2001 and 2012 than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

That is not the America we strive for, is it?

That’s why it’s time for Congress to build on the legacy and success of the Violence Against Women Act by closing the loopholes that let dangerous stalkers and abusive dating partners buy guns.

There are several commonsense proposals before Congress right now that would help address the nexus of gun crime and domestic violence – and they would do nothing to limit the rights of responsible, law-abiding gun owners.

In fact, for those of us who own guns and cherish our Second Amendment rights, these laws should be a welcome step. Because every time guns fall into the wrong hands and are used to intimidate, injure, or murder women, it erodes the rights of responsible gun owners everywhere.

Passing these laws wouldn’t prevent every act of gun violence against women, but there is no doubt they would save women’s lives. They are the commonsense thing to do.

Over the last two decades, the Violence Against Women Act has been reauthorized, improved, and updated several times. Sometimes, a small minority of legislators and powerful special interests – standing on the wrong side of history and far out of step with the vast majority of Americans – has fought it.

But each time, Democrats and Republicans have voted for commonsense and safety. And thankfully, each time they have prevailed.

With lots of hard work, and with reasonable Americans making their voices heard, I hope that a similar bipartisan group of leaders can forge the hard but necessary path of making America’s women safer from gun violence.

It won’t be easy. But it will save lives.

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is the Co-Founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions.

TIME politics

Girl Tells President She Wished Surprise Guest at School Was Beyoncé

Michelle Obama wanted to see Queen Bey too

President Obama got a bit of an ego blow yesterday at a visit to a D.C. charter school when a young girl told him she had hoped the surprise guest would be Beyoncé.

“I understand,” Obama told Madison, a sixth grader at Inspired Teaching School, according to ABC News.

The girl backpedaled, saying, “But then I realized it was going to be you and that’s even better!”

Obama said, “I appreciate you saying that in front of the press. I know it’s not really true.” Then Michelle Obama piped in that she would rather see Beyoncé too. Because we all know who really “run the world”:

 

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