The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Christina Perrone (Page 2 of 3)

Hearth Brings out Bates’ Heart

On Thursday, Jan. 18, Bates students gathered at the home of Brittany Longsdorf, Bates’s Multifaith Chaplain, to participate in Hearth, a dinner event centered around discussion and engaged silence. This week’s Hearth included queries based on the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. and spicy drunken noodles. Those at the gathering separated into small discussion groups to discuss this week’s topics. Conversations were lightly guided by Multifaith Fellows, but overall were unstructured and freeform.

In this relaxed “hygge” atmosphere, complete with scented candles, soft lighting and comfortable furniture, students felt free to express what made them passionate or angry or fierce. What made this event stand apart from lunch discussions with friends, was the exposure to silence. Seldom do we have social interactions in our modern age with silence present. Often we feel pressured to fill those awkward gaps in conversations, removing the sense of intimacy contained in silence between people. Students could momentarily forget about the pressures of work, school, or friends hanging over them and could be present to hear the voices of others.

After the queries were over, students rejoined and talked with one another before returning across the street to Bates’s campus. Alexis Hudes ‘20, a frequent visitor at Hearth, explained what initially brought her to it: “When I was at the beginning of my freshman year, I was sort of dragged along by some upperclassmen on the frisbee team and I just fell in love with the small community and the good food, the opportunity to get off campus and engage in a really different kind of conversation than I get to have in my day-to-day life at school.” Jin Wei ‘20 added that, “Being at Hearth offers me this opportunity to find the balance of social and calm states of mind.”
Prior to being the co-coordinator of Hearth, Sara Moradi, ‘20 said, “I had a pretty rough freshman year and I found myself very ungrounded and lost.” What initially excited her about working at Hearth was how welcoming the space was: “I loved how open students were with each other, students that they really didn’t even know that well. I thought that that was really important.” She continued, “I like fostering a space where people can just come and feel at home and out of the Bates Bubble that we normally are stuffed into.”

One of Moradi’s favorite queries was earlier this school year, “There was one time earlier last semester, it was like really stressful—I think it was during midterms—and we made it about the seasons.” Moradi went on to explain that the first query is a lighter question and the second one tends to be deeper. “For that particular Hearth, the deeper question was ‘What grounds you?’ For me, that grounding comes from Sufism, the chaplaincy, and Hearth, and all the programs that I attend. It’s cool to hear how different spaces around campus do that for other students that are going through the same things like anxiety or just the pressure of being at Bates,” said Moradi.

In the other room, Longsdorf spoke amongst other Hearth goers. “Hearth has existed in a couple different forms at Bates for a while,” said Longsdorf. “But the real brainstorm behind the query-centered Hearth that we have now was from Emily Wright, who was the Multifaith Chaplain before me, so I inherited this beautiful program, and have loved to continue it and grow it in some small way.”
Over the years, Longsdorf has collected a couple queries that have meant a lot to her, “We had a query early on which was like ‘what was a time when you experienced childlike wonder?’ and I think that one’s really stuck with me and one that I think about a lot.” She paused to think for a moment, then continued, “Then, last semester we had one that was ‘when do you feel full?” Some people talked about food, some people talked about wholeness, about when they feel peace, and some people talked about meaningful moments in their lives…The ways you could interpret it were really cool.”

What’s the secret behind Hearth? “I just think it’s a special thing,” expressed Longsdorf. “I am just so touched to see my hallway filled with shoes every Hearth,” she laughed, “like there are few things that make me happier than that, so yeah I really love it, wouldn’t change it.”

Dr. Na’ilah Suad Nasir Delivers MLK Keynote Speech

On Monday, January 15 Bates College invited Dr. Na’ilah Suad Nasir, President of the Spencer Foundation, to give the Bates MLK Day Keynote Address, “The Education Imperative: Dreaming a New Public Education Dream.”

In the beginning of her speech, Dr. Nasir discussed this year’s theme of “Power, Politics, and Privilege: Resistance to and through Education,” stating that, “this theme captures a core conundrum of education that can be a site of social reproduction and a site of resistance. It is a place where power, politics, and privilege play out in and are reified, and is a key site of political struggle.”

In organizing her speech, she addressed four pressing challenges for the education system and how they might be handled. Her first pressing challenge was what she called “Disinvestment in Education as a Public Good.” In this portion of the talk she stated the ways in which society has shifted its collective opinion on the public education system, from being a public good to being a private good that can be exploited by families to achieve access to resources and wealth.

According to Dr. Nasir, “This shift is not unrelated to the continuing privatization of public schools, the rise of charter schools, and the massive push for accountability as measured by standardized test scores. Because the accountability movement shifted the lens away from more nuanced and deep measures of learning, to more superficial ones. It also commodified learning by grading schools, creating the context by which the public came to see schools as a resource to be mined for personal gain.”

Part of the efficacy of Dr. Nasir’s talk was incorporating how Dr. King would have dealt with the current state of our educational system. In her speech, she revived Dr. King’s vision of an integrated education system and its central aim of healing a society torn by racism and segregation.

“[The integration movement] was about the kind of society we’d have if black children and white children attended school together,” said Dr. Nasir, “The hope was that the proximity would create a society where the next generation didn’t ascribe to the racist ideals and beliefs as their parents. The challenge of course, was the way in which integration was enacted, because the first thing that happened after Brown v. Board of Education was enacted…was that all of the black teachers were fired.” Not only did this destabilize the socio-economic mobility of African Americans, but it heavily impeded the quest of truly healing society as a whole.

Another pressing challenge that Dr. Nasir identified in her speech is the resegregation of schools. In her own words, “The resegregation of schools is deeply troubling, not so much because of the symbolic investments in integration, but because segregation gives rise to funding and other resource differentials.” She traced this phenomenon of an increasing shift towards resegregation in schools to residential segregation and the policies and practices made to ensure that African Americans were denied resources like the G.I. Bill and F.A.J. loans to buy homes in affluent neighborhoods and school districts.

Dr. Nasir spent the third portion of her speech analyzing the devastating consequences of school discipline and the school-to-prison pipeline. She gave the statistic, “Black students are suspended and expelled at three times the rate of white students. They make up 16 percent of school enrollment but account for 32 percent of suspensions and 34 percent of expulsions. Black students are arrested more and are referred to law enforcement more.”

To end her speech, Dr. Nasir talked about the importance of creating a loving environment in the classroom, stating that it is “important because students cannot learn where they are not loved.” Creating a loving atmosphere in the education system leads to a broader message that came across in Dr. Nasir’s speech: cultivating change from a place of hope and vision. She appealed for us to be visionaries, “to think together about what we can create, not simply about what needs to be dismantled.”

In other words, the key to solving the pressing challenges we face in improving the education system as well as society as a whole is excavating and healing.” As Dr. Nasir said, “From the inner elements of patriarchy, racism, militarism, and white supremacy that we have taken in and we have to find ways to make this research impactful, to reach and influence policy makers and practitioners so that policy and practice are determined in relation to evidence.”

Understanding Net Neutrality

It’s t-minus 10 minutes before you need to send an essay in through Gmail and at the least convenient time you see the dreaded wheel of death. You may try to use a different search engine, to little or no avail. You may try to restart the computer, but that doesn’t fix the problem. So what is it that is eating our internet speeds?

In 2003, Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia, penned the term “net neutrality.” It is the principle that internet traffic should be treated equally. Internet traffic is the amalgamation of data and files sent over the internet, these include emails, video files and music files—basically anything requiring broadband. The case of net neutrality argues that Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) including broadband providers like Comcast and mobile carriers like T-Mobile cannot cherry pick which content you’re able to access. For instance, AT&T cannot legally slow down Netflix speeds so that you have to pay extra for their television network package. Without net neutrality, platforms like Facebook and Snapchat, would not be able to compete in the market against bigger social networks and apps.

This is where the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) comes in. Under the Communications Act of 1943, signed into law by FDR, the FCC was born in order to regulate interstate and foreign commerce in communication by wire and radio. According to the FCC’s 2008 Performance and Accountability Report, the FCC works towards six strategic goals: “Broadband, Competition, Spectrum, Media, Public Safety, Homeland Security, and Modernizing the commission.”

For the most part, regardless of political inclinations, Americans are in overwhelming support of net neutrality.

But in recent years, net neutrality has been under attack. The figurehead of the opposition is Ajit Pai, the chairman of the FCC. Pai was appointed into office during the Obama Administration, and was appointed to Chairman during the Trump Administration. Before joining the FCC, he was a lawyer for Verizon.

On May 18, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission took the first formal step toward dismantling the net neutrality rules. On December 14, the FCC will vote on Pai’s “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposal, which would reclassify internet service — now considered a Title II “utility” — as an “information service.” If passed, this proposal would end the 2015 net neutrality policy brought into law under the Obama Administration and give ISPs more power over what their customers do on the internet and how they access it.

This proposal has brought a huge backlash of criticism. Matt Ameduri ’19 says on the proposal, “I feel like it’s pretty stupid that our regulatory agency is deciding this. It could potentially have huge consequences to the entire nation’s internet infrastructure.”

Yet the burden falls on Republicans to insure that this act is not passed. So far, only our own senator Susan Collins, (R-Maine) is the only Republican member of Congress who has opposed Pai’s plan against net neutrality.

All of this has reached a pinnacle with the recent AT&T merger with Time Warner Cable, which for all economics majors out there is a run-of-the-mill vertical merger.

Typically, vertical mergers go by unscathed, as they do not reduce competition. However, on November 21, the Department of Justice sued the $85 billion merger. This occurred the same week in which FCC unveiled the proposal to overturn net neutrality rules.

In a New York Times article titled “Justice Department Sues to Block AT&T-Time Warner Merger” authors Cecilia Kang and Michael J. de la Merced put the situation as follows, “[e]ven as one government agency looks to constrain the growth of AT&T, the nation’s largest pay-TV company and one of its largest internet providers, another is working to unshackle broadcast and telecom companies from rules its staff says are burdensome.”

 

Colombia’s Future Told through Journalism

Photojournalist Christian Escobar Mora came to Bates on November 9 to present his work covering the nation of Colombia’s five decade-long internal conflict. Escobar Mora was born in the capital, Bogota, and has been published in publications such as National Geographic, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times.

The Colombian conflict is anything but simple. It has involved indigenous people, farmers who grow coca plants, left-wing guerrilla groups, right-wing paramilitary groups, and the Colombian military and government.

“I really think that it’s important, as a photojournalist, that I can talk with people about the conflict in Colombia. Today in the morning, an older woman asked me, ‘Why do you come back to Colombia if it has all this conflict?’” Escobar Mora responded, “‘Because of my wife, because of my country, and because it is the most important thing for me to talk about the conflict and show the conflict to people who think the war is at an end.’”

“In 2012,” he continued, “Colombia was in the midst of a very deep conflict. After the 1990s when all the drug cartels lead by Pablo Escobar were upturned, towns and cities were continually attacked by all kinds of groups. There was a lot of poverty, a lot of need.” He then showed a photo of a woman with an ectopic pregnancy. The hospital took 70 days to come to her aid, and while waiting, she died.

“FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, this year is 53 years old. It is the oldest guerrilla group in Latin America,” continued Escobar Mora flipping the photo slide. “This is a house damaged by a car bomb by the FARC, one and a half hours from my house.” During their reign, FARC used car bombs, cylinder bombs, and other kinds of homemade explosives on the civilian population.

Some of the key players in the Colombian conflict are the farmers, according to Escobar Mora: “Coca leaf growers are regular farmers who have regular farms. There are places in Colombia where you don’t pay with pesos or dollars, you pay with coca grams. So if you want a cup of coffee, you ask how many grams [of coca].”

A huge part of the conflict is that no one can tell if someone else is indigenous, a guerrilla, a paramilitary member, or in the army. “To the army, I’m a guerilla soldier, for the guerrillas I am a soldier, to the indigenous people I’m either a soldier or a guerilla soldier, and to my girlfriend, I’m perfect,” joked Escobar Mora.

The police and military are supposed to protect people in the town and surrounding areas, but in situations involving cocaine, those lines are so thin that the authorities and the outlaws are basically indistinguishable. Once the Colombian army changed their uniform, the guerrillas soon after put on the same attire, causing countless casualties due to confusion. According to Escobar Mora, “you can buy military uniforms in stores and no one will ask you if you are member of the military.”

Next, Escobar Mora showed a slide of a woman whose house was burning behind her. The army had told Escobar Mora that they had burnt her house because they saw a guerrilla walk passed it. “Whenever the military comes to town, the FARC comes in with their homemade weapons to attack and end up killing civilians accidentally,” he elaborated.

The root of the conflict stems down to territorial disputes; farmers encroach the land of the indigenous people to grow drugs such as coca and marijuana. “So the indigenous people say that the farmers own all the land and the farmers accuse the indigenous people that they have all the land and don’t use most of it. The indigenous people don’t like the farmers or the black people. The farmers like neither the indigenous people nor the black people. The black people don’t like the indigenous people or the farmers. The state doesn’t like anybody.”

When President Santos was re-elected in 2014, he started a strong campaign to initiate the peace process that came into effect in 2016. During the talks, some guerrilla leaders were killed and FARC continued to kill indigenous people. Eventually, FARC ordered a unilateral cease fire to celebrate the Christmas season.

However, Escobar Mora worries that the conflict is not over, as other guerrilla groups like the ELN (National Liberation Army) have recently sprung up. For now, no one knows what the future will hold.

 

The Value of Medical Skepticism in Psychiatry

On Thursday November 2, 2017 the Bates philosophy department sponsored a talk by Kathryn Tabb, an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University.

Tabb has recently been studying John Locke’s theories on medical explanation, which she calls “early modern medical skepticism.” Tabb has found that his line of skepticism applies to today’s times.

The equivalent of anatomy, according to Locke, is walking in the woods when one is supposed to make a map of an entire landscape. In getting caught up in the details like the location of certain trees and rocks, it is impossible to get a general sense of the landscape.

“So if you’re thinking about mental illness,” started Tabb, “and if you think it’s not going to do you any good to look at what the blood is doing or what the cells are doing, or what the nerves are doing, what are you going to think about? You’re going to think about experience.”

Indeed, Tabb believes that knowledge should be a means, not an end, in medicine. After researching Locke and his contemporary, Thomas Sydenham, Tabb opined that “there’s what looks like an abyss of causal explanation underlying diseases. We just can’t know much about what causes disease, but… we can still get somewhere with curing diseases if we look at the clinical picture.”

In the proceeding section of the talk, she was mainly concerned about how the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has influenced clinical research. The DSM is a manual for clinicians to diagnose patients with mental illnesses. It is also the same tool that researchers use when researching psychiatric phenomena. Tabb sees this as a cause for concern.

“We only think of mental illnesses in the categories we get in the DSM, but a lot of people suffer in terms of their mental health and are below the threshold for a diagnosis that is in the DSM…This is a problem for the clinic, but it is also really a problem for research, because it means researchers are only researching a small percentage of the population,” explained Tabb.

Tabb went further to argue that the DSM has become something like an epistemic prison, since it constrains both the knowledge we can acquire about mental illness and the kind of inquiry we can do. As a result of this, people in multiple medical fields have looked to alternative ways of diagnosing illnesses.

“There are a lot of general categories of disease,” Tabb continued, “and for many of those categories we know how to help people. We know that a combination of drugs and talk therapy is helpful for a large percentage of the human population. A lot of people aren’t getting those services.”

So what to do? Per Tabb, “The NIMH, the National Institution of Mental Health, thinks we should get rid of the clinical categories and just do the basic science. And the hope is that then cures will come out of that, and on the basis of those cures we can draw new diagnostic categories.”

Tabb believed this to be a step in the wrong direction. For her, there is no one thing that we can target when it comes to psychiatry. Mental illnesses usually stem from a plethora of causes including environment and genetics.

According to Tabb, the best approach to using the big data that the NIMH has collected so far is through the process that Locke and Sydenham came up with centuries ago: “You think about the nature of the disorder, you think about what it is you want to cure, what are the needs that people have, and then you use that to think about what sort of questions scientists should think about asking when they use these massive data sets.”

Hopefully, through this approach, we can help expand the realm of possibilities in psychiatry.

 

 

A Public Health Policy Discussion at Bates

On Tuesday, October 25, healthcare experts Hilary Schneider ’96 and Erin Guay came to Bates college to talk about public health policy debates taking place within the Lewiston Community. The talk was the second in the “Theory In Practice” series this year, sponsored by the Harward Center.

The talk began with Peggy Rotundo, the Director of Strategic and Policy Initiatives at the Harward Community Center. “The purpose of this series is to provide people with the opportunity to learn more about some of the important policy-debates that are taking place in the US Congress, the Maine State House, and in state-level communities,” said Rotundo.

The first speaker was Erin Guay, a Bowdoin graduate and the executive director of Healthy Androscoggin, a non-profit here in Lewiston. “Essentially our job is to look at the community’s health needs and to try to fulfill them,” started Guay. “We are 95% grant funded and because of that we can’t do quite as much lobbying work as we’d like to.”

Healthy Androscoggin has five main issues that pertain to the Lewiston-Auburn community: childhood lead poisoning, physical activity promotion, healthy eating, substance abuse, and tobacco. They approach legislators as educators, not as lobbyists, since it is illegal for a nonprofit to lobby legislators. Guay went on to list two of the recent bills Healthy Androscoggin has worked on in the past year. Per Guay, “the first one is LD 1542, which is an act to support lead abatement in older residential properties.”

Lewiston-Auburn has one of the highest childhood lead poisoning rates in the state of Maine. In 2008, the rate for L/A was three times the state rate, but over the past eight years there has been a 32 percent decrease in childhood lead poisoning. Guay added, “for those who don’t know, the reason why we have such a huge lead problem is because we have old housing in Lewiston-Auburn. It creates a real problem for our community because the lowest income folks tend to live in the housing that’s in the poorest quality. Our refugees and immigrants tend to move into those properties and then try to find a way out.”

Guay went on to summarize the bill that she worked on to prevent this issue. The idea behind the bill is to create revenue so that the Maine State Housing Authority can provide funding to municipalities with the highest rates of lead poisoning. With the proper funding, landlords can address lead issues on their properties.

After Guay, Schneider spoke about how she became the current Director of Government Relations for the American Cancer Society Action Network in Maine.

“Basically, I landed in this world of advocacy and policy by accident. I wanted to move back to Maine and was just looking for any job where I could use my policy and economics background,” said Schneider. Since landing in Maine, she has been working on access to care advocacy.

“So when I started at the Cancer Action Network,” Schneider continued, “I basically started after they enacted the Affordable Care Act… you may not know this, but [the ACA] was modeled after health reform that was done in Maine years ago under what was known as Dirigo Health. So Maine was the first state in the nation that passed a piece of universal health care legislation.”

“Part of my job in the state is to help teach people whose lives have been impacted by cancer with how they can enact policies. Largely how we view our role as is putting a face on these issues so that lawmakers aren’t just looking at legislation in an ivory tower,” Schneider said.

Schneider put it best when she said that “access to healthcare should not be a partisan issue. Everybody, regardless of what party, gets impacted by something. One in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime.”

For anyone interested in becoming more active in current public health policy debates, Peggy Rotundo encourages those interested to come to her office at the Harward Center. The issue of healthcare will also be on the ballot this Election Day, November 7 with Question 2, which would require Maine to expand Medicaid.

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Public health is an issue all Bates student are affected by. CHRISTINA PERRONE/THE BATES STUDENT

 

Slavery in the New England Colonies

On Thursday, October 5, Bates held its annual Andrews Lecture in the Muskie Archives. This year, Wendy Warren, an assistant professor of History at Princeton University and the recent author of New England Bound, came to deliver a speech on slavery in the New England colonies.

“This is her first book,” began Professor Joseph Hall of Bates, “but what a book! It has won The Organization of American Historians Merle Curti Social History Prize, it has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, a finalist for the Berkshire Conference Book Prize and also a finalist for the Harriet Tubman Prize…”

Warren started her talk with an account from 1638 in Massachusetts: “a young English man named John Johnson embarked on a tour of New England, on a sort of fact-finding mission for potential investors back home in England. He was a young man on what we might now call a gap year,” to which the audience giggled.

In the account, Samuel Maverick, a wealthy New England colonist, had a female African slave who was formerly a queen in her country. She came to Johnson one morning grievingly singing in her native tongue. When Johnson came to Mr. Maverick to ask what the matter was with her, Maverick explained that he wanted to create a “breed of negroes” and had her raped by another slave.

“So people often want to know how I came to write this book,” said Warren, “and the answer to that is because of this woman, I started the project for a more humanistic and moral reason, because I had read about a woman who was grieved, who was upset, and alone and scared, and it can be hard to read about people like that as an historian and not upset yourself. And so I decided that I would try to understand why she was in Boston and why nobody knew who she was.”

Indeed, characters came and disappeared in the archives. Warren never found out what happened to Samuel Maverick’s slave woman, as she was never mentioned again. Her story as a slave in New England is part of a collective of stories of uprooted peoples in colonial America. It has been estimated that as many as two thousand enslaved Africans lived in the New England Colony by 1720.

“So what did enslaved people do in New England?” asked Warren. “Bizarrely, they did the same labor as English colonists in the seventeenth century. I find it quite startling that this system could take someone from a home in West Africa, uproot them, violently transport them to the Caribbean and then to New England, and then place them to work doing the most mundane tasks…they ran warehouses, they were apprentices to cobblers, they baked, they farmed. They also did the work of colonization: they cleared land, they participated in military battles, they made way for English settlement. They were, we might say, coerced colonists caught in a violent process of abduction and exploitation.”

Another prominent case in Warren’s book was the case of John Juan in the New Haven Colony. Juan wanted to leave New England for New York to join his countrymen once his master, his master’s wife, and his own wife died in the same year. In order to leave, he had to sell the land and house that his master had given to him, but no one wanted to buy it and urged him to live in that home for the rest of his days.

“But next we come to the almost direct words of an enslaved man who had spent, by this point, more than thirty years in New Haven,” said Warren near the end of her talk. “Juan said, ‘if he should be sick, nobody would comfort him and therefore, he would sell it and go to his country folks.’”

“What can be said about such a human desire, so heartbreaking, so familiar, so similar to the grief felt by so many uprooted people who found themselves marooned in strange environments surrounded by strange people,” concluded Warren. “An old man, Juan looked around New Haven and saw no community, underscoring the loneliness a slave could feel in New England and the psychic toll that isolation can take.”

Ultimately, as has been seen with so many other annals of American history lately, Warren’s work is about recognizing past injustices and giving them a human face.

Mindfulness and Relationships at Bates

Heiku Jaime McLeod came to Commons on Friday, September 29 to give a talk titled “Mindfulness & Relationships.” McLeod is a priest in the Soto Zen tradition and is the Buddhist Chaplain at Bates. The talk was the first Mindfulness Lunch of the year. These lunches are a collaboration between the Multifaith Chaplaincy and the Bates Wellness Program. McLeod has been practicing meditation and mindfulness for 15 years and became an officially sanctioned teacher over a year ago.

For anyone in the community interested in practicing mindfulness or meditation, the Bates Dharma Society holds daily 20 minute sits. For those interested in the Soto Zen tradition, McLeod holds Zen services every Tuesday night at 7 PM.

“I am married, I’m queer I should say”, she told the crowd. “I have a wife, Melissa. We’ve been together for sixteen years. We’ve been legally married since 2014, which was shortly after gay marriage became legal in Maine. We have a young son, Silas, who’s fifteen months old and we’ve got a second baby on the way in April! My wife would be very surprised to find out that I’m talking about relationships,” McLeod laughed, “because I think that a lot of the time, people idealize spiritual teachers and think that they must have it all figured out. But the truth is, I piss my wife off daily.” At this, the audience chuckled.

Typically, Buddhism isn’t the first thing that comes up when thinking about relationships. As McLeod stated, the archetypal Buddhist we think of is somebody who is either living in a monastic community or off as a hermit in a mountainous area.

Buddhism does not exactly have a good track record with relationships. The Buddha (also known as Siddhartha Gautama) famously left his wife and newborn child in pursuit of enlightenment.

“A practice like that was very much normalized at the time,” said McLeod. She elaborated that is was considered a noble thing to do since it was seen as a higher calling. McLeod added that she thinks “it’s only been within the last fifty years or so that anyone has really looked at that and thought … ‘How can this tradition reconcile with followers who do want families, who want to try to mix being a householder with practicing mindfulness in a very earnest way?’”

Another reason people do not associate relationships with Buddhism is the word ‘Detachment.’

To McLeod, “detachment was something that really held me back from wanting to become a Buddhist when I first started studying it. I had this idea from high school and college religion courses that Buddhism is about becoming detached from your emotions, detached from all your desires and living in this sort of robotic cloud. I didn’t want anything to do with that.”

This belief was quickly dispelled when McLeod met her first Soto Zen teacher while living in Pittsburgh, PA. For McLeod, “she was an incredibly warm person and very candid about the fact that she loved things and had preferences.”

“What we do ask, or what we point to, is the possibility of ‘non-clinging’”, said McLeod, “which is very different from non-attachment. Instead of saying, ‘I don’t care about this, I’m not emotional about this, I’m cutting myself off from having human desires’, what non-clinging means is that we are free to love the things that we love as they are, and not in a selfish way.”

McLeod continued by adding that “if we can realize that desires exist, have compassion for ourselves for having those desires, but then allow ourselves to set free the object of our desires, then that’s what I think can be a truer form of love. That is love that is about the beloved, and not about my own needs, my own desires, my own affections.”

McLeod concluded her talk on mindfulness and relationships with the advice that “thinking everything the world has to fall in line with our wants needs and desires is what causes all the suffering in the world.”

 

Commonality Through Unity

From Friday, September 22 to Sunday 24, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) held its 40th Common Grounds Fair in Unity, Maine. The MOFGA was formed in 1971 and is the oldest and largest state organic organization in the country.

Hundreds of people complete the pilgrimage to the Common Grounds fair each year to show support for small businesses that commit to sustainable, organic products. All products have to be produced and made in Maine, with the one exception being coffee, since it cannot be grown in this climate. Recently MOFGA began to accept coffee only if it was roasted in Maine.

Perhaps one of the most popular stands belonged to the Beehive Collective, an artist community that designs giant, intensely researched posters to advocate for various causes. The latest project of the Collective was the third installation in its anti-globalization trilogy. The campaign focuses on Mesoamerica’s rich history of resistance against the mega-development infrastructure of the Plan Mesoamerica project.

Jesse Saffeir ’20 worked with the Beehive Collective over the summer in Machias, Maine: “I made a digital archive of all their research and sketches for their latest graphic project. So the project took ten years to make and they compiled six binders of research and 500 sketches to go into it. I had to organize it all and take pictures of it,” she laughed.

In addition to the stands, the Common Grounds Fair offered talks and demonstrations on a sundry of topics, including Agricultural Demonstrations, Compost and Recycling, and Folk Art. One Country Kitchen Demonstration ended up going on a long, rather passionate tangent about medical marijuana uses.

The crafts area mainly consisted of three tents filled to the brim with crafts and folk art. One of the local businesses named Siena’s Maine Design Skowhegan Handwovens sold crocheted hippopotamuses. Susan Blaisdell has been running her business for five years.

“Heirloom crochet that just can be loved for years and years,” began Blaisdell, “It’s also ‘eco;’ I’m trying to focus on sustainable wool from Maine and just lovable works of art basically.” Blaisdell sells her products on Etsy and even teaches crochet tutorials on Youtube.

One of her most popular products was the “Happy Hippopotamuses,” designed by Heidi Bears. Her pattern can be found on Ravelry. “I crochet them with a worsted weight — all wool and yarn — and this yarn,” she points to the plump hippo, “comes from Bartlett yarns, so it’s right here in Maine,” said Blaisdell.

Another popular destination was Mooarhill Farm & Greenhouses, a business ran by Michele and John Pino. Large bushels of sweet annie and dried bouquets of flowers sold at Mooarhill farm were a staple good for seasoned fair goers.

“I like to have reminders of the garden through the long winter months,” said Michele Pino. “And those flowers that are there,” she pointed at the huge truck of flowers,  “the sweet annie, the celosia, and the amaranth— which is what quinoa comes from— will dry really beautifully. They darken up a little bit, but you can hang them upside down and dry them and make a swag or do whatever you want and you can have them in your house all winter. And then come spring when you can get fresh flowers again, you can just discard them. Actually the sweet annie will smell until next year’s fair.”

Mooarhill farm has earned its reputation over the years. According to Pino, “I’ve been doing this fair ever since it was in Litchfield was when it first started. The MOFGA used to have to rent fairgrounds before they owned this property. So originally, back in the 70’s it was in Litchfield, and then they outgrew Litchfield pretty quickly and they went to the Windsor fairgrounds for years and then they purchased this land…” she thought for a second, “maybe it was the early 90’s when they bought this piece of land and started developing it. I’ve come to the fair all those years, very long time.”

It is quite suitable that the fair took place in Unity, Maine. The atmosphere was safe, friendly, and full of good-will. Vendors were experts in their fields and eagerly shared their passion for their craft to fair goers. Many Batesies, after going to the fair for the first time this year, decided that they would like to take on a future in farming, and even sell their own craft at the beautiful Common Grounds Fair in the upcoming years.

Three Girls Discuss Life as Muslims in Maine

On Thursday, September 7th the Multifaith Chaplaincy offered a field trip to The SPACE Gallery in Portland, ME to hear a panel discussion on the photography exhibit “Life as a Muslim Girl in Maine.” The talk featured several of the exhibit participants who discussed their thoughts, stories, and perspectives on life as Muslim girls in our state.

The three participants all came from different backgrounds and experiences. On the right sat Tabarek Kadhim, a junior at Deering High School in Portland where she plays track and tennis. Tabarek was born in Iraq, but spent most of her life in Jordan before coming to Maine.

In the middle sat Bilan Mohamed, a junior at Deering High School. Bilan was born in Maine to Somali parents. After graduating high school, she looks to pursue a career in medicine.

On the left was Maryam Hameed from Iraq. Maryam is a junior at Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS) and hopes to become a master plumber. Afterwards she aspires to join the Portland police force.

The talk was moderated by Sarah Schmitt, a religion and history teacher at Deering who worked closely with the girls for the exhibit.

“I’m going to begin with Bilan,” started Schmitt. “What are some of the most memorable times or questions that you’ve heard with regards to being a Muslim woman?”

Bilan chuckled, “I was at my cousin’s birthday party and I heard a little girl say, ‘Is she bald under there?’ I found this really funny, so I turned around, and the girl was automatically embarrassed … [But] asking questions is how we can understand each other.”

“Yeah, I’ve gotten a lot of memorable questions,” Tabarek started emphatically. “I’m on the tennis team and I practice [while] wearing my black hijab … So, I was at practice and [a girl came up to me] saying, ‘It’s so sunny outside, how can you even try to wear that hijab? Oh my gosh, I feel bad for you.’”

“Okay, I get the fact that you feel bad for me,” Tabarek said, “But I don’t feel bad for myself. If you’re going to ask me why I wear this hijab, I can give you a perfect answer. Saying that you feel bad for me feels disrespectful.”

A large portion of the talk revolved around the theme of how culture plays a role in Islam. One example is the hijab. Per Maryam, “[The Quran] doesn’t say ‘wear a hijab’ at all. It says ‘dress modestly.’ But then people started wearing a headwrap and it continued on from there … Dressing modestly [became] wearing the hijab.”

Of course, cultures differ greatly across all countries. Tabarek discussed how American culture has influenced her wardrobe: “I’ve lived in Jordan, and I don’t wear a long abaya … My mom wears an abaya, but I do not.” In conservative Muslim regions, it is custom for women to wear abayas or long loose dresses.

Another example of culture influence for Tabarek is makeup: “I wear makeup. Some people don’t like it, some people don’t wear it. In some cultures makeup is forbidden because in Islam it’s not so good to show your beauty. The purpose of the hijab is to cover up your beauty and let people judge you for the inside.”

Maryam also found American culture shaped the way she dresses. “There’s wearing jeans.” At this, she pointed at her own pair. “They show the shape of your legs — but they’re like, super comfortable! If I wore this in Iraq right now, people would be calling me out in the streets, calling me an s-word, ‘slut’ … But it’s still modest because I’m covering up my skin.”

Schmitt then asked, “A lot of people perceive Islam as being oppressive towards women, restricting women’s actions, beliefs, behaviors …Would anyone want to speak more to that?”

“Before the Prophet’s time is called ‘Jāhilīyyah’ or a time of ignorance,” answered Bilan, “People were practicing killing female children by putting pebbles over them and women couldn’t own property. After the prophet introduced Islam, women started having equal rights … [In fact] Islam is one of the most feminist religions because women are thought of as humans, and we’re taught that as children.”

Afterwards, the conversation opened up to the audience. One woman asked about how extremists groups like ISIS justify their violence as an act of religion.

“A word that we hear a lot being thrown around by the media is ‘jihad,’” answered Bilan. “A lot of us struggle to understand what it really means and we’re force fed a definition. Jihad means ‘holy war,’ but it can also mean ‘struggle,’ struggle in terms of being a better Muslim, struggling internally.” The girls agreed that these terrorists are not true Muslims and used the word as propaganda.

The end of the talk concerned the education system in America. The young women agreed that if they could change one thing, it would be the focus of history class.

“So I came to America,” began Maryam, “And what I learned in elementary school was United States History. And in middle school what they taught was,” she took a dramatic pause, “United States History. And in high school they taught one course of World Civilizations, and then the rest — United States History. It’s very very slow, and I feel like a lot of it is repetitive.”

Maryam continued, “Because schools don’t reach outside of their little bubbles, they don’t understand that there are other countries that have more experience … [and] we can really learn from their mistakes and successes.”

In the end, all three of the panel members agreed that through education, they sought to become global citizens, to identify as members of a larger conversation.

Life as a Muslim Girl in Maine _DSC0117

Three panelists with different backgrounds discuss what it is like as a Muslim girl in Maine. CHRISTINA PERRONE/THE BATES STUDENT

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