The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Amar Ojha (Page 2 of 8)

The personality cult of Donald Trump

It is one thing to have hateful opinions. While unpleasant and probably unjustified, everyone is still entitled to their right of opinion. The issue, however, changes drastically if and when those opinions are materialized and cause instances of harm. This is exactly what we are seeing in Drumpf’s campaign, a presidential campaign that has quickly dissolved into chaotic mayhem, most notably seen in his now infamous campaign rallies.

To be clear, this is not the result of packaging tens of thousands of people at these political rallies. Nor is this violence the result of sheer political anger. One can easily consider similarly sized events or even more infuriating things than a collapsing economy. Instead, this hatred is initiated by, catalyzed through, and enabled by Donald J. Drumpf, a vulgarian apparently hell-bent on creating the nation’s first fascist authoritarian state.

It all began with divisive rhetoric, a partitioning of “them vs. us,” calling out everyone from Mexicans to Muslims, crediting his seemingly stunning bluntness on his lack of care for political correctness, and apparently, for human decency. This rhetoric became a staple of his stump speech, drawing large waves of boos in response to references regarding terrorism or border security. People began protesting, and Drumpf began to take notice.

Soon enough, Drumpf could not get through a single rally it seemed without a disruption from at least one protestor, nearly all of whom Drumpf would make a point to kick out, to the thunderous cheers and jeers from the crowd. This all changed on January 8 when Drumpf kicked out 56-year-old Rose Hamid, a Muslim woman wearing a hijab who stood up in silent protest during Drumpf’s rally. Following the backlash, Drumpf responded, “There is hatred against us that is unbelievable. It’s their hatred, it’s not our hatred.”

This began to paint the role of protestors as the instigators of tension and the materializers of hate, as opposed to the other way around. However, even as Hamid was removed, she was escorted peacefully and carefully. Was it justified? Not exactly, but in essence, it is a private event and the campaign can admit who they would like. Hamid even commented afterwards and said that “people are mostly decent” and at no point was she concerned about her safety.

Drumpf took another turn in a Vermont rally, choosing to not only kick out disruptive audience members, but adding, “Get him outta there! Don’t give him his coat. Keep his coat. Confiscate his coat. You know it’s about 10 degrees below zero outside. No, you can keep his coat.” This, in my understanding, had to be the clearest indication of Drumpf’s genuine disregard for another’s well-being and his tremendous abuse of power. It was a simple, yet incredibly revealing act.

As protests continued in more rallies, Drumpf quickly began to add increasingly aggressive remarks, including, “These people are bringing us down. They are bringing us down. These people are so bad for our country, you have no idea.”; “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.”; “I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell ya.”

Drumpf’s message is not the only thing inciting acts of violence. His views on violence seem brutish, at best, given his remarks alongside the kinds of behaviors they have prompted, including a graphic video surfacing of an old white man sucker-punching a black protestor and later saying “The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.” And this is no lone incident, given that others include the choking of journalists, a black woman surrounded and shoved around by individuals, Drumpf’s campaign manager forcibly grabbing and nearly tossing a reporter to the ground, photographers slammed to the ground, brutal kicking of fallen protestors, as well as rally-goers yelling “Sieg Heil” and “light that m************ on fire” at a fallen black protestor. The general trend is frighteningly apparent, with the rallies now apparently on the lookout, whatever that means, for potential protestors. Exactly how the campaign is going about this is unknown, but one can only imagine the types of characteristics that the campaign may be on the lookout for, particularly given the removal of innocent bystanders who simply “looked” like they may be protestors.

The culmination of this was in Illinois, when the city of Chicago sent a loud message to Drumpf and his supporters, namely, that this kind of hatred is not welcome in their city. Drumpf ended up canceling the rally out of safety concerns, with protestors erupting in cheers.

From what it seems, most of these protestors are individuals who are determined to stand up for what they believe in, that our nation is not one of hate, and we are only weaker when we divide within ourselves. These are not “thugs” planning to “riot,” as Drumpf and supporters claim; rather, these are peaceful protestors trying to make themselves heard.

What is of grave importance is how this protest movement takes shape within Drumpf’s rallies, ensuring that the same sorts of violence never become a part of the arsenal used to defeat hate, but rather a reliance on peaceful and ideally informative means may be a better approach.

In the coming weeks, there will be more primaries and caucuses, and as such, more rallies, and understandably, more protests. While these events unravel, we must remain wary of the instigators of hate, and understand that it is not simply a group of angry people riled up in mob mentality, but a conscious effort by a man running for president to promote and encourage acts of hate and violence.

Is anonymity in grading good or bad?

Is anonymity good or bad? The answer is, as always, it’s complicated. Anonymous grading depends on many aspects such as size, personal preference of the professor or lecturer, subject of the course, and in a way, efficiency of the grading system. Students at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where I have been studying for a little over two months, submit written assignments anonymously, despite the fact that classes range in size from eight to fifty-five students.

Here are some of the benefits to this system: most importantly, replacing your name with an eight-digit number and erasing all personal information that may link to you provides no opportunity for grading bias. Bias can be an extremely subtle, yet effective method of showing preference, both on paper and in the classroom. We’ve all heard of “the teacher’s pet” in high school, right? Well, bias on papers and the act of grading a student’s work is extremely subjective, regardless of how many times professors and lecturers insist that they are reading the papers with “an open mind.” We all have our opinions and doubts, both students and professors, so when reading and editing a paper, these grades are reflective of the grader’s perspective. Factual and political correctness placed aside, I strongly believe that the system of grading, both in Scotland and in the United States, is completely reflective of how one person assesses another. That being said, it is correct to point out the advantages of erasing all personal information from assignments: any connection—good or bad—that a professor or lecturer may have with a student has no bearing on that student’s grade.

In addition to preventing bias, the exam or student ID number on the top of the essay allows the grader to solely focus on the subject and quality of the essay, rather than focusing or getting distracted with the author’s identity. By erasing the name of the student, the grader can focus on the extent to which the author successfully (or unsuccessfully) conveyed their ideas and analysis onto the page. In a way, the idea of “writing an essay for a stranger or someone who doesn’t know the subject” is highlighted through this anonymous submission. Although the grader is most likely an expert in the subject area, the student must convey his/her understanding of the topic completely because there is no way for the grader to connect with the author to ask for clarification. What has been submitted is final, and there is no exception.

Now here is the flip side: anonymity severs all personal connections between the student and professor and breaks up the idea of progress. In my fifty-five-person class, our main lecturer is extremely friendly, funny, and is clearly an expert in her field. I have often entertained the idea of going to her office hours to chat, but something stops me every time: she doesn’t know me as student, regardless of whether she would recognize my face if I walked into her office. Obviously I could change this situation by going to her office, but the fact that she doesn’t know my writing or thought processes is discouraging and our possibility for any student-professor relationship would be quite short-lived. Many of my wonderful connections with Bates professors stem from the work I have submitted and quickly transformed into casual conversations. If there is anything I miss about the wonderful community of Bates, it is the valuable and incredibly inspiring close relationships between students and professors.

As for the idea of progress, I believe that anonymity breaks up the way a professor can keep track of a student’s progress throughout the semester. Granted, at the University of Edinburgh, all grading is solely based on two types of assessments, exams and essays, so “progress” is limited. Participation, however, could be factored into students’ grades in the smaller classes. Although a grader could easily look up the student’s exam number to compare a previous essay, I assume that here at this university, the grader only focuses on the assignment at hand. I may be incorrect, but the point is that the lack of personal connection between the author and the grader leaves no room for remembering the previous assignment and thus assessing the progress.

So, although I take a stand on the side that does not favor anonymity, there are clearly many advantages to keeping the student anonymous. My lecturers are professors in Scotland are extremely well versed and knowledgeable in their areas of study and I am learning about many valuable perspectives and subjects, but I have to say: I would prefer Bates College any day.

Free speech for the entitled

One of the first things I learned in elementary school about limitations on freedom was premised on the following logic: An individual’s freedom ends once the actions of an individual begin to impede or intrude on another individual’s freedom. This is why, I learned, that things like stealing from others was bad, because it took away their right to own objects they paid for. In the case of free speech, I think that the same principles can be simply applied.

In my experience, the case of “free speech” is a very intense topic around college campuses and current political debates, and I have felt a lot of emotion from both sides. It seems as though one side is arguing for “safe spaces” and the other side is arguing that this space impedes on their freedom to voice their opinion without repercussion.

While there are many disagreements in logic and practice between the two sides that I will address, the first thing I would like to focus on is the illusion of private versus public. It seems that the side for unlimited free speech would like to compartmentalize these “safe spaces.” The other side argues that the private sector has its own set of rules and etiquette distinct from the agreed upon public domain. This line becomes blurred on college campuses, in the classroom, in the workspace, etc. It is in the seemingly public domain, I think, that their safety, and their freedom, is treated as an afterthought to others feeling the need to disperse their ideas at any given moment. In all honesty, the argument for unlimited free speech is a strategically decorated blazer cloaking every other argument made by a privileged or advantaged person who, knowingly or not, is attempting to solidify and secure their privilege or advantage of their race, class, gender, health, etc.

To argue for the dispersal of your own opinion at any given time, regardless of the consequences, is not only a privileged argument in its complete ignorance of the systematic oppression built upon language, but is also an argument initiating and further participating in the oppression of marginalized peoples. It seems that this intense desire is rooted in distaste for censorship of what comes out of a person’s mouth, because the individual arguing for it has never had to censor anything, and has always been allowed the privilege of having their opinions heard, as well as the privilege of being able to argue for their opinion. The problem is that not everyone has been granted this privilege.

Furthermore, the way that we speak to each other, about each other, and about other things, both in public and in private, dictates our perception of reality. From the very little understanding I have of epistemology, language has a strong foothold in the human notion of reality. Therefore, articulating language to cater to oppressed people will help articulate a reality in which they are no longer oppressed. On the other hand, allowing people to have unlimited access to whatever they feel like saying at any given time allows for micro-aggressions against marginalized people to continue. These micro-aggressions will contribute to the epistemological landscape of the space they are said in, further engraving that space with privilege on one side, and oppression on the other.

I understand that it can be difficult and feel limiting to have to censor everything that you want to say. However, this challenge is a privilege, because some people’s voices are not even recognized as valid, let alone heard. And this challenge, believe it or not, does not negate or disregard the individual’s opinion, however. It just means that the individual now has to share their opinion in a way that is not going to contribute to the systematic oppression of other peoples. The fact that marginalized people have to fight for their identities not to be linguistically oppressed is disturbing enough. To argue that it is unrealistic, too difficult, or hindering to academic discussion is essentially telling marginalized peoples that their basic freedom of feeling safe and comfortable in conversational settings, whether that be the classroom or on Facebook, is a violation of their basic human rights. Challenging privileged individuals like me to articulate their dialogue in a way that does not marginalize others forces us to challenge ourselves to consider the effects of our words. In no way do I feel limited in my expression because I cannot publicly oppress other people, just as I do not feel limited in my physical freedom because I cannot publicly slap other people in the face.

Thinking about this in regards to the mishap at Bowdoin, I do not think that the students being punished for the tequila party will have any ounce of freedom stripped from them because they are not allowed to publicly appropriate Latino culture for their own entertainment. The silly thing about this is that these students aren’t even being asked to respect this culture, they are simply being asked not to publicly disrespect it.

I have personally learned a lot about these issues since I have been abroad. A few Turkish students have joked with me about the use of the N word, and thought it was funny “how Americans get so sensitive about it.” To my Turkish friend, making fun of African Americans is silly. He does not come from a country that was not only built on forced labor, but still oppresses these people today. And that is exactly what micro-aggressions do. They enforce infrastructures of oppression on marginalized people, in order to maintain this marginalization. African Americans are still facing unfair treatment in this country and using a slur against or telling a joke about black people is not an isolated linguistic act—it is a performance that has been ritualized into this societal context for over 200 years. African Americans are not the only oppressed peoples in this country, which is why it is important to bring up issues like what happened at Bowdoin recently.

Advocating for unlimited free speech privileges a certain group of people who already have the opportunity for their voices to be heard. It advocates for unlimited acts of violence and aggression towards marginalized people with little to no consequence. For this reason, it is hard for me not to argue for the censorship of what we say, to ensure that marginalized people have a verbal space to inhabit safely in public, as it is obvious that they do not always have safe physical spaces to inhabit in this country.

Leo? Give me a break

As far as I can see, Leonardo DiCaprio won the actor for Best Actor for approximately two reasons.

1. The Revenant was so very hard to make, and poor Leo endured great hardship at the hand of hard-driving Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu (the director behind Birdman’s undeserved Best Picture Win in 2015) who worked his cast until poor Leo’s soggy goatee grew little grimy spittle-and-blood icicles and threatened to snap off from exposure. And they made a deliberately big deal about this, Leo himself happily dropping little comments about his ordeal: “I was sleeping in animal carcasses,” he said in an interview with Yahoo. It’s admirable to acknowledge people who go to great lengths to make honest movies. But is that really what happened here? Or was this a calculated decision on DiCaprio’s part to get his apparently long overdue Oscar? (I’m also not really buying that Leo has starred in a bunch of popular movies as a series of mostly one-dimensional male leads qualifies him for the most prestigious award for an actor in the film industry, but I digress). As Devin Faraci writes on the blog Birth. Movies. Death., “…the constant harping on how hard it was to make The Revenant has really overshadowed the movie that is The Revenant. Is there even a movie here, or is the film just the byproduct of a particularly masochistic film crew spending some time in the woods?” Sure, it was really hard, but did you play an artful, emotionally convincing role? Certainly not more than, say, the great Bryan Cranston in Trumbo. I wasn’t convinced.

2. Leo’s been waiting a long time, and it’s finally “his turn” to win the Oscar. Are we serious about this? Why do we lend legitimacy to some elite set of white, middle-aged status quo blockbuster Hollywood actors by just letting them wait in line to be awarded the Oscar they’re “due,” after appearing in a series of lackluster, but highly financial successful films? Leonardo DiCaprio’s most common role, in films like The Wolf of Wall St., Inception, and Shutter Island, is just as a loose variant of himself. The actor brings about as much depth to these roles as Keanu Reeves in 1994’s Speed, only he gets away with it because of his dashing good looks and an unhealthy dose of absurd gimmickry. Is he a pretty good actor? Yeah. Is he deserving of Best Actor inevitability? Nah. (Especially when compared to actors like Al Pacino, who genuinely deserved the Best Actor nod in roles like The Godfather, but was snubbed in favor of the inferior but more striking Marlon Brando, who, by the way, had the stones to meaningfully advocate for a cause by sending Sacheem Littlefeather to deliver a speech on Native American treatment by the federal government, instead of just floating around some platitudinous nonsense about The Revenant and how it’s our job to protect the natural world. Thanks a bunch, Leo; now we all know you, a famous actor, cares about the natural world. Did you want a cookie? We already gave you a little gold statue, for some reason.

This sort of award-hunting inevitability culture, I put to you, is one of the causes of Hollywood’s seemingly total dearth of ability to create seriously artful and meaningful films. When we reward actors and filmmakers who create movies not to make a profound impact, or to advance a new artistic aesthetic, but who are instead in the pursuit of the recognition of the moneyed and glamorous Hollywood ruling class, what suffers is literature’s most prominent medium in the 21st century: film. And Leonardio DiCaprio and the Oscar-inevitability class are a big part of the problem.

The cancer spreads: Bowdoin says ‘basta’ to universal rights

When I published my diatribe against college outrage culture and the regressive left, I was criticized for being too over-the-top. Many insisted that the incidents I cited were isolated moments of moral failing from an otherwise morally admirable cause. I was told that yes, it was awful when the press was silenced or when property was damaged, but all these demonstrations were in pursuit of a more noble goal of inclusion, respect, and tolerance. To anyone at Bates who still believes this, I encourage you take an hour drive to Brunswick, home of the Bowdoin Polar Bears, to see what has become of our college campuses.

A couple of weeks ago at Bowdoin, students were caught doing something they should not have been doing. They were drinking. And not only were they drinking, they were drinking tequila. And not only were they drinking tequila, they were wearing sombreros. And not only were they wearing sombreros, but many of the students were white. Now, if you ask me, so far, the only crime that has been committed is that no one invited me. I honestly can’t think of anything that sounds more fun than a tequila party in the middle of the Maine winter. But given the national mood on cultural appropriation, it should come as no surprise that students at Bowdoin reacted how all students seem to be reacting now-a-days. They protested. Latino students and their self-hating white allies petitioned the administration and the student government to discipline the partygoers for offending them.

If you support the protests at Bowdoin, you do not know how to live in a civil society. What’s more, you are entirely ignorant about what constitutes a civil society. Equal protection under the law, freedom of speech, cultural pluralism—all these values are an anathema to you. You believe that it’s okay that fashion be limited along racial lines. You think that certain people wearing certain clothing is dangerous, and you advise that students of color be vigilant for acts of appropriation. In this article, I hope to push back on this mindset, which I consider to be the most plausible threat to freedom in our country.

I’m obviously not thrilled that segregationists have taken over the madhouse at Bowdoin, our once proud peer institution. I’m also not entirely sure how the protesters can claim they are advocating anything other than an abject campaign of race hatred and guilt. It seems to me self-evident that allowing racial dress codes is opening up a Pandora’s Box of racial antagonism. I’m sure, however, that supporters of these protests will denounce me for not “framing my analysis with the realities of historical oppression, power dynamics, and the intersectionality of race.” Before we entertain the intersectional philosophies however, I just want to make sure everyone is on the same page.

If you support the protests I would sincerely appreciate public answers to the following questions—and please keep in mind that the definition of “punish” in this context means to impose punitive sanctions: Should white people be punished for wearing sombreros? If they should only be punished in certain circumstances, what are those circumstances? What specific social and economic goals must be achieved for white people to be able to wear sombreros without punishment? Should Hispanics be punished for wearing sombreros? Should Hispanics be punished for wearing waspy or preppy clothing? If not, can you explain why one stylistic stereotype is more harmful than the other?

If, after having gone through each of these questions you found a way to explain why segregating fashion is not racist, you will probably fall back on some intersectional philosophy. It’s possible you might believe that due to centuries of white supremacy, white people have lost the privilege to wear sombreros. Perhaps you don’t believe that minorities can be racist, and thus white people have no basis to criticize what you consider to be a reclaiming of culture. Maybe you think that sombreros demean Latinos, and thus it is out of public interest that white people be banned from using them, lest Latinos separate themselves from society. Whatever your ideology, even if you find your internal logic convincing, all your work is still ahead of you. It is just as important that your answers and reasoning not contradict those of your allies. In other words, if you want your views on justice to be actionable by the administration, there can be no room for ambiguity regarding cultural appropriation. Why? Because if ambiguity exists among intersectional social justice warriors, different administrations could render different verdicts on the same act committed by the same person.

Herein lies the failure with cultural appropriation and social justice rules. They are based on philosophies which leave too much room for disagreement and nuance. Ideally, punitive rules need to be based on some sort of provable harm upon which most people can agree. For example, starting a fire in your dorm. It is hard to philosophize over the benefits of one’s right to arson in a college setting. The problem is, when it comes to social justice, everyone is a philosopher. People disagree on cultural norms, ideas of oppression, and historical outlook. People disagree on what is offensive. People disagree on what should be censored. And no matter what you do, someone is going to be upset.

Look no further than the recent Ghostbusters reboot. The creators of that film sought to specifically pander to the SJW/intersectional movement. But not two minutes after the release of the trailer, they were inundated with criticism for stereotyping black women. They failed to please everyone and in doing so, pleased no one. Within the SJW community, a consensus can’t be reached on how and when to stifle speech, so how can someone implement appropriation rules without drawing friendly fire? The answer is you can’t, not without making enemies. So if you are insistent on rejecting universal rights, only one question remains for you: who do you trust to be the censor?

The students at Bowdoin are catastrophizing this incident. They have started a witch-hunt to find student leaders who attended the party and are serving them up as sacrificial lambs. They are slandering and attainting their peers in front of the world for the crime of stepping into the wrong party. Joseph McCarthy would be proud, but the rest of us should see this inquisition as the farce it is. The protests are underpinned by an intersectional philosophy which arbitrarily condemns practices as culturally appropriative. Let me remind you, that this is the school which, on the same night as the tequila party, held its annual “Cold War” party, in which students “appropriated” Soviet culture and dress. You tell me why one is OK and the other is not. You tell me how the denizens of the Soviet Union were privileged.

The college left has lost all semblance of the moral high ground. How can we denounce the authoritarianism of Donald Drumpf and in the same breath, call for the silencing of our fellow students? We can’t. Not after giving up our allegiance to liberalism in favor of sensitivity. And the tragic irony is, the movement doesn’t even care about diversity. Not in the abstract anyway. Taken to their logical conclusion, these philosophies of intersectionality remove all hope of cultural mixing, understanding, and love. They relegate us to our cultural sect along the cultural hierarchy and demand of us our freedoms in exchange for our obedience. This ideology is a gaping hole ready to take away the things we love unless we fight back. If anyone at Bowdoin is reading this, it’s not too late for the silent majority to take back the narrative. Repudiate the masochists and segregationists among you, and stand unapologetically in defense of free speech and universal human rights. And please, the next time you see someone dressed up like Pancho Villa, tell your friends to take a couple of deep breaths before they ruin America.

Leo catches a break

One of the most recognizable names in the movie industry is Leonardo DiCaprio. He has starred in many our generation’s most well known films like “Titanic,” “Romeo + Juliet,” “Inception,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and more. It may seem hard to believe that, before 2016, he had never won an Oscar.

Over a lifetime in the industry, DiCaprio has been nominated for 161 awards. Of those 161, six were Academy Award nominations. So this year’s best actor award for his performance in “The Revenant” was a long time coming.

All eyes were on him as he gave his acceptance speech. DiCaprio had to fit appreciation of a lifetime’s worth of supporters into the 45 seconds allotted for his speech. He began with the usual thanks to the cast and crew, naming actors and friends to whom he owed a part of his success.

DiCaprio took an unexpected turn with his speech at the end, as he spoke to the importance of supporting environmentalism. He said, “‘The Revenant’ was about man’s relationship with the natural world,” and he proceeded to talk more about global warming. He said that in the making of the movie, they had to go to extreme measures to find snow due to climate change. He specified that climate change is “the most urgent threat facing our entire species” and called to viewers that they must act fast to reverse damage we have done to the earth. Furthermore, he encouraged Americans to support political leaders who will work to accomplish this end.

Along with supporting leaders like Al Gore, who has spearheaded the global warming cause, DiCaprio has made many educational films about his cause and started his own foundation. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has been advocating for earth’s wildlife since 1998. It uses social media platforms, grant making programs, and public campaigning to inspire the masses to become invested in environmental issues. In addition, it backs political candidates who will prioritize environmental issues in their campaigns.

It may seem surprising that after waiting a lifetime to win an Academy Award, DiCaprio would spend time in his acceptance speech campaigning for a change in the mindsets of many who are not invested in his cause. However, after almost 20 years of being so committed to preserving the environment and making a movie set in such a place he has been determined to save, his acceptance speech is all the more relevant.

Reaching 34.4 million viewers this year, the Oscars award show is one of the most watched live television events every year, and the best actor award is the most anticipated and talked about awards of the night. In addition, DiCaprio was the talk of the show. Everyone wondered whether or not he would win his first Oscar and all were on the edge of their seats awaiting the answer to the question that had been on their lips for weeks: will Leo finally win? Knowing his speech was highly anticipated and being a truly devoted environmental activist, DiCaprio took the opportunity to hit the United States when they least expected it.

NASCAR? More like NASCAR-y

On Monday, February 29th, Brian France, the CEO of NASCAR, publicly announced his support for presidential candidate, Donald Drumpf. To some, this may not come as a surprise or be of much interest. However, as a resident of North Carolina, it really grabbed my attention. For those who don’t know, Concord, North Carolina—my hometown—is the location of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, the hometrack for NASCAR, and the majority of NASCAR teams are based in the area. Consequently, the culture of where I live is saturated with NASCAR’s influence. Unfortunately, along with racing culture comes misguided “Southern pride.” Driving by the racetrack every day I am home, I see Confederate flag after Confederate flag. As offensive as that is, it is only worsened by the knowledge that NASCAR, and the South as a whole, have a painful history of racism. By supporting Donald Drumpf, the CEO of NASCAR is doing nothing to heal those wounds.

NASCAR, as a corporation, has made significant efforts to increase diversity and ameliorate the racist history of the South. NASCAR has always been an overwhelmingly white male sport, but programs such as Drive for Diversity aim to increase inclusion of not just minority and female drivers, but owners, sponsors, and crew members. Obviously, the race issue isn’t fixed, but this is a step in the right direction. As for the Confederate flags, Brian France, himself, has spoken out about their presence at racetracks, calling them an “offensive symbol” and promising that “[NASCAR] will go as far as they can to eliminate [their] presence[…]”

Donald Drumpf, whose fear mongering policies not only target immigrants but encourage xenophobia, has, in the past, refused to repudiate support from the head of the KKK and only at the most recent Republican debate stated, “I totally disavow the Ku Klux Klan[…] I’ve been doing it now for two weeks.” So Donald Drumpf has rejected the KKK for a whole two weeks now, which means he is completely and totally Not Racist. Ironically, Drumpf, a man who has preached incessantly in favor of banning Muslim immigrants from our country out of fear of terrorism, has never acknowledged the fact that “white supremacist hate groups and other domestic anti-government organizations have killed more Americans inside the United States than the jihadists have, historically and during the so-called war on terror,” as CNN has reported. Even without considering Drumpf’s policies, his Twitter feed is full of gems including a graphic of completely fabricated statistics claiming that 81 percent of white victims of homicide are killed by black people. (In reality, 82 percent of white homicide victims are killed by other white people.) The graphic in question was originally posted on a neo-Nazi Twitter account.

Brian France should be able to support any candidate he wants, but by publicly supporting Drumpf, he is making a statement for NASCAR and, in popular perception, for all of the South. However, he is not alone. He’s another figure in a long string of celebrities in the sports world to publicly support the controversial candidate. This includes Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft, ESPN and Hall of Famer Mike Ditka, and professional wrestler Hulk Hogan. On the other hand, multiple NASCAR drivers and sponsors have announced or at least hinted at their disapproval of France’s statement. The point is, by publicly endorsing Drumpf, France is negating any attempt to make racing a more inclusive and diverse sport. Minority drivers cannot feel safe participating in an organization that collectively supports a candidate that actively threatens their well-being and that of their families.

Maine Caucus: Charming yet chaotic

Before the general election takes place, party nominees are selected through state primaries or caucuses, and are then allotted delegates based on their performance in these contests. Maine’s Democratic caucuses took place over this past weekend, on March 6, with Bernie Sanders earning 64.3 percent of votes to Hillary Clinton’s 35.5 percent. This resulted in a 15 to 7 delegate distribution to Bernie and Hillary, respectively. Attending a caucus for the first time, I was able to experience first-hand the somewhat inefficient yet traditional process of caucuses.

Caucuses are unique in that they are one of the few instances where politics become a part of public dialogue and conversation. No longer is the act of discussing politics openly a taboo topic. Nor is it like state primaries or elections, in that there is no private act of arriving, voting, and leaving. In this regard, caucuses appear to be a remnant of active participation in the process of democracy, ensuring that voices are heard and thoughts are exchanged. In theory, it would seem as though this sort of a tradition is a wonderful way to gauge a community’s political tendencies as well as partake in meaningful debate. However, in reality, the process is chaotic and cumbersome.

One signature aspect of the Maine caucuses, along with those of some other states, is that they are closed events, which means that individuals are required to be affiliated with the political party that is holding that primary or caucus event. Given that more Americans are not registered in either party than there are affiliated with either of the two parties, the majority of citizens are already not able to partake in the process. If they wish to, they must register and officially affiliate with a political party. Luckily, Maine allows same-day registration, allowing for people to switch party affiliations on the spot.

The majority of attendees at the Maine Democratic Caucus at Lewiston High School were first-time caucus-goers, a fact that was noted by a show of hands during a large communal gathering of all attendees. Following the convening of the caucus, a series of introductions, the caucus agenda, and brief candidate pitches, caucus-goers separate into their respective wards and what will then become their voting districts.

Slips of papers are handed out early in this process, asking for general information about the voter as well as an eventual choice of presidential candidate. Individuals in each ward separate for their preferred candidate, with those in the middle representing the uncommitted. A tally is taken, by hand of each and every vote, and are then confirmed. Followup pitches are presented by a representative of each side in two minutes to convince both uncommitted voters as well as those on another side, finally culminating in a final vote count and the allocation of delegates.

Overall, the process seems endless, and more importantly, it appears inefficient. While there is something incredibly refreshing about seeing democracy in action and seeing individuals respectfully talk to one another about politics, the process of actually casting votes and being counted is incredibly archaic.

Furthermore, the length of the entire process spans a few hours, something many working individuals may not be able to afford if they do not have that time off. Maine’s Democratic caucus turnouts across the state ended up being far more impressive than expected, with lines running for blocks outside the door in some locations, notably in Portland, resulting in an impromptu change of plans in which the caucus was transformed into a primary-style process.

In fact, Maine State Senator Justin Alfond already has plans to introduce a bill to change the state’s voting process back to primaries to promote efficiency. All in all, caucusing is a unique look into the ridiculousness that is the American political process; however, turning out to vote in a caucus or primary is a spectacle in and of itself, one certainly worth participating in if one has the ability to do so, and an important reminder of the significance of having your voice heard.

Behind the times: Bates Housing Lottery

Your chest is filled with panic as you’re struggling to hear each other over the deafening voices. You and your roommate look around in desperation as number after number is called before you and your worst-case scenario options disappear before your eyes. The megaphone blares with diminishing hope and you watch blueprint after blueprint get crossed off with a red Sharpie. If you have never been to the Bates housing lottery, especially with a low lottery number, this is akin to what it feels like.

Bates College often feels ahead of its time in many ways, but the housing process is not one of them. While the process at most other colleges is a civil, online procedure, Bates has not caught up with the times on this aspect. Each student in the entire school that is planning to live on campus at Bates is assigned a housing lottery number. The lottery numbers are randomly assigned by class, ranging from sophomores to seniors; incoming freshman are exempt from the process. Depending on your class year, you must report to Chase Hall at a specific time. The walls of Chase are filled with blueprints of every available campus house, and there are red slashes through the rooms that have already been taken.

Most juniors and seniors are granted a room that is close to what they would have ideally wanted, but sophomores arguably get the short straw. To be a sophomore and get the number one lottery number, you are actually closer to number 1001 in the whole school, as all the juniors and seniors pick before you. After about halfway through the sophomore numbers, roughly 275 out of 500, there is no more on campus housing available. These unlucky sophomores must wait all summer in the Summer Housing process before discovering their living situation. I was number 265. My roommate and I got the last possible on campus double before the cutoff for summer housing.

While the lottery numbers may seem like a reasonable way of sorting out housing, the process of picking the room is not. There is little civility in Chase Hall on the evening of room picking, and anxiety certainly reigns. The biggest problem with the Bates housing lottery is that there is no way to have a plan before going into the event. You may have a list of your top twenty rooms that you want, and when they all disappear, what are you supposed to do next? Suddenly you’re blind in finding a room, not being familiar with the house or the room size or the closet space. Students are not given a chance to see the room in person as they are forced to make a decision on the spot. Friend groups are often split up as plans are thrown to the wind in the process.

One way that Bates has circumvented friends getting split up during this chaotic procedure is through suite lottery, themed houses, and block housing. These options allow friend groups to pick out whole chunks of Bates housing together, excusing them from the entire room-picking process. However, this is the only way to ensure that you will live in the same building as a friend. Every year students leave the housing lottery frustrated and disconcerted, voicing concerns of their distaste of the process. One wonders when Bates will switch to a more civil, electronic means of picking rooms or whether they will even switch at all.

On the death of Antonin Scalia and political decency

During the early hours of February 13th, Justice Antonin Scalia passed away, marking the death of both the longest-serving justice on the Supreme Court as well as the most conservative. Given that the bench of justices is now at an even 4-4 split between those who are “fairly liberal” and “fairly conservative,” the nomination of the next justice is believed to be the determining factor on upcoming cases on immigration, abortion, birth control, unions, redistricting, affirmative action, climate change and more.

The unexpected death of Justice Scalia only adds fuel to the ongoing fire of the current presidential race, with candidates already having anticipated that they would likely be appointing if not one, but a few justices to the Court; however, none of them could have anticipated it happening this fast. But it’s very possible that the Court will not see a full bench for a while.

Moments after the death of Justice Scalia, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had already promised to block anyone President Obama tries to nominate. Every single GOP candidate has backed McConnell’s decision, defying their otherwise sacred regard for the Constitution, which explicitly states that the President will nominate Justices of the Supreme Court by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. Overtly refusing to consider anyone the President nominates seems to be an act of premature and hypocritical defiance of their Constitutional duties. Both Democratic candidates have expressed support for President Obama and disdain for the GOP’s attempt to dismiss any nominee.

The hypocrisy doesn’t only extend to the entire political party, but seems to exist even on a personal level for some of these individuals, who seem to change their views whenever it is most politically expedient. Senator Mitch McConnell said in 2005, “The President, and the President alone, nominates judges,” and Cruz calling for a “referendum on the Supreme Court.”

The rhetoric being used is that the American people ought to have a say in who they decide to be their next Supreme Court Justice by electing a president that represents their values. This is all fine and good, except for one small caveat: we already elected one. Twice. And it would seem that his Constitutional responsibilities in his job description include appointing Supreme Court Justices, even if it does happen in the rare case of an election year cycle, which has happened already 17 times in the past. This is not unprecedented. This is obtuse stubbornness.

Despite the inevitable roadblock known as Congress, President Obama has pledged to try to appoint a justice; many believe as of now that the President will name Sri Srinivasan. Yet instead of the president appointing a new justice, one party has chosen to take whatever measures apparently possible to delay the process and frighten the general public into thinking that politicians know what’s best for them.

One needn’t go any further than Ted Cruz’s recent remarks regarding the implications of a new Supreme Court Justice. “We are one justice away from the Supreme Court concluding that nobody in this room and no American has an individual right to keep and bear arms. We are one justice away from the Supreme Court striking down every restriction on abortion, and mandating unlimited abortion on demand, up until the time of birth, partial birth, with taxpayer funding, and no parental notification whatsoever. We are one justice away from the Supreme Court ordering veterans memorials torn down all over this country if they contain any acknowledgement of God Almighty.”

Scalia’s untimely death in the midst of one of the ugliest and most unusual presidential races in recent memory leaves a lot in the air and only further reveals the gaps in American democracy. And it is entirely possible that this cumbersome process of successfully appointing a successor will only leave Americans even more upset and disillusioned with their government, and will thereby potentially prevoke even more anti-establishment sentiment in this upcoming election.

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