The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Category: Forum (Page 1 of 4)

Roses Need to Start Sprouting

This past Midterm cycle, Democrats made massive gains all across the country. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Sharice Davids; all Democrats, all women of color, with Omar being Muslim and Davids being queer, all notably further to the left than Democrats of years past. Even the unsuccessful senatorial race of Beto O’Rourke v. Ted Cruz in Texas was historic since O’Rourke managed to win 48.3% of the vote compared to Cruz’s 50.9%. For a Democrat to come that close in the staunchly red state of Texas was nothing short of historic.

And indeed, O’Rourke has not stopped getting press since his noble defeat. Tons of buzz has been going all around Democratic circles in recent weeks encouraging him to run for president in 2020. O’Rourke and Democrats like him are certainly reliably liberals and against the tide of Trumpism. Indeed, I can say for sure that O’Rourke has the kind of charisma that could catapult him into becoming the Democratic nominee. Although I am more want to see a Kamala Harris candidacy, he’d have my vote if that’s where we end up in 2020.

But I fear we are not going to end up there. I fear we might wind up with another Hillary Clinton candidacy, with a centrist like Joe Biden, or if hell freezes over, with a billionaire like Michael Bloomberg. The antidote to far-right nationalism is not centrism. It is not regressive compromise for the sake of “bipartisanship”, and it is not neoliberalism. To put our country on the right path, we need to combat Trumpism with actual leftists and progressives. We need candidates, presidential and congressional, who will abolish and prosecute I.C.E. We need candidates who will push towards expanding Medicare to the point of creating a single-payer system. We need candidates who will stop fanning the flames of war abroad and roll back drone strikes in Yemen. We need candidates who will understand that a New Green Deal is our only hope for even mitigating the impending climate disaster.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t believe a presidential candidate like that could realistically happen in my lifetime. The window of acceptable dialogue for the Right has only become more extreme while it has stayed static for the Left since Bill Clinton. It would take a total overhaul for a presidential candidate to speak like Ocasio-Cortez or Andrew Gillum. While our president and the Republicans step closer to white nationalism and crony capitalism every day, Democrats remain too afraid to tap into the politics of identity and real economic anxiety that affect our country.

That’s why our fight needs to be fought on multiple fronts. At the state level, we need to pay attention to our local elections and demand that our state senators and city council people listen to our voices. At the congressional level, we need far, far more Ilhan Omars and Sharice Davids than we have. With these in our arsenal, we can at least put pressure on a candidate like O’Rourke or Harris to be more bold in their campaign promises.

Ultimately, though, the federal government at any level won’t be enough. Voting will never be enough. Big institutions like government matter, but for better or worse they will always be too mired in bureaucracy and international issues to focus on day-to-day matters. The killings of POC by police, hate crimes, declining health standards, the collapse of local economies: all of these are real issues we must help one another with. We can’t depend on big government and national politics to fully amend these ills.

For the change we want, we need to rebuild solidarity within our communities. But although the Presidency and Congress are never going to fully end police brutality, opioid deaths, or turn our economy green, they are a good place to start the conversation.

 

Wildfires and Marginalized Groups

Wildfires have been devastating California for years. But the Camp Fire that is currently spreading in northern California has marked the largest death tally from a single fire in the state’s history with 86 people dead. These monstrous calamities have left thousands of people displaced from their homes and countless others missing in the rubble. Over 18,000 structures have been destroyed, 400 square miles burned to nothing, and smoke advisories have been issued for all affected regions. California’s response in these situations are Shelter-in-Place (SIP) practices. These include designating shelters, recommending safety strategies for homes, and other methods to address protecting land, evacuation, rebuilding, and safety. However, there is a toll that comes with the practices of SIP that targets marginalized groups and impoverished communities. Private sectors are prioritized for economic and availability reasons. The allocation of resources has become tainted with prejudice and, as a result, has left thousands at the mercy of the fires.

In the article, “The Façade of Safety in California’s Shelter-In-Place Homes: History, Wildfire, and Social Consequence,” author Albert S. Fu argues that “in so-called rational policies concerning firefighting, the inequality between the powerful and the marginalized is clearly visible in the allocation of attention as well as resources.” This article written in 2012 clearly outlines the inherent issues in the response to natural disasters. The reality is that class, race, and income are all reasons for who is brought to safety and who is left behind. Black, Indigenous, and Hispanic communities are 50% more vulnerable to wildfires due to their lack of resources. These disasters have become less “natural” and more of an example of the consequences of social differences between people.

Prevention and the cleanup of fires is directly linked to money. Discussing the current Camp Fire, an article on az.central says, “Communities in the fire zone included those populated by lower-income residents seeking affordable housing.” These people’s priorities are not on a good firefighting department or brush removal, but basic necessities like housing. Stocking up on water and food becomes much harder for certain families, leaving thousands of communities underprepared for turmoil. In the current fire and even those past, people of color have been shown to be much more vulnerable to harm than primarily white communities.

Aside from prevention, the government’s methods of distributing emergency services are flawed. Those who cannot provide identity documents can be barred from shelters and services, which endangers undocumented immigrants and Indigenous people. There is also a lack of financial support for local fire safety, meaning people must take matters into their own hands. However, the wealthy have the opportunity to have secure homes in secure locations, while marginalized groups are left with structures that are less than ideal for disasters. This private implementation of safety has created dangerous differences between all people affected by fires. It takes thousands of dollars to secure a house and keep it up to date in terms of structural integrity and fire safety––dollars that many do not have.

Natural disasters affect everyone, yet some can come out less charred in the long run than others. The factors that create the divide are due to marginalized groups’ inability to receive the same resources and safety implications than others. They are trapped in a burning state where their class, race, and income determine their likelihood of survival.

 

Brexit Busts Britain!!!

God Save the Queen! Yes, it is a symbolic phrase, no doubt. But I think the phrase should be this instead: God save the United Kingdom! As the country prepares to leave the European Union, the United Kingdom is faced with perpetual turmoil as it is on the cusp of major internal implosion. When I think of the UK, I am reminded of a nation emboldened by tradition, formality, and, of course, some delicious tea and biscuits. Even more so, the United Kingdom for generations has exuded a spirit of professionalism, enlightened thought, and iconic leadership. However, with the current precarious Brexit crisis, all of these exemplary characteristics may disappear.

From a United States standpoint, many might believe that we should be indifferent about what happens in the United Kingdom and that we should categorize Brexit as just another foreign dispute. Personally, I vehemently, but respectfully, protest that belief as the current Brexit crisis will have catastrophic consequences for us in the future. The United States and the United Kingdom are two of the greatest superpowers in the world since their economies are overwhelmingly comprised of capital. However, just because these two countries are superpowers doesn’t mean their economies are free from economic collapse and stagnation. Brexit, or more properly deemed “British exit from the European Union,” will be the action of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. For those who do not remember, the Brexit crisis actually began two years when there was a national referendum vote held on June 23rd, 2016. During that referendum, the majority of Britain voted to leave the European Union by a slight margin of 51.9% to 48.1%. It was this monumental vote that has caused a decline in not only the British economy, but the functionality of the United Kingdom itself.

The successful vote of Britain leaving the United Kingdom has resulted in several detrimental effects that have left the country vulnerable and destabilized. One of the main effects of Brexit has been the decline of the UK’s currency, the pound. Specifically, the British pound declined 15% after the Brexit vote and suffered another major 2% percent decline just recently on November 15th. The pound is now under threat for continued decline for next year as the United Kingdom officially leaves the European Union. Another effect of Brexit has been the presence of internal political conflicts within the British government. With Prime Minister Theresa May at the helm of supporting Brexit, one of the many controversies of the deal is the harsh reality that British citizens will lose the right to free movement within the European Union. Despite Mrs. May’s claims that she has worked unanimously with the British government to create an effective Brexit deal, news shows that a third of her senior cabinet did not agree with her. Now, not only does a significant portion of Mrs. May’s cabinet not agree with her Brexit policies, but there has also been major support for a second national referendum for the United Kingdom. Labour Party representatives and members, both within the British government and regular citizens, have protested against May and her vision for the United Kingdom.

What is most shocking about Brexit is its deviation from interdependence and multilateral cooperation. The United Kingdom has for many years been a prominent international member of the European Union and has been recognized as a reliable ally. However, Brexit has caused a chasm for British politics and for the future of the United Kingdom’s economic independence. From a United States perspective, Brexit will cause a decline of several alliances as well as a decline to global markets around the world, including in our country. While Theresa May is now trying to garner voter support with public speeches and radio conferences, the chances for a second referendum in Britain might be inevitable. I think it is going to be crucial over the next couple of weeks to see how the situation unfolds in the United Kingdom. But all we can ask now is this: can God save the United Kingdom?

 

Your Black Isn’t My Black

Although the U.S. is recognized as a melting pot country, the Black community, specifically, is associated with a narrative that everyone who identifies as Black shares the same culture. In the context of the U.S., we tend to look at Blackness as a single story instead of multiple stories with each one having a unique perspective. Due to this illusion that all Black people are the same, we use the terms “Black people” and “African-Americans” interchangeably. But “Black people” is a broad term used to acknowledge all people with a dark skin pigmentation and ancestry that comes from Africa, while “African-American” is only supposed to refer to people with a dark skin pigmentation who have lived in the U.S. for generations.

One of the major problems with associating all Black People with the term “African-American” is that it erases the experiences that Black people from other regions of the world have. When it comes to Afro-Latinx and Afro-Caribbean people, they were colonized by different European peoples than African-Americans, which played a pivotal role in the development of their language and culture. When it comes to people from countries in Africa, they are still more connected to their original culture and language, unlike African-Americans. Due to slavery, African-Americans lost all ties to their original culture and language, but sprouted a new culture in the process. Consequently, with that culture comes systematic oppression that Black people from other regions cannot fully understand, which is not to take away their Blackness, but instead to highlight the difference. For example, when it comes to the word “nigga,” African-Americans were dehumanized with this word, so naturally they would hold some hostility towards it. People from African countries, on the other hand, did not face this type of hatred and therefore are not as affected by the word.

Again, this is not to take away the experience of Black people from other regions in the world, considering they also faced colonization and imperialism, but it is rather to show that Blackness comes with a multitude of experiences. Please also note that the reason I said “people from countries in Africa” instead of “Africans” is because we tend to group them all together as if Africa is a country. Hardly. Africa is composed of dozens of countries with hundreds of different languages and cultures. And since the purpose of this article is to represent the different forms of Blackness, it would be wrong to introduce a continent with such diversity as homogenous.

Some might argue that it doesn’t matter because we are all Black and we all experience oppression, but it does matter when we oppress each other. Too often do we see African-Americans try and determine if a person is “Black enough” because they are mixed race or Afro-Latinx, or if they are coming from other countries and “stealing our jobs,” as many African-Americans accuse people from African countries of doing. We have to show where we differ because only then we can acknowledge the unique oppressions that Black people from other regions face, which recently includes immigration policies as the Trump administration has more than doubled the deportation of people from African countries last year alone. We could also talk about how Black people from other regions may come to the U.S. for a better education, asylum seeking, etc., but are not only pushed down by white people but also African-Americans. We have put our oppression on a pedestal and refuse to see any other form of oppression as our equal. If we were truly all the same, then we would give every Black experience a platform and not just the African-American rhetoric that is constantly shown throughout media.

In order to understand each other, we need representation from Black people from other regions of the world through politics, media, music, etc. We need to understand, respect, and accept that every experience is valid and there shouldn’t be one that reigns supreme over the others. Blackness encompasses many stories, and it’s our job to recognize each story and make sure it is appreciated.

 

The Murder That Shook the World

Does the “lesser of two evils” principle apply when the most fundamental of American values — freedom of the press—comes under assault? Are Middle Eastern geopolitics worth overlooking a heinous crime? Do the end results of cooperating with our so-called ally justify the means? Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, which the CIA and Turkish intelligence agencies have traced directly to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, leaves American policymakers with no easy answers.

Khashoggi, a US-based Saudi journalist and a Washington Post Global Opinions contributing columnist, was reportedly targeted due to his anti-government rhetoric. In self-imposed exile since 2017, Khashoggi made a living lambasting Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy maneuvers and calling for the freedom of expression and gender equality in the hermetic kingdom. Utilizing the global bully pulpit that is Western media, Khashoggi even went so far as to repeatedly attack the crown prince by name, blaming him for suppressing dissent, arresting reform-seeking female activists, and “advancing a new form of radicalism.”

In light of Khashoggi’s assassination, many have proposed directing a full arsenal of America’s socio-political and economic weapons towards disciplining Saudi Arabia. National security expert Max Boot argued the US does not need to live with Mohammed bin Salman, cautioning the foreign policy establishment against the “he may be an S.O.B., but he’s our S.O.B.” ideology. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has since softened his tone, suggested we should “sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia.”

In a recent interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” President Trump observed that it would be “foolish” to punish Saudi Arabia by cancelling arms deals with the kingdom. Hailed as a critical counterbalance to the Iranian influence and a significant expansion of US-Saudi relations, the said deal entails $350 billion in tanks, combat ships, radar, and cyber technology purchases over 10 years. Abandoning the agreement augurs to be a boon to Russian and Chinese defense manufacturers.

Just as other actors are all but guaranteed to fill the arms supply void left behind by the US, a rupture of ties with Saudi Arabia would embolden a ménage of hostile forces to replace American influence in the Middle East. The US-Saudi alliance is, after all, one of the critical sustaining pillars of that influence. Putin’s Russia, leveraging its newfound success in Syria and strong ties with Iran, already rivals American standing in the region. Sacrificing ties with Saudi Arabia only stands to complicate matters further.

Then there is Yemen’s devastating civil war between Saudi-backed President Hadi and Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Continued US partnership with Saudi Arabia is critical to ensuring that Yemen does not become another Lebanon, which Iran is known to have used as a base for training terrorists, projecting influence into Palestine, and funding Hezbollah and related groups.

Unfortunately, the geopolitical chessboard rewards pragmatism over idealism. Allying with Joseph Stalin during WWII might have been an affront to America’s self-proclaimed commitment to freedom and human dignity… and yet, Uncle Sam’s pact with the devil was likely the only way of rolling back an even greater threat posed by Nazi Germany.

There can be little doubt that Saudi Arabia is ruled by a ruthless, power-hungry regime that values nothing and no one above its survival. Crown Prince bin Salman and his cronies should be called out for what they are by independent human rights organizations, activists, and reformers. However, as far as strategic relationship is concerned, realpolitik dictates that US-Saudi partnership remains the most favorable option.

 

Separating the Art from the Artist: How to Handle Kanye West

On the wall up against my bed, a large vinyl poster of every studio album Kanye West has released looks over the room. Each album pictured on this poster recalls to mind vivid memories that span from discussing the perfection of the production of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy with friends at my lunch table in middle school, to critiquing the inconsistencies of The Life of Pablo while looking over chemistry notes in a study group sophomore year of high school. Most, if not all, avid fans of hip-hop can point to several instances of Kanye West benefitting hip-hop culture; those who put hip-hop on the backburner of their music preferences can still name at least one track they enjoyed from him.

So what do we do when Kanye suddenly decides to contradict the messages he has promoted over the span of nearly two decades?

The year of 2018 has plagued our social media feeds with pictures of Kanye wearing a red Make America Great Again hat, dropping loaded statements such as “slavery was a choice” and justifying those statements with the concept of free thinking. Through his antics, he has painted this picture that we should all live in a society in which we can speak our minds without being thrown under the microscope of scrutiny. While I do not necessarily disagree with this notion of personal expression, a few asterisks need to be tacked on to this idea. For one, a free thought should be just that: a thought. Free thought does not include an on-a-whim public statement that has not been fleshed out entirely. Especially when the creator of the thought has built a massive platform for spreading it, there needs to be a second review before hitting that blue tweet button.

Additionally, instances exist in which the influence of others can further explain a thought and make it more understandable. I imagine that Kanye did not really believe slavery was a choice — he justified this by highlighting the mindset of the oppressed and how this feeling of helplessness will not lead to any further justice in the United States. The latter idea, although not entirely representative of the state of oppressed groups in this nation, makes far more sense than misguiding us with a flamboyant statement. Free thought needs to be accompanied by further thought; otherwise, it proves to be a detriment to our ability to come together and rationalize.

Kanye has recently come out and admitted that his rhetoric in the past year has been misinformed and that he wants to distance himself from politics. What should we make of yet another sudden political pivot from Mr. West? As a white man, I can hop on and off the Kanye bandwagon, choosing whether or not I buy into the sincerity behind his words. At the end of the day, his actions have not, and will never, impact my life. Unfortunately, the same does not apply to marginalized citizens. How can it be overlooked that Kanye endorsed the actions of—and even dared to embrace—the blatantly racist leader of our nation? This leaves a permanent blemish in the back of minds everywhere, especially for those more impacted by the President’s dangerous rhetoric. Having the ability to separate the art from the artist is a privilege, and I consider myself lucky to be able to keep my Kanye poster up without needing to consider the repercussions of his hypocritical history.

Even though I can put on my Kanye blinders and ignore this past year, it is important for everyone—including myself—to hold our favorite artists accountable. Understand the motivations behind their actions, and if you do not agree with them, do not promote their new music. Take their old music that you fell in love with a grain of salt, and understand that they may not be the same person today that they were when recording that music.

 

Anonymous: Our Jewish Ahava

On October 27, the Jewish community lost 11 of our own. In mourning the tragedy that took place at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, it’s more important than ever that we understand what it means to be Jewish and what makes the Jewish connection so strong.  It’s natural to assume that religion is the common thread that runs within each member of the Jewish community; however Jews express their faith in many different ways.   Even with a common set of ethics and values, there are three distinct levels of religious devotion.  Some Jews refrain from using their cell phones on Shabbat, while many Jews rarely—if ever—attend synagogue.  Others believe that the Jewish people are bound to one another through culture.  While many Jews express their Jewish identity through holiday traditions, a shared sense of humor, and an appreciation for matzah ball soup, the ways in which Jews express culture also differs drastically between communities.  A Jewish sense of culture and religion surly creates a bond between us, but there is much more to being Jewish.  What is it that truly makes someone Jewish?

The relationship that I have with other Jews is the same relationship that I have with my family. Like all families, we often argue and bicker with one another.  When one member of the family accomplishes something special, we all feel proud.  When a member of the family does something immoral, their shame is reflected upon all of us.  Above all else, when one member of the Jewish family feels pain, their pain is felt in Jewish hearts all across the world.  So when I think about the 11 congregants murdered last week, I think not of strangers but of brothers, sisters, and cousins.

The shooting that occurred last month not only reminds me of my Jewish identity but also of the Jewish story. Most people read the Jewish story and see oppression and prejudice.  While suffering and marginalization are inextricably linked to the Jewish story, there also rests resilience and strength.  Even when the darkest chapters seemed like they may be our last, Jews refused to let others decide their fate.  When Jews wandered the desert as strangers for 40 years, the miracle of Israel was on the other side.  When Goliath threatened to expunge Maccabee’s troops, little David slayed the giant against all odds.  When 2/3 of Europe’s Jews were shipped in crates to the concentration camps in Nazi Germany and exterminated, we mourned and continue to remember, but we survived.  The Jewish story is one of underdogs and survivors.

The next chapter of Jewish history will not be written by people who deny Jews the right to exist and worship in peace.  The next chapter will be written by those who continue to pray on Shabbat, cook, and come together as a family.  That’s what it means to be Jewish, that’s ahava.  That’s our story.

Anonymous: Where are the Jewish Allies at Bates?

In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh shooting, I found myself shocked, saddened, and angry. Not solely by the event itself, but by the lack of reaction from the non-Jewish community at Bates.

Talking to my Jewish friends, they expressed similar sentiments; it was only fellow Jews who were talking about the attack. Why is it that we are only finding solidarity within our own community? Where is the support from the college? Where are the Jewish allies on the Bates campus? From this experience I find myself asking, does our college community support other groups on campus facing tragedy and fear?

In the future, I hope we all will.

Anonymous: Unacceptable Silence in the Wake of the Tree of Life

Something terrible happened in my 100’s-level politics class. Going over news stories from the weekend, the professor asked for a student to give the headline, the impact, and how we felt about it. Silence followed. In a class of 40, no one stuck their neck out to give voice to what happened. The students in the class knew what happened, but collectively made a decision towards silence. This scenario is what allows for the rhetoric which invites violence to continue– when the educated choose not to speak out. If willed ignorance is what happens in a politics class which demands discussion, then silence is what rules outside of class. This is not an issue that Jewish students must speak out against– Pittsburgh is not a Jewish lesson to learn. It’s the burden of our community to break that silence, and that is not happening now.

Anonymous: For Jews, Wisdom has Always been Central

I was initially asked to write a long piece for the Student reflecting on this event as a Jew. I encouraged Bates Hillel to submit individual reflections. For me, representing the Jewish experience at Bates through a singular lens feeds into the harmful concept of Semitic-sameness. In our faith and culture, dissent is valued above accord. If you know me, you’ll know that that’s what I love the most about my faith.

Wisdom has always been central to my relationship with Judaism. Three-hour dinner debates were the norm in my household. Nightly we’d discuss everything from public policy to Friday Night Lights. This wisdom included an acknowledgment of my family’s immense privilege. I have been lucky to avoid facing the antisemitism that my ancestors have fought against, and I have fully embraced the understanding that I hold both white privilege and economic privilege. I am afraid in the wake of this shooting of being too afraid AND of not being afraid enough. I must walk through this world with the weight of intersecting privilege and marginalization as we all should.

Being an American under this administration means acknowledging the multitudes of affinity groups under attack, and working to end all forms of bias and discrimination in this country. I own my great people’s history of suffering and strength, and I pledge to work towards a peaceful future for all people, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, ethnicity, or faith.

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