Populism: Fighting for Liberalism without Liberals

There seems to be a consensus amongst scholars that right wing populism is an anti-liberal movement.1 This notion is, to say the least, flawed. The populist movement has arisen due to a lack of liberalism, not opposition to it. My intention in this essay is to demonstrate that most populist voters are not anti-liberal but rather that support for populism is because liberalism is not available.

Perhaps it is best that we begin this essay by defining our terms properly. Since labels often serve more to confuse than to clarify, they should be avoided, but I feel that it is impossible make my point without resorting to them. By ​liberal I do not mean it as most Americans likely see it. The word has become associated in the United States with political correctness, censorship of conservative viewpoints and so forth. The word, “liberal,” around the rest of the world means a belief in civil liberties, political autonomy, human rights, constitutional government and the rule of law. Today, political liberalism is generally divided into classical and modern forms. What is today called classical liberalism emerged during the Age of Enlightenment. Building on the ideas of John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith, classical liberals advocated political freedoms, the rule of law and laissez faire economic policies. The American and French Revolutions were inspired by classical liberalism, arguing that government was by consent and that people retained certain natural or inalienable rights which even the government must respect. While enjoying significant support, particularly in Britain under the Governments formed by William Ewart Gladstone. Classical liberalism eventually began to be replaced by modern day egalitarian or social liberalism. While strongly supportive of human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law, social liberals also believe that social programs aimed at reducing inequality are also necessary towards maximizing individual liberty and are more critical of the laissez faire policies of classical liberals. Examining social liberal thought, we find that two strands of thought can be identified within it. The moderate tradition articulates a support for laissez faire economic policies alongside support for a minimum level of welfare protection. It departs from classical liberalism in its support for the welfare state and a minimum level of government intervention in the economy but departs from more radical liberal variants or from social democracy and democratic socialism in its more pro-business stances. This tradition began with the rise of the, “Third Way,” movement under U.S. president Bill Clinton and British prime minister Tony Blair. Today it is continued by French president Emmanuel Macron and British politician Vince Cable.

The more radical strand of thought, although rejecting centralized ownership of the means of production, tends to be more skeptical towards full capitalism (private ownership of the means of production) and is more supportive of collective bargaining and cooperatives. This tradition is usually more extreme in its support for autonomy, decentralized structures of political organization and civil disobedience. It began with Leonard Hobhouse,2 and was continued economically with the work of John Maynard Keynes and politically with the Italian anti-fascists such as Piero Gobetti and Carlo Rosselli. As an academic tradition, philosophers Norberto Bobbio and in particular John Rawls contributed to its conceptions of justice and liberty.support taking in refugees from other countries.7 A study done by the Better World Campaign found that 88 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. should play a major role in the United Nations and that 81 percent believe that the U.S. should work with major allies to solve issues facing the world today, thereby affirming that the public retains vast support for internationalism.8 Furthermore, the Eurobarometer recently revealed that the E.U. is enjoying its highest support in 35 years.9

Thus, if support for the rule of law, multiculturalism, immigration and internationalism (in short everything that the populists oppose) continues; why do populists continue to get elected to, and form governments?

The answer lies in an examination of what liberalism and populism both represent. Liberalism, particularly social liberalism combines both support for rule of law institutions, human rights, civil liberties and free markets with support for social programs aimed at the redistribution of wealth and in limiting the influence of business over people. In short social liberalism seeks to increase autonomy not only through limiting government power but also through limiting corporate power while also believing that individual liberty requires not just political and economic freedom but also reduced inequalities.

The populist movement has taken traditional social liberal and social democratic policies of support for the working class and the, “commoners over the elite,” but eliminated what makes liberalism the guardian of natural rights and the social contract by rejecting liberal institutions aimed at safeguarding the rule of law and individual freedom and also rejecting support for immigration and diversity.

As we have shown, support for liberalism remains vibrant. The rise of populism has therefore not been moved forward by opposition to liberalism but out of a lack of it.

In places where liberalism has managed to defeat populism, liberal parties, or at the very least strong liberal factions in other parties, have managed to gather support from the people and therefore beat back populism (or prevent it from gathering a stronghold in the first place). For example, the Liberal Party in Canada has remained one of the two major governing parties in Canada for decades along with the Conservative Party. The social liberalism of the Liberal Party managed to appeal to a wide demographic in the 2015 federal election in which the Liberal Party under Justin Trudeau seized back Government from the Conservatives.10 France is perhaps the most notable example since Emmanuel Macron’s victory against populist Marine Le Pen in the 2017 French presidential election is widely seen as a victory for liberal democracy.

Now Macron, while being a social liberal is still a part of the moderate rather than radical tradition and his ​La Republique en Marche! party did not appeal to as wide of a demographic, particularly not in high deindustrialized areas of France. However, he still managed to present himself as the moderate alternative to Le Pen.11

By contrast, liberalism has suffered where no liberal parties or liberal factions within parties have gathered support. Italy has no notable liberal presence. Nor does Poland or Hungary.

The 2016 U.S. presidential election is widely seen as a loss for liberal democracy. While Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party are social liberal in the moderate tradition, similar to Macron in many ways, the main problem is in the electoral college system in the United States but the problems of the Electoral College are a story for another day. In fact, Clinton’s win of the popular vote goes to demonstrate how a social liberal platform can appeal to a wide demographic.

The challenge to liberalism by populism come, not from a rejection of liberalism, but from a lack of it. Social liberal parties can present themselves as the alternative towards populism. More than ever, liberty must ring.

1. Rupnik, Jacques. ​“The Crisis of Liberalism.”​​Journal of Democracy ​vol. 29, no. 3 (July 2018): 24-38.

Wike, Richard, and Janell Fetterolf. ​“Liberal Democracy’s Crisis of Confidence”​Journal of Democracy vol ​29, no. 4 (October 2018): 136-150.

2. ​Hobhouse, Leonard Trelawny. ​The Labour Movement​.New York, New York: Macmillan Company, 1912. Accessed November 06, 2018. https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Labour_Movement.html?id=RHBMAAAAIAAJ&prin tsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button#v=onepage&q&f=false.​

3. Munro, Andre. ​”Populism.”​Encyclopedia Britannica. March 06, 2018. Accessed October 28, 2018. ​https://www.britannica.com/topic/populism​.

4. ​Galston, William A. ​”The Populist Challenge to Liberal Democracy.”​​Journal of Democracy Vol 29, no. 2 (April 2018): 5-19.

5. ​“How countries around the world view democracy, military rule and other political systems.” Pew Research Center. October 30 2017. Accessed October 27 2018. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/10/30/global-views-political-systems/

6. Harting, Hannah. ​“Most Americans View Openness to Foreigners as ‘essential to Who We Are as a Nation’.”​Pew Reseach Center. October 09, 2018. Accessed November 05, 2018. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/10/09/most-americans-view-openness-to-foreigners-as -essential-to-who-we-are-as-a-nation/​.

7. Connor, Phillip. ​“A Majority of Europeans Favor Taking in Refugees, but Most Disapprove of EU’s Handling of the Issue.”​Pew Reseach Center. September 19, 2018. Accessed November 5, 2018. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/19/a-majority-of-europeans-favor-taking-in-refuge es-but-most-disapprove-of-eus-handling-of-the-issue/​.

8. Better World Campaign. “New Poll Finds 88 Percent of Americans Support Active Engagement at the United Nations.” Better World Campaign. November 06, 2018. Accessed January 04, 2017. https://betterworldcampaign.org/news-room/press-releases/new-poll-finds-88-percent-of-american s-support-active-engagement-at-the-united-nations/​.

9. ​EU Public Affairs. “Eurobarometer Survey Shows Highest Support for the EU in 35 Years.” European Parliament. May 23, 2018. Accessed November 06, 2018. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/eu-affairs/20180522STO04020/eurobarometer-s urvey-highest-support-for-the-eu-in-35-years.

How is the Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize Determined?

Peace is said to be the ultimate challenge of our time, and one of humanity’s most important values. Unfortunately we struggle for peace because of racial discrimination, and the imbalance between the rich and poor, among many other things. This makes peace and the Nobel Peace Prize all the more important. The Nobel Peace Prize recognizes people who have tried to make peace throughout the past year and encourages them to continue making peace. Researching all the amazing people who have changed the world for the better made me wonder how the judges of the prize determine who has made the most peace. How do you measure what makes one person’s good deeds greater than another’s?  That is why I choose to do my topic on how the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is determined.

Before starting my research on how the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is determined, I first researched more about the Nobel prize so I could have a deeper understanding of how it works. Most of my information on this came from the Nobel Prizes site and the book “Peace I Say” by Jay Nordlinger. discovered that the Committee of the Nobel Prize Judges is an independent body and is elected by the sorting, which is a legislative body composed of 169 member elected by the Norwegian people. The committee is responsible for the selection of eligible candidates and is composed of Norwegians. That is a custom but not a rule and anyone can be elected. A member is elected for a 6 year term but can be reelected as many times as possible. Each member can appoint their own chairman and deputy chairman.  As far as I can tell, the only rule for who can be a committee member is that no member of the government can serve on a committee. Another custom is that no member of the sorting can serve on the committee. Members can split the prize between as many as three people as well as give it to an individual or a organization. The prize can even be split between two people who have nothing to do with each other! I also found out that the prize does not have to be given every year, but it does have to be given every five years.

After researching about the Nobel Prize, I wanted to see who can be nominated and if there are any rules about being nominated for the prize. I found out that whoever is nominated has to be nominated for the work he or she have done during the preceding year, not any past work. Also the prize can not be given to anyone posthumously (after they have died), unless it has been decided before the person died. However, in 1961 Dag Hammarskjöld was the only person to win the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously but that was under specific circumstances and will never be done again. There are strict rules about who can nominate people and if you want to nominate someone you have to fall into one of these categories. You can nominate someone if you are a member of the International Court of Justice or the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, a member of the Institut De Droit International, a past winner of a Nobel Prize, on the board of directors for an organization that has won the prize, a former advisor of the Nobel Committee, a present or past committee member, a member of a national assembly or government, a university chancellor, or a university professor of Social Science, History, Philosophy, Law, and Theology. If you fit into one of those categories you will be sent a formal invitation to place your nomination.  Anybody can campaign to be nominated, but you can not nominate yourself. However, if you campaign you are not likely to win. The deadline for nomination is February 1st.

Now that we have all the logistics of the prize worked out, I can go back to my original question: How Is The Winner Of The Nobel Peace Prize Determined? The most obvious answer is whomever has made the most peace. But what is peace? What is considered “making peace”? The definition from the American Heritage College Dictionary is “the absence of war and other hostilities or an agreement to end hostilities”. In that dictionary it was also defined as freedom from quarrels and disagreements, harmonious relations, public security and order, inner contentment and serenity.  The Oxford Living Dictionary defined it differently. They defined it as a mental or emotional calm and freedom from disturbance. The most common definition of peace is the absence of dissension, violence, or war. The is also the definition of of the Greek word for peace, irene. However the original stem for peace is from the latin word pax wich means freedom from civil disorder. Other words for peace include haiwa, paix, shalom, pace, par, irene, aloha, pax, peace, frieden, and so many more; and like there are many words, there are many meanings for peace. In some cultures peace is used as a greeting, farewell, or request for silence, like aloha in hawaii. To the Chinese, peace is a feeling of contentment and is not connected to a peaceful society. To Israelis, peace is a state of friendliness and wellness. Emperor Augustus of Rome said, “Rome will grow richer only through peace.” which to the Romans meant absence of war and lasted 207 years. Cicero defines peace as freedom or tranquility which can only happen without war. Franklin Roosevelt believed that peace, like charity, begins at home. Peace can also be viewed as concord, harmony, tranquility, serenity, and a state of justice or goodness.

Even though there are many definitions of peace, in these circumstances the one the matters most is how the founder of the prize, Alfred Nobel, defined it. Alfred Nobel started the prize in Stockholm in 1900’s. He started the prize to rid himself of the title, “The Merchant of Death” which was given to him because he got rich selling dynamite. The instructions for the prize were inclosed in his third and final will which he signed in a Swedish/Norwegian club in Paris, France. As expected, his family was opposed to him leaving the majority of his money to the prize and not to them. The people he asked to award the prize was also opposed and therefore the first prize was not awarded until five years after his death in 1901. In his will Alfred Nobel described the winner of the peace prize as “The person who shall have done the most or best work for fraternity between the nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peaceful congress……….and have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind. ” Nobel’s definition also includes people who have worked to resolve conflict or create peace. It is also said that the person who receives the prize must be modest. Another very important line in the will is, “It is my express wish that when awarding the prize no consideration should be given to nationality but that the prize be awarded to the worthiest person whether or wether not they are Scandinavian.” One of the only rules in the will states that the entire remaining estate should be given to those who have made the most peace during the preceding year. This is a very controversial line because someone can easily say that someone won from their work in the preceding year but in reality it was because of past work.

Even though that is Alfred Nobel’s view it is not necessarily the views of the people who are currently in the committee. It is very hard to find why winners have been chosen because why a person was chosen over the other nominations along with the information and names of nominations are not supposed to be revealed until 50 years later. However, I did find information on why some organizations were chosen. For example, doctors without borders was chosen for the Nobel Peace because, “They help people in the most desperate situations whatever their race and whatever they may be to turn back to a dignified life.” The prize is awarded to a person or organization that has done the most to benefit humanity and promote the cause of peace. It is said that the winners of the peace prize go where need, suffering, and hopelessness is greatest – regardless of whether the catastrophes are human or natural in origin. I also think it is important to point out that the views of the Nobel Prize Committee are not and do not claim to be the views of the majority’s of the world’s population.

As I just said, the Nobel Peace Prize is not the view of the majority of the world population, which makes it a very controversial and politicized prize.  As the journalist Jay Nordlinger said, “Its selection process is bound up intimately with the parliamentary politics of Norway.” Even though that may be true, the Nobel Peace Prize has many benefits. The prize will raise awareness and previously closed doors will be opened for the recipient(s). With all the publicity and attention on political oppression and human rights violations there is a good chance that the government will work more towards helping people and changing what is wrong. The prize also helps the recipient further stabilize the peace they have been working towards.  The money given to the recipient(s) most likely will be used to continue their work and will benefit human kind even more. That is why the price is usually given before or in the middle of the peace process, when there is still much work to be done, so the Nobel Peace Prize can help them continue their work. One great thing that the prize does is highlight and recognize people with great aspirations, not necessarily great accomplishments. This way everyone who wins the prize is a good person at heart who will use the money and publicity for good and not to benefit themselves.

After researching how the judges are divided and how the judges/nominations decided who has made the most peace, I thought I should talk a little bit about the election process before I move on to interviews. February first is the deadline for nominations but the committee members can add more to the list, but only on that day. Finally in late February and early March the committee members work hard on coming up with a list of around 35 names. They then take a break to research and think before meeting again in April to narrow the previous list down to five to seven names. They then spend until early October trying to agree on the winner. In October the members do a majority vote without appeal. The winner is final and can not be changed. If a member strongly disagrees with a choice, they can resign before before October 27th when the winner is announced, but they must keep a dignified silence on their opinions.

I decided to interview two people on my topic to see what they thought about the Nobel Peace Prize and the process for awarding it. The first person that I interviewed was my friend Carly Cieslowski. I asked Carly how she thought the winner of the prize was determined and she said that she thought it was by the amount of people the person(s) help. Later, when I asked my brother Charles Billings, he said the opposite. He related it to one of the theories of Hobbes (the philosopher)  which is that it is about who affects the greatest good and it is not about how many people it helps. In other words, it is about who needs the help the most. He also said that it might be based on whether the person is a good, amiable person. I also asked my brother if he thought there should be any requirement for who can be nominated and he said no, as long as the person nominated is a good human being. The last question I asked my brother was what he thought makes a good deed great. He said that it changes the world for the better, which I completely agree with.

As Alfred Nobel said, “to declare someone a champion of peace is a bold act, to declare someone the greatest champion is an even bolder one.” However, I do not think that the Nobel Peace Prize itself is the bold one; I think the winners are. The winners of the Nobel Peace Prize are some of the bravest people in the world because they have the courage to stand up for what they believe in and fight for what is right. Ultimately, I think that the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is determined by whoever  is the most selfless person who will dedicate their entire life to helping people and making a brighter tomorrow.


“All Nobel Peace Prizes” https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/lists/all-nobel-peace-prizes/ 11-20-18

Billings, Charles interview 11-23-18

Castiglion, Elisa “what does peace mean?” faces vol. 34 no. 7 april 2018, pg 8. EBSCOHOST, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=dr&AN=128502862

Cieslowski, Carly interview 11-20-18

Krebs, Ronald R. “the false promise of the nobel peace prize.” political science quarterly (academy of political science), vol. 124, no. 4, winter 2009/2010 2009, pg. 593 EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f6h&AN=47569163&site=ehost-live

Kushner, Sherrill. “ Nobel Peace Prize” faces, vol. 21, no. 7, march 2005 p.44 EBSCOHOST.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=erl&AN=16314711

Lusted, Marcia Amidon. “A Prize for Peace.” faces vol. 27 no.3, november 2010, p. 33 EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=trues&AN=54977684

“Nomination and selection of peace prize laureates” https://www.nobelprize.org/nomination/peace

Nordlinger, Jay. Peace, They Say. New York: Encounter Books., 2012

Peace. Oxford Living Dictionary. 2018 Oxford university press. https://en.oxforddictonaries.com/definition/peace

Rummel, R.J. “Understanding conflict and war: vol.5: the just peace chapter 2. What is peace”  https://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/TJP.CHAP2.HTM

Russel, George. “Nobel Causes.” commentary, vol. 133, no. 6, June 2012, pg. 47. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f6h&AN=7638407&site=ehost-live

The American Heritage College Dictionary, 3rd edition, 1997

The Forgotten Cowboys

The cowboy. A figure bathed in romance and national worship, the cowboy represents open lands, rugged individualism, and wandering, roaming freedom—diving into the unknown, unafraid, charging on a lone horse. The cowboy is the essence of American life, what we want to be; he is our quintessential hero. And he is always—always—white.

However, white men were never the only ones out on the range, and they certainly were not the only ones with a hand in the American cowboy culture. During the late 19th century following the Civil War, cattlemen and ranchers saw the economic potential in the Great Plains, and over 55,000 cowboys worked the plains between 1866-1885. Twenty-five percent of these cowboys were African Americans who brought their own culture, which they had already developed during their time as slaves, to the open ranges, where it became the heart of cowboy culture.


Buckaroo!” With its kicking k’s and howling oo’s, the word “buckaroo” is a classic example of Wild West slang. Meaning cowboy, “buckaroo” is generally believed to come from the equivalent Spanish word vaquero. But as with all history, origins are murky, and it is equally likely that “buckaroo” arose from African American influence, specifically the Gullah word buckra. Gullah, a language orginaly spoken by Southern slaves, was carried out west by black cowboys who quickly adapted its vocabulary for their new life of strange, foreign geography, unfamiliar work, and, most notably, heightened socio-economic tension in a work system much different from that of the plantations. Buckra, in particular, reflects these environmental factors, and to understand its use by African American cowboys requires an understanding of the African American cowboy’s status in the social hierarchy of the West.

While the segregation between white cowboys and African American cowboys was customary, the presence of Mexican vaqueros on the range complicated this relationship. African Americans, outnumbered by Mexicans who were better trained for range work, found themselves in economic competition with another minority group. Though neither group was fully accepted by the white cowboys, Mexican vaqueros were regarded as above black cowboys.

The Mexicans’ attitudes merely added insult to injury; contemptuous and condescending, “como un negro” was their supreme insult. Resentful of the Mexicans’ mockery and superiority, African American cowboys turned against the Mexican vaqueros by attacking them viciously through a coded language.

Buckra, in essence, means “white man” or “master”; “buckaroo” is simply a variation of buckra, intended to be confused with vaquero to disguise its meaning. The use of words with double meanings was common among African Americans, hiding an often derisive and risque message. “Buckaroo” fell perfectly into this pattern: African Americans privately ridiculed Mexican cowboys by sarcastically referring to them as white men or masters. Because of its phonetic proximity to vaquero, outsiders—both whites and Mexicans—only picked up on the surface meaning of “buckaroo,” which was cowboy. This secret language gave African Americans a feeling of dominance over the Mexicans, allowing them to preserve their pride in the face of harsh racial and economic competition on the plains. The fact that “buckaroo” has remained with us to this day as a distinguishing cachet of cowboy culture is a testament to the gritty survival of the black cowboy in the wild, wild West.


It was John Lomax, the 19th-century American folklorist, who best described the beauty of Western music in his collection Songs of the Cattle Trail and Cow Camp: “Here… we may see the cowboy at work and at play; hear the jingle of his big bell spurs, the swish of his rope, the creaking of his saddle gear, the thud of thousands of hoofs on the long, long trail winding from Texas to Montana…” Indeed, cowboy music alone is material enough to retell the history of the West; its narratives and melodies carry us to an untethered land of young blood, beaten trails, and cattle drives. Though neglected and forgotten, African American cowboys were the keepers and interpreters of this cowboy legend, making significant contributions to Western music’s early formation.

When African Americans went out to work on the range, they brought with them an already developed musical culture from the plantations. In both structure and content, the ballads of the West originated from the field holler and moan sung by black slaves: a traditional three-chord ballad with narrative and sentimental lyrics. The song “Levee Camp Moan,” sung by Texas Alexander, contains the brooding lyrics and poignant reflections characteristic of black music and, later, of cowboy music: “They accused me of murder,/And I haven’t harmed a man,/They accused me of forgery,/And I can’t write my name.”

Songs by African American cowboys appear in numerous collections from the era. The first collector of cowboy songs, Jack Thorpe, began his work in 1889; his initial find was “Dodgin’ Joe,” a song by an African American cowboy and popular amongst black trail crews.

John Lomax’s collections, including 1910’s Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads and 1919’s Songs of the Cattle Trail and Cow Camp, contain plenty of songs by black cowboys; indeed, several of the most famous songs in both collections, such as “Git Along Little Dogies”, “Sam Bass”, and “Home on the Range”, came from African American cowboys. This music gave African Americans an indispensable role in the landscape of the West: by pouring the tribulations and joys of the trails into rowdy, sentimental music, African American cowboys reached out in song to touch other cowboys, alleviating the loneliness of the plains and making range life’s hardships a little more bearable.


Rodeo is the poetry of raw physicality, unpredictable creatures, and sacrifice; a battle between injury, immortality, and glory. Long dubbed “the toughest sport on Earth,” rodeo holds an undeniable appeal as a symbol of cowboy masculinity—after all, who else but a seasoned cowboy would even dare to handle a thrashing, bucking bull? African American cowboys too took part in this show of bravado and bravery, making rodeo the heroic sport it is today.

During slavery, African Americans often made up work crews responsible for the maintenance of ranches, including breaking horses, and after the Civil War, African American cowboys rounded up and branded cattle. These requisite skills made African American cowboys a perfect fit for the sport of rodeo; in fact, rodeo itself began with African Americans, NativeAmericans, and Mexicans teaching white men how to rope and wrangle cattle.

African Americans continued to develop their early cattle-ranching skills, and soon began creating their own thrilling rodeo events. Bill Pickett, an African American rodeo star, invented bulldogging, a rodeo style in which cowboys control a bull by biting its lip and subduing it. Pickett performed this trick for audiences across the country on numerous rodeo circuits; to this day, bulldogging remains one of the most popular events of rodeo. Nat Love and John Ware, both African American cowboys, were pivotal figures in early rodeo. Love was celebrated for his daring exploits and his roping, bridling, saddling, shooting, and bronco riding skills, earning the nickname “Deadwood Dick”; Ware, along with Pickett, popularized bulldogging. African American cowboys also created roman racing, a rodeo style where contestants ride standing upright on the backs of two horses. The evolution of rodeo, it appears, is as dynamic as the sport itself.


History is fickle, constantly subject to reinterpretation: narratives are hidden, then retrieved; memory is pregnant with meaning. In previous interpretations of Western history, African Americans, under a veil of racism, became the forgotten cowboys—their contributions overlooked and underestimated, their place in the wild West ignored. By reexamining Western history, we lift the corner of the veil and begin to see the full picture of the development of cowboy culture. The African American influence reverberates in the twang and rhythm of a hollered “buckaroo!”, in the bittersweet blues of a cowboy ballad, in the dust kicked up by racing rodeo horses. The history of the forgotten cowboys reminds us that the cowboy, a classic emblem of American life, is very much a product of multiethnic and multiracial influences; indeed, it is diversity that makes America so uniquely American.


Lomax, John. Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads. Sturgis & Walton, 1916.

Lomax, John. Songs of the Cattle Trail and Cow Camp. HTML ed., Project


Mason, Julian. “The Etymology of ‘Buckaroo’.” American Speech, vol. 35, no. 1, 1960, pp. 51–55.

JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/453613.

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The Lesser-Known History of African-American Cowboys – History –

Smithsonian, Smithsonian, 13 Feb. 2017, www.smithsonianmag.com/history/


Accessed 25 Nov. 2018.

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Culture, vol. 16, no. 2, 1994, pp. 95–103. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23413735.

Patton, Tracy Owens, and Sally M. Schedlock. “Let’s Go, Let’s Show, Let’s Rodeo: African

Americans and The History of Rodeo.” The Journal of African American History, vol. 96, no.

4, 2011, pp. 503–521. JSTOR, JSTOR,


“Who Were the Cowboys Behind ‘Cowboy Songs’?” Who Were the Cowboys Behind

‘Cowboy Songs’? : NPR, NPR, 4 Dec. 2010, www.npr.org/2010/12/05/131761541/

we-ve-all-heard-cowboy-songs-but-who-were-the-cowboys. Accessed 25 Nov. 2018.

What is Constructive Criticism and Why is it Important?

Have you ever asked someone for feedback and only received an “It’s fine?” When giving someone feedback, are you ever worried that they might react in a negative way? For my inquiry project, I decided to research criticism. What makes feedback constructive and helpful? What makes feedback unhelpful?

I love to draw and write, and the opinions of others are very important to me. I have noticed that whenever I share art with someone, I almost always get feedback. Even when I don’t ask for it. I researched this partly for myself, because I wanted to improve my criticism and how to respond to unhelpful criticism. I wanted to know what to say to get more out of someone who says something like “I don’t know, but something’s off about your work…”. I think it’s very important to know how to give and receive feedback. If you know these things, I believe that you will improve your work faster by critiquing others, yourself, and learning how to receive feedback.

To start off my project, I wanted to research the basics. What is criticism? What is helpful criticism? Why is it important? According to The American Heritage Student Dictionary, “Criticism is the art or profession of forming and expressing judgements, especially about literary or artistic works.” I also found another definition that is as follows: “Criticism is unfavorable judgement; finding fault; disapproval: constant criticism with no encouragement.” In all of these definitions, the word judgement comes up. To me, judgement sounds harsh, not helpful, really. It seems that this dictionary views criticism as a bad thing. I believe that it can be bad or unhelpful, but it isn’t always. So what is helpful criticism, then? Helpful criticism includes tips and things to improve on. Believe it or not, saying “I like it, it’s perfect.” is one of the most unhelpful feedback lines to give someone. It implies that you are unwilling to give detailed and personalized feedback. Since humans, just like any other natural thing, are incapable of being perfect, there are always things to improve on. Saying something is perfect cuts you off from learning more and recognizing mistakes that will help you grow. But why is criticism important? Feedback equals improvement, and improvement should always be your goal. It’s not about getting it done fast, it’s about getting it done well. To get something finished and polished, you need feedback.

To understand more about feedback, we have to break it down into the three types of feedback. It is important for the giver and the receiver of feedback to understand these categories.  The first type is Appreciation. Appreciation feedback is mainly fostered off of human relationships. It’s the giver of the feedback showing that they understand your work and maybe even agrees with it. Appreciation is the feedback that makes us feel good about our work. Most commonly, it motivates us the most to keep going. This is because we are reassured that what we are working on is “worth it”, so to speak. The main purpose is to acknowledge the person’s work. An example of Appreciation would be “Wow! This poster you made for the fair is so cool. You’re so good at this. Keep going!” The second type of feedback is Evaluation. Evaluation feedback is when you or your work is compared against standards. It’s purpose is to rate or rank someone’s work and align expectations. An example of this would be “Your drawing is good, but do you see Maria’s? She shaded her piece, so it looks a little more finished. That’s what we’re going for.” The last type of feedback is Coaching. In my opinion, coaching is the most helpful type of criticism. Coaching helps you learn, grow, and change a piece of work or skill you have. The goal is to fix and improve, which I believe is the purpose of feedback. Speaking of purposes, the purpose of Coaching is to expand your knowledge and sharpen your skills. You can also address your feeling on a situation or work with Coaching. An example of Coaching would be “I like the green, but in my opinion, some red would make it pop even more.” or “Your really good at soccer, but I’d like you to work on your passing so you can improve before the next game.”

So now we know the benefits of each type, but there are some shortfalls to each. Appreciation is great because it makes you feel good about your work, but it also teaches someone to only expect good feedback and take Coaching feedback poorly. It tends to seem fake and lazy because it’s almost as if you don’t have time to give a person good feedback, so you just say “I really love it.” To improve Appreciation, tell the person what you like about their work so they can add more and know what they’re doing well. The shortfalls of Evaluation are the opposite of Appreciation. Instead of a person not saying enough, someone giving Evaluation feedback can seem more opinionated than helpful. Sometime it doesn’t inform how to improve, leaving the receiver to figure it out for themselves. This is not the point of good criticism. For these shortfalls, Coaching is a better alternative. But saying that, Coaching is not perfect, either. This kind of feedback can make the receiver feel targeted and attacked. With Coaching, it’s hard to find a balance between good things and bad things, which is a main ingredient for good feedback.

The main thing to understand with Coaching is differentiating between hearing and meaning. What a person hears can be different than what you intend. For example, if someone tells you to be more confident, you may hear it as “You’re not good at this because you aren’t confident,” even though that’s not the giver’s message. You message may have been that confidence helps you improve and realize what you’re capable of.

Opposite of the three types of feedback, we have the three feedback triggers. Feedback triggers flip a switch in someone’s brain that makes them defensive. The first trigger is the Truth trigger. This trigger is set off by the actual feedback. Some common responses you my be familiar with giving or saying are “That’s not true!”, “That isn’t what they said!”. The feedback makes the person feel wronged, so they get defensive. The way to help this problem for the giver is to make sure your tone is passive and not aggressive at all. If you are the receiver, try to understand that the person is trying to help you improve, not hurt your feelings. The second type of feedback is Identity feedback. This trigger is all about us. Who we are and what we believe in. When we feel that someone is attacking who we are, we fight back. When the giver of feedback gets this kind of response, they need to reevaluate what they said and make sure it wasn’t hurtful. One’s person shouldn’t be criticised unless permission is given. The last kind of trigger is the Relationship trigger. These have to do with the relationship between the giver and the receiver. The receiver’s reaction is based off of what they believe about the person. The receiver needs to make sure that they aren’t reacting to the person when they should be reacting to the criticism.

The person giving you feedback should not be trying to hurt you. If their criticism isn’t helpful, you do not have to use it. Thank them politely and move on. Don’t feel like you have to take it, but it’s important to be kind.  

If you are giving feedback, it’s important to focus on the situation, not the person. Here are some examples of critiquing one’s dressing style, one of which is constructive, the other not:

“You’re too old-fashioned. You’re always wearing old people’s clothes that make you so boring.”

“From my recollection, the clothes you wear tend to be dull in color and dated compared to current trends. There’s nothing wrong with that, it just can make a person appear to be older.”

The first example is not very constructive and helpful. The person may of had good intentions, but the conveying message is that YOU are the problem, which is not constructive.

The second example is much better. It detaches the situation from the person. They aren’t blaming the person, so it doesn’t feel like an attack.

There are some things to remember when giving criticism. First, make sure you detach the situation from the person. Take the person out of the equation to better focus on the situation. Make sure your comments are directed to the situation, not the person. For example, “The report is late.” not “You are late.”. You’re not accusing the person, you’re helping them. Use a passive voice when giving feedback, you don’t want to sound aggressive.

All of this is good for when you are giving feedback, but what if you’re receiving it? How do you receive and understand feedback well? That’s what I wanted to explore next. One of the obvious things about feedback is that positive feedback is always easier to receive well. It makes you feel good about your work, and usually the giver knows this. With this kind of criticism, it either helps or it doesn’t. It rarely hurts a person’s feelings. This feedback doesn’t make you rethink your choices. It is, in a nutshell, neutral feedback. If neutral feedback does hurt one’s feelings, it’s because compliments can make some people feel put on the spot. They may feel pressured to keep doing well.

But how do you receive feedback that isn’t a compliment? First, you must understand that this feedback includes any information you get about yourself and your work. It’s most constructive if you ask for it.  People give feedback so you can improve your work, not to make you feel bad. Feedback isn’t about ranking value, it’s about improvement and learning from error and experience.

If you are giving a person constructive criticism, you want it to be as helpful as possible. One of the most important things to remember when giving criticism is to be specific. Try not to be vague, because it can come across as unconstructive. The person shouldn’t have to ask additional questions to get basic feedback. So you might have guessed, saying things like “It’s okay.”, “It could be better.”, and “It’s missing… something.” are not constructive. But how do you make your feedback more specific you may ask? Focus on the objective and start with the specific things you would change. It can help if you break down the feedback into key points. Don’t mush everything into one big lump, because it can be hard to process. Something to really help the receiver understand your point of view is to give examples with the feedback. For example, instead of “I think you should alter the colors.” say “I think you should alter the colors. Maybe make the text a little darker. That may be beneficial for the legibility.”

Sometimes a person giving you criticism is unaware about what makes feedback constructive. So what can you say to get more out of person? For example, if someone says “This looks bad.”, ask them why it’s bad. What elements make it bad? If they tell you that your work is fine, ask them that if they were to change one thing about your work, what would it be? It’s important to not just accept unconstructive feedback, but instead ask questions to improve your work.

While I was researching, I came across a lot of information about the Sandwich method of feedback. This is constructed by giving someone a positive, then an improvement, and lastly ending on another positive. This method focuses on strengths and things the giver thinks the receiver is doing well. While you are doing this, you are still providing criticism. The last positive can include that if the receiver considers the given feedback, their work will improve.

The best time to use the Sandwich method is when you are giving feedback to a person who you don’t know because the positive buffers make your feedback seem passive. So what makes this method so good? It helps the person recognize what they are doing well. Additionally, it gives a foundation to show what can be improved on as well. The last part helps articulate the beneficial things that can be seen if the subject of improvement is worked on.

The last topic I wanted to research was how to discard feedback kindly. People giving you feedback are usually trying to help you. You don’t have to take their feedback, but you should still thank them. For example, if someone tells you to make the text blue but you think it should be black, instead of “No, I think I’m going to keep it black.” say “Thank you, I’ll consider your suggestion.”. You can, however, be firm if someone is pushing their feedback on you. If someone keeps pushing their ideas on you, it’s no longer constructive. You can say “Thank you, but I’d like to figure the rest out for myself.” Criticism is important, so you should listen to other’s views because they will  help you improve.

In conclusion, I learned a lot while doing this project. I hope my research has helped me become a better giver and receiver of feedback. Feedback is important to improvement. Learning how to give constructive criticism and receive it will improve your work and view on others. I learned about methods for giving and receiving criticism well and about different types of feedback. This project was very interesting to me, and I really liked reading different people’s views on constructive criticism. To me, the different types of feedback were the most interesting part of my research. I believe that constructive criticism is important and we should all take a second to learn more about it. I enjoyed learning more about this topic and hope my research will be helpful to me in the future.


“Criticism” The American Heritage Student Dictionary, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994.

Pillay, Nishlan. “How to Give Constructive Criticism. Six Helpful Tips.” Linkedin. April 9, 2015. <https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-give-constructive-criticism-6-helpful-tips-nishlan-pillay>

Scott, A.O. Better Living Through Criticism. New York: Penguin Random House LLC, 2016.

Stone, Douglas, and Sheila Heen. Thanks for the Feedback. New York: The Penguin Group, 2014.

Conspiracy Theories

What is a fact? A fact is something that is obviously true. But something may seem obviously true to one person and false to another person. Conspiracy theorists mostly accuse someone or something for not being factual. Most conspiracy theories form from one side that has credible evidence to prove one thing and the other side has credible evidence to prove it’s wrong. Often media outlets give platforms to conspiracy theories. Most conspiracy theories are formed in reaction to acts being carried out by the government or other powerful people. Conspiracy theory are helpful because they encourage people to have an open mind and think outside of the box.

That may be the case for some theories, but there are also theories that have valid evidence, if it’s either video proof, articles or people admitting certain things about the event where the conspiracy theory is coming from, and people still deny them. For example, there is a theory that most singers in groups, Fifth Harmony, K-pop and other groups out there, are being treated like slaves and are getting paid almost as little to nothing.On the other hand, you have people who believe these stars are in perfect health, nothing bad happens to them, they are free to do whatever they want, their managers don’t monitor anything they do, and that is just not the case. I don’t personally believe that “all” conspiracy theorist have no valid evidence when they talk about certain topics. Obviously there are conspiracy theories where people believe that Donald Trump is an alien that satan sent from hell, and the person making this up believes this theory, of course the person or the people believing this has no proof at all. Even though that is extremely far-fetched, it doesn’t mean all conspiracy theories are ridiculous like that.

One of the main reasons why conspiracy theories are interesting to me, cause they make people think outside the box. You can even look at facts coming from a certain theory and come up with your own decision if you want to believe it or not . Not every single person who believes in the theories or come up with them are “crazy.” People call other people who believe these theories crazy, because they don’t want to believe everything what the news or the government tells us, so people call them crazy to discredit anything they have to say or believe in. Most theories out there, for example, 9/11 was done by the government, the moon landing was fake and how the company 23andMe takes your DNA so 50 years from now you can use it to deage you. All of these theories, when some people hear them, they call everyone who believes them or who comes up with them, crazy, but why? Not saying I believe in all of these theories, but they are definitely not crazy, and are not impossible from happening. If you look at the 23AndMe theory, why this doesn’t seem so farfetch for me, because, scientist have confirmed they are working on deaging for years now. Jose Codeiro, founding member of Singularity University, has said publicly that he does not plan on ageing, because a group of scientist are working on deaging, and he plans to look 30 years younger than the age he is now.

If we as a society were to able to sit down with someone, have a conversation with someone about their beliefs about a specific situation and just listen to what they had to say, most conspiracy theorists wouldn’t be called “crazy” for believing in them.

Lenin’s Declaration: A Reflection of the Toiling People’s Anger

Lenin’s “harsh voice that always grated on his opponents” rang through the air. He was commonly described in this manner while brandishing his fist as a sign of intense and rebellious spirit. Especially in his “Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited Peoples,” Lenin employed dark and incriminating language in order to reflect the social, political, and economic turmoil in the era of the Russian Revolution. Within his text, Lenin focused on immediate revolution to upturn the social hierarchy, firmly advocated for the workers’, peasants’, and soldiers’ exclusive participation in government, and vigorously demonstrated his desire of establishing a socialistic economy and toppling down capitalism.

The social hierarchy in Russia, in which the bourgeoisie rested comfortably on top, was a major social issue that Lenin opposed and vigorously attacked in his Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited Peoples. In this document, Lenin declared that a goal of the Constituent Assembly was ensuring the “complete abolition of class distinctions in society.” The class system in Russia during the late eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds did not allow for any social mobility between classes and kept the urban working class and peasants at the bottom of society. The peasants made up 82 percent of the population, and yet were struggling as a whole and were the lowest class for a myriad of years. In 1861, the peasants had finally received legal freedom and redistribution of land from an edict of emancipation. However, they received the worst tracts of land and had to pay annual redemption payments to the government leaving them in a more precarious situation. Lenin described this social system as “parasitic.” According to Oxford Dictionaries, a parasite is an organism that lives on or in another organism and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other’s expense. In using the term “parasitic,” Lenin explained that the bourgeoisie had forced the peasants and urban working class to toil and profited off of their sweat and tears. In his declaration, Lenin also categorized the bourgeoisie as “few chosen nations,” which, in juxtaposition to the “hundreds of millions” of the working class, firmly elucidated the bourgeoisie’s relatively miniscule population with the toiling population. He then described the policy of the bourgeois “at the expense” of the working class to be “barbarous.” These situations were the main reasons why Lenin advocated for the “complete” eradication of this policy.

Lenin addressed the political issues of society with forceful language in order not to repeat history and not to place the bourgeoisie in positions of power. Specifically, he emphasized the workers’, peasants’, and soldiers’ sole and exclusive authority in the government. To this point, Lenin’s slogan was “[a]ll power to the Soviets.” In this statement, Lenin asserted that Russia should not repeat history. By the time the Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited Peoples was written in January 1918, Russia went through two revolutions: The February Revolution and Bolshevik Revolution. After the February Revolution, despite much anticipation and desperation for democracy, Russia experienced a setback. Although the toiling masses had been hopeful of a new democratic government, the Constituent Assembly, it was not ready and the Provisional Government was formed in its stead on November 25, 1917. Alexander Kerensky was the leader of the government and his Commander-in-Chief was Lavr Kornilov. With their newfound power, they began to oppress the citizens through the restoration of death penalties of civilians, the restoration of military discipline, the militarization of railways and defense industries, and the ban on workers’ organizations. Not only did they support the war, but they also rejected the pleas of people who wanted a limit of eight hour days due to the war. Lenin, who was furious at this improper usage of power, stressed that the government must consist “wholly” of the toiling masses and of their “fully empowered representatives, the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies.” Furthermore, in Lenin’s article “What Is To Be Done?,” he specified that the toiling people should only participate in government if they “engage in revolutionary activities as a profession,” in order to ensure that the government is united and has a desire for immediate rebellion. Another example in which the upper class was resistant to release the power occurred in 1905 and 1906. When avoiding to “sw[ear] to act upon” the October Manifesto “as a constitution,” which limited his sovereignty, Tsar Nicholas II attempted to cling onto to his rapidly diminishing control in government. Recognizing this situation, Lenin explicitly wrote in the Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited Peoples that “there is no place for the exploiters in any organ of government.” In this statement, Lenin focused on the bourgeoisie’s injustices against the toiling population and dubbed them “the exploiters.” He also reiterated that they would not participate in “any” form of the government, despite already clearly asserting that the government must be made of solely the toiling masses.

In the Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited Peoples, Lenin’s aggravated wording expressed the destitution of the oppressed in Russian society. He focused on diminishing the bourgeoisie’s wealth and establishing a socialist economy. Russia’s economic crisis, as a result of its losing battles in World War I, hit those at the bottom of society severely. When workers in Petrograd faced bread shortage, the Russian authorities in February of 1905 mandated rationing to be implemented. Fed up, the workers finally marched to the center of streets chanting “[b]read!,” “[d]own with the tsar!,” and “[d]own with the war!” However, even the Provisional Government established after the revolution refused to discontinue Russia’s fight in the war and the majority of Russians’ living condition seemed far from an improvement. To their dismay, Lenin’s opinions regarding the implementation of capitalism to be the “claws of capitalism” surfaced and blamed it for starting a “most criminal of all wars” which “drenched the world with blood.” This sentence reflected Lenin’s accusatory tone towards capitalism and that the only way to save “mankind” from this malevolent practice is for the Constituent Assembly to “snatch” mankind promptly. In addition, according to Merriam Webster, a “yoke is an arched device laid on the neck of a defeated person.” In this context, Lenin compared the “toiling masses” to the defeated people who would be “emancipat[ed]” from the “yoke” capitalism through transferring all the banks to the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government.

Lenin’s incriminating language was not a mere expression of his Bolshevik style of delivery, but rather it served as a sounding board for proletariat’s voice in their destitute situation in Russia. With Lenin’s ideas and his vociferous attitude, he forcefully conveyed messages on solving the social, political, and economic problems present during the Russian Revolution in his Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited Peoples.


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Feel the Heat: How Qatar is Converting to Solar Energy

Thousands across the globe feel the Sun’s blazing heat. But, in the Middle Eastern country of Qatar, the Sun could provide a new type of renewable energy to a forward-looking government and its people. There are many ways Qatar plans on diversifying their energy industry to include solar. Even though they have progressed greatly, Qatar and its companies should continue to support and invest in the solar energy sector. This will diversify its oil and natural-gas based economy and ensure a stable financial future. Supporting the solar industry will take advantage of the growing energy needs today, and build on Qatar’s position as one of the world’s largest and wealthiest energy producers. Qatar has the economic resources to enable the transition to solar and support a sustainable society for the future.

The Oil and Natural Gas Industries

To understand Qatar’s position on renewable energy one must first understand its economy, which has changed a lot since its early days. At first, Qatar was a poor country and did not have much of an economy. After a brief rise and fall of the pearling industry, Qatar had a major discovery in 1939: oil. They found large fields of oil on the eastern side of the peninsula, both onshore and offshore. These were some of the largest oil fields in the world, and they revived the dying country’s economy. Qatar had a booming industry, which helped them earn a large trade income to make it the wealthy country it is now (Willis 71-81). The oil industry in Qatar today is still going strong. Currently, there are several key oil companies that contribute to the wealth of Qatar. A major petroleum company is Qatar Petroleum, a massive oil company that is a crucial part of Qatar’s economy. It is a state-owned business formed in the 1970’s that many people in Qatar work for. In fact, most companies and jobs in Qatar are working for or around Qatar Petroleum (Willis 71).

Another important fossil fuel industry in Qatar is the natural gas industry. There are two types of natural gas: associated, which is found with crude oil, and non-associated, which is pure and found without crude oil. Qatar’s main natural gas field is the North Field, on the northern side of the peninsula (Willis 73-74). It is considered to be the largest non-associated natural gas field in the world and accounts for 99% of Qatar’s gas reserves (Gulf Times). Though it is hard to mine and liquefy, natural gas as well as oil make up most of Qatar’s income, and these fossil fuels are what make Qatar a wealthy country today (Willis 75).

Qatar’s Views on Renewable Energy

Qatar’s government has unique views on renewable energy. They are very supportive of renewable energy, even though they earn money mostly from fossil fuels. Qatar uses these fossil fuels mainly as exports, not for themselves. People in Qatar use ‘cleaner’ fossil fuels such as coal, and sometimes their own natural gas. Qatar’s philosophy is to let the world use their resources so they can make an income, and then spend that money making wiser decisions for their own country (Qatar Embassy). Qatar also sees the growing demand for renewable energy as an opportunity. The world is converting to renewable energy forms such as solar power, so companies like QSTec (Qatar Solar Technologies) are moving into mass production of solar panels. Qatar wants to take the opportunity in the growing industry and demand. Switching to being a producer of renewable would also be a smarter choice for the economy, to diversify it from oil and natural gas. That way, when next economy change comes, like when it converted from pearls to petroleum, Qatar will be ready. The country encourages its people and companies to convert to renewable for these reasons (Qatar Embassy).

Qatar also wants to move to renewable energy as part of their plan to fulfill the Paris Climate Agreement, an accord signed by 195 countries to set goals and improve on their renewable energy utilization (Qatar Embassy). They want to do this because they are a wealthy country and can set an example by using their money for worthwhile purposes, such as renewable energy.

Solar Energy: Benefits and Tradeoffs

Qatar, a country with a hot, subtropical climate and lots of sunlight, specifically wants to use solar energy (Gulf Times). There are several positive and negative aspects of solar energy. Out of the many, one of the preferable features about solar versus fossil fuels is that solar power is more sustainable. While fossil fuels are finite and will eventually run out, there is so much energy from the Sun that there is more supply than demand. This means that even if everyone in the world used solar, there would be more than enough energy left over (Nakaya 40-41). Currently, solar energy is expensive because it is not as common as fossil fuels, but it has a trend of getting cheaper. With new technology, and more people buying solar, experts think the trend will continue. Soon, we will have completely affordable solar energy.

Though solar energy does not need a grid, many users of solar energy buy and sell to power companies with one. A new grid will make solar energy less risky and will enable people to buy and sell their power, and provide energy to other areas that need it. This way, communities and cities can support each other’s power and transport energy to one another (Nakaya, 42-44). Another positive aspect of solar energy is that, with grids, people can buy or sell energy to or from a power company depending on weather (Nakaya 42-44). This is not much of a problem for Qatar however, mostly because of its potential for solar. Qatar has high solar irradiation, is always sunny, and has a strategic combination of long days and short nights (NREL). On the other hand, solar is a relatively new energy source, and as with all new products, there are several caveats and complication to it. First and foremost is an issue of concentration. This means that though there is lots of solar power, it is not as concentrated as fossil fuels. It does not provide the same amount of energy from the same amount of fuel. Because of this, solar energy requires large solar farms to harness enough energy, which is why experts and officials are worried it may not be able to sustain the growing energy need (Nakaya, 44).

Types of Solar Energy

As Qatar plans to go ahead with their renewable energy action, companies interested in investing in solar are making decisions on different types of solar energy. There are lots of solar energy technologies that provide energy efficiently, but the main two are photovoltaic (or PV) panels and CSP (Concentrated Solar Power). Photovoltaic technologies use silicon panels that convert light energy into electrical energy. PV works by directly harnessing the Sun’s light. Sunlight is made of bundles of energy called photons. When the Sun shines, it excites silicon atoms, which knocks electrons loose. The free electrons form an electrical current (Heinrichs, 58). A newer type of PV technology is thin-film photovoltaics, which is made of several layers of light-sensitive materials. It is cheaper and easier to integrate into roofing and windows, but less efficient (Heinrichs, 62). CSP, or Concentrated Solar Power systems, work by using reflective surfaces to harness the light. There are three main types of CSP. The first is a solar dish/engine system, which uses a dish or receiver that concentrates sunlight onto a liquid or gas. The substance expands as it heats and powers a generator. Another type of CSP is the parabolic trough, which has curved mirrors that concentrate the sunlight onto pipes of oil. The heated oil powers a generator. The last type of CSP is a power tower, which are towers surrounded by mirrors called heliostats. Heliostats are special mirrors, and follow the Sun’s path. They concentrate the sunlight onto a receiver that powers a generator (Heinrichs, 59-60).

Though Qatar has a lot of solar energy, a problem is that its climate is very dry and dusty. Dryness in the air and particles of dust can both damage solar panels. The Solar Test Facility founded by Chevron, Qatar Foundation, and GreenGulf, three green companies, aims to find new PV technologies that can withstand such elements in Qatar (NREL). Though progress on solar technologies is underway, government involvement could help speed things up.

Government Policy and Incentives

Some, such as solar power investors and producers, say that the government should be involved in solar energy. This means that the government would set standards that would guide people to convert to renewable. There are a few different types of these incentives grants and loans, where they government lends money to invest in renewable. There are also subsidies, which are when the government pays for some of the price of solar investment, either as a loan or a donation. Lastly, there are feed-in tariffs, when the government or private investors offer to buy the energy before it is produced (Nakaya, 53). All of these motivations would convince investors to participate in the solar energy. And, if the government sets standards, more people will end up converting. This will be environmentally friendly, and though it may be expensive now, it is easier to convert to solar in the long run rather than continue with fossil fuels. Government incentives will also set an example for investors, and make it less risky for people to enter the solar business. People are more likely to invest in clean, renewable energies like solar if they know they will have support in doing so (Nakaya 54).

Despite this, some economists and managers do not think government involvement is a good idea. They say that motivations such as feed-in tariffs, loans, grants, and subsidies are often given depending on persuasion rather than the product. This means that the government sometimes gives incentives to companies just because they produce renewable energy, rather than if they have chances of doing well or not (Nakaya 61-62). As a result, renewable energy companies sometimes end up going bankrupt or closing down (Nakaya 63-63).

Qatar takes both the positive and negative aspects of government involvement into account. However, the government supports moving to renewable energy as a smarter choice for a sustainable country and want to provide incentives for companies and individuals to use and supply renewable energy. The government of Qatar offers grants and loans to companies, as well as lots of subsidies (donations in the form of loans or grants) to encourage companies to convert to renewable energy. As a result, businesses and private investors are getting involved in the solar industry. Some citizens even have free energy because the government pays for production. The leadership of Qatar pays for renewable energy costs for lots of companies, which is why everyone is turning to solar energy. Despite all this government encouragement, there is actually no legislation about incentives for renewable energy that need to be legalized. This means that there are no laws for incentives like feed-in tariffs, which is buying the energy before it is produced. Such motivations require laws for the government to give them out (Davies, Evershed, PwC).

How Qatar’s Companies are Converting to Renewable Energy

QSTec is a company focused on providing solar energy to Qatar. It has recently developed a new, high-purity polysilicon, a key part of solar panels that allows sunlight to be converted to electricity. The purer the silicon, the better it harnesses sunlight. The company’s good fortune started when it received financing from several shareowners. The money was invested in 47% stakes in Solar World, a German solar company. SolarWorld will be a key customer of QSTec’s polysilicon in the future to provide for their own country. QSTech has also acquired takes in a special photovoltaics technology (centrotherm photovoltaics). QSTec has finished building and is in full production modes of solar panels. It will have lots of business as high-purity polysilicon becomes more popular as an efficient and reliable energy source (Osborne, PV Tech).

Another example of companies in Qatar converting to renewable energy are the solar energy gardens, a joint project by Al Shamal Municipality and Ras Laffan Community Outreach. These two companies take care of the community as well as the environment, and put solar energy recharge stations in gardens. The second part of the project was putting solar powered umbrellas and lights at beaches, where lots of tourists visit (Gulf Times). Some fossil fuel companies are also making efforts to switch to renewable energy, such as Qatar Electricity and Water Company and Qatar Petroleum, two energy companies who are together investing in new types of energy. Siemens Qatar and Alfardan Automobiles, car companies, are creating solar powered car charging stations and eventually plan on producing electric cars (PDF, Qatar Embassy). In the infrastructure industry, several infrastructure companies in Qatar have started creating environmentally friendly bridges, transportation, and buildings. One of these projects is Qatar Rail, which is using strict environmental standards and is four-star rated according to Qatar standards (Varghese, Gulf Times).

Environmental Standards

In thinking about environmentally friendly companies converting in Qatar, there are several standards to follow. One of these are renewable portfolio standards, specific standards on how much energy out of total energy production and consumption should be renewable. Several companies in Qatar are using GSAS standards (Global Sustainability Assessment System standards). These are a set of environmentally friendly guidelines approved by FIFA. Another set of such guidelines are the Green Building Standards set by Qatar Standards and Metrology Authority. It sets specific standards on renewable energy (Varghese, Gulf Times). As a national standard, Qatar’s government wants 20% of its energy to be renewable by 2030 (Gulf Times). Qatar is also preparing for the FIFA World Cup, which they are hosting in 2022. They hope to be carbon neutral by reducing 6 tons of emissions by 2022 in preparation for the World Cup. Qatar also wants to build sustainable infrastructure for the World Cup.

Qatar’s World Involvement in Renewable Energy

In addition to its companies, Qatar as a country has potential to be a renewable leader in the world. It is involved in the International Renewable Energy Agency, or IRENA. Qatar signed IRENA’s founding document, which is significant because Qatar, a mass oil and natural gas producer, is stepping towards renewable energy. Qatar has also been involved in Gulf Region, as part of GCC, or the Gulf Cooperation Council, to help its fellow fossil fuel producing countries change energy sources (IRENA). Qatar also has a Memorandum of Understanding. with the U.S. The Memorandum of Understanding means that the countries will share knowledge, skills, and expertise on renewable energy. Topics will include reducing oil and gas development for Qatar, reducing carbon emissions for the U.S., and energy efficiency and renewable energy for both countries (Gulf Times).


Qatar has made great strides in switching to renewable, with both its government and companies adopting solar to address the growing renewable energy demand. Despite Qatar’s position as a significant fossil fuel producing country, it has still become involved in solar, showing renewable energy’s growing popularity worldwide. There is a high potential for the future of solar in Qatar, and the government and companies are moving forward systematically, having set multiple goals to fulfill. With a great position on renewable energy now and determination to be more sustainable in the future, Qatar has set an admirable example for other countries in the world.

Works Cited

Davies, Michelle, et al. “Developing Renewable Energy Projects: A Guide to Achieving Success in the Middle East.” Eversheds, PwC.

Embassy, Qatar. “Notes- Qatar Renewable Energy.” Embassy of Qatar, Washington, DC. Reading.

Heinrichs, Ann. “Solar Power: Capturing the Sunshine.” Sustaining Earth’s Energy Resources, Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2011, pp. 56-63.

Nakaya, Andrea C. What Is the Future of Solar Power? ReferencePoint Press, 2013. The Future of Renewable Energy.

Osborne, Mark. “QSTec Produces First Polysilicon at Qatar Plant.” PV Tech, 27 Mar. 2017. PV Tech, www.pv-tech.org/news/qstec-produces-first-polysilicon-at-qatar-plant. Accessed 21 Feb. 2018.

“Qatar and US Sign MoU on Energy Co-operation.” Gulf Times [Doha], 31 Jan. 2018, Qatar sec. Gulf Times, www.gulf-times.com/story/580037/Qatar-and-US-sign-MoU-on-energy-co-operation. Accessed 21 Feb. 2018.

Qatar Science & Technology Park, and Chevron Qatar Energy Technologies QSTP-B. “A New PV Module Reliability Laboratory in Qatar.” NREL, www.nrel.gov/pv/assets/pdfs/2014_pvmrw_93_plaza.pdf. Accessed 28 Feb. 2018.

“Qatar Signed IRENA’s Statute.” IRENA, 24 June 2010, www.irena.org/newsroom/articles/2010/Jun/Qatar-signed-IRENAs-statute. Accessed 27 Feb. 2018.

“A Renewable Energy Future for the Gulf? – COP 18 Qatar Joins Global Atlas for Renewable Energy Resources.” IRENA, 4 Dec. 2012, www.irena.org/newsroom/pressreleases/2012/Dec/A-renewable-energy-future-for-the-Gulf–COP-18-Qatar-joins-Global-Atlas-for-Renewable-Energy-Resourc. Accessed 27 Feb. 2018.

“Solar Energy Powers Public Gardens.” Gulf Times [Doha], 5 Feb. 2018, Qatar sec. Gulf Times, www.gulf-times.com/story/580561/Solar-energy-powers-public-gardens. Accessed 21 Feb. 2018.

Varghese, Joseph. “Qatar’s First Renewable Energy Strategy on the Anvil.” Gulf Times [Doha], 26 Nov. 2017, Qatar sec. Gulf Times, www.gulf-times.com/story/572622/Qatar-s-first-renewable-energy-strategy-on-the-anv. Accessed 21 Feb. 2018.

“Solar Energy to Meet 20% of Qatar’s Energy by 2030.” Gulf Times [Doha], 8 July 2016, Qatar sec. Gulf Times, www.gulf-times.com/story/501761/Solar-energy-to-meet-20-of-Qatar-s-energy-demand-b. Accessed 21 Feb. 2018.

Willis, Terri. Qatar: Enchantment of the World. Children’s Press, 2004.

What’s the Tea?

Movies depict high school like a zoo. You, the audience, react, gawk at the “animals”, the students, that are behind the cages at the exhibit. Movies about high schools dynamics seem to reveal exaggerated hostility between the “popular” kids and the “non-popular” kids. That is something that you are not going to experience. Instead, you will be confronted with fake people from all different groups, people who might want to get the worse out of you. The movies do not depict what will actually occur in our lives in high school. Furthermore, movies are often cast white characters and the plot seems to go the same direction. What the movies do not capture is the diverse environment and how it impacts the character.

In a movie, ain’t it interesting how quickly rumors spread in High School? The secret you thought might have been safe with the main character can be easily revealed by the loose lips of the people they may have trusted. In my perspective, secrets are revealed little by little over time. It can starts from a quiet “who said what?” in the hallways or even if you see a friend in the bathroom and you have that instinct to spill the tea? Ain’t familiar. Well, that’s what I hear often from my “acquaintances” mouths. But what’s different in high school than from TV shows like Gossip Girl is the show exaggerates rumors and fights based on social hierarchy in the high school. In real life, fights are about how friendships are prone to destruction based on something small which may grow into something bigger over time. Rarely is it a “you stole my man” or “Keisha told me that you said my hair ugly,” outburst in the middle of the cafeteria.

There is no social hierarchy in high school it is a fusion of everyone’s redeeming qualities. The cheerleaders are not on the top, the nerds are not being mocked. In this generation, you can have your personal cheerleaders who can be your friends. Even being a “nerd” is a good thing. That means I’m smart and if you’re mad that I’m smart then you can go. Period. The people who have mocked you for knowing too much are now coming back crawling on their knees in confusion seeking your help. Interesting ain’t it! The first day of school, it is interesting how my brain told me how it’s not about the type of friends you make or how popular they are, but my heart was telling me otherwise. Now that I think about it I am shocked about how my conscious took a turn and I was shocked at how It was showing me the image I should maintain to make those types of “popular friends” and images of that person and those “popular friends” came from the movies and TV Shows I have watched since I was a child. I grew on Hannah Montana, Lizzie McGuire or the failure to meet realistic scenarios in life or have a repetitive representation of a blond hair and blue eyed girl. As an African American child growing up in Harlem, New York this is not the life I was living.

“Girl, spill the tea.” “Come on, you have the tell me.” No really I don’t. But of course, my brain just wants me to spill the tea just to see the sinister smiles that grow on their faces and the anticipation to tell their best friend what they had just heard. It is really the people who don’t talk to you on a daily basis You really don’t have to spill the tea. Just keep it in the cup. Just keep it bottled up in a cup. If one of your close friends ask you it’s okay to let me take a sip out of your cup full of secrets because you knew them well, you really trust them. The excitement is the main fuel for people spreading rumors. It’s what causes people to twist and turn so it can really sound more appealing for others and later on that rumor they spread is their satisfaction. But when that rumor that is about you, it spreads like wildfire, people do talk and don’t think they don’t and you hear the malicious opinions of the friends you thought you had that Cloud 9 bond with it really hurt. The shock makes your heart pierce. I know I sound repetitive about the whole trust thing about the trust, friends and most importantly conflict” part but it always in the situation it has different perspectives to it and I don’t know if you guys are like this, but I think I’m always right. Daido knows best! Well, so does the other person and then that’s when the back’s turn on each other. When they start to bicker, not say hi to each other in the hallways, avoiding eye contact in class and feeling the hurt and non-existence of the conversations and laughs that you guys used to have. You tell yourself I don’t need her? Did you cut me off then I’m going to cut you off? Keep the same energy. You may not need her to live, but deep down you will miss the redeeming qualities of your ex-friend that made you happy.

Coming from a private school with a majority of white people in it and making that major transition to a Catholic High School which has more black and latinas you really see the difference in the environment and also a shift in your behavior as well. In this High School when things happen, like conflict, people don’t except for the teachers to just fix it, sugarcoat it and say that everything is going to be okay and move on. The teachers are not there to really solve problems as they were before. It is the students who really take it in their own hands and that’s where the role of confrontation comes into play. In that confrontation often uses harsher words or solve conflicts with their fists. Like when you hear that these two girls fight in McDonald’s over a boy, you’re like really now. Those moments that are taking place seems to reflect on the type of environment people have grown up in or are surrounded by. But I also in this high school, I had an opportunity to dive in a pool of culture as well. I could connect with them on a whole other level, we converse, share, and might even laugh about the similarities concerning our traditional and cultural lifestyle and I have to say it’s really beautiful.

Movies and TV shows definitely alter your perspective about high school. Yeah people are fake. No, there are no cheerleaders on top and geeks on the bottom, it is really a place that will let you shine, but there are always snakes that are ready to attack with their poisonous venom of gossip and envy. They might whisper with their little friends, confront you about something you might have not done, threaten you, lie about you, but just remember those who really talk about you, spreading all the “bad things” you have done are using those lies to cover up the guilt they have about how they did you wrong.

The Girl Behind the Wheelchair

When I was younger, I dreamed about playing on my school’s basketball team. I longed for, the day where I could score my first goal. I wanted the feeling of adrenaline rushing through my body as I made the winning goal. I wanted to hear the voices of my teammates cheering me on! Back then, I admired that the players on that team could just let go and just play basketball. They did not need to worry about their circumstances in that moment but they were able to… just let go. I vividly imagine myself playing on the court, I hear the crowd cheering me on, “Josie! Josie! Josie!” I can still see the sweat beading through my body as I throw the winning shot the crowd goes wild! But as I got older I realized that that dream was never going to become a reality due to my disability. Coming to terms with that fact was a very hard thing for my then 8-year-old self, but I persevered and I made it through that hurdle.

I was born with a disability called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as OI. In short my disability makes my bones weaker which causes them to break easily. About a year ago I went to the mall with my mom and when I was in JcPenney and a young girl came up to me I believe that she was around the age of 6 or 7. She asked me a question that left me absolutely speechless. She had asked, “how old are you?” I answered with, “I am 12 years old.” Her response made me so enraged. She said, “but if your 12 why are you so small?” It was In that very moment that I felt so angry that she could not see past my wheelchair. I am not expecting people to be perfect I just want and need them to be considerate.

I write to make sure my voice is heard loudly. It should echo as loud as a megaphone in a crowd filled with people. Malala Yousafzai once said, “We were scared but our fear was not as strong as our courage.” Everyday I implement courage by trying my best to face the day to the best of my ability. This quote shows that even if we are scared, in the moment our courage can outweigh our fear.

I felt sadness rush through my body. I had just been rejected. My mom told me that she would never even consider letting me play basketball. “I am so sorry I know this is your dream but it’s just too risky,” Mom said as I started to cry. In that moment, I felt as though my heart was ripped out of my chest. I felt like she was telling me one my best friends had just passed away. She had just unleashed my greatest fear, which had been the fear of not even getting the opportunity to try. I was not mad at her because I understood where she was coming from, she just did not want her beautiful daughter who has the bones of glass to shatter into pieces. But it was really just the fact that I would never, get to experience my dream in that moment was hard for me to emotionally handle.

As I typed away on my computer I felt adrenaline rush through my body. I was writing a speech called When I Roll by, which was basically piece about hope and rising above your disabilities or even your challenges. I wrote that not only to encourage the reader to rise above their own personal struggles, but to encourage myself to not to dwell in my inability to do basketball but to rise up and make the best of my abilities. So as I type away again on my computer, I reiterate that very same message to you and I urge you to not view your differences as different but view them as uniquely different.

Sorry, I Can’t Eat That

“With this in mind, and knowing the severity of your allergies, we cannot encourage your being part of camp 2017. We recall regretfully what developed during camp 2016 and are concerned that this is not a safe environment for you.”

I reread this email for the tenth time with tear drops sliding down my face. My allergies had stopped me once again from participating in my community. I knew I was the first one to turn in my application for the Hindu Youth Summer Camp, yet my application was denied and I could not do anything to change it.

I had been at the sleepaway camp last year for three days before I was sent home because of an allergic reaction. I had really enjoyed those three days. The camp allowed me to embrace my Hindu religion, and still experience a regular sleepaway camp. The camp had told us that it would be nut-free, but on the third day they served Nutella crackers to the whole camp. When I saw the tray on the table, I was terrified. I immediately left the room in hopes of distancing myself from the Nutella, but my efforts were in vain. After snack, we had camp activities which required all of us to sit near each other and hold hands. Everyone else had Nutella on their breath and hands, and within minutes my whole body was covered in hives. I was immediately sent to the infirmary. My mind was racing with worries. Will my throat close? Does the staff know how to use an Epi-pen? What is going to happen to me? Finally, after four hours of the nurses not knowing what to do, the camp manager took me to the hospital at midnight. I was sent home from the camp the next morning. I was at home for ten days watching my hives dissipate, while feeling envious of all of those who were still at the camp. For the next ten days, I missed out on community prayers, field trips, and other basic camp activities because I could not control my own body.

My body has been controlling me for as long as I can remember. When I was five, I found that I was allergic to all nuts, seeds, legumes, and fruits. Since then I have tried not to let my allergies define me, but it is challenging. Every time I enter a new environment, I am concerned for my own safety. My allergies walk into each room before me. My allergies surround me. My allergies are around every corner, jumping out when I least expect it. My allergies follow me everywhere.

I was tired of my allergies controlling me. I was tired of having to decline offers to eating out with friends, or volunteer for opportunities where I would have to touch food that I could not even be around. I could not even be upset at anybody, because it was truly nobody’s fault. Yet somehow, I always wound up blaming myself for my inability to manage my body’s reactions to different foods. I had become subservient to my allergies. The doctors we had seen had done all they could, and nothing had worked. Therefore, my mom and I looked into other ways of treating my allergies. One of her friends had recommended Raj, a naturopath, who used homeopathic methods and Naet therapy to cure many diseases from minor intolerances to cancer. Raj’s practice is in London and it would require at least two years of constant trips to London on school breaks and taking homeopathic elixirs daily. At first I was not sure if I wanted to commit to intense therapy and regular trips to London, but when I realized that there was a slight chance of curing my allergies I knew I needed to take it.

The whole 6-hour flight to London, I doubted my decision to come and see Raj. I should never have convinced myself that this would be a good idea. Why do I have faith in Raj when nothing else has worked? If this does not work, I will have gotten my hopes up for nothing and I will have wasted my mom’s time.

I was fidgeting in the waiting room and could not sit still; this appointment would determine if I would be able to diminish an obstacle that had been controlling my life ever since I could remember. Raj walked into the room. Before the appointment he had asked us to triple Ziploc bags the foods we knew I was allergic to and foods that I was avoiding because I thought there was a chance I could not eat it. He then made me hold each Ziploc bag in my hands while he used a Galvanometer to measure the electric currents in my body, which would determine whether or not I could eat that certain food. As the pile of the foods I needed to avoid became bigger than the pile of foods I could eat, I doubted again if I made the right decision to meet Raj. I had just found out I had even more allergies than I knew about. I was devastated as I thought this treatment was supposed to help me get rid of my allergies. Instead I was learning that I had to be even more cautious around food.

I was staring at the dull carpet, holding over thirty Ziploc bags in my hand. Raj started to tell us what he was now going to do to me, but my mind was elsewhere. I could not focus on what he was saying. I was trying to be as still as a statue, otherwise both my mom and Raj would realize how terrified I was. Not only was I terrified, but I also kept thinking of everything that would happen if this treatment actually worked. I was imagining a world where all the passengers on a plane would not look at me, when they announced on the speaker that there was a passenger with anaphylactic nut allergies and no one else could eat nuts. I was imagining a world where I would not have to read the ingredients on the box of every snack I wanted to eat.

I felt a vibration on my back and realized Raj had already begun the therapy. The treatment was not painful, and I relaxed. I realized that going through these treatments to get rid of my allergies was a tiny price to pay compared to living with anaphylaxis all my life. I had two more days of treatment until the next time I came back to London, but I hoped that sometime soon I could go to a restaurant and order off the menu without having to list to the waiter all of my allergies. I am still waiting for the day where I can walk out of my house without carrying my Epi-pen.

The Concept of Roleplaying

What is roleplaying, and why do we do it? These questions have been going around since the beginning of people pretending to be someone, or something else. Most people have roleplayed at least once in their life, whether it be in a game, or just pretending to be a different person. In Roleplaying Games players adopt a different identity and make decisions as that character in an imaginary world. the beginning of modern roleplaying games was in the mid-1970s with the release of Dungeons And Dragons. But the activity has been around since the ancient Greeks. roleplaying has been around longer than people think, just not in the same way.

Theater is a type of roleplaying. Present roleplaying is interacting in a story as a character interacting with the world in a way people usually wouldn’t. people do it to escape their world. But actors do the same thing with theater. In any type of theater, you interact as a made up or real character and played along in a story. It’s called a play for a reason! It’s because actors play in a story! And the role aspect fits in nicely. they take a role to use in a story. We like to interact in another story other than our own so we can escape our world. Roleplaying is a very popular activity right now because people want to escape the mundane. As Adam Columbia, Teacher and Dungeon Master states: “Roleplaying is an intentional break with reality, to a degree preferred by the person performing it.” Everyone plays to escape the world they live in, to live in another’s shoes. Reality is hard and gets boring, so they want to do something different and become someone special.

Roleplaying is a way of becoming a character that the player invents. This can take many forms, such as games, improv, and more: “Roleplaying is an act of imagination in which a person takes on the personality, appearance or actions of another entity either fictional or non-fictional”(Columbia). Roleplaying is all about imagination which is just as important as thinking realistically because if a person imagines something and work for it, it is possible for it to become a reality. If people think creatively, they can bring something into existence that wasn’t there before. Roleplaying helps you think creatively, by finding and solving problems.

Roleplaying expands compassion. Adam Columbia believes that roleplaying gives players “The power to think outside your own mind and observe reality with a different perspective than the typical.” If you think outside your own mind in roleplaying, what says you won’t do the same in the real world. Roleplaying is all about perspective, and if you are understanding somebody’s perspective, then you understand their feelings. Therefore, you don’t have bias feelings about someone you don’t know. Roleplaying helps you understand someone’s perspective and feelings so that you don’t hurt others.

There are many different types of roleplaying. The main types of roleplaying are all based on one aspect; imagination. Roleplaying is imagining yourself or acting as a character in various contexts such as: Choose your own adventure games like The Telltale series. LARPing is pretending to be a character and acting it out through improv and weapon play. lastly, tabletop games like Dungeons And Dragons allow a small group to experience an adventure through storytelling and dice. These games may sound very different but they all share many similarities, all of them require you to become another person or creature, to walk in their shoes. The basis of roleplaying is imagining and becoming a character, so in that case, almost everything should be considered roleplaying. Roleplay takes many forms and someone can do any of them: “I think that roleplaying takes many forms and everyone should find the form best suited to them” (Columbia). The concept of roleplaying is very large and you can choose what type is right for you.

Stories can be inspired by any aspect of a player’s life. All you have to do is imagine and create ideas. Some players use pre-made rulebooks like Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder or Champions to create a story based game. Others choose to imagine and make it up as they go along. “Sometimes no framework at all is best, just playing an imaginative storytelling game with friends”(Columbia). Roleplaying allows players to follow a framework of rules, or just stretch the limits of their imagination by creating a world from scratch.

Sometimes society views roleplayers as “geeky.” However, enthusiastic roleplaying in a creative setting allows players to learn skills like problem-solving and empathy in a friendly environment “It can be uncomfortable being ourselves and getting a little vacation can relieve stress, anxiety or social pressure temporarily and give a roleplayer a more positive, dynamic [or] different perspective moving forward”(Columbia). Roleplaying releases the players of those social standards for the duration of the game. It also connects players to friends and communities. As we look toward the future, it is clear that roleplaying games will keep growing and helping players, just as it did in the past.


Columbia, Adam. 11 May 2018.

Home Is Where the Heart Is: The Meaning of Two Distinct Words

“A house is just four walls and a roof, but a home is made up of everything else inside. A house may be decorated from floor to ceiling with the finest furnishings money can buy. But that will never make it a home.” – Anonymous.

What happens when you are ashamed of your own home, the place that keeps you safe, your sanctuary, the place you belong to? What happens if you start thinking of your home as the same as your house? This question is important because people everyday always mistake the words home and house as having the same meaning, when actually, they mean two completely different things. Physical things can never ever compare to emotions or feelings, and I think that’s the biggest difference between the two words. Home is a place you connect with, where all your memories lay, where you belong to, where you’re from. It tells your story, it whispers who you are, but never what you will become. The House on Mango Street, written by Sandra Cisneros, is about a girl named Esperanza and her convoluted story of her moving to a new house and community. In The House on Mango Street, Esperanza treats the words “house” and “home” as the same word, but as the book progresses, Esperanza learns/sees that a house just represents her social class, and is very different from a home which represents her identity. This new knowledge ultimately changes her view on Mango Street’s community.

At the beginning of the book, Esperanza implies that she wants a house of her own that she can be proud of, not realizing that what she actually wants is a home she can be proud of. In a vignette called The House on Mango Street, (the very first one) Esperanza is telling us about the previous apartments she lived in and arguing how the house on mango street was not the house she dreamed it would be. “I knew then I had to have a house. A real house. One I could point to. But this isn’t it. The house on Mango Street isn’t it.” (5) This quote shows that Esperanza is ashamed of her class and more of the status of her neighborhood and her street. Though this might be (unconsciously) clear to Esperanza, she forces herself to narrow it down to her house, even though it’s really her home that she is ashamed of.

Towards the middle of the book, Esperanza’s definition of home and house shifts a bit from representing her yearning to representing Mango Street’s oppression and the sadness of the people from there. Esperanza is telling us about this girl named Sally, who Esperanza sees and admires her for her maturity. Esperanza is trying to understand Sally, trying to connect with her, by just observing to herself, and wondering. “… as if no one could see you standing there, Sally. What do you think about when you close your eyes like that? And why do you always have to go straight home after school? You become a different Sally.” (82) This quote shows how “home” is the dreaded cause of oppression for Sally, and for her, and for everyone on Mango Street. She implies that when Sally leaves for school, or away from Mango Street, she is leaving her worries and her sadness at home, and comes back to it at the end of the day, everyday, just like everyone on Mango Street. “She lets me read her poems. I let her read mine. She is always sad like a house on fire — always something wrong.” (Page #: 84) In this quote, Esperanza compares this girl, Minerva and her sadness, to a house on fire. It’s a peculiar analogy, but it shows how Esperanza feels that it’s the house that traps her. The house that traps Sally. The house that traps Minerva. The house that brings these gender issues, and poverty, and sadness.

By the end of the book, Esperanza realizes that after so many years of telling herself that she is not Mango Street, she accepts her home, even if she never will like her house. Esperanza is describing a time where she is sitting on the steps of a house with a girl named Alicia who lives on Mango Street, too. “You live right here, 4006 Mango, Alicia says and points to the house I am ashamed of. No, this isn’t my house I say and shake my head as if shaking could undo the year I’ve lived here. I don’t belong. You have a home, Alicia, and one day you’ll go there, to a town you remember, but me I never had a house, not even a photograph… only one I dream of. No, Alicia says. Like it or not, you are Mango Street, and one day you’ll come back too.”(106-107) This illustrates that Esperanza is finally being told, that throughout the whole book, she has been unconsciously directing her shame towards her home; her community, and where she comes from. If you think about it, she has never been encouraged and told that she is safe and that she should not be ashamed of her own home. As Alicia told her: she will always be Mango Street: her home. “… but what I remember most is Mango Street, sad red house, the house I belong but do not belong to… they will not know I have gone away to come back. For the ones, I left behind. For the ones who cannot out.” (Page #: 110) This reveals that Esperanza is tired of not accepting herself and who she is. And where she is from. By the end of the book, the reader feels this powerful sort of breath from Esperanza. Like she is breathing out all her doubts, and insecurities. Breathing in her true self, and finally accepting herself: Mango Street.

In conclusion, Esperanza discovers that her physical house does not define who she is, and who she will become or what path she will go down in the future. Cisneros shows us this by shifting Esperanza’s opinion on her home, and directing it towards her community and herself, more than her street and her physical house. She realizes that her feelings and emotions are what makes up her home and that a building can belong to her, but she will never be able to belong to it. This knowledge shows us the value of your home. Where you belong, where you come from, who you are. Ultimately, no one should be ashamed of who they are and where they come from, no matter what class, what neighborhood, how much money your family has. Its home and no one can ever change that.

Margaret Sanger: Role Model or Racist Eugenicist?

Margaret Sanger was the founder of modern day Planned Parenthood and is regarded as a pioneer in women’s reproductive justice. However, her motives for the work she did involving birth control access and the specific communities targeted for healthcare remediation were questionable in that they often carried heavy themes of eugenics and race control. Despite the contemporary discourse surrounding her affiliation with eugenics groups, her idealized image as a hero of women’s healthcare has often ignored or silenced her participation in these hate groups. The question for modern historians and feminists is how to celebrate the gains that she made for women’s reproductive justice while acknowledging those were oppressed in her zeal to achieve her goals. While Margaret Sanger has been noted as a pioneer in achieving medical and sexual liberties for women in America, her accomplishments do not overshadow her simultaneous use of eugenicist policies and funding and thus her legacy must be examined through a dialectical lens.

Margaret Sanger was an activist and social reformer born into a Roman Catholic working-class American family. As a child, she watched her mother struggle through many 1 miscarriages and believed that her mother’s death at the early age of forty was caused by the miscarriages she had suffered through. Their family was very poor and her father was unstable and often drunk, leaving Margaret alone with her ten siblings. Margaret left home to attend 2 Claverack College and Hudson River Institute in 1896 to escape her home life and poverty. 3

Sanger studied nursing and soon married William Sanger and gave birth to three children. 4 Through this work, and during their time living in Paris, Margaret became interested in sex education as she noticed a large gap in support for women. She worked as a nurse in a predominantly poor immigrant neighborhood on the Lower East Side and she met and treated many women who had undergone unsafe “back-alley” abortions or had tried to self terminate their pregnancies. At this time, female reproductive healthcare was largely underdeveloped, and 5 accessible only to those with both money and a sense of security that they would not get penalized for seeking health treatment. The social rules around sexual reproduction, let alone 6 sexual pleasure, were strict and began and ended with decorum. Women could confide in each other about their bodily functions, but “women’s troubles” would never have been shared with men outside of the more unavoidable shared aspects of pregnancy. The practice of “confinement” was indicative of the secrecy, silence, and shame surrounding all aspects of female reproductive healthcare; across many cultures and for the majority of recorded history, those with economic advantage would experience some sort of confinement after giving birth, where they would be supported as they and the baby transitioned into their new roles and responsibility. Although this process is often referred to as a positive aspect of female 7 community building, with one author of a recent historical book referring to it as, “a golden rope connecting women from one generation to the next,” the origin of this behavior is more likely 8 due to the desire of the men in the community to distance themselves from the routine health needs of women. However, there is evidence that women were still aware of methods of contraception and bodily function regulation, and would use methods like newspaper columns to seek information and to sell their wares. A column from 1842 records the correspondence of women seeking information and tools for the “obstruction of their monthly periods.” Things 9 were much worse for women outside of the safety of wealthy spheres, living in poverty, in recently established immigrant communities, or in places of low literacy without the ability to seek out information for oneself. Even the Bible describes the bleak outlook for women who had the gall to have a period, and the “red tent” practice, in which a woman is shunned and isolated form the community during her period, remains even today in some parts of the world. Gilded Age America was not a particularly good place in which to inhabit a female body, and as the Comstock Laws will evidence, there was active work being done to keep women’s issues separated from the view of men, and to keep women in ignorance of sexual pleasure and the freedoms associated with planning pregnancies. Thus, when Sanger began her campaign for accessible sex education for women in 1912 by writing the newspaper column “What Every Girl Should Know,” she was going against the unnecessary suffering of these women and wanted 10 for them to have safe and accessible contraceptives and education, even if doing so had the high probability of getting her into trouble.

Sanger and her family eventually moved to Greenwich Village in 1910. At the time, 11 Greenwich Village was a very politically radical area and Margaret became involved in politics. Although initially introduced to socialism and bohemian values by her husband, William, it was Margaret who became the political activist. As she engaged more heavily in the birth control movement, their marriage faltered, and they were separated in 1914. Her second marriage would happen after their divorce was finalized in 1921. At that time, she would choose to marry J. Noah H. Slee, a choice that will be examined in more detail later on this in paper, but who in the moment allowed her to fund her work and further her support for lower income women. She 12 joined the Women’s Committee of the New York Socialist Party and the Liberal Club, and participated in many strikes as a supporter of the Industrial Workers of the World Union. The ideas of socialism and bohemianism, of equality and pleasure-seeking choices that she became exposed to while in Paris with her first husband, remained powerful proponents for her as she tried to bring equity into the healthcare sphere. Additionally, she recognized that there was 13 power in collective bargaining action, and that working class individuals were an important and often overlooked aspect of society that needed to be rewarded the same benefits as those in the upper classes. Like many women over the ages, she realized that some sort of way to provide a safe and easy way to prevent against pregnancy where a women had complete autonomy and control over her body. As a woman living in the Gilded Age, however, she realized that this solution would likely be produced through research science and applied medicine, rather than in the home cures used by every generation before her, including the practice of the Ancient Egyptians of putting alligator dung in the vaginal canal to prevent against conception. She 14 started her own feminist publication known as ‘The Women Rebel’ in 1914. It promoted women’s rights to contraception and autonomy over their bodies. Even as she was engaging in this work, she was well aware that her actions and choice to be very public about her advocacy of contraception put her in a position to be arrested for violating the Comstock Act. The Comstock Act of 1873 prohibited trade in circulation of “obscene and immoral materials.” These acts were named by their primary proponent, Anthony Comstock, who was 15 an active leader in the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and created the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, with the goal of reducing the impact that obscene materials had on children. Comstock believed that the youth were being corrupted by a wide variety of publications, and he targeted the United States Postal Services as a source of distribution that needed to be regulated to keep the purity of the American youth. Even in his time, Comstock’s 16 beliefs were considered to be too judgemental or, at times, ludicrous; playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote that, “Comstockery is the world’s standing joke at the expense of the United States. Europe likes to hear of such things. It confirms the deep-seated conviction of the Old World that America is a provincial place, a second-rate country-town civilization after all.” However, upon 17 being named an United States Postal Inspector, Comstock and his laws were tightly woven into the politics of the time, and the repression of information, devices, and medications related to all manner of obscene materials. This included any information or tools about contraception and abortion within its definition of obscene materials. It also made importing or mailing anything related to contraception and abortion a crime punishable by law; by controlling the Postal Service, a primary method of information transfer in the Gilded Age, Comstock’s laws had far-reaching consequences. Those who were found to be in violation of said act received a 18 five-year jail sentence. Sanger’s publications about abortion and contraception, while ostensibly about public health, were identified as being the type of obscene content that the Comstock Act prohibited. Rather than get arrested for going against the Act, she fled to England. While in 19 England, she learned about and researched many other forms of birth control and smuggled them back into the U.S. when she returned to her home in 1915 once the charges against her had been dropped. Her estranged husband William was accosted during her absence by some of Comstock’s agents, but he did not expose her whereabouts despite their separation. For refusing to help, he served thirty days on Blackwell’s Island, a prison in New York City. This 20 would not be the only time that Sanger’s family would be imprisoned as an attempt to silence her and her work. At juncture in her career, Sanger is credited with coining the term “birth control” to describe contraception and began touring to promote its use and functionality. Her focus 21 at this time was to emphasize the idea of choice both before and during gestation, to elongate the window of opportunity afforded to women to control their bodies. After touring, she opened her first birth control clinic in 1916 at 46 Amboy Street in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. She had initially chosen the location due to her tight knit relationship with the community. She knew the services she would provide would be welcomed and much needed 22 within the community. She modeled the clinic after ones she had visited previously in Holland. 23 The clinic operated secretly, relying solely on word of mouth. Each woman that came through was offered Sanger’s informational pamphlet “What Every Girl Should Know” (see inset above), which included information and instructions about various methods of contraception.24

The clinic was incredibly successful and managed to see one hundred women within the first day of operation. However, within nine days, Sanger and her entire staff — including family members — were arrested (see inset below). They were charged with “providing information on contraception.” They spent three days together in jail for breaking the law. She appealed her 25 arrest on the grounds that the the material she was accused of distributing was not obscenity, but medical health information, and thus should not be subject to the restrictive propaganda act. When the court upheld her defense and ruled in her favor, she successfully changed the tide in favor of freedom of choice. The court maintained the opinion of law enforcement that obscene materials should still be restricted, but it allowed an exception to the law to allow for doctors to prescribe contraception for medical reasons. Buoyed by this success, Sanger established several additional institutions to capitalize on the changing view of birth control and women’s choice. In 1917, the first edition of the Birth Control Review was published, and the American Birth Control League gaveled their first meeting in 1921 with Sanger as president. In later years, this organization became what is now known as Planned Parenthood. Learning from her prior experience, Sanger 26 opened the first legally-permitted clinic, the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, and in 1929, she started the National Committee of Federal Legislation for Birth Control to advance issues of women’s rights and birth control through the legal system. In 1939, the summation of her labors bore fruit when the U.S. Court of Appeals allowed for birth control medications, tools, and related materials to be imported into the U.S. In the 1950s, money from her research foundation, funneled through the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, helped to sponsor the study that produced the first oral contraceptive pill. The legacy of Margaret Sanger paints 27 her as a pioneer in the fight for women’s reproductive rights, and the sustained work of Planned Parenthood is a testament to her strength and courage in the face of adversity.28

However, this is not the whole story. Margaret Sanger did not achieve these aims without assistance. As a woman of her time and class, Sanger would have needed to find funding to support her work, and she would gain needed respectability through marriage. As it happens, her choice of both a husband and a funding group led her to the American Eugenics Society, which encouraged her goals with the hope of limiting the populations of African Americans and Native Americans. Although it is not clear if she was a believer in these principles before she began working with them, it is undeniable that her relationship with the American Eugenics Society forever tinged both her legacy and her writings about the importance of contraception. Between the 1910s and her death in 1966, Sanger was involved in several eugenics meetings, programs, educational series, and projects. In the United States, eugenics intersected with the birth control 29 movement in the 1920s, and Sanger reportedly spoke at eugenics conferences. She wrote many papers with questionable themes, saying that she would make sure they, “lay all our emphasis upon stopping… the reproduction of the unfit.” Her definition of “unfit” was was often left 30 ambiguous, but since she was giving these speeches at white supremacist gatherings and publishing her thoughts in an effort to calm the fears in the communities of color who questioned her motives, it can be extrapolated that her definition of unfit probably did not include white people like herself. Sanger also worked on a project delicately titled the “Negro Project,” in which the goal was to bring birth control to African American populations with the stated intent of limiting the growth of said populations. The project was initiated by Sanger in 1939 and was 31 a collaboration between the American Birth Control League and Sanger’s Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau. However, she also had significant support for this project from prominent 32 leaders in the black community, including W.E.B. Dubois, despite the racist overtones of the project. Although it seems counterproductive in hindsight that Sanger would partner with leaders in the communities of color in order to do her work, Sanger was very aware that her “Negro Plan” would not necessarily go over well and came up with a solution to this problem; she wrote, “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” Even in her writing, Sanger is careful to phrase her ideas about the 33 “word” or “idea” of racist actions, rather than to focus her deception on whether or not the racism was real. Sanger understood the power of perception, and realized that all that mattered was that she didn’t appear as a racist when speaking to communities of color. In order to appear trustworthy and access new communities, she often went through ministers and religious leaders, first convincing them that her cause would benefit the poor black people in their congregations, and then making sure that they convinced the people of her “good intent,” when she arrived in person. Sanger also talked about contraceptives being used to facilitate, “the process of weeding out the unfit [and] of preventing the birth of defectives,” and it appears as though her definition 34 “defectives” included communities of color. Notably, she spoke to the Klu Klux Klan. She detailed the encounter in her autobiography saying, “Always to me any aroused group was a good group, and therefore I accepted an invitation to talk to the women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan.” She was not ashamed of her speech which she made clear when she stated that “(she) 35 believed (she) had accomplished (her) purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered.” She enjoyed her interactions with the KKK and wanted to continue her 36 connections with them. When various interest groups representing communities of color expressed concern about the role of contraceptive clinics in furthering racist aims, Sanger wrote that she was going to use black religious leaders to try and convince communities of color that her motives were pure, when in fact they were not. As one examines Sanger’s legacy, the most problematic evidence regarding Sanger’s motives are her collected writings and articles. Although early articles focus more on her push for contraceptives, by 1921, Sanger was writing regularly in her Birth Control Review, and the articles took on a decisively eugenicist tone. A well known eugenist, Eugen Fischer, who was funded by The Rockefeller Foundation (one of many same organizations that also funded and supported Sanger’s work), was responsible for the racial hygiene theory adopted by Nazis. Her work at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute led to the 37 eugenics directly implemented in the Holocaust. The deep connection between Sanger’s 38 eugenics work and the Nazi eugenicists who carried out much of the reproductive system torture as well as the planned sterilization of the “inferior” races makes it difficult to deny that Sanger was not herself motivated by these ideas.

The connection of the American eugenics movement to the rising power in Germany was not limited to Sanger herself; later, in 1928, the cover of the Birth Control Review (see insert) featured minutes from a meeting between Sanger, the executive council, and representatives from prominent American eugenics supporters. Interestingly enough, Sanger has yet another connection to Hitler in that Whitney had previously sent him letters complimenting him for a book he had written on sterilization. By 1946, when popular 39 opinion had turned against eugenics after the end of the Second World War, Sanger published an article in the Negro Digest which shows that she walked back some of her rhetoric about who should have the right to dictate to others about their child needs. In particular, Sanger wrote that 40 a black women has as much and possibly more right to make that decision for herself and her family, which is in contrast to the language Sanger had used that implied a divine mandate for her to tell others how to control their births. Although she might have changed her mind about the eugenics movement by the time that she passed away, the scarcity of evidence about her progressive thoughts and the lack of an apology for her former actions leaves this as more of an assumption than as a certainty for those looking to absolve her.

With historical evidence to support Sanger’s positive impact on the reproductive healthcare of women situated alongside the financial and potentially philosophical reality of her partnership with eugenicists, describing Sanger’s legacy remains a complex task. Even as research was being completed for this paper, it was necessary to search the full phrase “Margaret Sanger eugenicist” in order to find internet search hits that did not focus solely on her professional accomplishments. In fact, when preliminary research for this paper was conducted by reading the special section about the birth control movement in the classroom textbook by Foner, the three paragraphs over two pages took time to mention her childhood but did not 41 make any mention of her relationship to eugenics. Of course, Foner is subject to the same publication and editorial demands as any other textbook author, yet it does seem hard to believe that a significant portion of the evidence about Sanger’s work and life would be omitted for any reason, while details about her ten siblings made it into the final edition. One could argue that being raised in such a large family could have inspired her to crusade for contraception; however, one could argue as easily that her eugenics leanings helped to propel her to continue the battle when faced with jail time (and a bail price she would have to pay off with funding from those partners). Foner himself summarizes this discrepancy in presenting heroes of American history in his preface to the text, “Americans have always had a divided attitude towards history. On the one hand, they tend to be future-oriented, dismissing events of even the recent past as ‘ancient history’ and sometimes seeing history as a burden to be overcome, a prison from which to escape. On the other hand, like many other peoples, Americans have always looked to history for a sense of personal or group identity and of national cohesiveness.” This desire of Americans in particular to obscure the difficult truths associated with our history 42is at once understandable and defensibly, and Foner’s acknowledgement indicates that he might unintentionally make this decision. Yet, in order to truly form an identity or a national cohesion, it is important to identify the moments where those who built up our history were themselves subject to the same flaws that we identify in our current landscape. Our heroes were as vulnerable to the same missteps as we are today, and by drafting histories that emphasize the complexity of the hero, we could help to foster that sense of national cohesion by discussing and processing the horrible things that we have done to each other in the name of “progress.”

Depicting Sanger as a complex historical figure does not diminish her power, it actually increases it. Consider the idea that Sanger might have only taken money from eugenic societies in order to fund her goals, and that she wasn’t herself a racist (her careful phrasing in most correspondence keeps that door ajar). In modern economic ethics, if one takes money from an organization, one is purportedly in favor of the values of that organization. This topic comes up time and again with modern politicians; for example, when the recent vote happened in the Senate to reestablish Net Neutrality, many of the list of senators who voted to keep it repealed had taken money from telecommunications companies who favored the ban, whereas many of their represented constituencies were in favor of repealing. However, when one examines a 43 historical issue that had been politicized, one must also identify the general availability of money at that time. For Sanger, access to money for her projects was greatly limited due to her gender and her cause, and it might truly have been impossible to find money other than that of eugenicists, as they had a similarly-aligned cause. Yet with her later writings, in particular her pro-eugenics manifesto, “The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda,” it seem as though she has embraced the eugenicist idea by at least 1921. Did she begin her crusade for birth control as a eugenicist, or did she embrace the values later? Once she took the money, was it then easier for her to compromise other morals in pursuit of her goal? These are the kinds of questions that make Margaret Sanger a much more interesting character than just a pro-birth control fighter. Complex characters are real characters, and history will be best learnt from if the models that are presented have the same weaknesses and foibles, and yet achieve great things despite these more negative traits. And when it comes to creating a historical model for a young woman in America, it is important to frame historical figures in their contexts to highlight their successes, as well as acknowledge their struggles and the compromises they made along the way. These choices are incredibly familiar to young American women today, and if Sanger’s story was told with all of the complexities and complications that come with living a full life as a woman at any time, then potential future activists sitting in classrooms right now might be inspired to take on large projects themselves.

While Margaret Sanger is well respected and often remembered as an activist and in achieving medical and sexual liberties for women in America, her legacy is tinged by the fact that her efforts were funded by racists and eugenicists and her work often benefited from the suffering of those she deemed “unfit.” Since her actions were funded by eugenicists her work must be put into perspective and she should both be remembered for the strides she made for woman as the founder of planned parenthood, but also someone who sacrificed moral beliefs and equal treatment of the people she claimed to care for in exchange for funding. Margaret Sanger was a complex woman who will always be remembered in history as a pioneer for women’s rights, but also must be remembered for her money from racists and eugenicists.


1. Eric, Foner. Give Me Liberty! An American History. New York: WW Norton &, 2017. 713-714.

2. “Margaret Sanger Biography.” Encyclopedia of World Biography. Accessed April 06, 2018. http://www.notablebiographies.com/Ro-Sc/Sanger-Margaret.html.

3. Margaret, Sanger. Autobiography (New York: Norton, 1938), p. 13; Katz, Esther, et al., eds, The Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger, Vol. 1: The “Woman Rebel” 1900–1928 (Urbana: Illinois University Press, 2003), pp. 4–5.


5. “Margaret Sanger.” Biography.com. April 28, 2017. Accessed April 06, 2018. https://www.biography.com/people/margaret-sanger-9471186


7. Wei-Chen, Tung (22 June 2010). “Doing the Month and Asian Cultures: Implications for Health Care”. Home Health Care Management & Practice. 22 (5): 369–371.

8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postpartum_confinement. Ou, Heng; Amely, Greeven; Belger, Marisa (2016). The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother. ISBN 9781617691836. (book quote found on wiki we spoke about it in class)

9. Mrs. Bird, female physician To the Ladies–Madame Costello. New York, 1842. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2002719613/.

10. Margaret, Sanger “WHAT EVERY GIRL SHOULD KNOW.” NYU. Accessed May 30, 2018. https://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/webedition/app/documents/show.php?sangerDoc=304922.xml.

11. “Biographical Sketch.” NYU. Accessed May 29, 2018. https://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/aboutms/.

12. “Margaret Sanger.” Biography.com. April 28, 2017. Accessed April 06, 2018. https://www.biography.com/people/margaret-sanger-9471186.

13. “Margaret Sanger.” Economic Aspects of Euthanasia | The Life Resources Charitable Trust. Accessed May 30, 2018. http://www.life.org.nz/abortion/aboutabortion/historyglobal10/Default.htm.

14. Chris, Will. “Early Forms of Birth Control Were Revolutionary but Look Scary.” Mashable. June 07, 2015. Accessed May 30, 2018. https://mashable.com/2015/06/07/early-birth-control/#3lt27KVpvZqp.

15. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Comstock Act.” Encyclopædia Britannica. February 15, 2017. Accessed April 06, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/event/Comstock-Act.

16. De Robigne Mortimer, Bennett (15 May 1878). “Anthony Comstock: his career of cruelty and crime; a chapter from The champions of the Church”. New York, Liberal and Scientific Publishing House. Retrieved 15 May 2018 – via Internet Archive.

17. “Anthony Comstock.” Pseudoscience – RationalWiki. Accessed May 29, 2018. https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Anthony_Comstock.

18. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Comstock Act.” Encyclopædia Britannica. February 15, 2017. Accessed April 06, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/event/Comstock-Act.

19. “Margaret Sanger.” Depression-era Soup Kitchens. Accessed May 30, 2018. https://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1676.html.

20. Neil A., Hamilton. Rebels and Renegades: A Chronology of Social and Political Dissent in the United States. Place of Publication Not Identified: Routledge, 2013. 182.

21. Jonathan, Eig. The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution. London, England: Pan Books, 2016. 3.

22. Margaret Sanger Papers Project. Accessed May 29, 2018. https://sangerpapers.wordpress.com/tag/brownsville-clinic/.

23. “Sanger’s First Clinic.” Margaret Sanger Papers Project. November 19, 2010. Accessed May 21, 2018. https://sangerpapers.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/sangers-first-clinic/.

24. IBID

25. “Margaret Sanger.” Biography.com. April 28, 2017. Accessed May 31, 2018. https://www.biography.com/people/margaret-sanger-9471186.

26. Melissa R., Klapper (August 22, 2014). Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women’s Activism, 1890–1940. NYU Press. pp. 137–138.

27. The New York Times. Accessed May 24, 2018. https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0409.html.

28. Peter, Engelman, “McCormick, Katharine Dexter”, in Encyclopedia of Birth Control, Vern L. Bullough (ed.), ABC-CLIO, 2001, pp. 170–1. Marc A. Fritz, Leon Speroff, Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2010, pp. 959–960.

29 “Margaret Sanger.” Biography.com. April 28, 2017. Accessed April 06, 2018. https://www.biography.com/people/margaret-sanger-9471186

30. Margaret Sanger, “Birth Control and Racial Betterment,” Feb 1919. Published article. Source: Birth Control Review, Feb. 1919., Library of Congress Microfilm 131:0099B.

31. “Reflections on Roe: When Margaret Sanger Spoke to the KKK.” The American Spectator. March 15, 2017. Accessed May 23, 2018. https://spectator.org/61552_reflections-roe-when-margaret-sanger-spoke-kkk/. 366-367.

32. The Negro Project was initiated in 1939 by Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood. It was a collaborative effort between the American Birth Control League and Sanger’s Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau

33. “Newsletter #28 (Fall 2001).” NYU, www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/articles/bc_or_race_control.php.

34. Amita, Kelly. “Fact Check: Was Planned Parenthood Started To ‘Control’ The Black Population?” NPR. August 14, 2015. Accessed May 27, 2018. https://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/08/14/432080520/fact-check-was-planned-parenthood-started-to-control-the-blac k-population.

35. Margaret, Sanger. 1971. Margaret Sanger: an autobiography. New York: Dover Publications. (page 366 and 367)

36. IBID

37. Gretchen E. Schafft, From Racism to Genocide: Anthropology in the Third Reich (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004), pp. 48-54.

38. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, www.ushmm.org/information/exhibitions/traveling-exhibitions/deadly-medicine.

39. “Saynsumthn’s Blog.” Saynsumthns Blog. Accessed May 29, 2018. https://saynsumthn.wordpress.com/tag/leon-whitney/.

40. Margaret, Sanger. “Love or Babies: Must Negro Mothers Choose.” NYU, www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/webedition/app/documents/show.php?sangerDoc=320905.xml.

41. Eric, Foner. Give Me Liberty! An American History. New York: WW Norton &, 2017. 713-714.

42. Eric, Foner. Give Me Liberty! An American History. New York: WW Norton &, 2017. Preface xviii.

43. Aaron, Barksdale. “Reddit Users Exposed Elected Officials Selling Out on Net Neutrality.” Impact, 5 Dec. 2017, impact.vice.com/en_us/article/j5d85p/reddit-users-exposed-elected-officials-selling-out-on-net-neutrality-by-taking-over-the-site s-front-page.


“Anthony Comstock.” Pseudoscience – RationalWiki. Accessed May 29, 2018. https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Anthony_Comstock. This source was a quotation by George Bernard Shaw found on the biography page of Anthony Comstock. It details how he feels about Comstockery and how the general public viewed it as a joke overall. This source helped me understand that the comstock laws were not only disliked by Activists, they were also disliked by the general public.

Barksdale, Aaron. “Reddit Users Exposed Elected Officials Selling Out on Net Neutrality.” Impact, 5 Dec. 2017,impact.vice.com/en_us/article/j5d85p/reddit-users-exposed-elected-officials-selling-out-on-net-neutrality-by-taking-over-the-sites-front-page. This source was an article detailing how senators took money from telecommunications and allowed themselves to be morally swayed and vote for repealing net neutrality. This is relevant because it is a similar narrative to what Margaret Sanger did when taking money from Eugenicists.

Bennett, De Robigne Mortimer (15 May 1878). “Anthony Comstock: his career of cruelty and crime; a chapter from The champions of the Church”. New York, Liberal and Scientific Publishing House. Retrieved 15 May 2018 – via Internet Archive. This source is an archive of an article displaying Anthony Comstock’s fears of youth being corrupted through the postal service. This source is relevant because it shows how Comstocks laws were surrounded by fear of sexuality and freedom.

Bird, Mrs. female physician To the Ladies–Madame Costello. New York, 1842. Photograph. This source is an image of a newspaper article showing two advertisements from the New York sun newspaper. Mrs. Bird offers pills for treatment of menstrual irregularity and Madame Costello offers help to women who want to be treated for “obstruction of their monthly periods.” This source is important because it shows how women accessed important information about their bodies.

“Biographical Sketch.” NYU. Accessed May 30, 2018. https://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/aboutms/. This source is a biography on Margaret Sanger. It is important because it gives very telling details into her life.

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Comstock Act.” Encyclopædia Britannica. February 15, 2017. Accessed April 06, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/event/Comstock-Act. This source gives details and the specifics of the Comstock Act. It is important in understanding the Act and how it affected Sanger’s work.

Eig, Jonathan. The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution. London, England: Pan Books, 2016. 3. This source is from a book. It is important because it explains how Margaret Sanger coined the term birth control.

Engelman, Peter, “McCormick, Katharine Dexter”, in Encyclopedia of Birth Control, Vern L. Bullough (ed.), ABC-CLIO, 2001, pp. 170–1.

Marc A. Fritz, Leon Speroff, Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2010, pp. 959–960. This source details books in which Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood’s legacy is apparent. This is important because it showed that the impact of planned parenthood was far beyond Sanger.

Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! An American History. New York: WW Norton &, 2017. 713-714. This source is a textbook. It is important because it shows how we often don’t put into text the details of our heroes that paint them as less so. It helps prove my point that Sanger is often remembered for the good she has done, but the bad is often forgotten.

Hamilton, Neil A. Rebels and Renegades: A Chronology of Social and Political Dissent in the United States. Place of Publication Not Identified: Routledge, 2013. 182. This source is an article. It gives a background on William Sanger and shows that he was willing to go to prison for his cause.

Kelly, Amita. “Fact Check: Was Planned Parenthood Started To ‘Control’ The Black Population?” NPR. August 14, 2015. Accessed May 27, 2018. https://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/08/14/432080520/fact-check-was-planned-parenthood-started-to-control-the-black-population. This source is an article that features direct quotations from Sanger. It is important because it exposes the racist and eugenicists themes within her writing and ideologies.

Klapper, Melissa R. (August 22, 2014). Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women’s Activism, 1890–1940. NYU Press. pp. 137–138. This source is a book and it is important because it shows how planned parenthood began.

“Margaret Sanger Biography.” Encyclopedia of World Biography. Accessed May 30, 2018. http://www.notablebiographies.com/Ro-Sc/Sanger-Margaret.html. This source is a Biography on Margaret Sanger. It is important because it gives important details and a new perspective into the life of Margaret Sanger and how she became the person we remember today.

“Margaret Sanger.” Depression-era Soup Kitchens. Accessed May 30, 2018. https://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1676.html. This source is an article. It is important because it shows how the Comstock laws nearly stopped Sanger’s work, but she was able to escape and continue persevering.

“Margaret Sanger.” Economic Aspects of Euthanasia | The Life Resources Charitable Trust. Accessed May 30, 2018. http://www.life.org.nz/abortion/aboutabortion/historyglobal10/Default.htm. This source is an article. It is important because it shows her social and political activism and involvement.

Margaret Sanger Papers Project. Accessed May 29, 2018. https://sangerpapers.wordpress.com/tag/brownsville-clinic/. This source is an article. It is important because it sheds light on what her first clinic was like and how far she came from then to modern day planned parenthood.

Margaret Sanger, “Birth Control and Racial Betterment,” Feb 1919. Published article. Source: Birth Control Review, Feb. 1919., Library of Congress Microfilm 131:0099B.

“Margaret Sanger.” Biography.com. April 28, 2017. Accessed May 31, 2018. https://www.biography.com/people/margaret-sanger-9471186. This source is a Biography on Margaret Sanger. It is important because it gives important details and a new perspective into the life of Margaret Sanger and how she became the person we remember today

“Newsletter #28 (Fall 2001).” NYU, www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/articles/bc_or_race_control.php.

“Reflections on Roe: When Margaret Sanger Spoke to the KKK.” The American Spectator. March 15, 2017. Accessed May 23, 2018. https://spectator.org/61552_reflections-roe-when-margaret-sanger-spoke-kkk/. 366-367. This source gives direct quotes from Sanger about her meetings with the women’s branch of the KKK. It is important because it gives input into her views and the racism she allows in order to receive funding.

“Sanger’s First Clinic.” Margaret Sanger Papers Project. November 19, 2010. Accessed May 21, 2018. https://sangerpapers.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/sangers-first-clinic/. This source is an article. It is important because it gives insight into her first clinic and how the struggles she endured in order to continue her work.

Sanger, Margaret. Autobiography (New York: Norton, 1938), p. 13; Katz, Esther, et al., eds, The Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger, Vol. 1: The “Woman Rebel” 1900–1928 (Urbana: Illinois University Press, 2003), pp. 4–5. This source is an Autobiography. It is important because it shows Sanger’s perspective and gives insight into her thoughts.

Sanger, Margaret. 1971. Margaret Sanger: an autobiography. New York: Dover Publications. 366-367. This source is an Autobiography. It is important because it shows Sanger’s perspective and gives insight into her thoughts.

Sanger, Margaret “WHAT EVERY GIRL SHOULD KNOW.” NYU. Accessed May 30, 2018. https://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/webedition/app/documents/show.php?sangerDoc=304922.xml This source is an image of a pamphlet given out at Sanger’s clinic. It is important because it gives details and perspective into the specific issues she was tackling at the time and how she was spreading resources.

Sanger, Margaret. “Love or Babies: Must Negro Mothers Choose.” NYU, www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/webedition/app/documents/show.php?sangerDoc=320905.xml. This source is an article containing quotations. It is important because it shows the racist themes behind a lot of Sanger’s Eugenics work.

“Saynsumthn’s Blog.” Saynsumthns Blog. Accessed May 29, 2018. https://saynsumthn.wordpress.com/tag/leon-whitney/. This source is an article with primary sources. It is important because it connects Sanger’s eugenics works to Hitler and ideologies used within the Holocaust.

Schafft, Gretchen E.From Racism to Genocide: Anthropology in the Third Reich (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004), pp. 48-54.

Tung, Wei-Chen (22 June 2010). “Doing the Month and Asian Cultures: Implications for Health Care”. Home Health Care Management & Practice. 22 (5): 369–371. This is important because it explains shame-based practices surrounding women’s health care.

The New York Times. Accessed May 24, 2018. https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0409.html. This source is an article. It is important because it explains the role of Dr. Pincus, the man who created chemical birth control, and his work with Sanger.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, www.ushmm.org/information/exhibitions/traveling-exhibitions/deadly-medicine. This source is an article. It is important because it connects the tactics used in the Holocaust to similar tactics used by eugenicists.

Wild, Chris. “Early Forms of Birth Control Were Revolutionary but Look Scary.” Mashable. June 07, 2015. Accessed May 30, 2018. https://mashable.com/2015/06/07/early-birth-control/#3lt27KVpvZqp.

Nolan’s Inception, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and the Femme Fatale

“You keep telling yourself what you know… but what do you believe? What do you feel?” (Nolan 133) Mal asks her husband, Dominic in the film Inception (2010). Perhaps she embodies what women are traditionally expected to do — to rely on emotion rather than sense, to have more EQ than IQ, and to use the heart rather than the head. In these brief lines, Mal tries to convince Dom to think in an emotionally charged way, hoping it will bring them closer together as a couple. (Mal no longer is alive, but the movie presents her in the same way as a real, tangible person, suggesting she should be treated as such.) Dom responds bluntly, but not without strain: “Guilt. I feel guilt” (Nolan133). She successfully pulls the confession out of him, exploiting his grief and regret for her own satisfaction.

Inception is indirectly based on a play by William Shakespeare: the famous “Scottish Play” Macbeth, whose titular character spirals into a rut of guilt, shame, and paranoia brought on by the women in his life. The witches play a game with Macbeth, providing glimpses of a future he can’t predict, making him feel foolish and stripping him of his masculinity — which in this particular case might be synonymous with “rationality.” To exacerbate the issue, Macbeth’s wife, known only as “Lady Macbeth”, manipulates him to kill King Duncan, not only so he can usurp the throne, but also so he can prove his worth as a husband. “When you durst do it, then you were a man / And, to be more than what you were, you would / Be so much more the man,” the Lady tells Macbeth. Once Macbeth becomes king, he’ll have no choice but to agree to have children and continue the royal line. The stress caused by these immoral activities makes Macbeth agitated and restless, and by the end, he’s led to his demise at the hands of an old friend — Macduff, the Thane of Fife. But according to the story’s subtext, Macbeth himself is never truly to blame. It’s always either the witches, with their evilness and “filthy” sorcery, or his wife, the master manipulator.

In an interview, Nolan described Mal as “the essence of the femme fatale”. In fiction, a femme fatale is a mysterious and seductive woman — often a sexist stereotype — who will ultimately bring downfall to a man who becomes romantically or sexually involved with her. This is a stock character used especially in “noir” films from the 1940s like The Lady from Shanghai or Double Indemnity. After the film noir period ended, “neo-noirs”, modern takes on the genre, started appearing: among them were Blade Runner (1982) with Sean Young, Blue Velvet (1986) with Isabella Rossellini, and Basic Instinct (1992) with Sharon Stone. Anyone who consumes a significant amount of TV or pulp fiction will start to notice this character appear frequently, with minor variations. The Top 40 single “Maneater” by Nelly Furtado and Timbaland, which employs this character to great effect. In the song’s extended outro, Furtado sings “You wish you never ever met her at all!” — a powerful cry indicating the destruction femme fatales employ on their lovers. Nolan’s description is therefore an apt one. Mal isn’t there to do much more than provide a source of misery for the male protagonist. With this one purpose in mind, the character comes across as underwritten: actress Marion Cotillard does her best with the challenging line readings. The script’s dialogue is simplistic and often ineffective, which indicates that Nolan is more focused on the mechanics of Inception’s dream-world than on the intricacies of his characters. If that wasn’t clear from watching the film, his willingness to sum up Mal’s personality in two words — “femme fatale” — shows he has more devotion to creating narrative puzzles than people. It seems Nolan could have done a better job with writing this character, but to give him credit, Mal’s underwritten-ness may actually have been a conscious artistic choice. When considering the idea that Mal is a “projection” of Dom’s mind, we understand that her personality traits are exaggerated and she is an imperfect reconstruction of the wife Dom once knew.

Lady Macbeth is similar to Mal in numerous ways. It can be argued that Lady Macbeth cannot be a femme fatale due to the period in which this story is set: there are no cigarettes to smoke or fedora-wearing detectives to deceive. However, there is one major sign indicating her as a forerunner — her manipulation of her husband. In Shakespeare’s world, women can be as ruthless as men, yet social norms deny them the ability to pursue power on their own. Lady Macbeth never outright kills Duncan, but she is instrumental in aiding Macbeth to commit the crime. In her character arc, Lady Macbeth does whatever she can under the constraints of being a woman; in fact, she maybe even harbors a secret wish to be a man. In Act 1, she delivers a monologue which includes several eyebrow-raising lines, including this one:

“Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty!”

She hopes evil spirits will remove her ladylike characteristics, such as her motherly instincts, and instead make her as cruel as any man. In another line, she asks the spirits to “come to my woman’s breasts, and take my milk for gall,” a rather extreme demand which suggests she wants to stop lactating. It’s clear Lady Macbeth means this metaphorically, but the idea that that she needs to become physically more masculine in order to commit this terrible crime is odd and disturbing, and brings controversial psychology to light. It’s Freudian in nature, seeming to echo his problematic and misogynistic idea of “penis envy”. The concept explains how, in a patriarchal society, women might envy the power given to those with a phallus. These lines were written before Freud was even born.

While Lady Macbeth is feminine in nature, the witches are certainly not. In fact, the first thing we learn about them is that they resemble men. They have beards, as illustrated by Macbeth’s remark “You should be women / And yet your beards forbid me to interpret that you are so.” This seems to foreshadow that they are men’s match in power and agency. Indeed, the witches are the most powerful characters in Macbeth — even more powerful than any man with a royal title. Women with immense power over men, like the “weird sisters”, are bound to be abnormal looking or acting women according to Shakespearean logic. Any “normal” woman in Shakespeare’s plays will not have copious power: the further women veer towards authority, the weirder they become. Of the major female players in Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is the least powerful, as she is only Macbeth’s husband and socially expected to be obliging and agreeable. Unlike the witches, she looks feminine and dresses customarily as an aristocrat of medieval Scotland. She might initially have some deep-seated desires of manhood, but by the time the play ends, she’s helpless and filled with regret, trying to wash away an invisible bloodstain.

The witches, similarly to Lady Macbeth, heavily influence Macbeth’s actions. Their repeated line “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” is the marker of their unpredictability. Though the witches do not deliberately advise Macbeth to kill King Duncan like Lady Macbeth did, they use a form of temptation when they inform Macbeth that kingship is his destiny. By placing this thought in his brain, they do what Lady Macbeth cannot — they bolster his manhood and give him an actual drive to pursue his ambitions. This is where the parallels between the two works fall apart: while easy comparisons can be made between Mal and Lady Macbeth, there aren’t any for the witches. If anything, Cobb himself acts as a magician, using “magic” (dream technology) to plant an idea in Robert Fisher’s head — the idea to break up his dying father’s business empire. Additionally, he less literally plants an idea in Mal’s head: a romantic fantasy. Dom indulges Mal in “limbo” for fifty years, and the two lovers build their own little dream world together, as time moves much more slowly than in real life. Mal refuses to return to reality, and when Dom forcibly wakes her, she decides to commit suicide by jumping from a hotel window — the site of their anniversary celebration. This causes him to feel the aforementioned guilt in a truly profound way.

The witches, along with male royalty, are the most powerful agents in Macbeth. It should be noted, however, that while both witches and kings have power, the witches have a type that is more inherently feminine. They’re the only ones possessing supernatural, magical abilities — possibly the most feared ability in all of literature. The witches can make any man believe anything by just whispering in his ear. In this case, they use their abilities to gain Macbeth’s trust, build up a false prophecy, and then bring him to his demise. It could also be argued that the intrinsic fears men have of women are represented by the supernatural abilities of the witches. Women are more cerebral than men, which is why this form of power is more believable than having them be bloodthirsty barbarians who can gore any man with the swing of an axe. Of course, Shakespeare is also attempting to drive a wedge between the sexes and show a sense of mistrust between them. The witches have something much scarier than kingly power because it can’t be explained: why they, of all people, poor, lowly and haggard, deserve to have it; what they plan to do with it; and even the scope of what can be done with it.

possibly the most feared ability in all of literature. The witches can make any man believe anything by just whispering in his ear. In this case, they use their abilities to gain Macbeth’s trust, build up a false prophecy, and then bring him to his demise. It could also be argued that the intrinsic fears men have of women are represented by the supernatural abilities of the witches. Women are more cerebral than men, which is why this form of power is more believable than having them be bloodthirsty barbarians who can gore any man with the swing of an axe. Of course, Shakespeare is also attempting to drive a wedge between the sexes and show a sense of mistrust between them. The witches have something much scarier than kingly power because it can’t be explained: why they, of all people, poor, lowly and haggard, deserve to have it; what they plan to do with it; and even the scope of what can be done with it.

So, the question: Who is responsible? Is it Macbeth, or the women giving him bad advice? It’s Macbeth who actually carries out the murder of Duncan, and Macbeth who unwisely hires contract killers to murder Banquo, so in the most literal sense, it’s Macbeth’s fault. We don’t know what Shakespeare would say, but many would point to the witches and Lady Macbeth as his answer. According to them, his writing of women in the play is questionable at its best and blatantly sexist at its worst, showing the remnants of an alarming agenda — the idea that the influence of women can erase a man’s free will completely. I personally believe Shakespeare’s ambiguity surrounding this element of the story is intentional, but it doesn’t really matter — Shakespeare is appealing because we know so little about him and what he created. Some scholars have even speculated that the Scottish Play we know and love today is just an abridged version of a lost, complete manuscript, which adds another layer of mystery to Shakespeare’s psyche. Nolan, conversely, is alive and well, and willing to explain everything he creates. His narratives are less poetic and more workmanlike than Shakespeare’s, airtight with no plot holes or narrative gaps — and leaving no space for poetry. For instance, Inception, despite being a film about dreams, is filled with exposition, and it’s more restrained than other cinematic depictions of dreaming such as Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway by David Lynch. An architect of words and images, Nolan crafts films that may require more than one viewing to fully understand, but are always incredibly deliberate in their execution. While Nolan and Shakespeare deal with similar themes relating to guilt, free will, and the relations between the sexes, they are far from two sides of the same coin.

Works Cited:



Consent: Hidden in the Length of My Skirt?

In 2018, the terms “victim blaming,” “rape culture,” and “consent” are buzzwords that constantly get thrown around, but where exactly does the controversy lie in the whole matter? Apparently, within the wardrobe of the victim. But with a simple understanding of consent and assault, all of the answers seem clear ­­ at least to most. The length of a woman’s skirt is not a measure of consent. Nor is the height of her heels, nor the amount of skin she’s showing. Rape and assault are not two ­way streets; one person inflicts assault, one person is at fault. It’s an active decision made by the perpetrator, and “suggestive” clothing worn by the victim can never justify this by any means.

This is not to say that men’s arousal cannot be triggered visually with provocative clothing as a catalyst, but rather that this does not excuse any actions that follow this arousal. The interpretation of provocative dress that perpetrators propose is that the clothing a victim wore expressed a desire for sexual attention. We’ve apparently forgotten that clothing does not come with tags reading, “Dear men, this is an invitation for invasion of my personal privacy and safety.” Jessica Wolfendale emphasizes this common mis­assumption in “Provocative Dress and Responsibility,” by suggesting a hypothetical in which the roles are inverted. She tells readers to imagine a situation where a women makes sexual advances on a man wearing tight jeans and a tight tank ­top, and though he tells her to stop, she continues while claiming that he must want it, considering what he’s wearing. There is no doubt that if this truly happened, most people would defend the man and not blame him for his choice of attire (and rightly so). But the sad truth of this shows us the very real negative implications of social norms surrounding “provocative dress” in women, and the lack thereof in men.

Victim blamers cite “science,” claiming that men can become so aroused that their actions are beyond self control. A common defense is the belief that since the woman chose to wear the clothing that triggered this “massive, insurmountable” arousal, she is at fault. In short, the facts they reference are flawed. The biological aspects behind sexual arousal are somewhat obscure, but there is evidence of neurological systems connected to visuals that induce and regulate arousal. So while, undoubtedly, arousal in men is proven to be very visual and can be unintentional, there are other neurological systems such as the orbitofrontal cortex that suppress these feelings and can almost “understand” when it’s wrong to have them. But is it possible for these regulating systems to be compromised? Of course. If you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the orbitofrontal complex’s judgement can be compromised and it is possible it would not have the same power to stop actions upon sexual arousal. But let’s revisit the definition of consent again ­­ will this added component of being under the influence really help an assaulter’s case? Experiencing sexual arousal doesn’t justify sexual assault just as being drunk does not justify sexual assault. Having a combination of the two doesn’t magically balance it out either. And while you would think assaulters would not want to flaunt their ability to be so dominated by their sexual arousal that they just “can’t control themselves,” it is an excuse they keep on coming back to simply because they have no other defense.

In other words, there are no justifications for assault or rape. Scientifically speaking, there are no inner forces that drive men to make sexual advancements stronger than the forces that exist to stop them from doing it. And in the case that these forces are impaired, consent is already invalidated because of the involvement of these impairments. If consent is given, one will know it. Consent does not lie hidden within the folds of provocative clothing. The problem does not lie hidden within the folds of provocative clothing either. Commanding women to dress differently as a means to keep them safe is complying with the perpetrators, and essentially names rape and assault as a completely avoidable situation. While, yes, we want to encourage women to stay safe and of course limit the number of opportunities for assault, we have to see how failing to target the problem at its source is leading victims/survivors to watch others place the fault on them ­­ and this can get inside their heads. When horrible and unnatural things happen to humans, the instinctive response is to rack your brain for the answer to one question: Why me? After an assault, a victim is at their most vulnerable, and with accusations and misconceptions publicly thrown around, they too may begin to place the blame on themselves. The awful truth is that harassment can happen to anyone, and the last thing we want are rapists who feel like their actions are justified just because their victims were scared into believing so too. Most of the general public will stand strongly in their belief that victims of rape should not be blamed, but it is important to target the minority that believes otherwise in order to fight the problem at its source. Let’s stop telling victims to change how they dress and start telling assaulters about consent and what it means when there’s a lack thereof. It’s important we all remember that she was not “asking for it” unless she was purposefully, verbally, and quite literally, asking for it.


Burnett, Dean. “How ‘Provocative Clothes’ Affect the Brain – and Why It’s No Excuse for Assault.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 25 Jan. 2018,

Costello, Carol. “’Sexy’ Clothes Don’t Excuse Sexual Violence.” CNN, Cable News Network, 9 Oct. 2014, www.cnn.com/2014/10/06/opinion/costello­provocative­clothes­dont­cause­rape/index.html.

Greyson. “’Provocative Clothing’ Does Not Excuse Sexual Assault.” The Collegian, 21 March 2018, sdsucollegian.com/2018/03/21/provocative­clothing­does­not­excuse­sexual­assault/.

Lifestyle, Yahoo. “Why Do People Blame Sexual Harassment On Women’s Outfits?” TheHuffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 21 December 2017,

“Why Dress Codes Can’t Stop Sexual Assault.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 13 April 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/04/13/why­dress­codes­cant­stop­sexual­assault/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.f6bf40701970.

Wolfendale, Jessica. “Provocative Dress and Sexual Responsibility.” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2015, doi:10.2139/ssrn.2591440.

Spinsters, Damsels and Green-Skinned Space Babes: An Analysis of Female Representation in Sci-fi Films

With 2017 and 2018 both being big years for women’s rights, female representation in films and media seem to have fallen noticeably behind the times. So much effort and so many resources are being put into combating sexism in individuals or groups of people — think the Women’s March and protests against President Trump’s inauguration — that activists are beginning to lose sight of exactly why discrimination against women is still deeply rooted in the minds of so many people. Not only have scores of media moguls been accused of sexual harassment of female actors, but women have also suffered from both the lack of representation and misrepresentation in American films, a disparity which is particularly prominent in the science fiction genre.

The way people perceive the world around them, including their views of women, is in part shaped by their exposure to various forms of media, including digital media such as movies and TV shows. But why are science fiction films so special? What makes the sci-fi genre in particular more harmful to society’s perception of women? After all, it seems ironic — sci-fi is a genre meant to portray futures where mankind has progressed beyond its current stage, for the better or the worse, and yet somehow still fails to properly represent 49.6% of the population(Country Meters) in a progressive way. One main factor contributing to issues surrounding how women are portrayed in sci-fi is the underrepresentation and misrepresentation they suffer on-screen. Though this problem is seen across many forms of media, including books, TV shows, and other genres of movies, science fiction movies in particular suffers from issues pertaining to not only poor representation of women, but also the lack of representation itself; of all movie genres, sci-fi films are the least likely to feature female leads, with protagonists who identify as female making up a mere 4% of all main characters (womenandhollywood) in comparison to the real-life men-to-women ratio of 50.4% to 49.6% within the United States. The absence of female representation in sci-fi films already serves to perpetuate stereotypes, sending subliminal messages to consumers about what women in the physical world are and are not capable of. Making matters worse, the tiny amount of women who do appear on-screen at all in sci-fi movies often become reduced to flat, one-dimensional characters. A less discreet means of bolstering harmful dogmas about the female population, this effect is seen through both the overuse of tropes such as the “Damsel in Distress” as well as bland stereotypes such as the “Sexy Alien” (which exoticizes women with different ethnic backgrounds)  and “Frustrated Spinster Scientist” (a lesson to female readers that career success equals feminine failure). Though it is in fact true that women will most likely be limited by their gender to at least some degree no matter what futures they pursue, this stereotype suggests that it is because they are female that they cannot perform as well as their male counterparts, while the reality is that the disparity in general “success” between men and women is rooted in how they are perceived by the world around them. This inaccurate and inadequate portrayal of women in sci-fi movies has had negative effects on how they are viewed by society as a whole, and often even how women view themselves.

The detrimental effects the sci-fi genre has on how women are perceived by society stem from a few key issues, among them the aforementioned lack of female leads in sci-fi films, which then leads to inadequate representation. In fact, according to www.womenandhollywood.com, female protagonists are most likely to appear in comedies (30%) and dramas (30%), followed by action films (17%), then horror films (13%), with animated features and science fiction films coming last with women consisting of only 4% of their protagonists. As mentioned before, this fact puts movies in the sci-fi genre at an enormous disparity with real life; according to the Country Meters, just about half of the total world population (49.6%) identify as female. So why aren’t we seeing more women — who make up just about half of the population — in science fiction movies?

One reason for why there is such poor representation of women in sci-fi, and arguably the main reason, is because the movie directing industry is still predominantly male, with women making up only 8% of the top 100 grossing films as of 2017 (womenandhollywood). Of all movies with at least one female director, females comprised 45% of protagonists, 48% of major characters, and 42% of all speaking characters. On the other hand, in films with exclusively male directors and/or writers, women accounted for only 20% of protagonists, 33% of major characters, and 32% of all speaking characters (womenandhollywood). This difference in the amount of women represented in sci-fi in movies directed by men versus those directed by women is not a coincidence; this trend shows the tendency of both men and women to cast people of their own gender in leading, or at least speaking, roles. If more women were given positions of power in the movie directing industry, more women would be represented in film. This change could potentially be seen throughout all movies, not just those belonging to the science fiction genre, and the imbalance between the number of women we see on-screen and the number of women who inhabit the physical world would start to diminish.

Female protagonists in sci-fi movies have also never been seen as complex characters and have often been reduced to one-dimensional stereotypes, as opposed to their male counterparts. This fact can be seen throughout much of the science fiction genre, and typically manifest themselves in the form of overused tropes like the “Damsel in Distress”, which strengthens the idea that women are not capable of defending themselves and perpetuates patronizing myths about women, seen in multiple James Bond movies as well as Star Trek. Also common are harmful stereotypes like the “Sexy Alien”, which serves to objectify and exoticize women who are perceived as “different”. This stereotype is featured most commonly in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars(as well as Star Trek). “Frustrated Spinster Scientist” is also a common stereotype which teaches the female audience, especially young girls, that not only do men not find women working in the STEM field attractive, but also that the pursuit of STEM-related careers will remain fruitless given that one is a woman. Though the presence of the stereotype itself is not too problematic, it becomes problematic, and begins to represent such ideas, once such stereotypes are the only ways women see themselves being portrayed on-screen. An excessive use of the “frustrated spinster scientist” stereotype is especially harmful since it perpetuates not one, but two harmful stereotypes about women in STEM, thus making it doubly dangerous, especially to younger minds; one about how others will view them, and another about how their gender inherently inhibits their ability to achieve in typically “masculine” careers and/or environments. Thus, the gross overuse of harmful stereotypes quickly becomes problematic, even dangerous, as science fiction continues to present consumers with films which either confirm past dogmas about women, or serve to invent new ones.

All groups of people tend to categorize other groups into specific archetypes in order to try to understand them in a simplified way; however, that “simplification” often leads to some of the one-dimensional caricatures audiences see onscreen — and the same stands for men and their depictions of women in sci-fi. The spinster scientist, space babe and the damsel in distress all reflect not women’s perceptions of themselves, but men’s perceptions of how women should and should not behave. Society thus far has been fascinated in seeing women in these roles; the “damsel in distress” caters to the way women are perceived as submissive and unable to defend themselves, therefore justifying society’s patronizing attitude towards women’s abilities in activities and careers traditionally seen as masculine. The “frustrated spinster scientist”, on the other hand, expresses men’s subconscious fears of women in the pursuit of fields typically dominated by men, especially those relating to STEM. Such scientists are portrayed as career women who struggle to find romantic partners since they emasculate the men around them, leading the audience to conclude that real-life women will not be well liked by their male counterparts if they are too ambitious in male-dominated fields. Both stereotypes hold the power to alter how others view women, as well as women’s perceptions of themselves. This effect is made especially dangerous once the messages such stereotypes send are able to be consumed subconsciously through compact, easy-to-digest forms like movies and TV shows, which is exactly what is happening now.

Various forms of visual media including film influence our daily lives and lead us to perceive others differently, whether for better or for worse. Science fiction films in particular influence how women are perceived by others and even by themselves in a negative way, as seen by the extremely low percentage of female protagonists (4%) featured in such movies. Worse still, an outdated “discriminatory industry adage that women can’t direct thrillers, sci-fi or action films hurts the earnings of female directors even more” (Forbes). We cannot let the irrationality of discrimination based on gender infiltrate our most optimistic portrayals of the future, or poison the meticulously delineated utopia mankind hopes to someday achieve. People are being exposed to more digital media than ever with the advent of the age of technology — which is why it’s so important to ensure that what we are all consuming is just as progressive as the worlds portrayed in science fiction in which we aspire to live.


“Damsel in Distress.” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DamselInDistress?from=Main.DistressedDamsel.

“Green-Skinned Space Babe.” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/GreenSkinnedSpaceBabe.

Womenandhollywood.com, womenandhollywood.com/resources/statistics/2017-statistics/.

“World Population.” Country Meters. Accessed November 23, 2018. https://countrymeters.info/en/World.

Definitive Characterization: The Insidious Corruption of High Art

In 1885, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was challenged in Massachusetts for obscene language relating to people of color, and has since come under tremendous fire for the same reason. In 1988, The Lord of the Flies was banned by many schools in Canada for “denigrating blacks. ” Even To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s novel about racism in the South, was removed from schools across Canada in 2009 for racist language and epithets.

How horrible, think many confronted with these facts. And obviously, banning books is wrong, most would agree; it is a denial of free speech, it crushes dissenting opinions, it fosters children who are sheltered from a whole myriad of challenging themes — I could go on. But obviously, it is not a desirable practice for a nation to get into the habit of.

However, it is a common misconception that bannings such as these are the results of religious groups. On this logic, the exigent problem which demands our attention is the overreach or intensely religious communities or organizations. While this is certainly far from falsehood (the banning because of sexually inappropriate material stems mainly from them), we waste our energy standing like adept watchmen on guard for religious groups to exercise the power they had in past years. Religious censorship, while it might have had an considerable effect in its heyday, carries far less weight than people afford it today.

Just take the last complete century. In 1900, there were 226,120 registered atheists, according to the world census totals, as opposed to the 150,089,508 in 2000, an over 650% increase. And since then, the ranks of agnostic/atheists have been swelling at a rapid pace, tripling in 18 years. And this not even mentioning those who are unaffiliated with any particular religion, which is a whopping 16.5% of the adult population. Around 1.1 billion. And too many now believe wholeheartedly in the school of thought that banning books is a malicious and condemnable process before going home and becoming part of the problem. Because the problem is not religion. It is definitive characterization.

“Definitive characterization” is a term that I created in order to accurately describe the growing school of thought which increasing numbers of people have unknowingly sworn themselves into. It is the school of thought that says that to examine the character of an individual is to examine their moral status as pertaining to only contemporarily paramount topics. Regardless of the actual content of the piece (an aspect carrying less and less weight in a world that moves steadily away from artistic quality), judgements are rather based on the political orientation of the work or person.

This resounds very powerfully today, especially with increasingly common cases such as that of Roseanne Barr. After Barr used racist language to describe Barack Obama on Twitter, a whole storm of outcry that would end up forcing ABC executives to cancel the appropriately titled reboot Roseanne. While Barr’s remarks were inexcusable, the mixing of politics into anything other than public demonstrations, and, well, politics, should be grossly undesirable for our country. Because once Barr had been so definitively characterized, all of her work, whether high-quality of low-quality, racist or not, was discarded.

And it is the very notion that accomplished people, important works, productions, publications, and the like, that they, before being judged on a basic level, must first subject themselves to a thorough moral pat-down that appalls me. Before being accurately rated, they are checked for standards totally unrelated to the pure quality of the book — the melodic prose, the subtle undertones, the particularly thrilling twist.

Take Of Mice and Men, a John Steinbeck classic detailing the taunting allure of dreams, banned in certain schools in 2002 for racial slurs. It is a novella, somewhere in the realm of 27,000 words. Near the middle, there is a scene in which Lenny (a gentle giant with minimal intelligence), left alone on the ranch in which the book takes place, strikes up a conversation with “Crooks,” an African-American ranch hand.

Crooks, named for his crooked back, is first terse with Lenny, but is won over by his almost puppy-like demeanor. After a bit of small talk, Crooks lets gushing out a monologue on the hardships afforded to a black man simply for his skin color. He loudly laments the fact that he will never be fully accepted, no matter what he does. It’s a poignant speech. It is even a scene which Steinbeck seemingly goes out of his way to jam into the novel — which is to say, it hardly fits with the general plot arc of the novel. This should perhaps be a perfectly fine, even well-respected scene. But then Steinbeck makes one surprisingly significant misstep: he has another, completely antagonistic figure come into the shack, a rancher by the name of Candy. For a few plot-related reasons, Candy begins to become a little aggressive towards Crooks, using derogatory language as a defense mechanism when Crooks becomes harsh towards him. After examining the lengthy list of reasons for the banning of Of Mice and Men, I’d say it’s a fair gamble to say that the most common reason given is racism and derogatory language.

This parable acts as a perfect paradigm, a symptom, if you will, of a larger, more sinister malady. Many classic pieces today are discredited for the simple fact that many refuse to look past the author’s political orientation, even if, as in this case, the passage actually sympathizes with the plight of blacks worldwide. Once Steinbeck brings forth “derogatory language,” however, our brains close off to receiving any new information. Anything we read from that point onwards is as if we were reading it through tinted glasses: everything is still technically legible, but it heavily discourages closer reading.

And another example is found in the debate over Thomas Jefferson.

Now, Jefferson has an admirable resumé (negotiated the Louisiana purchase and wrote the Declaration of Independence), but he has come under heavy fire lately for owning slaves. Yes, this accusation loses much of its weight under research, but the more troubling fact about the accusation, (more than it’s objectively unsteady factual foundation), is that the character of a historically vital piece in the creation of this country, could be called into question over whether or not he owned slaves. The two are separate entities.

Hearing that someone owned slaves, according to the gathering storm of believers in definitive characterization, shuts off any further examination. The main thing to know about Thomas Jefferson, first and foremost, is how he related to minorities. If he owned slaves then other achievements, no matter how important, are irrelevant.

And because my conscience will not allow me to continue without a clarification, Jefferson was not some dastardly owner who mistreated his slaves. It is so easy to forget in this post-Industrial Revolution era, machines could not do that basic level of menial labor. The southern states, being farther away from countries in Europe that could give them indentured servants, were geographically forced to look for workers in the southern hemisphere. Jefferson inherited a plantation from his father, and used it to keep himself afloat financially. However, in horrible debt and thus financially blocked from freeing his slaves, Jefferson still paid many of them, as well as constantly working on laws to halt the slave trade. He enacted landmark legislature in 1778 and 1779, as well as a proposal to ban all slavery in the North and South in 1800 that failed to pass by one vote in Congress. On the other side, one could make the case that many Northerners did manage their businesses without slaves fairly easily, and that Jefferson, if he believed so wholeheartedly in the edicts he preached, would have taken the hard way by selling Monticello. If Jefferson cared about freeing slaves as something other than a political mechanism, a move to the North was certainly plausible. Jefferson is also rumoured to have had an affair with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, when she was sixteen, though some academics quarrel with the DNA study which gave new life to that theory. The majority are not entirely compelled to believe it was Jefferson, and not a family member, who impregnated Sally Hemings, but opponents fight back with the evidence that the Sally Hemings and her children were the only Monticello slaves to be freed. Still others maintain that this is irrelevant, given the nature of Jefferson’s life and his contributions to freeing the slaves entirely. The point is, the rewards of such research require only people to remove their tinted glasses, and keep open the possibility to learn more and develop thoughts on a subject. For those who can take the leap, a treasure trove of enlightening information lies waiting.

And not only do we shut ourselves off from acquiring new information, and close our minds to available knowledge, we encourage our posterity to follow in that example. By making it clear that a creative artist’s work will first be weighed according to his or her politics encourages those who might write silver tongued masterpieces to blandly plod forwards in their perfectly average pieces, intent only on not being subject to the horrible literary torture of being seen through tinted glasses. By continuing to definitively characterize art forms, ideas, companies, and people, we destroy any future progress in humanities and the liberal arts.

Our energy is misplaced when we scream the dwindling religious figures who will today barely manage to get a religiously based ban past school boards. That aggressive and uniquely unproductive use of our energy is far better spent in educating ourselves on the true nature of a situation. It would be better spent prying our minds open to hear the opinions of those that we disagree with and not judge their character for it. The evidence of this pandemic is everywhere. In the words of the English historian Christopher Hill, “history has to be rewritten in every generation, because although the past does not change, the present does; each generation asks new questions of the past and finds new areas of sympathy as it re-lives different aspects of the experiences of its predecessors.” And indeed, haughty with our modern ideas, (just as much of a construct of the imagination as any past idea was, for the record — human rights are no less fictitious than dragons are), we refuse to consider further perspectives once the author has activated any of our newfangled tripwires.

Ask Ty Cobb, who had the best lifetime career batting average of any major league player, but whose reputation is sorely tarnished by his anti-semitic activities. Take a look at Uncle Tom’s Cabin, literally an anti-slavery novel written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, who made the mistake of having the white characters refer to the black characters using derogatory terms, such as “house negro.” That was banned in a whole district in 1984 for racism. Ask Cesar Chavez, a famous labor leader and civil rights activist whose phrases and speeches (when collected into a book entitled The Words of Cesar Chavez) was banned for derogatory language towards illegal immigrants. The Color Purple. Or Beloved. Or The Invisible Man. Peruse the contents of any great library to see dejected works of brilliant literature lost to time for their failure to comply with new, modern standards, and attitudes about history from. Watch as the magnificent works of Conrad, Twain, and, Steinbeck droop in sorrow, and check that you do not fall prey to this enticingly simple trap. Ensure that this practice, all too easy to subscribe to, may begin to be reversed within our lifetime. Ensure that you can help spur that change.

The Ancient World and The Future World: Yesterday and Tomorrow

About 3,000 years ago, the lives of humans were unimaginably different from ours. What we know about the way they lived we know from the rarely found texts, art, and artifacts. Of course, the events in their everyday lives were often much like ours. It’s the details that we do not know of. However, there is one other thing that puts together the image of their lives in our heads. That final puzzle piece is called stories, or as we refer to them, myths. Combining these puzzle pieces allows us to create a vision in our minds of what life may have been like back then.

The word “myth” comes from the word “mythos”, which in Greek means fable, legend, story, or poetic tale. Today, we look at ancient myths as beautiful stories about majestic things of the past. We view them simply as legends, not as something that was most definitely true. The same goes for more realistic and proven tales of ancient rulers and events. Take, for example, the story of Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile. Much of what we know about her, we know through artifacts that we have found. By putting the story of each of those artifacts together, we were able to create an approximate idea of what her life was like. However, we do not know any of this for sure. What we do know is that there was a woman named Cleopatra who ruled Egypt for some time. We know these due to the series of artifacts such as stelas, sculptures, and texts that have been found. We do not know the details of her life, though. We look at her story as myth, or something that may, or may not have happened.

This is how we view what was happening 3,000 years ago. Now fast forward 3,000 years from now. Of course, we will all be long gone, and our descendants will be walking the Earth. The technology will be more advanced than we could ever imagine. How will our descendants look at our way of life and our stories? Well, most likely the way we look at the life of ancient Romans, Egyptians, and Chinese. They will look at the major events of our time as tales or legends. Of course, the technology on Earth has advanced by so much in the last 3 millennia, so the “artifacts” from our time will be easier to study and will be more detailed. However, we must also consider the fact that the overall amount of information will be so huge that it will not be accessible for an average person. In order to see and study this information, you will have to be a specialized professional. Also, over time, we have used different materials and methods in order to store information. In the ancient times, it was stone, papyrus, clay, and other naturals materials. Today, we use hard drives to transfer information. In many ways, the materials used then were much more reliable, and as we see, we are still left with myths and not facts. Now imagine how information from today will survive. We can delete anything one click of a button.


Today, in school, we study historical events such as World War II, the American Revolution, and the Renaissance. However, the average person today does not study any ancient history until high school. The middle schools that do teach ancient history often have very weak courses on the subject. “Every year, over 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the United States alone.” This is a fact from dosomething.org, a site that provides statistics on different topics. This fact simply proves that about 1.2 million Americans every year do not learn ancient history. Now, you may ask, “Why is learning ancient history so important, especially if we’re not even sure it’s true?” Well, the incredible thing is that everything that is happening or has happened or will happen in our time, has most likely already happened in the ancient world.

Take, for instance, Donald Trump. There have been other instances when a populist autocrat led a democratic nation to tyranny. The article “Meet the Trump of Ancient Rome, a Populist Demagogue Who Helped Bring Down the Republic” by Huffington Post states “Nothing was sacred to Clodius. The more audacious his behavior, the more the public loved him for it.” Publius Clodius Pulcher was a rich nobleman in Rome. He was known for his presumptuous actions, which included disrespect to women. Deciding that he wanted to change the way the Romans viewed him, he became very involved in politics, and he managed to quickly rise to the top. Just like with election of Trump, the Roman citizens split into two groups. One was Clodius’s followers, and the other was those who believed that the Roman Empire was in terrible hands. This is just one example of a situation where the ancient world can teach the modern world. Even after Clodius was killed, the populist forces continued to control the state. His work eventually led to the ultimate fall of the Roman Republic. Although the republic fell, the human civilization lived, and here we are today.

In conclusion, myths add to the puzzle of the ancient world and allow us to put together theories from the other things we know. They allow us to learn from the past and use the experiences and thoughts of others to the benefit of us and the people around us. Everything that happens in our lives today has already occurred in somebody else’s life, whether it was two days ago, or two centuries ago. Also, if we put in the effort to save and treasure our stories and artifacts, we may be able to give our great-great-great-great -great grandchildren a chance to know more about our lives than we do about the lives of our great-great-great-great-great grandparents. The ancient world was a beautiful place of art, politics, love, people, and to us, mystery. In our minds, the mystery of what really happened will always be a missing piece in the puzzle, unless we take the chance to use what we learned and create that final puzzle piece ourselves.

Work Cited



Separating Art from the Artist in the Age of #MeToo

In the age of #MeToo, I don’t really know who or what entertainment I like anymore. I used to list Aziz Ansari and Louis C.K. as my two favorite comedians, once had a photo of Kevin Spacey as my cell phone lock-screen, spent five years contending that Jeffrey Tambor’s television show “Arrested Development” was the best series of all time, and can recite Bill Cosby’s “The Fat Albert Movie” verbatim. Thus, the pattern in which men in Hollywood are discredited as perpetrators of sexual assault and misconduct has forced me into a tremendous media reckoning. The issue of separating art from the artist has never been more pertinent.

It appears that the impulse of the general public when it learns that celebrities have acted inappropriately or criminally in their private lives is to eschew their bodies of work. As Natalie Proux said in her November 2017 New York Times article “Can You Separate Art from the Artist?” when a man in media is accused of being a predator, “his work — no matter how much people liked it before — turns radioactive.” Choosing not to consume content created by the perpetrator of the given crime is a token of our protest. Often, it is also a necessity; we are unable to watch a person’s work without considering the horrible things we know they’ve done, which is unpleasant.

However, creating a binary where every piece of entertainment is morally permissible to view until there is a direct allegation against its creator is simply a mistake. It is narrow minded and parochial to assume that all of the culture we consumed until the emergence of #MeToo was created exclusively by good people; most of us probably don’t make that assumption. Did we assume Louis CK was a paragon of moral rectitude until he became an alleged predator? No, of course not. The entire premise of his semi-autobiographical TV series, “Louie,” is that he is rude, sarcastic, flippant, and sometimes downright cruel.

Similarly, writes Richard Brody in his October, 2017 New Yorker article “Harvey Weinstein and the Illusion of the Vulgar But Passionate Old-Hollywood Studio Boss,” Harvey Weinstein’s career has been colored by “an overarching trait of his character that has long been publicly known—his extreme and systematic bullying, which expressed itself not only in his alleged harassment of and assaults on women but in his horrible–boss-type behavior toward both the men and women he worked with.”

In other words, we knew Weinstein was bad news long before women came out publicly against him. Brody adds that Weinstein was prone to “likening his own style to that of an earlier era of film producer… he sees himself in the tradition of such studio greats as {Irving} Thalberg and David O. Selznik.” We always watch old movies with the dim awareness that their production was colored by gendered power imbalances and possible abuses. Surely, we cannot and should not discard the entire classic film canon on these grounds. That would be revisionist history; it would create massive gaps in our culture.

Deciding that some works are tarnished by the discreditment of one individual who worked on them also does a disservice to the hundreds of other people who participate in the creation of every movie or TV show we watch. Every Miramax film may also have been someone (a makeup artist, a screenwriter, a scenic designer)’s magnum opus. Boycotting such projects ignores the hard work of thousands in order to shame a select few. Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None,” in addition to being the crowning project of Ansari’s problematic filmography, is credited with the best black female coming-out scene in television history in its “Thanksgiving” episode. And that has nothing to do with Ansari — it was written and starred-in by Ansari’s co-writer, Lena Waithe.

However, Ansari’s case may actually be one where it is impossible to extricate the art from the artist. This is because his entire career, from “Master of None” to his 2015 book Modern Romance, to his Netflix special, “Creepy Dudes are Everywhere,” has an autobiographical spin and a strong focus on love and dating. In most of his work, Ansari has characterized himself as the last decent, honest person in the hookup-obsessed, impersonal dating culture of the present day. Obviously, though ambiguous in their status as assault, the allegations against Ansari negate the veracity of the persona and discredit Ansari as an authority on how to court women.

For similar reasons (though absolutely not of the same scale), it is also impossible to enjoy Bill Cosby’s work. His serial rape allegations, which predate #MeToo and far surpass the offenses of most of the people condemned in the movement, are so severe that they taint anything tied to him. Much of Cosby’s work positions him as a father figure for Americans, a moral compass of sorts. It has come to light that Cosby is no such thing. He’s reprehensible, and there is absolutely no cultural rationale that could possibly dissuade me from feeling nauseous when he appears in “The Fat Albert Movie,” inviting his teenage neighbor, Doris into his home to dispense some quality advice.

To me, it seems short-sighted to stop enjoying the work of every man accused in the #MeToo movement, but sometimes we must — either because the person is so morally repugnant that we cannot even hear their name uttered, or because the allegations against them are antithetical to the image of them projected in the work that they render the work totally void of legitimacy.

In the end, this is really a personal decision. It is less about what it is “right” or “wrong” to consume, and more about what we can stomach as individual viewers.

Linguistic Relativity: the Impact of Language & Society

As English speakers, we experience life in English. Our every thought is formulated with the English terminology available to us. But how might our experience and our thinking be different if our primary language was not English but German or Arabic? Who might we be if we were living through another language?

It is this very question that has motivated linguists for hundreds of years to grapple with the validity of linguistic relativity. Those who subscribe to the theory of linguistic relativity believe that a person’s way of thinking is influenced by the language he or she speaks. Signs of this influence seem to be everywhere: as English speakers and writers, we tend to spatially represent time from left to right, while those who speak and read Hebrew tend to represent time from right to left. However, when we make these observations, we often fail to take into account where language comes from. When we consider the theory of linguistic relativity, we must take into account that languages develop within and emerge from distinct cultures. Language is a result of society. Therefore, language does not deserve the credit for shaping the way we process information. Differences in the thought processes of speakers of different languages should be accredited to the distinct cultures from which these languages emerge. Nevertheless, language is an important factor in the way a culture evolves. Ultimately, although it is our society rather than our language that shapes the way we think, language helps to enforce the way society is.

Language cannot be said to be responsible for the way a society functions since language itself is a result of that society. A key example of this can be found in the substance of a language, which tends to reflect the values of its speakers and the culture it comes from. The Korean language demands the use of honorifics according to seniority, whereby a younger speaker must use honorifics when conversing with an older speaker. Most Korean nouns and some verbs have a specific honorific form. For instance, if a younger speaker were to ask an older speaker their name, the younger speaker would have to use the honorific form sengham or conham for name, rather than the plain noun, ilum. In this case, a culture’s high regard for respect according to age had such a strong influence on the language of its speakers that an entire set of words formed for the purpose of serving this cultural element. A proponent of linguistic relativity might argue that this is an example of language shaping the way people think by defining age as the primary quality to know about a person. However, this assertion fails to recognize the big picture. A more accurate analysis might indicate that society is responsible for this way of thinking, not language. According to linguist Kit Wong, the reason for the widespread use of honorifics in Korea is the “hierarchical culture in Korea that one should respect people who are older, even if only by a few months.” It is Korean culture that defines age as the primary quality to know about a person, and the structure of the Korean language is simply a reflection of that.

However, language still plays an important role in affecting cultures and social norms. Although languages are reflections of cultures, languages do influence how cultures will look in the future. We can see this phenomenon in the history of the English language, which dates back to sometime between the 5th and 7th century AD, with Modern English gaining prominence in the late 17th century. Although English is always evolving, much of it retains the influence that 17th century society had on its development. This is because the evolution of society outpaces that of language. For example, English sentence structure is formulaic and follows a certain word order despite having its parts of speech grounded in Latin, a language wherein word order does not matter. English developed this way due to the nature of the literary culture of medieval society. Typical English sentence structure remains this way despite our progression past this age. As we see with English sentence structure, the influence of cultural institutions on a language is often left intact even after that institution has weakened or disappeared.

Because the evolution of society outpaces that of language, the lesser rate at which language can change acts as a hindrance on the rate at which society can progress. In the words of philosopher of language Ludwig Wittgenstein, “the limits of my language are the limits of my mind.” Since language is our only proficient method of communication, what we can communicate is limited to the words and phrases available to us. While the society we live in may limit our perspective, the extent and strength of these limitations do not compare to that which language imposes. Cultural change comes more easily to us than linguistic change. It took centuries for the Great Vowel Shift to occur while the world experienced revolutions, literary movements, great awakenings and deadly plagues at a much faster pace. This pattern is demonstrated in American culture as the language we speak fails to keep up with the progress we make. Patterns in our vocabulary tend to reflect this. A commonly cited phenomenon is the negative and positive associations that English seems to make with “black” and “white.” Although American society has generally moved in a positive direction in the past fifty years toward overcoming racism and discrimination against African Americans, our language would indicate something different. The phrases we use with ‘black’ in them, like blackmail, black mark, black deed, black market, and black magic, tend to have a dangerous or unethical connotation to them, whereas the phrases we use with ‘white’ in them, such as white knight, tend to have a connotation of purity and innocence. This pattern of associations with these words stems from racist and outdated notions that continue to influence the English language despite fading from American society. Thus, as social progress outpaces linguistic progress, the rate at which our society as a whole can progress is limited.

The limits of language may prevent us from progressing as quickly as we may want to, but we do have the ability to overcome some of these linguistic limits. With enough momentum, new ways of thinking and new terminology can develop. As commonly cited, the term “sexual harassment” entered the mainstream in the 1980s when the demand to address it grew. Once we had a word for this topic, people were able to discuss it and deal with the problem. Ultimately, when we respond to the question of how we might be different from speakers of German or Arabic, we need to see the issue through a cultural lense as well as a linguistic lense. In addition, we must remember that we do not need to be trapped by our culture and our language into thinking a certain way. Language may help to enforce the way society is, but if we care enough about an issue, we have the ability to tackle it regardless of the limitations our language might pose.


Superheroes are getting so much more diverse. Before comics went through changes, most of the superheroes were all white males. Then it changed to white females, and then all the slightest changes of diversity brought us to our current diverse comic world. When I finished reading Spiderman, I started reading The Ultimate Spiderman. This version of Spiderman was more entertaining than the original. And since the main character, Miles Morales is young, it made him funnier. In this comic book, Peter Parker, one of the default white male superhero dies. Before that, Miles Morales, a young black child, gets bitten by a spider. He then becomes the new Spiderman because he was bitten by a black widow just like Spiderman did. But he had more abilities like the ability to become invisible and taze people. This is proves my point that superheroes are getting more diverse. Race, Religion, relationships and so much more are becoming diverse. These changes didn’t just happen in 2018, but they started back in the 1900’s when there was still racism. The slightest changes in diversity brought us to 2018 where the world is diverse. There was this scene before Peter died in the Ultimate Spiderman, when Miles just gets his powers. 2 firefighters are having a conversation, when Miles is running and can’t stop so jumps over the long box like Spiderman, and the black firefighter was like, “I told you Spiderman was black.” After that he smiled.  Miles Morales is a revolutionary figure in the world of comic books. He is changing the perspectives of superheroes in people’s minds. Perspectives are changing making a black person one of the default superheroes. Miles Morales is changing the superhero genre and world of comics, because of him the genre is expanding and new characters with different races and religions are joining Marvel and DC. The comic books genre is creating hope and role models for everyone that didn’t have it before.

One of the changes is that superheroes are getting more diverse in religion. Comic books are expanding and one of the branches of expansion is religion. The typical superhero, the default used to be white man with either no religion or christianity. Now there are many superheroes that have different religions. For example, Ms. Marvel is a Muslim superhero who is like a superwoman but in Marvel. This is big because this is a religious superhero. She is not another race but another religion creating another branch of diversity. Another superhero that is challenging norms is the Thing (from the Fantastic Four). The Thing turns out to be Jewish. A Christian superhero is Captain Salvation. He may not be one of the big superheroes, but if you search him up on the internet, he’s there. These are revolutionary superheroes because they have religions and these religions aren’t usually the default. This tells us that comic books are rapidly changing and featuring perspectives and voices they have not before.

Another aspect of comic books that is changing is race. After changes occurred, more diverse races were being represented. A well known superhero that’s black is Cyborg. Cyborg is a teenager who was a great athlete but had an accident. His scientist dad repaired his body with technology and after that he became a superhero. Cyborg became one of the most popular superheroes and he was black. But not only was he African American but he was also one of the main characters on the Teen Titans. This was a huge change because the default main characters would be white males. Not only are there new superheroes of different races that are male but new ones that are also female. Katana, is an Asian, female superhero from suicide squad. After her husband dies, she becomes a martial arts expert and samurai and is on a quest to find her husbands spirit. She is one of the most well known Asian superheroes and there are not many Asian superheroes at all. Not to mention also female. The first black superhero was Black Panther, one of its recent hits was the Black Panther movie in 2018. The movie was extremely popular. This tells us that not only white superheroes will get viewers but a more diverse set of superheroes will also get just as much and more attention. In fact, people seemed to enjoy Black Panther more than Captain America. People are accepting this new change and not hating the changes.

The last aspect of the change occuring in comic books is gender. Before changes occurred, there weren’t many female superheroes and the ones that did exist didn’t get as much attention as the men. As society changed over the past 20 through 30 years, it evolved and changed and became more diverse, segregation was stopped and equality was made causing massive changes to happen in gender. There were a lot of changes in gender. Unfortulantely, DC` This wasn’t only for the comic universe but for current events too. For example a well known female superhero is Black Widow. Black Widow was an orphan saved by Soviet Union officers who then trained her to be a fighting expert. According to CNN Politics, a recent protest was for women’s rights. People from all over the world came to protest about women’s equality. Although DC isn’t as diverse as Marvel, they still have well known superheroes such as Wonder Woman. However DC Comics isn’t as diverse as Marvel. DC has tried making characters more diverse and sometimes succeeded but other times it couldn’t hold its place in the market. On the other hand, Marvel is successfully making more diverse characters. However, DC has some well known superheroes like Harley Quinn and Raven. Although there are white women, there aren’t as many different races of women.

Representations of diversity are important because they relate to equality. People look up to superheroes as role models. As superheroes get more diverse, people get a chance to look up to new superheroes of the same race, religion, or gender as them. Then, people become more comfortable looking up to someone more like the person they are. It also makes people feel stronger because superheroes are made to help people and give them hope. Although, this means that society at large won’t be as comfortable receiving hope from people of different races and ethnicities as them. because at the time when African Americans first came to the U.S.A, black people were new to them so if you met them in the street, the fact that you were meeting a person totally different from you was unsettling. Even though, superheroes of different ethnicities may be uncomfortable for some, the more diverse superheroes that are made, the more people will get comfortable.


Abad-Santos, Alex. “Marvel Misspoke about Diversity in Comics. Now It Has a Chance to Do Better.” Vox, Vox, 4 Apr. 2017, www.vox.com/culture/2017/4/4/15169572/marvel-diversity-outrage-gabriel.

Allen, Thomas. “Comics Color Outside the Lines, Drawing a Diverse Cast of Heroes.” National Geographic, 18 May 2017, www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/06/explore-minorities-in-comics/.

Brown, Jennings. “Superhero Diversity Hasn’t Advanced In A Single Bound.” Vocativ, Vocativ, 4 Oct. 2016, www.vocativ.com/news/206915/a-timeline-of-superhero-diversity/.

Brown, Jennings. “Superhero Diversity Hasn’t Advanced In A Single Bound.” Vocativ, Vocativ, 4 Oct. 2016, www.vocativ.com/news/206915/a-timeline-of-superhero-diversity/.

Doll, Jen. “On the Importance of Having Superheroes.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 30 Oct. 2013, www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/05/importance-having-superheroes/328461/.

“How Superheroes Are Changing the Way We Think about Diversity – Bloomberg L.P Diversity & Inclusion.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 31 Jan. 2018, www.bloomberg.com/diversity-inclusion/blog/superheroes-changing-way-think-diversity/.

“Opinion | Diverse Superhero Stories Are Drowned out by the Status Quo.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/superhero-narratives-striving-diversity-are-drowned-out-status-quo-ncna833431


People are racist, it’s a fact. It’s becoming a huge problem that is sweeping the nation and it needs to be fixed as soon as possible, but for that to happen we need to teach others about racism and why it is happening. People tend to say racist things because they don’t know any better because they weren’t taught about it. Only 1% of our population had studied racism in depth. My goal is to change that and to spread awareness about racism and the ways that we can fix our wrongdoing. To start, let me tell you a little bit about what “race” actually is and why racism if you think hard enough, is really stupid.

In the first part of the nineteenth century, a scientist by the name of Samuel Morton from Philadelphia found a way to “scientifically rank races”. Dr. Morton collected skulls from all over the world. He started by dumping a set volume of pepper seeds into the brain cavity. He then filled up the extra space with lead pellets. Once the brain cavity was full, he dumped it out and counted the number of lead pellets and added it to the set volume of pepper seeds to find how large the person’s brain was. During his studies, he discovered that Caucasians or “Whites” are the most intelligent, therefore highest ranking. East Asians or “Mongolians” were next, one step down from that were Southeast Asians, then followed by Native Americans. At the bottom of the chain were blacks or “Ethiopians”. For some strange reason, people believed Morton. He had made a strong enough case that he was correct so people took his word for it, especially supporters of slavery and slave owners. He got most of his support from the south. To this day, Dr. Morton is called the Father of Scientific Racism.

Sadly, no one spoke out about the fact that race has no scientific or genetic basis until Craig Venter said exactly that in June of 2000. Though he may not have been the first to notice this, he was the first person who successfully let a huge group of people know. He had done his research and this is what he came across: all humans are more closely related to each other than chimps. Also, all people alive today are technically Africans. This is because the earliest forms of human life that scientists have been to identify are all in Africa, this makes sense because if you think about, Africa was in the middle of the earth surface (or as close as it could get anyway) during Pangea. So, we know that people are all from what is now Africa, but how long ago was this?

Well, scientists have been able to trace back the human race to about three hundred thousand years ago, but we could have been living much earlier than that. We just don’t have technology advanced enough for us to figure that out. If we’re all from the same general area, why do we all look so different?

The reason that we all have different colored skin is that some groups within that original human race moved around and became more isolated. As the continents moved closer to the formation that we know today, people moved with them and the non-Africans that we all know and love today, they are most likely descended from a few thousand humans who left their place in Africa about 60,000 years ago. Studies show that that first exodus of humans created offspring with another species called Neanderthals in the what we now know as the Middle East. Neanderthals are an extinct species of human that were all over the place in ice-age Europe between about four hundred and fifty thousand years ago and thirty-five thousand years ago. They are said to have had receding foreheads and brow-ridges that stuck out more than your average human being. These people were more tanned because they were living further from the equator at the time, so obviously, the offspring between them and the humans from Africa had a different skin tone than either of the original species. From there, some humans went closer to the equator and some were moved further north or south. Scientists haven’t found a way to figure out exactly where this first group of people went, but those closer to the equator built up a thicker layer in their skin to shield themselves from the potentially harmful UV rays. Therefore, they had and some of us have darker skin. The people that moved farther away from the equator didn’t build up that shield though. This is because there is less sun exposure up north and far down south whereas there is always sun exposure at the equator. About ten thousand years after that first exodus from Africa, another large group of humans left Africa and made their way over to Australia. This happened about fifty thousand years ago. ABout five thousand years after that, this same group of people split and some continued on to Siberia. This group stayed in Siberia for about thirty thousand years before they made their way over to South America. Just keep in mind that through this whole process, the original human race was meeting up with Neanderthals and integrating them into the race. This (for the most part) is how the first humans on the earth made their way to other continents and why we all have different skin colors and this all goes to show that those who believe that their own race is superior or that skin color or “race” determines how well others are able to function are completely wrong because we are all from the same place if you trace it back far enough. Also, we are all made up of the same basic cells, we each just have slight differences that make us who we are. Those slight differences make us unique.

People have lots of different ideas about what racism is. For example, some think that racism is when someone discriminates against someone because they look different. Others say racism is when you discriminate against someone who is from a different place. In the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the definition of racism is “The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.” Basically, it is saying that racism is when someone thinks that their “race” is the best and that one’s “race” determines their personality and how well they’re able to do things. This definition does show a prominent reason for slavery hundreds of years ago. But it really doesn’t show how racism has evolved since then. Explicitly stating that your race is better than someone else’s is not the only form of racism out there. But why?

People don’t like to admit that they’re prejudiced. It happens all the time. For example, as of 2017, 11% of people still disapprove of interracial marriage. I bet that the majority of that 11% doesn’t tell anyone about this belief though. This is because people are taught from a young age that prejudice is bad. So when they say something racist or prejudiced, it is most likely going to be subtle and not explicit. The remark will probably be implied or hinted at. This is because that person, in the back of their head, knows that what they’re doing is bad so if it is subtle, they can play it off as not meaning to say it. So they don’t have to admit to themselves or anyone else that they did something racist. But if people know that being prejudicial is bad, why do they still say prejudiced things?

People say prejudiced things because of biases. A person may know about this bias, but it may be something that comes up unconsciously. Some say that an implicit bias is like a filter that clouds some conclusions and this filter are shaped by past experiences. These unconscious or implicit biases can start forming as early as age six. This is alarming because if one’s parents repeatedly say something, whether it is directed at the child or not, that child is going to learn this and it is just going to be in their minds for a very long time. Really, unless a parent really teaches their child about racism and why it is bad and what not to do, they are going to do it because they are actively learning from the environment around them. They can’t do anything to help it. Everyday racism is something that is very common, just little things that people say that kids, for example, pick up on and start to say because they think that it is okay. For example, President Trump, after the rallies in Charlottesville in August of 2017, didn’t condemn the hate groups that organized the whole thing until two days after it happened. Although this example specifically isn’t something that kids will pick up on, it is an example of everyday racism.

Another type of bias is a racial bias. This bias takes over the amygdala which is the part of the brain that governs fear response (also known as fight or flight). Again, this bias is unconscious. People don’t know it is there. It is usually formed when someone is exposed to something repeatedly, but it isn’t necessarily formed from a young age, though it can be. Many people believe that this generation of young white kids are much less racist than the generations before them because of how many more people are trying to teach them about racism. Also, while support for segregated school had dropped drastically in the last fifty years.

One more form of bias is called ethnocentrism. Although this isn’t really a bias, it is very similar to one. Ethnocentrism is the idea that a person’s own culture, lifestyle, and experiences are normal, or that everyone else experiences the same things, so when someone doesn’t do the same thing as this ethnocentric person, they will most likely get mad or annoyed because it isn’t what they’re used to.

To treat these biases and make them go away, you are supposed to treat them like a habit. Try to fix them the same way that you would get yourself to stop biting your nails or playing with your hair. Try to catch yourself whenever you recognize one of the biases and try to drill it into your mind that you can’t do it anymore.

We aren’t going to get any better about our acts of racism if racism continues to shape our politics, neighborhoods, sense of self, and therefore our daily life. Systemic racism is something that is in our daily life. As you may be able to tell from its name, it is racism that is systematic. It is unavoidable because it is built into a system that is pretty much the structure of our society. Here are some examples: studies show that once black kids are in the criminal justice system, they are about eighteen times more likely than white kids to be sentenced as adults, and within the criminal justice system, blacks make up thirteen percent of the general population and forty percent of the prison population. Also, many studies show that black people tend to get much harsher sentences than white people. More closely related to daily life, blacks are shown eighteen percent fewer homes and four percent fewer rental units. Also, black drivers are thirty percent more likely to be pulled over than people of any other ethnicity. And lastly, one of the scariest statistics: white families own ninety percent of the wealth, black families come in with about two point six percent of the wealth within the population of families in the US.

All of those statistics above are extremely alarming considering the fact that only 58% percent of people in the United States in 2017 think racism is a “big problem” and only 55% percent of the population of the United States support the black lives matter movement. In my opinion, that movement wouldn’t be a thing if the United States were truly equal.

We, as Americans, need to step up. We need to improve our lives now so that our children and our children’s children can have a good life. We want them to not have to worry about discrimination and prejudice. We want them to live a happy, worry-free life, where they don’t have to think about other people’s skin colors.

In the words of Common: “Gert over race … extend a hand in love.”


Bassett, Charlotte; Interview; November 4, 2018

Davis, Grey; Interview; November 4, 2018

Edwards, Sue; Harris, Duchess; Black lives matter; MInnesota: Ando Publishing; 305.896 EDWARDS

Fleming, Crystal Marie; Living In a Racist Society is Making Us Stupid; The Medium; September 25, 2018; medium.com

Goldberg, Susan; For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge it; National Geographic, nationalgeographic.com

Hangerman, Margaret; Are Today’s White Kids Less Racist Than Their Grandparents; The Conversation; September 17, 2018; theconversation.com

Kolbert, Elizabeth; There is No Scientific Basis For Race, it is a Made Up Label; National Geographic, nationalgeographic.com

Neal, Samantha; Views of Racism as a Major Problem Increases Sharply, Especially Among Democrats; Pew Research Center; August 20, 2017; pewresearchcenter.org

Police Shootings in 2018; The Washington Post; October 1, 2018; thewashingtonpost.com

Racism; The American Heritage Student Dictionary; Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co; 1994

Razzett, Gustavo; Why Racism is About The Color of Your Mind, Not Your Skin; The Liberationist; April 22, 2018; liberationist.org

Wan, Wiliam; Kaplan, Sarah; Why Are People Still Racist? What Science Says About America’s Race Problem; The Washington Post; August 14, 2017; thewashingtonpost.com

7 Ways We Know That Systemic Racism is Real; Ben and Jerry’s; benandjerrys.com

The Negative Impacts Eyewitness Misidentification Has Had on American Society

In “Historian as a Participant”, it is argued that eyewitness history is beneficial to society because the “true traits of the principal persons and their relationships” involved in a historical event are better described by the witnesses involved (Schlesinger 347). In this statement, Schlesinger establishes that one of the main reasons why eyewitness identification evidence has played a vital role in America’s criminal justice system is that the people involved in an event are able to provide a deepened understanding and awareness of situations. Despite the significant role it plays in establishing the factual evidence in a criminal investigation or prosecution (Albright), it should not be relied on because according to Richard Axel, “Our perceptions are not direct recordings of the world around us, rather they are constructed internally according to innate rules” (Axel 234). In that statement, Axel identifies how one of the problems with eyewitness identification evidence is that can be influenced by internal/biological factors. These factors include age, race, and gender which can influence the way a person’s senses encodes information to their brain and therefore their memory’s ability to recall certain events and details (Lorenza 45). In support of this conclusion, studies supported by the National Science Foundation and published in Memory and Condition regarding the correlation between aging and face recognition found that “Compared with the young, seniors had lower accuracy and higher choosing rates” on target present and target-absent lineups, and they also falsely recognized more new faces when asked to perform a recognition test (Searcy, Bartlett, Memon).

Throughout history, the U.S supreme court has acknowledged the potential risk of wrongful convictions occurring due to eyewitness misidentification and established criteria for assessing its accuracy in Neil v. Biggers and Manson v. Brathwaite during the 1970s. State supreme courts have “enacted… mandates that law enforcement personnel conduct identification procedures in ways consistent with scientific discoveries”, as well. However, eyewitness misidentification still remains one of the main factors involved in wrongful convictions (Kahn-Fogel 120). This is supported by statistics collected by the Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization that uses DNA testing to exonerate wrongfully convicted individuals, that found that mistaken eyewitness identifications have contributed to approximately 70% of the more than 350 wrongful convictions in the U.S. overturned by post-conviction DNA evidence from 1989-2017” (Innocence Project). Even though these victims make up a small portion of the United States population, The significance of this issue lies in the many economic, social and ethical concerns it raises. In many states, wrongful convictions have resulted in economic losses, made it difficult for exonerees to reintegrate back into society after they are released and threatened the safety of society by leaving the true perpetrators of criminal cases unpunished. As preventive measures, all states should implement mandatory reforms regarding the way eyewitness evidence is extracted from witnesses. In addition, A national system for helping exonerees adjust to life outside of prison needs to be developed.

Economic Impacts

Wrongful convictions have wasted money that could have otherwise been allocated for other purposes beneficial to communities. In states such as Texas, Illinois, and California, misidentification has cost state governments millions of dollars. In 2009 an investigation carried out in Texas by the Justice Project, an organization dedicated to improving America’s criminal justice system, documented the involvement of misidentification evidence in 85% of DNA exonerations cases in which thirty-nine innocent people served 500 years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit (The Justice Project). Jonathan Silver, a reporter for Texas’ criminal justice system in the Texas Tribune depicts the high cost of the wrongful convictions using data from the state comptroller’s office that found that over the last 25 years, Texas has paid $93.6 million to 101 individuals who were wrongfully incarcerated. To further quantify the expenses associated with just one wrongful conviction, Silver discusses how exonerees are eligible for $80,000 in lump sum payments for each year they spent behind bars. (Silver and Carbonell). In 2011, The Better Government Association and the Center for Wrongful Convictions conducted a seven-month investigation into exonerations that took place in Illinois from 1989-2010 and came to the conclusion that the wrongful conviction of “85 men and women for violent crimes in Illinois has cost taxpayers more than $214 million.” Eyewitness misidentification evidence played a role in 46 out of 85 of these cases. These claims are based on the organization’s review of various resources including 100 Freedom of Information Act requests and interviews with the exonerees, police and prison officials and attorneys. (Better Government Association). Lastly, A cost analysis of failed prosecutions in California’s criminal justice system published in 2015 by the Berkeley School of Law found that taxpayers paid over $220 million for the imprisonment of over 607 individuals in their test sample. Out of the total $220 million spent, $31 million of it is associated with “an eyewitness who were found to be unreliable or lying, eyewitnesses who were mistaken in their identifications, and police identification practices that were improper”. The authors elaborate on the ways in which these convictions have wasted resources that could have been spent on improving society by discussing how if cities and counties in California had $220 million, they could purchase “a year of K-12 instruction for almost 40,000 children, 1,836 additional firefighters, 2,300 additional police officers and 117 million school lunches” (Silbert, et al. 61).

Safety Concerns

When innocent people are wrongfully convicted and put behind bars, investigations into the real perpetrator of a crime are put on hold and these individuals are able to inflict harm on communities by committing further crimes. This is supported by the Better Government Association and Wrongful Convictions Center’s discovery that while the 85 people in their investigation were wrongfully incarcerated, the actual perpetrators were on a collective crime spree that totaled at least 94 felonies, including 14 murders, 11 sexual assaults and 10 kidnappings” (Better Government Association). This claim is further supported by the 153 actual perpetrators that were identified by the Innocence Project and the estimated 80 sexual assaults, 35 murders, and 35 other violent crimes they committed while innocent suspects remained behind bars (Innocence Project). In his article published by the National Academy of Sciences, Thomas Albright argues that these additional crimes that occur due to the wrongful incarceration weaken the public’s trust in the criminal justice system and can result in “social unrest and enmity directed at law enforcement and..courts” (Albright).

Negative Impacts on Exonerees

When exonerees are released from prison they experience mental illness and other emotional difficulties that can impair their ability to reintegrate into society. John Wilson, professor of psychology at Cleveland State University makes the claim that more mental health professionals trained to treat exonerated individuals should be available at public agencies. He justifies this position using an assessment he conducted that found that “post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsions, phobias, and paranoia” are common among individuals who have been recently released from prison (Wilson). Some common symptoms of these disorders include fears of re-arrest, sleep disturbances, problems trusting others that can interfere with the relationship an exoneree has with their family, and problems securing employment. A clinical study conducted by Psychiatry Professor Adrian T. Grounds on a group of eighteen wrongfully convicted men released from long-term imprisonment in Europe documented a pattern of psychological problems such as Enduring Personality Change, Psychological/Physical Suffering, and Re-adjustment Issues. Enduring personality change was documented in 14 cases and is associated with “an enduring and disabling personality change with characteristics such as hostile or mistrustful attitude toward the world, social withdrawal, and feelings of emptiness” (Grounds). This study helps to further validate John Wilson’s findings and stresses how the impact of prison on an exoneree is so profound that it can lead to drastic changes in their personality, and consequently the way they treat their family, friends, and other members of the community. Joan Petersilia, a Professor of Criminology at the University of California, Irvine, elaborates on how wrongfully imprisoned individuals experience the adverse symptoms described by Wilson and Grounds as a result of different aspects associated with prison life such as separation from loved ones, crowded and confined living conditions, intravenous drug use, and poverty (Petersilia).

Some other contributing factors to mental illness among exonerees are unemployment and trouble with record expungement. According to Leslie Scott in her American University Criminal Law Brief, Exonerees have difficulty finding work since they have no legal right to get their former jobs back and when applying for new ones, they must still answer “yes” when asked if they have an arrest or conviction record, even if the conviction has been thrown out. Another obstacle that many exonerees face is non-automatic record expungement. This makes it possible for an employer to do a background check and decide not to interview an exoneree because of their remaining arrest record (Scott).

Many exonerees also experience difficulty affording medical, social, and educational services due to unequal compensation as well as restrictions placed on statutes offered in different states. According to Jeffrey Gutman, a professor of clinical law at George Washington University Law School, as of 2017, only 32 states including the District of Columbia have established compensation statutes. Scott Rodd, a reporter for the Pew Charitable Trust elaborates on the disparities that exist between different states by discussing how in states such as Kansas, without compensation laws, exonerees typically have to file expensive and time-consuming lawsuits in order to try to convince legislatures to pay them. Despite all of their efforts, winning compensation from a legislature isn’t always guaranteed. Although Texas offers $80,000 per year of incarceration, Wisconsin only offers $5,000 per year with a maximum of $25,000. These caps on monetary statutes, “ignore the nature, severity, and variation of injuries suffered” by exonerees (Gutman). Leslie Scott helps to stress the need for reform within this system by discussing how in the employment arena, parolees often fare better than exonerees because they have access to services such as free job placement, temporary housing, and counseling that exonerees do not (Scott).


Social science research has proven that eyewitnesses can easily be mistaken as a result of external factors such as, “specific line-up techniques, interviews and police procedures” (Anderson 12). Therefore in order to reduce the risk of eyewitness error, specific procedures and guidelines, such as double-blind lineup administration and standardized witness instructions, should be used by law enforcement personnel in all states. According to the Journal of Criminology, double-blind administration requires that the lineup administrator not be aware of what position a suspect is in making it impossible for them to purposely or unintentionally steer witnesses toward a suspect that they would not have pointed out otherwise. These procedures are recommended by several different organizations such as the American Bar Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the American Psychology-Law Society (Rodriguez and Berry 6). One concern of this procedure are the expenses associated with it as a result of the need for extra manpower(Joyce and Stark). However, the ability of these procedures to be recorded on audio files and administered using laptops without any police officers present helps to alleviate these concerns. The computerization of lineup techniques is also beneficial considering how technology-focused society has become (Wells, et al.).

The development of standardized witness instructions is another way to reduce eyewitness error. The National Academy of Sciences has advised that administrators should “use witness instructions in all photo arrays and lineups and read instructions aloud in a manner similar to how the Miranda Rights are read” (National Research Council 107). In addition, according to Policy Insights from Behavioral and Brain Sciences, during a lineup procedure, it has been recommended that administrators give witnesses unbiased instructions such as notifying them that the person who committed the crime may not be present and that they are not required to make an identification. Compared to biased instructions that may give the witness the impression that the person who committed the crime is present and that it’s the witness’ task to pick him, unbiased instructions have been demonstrated to reduce false identification rates. However, one implication is that their usage has been shown to reduce correct identification rates (Clark).

Lastly, a national compensation plan should be put in place to ensure that all states offer equal access to monetary assistance and other services. Currently, the Innocence Project has proposed one that would allow the exonerees record to be expunged if they file within three years. They also recommend a minimum of $62,500 per year of imprisonment that would reflect consideration of lost wages and medical fees. It also provides a lifetime of physical and mental health care. However, hardships may arise when trying to get states to change their current system or set up systems in states that offer nothing(Innocence Project). More organizations similar to the Life After Exoneration Program should also be developed. This organization is centered in Northern California and helps to establish exoneree-mentoring relationships as well as other beneficial services such as phone counseling, support, and referrals for therapeutic counseling services (Life After Exoneration Program).

Works Cited

Anderson, Tiffany M., “Juror misperceptions of eyewitness evidence: impact on expert testimony and credibility”. Honors Program Theses. 192, UNI ScholarWorks, 2015. Google Scholar. https://scholarworks.uni.edu/hpt/192.

BGA and the Center on Wrongful Convictions. “A Landmark BGA Investigation: ‘The High Costs of Wrongful Convictions”. Better Government Association, 2011,https://www.bettergov.org/news/a-landmark-bga-investigation-the-high-costs-of-wrongful-convictions.

Clark, Steven, et al., “Eyewitness Identification and the Accuracy of the Criminal Justice System”. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Vol 2, Issue 1, pp. 175 186, Oct.2015, http://wixtedlab.ucsd.edu/publications/wixted2015/ClarkEtAl2015.pdf.

Dario N. Rodriguez and Melissa A. Berry. “Eyewitness Science and the Call for Double-Blind Lineup Administration”. Journal of Criminology, vol. 2013, Article ID 530523, 2013, doi:10.1155/2013/530523.

Grounds, Adrian T. “Understanding the Effects of Wrongful Imprisonment”, Crime and Justice, Volume 32, 2005: 1-58, https://doi.org/10.1086/655352.

Innocence Project. “Eyewitness Identification Reform.” Innocence Project., 2017, https://www.innocenceproject.org/dna-exonerations-in-the-united-states/.

Jeffrey S. Gutman. “An Empirical Reexamination of State Statutory Compensation for the Wrongly Convicted”, Missouri Law Review, Vol.82, Issue 2, 2017, https://scholarship.law.missouri.edu/mlr/vol82/iss2/7

The Justice Project. “Convicting the Innocent:Texas Justice Derailed”, Jennifer Willyard, Michelle Strikowsky, 2009, https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/documents/convicting-the-innocent.pdf.

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Petersilia, Joan. “When Prisoners Return to Communities: Political, Economic, and Social Consequences”. NIJ Research in Brief, National Institute of Justice, No.9, https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=184253.

Richard, Axel. “Nobel Lecture: Scents and Sensibility: A Molecular Logic of Olfactory Perception”, Nobelprize.org, Nobel Media AB, 2014, http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2004/axel-lecture.html.

Rodd, Scott. “What Do States Owe People Who Are Wrongfully Convicted?”, The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2017, http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2017/03/14/what-do-states-owe-people-who-are-wrongfully-convicted.

Schlesinger, Arthur. “The Historian as Participant”. Daedalus,Vol. 100, No. 2, pp. 339-358, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1971, http://www.jstor.org/stable/20024007.

Scott, Leslie. “It Never, Ever Ends”: The Psychological Impact of Wrongful Conviction”. American University Criminal Law Brief 5, no. 2, 2010:10-22, http://digitalcommons.wcl.american.edu/clb/vol5/iss2/2/.

Searcy, J.H., Bartlett, J.C. & Memon, A. “Age differences in accuracy and choosing in eyewitness identification and face recognition”. Memory & Cognition, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 538-552, 1999, https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03211547.

Silbert,et al., “Criminal Injustice: A Cost Analysis of Wrongful Convictions, Errors, and Failed Prosecutions in California’s Criminal Justice System”, Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy, University of California, Berkeley School of Law, 2015, http://theopportunityinstitute.org/publications-list/criminal-injustice.

Silver, Johnathan and Carbonell, Lindsay. “Wrongful Convictions Have Cost Texans More Than $93 Million”. The Texas Tribune, 2016, https://www.texastribune.org/2016/06/24/wrongful-convictions-cost-texans-over-93-million/.

Thomas, Albright. “Why eyewitnesses fail”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 114, no. 30 7758-7764, 2017, doi:10.1073/pnas.1706891114.

Wells, Gary.,et al. “A Test of Simultaneous vs. Sequential Lineup Methods”.Center for Forensic Science & Public Policy, American Judicature Society, 2011, http://www.popcenter.org/library/reading/PDFs/lineupmethods.pdf.

Wilson, John. A Perpetual Battle of the Mind, WGBH Educational Foundation, 2002, http:// www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/burden/cameras/memo.html.

A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials

The superstitious hysteria of olden times has long intrigued the American public, but from the vast swath of witch hunts past, no other event has captivated our cultural consciousness like the Salem Witch Trials. The Salem Witch Trials were a series of hearings, imprisonments, and executions which occurred from June 1692 to May 1693 in Salem Village and Salem Town. As a result of the trials, 19 supposed “witches” were executed. The trials are regarded as an infamous chapter of American history, so much so that even now, they are known as a cautionary tale regarding the dangers of unbridled religious belief and mass hysteria.

A subsidiary of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Salem Village was a small farming community of approximately 500 inhabitants. Notably, the village was situated close to Salem Town, a wealthy merchant town. Within the small village, there were multiple factors that led to the witch trials. To begin with, the village had a notable economic divide between its poor and wealthy families. The most significant consequence of this divide was a rivalry between the Porter and the Putnam families. The Porters were a relatively wealthy family who favored the village gaining stronger ties with Salem Town. In contrast, the Putnams adhered to strict puritanism, and opposed a stronger connection to the town on religious grounds. Through the Putnams, Samuel Parris was contracted to be the village’s pastor. Notably, Parris brought his daughters, his niece, and a dark-skinned slave named Tituba along with him. As pastor, Parris 1 inundated the village with fierce religious rhetoric, including the condemnation of witchcraft. Parris’s strict religious regulations, coupled with a dispute over his compensation, further increased tensions in the village. The second factor was the village’s strict puritanism. With little variation, the village was composed of devout Puritans who subscribed to a strict interpretation of the Bible. This interpretation included a belief in witches: men and women who sold their souls to the Devil in exchange for exorbitant pleasure. In return, it was believed that at the Devil’s behest, witches would torment the people of a town. To accomplish this mischief, witches would employ multiple supernatural tools, including the use of “specters,” ghosts of the witch who would haunt random victims. In addition, witches could put curses on their victims.

Witches were thought of as unholy beings and, as a result, they were pursued and executed if convicted of witchcraft in court. However, if someone accused of witchcraft confessed before conviction, that person would be spared from execution or other severe punishment, as it was believed that such witches would receive their punishment from God instead. In many cases, the accused would identify other “witches” in the community, so as to try and obtain additional mercy from the court. These Puritan beliefs played a large part in the creation of the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials. Thirdly, the village had recently experienced a smallpox outbreak and was under constant threat of Native American attack. Both of these circumstances severely damaged the village’s morale and created a high stress living environment. As a result of all these factors, the village was ripe for mass hysteria.

Although history of the Salem Witch Trials is complex and convoluted, but there is little subtlety to the catalyst that started them. In January 1692, Parris’s daughter Betty (age 9) and his niece Abigail Williams (age 11) began having violent fits. At random, the girls would scream, contort, throw objects, and complain of biting and pinching sensations, among other symptoms. A local doctor was summoned to examine the girls, but, unable to find anything wrong with them, he diagnosed the girls with what was obviously the only rational alternative: witchcraft. In 2 an attempt to find out who had bewitched the girls, at the suggestion of a neighbor and without first consulting Parris, Tituba concocted a “witchcake.” The witchcake was a cake made with the urine of the victims of witchcraft (in this case the two girls). To find the witch, the cake would be baked and then fed to a dog, who would then point out the witch responsible for the curse. 3 Obviously, the cake did not provide any answers. However, once discovered, the use of the cake outraged Parris, who considered the such folk medicine blasphemous. With the fits continuing and facing mounting pressure from Parris, the girls accused Tituba and two other villagers (both of whom were of low social standing in the community). As a result, the accused were imprisoned and two magistrates from Salem Town were sent to the village to conduct an inquiry. As part of the inquiry, Tituba was questioned. Initially, she asserted her innocence. In 4 response, she was met with fierce and repeated questioning asserting her guilt. In other words, her questioners would not take “no” for an answer. Faced with a badgering examination and diminished credibility as a result of her slave status, eventually Tituba gave her questioners the answer they wanted to hear, and admitted to being a witch. Through three days of vivid testimony, Tituba described her encounters with the Devil, while also implicating the other two women who had been accused. With the presence of witches now apparently confirmed, hysteria surged, resulting in other girls and young women suffering fits. There are many possible explanations for as to why the increasing fear of the village actually materialized into additional psychiatric episodes. Among them is the possibility that a combination of fear and religious teachings subconsciously forced the women to physically manifest symptoms, but there are also political explanations. For example, many of those newly afflicted by “witchcraft” were part of the Putnam family and, in many cases, those they accused were family enemies.

With mounting evidence of widespread witchcraft in Salem Village and multiple accused having already been imprisoned, the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony ordered an official court to convene in Salem Town to try the accused. During the trials, the accused were 5 not afforded the right to counsel. At the same time, when the accused attempted to defend themselves, they were pressured by their examiner to admit to their crime, making it seem like the only way to avoid conviction and subsequent execution would be to confess. Most importantly, the court allowed the admission of “spectral evidence,” meaning that witnesses could testify that the specter of the accused had attacked them in their dreams, or through other supernatural methods, thereby depriving the accused any meaningful opportunity to rebut the witnesses’ testimony. And to make matters even worse, during the accused’s testimony, alleged victims in the audience would babble, contort, faint, and scream, so as to imply a demonic presence. Even with such fundamental flaws, the Salem Witch Trials continued without interruption, as there was no way for the public to object, given that those who did so risked being accused of witchcraft themselves. With new witches being continually accused and confessions occurring relatively often, the trials marched forward.

The first of the trials’ victim was Bridget Bishop who was convicted and hung on June 19th in Salem Village. Five others were convicted and hung until a man named George 6 Burroughs was convicted for being the witches’ ringleader. As Burroughs was about to be hung, from atop the gallows and to great dramatic effect, he flawlessly recited the Lord’s Prayer in a last ditch effort to prove his innocence. In spite of this seemingly impossible feat, he was still 7 hung. However, his death was not in vain, as his execution began to turn public sentiment against the trials. Subsequently, on September 22nd, eight more condemned prisoners were hung. But more significantly, the husband of one of those hung, Giles Corey, an 80-year-old farmer, was also accused of witchcraft, but refused to enter a plea. In an attempt to force a plea, Corey was 8 tortured by having a wooden frame placed on top of him while he lay on the ground, as stones were continually piled up on the frame. Reportedly, when a sheriff came to ask Corey for a plea, he responded with “More weight.” After two days of torture, Corey succumbed to his torment and was crushed to death. His brutal murder has come to represent the barbaric nature of the 9 Salem Witch Trials. In addition, Corey’s death further strengthened public opposition to the trials and, gradually, the trials slowed down. Although there were a few more accusations and executions, as public support dwindled, and after the Governor’s wife was accused, the proceedings came to an end when the Governor ordered the court dissolved. All in all, nineteen 10 people were hung, five more died in custody awaiting trial, many more had been imprisoned, and Giles Corey had been crushed to death.

Over time, the Salem Witch Trials have become a quintessential example of an investigation based on mass hysteria, so much so that they are commonly used as a metaphor to describe an investigation that is supposedly baseless. The trials have inspired multiple fiction works, most notably The Crucible, a play about the trials written by Arthur Miller. Interestingly enough, it was Miller who helped turn the trials into the colloquial metaphor they are today, by publishing The Crucible in 1953 to criticize McCarthyism. In addition to these cultural effects, the Salem Witch Trials helped develop the idea of due process. The trials demonstrated that fairness in the judicial process was not just a right, but also a tool to help ensure the accuracy of 11 the judicial proceedings. Perhaps most importantly, the trials inspired Increase Mather (the father of the President of Harvard at the time) to issue the dictum: “It were better that ten suspected witches should escape than that one innocent person should be condemned.” This dictum, albeit in a slightly different form, still guides American jurisprudence to this day. On a final note, the 12 Salem Witch Trials are now more relevant than ever. The recent Kavanaugh hearings have drawn huge parallels to the Trials, as they have acted to remind us of the havoc that unsubstantiated accusations (even if the allegations are potentially true) can cause in a civilized society. In an even more direct allusion, President Donald Trump consistently calls the Russia investigation a “witch hunt.” Regardless of what one thinks of the President’s characterization, there is no doubt that the potency of his dismissal of the probe comes from a reference to a powerful, albeit tragic, piece of history.


1. It is disputed whether Tituba was of Caribbean or African descent.

2. There are many theories regarding what caused the fits to occur. Among them are delusional psychosis, epilepsy, and ergot poisoning (Ergot is a fungus which can cause hallucinations. In fact, one of ergot’s derivatives is LSD). It is also possible that the girls, having been inspired by intense religious rhetoric, were simply seeking attention.

3. It is unclear how the dog was supposed to make this indication.

4. Notably, the inquiry was purely investigative in nature and, as such, the inquiry did not possess the power to convict those it investigated.

5. Known as a “Court of Oyer and Terminer.”

6. Twelve years prior, Bishop had been tried and acquitted of witchcraft.

7. It was believed at the time that it was physically impossible for a witch to recite the Lord’s Prayer.

8. By refusing to enter a plea, Corey was subject to peine forte et dure (strong and hard punishment). Corey likely sought this status for inheritance purposes.

9. Even with brutal execution methods such as these, contrary to popular belief, no one was burned at the stake during the Salem Witch Trials.

10. There were a few more proceedings after that order, but every person either convicted or imprisoned during those proceedings was pardoned.

11. The Trials helped demonstrate the need for rights such as the right to counsel and the right to remain silent. Unsurprisingly, both of those rights were eventually codified in the Bill of Rights.

12. This maxim of judicial equity has been echoed by some of the most influential figures in United States legal history, including William Blackstone (a legal scholar who played a substantial role in the development of English common law) and Founding Father Benjamin Franklin.

Works Consulted

D, Elbert. “The Death of Giles Corey.” The Salem Journal, University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, https://people.ucls.uchicago.edu/~snekros/Salem%20Journal/People/ElbertD.html.

D, Elbert, and Luke R. “Puritans Face Defeat.” The Salem Journal , University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, https://people.ucls.uchicago.edu/~snekros/Salem%20Journal/Hysteria/ElbertDLukeR.htm

Szendy, Peter, and Gil Anidjar. “Spectral Evidence.” Prophecies of Leviathan: Reading Past

Melville, Fordham University, 2010, pp. 70–74. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13wzvj2.24.

Wallenfeldt, Jeff. “Salem Witch Trials.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 13 Nov. 2018, www.britannica.com/event/Salem-witch-trials.


The changes made from the 2014 to the 2015 AP US History Curriculum Guide by the College Board (as suggested by the Republican National Committee) are designed to diminish the abhorrent actions of the European settlers in the 1600’s. The Republican National Committee, who had never commented on the curriculum before, claimed that the 2014 curriculum standard was, “presenting a biased and inaccurate view of many important events in American history.” Upon examining the wording in the 2014 APUSH Curriculum Standards in contrast with the 2015 curriculum, one change is immediately made clear: the 2014 standards are more descriptive and precise (as it should be), whereas the 2015’s are a rough overview that glide over important details.

The 2015 curriculum demonstrates a whitewashing of historic events and, in turn, lessening the natives ‘slaughter.  It states, “Interracial interaction in the colonial… years spurred evolving religious, cultural and racial justifications for subjugation.” When one reads this sentence, it is clear that the phrase “interracial interaction” is vague, and left open to interpretation, compared to, “white superiority,” (2014 standard). This was perceived to be too loaded of a term by the RNC, and too heavily race-centric. Heaven forbid there be an accurate account of the detestable Europeans’ acts. The words, “intensity and destructiveness” (2014 standard) are replaced with, “cultural and demographic changes.” (2015 standard). Again, revealing the biggest change: softened vocabulary and the lackluster retelling of the events, leaving them unrecognizable.

Republican Party members came out to the media in an attempt to legitimize the change in curriculum. Rebecca Klein, a Huffington Post Journalist cites Ben Carson, (“Fox News’ Ben Carson Thinks New AP U.S. History Course Will Make Students Join ISIS, as it, “paints America in a bad light,”), a retired neurosurgeon and current Fox News commentator, who (ran for President under the Republican party in 2016) claimed that the 2014 standard curriculum provided for AP US History teachers all across America was giving, “an anti-American bias.” By focusing on the, “bad parts” of history, Ben Carson thinks the 2014 curriculum will turn teens against America. He states, “a whole section on slavery… and how evil we are… internment camps and how we slaughtered millions of Japanese with our bombs.” Carson is attempting to diminish these abhorrent acts (slavery, internment camps) and to, “stop this silliness crucifying ourselves.” It also states that, “he will likely run for president in 2016.” Carson, an African-American male, is down playing historical events for political gain. The average Fox News viewer is white and republican.  These statements originating from an African American candidate, absolving any white privilege “guilt” on this network and in turn vindicating the viewer’s’ beliefs is clearly a strategic play. He continues with, “only two paragraphs in there on George Washington… little or nothing about Martin Luther King,” hence solidifying further his votes by playing to their love of old white fore father George Washington, recognizing the equality of African Americans in the United States MLK, and diminishing the relevance of slavery. This is a double play, because by mentioning both, Carson is continuing to absolve white guilt because slavery was “a long time ago,” and African Americans have nothing to complain about now. This feeds into the Republican National Committee belief that the European settlers were being vilified and that the curriculum failed to provide enough emphasis on the more positive side of America’s history, thus painting the country in a bad light.

The Republican National Committee wished to soften the 2014 curriculum to comply with their narrative of diminishing the focus on racial strife in United States history. They believe that the 2014 curriculum was not the “true history of their country.”  They recommended that the APUSH committee postpone the 2014 curriculum to reconvene and make a new one: “The RNC recommends that the College Board delay the implementation of the new APUSH framework… and that during that time a committee be convened to draft an APUSH framework that is… consistent with state history standards.” The Republican National Committee claimed the APUSH curriculum did not meet state history standards and that it was inaccurate. It states, “the framework presents a biased and inaccurate view of many important events in American history”. This included slavery, the US involvement in WWII and the Cold War. These changes were implemented in the 2015 curriculum, which its wording leaves such ambiguity that if you knew nothing about history, you’d never learn that the Europeans Settlers were responsible for the acceleration of the discourse between the Native American tribes and slavery for their financial gain. Students would not have the opportunity to discern for themselves how the US became a world power and the cost to become one.

Diminishing the correct reporting of a nation’s’ repugnant actions has been put into effect by many groups and world leaders in the past. This is an old strategy to raise nationalism and alter the people’s perception.  These countries do not have the first amendment – freedom of speech. This act by the Republican National Committee and its puppets (Ben Carson), is abhorrent. The idea that a true historic APUSH curriculum would incite students to join ISIS is ignorance – lack of knowledge or information

Complicating the Declaration of Independence: An Analysis of Three Case Studies

Justice Delayed, is Justice Denied

                                                                               – Martin Luther King jr

“All men are created equal.” Thomas Jefferson famously wrote in the Declaration of Independence and declared on the famous date of July 4th, 1776 to the American people. Although this was a promising goal for American society, it is critical to recognize that these values were not always implemented in the reality of society’s situation. In fact, it was a complete falsity of reality. I believe that the foundation of our democracy was hiding under a veneer that everyone had equal rights. One has to see the injustice in our country in order to create justice.

In the 1800s, women were mostly seen as a man’s maids. Many were denied educational opportunities in math, science, and politics. In addition, the only “job” they could pursue was having children and taking care of them. All in all, women were denied fundamental rights that everyone should receive.  At a young age, Elizabeth Cady Stanton became involved with the abolitionist movement. The abolitionist movement was a social and political push for the immediate liberation of all enslaved people and the end of racial discrimination.(1) Her efforts reached out to help women as well, and soon Stanton  started advocating for enslaved people’s rights and women’s rights. She famously said,  “We hold these truths to be self evident that all men and women are created equal.”(1)  Being brought up in a white household, Stanton was still disregarded since she was a women. She was engrossed in history and science and stayed up late reading her father’s English books although she knew she could never advance in any of those subjects. Opportunities in politics were also very rare because politicians and other men in power told Stanton there was no place for a lady in men’s work.(1) This symbolizes that this statement was catering to a very select few and was glossing over the truth of society.

In addition to being a woman, Harriet Tubman was also a slave. Enslaved individuals labored day and night facing extremely harsh environments and people. Harriet Tubman was one of those enslaved African – Americans who helped many escape by the Underground Railroad to where there was no enslavement in the North. Tubman was enslaved most of her life in the cotton fields of the South.(3) At a young age, Tubman decided to escape from the plantation and race to freedom. However, she was afraid that her family would continue to suffer more severity and went back for them during the mid – 1800s. She used a series of underground safe houses known as the Underground Railroad to later free hundreds of slaves and bring them safely to the North. Just when Tubman thought she was safe, the Fugitive Slave Law was put into action requiring that any escaped slave from the South had to be recaptured and sent back regardless of the North’s views. (1) When Tubman found out, she rerouted the Underground Railroad and brought people to Canada instead. Looking back Tubman describes her experience, “I grew up like a neglected weed – ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it.”(3) This does not only reflect the experiences regarding slavery, it displays inequality on a whole other level. In a way which is incomprehensible in modern day.

Meanwhile, Abraham Lincoln, the American president at that time was not struggling with oppression. The fact that he became president confirms that he was granted an education and with that, opportunities in politics. However, Lincoln started off poor, living it a log cabin in Kentucky. As President he turned his attention to the issue of inequality in America. He especially detested slavery. However, in his political opinion he was a moderate.(2) This meant that he was neither for, nor against slavery. At the start of the Civil War, many abolitionists were irate about the situation in the South. Lincoln’s strategy was to take small steps to accomplish what  he wanted (to keep the Union and abolish slavery). He knew that this would infuriate much of the North even more, but he was a wise man and he knew what he had to do. He described this as, “I walk slowly, but I never walk backward”.(2) He thought that the country would either end up abolishing slavery as a whole, or keep it everywhere. Of course he wanted abolition of slavery but he was president, and he had to recognize everyone’s opinion if he wanted to keep the Union together as well. Lincoln was faced with many important decisions but even he knew that America suffered greatly with inequality. He was one of the first American presidents to acknowledge that.

Today in modern society it is necessary to acknowledge that even though we have made great progress we are still struggling with this leading claim of “all men are created equal.” For example, the leading faces in politics of our country currently are intolerant and dismissive to equal treatment of people in America. The fact that our president wants nothing to do with immigrants when our country was built from immigration shows a level of inequality amongst many other derogatory views on different cultures and races in America .(4) In addition, there are still women’s rights marches for equal treatment. An example of this is the march in Washington after our president was elected. Even though, women now have the right to vote and many more  job opportunities, they still experience inequality especially in the workplace.(5)  Women get paid less than men would for the same job. There is also a risk of inappropriate behavior from men leading to sexual harassment. Adding on, African Americans still have a higher risk of being stopped by police and have a higher frequency of being misjudged due to their skin color.(6) This shows that there is still racism and sexism in this country.

It is vital to note that even though all people still don’t have have equal rights, we have certainly made considerable progress that Stanton, Lincoln and Tubman would have all been very proud of. Nowadays there is so much more activism for equality and other issues that are important to people. Even in popular culture to be “woke” meaning advocating for what one believes in, is considered cool. For example, the Black Lives Matter movement promotes awareness for racial injustices and ways we can come closer to equality. In addition, women can vote and express their opinions freely. The Declaration of Independence set an aspirational goal for our society in a time of great inequality.  Even though we haven’t achieved perfect equality, we’ve made a lot of progress which nurtures the hope that one day all people will feel that they are created equal.









The pre-med girls walked down the street every morning.

But they weren’t pre-med, at least not yet. They liked thinking that they were, though; they liked talking about saving lives–they liked it when their parents introduced them to other Asian parents with: “Oh, this is my daughter. She’s pre-med.” And then the other parents would smile, grin, say, “Oh, your daughter is so accomplished. She’s going to do great things.” Pre-med was a great term, a brilliant term that all the Asians wore like a Science Olympiad gold medal.

When I was younger, my grandfather ran a clinic in Taiwan, where we lived upstairs each summer. In the mornings we’d come down, watch as my grandfather looked at one person’s foot, the back of a neck: intimate parts, fleshed-out parts. I’d watch from the worn-out leather stool in the corner. The little plastic fan attached to the sink never worked, and my shorts were always sticking to my thighs.

“Why do you do this?” I’d asked my grandfather once. He’d grown up in the basement of a fabric shop, where rats were always found dead under the piano and poverty was a given. It wasn’t until he decided to open his own medicine clinic that the fabric shop became an apartment. The apartment became a four-story building. I’d always assumed that the reason he chose to go into medicine was for the success.

My grandfather had looked at me as if he couldn’t believe that was even a question. “To save lives,” he’d replied.

In that instant I was reminded of the countless other pre-med girls who had said these exact same words, that I want to save lives, as if those words meant something.

What hurt was that I could have been one of those pre-med girls. I wasn’t really good at math, but I’d done science fair. I hadn’t won anything, but that was okay. What mattered was doing it and talking to those around me: girls who had been doing science for as long as they could remember, girls who designed apps that solved third-world problems, girls who purified water with the formulas inside their heads, girls whose inventions were so, so much realer than themselves.


The first time I ever participated in science fair, I began to split apart.

I’d dressed up specifically for the occasion. As I walked to the convention center, I hitched my board to my waist, feeling professional and powerful.

We had all received badges when we entered the auditorium for the science fair; each one listed how many years we’d been participating. I only had one blue dot, but there was an Indian girl next to me who had nine. Her board looked professional, like she had spent hundreds of dollars designing it. She’d connected all these wires to it. The front of the board said her name, big and bold and blue. Her pantsuit made her look like she was running for office, rather than attending a science fair. She wore all the medals she’d received from previous years around her neck, as if to say: I’m experienced. I know how to win. I’m pre-med.

I would have loved to be her at that moment: poised, calm, confident. But then I saw how unhappy she looked. Her project was on trying to find a cure for the developmental stages of cancer, a continuation. Her dad had come with her, carrying a piece of equipment. They came to the table across from my measly-looking board on learning languages, and set everything down with such an alarming speed that it was clear this was just another day to them.

For the remainder of the fair, I watched as the girl spoke to wide-eyed competitors, people who had come with goggles and electrical equipment and things that screamed power, success, and changing the world, one invention at a time. “Yeah, curing cancer,” she’d say, “I’m coming really close to it. Should be a few more months.”

I stood by my project, feeling awkward and ordinary, but most of all not pre-med. Because I’d probably never be pre-med. I’d probably never find the cure for cancer. I’d never be someone who invented things that were realer than myself.

An old white lady passed by–a judge, presumably. The girl stood up, straightened her suit, prepared for a discussion. The lady looked at her and frowned. I watched as she grilled the girl on her project, asked if she really thought she was going to cure cancer, asked why she felt like it was her place to conduct such an experiment.

And the girl just kept on stating the same fact, the same I want to save lives. I just want to save lives. She said it so methodically that I began wondering if she really wanted to save lives at all, or if it was more of the feeling of being pre-med, the feeling of power, of success–feeling like you were someone to be proud of. Not just a collection of cells, but a complete, full, whole human being: someone who could save the world, but not someone who was real.

I checked the winners list a few weeks later. She had gotten first place.


In biology, mitosis is defined as the type of cell division that results in two identical daughter cells. These cells are identical copies of one another. The last stage, cytokinesis, overlaps with the final stages of mitosis. That’s when the daughter cells split apart, reform again. No matter the mitosis, though, the cells are the same: always dividing and developing, regenerating and replacing. There will always be parents who introduce their daughters to others, saying: “Oh, this is my daughter.” And there will always be unspoken questions. Why do you do what you do? Why is it your place to conduct such an experiment? Is there something else going on that we don’t know about? What’s your major?

What will you be?



There was something in the shoulder of a clean-pressed uniform that never seemed to fit me in the same way that it did for others. Plaid skirt, clean flats, and an oversized blazer to grow into, that first week of my life in Seoul was cold.

On Monday, Ashley Kang, the kind of girl who always looked like she was either disgusted or had eaten a grapefruit or both, pulled me down and told me to sit. I didn’t really want to. When Matthew set his books down on a nearby desk, her face soured even more.

“You can’t sit there!” Cruel, like the first graders on the school bus who liked to kick the back of your seat just because you wouldn’t talk to them.


“Because I don’t want you to. No one likes you.”

All around were faces that said not this again, but I pushed her back, annoyed. Stop.


These cannot be my people.


It was one month into school, and Sammy Kim – new kid on the block – had already proven herself capable of laughing with all the kids in class with a familiarity I could never muster on my first day.

“I’m from Hong Kong,” she said. A poised, LA kind of girl piped, “I’m from California!”

“I don’t like Californians, they’re all such valley girls.” Without a moment to spare, the girl from LA nodded, laughed with her hand over her mouth, eyes scrunched in a fake smile that was so ready to throw away everything else that California was and ever could be, and said, “I know, that’s basically everyone from California.” Laughed again. The crowd dispersed.

“What do you think?” said no one to the only girl in an oversized blazer and an actually knee-length dress code-adhering skirt.

I keep my mouth shut like the model minority I am.


Student council took us on a picnic to celebrate and told us to wear our house colors: color-blocked, PE uniforms of blue, green, red, and purple. Freedom, whispered the breeze. I spotted my purple-clothed friend sitting on a large foil mat with a group of other giggling girls, and walked over to search for a corner to call mine. Then a red-clothed girl said, in a voice I will never forget-

“There’s no room for you here.”

Red and purple, red and purple – that strangers could dictate my life. I’ll sit on the grass, I could have told her. And Sammy, I could have said. We will never. Ever. Be friends. Instead I, in my fraying blue shirt, watched the purple girl hesitate and say nothing, and went off to find my other blue friends and throw around an ugly yellow frisbee, cheeks burning. Once blue, always blue.


That summer, my arm got stuck in the metro door, and fear hit me like a train. Mom tugged endlessly at the door from the inside of the train, while everyone else just watched, silent, unmoving. The train didn’t have to move and snap my arm off for me to all at once start gasping for air, submerged, stabbed. The doors finally opened and as Mom stared at the people standing beside her, I got on, tried to laugh, and listened to the shame I hoped the people around me felt.

On Thursday night, I took the subway and watched someone’s foot get stuck between the platform and train as no one stopped to help her. Someone kept muttering behind me, shoving coins into a vending machine, and I stood there, in that space between vending machine and train, hesitating. When she finally clambered on, all I can remember is following her numbly onto the train and feeling all of the shame as I slowly became one of them. Later I wrote a poem about the incident, printed it out, performed it for class.

This doesn’t sound very realistic, the teacher wrote in the margins.


The animal shelter that we volunteered at was in a different part of the city and required us to take the metro. Even though the others had lived in this city for eight, nine years, and had histories from a time before me, somehow, I ended up in the lead. As we clambered down the stairs, my Taiwanese-Korean friend asked me about my Taiwanese-Korean ethnicity. Clumsy, fumbling, I replied, “Yes.” But we are not the same.

I’m flashing back to this morning during study hall, when someone didn’t know me, and the first thing he said to me was that my name was so white. Like he couldn’t figure out why I didn’t have a Korean name and wanted a full explanation – all just because he had never known someone like me.

He stuck out his hand for a handshake like he wanted to take my name away from me. I smiled and turned away. It was awkward, it was rude, and it was mine.


as a child, I remember the hum of the sea
as you sang for me from
the pages of the old dictionary,
beaten blue cover on the
definitions of your long-dead youth;
stories swimming with spirits.
I listened as you slipped sand
through the creases of your soul.

I remember how you made
corpses waltz in grey satin dresses
across my sky. you told me to
listen to the old man playing
fiddle from the foam of the sea
and the trumpet calls ripped
from the gulls’ frosted throats.

you defined love as a ghost
who holds your hand and
wanders the beaches, blowing sand
out of seashells and holding them, too.
you told me love’s face floats in the corners
of your soul, translucent and kind.
as I lay with my head in your silken lap,
you told me you loved me.

I still believe you.
I remember the day we wandered
the graveyard and blew out the flames of
dandelions, because you told me a wish is planted
in every person you help find their wings.
that day, I knew what you meant
when you told me to keep making
the dead smile and sing.

The Bleachers

I sit behind the block, fidgeting with my goggles and cracking my knuckles. There is one more heat before I swim, and watching the other swimmers race makes me want to rip somebody’s spine out. I lick my lips; the arena tastes like rusted copper and it reeks so grossly of chlorine I could swear the air is tinted yellow. The drone of thrashing water and frenetic onlookers makes my mind go numb.

Silence settles over the building as the next heat steps onto the block. The stillness is louder than the uproar moments before.

Beep, I say, mimicking the starting official. Beep Beep. Take your mark.

The starting buzzer fires, shattering the silence. The crowd erupts violently; their shrieking voices make my ears ring.

I love it.

I stretch my ankles, counting to ten as I bob up and down on my tiptoes. My hairs stand on end and my stomach feels like ice — for the first time in years, I am nervous. This race will be my last.

I whip my arms around me, slapping myself to get the blood going. The pool churns violently as athletes smash into the wall, ricocheting off at breakneck speeds. I envy the swimmers. There is nothing like the sensation of breaking the water with your body, the hit of jarring frigidness, the exhilarating rush of surging through the water in streamlined form. The icy numbness flowing through your veins, the muted roar of the crowd underwater. The unrelenting support of your closest friends.

I look up. I’ve stared at this ceiling for countless hours: during dryland, through sprint sets, or when drifting down the pool after an exhausting day. The lighting is normally white, sharper than a cloudless January day.

But today, the plaster above me is a musty beige. The air feels warm and damp, and the ceiling lights are weak. I can’t help but wonder if the dimness is just my imagination.

The swimmers before me have fifty yards left. I slip out of my sweatshirt and sweatpants and pull my goggles over my eyes, snapping the strap into place before pulling a second cap over my head. My goggles had been a present for my ninth birthday; they had black rims and shimmering lenses, two bright neon-blue ellipses that danced in the sun like the glittering scales of an exotic fish. Now the replaceable bungee strap has faded from years of use, and the blue-black stripes have been reduced to a dim blue-gray. My swimsuit feels thick and silky, black as tar.

As the heat before me finishes, I hear a crack and a searing pain shoots between my shoulders.

“I’ll be watching your race. Good luck,” my friend chuckles. His voice is warm and damp beneath the golden balcony lights.

I turn to face him — it’s OshKosh, wearing that goofy-looking smile I know all too well. I smirk as I rub my reddened back.

“You too,” I reply, “but I won’t need any.”

He laughs.

We both stare at each other through our goggles, unable to see the other’s eyes. As the crowd dies down, the only thing I can hear is the pounding of my heart. I take a deep breath, and I step onto the block for the last time.

The race is just like any other — when it is over, I talk with my coaches, cool down, and change. I have twelve events until my carpool finishes his last race, so I take a seat on the bleachers and try to read.

OshKosh approaches. I love the way he lumbers about, the way he holds his thick frame upright, his acne-studded body, his short, prickly hair. He is wearing the OshKosh sweatshirt that gave him his nickname; it is the same design as the one he wore to his first practice with us, eight years ago.

“Hey,” he calls out. He’s showing me that foolish-looking grin I love so much, but his eyes are clear and dark as he sits down beside me.

Only he knows I am moving. Tomorrow I’ll be half a country away and yet here I am, sitting on these bleachers, reading.

I glance at him. He is carefully adjusting his cap, trying to squeeze the tips of his ruddy ears beneath the velvety silicone plastic. His upcoming race means a lot to him; it is his last chance to qualify for regionals.

I need more time with him. I have to be there for his race: to see him achieve his dreams, to at least say goodbye — maybe I can stay a bit, maybe my carpool won’t mind the wait–

But I know I can’t. I have clothes to pack and a plane to catch. And my carpool — I can’t be so selfish. It is impossible for me to watch his race.

We sit in silence. On the bleachers, not moving, not speaking — the timestamps above flicker rhythmically as I watch our final moments together slip away.

My friend takes a deep breath and holds it before quietly letting it out; he laughs bitterly, staring restlessly at the grimy tiled floor. The silence is suffocating.

I hate it.

The bleachers are disgusting; they are littered with smashed food particles, spilled drinks, hair, more hair, an unidentifiable black, stringy substance, and God knows what else. I must leave, and as I look back, I see him sitting calmly on the bleachers — the sunlight dances around the room and lights the metal seats ablaze. There he is, staring straight back at me, eyes unblinking, face expressionless, unmoving and indomitable. He looks away, still unblinking, brooding over the days to come without me.

Inside the Ribcage

People tell me I look just like my mother.

It took me years to see it. The structure of our cheeks, the shape of our smiles. A few weeks ago when my mother drove me home from the airport I looked down at my hands and was startled to see hers. I hadn’t realized I’d known them so well — the wrinkles on the joints of her fingers, the patterns of crevices at the base of her knuckles, the veins that bulged out of her skin when she made a fist.

I don’t know how to explain my mother.

My childhood memories of her are shaped by numbers: every day we sat on the swing in the backyard, my older brothers’ textbooks between us. I fancied myself a prodigy. I sat proudly in the front row of college classes in calculus, C++, chemistry. Now when I look back I remember my mother driving me from school to the community college an hour away three days a week. I remember she brought me lunch to eat in the car. I remember that when I sat for exams it was her numbers that spilled out of my pencil, her numbers she’d seared into my skin from hours of practice tests, homework questions, textbook examples. Her numbers that had flattened me into my seat and slapped the tears off of my cheeks.

Only it wasn’t her numbers. It was her father’s. When I go to India every few years I see them still, on the swing of my grandparents’ porch, overlooking the dusty street air and the stray dogs that wander the backroads. My mother, pale and fragile in her youth, feet curled underneath her with a book of trigonometry in her lap. Her father, my Nana, sitting upright beneath the creaking chains, gnarled skin sallowing into itself.

When I was thirteen, Nana cupped my face in his hands, held my cheeks up against my mother’s. He was looking at me; I was looking at him, and at Nani on the couch, and at my mother’s face radiant above mine. My mother is beautiful. I wonder what combination of Nani and Nana’s genes led to this: Nani, with her wizened body stooped into the ground over her walking stick, Nana, with his round face, bulbous nose, peeling brown skin. Maybe it comes from neither of them. Maybe it’s the besan she grinds into her body every day, the henna and coconut oil in which she steeps her hair overnight. Maybe it’s the manicures and the kajal and the hair irons, all coalescing into the image of a woman who has found the fountain of youth and has bathed herself luxuriant.

My mother had wanted to be a doctor.

That was before Nana tore open her chest and fashioned her a new spine made of functions and integrals and logarithms. Now when I touch my ribs through my chest I do not know how much of my bones is my own and how much is what my mother has welded into me.

I don’t know how to explain my mother.

I was twelve when she began the inevitable descent from infallibility. The day the world splintered into pieces around us, I remember she sobbed, holding herself together in the corner of the hospital room. It’s not your fault, I said. My mother stopped crying once the doctors stitched me shut.

She failed me, is what I tell my friends four years later, when people still stop to stare at my scars. My friends are quick to agree. What kind of mother could erase two years with a wave of her hand, could look her daughter in the eye and laugh about mental illnesses, because why don’t those girls who starve themselves just eat? and oh, maybe I have social anxiety too!

Now I think that maybe it was easier that way. I remember how my mother sobbed in the corner of my hospital room. I remember she told me maybe this was karma for having such an easy childhood. Like the needles that dove in and out of my wrist had torn open her skin.

People tell me I look just like my mother. I wonder how it must feel: to stand there powerless and watch your image tear itself apart.

Split Ends

This is a story that begins at the ends: the frayed, thinning, split ends. The mangled roots that tell a tale of irreparable damage and stagnated growth. Why wouldn’t I cut them off? The scissors are in my hand, the inimitable power to sever and the potential energy of choice gripped shakily in my palm. But my finger rests perpetually on the trigger. This is why.

The first time it happened, the scissors were not in my hand. They were in the hands of my fearlessly independent eleven-year-old cousin. I was only six years old, so young that I blew off big decisions like dandelion fluff, unconcerned about where the seeds would land. It wasn’t until after I had heard the harsh snips of the blades and felt the tickling of severed hair brushing past my neck onto the ground that I fully internalized the meaning of irreversible. Irreversible clung to the mangled locks of slightly-damp hair and stared back at me when I glanced at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. Irreversible was all that I had lost and could not get back.

When my mother came into the bathroom, her eyes dropped to the ground and took in the tufts of black hair scattered haphazardly across the sterile white tiles on the bathroom floor. Later, she would tell me never to let someone else hold the scissors again. She would tell me about the sacred power of choices and the burden of consequence. But at that moment, she didn’t have to say anything. Her eyes, hollow with the shards of broken expectations, said it all.

Today, when someone asks my mother when I last cut my hair, she’ll act as if she’s forgotten. “Not since birth,” she’ll say, the lie slipping unnoticed through the cracks of her proud, plastered smile. But I know that first haircut hasn’t been discarded from her memory like the locks of hair that she had swept up with the dustpan and tossed into the trash bin. Beneath the pretense, I can see her eyes narrowing with the same shameful discernment, as if I were a puzzle that she couldn’t quite piece together.

That was how it always was with my mother. She would never tell you anything, and yet you would already know. As the years passed by, and my hair grew longer and longer, I became an expert at reading in between the lines of the homilies she would impart whenever her moral smoke alarm went off. Never do the wrong things. Always make good choices. I quickly learned that Always and Never were the king and queen in my mother’s realm. Soon, I became a loyal subject, and the Absolutes restricted me at every turn.

Getting a haircut after the first debacle fell under the domain of Never, even as my hair transformed into a disobedient cloud of tangles that only grew more irrepressible the more I ignored it. Every week, my mother and I would sit down in front of the educational children’s TV programs on PBS, armed with a fine-toothed comb to inflict pain and a bowl of ice cream to lessen it. Each time, I would beg her to cut it all off. And each time, she would refuse, continuing to tug persistently at the tangles without offering an explanation.

After a particularly painful hair-combing session, I realized that I was sick of my mother’s power to trap me between the stubborn walls of Absolutes. I was sick of her fingers knocking the scissors out of my hands as soon as I had picked them up, hovering anxiously over me to make sure that I wouldn’t cut myself. I wanted to test my own power for once. So I took out the sewing scissors and my beloved American Girl doll. As I grasped the scissors tightly, I felt an electrical current coursing through my veins. In a surge of anger, I chopped off the doll’s synthetic black hair. The plastic strands fell to the ground noiselessly, and the doll continued to stare at me with her glassy-eyed complacency, unconcerned that I had just taken everything away from her. Suddenly, the blades felt like poison ivy under my trembling grip. I let go, and the scissors clattered to the floor. They had defeated me this time.

At that moment, my mother came into the room. She looked at me knowingly, as if she had foreseen this all along. “It’s so easy just to cut things off, isn’t it?” she said quietly. “But things don’t always turn out the way we expect, and we have to live with the consequences of every choice we make.”

I finally realized why my mother had refused to let me cut my hair. After that day, her fear of the irreconcilable was passed down to me. Like a virus, it only grew, spreading to every aspect of my life. Every time I was faced with any decision, I would panic, remembering the tufts of hair on the tiled floor of my cousin’s bathroom and the doll with mangled hair who I never played with again. Even for the simplest of choices, my mother’s words echoed in my head. So easy just to cut things off. I became so scared of making the wrong choice that I ceased making choices at all. Like an overrun garden, my hair grew out of active neglect. And that’s when the split ends began to appear.

It was gradual at first. But after a while, it got out of hand. Every end became a split end. I was perpetually stranded at a fork in the road. The longer I waited, the more damage I was inflicting. By dodging the burden of consequence, I was only orchestrating my own ruin.

And so here I am again. At the ends. With all of the power, but none of the will. So easy just to cut things off. But in reality, it is so difficult. The scissors are in my hand.

my grandmother

my grandmother lives
in a sunny-yellow room with dried wildflowers in a
china vase by the window.

her canary-coloured castle
is adorned with stacks of outdated cosmos and
faded national geographics
-stained with oatmeal and soup-
colorful green boxes of
prescription pills, gauze, and healing ointments.

And my grandmother
knows the playful Summer Wind
who kisses her wrinkled pink cheeks,
catching in the lace curtains as he
Brings her pink flower petals and small green leaves from the garden
Leaving them gently on her windowsill

And she knows
the sunny-yellow goldfinches
who chirp
and cling curiously to the window screen,
wondering when she will leave her tired body
and join them in their glorious flight.

With her watery eyes, and her gentle coos
she is almost a baby
when i spoon feed her.
she smiles as it dribbles down her chin
Landing in little splotches on her pale pink gown.
And as i look at how gentle and small she is
her bony wrists and spotted hands remind me of my mother’s.

And most nights,
i am afraid of the day
that the cold moon will take her back,
and i know i cannot ask for more time.

so instead

i buy her new magazines when
she grows tired of the pictures in her collection.
And i replace the wilted flowers with
wild peonies and baby’s breath and white lilies
and i kiss her forehead,
wipe the dribble from her chin,
comb back her silver locks
and listen to her gentle cooing,

like a brilliant goldfinch singing
from the muffled confines of her ancient chest.

Not the Last Time

“Pass the pani, please,” I bugged my sister, who tossed me a bottle of chilled water, a refreshing coolant in the scorching blaze of Indian heat. In the back of the cab, my thighs glued together from the sultry air, and my fingers frequently tangled as my skin grew sweatier and sweatier.

I did not dare unclutch my hands from the handlebar; whenever the driver swiveled sharply amongst the disarray of the hectic road, I felt certain we would run into a cow. Contrasting the humid air, my eyes seared with dry pain from the dusty air. Jetlag stuck me hard at this hour, but the never-ending rush of rickshaws and motorcyclists withheld my eyes from closing shut.

Apart from the headache from the boisterous sirens of the produce trucks, another thought overwhelmed my mind. Had fate rolled its dice slightly differently, possibly landing on a three instead of a five, I could have called this very place my home. Eagerly, I examined through the clouds of filthy haze for signs of comfort and belonging, but I remained fruitless.

Didi, my sister, sat relaxedly beside me, somehow lulled by the reckless rocking of the cab.

“You know something? When I’m older, I want to move here.”

“Why’s that?” I asked, still on the edge of my seat.

“I don’t know. I guess I can’t help but remember when we were younger, and Nana would teach me Hindi out on the veranda and would read me parts of his scriptures. I’ve never met a man as wise as him.”

I scanned my brain hard for such moments like this with my grandfather, but only his calm yet cracking voice over the telephone replayed in my mind. He would speak to me in Hindi, and I would reply back in English.

I released my grip on the handlebar at last when we approached the house. Though tainted with smears of dirt and some of the wood chipped away, my grandparent’s home still stood with great grandeur in contrast to the cluttered streets, crowded with beggars dressed in nothing more than battered rags. To my right, delicate, blush pink lotus flowers and towering guava trees filled the lush green garden.

We stepped inside the doorway, the rich smell of spices rushing to my nose. Instantly we were greeted by my aunt, grandmother, and cousins.

“Oh, how tall you have grown!” my grandmother said, her sari infused with the smell of masala. Didi wrapped her arms around her, exclaiming, “Good to see you, Nani!”. From the sounds of laughter and excitement, a heard a faint voice approaching.

“Beti,” he whispered. My head turned instantaneously, the deafening drum of my heartbeat vibrating through my ears now. Tottering towards me was my Nana, his legs as skinny as sticks and his face pale as winter frost. The wrinkles that blemished his face sagged as to stretch his gossamer skin so it hung past his chin. While his head remained completely bare, fine white hair still grew like a jungle in his large ears.

He took my hands in his, and I could feel his frail arm shaking uncontrollably. When he spoke he repeated his words once or twice, forgetting that he had already said them. I felt tears building up in the back of my eyes, a sea waiting to be released. My stomach lurked with a fierce stab of regret.

I stood before a man whom I should feel is apart of me, a man whose wisdom I could have soaked up like a sponge. Here he slumped, so wearied and brittle, almost as if he were to crumble into thousands of pieces in a matter of seconds. A gulp in my throat formed as I thought how I barely knew him at all.

Truly, though, it was near the end of my journey in India when this regret ignited in my thoughts. As we approached the doorway, once again, this time for goodbyes, I heard my father say, “Well, this may be the last time we ever come here.” He hinted that the next time we visited, we would be throwing my Nana’s ashes into the river. These words stung my skin and left a hefty bruise.

The cab ride to the airport left my sleeves soaked in snot and tears. You failed, I thought. You will never know what it’s like to be an Indian. I glanced out of the window and saw a family bathing themselves in the holy river water, and thought to myself, The only thing you have in common with them is the color of your skin.

I did not desire this meeting to be the end. What I wanted most, was to found a connection with the dense Indian culture and the people of my motherland. But how could I, if I did not speak their tongue and they did not speak mine? I thought about my own children, and how they would be completely clueless to the magnificent wonders that is this subcontinent. The glorious mandirs that adorned the littered streets had me itching to join the mass of men and women who filled every square inch of space. I rolled up my wet sleeve and promised myself that I would return, to join and pray with them.

All Roads Lead to Nowhere

The classic golden Californian hills and fields whiz past in a wheat-colored blur and the world itself spins by like a toy.

Embarking on a road trip feels like true freedom, a blitz through the universe. As the road rumbles beneath the tires, it feels as if the highways are being pulled underneath the car, and I’m gliding through the air. There goes a black hatchback with water stains spotting the sides, a silver sedan as shiny as a new dime, and a white minivan with chips on the edges of the door. The clouds in the sky, distant and unmoving, look as if they’ve been pressed down by a rolling pin. Flat, dirty grey, and slightly rough around the edges, they resemble the inside of my fleece sweatshirt.

My ten-year-old body fits into the natural contours of the seat and I try to adjust my head against the peculiar angle of the headrest. Whatever fancy gears and levers might be attached, the average car seat is a device designed to be one-size-fits-all, and it is the headrest, more than any other part, that first presents this fatally uncomfortable flaw to the passenger. The air conditioning turns on as the engine purrs to life, and the air wafts lightly over me, warm and dry like skin, as if the car itself were breathing over me. Later the breeze cools down slightly, and I adjust the dials periodically—now a stronger current, now a lighter one. Now I am too warm, now I am too cold. Dial clockwise, then counterclockwise. The same pattern for the radio, as it stutters on and off at intervals when we pass through the stuffy, dank stillness of a tunnel.

There is something about being in a car that allows one to become almost perfectly detached from the rest of the world. We pass by an accident, several police cars flanking a pick-up truck and a smaller sedan. The police cars look cartoonish, the red and blue flashing lights making them seem like toys. Our car whizzes past the accident, leaving it behind in a blur of gray asphalt. The lane dividers on the highway look like stitches, and I mentally trace a finger over them.

And yet, despite, or perhaps because of, the constant movement, I am restless. There is no song on the radio that satisfies me. There is no temperature on the dial that either soothes or warms my skin with the consistency I desire, no matter how many times the car, blowing through the vents, sighs over me.

“Are we there yet?” I ask.

“Are we there yet.”

“Are we there yet.”

It’s a small mental trick, that if you repeat anything long enough in an enclosed space it eventually becomes absolutely unbearable.

My big sister gives me a silencing, cold stare and says, “No.”

“Do you wanna play a game,” I continue to pester.


“How about a movie.”


Eventually she snaps at me and says something vicious. I don’t say anything then, for a long time. I begin counting the cars we pass (or which pass us) on the highway. One rattling pick-up loaded with a ladder and construction tools. A grand brigade of six motorcycles revving past like a roll of continuous thunder (and spewing dark fumes that indicate the same). They rear up on their back wheels as if they were riding horses, and from the passenger’s seat I can see that  the motorcycle closest to our car, only about five feet ahead of the hood, wobbles ever so slightly before coming back down safely.

“That’s pretty cool, isn’t it,” I say to no one in particular.

“Huh,” my dad, who is driving, grunts noncommittally.

After some thought, he adds, “It should be the vehicle wrapped around the person to protect them, not the other way around.” It’s as strong a condemnation as his mild disposition allows. With rounded glasses on his round face, he is the Peter Griffin of the family, frequently amiable and sometimes clueless.

Trying to take my mind off this conundrum, I pick up a well-worn pack of Trident chewing gum. The thin cardboard is damp with old perspiration and the T in Trident is coming off from a week of hard use. I inspect its contents the way a smoker would survey the number of cigarettes he had left, and finally slide one small clay-like green slab with neatly sliced edges out of its not so crisp paper slip and into my mouth. Despite the slight griminess of its packaging, the gum is a cool burst of watermelon on my tongue, taking on a ridged texture from the impressions of my teeth for a few chews before settling into a mellower, taffy-like feel. I slip the pack into my deep jean pocket, letting it await another boring moment.

The car is a symbol of freedom, with its mobility and power. But I keep thinking about that. Doesn’t being truly free mean that I wouldn’t want more freedom? So, the people who have freedom are the ones who don’t think they need it? Yet, I feel a primal urge, calling me outside to run in the ocean of grape fields with wind flowing through my midnight black hair.

Is that what freedom feels like? I wonder.

The clouds are slow and silent, and do not reply. Eventually the landscape transforms, slowly, then all at once, like dawn breaking. The golden hills become cool, fog-laden forests, and then give way to enormous dunes of ice-plants and sand. Beyond, the ocean beats against the shoreline in protest of the low tide, gray and relentless. For a time, I can forget my questions about freedom. As the window slides a crack open, the smell of salt and seaweed slips in, a cool scent that makes all my senses come alive.

Tears of Hope

Music echoes against the cool wooden walls of the old room, each note emphasizing how silent and still everything else is. Old books, stacked unevenly on the shelves are coated in a thick layer of dust, and papers are strewn across the floor. The song comes from a music player, perpetually playing the same three notes forlornly, longing for someone, anyone, to join in with its song. The drapes flutter with each gust of wind, not shielded quite enough by the room’s sole window which has succumbed to the elements and disintegrated along with the world outside.

Far away, a man stumbles through the dry, desolate desert all alone. Upon his skinny body cling tattered cargo pants, scattered with holes and loose threads. An equally worn shirt hangs loosely, size large, though he is now a small. He was once known as Jeremy, but the name has long since slipped from his memory along with thoughts of his family and home.  As he climbs each hill of sand, his tattered leather bag slips off his skeletal shoulders repeatedly, forcing him to stop and adjust it over and over again.
A year passes. The man has survived by drinking from wells in abandoned villages and sleeping in empty homes nearby. The water is bitter and the houses coated in dust, but they offer shelter from the neverending sand and sun. As weeks pass his strength begins to dwindle, his steps become smaller and smaller as he walks; he stumbles along, eyes half closed, legs weakening.

As he drifts in and out of a sleeplike state he recalls a time where life had a meaning, when each step forward took him somewhere instead of in endless circles. More than that he remembers the days, moments, in which everything changed. He recalls the announcement on the news, that the asteroid would not avoid Earth as expected, but instead plummet directly into his future with his daughter.

He remembers the dream-like moment in which he swept his daughter up in his arms and laid her down in the backseat of the car, speeding away into the night. He relives it all, each piercing memory, as he continues across the sands of a completely different world — the car accident, holding his daughters limp body, laying it among flowers, below a willow tree. He remembers forcing himself to leave the person most important to him in the world, tears in his eyes, and, later, the feeling of the ladder in his hands as he climbed down into the bomb shelter as a red flash streaks through the sky above him.

Suddenly, the man is jolted from his memory. His body bashes against a rough surface and his eyes burst open. A wooden door greets him, welcoming him with a hard hug. One note, then another, meet his ears, beating down on him with heaviness of the past. The song that he once recognized feels distant, but the meaning is something he has never forgotten.

He rushes inside, eager to escape the brutal sun. The man is greeted by old, dusty books, and a faint breeze that flow through the broken window. He spins around, searching for the source of the music. In a corner of the room he sees a music player with the cord plugged into the wall.

With a rush of excitement he shifts the player in his hands, searching for an opening to reveal its inner workings. He flings off a small panel on one side and holds the music player up to his eyes. With a gasp he pulls out a tiny music box and the music comes to a stop.

He shrivels with sadness, sinking to the floor, shoulders against the wall, sobbing. His mind races, searching for a reason for such a blatant reminder of his daughter. He asks the music box to have a conscious, to speak to him, to explain the unexplainable, and yet he can’t help but hear a voice in his head, whispering his daughters name.

Hours later he lies, shivering on the floor, overtaken by a restless sleep. Even as he dreams he feels a presence. A shadow. As his eyes flutter open he see his daughter at the bookshelf, her tears falling across the pages of a book her dad had once read to her. He has a sudden urge to comfort his daughter, but is left with an empty feeling, realizing that no one is there. He runs to the books, noticing a select few which have recently shed their dust.  He knocks the pile down, searching for one book in particular, the one he had seen in his dream. It catches his eye, the bright fluorescent colored cover and glossy paper, reminding him of the many nights that he sat reading to his daughter.

Instead of reading the book he throws it back down, yelling internally at himself for being so optimistic. He becomes angry, angry at himself and the room for playing tricks on him. He shouts out loud, projecting his feelings into every corner of the room, yet his emotions continue to flood his body. He punches the table once, twice, three times, continuously, endlessly, expelling his rage for what had happened to his daughter.  He spots the books he had strewn across the table earlier and thrusts them onto the floor. Then he crumbles into a ball on the floor, sobbing.

Through his tears he scans the room, colors blending together from the salty tears filling his eyes. The books scattered across the floor catch his eye once and before he can resist he is on his knees, weeding through their pages. His tears scatter like rain across the paper, but he can not ignore the dried tears already among them, undeniably from an earlier time. It is not till minutes later that the truth actually sinks in. He ignores all reason, his mind clouded with hope: his daughter must have been here, there is no other possibility.

Bathroom Break

I spent all night last night

running to get the men in white coats

with butterfly nets

because there’s shampoo oozing out of my walls

making my bathroom tiles sticky

and I’m pretty sure I’m crazy.


don’t forget the graham crackers

or how I bites hot sticks in my free time

or how everyone else ate their marshmallows raw

while I cooked steak over a fire.

And you know, I might one day

learn to play a song on the guitar

instead of barely tuning it

the only problem being I tossed the sheets of guitar chords away

and ignored all my lessons.

Spent my time just


at the tall white bookshelf next to my chair where,

four years ago,

I tore out all the answers to the stories in my

Encyclopedia Brown books,

started a fire with them.

Duct taped my questions up in an attache

shoved them in the corner of my cellar

Finally, meet this guy,

barely even existing in my mind

threw his own sandwich on the ground,

made pens for a living until he was seventy nine,

still hasn’t bought a shower curtain that fits his




He picked all the paint off of my moms cigar box

was left with

wood and brass clasps

not unlike the eyelets in my boots

not unlike how I let too

many people

see the stockpile of salt packets on my desk

the eyes drawn on every round object in my room

and the big reminder on the wall that there’s no jam or butter here

just a lot of scrap paper I’ll never use

and notions of parasols.

A Different Perspective

Dangerous. Deadly. Threatening. That’s what they called it. But all I could see was an innocent puppy who needed love, care, and food. A lot of food.

I looked at the sickly figure, bones clearly visible under the skin and the sorrowful chocolate brown eyes. I winced, and feeling sorry for it, I ran inside to grab some food. I came back out with a piece of bread in my hands, greeted by the same dog running around in happy circles.

Despite countless warnings from my aunt and relatives, I was going to pet this stray. They hadn’t seen that these dogs could be gentle, so they didn’t know. Cautiously, I put my arm around to pet it.

I smiled at the sight and cautiously put my arm out to pet it. I loved dogs, and usually showed no hesitation, but this time I was more careful. Though it seemed good-natured, it was still a stray, and you never know what might happen.

Surprisingly, it let me pet it, tail wagging impossibly harder. I dropped the bread on the ground and it immediately gobbled it up in mere seconds. I called out to my cousin to bring some more, and he arrived, a new bread in his hands. He pet the dog too, grinning at the stray’s enthusiasm.

“We’ll call him Noko,” he announced. I laughed at the funny sounding name and tried out the feel of it in my mouth. I agreed, and it seemed Noko did too, trotting over every time we called his name.

Even as we were laughing and playing with him, I felt a wave of sadness hit me. I was surprised at the sudden emotion, and it soon became apparent why I felt a little sad. Because even if I was helping out this one little dog, I couldn’t help them all. But I wanted to.

Nobody deserved this kind of living. Starving on the street, eating out of the garbage, and having no one who cares what happens to it. Especially in India, where stray dogs were becoming a serious problem, whether or not they seriously acknowledged it. It was a battle, because killing the strays was inhumane and illegal, while neutering/spaying them was considered too expensive, so the dogs were merely left there.

But were there any solutions?

Naturally, curious about other people’s view on it, I googled it. But most people online simply wrote about how they’ve been attacked and the dogs should be put down. If only there was a way everyone could win. Something everyone would be happy about.

But there was a way I could help.

At that moment, in that situation, I told myself that one day I would do something that would notify this problem to the rest of the world. Write a book, make a speech, or open up a website. Because that day, I learned two things: that even the smallest change can help out someone and that first impressions aren’t everything. I thought about Noko, and how he would probably benefit everyday from me simply giving him some food.

Most people stayed far away from strays, but what if all they needed was a chance? I knew they could be really dangerous, but that was mostly because they were in conditions where they needed to fight for survival.

On my last day staying there in India, Noko stayed longer than usual, almost like he knew. It was strange, but it might have been that sixth sense that people say dogs have. I was leaving at about nine o’clock, and by the time I was getting ready to leave, I was surprised to find him still there. He usually left at seven, but he was still there, in the dark.

I gave him one last scratch on the ear, my eyes following his figure through the window of the car when I got in. I took my last glimpse at him and said my goodbyes, accepting but sad. Before I looked away, I caught the glint of metal chains against the harsh streetlight, on the corner of the street and forgotten. I turned back around in my seat and didn’t look back.

I used to be ignorant but never again. Never again would I be able to forget. Each time I saw a dog, the only thing that came to mind was Noko. Poor Noko, who would never know the joys of having a safe home, and food, and a family who loved you. I may have been younger, but I still knew at that time that everyone deserves someone who cares for you.

And now, I’m writing this essay. I’m writing this as I remember the coffee colored eyes that changed me. The ones that drowned me in ase This is the first time I’ve been able to do something that may help. I can only hope that this small change can cause a ripple that spreads. So someone else can know about this too.


Drop a lightbulb onto any surface

Watch the splinters on the skin morph into perfect shards

Flying everywhere, exposing the wiring inside.

A candle sputtering the last of its wick;

the wax dripping onto a finely polished table.

The anatomy of a kaleidoscope seems symmetrical

But bits of unshaped, colored glass reflecting each other

Create the eccentric designs and intangible pictures

Encased inside their hollow shell.

A hall full of mirrors gives no sense of direction

Walk round and round and watch everyone stare back.

Be entertained by the blistering paint

Observe it peel in long strips, bottom to top

as you hang upside down

from the ceiling

Do You Believe in the Devil?

“John, do you believe in the devil?”

John looks up from his book, the old, yellowed pages a sign of its age and use.

“I’m sorry?” he asks, confused and little bit frightened. He looks over at his traveling companion for the week. They were on mail duty that week, getting the mail from their little town in the middle of the desert to one of the larger towns, like Sugar Pine.

“I asked, if you believe in the devil,” he states plainly, and John looks into the crackling fire. The wind blows in his direction, and he squints from the smoke blowing into his eyes.

“I don’t suppose I do, Will,” John says, shaking his head.

William chuckles and nods. “Ah. Not a religious man then.”

John shakes his head, and looks up at the sky full of bright stars, smiling. “My mother was though.”

William smirks and nods. “Yes, John is a very religious name.”

“What about you?” John looks over at William, who is also looking up at the stars.

“Hm?” he asks, looking over at John.

“Do you believe in the devil?” John asks.

William chuckles, and John laughs with him, the tension of the moment subsiding slightly. “Of course I do.”

John stops laughing as William’s eyes meet his. John freezes, and for a moment, William disappears, and something else takes his place. But it was only for a moment, because when John blinks, he’s back.

William gets up, and walks around the burning fire towards John. “You’ve heard ‘em talking, haven’t you? The town, the other deputies…” William pauses, and a wry smirk makes its way onto his face. “The pastor.”

William wasn’t normally a menacing man. He was creepy, sure, but he could hold a conversation. But John had never seen him like this, with murder in his soul and a hint of the devil in his eye. John was actually scared of this man.

William places his hands on his hips, resting his right hand on his pistol. He looks down at his gun, and uses his left hand to pull it out. He looks it over, and puts it away in his right hip holster instead. His smirk is wider as he says, “It’s a sign of the devil, bein’ left handed. It’s said that people who’re left handed are marked by the devil to be evil.”

John swallows instinctively out of fear, but doesn’t move, for the fear of being shot by one of the men he trusted outweighed his need to run. “Well, I’m sure that’s not really true…” John trails off, looking at the ground next to him, then up at the rocks lining their little canyon, and then at one of the long dead trees sporadically placed here and there. Anywhere but William’s eyes.

“For some, maybe, but those are the people who have the evil beat out of them by the lord,” William states, waving his statement off. John’s eyes are drawn to William’s, and he sees the murder in them, the sadistic horror that only awaited John this night. “I didn’t get that privilege, of meeting our lord. The devil had too much of a grip on my soul to want to let go.”

John leans back, reaching for his colt, but as he palms the dirt, it’s gone. Looking behind him, all of his guns were gone, and when he looks back, William has his colt in his hands.

William, scrutinizing the powerful weapon, turns it around in his hands, running his fingers over the beautiful carvings in the wood and metal. He holds it out in front of him, and up to John’s head, the gun in his left. “It’s not hard to see why. Why they think that, that is.”

“Who… who are you?” John asks, and William, or whoever he is, shrugs.

“I guess no one really knows. I wouldn’t suspect you, a man without religion, to know…” He shrugs, but the gun doesn’t move. John’s eyes widen, and he starts to shake. John doesn’t know when his eyes started filling with tears, but the harder William pressed the gun to his face, the more the tears threatened to fall. His skin felt like it was boiling under the heated glare. He could feel the cool tears now rushing down his cheeks, and sweat pooling underneath him, soaking his clothes, but it didn’t help. Nothing could bring him reprieve from the feeling of having his skin burned off him. He could feel his heart give way, stopping and starting every time William said or did something, beating faster and working harder than he’s sure it’s ever before. His head is pounding with an ache that’s so severe, John’s almost afraid his head is going to explode. Looking up into William’s red eyes, John’s world changes. William smirks as John has his epiphany, a curious and sadistic look replacing the look of the devil in his eye, because William didn’t just have the devil in his eye, he was the Devil himself. “Still don’t believe?”

“William?” John asks, but the devil standing above him just laughs.

“What a stupid name, William. That was his name.” He points to his body, William’s body. “But that’s not my name, is it?” John shakes his head hurriedly, and the man above him chuckles. He takes a step closer and puts the cold barrel of the gun to John’s head. John gulps, looking up at him, fear completely taking over his expression. “Say my name, John.”

There’s a pause, and for just a second, John doesn’t say anything, but when the gun is pressed harder into his forehead, he whimpers quietly, and speaks. “Satan.”

A gunshot goes off, a body falls to the floor, and standing above John’s lifeless body, the Devil is grinning down at him. “See you in Hell, John.”

The Skeletons in My Closet

Thunder cracked as lightning branched from the sky.

“Let’s move!”

The hazard lights flashed, and the windshield wipers beat rapidly as I scooped the raccoon’s body into a bag. Jumping into the car, my dad swerved back onto the freeway.

“Muy, time to wake up.” My dad switched on the light. It was time for school.

On the shoulder of a nearby freeway exit slumped a large raccoon. We strategized to harvest the raccoon’s skull the next night when traffic was light, but the law foiled our plan: picking up roadkill was illegal.

My skull collection began when my seven-year-old eyes spotted a glimmering seagull skull sinking beneath the ocean waves. My family and I traveled to Half Moon Bay in late November to explore the tide pools as the ocean waves receded. It was one of my few off days from gymnastics. At the time, I was spending twenty hours a week in the gym, spinning around bars and cartwheeling on beams.

I started gymnastics when I was two years old, inspired by gymnast Carly Patterson during the 2004 Olympics. I watched in awe as she flipped across the TV screen and stuck a perfect landing.

“I wanna do that!” I exclaimed, and for the next ten years, my life revolved around gymnastics. I skipped birthday parties and playdates for hours of practice and competitions.

The next school day, I walked up to my friends during lunch with my skull in hand, excited to show them what I had found over the weekend. They grabbed their lunchboxes and ran away. I put the skull away, attempting not to alienate any more of my classmates.

My first two best friends threw tanbark in my face and wheeled bikes into my shins. “You’re stupid,” they said. “We don’t want to be friends with you.” Any new friends I made were no different: they slammed my books into puddles and threw them into the trash cans. They snatched my glasses and dragged them against the concrete.

When I was eight years old, my dad found a dead sparrow glued to a rat trap in our backyard. Knowing my affinity for skulls, he suggested that we harvest the skull. After a long afternoon, I had a pearly white sparrow skull to add to my collection. While the sparrow’s life had ended, its legacy endured. The skull served as a physical reminder of its life.

The same year, my violin teacher passed away. She was my mom’s viola teacher, and when she heard I wanted to begin learning violin, she quickly took me on. I stood nervously in her doorway, attempting to hide behind my mom as she rang the doorbell.

My teacher opened the door with a wide grin on her face. She had brilliant blue eyes, contrasting with her short peppered hair. Within the first day, I learned to hold my violin and play the open strings. We played duets, and I loved going to lessons.

Our lessons stopped abruptly. My mom told me that my teacher had gotten sick, and I expected that it’d pass within a few weeks and we’d be playing together soon. The next time I saw her, she was in a nursing home, her grip weak and sweaters loose.

She died later that year.

Not long after, my grand-aunt passed away from a stroke. I once ran through her house, using her collection of half-dried markers to color the pages of my taped and stapled books. She handed me sugar cubes and roasted pumpkin seeds as I slipped from room to room. When my sister and I pressed half bitten strawberries on each other’s white shirts, she quickly joined in, chasing us around the house. The pink circles on our shirts were evidence of our crime.

The people I loved the most were gone, but like the sparrow, they had left behind a never-ending legacy. They had loved me and supported me no matter what. Even though they were gone physically, they lived on in memories that would be cherished forever.

Today, I own eight skulls, each telling a unique story with every suture, cavity, and tooth. Skulls were no longer just a novelty but a staple in my life. I proudly displayed every new addition to my collection despite the horrified looks on my friends’ faces, even taking joy in their shocked expressions.

Last Christmas, I received an impala skull with beautiful, long, black horns and swirling sutures. I giddily pulled the skull from the box, excitedly examining it until my eyes drifted to its broken nose; it wasn’t perfect. Aligning the broken pieces on the skull, I glued the pieces in place.

I checked on my skull first thing the next morning. After a hefty layer of wood glue, the broken pieces of my impala skull stayed in place. From a distance, it looked like every other impala skull, but the outline of yellow glue gave it character, something only I knew was there.

I have always been strong, rejecting help from others, pushing myself to my limits, and internalizing physical and emotional abuse. Given enough time, bones can heal, but not as fast as if they are wrapped in a plaster cast. Scars and bandages mask wounds but do not erase them. Wounds make you stronger.

After years of bullying and grief, I have learned to embrace my quirks. I am different than everyone else, and I’m proud of it; it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

Skulls go beyond looks and superficial personalities; they are who you are. They change as you change, they grow as you grow. Every skull is complete with the muscles to support it, but they are independent, unique, and perfect in their own way.

The Goldin Era

girls like moths he said  musical thrilling voices

long slender limbs she said silk column dresses

tight tilted faces   I read framed by sleek bobs

eight Louis heels softly bobbing the thick throb of lifting thighs

T-straps dipping into plush grass They’re getting muddy

calves long and shapely burn with lac tic ac id

misty pale in the sunset-drip

one girl spells Ls of her arms, Who designed this hill?

crosses their raised nap

guarding her rib-ridged chest. It’s awful cold

At the house

the doorbell lost in cheerful chatter Maybe press it again—

show themselves in, confident women —uncertain girls

The cheap sneer of polysatin

Running, splashing, hiding across dresses

The hostess appears, pulled patch in her sleeve

wide in the electric glare

Gaping threads, perfectly even teeth look slippery—

like bathwater

on composite countertops

necks swiveling like swans uneasy.

Scanning, leaping

from face to frizz-topped face Is that—?

A crown—no, a helmet

Of gaud-yellow hair reassembled

Stiff as laughter

Crescent moon in reverse

Dirt under a trimmed pointer nail

Against a sky of smuggled smiles

The elegant flow of another gallant pour

Champagne groping awkwardly

For the glass caught off-guard





the wet sound of it

Nod at Me

nod at me nod at the rooftop do it nod

acknowledge the bathtub on the penthouse garden where i am with my friends taking photos in cowboy boots


slips in monochromatic feels

we are 22

we are new york


we are living like western gods so


taking photos in red cowboy boots on the fourth of july like real americans not millennials

and i nod that barbaric yawp

biting at raw U.S. air

at the marks seen through fake silk a material that lost its name scaling the stairs to the rooftop and i found mine in people who know that photos should be zoomed at angles and only in high waisted white underwear on firescapes if not rooftops

where people don’t nod even if you nod please nod please validate our bathtub party

on the fourth of american july and nod

come in and join us

red white and blue bubble bath drowns out balcony noise of

the spice girls on top of this patio looking like nineties does seventies wrong in the south

why aren’t you nodding

at whisky stained flags marking this territory as the girls

join our cult instead

where we fear the laundromat so all our scarves remain signals in the wind yelling

we are poor! we are poor millennials!

the sun she agrees with us wiping the shadows of laundry away her smoldering beams

the natural world is all on our side and yet

you glare on

why look down why look down at that goddamn paper clip you don’t even know if its silver or gold you can look at me clearly im golden were glowing like goddamn aphrodite in spurs

gold spurs spurring dirty old bathtub water we dump off the roof onto people who won’t nod

but even they nod at you look at you why aren’t you nodding

you step over the paper clip into reality into manhattan where bathtubs are indoors and life is all silver not gold

happy fourth of july this is america where no one no gods just millennials

nod transcendentalist yawps in the sky

it’s the young who know it’s still a paperclip

silver new york at most

why aren’t you nodding america

this is our country

bow down to your gods

The Adventures of Rusty and Runty

When two sailors of the open seas

Come forth to a ruler of fortune and keys

Whence spews forth a prince who wears gold

Who has weak bones and a fragile mold

Together they sail for the deepest caves

Darkest corners

And an interesting enclave

Together two fight

A creature of snarl and bite

Then as they draw their pistols

And fire bullets by the fistfuls

The creature grabs one in rage

With the deadliness of a bacteriophage (i was desperate)

But together they fight hard

Fending off the creature

By Playing the cannon card

When the ship is impaled by a needle

On the island of the lethal

They take the rest on foot

Soon to be shook

By a monster of fear and terror

When Saved by the bearers

Of skull masks and spears

And an evil agenda

Stored between their ears

When taken to the rooms

Of their kidnappers of doom

They must speak their way out

Rather than slash and shout

And here one shines and shows

Who once did nothing but crow

Of discomforts and complaints

With terrible temper

And little constraint

With overwhelming speed

And a deadly steed

They made their escape

things escalate

They steal a new boat

And cut someone’s throat

Sailing away to the seas

In order to find

the lands of grass and trees

Danger in Life and Death




The camera focuses on a lady (Ivy), arms outstretched, holding onto a support beam. She’s high up in the air and on the outer edge of the bridge. She looks around 17 years old, and she’s crying. Looking down at the water that is at least 200 feet below her. The currents are strong. Car horns honk in alarm and warning behind her. All sound around her fades except for her heartbeat.


We can jump together Ivy. It’ll be so real. All the pain you’ve gone through, all of the suffering, it’ll disappear. It’ll subside. All you have to do is…

Ivy’s head snaps up from the water as a man in a black leather jacket and long hanging dark hair comes climbing towards her cautiously but fast. He’s yelling at her to stop, to not jump. Ivy looks back to the water, tears still streaming down her face.


You can do it, Ivy! We can do it. You just have to trust me.

Ivy slowly loosens her grip on the support beam.


Your family doesn’t love you. No one understands you like I do. We can be together in peace and harmony once you jump.

Ivy shakes her head


But, I’ll die.


But is death really punishment when life was hell on Earth?

Ivy finally looks up at the skyline stretched out on both ends of the bridge, closing in together on the horizon. The view is beautiful. She opens her arms and closes her eyes shut tight, releasing the beam, the man is still climbing towards her. She stands still for a moment, but then gravity gets the best of the situation. One last tear falls down Ivy’s cheek, and then she’s falling.

The wind whipping her face, the tears stinging her eyes. But Ivy… her face has no regret whatsoever. She’s ready for death. But then, suddenly, she’s suspended in air. She looks up at what has held her back, and the man is holding her up. He saved her. She looks up at him.

The Man

We can’t let you die. Not just yet, anyways.

SCENE TWO – One month earlier

Ivy pushes the door to her room open. Sleep is still lingering on her face. It’s late at night, but she must have woken up from one of those nightmares she keeps having. She shuffles down the long carpeted hallway and drags herself by a closed door, only stopping there for a second. Listening. There is a shuffling sound behind the door but Ivy walks on to go down the stairs.

On the other side of the door, a woman stands hunched over a desk. We can’t see her face, but she’s sad. You can tell from everything about her. From the way she holds herself to the way a tear drops onto the wooden desk. A picture frame shows the picture of a man, a women, and Ivy. It’s the family. She’s about to pick it up when the phone rings in the room. She walks over towards it and hesitates a second as she looks at the unknown caller id, but then picks it up. Cradling it next to her face.

“Hello? Who is this?”

Someone on the other end begins to speak

“Hi, I was a friend of David’s. I think you might need my help.”

“With what may I ask?”

A quizzical look crosses her face, and then understanding, and then disbelief. Before the man can speak, she cuts in.

“Wait, are you Walter?”

“Yes that’s me.”

“Oh, David talked about you quite a bit.”

“Yes, we were co-workers.”

She waits for a second before answering.

“Do you want to come over sometime, we can talk then.”

“Oh, so you know why I’m calling.”

“Yes, but I don’t want to have this conversation now. I can’t help but feel that this is not the right time or place.”

There’s a pause.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Is it too soon? I understand if you’d like to mourn for a bit longer before we have this conversation.”

She looks startled. But then shakes her head.

“No, I just don’t think that our conversation is only being heard between us two right now.”

“I see. Then, in that case, I feel no need to continue if I’ll see you sometime soon.”

“Yes, what about noon on saturday. I should be free then?”

“Okay. Goodbye. I have to go now. See you then.”

“Bye now.”

She hangs up and fumbles to put the phone back on its stand before rushing toward the door. She swings it open suddenly and looks both ways down the hallway. As if she’s searching for someone. She relaxes for a split second before a sound of something clattering comes from downstairs. She rushes down the stairs and into the kitchen only to see Ivy picking up a spoon from the floor. She’s standing on the other side of the island. The woman puts on a smile, and Ivy returns it.

“Hello Ivy. Why are you up at this time?”

Ivy tilts the milk carton in her hand over a mug on the counter and lets the milk pour into the cup.

“Nightmare, again.”

“Oh, I told you how to get rid of those.” The woman nods with disapproval.

“Yes, I know.” Ivy stops pouring the milk and closes the cap on the carton.

“Once your done, you’ll go back to sleep? The milk should help.”

“Probably.” Ivy thinks for a second while she turns to put the milk in the fridge. “What were you doing in dad’s room, mom? I thought you never go in there.”

The mom’s face is tense. She frowns slightly. But then looks at Ivy and smiles.

“Oh, nothing, just a business call.”

“This late?” Ivy questions, grabbing her mug in both of her hands as if she were cradling a cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter day.

“Yes, this late.” The mother states matter of factly. “Now, I’m going to bed. Make sure you get some rest.”


The mom slowly climbs up the stairs.

“Goodnight, Ivy.”

And she disappears upstairs, Ivy sips from her cup just as an alert dings on her phone face down beside her on the counter. She puts down the milk and grabs her phone. As she reads whatever it is that she got, she smiles. Then, without even letting her mother know, she grabs her coat and shoves on her shoes and creeps out the front door with her phone in hand. The cold mid-night wind whips against Ivy’s face so she tries to keep her head down. Across the street, houses identical to hers are shown in a nice row. She takes a left off of her front lawn and hurries down the street. Upon arriving to the next corner, she takes another left to reveal a busy avenue. People bustle about and car horns honk. But she isn’t out there long because about two or three doors in, she turns and enters a diner. It’s quiet inside, music playing through old speakers in the ceiling. Only a few people are inside talking amongst themselves. She walks up to the bar and sits beside a boy who’s slumped over his phone. A hat over his head. She taps his shoulder.

“Hey,” Ivy says, almost in a whisper.

The boy looks up. He’s maybe 15-16 and some sort of mustache is already forming on his upper lip. When he smiles, wrinkles form around his eyes.

“Hey, Ivy!” he says.

She takes off her coat and puts it next to her.

“So, what’s the emergency?” she says casually.

“Oh, nothing really. I just couldn’t sleep,” he stutters. Ivy looks at him quizzically.

“Me neither, but I know that’s not it. What’s up?” she pushes.

The boy sighs, but looks around before starting to talk. For the first time, he looks really scared.

“Something happened last night, Ivy. And I really just don’t know what to do.”

“What?” Ivy asks. Her eyes lighting up in curiosity.

“This man, he showed up at my doorstep. He rang the bell but no one answered because we were all asleep. My sister was out at a party and my parents were away.”

“So, it was just you?”

He nods.

“So what happened?”

“I swear, I don’t know this guy. I never gave him a key or anything. But he got in my house and woke me up.”

“What?” Ivy screams.

“Keep it down, Ivy,” the boy hisses.

Ivy ducks her head and continues in a yell/whisper.

“But that’s breaking and entering. Do you know how scary that is? You’re lucky you’re still alive. Do you want me to call my mom, file a police report?” she hisses right back.

“Yes, yes. I know. But I think you’ll want to know what he said to me right after that.” He takes a big breath. Inhale, exhale. “He said I had to bring him to Ivy Dun. He said he’d kill my family and anyone I care about just to get to you. He said I’d better cooperate, it’s your life or my family’s. And he looked like he meant it. That’s what scares me.”

Ivy frowns, in deep thought.

“Do you remember what he looks like, Logan?”

Logan shakes his head no. But then he says something more.

“He said his name was José. Does that spark anything? Any memory, anything?”

“No, why?” Ivy asks.

“Well, he said that you once knew a José. You never paid much attention to him, but you knew him. And now he intends on getting back into your life because it’s life or death.”

“No, I don’t know a José.”

“You sure?”

Yes! I’m sure.” Ivy is back to whisper/yelling again. But calms down after taking a deep breath. “So, what are you going to do?”

Logan gives her a sad and knowing look.

“Ivy.” He’s trying to reason with her. Make her see his way. “You know I love you, but it’s family over anything. I need them. I can’t put them in any danger.”

“And you think that this whole situation is doing exactly that don’t you?” Ivy says, finally understanding with a sad look on her face. And even a hint of betrayal.

“I have to tell him everything I know about you,” he says. “There’s nothing else I can do.” He sighs.

“There’s always another way.”

He shakes his head vigorously. “Not one that won’t put anyone in danger.”

Just as Ivy is about to respond, her mom bursts through the diner door. A mad look on her face. She’s furious.

Ivy! You better give me a good explanation for why in the world you are up here at this time of night!” Everyone turns their heads towards the mom.

The owner who was previously behind the counter working with a waiter turns towards the mom.

“Oh! Mayor Dun! What a lovely surprise. No one expected to see you here at this time of night! Would you like something, on the house of course.” The owner says with fake delight.

Mayor Dun looks at the owner but doesn’t even acknowledge that he said something. She storms over to her daughter. Ivy looks at Logan with a worried expression.

“I’m sorry mom, it was urgent,” Ivy pleads.

“Urgent enough for you to not even let your mom know? You know what could’ve happened to you out here alone at this time of night?”

Ivy looks down in embarrassment. Everyone in the entire diner is watching the scene play out. It’s not every day that the mayor comes in and starts yelling at her daughter. Ivy’s mom focuses her attention at Logan who suddenly seems to have shrunk in his seat.

“And you, young man, you should know better than to even ask my daughter to come out at this time of night,” she says

“How’d you know he even asked me? How’d you know it wasn’t my idea?” Ivy intervenes.

“Well, was it?” Ivy’s mom huffs.

Ivy shakes her head no, slowly. And then her mom starts tugging her towards the door to leave.

“And shave that dirt off your lip too if you want to be seen in public with my daughter!” the mayor announces at Logan over her shoulder.

Logan absently rubs his little mustache just as Ivy and her mom leave.

The mayor drags her daughter down the street by her arm.

“Damn it, Ivy! I don’t even want to know what you were doing there. I just want an apology!”

“Sorry.” Lauren lets go of Ivy’s arm slowly and waits a second in silence.

“But it would be nice if you at least had one good reason.” The mom huffs. Ivy pauses.

“Well, I don’t, Lauren… I don’t.” She sighs.

“Either way, I never want to see you doing that again.” They’ve turned the corner now and are approaching their house again.

“I don’t know if you’ll have to,” Ivy whispers.

Lauren glances at her daughter but says nothing, she just digs in her pocket and retrieves her keys. Then she opens the door with the keys and steps into the house. The light is still on, the shoes next to the door are strewn around obviously because Lauren left in a rush. Hair rollers are in a little pile on the dining room table and a robe is hanging over a chair.

“The things I do for you Ivy, the things I do… ” Lauren says to herself and then slowly walks up the stairs. Leaving a tired-looking Ivy standing in front of the door. Ivy turns around to close the door but sees a dark figure rushing behind her house to the left when she does.

“What?” Ivy says, startled.

She rushes out the door and turns on her lawn to get a better look around to the back of her house. She sees nothing but the small downwards hill of a backyard behind her house. Yet, she still squints her eyes and cranes her neck to stare into the darkness. After a long moment, she gives up and walks back into the house. Shutting the door behind her and locking it. After slipping off her shoes, she walks upstairs and goes into her bedroom. Not even caring that she never even changed out of her now dirty pajamas, she hops into the bed and pulls the covers all the way up to her chin. She stares at the ceiling for a while. It’s then that she hears someone ring on her doorbell downstairs. She makes to get out of bed until she hears her mother opening and closing her bedroom door in the next room. She hears the sounds of footsteps shuffling down the stairs and her mother opening the door. The conversation is heard in muffled tones from downstairs.

“Hello. And just who are you?” Lauren says.

A man’s voice is heard.

“Greetings, my name is José and I have a few questions for you.”

Ivy’s eyes widen in her bed.

Scene Out

The Infection (Excerpt)

Chapter Eleven

I jolt out of sleep and am met by a wave of relief. So it WAS just a dream! That kind of dream drains me emphatically. Wow, I’m thirsty. I get out of bed to get a drink of water. As I go out, I stub my big toe on the doorway. I yell several words that my mother would not approve of, and I stumble out the door. I faceplant on the floor.

I limp towards the bathroom, or at least, the direction I imagine the bathroom to be.

… And I run smack into a wall.

Yeah, of course I do.

Why? Because the bathroom door is no longer present. Just to piss me off, life gives me a dream-inside-a-dream. They’re the most tiring kind. The relief just fades so fast, especially with bad dreams.

I lumber back over to my bed, hoping it might go away. What better place for a dream to end than in a bed? You never know when you might have just been hallucinating and you’ll wake up in the warm morning.

I come into contact with another wall. Well, there goes that.

What’s eery is that this environment is exactly the same as my last dream. It’s like the dream is repeating itself in some horrible, tormenting way. And I just won’t wake up.

So, I begin to walk through the hall, longer than ever, simply because it’s the only way out. And the mesmerizing pattern, again and again and again. It’s even more frustrating because it’s not even the carpet I remember from our apartment. Then again, what about this torturous dream isn’t frustrating?

I just want to get it over with, but my brain won’t comply with that demand. No matter how far I walk, I don’t seem to get anywhere. My feet get sore, my eyes get heavy, and I feel like I’m about to collapse. Just as I’m about to actually do so, something changes. Nothing becomes visually different, but my feelings of boredom and drowsiness change to fear and panic.

I turn instinctively, feeling as if retreat might at least let me end this nightmare where my “home” was. But it’s pitch black behind me, and creeping tendrils of darkness extend from the shadows that chase me.

I run.

I try to calm myself, to no avail, by whispering to myself in my head. It’s just a dream. It’s just a dream. It’s just a dream. But I was definitely failing to convince myself, because all I could think of was being consumed by whatever (I thought) was chasing me.

In my frightened panic, I make a mistake. I turn around to look behind me, as if something was there. And something was there. The darkness had begun to form into something, malevolent and embraced in the darkness of the shadowy hall. This time, I got a glimpse of what it might have been.

Its eyes glow white with the empty void of death. I don’t know how, but the shining light that threatened to end my existence reeked of torture and the screams of its victims. Its shape is veiled, but I can feel the very aura of its destructive potential emanating from its wraithlike black form.

I try to escape as best I can, but like before, the hallway begins to come to an end. A door stands there, but I have no time to look at it, because I’m already through it. The room is empty, and the door is no match for the creeping entity. As it bursts through, the shadows are upon me.

The tentacles of dark matter begin to crush the life out of me. I start to cough up blood as I run out of air. I know it’s just a dream, but the pain is somehow real. I can feel every razor-sharp blade of shadow pierce my flesh, every gasp of air get choked out of my body. And as I’m finally on the brink of death…

It stops.

The creature had faded into nothingness, leaving only a wisp of black smoke and the fragrance of rotting flesh.

The door has disappeared behind me, but it doesn’t matter to me. I wouldn’t make it either way. I stumble over to a tiny, box-shaped window — identical to the one in the first version of this nightmarish hallucination. At the foot of it is a dead body. It’s a terrifying revelation to figure out that it was my body. But I’m far too exhausted to care, too desperate to end this horrid experience. I gaze through the window as I had done before, in the hopes that it would end.

I see myself, once more, staring in shock as the light leaves me.

And that’s the last thing I see before my vision fades to black.

Bad American Food

There was once a diner on the highway. It was small and dinky, but charming in that old time sense. It invoked a 50’s style aesthetic, with a shiny metallic roof and dim neon signs announcing to the world that it is, in fact, open. The food was bad, no doubt about it. But the people were nice, and the music wasn’t too intrusive, and anyway no one would stay here for very long. After all, it was on the highway. The owner, Johnny Smith, would always say he was gonna start up a new place, up on the 88. He never did though. Barely had enough to scrap this place together, he’d always reasoned.

There once was a Chinese restaurant, in a city far away from the highway. It was never successful, but it made enough to stay afloat. With a red awning covered with yellow Chinese characters, and English ones underneath, it did little to separate itself from anyone else in Chinatown. The food wasn’t particularly special here either, but no one could really tell. After all, did Americans really understand Chinese food? It was named Wang’s, but the owner was named Luo Jinping. He’d always say that a Chinese restaurant needed to be pronounceable by Americans to be successful. Some days, he would look across the street from his home above the restaurant and gaze out at the masses of people crowding the sidewalk, and he’d pray that at least one of them would find him.

There was once a pizza place, deep in suburbia. It was called “Empire Pizza,” and its gimmick was that it was vaguely modeled after the Empire State Building. Inside were all sorts of New York inspired props and scenery. The kids loved it. Day after day they poured in, ordering pizza, ice cream, pasta, meatballs, and Empire’s signature “Deluxe 5th Avenue Sundae Supreme.” The food itself was, of course, nothing to write home about. Parents only came here because how else would they get their kids to shut up about it? The owner, Jim Evans, liked to greet customers on weekends. Every time he saw a parent and their children walk in, he felt a little pang of regret in his heart.

There once was a wildly successful fast food chain, which sold overcooked burgers and obscenely salty French fries. They were called Sally’s Fries, and their mascot was a little blond girl holding a spatula. Sally was the founder’s daughter. Allegedly, she had made those very first fries all on her own, and her daddy made a business out of selling them. Of course, Sally never did make those fries, and she always resented her father for making her into a marketing tool. Though she objected countless times, her face eventually became a very lucrative one. Her father always regretted estranging her, but hey, at least he made some money off of it.

I was once very hungry, so I searched for restaurants on Google Maps. On the highway was a small diner, in the city was a Chinese place, in the suburbs was a pizzeria, and in two places near me was a fast food outlet.

But they all were below four stars, so I passed and opened Seamless instead.

Secrets That Lie Beyond the Front Door

Chapter One

“Looks can be deceiving.”

I wipe my eyes as I close the door behind me. Walking down this uneven dirt road brings back memories of when she used to skip down a sunny road with the cherubic face of a child wedged in her arms. As I keep walking towards the yellow school bus, I think about the time when I refused to go on the bus without my mother right by my side. As I walk on the bus, the whispering automatically stops. I hear kids making fun of my clothing. The hand-me-downs I wear still smell of her perfume, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle. So many years later and these are the kind of memories that still haunt me. I don’t dare say a word to the “popular kids,” so I won’t end up on the floor of the schoolyard. Not that it would be any different from the floor in my bedroom.

It all started ten years ago, on Friday the thirteenth, the afternoon my mother died. I was eight years old when I heard the gunshots that caused my mother to lay on her deathbed. My “dad” wouldn’t even speak to me for the next week. When I asked him where to put all of mom’s clothes, he threw the glass he was drinking from at the wall nearest to my head. Even to this day, if I say the name Dana, he flinches.

This morning, I was sitting on the white plush chair in my room asking my dad if I could wear mom’s dress for my eighteenth birthday. He slid the chair from under me which made me land on the somewhat fluffy rug. The next thing I knew, I had a black and blue mark on my forehead when I heard the school bus halt to a stop.

Eventually, lunchtime came, and I texted Syd and told her to come to the library (our daily meeting spot). I opened my pale purple JanSport backpack and took out my book. As I was opening to page 134, Syd walked in saying, “How surprising, Laila has her head stuck in a book.”

“Shhhhh. I am in the middle of someone getting saved from drowning.”

I took out my PB&J from my sparkly purple, black, and blue lunch bag. As she sat down, she pulled out a white and blue striped box saying happy birthday in pink letters.

“Thanks,” I said, as I pushed the gift box to the side to make more room for my book.

“Aren’t you going to open it?”

“In a second. The girl just got saved by her prince charming (cliche), but she is still unconscious.”

“Still waiting.”


As I was opening the gift, I saw black and rose gold pieces of clothing peek out of the box. First, I took out two rose gold rompers with the shoulders cut out. Then, I took out a black dress with a halter at the top.

”I wanted to ask you what happened to your forehead.”

“Oh, that. Um, I was hit with a softball… ”

“You don’t even play softball.”

“You know… um… the bus gets crazy sometimes.”

Okayyy. Anyways, I wanted to take you to a movie for your birthday.”

“Sure. What time?”

“Five sharp. I’ll meet you outside the AMC on 109th street. Okay?”

“See you then.”

The bell rings…

In break, on the phone.

“Hey, Dad. I’m going to study in the library after school.”

“You need to be home by eight and no later, or you’re going to regret it.”

“K. Bye.”

Hangs up the phone…

I’m not going to get caught. It’s fine. I’m totally fine.

After school…

“Hey. Do you want to eat something quick before the movie?”

“Sure. We have a lot of time on our hands.”

“What? Why?”

“I forgot to buy the second ticket. Then, the tickets sold out. So… now we are going at 7:30 instead of 6.”

“Okay. I don’t think that’s a problem.”

A few hours later…

“So what movie are we going to see”

“It’s called, Life Is Like Riding a Bike on Fire.

“What is it about?”

“It’s about this girl that has this crush, and he doesn’t treat her right, so she breaks up with him. Kind of a cliche, but I heard it’s good. Let’s go in. It’s going to start any minute.”

Entering the room…

“Oh my gosh. WHO IS THAT.”


“The guy next to my seat.”

“Oh. That’s Michael from our school. He’s in our grade. He’s just not in any of our classes. He’s one of my brother’s best friends. He’s like a brother to me.”

We sit down…

“Hey, I’m Laila.”

“I’m Michael. I’ve seen you around school.”

“So… did you come here with anyone.”

“No. My friends ditched me. Hey, Squid.”

“Haha. Very funny, Michelle.”

I almost forgot that Syd was next to me. It was like it was just me and him in this moment.

“Ahem. Look I know you guys are vibing, but I’m here too.”

I didn’t even hear Syd. I was just focused on his perfectly shaped, tan face. His deep blue eyes pierced into my skull. Is it bad that I was just staring at his lips. Oh my gosh. I totally forgot I was supposed to be at home right now. Have you ever felt like your heart was melting all because of someone’s gaze.

“I could kiss him right now.”

Oh my gosh. I said that out loud to his face. I just got to keep my cool. I can tell he likes confidence. All he did was smirk. He knew I said that by accident.

“I have to go now. Maybe I’ll see you later.”

I was liking this new confidence of mine. Maybe a new wardrobe would suit this new attitude. After all, I did have enough money from the job I worked at in the mall.

“Come on, Syd. Let’s go.”

I gave Michael a shy smile to go.

“Hey. I need to tell you something,” said Syd.


“Please stop crushing on Michael. He’ll just break your heart, and he’s like a brother to me, so it’s really weird. K?

“I’ll try.”

“Is that a promise.”


The Case of the Missing Gem

This piece is inspired by the Sherlock Holmes series by Sir Conan Arthur Doyle

Chapter One

One day, Sherlock Jr. (Lock) got a text from Watson Jr. (Watts) telling him to come 31st Avenue. Lock rushed out and called a cab. When the cab arrived, Lock told the driver his address, and the cab sped off. When he arrived, Watts told him that the British Museum in London was robbed from the biggest diamond in the world.

The security guards recognized the detectives and waved them over. They walked over and asked the guards, “When did this happen?”

The security told them that it happened this morning. Lock asked the guards if he could go to the room where the diamond was held to do some investigating. When they got to the room, the glass cap that was previously covering the diamond was on the floor, and the diamond was gone. The room was cold but bright, and there were some windows. Watts and Lock looked around the room for fingerprints and clues. There was no one else in the room except for some guards. They found there was a green hat in the corner of the room with the letter M on it. Lock instantly knew that this hat belonged to Moriarty, Sherlock’s (Lock’s dad’s) enemy and also London’s most wanted criminal. He must have left it behind when he was escaping. They came out of the room and told the guards what Lock had found. Then, they walked out to continue their search.

They wanted to track down Moriarty to find the diamond and figure out what he was planning to do with it.

Chapter Two

Lock and Watts walked around the big museum building, looking for ways Moriarty could have escaped without being noticed. They looked around for two hours, but they found nothing. Every corner of the building was clueless.

“He must be one of the world’s greatest criminals to get away like that,” said Lock. “No wonder Dad had so much trouble catching him.”

“Moriarty could have jumped out of a window and ziplined across to some other building.”

After their discussion, Lock and Watts went to a nice cafe where they could get some coffee and discuss the case.

Chapter Three

After their coffee, the detectives went home to get some sleep. The next day, Lock and Watts went out to the nearby buildings to see if Moriarty had ziplined in and out of the museum building. The first building they checked had no signs of Moriarty, but the second house had a broken window which the criminal must have done. The detectives asked the house owners about the broken window, and they said it was not there two days ago, which is when the robbery had happened. Lock looked around and found a piece of some wire under the windowsill with the name 23rd Street Wire Company. Finding this, Lock showed it to Watts. The detectives said thank you to the house owners and walked out.

Chapter Four

The detectives headed towards 23rd Street on their motorcycles to investigate the building. From their past cases, the criminals always used the building of a company of something they’re using or wearing. When they got to the big brown building, it was as dark as night. They looked through the windows. They saw part of a big room where they expected the wire was made, and there was no one there. They entered the building. It was cold and dark. They walked through the hallway and looked through into every room. They got to the stairwell and walked up to the second floor and saw a light.

Chapter Five

The detectives walked towards the bright light. They snuck up to the corner to get a glimpse of who or what was there. At a large, brown, wooden desk sat a fat man with the same hat they found at the museum.

“This guy must be Moriarty. Quick, let’s get out of here before he notices,” Lock whispered to Watts.

“Yeah, we’ll notify the police too,” Watts answered. Suddenly, the man on the desk got up and walked towards them. The detectives ran towards the stairs.

Chapter Six

Dashing down the stairs onto the ground floor, Moriarty was gaining up on them. Luckily, the detectives got onto their motorcycles, and they got away. They rode towards the police station.

When they got to the police station, the detectives told the police to hurry up and follow them before Moriarty could get away. They sped off with five police cars following. Lock told them to circle the building and hide until Moriarty would come out. The detectives waited outside with the police. They waited for one long, cold winter hour.

Chapter Seven

Everyone was starting to fall asleep standing against their cars and motorcycles, when suddenly they heard a scuffling noise. The detectives rose to their feet where they could see the same fat man was walking out with that green M hat. The detectives gestured to the police to wait until he was closer, so they could capture him without him running away. They waited a minute or two. Moriarty started walking their direction. Watts whispered to Lock that the diamond he stole might be in his green backpack.

When the criminal got closer, the police officer said through his blow horn, “Police. Stand still. Don’t move.”

The criminal tried running the other direction when two more police cars came in and circled him. Finally, Moriarty dropped his bag and put his hands up. The officer walked up to him and put handcuffs on his hands. In several minutes, they were cruising down the street towards the police station.

Lock said cheerfully, “Another case well solved.”

The next morning, Moriarty was sent to court.

“Why did you steal the diamond?” asked the judge.

“I wanted to become a better person and sell it to some rich guy and give the money to charity,” answered Moriarty. “But if you want, you could put me in jail. I was just trying to make the world a better place.”

“Okay, I believe you, but you will still go to jail for a year, and if we catch you doing something wrong, you will go to jail for the rest of your life.”

The end

After one year in jail, Moriarty became a really nice and good person and donated a lot of money to charity.

The detectives continued solving mysteries.

The actual end.

The Diary of Evil Chicken Dude

Today, the craziest thing happened. It seemed like an ordinary day, but it wasn’t. I went to the kitchen like I do every day and waited for my mom to make me a hard boiled egg. But when she grabbed the egg, she dropped into a big pot of moldy stew. But I ate the egg anyways.

Soon, I noticed I was pooping out eggs and suddenly craved corn seeds. Then out of nowhere, I grew a beak and feathers. I turned into a human-sized chicken, then I started to do evil mean tricks and pranks. I then came to the conclusion that all my mean tricks and pranks started because of the mean old mold. I went to see the M.O.L.D. doctor for villains, and he told me my theory was true, and the M.O.L.D. doctor also said he’d ask his friends if I could join M.O.L.D..

I started my new life living alone being an evil chicken. Finally, the evil villains of M.O.L.D., which stands for mean, old, lazy dudes, called me, and now I am robbing banks and living a life of crime. I am no longer accepted at my parents’ farm since I robbed my parents of all their chickens, to make mold egg stew. I live at the M.O.L.D. headquarters and bunk with a giant lemon named Pablo.

Black Roses

We planned our funerals together. You told me you wanted black roses.

“Black roses, where can I find those?” I asked.

“I’m sure you’ll figure it out,” you smiled.

I think about that conversation a lot. I think about black roses a lot. In fact, I think about black roses so much that last summer, I tried to make one. I painted a white rose black with acrylic paint I found in my garage. It didn’t work. I threw it away. The black paint smeared on the garbage bag, leaving ugly dark streaks. Last summer was the last time I saw you. Last summer you winked at me and told me to let you know if I ever found a black rose. That was the last thing you told me before you boarded the airplane. The airplane that would take you to Guam. Guam. The island. To be honest, I’m not even sure where that is. I’m not sure why you leaving bothers me. I’m not sure why I’m still looking for black roses.

A Mother Knows Best

“What about George National High School?” asked my mom. I immediately felt my chest tighten. You had to take an admissions test and have a perfect GPA to get into George National High School. And I didn’t have the best GPA. It had its flaws, but I knew very well that I couldn’t disagree with my mother, so I had to put George National High School as one of my options. “Love, why don’t you say what you think about it? I’m just suggesting a school.”

“I don’t want to go to that school, but I don’t know why I would say that because you never take into consideration anything that I say,” I answered.

Mother ignored me and kept flipping through the big, fat book that named all the high schools that my social studies teacher gave me at the beginning of the eighth grade year. I left Mom alone in the living room and headed to my bedroom. I grabbed my laptop from my nightstand and opened it to the application page. The application started in two days, so I still had time to pick the last two schools that I needed for the list, without Mother’s “suggestions” or “recommendations.” Mother had other visions for my future: she wanted me to go to a boarding school or a private school, then have a career that was in the science or medical field. I, on the other hand, had plans to go to a good high school that was in the city and then… just let fate make my choice. Of course, I couldn’t tell this to my mother. She would argue with me and say she knew what was best for my future. But that fact was counterfeit. How could she know what was best when I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with my future?

“Dalilia?” asked Mother. I immediately closed my laptop and opened up the nearest book. “Where are you?”

“Ma, I’m in my room,” I yelled back. A few minutes later, my mother entered my room with a cup of milk and tea in her hand.

“Would you look at that… you’re back to reading,” said Mother.

“What do you mean? I always read.”

“Yeah, but you are doing it because you want to, not because I told you to… ”

“Alright… ”Another lie, but I didn’t want to argue with her. Mother had seen me read in the cafe right next to my school many times before. I kept reading while my mom placed the milk and tea on my nightstand, on top of my history notebook. Right on top of it. I felt like she forgot that tea is liquid, and the notebook had my notes for my history final.

“So, what are you reading?” she asked, tentatively.

Call Me By Your Name by — ”

“Andre Aciman,” she finished.

“Yup, that’s the one… ”

“Dalilia, you are always reading that book! Try being more diverse… ”

“I really like the book — ” I stopped myself before my mother could give me the death stare. “I will, Ma. Do you have any recommendations?”

“Try Milk and Honey,” she responded, then left my bedroom. That conversation was so unnecessary, but now I had a book recommendation. I went back to the application website and saw that some high schools allowed you to apply early. I looked at the screen and contemplated the choice I was about to make. I had always been a good child and taken my mother’s recommendations, but now something was making me rebel against my mother. I trembled as I clicked the blue apply button next to my top four choices and then watched the computer load and accept my selections. I immediately felt a wave of catharsis and sent a text informing my counselor.

Dalilia, you know your first choice was Dule Jet High School, right? she texted back.

I told her yes and the reason why I picked the school (for the puppy shelter after school program). She then sent me a picture of the school’s graduation percentage rate and the safety rate. Only 34 percent of the students had graduated in four years, and only six percent of the students felt safe in the school. This meant that the high school’s seats were not filled, and I suddenly experienced a rush of stress as I realized that it was official: I would definitely be going to this school. I threw my head face-down onto the pillow and screamed into it: College was never going to happen now. My counselor called me right in the middle of my breakdown.

“Dalilia, you might not get into the high school, maybe… ” she said. It was clear that she was trying to find a scenario in which I wouldn’t be accepted into the school, and it was also clear that she couldn’t find one. A huge sob came out of my mouth. “W-Wait, um. You could always apply to a boarding school or a private school. I believe you are smart enough to get into one… ”

I stopped crying for a good second. If I did apply for a boarding or private school, then I would have to tell my mom that I needed to take a test to be accepted. A test that I hadn’t studied for because I didn’t have time, and I’d wanted to rebel and — and — and… I broke down again.

“Ms. Sar, I’m going to have to tell my mom,” I said, between sobs. Ms. Sar stayed quiet as she listened to me weep.

“Our mothers tell us what to do for a reason, Dalilia. It’s because at the end of the day, they want us to become someone who is respected and valued. Even if your mom annoys you and punishes you, she does this so that you won’t make mistakes that affect you in the future. A mother knows best, so right now you should go talk to her about this. It’s not good to be keeping lies from her.”

I thanked Ms. Sar and hung up. I headed to the bathroom, washed my face, and dried it. Knowing my mother, she would punish me or maybe even scream at me, but you couldn’t always assume the worst. I headed downstairs and found my mother sitting on the kitchen island on her laptop. She had her glasses on and her favorite coffee mug that I gave her for her work promotion gift. I sat next to my mother and took a deep sigh.

“Ma — ”

“I know, you don’t need to tell me.”

“Wait, what? You know about the high school — ”

“Yup, I keep tabs on your computer and your phone and your Netflix account.” Yeah, talk about privacy. “And I’m proud of you for being honest and coming to me to tell me about your naive choice.” Mother’s eyes were still on the laptop screen, and surprisingly she was being very nonchalant about this whole situation. I stayed quiet while she kept typing on her laptop.

“I plan on applying to a boarding school,” I quietly added. Mother had no reactions and kept typing on her laptop. A few seconds later, she stopped and took a sip of her coffee, then looked at her laptop again.

“Dalilia, I feel like you’re mature enough to make your own choices about your next steps, but right now I’m thinking about sending you to the church school that your uncle has recommended since you were in fourth grade,” Mother responded. I opened my mouth, but she kept on talking. “Don’t answer me right now. Why don’t you go and think about it — go outside and get some fresh air or something.” I really needed it, so I didn’t bother to argue with her.

As soon as I stepped outside, the smell of my neighbor’s Smeraldo flowers hit me. I hadn’t been outside for so long that I’d forgotten about the Smeraldo flower and the placid winds that made the chimes on my window move and tinkle. I remembered my neighbor telling me that the meaning of this flower was, “the truth untold.” Fun facts, huh. My mother coughed and interrupted my contemplative moment. I came rushing back to reality and thought of my mom, the woman who I respected most. I admired her yet abhorred her for making me abhor myself. I admired the fact that someone could be powerful enough to make someone else hate themselves: a power of hers that I both hated and revered.

I texted my Aunt Pam who was like another mother to me, but I never told this to my mom because I knew she would get jealous. Aunt Pam was in her 20’s and had her hair cut short last November because she strongly believed at the time that women who cut their hair wanted to change their life. She was still stuck in the 90s, since she wore mom jeans and a wide shirt with a finishing touch of a dark red matte lipstick. Personally, I loved this aesthetic look unlike my mother who thought that Aunt Pam needed to “wake up.”

Aunt Pam texted back, inviting me over since she heard about my choice. In the family, when you did something wrong, all your family members know about it, no matter where they were. I could call a family member who lived overseas, and they would know about my choice too. I headed over to Aunt’s Pam house, a couple blocks away. As soon as I entered her house, the smell of cinnamon rolls hit me, which brought memories of when I stayed over at hers when Mother was away.

“Oof — ” I said as I body tossed myself onto the couch. “I hope I don’t get food poisoning, don’t need any more problems.” Aunt Pam came out of nowhere, sat next to me, and kissed my forehead.

“Ha, you know you want them, but I don’t plan on giving them to you until you tell me what’s up,” she responded. I let out a stressed sigh as my response.

“I know that Ma is surely applying for the nearby boarding school, even though she said that I should go to that obtuse school all the way in Boston with a Nun. So, I guess that at the end of the day, she does design my future… ” The house was quiet, making it feel like even Aunt Pam was experiencing the same epiphany I was going through.

“That how it goes, boo. Your mother kept you in her stomach for nine months and had to grow through vomiting, urination, and other worse things — just to bring you into this world. She knows you the best, even though you claim to not know yourself… ” Aunt Pam stood up and headed back into the kitchen.

“So, Boston it is,” I responded. Aunt Pam nodded. That is how I made my decision. I didn’t have to think about it —


“Wait — so you made a choice to come here in a matter of seconds?

Dalilia nods and pats her roommate’s head. The roommate is a freshman and comes into the room, complaining that she could have thought twice before picking a horrible high school that her mother didn’t allow. It was sort of similar to Dalilia’s story, so she sat down at 5 am on a school night and told her freshman roommate the story as a way to console her. Plus, Dalilia also thought it was a great icebreaker.

“Well, I’m going to sleep,” said Dalilia. The freshman pouts and has a tiny tantrum. After the tantrum is over, the room stays silent. So silent that you can hear the birds talking to each other and the leaves fighting each other and if the sun could make a sound, you would hear it too. The freshman looks at her hands and lets out a tinkling giggle. “Hm?”

“By the way, how do you remember the story so vividly?”

Dalilia laughs and thinks for a moment. “Some things are just so important that it’s impossible to forget them.”

People say that they created mothers because God couldn’t be everywhere, but Dalilia didn’t believe this. However, that doesn’t mean that she forgot about it. Dalilia had finally decided to come to her senses when she graduated high school with honors in all classes and got into one of the best colleges in the country, thanks to her mother’s screaming when Dalilia wanted to give up, the tight hugs when girls were being rude, and the inspirational texts in the middle of the day. Since then, Dalilia figured out that she would always need her mother — no matter what age she was, no matter how mad she was at her.

The End