The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Christina Perrone (Page 3 of 3)

Pushing for more conversation on degendering restrooms

Students push for gender neutral bathrooms. MADDY SMITH/THE BATES STUDENT

Students push for gender neutral bathrooms in order to spark conversation on campus. MADDY SMITH/THE BATES STUDENT

On Sunday March 26, I sat down with Cash Huynh ‘18 and Maddy Smith ‘20 to talk about their latest action on campus. Huynh, a Women and Gender Studies and AVC double major, is primarily responsible for mobilizing this action and pushing for more conversations on degendering restrooms on campus. Smith is intending to be an Environmental Science major and assisted Cash in this action by doing photography and taking on general coordination.

Two weeks ago, on Sunday March 12, Huynh and Smith, along with a group of ten students, dedicated their time to post signs that said “Toilet: This Bathroom is for Individuals of Any Gender” over gender designation signs in every bathroom in every academic building. In the stalls, they also posted flyers that included what the action is about as well as contact information.

When asked what inspired them to start this action on campus, Huynh replied, “Initially what really pushed me to put together this action was because as somebody who doesn’t identify as either woman or male, there are no facilities on campus that really allow me to express my gender in a way that makes me feel comfortable. So I had to socialize myself as either a man or a woman to really accommodate the comfort of the school. And what really solidified my push for this was after Trump’s administration on revoking some of the guaranteed protections under Title IX for transgendered youth, and trying to see if there was any way for us to juxtapose what is happening on campus to what’s happening nationally, to show our solidarity and support for trans youth through the nation.”

The Title IX amendment has been a source of national debate as of late. It was included in a number of amendments signed into law in 1972, by President Reagan, called the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX was intended to prohibit any form of sexual discrimination in educational facilities that receive federal funding. The Obama Administration extended Title IX in order to prohibit any form of discrimination based on gender-identity in educational programs and sports. In 2017, the US Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, and the Trump administration issued a new set of guidelines that rescind these Obama-era protections. In effect, they leave it up to the states to decide whether or not to allow transgender or non-binary students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity. In places such as North Carolina, Texas, New Hampshire and Colorado, state legislatures have considered requiring transgender and non-binary students to use facilities corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates.

The Trump Administration’s new set of guidelines is dangerous for a number of reasons. For one, the LGBTQ community has proven to have higher suicide rates than any other marginalized group. In fact, nearly half of transgender people attempt suicide during their lives. Now more than ever, we need to show support for trans and non-binary people, in order for them to feel included and safe. Creating gender-neutral bathrooms, something that most take for granted, is a huge step in the right direction.

“It’s also kind of interesting like in Carnegie specifically, looking at which restrooms are gendered and which ones aren’t,” said Smith, “Because they’re all single person restrooms. And on the second floor upwards, actually the restrooms just say ‘restroom’, they don’t have a gendered sign on them. But on the first floor there are two single-stall restrooms, and there’s a men’s and a women’s…It seems a little bit pointless that a bathroom that is for a single person, for privacy would not be an issue, would end up being a gendered bathroom.”

So where did the signs and flyers go? According to Huynh, “It wasn’t the Institution’s decision to really tear the signs down, I think the facility services were just doing their job. So like I understand why they would remove the signs, but the flyers, which was our reinforcement for that follow up, for people to catch on what we were doing…those were also removed. And I was really surprised because a lot of clubs and organizations advertise events, meetings, what-have-you in the stalls, like those were not removed, but our signs were. So I don’t really know why that was the case. But for the most part administration is very open to listening to us.”

Smith added, “the non binary signs went down pretty fast. But they were up long enough to definitely spark conversation between people. Which was a large part of why we did this action, so I would say it was still very effective.” What Huynh started here on Bates Campus will be circulated nationally through the help of Breakthrough USA, a nonprofit based in New York that works to stop gender based violence. Huynh is a fellow with this organization, and while they were doing this action, Breakthrough USA came to campus with a film crew and filmed. They will be putting a video out within the next few weeks. Smith believes that, “as that video gets spread, more campuses will be able to do what Cash started here.”

Huynh felt that their action was well received at Bates: “I remember, the day after the action, a couple of ‘bro-dudes’ — I call them bro-dudes— very hyper-masculine, like football, sporty dudes were talking about it. And they were just like ‘Oh how do you feel about degendering restrooms on campus’ and they said oh well, I don’t really care where you pee, but showers and locker rooms was a concern of theirs and I was like yeah that’s something that’s pretty tricky to navigate around but I don’t think it’s impossible. But it was good to see people whom I’m not familiar with, talk about issues like this, because everyone should be talking about this.”

In order to continue Bates College’s dedication towards equality, it is crucial that we continue conversations on gender-identity, with topics including degendering bathrooms. If we stop talking about it, we risk the danger of many people becoming marginalized and feeling excluded from the public discourse.

 

 

Ryancare or Trumpcare?

Four experts discuss the state of Healthcare in America. CHRISTINA PERRONE/THE BATES STUDENT

Four experts discuss the state of Healthcare in America.
CHRISTINA PERRONE/THE BATES STUDENT

On March 9th, Paul Ryan proposed the long-promised health care bill to replace Obamacare. Bates Democrats, Bates Republicans, Bates Health Initiative and Crystal Williams, the Associative Vice-President at Bates College organized a talk to educate students about the Affordable Care Act, and what it would mean to replace it.

The talk featured a panel of experts across the political spectrum. The first speaker was Dr. Dervilla McCann ‘77, a cardiologist and executive in the Accountable Care Organization at Central Maine Healthcare. “Before 1965 about half of all elderly patients in the United States had no health insurance,” began Dr. McCann, “But today, after the passage of Medicare and Medicaid about one in every three Americans are covered by one of those two health insurance systems.” Medicare is federally funded by taxpayers and was originally designed by President Lyndon B. Johnson for older adults. It is responsible today for 50 million patients and pays for hospitalizations, vaccines, drugs, and office visits. On the other hand, Medicaid was a program designed for children and low-income adults. It is dually funded by the state and the federal government. Medicaid gives states a burden of cost, and what Paul Ryan’s plan proposes to do is to provide fixed block grants to states to cover the burden of Medicaid. However, what happens when the block grants are insufficient? Medicaid currently insures 70 million patients. LBJ intended for Medicare and Medicaid to insure the most vulnerable citizens. The rest of society used competition between insurance companies to keep the cost of premiums down.

“Poor President Johnson’s fatal mistake when he wrote into law Medicare and Medicaid was to trust health systems and physicians to self-govern. The result of this naiveté was runaway health costs. By receiving government insurance, patients were insensitive to the actual cost of their care—they never paid their bill, somebody else paid it for them…Hospitals and doctors saw the government as de-pocketed and generous patrons, so the cost of American health care skyrocketed, but the increased price did not come with increased quality,” said Dr. McCann.

Since 1965, the government has scrambled to find ways to expand insurance while keeping costs low. According to Dr. McCann, Richard Nixon had the most comprehensive, universal health care systems. However, he was unseated before it was written into law. Obama’s Affordable Care Act bill (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare, was passed in order to better the health care system that left many Americans in need of affordable health care. Dr McCann explains, “Two key decision points happened with the implementation of the ACA. One was the creation of state run exchanges. An area where inexpensive insurance could be paid for by the individual. The second, key element was the expansion of the Medicaid program a cost that was shared by the federal government and the state.” Even though the states were given the burden of cost to insure more people through Medicaid, the federal government was going to underwrite a lot of it.

Before The Affordable Care Act, Insurance companies could deny people with pre-existing conditions. The Affordable Care Act made it illegal to deny people insurance based on pre-existing medical conditions. It also made preventative screenings free for everyone and created marketplaces where people could shop for insurance with potential subsidies. Under Obamacare, more than 20 million people, some of whom had never been insured, gained health insurance. But where does the government get sufficient funds to cover this? “Taxes were placed on the wealthiest Americans, there were payroll taxes, Medicare was changed a little bit, and taxes were newly imposed on medical devices. There were also fines imposed on individuals who refused to buy insurance, all of this is what funded the ACA,” explained Dr. McCann. What she is referring to is the Individual Mandate—a wildly unpopular proponent of the ACA.

“Part of the genius of Obamacare is instead of expanding Medicare which is federal, he expanded Medicaid which is state. So he played into the Republican desire for States’ rights. And state rights are critical, I mean, what’s right for people in Mississippi is not necessarily right for the people in Maine” said Dr. McCann.

Obamacare is not perfect by any means. As Dr. McCann put it, “From the perspective of a hospital administrator and a public health physician. Despite being in effect since 2012, 30 million people in America still don’t have health insurance. Those who have coverage are experiencing sharp strikes in health insurance cost. In Maine insurance premiums increased by about 22% last year.” As some may recall, Healthcare.gov broke the first day it was released. Some plans have deductibles so high that they cannot be used. People are frustrated that the act does not guarantee keeping the same physician and health insurance— as Obama promised.

Professor Nathan Tefft, an associate professor of economics at Bates, spoke next about the economics involved in the ACA. Essentially, the system stands on what economists call “the three-legged stool.” The first leg is restriction on health insurance companies, which is called community rating. This is the idea where, “you need to charge premiums within a narrow band across the risk pool…. And Guaranteed Issue which is the other restriction is that you are going to give somebody health insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions.” Subsidies are the second leg that supports the ACA. Because low income households who are not eligible for Medicaid cannot afford health insurance, the government must provide tax cuts or subsidies to provide incentive of buying health care. However, there is a sliding scale in regards to subsidies which introduces high marginal taxes that dissuade people from working as much as they would like. Ryan proposes to fix the sliding scale through a flat tax credit system based on age. It increases the age rating band from 3:1 to 5:1, meaning that the oldest in the population will be exposed to five times the premiums as opposed to the younger population. Now younger people who make minimum wage get significantly less coverage as rich older folks. The last leg is the individual mandate that charges people for not purchasing health insurance, “Without the individual mandate we’d have the issue of adverse selection, what adverse selection is if you don’t require healthy people who otherwise don’t need health care to pay premiums regularly in case they get sick eventually, then the premiums for the sick pool is going to need health insurance no matter what is going to be higher and unaffordable.” The ACA works because of this three-legged stool, and what the American Health Care Act— if written into law— proposes is removing or altering one of the legs.

The last speaker was Shannon Banks ‘85, president of the board of Oasis Free Clinics and an advocate for universal health care. Her clinics provide free primary care and mental care to low income residents of the mid-coast maine area. This short term she will teach a practicum course on health care administration. Oasis free clinics provide, “Primary care, dental care, mental care to the poor and the uninsured,” these typically are part of the the 30 million Americans who are uninsured. A huge problem with Medicaid is that it does not cover the working poor, who work long hours and multiple jobs but cannot afford private health insurance. She reflected, “We’ve had patients come into our clinic who haven’t had dental care in decades, have multiple abscess teeth, get their teeth pulled and go back to bagging groceries that afternoon. Theses are folks who are working hard and who have been left out of the system we currently have in the United States.”

Even if most people believe the American Health Care Act was dead upon arrival, there is reason for concern that it may be a precursor to permanent health care changes. Republicans are passing the health care act as a budget bill to avoid filibuster, and thus cannot have anything in the bill that is not related to a budget policy— which leaves out a lot of what Trump promised with his healthcare bill. As Kevin Lewis said, “It does save a trillion dollars, two thirds of which go to tax cuts for the one tenth of one percent” Kevin Lewis. Indeed according to the Tax Policy Center Analysis the top one tenth percent would receive $197,000 in tax cuts.” Although Trump promised to cover everyone with this plan during his campaign, it only increases the deficit of uninsured Americans who face a growing need of health care.

“With healthcare is a bellwether issue,” said Dr. McCann, ” how we manage this phase our extraordinary challenge with health care will impact me and certainly all of you as you leave this place and go on to marry, have children, and possibly face illness or injury.”

 

Winning and losing in politics

Jamal Smith ‘03 talks about his struggles and successes in the job force. JOHN NEUFELD/THE BATES STUDENT

Jamal Smith ‘03 talks about his struggles and successes in the job force. JOHN NEUFELD/THE BATES STUDENT

On Monday night, Jamal Smith ‘03 gave a talk to students about what it is like to work in politics. Smith is a positive force of energy and his excitement is contagious. However, if there is one trait that defines Smith, it is persistence. He graduated from Bates in only three years and continued to work on Obama’s and Clinton’s presidential campaigns. Today, he is the Deputy Director of Operations at Planned Parenthood in New York.

Even though Smith has had a lot of success in his career after college, he started off his talk stating that, “I really feel like I’ve made my career out of losing in politics.” He worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign, which lost the general election. He then worked on Obama’s two winning campaigns. Afterwards, in 2010 he moved to Miami, Florida to work for a non-profit. People often ask him about what it’s like to win campaigns, to this Smith says, “I’m actually more interested in the story of what it’s like to lose. Because although I’ve had successes, the thing that has brought me forward professionally and personally was knowing how to lose and to get back up and keep on going”

“One month in I was laid off, and found myself homeless and living in my car in Miami. This is after I did everything I was supposed to do. I graduated Bates in three years. I went to law school, you know, I worked hard, kept my nose clean, did all these presidential campaigns, and here I am living in my car. And that’s when I really had to question why it is that we do what we do.”

Smith says that it is of utmost importance to be gracious and not to take anything for granted. After being laid off, he learned that in order to make it in the modern-day professional world he would have to make himself indispensable. Smith discovered his ‘why’, shortly after his first experience of failure: “For me it was because I just believe I had something to contribute. I felt like I believed I could be of help and of service. I felt like being a person of color, I felt like being out, was critical for that. And I made the choice that I was going to stay in politics. And I hustled and I scraped.”

Eventually, the Clinton Foundation asked him to do an interview in New York. Although he was only starting to get back on his feet, he took up the offer and with a little help got a ticket to New York City. This time, he was motivated more than ever to exercise his ‘why’: “There I am working during the day, going to volunteer at night. I was doing a 100 hours a week, a lot of it unpaid because I was volunteering, but I really believed in it. And if I just put my foot in the door, I knew it would work out.”

His hard work paid off, and as Smith said, “Through making myself indispensable, willing to do anything that was asked: from getting coffee to writing memos to making telephone calls, I got connected in the African American outreach department. And that’s when I said this is who I’m going to be and this is what I’m going to do.” And for a while it did work out, until Clinton lost the 2016 general election to Donald Trump.

“And then I was in the position where I was back at square one. Because when you lose in a campaign, it’s all gone. That’s it…Everything I worked for for ten years, everything that I had struggled for, everything I thought I believed in myself was clean board. And I had to start over.”

A lot of millennials are entering a workforce that cannot guarantee a 10 year job. Our generation must be agile, and take job opportunities on a whim. After his Miami experience, Smith knew how to pick up himself and start over. He reflected, “I went back to doing things that I really loved to do. I went back to teaching for a little bit and I just got back to social media and my Linked in…And through that Planned Parenthood reached out to me…And this was shortly after the campaign and honestly I really didn’t want to go to work. Didn’t want to work hard again. [I] wasn’t even sure if I wanted to do anything difficult or be in politics. But you know when there’s a good opportunity you just have to jump on the ticket.”

One of the biggest lessons Smith has learned in his life is that opportunities come at inopportune moments: “A lot of times in life, particularly in politics. You don’t have the luxury to choose when your opportunities are going to come. You have to have the courage to say yes when they come, and jump on them.” Instead of declining the offer at Planned Parenthood, he showed up to the interview and took it one step at a time.

After being asked what a graduate should look for in a job, Smith said, “One rule that I’ve always found super helpful, especially in the first jobs I got out of college, was look for the jobs with two things: where you can learn the most, like get the most skills, and meet the most people.”

Another take away from Smith’s conversation was the need to hustle in daily life: “Bates I think helped me out because, when I was here I learned how to do two things that are really important. I think one, I really learned how to hustle. There are so many opportunities at Bates, whether it’s study abroad or short term. Or even just creating your own opportunities… The other thing is especially being a person of color, being in a marginalized group, learning how to work in an environment where I maybe wasn’t comfortable and wasn’t natural for me, or wasn’t what I was used to, and still being successful.”

Smith ended the talk with a message of hope: “When you understand your ‘why’, everything will fall into place.”

 

“The moral imperative of revolt”

Hedges speaks about liberal institutions in upholding morals. CHRISTINA PERRONE/THE BATES STUDENT

Hedges speaks about liberal institutions in upholding morals. CHRISTINA PERRONE/THE BATES STUDENT

Few have been as politically active as Chris Hedges, an accomplished Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist and ordained Presbyterian minister. Bates invited the author to campus on the Tuesday before February Break to talk about his recent book, Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt , and about how we have reached this predicament in our country.

Last Tuesday, Betsy DeVos was nominated as the education secretary. DeVos is a proponent of antidisestablishmentarian school vouchers and the growth of for-profit schools that harm the United States’ public school system. As Hedges said, “She will dismantle and defund one of the crown jewels of American Democracy, and that is our system of public education. And I’m going to talk a little bit tonight about how we got to where we are.”

Hedges believes that Trump is a product of forty years. It began in 1971, when Lewis Powell, who was then an attorney for the Chamber of Commerce, wrote a confidential memorandum that was a blueprint for conservative corporations to reclaim America for the chamber. Hedges states that the Powell Memo was “a reaction to the opening up of American Democracy in the 1960s.” Now, according to Hedges, “Trump is a prophet of that coup d’etat. Because what happened in that four decade long period was that the liberal institutions themselves were hollowed out and became façades…the foundations are being eroded.”

These liberal institutions include the press, universities, and courts. In reference to Noam Chomsky, an activist, psychologist and philosopher, Hedges said, “But those liberal institutions…worked as a kind of safety valve. They were a mechanism in times of distress, economic breakdown in the 1930s, could ameliorate the sufferer, address the grievances.”

The liberal institution is a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something. This is because these institutions set the boundaries of acceptable criticism and debate. According to Hedges, “As soon as you start attacking capitalism itself, or as soon as you start questioning the virtues of the leadership you are pushed out of the liberal establishment. And the liberal establishment is used to demonize you. I saw this as a journalist.”

Throughout his talk Hedges incorporated historical perspectives along with personal anecdotes from his time reporting overseas and teaching in Princeton, New Jersey prisons. Near the middle of his talk he discussed how American democracy was created as a sort of closed system with the electoral college and the marginalization of African Americans, women, and even non-property holding men.

The Democratic Party, until now, has long supported popular movements. As Hedges puts it, “It’s a battle on the part of popular movements to open up the space in American Democracy.” A functioning liberal elite, according to Hedges, “could address enough of the grievances [of movements] in order to keep a kind of equilibrium. But unfortunately in their own myopic greed, what these corporate and business entities did was destroy these movements in the name of anti-communism, purging … academia and the arts.”

Recent movements such as Occupy Wall Street and Standing Rock have brought an alternative, and unrestrained press or media platform that the traditional press, subservient to corporate power, could not express. The control of media outlets by corporate enterprises has evolved over the decades: “The press is being consolidate, a half dozen corporations controlling roughly 95% what Americans watch and listen to…But these are giant corporations where media and news are just one revenue stream out of perhaps hundreds of revenue streams, and that compete with hundreds of revenue streams.”

In the 2016 election, Trump received so much air time because he was entertaining, and during his talk Hedges reasoned, “that’s why the press, at first, was complicit in the rise of Donald Trump – not only because they created this fictional vision of him as a great economic titan on a reality television show, but because he drew in revenue. He got 23 times more the air time than Sanders…Because Sanders spoke about policy, he wasn’t entertainment.”

What Hedges proposes is to leave the Democratic Establishment and establish a leftist party concerned with economic justice. As he said, “We cannot build a just society. We cannot confront institutional economic form of racism and oppression unless we confront the military industrial complex.”

So as the Democratic Party continues to speak in the old language of liberalism, “You have a backlash against liberal institutions that have betrayed working men and women, even in the middle class…when they turn on the institutions, they also turn on the supposed values [like] tolerance.”

A huge reason why Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Establishment did not win the presidency was because they ignored the white working class, that then turned to Trump. According to Hedge, “They were betrayed. Their anger is legitimate and they were betrayed by people like us who busied ourselves with a boutique kind of activism about gender identity and multiculturalism—none of which I’m against—but not when it is divorced from the fundamental issue of justice.”

As Hedges said, “Unfortunately [we] fell into this pattern of the least worse. And that pattern of the least worst paved the way for the worst, which we have now.” The only way to change this trend is to participate in politics. Chris Hedges has been arrested several times protesting in the streets. He sued the Obama Administration in 2013 over the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA) because it allowed the arrest of individuals associated with the Al-Qaeda without access to an attorney or habeas corpus relief.

You never know when you stand up and carry out an act of conscience, an act of rebellion, the effect it has: “That is the moral power of resistance. It is an act of faith. And it is imperative for our time that we stand up. And it won’t be pleasant. I don’t like going to jail, it’s more time than I care to donate to the government. But these people are working at lightning speed and we have no time left.”

At a time when our nation needs leaders to emerge out of the woodwork and represent the interests of Americans on a moral level, it is imperative that individuals like Chris Hedges continue to voice their opinions and receive recognition for their representation of the people.

Tony Derosby ’80 on Trump’s immigration ban

Students attend the immigration information program. JOSHUA KUCKENS/BATES COLLEGE

Students attend the immigration information program.
JOSHUA KUCKENS/BATES COLLEGE

On Friday January 27, Donald Trump signed a “blanket ban” on all people coming from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Sudan, whether or not they hold valid visas. He issued this executive order on Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day that remembers a time when Jews were not allowed asylum in the United States and elsewhere due to their religion.

Tony Derosby ‘80 came to Bates College Thursday night to take questions on and cover what the executive order means. Derosby is an attorney at Pierce Atwood LLP who specializes in immigration law and represents companies whose employees are affected by the ban. He was later invited to talk at Bates College addressing the implications of the order. His talk covered the details of the order, the questions left after it, court actions since then, and where the executive order is headed.

Derosby first summarized what the executive order means. There is now a 90 day ban on entry to the United States for all nationals of the seven identified countries and immediate suspension of the US Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days. There is indefinite suspension on processing and admission of any Syrian refugees as well as indefinite suspension on the Visa Interview Waiver program.

The banned countries list is likely to expand. Under the order, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has 30 days to submit a report to the president identifying a list of countries that do not provide sufficient information to verify identity and to make a threat assessment. The countries will then be given 60 days to provide information, and if they do not, they will be added to the banned country list until such time as they come into compliance.

Where did the list of banned countries come from? The executive order does not explicitly list the seven countries; rather, it refers to a 2015 federal statute enacted under the Obama administration. Derosby clarified, “In 2015 an amendment was added…that made ineligible for the Visa Interview Waiver Program anyone who had been a national of one of the seven countries or who had visited one of the seven countries after March 1, 2011. So for those people, if you had ever held citizenship…and are eligible for a visa interview waiver, you would have to be subject to an in-person interview at a consulate abroad”.

The executive order targets Syrian refugees. Refugees are individuals outside the United States requesting a visa to travel here under the Refugee Program. Derosby stated, “In order to establish eligibility, they have to show a legitimate fear of persecution in their home country based on race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group”. The executive order halts the refugee program for 120 days and reduces the country’s refugee quota from 110,000 to 50,000, the lowest number in over a decade.

Trump bypassed the traditional inter-agency process that would have allowed Congress and Homeland Security to provide operational guidance. According to Derosby, “Multiple sources reported that the United States Customs and Border Protections (CBP), which is the agency responsible for doing traveller inspections at any port of entry… didn’t see the final version of the EO until after it was signed. So this entire federal agency learned about the order the same way I did.”

On Tuesday, the State Department issued an emergency internal directive cancelling all visas for nationals of the affected countries. Derosby explained, “If you are outside the state…the visa which would be your travel document…is no longer valid…The State Department directive was not communicated to individual visa holders. So you could easily try to board a flight and learn about the order that way”.

This brings up the issue of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs). LPRs reside in the United States under a green card status and pay taxes. In the first two days after the executive order, LPRs were detained. Derosby said that upon detention, “they [were] told that they are going be deported, which is a bar on entry of up to ten years, or they can elect to surrender their status voluntarily…and depart…And people did that”. CBP later said in a press release that LPRs are allowed admission. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, I’ve never seen CBP issue an internal policy directive in a press release. But that’s how this was handled”, said Derosby.

There have been many court acts against the order based on due process to equal protection grounds and on various other statutory grounds. As Derosby put it, “What’s going on in those cases is that plaintiffs who are adversely affected… can go to a federal court and can ask for something called a temporary restraining order, also known as injunctive relief”. The plaintiffs must prove there is an imminent danger that unless the court states enforcement, they will suffer irreparable harm and injury. In essence, the plaintiff has to prove the negative impact on themselves outweighs the threat to national security.

“So far it appears that CBP has demonstrated intent to comply with federal orders”, said Derosby. “One of the things that I’ve been very nervous about is…what happens when a federal court issues an order striking down part or all of the executive order? Will the administration honor the federal court order? Courts don’t have armies, they don’t have police. Our Constitution works because the branches respect each other”.

Derosby ended with his prediction for the country’s future: “This executive order is resulting in some of the earliest, the earliest, judicial tests of executive action with this administration. And so far CBP has avowed an intention to comply…I think there is a good chance that there will be a federal court decision soon which will stay all or part of the order indefinitely”.

 

The art of censorship

At Bates College, we are encouraged to express our identity and opinions freely, without repercussions. Students can express their political opinions through art, protests, and social media. However, in places like Saudi Arabia it is a different story. Abdulnasser Gharem, one of the artists on exhibit in Olin Museum for the Phantom Punch exhibit, gave a lecture Thursday, January 26th about the struggles of artistic expression in Saudi Arabia.

Before the age of the internet, “[I]t was a little bit hard to say what you were thinking especially in that, you know, conservative society, it’s not that easy if you have an idea to say it to anyone so you needed to be careful” said Gharem. For him, “[Art] was the only exit…or even the source for us to have personality or to discover something new…I didn’t know anything about music or poems…it wasn’t in the schools so there wasn’t books about it”, Gharem added.

Once Gharem was introduced to chat rooms, his entire worldview changed. Now, he could go on the streets t0 photograph his realities and upload them to a universal, digital audience. For instance, something now taken for granted such as downloading a photo, would take hours back in the chat-room age. The internet also allowed Gharem to research stories from his region, one in particular struck a chord within him that would later amount to his artistic career.

In 1982, a village in Saudi Arabia faced an oncoming tempest. They turned to their tribe leader, also known as a sheikh, for guidance. The sheikh believed that a concrete bridge was a safe place for the people to congregate during the storm, for it would persevere despite the stormy conditions. Unfortunately, the sheikh overestimated the bridge’s strength, and it fell along with many people during the storm. Many died as a result.

“And I was thinking, why did they follow him?” asked Gharem, “Why did no one just you know come up with another suggestion. And at that time it was me, you know, after having some knowledge because of the internet…I had an inner voice and I wanted to say something. So I think the best part of my job is through images and art.”

This inspired one of his works, “Al-Siraat (The Path)” (2011), which is on display in the museum. He, along with others, spray-painted the word “path” thousands of times over the bridge. Many had forgotten the story, and the media did not cover what had happened at the time. Gharem explained his interpretation of the art: “No one knows what it means, the path. Does it mean going with a group and feeling safe? Is it made to follow someone?…Or is it something you’re gonna leave behind you so that others can see it?” In a way, Gharem began his path creating art for others to see and interpret for themselves.

A large portion of Gharem’s work involves performance and site-specific exhibitions. This stems from his culture, “I believe in performance. In our culture, in our religion there is a lot of performance for praying or even dancing…so I started performance on the streets on the side of my time”, Gharem explained.

One street performance in particular was about the environment. The government had created a park and had planted trees foreign to the region. Those trees spread and killed native trees, negatively impacting the environment. Gharem saw this, and wrapped himself in a plastic sheet with a tree. He then started walking through the streets.

“This work was about the environment… no one could have a way to say [anything about the foreign trees]…no one can say it’s bad because there is no, no channels no one can say no, and they don’t know what to do. So I said ok I’m going to start wrapping myself”, he explained.

In 2011, Gharem sold his artwork “Message/Messenger” during a Christie’s auction in Dubai for $842,500 USD, the highest price ever paid for a living Arab artist . The piece depicts an elaborate, gilded dome of a mosque propped open— resembling a classical trap. Within the dome is a white dove, the universal symbol for peace. “I was thinking about what was happening about me…how [religious people] play with [religion], how they manipulate it, you and your principal… so you are going to find a lot of pressure from the family, from society, from the mosque, from the schools…”Gharem explained.

Abdulnasser Gharem believes that one of the most important things we can do is to promote artistic expression to younger generations. Back in Riyadh, he along with his colleagues created a studio next to a bakery that allows both boys and girls to cultivate their talent. The studio has no signs and is in a residence with no near by neighbors, so that genders can legally be in the same room. His studio is a safe place for artists, musicians, fashion designers, and film-makers. His mission for the studio was to create, ” a space where they can practice and create new ideas, so we gave them the studio as a place…And they feel safe and they can speak freely…and nothing will happen to them.”

When asked if he feared he would get in trouble for his controversial lifestyle, Gharem noted, “The problem is…the religious system, the economic system and the political system it’s based on dividing…[but] it’s ok to say it through art because it’s more soft and the people will start to think… It’s the easy way to do it through art.” Indeed, pictures speak a thousand words.

 

Now you’ve pissed off Grandma

Protests of the Inauguration of a president are common in American history. Over a century ago, on March 3, 1913, the day before Woodrow Wilson became president, women gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue to advocate for their right to vote. The Woman Suffrage Parade, as it was later known, became one of the most effective protests in American history. Its legacy lives on today: the urge for universal equality echoed in Philadelphia’s Million Woman March in 1997, and most recently in The Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017.

Last Friday, Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States. His inauguration brought severe backlash in the form of violent protests, arrests, and arson all over the country. Americans were left with little hint of what to expect the following day for the widely anticipated Women’s March on Washington, as well as its 673 sister marches in major cities across the world, including Bates College’s neighbor Augusta, Maine.

In preparation, artists such as Shepard Fairey and Jessica Sabogal circulated their artwork on the internet as free downloads for signs. The Pussyhat Project, created in response to Trump’s sexual assault allegations in November, brought pink cat-eared hats to the marchers on Saturday in over 100 drop-off locations.

This weekend, many students from Bates College sought out both near and far to participate in the historic march for women’s equality. It is estimated that in Washington D.C. alone half a million marchers showed up to protest— a sum hard to ignore. For those who could not attend, the event was livestreamed on social media platforms and broadcasted on all major television networks.

Jesse Saffeir ‘20, who attended the march on Saturday in Washington D.C. reflects that, “It felt totally safe. The atmosphere was positive and supportive. Strangers would start conversations with each other, and whenever a mom with a stroller, or a person in a wheelchair, or an emergency vehicle was trying to get by, the whole crowd would make way for them.” Indeed not one of the protestors was arrested on Saturday, concluding a peaceful and effective protest.

The Women’s March was started by Teresa Shook, a resident of Hawaii, after she created an event on Facebook to protest Trump’s election win. She later invited Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez as co-chairs for the event. Partners of the Women’s March included Planned Parenthood, The Natural Resources Defense Council, the NAACP and Amnesty International USA. The name “Women’s March” alludes to 1963’s March on Washington, in which Dr. Martin Luther King delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech.

In Dr. King’s footsteps, speeches during the Women’s March delivered by Gloria Steinem, Ashley Judd, Scarlett Johansson and Michael Moore—to name a few—all promoted the change that needs to take place in this country.

In address to the major criticism that the March has received in having too many issues, actress America Ferrera responded, “[I]f we fall into the trap by separating ourselves by our causes and our labels, then we will weaken our fight and we will lose. But if we commit to what aligns us, if we stand together steadfast and determined, then we stand a chance of saving the soul of our country.”

This brings attention to the intersectionality of the movement: that there are many causes under the umbrella of feminism including equal pay, access to healthcare, the #BlackLivesMatter movement and many other issues that affect women’s rights.

Saffeir said that her favorite speech was delivered by Senator Kamala Harris from California: “[She] gave a speech about how ‘women’s issues’ are more than just access to Planned Parenthood, they also involve the economy, foreign policy, gun control, and so many other contemporary issues, because first and foremost women are citizens.” When asked what the most memorable sign was, Saffeir said she had seen an elderly woman holding up a sign saying, “Now you’ve pissed off grandma”.

The Women’s March on Washington may have ended on Saturday, but it is our responsibility to keep the flame burning. There are many things students at Bates College can do to participate in politics both locally and nationally. Perhaps the easiest form of political participation is to donate to causes that directly support women’s rights. Other ways to participate include conducting petitions, attending other protests, posting on social media and writing letters to your Federal, State and Municipal officials expressing your opinions and concerns. That this country was designed by the people and for the people, and that government is to be governed by the people’s consent. It is important for Bates students to be aware of consenting to officials who promote rhetoric that undermine rights, and remember to march on. After all, Bates has long been a place that recognizes the value of equal opportunity for men and women in fostering an elite education.

 

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