The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

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“And We Must Do Better”

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault

Disclaimer: The ambiguity of this article is designed to keep the identities of those mentioned protected. However, because the article clearly indicates that my perpetrator was someone I’ve dated, I want to make undeniably explicit that this person does not and has not ever attended this college. 

It took me three and a half years to admit to myself that I was raped. Neither my experience of rape nor my rapist matched my preconceived notions of what rape looked like: he was no stranger, there was no alley, there were no drugs involved. In fact, he was someone who I was deeply in love with at the time of the event. I pardoned, sugar-coated, and remembered everything he did gazing through rose-colored glasses. It was easier to remember him and his actions as choices I was making than to admit to myself the disconcerting powerlessness he inflicted upon me. 

How could I conceive of myself as a strong and independent woman, a good feminist, if I let myself stay in a situation that was textbook abusive for two and a half years? How could I claim such abhorrent labels, such as abuse and rape, if he loved me? What about all the other victims of assault who experience bodily injury and debilitating mental trauma? I wasn’t them. I signed up for my situation. As I saw it, I really was asking for it. 

It was around the time of the Kavanaugh hearings that I remember the heaviness of exhaustion sinking in; it became harder to do school work, harder to sleep. I felt unrecognizable and visceral bouts of anger creep into my bloodstream when discussing sexual assault. I listened to the detail with which Dr. Ford recounted her story. Her memories were so vivid, clear, and credible, and yet hundreds of thousands of people wrote her off. 

I would lie awake at night wracking my brain for details, too. I couldn’t remember the month that it happened to me. I couldn’t even tell you how old I was, let alone describe the narrow staircase of the high-school house party as Dr. Ford did. All I recall were the boots I was wearing, the direction I was facing on my couch, and that it took nine minutes from start to finish.

A few weeks after the Kavanaugh hearings, a close friend divulged her experience of assault to me. I was utterly chilled when she told me that she, too, could hardly remember the time-frame of when she was assaulted. The more I listened to people, the more I noticed the desperation with which survivors tried to recall details of their experience, and their consequent inability to do so. 

It was only then that I understood the body’s physical response to trauma. Sometimes we can’t remember the place, the night, the person’s face, the things they said, or how many drinks we might’ve had. But the art on his walls, the peanut butter on his breath, the temperature of the hot tub, the hand on the back of her head, or the nine minutes it took for him to satisfy himself are the details that are seared into our psyches. What did I say to him?  Did I kiss him back? Did I orgasm?

These lingering questions prevented me from accepting the significance of my experience for years. Even today, I struggle with using the word rape, unsure if that is a label I get to claim. For years, I listened to other stories and compared them to my own. I grew up with robust sexual education and a supportive network that believed survivors unquestioningly, yet I simply couldn’t situate myself within the crux of the problem. I couldn’t say #metoo, out of a fear that maybe I was wrong. 

I downplayed my experience. I chalked it up to melodrama. Maybe I’d misremembered. It wasn’t until I became cognizant of the fact that so many other survivors struggled with the same self-doubt that I realized the immense capability that systemic power-based violence has to silence. It wasn’t until I noticed the common thread of all the stories I heard was the terrifying sense of bodily dissociation. The moment we left our bodies and became receptacles. The moment we left our bodies and became observers and involuntary participants. The moment we left our bodies and simultaneously watched and experienced what was being done to us. 

I might not remember everything, but I will never forget the feeling of leaving myself, closing my eyes, letting my limbs go limp, and counting down the seconds until the pounding would stop. We might not remember everything, but survivors will never forget the moment we left our bodies to survive the dislocation and unparalleled fear.

This year, I tried to explain to him my realization. I thought that talking through some of what happened might bring me some peace. I thought that two and a half years of reflection might bring an apology, or, at the very least, an admission. Instead, I received, “Okay Maddy, go ahead and #metoo me if you want,” in return.

It is that utter lack of accountability that drove me to write today. The immense feeling of hopelessness that I have been enduring, working through in therapy, and falling asleep to has begun to take its toll.

I was on a run in Lewiston the other day when a man catcalled me. For him, the outburst was a fleeting moment. However, I spent the rest of my run looking over my shoulder to make sure no one was behind me. He did not understand that his moment of sexual lasciviousness triggered a chilling fear for my own safety.

My freshman year at Bates, one boy tried to get me alone in his room; another cornered me in an elevator; a third convinced me to leave a party, and upon realizing I wasn’t going to sleep with him, left me drunk and alone in the street. This year, I found out that all three of the men described are known predators on this campus, some even having assaulted some of my closest friends.

I do not conceive of myself as the poster child for sexual assault. Others have experienced different, life-changing trauma. I am simply exhausted by the fact that each time I go into Commons, I see multiple men who freely walk around this campus having faced no consequences, social or official, for their actions. I am exhausted by the fact that the Title IX office has closed the cases on some of the most egregious forms of sexual assault I have ever heard happen in my life— instances that would shock the world in the same manner as Brock Turner’s did if they saw the light of day.

I am exhausted that I am unable to publicly name many of these on-campus assailants without facing legal repercussions. I am exhausted because facets of our community know these perpetrators and willingly choose to continue associating with them. I am exhausted by the juxtaposition between support groups held by Bates in the wake of the 2016 election and the class time dedicated to speaking about these issues after the Kavanaugh hearings against Bates’ continuation to let those with money, power, and status roam this campus with no repercussions. All this hypocrisy condones and encourages the message that those with plentiful enough resources are free to “grab [us] by the pussy” here.

The experience of rape culture I am attempting to address does not solely encompass rape and its survivors; it is about each and every coercive sexual experience, every instance of workplace harassment, every inappropriate passing comment. It is for every person who has had to wrestle with their own self-doubt, draw on the power of hindsight, and fight to legitimize their discomfort. This letter is meant to address a culture that conditions some people to believe that other bodies are worth less than their own. By writing this, I hope that if even one or two people understand the persistence of my fear, they might begin to hold those responsible accountable. It need not get to the point of physical assault for someone to care, let alone take action. It need not take knowing a survivor personally or thinking of the women in our lives for someone to care. This is an issue of moral urgency and human dignity.

There are wonderful people on this campus, of all genders, actively combatting the system of power-based violence in a variety of ways. We see you and we hear you. In writing this, I simply want our administration to be aware of the consequences of their complacency. And even more so, I want us all, myself included, to remember that this horror starts and ends with the student body. It starts and ends with us calling out one another for the ways in which we degrade each other’s bodies, in turn lessening their value to justify our own desires. It starts and ends with a joke in Commons. It starts and ends with our conduct at dances. It starts and ends with who we let in the doors to parties. It starts and ends with accountability.

This need not create a culture of fear. Sexual assault is far from simple, far from black and white. But at the end of the day, those who aren’t participating in or contributing to this culture of violence have nothing to be afraid of. I recognize the nuance and delicacy of sexual assault cases. However, it is not a difficult or trying task to simply respect other people’s bodies. Sexual assault is an issue of unbridled entitlement, and we sacrifice nothing in trying to do better. And we must do better.

Military Service Knows No Gender

From the Kavanaugh scandal to the growing appreciation movement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to the court’s most recent ruling in favor of the transgender military ban, there is never a dull moment in the nation’s highest court. On Tuesday, January 22nd, the Supreme Court agreed with a 5-4 majority to enforce the ban against transgender people in the military while the order returns to the 9th Circuit courts for further speculation.

The ban dubbed the “Mattis Plan” after former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, includes a series of detailed restrictions that dictate who can serve in the US military on the basis of their gender identity, claiming gender identity affects one’s ability to serve effectively and productively. The Pentagon released a statement claiming they will continue to operate under the Defense Department’s 2016 policy enacted by the Obama administration, which allows for active military participation regardless of gender and sexuality. The implementation of the Mattis Plan, however, serves as a major blow to US inclusion policies and activists who have been working toward making the United States a more accepting nation.

It is mind-boggling that government officials, or anyone for that matter, can make an unsupported judgment on someone’s ability to serve their country based on how they identify and express their gender. It is essentially the same as ostracizing left-handed people and claiming they are “possessed by the devil,” solely based on a part of their identity they have no control over. This idea used to be deemed acceptable and is now viewed as archaic and vulgar. The general population has come to realize that dexterity is simply the result of our neurobiology.

And despite common misconception – and, at times misinformation – gender identity is not a choice and is as much ingrained in who we are from the day we were born as the hand with which we write. Just as some great soldiers have been left-handed, plenty of transgender people have served in the United States military with valor and efficiency, proving to be vital members of war and defense effort.

It brings me deep sadness that institutionalized hatred is still commonplace in the United States, and that I no longer find myself surprised to learn about the passage of yet another exclusionary policy. I know change and progress take time, but events of the past few years leave me pessimistic for the future. For the entirety of Trump’s administration, the president has dedicated his time to undoing Obama’s policies of inclusion, and has essentially made a game out of doing everything possible to upset the “liberal democrats” he speaks about with such distaste. Trump’s presidency represents an era of exclusion, and it will take great effort to reverse such hateful policies. My hope for the future is that it will become self-evident that no one’s worth, validity or ability to contribute their talents to benefit our world is in any way diminished by their gender, sexuality, race, religion, or any other aspect of their identity.

Identity and Belonging in College

“Congratulations! On behalf of the President, Faculty, and Board of trustees of Bates College, we are pleased to offer you admission to the Bates Class of 2022.” For many students, opening the email or letter admitting them to college grants them permission to finally take a breath, and promises a successful future at a place they get to call home for the next four years. However, just because a student gets into college does not necessarily mean they will feel at home there. Along with college comes a new set of responsibilities on the shoulders of these students; there is the intensity of the classes, the obligation of sports and clubs, the 3 hours’ worth of work for every hour of class, the pressures of having a social life, the fear of branching too far out of your comfort zone, and the struggle to prioritize mental health and self-care. With all of this to think about, college becomes a vexing game of time management.

In the midst of this juggling act, some students are thrown a few more pins while tackling the internal conflicts that arise with the role of identity. Even at a place like Bates, where people are actively trying to make the college an inclusive and aware space, some people still face the difficulties with feeling like they don’t fit in.

A lot of the time, when college students are questioning whether or not different aspects of their identity fit in, they tend to wonder if college is even the place for them. In my own experience as a first-generation college student, there are a lot of times when college seems like a time to prove myself to those around me. Getting into college is a huge accomplishment for anyone, but for first-generation college students, it is more than just a personal achievement. Rather, it is a milestone for everyone in the family. While it is an honor to be the source of pride for your family, being the first person in your family to receive higher education can come with some obstacles. The most prominent obstacle is that first-generation students cannot benefit from their parents’ college-going experience. Sometimes I find myself questioning whether or not I’m good enough to attend a place like Bates. It can be hard to know who to turn to, but luckily at Bates, I have found many resources to rely on to guide me through these upcoming years.

Many other students can relate to the struggles of identity and belonging at Bates. The feeling of fear and uncertainty is one that can be applied to everyone in college. Whether you are unsure of who you are and who you will turn out to be in the next few years, or are feeling unsure about the next steps in your life as you commit to a major and graduate, there will always be people around you who feel the same way. Despite the complexities that come with identity and “fitting in,” everyone here at Bates College is here for a reason. Sometimes you have to think back to the moment that you opened up that acceptance letter and remind yourself that ever since you were accepted into college, you have had every right to be here and to be successful.

Unapologetically,Unconvincing Appropriation

I didn’t understand cultural appropriation until I found myself staring directly in the eye. The first few times I probably just ignored it, or maybe I didn’t even recognize it for the fear of being the creepy brown girl, sticking her nose in other people’s business. I let it go because I don’t have the privilege to claim other people’s business as my own and judge it, unapologetically.

I have heard arguments on the other side too, don’t get me wrong. I fully entertained them because I felt like I was obliged to be the bigger person, even if that meant letting other people walk all over me, as they plundered, looted, occupied, and enslaved what was not their business. There exists an argument that pulls at a “reverse appropriation” of Western culture by the rest of the world. It doesn’t convince me though, because I am well aware of imperialism, colonialism, and the Western-centric worldview that basically paved the path for this “reverse cultural appropriation” that became synonymous with modernity and development. I am unapologetically unconvinced because it has been pushed down our throats historically, in the name of being respected and noticed in a world that is obsessed with the idea of this version of modern development.

The reality of cultural appropriation hurts because there are sections of society that can afford to do/wear culturally associated things without ever going through the struggles experienced by the people from these cultures. We are supposed to “fit in” so we can prove that we are non-threatening as people and as cultures, while the people with whom we are supposed to be assimilating unabashedly dress “exotic” at our expense. If people were ready to acknowledge and learn from the history that affects the power dynamics around the display of a cultural “trend,” then they would be free to appreciate other cultures once they’ve had this learning experience.

Even when not being subject to explicit bias for our differences, fear has taken root inside our hearts. This insecurity and lack of confidence for just being ourselves is not our fault—it was etched upon us, and onto our very existence. This insecurity looks like the forgotten pieces of colorful clothing that lie in the back of my closet. It looks like the uncertain woman I see in the mirror who, just before she walks out the door, turns around and changes into something less conspicuous. It sounds like “well-meaning” compliments that refer to my culture as “costume.” It is the many questions I would get—if there was a special reason, some occasion, an event that I decided to put on “fancy” clothes? Clothes that I grew up in and around, but now rarely wear. It feels like the anxiety that comes with the attention I get—good or bad—makes me not want to stand out, but I wonder if I will have to burn the very back of my closet in hopes of that?

Now, in all honesty, I am a lot more privileged than a lot of my fellow people of color, either living away from their cultures or having had modernity creep up on them. I am a little more racially ambiguous, aware, in a more accepting environment and at a point where it’s getting easier to be unapologetic for being me; and yet this anxiety hasn’t left my side.

I don’t want to be called an angry-snowflake who is making an issue out of a non-issue. Working on bigger, more serious issues and speaking about this somewhat invisible but pinching experience are not mutually exclusive—and I don’t want to be told what is “more important” for me to focus on. I don’t want to be called “exotic” —I am not a different species, something rare, or for a show display—there are too many of us and we want to take our identities back.

The Mainstream Media Madness

The mainstream media in recent times has been described as out of touch, biased, and a factory for producing fake news. In this tumultuous era of politics, these labels fracture the sanctity of the “Fourth Branch of Government,” whose duty is indispensable. The media is supposed to be the watcher on the wall, observing, reporting and holding those in power to account. The question to be answered is whether the media is fulfilling its mandate or whether it has been corrupted and is being used as a tool for those who foster division and discord. From a Millennial’s point of view, the media seems to mistake neutrality for journalism, which results in it being out of touch and indirectly advancing harmful ideas.

In the halls of the great media giants, especially those who claim to be nonpartisan, there is a misconception that neutrality is objectivity. Let us look at the recent government shutdown, but through the lens of the pre-Trump years. Back then, CNN, MSNBC, and others would either portion more blame to the Democrats for a shutdown or use their favorite term “both sides.” This is a type of defense mechanism to shield them from the wrath of conservative outlets such as Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and the corrosive Breitbart News. For whatever reason, the actual journalists feel compelled to cower in some cases to the loud, mob mentality of the far right outlets because God-forbid if they were ever called biased or liberal. This was seen in a comical display after the second presidential debate back in 2012 when Barack Obama clearly won his bout with Mitt Romney. A CNN poll clearly showed Obama winning the debate by 7 percentage points, however, the fact that CNN’s Wolf Blitzer twisted his tongue when describing Obama as having a “slight, slight edge” is unbelievable. He then went on to say that once you look overall, it is “pretty much of a draw.” In political circles, a 7-point lead is substantial and in this particular case, when so many other polls confirmed a win, one wonders why CNN sought to be neutral.

They do it so that they are not labeled as liberal, because, for some reason, they care so much about what the extremes have to say. Oddly enough, they did the same thing during the 2016 Presidential election cycle and were still unfairly labeled fake, liberal, and “lamestream” news by conservatives. He-who-must-not-be-named stripped the mainstream media, minus his extremist friends at Fox News, of the air of trustworthiness and objectivity.

The disease to please has largely died with the ascension of the new president, as the mainstream media quickly realized that their duty and call to action has never been stronger. At the moment, they are one of the most important institutions in our society as we are on the precipice of slipping into a world where craziness is the order of the day. However, even with their increased attention to detail and a noticeably more vibrant urge to call it as it is, they still remain out of touch. The mainstream media has declined in popularity, as new media, powered by strong and outspoken online voices have taken root in the ear of an entire generation. Online sources such as The Young Turks, The David Pakman Show, and social media platforms in general, have filled a gap due to their accessibility and authenticity. The status quo is shaking in its boots as these vocal alternatives cut through corporate bias and establishment control. One of the reasons Hillary Clinton was defeated was because her opponent was able to get millions of views worth of free media coverage.

Ultimately, that fever and excitement is the same force that allowed Bernie Sanders to almost close a 60 point gap between him and Hillary Clinton, and it is the same force that pushed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to the forefront of the Democratic Party. People crave authenticity, and whether you are boasting about sexual prowess, or calling for health care to be a right, it cuts through the mainstream media’s groupthink syndrome

Social Movements

As men, there is no question that we need to be talking about toxic masculinity, confronting its harmful influence within ourselves, and striving to be better to those around us. These conversations both with others and within ourselves are necessary, but difficult, as we are compelled to reflect on past actions that have hurt others. Men who refuse to have these dialogues may get defensive and angry when the topic is brought up. This refusal may explain why so many men have lashed out at Gillette’s recent commercial condemning toxic masculinity and urging men to hold each other accountable for their actions. In response, many have pointed out that the commercial brings up valid critiques of behavior that oftentimes is socially acceptable.

However, the debate around the Gillette commercial has sidelined discussion around a concerning topic: the Gillette commercial was, ultimately, an advertisement. Even though the advertisement’s impact on sales cannot be gauged yet, the controversy surrounding it has made the word “Gillette” more commonplace in everyday discussion. Search interest in Gillette reached an all-time high after the video’s release. Some may say that the intent of the message was not primarily to generate sales, but if this were true, then why not release it on behalf of Gillette’s parent company, Proctor and Gamble, instead? That name has much less brand recognition than that of Gillette. Use of a recognizable brand name and a modified version of Gillette’s slogan: “Is this ‘the best a man can get’” exposes Gillette’s financial motives in creating the commercial.

I can already hear the counter-argument as I write: “So what if Gillette had a financial incentive? They are being socially responsible by supporting the #MeToo movement!” Although I could respond by saying that it’s unethical to profit off of social movements, there are still serious issues of power and influence that bubble beneath the surface. We need to ask who is and who should be controlling the conversation surrounding not just toxic masculinity, but social movements in general. It should be people who are fighting against sexual violence, people who are fighting for a $15 an hour wage, people who are fighting against racism in the workplace. It shouldn’t be corporate elites deliberating in a Boston boardroom. If we allow corporations and elites to control the discussion around social movements, we allow them to steal the movements’ soul, to co-opt the movements themselves. If this should occur, movements will be unable to attain their goals because corporations are directly linked to capitalism and the power structures of patriarchy and white supremacy.

If social movements will only be harmed by commercialization, how do we confront and defeat toxic masculinity? Unlike what the Gillette commercial would have you believe, the solution is not individualism. Although this fact does not give us men a carte blanche to ignore our behavior, we must realize that the true solution is to confront the tangible institutions and the elites that perpetuate this economic system and its oppressive power structures. That means we must stand up to Bates for its homogenous admissions practices, to the police when they refuse to investigate sexual violence, and to Gillette for profiting off a movement that was started by and for women of color, 12 years ago.

Longest Shutdown in History: All for Nothing?

When I was settling upon my article topic on a late Thursday night, the most protracted partial government shutdown in US history appeared nowhere near resolution. Besides racking up at least $6 billion in cost to the economy, the 35-day showdown between President Trump and the Democrat-controlled House had resulted in sleepless nights across single-parent households worried about making rent payment, young professionals facing a new stumbling block to building their credit score, and chronically ill patients thinking twice about refilling a prescription. Luckily, the uncertainty for over 800,000 federal workers and their families came to an end on January 25, after Trump agreed to sign a stopgap bill to reopen the government and allow negotiations to continue. Yet, even as the lives of affected Americans start to fall back to normal, the future of DREAMers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, H1B visa holders, and aspiring immigrants remains just as unpredictable.

If there was one silver lining in the whole shutdown debacle, it is that millions of Americans awoke to the following somber realization: our immigration system is convoluted, inefficient, and dangerously unprepared for the 21st century. Politicians across the aisle are all too happy to engage in pious grandstanding and name calling on immigration-related matters. In reality, however, Democrats and Republicans share copyright ownership for the current mess.

Over the years, Republicans have railed against America’s family-based immigration model and called for a more meritocratic approach. But actions speak louder than words: every time push comes to shove, the GOP shows itself unable or unwilling to tame the recalcitrant House Freedom Caucus. When the ‘Gang of Eight’ immigration bill––a bipartisan piece of legislation that would abolish the nonsensical visa lottery, put undocumented workers on a path to citizenship, and usher in a merit-based immigration system––passed the Senate in 2013, the Freedom Caucus refused to even consider it because they would not stand for a vote on so-called “amnesty.”

Democrats, on the other hand, have repeatedly made clear that they would much rather stick to the status quo. The current system, which generally does not account for professional qualifications in selecting immigrants and makes one eligible for social security benefits the day a Green Card arrives in the mail, serves as a reliable source of Democratic support by bringing fresh voters to the New Deal Coalition.

Then there is a burgeoning notion in the most liberal of circles that immigrating to the United States is a right, not a privilege. Lady Liberty should welcome anyone and everyone, the argument goes, even if doing so clashes with security and economic interests of American citizens. No wonder the majority of Democrats have been oblivious to the idea of transitioning to a points system that would prioritize individuals with English skills, higher education, and employment prospects––the idea championed at different times by senators as ideologically diverse as Tom Cotton, Jeff Flake, and Chuck Schumer.

Trump did not get funding for the border wall. Democrats failed to secure protections for DACA recipients. Was the shutdown all for nothing? It does not have to be. Now that everyone has been reminded of the scope of chaos even a partial shutdown is capable of wreaking, it is time to put our partisanship aside and come together. Republicans should work to remedy the metastasis of populism and nativism across the highest echelons of their party. Democrats, who are increasingly adamant about adopting Canadian-style single-payer healthcare, German-inspired free tuition at public colleges, and New Zealand’s maternity leave standards, would benefit from learning a lesson or two from those countries’ merit-based immigration systems.

When President Reagan was asked why he agreed to a 5 percent tax cut when he had originally proposed cutting taxes by twice as much, he responded: “Half a loaf is better than none.” February 15, the new deadline to strike a deal, offers nowhere enough time to overhaul our 60-year-old immigration system through a comprehensive reform package. However, there is room for small progress. Perhaps we could extend DACA for a few years, replace the Green Card lottery with a scheme that prioritizes immigrants already in the US, and expedite the issuance of H1B visas and employment-based permanent resident permits, all while exploring more profound changes that would bring our immigration system in line with the 21st century standards. Trump is no Ronald Reagan. Pelosi is no Tip O’Neill. But the “half-a-loaf” strategy remains the best and only way.

Acceptance, Not Tolerance

“Political polarization” is often used as shorthand for the worsening state of politics in the United States. It’s simply assumed to be negative in connotation and in real life. Well, it isn’t. Politics is not a race towards bipartisanship; it is about survival and justice, and there are many instances where there is no middle-ground solution. In some matters, it is life or death, freedom or oppression, dignity or dehumanization, and people should be polarized against those who would marginalize them.

This is the state of our politics in 2019, and it is a fact we must live with. We should be polarized about locking Latinx children in cages, starving Yemen, and ruining our last hopes of mitigating climate change. These are not issues with which we can tolerate compromise; they can only go one way or the other.
Of course, polarization is much easier started than finished. Like it or not, we have to live together in the same country with large groups of people who enthusiastically support despicable policies. For some of people—as in those with much less privilege than me—this is an obvious reality. I have not faced any severe discrimination in my life, and far be it from me to claim any struggle that is not my own. Nonetheless, this dilemma has been weighing on me for years: how to live with entire states and populations who seem so diametrically opposed to justice?

The easy answer is anger and resentment, and both reactions are justifiable for many people. The labor of changing this country for the better should not and cannot be placed on the most vulnerable groups of people. Privileged people, like myself, thus need to start actually doing our part. That is where anger and resentment, in my opinion, are not optimum strategies. It is with this privilege that I must lift the voices of marginalized people and confront people within my own communities.

The question still remains as to what I do with such monstrous odds in a time of polarization. Realistically speaking, I can’t get anything done by picking fights with tens of millions of Trump supporters. With this dilemma, I have come up with a sort of guiding philosophy: acceptance that lacks tolerance.
I can only accept that I live in a country so diametrically opposed to what I can consider being justice, and that polarizes me. But polarization is not synonymous with animosity. The result of being diametrically opposed to the President and his surrogates is not antagonism, but activism. When I say I won’t tolerate Trump supporters, that does not mean I will refuse to try to persuade them to my side. Quite the opposite—we need working-class solidarity and the support of people from across the country if we want Medicare for All, affordable college, and green energy solutions.

But it also means that I won’t act as if I can look past their support for the Republican Party and its destructive ideologies. I can accept that they have different political views than me, but I cannot tolerate these differences and will actively work to change them. As an activist, I must work constantly and not compromise on matters that affect the existential and physical safety of marginalized people and the planet itself.

Once again, the burden of this admittedly broad call to action falls upon those of us who don’t have to actively fear for their safety when interacting with polarized parties. And sometimes, some groups cannot be persuaded and won’t be willing to join progressive causes, and those groups need to be defeated. We cannot let a lukewarm principle like “compromise” get in the way of real justice—we have to win.

MLK Day 2019: A Quick Review

Just last week, Bates College celebrated the legacy of one of history’s most iconic freedom fighters, Martin Luther King Jr., by giving students a platform to discuss issues involving race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and so much more. For three days I, along with most of the campus community, participated in events that not only reflected on issues marginalized groups dealt with in the past, but also examined how those systems were transformed into laws that restrict and take away people’s rights. More importantly, we also discussed solutions to dismantle these systems of oppression.

One workshop in particular had students imagine a society without prison systems. This workshop emphasized how the original idea for prisons was to protect citizens from “dangerous people.” However, due to American culture being white-washed, we have a very narrow lens for who we see as “dangerous.” Since Black people in the U.S. have been branded with negative stereotypes such as being inhumane or “ghetto” through media and laws, the automatic assumption is that there is always some criminal activity going on in the Black community. Thus, no one questions the mass incarceration of Black people. Not to mention how, because disability is seen as taboo in American culture, people with mental illnesses are thrown into jail instead of receiving the help that they deserve because no one wants to assist them. In short, the workshop highlighted how the prison system is a place to put people who aren’t deemed as socially acceptable. Instead of protecting citizens, we as a society are using prisons to take away the rights of so many innocent individuals. Students then found several alternatives that focused more on rehabilitating those who need it and not just because they don’t fit the status quo.

Now, you can’t talk about MLK Day without talking about Sankofa. Sankofa has always been an amazing addition to MLK Day because it highlights the talent in the people of color community, as well as the companionship they can find in one another. You get to see different styles of dance and hear people singing their hearts out to their favorite celebrities. I think that in a world that is serious most of the time, it’s nice to take a step back and realize the beauty in life. People of color are so much more than their skin tone, or gender, or sexuality. They are also dancers, singers, artists, poets, and orators. They have the ability to reach their goals just like their white counterparts, which is what MLK really wanted to make people see. MLK not only spoke about equity when it came to resources, but also about people bonding over common passions and loving one another for the talent they had to offer.

Overall, MLK Day gave me and many others the opportunity to sit back and realize that we as a society still need to grow. We have overcome so much, but it’s still not enough because people are still being oppressed. But we have the power to change that

Trump and the Squandering of US Soft Power

Superpowers come and go. They conceive their political hegemony through violence, assert their dominance with military braggadocio, and fight for survival until their last breath. But the United States, I have always thought, is a different kind of superpower –– gentle, persuasive, and more likely to endure the tide of history that unforgivingly washed away the Roman, British, and Soviet empires. Even with the rise of China and repeated muscle-flexing by Russia, the United States remains the world’s foremost economic and military actor. American nominal GDP of $19.39 trillion is greater than that of the bottom eight of the world’s ten largest economies combined. Constituting less than five percent of the global population, Americans generate and earn over 20 percent of the world’s total income. With an unrivaled annual defense budget of $716 billion, over 6000 nuclear warheads, and an extensive network of allies and strategic partners, the American military is consistently ranked as the most powerful and logistically prepared in the world. Though quantitative indicators are certainly worthy of consideration, we should also acknowledge that they are incomplete. American influence operates in much more subtle and sophisticated ways: captivating minds of people around the world in a way that cannot be quantified or fully documented on paper. Even in the most socially conservative of countries, teenagers are voracious consumers of Hollywood productions and pop music. Chinese and Russian elites tirelessly decry Uncle Sam’s actions but send their children to American schools and universities; for one, Xi Jinping’s only daughter is a Harvard graduate. Every time there is a major political or humanitarian crisis, the world eagerly awaits what American politicians and experts have to say. The US standing on the global arena is thus as reliant on values, culture, and the ingenuity of the American people as it is on our fiscal-military prowess. Unfortunately, President Trump has repeatedly made clear that he is willing to practice the latter but not the former component of American global leadership. He has repeatedly suggested that the US should leverage its economic and political dominance to craft more beneficial trade deals, cajole Mexico’s government into paying for the wall, and get our NATO allies to meet their spending commitments. In light of this Trumpian diplomacy, I cannot help but ask: why not use some of the most persuasive tools in our arsenal –– America’s historic commitment to human rights, freedom of the press, and representative democracy –– to encourage nations of the world to embrace better versions of themselves?

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