The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Category: Forum (Page 1 of 3)

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.

White Colonial Amnesia

This administration, and the American people at large, have time and again shown that they hate immigrants of color.

Trump’s administration has boisterously supported banning refugees and asylum seekers from the Middle East and, more recently, Honduras and Central America. The president recently announced his plans to violate the 14th Amendment and cancel birthright citizenship for the children of non-citizens in the US. Earlier this year, we witnessed thousands of children locked in concentration camps after being separated from their parents by ICE, a process still happening as I write this article.

In response to this white nationalist agenda has come a strong, pro-immigrant reaction. Well-meaning white liberals across the country have rightfully denounced the fascist practices of immigration enforcement. They have tweeted and hashtagged that the United States is a nation founded, built, and sustained by immigrants, of whom we citizens are all descendants. A viral photo that circulated this 4th of July showed a white woman holding a sign that read “What’s your American heritage,” to which the only answerable options were Native Americans, slaves, refugees, and/or immigrants.

This idea is echoed by pieces of pop culture like the hit musical “Hamilton.” Its most famous line goes “immigrants, we get the job done” in an exchange between Alexander Hamilton and Marquis de Lafayette, portrayed by two men of color. This narrative aims to paint the United States as a nation of immigrants, for immigrants, and by immigrants since its very beginnings in the 1700s. But these talking points omit an entirely different, much less picturesque group: colonizers.

There are still many white Americans whose ancestors came here during the 16th-17th centuries from England, France, and the Netherlands. These settlers, although often escaping adversity and poverty themselves, did not come here en masse as peaceful workers seeking to better this country. They settled and stole land previously inhabited by First Nations peoples, thousands of whom were killed by gunfire and invasive plagues. Many others were sold into slavery up and down the Atlantic.

These Europeans were extensions of a larger imperial project that continues to lead to the slaughter of indigenous communities to this day. From the perspective of First Nations people, these were not wayward immigrants pursuing the American dream. Men like George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson were not “immigrants” or the “descendants” of immigrants, but colonizers on indigenous land.

I’m not saying every single European who came to colonial North America was a bloodthirsty conqueror. Furthermore, millions of white Americans do in fact have noble ancestry stories. Many of our ancestors came from Ireland, Poland, Germany, Italy, and beyond to escape poverty, religious persecution, and ethnic conflict to build a better life in the 19th century. Many Latinx communities were already living here, since much of the American West was Mexican and Spanish Territory during the same period.

Today, however, in our attempts to show solidarity with immigrants of color, we whitewash US history and do not deconstruct what being an “immigrant” really means. This idea that the Founding Fathers and the white Americans who came after them were all immigrants like today’s asylum seekers excludes the perspective and experiences of First Nations people.

This narrative about immigration absolves white liberals, myself included, of taking responsibility for the systemic benefits these conquistadores set up in their earliest stages. Worst of all, the viral picture previously mentioned tries to include First Nations people in the story of America’s heritage but excludes the colonial legacy that actively attempts to expunge them from this country.

We, white Americans, must do all we can to resist deportations, free all prisoners in immigration camps, and reunite children with their families. But we cannot turn immigration into a colorblind issue, as it is anything but. We cannot act like all our ancestors came to this land on equal moral footing.

 

The President’s Threat to Immigrant Dreams

President Donald Trump wants to end birthright citizenship because it is, as he aggressively stated at a rally, a “crazy, lunatic policy.” What he calls crazy, many families call hope. The 14th Amendment has been part of our Constitution since 1868 and has since promised citizenship to all those who are born on US soil. The President stated to a room of reporters that he would be signing an executive order to initiate the process, which would threaten to unravel a fundamental aspect of American culture.

The President ignores the trials that families are put through in order to come to the US and instead focuses on deliberately attacking them and all policies that would ensure their children’s survival. There are people who believe in ending birthright citizenship because it is a threat to the strength and immigration standards of the country. To do this would be a massive cultural change from what has always been associated with being an American.

People in favor of ending birthright citizenship argue that undocumented immigrants are not “subject to the jurisdiction” of the courts. However, in fear of coming off as xenophobic and racist, many conservatives have chosen to not fight this battle. Trump’s claim is a direct assault on unauthorized immigrants, most of whom have been here for 10 years or more. Even more so, it is a threat to the thousands of children who are already living here with undocumented parents. According to Dara Lind, a writer for Vox, “Restrictionists generally argue that the ability to give birth to a US citizen motivates people to come to the US illegally — but there’s simply no evidence that that’s true.”

Trump has been consistent with his beratement of undocumented immigrants since his campaign. Recently he sent 5,000 troops to the Mexican border, banned immigrants of eight Muslim and Latin American countries, and canceled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program which provided relief to almost 700,000 immigrants. He ended Temporary Protected Status for Haitian, Nicaraguan and Sudanese people which provides work authorization and protection from removal. He has cut down on the amount of refugees the country takes, marking the lowest intake rate since the creation of the program in 1980.

Trump is, however, wrong in his factual accuracy. He stated that an executive order could disband the 14th amendment from the constitution. His arrogance dictates this lie and proves how uneducated he is on how the political system works. An executive order would simply start the process of disbanding the amendment, but it would ultimately go to the Supreme Court.

Trump may have no legitimate power in the cast of reshaping the amendment, but to even mention ridding our country of this policy is a representation of the xenophobic mindset of the administration. His order would push this country back to a time when men like Dred Scott could not claim citizenship due to their physical and ethnic attributes. This form of intimidation to foreigners that is flowing out of the White House is blacklisting the United States as a xenophobic nightmare for anyone trying to enter the country. Trump’s delusion about an imminent threat to the country by those who are “stealing our jobs” and “disenfranchising this country” will hopefully never come to fruition, but it will still establish an overall sense of fear for immigrants and their children.

 

The Self-Destruction Of American Politics

Is the United States broken? Has our country finally succumbed to hatred and animosity? Just over the past two weeks, there has been a nationwide occurrence of pipe bombs that were targeted at several influential Democrats, liberal celebrities, and organizations who have been disdainful of Donald Trump and his administration. It sickens me to no end, how American politics and ideologies have divided the country to the point of no return. This pipe bomb incident shows how political ideology can be used as a method to attack people’s identities and threaten people’s lives. What makes this incident so appalling and unprecedented is its emphasis on a heightened animosity towards the left wing. The pipe bomb incident demonstrates how the desire for power, revenge, and absolutism can define the current climate of the United States.

Some of the many people who were targets of pipe bomb packages include Eric Holder, James Clapper, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and even Barack Obama. These are not just your average Democrats, but established politicians who have made a significant impact on American politics and history. Despite all the pipe bombs having been collected by federal, state, and municipal investigators, a nationwide investigation has apparently begun. As William K. Rashbaum, Alan Feuer, and Adam Goldman write, the “continuing wave of bombs has prompted an intense nationwide investigation into whether Trump’s critics or others vilified by the right are being targeted.” We will see where this nationwide investigation will accomplish, but I fail to believe that the current division in American politics will subside.

In recent news, this past Friday 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc was arrested by authorities in Miami and charged for sending out some of these pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and liberals. In fact, he was suspected of sending a total of 13 explosive devices to Democrats and liberals, in the hopes of possibly “getting attention.” With his van covered in pro-Trump stickers and propaganda, it has been revealed that Sayoc was an emphatic conservative who has written hateful statements against figures including liberal billionaire George Soros, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton. As more reports are coming, there have been interesting statements that have been made by people who know Sayoc. For example, Ronald Lowy, an attorney who has represented Sayoc’s family for years, said that Sayoc, “…lives in a fantasy. I have no doubt he’s mentally ill.” Lawyer David McDonald, who specifically interrogated Sayoc for a period of time, described Sayoc as “maybe delusional.”

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” so said John F. Kennedy. While America claims that its citizens exercise life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we can see a clear contradiction that not all people are treated equally. The pipe bomb attacks show a pattern of deliberate hatred and menacing acts towards a particular ideological group who were perceived as enemies to the country. Regardless of what the intention was, this has been an act of not only calculated hostility but also may be an attempt at political retribution. While these Democrats are willing to serve and dedicate themselves in the United States, there are those willing to do whatever it takes to destroy them. Now the only question that I can ask is: is it too late to stop the destruction of American politics?

 

Undocumented Immigration is Cheating

On October 2, a few dozen Bates students from Professor Longaker’s Social Movements in Latin America class congregated near Commons to stake out a claim for themselves in the nationwide immigration debate. While the rally was ostensibly organized in opposition to President Trump’s family separation policy, tide of protest quickly shifted from the administration’s ham-handed response to the US-Mexico border crisis. Amid a flurry of chants, you could hear “no one is illegal,” “fight ignorance, not immigrants,” and “education not deportation” – as if the issue at hand is less about incarcerated toddlers than the wholehearted acceptance of undocumented immigration at large.

I have no doubt that the protesting students commit to living by Bates’ academic integrity ideals. That is why I implore them and all like-minded members of our community to think about undocumented immigration as a variation of cheating. Yes, you read it right: unauthorized immigration is as much a challenge to our border security… as big a threat to the financial well-being of working class Americans (while most mainstream economists agree that all types of immigration foster economic growth, there is also a widespread consensus that the influx of low-skilled labor hurts similarly positioned native workers. See the Specifics-Factor Model)… as it is an act of cheating.

Early Monday morning. You have spent the entire weekend preparing for that notorious midterm exam. Worn out by a series of all-nighters, you trudge into the lecture hall ready to put all your hard work to good use. Then it comes to your attention that one of your classmates cheated. Theoretically, it makes little sense to be upset. Cheating is not a zero-sum game: your classmate’s behavior did not prevent you from doing well. And yet, most of us recoil at the very idea of academic dishonesty. Why? Because we are taught to understand, correctly, that cheating is fundamentally unfair to those playing by the rules.

If you think your classmate’s behavior is morally unjustifiable, then put yourself in the shoes of someone trying to immigrate to the United States legally. According to the Department of State Visa Bulletin, citizens of several Asian and Latin American countries should plan to wait upwards of two years before scheduling a consular appointment. And if spending two years of your life trying to get a visa already seems like too much, that is only the start.

Merely entering the United States legally does not make you eligible for citizenship. Before even dreaming of the coveted blue passport, one has to obtain a permanent resident permit, commonly known as a Green Card. Depending on whether one is coming to reunite with family or pursue employment, the process of obtaining a Green Card can lag for years. There are quotas. There are legal fees. There are immigration officers willing to deny your application because of an unintentional error. One may be in the country on a valid visa for decades, but before procuring Green Card, there can be no switching jobs before prior authorization, no in-state tuition benefits, and no easy time getting approved for a mortgage or even a credit card.

Many immigrants ultimately fail in their quest for a Green Card. Those who are successful have to wait at least five more years before proceeding with the naturalization application. A minute mistake on the US civics test can prevent you from finally being able to call yourself “American.” The journey from a dream to immigrate to the United States to the day when you take the oath of citizenship can thus stretch for decades; for some, it is the journey that lasts a lifetime.

Undocumented immigration corrupts the spirit of that journey. It is an act of cheating not solely vis-à-vis our nation’s laws, but all those foreign-born Americans who have sacrificed the time, energy, and material and emotional capital to make this country their very own. Chants like “no one is illegal” and “immigrants are welcome here” suggest there ought to be no distinction between those who played by the rules and those who did not. They do not do justice to an elderly mother waiting for hours in the consulate line to reunite with her daughter… to an international Bates student trying to settle down in the United States after graduation… to an immigrant soldier serving our country overseas.

Of course no human being is illegal. Plagiarizing on a test does not make one an “illegal human being,” yet the behavior they are engaging in is every bit as immoral as it is illegal.

Advocating for those whose immigration status is none of their fault – minors currently detained on the US-Mexico border and DACA recipients, individuals brought to the United States as children – is an empathetic, timely undertaking. The same could not be said about unapologetically embracing all types of unauthorized immigration. Just as there is no room for cheating in academia, undocumented immigration should have no place in the United States.

 

The Power of Religion in American Government

Even though American politics has separated the state from the church, it would be naive to think that religion isn’t still embedded in American politics. Considering the overwhelming number of people that simultaneously identify with a political party and a religious practice, as well as the issues being discussed in the political sphere that stem from religious beliefs, it is difficult to avoid a debate about the role religion plays in society.

However, I don’t think the problem is religion itself; I think the problem is which religions have been traditionally misconstrued to attack disenfranchised groups, and that those are the religions getting publicity.

Well, we should first review which religions are predominantly associated with which political party, and how important these religions are to these groups. The Pew Research Center surveyed Republicans and Democrats and showed that seventy percent of Mormons and fifty-six percent of Evangelical Protestants are Republican (the two largest percentages of Republicans in any religion). Meanwhile, eighty percent of Historically Black Protestants and sixty-nine percent of Buddhists are represented by Democrats (the two largest percentages of Democrats). The Pew Research Center also did a survey that determined how important religion was to each political party, and showed that sixty-one percent of Republicans believe religion is important and only forty-seven percent of Democrats believe in the same thing.

Now, the problem lies in the Republican Party because Evangelical Protestants are notorious for oppressing people due to differences in race, gender, sexuality, etc. Often times, they have used the Bible to justify their hatred of people who fall outside of their category as normal. Religion offers people a way to put their trust on an all-powerful, all-knowing Being that no one has concrete evidence on. People can believe in this Being so much so that they can be persuaded into believing that this Being wants them to discriminate against other people for not being “normal.” Many people who are stuck in this brainwashed mentality are Evangelical Protestants, or Republicans. Republicans incarcerate black people at a massive rate, take away women’s right to choose, neglect young people’s right to be educated about contraceptive and safe sex, and blame survivors of rape for being violated. Why? Because their interpretation of religion alludes to the idea that this is right. Even though they are oppressing people and making their lives more difficult than it already should be, they truly believe what they think is right because their faith is so strong. Republicans, essentially, are being manipulated to carry out an agenda that is set on empowering the people who preach this hateful language. The Republican Party is built on this lie that religion makes everything they stand for legitimate, when in actuality, religion is a cover up for Republicans to move forward with their hateful agenda. As the elections come up, I implore everyone to truly dissect political parties’ views on certain issues and why they have these views. Because for the Republicans, it seems to be the case that they have tried hold onto self-righteous views only to hide their evil intentions.

 

How to Elect a Fascist in Simple Steps

Last Sunday, Brazil democratically elected Jair Bolsonaro for President. Bolsonaro became internationally known for his hate speech, xenophobia, sexism, and racism. It is hard to come to terms with the fact that someone who defends that women should make less money than men could have 56% of valid votes in my country. He said once to a reporter that he wouldn’t rape her because she didn’t deserve it. Yet, somehow, Brazil elected him.

The same person who defended beating gay couples on the streets will be in charge of the largest country in Latin America. He, who said that his children would never date black people because he taught them well, will be the most powerful person in Brazil. He used a livestock weight measure to refer to body shaming overweight black people. But he still got 57 million votes with an empty platform filled with hate speech.

From this perspective, the political scenario feels like an absurdist play in which nothing quite makes sense. And it doesn’t. Five years ago, I didn’t imagine I would be writing about the fragilities of democracy in my own country. Democracy seemed eternal only a few years back. I felt like it had started long before me and would go on long after my death. Today, I see quite clearly that Brazil is a young democracy, only 33 years old. The military dictatorship of 1964-1985 lurks in the recent past. And yet, Brazil elected a president who openly defends torture. I keep wondering what happened. How is this possible?

Here are the ingredients you need to elect your fascist: first, a well-seasoned sexual assaulter, anti-black, ugly-faced, anti-government politician. You will also need four million dollars of illegal social media sprinkles to convince your electorate. You will need white fragility, too. A lot of it. And generalized fear. Most importantly, you will need all-purpose fresh fiction writers, for garnish.

Apart from deeply ingrained hate, marketing fear is what got Bolsonaro elected. The setup was quite similar to the United States elections of 2016. On one side, a left-wing career politician. On the other, a military-like male figure that “refuses” to play by the rules. In Brazil, many people stopped believing in the democratic institutions. For someone that fears losing their jobs to immigration, generalized corruption, or “the commies,” the ironic decision to vote for anti-politics may seem logical. Bolsonaro’s strong figure is the antithesis of democracy, and yet he appealed to the media-fabricated, fear-induced, misinformed concerns of many Brazilians. To them, it was a logical decision to vote for a man who will allow everyone to buy their own firearm.

However, it is not logical. It is not logical to vote for a person that praised the most feared torturer of the 1964 Military Dictatorship. The military dictatorship ended in 1985, but despite its recency, many seem to have forgotten what real terror looks like. Bolsonaro didn’t win on logic; he won on emotion, on fear, and on fragility.

Bolsonaro vowed to end corruption, fight violence with violence, and save the economy. There is no real plan. Much like Trump up here, people say that he sounds “honest” because he speaks his mind. They both use and abuse the media to lie repeatedly and convince their electorate on an emotional level. If it is repeated enough, people will genuinely believe that schools make children queer, that the communists are trying to “abolish development,” and that hairy feminists will force you to abort a new fetus every couple of months. It is supposed to gross you out, to wake you up from the inertia of your sofa, even if you don’t believe in what he says. Bolsonaro’s secret is to manipulate the public imagination. He defends “traditional values” that capitalize on people’s nostalgia of an imaginary past they’ve never had, all while juxtaposing it to an equally imaginary catastrophic future. It works.

Similarly to Trump, Bolsonaro won because he blamed the enemy. A quick scroll through social media for me and I can see his followers calling the opposition dirty scum, rats, communists, pigs, criminals, addicts, bums, gay slurs, gendered insults, and monkeys. The resemblance to the Nazi rise to power is not a mere coincidence.

It shocks me to see that we are almost in the 20s again and nothing has radically changed. Keep an eye out for fascism, not only in Brazil but worldwide. Times are truly changing, and they are changing fast.

 

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