The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Month: November 2018 Page 2 of 5

Hayes Searches for the Unexpected

As we chatted outside the lobby of Schaeffer theatre, senior and dance major Johanna Hayes greeted fellow dancers as they rushed to and from rehearsal. She reflected on choreographing her thesis, which was “a huge experiment.”

“If it was successful or not, I’m not really sure yet,” she confessed.

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McQueen’s “Widows” Cinematically Showcases Excruciation

From full-frontal male nudity to unabridged torture scenes, director Steve McQueen has always had a penchant for shocking his audiences. His greatest skill consists of lingering, or even zooming in, on those excruciating moments from which other directors would be inclined to quickly pan away. However, it takes two to tango: such moments require actors proficient enough to handle the stress of McQueen’s persistent lens. “Widows,” his first directorial effort since 2013’s “12 Years a Slave,” which won an Oscar for Best Picture, has many such moments and many such actors.

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Women’s Cross Country Races to Historic Finish at NCAAs

As most Bates students travelled home on Nov. 17th, the women’s cross country team was in Winneconne, Wis. competing in the Division III NCAA Championship. Here, they finished 17th out of field of 32 qualifying teams. This occasion represents the second time in the last three seasons that the Bates women have qualified for the national championship, with the team finishing 19th in 2016.

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A Merrill-Focused Running Playlist

Running is one of my favorite forms of exercise to do at Bates. When I’m stressed or have a lot on my mind, I go running; when I am happy and want a boost of extra endorphins, I go running; when I might have over-caffeinated at Commons, I go running. And, being the geographically challenged girl that I am, I prefer running on the treadmill rather than through local Lewiston streets. Either way, I put on my sneakers on and shuffle my favorite running playlist on Spotify.

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B’tayavon!: Professor David Freidenreich highlights how food defines religious differences

Many of us were fortunate enough to have shared a meal with friends and family this past Thanksgiving. For most Americans, what defines the holiday is the preparation and ultimate consumption of food with family. In return, the holiday has defined what makes Americans American. Identity is powerful, and oftentimes people use food to distinguish their own identities and the identities of others, as is the case with Americans and Thanksgiving.

On November 13 in Pettengill Hall, Professor David Freidenreich discussed how food and religious identity are intertwined. In his talk, he sought to unwrap some of the ideas about what makes food Jewish and how Jewish food is used to distinguish it from other religions in his lecture titled, “Food and Jewishness: Jewish, Christian and Islamic Perspectives.” Freidenreich is the Pulver Family Associate Professor of Jewish Studies at Colby College and the author of the book, “Foreigners and Their Food: Constructing Otherness in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Law.”
At the beginning of his talk, Freidenreich asked the audience to consider these questions, “What makes food Jewish in the first place? And why, given that definition of whatever Jewish food means, should you make a point of eating it, or perhaps of not eating it?”

Professor Freidenreich proceeded to answer his own queries by drawing from various authors in the field of religious academia: “They all agree that the difference between Jews and non-Jews matters. They also agree that food is an ideal medium to express and emphasize this distinction between Jews and non-Jews, even though the distinction itself really isn’t about food at all.”
Even though the real difference between the Jewish religion and other religions doesn’t pertain to food, restrictions surrounding food are used to set apart the Jewish from the non-Jewish. According to Freidenreich, Christians and Muslims also use ideas about Jewish food to set themselves apart from each other and from Jews.

Freidenreich used a hypothetical scenario, or what he called the start of a bad joke, to demonstrate the beliefs of various religions pertaining to food. The premise: a rabbi, a Catholic priest, a Sunni imam, and a Shia imam walk into a cafeteria. All adhere to the medieval food-related restrictions of their respective religions from the past. In this situation, the rabbi would order a salad and would worry whether the cook was Jewish. The rabbi would order the salad to avoid biblically prohibited foods such as shellfish and pork and to make sure that it wasn’t transformed by non-Jewish persons.

According to Freidenreich, the Catholic priest would refuse to eat any food if the cook was Jewish and would refuse to eat with the rabbi. Per Freidenreich, the archetypical Christian, while not facing religious dietary restrictions, would refuse to sit with the rabbi in order to avoid being led astray by his supposed false interpretations of the Bible.
The Shia imam, in his example, would order a salad and would sit at their own table. The Shia imam would renounce the food practices of Christians and Jews as a means of distancing their own religion from the others. This appeals to the stereotype of Shias refusing to eat food tainted by Christians and Jews because it would transmit impurity.

In Freidenreich’s demonstration, only the Sunni imam would be able to eat any of the food selections, and would be able to sit with the Rabbi. Sunnis would be tolerant of all of the food because they believe that legitimizing Christianity and Judaism makes the circle larger of those who believe in certain fundamental principles of Islam. This reinforces the idea that all Muslims have access to God.
The only common denominator between the religious leaders in this long, complicated, and somewhat inflammatory scenario is their concern for the Jewishness of their food. The multitude of rules and regulations concerning food distinguishes and separates the religions. As Freidenreich put it, “Rules about who you can’t eat with reinforce identity and social hierarchies in powerful ways,” and tell us that “the divide between us and them should not be bridged.” Even though the food regulations in the Torah are rather insignificant, they have far-reaching global impacts.

Over all, Freidenreich wanted the number one takeaway from his lecture to be that identity matters, and food can be used to distinguish identities.

Men’s Cross-Country Impresses in Wisconsin at NCAAs

The men’s cross country team started their Thanksgiving break with a short, but exciting, trip to Winneconne, Wis. for the Division III NCAA Championships. The 8-kilometer race was held on Nov. 17 at the Lake Breeze Golf Club and comprised a field of 280 nationally qualified collegiate runners. This trip marked the men’s cross-country team’s first presence at the NCAA Championships since 2013, the sixth experience overall, and the first experience traveling with the women’s team since 2012.

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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.


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.


Women’s Basketball Wins Thriller in 2-OT against UNE

On a Sunday afternoon in the historic Alumni Gym in Lewiston, Maine, the visiting University of New England (UNE) Nor’easters (2-3) took on the Bates Bobcats (2-0) in an exciting matchup. The teams were evenly matched throughout the game, taking an extra two periods of overtime to declare a winner.

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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.

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