Oops. He’s done it again. Donald Trump’s ever-resounding presence in front of our national televisions was at its finest last week. During his national address to the American people this past Tuesday, January 8th, President Trump tried to convince the country about the benefits of the creation of his border wall. As we all well know, Trump has been adamant about border security since the early beginning of his campaign back in 2015. Offensively describing Mexicans as “drug dealers,” “criminals,” and “rapists” has distinguished Trump as by far one of the most protectionist world leaders in recent memory. President Trump continued to live up to his less than sterling reputation by clumsily addressing to the United States about the importance of building a wall. While watching this speech, like most of Trump’s speeches, I was less than thrilled when hearing what he had to say. With all his smugness, insecurity, and aggressiveness, I find his rhetoric less than pleasing. However, it is with this speech where I discovered something rather unique: he was clear. Trump’s delivery was succinct and well-organized. It was almost as if Trump was confident in what he had to say and, for a change, believed that his policy was actually going to work. Maybe I’m wrong and I’m giving our President more credit than he deserves, but I feel as though Trump truly believes that the border wall might give him the notoriety and the respect that he has longed for. At any rate, it is interesting to see this new dynamic in Trump. It’s almost as if he knows something is going to happen and that we don’t. Or maybe, on the contrary, he is happy that he is finally creating some sort of legislation to be debated on. Now, more importantly, what Donald Trump actually wants out of this border wall is completely unreasonable. In his speech, President Trump claims that the wall is going to cost $5.7 billion to build. Trump said that building a wall would cost less than the 500 billion dollars worth of illegal drugs that he claims flow between Mexico and the U.S., and that it would protect American lives. While both of these goals are for sure admirable, I feel there are other, more plausible ways, to deal with the issue of border security. $5.7 billion can be used in many different ways rather than just a wall. Despite this, I almost forgot the most important part of Trump’s border security plan, the one in which he claims that Mexico is going to inevitably pay for the wall. As he has said this since the beginning of his campaign, Trump wants Mexico to pay for the border wall based on new trade deals and international relationships. Not only has this part of Trump’s border security plan produced major controversy, it has unsettled several members of U.S. Congress including Democratic leaders such as Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. Senate minority leader Schumer and current Speaker of the House Pelosi, in their national address rebuttal, kept the headlines concerning the ongoing debate about border security rolling. Not only for economic reasons but for moral reasons, both Schumer and Pelosi have criticized Trump for neglecting many more important ways of dealing with border security. But like Schumer and Pelosi, we can only wait and see in the coming weeks the fate of Donald Trump’s national agenda for border security.
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In the age of #MeToo, we as a society are starting to reevaluate how we view rape by holding accountable the people who have committed or who continue to commit the criminal act. One person in particular that has recently been exposed is R&b singer R-Kelly and his numerous accusations of rape and pedophilia. Although R-Kelly has contributed immensely to the R&b genre and the music industry, in general, for over twenty years (known as the unofficial “king of R&b”), he has ruined the lives of numerous under-aged girls using his star power as a scapegoat. After releasing smash hits like “Bump N Grind” and “I Believe I Can Fly”, R-Kelly was at the peak of his career, and many families saw this. Many families believed that R-Kelly could help their children reach the fame that he was able to achieve. However, they were gravely mistaken. Although R-Kelly promised that he would produce people’s daughters and make them famous, they only thing he did was rob those children of their innocence. The television network Lifetime recently delved deep into the dark, twisted story of R-Kelly’s life in a six-part documentary series. It highlighted how R-Kelly both verbally and physically abused the under-aged women by starving them, attacking them, raping them, etc. The documentary series was made to give a voice to a group of women who were promised fame and fortune, but ended up getting years worth of abuse and people telling them that they’re lying or that their story doesn’t matter. Now you would think that this documentary series would change the public opinion on rape culture. But this documentary series did the exact opposite. There are still so many people who support R-Kelly. So, I guess the question is “why?” “Why do people still stand by a man who has destroyed the lives of dozens of women, and how can people blame the victims for a situation like this?” It is because so many of us grew up in a household that preached the rhetoric “boys will be boys,” which allows boys to make mistakes and be forgiven, despite the effects it has on others. Boys are taught that in order to know right, they must experience wrong, while, in comparison, girls are taught that they must be perfect at all cost. Boys grow up believing that if they make a mistake then it will be fine because people will forgive them and accept that they will learn eventually, while girls must learn to walk on eggshells at an early age in their lives. This idea evolves when these boys become men and they are allowed to, theoretically, do whatever they want because it’s a “learning experience.” Meanwhile, women are taught that their purpose is to support the man if he’s wrong because he has a lot of pressure on him. By teaching women that they are nothing more than a support system for men and teaching men that their job is to make mistakes in order to get better, we as a society allow men to not think about how their actions affect others. This was seen through R-Kelly and how he used under-age girls for his own personal pleasure. He saw nothing wrong because he thought he deserved those girls and society made it acceptable for him to go after anything he felt he deserved. People are defending him because they were taught that men should be able to seek out anything that they want. If we want people to see the error in their ways, we as a society have to teach men that their actions have consequences. If we as a society stopped excusing men’s irrational behaviors and actions, then they would respect other people’s lives more and think twice about their actions. If people realized that a woman’s life is just as important as a man’s life then more people could see how R-Kelly dehumanized these young ladies and took away their lives.
On Friday and Saturday, Jan. 11 and 12, Sandglass Theater from Putney, Vermont, came to Bates’ Gannet Theater to perform the company’s original play, “Babylon, Journeys of Refugees,” featuring recent Bates grad Keila K. Ching ’18 as an ensemble member.
The play started with a pop quiz, in which actors prompted questions and after a pause, would step forward if the answer applied to them. Some questions included: “Which of us have family in another country?” and “Which of us have been arrested?” to which one or a few actors stepped forward. For the final question “Who has been mistaken for another nationality?” all of the ensemble members stepped forward. It was later stated that this exercise was to differentiate who the actors were from the puppets they played.
From there, the stories of four refugees were told through multiple narrative forms, including song, music, sound effects, and crankies—or moving panoramas. Through the course of the play, the audience watched a mother escape from Afghanistan, a father and his daughter escape from Burundi, a boy from El Salvador escape from the gang violence around him, and a man with a master’s degree in computer science escape from Syria by boat. Present in each vignette, Gretel, the ghost from another war, slowly takes away prominent images from each story—from a sack of flour the woman from Afghanistan carried while escaping to a worn out pair of shoes the boy from El Salvador walked in on his way to the US border.
The story lines converge at the end of the play, when all the puppets are behind a chicken wire fence awaiting a decision on their appeals for refugee status in the US. While illustrating the experiences of refugees, the actors in the ensemble also asked questions about the US’s responsibility for accepting refugees, especially given the complication that the US is a major arms provider for war-torn countries like El Salvador. At the end of the play, the audience is left asking what happens to those refugees rejected from the US. Although Gretel the ghost is not given a story, we can assume she was rejected refugee status in the US after escaping Europe in World War II—signifying how history is known to repeat itself.
According the show’s playbill, Sandglass Theater decided to call the play “Babylon” after the ancient city of Babylon which is now in Iraq: “This fallen mythic civilization becomes, for us, a metaphor for the destruction and destabilization that is leading much of the world into a refugee crisis of mythic proportion.” It continues, stating that “In Babylon, the blending of actual testimony with unreal figures gives us a view into how we respond to the enormity of crisis.”
In response to a question during the Q&A session after the play about “Babylon’s” research and writing process, Shoshana Bass, one of the artistic co-directors and ensemble members of “Babylon,” shared the work that took place from the play’s conception to its final product. Through working closely with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program (now called USCRI Vermont), Sandglass Theater had the chance to interview staff members of the program—all of whom are resettled refugees—as well as their clients. According to Bass, “[W]e came in there with questions and what we needed to hear was what came out—and it was never necessarily [answers to] the questions we came in with.”
“With one exception, none of these stories we tell are somebody’s full rope for rope story,” explained Bass. “They are kind of amassed from different things. Through the interviews, we then kind of pulled up images that held to us the essence of this story and this situation, for example a pair of shoes that have been walked in for so long that they’ve fallen apart.”
A sentiment that all of the ensemble members wrestled with was representing a story that does not belong to them. As Eric Bass, the co-founder and director of Sandglass Theater, put it, “The fundamental issue in creating this piece is how you give voice, a voice that needs to be heard, when you cannot embody that voice, because it’s not you. It’s not just not you [as in] a different person, it’s not you [as in] a different culture. It’s not us. And so, what the songs are intended to do is to present that voice in a way in which none of us—not the puppets or the puppeteers—pretend to be anybody else but themselves. So the puppets are sculptural representations and they remain puppets, and as such, while they embody a person on a journey, they’re also metaphors—they remain metaphors in a way that the human being can be, but not as easily, not as naturally as the puppet.”
The Bates Student runs a regular column which hopes to highlight the unique gifts to the Bates community brought forth by foreign language teaching assistants. This week, I spoke to Andrea Elisabeth Kreditsch, the 2018-19 German language teaching assistant, about her native country of Austria, adjusting to American culture, and Austrian food!
Bates Student (BS): Hello, Andrea! Where are you from?
Andrea Elisabeth Kreditsch (AES): I am from Austria, from Graz. Graz is in the southeast of Austria, about a two-hour drive south of Vienna, our capital. It is also the second biggest city of the country and it’s a student city, so it has its very distinct flair.
BS: Where did you attend university and what did you study?
AES: I attended Karl Franzens University (or University of Graz) in Graz, Austria. I studied English language, literature and culture as well as history and graduated with my Mag. phil. (like a MA) earlier this year.
BS: Why did you decide to pursue teaching German as a foreign language? What led you to this field of teaching?
AES: I am a trained foreign language teacher for English, and I knew that at some point in my life, I wanted to work and teach abroad. I decided in late 2017 that I would try and apply for a Fulbright grant in German language teaching, because I thought that this would be a great opportunity to not only experience living in a different country but also to teach my language and introduce students to my culture.
BS: When and how did you learn English?
AES: I learned English first from books and other materials that a family member living in Canada sent over to Austria before I started school. In school, I had 12 years of English, but I think I also learned a lot by reading and watching movies in English outside of class. I then went on to study English in university.
BS: What do you miss the most about your home country?
AES: What I miss most about my home country is the food, probably. Food is such an essential part of every culture, and you don’t realize how used you are to your own food until it becomes unavailable. I miss “real” (meaning dark rye) bread and pumpkin seed oil, and gingerbread and cookies, and Topfenstrudel and Marillenknödel. Thankfully, we have a cultural kitchen in Roger Williams that my fellow TAs and I have been using to make some of our favorite dishes from home for and with students, and I am looking forward to doing this again this semester!
And I miss the mountains. I am not much of a hiker (more of a skier), but I miss just looking out my window and seeing mountains.
BS: What has been your favorite part of living in the States? Least favorite part?
AES: My favorite part of living in the US is probably that I get to live in such a beautiful part of the country—I love the nature here, I love the outdoors, and I love winter, so Maine is the perfect state for me! My least favorite part of living here is that you need a car to get anywhere, at least here in Maine….
BS: How has your experience at Bates been?
AES: My experience has been great so far, I really love working at the German and Russian Department; it’s so much fun! I love teaching my language to students and giving them an insight into my culture. I also really like the tight-knit community at Bates; it is like a big family, and you are never just a number like at big universities (like my university at home—we had 30,000 students and big lectures with 400 students).
BS: Do you have any recommendations for students hoping to learn German?
AES: What I would recommend to students wanting to learn German is to make use of as much authentic material as they can: German movies and TV shows (even if they don’t understand anything yet, just hearing the language helps such a lot!), German books, German news, German websites/YouTube channels/blogs etc. and, of course: try to speak German whenever they can, whether it is with German speakers or with each other! I know it can be very intimidating to speak a new language, but it will all pay off in the end! And of course, if you are not a student of German yet, come and say hi to us at the German department and check out our language courses!
It’s a new semester—which means more chances to get involved at Bates. On Wednesday, Jan. 9, over forty of Bates’ clubs and organizations gathered in Chase Hall to educate students about their plans for the winter and recruit more members. The Office of Campus Life sponsors this mid-year club fair as a low-stress alternative to the noisy crowds at the Gray Cage during the first week of fall semester.
“The fall club fair can be a little bit overwhelming. The Gray Cage can get really loud, and even though it’s very exciting, we wanted to do a mid-year one that was more relaxed and had a less intimidating atmosphere,” explained Jen Haugen, Coordinator of Campus Life Programming.
Club leaders and representatives set up tables in four different rooms throughout Chase Hall: Chase Lounge, Skelton Lounge, Memorial Commons, and Hirasawa Lounge. This set-up allowed students to stroll leisurely and easily seek out the groups they were interested in—each room was also paired with different pizza varieties.
With a better grasp of their time management skills, first-years can be more strategic and thoughtful about which clubs they choose to sign up for. “We realize that first-years now know their schedule and how much they can handle, so they won’t end up just putting their emails down for everything,” added Haugen.
Many of Bates’ clubs and organizations have exciting plans for the upcoming semester. For example, the Ballroom Club is looking forward to their performance at Gala in March. “I think we have a bigger group than we did last year, so we’re really excited about it,” said the club’s vice president, Joan Buse ’21.
The Ballroom Club practices several times a week and competes about four times a year. They focus primarily on rumba, cha-cha, swing, waltz, foxtrot, and tango. When asked why she joined, Jina McCullough ’20 explained: “I’ve been dancing for 19 years and finding a club that allows me to explore different kinds of dancing has been so fun. Everyone in the club is pretty close – even if they’re from different years – because we spend so much time together.” The Ballroom Club always welcomes new members, regardless of experience level.
Another club hoping to perform at Gala is the Circus Club. Ben Hoffinger ’22 joined Circus Club at the beginning of the year and speaks highly of his experience so far. “My favorite thing about the club is how willing all the experienced circus folks are to teach you brand new skills and elements of circus that you’re unfamiliar with. For instance, I learned how to walk on stilts just last semester,” he explained. Circus Club meets on Sundays and encourages everyone to come join the fun.
“If you’re interested in anything related to juggling, stilting, or unicycling and just want to give it a shot, come try it out with us even if you have zero circus experience.”
Other clubs have their eye on events coming up very soon. For example, Filmboard is screening the film Sorry to Bother You on Martin Luther King Jr. Day next week. Timothy Kaplowitz ’20 describes the film as both critically adored and potentially divisive. “I think it will lead to a lot of discussion and I’m really interested in seeing what the reception will be at Bates,” Kaplowitz adds. Everyone is invited to attend both the film as well as the discussion panel with Bates professors that will follow.
If you’re a movie buff or are interested in screening and discussing a specific movie, the Filmboard is the club for you! “At a typical film board meeting, we’ll be deciding on movies to bring in for screenings and planning events for the future. Mostly, we’re just hanging out and talking about movies,” explained the club’s president, David Unterberger ’19.
In addition, there are several new clubs that are looking forward to building their presence on campus. Astronomy Club is new to Bates this year and eager for more members. “Right now, we’re looking to get funding for a telescope for public events, so we’ve been doing a lot of planning for that as well as assigning positions and discussing future events,” explained the club’s president, Andy Kelly ’21. When asked who the ideal member for the club, the club’s vice president, Carolyn Snow ’21, replied, “Anyone with any interest in space should join. I haven’t actually taken an astronomy course here at Bates, but I just really like space.”
Clearly, there are many exciting opportunities for extracurricular life at Bates. Don’t miss out and take the time this semester to attend some events or meetings for clubs you’ve never heard of.
The infamous finals time is here. With a never-ending stream of papers, exams, and projects consuming Bates students, stress can affect the body in unexpected ways. Everything from sleep patterns to blood sugar can be thrown out-of sorts when someone is experiencing stress.
Senior year of college is full of ‘lasts’—last first day, last 80’s, last fall break—and for Bates athletes, also a last game. It is inevitable, but that does not mean that after four years they are anywhere near prepared. The athletes at Bates, just by applying, have made a commitment to both their sport and their academics. And while Bates celebrates its students’ academic achievements with senior thesis, final athletic contests often slip by. In order to break down these final senior moments, I spoke with Robbie Montanaro ’19 and Emma Patterson ’19, of men’s soccer and women’s field hockey respectively.
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 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.
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?