The Orwellian Future of Reproductive Rights 

Abortion is a controversial topic, with its opponents believing that it equates to murder and its proponents believing that it is a basic human right. There are multiple ways to explain why abortion is necessary, but let us start with this: Women die giving birth to children. The whole process of giving birth is extremely intense and puts an intense amount of strain on the women’s body – enough to kill them – making childbirth extremely dangerous. The act of raising a child is long and expensive, especially in America. Hospital visits can cost tens of thousands of dollars, with or without insurance, not to mention the cost of baby supplies. If a ten-year-old girl wanted to adopt a baby, would you let her do it? No, of course not. This (hypothetical) girl does not have the money to take care of it and she knows nothing about taking care of a newborn baby. But what if she was raped and impregnated? Would you make her carry it to term, only so she could face strain on her body that has killed thousands of full grown women since human existence? Would you cram her head with knowledge of raising a child when she will soon face the academic burden of higher education? At what point does this go too far? Not to mention the stigma surrounding young mothers, teenage mothers, and single mothers? What would people think of that ten-year-old mother? There is no reset button, no undo button to save her now. But this could have been prevented, so many months ago, with one of the most controversial medical procedures today: Abortion. 

 With Roe v. Wade overturned last June, many states have immediately turned to taking advantage of the situation, banning several (if not all) forms of abortion, with little to no exception. But what is Roe v. Wade? In 1973, Norma McCorvey, a mother of two, was pregnant with her third child and wanted an abortion. However, she lived in Texas, where abortion was illegal except to save the mother’s life. With her attorneys, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, and under the pseudonym of “Jane Roe,” she won her case over her local district attorney, Henry Wade, stating that Texas’s abortion rules were unconstitutional. Furthermore, in 1973, the Supreme Court issued a decision holding that there is a due “right to privacy,” protecting women’s right to abortion. And so it was, for many years, until last June, when Roe v. Wade was overturned. With many states leaping to take advantage of it, many worry for the future of reproductive rights and compare it to Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. From standpoints literary, moral, political, and historical, it is impossible to deny reproductive freedoms for women and other people with uteruses without having unconscionable foundations.  

Passages: 

Offred narrates: “But a chair, sunlight, flowers: these are not to be dismissed. I am alive, I live, I breathe, I put my hand out, unfolded, into the sunlight. Where I am is not a prison but a privilege, as Aunt Lydia said, who was in love with either/or.”

Atwood’s dystopian novel depicts a future America, where inalienable rights are taken away and women are objectified and only hold value through their fertility and spouse, and everyone lives under control of Christian extremists. Throughout the novel, there are many aspects of life that are notably oppressive, such as the restriction of several rights, abilities, and freedoms of women. One important thing to note is the obvious: this is a dystopian novel taking place in the U.S., and that the country was taken over by Christian extremists, transforming the country into a strict and cruel civilization shaped with patriarchy, constantly oppressing any who dare speak out against the society, renaming it Gilead, which is shocking, because no one has ever really written about a country as ‘progressive’ as the U.S. in a sort of Orwellian way. Though the novel doesn’t openly advocate abortion, it advocates reproductive rights by showing how women’s bodies are constantly in control by their male counterparts, doctors, and lawmakers. We see this when the main character, Offred, acts as narrator, guiding the readers through the basic “do’s and don’ts” of living. We learn that abortion, along with other procedures relating to women’s bodily anatomy when it comes to pregnancy is not only illegal and banned, but one could go through severe torture and eventually death just for speaking of it. 

Throughout the novel, you start to see where so many basic rights and abilities such as freedom of speech and the ability to use talk with others are taken away, and it makes you realize the power they hold. One of which is the ability to have and use your own name. As described in the novel, the main character’s name, Offred, used to be June, but it was changed when the country was taken over. Similarly, the woman she works for, Serena Joy, was renamed, with her original name being Pam, along with other female characters in the novel – one starts to see how every female character is renamed, but nothing is changed about the men. Our name is a part of who we are and is often the first thing others know about us. Being able to use one’s own name is important and underestimated. 

Additionally, the right to free speech is especially important and easy to forget about, but its absence in the setting of the novel is especially noticeable. Any word heard against the country, legal system, or society would lead to harsh physical punishment, adding to the sort of dystopian, Orwellian theme. Like our country today, both governments have found ways to ban abortion, and many states have gone out of their way to eliminate abortion in its entirety, severely punishing those who go through or assist the procedure more then those who commit much more drastic crimes such as rape or child molestation. According to the New York Times article, “Inside the Extreme Effort to Punish Women for Abortion,” “Even as those in the anti-abortion movement celebrate their nation-changing Supreme Court victory, there are divisions over where to go next. The most extreme, like Mr. Durbin, want to pursue what they call “abortion abolition,” a move to criminalize abortion from conception as homicide, and hold women who have the procedure responsible — a position that in some states could make those women eligible for the death penalty. That position is at odds with the anti-abortion mainstream, which opposes criminalizing women and focuses on prosecuting providers.” Eligible for the death penalty. What if the abortion was utilized because of the high risk of death to the carrier? There are even those who seek miscarriages to be labeled as murder and punishable. Which is more valuable: the life of an unborn child or the life of a fully grown child and adult? 

With people like Durbin placing such high importance and specified personification on fetuses, some people fight back with the argument that if a fetus were to be valued as much as a grown human, they should also have rights and insurance. In the article “If a fetus is a person, it should get child support, due process and citizenship” from the Washington Post, assistant Professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law Carliss Chatman makes points of what possible rights and events could happen if a fetus was viewed as equal as a person.  For instance, take their statement that “When a state grants full personhood to a fetus, should they not apply equally? For example, should child support start at conception? Every state permits the custodial parent — who has primary physical custody of the child and is primarily responsible for his or her day-to-day care — to receive child support from the noncustodial parent. Since a fetus resides in its mother, and receives all nutrition and care from its mother’s body, the mother should be eligible for child support as soon as the fetus is declared a person —” and “And what about deportation? Can a pregnant immigrant who conceived her child in the United States be expelled? Because doing so would require deporting a U.S. citizen.” Elaborating on the topic of deportation, Chatman points out that if one were to determine the citizenship of a fetus, they would have to look to section 1 of the 14th Amendment, which declares that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” She further points out that the term born was not defined by the writers, and that they must have meant the dictionary definition of the word, of which was “to be brought forth by birth.” One’s birthday is celebrated on the yearly anniversary of their being born, as in the day their mother gave birth to them, not the day they were a fetus. “But in states with abortion bans, born takes on a new meaning. Now legislatures assign an arbitrary time during gestation to indicate when life, personhood and, presumably, the rights that accompany these statuses take hold. This grant of natural personhood at a point before birth brings application of the 14th Amendment into question and may thus give a fetus citizenship rights — but only in those states.” Chatman points out yet another detail overlooked by the Supreme Court in their decision to overturn Roe v. Wade; because of the grant of natural personhood (and presumably, the rights that come with it) that a fetus is given by the lawmakers banning abortion, the application of the 14th Amendment comes under question and may possible allow said fetus to have citizenship. A newborn infant born in the U.S. is granted citizenship, but a fetus? This is something without a conscience; something unaware of its very existence. A line has to be drawn deciding when a person is considered a citizen, a line that doesn’t quite exist and is being exploited by lawmakers. 

With lawmakers and citizens seeking to penalize and label miscarriage as murder (even though miscarriages are not preventable and often happen without warning), there is a strikingly similar tone in The Handmaid’s Tale. In the novel, old women and infertile women are sent to enclosed states where they handle chemical materials without protective gear, allowing them to die due to the amount of radiation they are exposed to, making it a sort of extended death sentence. Those women are called the Unwomen, and it’s not just the old or infertile that are sent there. If a Handmaid miscarries, she has a chance of becoming an Unwoman, forced out and exposed to radiation. Though the novel was published over 35 years ago in 1985, the eerily similar thought process and beliefs of the religious extremists of the antagonists and location in the United States to the Supreme Court’s turnover of Roe v. Wade and its unfolding aftermath today could be seen as a foreshadowing of what’s next to come for abortion rights. In January of 2020, Britteny Poolaw, a then-19-year-old Native American from Oklahoma, arrived at Comanche County Memorial Hospital after suffering a miscarriage at home a little over 4 months into her term. According to the affidavit given by the detective who had interviewed her, Poolaw told the hospital staff that she had recently used marijuana and methamphetamine, which was then added to the list of factors contributing to the cause of miscarriage, a list which also contained congenital abnormality and placental abruption. She was arrested on account of first degree manslaughter and since she couldn’t afford the $20,000 bail, she had waited over a year and a half for her trial, which took place in October of 2021 and lasted one day. According to the local news station at the court, an expert witness had testified that the use of methamphetamine may not have been the main cause of miscarriage, but after debating for less than three hours, the jury found her guilty, and she was sentenced to four years of prison.

It is important to recognize the other contributing factors of the abortion, notable ones which were congenital abnormality and placental abruption. According to the World Health Organization, “An estimated 6% of babies worldwide are born with a congenital anomaly, resulting in hundreds of thousands of associated deaths. However, the true number of cases may be much higher because statistics do not often consider terminated pregnancies and stillbirths.” Some congenital abnormalities include heart defects, neural tube defects, and down syndrome, which can impact those who develop them for their entire life. This means that there was a chance that Poolaw could have given birth to a stillborn infant, or an infant which might have a congenital abnormality such as a heart defect, requiring expensive treatments that could put Poolaw in debt or considerably worse financial position, given that she wasn’t able to pay her bail and that healthcare in the U.S. is considerably expensive. Additionally, placental abruption could cause internal bleeding for the mother, sometimes requiring an early birth or resulting in a miscarriage. Infants born too early would need to be incubated, yet another expensive charge for the parent or parents. Infants born after surviving placental abruption have a higher mortality than ones born without abruption, and the impact of abruption extends far beyond the perinatal period. Even if Poolaw were to give birth, her would-be son would face a series of health issues, requiring costly treatments that would put almost anyone in financial burden. But the detective’s affidavit also stated that “when she found out that she was pregnant she didn’t know if she wanted the baby or not. She said she wasn’t familiar with how or where to get an abortion.” Examining this piece of evidence, one would be able to deduce that Poolaw’s entire ordeal could have been avoided if abortion resources and information were available to her. Reproductive healthcare is extremely important for those pregnant, and when it’s not available, the loss of information or spread of misinformation could seriously damage the mother or the fetus, resulting in an unfair imprisonment or punishment that could have been completely avoidable had the resources been present and available. 

It’s also important to recognize how race, stereotypes, and the stigma surrounding young and/or single mothers plays into the topic of prosecution of women miscarrying or having abortions. According to the NCRC, “Based on the 2015-2019 ACS for American Indian and Alaska Native population, the median income of American Indian and Alaska Native households was $43,825 – slightly higher than the median income of African American households, which was $41,935. The Hispanic household income for that same period was $51,811. Altogether, these numbers are substantially lower than White, non-Hispanic household median income of $68,785. In 2015, the average income on reservations was 68% below the US average, about $17,000.” According to an NBC news article, “A 2013 report by NAPW and Fordham University looked at 413 arrests and forced interventions of pregnant women from 1973 to 2005. The analysis showed that 71 percent were considered low income and 59 percent were women of color, with 52 percent identifying as Black.” Just by looking at the statistics, one could observe that women of color, especially those considered to be of low income, were charged more. It is no secret that people of color are often imprisoned far more often and harshly than their white counterparts. But why are women so harshly punished for actions of nature? A healthy birth can never be guaranteed, but it seems that lawmakers can’t decide on where the line should be drawn between nature and intentional terminated pregnancy. 

But this is not the only problem. Many anti-abortion protestors and lawmakers go on to harass those who are pro-choice or seeking abortion, with anti-abortion protestors rallying outside of abortion clinics, harassing those entering or leaving, and harassing pro-choice activists, sending threatening messages or even death threats. According to NARAL Pro Choice America, between 1977 and 2015, anti-choice protestors carried out over 7,200 acts of violence at abortion providers, including over 40 bombings, 185 arson attacks, and thousands of bioterrorism threats, death threats, and assault. Additionally, over 200,000 acts of disruption were reported, including bomb threats and threatening calls. These are criminal acts, punishable by fines, restraining orders, and prison time, and yet they keep happening. An abortion clinic is just like an emergency room, and it saves lives. To barricade an abortion clinic is like barricading a hospital’s ER. The people seeking or wishing to consult an expert about abortion are in a vulnerable state, and sometimes, it’s a matter of saving their life, or helping their financial situation. Childcare in the U.S. is expensive, and the cost of raising and looking after a child is a large burden, especially for working, single, and/or young mothers. What anti-choice believers don’t understand is the impact of children on people who aren’t them. In an article by WNYC about the heated anti-abortion demonstrations outside of abortion clinics, artist, activist, and volunteer clinic escort Wendi Kent shares her story of abortion and teen pregnancy. In 1993, 13 years old and an eighth grader in Texas, Kent found herself in a dire situation: she was pregnant. She visited her local clinic for information about her options, recognizing abortion as the best one for her. In her interview with WNYC, she states that “When I went in, I kind of expected for this option to be given to me, or for someone to tell me that it was an option, because I didn’t want to have to ask… That actually didn’t happen. They asked me what I wanted to do, and I kind of suddenly said, ‘I think I want to have this baby,’ because I didn’t know what else I was supposed to say.” She had hoped that the options would have been laid out for her, so she could choose abortion without stigma, but it didn’t happen. Several months later, at only 14, she gave birth to a baby girl. Having a child at 14 is extremely difficult, and Kent didn’t feel safe with her daughter at her parents house. She asked her boyfriend’s family to take in her daughter, and Kent left her parent’s home, and wound up on the streets.

What both Kent’s and Poolaw’s story can tell us is that the lack of information, access, and option for abortions is dangerous, and can result in events that lead to homelessness or prison time. Now, with abortion rights no longer protected by the Supreme Court’s decision, the need for these resources are more important than ever. 

Bibliography:

“Anti-Abortion Violence.” NARAL Pro-Choice America, 23 Aug. 2021, https://www.prochoiceamerica.org/issue/anti-abortion-violence/. 

“As Supreme Court Weighs Abortion, Christians Challenge What It Means to Be ‘pro-Life’.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 14 Apr. 2022, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-04-14/abortion-evangelical-christians-republican.

Asante-Muhammad, Dedrick. “Racial Wealth Snapshot: Native Americans ” NCRC.” NCRC, 7 Apr. 2022, https://ncrc.org/racial-wealth-snapshot-native-americans/. 

“Birth Defects.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/birth-defects. 

Blake, John. “They Cite the Same Bible and Evoke the Same Jesus. but These Two Christians Are on Opposite Sides of the Abortion Debate.” CNN, Cable News Network, 25 June 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/25/us/abortion-christian-debate-blake-cec/index.html. 

Chatman, Carliss. “Perspective | If a Fetus Is a Person, It Should Get Child Support, Due Process and Citizenship.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 May 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/if-a-fetus-is-a-person-it-should-get-child-support-due-process-and-citizenship/2019/05/17/7280ae30-78ac-11e9-b3f5-5673edf2d127_story.html. 

“Congenital Anomalies.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/health-topics/congenital-anomalies#tab=tab_1. 

Dias, Elizabeth. “Inside the Extreme Effort to Punish Women for Abortion.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 July 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/01/us/abortion-abolitionists.html. 

Goldberg, Michelle. “When a Miscarriage Is Manslaughter.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Oct. 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/18/opinion/poolaw-miscarriage.html. 

J.p. “Child Molestation.” NY Crime Defense Lawyer Stephen Bilkis & Associates, https://criminaldefense.1800nynylaw.com/new-york-child-molestation.html. 

Kilgore, Ed. “Do Republicans Really Want to Punish Women for Having Abortions?” Intelligencer, Intelligencer, 29 Sept. 2022, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2022/09/republicans-punish-women-abortions.html. 

Levinson-King, Robin. “US Women Are Being Jailed for Having Miscarriages.” BBC News, BBC, 12 Nov. 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-59214544. 

“Placental Abruptions.” Publications.aap.org, https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/142/2/e20173915/37549/Placental-Abruption-and-Child-Mortality. 

President, Julia Cusick Vice, et al. “Some States Are Ready to Punish Abortion in a Post-Roe World.” Center for American Progress, 23 Sept. 2022, https://www.americanprogress.org/article/some-states-are-ready-to-punish-abortion-in-a-post-roe-world/. 

“Recent Cases on Violence against Reproductive Health Care Providers.” The United States Department of Justice, 18 Oct. 2022, https://www.justice.gov/crt/recent-cases-violence-against-reproductive-health-care-providers. 

“Respect for Unborn Human Life: The Church’s Constant Teaching.” USCCB, https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/abortion/respect-for-unborn-human-life. 

Robertson, Katie. “Facts Were Sparse on an Abortion Case. but That Didn’t Stop the Attacks.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 July 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/14/business/media/10-year-old-girl-ohio-rape.html. 

“Roe v. Wade.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Sept. 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roe_v._wade. 

“When Healthcare Comes with Harassment: Photographing Abortion Clinic Protests: The Takeaway.” WNYC Studios, 24 Jan. 2018, https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/takeaway/segments/when-healthcare-comes-harassment-photographing-abortion-clinic-protests. 

“Woman Prosecuted for Miscarriage Highlights Racial Disparity in Similar Cases.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 5 Nov. 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/woman-prosecuted-miscarriage-highlights-racial-disparity-simil ar-cases-rcna4583. 

The Case for Reading the Old-Fashioned Way

Every time I try to read something online, my eyes start to hurt, advertisements pop up everywhere on the screen, and the device I’m reading on dies. Does this story sound familiar? Has any of that ever happened to you while you were reading on your Kindle or other electronic device? It’s no wonder that 65% of people who took a survey comparing paper books versys electronic books and audio books said that they preferred paper books. Reading physical books is better than using electronic reading websites because physical books cause less strain on the eyes, give you more details, let you actually read the book instead of just listening to it, and get rid of the distractions that book websites encourage.

One of the many reasons real books are better than electronic books is that electronic books can hurt you. Staring at a screen for too long can hurt your eyes. At first, it could just cause your eyes to be dry and for you to see double for a few minutes, but over time it can lead to headaches and eye fatigue. You could even lose your sight by reading an electronic book. The blue light that comes from the screen damages the cells in the retina, which is the part of the eye that sees images and sends them to the brain through the optic nerve. 

Not only can they harm you physically, but ads can pop up on the screen that you may press thinking it is a link to buy something, but in reality, it is a way for people to steal your personal information. With your personal information they could use your money, name, credit cards, gift cards, or even blackmail you into paying them for your entire life. They may also hurt you if you work in a printing or publishing company. If everybody was reading electronic books, the people who made paper books would not have any jobs anymore. This could be financially damaging. After getting fired from their company because they don’t need physical books anymore, publishers can fall behind on payments and enter debt. As of now, printing and publishing companies are safe. Stora Enso’s Jonathan Bakewell, Vice President and Head of Segment Office and Book Papers said “…the market for physical books is set to stay strong, which is good news for our printer and publishing customers” (Vision Source), but in the future this might not be true. All of these terrifying things could take place just because you read an electronic book.

Another reason printed books are better than electronic books is that they lead to a more thorough understanding of the subject matter. For instance, some print books include pictures that are important to the story. If you are reading a book that includes pictures on certain electronic devices, you may not get the pictures with the book and the story will not make sense. For example, I have a series of books about Disney villains. Those books have book jackets with one picture, and the cover itself has a different pciture. Both pictures greatly contribute to the stories, but on electronic books only one picture could be shown. Some book covers also wrap around to the back, and with a physical book you can flip your copy around to see it. With an electronic book, you would have to flip through the whole book to get to the back which wastes time. Some electronic books also won’t include the backs of the books, which will make you confused about why the cover just cuts off. 

Some electronic books have a text-to-speech option that some people will listen to. It is debatable whether this option counts as actually reading. Furthermore, sometimes the built-in voice reading the book to you can be hard to understand, potentially causing readers to miss something important and no longer know what is happening in the book. On some electronic books, you can’t rewind text-to-speech, so you would have to start the book all over again to find out what you missed if you were out of the room for a moment, or a loud noise distracted you from the audoio. In a real book, you could just stop reading for a moment and then continue reading. 

In a study when two groups of children read books, one group with electronic books and the other with paper books, the group that read the paper books recalled the events of the story better. Both groups were given the same amount of time to read the short story and were given the same reading conditions. The people who conducted the study think that the people who read the electronic books were less engaged in the book because their eyes got tired and it took them longer to read the story. They also think that it is harder reading the electronic book because there are less words on each page, so while you’re flipping the page in the middle of a sentence, you forget a little information. Since electronic readers had to flip the page more often, they forgot more information. 

In many photos I found of people reading electronic books next to people reading paper books, I realized that the people reading paper books looked more focused and interested in what they were reading. They were hunched over the paper books, staring at the book as though if they had to stop reading, they would think of nothing else than what would happen next. On the other hand, people reading the electronic books look bored, tired, and uninterested. They look like they are being forced to read their book, rather than reading for pleasure.

The last reason that physical books are better than electronic books is that there are also problems with the electronic devices you are reading on, not just the electronic book. Real books never run out of power and you could read them for years if you keep them in good condition. Even if you get the book wet, you can almost always dry it out. The electronic that you are reading on can run out of power in the middle of your story and leave you wondering what will happen next, and if they get wet, it is likely that the electronics will not work. Electronics, reading apps, books on the apps, upgrades, chargers, cases for the electronics, and all the things you need for the electronic are also way more expensive than physical books. You could save money by just buying the physical book. On some electronics, kids that are supposed to be reading could instead be playing games on the electronics. This is because the electronics are distracting. “For older age groups, physical books have been outselling e-books in areas like human potential and mindfulness,” reads a study commissioned by paper producer Stora Enzo demonstrated (Rowzie). In other words, paper books are less distracting and help with focus.

Some people do prefer electronic books because they don’t want to contribute to cutting down trees. Cutting down trees can hurt the environment and make many species go extinct. Trees help take carbon dioxide out of the air we breathe and put oxygen back in the air. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to breathe, and would therefore die. They don’t think that a paper book is worth those risks. I think that this is in some sense true, but I also think that you can always replant trees. Sometimes you can even plant more than there were before. You can’t always get your eyesight back after you stare at a screen for too long, or your personal information back after you click on an ad for a “game” or “website.” Others think that electronic books are light and easier to carry than a lot of books. The problem with this is that not everybody has access to electronics or can afford them, which means that even though they do have some efficient features, they are not very useful to others.

The advantages of paper books over electronic ones, when added up and compared, are immense. Electronic books can hurt your eyes, hurt you financially, often do not give you as much detail as paper books, and ultimately can fail and break. Therefore, wherever possible, you should strive to read paper books. While paper books do have their faults, they certainly have way fewer than electronic books. I could most definitely name many more problems that electronic books have, but it could take a great number of years to research them and write them all down. I hope that next time you read a book, you choose to read the paper version of the book as opposed to the electronic version.

Bibliography

  • Rowzie, Kathi. Two Sides NA. “New Survey Shows Readers Overwhelmingly Prefer Physical Books.”

https://visionsource.com/blog/print-vs-digital-which-is-better-for-your-eyesight/#:~:text=Studies%20have%20shown%20that%20when,20%2F20%2F20%20rule

Why Nintendo Should Save the 3DS

The Nintendo Switch is having a moment in modern-day gaming. According to GameRant, “It has sold 84.59 million units after just 49 months on the market, making it one of the fastest-selling consoles of all time.” In all the hubbub over the Switch, one could be forgiven for dismissing the 3DS, Nintendo’s previous handheld, as totally outmoded. Although the 3DS might just seem like a similar handheld to its predecessor, the DS, the 3DS was really a technological miracle of its time – one worthy of continued investment from Nintendo. The 3DS is a dual-screen console which natively (meaning: without anything else added on) supports 3D viewing “on” or “off” for most games. This last feature, in particular, was revolutionary because until the invention of the 3DS you needed 3D glasses or a really complicated and bulky system in order to display 3D pictures. That changed with the advent of the 3DS, which crammed this capability into one small portable console. It not only supports the red and blue colors you would see with 3D glasses, but every color on the visible spectrum. Nintendo should continue to invest in gaming compatibility with the 3DS because it has a rich technological legacy, lots of people still enjoy playing on the 3DS, and many others still have not had the chance to try it yet.

Sadly, people are forgetting the importance of the 3DS. Some very memorable games are The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Fire Emblem: Awakening, and Pokemon Sun & Moon. As I write, the number of available games for the 3DS/2DS on the official Nintendo website are rapidly decreasing. In the span of about 3 minutes, I saw the 3DS games go from 1,000 down to just 927! Plus, some of these games are just being hidden on their website, for example if you search for Mario 3DS games, only one result comes up. Super Mario Maker and New Super Mario Bros. 2 are still available for purchase, but don’t come up when you search for them. Whereas the Nintendo switch is getting all the fame, with a current total amount of games at 14,051. (At the time of writing)

This number doesn’t even account for all the separate games in the expansion packs, given to you when getting Nintendo switch online and Nintendo switch online + Expansion pack. There are a lot of separate games available from the NES, SNES, N64, and even Sega Genesis! (And now Gameboy and Gameboy Advance as well.) Taking all this into account, the total games for the Nintendo switch are probably around 15 thousand!

Nintendo has its own reasons for shutting down the 3DS, of course. According to Nintendo life, this turn of events “is part of the natural life cycle for any product line as it becomes less used by consumers over time.” Although this statement has some validity, there are many holes in this argument. Sure, less people are using it than at launch, but people like me, people who have never used it, or got it and use it daily, weekly, even just monthly still have reasons to get it and keep it. By shutting down features of the 3DS, people who love playing, or who have never played, will never get to experience the best of the 3DS, only the mess that Nintendo has now left us with. Essentially it takes away the reasons to buy or use the 3DS from the 3DS. According to the same Nintendo life article, “Online play will also still be available ‘for the foreseeable future’ for any titles you already own, past March 2023.” This means that until March of 2023, games that use online multiplayer are still playable. This doesn’t apply to all games though. Games made by Nintendo like Super Mario Maker, New Super Mario Bros. 2,  or anything needing to be connected to Nintendo’s servers and can’t be played anymore (multiplayer or other functions don’t work, single player usually doesn’t rely on Nintendo servers, so it should work fine). Super Mario Maker broke when Nintendo shut down their servers, since the only thing you can do is play levels. You can’t upload levels anymore.

Although the 3DS might just seem like a similar handheld to its predecessor, the DS2, the 3DS was really a technological miracle worthy of continued investment from Nintendo. It supported a variety of games considering its virtual console, support for other DS games, and its own 3DS games. That’s more than 3 different consoles!1 It also supported a variety of different inputs like the microphone, stylus, or the buttons and Circle Pads (the little circles you move around). This provided a great experience for many different game enthusiasts. This gives no surprise on why many 3DS enthusiasts still love playing the 3DS today, yet with the 3DS servers shutting down, they won’t get to play their favorite games or get to share their experience with others. There are many 3DS lovers, ones who have had the 3DS since its release, but this one joined the party 10 years late! Yet they still loved the 3DS,  “There is something inviting about the 3DS, from the small jingle it plays when it turn it on to the little shopping bag that bows to you at the eshop, to unwrapping your downloads like presents- Just navigating through the menu is full of small sights and sounds, and the 3D effect on the upper screen seems to exist simply because it’s neat and kind of magical.”

Yet there are still many people who have not had the chance to try the 3DS yet. With the 3DS servers shutting down, they will never be able to experience the joy that people had when getting their 3DS for the first time. Just look at what Miyamoto (an important figure at Nintendo) says about the 3DS, “The Nintendo 3DS system is sometimes said to just be a ‘Nintendo DS system with higher specs.’ But it’s really much more than that. It’s a game system with an entirely different charm. That’s why, for the customers who purchase it, I want them to fully enjoy the features of this new machine.” Yet a few years later (actually about 13 years later), they are shutting down the eshop, leaving the 3DS essentially useless, with no online multiplayer, no street pass, a very interesting feature of the 3DS, not even the ability to buy digital 3DS games!

You might be thinking, sure people haven’t gotten the chance to play the 3DS, but video games can be harmfully addicting. And you’d be right, according to Wiliam Siu, who used to be a game developer, “The over-the-top experiences and rewards built into video games can stimulate our brains to release dopamine. Dopamine, the powerful ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter, motivates us to seek more of these pleasurable activities.” Although video games can be addictive, if you or your child happen to get an addictive game, then you can either delete it, or you can use the built-in parental controls, which when enabled can limit time on specific games or play time in general. This is shown in Nintendo’s article about 3DS parental controls. The support article notes that, “Parental Controls can be set at any time on Nintendo 3DS family systems. It’s possible to configure these options while setting up the Nintendo 3DS family system for the first time, and then after this point they can be altered via System Settings.”

The 3DS is one of the most technologically advanced hand-helds of its time, and it does not deserve the fate of being forgotten. This phase-out of the 3DS gnaws at me, since I personally never got to play on a 3DS. With Nintendo shutting down the 3DS servers, most of the fun of using a 3DS is fading away as people leave with the servers. It gets rid of what the 3DS lived up to, leaving us only with only a few exclusive features that were built in. This matters to everyone because it means that people who did or didn’t get to experience the amazing features of the 3DS will never get to experience it again. By the 27th of March, 2023, the physical copies of games are going to be the only ones you can buy. Digital games can only be stored on the 3DS for so long. They will reach their expiration dates. These points apply to many other old consoles as well, not just the 3DS. There were many good consoles like the N64, Sega Dreamcast, and PS3 that were very popular in their time that many people would also like to preserve. And soon in the future, this fading out process will apply to the switch, when there will be another more popular console out there, leaving the history it made behind.

Works cited:

Simelane, Smangaliso. “Why Is the Nintendo Switch so Successful?” Game Rant, 14 Jan. 2022, https://gamerant.com/nintendo-switch-success-hardware-versatility-game-sales-pandemic/.

Gray, Kate. “When Does the 3DS and Wii U Eshop Close? Nintendo EShop Closure Guide.” Nintendo Life, Nintendo Life, 27 Mar. 2023, https://www.nintendolife.com/guides/when-does-the-3ds-and-wii-u-eshop-close-nintendo-eshop-closure-guide#:~:text=Here’s%20Nintendo’s%20statement%20on%20the,plenty%20of%20time%20to%20prepare.%22

Hetfeld, Malindy. “Falling in Love with the Nintendo 3DS 10 Years Late.” Eurogamer.net, Eurogamer.net, 27 June 2021, https://www.eurogamer.net/falling-in-love-with-the-nintendo-3ds-ten-years-late

Siu, William. “I Make Video Games. I Won’t Let My Daughters Play Them.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 Oct. 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/02/opinion/video-game-addiction.html#after-story-ad-2

“Setting Nintendo 3DS Parental Controls.” Nintendo Support, 25 Mar. 2011, https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Support/Parents/Safety/Nintendo-3DS-Parental-Controls/Setting-Nintendo-3DS-Parental-Controls/Setting-Nintendo-3DS-Parental-Controls-907330.html#:~:text=Parental%20Controls%20can%20be%20set,be%20altered%20via%20System%20Settings

Endnotes

1.  An interesting fact is that the 3DS can play two Mario Kart games, namely Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart 7.

2. Nobody knows what DS stands for, so there are a lot of games that make fun of that.

Wolves: The Other Side Revealed

Wolves have sharp teeth, they growl, they eat meat, and they are natural predators. They are the bad guys in The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, The Wolf and Seven Young Kids, etc. We, humans, say wolves are vicious monsters just because they eat animals and humans in fairy tales. But there is a whole different side to them that we do not even know. A side where wolves are cautious creatures, caring, and helpful. Wolves are not harmful or threatening animals, because they are no different from humans, and they also help the ecosystem. 

First, wolves are not dangerous animals because they are careful and do not want to find trouble. They try to avoid people when they can. According to DBBW, they have no interest in hurting a human, unless the human attacks first. Wolves rarely make contact with humans, and even if they do, most times they don’t do anything and just watch. They are curious, but staying away from wolves is still suggested. Wolves do not feel comfortable around strangers, but are not a huge threat to people according to Wolf Awareness. Some people think wolves are harmful and threatening because they hunt our livestock, but weather and disease kill a lot more livestock. Wolves only hunt 0.04% of livestock. The rest is all weather and disease. Wolves fear and avoid people, so there is no reason for us to fear them or think that they are vicious monsters. 

Second, wolves are not hostile animals because they are no different from humans. Sure they look, sound, and eat differently, but on the inside we are the same. Humans have families that they care for. We have different personalities and feelings that make us unique. Humans want to have happy lives with their family and friends. That is the same with wolves. Jim and Jamie Dutcher researched wolves for 30 years. They did this by setting up a camp and living with wolves. They saw that wolves were just like humans. They have families called packs. Every member of the pack cares for each other and the pups. They stand up for each other, and help if one is injured. A wolf rarely passes a family member without rubbing against them or sharing eye contact. Every so often the fearful one gets jumped on by its pack members and it looks like it’s getting bullied, but that’s just their version of teasing one another in a friendly manner. Time passes, and the fearful one is back to a happy wolf. Each member also has a personality that makes them unique. Some are brave, some are fearful, and some are playful. Wolves like to play and have fun with their pack members. If a family member dies, then the whole pack’s behavior changes to a sad, quiet one for weeks. Wolves have feelings that they express. They want to live happily with their pack, just like us. Jim and Jamie Dutcher saw all this while living with a wolf pack. Some people think wolves are threatening and harmful because they hunt and eat other animals. Well, guess what? So do we. Humans hunt and eat meat too. We actually hunt a lot more animals than wolves, so there’s no reason to think wolves are menacing and aggressive. They’re just like us. They’re animals with families and feelings. 

Lastly, wolves help the ecosystem. When wolves hunt, they usually hunt sick, weak animals because they would be an easier target. The wolves hunt the animals with diseases and infections before the disease or infection can spread to animals and humans, resulting in an ecosystem with healthy animals. For example, if there’s a weak moose with a disease, the wolves would hunt that moose so the disease can’t spread to other animals and humans. The wolves help create healthy ecosystems because the spreading of disease and infections is prevented by them.  Wolves aren’t vicious monsters because they create healthy ecosystems and prevent diseases from spreading.  In conclusion, wolves are not harmful, threatening animals at all. They’re cautious and afraid of humans. Yet, they are just like humans. They have families that they care for, and have feelings that they show. They are caring and loving. Wolves help ecosystems by preventing diseases from spreading and making other animals and humans sick. The fairy tales that claim wolves are bad and evil creatures are wrong. But right now humans are believing false information about wolves. Humans are hunting wolves, thinking they are harmful and threatening to humans, when they are the exact opposite. Humans kill nearly 10,000 wolves each year, and that’s only in a few states. But wolves haven’t even killed a human in the last century, according to International Wolf Center. Without wolves, forests will become unhealthy from disease. Trees will get sick, and won’t be able to take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Trees capture 30% of the carbon dioxide emitted, which equals 7.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is the reason climate change is happening. Wolves keep our forests healthy, and the forests keep the earth healthy. Without wolves, climate change will become a bigger problem than it already is. It is estimated that in 2040, global temperatures will become so high that by then no living organism could live, according to Our Planet. Right now, several countries in Europe have broken records for the highest temperatures, reaching over 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.5 degrees Celsius). We need wolves to keep our forests healthy so that our forests can live and help climate change. Wolves depend on our future. We humans need to stop thinking that wolves are threatening and harmful, and see what they actually do. Humans need to know that wolves are important to the world. You can help wolves by telling your friends and family about how they are so important to the world, you can write a letter to your government, adopt a wolf pup, and you can donate to Wolf Awareness, Living with Wolves, International Wolf Center, or other associations. Now you know that there is a different side to wolves. They are not harmful or threatening, they are caring and helpful creatures.

Loki the Anti-Hero: The God of Mischief with a Good Side

Loki is widely considered to be one of the greatest villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Yes, it’s true, Loki tried to conquer both Earth and Asgard and also fought the Avengers. However, it would be a mistake to see these deeds as villainy. He must be regarded, instead, as the god of mischief. Loki mainly likes to trick people, almost as a prank and likes to cause trouble, picking up fights, etc. Thor, his brother, often made the mistake of trusting Loki and was stabbed in the back many, many times. The key to understanding Loki’s character is to regard him not as an antagonist, but as more of an anti-hero. An anti-hero is similar to a protagonist but lacks the traits in a typical hero. They aren’t equal to a protagonist or a villain, but somewhere in between. Loki fits the profile of an anti-hero because it wasn’t his entire fault for his crimes. He also sacrificed himself for Thor, and cares a lot for his brother. Furthermore, in all of these actions, Loki demonstrates the capacity for personal growth and redemption befitting an anti-hero. 

Most of Loki’s crimes are purely the protagonists’ fault for trusting Loki. Namely when Thor was still a suspect in SHIELD, Loki visited Thor to tell him that his father, Odin (king of the Asgardians), had died. Loki went even further with the lie to tell Thor that he was to be king now and their mother had forbidden Thor’s return. If Thor hadn’t believed Loki, the events that followed probably would not have happened. For example, when Thor escaped out of SHIELD, he stayed put on Earth, mourning for his father and thinking that he is not worthy to return to Asgard. Thor finally realizes that it was all a lie when Sif, one of his friends, tells him the truth. Thor says to Sif in a bitter tone, “You know I can’t go home. My father is dead because of me, and I must remain in exile.” Sif replies, confused, “Thor, your father still lives.” (Thor). Again, if not for Sif, Thor would’ve stayed on Earth probably for a considerable amount of time. If Thor hadn’t believed Loki, he would have made his way back to Asgard as quickly as he can. 

Let’s not forget that Loki sacrificed himself for Thor when Thanos attacked their ship. This one scene ultimately labels Loki as an anti-hero rather than a villain. Loki definitely despised Thanos, one of the main antagonists in the MCU. Shockingly, Loki once teamed up with Thanos when Loki wanted to conquer Earth. The Other (Thanos’ personal servant) once told Thanos reassuringly, “He [Loki] is ready to lead, and our force, our Chitauri, will follow. The world will be his, the universe will be yours. And the humans, what can they do, but burn?” (The Avengers). This reveals that Thanos and Loki were working together. But despite this, in the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War, Loki tried to kill Thanos with daggers in both hands. Even Loki’s last words to Thanos was, “You will never be a god.” (Avengers: Infinity War), which supports even more that Loki hates Thanos. Loki unfortunately stole the Tesseract, a blue glowing cube that protects the space stone and Thanos obtained it. However, Loki’s sacrifice spared Thor, which led to the saving of Earth. 

Even though Loki loves to trick Thor as often as he breathes, Thor and Loki obviously care for each other, even if their intentions are different. It was even Thor that helped Loki make better choices. Loki fought alongside Thor in Thor: The Dark World, Thor: Ragnorak and in Avengers: Infinity War.  Believe it or not, Thor was the one that gave Loki a second chance in Thor: The Dark World, as he was rotting in jail after he tried to invade Earth. Thor said to Loki, “I know you seek vengeance as much as I do. You help me escape Asgard, and I will grant it to you. Vengeance. And afterward, this cell.” Loki then said “You must be truly desperate to come to me for help. What makes you think you can trust me?” Thor replied “…You should know that when we fought each other in the past, I did so with a glimmer of hope that my brother was still in there somewhere. That hope no longer exists to protect you. You betray me, and I will kill you.” Loki says “Hm. When do we start?” Loki annoys Thor and tricks him playfully on their mission as per usual, but he shows his care through the movie by fighting loyally at Thor’s side. Undoubtedly, Loki loves Thor as a brother, and though they sometimes have disagreements, their brotherly relationship will never falter. 


Sources:

https://collider.com/loki-and-thors-brotherly-moments/
https://theportalist.com/loki-quotes-from-the-mcu
https://www.shmoop.com/study-guides/movie/thor-movie/quotes/exile
https://time.com/5544534/marvel-tesseract/
https://www.cbr.com/loki-heroic-dubious-acts/
https://the-take.com/watch/why-have-television-audiences-fallen-so-hard-for-the-anti-hero
https://marvelcinematicuniverse.fandom.com/wiki/Thanos/Quote
https://marvelcinematicuniverse.fandom.com/wiki/Attack_on_Jotunheim
https://www.denofgeek.com
https://www.google.com/search?q=loki+&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKE
https://www.google.com/search?q=loki+and+thanos&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKE
https://www.google.com/search?q=loki+and+his+brother+fighting+together&tbm=isch&ved=

Penguins

Penguins are better than people. They are the most loyal animals, staying with their friends forever. When penguins find a partner, they never leave; they are together for life. What if we were all penguins? We would always stick by one another. No being betrayed or being left behind. Never thinking about if a friendship is real or not. Knowing you can trust the people you want. Not having to doubt who’s real or fake. 

When penguins are cold, they huddle together. When we are cold, our first instinct is to put on a jacket. Penguins cuddle together and puff out their feathers to keep warm. They rely on each other for warmth and other aspects of survival. If I needed something as a penguin, I would ask a friend (who I would keep for life) and they would help me. In life people do things independently. If I need a pencil, I look around for a while, check my backpack and then I would ask for help. Penguins aren’t afraid of help. For them, asking for help isn’t an embarrassing thing that shows a lack of knowledge.

Many people think that penguins can’t fly, but, technically, that is incorrect. Penguins are seen as animals of cuteness, not personality. Penguins are underestimated. Penguins fly underwater. They fly in the way that any other bird would, but they do it underwater. They are seen as a flightless, stupid birds, but they are more. There is more to them than people would expect. If we had that point of view in life, it would be so much easier. People would not judge by first glance. You could be who you want; I could walk outside in yellow pants, and nobody would think of it. People would ask me why I wore those pants and not just assume I have bad clothing. People would be so much better to each other if we were penguins. 

There are four types of Antarctic penguins: Adélie, Chinstrap, Emperor and Gentoo. People really only know about Emperor penguins because they are the most popular. If you go to a zoo you will see Emperor penguins. Chinstrap penguins are smaller and have a black “strap” on their chin. Adélie penguins’ beaks look like Kylie Jenner’s lips. Their beaks are thick and look almost like human lips. They are also the smallest. Gentoo penguins have a half orange beak and white spots above their eyes. People only ever pay attention to Emperor penguins when the other ones are just as good. Adélie and Chinstrap penguins are aggressive but only to protect themselves from predators. Penguins don’t hate each other for small things they say or do; penguins care about survival. 

Gentoo penguins are actually the nicest and the least commonly known. “Gentoo penguin” is fun to say. When words end with “oo,” it makes the word better. Especially when the rest of the word doesn’t start with a stutter letter. I have a stutter that I don’t love. G is not a letter I stutter on. I like Gentoo penguins.

 Penguins are nice to humans, something that even we cannot seem to accomplish. We hate each other so much and that seems natural in our minds. When you see a pigeon on the sidewalk, you kick it away because the bird is not you. When penguins encounter humans, they are extremely nice. Why can’t we be like penguins?  Yeah, sure, we can hate people for their opinions and what they say. And if I’m being honest, I do that exact thing every day. Penguins don’t. They only hate if they are in danger.

To Be Blocked

Diving off a racing block into a swimming pool. The anxiety – would I mess up? Would my goggles fall down? Would I publicly humiliate myself in front of my teammates? The swirl of thoughts going through my mind was endless. Water dripped off my back. I glanced behind me to see the other teammates giving me looks of encouragement. Glancing forward again, I saw the clear blue water with tiled lines in the middle of the lane. The clock ticked on as the person before me started heading back across the pool. I had to get ready. I adjusted my goggles onto my eyes and put my hands on the block. My teammate behind me was going to tell me to go so I went at the right moment. 

The dive itself was decent. My goggles luckily didn’t fall down, and I was able to gain some speed to push my team to second place. As my teammates high-fived me when I got out of the pool, I realized something. I wasn’t scared of messing up the dive itself. Well, I was, but the main reason was because I didn’t want to disappoint my teammates. Whenever a team doesn’t win, people want a reason. Someone to blame. I did not want to be that person. I didn’t want that responsibility of not winning to be placed on me. In the end, after the last person swam, we didn’t even win. Which was okay. At least it wasn’t my fault. But even if it was, it couldn’t be that bad, could it? My goggles would fall down. We would lose. No one would talk about the race to my face. They would have talked about it while I was swimming. List all things that I did wrong. Talk about me negatively. And the worst part is, when I came out, they wouldn’t say anything to me. But even if that did happen, I would survive. It would be fine. I would keep practicing and get better at my dive. And I wouldn’t be so nervous knowing the possibilities of what would happen. And it most likely will happen. Sometime in the future, once, if not many times.

The Negative Side of Stereotypes

When I was in eighth grade, I was on the phone with a friend and she was telling me about a seventh grader who took an eighth grade honors math class. This shocked me for two reasons: one, because of how smart he was, and second, because he was not Asian and did not fit into that “smart” stereotype. The “smart” stereotype that a certain group of people were smarter than others had gotten in my head and almost brainwashed me into thinking and believing that. Stereotypes are used all over the world and can cause many conflicts. It can negatively affect someone because stereotypes can cause unwanted failure and can refrain someone from being their best self. 

There are many outcomes of stereotyping, and a big one is that stereotypes can cause a lack of success. They have high and/or low standards and society expects people to reach and accomplish that standard. For example, a stereotype could be that boys excel at sports. This sets up a standard and an expectation that everyone expects from all boys. However, if a girl becomes good at a sport and is better than a boy, people are shocked. If a boy isn’t good at sports, he may feel defeated and disappointed that he could not reach that standard or expectation. On the flip side, if the standards of stereotypes are too low, it does not push the person to try harder or to be better.

Furthermore, stereotypes can refrain someone from being their best self. An example would be a stereotype threat. According to the article, “The Good, the Bad, and the What of Stereotypes”, a stereotype threat is defined as, “People who face a stereotype threat are always in fear of doing something that could potentially confirm a negative stereotype.” People have trouble truly being themselves due to the anxiety or fear that they might fit into a disliked stereotype. On the contrary, if you do fit into a stereotype, people expect you to only be that stereotype. For example, as written in “The Good, the Bad, and the What of Stereotypes”, if you are a class clown, people always expect you to be funny. So, if you are upset, people expect you to hide it because you are the class clown. Additionally, a physiological source, “What is Stereotype Threat,” gives evidence stating that, “Keller and Dauenheimer (2003) showed that girls’ reports of frustration, disappointment, and sadness accounted for poor math performance under stereotype threat.” This is all because of stereotypes and the “level” the person must reach because they are a certain race or gender.

Although some people may agree with this, others would say if you fail to reach people’s expectations, it can help the person learn and try again. This is a valid point, however, if you disappoint someone’s expectations, it can cause indifference and cause them to stop trying to meet everyone’s expectations. Another opinion about stereotypes is that there are some positive and uplifting stereotypes. For example, the “all Asians are smart” stereotype. While this stereotype may seem positive, if there is an Asian who may not be as intelligent, it would make them feel unacceptable to society. Also, stereotypes could be biased to a group. The other people who aren’t included in the stereotype can become overlooked or feel like they’re being left out.

All in all, the negative effects of stereotyping could include failure and can cause one to hide who they truly are. The high standards of stereotype leaves people with unwelcomed frustration and disappointment. People do not show their real personality because they are afraid that they will be wrongly categorized into a stereotype. Meanwhile, some may think that some stereotypes are positive, but it is most likely only positive to a certain group causing the others to feel unwanted. The day I called that friend and figured out about the seventh grader made me realize the powerful effect of stereotypes. Hopefully, the future generations will ignore all different stereotypes and prevent them from being used so that they won’t have a similar situation as I did.

Bibliography 

Prince, Karen. “The Good, the Bad, and the What of Stereotypes.” Taylor’s College 14 

May 2020 https://college.taylors.edu.my/en/life-at-taylors/news-events/news/the-good-the-bad-and-the-what-of-stereotypes.html

Stroessner, Steve and Good, Catherine. “What is Stereotype Threat.” Adapted by R. Rhys 

reducingstereotypethreat.org pp.10 

https://diversity.arizona.edu/sites/default/files/stereotype_threat_overview.pdf

Thank You, 1844!

I’ve been swimming competitively for eight years, but I’m not here to tell you about a whole eight years worth of swimming. I am here to tell you that swimming and other sports have an enormous impact on athletes who struggle with mental health. I want to spread awareness about this by sharing my story.

At the age of eight, I began to consider myself a swimmer, but I had been swimming since a day in 2008 when I was two and a half years old. On that day, I remember the sky was cloudy, and the water was cold. My uncle had taken me to the local pool in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Filled with so much excitement, I quickly ran to the bench, threw down my towel, and jumped into the pool. I didn’t officially know how to swim yet, but I kept trying to stay afloat, kicking my legs as hard as possible. I slowly tried to get from one end of the pool to the other. Watching from the deck, my uncle had a slight look of glee in his eyes as his toddler niece tried to swim across a 25-yard pool. 

Three years later, my mother put me in swim lessons at my local YMCA. I was already able to swim across the pool. The instructors placed me in the group level called the Minnows. But surprisingly, swimming twice a week for one hour was not the highlight of my week. I dreaded going, and I was more enthusiastic about gymnastics and basketball practice than swimming. I was more interested in playing in the pool than working on my technique. Also, I was not challenged in my group — some of the children still needed floaties or the instructor’s help. As a result, I did not want to be there, and I felt restricted rather than free in the water. 

I graduated from the Minnows group as a five-year-old and tried out for the YMCA swim team. Though I did well, my age got me an automatic rejection. I moved up to the Flying Fish group and swam in the meantime, waiting for the next tryout date. I was six years old and ready to be a part of something bigger. I was still doing gymnastics too, but it did not feel the same as swimming. Trying out was pretty easy, as all we had to do was swim 25 yards and do a couple of starts on the diving board. Making the swim team felt so great, and I started to reminisce about the joy of being in the water. 

Swimming had become my outlet. Although I was just eight years old, I was expected to be more independent than most kids my age. I had to take car service to practice because my parents were not very involved as they worked very stressful jobs and had to commute. I would be home alone from when I got back from school until 9:00 at night and would often have to eat dinner by myself. Though my dad would work from home when he was not traveling, he also suffered from mental health issues and went into dark moments. That was a lot to handle, but the feeling of being with my teammates and going to practice was my way to clear my head. Even today, I use swimming to clear my head when I am going through something. Thank you, 1844! 

To clarify, I thank the year since, according to the Washington Post, this is the year that  Europeans started taking swimming seriously as a sport instead of just relying on breaststroke. Swimming has made such significant improvements as a sport. Before 1844, swimming was considered an “un-European sport.” But fast forward to 2012, and six-year-old me was playing a sport in which the British have 71 medals. 

Many advancements have been made over the years, and now the four main strokes are Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, and Freestyle. Backstroke, with its perpetual movement of the arms, always reminds me of how fast-paced my life is, and I enjoy being fast. Swimming has done so much for me as a sport, providing a mental and physical release, like a starting beep. The aerodynamics of gliding and moving in the water provided an adrenaline rush. 

My first swim team practice gave me chills; I felt like it was destined from birth. My parents named me Le’har, which means waves, so it felt like they knew from the beginning too. Press the fast-forward button once more to the present day — the 2021 summer Olympics, where athletes have conversations about sports and mental health like they never have before. And it’s only the start.

The starter has always been one of my favorite parts of swimming. It is one of the most critical jobs in a swim meet. An official standing on the side of the pool near the flags, holding a little microphone walkie-talkie, says, “Swimmers, step up!” and then presses the button. The starter is a part of swimming that represents the two-way street of anxiety and freedom. There is so much tension until you are on the “block.” But once you hear the buzzer sound, it gives you a sense of release. Hitting the water, doing your breakout, taking the first breath is all a part of the thrill and excitement of swimming. Kaplow! The race begins.

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Excused

Many Harry Potter readers don’t question Lord Voldemort’s actions. They just accept the fact that he is evil and kills at least 20 people, if not hundreds more, and move on. However, I believe that there is always an excuse, or at least a reason, behind everything — even the actions of an evil wizard. That’s why I want to delve into Lord Voldemort’s crimes and why he commits them. Although Lord Voldemort’s actions are wrong, he has reasons for them. Some of them could be valid, others might just be interesting to explore.

The first reason is that Lord Voldemort is traumatized and twisted by his parents and circumstances in his early life. Even in the orphanage he grows up in, he already expresses some odd behavior, as you can see from observations he makes in the sixth book of the series, saying, “I can make things move without touching them. I can make animals do what I want them to do, without training them. I can make bad things happen to people who annoy me. I can make them hurt if I want to.” (The last two sentences are especially alarming.) Secondly, his lack of a conscience makes it easier for Voldemort to consider killing in service of his goal of immortality. The extent of his crimes and murders demonstrates a profound lack of compassion. This is worth considering, since insane people are also not held accountable for their decisions, and I posit that his lack of compassion is evidence of insanity. And third, he galvanizes the wizarding world to fight for everyone’s safety, including muggles and half-bloods. Although this is a reason that can be explored, I would not say it justifies Voldemort’s actions. Sure, those communities get their acts together, but it isn’t worth all the deaths that Voldemort causes. So let’s get exploring.

Lord Voldemort starts off life in an orphanage after his mother dies in childbirth. This is because his father has abandoned him and his mother, even after realizing that she has been pregnant. This may have been his mother’s fault as well, however, because she has used a love potion to make Voldemort’s father love her. Eventually, she can’t deceive him anymore and lets it wear off, and when he comes to his senses, he leaves. She can’t live on without Tom Riddle and dies. Virginia Zimmerman, a scholar at Bucknell University, writes in her article “Harry Potter and the Gift of Time” that “[both] Harry and Voldemort suffered from the loss of parents at a very young age. For Harry, though, his mother died to save his life; for Voldemort, his mother died because she could not live without Tom Riddle” (qtd. in Emily Anderson). Although Harry and Voldemort have similar situations at the beginning of their lives, Harry’s mother cares for her family, as opposed to Voldemort’s mother, who only seems to care about her husband. This small difference may have led to Lord Voldemort becoming evil instead of good as well as leading him to resent his parents. Once Lord Voldemort is old enough to understand what has happened, his hatred towards muggles (non-magical humans) and half-bloods (half-wizard, half-non-magical humans) grows. In the second book of the series, Voldemort says, “Surely you didn’t think I was going to keep my filthy Muggle father’s name? No. I fashioned myself a new name, a name I knew wizards everywhere would one day fear to speak, when I became the greatest sorcerer in the world!”

 After learning about his past, Voldemort later goes on to kill his father and his father’s family. This sounds brutal, but as I said, Voldemort doesn’t have that much of a conscience. He kills easily, which shows just how messed up he truly is. He goes on to kill more people in order to obtain Horcruxes, which allows him to split his soul and store it safely in objects in order to become immortal. In order to further understand Voldemort, I tried to recreate the story of how Voldemort’s first Horcrux is created. His first Horcrux is a plain, dark diary. It looks old, but it feels smooth and worn. It smells musty and dusty. Lord Voldemort, who is still Tom Riddle at the time, buys it from a Muggle store. I doubt there is much that is significant about Lord Voldemort obtaining the diary at the time — its importance comes later. In Lord Voldemort’s fifth year at Hogwarts, he manages to open the Chamber of Secrets, which is a secret chamber created by Salazar Slytherin, one of the founders of Hogwarts. A basilisk lives inside of it, a deadly monster that can turn people to stone with its gaze. He uses it to attack several students, including a girl who is always crying in the bathroom. After using it to kill her, he embeds part of his soul in the diary, making it into a Horcrux. Voldemort’s personality is expressed through the cruelty in which he kills in order to get his first Horcrux. However, if there had been another way for him to achieve immortality, he would have chased it that way instead. He wants immortality, and he is going to do anything he has to in order to achieve it. In the first book of the series, Voldemort says, “There is no good and evil, there is only power and those too weak to seek it.” In the very first book, Voldemort already shows that he believes that he is not evil, but the most powerful person alive and deserving of immortality. He is blinded by his goal and does not care for anyone. He uses anyone he could to get what he wants. Something else that could contribute to this worldview is the fact that killing in the wizarding world is so easy. All you have to do is mutter two words and a person would instantly die. Because of this, it is a lot easier to be detached when killing someone. It wouldn’t feel as personal as stabbing someone or something. Honestly, I don’t know if it makes a difference (I myself have never killed someone) but it’s a thought. Of course, killing is wrong, but Lord Voldemort doesn’t see it that way. In sum, Lord Voldemort isn’t killing these people because he wants to — he is killing them because they are in his way. He views people as obstacles rather than individuals.

The resurgence of Lord Voldemort may have been unfortunate, but one way it is actually advantageous is because it allows the wizarding world to come together in order to fight him. The incumbent Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, is extremely incompetent. He is driven out of office because he fails to recognize that Voldemort has come back. He thinks that the announcement that Voldemort is back would hurt his career. As the fourth book says, “‘You are blinded,’ said Dumbledore, his voice rising now, the aura of power around him palpable, his eyes blazing once more, ‘by the love of the office you hold, Cornelius! You place too much importance, and you always have done, on the so-called purity of blood! You fail to recognize that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow up to be!’” From this, we can gather that Dumbledore recognizes that Fudge is not making the right preparations and tries to tell him as much, but still Fudge refuses to do anything. Eventually, it is too late, and Cornelius is forced to resign after it is revealed that Lord Voldemort has returned. In the long run, I think this led to a better wizarding world because the next Minister of Magic is more competent. However, without Voldemort, the wizards will likely grow complacent and will not be ready if another threat appears. Lord Voldemort is the main threat for a while. Without him, the wizards would not realize smaller crimes are being committed. Eventually, the criminals behind these small crimes may grow bolder and commit larger transgressions, and there would be another large crisis. An example is the unscrupulous case of Rita Skeeter, a journalist who abuses her powers as an unregistered Animagus (an animal shape-shifter who abuses her ability to spy on private conversations). A whole industry of Rita Skeeters would indeed cause a large crisis.

Although Voldemort should not be forgiven for his actions, I think they can be understood. Voldemort is twisted even as a child, changed by his trauma, which is why he commits all these horrible crimes. He feels no remorse and thinks of every terrible crime he commits as a stepping stone towards immortality. In the end, he helps the wizarding world get their act together and makes them step up to stop him. Although his actions cannot be forgiven, we can at least understand the reasons behind them and the effects they have. I hope this essay was able to show Lord Voldemort’s actions and crimes from a different lens. Will you be able to forgive him? Nah. But maybe you can at least understand him.

Works Cited

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005.

Zimmerman, Virginia. “Harry Potter and the Gift of Time.” Children’s Literature, vol. 37, 2009, p. 194-215. Project MUSEdoi:10.1353/chl.0.0814.

The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword

In 1839, the highly revered words of “the pen is mightier than the sword” were first written by novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton in his historical play Cardinal Richelieu. Ever since, the use of this phrase has skyrocketed and is now commonly used and applied to everyday life. Despite the extremely common use of the phrase, in many cases, it has little effect due to the fact that many continue to question the might of the pen. And their uncertainty is valid, for the pen is an object that is barely longer than three inches. Comparatively, a sword is not only large, but is also a sharp, hefty, and possibly even lethal weapon. After all, the sword has the ability to maim and injure, while the pen’s abilities are limited to words on a page. And while one may be tempted to use physical might and strength to intimidate and therefore have control over another person, they might find that it is not the most influential tactic. On the other hand, though it may not seem so, the pen possesses infinite power. The words we use may influence others in unimaginable ways, and we can use these words to impel others to believe what we believe in, spreading positive influence even further than we realize.

Firstly, imagine two people facing each other. One holds a pen, clutched beneath their index finger and thumb, and the other wields a sword. If they were to fight against each other, there would be a clear victor: the wielder of the sword. The person holding a pen simply has no chance. Now imagine a different scenario. One person, holding a sword, is faced with thousands of people. Another, holding a pen and able to use their voice, is in the same situation. If the two were to try to fight against the mob of people in front of them, who would have a better chance of winning?  A sword is meaningless against so many people. It is so heavy and moves so slowly that it could only attack a few people at once. However, the other person is in luck, for they have the ability to use words, which can not only be used against all thousand people at once, but can also express a much more meaningful idea in the same amount of time. We should all feel lucky, for if we are ever faced with a thousand people, while we may not have a sword, we definitely can use words. And those words, if used correctly, can express a thought-provoking, life-changing thought in just a few seconds.

Furthermore, without causing harm to people, both written words and spoken words allow people to express their complete thoughts. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most notable leaders of the civil rights movement in the United States, is a profound example of this. According to Forbes, the famous and highly influential quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” comes from one of his writings. In April of 1963, King had been arrested for leading a demonstration in Birmingham, and one of his most extraordinary works is his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” He constantly used his striking rhetorical abilities and finely honed way with words to persuade others to join his cause. Thus, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a tremendous influence on millions at the time, becoming one of the most prominent civil rights activists in the history of the United States. And yet, the question remains, why not use violence? Not only is it a more tempting option, it is much easier. However, physical strength only instills fear in people, forcing them to agree to our demands. On the other hand, speaking and writing allow other people to choose to believe in our cause and be encouraged to spread it further. Put simply, one slash of the sword has only one consequence, and its influence likely ends there. But a scribble of the pen can have a thousand outcomes, reaching thousands of people, spreading across nations and breaking barriers.

Finally, words have the ability to evoke emotions from those we choose to influence, and this can greatly help to convince them to believe what we believe. According to CXL, Antonio Damasio was a neuroscientist who conducted a famous study which demonstrated the impact that emotions people feel have on their decisions. He discovered that those with brain damage, who were not able to feel emotions, could not make decisions. Ultimately, he realized that emotions are almost entirely what affect all of the decisions we make. Additionally, within our brain, there are two systems: system one and system two. System one is on consistently and is the emotion processor, while system two is the logical processor. Consequently, there is an ample chance that you will make a decision solely based on your emotions. Therefore, when the words that we use in our writing affect others and can make them evoke emotions, every future decision of theirs is impacted, underscoring the importance of targeting people’s emotions. However, the only emotion that violence can establish is fear. Writing can do so much more. It can tug at our heartstrings, put a smile on our face, make our heartbeats quicken, make us laugh or cry, and bring out the best in humanity. The possibilities are simply endless. For this reason, the ability that words have to impact others is tremendously increased.

Ultimately, our words have a profound impact on those we influence; an impact that is far greater than any form of violence, force, or threats. The pen is considerably more efficacious and eloquent than the sword due to its ability to influence thousands, if not billions of people at once; its ability to make people believe in our cause rather than simply fear us; and its ability to target people’s emotions and impact their decision-making for the rest of their lives. We cannot really measure how far the influence of our words travel. Therefore, we can choose to use the great power and mightiness that our words have to influence change on the future world. Our writing can inspire change in ways that we cannot begin to conceive by spreading our ambition and belief to others, and if we do this for good purposes, we can make the nation we live in — nay, the planet we live on — a better place. If we all use the exceptional power that is writing in the forthcoming years, decades, and centuries, we will be able to accomplish more than ever before. Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s words were thoroughly accurate; though swords are larger, sharperm and more intimidating, when all is said and done, it is the pen, which is powerful enough to be able to impact and alter decisions and beliefs of others, that can spread influence throughout the entire world, that is truly the mightiest of all.

Works Cited

Carmine Gallo.

“Leaders Who Master The Power of Words Inspire Change.” 15 January 2018. Forbes. 19 December 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2018/01/15/leaders-who-master-the-power-of-words-inspire-change/?sh=2ea01d9f3809 

Shanelle Mullin. 

“Emotional Persuasion: The Advanced Guide.” 25 September 2020. CXL. 19 December 2020. https://cxl.com/blog/emotional-persuasion-guide/

How To Persevere

Perseverance is something that everyone should want or have. It helps us reach our goals. But it’s not that easy to just start to persevere. In this short article, I hope I can teach you more about perseverance and how to implement it into your life. 

First, what does it mean to persevere? Who perseveres and how? According to Dictionary.com, perseverance means to have a “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.” It is a quality that most “winners” and successful people must have. For example, let’s say you are taking a really hard test in school, and you forgot to study the day before. You keep going and keep trying even though your work isn’t great and you will ultimately fail the test. You keep on going and trying your best, even though the test might be challenging. You try to keep away your thoughts of how you will do on the test, and just keep trying and not giving up. 

Frontline workers, especially now, must persevere a lot through their work. If they do something wrong or if they are treating a challenging patient, they must persevere and not quit during the most challenging events. They need lots of motivation and perseverance to do their jobs. As previously mentioned, it is a quality that most “winners” and successful people must have. The most successful people such as Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, etc., also need lots of perseverance in their jobs, too. If something went wrong, or if something was challenging, they didn’t just end and quit there. They kept working towards their dreams, towards what they wanted, and never gave up. If they simply gave up, they would never be the famous successful people they are today. 

Now, let’s answer the question you all were waiting for. How do we teach ourselves to persevere? How do we implement the ability to persevere in our lives? First, you should encourage yourself. One of the cancers of progress is negative thoughts and negative self-talk. Negativity wants you to feel sorry for yourself and doubt your abilities to succeed. Think of yourself and your work positively. Never follow the path of, “If I failed one part, I failed the entire thing.” Nothing will ever get done on this path. Another piece of advice I can give you is to identify your goal or your “why.” Know why you are going for this goal and how it benefits you or others. Make sure the goal is meaningful to whatever you are doing. When starting a new project, know what you will do, what your intentions are for this, what you want to finish, etc. Finally, and this kind of goes along with negative thoughts and self-talk, don’t think negatively of the past or the future. Don’t let your past mistakes stop what you’re doing now. Live in the present. Try not to think of the future as a bad thing, too. Don’t get attached to what you do. This makes you have a greater fear of losing it and makes you doubt yourself more. 

All in all, perseverance is a very important quality to have and also may open up new opportunities. It might be hard to persevere at first, but I hope these few tips helped you to teach yourself what perseverance is and how to use it.

Like Living Creatures

Music. It’s what keeps us entertained, it’s what people have in common, it’s what genres we listen to, it’s what cultures we spread, and what languages we speak. Music is all around us. It is what makes my life so special, both now and when it first inspired me. In every way, shape, and form, it is the instruments that truly make music come alive. 

Music, and the instruments it is played on, have been a part of my life ever since I was little. The first time I was inspired to play music was when I listened to a popular classical piece by Ludwig van Beethoven called Fur Elise. The different techniques used to play this piece captured my imagination and showed me so many new possibilities: how fast the fingers moved, how loud or how soft it was played, how fast or slow different parts of the piece were, and what notes were played with. The moment I heard and experienced this piece, I knew that I wanted to start playing the piano. I never looked back, nor do I regret it. 

Beside the piano is one of the places where I feel the happiest. It makes me come alive. The keys on the piano make me feel so free. Every single black and white key located on the piano has a different tone and pitch. You can play two notes at once and they will sound different. The moment I touch the piano, I let out all my emotions and just focus on the beautiful instrument in front of me. Piano is also what inspired me to start playing the violin.

I prefer the violin over the piano because the violin has a much more pleasing and delightful sound. Like the notes on the piano, each note on the violin brings its own unique sound. Each string on the violin is a different thickness and texture. The lowest string on the violin, the G string, is a lot thicker than the E string, the highest string on the violin. Violin requires you to have diligent and concentrated fingers in order to successfully execute the violin. Every single technique used to properly execute the violin requires concentration and diligence. 

Of course, concentration and diligence mean nothing without lots and lots of practice. You cannot expect to be perfect all the time, or right away. As the famous violinist Itzhak Perlman says, “One must always practice slowly. If you learn something slowly, you forget it slowly.” When I first started playing, it was a nightmare. My violin sounded terrible, my notes were all out of tune, my bow sounded scratchy, and I had poor knowledge of where the notes were on the violin. It was not a very pleasant experience. A scratchy bow on the violin with out-of-tune notes is equivalent to the sound of a dying goat. Not a very delightful and pleasant sound. 

 But I practiced, I had lessons, and over time, my playing got much better. Before playing the violin, I had no idea that composing music, and not just playing it, would be life changing. I discovered a new passion that I had no idea I loved so much. I also gained new friends because of orchestra and got to experience what it is like to play in a full orchestra. Playing as part of a full orchestra is an entirely different and fantastic experience. I got to be surrounded by the music in a way that felt entirely different from just playing by myself in my living room. 

My piano is located in the living room of my house. There, it sits waiting for me to warm it up and move around its keys that are getting older day by day. Everyday, it waits for me to sit on its seat and put music on its stand, and flip the pages of its music books. Every hour of every day, it sits in agonizing silence, waiting and waiting and waiting. I look and walk past it everyday in my house. My violin sits in a case in the family room of my house. In its case, it is nice and snug, sitting in the right environment to keep it from breaking or cracking. Everyday, it sits cozy in its case while waiting for the right time to be used. When it is time for it to be used, its strings prepare to make beautiful sounds, and its bow prepares to produce the beautiful sounds that come out of the violin. As every minute, second, hour, and day goes by, it loses the beautiful pitch and tone that it makes, gradually growing old, and eventually unusable. Instruments are like living creatures. Without the right care and nourishment, they will quickly rot and eventually die or become unusable. The longer they are in use, the slower they will break and become wasted. Music and my instruments is what keeps me engaged, dedicated, and passionate. Without music, I may not have discovered my true talent. I cherish every part of my music journey. 

Music brings me joy, happiness, peace. I hope by describing why music makes me happy, it will show how important and meaningful it is to me. Not just because of the way I play or what sounds come out, but because of the way it allows me to express myself without actually having to say words.

Beowulf, the Real Antagonist

In the book, Beowulf, Grendel and his mother are the main antagonists. From Beowulf’s point of view, Grendel basically marches into his hall, massacring many of his men, until Beowulf can pin down Grendel and rip off his arm; Grendel then runs away and dies. Later on, Grendel’s mother wants revenge on Beowulf, so she sneaks into Beowulf’s hall, retrieves Grendel’s arm, and abducts one of Beowulf’s men. So Beowulf goes to her lair, defeats her, and lives happily ever after until the dragon kills him, but that does not affect this essay. 

From Grendel’s point of view, it is revealed that Grendel only starts attacking Beowulf’s hall because of the loud clamor and noise that disturbs him every night. After trying and failing to reason with Beowulf’s men, he decides to take action. But when he moves to attack, he’s ganged up on by a group of warriors. The text reads: 

“But Higelac’s hardy henchman and kinsman

Held him by the hand; hateful to other

Was each one if living. A body-wound suffered

The direful demon, damage incurable

Was seen on his shoulder, his sinews were shivered,

His body did burst.” (Beowulf, XIII, lines 21-26).

Here, we learn that Grendel was unfairly outnumbered by all of the men. It also shows that this wound was “incurable”, meaning that Grendel wouldn’t have been able to use his arm again. At that point of the battle, there was no reason to kill him. In the book, the henchmen and kinsmen have successfully restrained Grendel, so capturing him should have been enough. 

After that, Grendel slinks off miserably to die. And, it is reasonable that Grendel’s mom wants to retaliate. Retrieving her only son’s missing arm is justified, and attacking one of Beowulf’s men is also fair — one for one.    

She would’ve left Beowulf alone and lived without causing any more trouble, but of course Beowulf decides to hunt her down. She is caught by surprise, and after a short battle, in which Beowulf steals a sword, is killed.

So Grendel’s mom dies at the hands of Beowulf while trying to avenge her only son, who was also unfairly teamed up against, and is killed by Beowulf. Beowulf finds that Grendel’s mother took his body. We see later in the book that Beowulf knows Grendel is tired of conflict, his joys seizing from him. 

“When he saw on his rest-place weary of conflict

Grendel lying, of life-joys bereavèd,

As the battle at Heorot erstwhile had scathed him;

His body far bounded, a blow when he suffered,

Death having seized him, sword-smiting heavy,

And he cut off his head then.” (Beowulf, XXIV, lines 30-33)

And yet Beowulf still cuts off Grendel’s head and takes the sword that he killed Grendel’s mother with for no other purpose than to use them as trophies, without any guilt of the deaths that he was responsible for. Beowulf’s subsequent death by dragon? Instant karma. 

Works Cited

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/16328/16328-h/16328-h.htm#XII

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/16328/16328-h/16328-h.htm#XII

Why Do We Dream?

We dream because we all have some sort of imagination. Usually, dreams aren’t exactly what we want to dream about. People say we can control what we dream, but actually, we can’t. Dreams come unexpectedly and randomly. Sometimes we don’t have a dream at all. I have an imagination but that doesn’t necessarily mean I have a dream every single night. Some nights I do, but forget about them, other nights I have but remember them.

When we don’t have a dream, we are usually in the dark until we wake up. This can cause people to oversleep. It’s happened to me many times within time, you will wake up. Don’t worry too much about not being able to get out.

Sometimes our real-life expertise comes through to us in our dreams meaning some of these dreams are connected to our real-life (mostly thoughts buried in our head). Others are just uncommon and unexpected but most of the time, you dream about things you keep buried in your head. You can inflate your dreams by knowing you control what you do in this world. You may not be able to control your dreams but you can control what you do. You can also do abnormal things in the dream world that can’t be done in the actual world.

People stumble in the dream world a lot because it’s not what’s expected for certain people. Some people may think the dream world is like the real world but it’s not, even if they have dreams that could actually happen in real life. You can also confuse your real life with your dream if you dreamt about something that could’ve happened in the near future.

Many people in dreams give themselves the opportunity to look for love and decide to take their dreams to the next level: making out with someone in their dreams. It can get real horny and I’d like to warn people in advance but it wouldn’t be fun to wake up with a wet bed, just sayin’.

You can be a candidate for whatever you want in the dream world since it’s not like the normal world. It won’t affect your work routine in the real world. Dreams don’t make people tired unless they’re a nightmare and terror drains their energy. People usually feel fresh in the mornings after their dream and usually happy because something they’ve always wanted happened in their dream.

In conclusion, I’d just like to say to not be scared of what you dream of. Flow with it if it’s a good dream and take the opportunity to enjoy it. If it’s a bad dream, try to stay calm for if you wake yourself up, you’ll know it’s fake. However, real-life nightmares can occur and can scare you for a while. Good luck dreamers, don’t let your imagination run away with you!

The End

Dear America

Dear America,

We sure have come full circle. 

Even in this day and age, seen as 2020, a year where we really open our eyes to society and see it for what it is, the killing continues, despite all efforts.

Racism strikes again. Another unarmed black man, we all know as George Floyd, died because of a police officer’s racism. A good man minding his own business wiped from the earth from the say of a few men. No. Not men, monsters. Who were they to decide the fate of George Floyd?

And what does the president do about this? Does he try to stop it? No! Instead he supports this. What a surprise. He also said that the New York police:

“must be allowed to do their job!” What demon would allow this?

Police are there to protect, not to attack. To help, and not to hurt. Can just a badge protect someone from being charged with murder? Everything seems upside down in this messed up world of ours.

We can raise awareness from the safety of our homes. Use social media, put signs on your windows, write your feelings down for your family to see even if it is only one person that reads it, or donate to a black lives matter charity (I know I will), and so on. We will forge together to become strong, to create a safe community that respects all, to finally be at peace.

#StepUpAmerica

Stronger together,

Sadie

Carousel Never Stops Turning

4/16/20

Thirty-four days ago, I left school excited for the time off. Thirty-four days ago, I was oblivious to what was happening in the world, the loved ones that were lost, the dangers of this pandemic. Thirty-four days ago, my life changed forever. Since then, my days have been a cycle of sleeping, eating, going on walks, FaceTiming friends, doing online school, and most of all, watching TV. After watching all sixteen seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, one quote, said by Ellis Grey in season two episode five, has really captured how quarantine has felt for me. She said, “But the carousel never stops turning.”

The days go from one pair of sweatpants to the next. Clicking the “next episode” button over, and over again. Walking the same loop in my neighborhood, so I get the one hour of fresh air I need each day. My once too busy life has become a carousel spinning slowly, but never stopping. All I want is to go back to life before the ride slowed down, the carousel ride I once complained about moving too fast. I’m now fully experiencing the meaning of the expression, “the grass is always greener.” I once longed for a slow ride: less work, less drama, what I thought would be easier. But I was wrong; it isn’t easier.

I miss the busy mornings, not wanting to get out of bed and ready for school. Always complaining that it was too early. I miss the loud hallways in between classes, getting jostled around and trying to look over everyone’s heads for where it clears up. I miss the feeling when class was over for the week, hanging around in the hallways after school, dreading the return on Monday. But now, I am ready to return.

It is hard to feel sane now, with this new lifestyle. Thinking back to September, I never in a million years would have thought this would happen. TV characters have replaced people. Google Classroom has replaced teachers. Texting has replaced conversations. There is a new norm, and I am forced to adjust. It’s not easy and I don’t like it, but it’s out of my control. Olaf said it best in Frozen 2: “We’re calling this ‘controlling what you can when things feel out of control.’” I have to focus on the little things I can control, like in what order I’m going to do my classes, or what activity I am going to do next to schedule my day.

Life is a carousel that never stops turning. In these thirty-four days it has slowed down, changing our life. I look forward to the day that it speeds back up again.

A Message

To the present,

There is no doubt this is an unfamiliar and terrible time. It is so easy to be negative about the deaths occurring every second, the sick who cannot be visited by loved ones, and the fact that the world is in a recession. Due to this urgent situation, we must all work together to put an end to this horrific phenomenon. Although staying away from each other is the best way to stop the virus we still must spread hope and positivity, even if it has to be six feet apart, during this hard time. This situation is more serious than I ever could have imagined just a couple of weeks ago, and I am sure many of you feel the same way. Living in a suburb of New York City, a major COVID-19 hotspot, multiple crucial precautions and rules have been set in place to prevent the spread of this pandemic. Through my life drastically changing in just days, I have learned how urgent this situation is becoming. Even though the virus may not be a major concern in your town, at the rate that COVID-19 is spreading, the disease will reach you soon. For instance, my dad works in Russia and just a couple of weeks ago he went to a soccer game in a stadium with around sixty-eight thousand people. My dad was cautious during this game, acknowledging the risks of his situation, yet his friends thought he was a fixated germaphobe since at the time there were very few cases in Russia. However now the entire country is on complete lockdown and anyone who goes out of their house who is not going to the grocery store or pharmacy gets arrested. This shows how quickly the situation can escalate, although it is slightly different in Russia since Putin can make extreme decisions more easily and quickly. The fact that the virus is extremely serious is paralleled in the US. 

To posterity,

When I first learned about COVID-19, I did not think it was going to be a big deal. I heard that schools might be closed for about two weeks and was super excited to get to spend that time with my friends. When some of my family members, particularly my uncle, started to buy extra toilet paper and food in early February, I thought he was crazy. This is going to blow over in a month, I thought, just like the flu comes around every winter. But boy was I wrong. I never could have imagined going to online school every day and being deprived of my last trimester in middle school, let alone the seniors who will most likely not get the experience of graduating that, in some cases, they have waited fourteen years to do. Being in quarantine is unlike anything I have ever experienced. We have to stay inside all day except for the occasional outing during which masks are required. All of the public places like parks and school grounds are closed, except for necessary facilities like grocery stores and pharmacies. Even there, everyone is expected to wear masks and gloves; the aisles are one way so that no one passes by each other and the lines at the registers are marked with tape so that everyone stands away from each other. It truly feels like an altered reality that even our parents have not experienced. This is new ground for everyone and requires adaptation to this temporary new way of life until a vaccine is created, which scientists predict will not be for another eighteen months. Doctors, scientists, and first responders have been true heroes. They have risked their health for ours and are saving many lives without much recognition for it. However, they are very overworked and hospital resources are decreasing. Doctors have to make the heartbreaking decisions, like if a dwindling 80-year-old with lung conditions or a previously healthy 60-year-old with younger kids and grandkids should get the hospital’s last ventilator. Overall, life, as we knew and as you know, is completely altered, completely unfamiliar, and completely unpredictable.

Canceled

Trig functions still echoing in my head from my math test minutes ago, I dashed towards the library and slipped into the school meeting from the back door. I gave our dorm director a lopsided smile, hoping it would compensate for my hoarse gasps and disheveled locks. But his eyes were dark and solemn, a shadow of the man who smiled at every student he passed.

I stiffened. Scanning the library, I felt like a clown who had walked into a funeral. Girls who normally joked and cheered were silent, eyes upturned with uncanny focus. I followed their gaze to our principal, and saw her petite hands shaking.

“In times like this, we will abide by our motto to function in disaster and finish in style.”

Everything suddenly clicked. I tried to claw it out of my mind, hoping that I was just confused. It couldn’t be true. It mustn’t be. Please. But it was too late, like a Jenga tower that had already started to topple.

We were dismissed. Like a river, students flowed out and away. I was the rock in the middle of the current as they parted around me, streaming past, voices laced with sorrow, confusion, anger.

“School’s canceled. It’s all canceled.”

I staggered, leaning on a bookshelf as if it could stop reality from crumbling. The conversations around me tumbled and crashed until they faded, leaving only a dozen or so people in the library. As I lurched towards the exit, I felt as if I was underwater—sounds muffled, limbs light. I stared at the faint stains on the carpet blurring below my shuffling feet. I was looking, but not seeing.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned in surprise, breaking to the surface. It was my freshman neighbor.

“Hey, are you going to be okay? Do you have a place to go?” she asked. I smiled faintly, surprised that someone had reached out, shining a thin beam of light into this storm. I replied and asked her the same question.

“I… I was supposed to go to Connecticut for a spring camp, but it got canceled,” she responded, with a voice that grew meeker as she spoke. She had no plans, and only one night to figure everything out. I felt selfish. I had been worrying about the luggage I needed to pack, the goodbyes I wouldn’t get to say—but at least I had somewhere to go. She was not as lucky, yet she was there to comfort me.

I am not a hugger, but at that moment I wrapped her up, told her it was going to be okay even though I didn’t believe it myself. Before I knew it, she was crying. Then everything I was holding back bubbled to the surface. Friends. Teachers. Roommate. Dorm. Classes. Internships. The simple routines of school life—all gone.

I shattered.

We cried on each other’s shoulders between the double doors of the library, trying to calm ourselves down, until another pair of arms wrapped themselves around us. Her best friend’s. She didn’t say a word as she handed us each a tissue from the Spiderman-themed packet she kept faithfully in the front pocket of her backpack. I smiled despite my tears. Another beam of light.

My two favorite English teachers saw us, and immediately walked over. They asked if we had somewhere to go, whether we were holding up okay. They shared their own feelings, but also words of encouragement: we would get through this together and come out even stronger.

“We’re always here for you if you want to talk.”

My smile grew again despite my tears. They had no obligation to be our therapists, yet they were willing to help unravel the mess of tangled threads I had become. Suddenly I felt like the storm had begun to clear, transforming into a tranquil night.

As I stepped outside the library, the clear blue sky and bright sun starkly contradicted the invisible cloud hanging over the campus. The quad that was usually filled with laughter was now a field of tears, hugs, and goodbyes. It was heartbreaking to see everyone so downtrodden, yet at the same time uplifting to see everyone’s support for each other. I trained my eyes on the brick path, hoping no one would notice my tears, but in the one second I happened to look up, my eyes locked with a classmate’s. Her expression softened in an instant.

“Aww, come here,” she said, arms outstretched. I did. She held me and told me it was going to be okay. I had always known she was friendly, someone that I wanted to know better even though we weren’t close. But on a day like this, no one cared about friend groups or high school circles.

As I continued walking to my dorm, tears slowly drying, I ran into one of my day student friends. She told me if there was anything I needed, she would be happy to help, even offering to let me stay at her house if I had nowhere to go. I almost cried again, this time from appreciation.

As I kept walking, more and more people comforted me with hugs, words, or even just their gaze. It felt like each person was lighting a lantern, its individual glow merging with all the rest to light up my sky and vanquish the darkness.

On the last day of school, the seniors wore white—white like graduation dresses, like new beginnings. In a circle, arms on each other’s shoulders, they cried out in unison. I looked upon the sea of white with wistfulness, but also hope, because I knew it was not just my lanterns flying into the sky, not just the lanterns of hundreds of others at my school. It was millions of people in this state, and billions of others around this world. Luminous, effulgent lights of care, love, community, and unity.

In times of darkness—together—we will shine.

A Covid-19 Personal Essay

COVID-19 has been a scourge to our community, nation, and world. It has brought much pain and suffering to millions and in America alone has killed over 40,000 citizens. My own experiences with the shutdown have been difficult to deal with and adjust to like in most other countries around the world. This essay will take a look at how that process affected me and the differences it made in my life.

I am a junior in High School from the state of Ohio, both the aviation and presidents state, and I am fortunate that I live in a region of the state that does not have a lot of people in it. That region is in the Southeastern part of the state, also known as Appalachia. Prior to the closure by COVID-19, my school had experienced closures due to a flu outbreak; and my AP Government class had to cancel their trip to the state Supreme court. Of course both of these events were only harbingers for what was to come. For some reason the early talk about COVID-19 originated in my Hon. Chemistry class in early March. Some days these talks would take up most of the class period with the kids expressing their concern and the teacher working to help reason out my classmates’ fears. Even as this was going on my classmates and I continued to perform our work and assignments as usual. It was on Thursday, March 12 that all of that changed. My parents received alerts on their phones that my school would close for three weeks by issue of the governor, Mike DeWine. The next day, Friday, was a crazy day with all that went on. My AP Government teacher reminded our class that this was going to be remembered in the history books, something I had thought as well. During lunch that day the student body, of which there were only a few hundred, were divided into the cafeteria, gym, and outdoors in groups of 100ish. We were dismissed from school that day with packets and work online, but unsure of what was to come.

Things only got worse after school let out. The original groups of 100 turned to 10 rather quickly. In no time the now well known 6-foot rule came into practice. Governors and the President both had daily briefings about the virus and how they were working to fight it. The Sunday after I was let out of school, March 15, all restaurants in the state were closed and only allowed to accept drive-thru orders. Additionally, the State cancelled their primary election that was supposed to take place Tuesday the 17. This detail was of primary upset to me due to the fact that, in the state of Ohio, if you are 17, but will be 18 by the general election, you are eligible to vote in the primaries. I happened to fit into this category. That night, the 17th of March, I wrote the following reflection on the recent state of things: “This is a rather interestingly boring time right now with the outbreak of COVID-19. I call it interesting because of the entire world’s reaction to it, boring because of how it impacts people. At least three weeks until we go back to school. A time when only ten people are supposed to be in one place at a single time. All of these circumstances only allow so much to be done. I have a good deal of school work to do over break and I will not enjoy it. I was supposed to vote in the primary election too, but it was rescheduled due to the virus. I hope all of this does not go on longer than it has to, because I don’t like it.” Perhaps at the time I was being a little upset at the way things had changed, and to be honest I still am. 

Speaking of the school work that I had to do at the time, it was, and has been, an interesting process. Seeing as I am a student who likes to take challenges, I am enrolled in either all honors or AP classes. Of these classes, as previously mentioned, I received both packets and online work. For the purposes I would like to display here, I will briefly discuss my work in English, though History is my favorite subject. Much of the work that I did online stemmed from a book called Hillbilly Elegy that is based in Appalachia. I would read a certain amount of the book at a time and later record my thoughts on it in an essay format. Doing this and work for my other classes proved to be a challenge for me. Setting times to work and time to play became difficult tasks. Eventually my father stepped in and helped by establishing a more structured work plan that has worked quite well. During this time I also did small work around the house and helped to stain my parents’ porch with help from my brother.

It was announced this past Monday, the 20th of April, that school would be cancelled through the end of the year. This was a rather disheartening, but not surprising, event to me. My teachers had had online chats, but I was looking forward to seeing my classmates again this year. The faculty has informed students that they hope to have events for this year’s seniors, but I do not feel that it will be the same. COVID-19 has taken out much of the excitement involved with the end of the year as well as the summer. As I look to becoming a senior in high school next year I hope that all of the hard work that has been put into defeating this dreaded killer is fruitful and all of us will see a brighter future tomorrow.

The Diaries of Privilege

March 10, 2020: Bergen County Technical Schools closed – possibly the best news of my junior year experience.

I was scheduled to have my tonsils removed March 12. Missing the last two weeks of the marking period due to recovery would not have done any good for my critical junior year GPA. From my point of view, this Coronavirus saved me.

March 11, 2020: Bergen County Technical Schools were still behind on building an online curriculum. 2 days off for students.

I felt that God was answering my prayers: putting an end to a hellish junior year, allowing me to go into surgery stress free. The universe was finally on my side. I went out for burgers with my mom and boyfriend to celebrate our break from school. How inappropriate this celebration was, we had yet to realize.

March 12, 2020: Tonsil removal surgery date. Also the second day of plummeting stocks and President Trump’s European travel ban.

What an easy day it was going to be. Fall asleep with tonsils, wake up with them gone. With no piled-up work to complete after surgery, I knew I was going to be treated like an absolute princess. I was in my maximum state of emotional comfort, with nothing to worry about. I think something was happening with the market or whatever that day too. I saw it on the TV in the waiting room, but I don’t know. My operation, of course, was my priority.

March 17, 2020: Most painful day of the tonsillectomy recovery process. Millions under lockdown in Europe. Thirty seven U.S. states close their public schools. 

I swear I felt like the universe had turned its back on me again. I was in more pain than I could have imagined. I could barely swallow my own saliva, and the pressure in my throat made my ears throb as if I was sitting at the bottom of the ocean. I wish my parents would stop watching the news and pay attention to my pain. I get it, Coronavirus is getting serious, but I’m in pain too.

March 26, 2020: Fully recovered from the tonsillectomy. 3.3 million jobless claims. One-third of the world is living under coronavirus restrictions. New York City is now the epicenter for U.S. coronavirus cases. 

With the pain drawing to an end, I was finally able to enjoy my “Corona-cation.” My introverted self frankly enjoyed the restricted movement. It was so nice to see my parents able to have more quality time together, as well as with the whole family. My friends kept complaining on social media about how staying with their families stressed them out. I wished they would stop taking things for granted.

I loved the company of my bed most. I’d forgotten how nice it was to have a solid eight hours of sleep. I’ve got to switch out my pillows soon though; they’re giving me neck pain. I wonder how the homeless are doing.

I ate all three meals at home now, of course. Was my mom’s cooking always this good? I wonder if those jobless people are finding enough to eat. 

I was living my best life. How could I possibly ask for more? I hoped nothing would change. Is that too ignorant of me to ask for?

April 1, 2020: Neighboring schools start cancelling school events. The U.S. has more confirmed cases than any other country. 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die in the next few weeks.

Junior proms were the main talk of my social media. My friends from neighboring towns were both sad and angry about having wasted money on dresses.

I envisioned the cancellation of my prom in the near future. At least I hadn’t ordered my dress yet. I was so thankful I had nothing to worry about, but I also hoped all those sick people on the news were okay. This Coronavirus thing is starting to be a little scary. Junior prom potentially being cancelled still sucks though. 

April 6, 2020: 1.27 million infected and 69,000 killed worldwide from COVID-19. The U.S. surgeon general said this week would be “the hardest and saddest,” and a “9/11” moment.

I was growing sick of this quarantine lifestyle. Without anywhere to go, anyone to see, anything to do, life was becoming a bland cycle. With all this extra time, I started to complain. All anyone had to talk about was COVID-19 and I was bored of hearing about the same thing. Coronavirus is spreading. Stay at home. Healthcare workers are running out of masks. Hospitals are short on ventilators. The number of unemployed has reached a historic peak. Those vulnerable to domestic abuse have no escape. People are dying. But I’m bored and I have every right to complain.

The sad reality is that it took a global pandemic and the changed lives of millions for me to fully love the many things I take for granted. My ignorant self sought joy through satisfying my greed and selfish desires. I initially chose to overlook the millions of people around the globe who are suffering from COVID-19, whether directly or indirectly. Instead, I chose to reflect on myself, and all the things that I didn’t have. I chose to complain about all that was wrong with my warm home, full refrigerator, comforting bed, internet access, access to education, and my employed and forgiving parents.

Yet still, even during this global pandemic are those who remain discontented, complaining about the things they don’t have. Despite the daily reminder of those who are losing everything to the rapid spread of COVID-19, we choose to seclude ourselves from the tragedies of the real world and look for reasons to justify our discomfort in the midst of all our blessings. We choose to take, we choose to only satisfy ourselves, and we choose to keep the world revolving around us, when really our world is suffering because we choose to spoil ourselves with ignorance.

Carrying On in the Dark and Lonely Hour

Last year, I had many plans. My mom and I had planned to go to Japan sometime during spring break this year, and my excitement was as large as the island nation itself. There would be so many attractions there: sights which cause curiosity to bloom amongst the country’s cherry blossoms; food with delicious scents and tastes that dance into the nose and mouth; and a vibrant culture which awakens even the saddest person with pure felicity. By January, though, COVID-19 had already terrorized multiple countries that included Japan, so my mom was forced to put this destination in the backburner. We thought of other destinations, too—from far-away South America to nearby Boston. But as the demon of a virus spread farther around the globe, one by one these plans were no longer a possibility. Sure, I was sad, but there wasn’t a flood of sorrow in my soul; I still had things I could do around here in my little home in the DMV. Little did I know, however, that COVID-19 would continue to spread its torture across the United States, hurling me into a dust storm of anxiety, sorrow, and insanity.

The reality of this pandemic didn’t hit me until my sister, Jess, made me stay at home. Originally, only my mom and grandma—whose health conditions and ages made them vulnerable to the illness—were forced to stay put, but the fact that I could spread COVID-19 to them forced me to go into lockdown in my own home. I always loved the apartment I lived in since I was born, despite the ice-cold marble floors and germ-infested kitchen that I hated. But the fact that I couldn’t go outside—not even for a simple five-minute walk—soon led my happiness to go into hiding. At some point during isolation, the flood of sorrow that hadn’t been in my body before was now there, and my mind was sinking within it faster than I could say my own name. I couldn’t even bear looking at my beautiful caramel-colored chihuahua, Maisie, who my family and I took home in July 2019. I was with Maisie every single day, and the fact that I was being imprisoned in a jail cell and was falling deeper into sadness made me not love her anymore.

But the sadness wasn’t the worst of this storm. I had anxiety stemming from school pressure long before this pandemic, and the fact that we were trapped in a frightening new era left me in the No-Man’s Land of emotional vulnerability, therefore worsening my condition. The vulnerability came about whenever I heard or thought about the tragedies of this pandemic, such as people dying, hospitals being overwhelmed, and grocery store shelves running empty. That was when the crying fits came. Just the stress of school and hearing pandemic-related things—like not being able to leave the apartment—caused me to shed so many tears, I could have created a raging river in my home. At one point during isolation, I cried once—maybe even twice—a day for a whole week. It was an emotional relief whenever I cried, but at the same time a giant tree breaking from the impact of this storm was at the brink of crushing me. Sometimes, things seemed so hopeless that I considered suicide. The thoughts weren’t new, but the fact that the world was a non-stop raging hurricane just because of a virus made it difficult for me to control myself emotionally, and I believed that the rain would never stop to reveal a beautiful rainbow. And I wasn’t only concerned about my own life. I worried about the people I loved getting COVID-19, such as my mom, who literally saved me from suicide and comforted me in my darkest days; my grandma, who always made me laugh with her Puerto Rican grandma antics and silly jokes; and especially Jess, who’s currently on the front lines caring for COVID-19 patients even as her stress grows exponentially. 

However, as the days went by, the sky began to clear up a bit. Doing things such as listening to music, focusing on personal writing projects—including this essay—and even schoolwork and playing with Maisie (who I’m starting to love again) has brought me some sense of stability. In fact, just cutting out the news from my life has made a huge, positive difference. I am thankful to say that even though I still have my worries, I don’t cry as often now, and the anxiety, sadness, and suicidal thoughts have decreased substantially.

As things continue to improve for me, I have hope for the days ahead. Maybe society will change for the better; love for all will filter the polluted air, and we will appreciate more than ever those who are currently doing so much for us storm-weary people. There will be a day when this virus will reduce to a microscopic minimum, and life will slowly become normal again. I don’t want to give up on life just yet, because I want to be here to experience that day. So until then, I will continue to stay as strong as I can up to the day this storm passes and beyond. And besides, we all have to go through rainy days in life, don’t we?

A New Normal

Imagine being able to control time and press pause on everything. That’s what life is like now. Sports, school, activites, events, all cancelled, postponed, or done online.

One day we went to school with all of our friends laughing, talking, and then we found out that we wouldn’t be going back until… an undetermined time. At first we thought it would be fun but you never know how good something is until it’s gone. There is so much less interaction without school. Even if it’s not fun at least school is entertaining. Also, although school is online now, it is extremely hard to learn without watching a teacher. We have to work even harder to get our education. It’s also very stressful having to manage everything yourself and step up to the responsibility. 

You would think that being off from school would be fun right? Well, that’s because normally on breaks you get to do fun things. However, our entire state is a ghost town. No going out to eat, bowling, going to movies, or parties. After the first few days, the excitement wears off and it’s just pure boredom. No highs or lows, just a long, long straight line. 

Unfortunately, this outbreak has canceled many different events. Sporting events, concerts, dances, parties. Anything and everything is either postponed or just straight up cancelled! The poor class of 2020 will most likely not get a proper graduation or prom. All sorts of activities that we have been looking forward to for the longest time are all gone.

Households are chaotic. Parents are trying to work from home, while children are doing remote learning. Nevermind how impossible it is to take care of toddlers and babies! Spending time 24/7 with only your family makes you argue with them more often. You might think that working or going to school from home might be easier but it actually comes with a lot of complications.

Resources are almost impossible to find! For some reason toilet paper and hand sanitizer seem to be disappearing from every store. If they’re still in stock, then their price will be absolutely ridiculous. Even getting food for your family is hard because stores are filled with germs but orders online are booked. Plus, if you get an online order you still have to sanitize it once it arrives. Especially less fortunate people who don’t have the money to pay for resources are in a very hard position now more than ever, families who can’t acces food or don’t have the technology for online schooling. 

Thank you to all of the doctors, nurses, and scientists who are helping us find a vaccine for the coronavirus and treat those infected with it. Also, to the essential workers like delivery people, grocery store workers, and many others who are keeping the world running during these times of crisis.

Everyday people like you and me can also do our part to end this soon and go back to normal life. Please, please, please practice social distancing and stay inside if you can! Going out will spread the disease, making this last longer and endangering other people’s lives. Another thing you can do is donate to foundations that support scientists looking to develop a vaccine or donate money to help essential workers. Do your part and we will get through this together!

The Future

Our future, it’s uncertain. We’re on a path to self destruction, but almost no one seems to care. Right now, the future of humanity is in a plane with no pilot, dropping out of the sky. Every single passenger can fly the plane, but no one wants to risk unstrapping their seatbelt and walking into the cockpit. That would be dangerous. So when I think of a future, two scenarios come to mind.

In the first scenario, no one stands up, and the plane crashes. It’s a time and place where water is scarce, trees seldom stand, and food is a luxury. Where the once lush Earth is now bleak, barren, and brutally hot. Where our skin gets burned when we step outside, where we need to wear oxygen masks to survive, where everyone is the enemy. Where we go extinct. We’ll look back in anguish and wonder where it all went wrong.

We burned too much fossil fuels. Wouldn’t stop. Bred too much livestock. Wouldn’t stop. Cleared too many trees. Wouldn’t stop. Wasted too much stuff. Wouldn’t stop.

And we’ll think, Why didn’t we do something? Why didn’t we stop when we knew we should’ve? We’ll think, and think, and think some more, our oxygen mask clamped against our red, searing, sweltering face. We’ll think with our stomach rumbling in the background, our tongues cracking, lips chapped. We’ll think and think and think and think, until we can’t think anymore. We’ll probably come up with lots of excuses. Excuses like, it would have been impossible to stop or lots of people would suffer if we tried to do something. This is what we’ll tell our kids, our grandkids. We’ll try to explain to them, try to make them see it from our point of view. But they will never forgive us. Because no excuses will ever excuse the fact that we knowingly did this to ourselves. That we did it, hoping with almost no hope that the data was faulty, that the predictions wouldn’t come true. That the scientists, the activists, that they were wrong, all wrong. But they weren’t.

But there’s another way. We can take off our seatbelts. We can stand up. We can fly the plane, and save ourselves.

When the coronavirus struck, we took action. Schools were closed. Countries locked down. We didn’t pretend it wasn’t real. We searched for solutions. The world united and took action. This kind of leadership, it’s what we need right now. It’s what we need if we want future generations to even have a future.

The coronavirus, it’s awful. Hundreds of thousands have died, and more will certainly follow. But if there’s one positive to this disease, one lesson to be learned, it’s that we can work together to accomplish a common goal, no matter the size. Once we accept this, we can solve our most daunting challenge ever: climate change.

We can do it. The solution, it’s right in front of us. It’s been there for years. We just need to take action. And once we do, it’ll be great. It’ll be historic. Our kids, our grandkids, they’ll listen in awe as we tell them how the great world leaders of the 2020s turned it all around. And then they’ll ask, “but how did you do it?” And we’ll look back and remember how we changed our fate. We’ll tell them all the details.

We burned too much fossil fuels. But we stopped. Bred too much livestock. But we stopped. Cleared too many trees. But we stopped. Wasted too much stuff. But we stopped.

They’ll learn about how we stopped doing what was easy, and started doing what was right. They’ll learn about how we knew that the data wasn’t faulty, that the predictions would come true if nothing changed. They’ll learn about how we stopped hoping that the scientists, the activists, that they were wrong, all wrong. Because they were right.

COVID-19 Through the Eyes of a Teen

COVID-19 was, at first, a dream come true. A whole month home from school! But then, things started to go downhill. The city closed down, slowly. First were the schools, and then went Micheals, AMC theaters, and then, the final blow to New York, Broadway. Broadway is the center of New York. It is a dream that is not even a fantasy that could have been imagined. 

To kids in New York, it begins with the outdoors. To venture outdoors is sometimes a risk not worth taking. Every child needs fresh air, and that necessity now is being snatched away. To be outside could be getting you or someone else sick. Now, kids everywhere are being forced to stay inside, with only a computer and some other activities for comfort. Going outside means exercise, and that is a necessity. A dream come true at the beginning, and then a nightmare at the end. 

Online school as well is disrupting learning. Being on a computer for a long time every day, five days a week is going to hurt children and adults alike. Also, everyone needing the computer is going to strain relationships and cause arguments between children. The arguments will worsen even more as people cannot leave the house and get away from each other. Computers have always been a tool, but now they have become a necessity that is needed in every household in order to function. Computers are a necessity in the world of today and tomorrow, but until the pandemic is over and even afterwards, computers may have a boom in usage in the average American household. Computers have helped, but they also hurt your eyes, and your life. 

Coronavirus may be showing the world a full scale pandemic and how bad the world is getting. This world scale pandemic may destroy half of the world’s population, and plunge the economy into a depression from which we may never recover. The mask and ventilator companies are getting a lot more money, and Walgreens and all other stores that sell necessities are getting a lot more people visiting. Now, the stores have to limit the amount of people inside and have to ensure the safety of their employees. Spiderman sums up the coronavirus effects with this famous quote: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

COVID-19 has been hurting the world more than helping it. To kids all around the world, they all have to stay at home with limited ways to exercise and get their energy out. COVID-19 has been hurting this planet mentally and physically, and has helped corporations while humbling them by making them help employees and allowing only a few people at a time. The COVID-19 virus may last for one more month to another whole year. The future is uncertain: we don’t know how many people will die, we don’t know what will happen next, and most importantly, we don’t know the effects of COVID-19 on the world. One thing is for certain. There will be a lot of changes to the world hierarchy, whether in schools or in jobs. There will also be a lot of changes to the economy. Everything in this moment is constantly changing, and to the kids of today this will affect the world of tomorrow. On the bright side though, all those kids who have lived through this time will have ideas about how to deal with a pandemic if it does happen in the next generation. 

A Collection of My Quarantine Feelings

My old life wastes away, carried by the same wind that carries the virus that ruined my senior year. I used to run and jump. I felt the deep burn of fatigue run up my legs, punch my thighs, and sit on my chest. I always hated that feeling in the moment. My mind was often unwilling to let my body continue suffering through the symptoms of athletics. In my bed, I can feel myself disintegrating. My mind and body left without exercise, floating into nothingness. My bones slowly lose density as I am untethered in deep space, with nothing to latch on too. The concept of doing bicep curls in my basement disgusts me, as all I want is to slam my chest barbarically, lock eyes with my opponent, and see him find out that I am and will always be better. I know now that that feeling may never return.

The streets are different to me. Barren and fallow, I traverse a ghost town in a car that nobody cares I have now. The lights are always green. My drives aren’t the same. I am late to everything, ask anyone who has known me for more than a year. Whenever I say that I’ll be somewhere in five minutes, they call it the David Five, which usually means closer to fifteen or twenty. That was before. I drive aimlessly now, accelerating out of desire not need. The same traffic lights that caused me irritation once now leave me wanting more. They are boring. They give me what I want. Now I realize that I don’t even want that.

I broke up with my girlfriend over the phone. I cried for the first time since my basketball season ended. I know she cried a lot that week. She was amazing. She was the best friend anyone could ever ask for. Hopefully I can change that was to is soon. Her laugh is unmatched, especially the ugly one. She snorts sometimes if you get her really good. Her nose is slopped like the tips of my skis. Her eyes are like diamonds, her lips are like pillows, and her cheeks look like they are being held up with strings. I am really bad at communication and since the year started I never told her any of this. I don’t know why. I wish it hadn’t burned out. A star that once shone so bright slowly collapses in on itself, leaving nothing but a black abyss behind. I felt like everytime we talked I fell deeper into that abyss. I wish I knew why. We dated for two and a half years and now it’s over.

Silver Linings of Self Quarantine

When people from the US heard about the virus in China, some of us thought it would never spread so worldwide. We looked at it like it was barely our business, yet here Covid 19 is, affecting all our lives. The virus doesn’t discriminate or single out who it infects. No one is immune to the virus. Everyone and anyone could get it, because we are all under the same sky, the same humanity, with the same weaknesses. This pandemic shined a light on the fact that we are so similar. Of course our own souls and personalities are different, but I can see how the way we all spend our quarantine has been very similar.

In quarantine, many teens are doing the same things: scrolling through social media, doing the same TikTok dances, playing Animal Crossing, having the goal to “glow up” before we return back to school (even though we barely have the commitment), and complaining about how bored we are and how there is “nothing to do.”

This quarantine keeps being seen in such a pessimistic view. And I know we can all agree this pandemic is awful and it’s truly terrifying to think about how contagious the virus is and how easy it is to lose a loved one in these times. But there are so many silver linings to our situation. This event is unifying us, we are coming together and talking about things more and more as a worldwide community. We join forces, using so many of our similarities to try to overcome this adversity we all have. 

Many people reacted to the virus, understandably, in panic. Many people started hoarding supplies at home as a comfort mechanism because it made them feel safe. It was like an every man for himself type act. As many of us were able to see the results, that caused more panic because the people who actually did desperately need the supplies weren’t able to get any because everything was bought out by the hoarders. 

The best way to keep everyone safe and healthy is for us to be mindful of others and try to work together because of how limited things are. When we try our best to stay hopeful in these crazy times, it will help us realize the best ways to make the most of our situation.

The little golden pieces I’ve found since this quarantine began are that people are actually calling eachother again. This normal phone call used to seem old fashioned to many, but now we are all communicating and connecting to each other much more freely over the phone with our extra time. Some of the biggest complaints I hear from teens are that you “can’t be with your friends.” I never realized how much everyone relied on each other for happiness until now. But the positive is, you really can be with your friends and family more often now, even if it isn’t physically. If you’re a student, you may have thought it was easier to connect to your friends while at school, but now that you’re home you realize you have all the technology around you. You could have virtual parties and sleepovers every single day if you wanted to, rather than your school telling you when you are and not allowed to speak to your friends.

Along with having more time to connect to friends and family, the quarantine time offers many opportunities for everyone to pursue what they truly care about. Back before anyone knew this type of chaos could happen, I would always complain to my mom that “if I didn’t have to go to school every day, I could get much more important things done at home.” I bet many other kids have said the same things to their parents as well; and I understand school provides a safe environment for everyone to meet, interact, and grow with a schedule and planned activities, but for some very motivated kids, the school shut down feels like an answer to a wish! The situation provides a chance for more challenge, creativity, and strength for more targeted interests. Students have more opportunities to dig deeper into something that they want to learn more about that isn’t strictly math or english. There are many online enrichment platforms that many of us get to have access and be exposed to to learn and grow.

Along with being able to work on yourself during quarantine, you may learn and grow to enjoy some simple “me time.” Quiet alone time is something some people consider extremely lonely. But being alone isn’t always a bad thing, and spending time with yourself can be more refreshing and enriching than partying with friends. The truth is, we will all be forced to find new different ways to enjoy and be happy with ourselves without needing friends directly by our sides. Newfound joys in hobbies will probably be erupting throughout the social distancing phase. I believe everyone will come out of quarantine with a better sense of self.

Everyone can grow and benefit from this time to ourselves and with family. This social distancing time gives everyone more time to organise, reflect, and spend time with themselves and stay connected to everyone they love and care about. We can all also become more thankful for the things we already have and maybe take for granted. Many of us and our family members are lucky enough to be healthy. While stuck inside, many of us get the luxury to have clean water and fresh food, as well as eating together! We should be grateful for whatever we can have. Everyone can find new angles and positive ways to look at this “Coronacation,” as many people call it. Us collaborating is the best way to help us find the lightness in this heavy situation. Although quarantine is meant to separate us, it is really bringing us more together than we thought.

The Small Branches on the Oak Tree

The-Coronavirus began as a sprout in the ground, wriggling its way to sunlight. It began to enlarge, growing big, unwieldy branches. But tucked by the sides of those leaning boughs are thin, unseen twigs. Every branch represents one aspect of change, but those twigs represent the things that have changed that are given barely enough attention. Uncertainty about what “normal life” looks like in the future is one of those twigs.

In just two months, I’m supposed to be packing up half-broken fans, too many batteries, and a green-and-white uniform stained with clay to head to sleep away camp. Camp has always seemed like some faraway, magical castle with golden turrets, but even more so now, just because at camp there’s fresh air and connection to real live people. To think that in two and a half months I could be laughing on the beach at the lake with my friends seems unreal. That’s probably because there is a great chance that it is unreal.

Every day there is constant uncertainty. People are uncertain about where to get food. People are uncertain about their paychecks. People are uncertain about how much longer quarantine could go on for. Some days, my parents suggest that we still go shopping for new camp gadgets, or try and email new campers about what to expect. Other days, they discuss the newly discovered “camp insurance,” a company to help you regain money that was paid for camp. All of a sudden, camp insurance is a necessity. Outrageous, some might say, outrageous to spend seven weeks living in the same room as ten other girls, sharing bathrooms and dining rooms and bunk beds.

I like to think of the two months looming between me and my golden-turreted castle as a rubber band. While the coronavirus persists, the rubber band of time stretches until it’s long and worn, but the second I’m back at school, the rubber band will snap back to normal shape and all of a sudden I’ll be at camp. 

But everyone’s been wondering about whether or not those days will ever seem normal, whether or not the rubber band will go back to shape after being stretched so far and for so long. I’m wondering whether I have seventy days until camp or four hundred thirty-five days.

Uncertainty aside, we all know what we want to happen. Undeniably, we all want life to go back to what it was before. We all wanted to celebrate recent holidays together, and we all want to celebrate upcoming ones together.

We would all be able to hug each other without worrying about infecting our loved ones. We could bring over crackers and appetizers without trying to keep them as clean as possible. Of course, this is what we want to happen. But we’re uncertain. What will probably happen is a virtual July 4th zoom with virtual backgrounds that portray fireworks. 

I saw a post on social media of a teenager predicting how quarantine and the Coronavirus will progress. They said that by June, it should all be cleared up. The post had a decent pile of likes. The main reason for people to like that post is because they agree, right? Or maybe it’s what they all want to happen.

The wood in our houses is weary of being knocked, and our fingers weary of being crossed. There’s not much we can do except hope that what happens is what we want to happen, and to stay away from the rest of the world.

We’re not supposed to go near anyone. We’re not supposed to enter public spaces without a mask. Kids aren’t even supposed to enter anywhere except their homes. The people of New York State have been quarantined for about four weeks now. It’s hard to remember what “normal” is.

Before now, normal for most kids would be going to the bus and heading off to school, going over to a friend’s house, doing homework, coming home to a family dinner. Is that how we picture normal now, though?

Because kids have been missing out on interactions outside of our families, we can only imagine the future being filled with interactions like hugging and high-fiving. Back to the rubber-band question—it’s improbable that the future holds these things. I will have, and maybe others will have, developed a need to restrain ourselves from going too close to other people or using public objects or facilities. Chances are that the second we get out of quarantine, we’ll be nervous to hug and constantly hold hands. Avoiding another outbreak will be crucial. 

Few people notice this, so it is a small branch tucked between two larger boughs of “normal life” and “human interaction.” The end of quarantine might not be what we expect it to be.

Quarantine makes us think about the uncertain future. It gives us many minutes a day to dwell on what we wish would happen. It activates our brains to exaggerate what the past was- and place that exaggeration into the future.

Will life ever be back to “normal”? Will what we want to happen come to life? Will we be able to immediately see our friends and distant family?

These twigs, these questions, will continue to grow in number and size. They will wave around quietly on the oak tree, waiting until the day we learn the answers. 

Waiting for a Bounce

You spend your whole life running. You barely pay attention to the honking horns, the blaring sirens. That’s all white noise to you. You don’t observe your surroundings. Your morning commute on the bus? If someone asked you who was the man in the fedora who always sneezed every time the bus stopped, you wouldn’t be able to tell them anything. You didn’t even know that man existed… you were too busy looking at your phone, or stressing about what school would bring, trying to make it before the first bell. You never noticed anything. Life was a speeding train with no intention of stopping.

And then, suddenly, someone pulled the brakes. Stores were closing, school closed indefinitely. Your family packs up and moves you all out to your house in the country, away from the only city you’ve called home.

At first, it’s not that bad. You can actually hear the birds outside, cheeping. You were never able to hear them before. At night, you don’t hear the horns honking, the ambulances blaring. Every night is a peaceful one, the only sound being the wind outside and the clock ticking in your room. The air is cleaner, and for once your nose isn’t always assaulted with the memorable smells of piss and car exhaust. 

You get to spend more time with your family, which was hard to do with your life moving so fast. You’re even learning how to drive (you haven’t broken anything, thank God). 

Then one night, snuggled in a blanket on the couch with your family, you see this movie. It’s one of those romantic ones with those big dramatic kissing scenes, like when the main character seizes their love interest by the waist and passionately kisses them on the top of a building. There’s music, the wind is pulling at their hair, the camera is going around them, a swoon-worthy scene in every aspect. Anyways, as you’re watching one of these scenes (this time the kiss happens in the middle of a staircase, not on top of a building), you wonder what it feels like to be kissed like that or kissed at all, because you, at the ripe age of 17, have never been kissed before. 

And with that realization comes a sinking feeling in your stomach, because, when public health safety precautions dictate you must social distance and stay six feet away from everyone, it may be awhile before you, a virgin in terms of kissing, will be kissed, and that really depresses you, for whatever reason.

Kissing is such a small concern, and you know that, but this realization becomes a catalyst, and suddenly, you realize you miss so many other things.

You miss your favorite bakery that sells the best croissants ever.

You miss being able to easily hug people.

You miss your friends. You miss seeing them in person, instead of through the grainy images of FaceTime, or Zoom, or whatever you use, depending on the type of phone your friend has.

You miss a city where the lights are never off, where there’s always something open at 2:00am in the morning, and though you are rarely out and about at that hour, the knowledge of that always comforted you when you would fall asleep at night, the neon lights of distant buildings shining through your bedroom window.

You miss your home.

You miss your life.

You do a lot of missing these days.

You miss the anticipation you felt before your summer program was cancelled. You miss a world before a pandemic, and just to comfort yourself, you watch anything filmed before the pandemic. You feel an ache in your chest of seeing people freely interacting, of people not subconsciously keeping more than an arms’ length radius from each other. You miss a world where people weren’t scared to touch… or at least, not more than they should be.

Quarantine makes you awfully philosophical. It is in one of these philosophical hazes, you stroll down a dirt path outside your house, the spring air rushing through your hair. It’s a reminder of how lucky you are: you still get to go outside. You close your eyes, taking in the scents of trees, of flowers, of wet dirt (it had just rained). Your house is by the sea, so the air has a slight tang that only salt and brine can bring. 

As you are taking all this in, you open your eyes, and stare at the tops of the trees, the distant blue strip of ocean hovering in the distance. And thoughts start meandering into your head, slow and lazy like maple syrup. 

You wonder when all this will end, if there is an end.

You wonder when people will stop dying.

You wonder if all of us are somehow dying, not just the very sick. It’s a very morbid thought. You give yourself time to work through why on earth you would think such a thing. 

You wonder if a small part of someone dies when they lose a loved one. 

You wonder if the life you’re living right now, lacking all the little and big things that make life wonderful, is a life at all.

You wonder if that’s at the core of every issue arising from the pandemic. Loss. You turn the word over and over in your head. In the afternoon sunlight, on that dirt path, you turn, ready to head home, when an epiphany comes to you. And it catches you completely by surprise.

You say the epiphany, not out loud, but in your head, over and over and over like the ringtone of your phone. Do you want to know what you thought at that moment? I’ll tell you.

You thought that the reason why everyone is slowly dying because of this pandemic, is because everyone has lost something.

And you wondered when everyone would begin to get something back instead.

Silver Linings

I am quarantined with my mom, my dad, and my triplet little sisters. Sounds a bit chaotic, doesn’t it? Two adults and four girls stuck all day in a not very big house. I used to think the universe was plotting against me by giving me triplet younger sisters. Why me? The odds of triplets are about 1 in 9000 and I was the one who ended up being their older sister. But although I haven’t always realized it, my sisters were the best thing that ever happened to me. Over the past few years, I forgot how lucky I was to be that 1 in 9000. It took being quarantined with them to make me realize once again how lucky I am to have them. Sometimes it takes going through hard times to realize how lucky you are. If the pandemic and staying home have taught me one thing, it’s that nothing is all bad. Everything has a silver lining. Although I lost some things when we were quarantined and my day to day life was put on hold, I gained so much more. I’ve gotten to spend more time with my family and now have a deeper appreciation for family and for sisterhood. With my sisters, I could never be alone, even in isolation.

When we were in elementary school, my sisters and I were inseparable. We went to the same school, and sometimes they would escape the kindergarteners’ area and sneak over to the big play structure so they could play with me and my friends. Every day I was in charge of walking them home from school. They were wanderers, so I would tell them to get in a line, hold hands, and follow me. It was like I was the mother goose and they were my little chicklings. When we got home, we would play pretend school. I would set up a fake classroom with our dolls and our chalkboard and pretend to be their teacher. We also had a play kitchen my grandpa made us out of wood. We would bake fake cakes and have pretend tea parties. We drew flowers and fairies with chalk on the sidewalk in front of our house.  We played hide and seek and we played games in our backyard.

But then we got older. One day we no longer went to the same school. I went off to middle school and left them behind. Every day I went to school and then after school I would go to soccer practice and do homework. I no longer walked my sisters home from school. We no longer played together after school. We no longer had tea parties or drew with chalk on the sidewalk in front of our house. With every day, with every month, with every year that passed by, our lives grew further and further apart. As my sisters grew into annoying tweens, I began to see my triplet sisters as more of a curse than a blessing. 

So when the quarantine began, I dreaded the coming months. I saw staying at home with just my parents and my sisters as a nightmare. But it turned out to not be such a nightmare, despite the things that were canceled and everything I lost, I gained so much. We gained a stronger sense of family togetherness. Spending this past month with my sisters has made me realize how lucky I am to have them. Often family and sisterhood are things that are just taken for granted, and with our busy lives, we often don’t stop to enjoy and appreciate these things. 

Now that our schools are closed, I feel like we’re little kids playing school once again. Every day I teach them math and help them with their homework, I am their pretend teacher once again. We bake often, this time for real, not in our wooden play kitchen. We make cakes and muffins and we even made ice cream. We play soccer in our backyard. We have picnics that remind me of the pretend tea parties we would have as small children. 

When you’re in quarantine, everyday life is more simple, the days seem to sort of just blend together. To many, that might sound like a bad and boring way of life. And I saw it that way at first, too. But then I realized that with my sisters, even quarantine has its bright sides. Even the plainest of days are fun with them. My new day to day life is much different than it was before, but I’ve found happiness and joy within this new way of life. I feel like a little kid again. My days are filled with pretend school, baking, tea parties, picnics, playing games, painting the sidewalk with chalk, laying in the grass, and long walks. This life is plain and child-like, yes, but happy nonetheless. You can find joy in even the worst situations. 

I’m not going to say our quarantine is all sunsets and daisies. My sisters and I have our fights. Fights that usually end up in sixteen flailing arms and legs and some bruises. Always about the stupidest things like who gets the last scoop of ice cream left in the bin. There’s no doubt about it; my triplet sisters are triple the chaos. But I have learned to love the chaos. And in the end, despite our conflicts, they will always be there for me and I will always be there for them. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my sisters, and I couldn’t survive quarantine, or the rest of my life, without them. 

Beautiful Fragility

The world surged into surreality just as I turned fifteen. On March 12th, the stay-at-home order was put in place; five days prior, I’d been straightening my hair, meticulously glossing my lips, and ready to celebrate with my closest friends. I had an inkling of what was to come, thanks to my father’s mathematical predictions. I’d chosen to ignore it and have one relaxed evening, burying myself in the petty issues that come with being a teenage girl. So when the events began to unravel so quickly and suddenly, the threat of global havoc finally making itself clear in my muddled mind, it was hard to comprehend.

Looking back, week one’s events are hazy. I was happy that school canceled, as there were local cases and the thought of being around that many people began to terrify me. Other than that, I followed the news, lounged on the couch, and attempted to cook. I relished waking up late. It’s nice to think of it as a break, a relaxed suspension as those in charge scramble to fix this drastic change. As the days dragged on, the redundancy eventually got to me. My screwed-up sleep schedule and loud surroundings didn’t help either.

I decided to read and write, two activities I barely got to do when school is in session, yet even that got boring. I wanted to find some new talents, but it turns out baking isn’t for me. The cake—more like ‘unintentional incense’—sucked. I was reminded of my birthday party and the huge dessert we’d shared. We had been stupidly happy, bracing for the storm but not really. It was more like ‘I see that big wave, but I’m comfortably relaxing on my beach towel,’ and we moved on. My panic worsened, and I didn’t want to bombard my mother with these feelings, for she’s more paranoid than me.

To lessen my anxiousness, I stopped tuning into CNN. So when I eventually checked the data, I was surprised to see how 700,000 cases jumped to 1,000,000 in just three days. Then Boris Johnson was diagnosed—not a surprise, considering he did brag about shaking hands with COVID-19 patients—and any security I felt shattered. I’m not sure why; I barely know anything about him, just that he’s the Prime Minister of England. I suppose the invisible lines in my mind—those who are safe and those who aren’t—blurred. 

I tried to be prudent when I was younger, parroting the words of Carl Sagan: “Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe. . .” Yet it’s just begun to resonate with me. We are not invincible; not as a nation, not as a planet. We go about our lives, ignoring the threat when it’s China, relaxing when it hasn’t reached our state, and then feeling shocked when it’s right in front of us. It takes one respiratory illness to flip the world upside down; any normalcy we’ve ever known put aside for the time being.

Of course, our knowledge will pull through. Science will pull through, vaccines and hydroxychloroquine and whatnot. Still, our vulnerability began to frighten me; who is really in charge? Who’s our protector, from viruses like COVID-19 or any other mass destructors? I could not find solace in spirituality, so I thought of my grandmother, who, if she had not passed away last November, would be confined to the house and writing poetry. She would’ve penned something personal, as I am right now. Perhaps everybody has philosophical tendencies during a pandemic.

So I broadened my mind. I centered my late-night thoughts not just around my concurrent experiences, but also around health-care employees and grocers and those deemed essential workers. Around the millions who have found themselves jobless in the midst of this unprecedented confusion. And of course, around the truly vulnerable ones to this virus: people with compromised immune systems, whether it be due to age or illness.

When I thought of them, the randomness of my privilege was clear in my mind. I’m lucky to stay at home with my family, for there are many that cannot. While my situation is extremely different from many people’s, we have all been thrust into this together. Our fragility is universal, and the connection is both frightening and beautiful. We are each other’s protectors. 

To honor those who are risking their lives for us every day, I’ll continue to stay home. And I’ll continue to find beauty in the fragility, as Carl Sagan also said: “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is only bearable through love.” I believe that. 

I’ll also continue to bake. I have time to master the art.

How COVID-19 Has Affected My Life: A Reflection on How It’s Going

Over the last month, I’ve been under a stay at home order, as has much of the rest of the world. There have been bad times along with the good ones, and I just want to share briefly how it has been for me as a kid, cooped up in the same house as my family day after day.

There are pros and cons. While my family has always emphasized time together, we are spending more time together now than ever, largely due to the fact that there are no extracurricular activities. I am a dancer, and that used to take up a large part of my afternoon and evening, five days a week. My older brother also does his fair share of extracurriculars (saxophone, tennis, piano). But now, as we are not allowed to go anywhere or be near anyone not in our family, our days are much more open, allowing more family time. 

Because of this new routine (or rather, lack of it), we have started to take daily walks. The trail behind our house is closed, about which we are all very sad. It has multiple loops that can mean a very long walk, and the trail is full of Dark-eyed Juncos, Black Phoebes, and White-tailed Kites, along with cotton-tail rabbits and jackrabbits, plentiful deer, and small rodents among the beautiful wildflowers and plants. I have always looked forward to taking a walk with the wind blowing in my hair and having fresh air fill my lungs, and it was such a shame to go up to the gate to the trail only to find it locked. It made me realize what a blessing the trail truly is.

However, we have managed to craft a route that is about four miles long, just by going along the streets behind our house. It is not the same as going along the trail, but seeing people’s nice yards that have been landscaped with a mix of pebbles, bark, various succulents, and other native plants blooming is a welcome sight from a computer screen and desk. The streets extend very far behind our house, and when you get to the top of some streets you can see all of the San Francisco Bay, from sparkling blue waters to the bright lights of cities across the bay. Somewhat surprisingly, the streets are steeper than the trail, giving our legs a nice challenge. One of the best things about our walks is that we have many meaningful conversations. For example, we talk about board games and how school is going, and my brother often has lengthy conversations about a board game he likes, called X-Wing (it is based on Star Wars). My older brother also sometimes skateboards along, providing entertainment and a change of scenery from our normal walks with mishaps from everything to falling off his skateboard to near collisions with lampposts.

These walks are now becoming a necessity. Being on a screen doing work all day is never someone’s idea of fun, and when you have four people in the same house on screens all day every day, that is not good news. We take walks to clear our minds and refresh them, and it helps very much.

A negative change that has occurred in my life is the greatly increased amount of time I am spending on a screen. My family never had many screens in our lives before the pandemic, so being on screens for remote learning/teaching/working is newer and our minds get easily tired, as well as our eyes. School was never focused on screens. But now, if I have to do something like a worksheet, I’ll upload it to a digital app and write on it with my Apple Pencil instead of doing it with pencil on paper. Tests are on the computer. Work is on the computer.  Everything, it seems, is on the computer. There is just so much screen time, and it has caused me to be crabbier than usual because I am not used to it. I used to have next to no time at all on a screen. Now, I can be on a screen for hours at a time. I’m not very happy about that turn of events, and neither is anyone else in my family, as they too suffer from this change.

I grew up without a TV in my house, and I have always relied on books as my main source of entertainment. I still do now, even though my family just recently got a television, and we use it about once a week for a movie or an episode of Fawlty Towers. Because I have not had screens in my life, I am simply not accustomed to being on a screen so much. It is just not part of my daily life as it is with a lot of kids across the world. I do not play video games, either. 

Another thing that relates to screens are the constant Zoom meetings. I have different teachers for every class, and each of those teachers meets with me three to five times a week. Some meetings can be highly productive and useful, while others prove to be a waste of time. If it weren’t for the class meets on Zoom, I could get my school work done much earlier. I don’t want to have a habit that takes me to Zoom as a default mode of communication right now, and I feel that my school has not thought about this fact. 

I am glad, however, to have the privilege of staying home comfortably, with good food every day, a comfortable bed, and enough resources to still be learning at home. While there are things I’d like to have changed, I’m still grateful that I lead a relatively normal life in these times. There are countless more things that I could complain about or praise, but that would take a lot of pages. 

Every day, I wish that the Coronavirus will end. Of course, I know that it won’t be granted, but each day I put out a little bit of my hope that this crisis will not be continuing much longer. I am hopeful as well as disappointed. I think about the ways that my life has changed. And then I realize, “You know, maybe this isn’t so bad after all.”

Thoughts and Conceptions: COVID 19

Chaos and history. 

There is perhaps no other incident, in my little bubble of a life, that I suppose will be so feverishly illustrated in the scripts, texts, or future chronicles. 

“A Global Pandemic Hits the 21st Century, Leaving Metropolises Bare” 

How exactly are we living in these ensuing stories? How are we internalizing, how are we struggling to live through a virus as our archenemy? From the suburbs to urban centers, who are the people being affected by this invasion? In essence, all of us are. We’re facing this as both a current issue and one that seemingly shifts in 24-hour cycles, an infiltrator that we can not see but we surely know is there. Perhaps that’s the scariest part of it all. There is no face, but some abstract micro-rendition that’s hard to comprehend.

Many of my fellow Gen-Zers have not lived to see such a virus, let alone one that halts the gears in the machine of everyday life. I find that anecdotes can be a pleasing way to not only comfort but connect, especially in a time where we’re separated by self instated 6-foot bubbles. So let me delve a bit into my rather ordinary experience.

My community is located about an hour’s train ride from New York City, the current epicenter of the nation’s panic. Fortunately, it doesn’t feel like the outskirts of a warzone, but that doesn’t cover the fact of how terrifying this conflict is. We have growing deaths, ill-equipped soldiers, and faulty information. My aunt, who works at a rather large regional hospital has been pulled from her normal sector and into the danger zone, doing her best, but seemingly without our best. We have major discrepancies that will forever cause ripples and changes once these shadows pass. 

Furthermore, I find there are a myriad of questions that I have for not only our leadership but the public. Why has x happened when we had y? Or why has x happened when we thought we had y? How do we fix the supposed safety nets that may have existed but did not function? Being that, as I write this piece, COVID-19 remains in a whirl, I have yet to review and see this issue with hindsight. I know, like such other turbulences, there will be consequential modifications to our systems. Our lives may not be the status quo we have known prior. While this is partly a natural phenomenon, it is one of the most colossal cultural and systematic rattlers that I have ever lived through. 

In the beginning, my emotions seemed much rawer, but possibly as the result of coping, I’ve found myself subconsciously rationalizing reality. Never did I think within weeks, swaths of the world would be sheltered into their own corners, nor did I expect a headline breaking pandemic in the first place. Intuition tells me that I’ll be more shocked after the most severe side effects subdue and I can examine these events without present interference. I remain hopeful that a net positive will be created out of a seemingly overwhelming austere situation. Either way, no matter how equipped or ready we are, the ride has begun. 

A scary and monumental episode in human experience, our stories, set to unwrap at a price we do not yet know. 

A Teenager Living Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Novel Coronavirus has definitely affected many of us in negative ways, but it’s also affected the world in many positive ways. I have been limited to staying inside all day and working on schoolwork. As an introvert, this is my dream scenario, where I’m ordered to stay inside and listen to music while I relax, without repercussions. After a while it may seem boring, but I like to think optimistically during these uncertain times. The Coronavirus is enough to worry about, so it’s best if we take this newfound time and do something productive with it.

For the first time since summer, I am finally able to get enough rest every night and start the day refreshed. This is an underrated benefit because students are finally allowed to get enough rest every night without being sleep deprived. Many students throughout the school year are always tired and groggy in the mornings after getting six hours of sleep. Another huge benefit for students is that they’re in the comfort of their home. This allows students to perform at a high level while being safe and relaxed. During this time, I have found more time to discover interests and personality traits I hadn’t known before. For example, I decided to take a certified personality assessment to figure out more about myself. It was an eye-opening experience because I found out I had the rarest personality type out of all the sixteen personalities. I was classified as an INFJ which stands for Introvert, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judging. The results were no surprise to me but it was interesting to finally know what personality I identified with. 

Throughout the COVID-19 break, I was able to discover part of my identity because I finally had time to sit down and look at my computer. Another positive to take out of this pandemic is that I now have all day to prepare for the college process. This includes studying for the SAT and ACT, writing college essays, and reviewing colleges to visit. As a junior, I feel relieved to have days committed to doing all of these processes. During the school year, I felt bombarded with countless assignments that were just there to fill up my time. This would ultimately take away precious time for doing more important things. Many days, I would have no motivation to look into these colleges and their requirements because of dreadfully boring days at school. Now, I’m able to review several colleges that I have interest in and start preparing for the college process.

Obviously, COVID-19 has taken a major toll on many of our daily lives. It has affected millions in the United States by making them file for unemployment. We currently have the highest death toll recorded but that should not break down our spirit. Many people around the world are working collectively as a whole to find a vaccine to this terrible virus. I think we should highlight the efforts being made to help return our world to normalcy. Furthermore, students around the world are being given a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we need to take this situation and turn it into a positive. Soon enough, we will be preparing for the next pandemic and I think it’s time Millennials and Generation Z take initiative for the future. It’s time for us to restructure Earth to better suit future generations to come. This is our chance to impact the future for the better and I cannot wait until the day we see how we positively affected the generations that will come after us.

Gender Inequality Through Time

Gender inequality has always been a problem. From ancient China to recent years, there have been a lot of cases. They reveal how society thought throughout the centuries, and showed how it hasn’t really changed much. Although many people have been fighting to give women more rights, a lot of people still believe that men are more important than women, or that they deserve more than women. A lot of the time, women are given jobs requiring them to clean up for other people and they either get lower wages or, even worse, they don’t even get any payment for what they had done. 

China has a long history of gender inequality. A lot of families kept having kids until one of them would finally be a boy. This whole process was to carry on their family name. They also wanted the boys to be able to work for the family. During the Bronze age, when agriculture was becoming a necessity in order to keep the family alive, most people at that time needed boys to do the work and hard labor, while the girls would stay at home to do chores. According to an article by Kelly Kasulis titled “The 2500-year-old roots of gender inequality,” diets in ancient China were the same between the two genders until the Bronze Age. This was when domestic animals and new crops were introduced in China. Girls were given wheat and other basic crops, while men could eat meat and more nutritious foods. Scientists were also able to show that men were treated better than women when they dug up graves from the Bronze age. Men were buried with more riches, and the skeleton of the women were notably shorter compared to the ones in the Neolithic ages. This shows that women were given less nutrition during this period, resulting in shorter skeletons and weaker bone structures because of the lack of nutrition from a young age. On the other hand, the men had a balanced diet, which shows the gender inequality during that time period. Even as our world becomes more and more advanced, giving more opportunities to people, there still have been many times where women were not given an equal chance as men. 

Malala Yousafzai is a well-known female education activist. She was born on July 12, 1997. As a girl in Pakistan, her parents knew that she would never be looked at the way a boy would be. Malala’s father, knowing that she wouldn’t have as many chances to experience what a boy could, was determined to give her the life every girl in Pakistan longed for. As a girl, Malala wouldn’t be allowed to receive an education, and no matter how secretive someone is when it comes to giving a girl an education, the Taliban would find out eventually. When the Taliban took over Swat Valley, Malala was unable to continue with her education, and her father’s school was forced to close down. At the age of 11, Malala’s chance of education was ripped away from her, but thereafter, she continued to speak out on behalf of the girls who couldn’t go to school. Malala had said that during the process “this made [her] me a target” (Yousafzai, Malala). Malala was shot on the left side of her head by the Taliban in October 2012, but luckily, she had survived the attack. This event did not prevent her from reaching her goal of giving girls at least 12 years of education, and she continues to speak out for girls around the world. Not only do girls at school have to face this treatment, but women in the film industry have spoken out on the unfair treatment. 

There have also been many incidents where women were being treated unequally in the workplace. Many women have been given lower wages compared to men, even though they had been working the same amount of time. A lot of the time, men would be given a promotion even if the women were better choices for the job. A lot of actresses have been paid less despite having a role of the same importance as a man. In 2015, Jennifer Lawrence opened up about the gender pay gap, “I didn’t get mad at SONY, I got mad at myself” (Lawrence, Jennifer), noting how she had let herself and her hard work get taken advantage of. In 2016, statistics were given that proved what Jennifer Lawrence had said was true. Dwayne Johnson, the top grossing actor in 2016, earned $64 million, while the top grossing actress, Jennifer Lawrence, only earned $46 million. In 2017, the sum of the wages of the top 10 actresses was $200 million, while the top 10 actors had a sum of $450 million. These statistics given by Phineas Rueckert in an article on Global Citizen titled “Emma Stone: Male Co-Stars Have Taken Pay Cuts to Promote Gender Equality” shows how much females are underpaid in the movie industry. In 2018, Benedict Cumberbatch declared that he won’t take a role if his female co-stars aren’t getting an equal pay. This step towards gender equality is very useful, because as a successful actor, many filmmakers would want to hire him, and with this demand, they most likely would give women an equal wage considering how they need to please their audience, and earn money. In addition, some of Emma Stone’s male co-workers have taken pay cuts in order to prevent gender inequality from becoming a worsening problem. This is also a very important step towards correcting gender inequality, because once filmmakers realise the threats from the male actors, they would begin to consider how important it is to give women an equal chance in the industry. 

Gender inequality won’t stop if men don’t start joining in the fight. No matter how many women join forces and spread awareness on this topic, nobody will listen. People will only think that women are asking for too much. But if they get a point of view of a male co-worker, family member, or friend, they will begin to understand the role women play in their lives. And with luck, people will realise that women do in fact work as hard as men, and that they deserve to have the same treatment as men. With more girls who are educated, more people would know how important women are to the world. With more men helping this happen, people wouldn’t take advantage that women don’t have as much of a voice, and would begin to make a difference for all the girls and women in the world. 

Kasulis, Kelly. “The 2,500-Year-Old Roots of Gender Inequality – The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com, The Boston Globe, 4 Mar. 2017, www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2017/03/04/the-year-old-roots-gender-inequality/7zE60rjYuOAHjFB8hEBq1N/story.html.

News, ABC, director. Jennifer Lawrence Opens Up on Hollywood’s Gender Pay Gap. YouTube, YouTube, 14 Oct. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kniAmk5jd8.

Phineas, Rueckert. “Benedict Cumberbatch Won’t Take a Role If Female Co-Star Isn’t Paid Equally.” Global Citizen, 14 May 2018, www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/benedict-cumberbatch-gender-wage-gap/.

Phineas, Rueckert. “Emma Stone: Male Co-Stars Have Taken Pay Cuts to Promote Gender Equality.” Global Citizen, 7 July 2017, www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/emma-stone-gender-pay-gap-battle-of-the-sexes/.

Yousafzai, Malala. “Malala’s Story: Malala Fund.” Malala’s Story | Malala Fund, www.malala.org/malalas-story.


Godzilla

When I ask you to think about a big movie monster, most of you would think of Godzilla. Many of you would think that Godzilla has one two or three movies, but he actually has a huge amount of movies. There are people who think he is from another world, other people think that he is a prehistoric sea creature, more of that later. Now a lot of people would think that all that Godzilla does is kill destroy destroy destroy, but he has a much more deeper history that has become clearer as more movies come out over time.

Godzilla first hit the big screen in 1954 at a height of 50 metres, which is 164 feet. His length was 122 metres, or 400 feet, and he weighed 30,000 tons. Its original name was gojira which is japanese for Godzilla. He remained that height until 1984, when he became 80 metres or 262 feet, and his length was 190 metres or 623 feet, and weighed 50,000 tons. What a lot of people don’t know is that they made a Godzilla vs King Kong movie in 1962. They even made movies where he had a child! There are 33 Godzilla movies and one tv show. They are making a new one in 2019. He remained that height and length, then in 1991, he became 100 metres and stayed that way until 1993. In 1994, they released Burning Godzilla. He was still 100 metres though. Then in 1998, they made a movie called Zilla. He looked like a t-rex except he was 60 metres tall. 

Then in 2000, Godzilla was 55 metres, and in 2001, he was 60 metres. Then in 2001-2003, Godzilla was 55 metres, and in 2004’s Godzilla Final Wars, he was 100 metres. In Godzilla Legendary in 2014, he was a 108 metres and weighed 90,000 tons. In Godzilla Resurgence 2016, Godzilla shin was 118 metres tall weighing 92,000 tons, then in the tv show, (SPOILER ALERT) there were two Godzillas. One of them was named Godzilla filius and was 5 meters tall and weighed 10,000 tons, and the other was named Godzilla earth. He was 300 meters tall and weighed 100,000 tons. He was a little shorter than the Eiffel tower.

Godzilla is such a beast! But there is more to it. All the other kaiju king ghidorah mothra battra rodan so on and so forth come from the same large family tree with way waaaay larger monsters. King Kong is probably from the same family tree. Anyway, all those kaiju are called the titans in Godzilla King of the Monsters. They probably ruled the world before us. There are even caveman drawings of the kaiju, which is evidence of  my point. Most of the kaiju have something special. For example, Godzilla has atomic breath, Rodan has supersonic flight so he destroys buildings under him when he’s flying. The other kaiju are King Ghidorah, Mothra, Battra, and Ebirah. 

Godzilla could have come from another world or he was a sea creature exposed to nuclear waste, but I think it was both. I think he was alien-looking, very different from Godzilla, then his ship crashed, and there was some nuclear waste or some kind of chemical mixture that he was exposed to that made him the all powerful beast …..Godzilla. 

Now a lot of people would think that there is a lot of destruction in his history, but there is actually some peace in it too. I have a very likely theory that Godzilla and the other kaiju ruled their own parts of the world, so there was peace until we came along. We took the world from them so it will be just a matter of time before they take it back.

I think that the kaiju all had their own territory. It was peaceful, but the cave drawings show that they fight sometimes.  And then when the world split up into different continents, Godzilla went to the ocean and King Ghidorah ended up being frozen in a giant block of ice. I have no idea what happened to the rest of them. I think that Godzilla’s part of the world started shifting to form a continent. Godzilla fell into the ocean, and King Ghidorah’s continent shifted. It formed into the Arctic and he was frozen into a huge block of ice.

I think this is important because the new Godzilla movie is coming out. I think it would be important if more people knew about him so when the movie comes out people will be ready.  I think it is important for people to know that he is more than just a monster because there a lot of stereotypes of Godzilla going around. These movies have given more information on him, slowly revealing his past.

SOURCES

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbFILj44OX0


Transgender Bathroom Policy

Transgender individuals should be able to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, or the bathroom that they are most comfortable using. Many states have policies that a person should use a private facility that matches their biological sex. Many people are uncomfortable with that, and that doesn’t just include transgender individuals.

People who are transgender identify differently than what their biological sex is, and may feel comfortable in using the bathroom that people of their gender identity go to. There is a big difference between biological sex and gender identity. Biological sex is the assigned sex a person was given at birth, and gender identity can correlate with assigned sex at birth, or can differ from it. Numerous transgender students feel discriminated against or self-conscious using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. Title IX of the 1965 Civil Rights Act protects transgender people from discrimination because of their sex in schools. It states, “No person in the U.S will be discriminated against because of their sex in an education program.” This applies to when a transgender person goes to a bathroom of their gender identity and people discriminate against them because their sex does not match their gender identity. Therefore, it is illegal to discriminate against transgender people and impose what bathrrom they should go to. 

When there is a policy that all people should go to restrooms that are made for people’s sex at birth, people who are not transgender may feel uncomfortable with a transgender person in the bathroom because they look like the gender they identify as. A person should be comfortable in the bathroom that helps them fit in with people who have the same gender identity as them, even if the transgender person doesn’t totally look like the gender they’re transitioning to yet. Using appropriate bathrooms helps an individual with transitioning. A scientific study was taken by Jody L. Herman, the Williams Institute Manager of Transgender Research, and it was found that 70% of transgender and gender noncomforming respondents experienced issues in gender-specific restrooms in Washington, D.C., with people of color and people who have not medically transitioned yet often faring worse than others. 54% of people reported health effects from trying to avoid public bathrooms such as dehydration, kidney infections, and urinary tract infections. In Doe v. Regional School Unit, the Maine Supreme Court held that a transgender girl had a right to use the women’s restroom at school because her psychological well-being and education depended on her transition. The school, which had denied her access to use the women’s restroom, had treated her differently than other students solely because she was a transgender girl. Discrimination lowers a transgender person’s well-being and health, which affects their self-esteem.

Other than gender-specific bathrooms, there are gender-neutral bathrooms; in other words, unisex. Usually, gender-neutral bathrooms are for any gender and are also beneficial for someone of one gender to help someone with a disability who is a different gender. Nonbinary/gender nonconforming people may feel comfortable using a unisex bathroom, so they don’t feel uncomfortable or face discrimination. Although, not all places have a gender-neutral bathroom, which is problematic for many people. If a state doesn’t allow transgender people to use the bathrooms that align with their gender identity, and that person feels uncomfortable going to the bathroom that includes people of their biological sex, they may be able to use a gender-neutral bathroom. Overall, gender-neutral bathrooms are beneficial for many different people.

It may take a while for all states to allow transgender people to go into the bathroom of their choice, but with enough education on the topic, people’s thoughts may change. The issue that transgender people are discriminated against for using the bathrooms of their gender identity is a worldwide crisis and is a big problem in the world.

Works Cited :

Davis, Masen. “Transgender People Need Safe Restrooms.” HuffPost, 24 June 2019, www.huffpost.com/entry/transgender-people-need-safe-restrooms_b_3492067

Ehrenhalt, Jay. “Trans Rights and Bathroom Access Laws: A History Explained.” Teaching Tolerance, 16 October 2018, https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/transgender-bathroom-laws-history

College debt…is it worth it?

What’s full of new experiences, ups your education, and puts millions of kids in debt? College. What started out as a way to receive more knowledge is now leaving over 44 million Americans in debt. This is why so many young Americans are fighting for a different system. Most of the time, college leaves you with debt, and the only way to pay it off is through suspicious student loan organizations. Other times, you can apply for student forgiveness, but the odds are next to none. Others argue that loans can help establish and build your credit score. Here, I will be telling you why you should reconsider before taking out a student loan.

Most days, it’s common for students to take out loans for college, which leaves them in debt. The problem with taking money from the student loan organizations is that some organizations try to scam you. There are numerous lenders that abuse their power, giving little information out to students and scamming them. According to the New York Times, in recent months, the student loan giant Navient, which was spun off from Sallie Mae in 2014 and has retained nearly all of the company’s loan portfolio, has come under fire for aggressive and sloppy loan collection practices, which have led to a set of lawsuit governments filed in January. A specific example is when a woman (Ms. Hardin) who was taking out a loan for college realized that her company never told her that “she had taken out high-risk private loans in pursuit of a low-paying career. But her lender, SLM Corporation, better known as Sallie Mae, knew all of that” (Loans ‘Designed to Fail’: States Say Navient Preyed on NYT, Stacy Cowley and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, 9/4/17), Ms.Hardin is not the only student who felt like this. Many students feel like student loan organizations are preying on young Americans who are unsure with how much they’re paying.

 College debt should be an easy solution to fix, but sometimes it can get the best of students. Many Americans are now turning to student forgiveness programs. Student loan forgiveness allows the student to postpone the payment as long as they perform a service for the community (public service). If the student also has all the requirements done with, then he or she will be eligible to have the chance to have an income-driven replacement plan. This income replacement plan will help out the monthly student loan payment at a more reasonable price corresponding to the person’s current income situation. Or, if you have been constantly paying on time payment for 20 years, you get the rest of your student loans forgiven completely. The problem with this is that 99.5% of people who applied for public service loan forgiveness have been rejected. According to CNBC News, about 30,000 people applied for student loans forgiveness, but only 96 people got accepted. Instead of wasting your time of trying to be accepted in student forgiveness, many should consider a grant or applying for a scholarship. Your chances are 19%… always better than the less than 1% you get from student loan forgiveness. Grants and scholarships are financial aid that don’t have to be repaid unlike student loans.

While college debt can be damaging and scary for the future of the new generation and millennials, many people argue that student loans are helpful to students who just want an education, and that they help you take education more seriously since it comes at such a high cost. They state student loan forgiveness can also help. Kevin Maler was one of these fortunate 96 people that got accepted. He mentions how lucky he feels being a part of the less than one percent to get accepted. He had to have at least 10 years of on-time payments to qualify. Most people are stunned when they hear this small percentage of people who get accepted. People like Shannon Insler, who also had to deal with student loans, had a different point of view than most. She argued that college was an investment. Even while stating this, she said, “I’d be lying if I said I enjoy paying for my student loans. I’m facing a $50,000 price tag and a 20-year repayment plan. It hurts to think about other things I could do with $50,000.’’ This just goes to prove how the cons outweigh the pros. Other students like Miranda Mariquit already had a scholarship, but chose to use student loans for some extra money. According to Student Loan Hero, Miranda referred to using loans even though she had a scholarship as her biggest mistake, saying that it ruined her cash flow and it made her debt-to-income ratio look sketchy.

In conclusion, if you don’t want to end up like the 70% of college kids who are in debt right now, you should make sure to really consider applying for grants and scholarships. You’ll have a higher chance than working in public service and having 10 years on income payments just to play for a loan forgiveness that only 1% of people get accepted into.

https://www.npr.org/2019/07/18/739451168/i-m-drowning-those-hit-hardest-by-student-loan-debt-never-finished-college

https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/predatory-student-loans?rebelltitem=3#rebelltitem3

https://loans.usnews.com/what-is-a-predatory-loan

https://www.thenation.com/article/who-is-most-affected-by-student-debt-women/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/oracle/2019/08/27/how-a-geek-dad-is-helping-his-daughter-manage-her-diabetes/#31cfb273eb2a

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/student-loan-relief-for-public-servants-many-apply-few-are-accepted/

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/09/21/the-education-department-data-shows-how-rare-loan-forgiveness-is.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2019/01/03/student-loan-forgiveness-data/#734b760268d0

NYC Subway Reliability Essay

Reliability within a transit system is always inconsistent. One can never predict with absolute certainty how congested traffic is, which route is quickest to your destination, and the overall travel time from Point A to Point B. But what can be altered is communication and improved infrastructure. In New York City, riders expect their subway commute to be the overall shortest of travel times, if all goes well. It is expected that when one leaves their house, walks to their station, waits a couple of minutes for their train, gets off their first train and onto the second, and exits at their destined station, that it will all be a seamless experience. A Time Out article written in February 2019 expressed that the two best tourist attractions in New York City are the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge. If one were to look on Google Maps, they would find that on a weekday at ten in the morning, it would take around 30 to travel between these destinations by subway. One would have to walk one block to the Herald Square Station, wait for a choice of four trains departing within a span of seven minutes, get off at the Washington Square station after three to four minutes in transit, wait an additional five minutes for the next train, get off six minutes later at Fulton Street, and walk three blocks to the on-ramp of the Brooklyn Bridge. From door to door, this would take approximately 25 minutes, if a commuter could walk a block per two minutes and everything in the subway lined up perfectly. However, this rarely happens. The New York Times gathered in March of last year that weekday trains arrived early, on time, or as late as five minutes only 58.1% of the time. If each line has about twenty seven trains operating on the line at one time, excluding shuttles, that means that only about six of ten trains are considered by the MTA to be “on time.” By going more in depth, one can find out what can be done to improve the reliability of the United States’ largest subway system.

An easier change that can be made in the grand scheme of improving the subway’s reliability is the installation of WiFi in the system’s 472 stations, as well as encouraging train dispatchers to announce the status of the lines they are monitoring. Transit Wireless observed that the MTA celebrated the one year anniversary of installing WiFi to all of its 279 underground stations on January 16th 2018. While the installation of WiFi is still being worked on for the other 193 stations, the existing system has helped riders keep up to date on the status of their subway lines without the use of cellular data. When using Google Maps with Verizon’s 2GB cellular data plan, one is limited to 34 consecutive hours of usage before their charges go up. For commuters who deal with frequent delays and service disruptions, this data can be easily eaten up when included with regular data usage. The MTA’s service disruptions can cause Verizon users to pay excessive fees. By installing WiFi in each and every station, commuters’ phone plans stay intact, as do their wallets.

However, all commuters can appreciate train dispatchers providing station announcements when service is disrupted. The New York Times analyzed that delays have more than tripled in the span of five years, from 20,000 delays in 2012 to 67,450 in 2017. By encouraging dispatchers to make simple announcements such as, “(N) train service has been suspended due to a sick passenger in Astoria,” riders can be made more up to date on the current status of their commute. According to Psychology Today, “one of the most prevalent fears people have is that of losing control” (Cohen, 2011).  If riders can focus more on their alternative routes, instead of worrying about the unknowingness of when their train will arrive, the system will be more reliable for communicating with passengers when service changes arise.

A constant problem of the subway’s reliability is how long a train is dwelling in the station. Six Square Feet reports that “the system is designed for trains to spend only thirty seconds at each station before departing. However, in busy stations like Grand Central, the wait times constantly exceed this limit” (Gannon, 2017). The MTA has begun to address this problem by adding Platform Controllers at a few high ridership stations, who are primarily hired to assist train crews in maintaining the scheduled movements of trains. They are able to do so by reminding riders to step aside to allow people to alight, to step all the way into the train car so everyone can board, and not to congregate by one doorway. They also improve safety by alerting customers when the train is ready to leave, and by flashing a light at the train conductor, they assure them that it is safe to close the doors. With everyone following their instructions, trains reduce their dwell time in the station, leading to fewer delays in the system. What is shocking is how sparsely located Platform Controllers are in the system, only assisting at 11 stations according to the MTA. With ridership and delays increasing, Platform Controllers are a quick fix to both of these issues. Stations that could primarily benefit from platform assistance would be Herald Square, Penn Station (all lines), Columbus Circle, and Fulton Street. These stations all rank in the top ten for highest ridership, yet conductors do not receive any platform assistance. While there would be additional cost in adding extra controllers, the benefits of having fewer delays, which can cost the MTA as much as $389 million annually, far outweigh this con. In a city as big as New York, one delay can turn into one big catastrophe.

While the examples above have provided quicker fixes to reliability, the main issue with the system is its signaling system. This, along with better construction management, will help fix many of the system’s issues with reliability. Curbed NY reports that the current signaling system, known as block signaling, is:

A manually operated method that has been used since the subway’s inception. Subways have blocks, each typically some 1,000 feet long. Fixed-block signals are visible from subway platforms, and the information they provide to train operators are based on the location of the most recent train to have passed—this is known as a moving block system. But this method is imprecise, and because of the age of the signals, subway personnel do not actually know the exact location of the subway cars using block signaling. Much of the current system was installed from the 1930s to the 1960s, and requires custom replacement parts to be made in-house because the machinery is so outdated.

To summarize, this quote demonstrates that a majority of the subway’s signaling is ancient, and trains are spaced out by how many signals they pass in a certain period of time. If another train is too close to the signal where a train just passed, the signal will appear red, delaying that train. This system is also very inefficient, as spacing is higher than what the demand requires at peak hours. 

To make the subway more reliable, this ancient system must be replaced. The MTA has begun the transition to Communication Based Train Control (CBTC). CBTC refers to automatic, computer based signaling. This leads to MTA personnel knowing the exact location of trains, and also decreases the space between trains. This system was fully integrated onto the L line in April of 2012 and the 7 Line in November of 2018. The system is far more durable, leading to fewer breakdowns. Curbed NY clarifies, “Weekday rush hour commutes were marred by signal problems 92% of the time in 2018.” By expediting the process of CBTC, riders will be on time more frequently and the MTA will have larger profits. The 7 Line, which operates from Times Square, Manhattan to Flushing in Queens, has seen on-time performances increase from 56% in March 2018 to 91% in March 2019. With the modernization of signals, trains during peak times have increased from 25 to 29 trains per hour, the Sunnyside Post reports. The article then continues, mentioning that the “MTA said that the L Train and the 7 have the best performance in the system” (Sunnyside Post, 2018). By expanding CBTC to other lines, such as what the MTA has been doing to the E, F, M and R lines in Queens, consistency of train service will become more reliable. To increase the implementation of CBTC, more funding will be needed.

When lines are closed for a myriad of reasons, better use of time for construction will also help improve reliability within the system. Trains are frequently and erratically out of service on weekends and overnight hours. Riders are told this is “because of construction.” For instance this year, J Train service was suspended from Broadway Junction to Jamaica Center on Memorial Day Weekend. The following weekend, service was suspended from Crescent Street (halfway between Junction and Jamaica) to Jamaica Center. This is evidence of poor construction management from the MTA as the replacement of bending rails, breaking signals, and decaying stations could not be expected to be completed in a weekend. The Daily News supports this conclusion by discovering that the “MTA budgeted 900 workers for a job that apparently needed only around 700. Those unneeded 200 workers were pocketing an absurdly high rate of around $1,000 per day” (Samspon, 2018). This all adds up to extra taxpayer money, higher union worker salaries, and less money for crucial mass transit repairs. It can be theorized that working on an eight mile stretch of the J line in one weekend was not feasible as construction costs were too high. This shows poor construction management as more of the line was closed than was necessary This is supported by the fact that the following weekend, parts of the same line were still closed. To better repair crucial infrastructure within the subway system, union contracts for NYC subway workers need to be reviewed and lowered so construction work can be faster, more efficient and cost less money.

In short, the NYC subway can improve its reliability by making alternative routes clearer for time conscious riders, hiring more Platform Controllers for high ridership stations, better managing the time allocated for construction by revising union contracts, and expediting the installation of Communication Based Train Control. In recent years, there have been proposals to improve the system, such as hiring new representatives with fresh ideas. Andy Byford’s Fast Forward plan involves improving the subway by introducing CBTC to more lines and introducing longer line closures. With more organized management, the subway has also seen more renovated stations, newer subway cars, and improved infrastructure. However, it is not enough to keep the system functioning for eight million New Yorkers. With stations as old as 115 years old, more action needs to be taken to keep the New York City subway system thriving. New York is the biggest city in the United States, with almost twice the metro area of Los Angeles. With a city this big, it can take as long as two hours to travel from one end to the other in a car. With the subway, it could take one hour, or three. Cities depend on reliable transportation to grow and expand. Without it, the city cannot sustain its populace needs, leading to a more troubling future with a worsened economy. The New York City subway should be thriving. As of now, it’s merely surviving.

Bibliography:

Fox, Alison, et al. “Firsthand Accounts of a subway in Shambles.” Am New York, 9 Oct. 2018, www.amny.com/transit/nyc-subway-delays-1.21683620.

Berger, Paul. “New York City’s subways Are Slow, Crowded and Smelly-Officials Say Part of the Problem Is You.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 21 Sept. 2018, www.wsj.com/articles/new-york-citys-subways-are-slow-crowded-and-smellyofficials-say-the-real-problem-is-you-1537544194.

Matthews, Kayla. “What’s Gone Wrong with New York’s subway System – and How Is MTA Planning to Fix It?” CityMetric, 2018 www.citymetric.com/transport/what-s-gone-wrong-new-york-s-subway-system-and-how-mta-planning-fix-it-4155.

“The Best New York Attractions.” Time Out New York, Tazi Phillips, 15 Feb. 2019, www.timeout.com/newyork/attractions/new-york-attractions.

“How Many Trains Are on a New York subway Line at Any given Time?” Quora, www.quora.com/How-many-trains-are-on-a-New-York-subway-line-at-any-given-time.

“Transit Wireless Celebrates 1 Year of Full MTA System Coverage.” Transit Wireless, 16 Jan. 2018, transitwireless.com/transit-wireless-celebrates-1-year-of-full-mta-system-coverage/.

“Mobile Internet Data Usage Calculator.” Confused.com, www.confused.com/mobile-phones/mobile-data-calculator.

Cohen, Elliott D. “The Fear of Losing Control.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 22 May 2011, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-would-aristotle-do/201105/the-fear-losing-control.

Gannon, Devin. “Overcrowding and ‘Dwell Time’ Are Why NYC’s Subway System Is Failing.” 6sqft, 28 June 2017, www.6sqft.com/the-subway-system-cant-handle-nycs-growing-popularity.

“Your Ride Matters.” Mta.info, web.mta.info/nyct/service/YourRideMatters/StrategiesforImprovingService.htm.

“Introduction to Subway Ridership.” Mta.info, web.mta.info/nyct/facts/ridership/.

Frishberg, Hannah. “A Guide to NYC subway’s Ailing Signal System.” Curbed NY, Curbed NY, 27 Feb. 2019, ny.curbed.com/2019/2/27/18240200/mta-nyc-subway-signal-delays-infrastructure-guide.

“The Economic Cost of Subway Delays.” Comptroller.nyc.gov, 1 Oct. 2017, comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/the-economic-cost-of-subway-delays/.

Spivack, Caroline. “Signal Delays Snarled Subway Commutes Nearly Every Day in 2018.” Curbed NY, Curbed NY, 14 Jan. 2019, ny.curbed.com/2019/1/14/18182360/mta-nyc-subway-signal-problems-riders-alliance.

Staff, Pcac. “The Complicated Progression of CBTC.” PCAC, 13 July 2017, www.pcac.org/blog/the-complicated-progression-of-cbtc/.

Krisel, Brendan. “NYC Weekend subway Service Changes May 25-26.” New York City, NY Patch, Patch, 24 May 2019, patch.com/new-york/new-york-city/nyc-weekend-subway-service-changes-may-25-26.

Pereira, Sydney. “NYC Weekend subway Service Changes June 1-2.” New York City, NY Patch, Patch, 31 May 2019, patch.com/new-york/new-york-city/nyc-weekend-subway-service-changes-june-1-2.

Sampson, Brian, and Brian Sampson. “Got Subway Anger? Aim It at the Unions: Their Contracts Inflate Construction Costs.” Nydailynews.com, New York Daily News, 7 Apr. 2018, www.nydailynews.com/opinion/subway-anger-aim-unions-article-1.3738252.

Staggering Impacts of Single-Use Plastic on Human and Environmental Health

Every year, an estimated 182.5 billion plastic straws are used globally. Not only the straws, but also plastic bags and styrofoam cups, create massive amounts of landfill that pollute world oceans and jeopardize the existence of many mammals and sea life in the water. In Canada, there have been major steps made to try and bring the country out of a place of mass pollution and towards a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. In Justin Trudeau’s statement, he describes the issue of plastic pollution as an issue “we simply cannot ignore”. Following his statement where he aimed to create a community more environmentally aware, Trudeau released the details of a new policy that bans single-use plastic and will be fully enacted before 2021. Trudeau’s confrontation was powerful and brought attention to the plastic crisis. It is also a model for how other countries around the world should be facing the urgency with which they should be recognizing the same issue. Canada’s ban on single-use plastic is critical for other countries to understand and consider implementing since its predicted effect on health concerns related to plastic as well as its potential to decrease plastic’s environmental impact is remarkable. 

Single-use plastic has many more direct impacts on human health than expected and can be surprising for many to hear. Through the life of a single plastic object, there are a few different ways in which the object is harmful. From the production of plastic in a factory, where the gases released from the creation of the material are toxic, to the consumption of foods that are packaged using bisphenol A (BPA), the entire process of both the creation and consumption of plastic is damaging. There have been studies surrounding the many chemical additives used in the production of plastic and the consequences of their presence in the human body on diseases that might form in response. In a study done by the Ecology Center, it was shown that the chemical additives that give plastic products desirable performance properties have negative effects on human health such as disruptions to the endocrine system that cause the growth of cancers, birth defects, immune system suppression and developmental problems in children. The results of studies that show the effects of plastic on human lives can be shocking for those who haven’t previously acknowledged the impact of these products on the health of humans. But the facts of the serious health implications that single-use plastic can have on well-being are much more harsh than the change in lifestyle that can come from removing these plastic objects from our day-to-day lives. While it can be hard to imagine daily life without products such as plastic grocery bags or straws, it is imperative that the health concerns tied to these products are considered. 

Although the concerns relating to human health must be talked about, there are various environmental issues that are also as important and should be mentioned as well. Specifically, one of the main issues with chemically produced plastic is that it can take hundreds, if not thousands, of years to disintegrate. When plastic is disposed of in the ocean and ends up in landfills, it is just staying there and creating islands in the ocean that are made of plastic and not going to decompose since the decomposition rate is so slow. These plastic “islands” appearing in the ocean have serious repercussions for marine life and sea mammals as, many times, these animals confuse plastic pollution for food. Animals like turtles are eating plastic bags, mistaking them for jellyfish, which is their usual diet. By ingesting these plastics, they suffocate themselves and are dying with a much shorter lifespan than they have been said to have in the past. These larger animals are quickly dying in the wild because of the plastic pollution in the waters. But most of the time, the only time humans are seeing the effects of pollution on wildlife is when the dead animals wash up on a shoreline. However, in addition to the plastic ingestion of larger animals, small sea life such as shrimp and fish are digesting particles called microplastics that are invisible to the naked eye, but can greatly affect human lives as a consequence. In a study done by Debra Lee Magadini at Columbia University’s Earth Observatory Lab, she shows that the microplastics in animals like shrimp are much worse than previously thought. In a single shrimp, she finds that there are hundreds of microplastic particles that clog up the stomach and gut of the individual shrimp. Those same particles would then be ingested by the human consumer of the shrimp and would cause the consumer to ingest the plastic particles. As aforementioned, the consumption of plastics (whether by microplastics or through the digestion of products containing BPA), the human endocrine system, which flushes out toxins from the body, can be seriously damaged. 

There have been countless studies done, articles written, and demonstrations organized that bring to light the many problems with plastic use in the United States and around the world. However, many people tend to block out the information that is being presented to them through these methods of advising the public. The blockade that is created makes it so that the people of societies nationwide aren’t being properly informed and governments aren’t successful at briefing their people. The feeling of urgency that the Canadian government is expressing is quite apparent through their policy making, however, the rest of the world’s response to their change shows the degree to which others realize the power of this ban. Surrounding countries in the Americas as well as Europe admit that there is an issue with plastic, but they don’t seem to understand how massive the negative effects could be of having such harmful materials used on a daily basis. Having plastic be so widely accepted, to the point where it is essentially destroying the world, is an issue that must be solved, but cannot be with the support of only one world nation. 

It is obvious that there is no more time to thoughtlessly consume plastic products and through establishing the ban on single-use plastics, it is clear that the Canadian government understands the importance of acknowledging this complication. The problems pertaining to plastic in oceans and, consequently human bodies worldwide, is an issue that has been lingering and waiting to be talked about. As a major global power, Canada finally took matters into their own hands and created laws that would be curbing the production and use of single-use plastic on Canadian land. Through The fact that Canada is taking initiative and creating a more environmentally friendly mindset for citizens across the country shows the importance of the issue with plastic for Canadians, but also the whole world. There are communities across the globe who understand and urge people around them to recognize the issue, an entire government hoping to bring the information about how bad this crisis really is, is a much larger step towards change in this world. 

Works Cited

BBC. “Canada To Ban Single-Use Plastics As Early As 2021”. 2019. BBC News. Accessed June

18 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-48477087

Bilefsky, Dan. “Canada Plans To Ban Single-Use Plastics, Joining Growing Global Movement”.

2019. Nytimes.Com. Accessed June 18 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/10/world/canada/single-use-plastic-ban.html.

Christensen, Jen. CNN. 2019. “The Amount Of Plastic In The Ocean Is A Lot Worse Than We Thought”. CNN. Accessed June 18 2019. https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/16/health/ocean-plastic-study-scn/index.html.

Ecology Center. “Adverse Health Effects Of Plastics | Ecology Center “. 2019.

Ecologycenter.Org. Accessed June 18 2019. https://ecologycenter.org/factsheets/adverse-health-effects-of-plastics/.

The Globe and Mail. “Canada’s Single-Use Plastics Ban: What We Know So Far And What You

Can Do To Recycle Better”. 2019. The Globe And Mail. Accessed June 18 2019. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-canadas-single-use-plastics-ban-what-we-know-so-far-and-what-you-can/.

Royte, Elizabeth. “We Know Plastic Is Harming Marine Life. What About Us?”. 2018. Nationalgeographic.Com. Accessed June 19 2019. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/06/plastic-planet-health-pollution-ste-microplastics/#close

Westcott, Ben. “Canada Plans To Ban ‘Harmful’ Single-Use Plastics By 2021”. CNN. 2019. Accessed June 18 2019. https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/10/americas/canada-single-use-plastics-intl-hnk/index.html.

A New and Improved 2nd Amendment

The constitution is a protective yet society controlling document for the better and worse. The second amendment needs to be revised into a law that applies to our modern world and still protects those who need it. It grants too much freedom and interpretation for firearm owners and others that wish to buy a gun. In 2017 around 40,000 people died from guns and 60% were from suicide (Mervosh, 2018). The states that have the most gun deaths, like Alabama and Texas, (which have over 4,500 gun deaths combined), are the states with some of the loosest regulations (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Every day, one hundred people die from guns, and even more are injured by them (EverytownResearch.org, 2019). This clearly states how disturbed our laws against firearms are throughout all of the fifty states.

The second amendment states that “a well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” (Nelson, 2018). This means that anyone with an able body can purchase and possess a gun. But the constitution was created many years ago, in the late 1700s, and we are in the 21st century with newer and deadlier weapons. In the late 1700s the people of the United States had recently finished fighting the Revolutionary War. It’s easy to understand why they needed this law. But we live in a modern and civilized world where technologies have advanced immensely and security has improved. There shouldn’t be a need to worry about someone walking into your home, school, or office with a gun and shooting your friends or family. If the second amendment was improved, this would be almost impossible. 

There need to be stronger gun regulations. Any person, twenty one or over, has the right to apply for a background check. The background check needs to be stronger and put within the amendment itself. Most of the states that contain major cities, for example New York and Illinois, have laws against guns and penalties for those who own a gun but fail the test. There are laws in these states that require criminal background checks for all firearms, and there are others that don’t, for instance, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Tennessee. North Carolina and Iowa don’t even keep records of guns purchased (Everytown Gun Law Navigator). One of the main reasons why there is corruption within the gun control system is that the separate state laws are very spread out, and they need to be reformed into one document that applies to all of the states.

The main parts of the second amendment that need to be edited are the following: a well regulated militia. A person that wishes to purchase a gun needs to go through a thorough background check. This involves criminal acts, mental health tests, previous family history, domestic violence, previous jobs, physical health, and a situational, decision-making, diagnostic test. The test may or may not be taken with a lie detector, but that is up to the jurisdiction of the state. This applies to all types of firearms. The “militia” who can apply for a gun must be any person 21 or over, no matter what sex, race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or any other identifier.

If this revised version of the Second amendment is put into effect, it is a guarantee that these thousands of deaths will decrease and create a safer environment for ourselves and future generations to come. Gun control is a common discussion topic, but those discussions don’t always involve a solution. Instead of making short term laws or local laws, these new changes are taken right to the source. This will open up new ideas and conversations about not just changing this amendment but our country’s founding document as well. 

CITATIONS: 

“Gun Law Navigator: Compare States.” Everytown Gun Law Navigator. Accessed June 20, 2019. https://everytownresearch.org/navigator/states.html?dataset=background_checks&states=IL-NY-PA.

“Gun Violence in America.” EverytownResearch.org. April 11, 2019. Accessed June 20, 2019. https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-america/.

Mervosh, Sarah. “Nearly 40,000 People Died From Guns in U.S. Last Year, Highest in 50 Years.” The New York Times. December 18, 2018. Accessed June 20, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/18/us/gun-deaths.html.

Nelson, Jeremy. “The Bill of Rights (Amendments 1 – 10).” National Center for Constitutional Studies. January 01, 2018. Accessed June 21, 2019. https://nccs.net/blogs/americas-founding-documents/bill-of-rights-amendments-1-10.

“Stats of the States – Firearm Mortality.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed June 20, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/firearm_mortality/firearm.htm


Scared of Heights?

Have you ever wondered if you were afraid of heights? Have you ever felt your legs trembling or wanted to crawl on the floor while high up? Do you close your eyes while riding across a bridge with nice scenery? Then you might have acrophobia. An irrational fear of heights, otherwise known as acrophobia, is a common psychological phobia that might negatively affect a person’s life in the future. Although there isn’t a permanent solution, there are many other ways to help cope with it. 

As of now, the majority of earth’s population have had a fear of heights at least once in their lifetime. However, only 1 in 15 people have Acrophobia (Boynton and Swinbourne, 2019). According to research, around 3%-5% of all people on earth have experienced this (Us and Infographics, 2019). According to these numbers, women are twice as likely to have this phobia (Us and Infographics, 2019). Although acrophobia is not that rare, it is important to distinguish the difference between being cautious while high up and actually having this phobia. Based on this information, we can tell that it isn’t a rare/unusual phobia. While in the midst of experiencing acrophobia, some of the symptoms may include: shaking, sweaty palms, feeling terrified or paralyzed, irregular or high heart rates, rapid breathing, and a fear of injury or death. People can also experience symptoms similar to acrophobia such as vertigo, bathmophobia, climacophobia, aerophobia. Vertigo is a spinning sensation in your head which can be simulated by spinning in circles. Bathmophobia is a fear of steep slopes. Similar to bathmophobia, climacophobia is a fear of the act of climbing. And finally aerophobia which is a fear of flying in flying objects such as planes and helicopters. These are some symptoms to help distinguish whether you might have acrophobia. 

There are many symptoms of acrophobia. There are just as many causes. Not only people, but also animals, can experience these symptoms. This is because for all living things, it is natural to have a fear of heights. It is an instinct for all beings to protect yourself from falling. However, some are more extreme than others. This extremity tends to lead to acrophobia. Mainly for people, it can be caused by a response due to a traumatic experience during childhood or someone’s past. It could also be caused by a parent’s nervous reaction to certain heights. Even balancing issues can lead to experiencing acrophobia. However, in some cases, people are born with acrophobia. Scientists have done research in which babies were put at the edge of a simulated cliff with a mother encouraging them to cross to the other side (Us and Infographics, 2019). Most of the babies were born with the natural instinct to avoid falling off of the edge, but some babies were a little more afraid. From this research, we can tell that they had similar reactions to the people who have acrophobia. This shows that acrophobia can happen to any person or animal at any point in their lives. 

Although it’s not easy, and there aren’t any immediate cures, there are many different treatments to help get rid of someone’s acrophobia. Yoga is one of the most common treatments that people use. Practicing yoga can help relax yourself and keep your heart/breathing rate in a steady pattern. Also, learning all you can about acrophobia is very good for you. Acknowledging that you can put yourself in danger and learning what you can do from the internet is helpful. Some people also use prescribed anxiety pills to help calm themselves from panicking while at a high area. In addition to all of the treatments above, others use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which helps with mental health strengthening. Overall, visiting a therapist or a psychologist is very important for someone with acrophobia. It may stay with you for your entire life if not treated at all. These therapists can help you go up to heights at a small rate and provide support if you have a panic attack.                                                           

As the study of acrophobia is further revised, we can see that there are no permanent treatments to the phobia. People around the world have acrophobia and not knowing how to treat it and the dangers of it can lead to life threatening situations. People need to know how to help themselves and acknowledge what is happening to them. This means that there are some everyday strategies to help cope with it. These methods may include therapy, yoga, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Without the proper treatment, it can negatively affect someone’s life. Because acrophobia is made up of a lot of rare phobias, it can also help us learn more about those phobias and find treatments for others too. 

Bibliography

 Kirkpatrick, N. (2019). How To Handle And Overcome Your Fear Of Heights | Betterhelp. [online] Betterhelp.com. Available at: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/phobias/how-to-handle-and-overcome-your-fear-of-heights/[Accessed 21 Jun. 2019].

 Black, R. (2019). Acrophobia (The Fear of Heights): Are You Acrophobic?. [online] PsyCom.net – Mental Health Treatment Resource Since 1986. Available at: https://www.psycom.net/acrophobia-fear-of-heights/ [Accessed 21 Jun. 2019]. 

Fritscher, L. (2019). What to Do If You Suffer From Acrophobia. [online] Verywell Mind. Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/acrophobia-fear-of-heights-2671677 [Accessed 21 Jun. 2019].

 Planet-science.com. (2019). Fear of heights. [online] Available at: http://www.planet-science.com/categories/over-11s/human-body/2011/02/fear-of-heights.aspx [Accessed 21 Jun. 2019].

 Us, C. and Infographics, P. (2019). 11 Curious Acrophobia Statistics – HRF. [online] HRF. Available at: https://healthresearchfunding.org/acrophobia-statistics/ [Accessed 21 Jun. 2019].

Boynton, R. and Swinbourne, A. (2019). Health Check: why are some people afraid of heights?. [online] The Conversation. Available at: http://theconversation.com/health-check-why-are-some-people-afraid-of-heights-82893 [Accessed 21 Jun. 2019].


Has Basketball Improved Since Its Invention?

Basketball is a great sport no matter how it’s played. However, if you really think that the way it’s played now has been the same forever, you would be very wrong. The game has had a countless number of adjustments in its history. Basketball has changed for the better since its invention. There are many reasons why it has changed for the better. To actually understand these changes, you have to learn the history of the game.

Historians have found that the ancient Aztec people played a game similar to basketball. However, the game as we know it was invented in December of 1881 by a Canadian Physical Education teacher named James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts. He created basketball because the principal of that school wanted him to design a game that the students could play inside on cold days. Basketball was first played with peach buckets and a ball similar to a soccer ball. The game only had thirteen rules. Some rules were very different than rules that we use today. Some rules are also very similar. For example, the most common aspect of basketball today is dribbling. Surprisingly, one rule that was very different was that there was no dribbling in the game. Dribbling was not actually introduced until 1897. Originally, the players could not run when they had possession of the ball. One rule that has existed for basketball’s entire history and has not changed is that the players can pass the ball with either both or one of their hands. All of these changes show that basketball is better now because it gave all players, good or bad, a fair chance. The game is now much more sophisticated. Some could argue that fewer rules are simpler, so the game would be easier, but the game would be too easy then.

Basketball became popular after it spread to New England in 1913. Throughout its history, basketball traveled to many different countries, and many major leagues were started. Some common major leagues are FIBA, which was founded in 1950, and the NBA, which was founded in 1946. FIBA is the major basketball league in Canada and Europe. The NBA is the major basketball league in the United States of America.

This game may sound great, but it also had some bad things about in the past.

One horrible attribute about basketball was that it was heavily segregated in its early years. African Americans were not allowed to play the game. For people who watch basketball, they would know that there are many African American players now. The first African American professional basketball player, Earl Loyd, joined the NBA in 1950. That is one big reason why basketball has changed for the better. 

Many people enjoy basketball and would like to know the background and changes of it. It might teach people that sports were not always great and were very segregated. This essay can teach people about the history of basketball as well as the history of the U.S.A. Basketball is a great sport that everyone should enjoy.

Works Cited

Faurschou, Bran. “The History of Basketball.” The History of Basketball, nbahoopsonline.com/Articles/History1.html.

Silverman, Steve. “Why Is the Game of Basketball So Popular?” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, 19 Apr. 2019, www.livestrong.com/article/364098-why-is-the-game-of-basketball-so-popular/.

Wikipedia. “History of Basketball.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 May 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_basketball.


Life and Why We Live It: An Essay On Reality

What is death? To some, it is an ultimate end. They believe there is nothing more. Others believe in some sort of afterlife. This afterlife is usually perceived as in the sky, or underground. Sometimes, it uses two locations. Some believe death is nothing but a new beginning. They believe they will be reborn as something else, depending on their life. But if some know that there is another life, or some sort of better afterlife, why do they want to live? What is the driving force that makes us want to continue? 

People love experiences. An unforgettable experience is not what helps, though. It is the pursuit of those experiences that is important. Which would help one continue more: going skydiving, or wanting to go skydiving? Once one has the experience, they will need something new to chase. One also can’t want something and then not take it when they have the chance. If they actually wanted to do it, it would make them feel scared. If they didn’t really want it, this would force them to think more about what keeps them going. When a goal is completed, the person will need a new goal that is going to keep them going. This goal can be anything, from making the perfect pastry to committing the perfect crime. However, these goals are temporary. After some time, the goal will be completed. Then, one will need a new driving force.

Another thing that can keep one alive is a hobby. Just doing something can help you love life. First, you have to love it. Then, one has to do it at least once a day, with a structure. If one can do it at any time of day, that person will inevitably not do it at least once. This is the road to collapse. One time leads to two times and before you know it you’re only doing your hobby once a week. One main thing this plan needs to succeed is the constant enactment of this force. Consistency is the key to success. Also, this has to be a good hobby. It can’t be something bad for you, because you will eventually realize this and stop to think about it. If you continue, then you will always second-guess the reason you’re living. If you decide to stop, you will need a new hobby. You must make sure your hobby is here to stay. If your hobby turns out to be a fad, you will be forced to like something that is uncool. Imagine making your hobby Pokémon Go when that was a thing. In three months, you would be an outcast for liking a bad game.

Another lifeline could be love. I would strongly advise against this, because love isn’t always forever. People break up, and then where will you be? Also, loving someone, and being consumed by that love, can make one seem clingy. This will lead to even less success. But say it works. You get married and live happily ever after… not. Half of all marriages end in divorce. Having loving someone be the only thing you do and then having that love crushed would be soul-crushing. Also, say in your pursuit of love you do something wrong. If your views of love are twisted enough, you can be committing sexual harassment. Even if everything works, eventually your spouse dies. Imagine having the person you care about most die and tell me you still think love is a good idea. Too many things can go wrong and are known to go wrong. Humans are just too unpredictable. Find a Plan B.

There is one more paradigm toward life: hatred. One can be sustained by the ultimate dislike of others. First, your hatred must be absolute and ultimate. Second, your hatred must have a target. I would suggest a small, focused target, like a person. However, a larger hatred for an ideal can also work. Some would prefer a larger target, because there are more things to hate. I prefer a specific thing, because acting on that hatred can be more satisfying. Either way, hatred is considered wrong. Your whole life plan may be put into question. You will also question it, which is never good. Hatred does provide a very strong motivation to continue, but that motivation may be found evil. While you may not think this, others will. This makes hatred not the best motivator. Goals and hobbies are much better, but you are better off hating than loving.

Each of the above plans to motivate life has its own merits, but they are best when combined. Having a good hobby that also offers goals can be truly rewarding. Hating someone can be a hobby if you do it every day. Your goal could even be to put down another because of your hatred. Love used in conjunction with other plans can provide results ranging from having a bad time to getting arrested, but one can still love. The love just has to be separate. Love can be extremely motivating if you also have a hobby to fall back on. Using multiple plans is important, so one has a backup plan. It can soften the blow of loss. Each plan has individual merit, but each one shines even brighter when combined with the rest. Making a motivation plan can be motivating in and of itself. This is the final step toward excellence. Wanting to want can be just as good as wanting. It is the ultimate goal, because it is constantly being achieved and reset. In conclusion, life will continued to be lived, but each person chooses why they live it.


A Love Letter to Myself

As my being develops and evolves in the world, so does my sense of self. The different layers that shape my identity each tell a different story, and looking back at my past experiences, I am not ashamed of who I have become despite the ever so present obstacles that face me and the countless other people that look like me.

My parents gave me the name Eliwa, having a strong significance in their native Gabonese language: Pongwe. This name signifying two elements, firstly the kingdom of God and secondly, lake. It is not a name that I cherished or valued at first. I thought best to keep my name Mirya-Anne, best to say I was Austrian if people asked me where I was from. I did not want to be reminded that I was black, that my roots were neither from Europe nor from the U.S but the motherland itself. Soon enough, I was correcting people as nicely as I could on how to say it or spell it. My anger towards this was masked by politeness.

At a young age, European ideals invaded my mind, and therefore unconsciously, my anti-blackness began to show. At night, I would dream for lighter skin and straighter hair. It seemed I was too dark for everything, that the hue of my skin was still not deemed acceptable in the 21st century. My ten-year-old self could not comprehend this, and I asked myself continuously if there was truly something wrong with me. Looking back at my younger self, a feeling of sadness floods my whole being, simply knowing the unhappiness that I felt towards being black. This is not something that I particularly mentioned to my parents or even my older siblings. It stayed hidden. This obsession with eurocentric beauty standards never surfaced or became apparent either. There was nothing I could really do or say to change it. This name, this history, this culture was ingrained in me permanently.

 

I remember being a small child in my predominantly white school, having been asked why my skin looked the way it was. Children shouted at my skin in the playground, deeming it ugly. I could not answer. My skin was seen as an anomaly for along time. Because somehow I was just so different from everyone else. I remember being the only black girl in my nursery room calling for my mom, hoping she wasn’t too far away. I think it was the feeling of being such an outsider that my younger self could not cope with. I didn’t speak. I didn’t play. My siblings who attended the same school tried to comfort me, but I was hopeless. Nothing could soothe me.

 

The first time I saw a black person die on my TV screen, I was 11 going on 12. His name was Trayvon Martin, and he was the same age I was right now, seventeen years old, ready to enter an unknown future, not knowing the tragic ending that would follow. Trayvon had a bright future. He was passionate about aviation and was loved deeply by his family and friends. My mother and I turned on CNN everyday waiting for the verdict that would determine everything. The day the verdict was released, I turned on the TV and saw in big bold letters, Not guilty. My head spun, and I thought to myself, This isn’t normal. He should be in jail. He killed an unarmed young man. I started to fear for my older brother and father. I thought to myself what if something happened to them eventually. Morbid thoughts entered my head once again, and it was a difficult task to try to block them out once more. The future seemed bleak for Black America. Trayvon wasn’t the only one. Hundreds of names followed: Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland etc. My naivety led me to believe that black women weren’t facing the same problems as black men, police men and women wouldn’t hunt us down, except they did. Sandra Bland wasn’t the first nor will she be the last.

 

Somewhere in my early teens, I had an awakening which I can largely accredit to social media and the manner in which they uplifted people like me as well as my older brother, the intellectual 22-year-old at the time who pushed me to read more about my history. Not only that, but after having visited the continent of Africa more frequently, I found a new appreciation for the country and its culture and most importantly the people. My parents made it known that we should always be proud of our black skin and our native country. The hole in me that I could not fill seemed to be filling by itself. My real roots were in Gabon (Ga-bon): the small country of one million people located on the western coast of Central Africa. Having attended the SDLC conference or the student diversity leadership conference, in December of 2015 I had been overcome with emotion. I had discovered my inner voice as well as a deeper connection to my community. I felt strongly about racism, and I felt strongly about white privilege as well as acknowledging my own privileges, such as my parents being able to afford my private school tuition. This was something I was thankful and grateful for.

 

Due to my passion for social change and social activism, I decided to pursue a career in law. This self-rejuvenation that had occurred had changed me for the better. Although I believe the process of the decolonization of these beliefs does not happen immediately, I felt this pride and peace in my own skin that I had never felt before. These recent events as well as my past experiences have sparked something in me, that I have never felt before, a want and a desire to involve myself, as a public servant. I have been described as someone with a heart of gold and an insurmountable amount of patience. I only hope I can put these qualities to good use.

 

Recently, I was sitting in the train on my way to school, when a young man approached me wanting to sit next to me. At first, I was apprehensive and felt uneasy. He asked if he could sit next to me and as soon as he sat down, he started talking to me about everything and anything, mostly about Africa and black people. He asked me where I was from, and I told him Gabon. He told me that he thought Africa was wonderful and I was lucky to be from there.

He then proceeded to compliment my skin color. He even delivered an interesting fact on the resistance of darker skin hues in today’s environment. I listened patiently to his words. This man that I had first judged as probably homeless. I soon started to regret my words.

He told me his name was Unique. I smiled. He said he was from Harlem, and as he left, I shook his hand, and he told me I was very beautiful. Hearing someone who had the same features call me beautiful, was unequivocally reassuring. Vanity was not something I necessarily prescribed myself with, but compliments about the physical appearance have a way of uplifting certain people, especially the downtrodden ones. As I sat back down to continue my journey, I thought how odd that this happened to me on this particular day. A man by the name of Unique had enormously contributed to my new state of mind. He represented for me this sort of guardian angel that you meet only once in a lifetime, having no relevant information on them except their name and destination. As he left to descend on Harlem, a smile crept upon my face once more reminding myself that I was enough.

 

Ignorance and Apathy: an Analysis of Japan and America’s Values

Have you ever wondered what the cultural norms are 6,700 miles away? These cultural norms are systems of beliefs groups follow in order to maintain well-being. These sets of beliefs keep a society on one page and functional. Different cultural norms are also modified by the economy, integration, etc. Even though America and Japan are both first world countries, their values developed differently. Japan was secluded from the world for 220 years, but was heavily influenced by the outside world after WWII. Japan adjusted many parts of its culture, but it also kept most of its values. America, on the other hand, won WWII and was powerful. Instead of taking over the world, America chose to help out struggling countries. The culture also became prideful. People started becoming more independent and thinking outside of what the government wanted people to think. Under the laws created by the government itself, this type of thinking isn’t criticized. The two countries model themselves on a system that runs on values that are almost the opposite of each other. America values pride and individual rights, while Japan values conformism and respect.

 

Japan’s values, conformism and respect, emerged from being isolated from the world for centuries and the loss of WWII. In 1633, Japan closed itself off to the world with the exception of trade with the Dutch. No Japanese person was allowed to exit the country, and anyone living outside of the country also could not enter. This caused the Japanese to develop similar ideas, because they had no influences on their ideas from foreign countries. Also, the Japanese government implanted strict rules during this period, which made the Japanese people used to following orders without questioning them. Even after Japan opened up to the world, this culture still lived on. Many years later, Japan was in a similar situation. When Japan was fighting WWII, the government propagated propaganda, so the Japanese population, this time, was scared of the outside world. Japan’s hate towards the world quickly disappeared after the loss of WWII. Japan’s citizens realized that their country was very far behind and subsequently fell in love with foreign countries, especially the United States. Japan rebuilt its cities, but left a few reminders of war, like a building in Hiroshima, to never forget the horrors of war. This was not in any way directed against the US. Japan completely overturned its political views, but its thinking processes remained. Japan has still been obsessed with foreign countries, especially America, to this day.

 

However, America had external influences for its whole history. In 1787, the Philadelphia Convention wrote the Constitution, which by today’s standard, is still very democratic. America also evolved the way it did because of immigrant populations. America won the war and felt good about itself, because it was helping different countries recover. America’s people gained pride. However, America is very ignorant now, most likely due to the poor education system. America has the biggest economy in the world, but its education is the 14th best. America has a big culture which believes that America is always the best. All this contributes to America valuing individual and unalienable rights.

 

Japan and America’s values approach the task of keeping a community functional differently. Japan’s societal model has everyone working together and most people benefiting equally. This works perfectly in theory, but since everyone is expected to be similar, people who are any different, not necessarily worse than the expectation, are treated badly. There is even a saying in Japanese that translates to “the nail that sticks out gets hammered.” In America, people will undermine others to get ahead. Also, because of this, children are taught that being unique is always a good thing. They are also taught that everyone is unique. This creates a tendency for people to feel proud without work. However, this helps people’s unique strengths to be recognized. Japan’s values helps processes work smoother and more efficiently, because everyone always follows rules. An example of this is how in Japan, straight lines are formed to board the trains.

 

Values impact the way a civilization functions. Japan and America are two technologically developed first world countries with extremely different sets of values. It is important to know about these countries’ values because they are two countries which approach the task of forming a successful civilization from completely different angles through these two sets of values. By comparing these societies, one can gain knowledge about sociology.

 

The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War took place between November 1, 1955 and April 30, 1975. This war cost 2 million Vietnamese civilian lives, 1.1 million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers, 250,000-250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers, 58,220 American fighters, and 173 billion dollars. The Vietnam War started out being a proxy war for America, but quickly escalated to a full-scale American involvement for fear of communism. This war was one of the only wars that America did not win. A memorial is necessary to commemorate the millions of lives lost for a cause that was not understood by most, for a seemingly endless war that was spurred by the personal pursuits of the American government in the Cold War. The American people need to learn about the history of this war to recognize that the American government can act selfishly in order to put themselves in an advantageous position.

Vietnam had been occupied since 1883 by the French. The French colonized Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, and later renamed the region Indochina. However, there had long been opposition to French rule. Vietnamese people did not like being controlled by a foreign power. In 1930, a man called Ho Chi Minh created a communist party in order to rebel against their oppressors. This party was called the Viet Minh. Ho Chi Minh was not driven by communism, however, he was driven by the desire for independence. In World War II, Japan occupied Vietnam in 1945 and declared Vietnam an independent state from Indochina under Japanese rule. Ho Chi Minh then established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, modeled after the American government, and declared himself the president. However, when World War II ended, so did the independence of Vietnam. Indochina was surrendered to the French. In 1946, France declared Vietnam an independent nation, but it was still under French control. This spurred the first of the Indochina Wars, which started with an attack on French forces in Hanoi.

In early 1950, the communist countries China, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia official recognized the state of Vietnam. Later that same year, democratic countries America and Great Britain also officially recognized the state of Vietnam. In 1954, the Geneva Accords were made. The Geneva Accords divided Vietnam into two sections: North VIetnam, led by communists under Ho Chi Minh, and the South of Vietnam, led by U.S. supported government under Ngo Dinh Diem. By this time, more than a million Vietnamese civilians had fled North Vietnam for South Vietnam.

The involvement of America in the Vietnam War was caused greatly by the U.S.’s fear of communism. In a communist society, one party claims to represent everyone, there are no elections, and as a result, the same leaders are always in power. All citizens receive what they need from the government, including healthcare, education, and housing. The state owns all means of production. Communism aims for a state of total equality. Their leaders do not support individualism, and no one is richer than his or her neighbor. There is not free market or enterprise. Everything people earn is given to the state, and the state then redistributes money or supplies based on people’s needs. According to Karl Marx, communism is, “From each according to his ability to each according to his needs.” Communist countries believe that capitalism debases human needs, while capitalist countries believe that communist states make human beings slaves to the government.

A factor that contributed to the U.S. involvement in Vietnam was the Cold War. The Cold War started after World War II and ended in 1989, with the collapse of the Berlin Wall. After World War II, the Americans and the Soviet Union each had separate political ideology and separate spheres of influence. America’s sphere of influence was in the Western part of the world, and the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence was in the Eastern part of the world. Both of these two powers wanted to stop each other from extending their spheres of influence. The Soviet Union feared the Americans would extend capitalism, and the Americans were afraid that the Soviet Union would extend communism.

Another factor that played a huge part in the American involvement in the Vietnam War was the Domino Effect Theory. The Domino Effect Theory stated that if one country in Southeast Asia became communist, the other countries would soon follow suit, and the Soviet Union would be able to extend communism even to Europe.

In Vietnam, however, the American troops were finding it very difficult to win the war. The Vietnamese fought every army they encountered using guerilla warfare. The Viet Minh used guerilla warfare against the French in the South. At first, instead of direct involvement in Vietnam, the Americans supported the French financially in the South of Vietnam. The Soviet Union gave Ho Chi Minh and the communist nationalists in the north of Vietnam financial aid. The Soviet Union and the Americans used the French and Vietnamese in order to wage a proxy war- a war instigated by a major power that itself does not become involved. Eventually, French forces left Vietnam, but not before leaving Ngo Dinh Diem in charge, who promised to establish a democratic republic. However, Ngo Dinh Diem refused to have elections, which was against what was stated in the Geneva Accord, making himself dictator. The Americans found they were giving money to a dictator in South Vietnam.

The Americans misunderstood the North Vietnamese call for freedom and independence. The U.S. simply considered them communists, and ignored their actual intent. For the Vietnamese, this war was on the brink of civil war. For the Americans, Vietnam was a pawn in the Cold War, a war to prevent the Soviet Union from expanding communism.

A key battle in America’s proxy war using the French was the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. This battle was fought in 1953 by French soldiers on a mountain outpost near the border of Laos. The decisive Viet Cong victory brought an end to the Indochina Wars. The French Army found they were losing a lot of ground, so they retreated to their outpost, called Dien Bien Phu. The Viet Minh cut off all paths and supplied their forces using the Ho Chi Minh path, a network of trails through the jungle that connected all Viet Cong bases. The outpost of Dien Bien Phu could only be supplied by air for the French, but they were still confident of their position. General Vo Nguyen Giap surrounded the French base with 40,000 men and used heavy artillery, completely taking the French Army by surprise.

The Battle of Ấp Bắc took place on January 1st, 1963. In 1961, the U.S. found a large portion of the Viet Cong forces near the village of Ấp Bắc, which was in South Vietnamese territory. Therefore the ARVN (Army of the Republic of South Vietnam) was ordered to destroy their base. In 1963, American helicopters dropped off ARVN soldiers near the village, but a catastrophe took place. South Vietnam was defeated, and five American helicopters were destroyed. This battle showed that the Americans were losing the war, and that VIet Cong forces were gaining support.

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, also known as the USS Maddox Incident, is an example of how the American government lied to its own people and to the people and state of Vietnam. Americans claimed that the USS Maddox, a destroyer, had been attacked by the North Vietnamese army. The U.S. used false radar images to prove their point, which were called the “Tonkin Ghosts”. The U.S. used these fake attacks as an excuse to bomb North Vietnam and use Agent Orange to uncover the hiding spots of the Viet Cong.

On both sides, America and Vietnam, the resistance to the war was growing fast. Unlike in World War II, the American people did not understand why they were sending their men to die for a cause they did not understand or believe them. Furthermore, the American people did not believe in the hypocrisy of the war; President Kennedy saying he would support every nation that wanted to be independent and set up their own government, but only if the Americans liked the government they had set up. Americans also opposed the draft, which threatened families in the lower and middle classes. The draft targeted men and boys in fighting age (ages 18-30). Many Americans thought that the U.S. was using Vietnam as an excuse to fight Russia and get an advantage in the Cold War. On the other side of the ocean, Buddhists were campaigning for representation in a government that oppressed them. Many Buddhist monks opposed the war, and they set themselves on fire as part of their protests. Following their example, two men in the United States set themselves on fire as well; one in front of the Pentagon, another in front of the White House. As images of the war were released, the American public opposed the war even more. Many pictures showed military misconduct and the massacre of innocent civilians, such as the May Lai Massacre. The Americans heard reports on the radio about how soldiers were ordered to “kill everything that walks, runs, grows, and crawls” in order to completely annihilate the enemy.

Many families lost their fathers, brothers, and husbands in the war. Those who survived the war have never forgotten the horrors they were put through, and they have never been able to fully recover from the emotional damage it caused. The Vietnam War reduced people’s patriotism and faith in their government. Vietnam is one of the only wars in history that America has not won, deserving a memorial to commemorate the cost and aftermath of this war.

Works Cited

Bender, David L. The Vietnam War. Greenhaven Press, 1984.

Prados, John. Vietnam: the History of an Unwinnable War, 1945 -1975. Univ Pr Of Kansas, 2013.

Spector, Ronald H. “Vietnam War.” Britannica School, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.,

school.eb.com/levels/middle/article/Vietnam-War/277599. Accessed 29 Oct. 2017.

 

The Accident

I remember my first accident, my first time not being able to see. I remember sliding down the bunny hill on November 12, 2013. I remember my brother’s hands around my waist. I remember them holding me tight and not letting go. I remember the heat from the hands comforting me that made me feel safe. I remember hearing my life and giggles in slow motion. I remember holding onto the thin rope that was attached to the sled. I remember my tight, purple winter coat pressing me tight. I remember the ropes falling out of my hands while leaving splinters in my hands. I remember my father yelling, “Turn before you get hurt!” I remember how sharp the tree trunks were. I remember the thickness of the tree and the dark, brown wood around it. I remember the leaves hanging down low from the tree. I remember how they looked so sad, and the snow was dripping off it like tears. I can’t remember how scary it was the minute before I hit it. I can’t remember Alex’s hands slipping off like I was alone. I can’t remember the fear built inside of me. I can’t remember forgetting how to steer. I can’t remember the sudden boom of my head against the tree. I will not remember the ambulance noises. I will not remember the tears dripping down Alex’s face. I will not remember my father calling my mother with a look on his face. I will not remember his tears filled with fear going down his cheeks. I will not remember my screams going through everyone’s ears. I will not remember my eyes closing and my breath stopping. I will not remember the moment I couldn’t move, the fear built everywhere and growing. I want to remember the calm moments when I was asleep. I want to remember the fearless place where I was. I want to remember me waking up and everyone there with smiles and tears of joy. I want to remember my mother’s long-lasting kiss on my forehead. I want to remember everyone hugging me tight. I want to remember…

 

Junior School

I remember the kids’ vibrant and youthful voices filling the void in my mind with playfulness. I remember the dark skies shielding me from the truths of what lay beyond them, while we brushed past the greenery in our chosen form of transportation. I remember my closest friends’ voices comforting me when I was lower than the great abyss of the ocean. I remember the dark playground when the cold arrived. I remember the cold as well, which could only be warmed by the positive emotions and laughter provided by myself and those around me I kept close. I remember, of course, heartbreak and leaving my friends with frowns on all our faces; sometimes, tears were shed. I can’t remember the period of my life when my vocabulary was limited and when my life was made up of memories of little kids rushing around me as we went to parks during recess. I want to remember what I believed, when I was young and innocent. I want to remember more of my past self, who I was, who I thought I was meant to be.

 

Schoolwork Aiding Websites: Innocent Aid or Devious Cheating?

As technology slowly seeps into our lives, influencing our daily lives, elbowing it’s way into our mind and schedule, it becomes more and more crucial to establish a clear border between it and us. The establishment of a border that clearly demarcates where your hand ends and your phone begins may seem easy at first. As technology worms it’s way further into our lives, however, the hand and the phone fuse, and the weight of humanity becomes more and more reliant on the crutch sweetly proffered by our mechanical aides.

This increasing dependence on technology manifests itself in many ways. Hackers are born, people who spend their lives trying to defeat the online systems in games and spitefully create viruses. Many people sink into deep depressions as a result of online social rejection, only to attempt to abjure the situation by fleeing to other social media platforms. The Hikikomori, a Japanese term meaning “being confined,” are a group of Japanese youth who spend their lives in their rooms, eyes glazed over from screens, their meals delivered under the door. Technology rears its ugly head as well by contributing to a long-brewing firestorm of fake news, using the naive reliance of young adults on the Internet for news to pollute their minds with twisted facts. In the 2016 election, many Russian bots, or fake users, were sent on to Facebook and other platforms, where they contributed to the alarmingly rapid spread of misinformation.

The avaricious outreach does not stop there, however, and also makes itself known in what I believe to be its most vicious method yet: spell check.

Yes, that little red underline that pops up when you fail to put “I” before “E” (except after C), that innocent little reminder of your various grammatical error, the one that has saved your life on countless school assignments. Yes, that unassuming little helper will be more disastrous to humanity than the influx of bots and fake news will be, and it will be so in accordance with the single most important law regarding electronics and all forward motion, the Golden Rule: Short-term convenience always leads to long-term inability.

Picture it like this: If I have to jump over a large crate to get to school each day, I would feel greatly inconvenienced, as it might result in my being late to school. That weekend, I decide to hire a team of workers to lift the large, heavy crate each day as I go to school, in order to stop that tiring leap each day. Once the crate is gone, I enjoy an uneventful trip to school each day, free of stress or physical exertion. Over time, since I stopped my daily crate-jump, my legs slowly lose that ability, as I am getting no crate-jumping exercise elsewhere. As I enjoy my walk to school Monday morning, I notice that, by some freak accident, all of the members of my special crate-removal crew are sick. I look around and see no other way to get to school in time, no way to get around the crate. If I attempt to jump over the crate, I will be unable, despite the fact that not long ago it had been easy. An inconvenience, but in hindsight, relatively easy. Therefore, I become late to school, and I am late to school every single day that my crew is absent from their station.

While navigating a complicated and rapidly evolving world, it is important to remember the actual reason for our evolving. What is the actual force the has propelled us past the denizens of the animal kingdom. It is certainly not our brains, as we are dumber than not only dolphins, but elephants and certain whales as well. It is not our strength, say bears, oxen, tigers and gorillas, or even weight and strength ration, crow the Dung Beetle and the Leafcutter Ant. If not brain or brawn, what could it be that separates us from the multitudes of beasts? The answer is simple. It is one of the very basic skills of humanity and part of the reason we survive today: our ability to write, springing from our opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs, however, are not nearly as interesting an article topic, so writing it is.

The differentiation between an early human’s schedule and a dolphin’s may well have been very similar. Awaken. Search for food. Potentially meet predator. Die at the hands/fins of predator or not. Eat food. Sleep. Repeat the process until death, whenever that might come. The only reason humans dominate the earth is their fast-paced evolution, beginning with writing, which enabled mankind to pass down discoveries. Isaac Newton said it best in the famous quote, “If I have seen further it is by standing on (the) shoulders of giants.” That was how humans broke out of the cycle they shared with dolphins, by building on the knowledge already gained by their ancestors. If a dolphin found a place with a particularly copious amount of food, there was no way to record that, so he would eat up and leave. A human would paint it on the walls of his cave, and the place would feed generations. This baseline skill of humanity has been the reason that we have progressed even through hardship, and its absolute necessity should not be forgotten.

Because of this, and the fact that humans know it as well, there have been no attempts to actively inhibit our writing, with a few exceptions. Unfortunately for us, however, we have somehow found a way to do so, and under the guise of being completely innocent, which is even worse. The more aid that humans receive from online, the less they write themselves without help, the less they are able to write without the constant help of websites and spell check, which will almost definitely result in debilitating results in the long-term. Already, people rely too heavily on these such websites, and too many students now rely on sites like Grammarly for their essays. There is a reason that we are not producing the same caliber of writers as we used to, a reason why the quality of the average book has deteriorated from complicated and nuanced to weight loss, a reason why nearly all the books worth referencing are from at least twenty years ago, if not much more. Who would have guessed that believing that we need external aid for humanity’s most basic need would result badly?

Another reason to be alarmed by Grammarly and its similar entourage is its surprising amount of tolerance that teachers have regarding it, when the reality is that they are helping students too much. I personally find it astounding that its usage has not been banned by the DOE, especially since Grammarly and Co. are not doing that much to attempt to dispel any sort of criticism. They are, in fact, being very outright about the fact that they are servicing students with essays they are meant to be doing by themselves. “If I want to get A’s on (my final exams), they better be free of typos,” an actor playing a student states in a Grammarly ad, and then continues with a sly smile, “Grammarly is my secret weapon.” One might think that this is just a little business tactic and that Grammarly does not do a ton to help your writing, just maybe catch the occasional mistake. Nope. The actor boldly plows onwards, “It’s more than just a simple spelling or grammar checker, Grammarly catches ten times as many errors as Microsoft Word. (Grammarly) helps me with word choice, punctuation, and sentence structure.” Oy vey. And then the video closes with two absolutely awful phrases that sound straight out of an episode of Black Mirror, “Better writing. Better results.”

Better writing. Better results. We will improve your writing and make sure you get better grades. All for free. And this is all allowed by nearly all schools, which is absolutely appalling. How is one supposed to learn writing if whenever there is bad writing, it is automatically fixed? This is even ignoring the simple fact that the teachers must be very misled. If a student needs extra help with their writing, the teacher will never know, and neither will the high school or college the student applies to when they see the students’ grades. This is an appalling interjection of corruption and laziness into society, and soon enough the long-term effects will come into play. In 1997, world champion Garry Kasparov lost to the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue in a game of chess. Now, a supercomputer can know how to beat you after you make your first move, and human skills at chess are useless compared to theirs.

Better writing indeed. We shall see about the second count.

 

World Sweeps Coal into Dustbin of History

It’s a humid day, reminiscent of so many others in Bangladesh, as Aarashi hops on the truck that will take him to the coal mine where he has toiled in obscurity most of his adult life. He enters the claustrophobic tunnel, like he has nearly every morning for twenty-six years, and is instantly swallowed by darkness. The mindless, repetitive motions of coal mining begin anew.

The earth doesn’t give up its treasure easily. Wresting the coal from its grasp is grueling, backbreaking work, but it feeds Aarashi’s wife and three sons, boys probably destined (some might say “doomed”) to one day follow their father into the mine. Aside from agriculture, Barapukuria Coal Mining Co. is the only source of employment within miles. The company has an economic stranglehold on the neighboring village where most workers live, but it’s a relationship both sides value as indispensable to their survival.

This day, though, news that threatens the symbiotic union circulates through the shaft. Aarashi hears his name echo through the damp bowels of the earth, and recognizes the voice as that of Nayaab, a co-worker, who bears unwelcome tidings: the government of Bangladesh is scaling back its use of coal in favor of renewable energy. Every miner in the labyrinth of tunnels feels personally threatened by the announcement, which parades under the banner of “progress.”

Although renewable energy has obvious advantages and is used to various extents around the world, coal miners — especially in poor countries like Bangladesh — are often left unemployed by the new competition. The plight of Aarashi, Nayaab, and their co-workers is but one example of the economic hardship that befalls miners when they are displaced by “green” technology, which topples old pillars of support and sometimes leaves human suffering in its wake.

Yet renewable energy seeks to avert an even greater tragedy that looms in the form of global warming. Carbon dioxide levels and global temperatures rose at their highest rates in recorded history over the last century, triggering frequent weather extremes and the extinction of certain species. Currently, fossil fuels represent the world’s main source of electricity, accounting for sixty-seven percent of total power generation.

Coal, however, is an environmental scourge. Its fumes pollute the atmosphere when burned to generate electricity, a process blamed for thirteen thousand deaths in the U.S. alone each year. An increase in renewable forms of energy will result in cleaner electrical production, reducing the demand for fossil fuels like coal. These new energy sources, which release less harmful emissions into the atmosphere, will slow down global warming and stem the increase of air-related diseases like cancer and other lung ailments.

The introduction of cleaner energy might leave Aarashi and Nayaab unemployed, but it could prevent their early deaths. Lung disease, often contracted by working long hours in the dusty underground, is an occupational hazard faced by miners worldwide. At first blush, this new technology might seem like a curse to miners, but it could prove providential to their health and welfare.

Renewables not only help the environment, in the long-term they benefit the economy and the impoverished people they initially displace. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are created to research, build, and operate renewable energy sources, putting many of the newly unemployed back to work with additional training. The new “green” jobs have the potential to lift employees out of poverty, turn them into contributing members of society, and put an end to the bleak generational cycle of sons following their fathers into the mines. College, once deemed financially off-limits to the children of miners, suddenly beckons as a possibility.

In addition, renewable energy holds the promise of supplying electricity to every home on the planet. Fully fifteen percent of the global population now lacks access to electricity. Fossil fuel prices are rising, and the cost is prohibitive for many families. People are dying of starvation because they are unable to preserve their food without electricity. Renewable energy offers new hope to this vast underclass, including Aarashi and Nayaab.

In the final analysis, we are all citizens of this world, its borders now blurred by technology and mutual threats. As such, we share an obligation to provide for our common welfare, to educate our children, and to protect the environment. Duty demands that we answer the clarion call of renewable energy, both for ourselves and succeeding generations.

Yet the United States, under President Donald Trump, is perhaps the biggest obstacle to reversing the effects of climate change. When the leaders of one hundred countries gather in Paris on Dec. 12 to intensify the fight against global warming, Trump will be conspicuous by his absence. The American president has rejected the Paris Agreement, negotiated in the French capital in 2015 to drastically curtail carbon emissions. Even war-torn Syria has pledged to join the accord.

Trump, however, has retreated to the isolationist policies of “America first,” leaving the world looking to France’s newly-elected president, Emmanuel Macron, as the de facto leader on climate change. Trump has embraced right-wing orthodoxies on the environment, and has already taken steps to revive America’s flagging coal industry, with the support of Republicans in Congress, especially those who represent Appalachia.

The U.S, president, less than a year into his first term, has indicated he intends to reverse his predecessor’s climate change policies, increase fracking for oil and gas, and lift current restrictions on coal mining. If Aarashi and Nayaab are bent on continuing their hazardous work, and find themselves unemployed under the more progressive policies of Bangladesh, they might find jobs in this country. U.S. coal mining and production actually ticked up this year.

But most analysts agree that the coal mining industry cannot ward off market forces, led by cheap natural gas, that have been building for years. Paradoxically, the Trump administration is revving up oil and gas exploration on federal lands, an intervention that has roiled conservationists and accelerated the decline of gas prices.

There are 643 million acres of federal land in the U.S., an area more than six times the size of California. Critics say this latest exploitation of natural resources threatens an iconic part of the country — and the western states’ identity. Even now, the Interior Department is drawing up plans to reduce wilderness and historic areas currently protected as national monuments, creating more opportunities for profit.

Trump has also vowed to remove roadblocks to energy projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, and promised to lift restrictions on coal mining and drilling for oil and natural gas. The president has already signed legislation that quashes the Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule, a regulation that protected waterways from coal mining waste, enacted during the waning days of the Barack Obama administration.

“Neither a wise nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him,” asserted Dwight D. Eisenhower, former U.S. president and the leader of Allied Forces during World War II.

Of all the problems confronting this world, climate change is the most global. The task of converting to renewable energy should be a common effort, since bequeathing a habitable planet to our children hangs in the balance. Yet in the U.S., the coal industry exudes confidence for the first time in years as the nation abdicates its leadership role in the pursuit of profit.

 

CHANGE & CONTINUITY IN APOCALYPTIC THOUGHT

Since the beginning of recorded history, humankind has maintained a strong fascination with its own demise. From its eschatological roots to the nuclear age and beyond, apocalyptic thought has permeated mass culture. However, the thematics of apocalyptic thought and therefore of its representation in culture have shifted, although certain consistencies have survived. Change and continuity of factors and components of apocalyptic thought may help us to understand change and continuity of our own mindsets.

Definitions may vary, but most would agree that the term “apocalypse” refers to the end of an era or even of the world. In ancient times, apocalyptic thought tended to focus on the day in which said era ended, commonly described in ancient texts as the “day of wrath.” Usually used in religious context, the “day of wrath” serves to embody the gestalt of ancient apocalyptic thought, at least in terms of Christian eschatology. The “day of wrath,” also in many cultures the “day of Judgement,” outlined apocalyptic thought with a focus on oneself; apocalyptic thought was centered around self-reflection and the apocalypse was viewed as the epic, ultimate decision of one’s fate. Even outside of Christian eschatology, most of these ideas still applied: most ancient apocalyptic thought was centered around the day in which the apocalypse occurred and focused on oneself. Cultural manifestations of these ideas are seen frequently across ancient cultures. Religious texts are the most blunt example of such manifestations. In Jewish eschatology, the coming of the Messiah is described in the Torah as an apocalyptic event. And, in the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark, the Torah focuses not on the events that caused or the events that followed the flood but rather on the day itself that God flooded the Earth; it also emphasizes Noah’s significance in a way that carries the theme of introspection to the tale. A representation of later origin, hymns such as the thirteenth century (or earlier) Latin hymn “Dies Irae,” which literally translates to “Day of Wrath,” present the dawn of the apocalypse in a self-reflective light, as shown in the following excerpt from “Dies Irae”: “Worthless are my prayers and sighing, / Yet, good Lord, in grace complying, / Rescue me from fires undying” (Verse 14, Irons 1849). The hymn also focuses on the day of destruction itself, as expressed in the following excerpt: “Ah! that day of tears and moaning, / From the dust of earth returning / Man for judgement must prepare him, / Spare, O God, in mercy spare him” (Verse 18, Irons 1849). This individualistic, instantaneous approach strongly juxtaposes that of current day. Modern society tends to focus not on the downfall of oneself, but rather, on the downfall of humanity. Furthermore, the moment of this downfall is often difficult to distinguish from the sequence of events that encompass it and thus blurs the line between the pre-apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic. When analyzing ancient representations of the apocalyptic, one may almost always point to an exact moment within the narrative when one era gave way to another. In the case of Noah’s Ark, this instant was the moment the Earth was flooded. In the case of the story of Adam and Eve, their paradise was consumed by a flawed existence the instant that Adam followed Eve’s lead and took a bite of the forbidden fruit. Biblical and other religious narratives such as these are one of the biggest influences on human history, yet current narratives that portray the apocalyptic do not follow their lead.

Evidence of our primitive origins has faded in the thousands of years since biblical times. Although still built for survival, we have long since become preoccupied with civilization and societal endeavors. This preoccupation is perhaps the only thing that separates human from animal. In ancient times, societies maintained their survivalist foundations despite impressive levels of advancement. Fear of death was at the core of the motivations of every individual, and thus the heart of one’s existence was the fear and prevention of their own personal demise. History has consistently demonstrated this; the characteristics of the Early Middle Ages (5th-10th centuries A.D.) are a perfect example of such a demonstration. Host to severe population decline and increased immigration, this era was not a time of great empires, but rather, a time of mediocre, largely powerless kingdoms, the societies of which were unadvanced and unevolving. In fact, many historians refer to this time period as the “Dark Ages,” drawing upon the severe lack of literary and cultural development of the time (Berglund), serving to express the state of primitivity that humans existed in during this time. As made evident by the era’s drastic increase in migration, people of the Early Middle Ages were not rooted in their societies. Rather, they were rooted in their own mortality and were more affected by the deaths of individuals around them than the deaths of the societies around them, as kingdoms did so frequently collapse because they were small and unstable. In this sense, a death of an individual was perceived as more apocalyptic than an utter societal collapse. While this atavistic core remains relevant to those of modern times, its symptoms are concealed by the astronomical degree of progress achieved since biblical times. Derived from the inadvertent devotion of essentially the entirety of humanity, this progress has led to the complex, interconnected, and precarious global society of today. The weight of this devotion is what buries one’s atavistic foundations, as the core of the motivations of every individual shifts from fear of their own mortality to fear of societal mortality. This is at the center of the evolution of apocalyptic thought. In our minds, so much has been devoted to society that to see it crumble is more terrifying than to see ourselves crumble.

If our biggest fear is not of the death of oneself but of the death of civilization, then apocalyptic thought will manifest itself accordingly; as this is the case, apocalyptic thought has done such. Imagination of the apocalyptic in its most culturally significant platforms almost always consists of the deterioration of a society or of humankind. However, the nature of such imaginations begs the illustration of not an instant, but rather, a process. Modern cultural representations of the apocalyptic present themselves as such, and subsequently, the moment of transition between pre-apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic often blurs. This trend is further enforced by previously unimaginable crises of the past century, of which have left a remarkable impact on humanity’s perception of itself and of its society. Our culture naturally turns to history for influence, and historical events are often portrayed apocalyptically (Berger, XIII). From the Great War to the Holocaust to the current threat posed by climate change, the available influences all consist of the same foundation, in which an era or society deteriorates not instantaneously, but rather, through a process; ergo, the aforementioned trend in modern imagination of the apocalyptic can be seen not only as a product of the evolution of human fear, but also as an imitation of the models available to us.

However, the influence of these models on the way we think about the apocalypse also reveals a continuity in apocalyptic thought between biblical times and now. Nearly every culturally significant portrayal of the apocalyptic shares a common element: we are to blame. From the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to the Nuclear Age, our history reflects time and time again that we are the cause of our own suffering; and from the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden, the very earliest apocalyptic narrative of Western culture (Lisboa 230), to the iconic 1983 movie The Day After, our culture demonstrates time and time again our recognition of this role we play.

It is important to recognize the relationship between change and continuity in this case. Imagination of the apocalyptic has shifted from an individual to a societal scale and has evolved to take on the presentation of not just an instant of deterioration, but a process of deterioration, consequently blurring the distinction between pre and post apocalyptic. Yet, imagination of the apocalyptic has maintained a constant narrative of human causation. From this relationship, one may gain much insight as to the influence of diversion from our primitive origins and of functioning in a civil society on our mindsets as a whole. Simply the absence of apocalyptic thought, at least past an individual scale, lacking the incorporation of human flaw as a causation indicates our apathy towards thinking about the apocalypse outside of the context of human flaw. Therefore, apocalyptic thought is and always will be relevant and prevalent because it satisfies our need to address the unnaturality of the sheer amount of power we have and the instability it is accompanied by. In our primitive states, it would never have occurred to us to worry about or imagine a demise larger than that of ourselves individually. That we have developed the natural tendency to imagine the apocalyptic in order to come to terms with our own power may serve as a demonstration of the degree in which we have diverted from our primitive origins. Humankind has conquered genetics and its survivalist orientation in favor of an existence of societal orientation. Atavistic fears have been overshadowed by civil fears. And the prevalence of apocalyptic thought attests to human awareness of the unnaturality of our current state of being. Hence, since and even prior to biblical times, apocalyptic thought has served as a manifestation of our awareness of our own unnaturality; this has and will remain consistent. Furthermore, as we divert more and more from our primitive origins, we are bound to tend to apocalyptic thought more frequently as our own potential becomes less natural and more precarious.

The role of apocalyptic thought in the story of human evolution reveals more than perhaps is first let on. Yet, representation of the apocalyptic may serve as a framework in which to study the big picture of the impact of civil and societal existence on our own thinking. Change and continuity in apocalyptic thought serves as proof of the astronomical extent of which we have strayed from our primitive origins and as proof of our own disconcertment with our own power.

 

Works Cited

Benedict, et al. Eschatology, Death, and Eternal Life. Catholic University of America Press, 2007.

Berger, James. After the End: Representations of Post-Apocalypse. University of Minnesota Press, 1999.

Berglund, Bjorn E. “Human Impact and Climate Changes: Synchronous Events and a Casual Link?” Department of Quaternary Geology, Lund University.

Bibby, Geoffrey. Four Thousand Years Ago: a World Panorama of Life in the Second Millennium B.C. Greenwood Press, 1983.

Collins, Adela Yarbro. Cosmology and Eschatology in Jewish and Christian Apocalypticism. Brill, 1996.

Collins, John J. “Apocalyptic Eschatology as the Transcendence of Death.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, vol. 36, no. 1, Jan. 1974, pp. 21–43.

Gathercole, S. J. The Critical and Dogmatic Agenda of Albert Schweitzer’s the Quest of the Historical Jesus. Tyndale Bulletin, 2000.

Hanson, Paul D. The Dawn of Apocalyptic: the Historical and Sociological Roots of Jewish Apocalyptic Eschatology. Fortress Press, 1989.

Hindley, Geoffrey. Medieval Sieges & Siegecraft. Skyhorse Publishing, 2014.

Lee, Alexander. The Ugly Renaissance. Random House US, 2015.

Lisboa, Maria Manuel. The End of the World Apocalypse and Its Aftermath in Western Culture. Open Book Publishers, 2011.

McLuhan, Marshall, and Sut Jhally. “Advertising at the Edge of the Apocalypse.” Mediaed.org, Media Education Foundation, 2017, www.mediaed.org/transcripts/Advertising-at-the-Edge-of-the-Apocalypse-Transcript.pdf.

Rand, Edward Kennan. Founders of the Middle Ages / – Unabridged and Unaltered Republication. Dover, 1957.

Wikisource contributors. “Dies Irae (Irons, 1912).” Wikisource. Wikisource, 15 Jan. 2016. Web. 9 Dec. 2017.

The Holy Bible (King James). Lds.org, www.lds.org/scriptures/ot?lang=eng.

Meyer, Nicholas, director. The Day After. ABC Motion Pictures, 1983.

 

Romeo and Juliet Revisited

Sigmund Freud once theorized that all instincts can be categorized as life instincts (Eros) or death instincts (Thanatos). Life instincts, most commonly referred to as sexual instincts, are the need for humans to survive, feel pleasure, and reproduce. Death instincts create a thrill-seeking energy that is expressed as self-destructive behavior. When that energy is expressed towards others, it becomes aggression and violence. William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” describes the tragic love story of two star-crossed lovers whose passion leads to both of their suicides. Their love is driven by life instincts of libido when they fall in love at first sight. Their death instincts drive them to become self-destructive and violent when Romeo slays Tybalt and when they both commit suicide. According to the Encyclopedia of Death and Dying, Freud’s psychoanalogy describes how “humans function and feel at their best when these two drives are in harmony. Sexual love, for example, may include both tenderness and thrill-seeking.” Throughout the play, neither Romeo nor Juliet find that perfect balance between Eros and Thanatos. Both their romance and their deaths are driven by their broken instincts that resulted from the environment of hatred and violence in which they were raised.

Freud concluded that people will always have an unconscious yearning for death, however life instincts alleviate this desire. Not everyone agrees with Freud’s theories; however, if one chooses to believe this idea that everyone subconsciously is led by their death instincts, they would agree that Romeo and Juliet both express the want to die, but their unbalanced instincts don’t temper these feelings, which results in both of their suicides. After Tybalt has been slain by Romeo, Capulet tells Paris that he no longer can wait to marry Juliet, for they will be wed on Thursday. Juliet tells Lady Capulet, “O sweet my mother, cast me not away. Delay this marriage for a month, a week, / Or, if you do not, make the bridal bed / In that dim monument where Tybalt lies” (3.5.210). Juliet is threatening her mother by telling her that she would rather die than marry Paris. She declares that if the wedding is not delayed, her bridal bed will be her death bed next to Tybalt’s in the Capulet burial vault. In other words, death will take her maidenhead. In this case, Juliet’s desire to die is not tempered by her life instincts. According to Freud’s philosophy, the want to die is supposed to be balanced out with life instincts before the thought becomes a conscious one. Whereas with Juliet, her instincts aren’t in harmony and cause her to become self-destructive. In the same fashion, Romeo also expresses a certain eagerness to die, in particular when he finds out that Juliet is dead, but he doesn’t know that she has only faked her death. Romeo exclaims, “Well, Juliet, I will lie with thee tonight. Let’s see for means. O mischief, thou art swift / To enter in the thoughts of desperate men” (5.1.37). Here, Romeo is stating that he will kill himself and lie dead next to his beloved very shortly. His eagerness to be with Juliet drives his want to die. Wicked mischief passes as this thought in his vulnerable mind and gives him ideas of death. It is important to realize that what Romeo refers to as mischief, is, in fact, death instincts. His instincts have led him to want to die, and he is enraged by it. His and Juliet’s broken instincts have led their vulnerable minds to consciously settle on the idea of death.

Additionally, Romeo and Juliet’s romance is driven by their sexual instincts when they fall in love at first sight. According to Sigmund Freud, the libido is part of the id and is the driving force of all behavior. According to the article “Life and Death Instincts,” “The id, he believed, was a reservoir of unconscious, primal energy. The id seeks pleasure and demands the immediate satisfaction of its desires. It is controlled by what Freud termed the pleasure principle. Essentially, the id directs all of the body’s actions and processes to achieve the greatest amount of pleasure possible. Because the id is almost entirely unconscious, people are not even aware of many of these urges.” The only thing that can control these urges is the ego. The ego is the part of a person’s personality that must tone down the libidinal energy. It must negotiate between the libidinal energy and the superego, which is the part of a person’s personality that incorporates lessons and morals taught by parental or authority figures. When Romeo and Juliet first fall in love and find out that their families are rivals, their superego doesn’t take control of their id’s impulses, therefore they choose to have pleasure over thinking rationally about the consequences of their actions. For example, in the balcony scene, Juliet says, “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name, / Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, / And I’ll no longer be a Capulet” (2.2.35).

Instead of thinking about how their families will react to their love, Juliet says she’d give up being a Capulet for Romeo. In fact, she has lost all common sense and is overtaken by her libidinal energy. Later in the scene, Romeo asks “O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?” (2.2.132) As can be seen, Romeo as well as Juliet, is simply looking to satisfy his sudden desire for Juliet, driven by his life instincts. Based on Freud’s pleasure principle, their wishful impulses needed to be satisfied, regardless of the consequences. Ultimately, if their superegos had balanced out their libidinal energy, the play would not have resulted in their deaths.

If you think about it, death and sex are actually commonly associated as one concept in “Romeo and Juliet.” The article “Sex and Death” states that, “Juliet links sex and death by punning on the word “die” when, daydreaming about her impending wedding night with Romeo, she imagines Romeo being transformed into a bunch of “little stars” lighting up the night sky: ‘Give me my Romeo, and when I shall die / Take him and cut him out in little stars, / And he will make the face of heaven so fine’ (3.2.23-25).” Many take this quote quite literally and imagine that Juliet is talking about her physical death, when she is really referring to the slang, commonly used at that time, for sexual climax, “die.” Therefore, on her wedding night, Juliet wasn’t thinking about cutting Romeo up into stars when she physically dies, but rather when her libidinal urges are satisfied. Normally sex leads to the creation of life, however with Romeo and Juliet that is definitely not the case.

Another possible explanation for Romeo and Juliet’s unrequited love is their age and stage of development. In the play, Juliet is only thirteen, and Romeo is not much older. “Life and Death Instincts” asserts that, “according to Freud, children develop through a series of psychosexual stages. At each stage, the libido is focused on a specific area. When handled successfully, the child moves to the next stage of development and eventually grows into a healthy, successful adult.” Romeo and Juliet were teenagers and had not yet fully developed into healthy adults. Consequently, their actions were ones of careless adolescents, not ones of mature people. It is plausible that their behavioral immaturity was caused by their families’ feud. Maybe they were traumatized by something when they were younger, or perhaps being in a setting full of hatred and fights affected their superego. In addition, their superegos were not fully developed and could not function to control the id’s impulses of sex and aggression. “Id, Ego and Superego,” explains that “The ego engages in secondary process thinking, which is rational, realistic, and orientated towards problem solving. If a plan of action does not work, then it is thought through again until a solution is found. This is known as reality testing, and enables the person to control their impulses and demonstrate self-control, via mastery of the ego.” Obviously Romeo and Juliet had not mastered their ego, for they did not have self-control and did not think realistically when they tried to problem-solve. In contrast, an example of a character who had, in fact, mastered his ego is Friar Lawrence, who only agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet because he thinks that it might help to ease the ongoing feud between the Montagues and the Capulets. When that plan falls through, he comes up with an elaborate plan of Juliet faking her death and Romeo running away with her once she’s been placed in the Capulet burial vault.

Would Romeo and Juliet have come up with this plan on their own? Did Romeo even stop and think, when he was given the news that Juliet had died? Even when things have gotten completely out of hand with Romeo’s banishment, Capulet forcing Juliet to marry Paris, and the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt, Friar Lawrence stays calm and tries to problem solve. There is clearly a contrast between characters with functioning instincts, and Romeo and Juliet. According to Freud, the id, the ego, and the superego are developed in stages. Romeo and Juliet’s were not fully mature and led them to irrational and irresponsible decision making.

Moreover, Freud observed that after experiencing trauma, people have self-destructive behavior, and they are more violent and aggressive. Thus, after trauma, death instincts take over a person’s behavior. After Romeo is witness to Tybalt murdering Mercutio, he suddenly changes from resisting the urge to fight, to being in a sudden rage. Before being traumatized by watching his best friend die, Romeo says, “I do protest I never injured thee / But love thee better than thou canst devise / Till thou shalt know the reason of my love” (3.1.70). In a word, Romeo simply doesn’t want to fight. In contrast, after Mercutio has died he yells, “Alive in triumph, and Mercutio slain! Away to heaven, respective lenity, / And [fire-eyed] fury be my conduct now.- Now, Tybalt, take the ‘villain’ back again / That late thou gavest me, for Mercutio’s soul/ Is but a little way above our heads, / Staying for thine to keep him company. Either thou or I, or both, must go with him” (3.1.130). Romeo’s sudden mood change from trying not to fight, to saying that either Tybalt or him or both must die and join Mercutio in heaven, shows how a traumatizing event can bring out a person’s death instincts. Romeo’s increased aggression and desperation causes him to slay Tybalt, and eventually kill himself. All in all, Romeo’s words were true. He, Tybalt, Paris, and even Juliet eventually joined Mercutio up in heaven.

Now one may ask, why do Romeo and Juliet have broken instincts? There are many possibilities. Their age and stage of development could be one factor. Their personalities weren’t fully developed or mature, which means neither their superegos were not fully developed nor their id, which would cause the desynchronization of their instincts. However, the most probable cause of their defective instincts is the environment in which they were raised. Throughout their whole life, they were taught to abhor the other family. For generations, the Montagues and the Capulets have been fighting. This could have been upsetting to a young child. Going back to the idea of trauma and its effect on personalities, Romeo and Juliet were probably traumatized as children because of all of the violence surrounding them. If they had experienced a shocking event at a young age, their personality would have been affected. If their personality was not developing normally, this might explain their damaged instincts. PsyArt Journal states that, “Repressed childhood traumata tend to elude repression and induce disguised reenactments of the original trauma later in life. Understanding puzzling aspects of a character’s behavior as a reenactment of childhood trauma would help explain his or her paradoxical actions and the unconscious processes underlying his or her words, thoughts, and feelings.” Romeo and Juliet both behave in puzzling ways and act in irrational ways. If they had experienced a childhood trauma, that would explain their damaged inner drives. The article “Romeo’s Childhood Trauma — ‘What Fray was Here?’” explains that “if one listens clinically to Romeo’s words, one hears indications of… a traumatic experience in childhood as would drive him toward his tragic fate. I believe it is a reenactment of childhood trauma that prevents Romeo from ‘putting Juliet on his horse and making for Mantua’ (Mahood 57) and thus avoiding the catastrophe entirely.” If Romeo was not reenacting a traumatizing experience as a child, he might would have avoided his tragic ending. Therefore, the most reasonable cause of at least Romeo’s damaged drives is a childhood trauma.

In conclusion, Romeo and Juliet are perfect examples of instincts expressed unhealthily. Their deaths were caused by either being too drunk in love to think rationally or too desperate to think of any other option but death. However, if they had thought about the consequences to their actions before the balcony scene and their marriage, the play would not have been called the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. “Id, Ego and Superego,” clarifies that “The id engages in primary process thinking, which is primitive, illogical, irrational, and fantasy oriented. This form of process thinking has no comprehension of objective reality, and is selfish and wishful in nature.” Romeo and Juliet were driven by their ids into being “fantasy oriented.” Love at first sight is a fantasy, getting married despite their families’ fuel is irrational, and when they commit suicide, they are only acting as a response to their feelings of tension and unpleasure due to id’s impulses being denied. Shakespeare and Freud come from two completely different time periods, and obviously Shakespeare would not have known Freud’s theories while writing his plays. However, they both intertwined the contrasting ideas of sex and death. Freud believed that our life instincts need to be balanced out with our death instincts. Shakespeare often uses sex and death as one common theme throughout many of his plays. If both Freud and Shakespeare came up with the same conclusion, wouldn’t it be valid to compare their ideas? All in all, there are many debates and contradictions surrounding both Shakespeare’s works and Freud’s theories, however the one thing everything can agree on is that they both try to examine the most abstract and mysterious thing there is to understand: humans.

 

Works Cited

Cherry, Kendra. “What Are Life and Death Instincts?” Verywell. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

Freud, Sigmund. “IV. Sigmund Freud. 1922. Beyond the Pleasure Principle.” IV. Sigmund

Freud. 1922. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Bartleby.com, n.d. Web. 02 May 2016.

Kastenbaum, Robert. “Death and Dying.” Death Instinct. Advameg, n.d. Web. 02 May 2016.

Krims, Marvin. “Romeo’s Childhood Trauma? — “What Fray Was Here?”” PsyArt: An Online

Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 May 2016.

McLeod, S. A. “Id, Ego and Superego.” Id Ego Superego. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 May 2016.

Shmoop Editorial Team. “Sex and Death in Romeo and Juliet.” Shmoop.com. Shmoop

University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 02 May 2016.

Shmoop Editorial Team. “Sex and Death in Romeo and Juliet.” Shmoop.com. Shmoop

University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 02 May 2016.

Shakespeare, William, and Jill L. Levenson. Romeo and Juliet. Oxford University Press, 2008.

 

The Dangers of Stereotyping by the Media

Two years ago, I sat in social studies class on a rainy Friday morning counting the hours until I could go home. As I typed out a text to an equally bored friend across the room, my male teacher, responding to an inquiry about his weekend plans, made a casual remark about his husband. Admittedly, I felt surprised. Not because I harbored any prejudices towards the LGBT community, but because he didn’t fit the image of a gay person that the media had painted in my mind. Years of watching television shows and reading magazines had instilled in me a misguided representation of gays and lesbians. I imagined a gay man to be as theatrical and melodramatic as Modern Family’s Cameron Tucker or as feminine and neurotic as Will & Grace’s Jack McFarland. My teacher, easygoing with a passion for history rather than Beyoncé’s latest album, did not meet any of these expectations. The results of misrepresenting a group of people in the media have a much greater reach than rousing me from a boredom induced near-coma on a dreary day. Young women often starve themselves to fit the stereotype of the perfect woman broadcast all across television and film. People of color and homosexuals face discrimination due to the broad and largely unfavorable preconceptions created by the media. The media stigmatizes the mentally ill, causing a lack of adequate medical care and leading to deadly consequences. While the writers of television programs likely believe that they serve as comical running gags or punchlines, stereotypical portrayals of groups of people in the media can have adverse and calamitous consequences in the real world.

Gender stereotypes occur across all forms of media. For instance, television and the advertisement industry constantly portray the thin woman as the “perfect” woman. This fixation on an ideal body type relates to the growing incidence of eating disorders and body issues among young women. According to the National Centre for Eating Disorders, fifty percent of girls between the ages of eleven and fifteen read fashion magazines and ninety-five percent watch television. This exposure to a thin ideal size corresponds to a time in their lives where self-esteem and body image are at their most tenuous due to the onset of puberty and the increasing tendency for social comparison. A desire to mold to the stereotypical skinny, “perfect” woman seen on television can lead to the development of eating disorders and rigorous dieting. This can possibly account for the drastic rise in eating disorders from 1.5% of women in 1988 to 9.3% in 2017 (Currin). Underrepresentation presents another concern about the portrayal of women on television. One study found that men triple women in number on primetime television and that in newscasts, women make up only about 16% of reporters (Wood). According to this researcher, “the constant populace distortion of men and women tempts us to believe that there really are more men than women and, further, that men are the cultural standard.” This portrayal by the media can foster the belief that women do not make up a large and active component of the population. Such ideas may cause a reluctance to acknowledge and reward women for their contributions to society, resulting in negative consequences for the already existing gender wage gap and the likelihood of women holding positions of power such as the presidency or a seat in Congress.

A high prevalence of racial stereotypes exists in television and film. For instance, Asian actors and actresses often find themselves playing the roles of nerds and intellectual masterminds. Unfortunately, such stereotyping makes it difficult for them to secure work outside of this limited arena, resulting in most roles — even those originally intended for portrayal by an Asian actor — to go to white performers instead. This causes a minimization of the importance of people of color in society and a lack of cultural understanding. In addition, casting Asian-Americans in primarily academic roles on television “plays on the existing stereotype about Asians being intellectually and technologically superior to Westerners,” resulting in the direction of antagonism and discrimination their way (Nittle). Furthermore, the fostering of the perception of Asians as the “model minority” in television and film further drives a wedge between Asians and their counterparts of other races.

Misconceptions and a lack of representation of gay people in television can have unfavorable implications for lessening discrimination against the LGBT community and the development of individuals within it. According to one study, “the lack of portrayals of homosexuality on television influence the beliefs among viewers that homosexuality is abnormal or extremely rare” (Fisher). As humans have the tendency to react more adversely to the unfamiliar and deviations from the social norm, this can heighten negative reactions towards the LGBT community. In addition, the absence of depictions of gay people — particularly positive ones — in media can lead to a lack of role models for homosexual teens or those questioning their sexuality, creating greater feelings of isolation.

Stereotyping of the mentally ill also occurs in the media. For instance, television often links madness or creative genius to a mental disorder, romanticizing the struggle of afflicted individuals. For example, a running gag on the television series Bones featured the protagonist’s socially inept demeanor. Although her awkward gaffes — characteristic of someone suffering from Asperger’s — continued throughout the duration of the show, the showrunners used them as a punchline and never addressed the isolating difficulties of living with this disorder. Additionally, an underlying criminal element to the portrayal of mental disorders on television often exists. For example, “popular psychological thrillers like Hannibal, Mr. Robot, and Dexter, all perpetuate the stereotype that people with mental illnesses are fearsome criminals, if not outright violent ones” (Bastién). This can inspire the belief that the mentally ill will not respond to reproach or assistance, causing them to be denied professional help that could aid in coping with their affliction. For many of the mentally ill individuals involved in the country’s violent tragedies, their diagnoses did not come to light until too late. For example, Adam Lanza, the man who shot and killed twenty-six people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, did not receive a diagnosis or treatment for psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (Cowan).

Misguided stereotypes function as a red thread running through all forms of the media. Television portrays the most beautiful women as the thin ones, and female underrepresentation in the media minimizes and devalues their role in society. Racial stereotypes, particularly those pertaining to Asian Americans, limit the work available to people of color in the show business industry and foster divides. Preconceptions about gay people and a lack of visibility in television heighten enmity to the LGBT community and rob homosexual teens of adequate role models. Inaccurate portrayals of mental illness can have detrimental consequences in reality, as showrunners and television writers often overlook the difficulties associated with these ailments or include a criminal undertone to the disorders. Although the depiction of these stereotypes may boost network ratings or make for wildly entertaining storylines, they have proven to be devastating in the real world.

 

Works Cited

Bastién, Angelica. “What TV Gets Wrong About Mental Illness.” Vulture. N.p., 8 Sept. 2016. Web. 8 Oct. 2017.

Cowan, Alison Leigh. “Adam Lanza’s Mental Problems ‘Completely Untreated’ Before Newtown Shootings, Report Says.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 Nov. 2014. Web. 8 Oct. 2017.

Currin, L. “Time Trends in Eating Disorder Incidence.” The British Journal of Psychiatry 186.2 (2005): 132-35. JSTOR. Web. 8 Oct. 2017.

Fischer, D. “Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Content on Television: A Quantitative Analysis Across Two Seasons.” J Homosex 52.3 (2007): 167-188. JSTOR. Web. 8. Oct. 2017.

Wood, Julia T. Gendered Lives: Communication, Gender, and Culture. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2015. Print.

 

The​ ​Dilemma​ ​of​ ​a​ ​Debater’s​ ​Moral Integrity

What would you do to win? How far would you go to get what you want? This is a question I often ask myself, mostly because of the sport of debate, which I have been taking in school for a year so far. The main reason that debate makes me think of how far I would go to win is my specific forte of debate, which is congressional debate. Congressional debate is simple. You get a bill or resolution to respond to in pro or con. But, the problem is, you have an advantage if you go first because the judges hear your opinion first, and this means that you’ll find yourself putting away your own opinions and ideas in order to win. If you want to have an advantage in congressional debate, you will have to put aside your personal viewpoints.

In congressional debate, if there is an author of a bill or resolution present, they will speak first, in pro of said bill or resolution. If the author is not present, a representative of the bill or resolution will speak on its behalf and is forced to speak in pro. There is then a limited questioning period, and from there on, a trade-off of pro and con and questioning. Moral tension is created when you choose to have the advantage of arguing first, while having to argue pro, because you will have to sacrifice your own views, whether you believe in pro or con for a matter.

Congressional debate is less about the topics discussed and more about the form in which you debate them. In congressional debate, you get the date of an upcoming debate. You get an official list of topics at varying times. Then, you have time to prepare and have the option to submit a bill or resolution. A bill states laws to be put in place. A resolution is a bill in response to another bill or event that has happened. As the word suggests, you are resolving the problem. Though that’s how typical congressional debate works, humanity’s usage of congressional debate roots back as old as time, even in its most primitive state. And I don’t just mean two cavemen arguing over a piece of meat. Looking at the roots of the word starting with congressional, according to Dictionary.com, “congressional means of or relating to Congress.” In Congress, people argue over bills and resolutions, just like in congressional debate. Now, according to Dictionary.com, the standard definition of debate is “a formal discussion on a particular topic in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward.” Debate can be contextualized as either a sport or humanistic inquiry, and it is the contextualization that makes all the difference.

The point is, the deeper you get pulled into debate as a sport, the less of what you’re saying matters and the more of winning the debate matters. Soon, winning becomes all you care about, having been pulled into the highly addictive sport of debate. In contrast, contextualizing debate as a form of human inquiry is about the search for justice. However, when debating as a sport, it doesn’t matter how you debate, what you debate, or why you debate. In the sport of debate, only one thing matters, and it’s winning.

I was at my first congressional debate tournament. I’d had two weeks to prepare a speech that was either pro or con to the impeachment of Donald Trump. My personal viewpoint is that by all means, he should be impeached because of the many outrageous claims he’s made and the countless acts of torment and bullying he’s committed via social media. The debate starts out fast. You barely have enough time to prepare before they read out the topic.

From there, they asked the dreaded question, “Is the author of this topic present, or would a representative like to speak pro on behalf of the topic?” The room turns quiet, and eyes dart around the room nervously.

“Come on, guys, we need to continue…” Sure, it’s a simple enough side to debate. You know that if you really needed to debate it, you could. So then, why is it so hard to agree to debating the topic? For one, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. There are many variables that play into the situation, like the risks, why you want to do it, or even how you want to do it. We all feel entitled to our own views and opinions.

In the 21st century, nothing is more important than your opinion. Think about it. This year’s election has been almost entirely based on dominating public opinion because ranting on social media can have a surprisingly strong effect on popularity. When you have services literally built for stating your opinions, you’ll start to, well, think everyone, and I mean anyone and everyone, cares about your opinion. We are being fed by the media that our opinion matters, but it is only the manipulation of our opinion that really matters. We soon figure out that day to day, our opinion does not matter in reality. Because of our ceaseless egos, despite the triviality of our opinions, we hold our opinions very dear. And in the end, should we push our opinions away just to win? We shouldn’t, because our opinions are our integrity.

Before debate, I was, to put it lightly, very argumentative. And when I first discovered debate, I was excited. Finally, a sport I could win by arguing! It was the end of the year, but there was still time to participate in one debate. Novice congressional. Now at the time, I had no idea what that was, and I wouldn’t have without the help of my debate teacher, Jim Shapiro. So with one week of preparation and a poorly written speech, I went to my first debate. And I rocked it. Question after question, the battleground became clearer and clearer to me. All you had to do was to state your claim, interrogate your opponent, and act like you know what you’re doing, and you’ve pretty much won the debate. Plus, it didn’t hurt that everyone else was new to debate also. So, I was plowing down questions when the judge stated the final question: should Donald J. Trump be impeached?

We are back at the pivotal moment, the crossroads between my moral integrity and my egotism for winning. The crossroads between sport and humanistic inquiry. Now before I continue, I want to make something very clear. I’m a liberal. I go to a liberal school in a liberal neighborhood in a liberal city. So, the last thing I was expecting was that question. But before you knew it, two people had chosen pro. That meant that in order to go first, I would have to put away all my pride, all my honor, and all my opinions in order to win. And I won. I’m not going to go into full depth of how I won, but let’s just say it involved a lot of bias and fake information, like the blatant ignorance of some of the atrocities he’s said or the creation of false sources of good things he had done, as I couldn’t think of any myself. I actually hoped, prayed even, that I wouldn’t win. For corrupt politics not to prevail once again. And even though I won, I lost the true debate. I lost my opinion, one of the only things that makes me, me.

It’s almost funny. Humanity is built on the standards of “victory is good!” But at what cost? How far are you willing to go to “win?” What even is winning? It’s a social construct we created to segregate, a construct we need to distinguish who’s better and who’s less than others. This status currency has almost no meaning other than pride, so why do we chase it? Why play the game of cat and mouse with your life, with almost everything to lose? The answer is, even with all of our opinions, we only matter if other people mandate it. Our opinion only matters if it can be manipulated by greater power structures but here, on that debate podium, my individual opinion was the only moral integrity I had. Our individual opinions are the only morals we have, and in the pursuit of the relativity of opinion, I debated against Trump’s impeachment. In a society where status, currency, and popularity are based on our own agency, we crave power. We crave being loved. We crave appreciation. We crave someone holding us and telling us that we are okay. And most importantly, we crave winning. It’s only human. So when people ask me why I would help this horrible man spread his opinion, I say I’m only human. Because at the end of the day, that’s what we do. We segregate, label, and divide people into groups, so we can judge them. It’s terrible, brutal, and unfair. But it’s what we do. We put away our moral integrity to win and to be recognized. The question now, is how do we contextualize ourselves?

 

You Could be Next

“We’re going to die here. We’re going to die,” Carmen Algeria thought as she dodged gunshots raining down on her while witnessing people drop left and right. “About five feet to the left of me there was a man with a bullet wound to his chin. My jeans were covered in someone’s blood, my T-shirt was covered in someone’s blood, my sister’s whole leg was covered in blood.” In the face of this crisis, citizens unified, and after the initial shock, they began to move. The civilians who did not obtain injuries ran to their cars to transport people to the hospital while others directed people to safety. Men grabbed Algeria and her sister and lifted them into trucks. “Bodies were literally being tossed on top of us,” Algeria said. Blood covered every inch of the emergency room. The bodies of victims littered the floor. Gunshot wounds riddled the victims’ bodies. “All I could describe it as was a war zone,” said John Kline, an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department (Carcamo et al.).

This scene depicts one of the hundreds of stories from people at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas on October 1, where the deadliest mass shooting in US history occurred. Thousands of Americans witnessed and survived incidents similar to Carmen Algeria’s. In the past 275 days, 273 mass shootings have occurred. Since Las Vegas alone, six more mass shootings (four or more people killed or injured) and 240 shootings (under four) have terrorized the United States (“Mass”). But according to our president and leading politicians, no solution exists. The loss of life apparently equals the price to pay for the right to bear arms. The US cannot politicize this event; instead, Americans should come together and mourn, solely sending thoughts and prayers. Despite politicians’ intentions, these tactics disrespect the victims of shootings by preventing change from happening. When 521 mass shootings have occurred in the past 477 days (“477 Days”), the only time to talk about gun safety is now.

Mourning the victims of mass shootings and politicizing the event must occur simultaneously. America has the capability of doing both. Many politicians send “thoughts and prayers” and urge Americans to mourn. They discourage people from talking gun politics, which supposedly polarizes the country. President Trump advised, “we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by. Today we mourn.” Via this logic, the topic of gun rights will finally come up in political discourse the day an American is not fatally shot. Unfortunately, if America continues its current gun policies, this day will never come: at least one mass shooting happens daily in the United States, and ninety-two Americans die from gun violence every day (Kristof). Thus, the lack of conversation about gun violence will continually inhibit progress in terms of safety in public settings.

In other spheres of life, enactments of precautionary steps maintain safety, and gun laws should mimic this model. For example, fire alarms, smoke detectors, and fire drills combat the potential of deadly infernos. Airbags, seatbelts, and highway guardrails combat deadly auto accidents. Even the minuscule, by comparison, dangers of a ladder, which kills 300 people a year, have seven pages of regulations in the Health Administration guidebook (Kristof). However, not only has the government prohibited research on gun safety, but also the administration has deemed the mere discussion as un-American. Over and over again this country faces mass shootings, and each time politicians send their condolences. But nothing changes, and the cycle continues: Mass shootings horrify Americans, and outraged citizens demand sane policy. Yet, eventually a bigger story blows up somewhere else in the world, the news stops discussing gun laws, and sane policy still has not materialized. Then it happens again; only this time, more people die. When no discussion of mass shootings occurs, Americans can expect to continue to see death at the hands of guns.

Common sense gun laws should naturally pervade bipartisan policy. Both sides of the political spectrum agree: 79% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats want background checks for gun shows and private sales (Fingerhut), and 80% of Democrats and Republicans want mandatory background checks, five-day waiting period for gun purchases, and a mandatory registration of handguns (Smith 156). Yet these policies languish in Congress, despite the fact that they have bipartisan support. Why? Because the NRA, the largest lobbyist group in the country, makes sure the passing of these regulations never occur. During the 2016 election cycle, the NRA gave 5.9 million dollars to the Republican Party (“Gun”). The same candidates who received money from the NRA also voted to allow people on the no-fly list and mentally disabled people to purchase guns. However, 89% of Democrats and Republicans believe the mentally ill should be prevented from purchasing guns, and 82% of Republicans and Democrats believe gun purchases should be barred for people on the no-fly list (Oliphant). Politicians repeatedly put their campaign needs over lives of citizens. The NRA and the politicians they support essentially value power and money over life. By advising people to mourn instead of discussing gun laws, these NRA backed congressmen commit the very action they protest against — politicizing mass shootings. By sending thoughts and prayers without action, policymakers fulfill the desires of the NRA. Via prioritization of the NRA, politicians make the gun debate a polarizing issue. If politicians put aside their greed and corrupt tactics, they would listen and reform policy in accordance to the people’s needs.

America needs more gun regulations. The constant mass shootings that the US face every single day proves the necessity for gun restriction. However, some fear that reforms will potentially lead to a ban on all guns. Gun safety proponents warn against the straw man “extremist agenda.” In reality, there is no desire to take away the rights of citizens to buy guns. Instead, proponents simply want a more difficult and thorough screening process. They want more background checks, a mandatory five-day waiting period, and limits on assault and semi-automatic weapons. People (who have mental stability and do not appear on the no-fly list) can still have their handguns and rifles for hunting and protection. But no reason exists for common citizens to own automatic weapons. The sole purpose of automatic weapons is simply to kill many people quickly and efficiently. And again, both sides of the political spectrum agree: 77% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats want background checks for private sales and gun shows, and 54% of Republicans and 80% of Democrats want to ban assault-style weapons.

These types of reforms have reaped benefits in Australia, Britain, and Canada. When faced with mass shootings, these modern countries crafted laws that basically eliminated the threat of guns to public safety. For example, in Australia, a gunman shot and killed thirty-five people in Port Arthur. The public’s response was outrage and persistence on change. The government responded with a ban on almost all automatic and semiautomatic rifles as well as shotguns. They implemented this with a gun-buyback program. John Howard, the Prime Minister said, “we won the battle to change gun laws because there was majority support across Australia for banning certain weapons” (Bilefsky et al.) Both Australia and American have majority support for tighter gun laws — the only difference: the NRA.

In order to combat the NRA and corrupt politicians, we must speak out. We cannot allow politicians to put their own needs in front of ours any longer. We simply cannot continue to go on this way. If we do, America will continue to suffer through shooting after shooting, death after death. We can mourn and send prayers, but if we want the shootings to stop, we also must act. Now.

 

Works Cited

Bilefsky, Dan, et al. “How Australia, Britain and Canada Have Responded to Gun Violence.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 Oct. 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/10/03/world/americas/australia-britain-canada-us-gun-legislation.html.

Carcamo, Cindy, Tchekmedyian Alene, Mather, Kate, Winton, Richard. “Survivors from California Recount Their Terrifying Escape from Danger in Las Vegas.” Los Angeles Times, 4 Oct. 2017, www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-california-survivors-las-vegas-20171004-story.html.

Fingerhut, Hannah. 5 Facts about Guns in the United States. Pew Research Center, 5 Jan. 2016, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/01/05/5-facts-about-guns-in-the-united-states/.

“Gun Rights: Money to Congress.” OpenSecrets.org, The Center for Responsive Politics, 2016, www.opensecrets.org/industries/summary.php?cycle=2016&ind=Q13.

Kristof, Nicholas. “Preventing Mass Shootings Like the Vegas Strip Attack.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 Oct. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/10/02/opinion/mass-shootingvegas.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2FNicholas%2BKristof&action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&module=Collection®ion=Marginalia&src=me&version=column&pgtype=article

“Mass Shootings.” Gun Violence Archive, 2017, www.gunviolencearchive.org/reports/mass-shooting.

Oliphant, Baxter. Bipartisan Support for Some Gun Proposals, Stark Partisan Divisions on Many Others. Pew Research Center, 23 June 2017, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/06/23/bipartisan-support-for-some-gun-proposals-stark-partisan-divisions-on-many-others/.

Smith, Tom W. “Public Opinion about Gun Policies.” The Future of Children, vol. 12, no. 2, Children, Youth, and Gun Violence, 1 July 2002, pp. 154–163. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1602745?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents.

“477 Days. 521 Mass Shootings. Zero Action From Congress.” The New York Times, The New York Times, Editorial Board, 2 Oct. 2017, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/10/02/opinion/editorials/mass-shootings-congress.html.

 

The Benefit of Female Education on the World

Thirty seconds. That is all the time it takes for thirteen underage girls to be sold into a marriage, turned into a breeder of sons and unwanted daughters, and imprisoned in a lifetime of anguish and abuse. This is the fate that awaits many women in third-world countries. Many of these women have never stepped foot into a school, never savored a good book or written a letter, and were never given a chance to escape an endless and vicious cycle. However, there is one glaringly present solution that will stop this cycle: educating women. Despite it being deemed unnecessary in many developing countries, educating a girl has countless, profound effects on the future of her country and the world at large. According to the New York Times article by Nicholas Kristof, “What’s So Scary About Smart Girls?”, educating women can double a country’s labor force, save the lives of thousands of children who would have been born to uneducated and impoverished mothers, and create a more stable political environment. These are the reasons the United Nations and various other organizations have strived to fund and improve education in developing countries, as detailed by the article “Education and the Developing World.” As shown in the documentary directed by Richard Robbins, Girl Rising, many girls in these countries are victims of sex trafficking, sexual assault, and arranged marriages. Fear of sexual assault, a belief that girls are only useful for marriage and bearing children, and the high cost are reasons that parents keep their daughters home from school. Despite these adversities, the benefits of educating girls greatly outweigh the negatives. Due to its potential for enhancing global economies and communities and providing girls in underdeveloped with a shield against injustice, the education of women is an extremely essential task that must be collectively undertaken around the world.

The education of women has a large capacity for boosting the economy and benefiting the political environment of a country. Research has shown that there is a 10% increase in wages per year of schooling that one has completed, which will eventually lead to widespread economic growth. It has also been demonstrated that by educating females alone, there will be a 40% decrease in malnutrition (“Education and the Developing World”). Educated women can enter the working world, doubling the formal labor force and thereby raising the living standard. This shows how educating girls can have a large effect on her community and country. The political stability of countries will also be improved with the education of girls. Many of the girls who are oppressed in today’s world belong to war-torn countries that are unfortunately still shrouded in backwards beliefs. Perhaps, if they educated more girls, these countries would experience peace as educating girls supports a civil society, democracy, and political stability.

The political situation of a country is also affected by the rate of unemployment, as more people out of work results in political upheaval. In fact, there has been shown to be a 4% increase in chance for a civil war for every 1% increase in the unemployed population aged 15-24 (Kristof 2). Educated women can help reduce the bulge in the youth population by having smaller families and creating stability. A study performed in Nigeria found that for each additional year of primary school, a girl has 0.26 fewer children (Kristof 2). Female education also improves the health conditions in a community as educated women are more likely to make intelligent choices that will benefit their children. According to Girl Rising, putting every child in school could prevent 700,000 cases of HIV each year. Children are also likely to live longer with educated mothers because women who have gone to school are more likely to seek prenatal care and 50% more likely to immunize their children (“Education and the Developing World”). All research points to one obvious conclusion: an educated mother means a healthier child.

The fact that 66 million girls are currently out of school worldwide has devastating effects on their lives. In many developing countries, girls are subject to sex trafficking and sexual assault and are often forced into arranged marriages at very young ages. Even more shocking, girls in modern and prosperous countries experience similar circumstances. According to Kristof, 100,000 girls under the age of eighteen are trafficked into commercial sex in the United States every year. The range of abuses women experience also includes sexual assault. 150 million girls are victims of sexual violence a year, 50% of them under the age of fifteen (Robbins). The fear of girls being sexually assaulted is a reason that some parents choose not to send their daughters to school.

Around the globe, 33 million fewer girls are in school than boys. Everything a family has goes into educating and priming a boy for life, as shown in Girl Rising when the profits from a girl’s marriage are used to buy a car for her brother. Many countries around the world do not offer public schooling, and parents are reluctant to use their limited funds to pay for the books of a girl. Another obstacle to education is that many girls enter marriage very early in their lives. Every year, fourteen million girls under the age of eighteen are married. Many of these girls die soon after from childbirth, the number one cause of death for girls between the ages of 15-19 (Robbins). These horrifying circumstances are often brought out by an archaic view that people have about the status of women. People have the belief that girls are only expected to marry, bear sons, and work in the household. They are dangerously unaware about the potential of a woman. Fortunately, an inexhaustible desire to learn and change the world is still present in oppressed women. Amira, a woman featured in the documentary Girl Rising who was married and had a son by age twelve, shares this message of hope, “I will find a way to endure, to prevail. The future of man lies in me… look me in the eye. I am change” (Robbins). Educating girls will help them escape from upsetting injustices. Girls with eight years of education are four times less likely to be married as children and are twice as likely to send their own children to school (Robbins). Women who are given the gift of an education also often feel an obligation to pay it forward. Suma, a Nepalese girl who was liberated from slavery, now works to make sure no young women endure the hardships she did. Angeline Mugwendere, a Zimbabwean girl whose education was paid for, is now the director of an organization that helps impoverished girls in Africa go to school (Kristof 3).

All countries should join the effort to educate girls worldwide. It has been shown to have incredible effects on the countries where it has taken place. After Bangladesh gained its independence, there was a renewed emphasis on education for both genders. Now, there are more girls in high school than boys. Many of these girls will grow to form the foundation of the Nobel Peace Prize winning Grameen Bank and other important Bengali institutions (Kristof 3). South Korea, which once had an average annual income of $890, has also shown advancements due to education. Following an effort to spend more money on education, South Korea now boasts an improved labor force, near 100% public school enrollment, and an average annual income of $17,000 (“Education and the Developing World”).

There are some that believe that educating girls would be a waste of valuable defense funds. However, educating girls has countless benefits that cannot be overshadowed by even the most successful military campaign. Educating women is an extremely necessary endeavor and one that most modern nations have the capital to promote. France, which has an economy of 1/10th the size of the United States’, donated 600 million more dollars to education in poor countries. The Netherlands, which has an even smaller economy, was also a leader in improving education (“Education and the Developing World”). The United States should follow the lead of these countries and become forerunners in the fight for widespread female education.

Educating girls can irreversibly alter the economic landscape of an entire nation. The education of girls boosts the labor force and stimulates the economy, increasing a nation’s productivity and wealth. Additionally, educated women have smaller families which raises the standard of living and enables better child care. Having an education also provides women in desperate situations like arranged marriage with a means of escape. All humans have a fire within them, a desire to learn and live to their fullest potential. This fire has been suppressed in girls but with an education, they can find a way to light the spark once more.

 

Works Cited

“Education and the Developing World.” 2012. Print.

Girl Rising. Dir. Richard Robbins. The Documentary Group & Vulcan Productions, 2014. Film.

Kristof, Nicholas. “What’s So Scary About Smart Girls?” The New York Times, 10 May 2014. Print.

 

The Murder of Mary Phagan

In 1913, in Atlanta, Georgia, Leo Frank, the Jewish superintendent of the National Pencil Factory, was tried and convicted for the murder of Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old female worker in his factory. Local newspapers documented the court proceedings in great detail, framing Frank as a corrupt factory owner and a pervert. The Atlantan public followed the case very closely and believed these descriptions of Frank, despite the fact that many of them were made up or exaggerated. Atlantans were so convinced Frank was guilty that, when Governor John M. Slaton commuted Frank’s sentence from the death penalty to life in prison, an outraged mob swarmed Frank’s cell, took him away, and hanged him outside Mary Phagan’s house. During a time when lynching was very prevalent in the South, this lynching was unusual: it was one of the only lynchings of a white man. In one sense, the lynching was a manifestation of anti-Semitism, which had been progressing in Atlanta as the city’s Jewish population had rapidly increased over the last century. The lynching was also the result of class tensions in Atlanta, as the city industrialized, and the working class felt mistreated by wealthy, powerful factory owners like Leo Frank. Decades later, as new evidence and testimonies revealed that Frank was innocent and the guilty person was most likely the African American janitor, Jim Conley, it became clear that Frank’s conviction was also closely related to the tensions between the Jewish and African American communities in Atlanta. Overall, Leo Frank’s trial and lynching exposed the profound divisions in Atlanta’s society in the early twentieth centuries — between the wealthy and the poor, Jews and anti-Semitic Gentiles, and Jews and African Americans.

 

The Leo Frank Case

On the night of April 26, 1913, Mary Phagan’s dead body was found in the factory’s basement. That morning, which was Confederate Memorial Day, Mary Phagan had gone into the pencil shop at which she worked to collect her pay of $1.20. However, she never came home. Newt Lee, the factory’s night watchman, found her body, brutally bruised and bloody. He contacted the Call Officer, W.F. Anderson immediately, exclaiming that, “a white woman has been killed up here!” When the detectives arrived at the scene, they originally thought that she was a black woman because she was covered in soot from her head to her toes: “her features — even her eye sockets and nostrils — were caked with soot, and her mouth was choked with cinders.” When they arrived at the scene, the only clues the detectives found were two murder notes next to the body. The first note read, “He said he wood love me land down play like the night witch did it but that long tall black negro did boy his slef,” and the second note read, “Mam that negro hire down here did this i went to make eater and he push me down that hole a long tall negro black that hoo it wase long sleam tall negro i wright while play with me.” The detectives assumed that the notes were written by the murderer to direct the suspicion towards someone else, or possibly written by Mary as a way to help them identify her murderer. Basing their initial judgment on the notes, officers arrested Newt Lee, since he fit the “tall black negro” description in the first note and had found Mary’s body.

On behalf of the Atlanta Police Department, Detective Black stepped in to solve the crime. From the beginning, he was opposed to the idea of convicting a black man, as he did not think such a conviction would satisfy the public. He famously said, “The murder of Mary Phagan must be paid for with blood. And a Negro’s blood would not suffice.” Detectives later confirmed that Newt had not been around the factory when Mary was murdered, so he was released as a suspect. Quickly, detectives shifted their focus to Leo Frank, who appeared nervous when first accompanied by detectives to the scene of the crime. Frank was arrested and brought to court where, instead of acting nervous as he was before, he appeared calm and confident. Over the course of the trial, his calm was shaken as witnesses provided evidence that he had made sexual comments and advances towards Mary Phagan and other little girls in the factory. Moreover, there were questions about his alibi, and his lawyers struggled to prove that he had not been at the Pencil Factory during the murder. The evidence gathered, and public suspicion grew as the press printed shocking stories framing Frank as a perverse, evil factory owner. On May 23, 1913, the grand jury indicted Leo Frank for Mary Phagan’s murder.

The most significant testimony against Frank, which is widely believed to have convinced the jury he was guilty, was that of Jim Conley, a black man who worked as a janitor in the factory. Conley was a criminal himself, having already served two sentences on the chain gang and one time for attempted armed robbery. The police questioned Conley about the murder since they found him rinsing out a stain from his shirt, which he claimed was just a rust stain. The police did not arrest him because he told them he was not near the factory the day of Mary Phagan’s murder because he claimed he was drunk all day. He also told them he could not read or write, so they suspected he could not have written the notes next to her body. When he was later called in for another affidavit, he told a different story, claiming that he had seen Frank murder Mary Phagan and that Frank had forced him to help move the body. Rather than being suspicious of Conley’s changing story, detectives helped him correct his facts, and the press praised Conley for coming forward.

After the jury convicted Frank, his attorneys tried to overturn the decision, gathering evidence to build a case against Conley. They learned that Conley had confessed about the murder to multiple people and even threatened to kill those he told if they told anyone else. Leo’s attorneys collected medical evidence that established that Mary was actually murdered much later than when Hugh Dorsey, Frank’s prosecutor, claimed. Most importantly, though, when Leo was not in the factory. They wanted to appeal the case to the Supreme Court, but the Court refused to review the case, despite Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Charles Evans Hughes dissenting. They argued that the trial had been influenced by newspapers and general public sentiments, which meant that it had been unfair. As they wrote in their dissent, “Mob law does not become due process of law by securing the assent of a terrorized jury.” Governor John M. Slaton reviewed the entire case and decided to commute Frank’s sentence to life in prison. Georgia’s public was outraged when they heard this news. Riots erupted, leading Governor Slaton to institute Martial Law.

An angry mob raided the prison and captured Frank. They took him to Marietta and hanged him facing Mary Phagan’s house. He helplessly dangled there for hours, “head snapped back, chin resting in the noose’s bottom coil dangled from above.” Almost the whole city came to witness this disturbing event. Most Atlantans did not view it as tragic or upsetting but rather as an act of justice. One woman said, “I couldn’t bear to look at another human being, hanging like that… but this — this is different. It is all right. It is — the justice of God.” Some Atlantans, however, recognized this lynching as an injustice. An article published in The Atlanta Constitution ten days after the lynching emphasized the event as a setback for rights and freedom for all people, declaring, “We may regret and deplore, but the stain is there. In it the name and the identity of Leo Frank are but an atom. The great question others will ask is, ‘What surely can Georgia offer of the enforcement of constitutional rights and the protection of the laws?’”

Atlantan and global newspapers had played a very crucial role in the trial and lynching, printing sensationalist headlines and inflaming public outrage. After Mary’s murder, Monday’s issue of The Georgian gave five pages to the story. The paper had recently been acquired by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, and he saw Mary’s murder as an opportunity to increase his paper’s readers through dramatic, shocking coverage. The Georgian’s main competitor, The Atlanta Constitution, followed after The Georgian, covering the case in a way that dramatized it to capture readers. As the case unfolded in court, the two newspapers competed with each other, each one trying to write more shocking, eye-catching headlines than the other. These two newspapers were largely responsible for framing Frank as a pervert in the eyes of the public: a few days after the murder, The Georgian ran a story about the National Pencil Factory being a seedy business that was unfit for women to work in, with the headline, “NUDE DANCERS’ PICTURES ON WALLS.” The article also emphasized that the Pencil Factory was located near a street with a lot of prostitutes. George Epps, a 15-year-old who gave a testimony, said that Mary Phagan had been afraid of Frank, that Frank would “try to flirt with her” and “winked at her,” and that she had had him [Epps] walk her home from the factory sometimes. Because of that, the next morning the Constitution’s headline read, “FRANK TRIED TO FLIRT WITH MURDERED GIRL SAYS HER BOY CHUM.”

The sensationalist headlines also made the factory out to be emblematic of the problems of industrialization and factory work, portraying Frank as a greedy Jew and a boss with no qualms about child labor. Many poor, white, working-class Atlantans bought into the newspapers’ portrayal of Frank, viewing him as the ultimate villain of industrialization; these sentiments were a crucial driving force behind his lynching. However, a minority of privileged German Jews saw these newspaper articles as stirring up public outrage against one of their own and viewed this outrage as not necessarily proportional to the evidence against him.

Seventy years after Frank’s trial, new evidence and a review of the old evidence of the case proved that Frank was indeed innocent. Alonzo Mann, who had been a 14-year-old worker at the factory during the time of Mary Phagan’s murder, did an interview in which he confessed that he saw Conley murder Mary Phagan.

”Many times I wanted to get it out of my heart,” Mr. Mann told interviewers. ”I’m glad I’ve told it all. I’ve been living with it for a long time. I feel a certain amount of freedom now. I just hope it does some good.” Mann submitted to a lie detector test and a psychological stress evaluation and ended up passing both. The New York Times conducted a two-month investigation into Mann’s claims, and it reported that his confession was accurate. To explain why he had not come sooner, he told interviewers that Conley had told him, ”If you ever mention this, I’ll kill you,” which intimidated him and kept him from coming forward. Frank’s conviction and lynching should be reexamined in light of this new evidence, and both must be understood as the result of the anti-Semitism and social tensions that were so prevalent in Atlanta at the time.

 

Anti-Semitism

In the early twentieth century, anti-Semitism was spreading throughout America and especially growing in the South. Powerful individuals, such as Georg Von Schönerer and Karl Leuger, were outspoken and active in their efforts to villainize the Jews. A prominent industrialist figure at the time, Henry Ford, was particularly famous for his strongly anti-Semitic beliefs, which he was able to spread widely because he owned his own newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. “Ford wanted to assert that there was a Jewish conspiracy to control the world. He blamed Jewish financiers for fomenting World War I so that they could profit from supplying both sides. He also accused Jewish automobile dealers of conspiring to undermine Ford Company sales policies. Ford wanted to make his bizarre beliefs public in the pages of the Dearborn Independent.” Ford was not alone in his strongly held anti-Semitic views, and the kind of sentiments he expressed were pervasive throughout America, especially in the South.

At the time of Frank’s trial and conviction, Jewish immigration and involvement in Atlanta made the Jews a significant presence in the city. Six hundred Jews were living in Atlanta in 1880, which was a large number compared to the twenty-six that were living there in 1850. Several synagogues were built during this period of time due to this influx of Jews. During Reconstruction, many Atlantan Jews became prominent and involved in the city’s economy because their ties to Northern Jews allowed them to build their businesses back up more quickly than other whites whose businesses had been devastated by the Civil War. From 1881 on, Atlanta also began to receive some Jews from Eastern Europe and the Ottoman Empire.

As the Jewish presence in Atlanta grew, so did social tension. The Atlanta race riots took place in Atlanta from September 22nd to 24th, 1916. During these riots, white mobs killed African Americans, damaged their property, and wounded many other people. The riots were seen as the manifestation of frustration with the job competition poor whites felt with blacks. The 1881 strikes against the Elsas family’s Fulton Bag and Cotton Company also highlighted the growing social tension of the times. These strikes were the result of wage disputes, the hiring of black women, and the problem of child labor. These strikes, as well as the Atlanta race riots, show that this period in Atlantan history was defined by social unrest and frustration with the power dynamics in society. On top of racial tension, Jewish prominence in the social hierarchy also disturbed many Atlantans, especially poorer gentiles, who thought of themselves as racially superior and did not like feeling inferior to Jews in any way.

During this turbulent time, many Southerners developed a phobia of foreigners. While Northern Jews were making an effort to include new Russian Jewish immigrants in their communities, Southerners had strong feelings about the types of immigrants who were coming over and joining their America, and set up immigration bureaus in order to attract what they considered to be the “Best Type” of immigrant — immigrants of European heritage. For immigrants of other backgrounds, living in the South could be difficult and even dangerous. For example, nineteen Italians in Louisiana were lynched because of a fear of them associating with black people and of them being an inferior race. Jews were widely considered to be an inferior race, and so Jewish immigrants were not among the “Best Type” of immigrants, in the eyes of most Southerners. It was said that “Southern attitudes toward [Jews] had been an amalgam of affection, tolerance, curiosity, suspicion, and rejection.” During periods of stress in society at large, Southerners would lash out at Jews who acted differently from them. As scholar Leonard Dinnerstein wrote, “Jews were considered ‘rebels against God’s purpose,’ and many a Southern Christian mother lulled her children to sleep with fables of Jewish vices.” Religious teaching played a large role in getting Southern Christians to loathe Jews, with many ministers preaching, “The Savior was murdered by Jews.” One Baltimore minister said that, “of all the dirty creatures who have befouled this earth, the Jew is the slimiest.”

The widespread reaction to Leo Frank’s trial — and the public’s overwhelming belief in his guilt — is a testament to the intense anti-Semitism that was underlying Atlantan society at the time. Leo Frank was very involved in the Jewish community in Atlanta. He was the president of the B’nai B’rith organization for community service. His religion was an important part of his identity, and many Atlantans did not like him because of it. The Macon Daily Telegraph noted the effect that Frank’s trial and lynching had on Atlanta’s Jewish community: “… the long case and its bitterness has hurt the city greatly in that it has opened a seemingly impassable chasm between the people of the Jewish race and the Gentiles. It has broken friendships of years, has divided the races, brought about bitterness deeply regretted by all factions. The friends who rallied to the defense of Leo Frank feel that racial prejudice has much to do with the verdict. They are convinced that Frank was not prosecuted but persecuted. They refuse to believe he had a fair trial…” (The Macon Daily Telegraph). Leo Frank was widely compared to Alfred Dreyfus, a Jew in France who was wrongfully convicted of espionage largely due to the jury’s anti-Semitic sentiments. A New York Times headline read, “FRANK LYNCHING DUE TO SUSPICION AND PREJUDICE.”

Jews in Atlanta and across America believed Frank was a scapegoat for the city and the South’s anti-Semitic feelings. As a prominent member of the Jewish community, Frank represented a social group that was threatening and unsettling to gentile Atlantans. As scholar Jeffrey Melnick wrote, “There is little doubt that Frank’s status as a capitalist roused great enmity during the trial and after, and that the specific conceptions that circulated were inseparable from the negative connotations surrounding his Jewishness.” Jewish newspapers at the time tried to combat the information being disseminated by the larger gentile publications, arguing that he was innocent and only being targeted because he was as Jew. “He was sacrificed because he was a Jew, and a Northern Jew, at that. But, thank God, his sufferings are all over at last. If he had lived, his life would have been a torture to him, and they might have killed him in a worse way. Race hatred and political ambition have been satisfied.” Jewish publications, most significantly The Jewish Exponent, were outspoken in blaming Jim Conley for the murder:

The suspicion that was directed against him by the perjured testimony of a self-confessed negro accessory to the killing of Mary Phagan, who was left off with the ludicrous punishment of one year’s imprisonment, was fanned to a flame by the demagogism of a Solicitor General anxious for only political advancement and by the anti-semitic prejudice of a mob instigated by yellow journalists and mendacious Ishmaelites of the Tom Watson type. Frank was victimized because he was a Jew.

Jews throughout America believed that Frank was a martyr, suffering the consequences of a crime he did not commit simply because he was Jewish. As The Jewish Exponent printed three days after Frank’s lynching, “Frank underwent a martyrdom as horrible as any man has suffered. It has borne himself throughout this ordeal as a brave man and as a loyal Jew should.”

Despite recognizing Frank as the scapegoat for anti-Semitism, the broader Jewish community was slow to mobilize around his case while it was in trial. Frank’s powerful friends sought help from The American Jewish Committee, an organization set up by wealthy Jews who wanted to provide help to other Jews who were being denied important civil rights because of the age’s anti-Semitism. In Frank’s case, the American Jewish Committee president decided that “whatever is done must be done as a matter of justice, and any action that is taken should emanate from non-Jewish sources.” The president recognized the important role that the media was playing in Frank’s case, and so he wanted to influence the Southern press to shape opinions in favor of Jews and to establish “a wholesome public opinion which will free this unfortunate young man from the terrible judgment which rests against him.” The Committee agreed Frank’s case was an American Dreyfus, but it was divided on what to do. While Marshall and other committee members gave support however they could individually, the Committee did not act quickly enough and therefore never gave Frank any official help.

 

Class Tensions

Jews at the time were viewed as economically prosperous and thus became the scapegoat for issues caused by industrialization in the South. As factories were being built across the South, the rich factory owners grew richer as poor whites found themselves working for very low wages. Many families sent their children off to work in factories during the day to have some more income, which led to widespread public frustration with the issue of child labor. Depressed and dissatisfied workers in the South saw blaming the Jews as a way to relieve tension and frustration they had built up for many years. Georgia had had a small but very “prosperous, tight-knit community” of Jews for a long time before the twentieth century. However, as the Jewish population in Atlanta increased exponentially by the 1890s, tensions between the Jews and gentiles began to grow. The gentiles began to blame Jews in part for “the chaotic conditions in the city,” including prostitution and gambling, and the media printed a lot of outrageous, dramatic stories to stir up anti-Semitic public sentiments. Gentiles became jealous of the amount of money Jews were making as factory owners and fearful of the idea of rich Jewish men pursuing gentile women. Burton J. Hendrick famously wrote “The Great Jewish Invasion,” as well as several articles in McClure’s Magazine, about how the Jews were too ambitious and taking over every important aspect of city life.

As they followed the murder trials, Atlantan newspapers framed Frank in the context of the city’s working class frustrations with industrialization. The case took place during a time when labor unrest and tensions were higher than ever before. Workers believed they were not being paid fairly, and the working conditions in the factories that were springing up were terrible. White workers were especially frustrated, as they felt their jobs being threatened by black workers. A few decades before Frank’s trial, there were the aforementioned strikes against the Elsas family’s Fulton Bag and Cotton Company, which took place due to labor disputes and competition for jobs from black women. They were a testament to poor white workers’ frustration with the fact that they felt they were not being paid enough, and that working conditions were terrible. During the Leo Frank case, the National Pencil Factory was portrayed as an immoral place to work, unfit for women, and Frank was framed as an evil, perverse boss who did not care at all for the well-being of his employees. Because Frank was a Jew, Atlantans were already primed to see him as greedy and evil, so newspapers did not have a difficult time portraying him as a stereotypically cruel, greedy boss. Frank came to represent all the problems with industrialization that were disadvantaging so many Atlantans, which is why they felt so vehemently convinced of his guilt and his deserving to die.

Through their coverage of the case, the press especially portrayed Leo Frank as the emblem of what many people thought was the most terrible aspect of industrialization: child labor. At the time, Georgia was one of the worst states when it came to regulating child labor laws, allowing ten-year-olds to work 11-hour workdays in mills and factories. Frank’s trial came at a time when many provocative stories were already being published in newspapers about child labor in factories. Georgians were desperate to get rid of child labor: “‘Thy Kingdom Come’ means the coming of the day when child labor will be done away with, when every little tot shall have its quota of sunlight and happiness.” The fact that Mary Phagan had been only thirteen when she was murdered allowed the newspapers to frame the case as a perfect example of the evil that children could experience in their factory jobs. Frank, as the accused murderer, was portrayed as the stereotypical factory owner who exploited children. The implication that Frank might have raped Mary Phagan before murdering her only increased the public’s sense of Frank representing the way industrialization corrupted children. Indeed, as the trial progressed, its main focus became the suspicion that he had raped Mary Phagan. The testimonies against him introduced this suspicion, with many of Mary’s friends saying that Mary was made uncomfortable by Leo and that he always “wanted to talk to her.” The fact that Frank was considered ugly and unattractive made it easier for the Atlantan public to imagine him as a pervert.

In the end, Frank came to represent all the things wrong with Atlantan society at the time. Jeffrey Paul Melnick put it best when he said that Frank was:

identified as a ‘capitalist,’ doubly a capitalist, since to the lumpen Socialist mind of the American Populist capitalist equals Jew, and the two together add up to demi-devil. And in certain regards, the record seems to bear them out, for Frank did hire child labor, did work it disgracefully long hours of pitifully low wages; and if he did not (as popular fancy imagined) exploit his girls sexually, he failed in on their privacy with utter contempt for their dignity. Like most factory managers of the time, he was — metaphorically at least — screwing little girls like Mary Phagan.

 

Black-Jewish Relations

The crucial testimony that convicted Frank was delivered by Jim Conley, the janitor for the National Pencil Factory. After suspiciously changing his story multiple times, he gave a testimony in court in which he claimed he had helped Frank move the body after the crime, thereby admitting he was involved in order to blame Frank. He also claimed that he had helped Frank write the murder notes that surrounded Mary Phagan’s body, saying that he could not have written them himself because he did not know how to write. Playing into African American stereotypes, he convinced the detectives that he, as an uneducated, drunk African American, was incapable of the level of complex thinking that would be necessary to murder someone and frame someone else for it. Sixty-nine years later, when Mann came forward and confessed to having seen Lee murder Mary Phagan, it became clear that Conley had been capable of this deceit and had effectively carried it out. Regardless of how aware he was of what he was doing, Conley had played into crucial tensions in Atlantan society at the time in order to shift the blame onto Frank.

The living and working conditions for African Americans in Atlanta at the time were brutal. Jim Crow laws had established restraints on all public spaces, so black people lived lives very segregated from white America. A few decades after they had been granted legal freedom, African Americans were still denied many basic American freedoms in practice. They wanted to move up in society, but whites continued to find ways to shut them out of public places and disenfranchise them. African Americans were deeply frustrated with this state of affairs, and could not communicate with most Southern whites, who felt threatened by the idea of African Americans rising through the social hierarchy and changing the power dynamics. Rather than seeing blacks as disadvantaged, white people viewed them as lazy, urban people and blamed nearly all the problems of the city on the bad character of the city’s black population. The Atlanta race riots took place in Atlanta from September 22nd to 24th, 1916. During these riots, white mobs killed African Americans, damaged their property, and wounded many other people. The riots were the manifestation of pent-up feelings of frustration at the job competition poor whites felt with blacks, as well as other crucial tensions between the races. This racial conflict was the backdrop for the Frank case to unfold against, and it is part of the larger narrative about race in Atlanta at the time.

The Leo Frank case took on an important symbolic meaning in America and got at the heart of a tension between African Americans, represented by Jim Conley, and Jews, represented by Leo Frank. The anti-Semitism that was pervasive in the South had spread from the white gentiles to the African American community, who were distrustful and resentful of Jews’ economic success, which they viewed as keeping them in their lower social status. Because Jews were economically successful, they saw themselves as above African Americans. Leo Frank’s case was not just the first major case in which a black man’s testimony was important in convicting a white man, but also the first major case that pitted Jews and African Americans against each other and gave African Americans the upper hand. This tension was most obvious when officials wanted to arrange a meeting between Frank and Conley to see what would happen when “the negro [would] be quizzed in the presence of the man whom he accuses… his every action and look as he sees Frank’s eyes upon him will be followed closely by detectives and by the solicitor himself, and a crisis in the case may develop from the meeting.” However, the meeting did not happen because Frank decided he did not want to meet face-to-face with Conley. This important decision sent the signal that he thought of himself as racially and socially superior, which infuriated the people of Atlanta. Rather than seeing Frank as one of them because he was white, Atlantan gentiles saw him as an other because he was Jewish, and his insistence on his racial superiority called even more attention to his Jewishness.

Ultimately, the case was crucial in the narrative about the power hierarchy in the industrial South, and so Atlantans were predisposed to suspect evil and deceit from Jews, while expecting African Americans to be stupid and lazy. Jim Conley behaved in certain ways that whites expected him to, and played into the narrative of being a dumb factory worker in order to make sure people would conclude he was incapable of committing a crime and covering it up. Conley gave the appearance of fitting into the social order that Jim Crow laws had established, projecting an image of the kind of black person that Southerners felt used to and therefore did not see as threatening. In contrast, Frank was seen as very threatening, as he represented the stereotyped, rich Jews building businesses, becoming influential, and threatening the social order. The American Israelite captured the truth of the matter, which was hidden underneath these racial tensions, when it printed a piece that read:

The Dorseys, the Browns and the Watsons have succeeded in bringing about the murder of an innocent man because he was a jew, in order to protect themselves against the truth that must have come out at some time of their guilty knowledge, and to render powerless the vicious and criminal negro, the real murderer of Mary Phagan, whom they have been shielding.

The fact that Conley was not convicted in the case or villainized by the Atlanta public is also due to the positions of blacks and Jews in society. An important reason Conley wasn’t focused on too much as a suspect is because he wasn’t an authority figure, and the case was occurring at a time when people were suspicious of authority figures. However, another significant reason is that, while there were many opportunities to kill a black man in Southern society at the time, there were not many socially acceptable reasons to lynch a Jew. As anti-Semitism and antagonism grew in the South, people were eager to convict a Jew since it was so rare. Agreeing with Detective Black’s statement that “a Negro’s blood would not suffice,” Detective Watson famously said, “Hell, we can lynch a nigger anytime in Georgia, but when do we get the chance to hang a Yankee Jew?” In the end, the fact that Jews were perceived as superior to African Americans in Atlantan society worked against Leo Frank. He represented a hated social group within the city that Atlantans did not usually have an opportunity to commit violence against, and so lynching him had a special allure for Atlantans.

 

Aftermath

The lynching and false conviction of Leo Frank had a profound impact on American society. First and foremost, it was a warning to Jews in Atlanta, who were now divided from the rest of the city by the “chasm” that the intense anti-Semitism surrounding the case had created. Frank’s lynching was a sign to Jews across the country that anti-Semitism was a powerful force in America that was threatening their lives and freedom. After Frank’s death, many Jews came together to start the Anti-Defamation League, which was an organization that worked to fight anti-Semitism and preserve the reputations of Jews.” Unfortunately, the Anti-Defamation League would be necessary in the years to come: Leo Frank’s experience was a precursor to many other horrible manifestations of anti-Semitism that would happen in the twentieth century.

As Jews became a more isolated community within Atlanta and across the country, the white gentiles also came together to preserve their spot in the social hierarchy. Within Atlanta, many of them found Frank’s trial and lynching had confirmed the importance of preserving white gentile dominance in the South: “A short time after the lynching of Leo Frank, 33 members of the group that called itself the Knights of Mary Phagan gathered on a mountaintop near Atlanta and formed the new Ku Klux Klan of Georgia.” For most Atlantans, lynching Frank seemed like “the justice of God,” the right way to preserve their spot in the hierarchy in their society. Both Jews and African Americans would continue to be marginalized, threatened, hurt, and killed in Southern society because of their race. African Americans, in particular, would continue to have to fight against the stereotypes of blacks as lazy, criminal, drunks — the kinds of stereotypes that Conley had played into during his testimony and his attempts to frame Frank.

The Frank case also contributed to the ongoing discussions of the problems having to do with industrialization. It helped expose the ways that factory owners mistreated their workers, as the newspaper articles about Frank focused largely on his cruelty as a boss and his inappropriate comments. It also added to the discussions of child labor, which had already been happening but now had a new, disturbing example to add to the list of reasons that child labor should be abolished or at least regulated. It would take more years, more newspaper articles, and more public outcry for the problems in factories to be addressed, but the industrialization-focused anger that Frank’s case revealed was the beginning of the force that moved those reforms forward.

Ultimately, Leo Frank’s trial and lynching got at the heart of several key themes in Southern society at the time: anti-Semitism, racial hierarchies, and labor dynamics. The case exposed many huge problems facing society, but at the time, rather than helping people better understand these issues and work to resolve them, the Frank case seemed to divide social groups further and increase the tensions between them. Only with some distance could historians look back and understand the case fully in its context, and use it as a window into these different dynamics and problems that have had a lasting impact on American society. Perhaps the most important lesson to be found in Leo Frank’s experience is the importance of reexamining history to understand the trends that have shaped our society into what it is today, and the truths that might still need to be uncovered.

 

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Oney, Steve. And the dead shall rise: the murder of Mary Phagan and the lynching of Leo Frank. New York: Vintage , 2004. Print.

Rawls, Wendell Jr. “AFTER 69 YEARS OF SILENCE, LYNCHING VICTIM IS CLEARED.” The New York Times. Mar 8 1982. ProQuest. Web. 2 Feb 2017.

“Witness Swears He Saw Frank Forcing Unwelcome Attentions upon the Little Phagan Girl.” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945): 2. Aug 20 1913. ProQuest. Web. 9 May 2017.

 

Work of Tomorrow

Toll scans replace tollbooth operators, ATM and pay sharing apps replace bank tellers, drones replace pilots and delivery workers, and robots replace factory workers at manufacturing assembly plants. Labor unions decry the imminent threat to the global job market posed by automation, and some economists predict that 47% of American workers have jobs at high risk of likely automation in the next twenty years. The question then becomes who, what line of work, exactly faces risk of the inauspicious effects of automation, as the United States and other developed nations have previously overcome several waves of industrialization and advancement of technology before without devastating impact to human employment. McKinsey & Co., a private management consulting company, estimates that an “automation bomb” in the United States will cost manual laborers nearly $2 trillion in lost annual wages. Analysts predict that the next phase of automation will adversely affect both blue-collar, manual labor and white-collar, information and service workers relatively equally. Yet a contrasting perspective by some analysts suggests that automation may rather spur further job growth, in new and innovative fields.

No simple policy decision or law will eliminate or even curtail automation since automation is rooted in the theory of capitalism which maximizes profit through supply and demand. Employers seek more profit through increases in revenue and reducing expenses, including labor wages. McKinsey and Co. defines the ideal employee as one who is highly productive in his craft (thus eliminating the need for many, less productive workers) and requires less pay. As technology advances, the preference for business owners seems clear: use robot workers and produce a larger profit margin. Although capitalism was founded on the premise of improved social mobility for all individuals, it is paradoxical since automation likely widens wage gaps, as company executives grow wealthier from profit margins while middle class workers lose their jobs or experience reduced wages.

A common misconception of automation is that only blue-collar laborers will be affected. While blue-collar workers are similarly directly impacted by a loss of jobs due to automation, white-collar professionals also face competition from superior technology. One of the most promising technological developments of the 21st century is that of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence (AI) has essentially developed and granted cognitive capabilities to machines previously thought only able to perform repetitive and mundane tasks. Now, researchers have programmed “smart” machines and robots to work on complex legal tasks, investigate cases of fraudulence for insurance companies, and identify algorithmic business decisions by assessing the current market, among other high level tasks. Entry-level employees without sophisticated skills look small and meager in comparison to computers. As businesses seek a competitive edge over their rivals, artificial intelligence provides that sophistication.

However, automation cannot fully eliminate all jobs that exist in society and, in many cases, employees and job positions evolve and improve their skill sets to match forecasted changes in the labor market. As robots assume more menial and repetitive tasks in the manual labor market, a new line of workers will arise to supervise and tend to these machines. Much of the changes in the workplace due to automation, will revise job titles and expand the fields of engineering and technologies associated with the automation of manual labor activities. The brunt of the impact that automation brings to the job economy will come in the current generation of workers, as the shift from manual labor to technological tasks occurs. Unfortunately, economists predict that there will be significant layoffs, particularly in manual labor. There are limited opportunities for professionals working today to have the retraining needed to accommodate these colossal shifts in the operations of companies. But the next generation of workers is becoming well prepared for the ever growing field of technicians or engineers. From the STEAM education movement to the rise of computer science classes in primary schools, humans recognize the need to adapt to changing work demands of our time.

Automation has long been an increasingly dangerous threat in global society, affecting not just a single person or nation, but the job economy as we know it. Machines may hinder social mobility for members of all classes unless change occurs immediately and assurances are created to protect the jobs of workers from expanded automation, especially on foreign soil. Despite the possibility of new industries accompanying automation, the lives and financial well-being of the current generation are at risk.

 

Works Cited

Automation and Anxiety,” 6/25/16, The Economist.

Ignatius, David. “The Brave New World of Robots and Lost Jobs,” 8/11/16, The Washington Post.

 

A Mindful Macbeth: How “Hand” is Used in Macbeth to Represent a Relationship Between Mind and Body

We usually think of our hands as fairly physical things — almost distant things; we don’t regularly consider what they are doing or how we control them. Not so much for Macbeth. In William Shakespeare’s classic Macbeth, power-hungry Macbeth murders many for the Scottish throne, which witches tell him he will gain. Because Macbeth is set in the 11th Century, all of these murders are physical — all of them done by hand. Because of Macbeth’s desire for power, though, the fire driving the murders is solely in his head. Throughout the narrative, the word “hand” often symbolizes the connections and separations between Macbeth’s body and Macbeth’s mind.

In Act 1 of Macbeth, Shakespeare uses the word “hand” to symbolize a separation between mind and body, specifically within Macbeth. In Act 1, Scene 4, Macbeth is speaking about murdering King Duncan. He says, “Stars, hide your fires; / Let not light see my black and deep desires: / The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be, / Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see” (1.4.57-60). Here, “hand” is being used both literally and metaphorically; it is literally in reference to the murder that Macbeth’s hand will help commit, but it is also using the action of Macbeth’s hand stabbing Duncan to represent the whole idea of Duncan’s murder — both the desire and the act. It is also interesting that there is a distinction here between “hand” and “eye.” Shakespeare is noting the difference between the more physical aspects of a body, in this case Macbeth’s hand, and the more mental ones: what Macbeth’s eye sees. Macbeth is afraid of seeing himself — of realizing that he is about to murder a friend. As readers, we can assume that the separation between mind and body — between eye and hand — that Macbeth is exhibiting originates in this fear of himself. Later in Act 1, Lady Macbeth is speaking to Macbeth, and Macbeth has just said that Duncan is coming that day and leaving the next. She speaks,

O, never

Shall sun that morrow see!

Your face, my thane, is as a book where men

May read strange matters. To beguile the time,

Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,

Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower,

But be the serpent under’t. (1.5.71-77)

In this quote, Lady Macbeth is describing very literally that Macbeth’s hands (“hands” representing Macbeth’s whole physical body) need to seem innocent. In the previous use of “hand,” Shakespeare distinguishes “hand” from “eye,” but here it is all representing what Duncan is supposed to see. But, similar to the previous example, Shakespeare is noting a separation between mind and body — Macbeth’s body must be welcoming, but his mind must be deadly. In both of these instances, Shakespeare makes a point of noting the separation between the parts of Macbeth’s body Macbeth can control and the parts of Macbeth’s mind Macbeth can control and how they contradict each other.

Other times in Macbeth, Shakespeare uses “hand” to demonstrate a connection between Macbeth’s mind and body. In Act 2, Macbeth says (in a soliloquy), “Is this a dagger which I see before me, / The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee. / I have thee not, and yet I see thee still” (2.1.44-46). The repetition of hand is interesting here — handle is not actually a form of hand but sounds repetitive when read aloud. Shakespeare may have chosen to emphasize this to show the connection Macbeth is feeling between his hand and the dagger. Macbeth is wondering if this dagger is here as a sign that he should murder Duncan with his dagger and his hands. This example suggests a leading somewhere: the handle of the dagger is leading Macbeth. It is almost as if Macbeth has no control here — the tone is passive; he has no choice but to be led by his mind’s creations. His body is acting under his mind’s tricks, a separation between action and desire similar to the previous example, but more importantly a connection between his entire mind and body; a connection so strong that Macbeth’s body is functioning under only his mind’s “tricks” — his mind and body are inseparable.

Connection and separation are opposites, and Shakespeare often treats them that way, but he also sometimes uses the two within the same lines or moment in Macbeth. In Act 4, Scene 1, Macbeth has just found out from Lennox that Malcolm fled the country. He is panicked and has just seen the Weïrd Sisters’ prophecies, so he is also confused and doesn’t know what to think. He says,

Time, thou anticipatest my dread exploits:

The flighty purpose never is o’ertook

Unless the deed go with it; from this moment

The very firstlings of my heart shall be

The firstlings of my hand. (4.1.164-168)

Here, Macbeth is himself (as opposed to Shakespeare) drawing the connection between mind and body; he is noticing that often your mind has an idea, but your body doesn’t execute it. Here, he also seems to be noticing or pointing out, though, that his mind is what is driving his body, almost that his mind is in control of his body. In this example, Macbeth is noticing a connection between his mind and body, but also that what his mind wants is separate from what his body does. Shakespeare is illustrating a broader relationship between Macbeth’s mind and body.

In Macbeth, Shakespeare often uses the word “hand” to symbolize the relationship between Macbeth’s mind and body. Sometimes he uses it to show the connections, sometimes to show the separations, and sometimes both. As we see in waddling toddlers or talking babies, right from the start our society establishes a relationship between the mind and the body — some babies develop physically first, some mentally; people often are either “smart” or “athletic.” We categorize people into mind and body — our society treats them as separate. As Shakespeare teaches us, though, our minds and bodies are separate sometimes, in sync other times, and sometimes both. So the next time you hear someone talking about meditation or breathing exercises or the new popular adult coloring books — or the next time you are using any of these yourself — remember to recognize both the separations and connections between your mind and body. Take it from Macbeth.

 

Good Night, Bad Night: The Black Night in Macbeth

The night is alive, and similar to a human, it may be allied with. It has a peaceful side and a dark one. In Shakespeare’s tragedies, the night takes on the darker role, but in his comedies, such as The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it takes on the lighter, more peaceful one. When the night is dark, nature becomes more creepy, and the night becomes more evil. In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, under the influence of three supernatural sisters, find the need to fulfill their dirty desire for power. They do anything to do this, including murder, starting a war, and allying with the dark side of the night. They use the dark and evil side of the night to help them gain power by inflicting harm and confusion on the rest of the Scottish kingdom. There is contrast between how the night is presented in Shakespeare’s comedies versus his tragedies.

In Shakespeare’s comedies, the night is often illustrated as a peaceful and quiet time. It is when everything and everyone rests. For example, in The Merchant of Venice, Scene 5, Act 1, Lorenzo says, “How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank! / Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music / creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night / become the touches of sweet harmony” (5.1.52-55). Just reading this quote may calm the reader because the language is soft and soothing. It has anything but a negative connotation. Shakespeare also uses the night in a positive way in Act 1, Scene 1 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Lysander says, “Tomorrow night when Phoebe doth behold / her silver visage in the watery glass, / decking with liquid pearl the bladed grass / (a time that lovers’ flights doth still conceal)… ” (1.1.209-212). To clarify, Lysander is saying, “Tomorrow night, when the moon shines on the water and creates beads of pearly light on the grass (the time when lovers are most concealed and can run away).” Lovers may choose the night out of all times because it is the most peaceful and quiet time, so they won’t get disturbed. The moon shines on the grass and the water in a beautiful, unusual way during the night, and it also is the time when everyone rests. In these quotes, the night takes on the role of good, peaceful, quiet, and beautiful.

Shakespeare, equally skilled at creating unsettling and violent moods, changes his definition of the night in his tragedies. In Macbeth, the night morphs into a dark, evil, strange, and creepy phenomenon. An example of this is in Act 2, Scene 4, where an Old Man is speaking. He is talking about how the night that Duncan was murdered in was terrible and strange. The old man says, “… Hours dreadful and things strange; but this sore night / hath trifled former knowings” (2.4.3-5). In modern English, this means this night has been so spooky and scary that what we used to think was terrible is hardly so. From this, it may be drawn that the Old Man is referring to the night to represent the murder, as if the night itself was the terrible, scary thing that made it so that the Scottish people had a new understanding of what is truly horrific. In Act 2, Scene 3, Lennox, as well, deciphers that the night is evil. Here, he is exclaiming how odd the night that Duncan was killed in was. Lennox says:

The night has been unruly: where we lay,

our chimneys were blown down; and, as they say,

lamentings heard i’ the air; strange screams of death,

and prophesying with accents terrible

of dire combustion and confused events

new hatch’d to the woeful time: the obscure bird

mischievously the livelong night: some say, the earth

was feverous and did shake. (2.3.28-36)

In other words, this night has been been chaotic. The wind blew down into people’s chimneys as they slept. Some people say that they have heard cries of grief in the air, strange screams of death, and voices predicting terrible things in the woeful future. Here, Lennox is describing how the night was unusual. Shakespeare is using it to represent the shock and horror as people find out about Duncan’s death. Lennox knows that the night is becoming more evil before he found out about Duncan’s death. As well as the Old Man, Lennox is describing how the night has been odd. It’s almost like Lennox knew that something happened before he found out about it. These lines demonstrate how the night is showing its evil side over its good side. They may also outline an idea for the reader relating to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth allying with its dark side.

As Macbeth moves on, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth learn to trust the night and seek refuge in its evil side more and more often. This has negative impacts on the people of the Scottish kingdom. This is demonstrated in Act 3, Scene 2, when Macbeth feels that he must kill Banquo if he wants to stay king. He is basing this on the knowledge he gained from the witches. Macbeth says to Lady Macbeth:

Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck,

till thou applaud the deed. Come, seeling night,

scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day;

and with thy bloody and invisible hand

cancel and tear to pieces that great bond

which keeps me pale. (3.2.47-52)

This may be interpreted as, “it is better that I don’t tell you until after it is done, when you applaud me for what I did. (Stops speaking to Lady Macbeth) Come, night, allow my killers to be stealthy and cover me of this deed. Allow your invisible hands to end Banquo’s life, which brings me fear.” Therefore, Macbeth wants the night to come. He is using it to cover up his killing Banquo and to allow his murderers to be unseen while doing it. Macbeth is starting to use the night as an ally to cause confusion and be destructive. This is different than how he used to use it, in which he would rest himself and allow other people to rest during the peaceful, quiet time. Now Macbeth uses the night as a murder weapon. This affects the rest of the Scottish kingdom in that the people now cannot rest either. An example of this is in Act 2, Scene 3, the famous Porter scene. Porter talks about Macbeth’s castle and how it has transformed in a negative way. The reader knows of Duncan’s death in this scene, but Porter does not. Porter says, “Here’s a knocking indeed! If a man were porter of / hell-gate, he should have old turning the key” (2.3.1-2). Essentially, Porter is comparing Macbeth’s castle to hell and his job to the person in control of hell’s gates. After Macbeth and Lady Macbeth use the safety of the night to kill Duncan, the doorman of their castle (Porter) thinks that Macbeth’s castle is no longer what it used to be. When Macbeth and his wife rely on the night’s aid in murder, people sense that the night has become evil. This is also illustrated in the previous Old Man and Lennox quotes. They all believe the night to be chaotic and evil. They each said things relating to the night being horrible, disturbing, and hell-like. In addition, I feel that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth become more and more evil as they continue to use the dark side of night in their dirty business. They not only are inflicting harm on others intentionally for their own gain, but they are also harming the rest of the Scottish kingdom. They are affecting everyone else’s daily lives and sleep routines. They are creating fear among the Scottish people, which is one of the classic aspects of evil characters.

In conclusion, the night is often interpreted as a peaceful and quiet time in Shakespeare’s comedies, but in Macbeth, it consistently plays a darker, more evil role. In Macbeth, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth use the night for their gain in power, and it costs them their original empathetic personalities. They become full of hatred and darkness. This may remind a reader of classic devil-inspired action. A character teams up with the devil and then is under the influence of him. In Macbeth, the night represents the devil, and as the book progresses, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth find the need to use the night to pursue dark thoughts into actions. Perhaps when people use the night for things besides peaceful activities, like sleep and renewal, they may become dark and evil like they are under the influence of the devil.

 

Energy, Empowerment, & Entrepreneurship: Female Figures in American Literature

“Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,” begins Puritan poet Anne Bradstreet in “The Author to Her Book” (1678), adding “Who after birth did’st by my side remain / Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true / Who thee abroad exposed to public view” (Bradstreet 1-4). Here, the Puritan author demonstrates how there are other roles in society women can fulfill, but they do not necessarily take advantage of those roles due to the possible, fearsome consequences. Both the narrator and Bradstreet herself struggled with traditional male images symbolizing poetic creation. Many critics — specifically literary critic Patricia Cadwell — now praise Bradstreet for her efforts for being “the founder of American literature” and her role in exposing the evils of patriarchal tradition (Cadwell 138). In truth, various works of American literature emphasize the female figure’s thirst for equality through the continuation of restrictive, outmoded ideologies pertaining to gender rights. Through the figures’ journeys, readers are inspired to continue forwarding the empowerment of women. In regards to Bradstreet, the early poet exposes the realistic struggles of women through their exposure of the evil, patriarchal tradition and the nonexistent changes 200 years later. Her emphasis on the necessity for support of the fearless, undermined female figure who bravely, as later author Nathaniel Hawthorne states, “strike their roots into unaccustomed earth” (Hawthorne 13), encourages readers to seek new ideologies, following in the footsteps of those before them.

To explain further, in writing The Scarlet Letter (1850), Romanticist Nathaniel Hawthorne brings light to the truth about female oppression while simultaneously using the infamous Puritan adulterer, Hester Prynne, as a model of a woman who dares to push social boundaries. By writing about an extreme event 200 years before his time, Hawthorne emphasizes how little the standards have changed for women in America. To continue, in stating that “Women derive a pleasure, incomprehensible to the other sex, from the delicate toil of the needle” (Hawthorne 6), the novelist underscores that women do have a clear, domestic role. Nevertheless, the Romantic novelist does not believe that such a role is the only one that women can fulfill. He later demonstrates Hester’s inner strength to stand alone against a group of male magistrates: “Never! […] I will not speak!” (50), she declares, refusing to name the father of her illegitimate child. Here, Hawthorne brings light to the perception of women in Puritan society and how Hester’s character is made to signify the change in society or the move from a blind faith in tradition and into a new era of mutual understanding (Baym). Similarly, American playwright Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (1953) emphasizes the corrupted image of women in Puritanical America through their involvement in the Salem Witch Trials. In writing “‘She is telling lies about me! She is a cold, sniveling woman, and you bend to her! Let her turn you like a — ’ ‘Do you look for whippin’?’” (Miller 22), the author demonstrates, through figures Abigail Williams and John Proctor, how women who fought back against the lies of society were continuously shunned and dubbed “wicked” (20). Through their perilous journeys in Puritanical America, both Hester Prynne and Abigail Williams are satirical symbols of the non-developing status of women in American society demonstrated, by Miller and Hawthorne, through their “so-called” preposterous actions that further blind society from seeking a solution.

Furthermore, as demonstrated in Puritan author Mary Rowlandson’s narrative, Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (1682), these preconceived notions about female figures and womanhood manipulate the vulnerable minds of society. When taken captive by a tribe of Native Americans, the eponymous author continuously doubts her newfound survival strengths, as she demonstrates in writing “I thought my heart and legs, all would have broken, and failed me” (Rowlandson 3). Here, the author brings light to her perspective on her own mentality, that is, essentially, degrading due to the lack of strict, Puritanical standard of women, but, it is her later realization of her self-power that empowers her to break stereotypical tradition. As a result, present day critics — such as Rebecca Blevins Faery — refer to the narrative as a “proto-epic in scope in the founding of national identity (and literature)” (Faery 259), for its removal of Puritanic notions towards the behavior of women. It is through the eponymous author’s fear in disobeying the identity her society has painted onto her, that she discovers an alternative reality for herself: a hungered addiction for the wild, empowering, feminine animal within. Additionally, American author Ralph Waldo Emerson supports the idea of a personal identity in his memoir “Self-Reliance” (1841). In regards to Mary Rowlandson, Puritanical notions are what “scare [her] from self-trust” (Emerson 44); but, it is her “feminine rage” that “the indignation of the people is added” (Emerson 43). Nevertheless, Emerson’s writings introduce readers to the unfortunate reality of past American society; regardless of his efforts, women, similar to Mary Rowlandson, are continuously perceived themselves to be incapable of self-sufficiency. As the eponymous author further engulfs herself into a world of preconceived notions, she strengthens the impenetrable sphere of stereotypes, that surrounds the world and American literature thus far.

Notwithstanding the dubbed “fearsome” ideology surrounding the entrepreneurship of female figures, Romantic poet Emily Dickinson bursts into the sphere of American literature with her arduous, cleverly hidden pinpoints to the reality of independent women in American society. As she writes in her poem “I’m “wife” — I’ve finished that”, “I’m “wife” — I’ve finished that — / That other state — […] / It’s safer so — ” (Dickinson, “I’m wife” 1-4). Here, the poet reveals, through a young girl’s contradictory feelings, the reality of marriage and its prevention of female self-identities, labelling women as the possession of their husbands. Additionally, Dickinson implies, with this innovative ideology, that a woman who is not married is capable of more, without having others interfere such as a husband might. As literary critic Mary Loeffelholz reflects in her journal Dickinson and the Boundaries of Feminist Theory, the poet’s primary role is in breaking the boundaries of female stereotypes through the figures in her poems: “Over and over in these poems and prose passages, borders and boundaries exist to be breached” (Loeffelholz 111). Likewise, in continuation of this revolutionary trend, Dickinson presents a similar message in her poem “We outgrow love like other things,” in writing “[w]e outgrow love like other things / And put it in the drawer” (Dickinson, “We outgrow” 1-2). Here, Dickinson describes how people can outgrow love like an antique fashion mirroring how, in society, women are taught that their looks are important in the pleasing of men. Women were rarely independent and declined to practice reason; but, Dickinson demonstrates here that these looks will continuously outgrow each other, removing the need for male judgement on the image of women. In short, Emily Dickinson truly was a feminist writer who lived ahead of her time, through her painting of the female figure’s identity and her exposé of societal falsehoods. Truly, Dickinson is a literary incarnation of the fearless Joan of Arc; she raises her sword high in the air and ripping apart the gilded fabrics of American literature.

As coined by American author Mark Twain, the Gilded Age was a revolutionary period in American literature that brought light to the “underbelly” or false perfections of the American society. Similarly, Realist author Kate Chopin highlights in her short story “The Story of an Hour” (1894) the gilded truths within female figures, specifically pertaining to those held in the restrictive chains of marriage. “‘Free, free, free’” begins the story’s protagonist Mrs. Louise Mallard, who has just received word of her husband’s death, “‘free! Body and soul free’” (Chopin 757). Here, the author highlights the protagonist’s hidden emotions within her marriage and how Louise’s initial reaction was due to her chains being removed from an accustomed Earth, not a shattered heart. Additionally, this story brings light to the risk women writers faced in being absolutely objective: it was a risk to being morally ambiguous, and the only acceptable way to depict such immoral scenarios was to — as literary critic Karin Garlepp Burns writes — “undermine the exaggerated objective mode” (Burns, “The Paradox” 30). On the other hand, in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), illustrator Edward Winsor Kemble’s image “Indignation” demonstrates the inner anger of female figures; the title itself is ironic as it is defined as anger or annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment (in this case unfair treatment of women). In a moment of anger where her eyes were “ablazing higher and higher” (Twain 199), Kemble depicts Mary Jane Wilks with an image of rage and disgust on her face (Figure 1) contradicting the stereotypical image of women in American society — at the time — as depicted in Charles Dana Gibson’s plethora of “Gibson Girl” images — specifically “The Hero… Discovered in the Act of Carrying on Two Conversations at a Time” (1903). For example, Kemble displays Mary Jane as an uptight, rigid woman, whereas Gibson paints women wearing very low-cut, loose dresses highlighting how they are merely objects meant to appeal to the likeness of men (Figure 2). Regardless of Kate Chopin and Edward Kemble’s attempts to instill the image of independent, proud women, Mark Twain — who was somewhat tolerant of empowering, female figures claiming his daughter “was all [his] riches” (Burns, “Mark Twain”) and his “gilded” world — discards these ideologies amongst the glamour and ostentatious lifestyle of the Lost Generation. As depicted in the 2000 Penguin Modern Classics cover of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925), women are viewed, merely, as objects of lust and pleasure (Figure 3): the “beautiful little fool[s]” with painted, gold faces (Fitzgerald 17).

Furthermore, as demonstrated in American author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925), the resurgence of empowering, female figures is diminished through the temptations and scandals of elitism and the lavish lifestyle of the wealthy. In ironic connection with the writers of this era — coined “The Lost Generation” by author and mentor Gertrude Stein — the robust, astute minds of these women are lost within dreams of satisfaction and fulfillment of “the American Dream” (as coined by James Truslow Adams). In writing “[s]he wanted her life shaped now, immediately [… ] of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality” (Fitzgerald 151), the author emphasizes — through the female protagonist Daisy Buchanan — the image that women are fundamentally incapable of making up their minds without an intelligent man by their side. This overarching claim entraps women in cultural and gendered constructions of being a rich wife and “‘nice’ girl” (149). As aforementioned, upon speaking of her daughter’s future, Daisy remarks “‘I hope she’ll be a fool — that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool’” (17). Daisy is not a fool herself, but, this is somewhat sardonic. While Daisy refers to the social values of her era, she does not seem to challenge them. The older generation values subservience and docility in females, and the younger generation values thoughtless giddiness and pleasure-seeking. In writing “[s]he is a victim of a complex network” (Fryer 165), literary critic Sarah Beebe Fryer unveils Daisy’s true intentions, highlighting how readers should continue to support her decisions despite them often being against the empowering morals of female figures. Regardless, Daisy Buchanan is regarded as the counterexample of female empowerment as she is presented with the opportunity to provoke her knowledge; but, in turn, she wallows away in her silence. In conforming to the social standard of American femininity in the 1920s, Daisy is, essentially, held back by the leash of pearls around her neck, preventing her from continuing the parade of fearless female figures as literature has so far presented.

Regardless of her degradation to the societal power of women, F. Scott Fitzgerald introduces the idea of “unattainable girl”: a female figure who is out of reach from the controlling, wanting power of another figure. As written in American playwright Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun (1959), twenty-two year old Beneatha Younger is an incarnation of the “unattainable girl” through her difficulties with her conservative mother and her anti-marriage attitude: “‘I’m not worried about who I’m going to marry yet — if I ever get married’” (Hansberry 50). Here, the author brings light to Beneatha’s hidden strength shown through her defensive attitude towards her own morals “by forgoing blasphemous outbursts” — as American author Mary Ellen Snodgrass writes in her article “A Raisin in the Sun” (Snodgrass). Not only is Beneatha not interested in getting married and being cared for by a man, but she is also convinced that she alone can choose the direction and outcome of her life. Similarly, Mary Anne, a Vietnam soldier’s girlfriend in Tim O’Brien’s Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction “Song Tra Bong” (1990), echos Hansberry’s emphasis on the gilded strengths of women through her exercising in total agency over her life “with different forms of expressions” (53), and addiction to the wild nature of Vietnam. An unnoticed counterexample to stereotypes of American women’s participation in war, Mary Anne, who enters as a soldier’s girlfriend but leaves as a soldier herself, “ma[kes] you think about those girls back home, how pure and innocent they all are, how they’ll never understand any of this” (O’Brien 108). Here, O’Brien emphasizes in the short story how the women who go to war don’t fulfill their typical gender roles, but rather, take on characteristics generally associated with men because the intense circumstances of war demand those qualities in its soldiers: “she quickly fell into the habits of the bush” (94). As American literature dictates, those who do not follow the status quo of their role as women unravel American society and the accepted standard of gender and identity. Neither Beneatha nor Mary Anne don their skirts in place for camouflage, but, through their energetic attitudes, they paint their faces red preparing for a never ending, fearsome fight towards changing the outlook of female figures.

In terms of The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother (1995), American author James McBride demonstrates the empowering, determined work ethic of female figures throughout their fragmented lives and haunted pasts. His mother, Ruth McBride, is perceived by her children as an empowering, spirited matriarch. However, a layer of Ruth’s personality retains the sorrows and regrets of her childhood. As she states, “‘We had no family life. That store was our life’” (McBride 41), the author brings light to Fishel Shilsky’s unloving, patriarchal nature in which he ruled his household. In turn, Ruth successfully runs her family with love, along with a similarly tight rein; she disciplines her children to answer directly to her, demonstrating her assertive, controlling power regardless of her haunted past. Additionally, McBride emphasizes his mother’s unseen strength through the difficulties she faced as a single mother of twelve children who strived to grant her children with the best education possible. Through her hard work ethic, Ruth is able to send her children to some of the finest colleges in the country which is, as Frances Winddance Twine, Professor of Sociology at the University of California, states in praise, “an amazing accomplishment for even the most privileged of white women” (Twine 152). Moreover, the critic agrees with McBride’s revealing of the hidden strength of women in stating “we should not assume that there are no more like [Ruth], in America’s past and in its future” (154). In short, Ruth McBride forges her own strange life, but she triumphs as the matriarch of an outstanding family, creating a self-sufficient world for them. While the book’s title is in reference to the color of God, truly, it is a reference to the myriad of colors within the book that satirically emphasizes how people cannot be defined by their color — whether they are black or white, or pink or blue.

In the case of fearless female figures, American literature has dubbed them, thus far, as “feeble” (Bradstreet 1), “delicate” (Hawthorne 77), “careless” (Fitzgerald 179), and “coy and flirtatious” (Tim O’Brien 95). All of the following statements are degrading and subject to the opinion of men that are far from the supportive, romantic equals women desire to coexist with. On the other hand, women are regarded as “liberated” (Hansberry 63), “sivilize[d]” (Twain 283), “nonchalance” (James McBride 8), and “free” (Chopin). Notwithstanding the development of history or the years in which these pieces were created, the trend of male figures shaping the role of what the female figures represent is continuous. However, in the case of female figures like Beneatha Younger, the element of love and infatuation in another figure comes into play bringing light to the question of what role do male figures truly play in a female figure’s story. Are women disregarded as “fearless” or “empowering” simply because they have found a man to live with for the rest of their days? Is marriage a binding contract to an unequal communion between man and woman? To writers — such as Emily Dickinson — marriage is “safer” than the “pain” of being single in society (Dickinson, “I’m wife” 4, 10), but, to female figures such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Daisy Buchanan — regardless of her careless persona — love is “mak[ing] a fool of” yourself while looking into “well-loved eyes” (Fitzgerald 96, 131). Ultimately, as seen in present day American society, it is unclear whether feminism and the role of empowering female figures alludes to revolutionary women who never marry, or to those who find love and continue to remain strong regardless. American literature rewrites this psychomachiac struggle over and over again, never revealing the answer and furthering the inequality between genders; but, nevertheless, encourages readers to shatter societal, preconceived notions, breaking the gilded sphere of stereotypes.

Works Cited:

Baym, Nina. “Revisiting Hawthorne’s Feminism.” Hawthorne and the Real: Bicentennial Essays, edited by Millicent Bell, Columbus, Ohio State Univ. Press, 2005, pp. 107-24. Google Books, books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=24HXF1jsga4C&oi=fnd&pg=PA107&dq=Revisiting+Hawthorne’s+Feminism&ots=2fKELQ6eDa&sig=gPA0ETgGdki-YQQREcABDfsxHTk#v=onepage&q&f=false.

Bradstreet, Anne. “The Author to Her Book” (1678). The Heath Anthology of American Literature, 4th ed., vol. 1. Edited by Paul Lauter. Houghton Mifflin, 2002, p. 390.

Burns, Karin Garlepp. “The Paradox of Objectivity in the Realist Fiction of Edith Wharton and Kate Chopin.” Journal of Narrative Theory, PDF ed., vol. 29, no. 1, Winter 1999, pp. 27-61.

Burns, Ken, producer. “Ken Burns’ Mark Twain: Part 2.” SAFARI Montage. PBS, 2001. Accessed 23 Feb. 2017.

Cadwell, Patricia. “Why Our First Poet Was a Woman: Bradstreet and the Birth of an American Poetic Voice.” Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800, vol. 30, 1996, pp. 136-44. Gale Literary Sources, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GLS&sw=w&u=gree48311&v=2.1&id=RQBNBM478344547&it=r&asid=9b9e9d1a9d71032d7dae20afbc16941c. Accessed 23 Feb. 2017.

Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour” (1894). Kate Chopin: Complete Novels and Stories, by Chopin, edited by Sandra M. Gilbert, 2nd ed., Library of America, 2008, pp. 756-58.

Dickinson, Emily. “I’m ‘wife’ – I’ve finished that.” The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, by Dickinson, edited by Thomas Herbert Johnson, Little Brown Company, 1960, p. 94.

————————“We outgrow love, like other things.” Wikisource, 1 Mar. 2013, en.wikisource.org/wiki/We_outgrow_love,_like_other_things. Accessed 2 Apr. 2017.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Self-Reliance” (1841). American Literature: Essential Short Works. Convent of the Sacred Heart School (Greenwich, CT), 2010, pp. 39-44.

Faery, Rebecca Blevins. “Mary Rowlandson Maps New Worlds: Reading Rowlandson.” Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800, vol. 66, 2001, pp. 256-67, go.galegroup.com/ps/ i.do?p=GLS&sw=w&u=gree48311&v=2.1&id=MIEAFK694681793&it=r&asid=0437e7e25ef889188ea4f896a2c9c081. Accessed 5 Apr. 2017.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby (1925). Scribner, 2004.

Fryer, Sarah Beebe. “Beneath the Mask: The Plight of Daisy Buchanan.” Critical Essays on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, by edited Scott Donaldson, Boston, Hall, 1984, pp. 153-65.

Gibson, Charles Dana. The Hero…Discovered in the Act of Carrying on Two Conversations at a Time. JPEG file, 1903.

Hansberry, Lorraine, and Robert Nemiroff. A Raisin in the Sun (1959). Vintage Books, 1994.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter: And Other Writings. Edited by Leland S. Person. W.W. Norton, 2005.

Kemble, Edward Winsor. “Indignation.” Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: An Authoritative Text, Contexts and Sources, Criticism, by Mark Twain and Thomas Cooley, 3rd ed., New York, W.W. Norton, 1999, p. 199.

Loeffelholz, Mary. “Dickinson and the Boundaries of Feminist Theory.” The Emily Dickinson Journal, vol. 1, no. 2, Fall 1992, pp. 121-22, muse.jhu.edu/article/245241. Accessed 8 Apr. 2017.

McBride, James. The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother (1995). Riverhead Books, 1996.

Miller, Arthur. The Crucible: A Play in Four Acts (1952/53). Penguin Books, 2003.

O’Brien, Tim. “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong.” The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction (1990), Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009, pp. 85-110.

Rowlandson, Mary. “Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson” (1682). Project Gutenberg, www.gutenberg.org/files/851/851-h/851-h.htm#link2H_4_0002. Accessed 13 Feb. 2017.

Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. “A Raisin in the Sun.” Encyclopedia of Feminist Literature, 2006, fofweb.infobase.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&WID=11130&SID=5&iPin=EFL621&SingleRecord=True. Accessed 3 Apr. 2017.

Stubbs, John C. “Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter: The Theory of the Romance and the Use of the New England Situation.” PMLA, digital ed., vol. 83, no. 5, Oct. 1968, pp. 1439-47.

Twine, France Winddance. “The White Mother.” Transition, no. 73, 1997, pp. 144-54, www.jstor.org/stable/2935450. Accessed 2 Apr. 2017.

Unknown, illustrator. The Great Gatsby. Penguin Modern Classics, 2000.

 

Appendix

“Indignation”

Figure 1: Image of Mary Jane Wilks in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn illustrated by Edward Winsor Kemble.

“The Hero…Discovered in the Act of Carrying on Two Conversations at a Time”

Figure 2: Image of a man simultaneously carrying two conversations with two “Gibson” girls in Charles Dana Gibson’s Eighty Drawings: Including “The Weaker Sex: The Story of a Susceptible Bachelor”.

“Cocktails and Conversations”

Figure 3: Cover of the 2000, Penguin Modern Classics edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, for which the illustrator is unknown.

 

Whitewashing: Bringing Color to the Screen

Earlier this year, movie audiences saw Scarlett Johansson, a Caucasian actress, play Motoko Kusanagi, a Japanese girl-turned-cyborg, in the film Ghost in the Shell. In the past several years, they have also seen Emma Stone as Allison Ng, a character of Chinese and Hawaiian descent, in Aloha; Jake Gyllenhaal as the title character in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time; Joel Edgerton and Christian Bale as Ramesses II and Moses, respectively, in Exodus: Gods and Kings; and Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily in Pan — all white actors in roles meant for people of color.

This practice of casting white actors as non-white characters, known as whitewashing, has become all too common in Hollywood. Whitewashing, however, is not a new phenomenon; it has endured for centuries. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, minstrel shows, which featured white performers in blackface, inaccurately and derisively portrayed black people. More recently, roles such as The King in The King and I and Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s — considered iconic 20th-century movie characters — were cast with white men in yellowface. While instances of whitewashing today are slightly less egregious, they still result in less representation for minorities, reinforce ugly stereotypes, and detract from an artistic work’s authenticity.

Despite the backlash against whitewashing, directors and filmmakers continually defend questionable casting choices with seemingly pragmatic excuses. They rationalize that blockbuster films need an A-list star as headliner, and unfortunately, the majority of A-listers are white. This concept does make sense, especially as larger movie studios are typically risk-averse and usually greenlight movies on the condition that big names are attached. At the same time, however, many films with whitewashed casts and “big-name actors” — including Ghost in the Shell, Aloha, Prince of Persia, Exodus, and Pan — have bombed at the box office. While these movies do poorly in part due to the protests and boycotting that accompany casting controversies, they are also just not believable, genuine works of art, and despite the popularity of lowbrow fare these days, audiences do respond to works that are good quality. With the growing popularity of sites like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, audiences are too sophisticated now to blindly follow any “big-name” actor in an ill-suited role and suspend their disbelief. Network TV shows like Black-ish and Fresh off the Boat have caught on and struck a chord with people, expanding the demographic of viewers, all the while addressing important issues of race and subverting stereotypes.

Another excuse that filmmakers use — the one I see as the most desperate — is the “best person for the job” pretense. Naturally, the people behind a project want it to reach its full potential. However, the proposition that only one person can be right for a role in a field as subjective as art is dubious. In actuality, people have their own biases and are drawn to certain kinds of personalities, usually those most similar to theirs. Because the ones in power are predominately white, their visions of the pivotal characters tend to mirror their own experiences. These feelings are natural, and in some cases, the creatives in charge have to just go with their gut because objective measures are unsatisfactory or impossible to obtain. That being said, in my experience as a Broadway performer, I saw a number of actors perform the same role, both from behind-the-scenes as well as from the audience’s perspective. Different performers elicited different responses from the crowd — laughs and applause in varying places, possibly more on one line and less after another. The theatergoers who had seen all of the actors performing the same part tended to be divided over whom they felt was best. Critiquing art is not a quantitative matter. Saying one’s own artistic interpretation is fact is simply wrong, and the notion that artists should be pitted against one another in competitive fashion is antithetical to the whole meaning of art.

The primary roadblock to greater representation for minorities is the idea in media that white is the default race. Too often, everyman is equated with the white male — meaning non-white romantic leads and action stars are few and far between. These portrayals only serve to perpetuate stereotypes and worsen biases; earlier this year, Steve Harvey made a joke entirely centered on the concept that Asian males could never be seen as attractive. Film and TV have reinforced certain racist attitudes — all black people are considered “thugs,” all people of Arab descent are seen as “terrorists,” all Asians are “nerdy IT guys.” Races have been identified with particular stock parts.

The best way to combat these types of ideas is to depict people of color as three-dimensional characters and cast them as a wide variety of roles. Placing people of color and their stories in the foreground — as the true focus of the narrative — opens up all kinds of possibilities. The film The Big Sick, for instance, stars a Pakistani man and a Caucasian woman as the central couple. At a larger studio, Kumail Nanjiani, the movie’s writer and lead actor, would likely never have been given the go ahead; executives would have contended that he was not “believable” as a romantic lead, despite the fact that the script was based on his real-life marriage. Fortunately, Nanjiani was able to star in his own movie, breaking an enduring stereotype in the process. This casting, and others like it, will hopefully lead mainstream viewpoints in a more progressive direction.

I have personally had to deal with derogatory preconceptions in my own life. As a male ballet dancer, I have been the recipient of a good deal of demeaning remarks. Thankfully, these comments have never slipped into violence or anything severe; most of the time, they simply come from a place of ignorance and a lack of exposure to the art form. Recently, I performed at a children’s hospital in New York for elementary school-age children. I expected to receive some mildly offensive reactions, but to my surprise, the kids appeared to admire my dancing — the athleticism of my jumps and pirouettes. I now realize that they had yet not been corrupted by society’s judgment of the male ballet dancer. Children are very impressionable and are especially influenced by the media they consume. As media forms become increasingly prevalent in our culture, sending the right message to future generations is critical. When movies and television shows reflect the diversity of the real world, they send the message that anything is possible. Kids of color should not feel as though they are constrained by their race.

While newer generations are more aware of ingrained and insidious racist stereotypes, progress toward inclusivity remains very gradual. In late August, the actor Ed Skrein stepped down from the movie Hellboy after learning that his character in the source material was Japanese-American. In doing so, he risked a great deal; he gave up a sizable role in a potential blockbuster and may have fractured valuable relationships with Lionsgate, a leading entertainment company, and Hellboy’s producers. However, if he had stayed on the project, he would have faced criticism — similar to that leveled at Johansson, Stone, Gyllenhaal, Bale, Edgerton, and Mara — for co-opting a role created as Japanese. What Skrein did was honorable, and very few actors would have been willing to withdraw from such a hyped project. Although his decision was a step forward, it did not bring about any systemic change. In a business as difficult and fickle as film, putting the onus on the actors to turn down valuable roles is unfair. The responsibility should fall on those in charge.

The solution to greater representation for minorities in Hollywood requires a multipronged approach. Network television and especially film have the most barriers to entry — countless executives have to approve every creative decision throughout the entire process. Hollywood is very much a hierarchy, and the key decision makers — the ones who say what is produced and what is not — are almost all white males. More diversity is needed at the top of the pyramid. One example is film producer Charles King, who within the last few years launched a new media company called Macro. The works that Macro helps develop and fund are stories told from the unique perspective of people of color. Although the backing of higher-ups is absolutely crucial, it is also important that people of color themselves have more opportunities to produce their own content. Critics and audiences alike can discern when a piece is authentic or not. The “Thanksgiving” episode of Master of None, Indian actor Aziz Ansari’s comedian-auteur show, follows the journey of Denise (played by Lena Waithe), a black lesbian, as she grows up, becomes aware of her sexuality, and comes out to her family. Because Waithe (along with Ansari) wrote the episode and drew from her real-life experiences, the story received universal critical acclaim, even garnering an Emmy for best comedy series writing — making Waithe the first black woman to win in that category. Shonda Rhimes, a prolific television producer and showrunner, has her own highly-rated night of programming on a major network which includes two shows with black female leads. This kind of content has demonstrated the popularity of more diverse characters and viewpoints.

In other forms of media and the arts, however, people of color are a commanding force. In the music industry, black artists in particular dominate the charts and win a plethora of awards. This year’s Grammy nomination leaders are Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Bruno Mars, Childish Gambino, Khalid, No I.D., and SZA — all people of color. What accounts for this disparity between music and film is that black musicians and singers were given a voice much earlier. When Berry Gordy Jr. founded Motown in 1959, he gave black artists an opportunity to have their music produced and distributed. Motown paved the way for other record labels that would support black artists. Once these artists reached a certain level of fame, not only did their success snowball, but they also were able to have greater control of the music they made.

Additionally, in general, music has fewer barriers to entry than film or TV. A singer-songwriter can upload original music online with no more than an internet connection and a camera. On the other hand, a self-produced movie will likely be noticeably amateur. On other platforms that are easily accessible — YouTube being the prime example — people of color are well represented. YouTubers Ryan Higa, GloZell, KSI, Germán Garmendia, Evan Fong, and Mariand Castrejon Castañeda all have millions of subscribers and views. Their channels run the gamut from comedy to music to gaming to beauty. All of these personalities expanded their subscriber base organically by putting up content that was authentic to them. They did not have to deal with rooms of executives and focus groups to determine their appeal.

What media bigwigs need to realize is that whitewashing is not a sustainable business model. Our culture, especially the younger generations, is becoming more enlightened and has higher expectations for media reflecting society at large. Not only do people expect more, but they are also willing to publicly call out whitewashing; social media has mobilized an activist army. Bringing in a diversity of voices and perspectives has resulted in both critical and commercial success. But without the production of innovative content and the support of decision makers, effecting a change will be difficult.

 

Bibliography

Baker, Calvin. “A Former Superagent Bets Big on a More Diverse Hollywood.” The New York Times, 4 Oct. 2017, nytimes.com/2017/10/04/magazine/charles-king-superagent-diverse- hollywood.html. Accessed 5 Oct. 2017.

Bernardi, Daniel and Michael Green. Race in American Film: Voices and Visions that Shaped a Nation. ABC-CLIO, 2017.

Couch, Aaron and Borys Kit. “Ed Skrein Exits ‘Hellboy’ Reboot After Whitewashing Outcry.” The Hollywood Reporter, 28 Aug. 2017, hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/ed-skrein- exits-hellboy-reboot-whitewashing-outcry-1033431. Accessed 2 Sept. 2017.

Cruz, Gilbert. “Motown.” TIME, 12 Jan. 2009, content.time.com/time/arts/article/ 0,8599,1870975,00.html. Accessed 29 Nov. 2017.

Gross, Terry. “How A Medically Induced Coma Led To Love, Marriage And ‘The Big Sick.’” NPR, 12 Jul. 2017, npr.org/2017/07/12/536822055/how-a-medically-induced-coma-led- to-love-marriage-and-the-big-sick. Accessed 26 Aug. 2017.

Hibberd, James. “Shonda Rhimes dramas deliver ratings record.” Entertainment Weekly, 21 Nov. 2014, ew.com/article/2014/11/21/shonda-rhimes-ratings/. Accessed 29 Nov. 2017.

Littleton, Cynthia. “Lena Waithe Makes Emmy History as First Black Woman to Win for Comedy Writing.” Variety, 17 Sept. 2017, variety.com/2017/tv/news/lena-waithe-wins- emmy-black-woman-comedy-writing-1202562040/. Accessed 19 Sept. 2017.

Lynch, Joe. “Grammys 2018: See the Complete List of Nominees.” Billboard, 28 Nov. 2017, billboard.com/articles/news/grammys/8047027/grammys-2018-complete-nominees-list. Accessed 29 Nov. 2017.

McAlone, Nathan. “Most popular YouTube stars in 2017.” Business Insider, 7 Mar. 2017, businessinsider.com/most-popular-youtuber-stars-salaries-2017/. Accessed 2 Sept. 2017.

NPR Staff. “Diversity Sells — But Hollywood Remains Overwhelmingly White, Male.” NPR, 28 Feb. 2015, npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/02/28/389259335/diversity-sells-but- hollywood-remains-overwhelmingly-white-male. Accessed 2 Sept. 2017.

Sun, Rebecca. “The Disturbing History Behind Steve Harvey’s “Asian Men” Jokes.” The Hollywood Reporter, 13 Jan. 2017, hollywoodreporter.com/news/disturbing-history- behind-steve-harveys-asian-men-jokes-963735. Accessed 2 Dec. 2017.

Toll, Robert C. Blacking Up: The Minstrel Show in Nineteenth-Century America. Oxford University Press, 1974.

Yang, Jeff. “Whitewashing Hollywood Movies Isn’t Just Offensive—It’s Also Bad Business.” Quartz, 18 Apr. 2017, qz.com/960600/whitewashing-ghost-in-the-shell-and- other-hollywood-movies-isnt-just-offensive-its-also-bad-business/. Accessed 12 Nov. 2017.

 

Frankenstein, Not Gloria Steinem

Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, an early feminist, and William Godwin, a progressive and an anarchist who raised her with values which advocated social justice and reform. One might thus expect Shelley’s writing to be alive with strong female personalities and feminist ideas. In Frankenstein, however, both the presence of women and their depth of character are limited. Throughout the novel, women play a decidedly secondary role, even to the extent that its very premise is about bypassing the most important biological function of the female.

All of the main characters in Frankenstein are male, and all female characters occupy surprisingly passive roles; even Elizabeth Lavenza, one of the people dearest to Victor Frankenstein, is not spared this treatment. Fostered by a poor, Italian family as a toddler, Elizabeth is adopted and introduced as a “pretty present” for Frankenstein, who “interpret[s] [these] words literally and look[s] upon Elizabeth as [his] — [his] to protect, love, and cherish… till death she [is] to be [his] only” (37). It seems that Elizabeth comes close to accepting this relationship herself, growing up to care more about Frankenstein’s well-being and happiness than her own; she writes to him, “But it is your happiness I desire as well as my own when I declare to you that our marriage would render me eternally miserable unless it were the dictate of your own free choice… if you obey me in this one request, remain satisfied that nothing on earth will have the power to interrupt my tranquillity” (192). She is willing to sacrifice marrying the person she loves if it will make him in any way unhappy. Although selfless, Elizabeth’s prioritization of Frankenstein over herself is extreme, as is Frankenstein’s own self-absorption. Upon returning from England, haunted by the death of Clerval and the monster’s threat, he finds that Elizabeth is “thinner, and [has] lost much of that heavenly vivacity that had before charmed” (194). However, he expresses no concern, maintaining that her “compassion [makes] her a more fit companion for one blasted and miserable as [he is]” (194). This lack of consideration for his soon-to-be-wife, and indeed his satisfaction that she has also suffered, is telling of their relationship, one between a dominant man and a submissive woman. Before their marriage, Frankenstein decides that he will finally tell Elizabeth about the monster, but only once they are husband and wife:

I have one secret, Elizabeth, a dreadful one; when revealed to you, it will chill your frame with horror, and then, far from being surprised at my misery, you will only wonder that I survive what I have endured. I will confide this tale of misery and terror to you the day after our marriage shall take place, for, my sweet cousin, there must be perfect confidence between us. But until then, I conjure you, do not mention or allude to it. This I most earnestly entreat, and I know you will comply. (193-194)

Not only does he demand that she marry him without knowing this monstrous secret, one which may alter her impression of him, but he even orders her not to mention the subject until their union is finalized, with no doubt that she will obey him. That he assumes her blind devotion and that she fulfills this assumption are indicative of her passive role. Frankenstein also tells her exactly how she will react once she learns the truth, namely with compassion for him rather than reflection upon her own danger. (Based on her prior behavior, this reaction seems plausible.) Furthermore, when the creature tells Frankenstein that he “shall be with [him] on [his] wedding-night” (173), Elizabeth is so subordinate in Frankenstein’s mind that he does not consider the possibility of Elizabeth’s being the target of the threat. After they marry, deluded on account of this egotism, he orders her to return to her room, never thinking that she might be important enough to be the object of the threat. She obeys without question, even though this is her wedding night, a time that husband and wife typically spend together. Even as Frankenstein’s wife, Elizabeth fails to stand up to him or for herself, and she thus does not evolve over the course of the novel.

Like Elizabeth, Justine Moritz is a poor little girl, “saved” by the Frankensteins. Mistreated by her mother, Justine is brought into the household by Caroline Frankenstein, where she finds a better quality of life than the average servant, as Elizabeth proudly states. In this way, her fate has been determined by others, similarly to Elizabeth’s. This is also reminiscent of Caroline’s introduction to the Frankensteins; after her father’s death, Alphonse Frankenstein “[comes] like a protecting spirit to the poor girl, who commit[s] herself to his care” (34). This manifestation of passivity equates to a lack of control in one’s own life. Later, when Justine is accused of murdering William, she once again leaves it up to others to decide her fate: “I commit my cause to the justice of my judges, yet I see no room for hope. I beg permission to have a few witnesses examined concerning my character, and if their testimony shall not overweigh my supposed guilt, I must be condemned” (85). She places her life in the hands of the friends who testify on her behalf and the judges who will vote, offering only a weak defense of her innocence. Once she is found guilty, the pastor “threaten[s] and menace[s] [her], until [she] almost [begins] to think that [she is] the monster that he [says she is]” (88). She is swayed by the pastor to do the unthinkable, to confess to a sin of which she is not guilty. On account of her passivity, Justine is influenced to commit the shameful sin of lying.

Beyond the individual characters, Frankenstein is at its core a story about neglecting women and not allowing them to fulfill their role in creating life. By producing the creature without the use of the female body, Frankenstein defies the natural order of the world and consequently becomes “insensible to the charms of nature… Winter, spring, and summer [pass] away during [his] labours; but [he does] not watch the blossom or the expanding leaves… so deeply [is he] engrossed in [his] occupation” (56-57). He disregards women, thus disregarding the natural way of creating life, and essentially disregarding nature, an act as sinful as it gets for Romantics. If not already clear, this is made abundantly so when the creature is first born: “His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but [Frankenstein] did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain [him], but [he] escaped and rushed downstairs” (59). This behavior — smiling and reaching out (non-maliciously) — mirrors the way a baby acts towards his or her mother, the first person to receive and care for him or her. Frankenstein is unable to fill this role himself, and his mistake is fatal. The creature begins life without a family and must navigate adolescence on his own. He describes his first days of life to Frankenstein: “A strange multiplicity of sensations seized me, and I saw, felt, heard, and smelt at the same time; and it was indeed a long time before I learned to distinguish between the operations of my various senses” (105). Again, this behavior illustrates the early days of a newborn’s life. The creature continues to grow from this state of infancy but at a rapidly accelerated pace. He soon learns about sleep, hunger, and thirst, as well as the danger of fire, after he places his hand inside the flame for warmth. He must learn all of this through trial and error, while human babies have parents, specifically mothers, to help them through the process. He even learns about love not from a mother but from the De Laceys, by observing Agatha’s father smiling at her “with such kindness and affection that [he] [feels] sensations of a peculiar and overpowering nature… a mixture of pain and pleasure, such as [he] [has] never before experienced” (111). These are feelings that one typically first experiences with a mother, but the creature is never exposed to them prior to this moment. With no family of his own, the creature calls the De Laceys his “protectors” and considers them to be “superior beings, who would be the arbiters of [his] future destiny” (117), much in the same way that children idolize their parents and expect them to shape their future. His desperate search for a family proves how beneficial it is for life to begin in the presence of parents. The creature hears “how all the life and cares of the mother [are] wrapped up in the precious charge” and realizes that “no mother [has] blessed [him] with smiles and caresses,” leaving him to wonder “what [is he]?” (123-124). Without a mother or other relation, he has no idea who, or what, he is; mothers are thus integral to one’s identity. In time, the creature discovers Frankenstein’s identity and cries to him, “you were my father, my creator; and to whom could I apply with more fitness than to him who had given me life?” (141). He feels utterly rejected and alone, and blames his creator. But this is only the explicit abandonment; the more significant abandonment is the creature’s lack of a mother, or Frankenstein’s decision to give the monster life but withhold a mother from him. It is ultimately this sense of abandonment and the consequent rage that lead the monster to evil and cause him to seek revenge on humanity through murder. Frankenstein is thus a novel about the dangers of men bypassing women.

Even the creature is a male character and is thus susceptible to this chauvinism. In demanding that Frankenstein create a female monster like him, he proves himself willing to subject another to his fate. He says, “I demand a creature of another sex, but as hideous as myself… we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that account we shall be more attached to one another. Our lives will not be happy, but they will be harmless, and free from the misery I now feel… neither you nor any other human being shall ever see us again” (148). He has predetermined her fate: they will move to South America, live off of nuts and fruit, sleep on dried leaves, and both will be content but never happy. Much like Frankenstein with regard to Elizabeth, the creature does not stop to think that a female monster might not agree to live out his fantasy, let alone tolerate being around him. Frankenstein, however, does consider this possibility, and worries that she may be “ten thousand times more malignant than her mate and delight, for its own sake, in murder and wretchedness” (170). What finally drives him to refuse the creature’s request is the fear that they would want children and that “a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth who might make the very existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror” (170-171). Frankenstein destroys the female creature with his own hands, “trembling with passion” (171). This image of him ripping a woman apart speaks volumes. He is terrified to create a female monster capable of birthing children, and it is thus the reproductive power of women that scares him and that serves as the basis of the novel.

At first glance, the lack of women, specifically strong, complex women, in Frankenstein is obvious. However, upon further examination of the book’s plot and message, it is revealed that the main storyline of the novel can be distilled into men bypassing women and attempting to take the female reproductive responsibility into their own hands. The ultimate results of this betrayal of nature — the deaths of William, Justine, Alphonse, Clerval, Elizabeth, Frankenstein, and the monster — are catastrophic. Perhaps it is in this subtle way that Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin’s influences are present in Shelley’s masterpiece.

 

Works Cited

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Penguin Classics, 2005.

 

Dinah’s Voice Must Always Be Heard; A Speech Examining Vayishlach (Genesis 34) Through A Feminist Lens

Hi! Thank you all for coming today, it means a lot to me and my family. So, a bunch of things happen in this portion, but today, I will be focusing mainly on Dinah’s story, which by the way, is a total misnomer because she has no voice in this story. So, a quick recap for all of you who have zoned out for the last thirty minutes, Dinah’s story goes like this. Once upon a time, Dinah, the only named daughter of Ya’akov and Leah, went walking in search of other girls in the land of Chamor. Shechem, Chamor’s son, “vayikach Dina” — or “takes” her. What happens after she has been taken, is debated. Some say it is rape, but others say it is a “humbling” of Dinah. Shechem then begs his father to make it so Dinah will be his wife. Chamor approaches Ya’akov with a proposition: if you let us take your daughter as a wife to Shechem, we will give you anything you want. They also propose that their families or “tribes” should intermarry. To do this, Chamor will give Ya’akov all the Chamorite daughters in return for all of Israelite women. Sounds fair, right? Ya’akov willingly passes off the decision making to his sons Shimon and Levi. The now very angry sons agree to Chamor’s request under one term, all the men in Chamor’s tribe must get circumcised. Chamor agrees to this unusual request. Now, the Torah is careful to note that the brothers make their deal with guile. This comes up again when the brothers decide to avenge Dinah, or rather to avenge their family’s name. They launch a surprise attack on Chamor’s tribe, killing all the Chamorite men while they are in pain from being circumcised in adulthood. Shimon and Levi also steal all their belongings and women. Ya’akov gets terrified that the brothers’ actions will cause other people to retaliate against him and his family, and therefore decides to move far away. The story ends with Dinah’s brothers answering “Should they have treated our sister like a prostitute?” I guess they have no regrets.

Okay! One thing that stood out to me was the verb vayikach or “and he took.” This is the same verb that is used when someone takes an object or a man arranges for a woman to become his wife. In biblical society, to take a woman as one would take an object is just normal. That being said, to take a woman without her father’s consent, as in Dinah’s case, would be a culturally unacceptable occurrence. Shechem didn’t initially ask Ya’akov’s permission to “take” Dinah. So Shimon and Levi felt the need to go after Chamor’s family not out of love for their sister, but rather because Shechem committed a property crime against Ya’akov and his family. During the negotiation with Chamor, Dinah has absolutely no say in what happens to her. Instead, her brothers decide to avenge the infringement of their ownership of their sister by stealing some more women from Chamor and killing all of the men in Chamor’s tribe. This stealing does not necessarily imply rape, but it does imply that women can be traded and given and treated as objects rather than thinking people. All of this is reported with limited criticism of Shimon and Levi’s actions. That’s a problem. While most of us would agree that some kind of consequence is needed for Shechem’s actions, Dinah’s brothers’ actions are not morally superior and demonstrate no greater respect for women and their sister. Before I talk about how this reflects on our society today, I would like to make it clear that I’m am not saying that direct sexual violence and the broader objectification of women are of the same magnitude. They’re not. But, a society that normalizes the objectification of woman is one that is less likely to condemn sexual violence or not even recognize it as such.

This set of hypocritical attitudes about the justification of misogynistic behaviors is prevalent in today’s world. Just as the taking of Dinah and the stealing of the Schehemite women are both instances of the objectification of women, we see that many men think it’s fine for them to exploit women in small or large ways, but when their peers do the same, it’s not acceptable. Over a year ago, footage was released of Donald Trump talking to Billy Bush about being able to sexually aggress against women without consequence because he’s a wealthy media star. This gave many people another reason to despise Mr. Trump. While some of his fellow politicians condemned the disgraceful way Trump acts and talks, they did not frame it as societal backwardness; instead, they proudly stated, I would be offended if these comments, behaviors, or attitudes were aimed at MY daughter, MY wife, MY mother, MY women. These statements, while appearing to be honorable and a step in the right direction, still perpetuate the idea that women can only be considered in relation to men and objects of men and are important because of their connection to a man.

Vay’aneha — the verb after the first use of vayikach has several meanings, and that is where the debate over what happened to Dinah spurs from. A common translation of this word is that Dinah was violated. But what does violate mean? One understanding is that Dinah was sexually violated, or raped. The second more conservative approach is that Dinah was violated because Shechem did not ask the permission of Ya’akov before taking Dinah. Both interpretations reflect poorly on how their society treats women. The fact is that we have no clue what happened because Dinah has no voice in the story! She has no voice in being taken, in the negotiation with Chamor, or in the decision made by her brothers to attack Shechem. She is merely the object that is under dispute. No matter how you approach the story, one part or another is unsettling or disturbing. If you think Dinah got raped, that’s disturbing, if you think the brothers’ actions were uncalled for, that’s disturbing, if you think that there are lots of patriarchal attitudes engraved in, the fact that this is a religion and community that many people rely on for answers and we look up to these patriarchal ideas, is disturbing. And the feeling that I am left with is something is really, really wrong and that needs to change!

For millennia, the voices of women and others who have been sexually assaulted have been suppressed. As I’m saying these words, many women are speaking up about their experiences with sexual violence and the effects a patriarchal society has had on them. But right now, we’re standing in midst of a cultural and socio-sexual hurricane. It’s taken thousands of years for Dinah’s voice to finally be heard. From this discussion, I don’t want you to only take away the fact that our culture is woven in with stale and ancient thoughts relating to women. As a society, we are working on changing. Even though certain laws and leaders seem to be trying to roll things back, the amount of attention and conversations that come out of today’s movements are the preliminary step to a change in societal thinking. It’s our responsibility to learn from the wrongdoings that are described in the Torah and the wrongs that are perpetuated by the way that the story is told, and make sure that Dinah’s voice will always be heard.

 

Laughter Heals All Wounds

  

Laughter heals all wounds, and that’s one thing that everybody shares. No matter what you’re going through, it makes you forget about your problems. I think the world should keep laughing.” – Kevin Hart

 

During some of the most difficult moments of my life, I would use comedy to cope. I remember dashing up the stairs, and bolting into my room in search of my iPad with its bulky, green case. I’d swipe through page after page looking for the YouTube app. After finding and clicking on it, my fifth grade self would type “Kingsley” in the search bar. I admired his sense of humor. The way he talked about the unfortunate events in his life were not only amusing but relatable. Kingsley’s videos would rid that feeling of loneliness that lay inside me. It helped me realize that I am not the only person dealing with people who would judge me based on some characteristic that I can’t change. He influenced me to laugh at and belittle ignorance instead of allowing it to tear me down.

Whenever people first meet me, they usually think I am shy and reserved.  But over the years, I have realized that people who know me really well think of me as “the funny one.” After spending hours of free time watching comedians like Kingsley or Kevin Hart, I decided to start expressing my sense of humor to everyone. Well, scratch that, I expressed my jokes to small groups of people I know, or that I am getting to know. Making people laugh allows me to find confidence in myself. When I am laughing with my friends or my family, it distracts me from the sadness and sappy emotions that I feel on the inside.

Now you are probably wondering, What on earth is making this girl so sad?? I will answer your question with a brief story about my life. But I don’t want to share a depressing story with you because as you can tell, I prefer to think happy thoughts. I will tell you about some of the remarks and actions people have directed towards me regarding my race. Although the experiences completely diminished my self-esteem, looking back, I often realized that my reaction to these situations were so ridiculous that they were actually quite funny. Be prepared to read the unfortunate yet amusing story that is my life.

To start off, I would love to thank the Hill School for shaping me into the kind, compassionate person I am today. Also, fuck the Hill School for blinding me to the world of racism and mean people. From preschool to third grade, I attended that “crunchy granola” place with its unrealistic views of the world. Hill School is located in New York City, and the campus is every child’s dream. The building is yellow and resembles a castle resting upon a grassy hill. There are vivacious colors from the flora and fauna surrounding the school, and a beautiful creek that can only be crossed if walked over the wooden bridge they built to make us feel special. If this does not sound ridiculous to you, then you need a reality check.

We literally spent the majority of our time talking about having “good moral values” and “sticking together as a community.”

At 8:30 in the morning, every student walks single file into the gym, and then proceeds to disperse into groups based on grade. The music teacher walks to the front of the gym with a guitar in hand, and smiles at all the children waiting to start the school day. He strums the chords of the “Garden Song,” and all the students put their hands in the air creating motions that represent the lyrics of the song: “inch-by-inch / row by row / I want to make my garden grow / all it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground.” It was as if we were preparing ourselves to plant flowers together.

Since we spent so much time learning how to collaborate and how to be inclusive, students were never really mean to each other. Well, of course every now and then, there would be some traces of bullying. However, mean behavior was not tolerated – especially among the kids. The kids who would lash out at their peers were often isolated by the rest of the class. One girl, Nora, was the biggest bully in our entire class. During recess, she actually had the nerve to push me down the slide with aggression, screaming, “Go down the stupid slide! The slide is stupid and you’re stupid too!” I hope you are all laughing at this scene. I really thought this was a big deal as a kid, but looking back this is now mildly amusing to me. Anyways… a group of my friends went and told the teacher, and Nora was put in time out for the rest of recess. Just for calling me stupid! Hill did not stand for this type of behavior.

My parents began to realize how cushy the Hill School was, so when our family moved to New Jersey from New York City, they decided I needed a change. So they pulled me out of the granola paradise and sent me to the Valley Girls School in an affluent New Jersey suburb.  I had a lot of mixed emotions about transitioning. There was a sadness in my heart because I had to leave the comfort of my old school. However, part of me was really looking forward to a change.

Growing up, I watched a tremendous amount of TV. For some reason, I took all the shows I watched very seriously. My expectations for life were quite high because of these ridiculous shows. I am honestly still trying to understand why I believed the plots could even be close to reality. Literally, 20-year-olds were playing high/middle-schoolers living the most perfect life, and so I thought to myself,  “Lol, when I go to this new school, I am going to have a glow up and make so many friends on the very first day.” By the time I walked into the building on my first day at Valley, everything hit me. The television had been lying to me!

Valley marked the beginning of the rest of my life. My view of the world was suddenly altered. At Hill, everything seemed to be one color. The idea of difference was never really addressed. For example, when looking at my friend, I wouldn’t see her as my “white friend,” I’d see her as my friend. However, at Valley, everyone emphasizes how we are different and the same. We wear uniforms to make us all the same, so we spent all our time emphasizing all the ways that we were different. In some ways it is a good thing, but in other ways, it is quite demoralizing.  My new school suddenly brought my race into focus.  For the first time, I started confronting what it meant to be different: a black, dark-skinned girl, growing up in a predominately white city in America.

First off, Valley has a very different way of running their morning meetings compared to Hill. As I sat in the gathering room at Valley, I was expecting an old man to walk to the front of the room and sing about the greatness of nature. Instead, a young British man stood in the middle of the room and told us to stand up and face the flag. Now I am thinking to myself, What on earth is going on? People put their hands to their hearts, and start pledging allegiance to the flag. Even though I spent the majority of my life in America (I lived overseas for a couple years), this pledge was unfamiliar to me. I’m not sure what was going on at Hill, but we did not learn the Pledge of Allegiance and my parents are foreigners, so we never really talked about it at home either. I didn’t really consider myself to be living in America or really understand what that meant. In my ten-year old brain, I just thought that we are living in a tiny corner of the world with people that I care about. So, I was feeling really confused during my first day of morning meeting at Valley. I didn’t know the words to this pledge and didn’t know what to do with my heart. So my fourth grade self looked around aimlessly trying to mouth the words to the pledge of allegiance, with my left hand on the right side of my chest. D-I-S-A-S-T-R-O-U-S. That morning foreshadowed what I was about to experience at this school.

One thing I wanted to accomplish at Valley was to be “popular.” On the TV shows that I would watch, the pretty, blonde white girl would usually be the one with all the friends, and would have guys falling all over her. This girl is typically a strong reflection of American stereotypes. So going into Valley, I thought to myself that I needed to find the blonde, preppy girls so that I could become popular. Some of you may think, Why assume that there is a certain look for popularity? Well, in this affluent suburban town, there is a group of white girls placed at the top of the social hierarchy. I know that I am correct because as soon as I got into the classroom, there they were. Two blonde, preppy girls standing in the corner of the room, giggling and twirling their extremely light hair. And let me tell you, those girls carried a lot of power. Our grade made a conscious effort to name that little clique by combining their names. From what I remember, a lot of people were kind of jealous of them, and low-key yearned to be a part of their little, privileged bubble. I was one of those people, and at first, I really thought that I could be friends with them. Remember those Hill values? Everyone should be friends with everyone. That can work at Valley too, right? L-M-A-O! Oh boy, was I wrong.

When my dark-skinned, goofy self came up to “the populars” attempting to make convo, they looked at me as if I were crazy. I felt as if I didn’t have the right to be friends with them because of the way I looked. This is the first time in my life, that I remember wanting to be white so badly. One day, I saw one of the blondes brushing her hair after swimming. The bristles went through her hair so elegantly. I wanted my hair to do that, so for some reason I thought that if my friend and I could take out my cornrows with scissors and a huge brush, my kinky hair would do the same. However, I am black as ever, and my hair is so thick that running a brush through it would be like biking through wet cement. On that day, I lost a lot of hair trying to be white. Funny how six years later, I am still trying to grow out my hair after that incident (and the relaxers and blow-outs too, but that is another story.)

Eventually, I understood that I will never be white.  And my friends will not be friends because they are popular or pretty. But, there were feelings of shame for being black. I really had trouble looking in the mirror and being happy with what I see. My school worsened my self esteem. On my 12th birthday in the sixth grade, I was waiting in the lunch line. As I was staring at the chicken on the platter, there was a tap on my back. This girl kept trying to talk to me while I was just trying to get some food. She kept on rambling, but I was so focused on that chicken that could have been in my stomach. This child kept running her mouth, and eventually she said something so ignorant. “Your nose is big because you black.” At first, I was not phased because one, I hear shit like that all the time, and two, I was hungry and food was more important to me than addressing that dumb comment. One of my close friends Charlie heard what Ms. I-don’t-have-an-off-button said, and she proceeded to tell the whole grade what happened. The Ms. Off-Button got in a lot of trouble which was a bonus, but unfortunately, I kept replaying the situation in my head. The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. My nose became one of my biggest insecurities. As I went into middle school at Valley, racist comments were thrown at my face. My own friends would comment on the versatility of my hair. Whether it was braided, straightened, or had a weave, my white friends would always have something negative to say. With all that negativity, I really started hating myself.

Do people at this school only come for their friends’ appearance? Lol nope, they literally judge your wealth (or lack thereof) as well. It is shocking that kids in middle school would make fun of someone for living in a small house. These girls would feel so powerful for having the money for a big house. But I am just sitting here thinking, Your ten-year-old ass is not doing anything to make money, so why do you think you have the audacity to talk about other people’s social class? When I went to Hill, everyone lived in a relatively small house. Then I came to this superficial school, and children are out here comparing mansions… I would feel embarrassed inviting friends over because they would make remarks about my house like, “Don’t you feel crowded in here??” and I would just say in my head, Well I can move my arms and legs. I have the ability to walk around. Does it look like the walls are closing in or something, Ms. Privilege?

Now on top of my appearance and status, there is another issue. My personality. Don’t worry, I am not a mean person, but throughout middle school, my peers thought I was not “black enough.” First of all, the majority of my friends were not black, and they were kinda on the emo side. So, I spent a lot of time being with them and embracing emo music (I was already feeling depressed because of the way I looked and I ended up connecting with those songs.) I started to be made fun of by my black peers who are the complete opposite of me. They are outgoing, have the ability to twerk, listen to rap music, and they’re popular because of it. Fantastic. I am not white enough to be with the popular white kids or black enough to be with popular black kids. What does that make me? Raceless??

So there I was. Antisocial. Emo. Black. Ugly. Confused. At the start of eighth grade, I really couldn’t tell who I was looking at in the mirror.

I had to do something. The feelings of confusion and depression needed to go. There needed to be a good change around this heinous school.  There needed to be a good change within myself.

Let’s take it back to the beginning of my story. I am good at making people laugh. Not only my friends, but the rest of the people in the school. Comedy is the one thing that makes me feel like I know who I am. After all those hours of Kevin Hart and Kingsley videos, I decided to take my humor in front of larger groups of people. During my presentations in Chinese class, I was able to encourage my peers to laugh in a language that I don’t even understand that well. Before middle school ended, we were all forced to tell a story about our lives. Since my life is ridiculously hilarious, I managed to get a lot of laughs out of all my classmates. Once I started getting comfortable with my jokes, I started to actually gain confidence in myself.

I am now going into eleventh grade. The person I am now is completely different to the Hill girl who just stepped in the building several years ago. I am embracing my black beauty, and have found a group of friends who appreciate me for who I am rather than the stereotype I should be a part of. Am I 100% happy with my appearance? Nope, but now I am on a path where there is a possibility for me to achieve happiness. If I didn’t focus my energies on making people laugh, I could still be an emo black girl. Moral of the story is: there will always be shitty people who will make you feel less than. And if you are as sensitive as me, the comments will always hurt you. But once you’ve found something about yourself that you admire, the sky is the limit.

Leaving Hill transitioning to Valley was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. However, the whole process is shaping me into a developing superstar.

Hill has taught me to be a caring person, to treat everyone equally, to join together as one. Valley has taught me to fight back negativity with grit and a huge punch of comedy.

 

On Conspiracy Theories

According to Merriam-Webster, a conspiracy theory is a theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators. People formulate conspiracy theories in order to cope with the fear of the unknown and to explain unprecedented phenomena that are frightening. Because the population is afraid of the unknown, it creates conspiracy theories in order to deal with its anxiety. The public uses theories as “logical” answers; however, conspiracies are illogical because they deny scientific fact and official records. Conspiracy theories exacerbate society’s fear and anxiety. I am going to show how the Bermuda Triangle, Area 51, and the moon landing have contributed to conspiracy theories being harmful to the public.

Area 51 is a United States Air Force facility in the southern part of Nevada. Though the purpose of the base is unknown, historical evidence suggests that it supports the development and testing of experimental aircrafts and weapon systems (Popular Mechanics). Conspiracy theorists believe that the remains of crashed UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects) are stored in Area 51, where government scientists reverse-engineer the aliens’ leading technology. Allegedly, the government has made advanced weapons and aircrafts including stealth bombers and reconnaissance planes. This conspiracy came after many supposed sightings of UFOs and a testimony from an army colonel who says he was granted access to extraterrestrial material from an alien spacecraft that crashed in the nearby desert (Time Magazine). This conspiracy has hurt society because it has caused people to distrust the government. It makes it seem as if the government isn’t telling us about potential dangers. Losing trust in the government is treacherous since it might influence us to be reluctant to vote in elections and follow the law. This becomes a vicious cycle because the government might respond by trusting the public less and so on and so forth.

Apollo 11 landed on the Moon on July 20th 1969 at 4:18pm EST. At 10:56pm EST, Neil Armstrong was ready to put his foot into another world. He climbed down the ladder and said: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” (NASA). Four decades after the presumed “giant leap for mankind,” there are doubters who say America was so desperate to defeat Russia in the Space Race that they hired Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the other astronaut in the Apollo 11, to stage their mission on a secret film set in Hollywood. Theorists speculate that because the American flag planted on the moon swayed, Aldrin must not have been in space. The flag’s movement suggests that there was wind, but there is no wind on the moon. However, NASA states that the flag’s ripples derives from Aldrin’s twisting motions to firmly install the flag into the moon. In addition, filmmaker Stanley Kubrick may have helped NASA fake the lunar landing because his 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey proves that the technology existed back then to create a spacelike set. As far-fetched as it may seem, a 1999 poll conducted by Gallup shows that 6% of Americans believe the lunar landing was fake and 5% were undecided (Time Magazine). This conspiracy theory is harmful to the public because it contributes to people denying scientific evidence that the Apollo 11 indeed landed on the moon. Humanity will suffer if people continue rejecting modern science. For example, global climate change is a reality that impacts people everywhere. If the general public chooses to stay ignorant, we will inevitably destroy our environment and ruin the planet for future generations.

The Bermuda Triangle is a region between Florida, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda. In this triangle in the Atlantic Ocean, there have been many puzzling disappearances of planes and ships (Department of Defense). These mysteries have caused people to develop many conspiracy theories to answer the question of how these ships and planes disappeared with no bodies or wreckage ever found. One of them is a space-time warp. Supposedly, a rift in space-time opens in the Bermuda Triangle every once in awhile, so all of the planes and ships traveling in this specific place at this time are lost inside the rift. That is why there is never any wreckage. Another theory is that one of the assumed locations of the lost island of Atlantis is in the Bermuda Triangle. Some believe that Atlantis was a civilization that had made amazing technology, and the technology may be active on the ocean floor. This equipment may interfere with the instrumentation of modern planes and ships; this has caused them to crash and sink. Finally, the last conspiracy theory is that methane gas hydrates bubble up from the sea sediments, causing ships to disappear. Landslides on the ocean floor release large amounts of gas, which would reduce the density of the water, making any ship sink like a rock. The gas could also ignite aircraft engines causing them to explode (Thought Co.). This conspiracy has impaired society because it makes people hesitant to travel in this area. Without these conspiracies people would think that all of these incidents were merely coincidences. Conspiracy theories capitalize on fear and make people irrational, even though the Bermuda Triangle is no more dangerous than any other part of the ocean. Irrationality forces people to doubt themselves when there is simply no need to.  

Ultimately, there is one positive thing about conspiracy theories. It causes people to open their minds, think independently, and analyze situations critically. Despite this upside, all of the aforementioned examples show how conspiracy theories have negatively impacted society. There would be less fear in the world if these conspiracies didn’t exist because people would think of them as coincidences, or even if they did see a flaw in an explanation, they wouldn’t spread it or exaggerate it through an absurd conspiracy theory. Conspiracies are reactions to anxiety that spread mass paranoia across the globe. They make us excessively skeptical of the government, Ignorant of pressing issues, and irrational to the point of extreme doubt. Without conspiracies, our society would not live in fear of the unknown, and instead, we would rely on dependable sources to draw conclusions.

Works Cited

Blitz, Matt. “The Real Story Behind the Myth of Area 51.” Popular Mechanics. Cameron Connors, 18 Apr. 2017. Web. 23 June 2017. <http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/research/a24152/area-51-history/>.

“Conspiracy Theories.” Time Magazine. Time, 2008. Web. 23 June 2017. http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1860871_1860876_1861006,00.html

“Conspiracy Theory.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 23 June 2017. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conspiracy%20theory

NASA Administrator. “July 20, 1969: One Giant Leap For Mankind.” NASA. NASA, 20 July 2014. Web. 23 June 2017. https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/apollo11.html

United States. Department of Defense. US Coast Guard Headquarters and the Naval Historical Center. Bermuda Triangle Fact Sheet. 11 December 1998. Web. 23 June 2017. http://www.dod.mil/pubs/foi/Reading_Room/UFO/195.pdf

Wagner, Stephen. “The Top Bermuda Triangle Theories.” Thought Co. 30 January 2017. Web. 23 June 2017. https://www.thoughtco.com/theories-of-the-bermuda-triangle-2593654

Child Soldiers

There are barriers that just altogether shun certain people from getting into school. Sexism (mainly women), disabilities, poverty, and “lowly families,” “with not much family importance.” Education is vital, but recruiting children can completely mess up a child’s education. Also, a country that does not have many schools and a place on the middle of the battlefield does not help.

A massive barrier and issue during the Sudanese war for education was the unique and brutal recruitment of child soldiers. Many children who were still in school, during this civil war, were separated from their tribes and families. Some young children were forced to be child soldiers to aid the war efforts in many ways like cooking, fighting, prostitution, and shields for the adult soldiers. The future of Sudan is unstable due to this cruel and brutal recruitment.

This is a massive issue that is unique to Africa, and specifically Sudan, in the civil war against South Sudan. Almost nowhere else in the world currently has the recruitment of child soldiers. During the Sudanese civil war, there were approximately 15,000-16,000 children that were recruited, forced or not forced in the experiment of using children to aid the war effort. Children were treated brutally and many died. During the war, children never left the tribe, in fear of being attacked or forcefully recruited into the forces. The fear many families had were about what might happen to their children while they were at school. A majority of children were kidnapped and forced to be soldiers when they were coming home from school. Families live in fear, which is an invisible but powerful boundary that makes people keep their children at home.

In the case of a child soldier story in Sudan, there was tragedy for a young kid named John Yaak. In 1987, John’s home was raided by soldiers. They kidnapped John and forced him to fight in the civil war at just the age of nine. Given a gun and orders, he trekked all around Sudan, fighting in a war full of bloodshed. When he was in his fourth year of combat, uninjured, he was shot in the shoulder with a bullet, relieving him from service as he was rushed to the hospital. John is still very traumatized by his past and horrified by the idea of child soldiers. He currently lives in Australia, working as an Uber driver. He works this job so he can send money back to Sudan to help abolish the recruitment of children once and for all. Due to these horrible experiences, almost all of these kids have had some sort of form of PTSD. John’s experience in the army affected his life completely.

Issues from being a soldier in the army, when you are not of age, can lead to many psychological and physical impacts that can affect education in many ways. After a child has gone through a war, they may have gained many injuries due to weapon conflicts. Also, they suffer from illnesses or diseases. War can result in loss of hearing and sight. These physical impacts make it hard to get educated. Studies have shown that children who have been rescued compared to those who were in army recruitment had many psychological impacts, which include social withdrawal, suicidal behavior, loss of trust, and excessive guilt. All of these effects from war trauma are mostly related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that can affect one’s personality and mindset. Another part of these symptoms is that the kids have trouble finding confidence in catching up with all their peers in education. This is an issue for the next generation because children will get in the mindset that they are never going to catch up with their peers, making them give up too easily. Most of the kids that experience this mindset end up dropping out of school. These effects leave a major impact on people.

Effects from being a soldier previously is a massive issue. The impacts are so huge, it can completely alter someone for the rest of their life, due to such a young and susceptible age. These young children are the next generation’s leaders but, with such trauma at a young age, it stunts their education and social skills. The entire generation is affected because of this. The generation should grow up being curious to motivate themselves and push the boundaries of knowledge and innovation. Instead, they live and grow up in fear. This leads to a country full of people who do not trust each other and do not work together. With each person on his or her own, it leads to a massive issue. If an entire country cannot work together, they cannot overcome any massive issues.

Child soldiers are currently a major issue that occurs in Sudan, where recruitment is common for war. Recruitment is unique to countries like Sudan. The massive recruitment of children during the Sudanese war had not only impacted the children, but the entire future of Sudan. Being a soldier as a child affects your mental, physical, and social skills. It also affects your likeliness of receiving an education due to the fear of getting drafted and getting attacked while you are at school. This issue is very problematic. These effects (like PTSD) are impacting the country’s next generation and their leaders. Many children in Sudan are still experiencing this type of brain trauma from recruitment. The future generations of Sudan are at risk, both mentally and physically, due to child soldiers.

 

Works Cited

“A Generation Made to Fight: Saving South Sudan’s Child Soldiers.” UNICEF USA. N.p., 28 Oct. 2016. Web. 30 June 2017.

Josh Hanrahan For Daily Mail Australia. “Australia’s Most Inspirational Uber Driver: Child Soldier Who Fled Poverty in Sudan for Australia Uses the Money He Earns Ride Sharing to Stop Kids in His Homeland from Being Killed in War.” Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 28 June 2017. Web. 30 June 2017.

“Psychological Impacts.” Child Soldiers. N.p., 03 Dec. 2012. Web. 30 June 2017.

“10 Barriers to Education around the World.” Global Citizen. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 June 2017.

 

Misogyny and Bullying in North and South America

People inflict pain because it makes them feel good. It lets them inflict all the pain they have ever been inflicted. This has been happening for centuries now.  There are many types of inflicted pain, like slavery, racism, mockery, bullying, violence, etc. but we are just going to focus on two of them: misogyny and bullying. Many of us have probably seen these two before, and most of us haven’t done anything to stop them, or walked away from the situation and tried to even forget it. This doesn’t stop the cycle. This happens with not only children and teenagers, but with adults as well, and in other cases, we may not have been the bystanders but the victim or even the perpetrator.

Although, both of these social phenomena frequently occur and intersect all over the world, misogyny is more prevalent in South America, while bullying is more predominant in North America. This can be attributed to the machismo culture of South American society, whilst in North America bullying reflects the individualism inherent in rampant capitalism.

Misogyny is a problem that fits under the umbrella of bullying. For those who don’t know what misogyny is, here is the full meaning: dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women. Misogyny is a problem that has been happening for centuries and is still happening to date. Although,  it’s not as bad as it used to be in the US, thanks to the help of the 1970’s second-wave feminist movement.

However, it isn’t much better in South and Central America because according to the UN and many other sources, a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds in Brazil’s biggest city, Sao Paulo. Further, in Mexico, it is estimated more than 120,000 women are raped a year — that is one every four minutes (Watson).  Similarly, sexist things happen not only on the streets but also in universities to women with PhDs and esteemed degrees get 25 to 60% less wages than in the US and Europe, and in most of the poorer Latin and Central American countries, women aren’t even allowed to be sent to school, Some 53% of Bolivian women aged 15-49 have reported physical or sexual violence in their lives, according to the Pan American Health Organization ( Watson). Misogyny is ingrained in the structure and culture of these societies, where it affects every strata of the female population. Misogyny has been a part of South and Central American cultures for centuries now. Let’s take an example from modern women in Ecuador. Lots of them are forced to stay with their abusive husbands because they provide most of the income, and the women are afraid of ending up on the streets. Lots of women experience sexism in school both in South and North America, and in this form of sexism, women aren’t allowed or recommended to participate in activities that mostly men play in because of the reason that it’s not considered ladylike. This has caused many women to not pursue careers in lady-like sports and sometimes some coaches won’t even let women do certain types of sports, which is absurd because everyone deserves a chance to pursue and play in any sport they want. Although women aren’t seen as strong as men, men aren’t necessarily better athletes, and this is considered a type of bullying. But bullying doesn’t necessarily only happen to women. It also happens to men and women alike, and a lot of victims of bullying in the United States ask themselves whether it’s better in other schools.

We’ve all seen, heard, or been apart of some sort of bullying before, but what we don’t know is that over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year, and approximately 160,000 teens skip school every day because of bullying. Only 1 in 4 teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will only intervene 4% of the time. Many people have asked themselves if it’s better in other schools. Unless you’re not in a private school, it isn’t much better in other public schools, thanks to various studies that show that homosexual and bisexual teens along with students with disabilities are more likely to be accepted by students in private schools. But don’t get me wrong, not all private schools are amazing, In some private and boarding schools, you can be bullied because of your wealth or because they consider you different from them, and this can give the victim various problems growing up.

What happens with bullies is that they usually have been the victim of violence or childhood traumas caused by family, etc. and they use bullying as a way of coping with the pain that they have been inflicted before. But what the bullies don’t realize is that by doing that, they’re not getting rid of the pain but temporarily easing and passing it onto their victims, and that either gives the person the same problems or causes serious problems when they grow older and can also cause depression and even sometimes suicide. As far back as 2010, of every student enrolled in a U.S. school from kindergarten to twelfth grade, one in seven of them have been bullied by a classmate. In a 2010 study, 61% of the participants reported that school bullying was driving kids to shoot other kids. The study also found that for every 20 kids enrolled in school, one kid has seen a classmate carrying a gun in school. It also found that 23% of high school freshmen in the US take a gun to school with them.

Although bullying and misogyny aren’t the same thing, and the misogyny in south America might not be as prominent as bullying in North America, bullying and misogyny are both problems that I have seen first-hand both in South and North America. I, together with millions of others, not only think it’s a disgrace, but an embarrassment for humankind and those who have done it knowingly being fully aware of their actions should be ashamed of actions they have committed. We might not all be the same, but we should all be respected and treated in the same way, and this is why bullying and misogyny in both North and South America has to be stopped. We can all make a difference just by asking a teacher or calling the police for help.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Works Cited

“11 Facts About Bullying.” DoSomething.org | Volunteer for Social Change. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 June 2017.

“Bullying In The USA.” NoBullying – Bullying & CyberBullying Resources. N.p., 22 Dec. 2015. Web. 30 June 2017.

Watson, Katy. “Struggling with Sexism in Latin America.” BBC News. BBC, 18 Aug. 2015. Web. 30 June 2017.

 

Social Skills and Social Media

Social media is one of the largest growing phenomenons across the world, and it is still spreading. This marvel condenses conversations and relationships to the form of an app. The problem with these apps is that social skills, such as conversation skills, body language, and many others, are lost when using social media as a main form of communication. Social media deteriorates in person relationships based on how much people are communicating over apps and not in person.

Face-to-face conversations build relationships and social skills as opposed to communicating mostly over text and messages. Body language, conversation skills (verbally and nonverbally), facial expressions, empathy and sympathy, appearance, and gestures are all social skills that I know I have learned through conversations and many personal relationships I have had over time. I remember, when I was only five, my brother and I went to a supermarket just for fun because our mom gave us ten dollars. My brother was afraid to ask the cashier where our favorite candy was, so he made me ask. That was one of the first times that I’ve had a conversation using the social skills I had learned by talking to friends and family. After that experience, I realized that it wasn’t hard to ask a question to someone you didn’t know, and even make small talk with someone you didn’t know. For example, you can’t learn verbal and nonverbal conversation skills by communicating mostly over text.

Most face-to-face conversations actually consist more of body language and expressions than words. “Human communication consists of 93% body language and paralinguistic cues, while only 7% consist of words.” By learning social skills, and using them in everyday conversations, you can build and start new relationships that you would have never had. By building new relationships, you can also overcome the awkwardness of speaking to people that you don’t know. Yes, it is easier to talk with someone over text or using messages, but it is not the natural thing to do. Technology is a superficial, man-made object that is not like speaking face-to-face at all. People may argue that texting/facetime/messaging is social, but is it? You are hiding behind a screen even with facetime. All of these examples of social media is just mostly you hiding behind a screen and creating an artificial appearance for yourself. It’s just not natural.

This also helps you share your opinions more easily. If you feel comfortable having a conversation with somebody, than you are more likely to share your opinions on some topics. Practicing your social skills also makes you more comfortable starting conversations with parents, peers, adults, executives, and friends. Most executives of businesses are looking for face-to-face conversations instead of over social media. In a survey by Forbes, that spoke to 760 business executives, 84% preferred face-to-face communication. Out of those, 85% said their reason were that it builds stronger, more meaningful business relationships. Respondents of the survey also said face-to-face meetings are best for persuasion (91%), leadership (87%), and engagement (86%).” Face-to-face conversations are always better than communicating through social media because social skills are built and relationships are more easily made.

Cyberbullying is a large problem that arose off of social media and affects people more when social media is a big part of their lives. Cyberbullying erupted from social media and is a form of mostly anonymous bullying that targets people based on appearance, opinions, and decisions. Cyberbullying came to be because people felt more comfortable expressing themselves, both in good and bad ways, behind a screen rather than in person or face-to-face. We have found that this is a very large problem in our country. Research done shows 52% of teens report being cyberbullied. More people bully online than in real life. Teens agree with this statement. Research done shows 81% of teens agree that bullying is easier to get away with online.

Another problem is that people being cyberbullied do not tell their parents. Studies done have shown that only one in ten kids tell their parents if they are being cyber bullied. People being cyberbullied should have somebody to talk to, and if they can’t talk to their parents, they probably won’t want to talk to their close friends or trusted adults. Also, awareness of cyberbullying is a problem. Only 68% of teens agree that cyberbullying is a serious problem, and 95% of teens on social media have witnessed cyberbullying and done nothing. This shows, that online, there aren’t really any allies. In real life, there are allies and people who help, but people online don’t help. Many teens in this day and age have social media as a big part of their daily life, making it much more problematic for them when they are being cyberbullied. Bullying in general is always going to be more problematic if there is nobody to talk to and there is no ally. Most people being cyberbullied don’t feel like they can talk to anybody, and the overall majority do not have an allies. I feel that if everyone did not use social media as such a big part of their lives, then less people would be cyberbullying. Confidence is something that most cyberbullies attack. What cyber bullies want is to terrorize you, and to beat the cyber bullies, you just can’t think about them and not be terrorized.

Social media is a large part of our society today, and people have become too attached to their online profiles. What is important is the realization that social media should be used to compliment face-to-face relationships, but not to be used as a main source of a communication. Our online profiles are not us in real life. If used as a main form of communication, social media will break down face-to-face relationships and social skills as well.

 

Bibliography

Jobs in Pharma, Sales, Devices, Clinical & Healthcare Comms.” Star Medical. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 June 2017.

Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. 30 June 2017.

“Cyber Bullying Statistics.” Bullying Statistics. N.p., 07 July 2015. Web. 30 June 2017.

“Cyber Bullying Statistics.” NoBullying – Bullying & CyberBullying Resources. N.p., 12 June 2017. Web. 30 June 2017.

“11 Facts About Cyber Bullying.” DoSomething.org | Volunteer for Social Change. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 June 2017.

 

Jazz in Education

Jazz has always been a big part of my life. I believe that jazz is important because it teaches creativity in a way that’s different from anything else. Jazz is a musical genre you can improvise on. Classical music, which is the genre schools teach, is only played one way: by playing the specific notes written on the page. I believe that this is why some students quit their instruments. They do not like the way classical music is played. Studies say the brain can’t learn as well when it is not happy or interested.  I am not saying classical music shouldn’t be taught. Classical music is very important because of its fundamentals, but just learning only classical music will not be sufficient. It won’t teach people to improvise. Improvising is where people think of what to play while playing. This is a skill I find important. This skill can also be applied in everyday activities, such as expressing ideas. People think of what to say next while talking. Learning jazz can help this skill. Therefore, schools should teach jazz in addition to classical music.

It is important for kids to learn to improvise. In some schools, teachers teach kids to compose music by writing note by note. This is good for creativity, but it still doesn’t teach kids to come up with ideas on the fly. Also, writing the music out is more time consuming than improvisation. When people write note by note, they often forget their ideas while writing the notes. Also, composing jazz is different from composing classical music. First, composing jazz takes less time than composing classical music. This is because jazz forces you to concentrate more on the chords. Chords take less time to write out. Chords are like the skeleton in a human’s body. It doesn’t directly influence the appearance of the person, but it lays out the shape of the person. With jazz, the chords influence your choice of notes and the shape of the piece, but the notes aren’t specified. So, when you compose jazz pieces, it makes you think of multiple possibilities of what the piece will sound like.  Different types of memorization is also important. While classical music forces you to memorize notes, jazz forces you to memorize chords. So, with jazz, you have to memorize the structure while improvising. This should be good practice for students.

Learning jazz benefits humans unlike any other type of music. Learning jazz teaches teamwork skills. People in jazz bands constantly give each other looks, or “cues” so that everyone knows when they start and end solos, as well as playing with everyone. Being able to use cues requires the whole band to be on the same page. There is not as much teamwork skills involved with classical music, since all the notes are fixed. All you have to do is to play along with everyone. This is why jazz develops students’ brains differently. Also, jazz expands mental abilities. According to William R. Klemm,  a player has to engage the brain in multiple ways that classical musicians do not. According to Psychology Today, when improvising, “players have to have a huge musical vocabulary and realize in milliseconds what new notes will fit” and that this is one of the most “mentally demanding things.” The author also says that this helps brain development in many ways. An overwhelming amount of studies say challenging the brain develops new neural networks in the brain. The author also says that learning to play jazz teaches “invaluable learning capacities for hand-eye coordination, the ability to memorize, discipline, patience, critical and creative thinking, high-speed intellectual engagement with the ideas of others, and self-actualization and confidence.” People playing and listening to jazz experience enormous amounts of mental stimulation, making the experience fun for them. Studies also suggest that learning jazz helps memory, intelligence, creativity, and that it relieves stress. After all, jazz started out as an emotional relief system for slaves. It is also the best type of music to listen to while studying or writing. According to liveforlivemusic, the brain releases chemicals to react accordingly. According to Kendall Deflin, the brain follows the influence of jazz and goes with the rhythmically improvisational patterns which pop and jerk at times, so the activity in the music increases hyperactive neural stimulation. This is saying that the unusual rhythms affects the brain in positive ways.

Additionally, jazz should also be taught in a history context. Jazz is a big part of African American history. It started as emotional relief for slaves. The styles of jazz change as the culture changes and new people come along. Also, the jazz gets influenced by many different cultures and genres to get to what it is today. It is also important to know how people reacted differently to jazz throughout time. Jazz is one of the few art forms that are uniquely American. Jazz plays a very big part in history. Jazz has always been a way of expressing emotion. Happier musicians would play more up beat fast music, while slaves would play the blues. As times change, the style and the music would change too. This is important for the students to learn about because it is related to the history of the people. The interdisciplinary approach has been proven to work. If kids learn to play jazz, and learn about the history of jazz, they would learn history while being able to relate to the music they are playing.

Schools should teach a wide variety of genres. I believe why people stop practicing their instruments is due to their lack of interest in the genre, not because they don’t understand music. If schools teach many genres, and give a chance to every student to try out different types of genres, students would have better chances to keep going with their instrument. Also, because experience in one genre can help students play other genres, learning multiple genres is beneficial for students, just like it is good for teachers to teach different types of writing. Therefore, jazz, in addition to classical music, should be taught in schools.

 

Bibliography:

Klemm, William. “What Jazz Music Can Do for the Brain.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 27 Apr. 2014. Web. 30 June 2017.

Deflin, Kendall. “Why Jazz Is The Most Stimulating Genre of Music, According To Science.”L4LM. N.p., 23 Dec. 2016. Web. 30 June 2017.

 

Teaching About Islam in Schools

Muslims, throughout the world and especially in the United States, are being oppressed and discriminated against by many people. This prejudice and xenophobia has always existed, but it has been exacerbated by extremism. This problem grew in 2001, when an extremist Muslim group attacked the Twin Towers in New York City. Because of this event, and others that were caused by extremist groups, Muslims are being attacked by fearful and ignorant people. In schools, Muslim children are excluded and bullied by their classmates, and many times, teachers offer no support. Police officers randomly stop and question Muslims on the streets, and in airports, TSA officers interrogate Muslims and search through their luggage and clothes. In the media, whether it’s films, social media, or magazines, Muslims are portrayed as violent and threatening. Our president, Donald Trump, recently issued an executive order to ban people from seven, mostly Muslim, countries the allowance into the United States. This executive order, formally known as “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry,” is more commonly known as the “Muslim Ban.”  Muslims are being treated this way because these people are frightened and ignorant. However, this fear and ignorance can be mitigated by education. Schools throughout the United States should teach students about Islam as a subject in the context of world history and religions, because it can create more empathy and understanding.

Many parents are against this statement. They are worried that Islam will be taught in schools as a religious practice and methodology, and that it may have an indoctrinating effect on their children. More than 70% of the United States identify as Christians, so they may not want the schools to teach their children to practice a different religion. Michelle Edmisten, a mother from Tennessee, complained that her 7th grade daughter was being penalised for not completing assignments about the five pillars of Islam. The daughter didn’t complete the assignments, because according to Edmisten, “she felt some of the assignments went against her beliefs as a Christian” and that her daughter’s “personal religious beliefs were violated.” Yet the assignments only asked for her to list Islam’s five pillars, which were in no way forcing her into becoming Muslim, or going against Christian beliefs. In fact, something both Christianity and Islam have in common is the message of love, peace, and forgiveness. Michelle Edmisten then continued to ask for a history textbook to be removed from her daughter’s social studies curriculum, saying that “it promotes Islamic propaganda.”  However, there is a distinction between propaganda and education. Propaganda promotes a specific bias or viewpoint. Education, on the other hand, is for the gain of knowledge. Michelle Edmisten might be worried that her daughter can be affected by this “Islamic propaganda,” which can, in turn, indoctrinate her into Islam. Edmisten is not the only one. Parents throughout the country are pulling their children out of schools because they are misinterpreting Islam being taught as methodology. This provokes the fear of their children practicing Islam. This fear is provoked by prejudice, which makes these irrationally fearful parents not want their children even learning about Islam in any context. A March 2015 Huffpost poll showed that nearly 55% of Americans viewed Muslims negatively.

However, the schools and teachers are by no means trying to indoctrinate the children into Islam. Worksheets, assignments, and textbooks about Islam are not forcing students to practice the religion, nor are they promoting it. The schools are merely educating the students about the history of humanity. The students are taught about how Islam began, what it means to the world, and its celebrations and customs. Islam began around the time of the Silk Road, and, therefore, influenced many other cultures and civilisations. This religion is also the world’s second most popular, with around 1.8 billion followers. If schools were to not teach about Islam, they would be erasing certain parts of history and humanity. “Parents are banning together to erase history and leave the next generations of children ignorant and unprepared for the real world,” stated Nakia Moore, a student from the University of Alabama. If children don’t learn about Islam, they might spend the rest of their lives believing anything about this religion, whether it’s true or not. For example, the media and Islam’s false public image might be believable to someone uneducated or ignorant about the religion. This uneducated or ignorant person might then grow to view Islam negatively, and this is how prejudice ensues. Schools are teaching students about other religions like Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Yet, some are failing to teach Islam.

Many parents don’t want their children learning about Islam because of their irrational and ignorant prejudice towards the religion. This leads to many schools pulling Islam out of their curriculum, in an effort to appeal to these parents. “There’s no indoctrination,” said Patricia Raynor, a South Carolina spokeswoman, about Islam being taught in schools. “It’s a course of study, just like an algebra class.” This is true, because learning about Islam and other religions is just as important as learning about Shakespeare or World War II. Knowing about the religions of the world is fundamental because if this knowledge is absent, it is nearly impossible to fully understand art, history, and politics. In 1963, Justice Thomas Clark from Texas wrote that “It might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its advancement of civilisation.” Religion is so deeply rooted in the history of humanity, that not learning or teaching about the different types would be erasing a major part of our story as a whole. Educating children about Islam will also reduce the attacks on Muslims. The more people can learn about Islam, the more they will be able to understand Muslims and their religion, therefore diminishing fear and prejudice. The more we know about the world, the less afraid we will be of it. For example, a Pew study found that if a person was familiar with Muslims or knew one, there was a stronger likelihood that they would have a more positive attitude towards Islam, compared to someone who had never met or learned about Muslims.

It is important for children to learn about Islam because it has made such a big impact on our world throughout the centuries, influencing hundreds of cultures and civilizations. Religion has contributed to almost all aspects of human life: politics, literature, art, economics, and science. Refusing to learn about the world’s different religions would be like refusing to learn the history of humanity. In addition, the president of the United States has made Islamophobia wildly popular in the country, emphasizing that Muslims are violent and that they are terrorists. Many people support the president and believe what he says is true. This has lead to many more attacks on Muslims throughout the nation. But the main reason as to why this is happening is because there are many ignorant people in the country. Susan O’Brien, a New Jersey resident, said, “I believe that ignorance breeds fear and fear breeds hatred; the more we understand about other cultures and religions, the better we are equipped to deal with the issues we face in today’s world.” If more students are taught about Islam, they will not only be gaining crucial knowledge about humanity’s history, but they will also show more empathy towards Muslims. This will be able to greatly reduce attacks on Muslims and Islamophobia in general. The students can grow to be more open-minded, tolerant, and compassionate. A generation of smarter and kinder people can be formed, and they will not only learn to tolerate differences, but embrace them as well.

 

Luongo, Michael T. “Traveling While Muslim Complicates Air Travel.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 07 Nov. 2016. Web. 06 July 2017.

“EXECUTIVE ORDER: PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES.” The White House. The United States Government, 23 Feb. 2017. Web. 06 July 2017.

Panel, Guardian. “‘A Rollercoaster Ride’: How Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban Has Affected Lives.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 24 May 2017. Web. 06 July 2017.

Wormald, Benjamin. “Religious Landscape Study.” Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project. N.p., 11 May 2015. Web. 06 July 2017.

Bult, Laura. “Tenn. Mom Fights to Remove School Book That Teaches about Islam.” NY Daily News. N.p., 06 Oct. 2016. Web. 06 July 2017.

Mazza, Ed. “Mom Throws A Fit When Her Daughter Learns About Islam In School.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 06 Oct. 2016. Web. 30 June 2017.

Kaleem, Jaweed. “More Than Half Of Americans Have Unfavorable View Of Islam, Poll Finds.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 10 Apr. 2015. Web. 06 July 2017.

Lipka, Michael. “Muslims and Islam: Key Findings in the U.S. and around the World.” Pew Research Center. N.p., 26 May 2017. Web. 06 July 2017.

Moore, Nakia. “Islam Should Be Taught in Schools.” The Crimson White. N.p., 06 Oct. 2017. Web. 06 July 2017.

Shugerman, Emily. “Some Parents Are Pissed That Their Kids Are Learning about Islam in School.” Revelist.com. N.p., 2 Feb. 2017. Web. 06 July 2017.

Yoffie, Eric H. “Let’s Teach About Islam in Our Schools.” Time. Time, 23 Dec. 2014. Web. 06 July 2017.

Liu, Joseph. “Views of Islam and Violence.” Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project. N.p., 08 Sept. 2009. Web. 06 July 2017.

Bandler, Aaron. “New Jersey School District Teaches Islam But Censors Christianity.” Daily Wire. N.p., 21 Feb. 2017. Web. 06 July 2017

 

Baseball Nights

We fly down the sidewalk, the wheels turning furiously on our scooters. The bags hanging from our handles swing as we turn sharp corners, coming close to knocking us down.

“First stop, Sweet Green!” I shout, the wind seemingly making the words trail out behind me.

We slow to a stop at M St., and I race to push the button that allows us to cross.

The droning voice starts,“Please wait. Please wait. Please wait…” Until finally, the voice turns surprised, like it never expected the light to change.

“Walk sign is on across M St., Walk sign is on across M St., Walk sign is — ”

We cross before the voice finishes its third repetition, hindered only by the weight of the bags. We pass Harris Teeter (a blur of red and green), an office (a smudge of boring, old grey), and slow to a stop as we pass Takorean (Sharp outline of dark grey with a splash of yellow.)

Parking our scooters at the line between Takorean and Sweetgreen, my mom opens the door. Already focused on the chalkboard menu, she asks me,“Same as usual?”

I nod and head over to the forks and napkins, placing two of each in the Nationals bag slung over my shoulder. My mom finishes quickly, and we hop back onto our scooters, turning right and heading down Tingey St. past Nando’s Peri Peri, pasers, the suit store, and Unleashed (streaks of brick, brick, brick, and brick). We soar past the trapeze school and up to the towering Nationals Stadium. The sounds of the vendors and fans wash over us.

Tickets, tickets for sale. Did you hear that Rendon got hurt again! Water! You excited for the game? I have already gone seven times. Five dollars in the Stadium only two here!  Caps, caps for sale! Scherzer pitching tonight. Think that he will be up to standard? Peanuts! Anyone want some peanuts?

The stadium is mostly made of concrete, with big Washington Nationals banners on all of the entrances. It takes up a whole city block and feels like two. The North side has silver baseballs hanging from the top that are as big as cars, giving a shine to the garages that make up half of that side. The south side has a stunning view of the Anacostia and Yards park. The people that are not big Nats fans can spend most of their time looking at the view and eating at all of the restaurants that Nats Park has to offer. The crowd is filled with all kinds of people, young and old. They are all talking loudly to each other, lighthearted with the prospect of a whole night dedicated to baseball.

We push through the swarm of people and make our way to the first base entrance. The crowd thins, and we lock our scooters past the crowd of people smoking.

“Race you to the top!” I say to my mom, turning the last ring on the lock.

We climb the steps two at a time, neither going as fast as we can, but caught up in the excitement of the crowd. We place our bags on the white fold-over tables and walk through the metal detectors, knowing that we have nothing in our pockets, yet being a little bit nervous anyway. Next, we get to the spidery ticket machines where you have to insert your ticket into the blue-green light that emanates from the top. A satisfying beep comes if your ticket is okay, along with a green light that instructs you to push your way through the spindly legs of the machine.

As soon as we get through the many layers of security, we enter the many layers of boisterous crowd. Navigating our way to the escalator, we push by the fans. Everyone is here. Lawyers, retirees, hipsters, little league boys, senators, representatives, families, doctors, tourists, children, teenagers, young adults, adults, women, men, impoverished, middle class, wealthy, one time fans, kind of fans, normal fans, avid fans. We all turn to one at the sound of “Let’s play ball!”

My mom and I bolt up the escalator and into our “nose bleed” seats right after “The Star Spangled Banner.” A long time ago, we had convinced ourselves that the 400s were the best seats in the stadium. Lots of reasons pushed us into those seats, partly because we come to so many of the games that we cannot afford any other ones, partly because we actually enjoy getting to see the whole field from such a high vantage point. My mom and I have sat in those seats for so long that we have gotten a little protective of them. Whenever we are with other baseball fans who are talking about how horrible those seats are, we jump right in with the 400s’ list of values.

The screen starts its whole spiel about the Nationals, and I pull out my giant scorebook. Each side is as big as a laptop, with a dashing black cover and red writing. I slowly write down the teams and the date, savoring all of the time that I have, then I start to scramble as the screen races through all of the lineup.

My grandpa and Mom taught me how to score. I remember sitting down with them when I was eight, them teaching me in their usual way. My mom looking up the most concise, but complicated way and making me struggle through it, my grandpa telling me exactly how he does it, and scribbling down the positions in his beautiful, yet messy handwriting. My mom then took me to a game. We watched, engrossed, as the players went through their complicated motions, writing down as best we could together.

We got on the Washington National’s Facebook page that day. Mother Teaching Daughter How To Score, the caption said underneath the picture of us, arms around each other, bent over our scorebooks. Sweet moment between Mother and Daughter. And it was. My grandpa took over from there until he was killed in a car accident when I was ten, after our second baseball scoring season together. He would take me to many games and talk to me about the people surrounding us, the players, what was happening, what he thought was going to happen, and what had happened before I was brought into the baseball world. After he died, my mom and I became eager baseball fans, going to ten, twenty, thirty games a year, and of course, scoring.

Like always, the minute we sit down, my mom pulls out her food and starts to eat. With her jumbo water bottle in one hand and her many different snacks in the other, she begins to watch the game.

“Let’s play ball!” says a little kid wearing a Harper shirt in front of a microphone, his voice enlarged and projected t

hrough the stadium, and the game begins.

First inning:

“Scherzer going to pitch a no-hitter?” I ask my mom.

“Maybe!” she answers, drawing out the “be.”

First pitch, strike. Scherzer struggles a little bit and lets two runs.

“Ugh. No perfect game, no-hitter, or shutout!” I complain.

Scherzer promptly turns it over to the offense who score three.

“Thank goodness!”

Second Inning: Scherzer comes back and… lets two runs.

“Scherzer! You can do better than that!” I whisper to myself like my grandpa always used to, and write down the score.

The Nats fans are on the edge of their seats, and I am furiously scribbling down the runs. The Nationals come back with nothing this time though, and the fans relax, expecting the second loss of the season.

Third Inning: Finally, no score for the Braves. The fans sigh and relax, this time happy, even though the Nationals are losing. However, Danny Espinosa hits a Sac. fly and Ryan Zimmerman runs home, tying the game.

The light is dimming, and the park turns the big overhead lights on. I snuggle closer to my mom and get a blanket from the bag.

Fourth Inning: Another scoreless inning for the Braves, and one for the Nationals too.

By now, my mom and I have eaten all of the food, and every blank space in my scorebook page is filled with doodling. It is completely dark. Now is the time that my Grandpa would stop watching the game for a second and look for nighthawks. Out of habit, I glance up at the sky too but only see the moths fluttering around the lights.

Fifth Inning: The Nationals pull ahead with help by Zimmerman and Murphy. Nothing else happens except for a single by Ramos that hits the second base ump. The ump jumped to the side to avoid the ball, but it hit him anyway, and he rolled to the ground.

Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Inning: After a long break from stress for the Nationals fans, it starts up again. The Braves score two runs in a row and sighs rocket around, mixed with a few cheers. I settle back in my seat with a sigh.

“They are never going to be able to win now!” I mourn.

Ninth Inning: A zero score in the top of the ninth for the Braves. Nationals up. Score: Braves 7, Nationals 6. The Nats fans inch to the end of their seats. There still is a chance.

Zimmerman steps to the plate. He is 3 for 4 tonight. There still is a chance. There still is a chance. First pitch, strike. The fans inch one millimeter back. There is still a chance. Second pitch, strike. One more millimeter back. Then, bang! The ball goes rocketing to left field where it lands as Zimmerman rounds first base, coming to a rest at second base. There is a smatter of applause, and you can almost hear the squeaking as the fans resume their position at the tip of their seats.

There is still a chance. There is still a chance. There is still a chance. Werth steps up to the plate. The pitcher curls and unwinds, letting loose a shrieking fastball. Crack! The ball makes solid contact with the bat, and it flies through the air. There are gasps, and the crowd rises as one. The ball hangs in the air for a moment and drops… right into the home run seats. There is silence until Zimmerman rounds third, and then eruption. I clap until my hands are raw.

“Werth! Werth! Werth! Werth!” chants the crowd.

“N-A-T-S! Nats! Nats! Nats! Woo!” cries everyone, one for each of the runs.

The team comes running to home plate, ready with a bucket of Gatorade to dump on Jayson Werth, the hero of the night. Werth sprints the home stretch–90 feet from third base to home plate–his long hair flying out behind him. As he reaches his teammates, he leaps into the air and comes down in the middle of the throng. The bucket of gatorade comes down after him, and he parades around the field, his happy teammates trailing after him.

My mom and I turn to each other, and our hands collide in a high five. Everything is perfect. I am with my mom. The Nationals won. It has been a good night, but as we meet in the middle, the young girl sitting behind us bursts into tears. At first, I am confused. Why is she crying? Then I see her Braves shirt, her Braves bag, her Braves hat, her family all adorned with Braves merchandise.

Ohh no, I think, blushing. Did our high five and overwhelming excitement make her cry?

I pull my hand away and bend down to gather up all of our stuff.

Why do I even care this much about baseball? I look down at my Nationals shirt that my mom got me for my birthday, spotted with pen smudges and stains from all of the messy dinners we have eaten here. I look over at my mom, with her short, brown, curly hair, a matching nationals shirt to mine, the bags already on her shoulders. I think about my grandpa, who I loved spending time with, who loved spending time with me.

The crowd roars again in harmony, Werth’s pumped fist coming from the dugout. Another curtain call night.  

I love baseball because my grandpa did, and my mom does, and this stadium does. I love baseball because of all of the scruffy scorebooks, delicious dinners, and fun scooter rides. I love baseball because the crowd is one, cheering and clapping for the eighteen players on the field. I love baseball because it is a memory of my grandpa. I still run into people at the stadium who still think he is alive and just haven’t seen him recently. I love that in some people’s minds, he will live on forever, coming to baseball games, being with me, talking, laughing, living. I love baseball because it is a night alone with my mom, talking, laughing, living. We mimic what my grandpa had done before us, everything from his comments to the players, to nighthawks, to being together in this way. I hope these nights will never end.

The mom of the girl behind us exits the aisle.

“Don’t cry,” she says roughly. “I told you I was sorry I forgot to get you cotton candy.”

Thank goodness, I think. So she wasn’t crying about us.

A big weight is lifted off my shoulders, and I grab the final bag.

“You sure you don’t want me to carry more?” I ask my mom.

“Nope. I got it,” she answers.

I put my arm around her shoulder, and we walk out of the aisle together and down to the stairs. The noise of the crowd is all around us, but we are oblivious to it. In our minds, it is just each other, together.

 

A Rainbow Appears

A Rainbow appears. When I started 6th grade, I thought I was gay because I liked to cross one leg over the other when I sat, and I liked talking about my feelings. Then I started finding girls pretty again and learned how to sit leaning back with my backpack on and my legs splayed out. Gay was something that described my grandma’s and some of my mom’s strange, effeminate friends. Strange because all of Grandma’s friends were strange. In the latter part of 6th grade, once I had a round table in the front-back end of the lunchroom and a regular group that took the B61 together past 4th ave, gay meant lame or stupid. Gay was the tiny cookie in the cafeteria that day or the friendly comment made when a vicious comeback was expected. Gay was something they called each other on South Park and Family Guy.

In 7th grade, gay was the wierd, emo kid with dyed pink and blue hair. In 8th grade, gay was cool in girls but scary in guys. In 8th grade, boys played football with their shirts off while girls sat in the grass. Trans was the strange porn you accused your friends of watching while you called them gay. In 9th grade, gay was what you thought would be a good wingman and the strange kid you talked to sometimes and maybe hung out with in a group once or twice. In 10th grade, gender-queer was my music teacher of five years, a camp counselor who was all-around badass, and one of my favorites, David Bowie, and the Australian person from Orange is the New Black.

Gay was a 5th Avenue pride parade and Cherry Grove in the summer. In 11th grade, queer was me and three, four, two, three of my close friends, and kind of a little bit of everyone. Eleventh grade was the year “the group got gayer.” Queer was feeling guilty, and paranoid, and the urgent need to end every sentence with bro instead of habibi. Gay was why, as my dad said, we had no leftist unity. Gay was rich, white men taking advantage of the efforts of women of color like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Gay was the two dads of my one friend who lived in a certified mansion. Two dollars beat $1.70, and both certainly beat my $0.70+ odd child support payment I got. There is no gold pot at the end of the rainbow.

 

Basketball Should Not Be Done with One-and-Done

In 2006, a rule was implemented that stated that all players picked in the NBA draft must be 19 years old during the calendar year of the draft, and any player, who is not an international player, must be at least one year removed from the graduation of his high school class. This rule has come to be known as the one-and-done rule. In the 2017 NBA Draft, 10 of the first 11 players drafted were one-and-done players, with the lone exception being an international player, Frank Ntilikina. At 18 years old, Ntilikina was younger than most of the one-and-done players selected. I am a basketball fan who enjoys watching the NBA and the NCAA tournament. I am a Knicks fan, and many of my favorite basketball players are one-and-done players, including Carmelo Anthony and John Wall. NBA players want to be able to declare for the NBA draft right after high school. Many people want these student-athletes to be forced to go to college for more than one year, while others argue for a format similar to the MLB’s, where athletes have the opportunity to declare for the draft after high school. But if they do go to college, they must stay for at least three years. However, I believe that the one-and-done rule should stay the way it is. It gives fans the opportunity to watch players for a year in college and then see them compete at the highest level in the NBA.

Many college basketball observers argue that players need to stay in college for longer than one year because 19-year-old kids are not mature enough to handle millions of dollars. As Jason Clary wrote in a 2009 article for bleacher report, “Go from rags to riches too quickly, and these athletes may not know what to do with their money. Before you know it, they could own a ten bedroom house on Miami Beach with a BMW and Ferrari in the garage. You may say ‘what’s the big deal?’, but both you and I know this is not how money should be spent.” There is also a common belief held among many college basketball fans that the one-and-done rule is bad for college basketball, a point that it is very difficult to counter. They argue that having the best college players leave for the NBA after one year ruins the entertainment value of college basketball, as many fanbases lose their team’s best player each year. Although going one-and-done usually works out for the players, critics of the rule argue that some players have a false sense of confidence and make the costly decision of becoming a one-and-done too early. Jereme Richmond, Tommy Mason-Griffin, Evan Burns, Thomas Hamilton, Jonathan Hargett and Adrian Walton were one-and-done players who were not drafted at all and did not go on to have success in the NBA.

The one-and-done rule may not be the best thing for college basketball. The one-and-done rule ensures that the best young players, who would otherwise be dominating in college basketball, are playing in the NBA. If it wasn’t for the one-and-done rule, players such as Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, Myles Turner, Ben Simmons, and Lonzo Ball would still be playing college basketball. But consider the early careers of Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, and Kevin Durant. All were one-and-done players who were also all-stars within the three years after they left college. These players were capable of being NBA all-stars during the years that they would have been in college. Had they stayed until their senior year, they would have missed out on those early chances to prove themselves against the superior competition in the NBA and the resulting increase in the appeal of the game. The best basketball players belong in the NBA, and most one-and-done players are good enough to compete in the NBA after their freshman year. Those players do not belong in college basketball, and they should be in the NBA. Also the NCAA tournament is not any less successful due to one-and-done players. In fact, the 2017 NCAA tournament was one of the most watched NCAA tournaments in history. The one-and-done rule does not ruin the NCAA tournament, it just gives players who are capable of playing in the NBA an opportunity to join the NBA earlier.

Many people believe that 19-year-olds are too immature to handle millions of dollars. Critics argue that 19-year-olds are too immature to handle all of the money they earn and that they will waste it on cars and other expensive things that are not good long term investments.  The NBA should not make a rule to deny every great 18 or 19-year-old college basketball player the ability to secure their future by declaring for the draft just because some of them make bad decisions with the money. Professional athletes can use their money on whatever they want. It is not right to deny them money as a result of things they buy.

The drafting of one-and-done players does not always pan out, but that is largely because one-and-done players often declare for the draft before they are ready, or before they are good enough to be a high draft pick. But not becoming a one-and-done may also hurt a player’s draft stock. Failing to choose the correct option may mess up a player’s career. Ivan Rabb would have been a lottery pick if he had declared for the 2016 NBA draft. Instead, he elected to return to Cal for his sophomore season and was a 2nd round pick in the 2017 draft. He would have been guaranteed a salary of $7,807,100 in his rookie deal had he declared in 2016. Instead he dropped to a second round draft pick, where no contracts are guaranteed. This was a costly decision for him. If a player is going to be a first round pick, he should use the one-and-done rule and declare for the draft rather than risk injury or a bad season, which could derail his career. However if the player is not going to be a high draft pick, it is not a good idea for them to become a one-and-done player. However, each year several players make the decision to leave for the pros too early and are left in a bad position when they are not picked. The one-and-done rule does not cause these problems. The decisions of players who are not that good causes this problem.

The one-and-done rule allows for the best college basketball players to join the NBA. The one-and-done rule is a change that has caused lots of controversy during its 11 year existence. I believe the addition of the one-and-done rule was a positive change for the NBA. The best basketball players in the world belong in the NBA. I’m excited to see all of the one-and-done players from what is supposedly a very promising draft class, and all of the top players in the 2017 draft class are one-and-done. One-and-done players are what the NBA draft is built around. One-and-done players are part of the reason the NBA draft is exciting, and the 2017 NBA draft had 3.4 million viewers. Every year, basketball fans get excited to watch the players who were drafted by their favorite team whenever the team has a high pick in the draft. I am excited to watch Frank Ntilikina, an 18-year-old French point guard, play for the Knicks this season. The best draft picks are usually one-and-done players, and young European players, and they often make for the most exciting rookies.

 

Works Cited

Aaron Dodson, All the NBA Draft’s One-and-Done Lottery Picks: A Scorecard (theundefeated.com, 6/22/17)

National Basketball Players Association Website (http://www.nbpa.com/cba_articles/article-X.php)

Jason Clary, College Vs. Pros: Should Athletes Leave School Early? (bleacherreport.com, 12/13/09)

Kerry Miller, Ranking the Worst 1-and-Done Decisions in College Basketball History (bleacherreport.com, 6/24/14)

2016-2017 NBA Rookie Scale (basketball.realgm.com)

NCAA, 2017 NCAA Tournament is Most-Watched in 24 Years Across Television Through First Sunday, Plus Record-Setting Digital Consumption (ncaa.com, 3/20/17)

 

Cooking: Bridging Past and Present

It’s eight in the morning. My muscles are aching from swim practice, barely allowing me to stand, and yet, it is time for me to pick up the pan and move my omelette effortlessly. This is practically a Sunday routine for me: wake up at 5 in the morning, go to swim practice at 5:30 for two hours, and cook breakfast for my family. Cooking is a joy. It’s an experiment, a piece of art, and a way to show my love.

It all started one day when I came back from swim practice. I was starving, and breakfast wasn’t ready. I tried to make scrambled eggs. It was a disaster. That incident marked the start of my cooking quest. I have always loved cooking since. The amount of mistakes I’ve made, though, is incredible. Thinking back on it, I’m surprised I stuck with it. It took me lot of tries to master the simplest omelette, but since then, I have been improving rapidly. Learning my mother’s classic Chinese dishes and her new improvised ones, I was pushing the limits of cooking and was experimenting with eggs, salted duck eggs (that failed), tea eggs, my daily microwave eggs, and baked eggs.

It’s no surprise that I decided to cook. I love eating, and my parents have always been cooking extravagant meals. My grandma cooks almost ten dishes for five people to eat, and when it’s the lunar new year, our kitchen is like the New York City streets. All the relatives come over, and I am always amazed by the quantity and quality of the food presented that day. My earliest memory of cooking is helping my mom make her spring rolls.

I volunteer at a non-profit organization called CAAMNY, the Chinese American Association of Metropolitan New York. Part of CAAMNY’s function is to help Chinese children in New York who are seeking treatment for RetinoBlastoma (RB), a form of eye cancer. I have always helped those children, even before CAAMNY was founded, bringing them traditional Chinese snacks and desserts. After my passion for cooking struck in, I was cooking for them. For festivals, we made them homemade mooncakes, traditional rice casseroles, sticky rice, and red bean buns. Food is a great way to bond and bring the families a reminder of China. We talk about the ingredients, different methods of cooking, and our favorite dishes. It improves my Chinese, and I look forward to meeting with them again, learning another recipes or just getting to know how their day was.

Cooking combines my chinese ancestry with my life in America. I put Asian and Western cuisine together. Fried fish in a chinese tomato broth or lamb skewers with five spice powder, pepper salt powder, worchester sauce, and shanghai spicy soy sauce.

I have used cooking to give back to everybody. I cook for my family, friends, members of CAAMNY, and some people in the hospital. It has taught me to appreciate, to respect the mothers of children, who gave up everything to give treatment to their children. It has taught me to give and to become a better person.

 

My Road to London

My palms were sweating. My head was shaking as I walked into the room. I was holding my violin in my hand and my bow in the other. I knew I had to make this perfect. It was my one shot. The camera was on, the lights were blazing, and the piano was loud and clear. I sniffed and played my first note with absolute confidence. My fingers swirled down the neck of the violin, pressing on the metal strings. I focused on my vibrato (the vibration created by my fingers) and tried to make it as loud and clear as possible, while trying to make it as smooth as possible. Three minutes went by, and I played my last note and made it echo across the room. I walked off the stage.

Now I could only wait to see my fate.

Let me explain what was going on. I was signed up for a competition where if I won first place, I got to perform at Royal Albert Hall in London. If I won second place, I got to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York. If I won third, I didn’t get anything. I waited for three days until my mom came with the letter. I took a huge deep breath and opened the letter.

I read:

Dear Andre Tsou,

Congratulations you have won 1st prize in the Grand Virtuoso Competition!

I was so excited that I couldn’t even contain myself! I was, as British people would say, “full of beans.” But then came the long, long, wait.

Three weeks later, I was packing clothes, dress shoes, belts, hair gel, and of course, my violin. I was headed for London.

As we got to JFK airport, we realized that there was a huge traffic jam. We thought nothing of it because JFK always had some sort of traffic jam. But after thirty minutes, we rolled up to a police officer and asked him what happened. He told us someone thought he or she heard a gunshot, and the airport was shut down. Two hours later, we were in the airport, but it was not over yet. There was a person at a gate telling people that some flights would be cancelled.

I was so nervous. Would the biggest moment of my life be cancelled because some idiot thought someone shot a gun? Sweat ran down my head. I was biting my nails, and the person announced, “Flights to be cancelled: All flights to China, France, Argentina, Sweden, and Saudi Arabia will be cancelled.” London was not announced. I was so relieved. The best part was the majority of people had their flights cancelled, so the lines were short. We got onto our flight in about twenty minutes, and as soon as I sat down on the seat, I looked at my brother. I looked at my TV, and then I passed out.

When I woke up, I looked around, and I suddenly realized that everyone except my family was getting their luggage. My mom was sound asleep, my brother was in another world, my grandma was snoring, and I was barely awake. I shook my mom and my brother up, and we went on our way to London. Once we got a taxi, we checked out our hotel and relaxed. The next morning, we went out for some breakfast. I ordered toffee and some fish and chips. After breakfast, we went back to our hotel and decided where we wanted to go next. We decided to go to the dungeon. That’s where prisoners of war were tortured and killed. We went on a ride there. There were zombies and headless people inside a dark tunnel. When I got out, I was traumatized for about thirty minutes. We didn’t do much else in London until one day, we went to Hyde Park where there was a carnival. I had such a good time there. It felt like I was in heaven… until my mom told me that I had to get ready for my rehearsal with my pianist.

When we got there, we found out our original pianist got injured, and they found a different pianist who also got injured on the same day! So we waited for an hour and a half for a pianist who did not even know my piece! He ended up having to sight read and learn my piece during my rehearsal. I was very worried about the next day.

I woke up feeling numb all over. There was a deathly silence that was so quiet, but so loud. I got changed and made myself some ramen. When my mom, grandma, and brother woke up, they were immediately fussing with things like “you better look sharp” or “don’t mess up!” I wished I had not woken up. After breakfast, I was sent to go change, put on hair gel, put on my belt, and put on dress shoes. Then I went to practice my piece. After all that, we were outside and on our way. The walk was thirty minutes long! My hair and my body language weren’t so sharp anymore when we got there, but, boy, was it when I saw the huge building! As we got inside, we were escorted by guards to the hall. I was so excited. The excitement lasted for about five minutes until I realized we were performing in a small reception room that had a velvet red wall covering, a sink in the corner, and a small stage. So much for a violin competition…

First, there was a rehearsal. What I was wondering was why were they making everyone perform if all the parents were sitting there. Wouldn’t that be it? Okay, everyone you heard what you had to hear, so yup, goodbye! But no. When I went on, people were all on their phones — so much for my self-esteem. I was cruising right along with my piece, until my pianist stopped. He had fumbled. There was complete silence except for the sound of my violin. I was so nervous, but I carried on. Then he suddenly found his part, and we were right along, cruising again.

Once I had finished, I sat down next to my mom and took a deep breath. The concert was about to begin. I was number fifteen on the program, and I felt more and more nervous every time a person finished. But then the host announced that I would be switched to number ten because our pianist had to leave. I was literally going crazy! My mind was not prepared for this. I was trying to mentally prepare myself when the announcer said “Next, Andre TsAAo.” Yeah, of course she pronounced my name wrong. People these days. I mean, I spend hundreds of dollars to go into your completely unorganized competition and had to fly all the way here with a pianist who didn’t know my piece, and YOU COULDN’T EVEN FIGURE OUT HOW TO PRONOUNCE MY NAME?! I mean, DUDE! Come on! But those last five steps would decide my fate after all of this work.

As my pianist was playing his intro, I was thinking, Pianist, please don’t mess up. Please, and Andre, don’t mess up either. Then it was my moment to shine. I played my first note. I didn’t mess up, but I stumbled a little bit. The piece was doing okay, and I was strolling. Until my pianist started to rush! I was frightened and started playing faster too! My knees were buckling, my fingers were becoming tense, when suddenly my pianist slowed down. I was also caught by surprise on that one, but I was glad to be in rhythm again. As I kept playing, I started to get really self concious about my surroundings. A baby started wailing, kids were playing on their phones, laughing quietly. It also didn’t help that their mothers were talking to them. Then I switched onto the final three lines The music was ringing in my ears, my mind was racing, my knees almost buckled, but I felt comfortable where I was. The momentum building up, my pianist playing louder, I played my last chord and shot my bow across the strings, and the sound echoed more than it ever did before. I was done.

When I finally was ready to go back home, I felt like I was floating. My legs were numb and light all the way back. As I walked through my door, my mom hugged me. I felt so good. Then I remembered my audition, my mom yelling at me for not practicing. The blood, sweat, and tears were all worth it. I then realized that through all that, I was just an ordinary eleven-year-old kid.

 

Apocalypses, Real and Imagined

In 1977, Robert Black walked up a steep driveway and into his one-level house in rural Virginia, expecting to see his mother in the kitchen. Instead, he saw an overturned pair of electric beaters, still dripping with cake mix, sitting on the counter. He called for his mom and received no reply. Suddenly, he understood what had happened. His mother had been taken up to heaven, along with the other good Christians. He was left on Earth with the sinners. He was warned about this during weekly church sermons, and somehow, he had failed to understand. This was it. Here he was, stuck in this 70’s kitchen with its stucco ceiling, for the rest of eternity. Everything he was told about had come to pass.

***

In 2017, I found myself struggling to find a way to debate with two boys in my first period class one day. They had asked, rhetorically, why they couldn’t make jokes about black people if the comedian, Chris Rock, could and made money doing it. I was struggling to condense my thoughts on this matter, but when I caught up with one of the boys later, I found the words.

“Hey,” I said, “I just don’t think it’s a good idea to joke around with an experience you haven’t lived.”

“Okay, I get you,” he replied, which surprised me.

Even if he remembered everything else I said as a bundle of shrill hysterics, he and I could agree on the idea that sometimes, you needed to stay in your lane when cracking jokes.

I attend school in Washington D.C. but live in northern Virginia, so my dad and I have the mutual enjoyment (and, sometimes, frustration) of daily car rides with each other during the week.

My dad, Robert, was born in the “sticks of Virginia” in 1969 to a family of fundamentalist baptists. In other words, until he was sixteen, he believed the world might end at any instant, and he was not allowed to listen to rock n’ roll or read comic books. Aside from this, he also grew up a young Republican, for whom gay marriage would have been out of the question, and gender roles were as tight as his laces. In his last years of senior high and first years of college, his horizons expanded through his professors as he drifted away from his small town’s attitude. He met my mom, switched Christian denominations, registered as a Democrat, and had three children, me being the oldest. He now works in Washington D.C. with a progressive Christian social justice organization that collaborates with churches like his old one to solve social problems he only really understood halfway through his life.

Forty years ago, my dad might have been joking with those guys in class. Because both Northern Virginia (where I live) and D.C. are generally politically progressive areas, I was surprised when I met some more conservative students in my classes and felt the need to talk to them. After all, I knew my friends had enough trouble avoiding archaic slurs in public school, so I thought I had a duty to confront people in my school who might have toxic views.  

More often than not, the car rides I share with my dad are filled with me expressing frustration about the teenagers I know are ignorant of how their actions or words affect others.

In the fall of this past year, I recall jumping into our silver Volvo, throwing my bags in the back seat, and catching my breath after running to the car.

“How was your day?” came my dad’s obligatory parental line.

I sighed deeply, wondering whether or not I should tell-all.

“We had student government speeches,” I replied. “I have never hated my classmates more.”

My dad raised an eyebrow.

“Bad Adam,” is all I needed to say.

Bad Adam was how my dad and I referred to a boy I was continually frustrated with. My rapport with Bad Adam probably began in my freshman year French class when he referred to feminists as whales. Bad Adam was extremely capitalist-minded and a diehard patriot, which I saw was clouding his ability to reason. Last year, Bad Adam ran for Student Government Representative.

“He gave a speech?” my dad asked.

“Oh my gosh,” I began. “His speech literally started off with, ‘We need to take back our grade!’ What does that mean? The whole thing was filled with rhetoric taken from a Trump rally. He yelled ‘Make our class great again!’ at the end, and all his friends applauded.”

The intensity of feeling made me sit forward and, at this point, my nose was practically touching the dashboard.

“So… he wasn’t taking the speech seriously?” my dad said.

“Definitely not. And I hate that all those guys cheered for him afterward. They don’t understand that I have friends in our grade whose families might be hurt by this administration. It was embarrassing. I looked at my shoes the whole time.”

“Those guys… I was probably exactly like them, my dad said after I finished my interpretation of the day’s events.

From where my dad started, he has done a full 180 in terms of his concept of himself in the universe. He is no longer striving for a grace he can achieve, a promise of salvation that is dangling above his head. He no longer sees everyone around him as a soul to be rescued, a possible convert. To this day, he’s seen his mother threaten strangers with hell: janitors at school events or men who worked on our neighbors’ houses. My dad’s done with that life. He also used to carry with him a glorified, incomplete version of America and its role in the world. Jesus and the United States were both divine forces that had, and could, save more unfortunate souls. My dad’s eyes have since opened to see painstaking flaws and cracks in his previously simple world.

I asked my dad when he started to wake up to another view of the world. He said it was his freshman year of college at a small school in Richmond, Virginia, when he was introduced to ways of seeing the world that were unlike anything he grew up with.

“Professors introduced me to the scientific method, which alternately challenged or destroyed my understanding of Adam and Eve as real people,” he said. “Same with Anthropology and Political Science professors, who shifted my understanding of American exceptionalism. Same with my Sociology professors, and my understanding of feminism was placed in a different light. Christianity was taken apart and placed in the context of other religions’ regional dominance. I was forced to choose between a life-giving truth that would allow me to truly breathe for the first time as an adult, and retaining my comforting, but rigorous, fundamentalist Christian worldview. On the one hand, you have comfort and lies. On the other hand, you have truth and freedom, but the destruction of all you’ve known. Which hand do you choose?”

Many of the peers, whose beliefs I confront (or just hear secondhand through my friends’ outraged texts or word of mouth) appear to have, as their basic values, some concepts that my dad once trusted in. I know many people I have interacted with, conservatives especially, shared the same beliefs as their parents and have been raised on certain teachings, rhetoric, or media. This was certainly my dad’s experience growing up. His parents imprinted on him their morally strict religious and social beliefs. Still, imagining my dad as a teenager, making enraging comments that deeply misunderstand feminism or American history, is somewhat hard to imagine. If my dad concocts a future spouse or significant other for one of us kids in a passing joke, he is careful to not assume anything about the gender of who we may love. He has a nuanced understanding of poverty, which is a requirement of his job. He even calls himself a feminist, a far cry from his original fear of the term as a “dirty word.”

Sometimes, I can’t help speaking up if I hear an intolerant joke or a questionable statistic. The reason I care about influencing my more closed-minded peers is because I’ve heard my dad talk about his metamorphosis.

I think listening to my dad is telling about his upbringing. The people he still knows through social media, who have never left his town and have retained their decades-old viewpoints, have given me a greater sense of empathy for my peers whom I disagree with. Oftentimes, they seem to feel almost under-attack by my fellow liberals who slap labels on them like “racist,” “sexist,” or “transphobic,” rather than taking the time to get to the bottom of a rude remark or provide evidence.

Being calm in the face of an inflammatory statement can be the greatest weapon against ignorance. As my dad did in the 1970’s and 80’s, my peers have reasons, however buried they may be, for saying what they say. I suspect that all it takes to make someone reconsider their viewpoint is a single example or distilled idea.

While it is discouraging to think about it, I know that not everyone who is young and closed-minded now will be different as an adult. Common knowledge says that of all people, teenagers should be open to new ideas. So, if a person doesn’t become more accepting throughout their time in high school, will they ever change? I have had to acknowledge that people my age might be scared by the concept that their remarks hurt people, and will just react to some confrontations by being defensive and standing their ground. All I can do sometimes is make sense of why certain words are harmful, and provide some common sense in the middle of emotional arguments between my friends and the more right-leaning students in our school. The adult world itself, with real consequences for the intolerant, will shape many of my peers like it shaped my dad. And now, of course, my dad helps people to become more tolerant within their religious frames and language. There is a cyclical element to equality and love. Accepting people influence their peers who, in turn, become more accepting and have loving children and friends, who teach tolerance to their peers, and the cycle continues.

Believing in the equality of every person and giving humanity some compassion, understanding, and sensitivity has made my dad a happier and more pleasant person. As he describes it, it allowed him to “breathe.” Even if the reality of divorce or climate change makes the world more complicated and might taint a person’s faith in their religion or country, it also allows them space to see and empathize with others.
Concepts like agenderness and fat-positivity exist because the people behind them are trying to explain the complexities of their lives. While it might seem unnecessary and almost silly to my conservative peers now, my dad’s inclusivity, or his admirable understanding of our country’s failings, help us, his children, in unforeseen ways. After all, how we are raised determines a great deal of what we believe.

Every day, there is probably some degree of teasing going on in our house. Often, the brunt of the mocking falls on the youngest sibling, Owen, who is ten. We make fun of him for not liking potatoes, or spelling “faucet” the wrong way. Sometimes, we joke about him being married one day and still having his idiosyncrasies, which will have to be endured by his future partner.

“What is your future wife — or husband… spouse — going to think of that?” my dad laughs.

He knows including multiple pronouns is important for our concept of who we can be.

“Wife, Dad. I know,” Owen might say.

But one day, he’ll appreciate having been shown that another kind of love is beautiful and normal, especially when not all of his society thinks that way.

My siblings and I don’t fear being different or the devil or science or rock music. We don’t ignore uncomfortable realities, and we welcome being held accountable for accidental biases. We want to learn, and we’re not afraid if it means the end of some small part of our world. After all, my dad’s world ended some thirty years ago and, since then, a new one has started.

My dad was taught to fear nearly everything as a child, so he makes sure we fear nothing. I want to show others how to breathe and how to learn, so their children can be fearless.

 

A Collection of Fears

Account One: Creating

I think my biggest fear is creating something of little worth. More than that, creating something that floats around aimlessly in space on its own, not meaning anything to anyone. No one would be paying attention to it. No one would be bothering to even glimpse at it. Or, if someone did look at it, they would be detached, unfeeling, uncaring towards this thing. What’s the point of making something if no one even cares?

You could do it for self-fulfillment, to tell yourself, Wow, I made something. But that only satisfies you a bit for a certain amount of time before fading into a sad, insignificant speck.

I see other creators who are widely successful. It’s crazy, the amount of people who like them. People are inspired by them! People are actually changed by them. Isn’t that insane?

But I also see creators who create and create and create. But they get nothing. Absolutely nothing. And that’s terrifying.

 

Account Two: Grainy Memories

When I was younger, my friends and I would run down hills, climb and fumble on top of gray-red slides, and build fantastic things of imagination, only to leave it alone and start a new project. Even with a cold, fall wind whispering about the incoming winter, nipping at our noses and ears, we still played outside, hugging our knees, and leaning on our toes while trying to capture crickets. The next year, we didn’t go outside as much.

One day, we stayed inside as the clouds clung together, rumbling ever so softly once or twice. My friend’s phone glowed bright on her face, and her hair spread out behind her since she was lying atop of the table. I sat on a squished chair, that was meant for equally-as-squished toddlers, sketching with flat, teal crayons that would go in every direction except for where I wanted them to go.

My other friend was opposite from me. Her arms were crossed, and her head was comfortably placed on them.

“I’m so bored.”

“Hmm.”

“Yeah.”

“Do you remember pretending to do gymnastics at the old building?”

“Yeah.”

“Hmm.”

We kept on sitting there, each to their own, by ourselves, with the rain randomly tapping the window.

 

Account Three: The Dark

The dark is an unknown expanse that swallows anything with its boneless jaws. In a house, it’s unbearable. Every whining creak from old, wooden floorboards made in the 60’s, every soft whirr from basement machines, every sound fills me up till it’s overcome by an even more booming heartbeat.

God, I almost want to laugh at myself. The dark? Seriously? Especially in my own home? One that I’ve lived in for so long, that the smell of it is my blanket. Each squeaking floorboard engraved into my very being, and I know every secret. Yet, here I am, struggling at 1 a.m., trying to walk to my own bed. Groping the walls while I lie to myself that I am okay. I am definitely okay. Ha.

The light reveals – no, confirms – everything that I know. Everything is in its proper place, and I am perfectly sure that nothing will change. But in the dark, that comfort is replaced by uncertainty. I think that the bag I just stepped on is mine? Or is it my sister’s? Maybe that’s my bedroom over there? Or maybe it’s my mom’s bedroom. No, it’s my mom’s bedroom. I can hear her light snore.

In the dark, my once-assured guffaws at serial killers and slippery demons that crawl along the walls, with deception slithering out of their grinning lips, fade away into fake chuckles. The kind that the main characters of a horror movie does in order to persuade themselves that nothing is wrong, and they won’t die. But they usually die.

In the end, I do make it to my bed, the bright, neon clock in our room glows on the silhouette of my sister. I lie down. I cover my entire head with my quilt and try to sleep.

 

Account Four: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

I hate making the wrong choice or feeling like I’ve made the wrong decision. What if that wrong choice leads to a terrible future, which then makes my life miserable, and all of that terribleness is just because of something I had decided?

So I sit down in the middle of the room. My arms are holding my legs close to my breathing chest. And I sit, eyes closed, doing absolutely nothing.

On the flip side, I hate missing chances, chances that could be absolutely amazing, and change my world someway, somehow. So I stay in this stalemate, where I sit and refuse to do a thing.

 

Account Five: Love

I’m afraid of love. More specifically, I’m afraid of loving someone so much that the love is squeezed out of me until I’ve fallen out of it. Then that would mean I was never really in love with that person. Or maybe I was. I suppose I was in love when I only knew them for what I perceived them to be rather than for who they were. Maybe I was in love with only half of the person, or maybe just a quarter, or maybe even less.

People romanticize the idea of falling in love. This flowery, rosy affair where both parties are happy. But what happens when you spend too much time with them? What happens once the rose petals and pastry crumbs are dusted off? What happens then?

Of course, a good, healthy relationship goes beyond the flat gifts and compliments. It’s a deeper understanding of that person. It’s the maturity to know that a person is a multi-faceted being that needs more than just hugs and soft kisses on cheeks. It’s for that knowledge to really click. I don’t know if I’ll ever have that kind of relationship, though. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. Who knows.

 

Don’t Kids and Teachers Need a Break to Function?

Recess is as important as education. Recess isn’t only good for your health, but it’s also good for your mood. When you wake up in the morning, you usually think about school, but that shouldn’t be the case, should it? You should be thinking about free time and education.

Part of the reason why kids don’t like school is because there is not enough recess. Recess should be extended. School should be 50% learning and 50% recess because free time is as important as learning. When I interviewed other students, Isabella G. from Booker T Washington School said, “I believe that kids should have longer recess because it gives kids the chance to have fun. In addition, when kids come to school they are normally tired and feel as if they are going to fall asleep, but when they get to recess, it invigorates them.” Recess puts people in happy moods, which is important. It helps a student learn, because without recess, your brain can’t function and you can’t focus on working.  

Extended recess will make students focus more during class time. Anne L., who is close to my age, said, “Recess means exercise, and exercise means clear thinking and more concentration. Exercise is like a vent for your patience and concentration during class.” I think that this is important because when you’re at recess, you need exercise or else it’s not healthy. If it’s not healthy, it defeats the purpose of recess. This is also very good for people who are a little bit overweight so that they can get their exercise at recess. Also, not only do students need breaks, but teachers need breaks as well so that they can teach better, and so that they are happier when they teach.

I think that teachers need breaks because they also get grumpy and tired. Also, even when we do have recess, most teachers just spend time planning the next lesson. Not only should kids be complaining, but teachers should be too. Some schools don’t even have recess. Issent that… I don’t know how to explain it. How do kids function? It’s mind boggling that schools would do that. There are too many reasons why recess should not only be an option, but also extended to some schools. But, I strongly think that it should be a law that there is, at the very least, two hours of recess.

From now on, I hope that after people read this, they will take it in, and think about what I’m saying, and really think about what would happen with longer free time.    

 

Learning to Respect

When I was eleven and younger, my mom and dad were always the “parents” in my life. They were always telling me what to do and frustrating me. So, when I decided it was time for me to become a young lady, I wanted respect from my parents, as well as my siblings. Soon, I realized that I needed to respect my parents first, or they would not respect me; because, as the golden rule stated, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” In time, my parents would become more like best friends than  “annoying parents.”

For a couple months, I had been watching my family interact with each other, and I realized that we hadn’t been respecting each other like we should. For example, when I visited my relatives in December, my aunts, uncles, and grandparents all had great respect for each other because if they did not respect each other, their relationship would not be strong, and they might not see their loved ones very often. So first, if I wanted to start respecting my parents and siblings, I needed to learn what respect really was.

So, what is respect? Well, according to Merriam-Webster, respect means to “express high or special regard.” But, I believe that respect is treating a sibling or parent how you would treat a friend: comfortably, but giving them personal space, physically and mentally. Now that I knew what respecting was, I needed to put my respecting attitude in action. So, I told my parents about it one morning and asked them to try to respect me too; they agreed. That day went pretty well, until I disagreed with my mom about something, and I did what had been my habit for my whole life: grumble a bit and run off. So, my mom treated me like she usually would, by approaching me and telling me that I had to get back to school. But, I refused and went to my favorite thinking place, our tree house in our backyard.

After climbing into the treehouse, I thought hard, in the fresh air, about what my parents did when they did not agree with my aunt, my uncle, or grandparents: they talked about it in an orderly fashion, tried not to talk for too long when it was their turn to talk, kept the discussion at a mature level, and talked calmly about the issue. So, I ran back inside and talked the issue out with my mom. Now, respecting others was not always easy-peasy; in fact, it was hard, always thinking about others and your actions. But, if you want to have good relationships, then you need to respect the other people in those relationships. If you are having trouble respecting others, think about how you felt when someone did not respect you and your feelings.

This event matured me greatly, and it prepared me for when I go away from home and need to form strong relationships with people. So, to respect your parents is to obey them because they have lived longer than you and know much more than you. If you disagree with your parents, you need to talk to them about what is upsetting you in a mature manner. Respecting people is essential for any type of relationship, even a relationship with a young child, or your own child.

 

Pokemon GO Should Not Be Given Another Chance

Pokemon GO should be banned because the game is addictive to an extent, where it takes away lives. Pokemon GO should be banned because of the problems it imposes on our society and others around the world. Additionally, this fun game can be problematic for those who are not directly involved with the game.

It should be banned because of the violence it causes. People die from this game as a result of careless people, who put their phone game over people’s lives. In 2016, a truck driver, playing Pokemon GO, killed a pedestrian in Japan. People got injuries from falling off a cliff while trying to catch the rare Dragonite. By looking at these two incidents alone, we can see the damage Pokemon GO is doing to our society and how it is hurting those who have nothing to do with the game. It’s wasting our lives (for those who play it), and it’s wasting all our efforts (because people, who have better things to do, are dying from it). People who play Pokemon GO should be more cautious, so they don’t waste other peoples lives, who are not directly involved with the game, but ultimately, banning it will stop all the accidents caused by it.

It should also be banned due to fact that people in the world, who play this, can ruin their productivity at work, even when they are handling decisions for countries. According to CNN, one article said that the leader of Norway’s liberal party, Trine Skei Grande, wasted the country’s resources playing a game and betrayed the nation. She did not pay attention at work and was scolded by the other members of the hearing. If Grande put Norwegian lives at stake, she would be disgraceful to her country by not fulfilling her responsibilities as a partisan leader. By doing so, the quality of laws and actions made would drop significantly. For those citizens living in the nation, it ruins the quality of their lives as residents and can make them protest against those in power (even if they did not previously indulge in such activities). If people protest against those in power, it looks like the country is carefree. Especially after what happened in Norway, with the liberal party leader, Pokemon GO should be banned, so it looks like the country is taking steps to stop people from not fulfilling their responsibilities. If Norway bans this game, other countries might follow, and Pokemon GO may be banned from most countries around the world.

In conclusion, Pokemon GO should be banned. It should be banned because of how it is affecting people’s lives and quality of life. This game really does affect the lives of so many people around the world, so it shouldn’t be ignored. The entire game can ruin the lives of those innocent people, who are not related to the game in any direct way. Many other games also have similar kinds of outcomes, but Pokemon GO is a major concern because it requires lots of walking and constant activity with the phone or device in action. By banning the game, people won’t get physically hurt, and many people will be protected from careless acts.

 

Citations:

Britton, Blanca. “Politician Caught Playing Pokemon Go.” CNN. Cable News Network, 26 Aug. 2016. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

Delzo, Janissa. “Men Fall from Cliff Playing Pokémon Go.” CNN. Cable News Network, 16 July 2016. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

Riley, Charles, and Yoko Wakatsuki. “Pokemon Go-playing Truck Driver Kills Woman in Japan.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 24 Aug. 2016. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

 

An Overview of “Overwatch” : Best Game of the Year

The new hit first-person shooter (FPS) game, “Overwatch,” by Blizzard Studios, is not your ordinary shooter game. This is why it’s breaking game stores all over the world. The Blizzard workers are some of the most popular in the gaming industry, and all of their ideas are always highly anticipated. Some of Blizzard’s most well-known franchises are “Diablo” and “World of Warcraft.” Blizzard’s new first-person shooter perspective, “Overwatch”, is a must play game for it’s unique design, exciting array of heroes to choose from, and addicting multiplayer modes.

Overwatch has attracted gamers and non-gamers, of all ages, mainly because of its flawless design in both heroes and maps. In Vince Ingenito’s IGN review of the game, he says, “Overwatch exists at an intersection between design and artistry, a crossroad at which pure tactile joy meets refined intelligent design.” In this comment, Ingenito is stating that Blizzard’s main focus, after the gameplay of course, was to make the game as clean and colorful as possible. We think that they accomplished this for sure. The maps are a main part of this. We guarantee you’ll love “Overwatch” just for its beauty alone.

Furthermore, the 22 unique playable heroes will have you falling in love in no time. From a gorilla rocket scientist with some very fragile glasses, Winston, to the high flying egyptian soldier from Egypt, Pharah, there is truly a hero for every type of gamer. What separates these heroes from each other are their unique weapons and abilities. Every hero’s partner in crime is their main weapon. Main weapons are the reloadable, usually projectile, firing weapons that each hero primarily uses. All heroes have around two to three abilities, which help them out in battles. Some well-known abilities in “Overwatch” are Reinhardt’s “barrier field”, Soldier 76’s “helix rockets,” and Genji’s “deflect”; these abilities are helpful, but a hero’s ultimate ability (ults) can easily change how a match plays out. Ultimate abilities are usually for taking out a whole truckload of enemies, like Mcree’s “deadeye” and Junkrat’s “drip tire” ability, which is a controllable tire bomb that deals crazy damage. Some ults, though, are used for healing, shielding, or other purposes. All of the support class heroes have these kinds of ultimates. The 22 playable heroes, and their backstories, are magnificent and extremely addicting to play with.

Despite the main heroes, “Overwatch” provides many smaller elements that complete the game. The most popular side factor is loot boxes. In the typical FPS, a loot box, or crate, is equipped with guns and boosts, but Blizzard decided that there would be no boost or extra weapons for heroes. Instead, there would be alternate skins, emotes, highlight intros, sprays, and more.  Loot boxes are each filled with four items of different frequencies: common, rare, epic, and legendary. Players can achieve these boxes in multiple ways like leveling up, winning their 3rd, 6th, and 9th games in arcade mode (it resets each 7 days), and other ways. Another exciting addition is the seasonal events. Seasonal events bring new loot box items and the most recent event, Chinese New Year: Year of the Rooster, has brought capture the flag, an exciting new game mode. Other events have been the Summer Olympics, Halloween, and Winter Wonderland.

Many have said that “Overwatch” has certain flaws like no solo champaign, the matchmaking process, and others. This is a somewhat valid argument, but every good thing comes with flaws, and unlike a movie, Blizzard can fix these “problems” in the future considering that this game is fairly new. Besides, this game has received extremely high ratings from IGN, Metacritic, Common Sense Media, and has won best game of the year. What I mean is that if this game is one of the best of all time, with just multiplayer options, then does Blizzard really need to make any big changes? The answer is no.

 

Getting a Pet

Living your life without responsibility makes your life unorganized. A pet provides comfort, love, humor, responsibility, and an adorable face. A pet will be there when you are sad, and any pet, from a fish to a cow, can be all out hilarious. So, in your life, should you get a pet?

I believe that yes, you should get a pet. I have had a hamster and four guppies in my lifetime. Their survival was actually my responsibility. The hamster died after a year, in the middle of a very busy time. I neglected her by forgetting to clean her cage, and she died. Now, I learned a very important lesson because my hamster’s life was in my hands, and I failed. Having a pet showed me the importance of responsibility and the importance of life.

Pets are actually good for your health. For example, petting a rabbit reduces stress, which is a considerable problem in our everyday lives. Having a dog strongly encourages walking, and even a short five minute walk can impact your health. Any pet can be a best friend for you to talk to or cuddle with. A pet will love you no matter what. The best conversation starter is a pet. A dog, cat, fish, bunny, or lizard can help start a conversation and break the tension when you are with a stranger. Also, pets are so silly. Something that might be normal to them might make you fall on the floor, laughing your head off.

Pets make you think. Pets do interesting things — they have interesting behaviors, and they have intriguing textures. Most pets don’t have hands, so they have to use other alternatives to pick up things, feed themselves, and clean themselves. Some pets use their mouths to pick up things, but others use their trunks, legs or arms, and tongues. Humans use hands, forks, spoons, and knives to eat, but most pets skip that step and use their tongues and teeth to transfer their food to their mouths. The textures on pets can have the oddest feeling in the world — they could be rough, scaly, fluffy, smooth, soft, or bare — dogs would be soft and fluffy, snakes would be scaly, a hairless cat or dog would have a bare texture, and an Angora rabbit would be very fluffy.

Although pets can be awesome, some people are allergic to pets, or some people are not allowed to have a pet. In that case, they could buy an exotic or neat plant to take care of. I think pets are very fun and silly, but you do have to take care of them and you do have to change your schedule sometimes because of your pet, but that should not stop you from finding a pet to have. Pets have so many upsides and benefits. I strongly suggest you look into getting a pet. I have had about 13 pets in my house, throughout all my life, and they have all been big blessings to me and my family. So, when you have the chance, get a pet.

 

Great Compromise

The great Compromise of 1850 sparked the rebellion of slavery by the northerners. We live in the 21st century, where equality is wanted everywhere by everyone. We want equality on the basis of gender, race, age, and on personal information. In recent situations, females have been wanting to be treated equally by having the same salary for the same career as a male does. Also, people want to be treated fairly no matter if their income for the year is higher or lower than the benchmark. The abolishment of slavery led to these equal wantings. And when the compromise is the cause of the end of slavery, it leads us to the era in which every man or woman should be treated all the same.

As a kid, not all of us are into the whole subject of history or social studies. Whenever we think of this school subject, we think of boring textbooks and completing questions given to us by teachers. But little do we all know that events in history eventually led us to the present, where people are happier because changes have been made throughout history.

No one ever wants to repeat mistakes, but how will we know what not to repeat without actually learning the history that started it all? History may be referred to as a simple period in time when everybody did their jobs and didn’t have to worry about much. Such that, one may think about the late 20s to early 30s and think that nothing else was happening during that time except for flappers dancing and men in suits drinking and laughing. But in reality, times in history weren’t always just so simple. There was more drama and meaning in the 1850s. During the time period of the 1850s, this period led to the blood and gore of the Civil War in the 1860s that have plenty of bloody battles that were results throughout the great Compromise of 1850.  

So, what is truly the Great Compromise of 1850? The Great Compromise of 1850 was issued by Senator Henry Clay, who was nicknamed “The Compromiser” due to his efforts to keep peace between both sides so that no more states would secede and rebel. The compromise was built over the argument of slavery. It was issued to supposedly benefit both sides and make things right, but that wasn’t always the case. Things were unfair between the north and south within the issue of slavery. The north wanted to abolish the act of slavery while the south did not.

To the north, California was admitted to the Union as a free state, and the slave trade was to be banned in the capital. In the south, the people who lived in the territories of the new land gained by the Mexican-American War were to decide themselves whether to become a free or a slave state. This was called the act of popular sovereignty, in which people get to decide themselves on issues rather than elected representatives decide. Additionally, the other benefits to the north was that the debt on Texas was going to be paid and that there was a new and harsh law given to the north called the Fugitive Slave Act. This was the act in which any runaway slave fleeing to the north to escape slavery must be given back to the owner in the south only if a northerner saw a runaway slave.

The northerners hated this new law because they wanted to help some slaves  to escape slavery. Many northerners would even risk their lives to help and free slaves instead of turning them over to the rightful authorities. Many revolts and boycotts were also put in action to go against the fugitive slave law. The consequences to the Northerners if they did not help out were that they were fined and sometimes even summoned to jail or a death sentence. However, there was always a loophole to these kinds of situations that the people of the north had found out. This trip-up was that if a northerner had to report a slave, they could direct the police or the slave catchers in the opposite direction that the slave went. This would stall some time so the slave could be free and hopefully escape to Canada, where slavery was completely illegal.

The real question in this topic is, which side did the Great Compromise of 1850 truly benefit more, the north or the south? Many would say that the benefit was given to the north because the Compromise only added on positive actions, such as banning slave trade in the capital and the admission of California as a free state. Meanwhile, the benefits given to the south weren’t all positive. With the action of popular sovereignty, some land could be added and vote to be a free state instead of a slave state. However, this may not be the case.

I strongly believe that the benefit of the Compromise of 1850 was given to the south because the Fugitive Slave Act really boosted their benefits while it dragged the beliefs of many northerners down. The north was so affected with this new law considering that no benefit to the north has affected the south so much. This proves that the result of the compromise was an advantage to the south.

Thus I can conclude that the Compromise of 1850 was an agreement that was beneficial to both the people of the north and the south. It tied the silver lining from both sides of the nation closer together from what it was originally. The two different distinct social classes of owner and slave worker were now closer than ever, and there was a more fair and just group of males and females that could decide on their own whether to live in an area where slavery is in action or to live in a place where people deserve to be held to their right of freedom and their liberty. In future years, Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln had stated in his speech of the Dred Scott case in 1857 over the issue of the rights of slaves that according to the U.S. Constitution, every man or woman is a citizen and every citizen is entitled to their freedom and individual rights. With this statement, Lincoln had said, he eventually had the authority to end slavery in the 1860s and when the age of slavery had ended, it led to our present time of the 21st century where the issue of equality has been improved. In some ways, this issue has been improved now is that people of different race are allowed to be in the same school and use the same restrooms. So, this is how the Compromise of 1850 has led to the rebellion of slavery which led to the abolishment of slavery which led to the present where equality issues have been improved. And with the recent issues of equality, it just seems that these situations arose from the outcomes of the Great Compromise of 1850.

Nuclear Fusion: Persuasive Document

Nuclear fusion is one of the best and most promising forms of sustainable energy. It offers enormous amounts of power and produces no greenhouse gases. It does not use radioactive materials like uranium, which nuclear fission uses. Instead it uses hydrogen, the most abundant and simple atom in the universe, so it has a potentially unlimited supply. There is no danger like there is in nuclear fission. In the worst case scenario the atoms would just revert to their stable and safe form. Over 30 countries have started to compete for this energy source and have created multi-country consortiums. These consortiums have built machines to try to create this form of energy, and eventually, with enough funding and resources, someone will succeed. Someone will harness the power that drives our stars.

Currently, our main sources of energy are fossil fuels, which are nonrenewable and harmful. Mining for these fossil fuels damages the environment and using them does too. They produce smoke and carbon dioxide, which go into the atmosphere, swell the oceans and pollute the sky. This exposes humans to harmful ultraviolet rays, and raises the level of acidity in several oceans. This source of energy generates about 85% of the world’s electricity. Clearly the world needs a new source of energy. Nuclear fusion is our best bet.

Nuclear fusion produces energy by combining atoms. When two small atoms come together in the right conditions and the right time, they will fuse, creating a larger one. In this process, the atoms lose mass, which then turns into energy. How does this happen? Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2 explains that energy is really mass multiplied by the speed of light squared. So when atoms lose that mass, they are actually releasing energy. Now the speed of light is a very big number— 299 792 458 m/s to be exact. The speed of light squared is even larger. So even though the atoms are losing just a tiny bit of mass, they are actually giving up a great amount of energy. The most tremendous amount of fusion in our solar system is our sun, where quadrillions of hydrogen atoms combine to make quadrillions of helium atoms. The total mass of four hydrogen atoms is a little more than a helium atom, so when the sun combines atoms, they release mass in the form of energy.

Scientists have been working for years on how to collide atoms and have developed some very good ways of doing so. There exist many different ways to achieve fusion, but the most successful reactors either use inertial confinement fusion or magnetic confinement fusion, both of which are discussed next.

Inertial confinement fusion uses a hohlraum, a type of cylindrical pod, to contain two simple hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium. To force these atoms to join, they have to heat them to a very high temperature, 200 million kelvins to be precise. In order to heat the atoms, scientists have also developed many sophisticated ways, two of which will be described in the passages below.

In California at the National Ignition Facility, NIF, scientists heat the atoms by pointing high energy beams of laser light at the hohlraum, which then explodes, sending shock waves through the atoms and making them combine. A different kind of inertial confinement is a Z pinch. The largest machine that uses this type of fusion is the Z-machine. It passes electricity through incredibly thin strands of wire and turn them into plasma. To do this, 26 million amps have to pass through them, each one about the diameter of 1/10 of a human hair. These wires get destroyed and turned into plasma. Even though the wires are destroyed, for a fraction of a second the magnetic field created by them remains. The ions in the plasma are affected by the magnetic field and they are all propelled towards it. During this process some of the ions stop, but since they were going so fast with so much energy they produce X-rays. These X-rays shoot in all directions and some hit a hohlraum containing the isotopes deuterium and tritium. The hohlraum containing these atoms is destroyed but the X-rays keep on advancing. They quickly meet the two isotopes and force them closer and closer. The force that repels these isotopes is called the electrostatic force but when they become close enough, another force takes over. This one is called the strong nuclear force. When the atoms come within two femtometers, the strong nuclear force takes over and brings the atoms together, which releases energy in the process. These methods for inertial confinement fusion have been successful in creating energy, but still prove incapable of using it. The miniature suns created by these high heats are just like the ones in space, giving enough light to see a new and powerful world, in this case the world of fusion.

The second method, magnetic confinement fusion, uses magnetic fields to suspend the plasma in the air, and then raise the temperature. This energizes the atoms in the plasma, and they move around so much that they collide. Two types of reactors are usually used for this method of fusion, the tokamak and the stellarator. The high heats required to energize the atoms are a vital part of the fusion process. However, since no known material can withstand a heat of 100 million Celsius, building reactors for fusion on earth requires a different approach. Luckily, someone had the smart idea to use magnetism. The World Nuclear Association (WNA) says, “The most effective magnetic configuration is toroidal, shaped like a doughnut, in which the magnetic field is curved around to form a closed loop.” This is because the magnetic field has to be infinite, allowing the atoms time to bond, which requires a closed circular magnetic field. Both the tokamak and the stellarator use a closed loop to suspend the near thermonuclear plasmas. All these reactors have contributed greatly to fusion research, and will probably contribute even more in the future.

The name tokamak is Russian for “toroidal chamber with magnetic coils’.’ The toroidal chamber is enclosed by several superconducting magnets that loop around sections of the reactor. The enormous magnets have to be generated both inside and outside to allow stable operation, but even so currents of moving particles move in different directions, destabilising the plasma. These are relatively easy to build on the scale of reactors, but the disadvantages are that the magnetic field is stronger on the inside, pushing positively charged particles upward and negative ones downward, so that there is an unstable flow in the plasma. All this is happening in the heart of the tokamak, a vacuum chamber. The stellarator, however, solves this problem. It uses an asymmetric magnetic field to ensure every plasma particle feels the same force. Supercomputer simulations show that this will allow for a continuous and stable operation. These reactors overlap in certain aspects and differ in others, but in the end they are all trying to achieve fusion.

Following the discovery of nuclear fusion, different countries joined together to combine their power and form scientific research organizations. Together these consortiums built machines they could not make on their own. These reactors include ITER, DEMO, Wendelstein 7-X and more. Each will be described in detail and explained next.

ITER originally stood for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, but later the project leaders decided that the words thermonuclear, experimental and reactor linked in one sentence might scare the public. Fortunately, ITER also meant “the way” in Latin. Therefore ITER is the way to nuclear fusion. ITER is a tokamak, the biggest in the world. It has a toroidal shape and inside it is a vacuum. Inside the vacuum, under the influence of extreme heat and pressure, gassy hydrogen becomes a plasma. When the atoms join, they release energy which comes out partly as heat. This heat is then absorbed into ITER’s walls and transformed into steam. This steam is used to turn a turbine and produce electricity. As shown, the complex steps to capture the energy are challenging, but all of them are necessary.  

ITER is an enormous machine with several parts that allow it to function. To keep the plasma in place ITER uses superconducting magnets, but the only way these magnets will function is if they are cooled to a temperature of -269℃. Two main questions can be asked here, why do the magnets need to be kept at such a low temperature, and how do ITER’s scientists achieve this? To answer the first question is simple. At regular temperatures the magnets are normal, meaning they are not superconducting. Why does the temperature affect the magnet? All magnets are made up of atoms. At normal temperatures, the atoms move between the poles at random, and align to produce magnetism. At a lower temperature, the atoms move less randomly and much slower. This creates a more controlled alignment of the atoms that produce magnetism, and therefore a stronger magnetic field. Now that it is understood why the magnets need to be kept cold, how does ITER do it? They simply keep them in a vacuum chamber called the cryostat. The cryostat is an enormous vacuum chamber that houses the magnets. Thirty meters wide and nearly as many in height, the chamber is enormous. It is perfectly designed, with everything from bellows for thermal contraction to auxiliary heating, and is one of the marvels of the scientific world.

Even though the magnets do a very good job of controlling the plasma, high energy neutrons still escape. Fortunately, ITER uses this to its advantage. ITER captures them by surrounding the walls of the tokamak with a blanket of lithium about one meter thick. This blanket is made up of about 440 smaller pieces, each heavier than a car. The high energy neutrons that escape the fusion reaction are caught there, and collected by a water coolant. Without this ITER would not get any energy, so this is an essential piece of the tokamak.

Now for the last main part of the ITER tokamak- the divertor. ITER says that the main use of this component, located at the bottom of the cryostat, is to “[extract] heat and ash produced by the fusion reaction, [minimize] plasma contamination, and [protect] the surrounding walls from thermal and neutronic loads.” Basically the divertor pulls the bad stuff out of the plasma, meaning the things that might lower the temperature, speed or density, and it also protects the walls from harm. These are the main parts of the tokamak, and together they make ITER.

DEMO is another monster of a machine. While ITER and the Z-machine have not yet been able to create a reliable energy source, DEMO is intended to bring us one step closer to nuclear fusion as a commercially viable source of energy. It plans to walk in the footsteps of ITER, and use ITER’s discoveries for a more reliable power source. DEMO will be the first commercial fusion power plant, and will use ITER’s technology to make a demonstration power plant that can supply the world with the energy it needs. DEMO will hopefully  produce 2-4 gigawatts of electricity, which is more than 7,000 times an average American uses per year. It will produce about 25 times the amount of energy put in, and have the shape of a tokamak.

Another kind of reactor is called the stellarator. These complex machines have a curving magnetic field, which allows all plasma particles to feel the same force. So far the biggest stellarator is Wendelstein 7-X, built in Germany and finished in the fall of 2015. Its curved magnetic field also allows for a stable flow in the plasma, which can then run for up to 30 minutes straight. New Scientist magazine says that when comparing the two reactors “ [You’re] balancing the physics advantages of the stellarator over the engineering advantages of the tokamak.” Stellarators have been called the “black horse” in the physics community because of the notoriously difficult process to build them. Stellarators and tokamaks are all very good when it comes down to the scientific reasons behind fusion, but the opinion of the public is a different matter.

Like every energy source, nuclear fusion has its advantages and disadvantages. As said before, the advantages of nuclear fusion are numerous. No greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming, so no smoke or carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It has virtually limitless fuel because deuterium can be found in every 6420 atoms of sea water, the reactor only needs a few, and tritium can be bred in the reactor by energizing the neutrons in lithium-6, which occurs naturally. Another advantage is that there is perfect safety. It is much easier to control than nuclear fission. Also it is very easy to stop. The last, and perhaps greatest advantage, is the amount of energy produced. With just 40 litres of seawater and 5 grams of lithium the same amount of energy can be produced as 40 tons of coal. On the other hand no one has yet actually produced energy with nuclear fusion and it is still a theoretical source of energy. There is also a matter of cost. The expensive machinery in a reactor costs billions of dollars, and research is also costly. Why spend all this money on an unproven energy source when the world could spend it on renewables like solar or wind instead? As shown, there are many controversial opinions, some based in fact and others not. However, if someone could achieve an energy source using nuclear fusion, the entire world would benefit.

How could nuclear fusion affect the world? The enormous idea and concept of nuclear fusion can change the world in ways both large and small. The price of energy would go down tremendously, and electricity and fuel would be commonplace. The ozone layer, damaged by fossil fuels, would stop deteriorating and the sea levels and fish inside them will once again be safe. More ambitious technological and scientific experiments will not only take place but they will succeed, and extensive space travel could be conducted. The growing population of the world will meet its energy demands, and developing countries can advance to a better place more quickly. The extensive amount of energy could be used to build more buildings and houses, transportation would produce no smoke, and electricity bills would drop tenfold. Our planet would be sufficient and clean, sustainable and plentiful, for a golden age of prosperity will have fallen over the world.

Nuclear fusion is one of the best sources of energy for the world. All on its own, nuclear fusion can save our planet from climate change, and help us live in a world where cheap and reliable energy is found everyday, everywhere. I personally believe that this energy source is the doorstep to a new world, a world so exquisite and perfect that we have only just begun to comprehend it.

All Kinds of Kinds

When you are young, you will be ashamed of your culture. You will hate eating rice everyday even though you love Amu’s cooking. You will hate that she makes you wear a salwar kameez to school every Halloween so you can be a princess. But you love mehndi and raise your right hand, palm outward, so the orange paisleys are visible to your teachers and classmates. You call the brown smelly paste mehndi, not henna. Your brownness is showing. It’s the only part of your culture you don’t reject.

When you’re a little older, you will scrub your skin raw and apply the Fair & Lovely your mother gave you to lighten your skin. You will resent her for making you resent your melanin. Your dad tells you that you will always look like an immigrant and you will never be an American in a white person’s eyes. This is a truth you will never let go.

Around this time you’ll start to read books by brown people about brown people because you think that if you can’t be American, you might as well embrace your heritage. You will be outraged by the inaccuracy, thinking brown people don’t have “white people problems.” You don’t think brown people can make mistakes, not because you think they’re flawless, but because mistakes are not allowed. You’ll be skeptical of brown characters on TV shows— their brownness erased by giving them names like John, and their otherness amplified by making them terrorists named Ali.   

Your older cousin will recommend Corona by Bushra Rehman during your freshman year in high school. You have read multiple books by brown people about brown people that made you feel as though the authors didn’t really know what it meant to be brown. Still, you continue to read these books because they inspire the writer in you. Your cousin will tell you that Bushra Rehman is a Pakistani-American who grew up in a Pakistani Muslim community in Queens— she was just like you. Because, for the first time, you think you might actually see yourself in a South Asian character, you have ridiculous expectations for the book. You need Razia, the protagonist, to be just like you. But, of course, she won’t be. She leaves her family. She hitchhikes along the East Coast. She dates. She drinks alcohol. She smokes. What kind of Muslim is she? What kind of Pakistani is she? How could she be so selfish? What about her parents? You ignore the fact that you sound like the judgmental aunties you despise so much, but your brownness is showing.

In your junior year, your English class will read Into the Wild by Jon Krakaur. There’s something about the way Christopher McCandless drops everything and heads to Alaska that will intrigue you. You will try to ignore the fact that McCandless is a white man. You know that post-9/11 America will not work in favor of a wanderlust brown hijabi. Maybe it’s the fact that Chris seems invincible that’s appealing to you. Or that so many people treat him like their son and take care of him. Maybe you want to have that kind of faith in people. That they’ll help you instead of fear you or jump at the chance to hurt you. “Remember, Ma. You’re Muslim and they hate us,” your dad tells you this every day when he drops you off at the train station.

Maybe it’s the people at home who drive you away, the way Chris was unhappy with his ordinary life with his family. Without the fear of auntie gossip and the judgment of your parents, you could find the person you want to be. You will wish you could do something reckless and unpredictable because you don’t want to lead a conventional life.

You’re starting to write more this year. Your characters remind you of the ones you used to hate. Flawed, human, more similar to you than you’d like to admit. There isn’t a set of  guidelines to be a brown person, you tell yourself to justify the choices your characters make. You have some life changing epiphanies and realize that you didn’t hate those characters from the books you used to read. You envied them. You wanted to screw up as easily as they did. You craved that kind of freedom, to be someone and to do things unexpected of the little brown girl you are. You will become restless. You’re tired of your commute and vain conversations you overhear in the locker room. You’re tired of your parents guilting you into staying in New York for college. You’re tired of your family telling you that you can only be a doctor and talking about your future in terms of salaries. You don’t want the things your parents want. Your mom tells you that you might as well give up on your education if you want to be a teacher, as if educating doesn’t require education.

During the short story unit, your English teacher gives the class Pioneer Spirit by Bushra Rehman and, as always, you’re skeptical. You remember how you felt while reading Corona. Reading Razia’s story again, two years later, with the knowledge that you used to envy her vagabond nature, you find that you can’t help but admire her. She’s not your typical brown girl from a conservative family. She tries to be anything but typical. For that, you wanted to be her, to have her courage (or selfishness), to be able to harden your heart and, for once, do something of your own will.  

You know that you will never be able to harden your heart completely. You come from a family who loves you too much and respects you too little. The difference between you and Razia is that her parents kicked her out and yours would do everything to keep you at the same address in Jamaica, New York for the rest of your life.

You want to have a voice that defines itself like the characters in the books you read and the characters you create. You wish you could be selfish. You wish you weren’t afraid of losing your family by accidentally doing something for yourself.

But sometimes you let yourself think about the things you do have. You think about the tight-knit brown Muslim community in Queens that becomes Little Bangladesh the night before Eid with mehndi tables set up on every block. You go down to Hillside with your sister to eat mishtis and get intricate designs painted on your hands with the brown smelly paste, which is no longer the only part of your culture you don’t reject. Your brownness is showing. Every inch of Hillside Avenue is packed that night, the way your masjid is all throughout Ramadan, with people speaking a language that is home. Your brownness is showing. You know the next day will be ten times as busy. The field at the local high school will be filled with hundreds of Muslims praying together. You will wonder how you haven’t met some of these people, but then you will remember that this neighborhood is only home to a fraction of your identity the fraction that your parents fostered.

You will be tired of having the same fights over and over again. You know you will be the first to back down and you will give your family what they want. You start to wonder what’s more important— your sanity or your reputation. Were all these arguments worth it or should you just put on a white coat and breathe in the fumes from the MTA buses? You know your parents want what’s best for you. That is, after all, the reason they came to this country. But you can’t seem to make their version of “the best” your own. You are terrified of being miserable, but your parents laugh when you tell them. Because according to them, brown girls don’t get to be happy. Brown girls don’t get to make themselves.

So the stories you read and the characters you envy remain fiction, at least for now.

Asian Discrimination in America

China is not the only country in Asia. Yet, from the time I was just six years old, random children would walk up to me on the playground and ask if I was Chinese. The prospect of being greeted with a rude, outright racial question without a “hello” or “how are you” was never very appealing. It was –– and still is –– quite tiring to explain to those many children that, no, I am not Chinese, I am American: Korean-American. In my twelve years of life as a Korean-American, I have experienced much prejudice and racial stereotyping based on the color of my skin and my ethnicity.

From the tender age of four, as a minority in my pre-kindergarten class, I have realized what a different person I appear to be. The class bully, Abigail, was harassing me for looking different than the people she had grown accustomed to seeing. She was only a child, and probably influenced by her parents, but she apparently felt that I had no right to be with people who looked so much “better” than me. She would say things like, “You can’t sit here because I have a big nose and you have a small one.” I was confused and wondered why she would be proud of a large nose, which I thought meant “nosy.”

As I grew older I became the top of my class, and was known as a nerd, geek, bookworm, and smart. Even at ballet class, where everyone else was in 8th grade and hardly knew what grade I was in, my peers said I was smart. Imagine my astonishment when I realized why. “And I know you’re smart,” they said, “ because you’re Asian.” I hardly knew what to say. Technically, it was meant to be a compliment, but their remarks still made me uncomfortable. I would appreciate my achievements much more if people knew I worked hard for the results, not because the work was naturally easy or something I enjoyed doing.

Only last summer, I was playing tennis when a group of boys passed by the tennis court. Apparently enraged that my sister and I got to play tennis while they couldn’t, they began to jeer and mock us, and threw stones and nails and even a gallon jug of water that completely drenched me over the fence. They began to yell something to the effect of the classic “Ching Chong Chinaman” taunt and “… chopsticks with white rice.” They also attempted (and failed miserably) to imitate the Chinese language. While very maddening, it was also slightly ironic that they didn’t even know if we were Chinese.

I grew up reading princess stories, just like every other little girl in America. There seems to be no problem, but there is. American princesses are the classic “white” beauty queen: tall, fair skin, big blue eyes, blonde hair, long eyelashes, etc. Every little girl in America grows up learning and trying to live up to the “white” definition of beauty. I was one of them. Still, it’s no use if anyone tells me I’m beautiful, because I don’t (and can’t) believe it.

When I was in pre-kindergarten, my classmates would tell me how they told my twin and I apart. “You have squinty eyes, and she has bigger eyes,” they would tell me cheerfully, never knowing how much that upset me. No one would like to be called “Squinty Eyes,” yet my classmates expected me to accept, and even enjoy, that horrible title. Furthermore, the phrase “fair skin” is a phrase that I find racially discriminating. Fair skin means you have light colored skin, and, by default, beautiful skin. My skin color is what people would refer to as “yellow” –– a skin color often seen as sickly –– so I obviously do not enjoy being called “yellow.” But, my skin is not “fair”… which leaves me wondering, if you don’t look “white,” do you have unfair skin? Is your skin not beautiful?

Kids shouldn’t participate in stereotyping and racism. Sadly, many innocent children unknowingly take part in racist habits by copying their parents’ stereotypical actions, and impulsively exclude friends who are racially different. When kids engage in these habits, they think they’re normal, but as they get older they continue their racism and stereotyping on a broader scale. My experiences as a Korean-American proves that prejudice against Asian- Americans still exists. The boys from the tennis court and Abigail from my pre-kindergarten class should know how their actions make people feel, and how their insults feed into a larger, deeper ingrained system of racism. If everyone was loving and understanding, we could all live together nicely, respecting and valuing each other’s differences. If we all dream this dream of the world as one big loving family, than perhaps that dream will become reality.

A Study of Feral Children

Imagine… the wolves howl in the night. Far away, a child howls with them. Eyes flashing, she leaps over a broken branch and runs up to a she-wolf. Her eyes meet the wolf’s, and a smile softens her fierce countenance. Now…. A child, eyes dull and unseeing, stares blankly out the window. The wolves howl again. With a shriek of agony, she falls to the floor. She howls, hoping they can hear her. There is no getting around it. The fact is, feral children should be removed from their habitat, but only if their current physical or mental condition would be improved by human contact. And the brutal reality? It doesn’t happen.

Feral children are often repeatedly abused, either intentionally or unintentionally, once returning into humankind. Marina Chapman was a feral child who lived with monkeys for several years, and then was supposedly “rescued” by hunters who actually sold her. Luckily, she managed to get connections to people who helped her gain a normal lifestyle. She became a nanny and later married and had children. But what if she hadn’t gained those essential connections? Marina Chapman could have been doomed to live a fate as a slave. The truth was, not all feral children had her luck.

The Dog Boy of Chile, called Alex, was also captured to try and rehabilitate him. During a truly and gruesomely epic chase, he attempted to jump in the water. Although he was fully aware that he was human and even knew some Spanish, he missed his dog friends intensely and suffered from severe depression. Perhaps he would have been more satisfied living with the dogs that he grew to love as a family, after he was fed and cleaned up, of course.

A trait that was shown distinctly in the Dog Boy of Chile was that he was evidently happier in his feral condition. This is another opinion that should be considered before trying to “help” a feral child, possibly in the completely wrong way. The cruelty of wrenching any child from any family that cares well for them, even if they are animals, can lead to depression, as in the case of the Dog Boy of Chile. If the child is already miserable in the company of humans, why continue to force them to integrate into society?

Baby Hospital was another feral child. She was named by an Italian missionary, a name which already shows the lack of care given to her. Who would name a girl Baby Hospital? The very name indicates cruelty, as well as lack of care for her future with an identity influenced by the ridiculous label that would follow her forever. Baby Hospital, name or not, spent much of her time crying and never really adjusted to life in a normal society.

Her story is similar to Saturday Mthiyane, who was also raised by monkeys and was still “more monkey than man” at age 17, twelve years after being rescued. His only given improvements were that he now wore clothes and took baths. Baby Hospital’s plight clearly mirrors the many other children who were rudely separated from animals they loved as a family.

There is a clear difference between a child who has a great chance of recovery from the wild, or already lives a too horrific life, and someone who is safe and happy living a solitary life as a feral child. People often, in fact, argue that there are circumstances where kids have great recovery chances, or cases where human connection is necessary due to the child’s extreme state, saying that this is why all feral children should be “rescued”. However, as stated before, there is a great deal of difference between that and a feral child that is content and well off on their own.

Some feral children experience severe isolation at the hands of their parents, but never lived with wild animals. These children live horrific lives and there is no choice but to rescue them. Danielle Crockett is a well-known example of this. She was found at age seven naked, in diapers, and unable to communicate. The girl was emaciated, malnourished, covered with sores and pocks, and apparently was never really cared for. The house was shockingly dirty, with urine, feces, roaches, and maggots everywhere. Despite that, her mother had the nerve to state,

“I’m doing the best I can.”

To which Detective Mark Holste replied, “The best you can sucks.” Today, Danielle is living contently with a loving foster family. Others, such as the wild girl of Champagne, also known as Marie Angelique Memmie le Blanc, were helped out by a variety of rich patrons and went on to live a relatively good life, even after living in the wild for many years (in Memmie’s case, ten). These children obviously had a relatively good chance of recovery, and rescuing them actually benefited them. But in cases such as the Dog Boy of Chile, or Baby Hospital, they evidently were not going to conform to society, so why not leave them be? But of course not. These people instead ripped away the only “family” they ever had. They were forced to become, essentially, more human, the attempts continuing even more tenaciously when they only succeeded in making the child more depressed.

Allowing a feral child to be abused, neglected, and depressed. Making them unable to decide their own destiny. These are cruelties that should be abhorred. Each feral child’s situation should be specifically evaluated before deciding their fate, not just ignored. The ultimate goal is to make them happy, not to make them “normal.” It’s alright to be unique sometimes. And sometimes, it’s alright to let them run, wild and free.

Magic Essay

Why do people like magic so much? Magic has been around for many many years, and people always seem to enjoy it. Over the years, magic has changed a lot. However, two things that have remained a constant attraction of magic are its accessibility, and the feeling of wonder and confusion after a magic trick is performed. People like things they can’t explain. This is even more apparent now when we are, as a society, fed answers to questions we may not even care about. However, when a trick is known, it becomes boring and overused. This is why magic has never been about explaining, and why a magician doesn’t explain the trick after it has been completed. Another reason magic is so popular is because of the entertainment value. For many years, magic has been a source of laughter and joy for anyone, regardless of wealth and social status. Especially now with the addition of the internet, magic is both accessible and fun.

People’s fascination with magic stretches from a street performance to a formal stage, and from present day all the way back to ancient Egypt. There is one thing in common between all of these times and places: magic has been performed. That is an achievement of what is thought to be impossible. There are many different approaches to achieve, or provide the illusion of what is thought to be impossible. Some of these techniques include card tricks, reading minds, and escape tricks. It is this idea of achieving the impossible that contributes to the wonder of magic and why people enjoy it so much.

A magic trick is very similar to a movie. It is a story that works its way to the climax, or the most intense portion of the story. Most people would agree that movies or books are fun when the ending is not known. However, many people would also agree that a movie and story is much less fascinating when the end is known. Imagine a horror movie. After watching it once or twice, the entire entertainment value is gone because the scares, surprises and major turns in the story are predictable. A magic trick works in the same way. When a viewer has seen the trick before and knows exactly how it is done, it becomes a lot less fun. I believe that a magician would not get the same thing out of a magic show as the average viewer. This is because a magician would not receive the same sense of wonder that is so crucial to the enjoyment of magic.

Another reason magic and magic shows are so popular is how accessible they are to the public. Magic is everywhere. People perform magic for huge crowds and just their family. Both rich and poor are welcome to the world of magic. Another way magic is so accessible is the entertainment industry and the internet. Magic is seen in many very popular movies and TV shows, the biggest and most obvious being the Harry Potter series. Editing has allowed this movie series to push the boundaries of the human imagination even further, and while the magic in this movie series is much less “real”, it still leaves viewers with the same sense of wonder. This may be a large factor in what allowed the series of both books and movies to be so popular to so many people. Other movies like Now You See Me provide a more realistic approach to magic and show characters doing magic tricks that could happen in a real magic show. Many other realistic shows of magic are found on TV or on stage. The popular magician David Blaine has his own TV show. This allows audiences to see him perform magic on the street. Some big names on stage, especially recently, are Penn and Teller. These are two very popular magicians that do shows for audiences to see. The final reason magic is so popular is how accessible it is on the internet across many social media platforms such as Youtube. Here, magicians provide the entertainment and Youtube provides the audience creating a perfect match. This results in many talented magicians uploading videos that anyone can watch for free.

Magic is always evolving and changing to entertain viewers. Tricks and routines need to change, otherwise they get boring. However, it seems important to recognize what in magic appealed to viewers. There seems to be two reasons. The first is the rare feeling of both wonder and confusion in a completely information-based society. This is special because right now people feel a need to know what is going on, but in magic confusion is respected. Another important aspect of magic is the accessibility that allows anybody to watch it almost anytime. It allows all people the opportunity to see the same show. To me, this is what makes magic special and what does and always will draw a crowd.

Theater

When most people think about theater, they think of a bunch of kids coming together and just performing a show, but when I think of it, it means so much more. I have practically grown up on stage, and performing is just a part of my life now. I was in my first show when I was five, so I have been in theater for seven years. Something about it just amazed me: how a group of totally different strangers could come together and in a span of  a few months could go on to perform something amazing.

My connection to performing has always been a special thing in my life. When you’re on stage, you transform. You’re not yourself in the theater anymore, you’re someone else, somewhere else. It is an escape. You forget about getting a 70% on that test. You forget about that kid making fun of you in the hallway. You forget about the argument you and your friend got into. Reality seems to halt, giving you a chance to be someone else and not worry about what is “actually” happening. I’m not the best at being confident when I first meet people. I’m usually pretty shy the first few times I talk to them, but when I get on that stage, none of that seems to matter.

Growing up with theater has taught me so many things: you don’t always get the parts you want, you are going to have to listen to authority if you want it to turn out right, six to eight hours of rehearsal really isn’t that much time, your friends are going to have to wait until hell week is over, and no matter how much you hate makeup, it’s makeup or being a ghost. No matter how big the cast is, you will always come together as a big family during the several hour dress rehearsals, tech rehearsals, and performances. You can be yourself when you’re there, and there’s always something to talk about, like that annoying kid at your school that no one else has met because none of them go to your school, but they all hate for you. You make so many friends of different ages doing so many different things like helping a little kid learn their lines, or an older kid helping you with your makeup. You always seem to find your group of friends. No one is quick to judge, and if you need help with your lines, there’s always someone to help you. Everyone helps each other, and there is no better feeling than a show going perfectly after hours and hours of rehearsals and non-stop work.

What goes on behind the curtain is one of the most important things in creating the magic and moving between settings. The stage crew doesn’t get enough credit for all of the things they do to help the production come to life. So many of the things that appear on stage are made possible by the stage crew’s endless work. So many people are involved in so many ways behind the scenes:  lighting crew, spotlights, sound crew, stage managers—and that’s just during a show. There are also set painters, costume designers, choreographers, directors, and so many more people who help put the show together.  

Though I’m almost always on stage, I also help behind the scenes. I’ll meet for several hours to paint the set, and usually my whole family will be there too. Many people don’t notice the backstage crew, and I guess they aren’t meant to be noticed, but they play a huge part in shows.  They change sets, manage props, and help with quick changes. Quick changes are basically what they sound like, but what they really mean is like ten second changes. Usually the characters with quick changes wear a leotard or something under their costume so they can make it easier. The stage crew or some cast member will wait in the wings with the costumes, and when the actor walks off, the crew helps her/him take off their costume and into their new costume before they usually walk back on.

There are some things that people who never do theater don’t understand, like the excitement and nerves of opening night. They don’t understand how many times you have to make up the words as you’ve gone along because you’ve forgotten them. The bond you all develop at the last few rehearsals. The anticipation during the director’s speech. Trying to stay quiet backstage, but ending up laughing at least once. Growing up in theater, you form a special kind of relationship with the people around you. You’re always joking around, singing Broadway show tunes, or talking about those times when you made a mistake on stage, like tripping over a chair, falling off a table, or making your friends laugh and break character. The crew and cast fooling around backstage during scenes. The frantic quick changes. Rushing to the other side of the stage after a scene for another entrance. Hurrying to put the finishing touches on your hair and makeup when they call “five minutes!” Learning the words and dances to songs you’re not in. Singing in your dressing room while changing costumes. Calling each other by your character name. And during the last show, you’re probably going to end up in tears at least once. At the last performance of one of the shows I was in, I had to carry makeup wipes in my pocket in case anybody had mascara dripping down their face.

If you grow up performing, you find comfort in being on stage or involved in productions. There are so many things that being a “theater kid” has taught me, like to never stop working and to do my best no matter what part I get, or to keep on pushing through, even if it feels like something will never end. So many people think theater kids are stuck-up and only care about how they look, their voice, and what parts they get, and that they stress over the tiniest details for their auditions, but those are the stereotypes. There are a few kids like that, but the majority of us are the opposite. We find comfort in being on stage, not stress. We don’t care what we look like when we show up to rehearsals, as long as we are wearing something we can dance in and have our hair out of our faces, and we don’t care what parts we get, as long as we’re part of the show. As much as we complain, we all love the stage, the costumes, the makeup, and everything about being a part of a show.

Under Which Condition Do I Work the Best?

Motivation helps people gets things done. Procrastination is when a person waits to do something, sometimes because of laziness. I procrastinate in school, sometimes with assignments. The questions I will be answering in this essay are: what assignments would I most likely procrastinate doing? Under which conditions do I get motivated? Am I more likely to procrastinate when I have a deadline, or when I have no deadline?

The first thing I want to focus on is having a deadline for an assignment. Some people say they work better with a deadline because it pushes them to work, and it motivates them. I personally have gone through a time when deadlines motivated me, but currently that puts me under stress. And when I’m stressed out, I’m really not in a good mood for anything, except doing what’s due. Even though I’m to do the assignment, I don’t feel my best.

When I don’t have a due date, I tend to procrastinate whatever’s due. I have done this before, and it hasn’t gone well. I don’t like to procrastinate. It’s only avoiding whatever is due, but for some reason I still procrastinate. But when I finish, it feels like a truck just got lifted off my shoulders. Either way, with a deadline or not, I still often get stressed out.

I am used to deadlines, like homework, when everything is due on a specific day. I usually don’t get stressed out when doing homework, because that is an everyday thing for me which I’ve gotten used to. It’s the big projects that I get in school that I usually procrastinate on. I usually have to set smaller goals for myself so I don’t delay doing my work.

I have to play piano every day. Sometimes I don’t do a good job, other times I do, and sometimes I do great. But I usually do my best only when I am motivated. Some things that motivate me are parties. I love parties. When I know there is a party, I do well.

There are some conditions, like when there is something that I look forward to, under which I get motivated, and there are some others conditions, like when I am in a bad mood or when I’m feeling lazy, that cause me to procrastinate. Overall, either way, and despite the stress, I prefer having a deadline.

Angst Declassified: Teen Survival Guide

So, you just turned 15, and like many other teen girls out there, you feel sad. Misunderstood. Like a bialy on a plate of bagels. You feel like you might be depressed but you don’t want to say anything because, well, you saw what happened to the last girl who said anything. Logically, you have one question: How do I hide this? Look no further! By following these simple steps, you can shame your sadness into that dark, decrepit part of your brain we like to call The Subconscious.

Step 1: Add “lol” to the end of every sharp utterance to seem cool, casual, and unaffected, kind of like a comatose cucumber. For example, the phrase “I wanna die” becomes so much funnier as “I wanna die, lol.” If you can laugh at sadness, perhaps you can distance yourself from it.

Step 2: Take mental health days, but hide them under the pseudonyms of obscure illnesses with multisyllabic Latin names. You don’t come to work because you have a touch of “situs inversus” and you miss your AP biology final because your “lymphatic filariasis” is acting up. Everyone will extend thinly veiled sympathy towards you. You’ll mistake their platitudes for care and start showing up for life again.

Step 3: Exonerate your worries through a fad diet. Juice cleanses are the most effective, but the Paleo diet has had moderate success when coupled with binge drinking. Busy your mind with how many calories are in 8.5 ounces of distilled carrot juice and drown your fears in unfiltered antibiotics. Side effects include hallucinations and extreme irritability, but you’ll be 7 pounds lighter and unburdened of heavy demons.

Step 4: Get a boyfriend. Break up with him. Get another boyfriend. Break up with that one, too. Repeat the process until all the people-shaped holes in your heart are plastered over with the memory of you having the upper hand.

Step 5: Buy yourself really extravagant gifts like hoverboards, commissioned busts of worthless dignitaries, and tickets to shows you’ve never heard of and think sound pretentious anyway. Take yourself on the worst dates. Spoil yourself until you’re a rotten peach. Yes, things are not the key to happiness. But they’re so damn fun, aren’t they?

Step 6: Bleach your hair and then dye it red, or blue, or any color but brown for Christ’s sake. Watching your hair turn into limp, rainbow-colored straws guarantees weeks of enough nail-biting excitement that you’ll stop writing cryptic tweets. Then, in the aftermath, you’ll be too be preoccupied with covering up your bald spots that maybe, just maybe, you won’t wonder if he still likes you.

Step 7: Find yourself a good corset, one with lace and enough underwire to compress your sadness until it whittles down into nothing. A 25-inch waist can’t possibly bear the weight of an existential crisis. Why do you think models always look (emaciated) and happy? Their bone structure isn’t conducive to depression.

Step 8: Develop an online alias with a sexy name like Eliza, Brandy, or Candi. Give her a rom-com profession, such as artisanal baker or heiress to Dad’s paper clip throne. Then, proceed to catfish as many guys as possible. This will give you tons of practice at lying. You’ll be doing a lot of that soon.

Step 9: Take your coffee black and when people ask why, tell them, “It’s because it matches my soul.” They’ll mistake this as a cry for help and maybe it is. There’s nothing more polarizing than an unsweetened existence or a person who’s too “real” for artificial sugar. These people will ask concerned questions about your life and your feelings and you. You’ll probably like this whole being the center of the galaxy kind of thing. Perhaps it will center you.

Step 10: Hit things, not people. Punch pillows, smash trophies, and burn pictures. Turn every worldly possession you have into scraps of abstract art. Nothing matters when it’s in pieces. Nothing matters, anyway. We’re all just projections floating on a sphere in space. Money is just a man-made concept. So is time. The sooner you realize all of this, the less sad you’ll feel because feelings don’t matter, obviously.

Step 11:  Yell a lot. Text in all caps. Shout in libraries. Scream in movie theaters. Loud sounds are cathartic. That’s why wolves never stop howling, I think.

Step 12: When all else fails, take these meds: Prozac. Klonopin. Xanax. Robitussin. Advil Extra Strength. Dry swallow them until your throat feels scratchy and your stomach is bloated with cure-alls. Your brain won’t know what direction is up, but it won’t know what direction is down either. This isn’t quite sadness or melancholy. It’s a new feeling: confusion. You’re going to love it. It’s less blissful than ignorance but it does a good enough job distracting Depression and Loneliness. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to think.

The Hidden Cost of Hamburgers

Thesis: People shouldn’t eat hamburgers because they are bad for you and for the environment because they are wasteful.

 

  1. Waste:
  • 3,000-5,000 gal of water per lb of beef
  • pollutes streams and rivers
  • destruction of rainforest and soil- 257 burgers
  • release of CO2 and methane
  • destroys wildlife habitat
  • Half a burger requires enough energy to power your car for 3 weeks. (1)

 

(2) Health:

  • weight
  • heart
  • blood pressure

 

CONCLUSION

 

solutions:

  • save massive amounts of water – 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of water for every pound of beef you avoid,
  • avoid polluting our streams and rivers better than any other single recycling effort you do,
  • avoid the destruction of topsoil,
  • avoid the destruction of tropical forest,
  • avoid the production of carbon dioxide. (Your average car produces 3 kg/day of CO2. To clear rainforest to produce beef for one hamburger produces 75 kg of CO2. Eating one pound of hamburger does the same damage as driving your car for more than three weeks);
  • reduce the amount of methane gas produced. (I imagine the next bumper sticker: stop farts, don’t eat beef);
  • reduce the destruction of wildlife habitat, and
  • help to save endangered species.

 

  1. http://www.earthsave.org/environment/foodchoices.htm              
  2. http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/bad-effects-burgers-11402.html
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ut3URdEzlKQ

 

The Hidden Cost of Hamburgers

 

America consumes an excessive amount of beef. Not only is beef bad for your health, but to raise it is extremely wasteful of natural resources. Did you know that by eating one less hamburger a week is the equivalent of driving your car for 350 mi? Beef can make you gain weight, it causes heart disease, it increases your blood pressure, it causes diabetes, but did you know that it is also especially harmful to the environment? People shouldn’t eat beef because it’s bad for their health; and for the environment, because it’s wasteful.  

Americans eat an average of three hamburgers per week, and America eats more than 48 billion hamburgers total per year. That’s three times more beef than any other country. America is the biggest beef producer in the world. Also, America’s beef consumption has doubled since WWII. A burger costs three to four dollars, which is pretty cheap. Billions of dollars are spent every year on beef production. But what is the hidden cost of hamburgers?

Cows produce a lot of greenhouse gases- as much as cars, planes, and trains. This is because we are raising an excessive quantity of livestock for hamburgers, thus causing a significant increase in the amount of greenhouse gases produced by cows in the atmosphere. One of their main byproducts is methane, which comes out as a gas. Cows fart because they are forced to eat feed made out of oats and corn to make them grow fatter, which they can’t digest; instead of grass, which is what their digestive system is built to eat. Methane is 21 percent more harmful than CO2 to the environment, contributing to global warming.

Another byproduct of cows that are raised for food consumption is nitrous oxide. Cows produce 500 million tons of poop per year- three times as much as we do. Nitrous oxide is 300 times more harmful than CO2. Cows produce ⅔ of all the nitrous oxide in the world. Fertilizer, used to grow the feed, also produces nitrous oxide. Seventeen billion pounds of fertilizer is produced each year. Cow poop and fertilizer run into rivers and oceans, producing algae that sucks out all the oxygen from the ocean, creating “dead zones”. Dead zones are areas of the ocean where no life exists. Cows produce more greenhouse gas than 22 million cars per year. One hundred fifty-eight million tons of greenhouse gases are produced every year. That’s as much as 34 factories. Shipping the beef also produces CO2.

Cows also take up a lot of space: 30 percent of Earth’s land area; mainly consisting of pastures and land to grow grain for feed. Rainforest space the size of a football field are plowed every second to make space to raise cows that will then make 257 hamburgers, destroying wildlife habitats. Animals take up eight times the amount of space we take up. Also, it takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of grain-fed beef.

So, what can we do to resolve this issue? People can buy grass-fed beef, which is much less harmful to the environment. As mentioned above, they could also reduce their average consumption of three hamburgers a week to two. We don’t have to become vegetarians, but we should certainly cut down on the beef and try to eat other meat instead, such as chicken, pork, and turkey. If people really like burgers, they can eat chicken, pork, or turkey burgers. Plus, why are they called hamburgers if they aren’t made of ham? If everyone were to try to give up beef for other less environmentally damaging meats, it would have a significant impact on the environment.

 

Second Draft Essay

Kolkata and Columbus Circle have shaped the way I live by teaching me the tools I need to raise myself to become a successful person in the future.  The endless lessons in both India and New York help me develop how to be passionate in what I believe in and never give up. To my family and my second family in my soccer teams and swimming teams in New York. To the stories people tell of Gods and Goddesses in India. These people have taught me how to build a foundation of how to become a well-rounded individual.

Firstly, I would like to talk about the phrases “Be passionate in what you believe in” and “Never give up.” These two phrases represent a value in my life which is grit. Many times I hear this phrase when stuck on a math problem and unable to proceed farther. Usually I would give up after so much frustration. Other times I heard it when I was at young ages I would get mad when I never saw a word and couldn’t read it, but from hearing this phrase from my grandparents in Asia to my parents in America I have understood what it means. After many math and reading incidents I have been  taught me to reach for my full potential and become a golden star. This opened a new personality for me, specifically a gritty one. In India the gritty side of me is always trying to become better, always being bombarded by knowledge by my grandparents and aunts. In New York the gritty side of me is always competing against other individuals in swim races and other teams that I want to beat really badly in soccer games. In both places, though, I will never give up whether I am learning something new or competing when playing sports.

The people who have excellently given me the tools I need for having a marvellous life are my families. I know it’s not a typo, I said families. I have three families. First, my mom, dad, brother, grandparents, and aunts. I have two other families: my swim team and my soccer team. By getting long lectures from my parents and in school about how you should be friendly to one another, and they will like you if you are friendly to them. To the endless “Hi!” with teammates as we learn how to respect and appreciate our differences. All my families have taught me a life lesson: to be friendly and make sure you are warm and welcoming to others. By getting to know one another and learning our weaknesses and strengths. By training hard and working together functioning as well as a utopian society. By never giving up and always respecting each other whether you make mistakes or not. My team families have taught me teamwork.  My grandparents and aunts in India have bombarded me with so much knowledge that I would like to know even more by asking endless questions and receiving endless answer. From my family in India I have discovered the curious side of myself. Whenever my grandparents have given me the knowledge, I was always curious to learn more about the topic. From my parents and teammates I have discovered the welcoming side of myself. Whenever I was doing the exercises about being friendly I realized that I became welcoming. I always welcomed my friends when they came to my house and was friendly to them.

Lastly, the many religious beliefs that I have learned, from my grandparents in India. The beliefs have each opened up another side of me. As I read the many far-fetched tales I start wondering why a character made a decision in the story if he or she knew something was going wrong. Therefore I always asked questions to my grandparents. Some questions were, “Why did the demon in the story put his right hand on his head if he knew he would burn to ashes if he put his right hand anywhere on his body?” They always replied, “Think Yashu.” Their answers always left me at a cliffhanger. After hearing this, so many times I discovered  my intellectual personality, and the side of me that never stopped thinking. It taught me the life lesson: there is always some time for you to grow and learn or become better at anything. It taught me this specifically because every time I started thinking about each story my mind started developing, and my thoughts were taken to a higher level. It showed me that I can become better at anything because each time I showed grit I became better at thinking about the stories.

Throughout these examples I hope you can see how from a little boy, the advice these marvellous people have given me. They each have opened me up to a new side, one that I discovered each time I learned something knew. In conclusion, I am intellectual, gritty, passionate, and have a side that never stops thinking.

Kids’ Political Power

 

Children over the age of twelve are more than capable of doing the things eighteen-year-olds can do. Kids have the same abilities as adults, and their power should not be limited by their age. Some kids are still in school and haven’t gotten their full education yet. However, the knowledge that they did learn is still fresh in their brain. Adora Svitak is a TED talker who gave an inspiring speech on what adults can learn from kids. Kids should be able to hold political power and have more responsibility than they do in the present day.

Children have great ideas and are intelligent enough to have their say on who should be in charge. The president is in charge of the kids too so they should be able to vote too.  Adora Svitak stated in her TED Talk that kids have great ideas and one of the things that that make them kids is their ability to dream. They dream of ending hunger, of no one being homeless, and of no more global warming. Kids, with their big imaginations, could end war if they had that power, and people are doubting them because of their age. That’s the difference between kids’ and adults’ imaginations. Adults think of great ideas and then start thinking “that’s impossible,” or “that costs too much.” The website Mashable lists some kids who did extraordinary things. Seventeen-year-old Nithin Tumma found more effective and less harmful cancer treatments. Fifteen-year-old Jack Andraka found a cheap way to detect pancreatic cancer in its earliest stages. Seventeen-year-old Marian Bechtel went to the White House with her mine-detecting device. These are intelligent children whose ideas go beyond adults’.

Adults may tolerate work better than kids do; however, kids have enough capacity to get the job done. I am a child, and I can sit eight hours on end doing work. I feel if I had the option to have political power, work wouldn’t be a problem for me. Adults may have a longer work capacity than kids do. Kids over twelve are able to get the job done as long as they have breaks. This isn’t an incapability of the kids, it’s just a quick obligation that some kids need. If you look at some of the kids doing their homework after school, they can sit down for hours straight flying through papers; this isn’t anything different from what an adult would do.

Children have leadership skills that adults may never have. Kids just come out of school and their leadership skills are so high from practicing and, well, leading their other students in school. In my school, teachers are constantly encouraging leading which makes it impossible to stand in the shadows. Some great leaders of the younger age are like Ruby Bridges and the thousands of children from the Children’s March who led segregation to an end. The parents of these children didn’t want them to go, didn’t want to march, and still, hundreds of thousands of kids from all over the state came and marched. Kids want to rule, they want to be the leaders of their generation. Adults aren’t letting them take the lead.

Kids are capable of being the next leaders of the world. They are intelligent, can work hard, and can be amazing leaders. Many kids in the world have taken on roles that are outstandingly courageous and get so much done. These kids would make great leaders if only they had the power to lead. Kids all over the world have made a difference.

 

 

  • Adora’s Ted talk

 

http://www.ted.com/talks/adora_svitak?language=en

 

  • Mashable

 

mashable.com/2012/11/30/inspirational-kids-2012/

 

Domino

Objects are triggers that fire guns down memory lane and into our hearts, reminding us who we are and why we are here today. Most people look at an old watch or an elegant necklace owned by an ancestor and weep with melancholy. Others will look at pictures of their childhood, still innocent of the evils in the world, and feel the happiness surge through their body. What would I do with these priceless objects? Find out if they are worth anything and sell them to my sister to make a profit. I don’t have many things that trigger vivid memories of a war scene or childhood; maybe a few stuffed animals that piece together parts of my earlier years. But there is one thing that brings back a flood of joy, sadness and all of the other feelings from the movie Inside Out: a doormat of a chicken. The bold colors on the feathers of red, yellow and blue are slowly fading due to dirty shoes, stains from drinks and age. But every time I leave the house, the doormat picture of a calm chicken reminds me of a pet chicken named Domino. Like falling dominoes, she tumbled her way into my heart and pushed me through a wild adventure.

It was the end of another Northeastern winter with Jack Frost taking a summer break from his annoying position to bite my nose. The spring of 2013 was cold, not as cold as this year’s winter, but enough to keep my parents complaining about moving somewhere warmer.

However, an unexpected guest warmed our hearts: Domino. She was a small ball of fluff, arriving at our doorstep in a cardboard box. A month before Domino’s arrival, my best friend Jonathan went to a chick festival. At the celebration, farmers gave out spring chicks while bundled up in down jackets. Jonathan waited in line with 50 degree weather and received ten chirping babies, ready to explore their new world.

But the new world welcomed baby chicks’ harshly with cold temperatures and voracious predators. After two weeks, four chicks died to the cold. However, Jonathan was happy with six adorable chicks running around their pen. Coincidentally, I was having a sleepover when another five chicks died. It was 7:00 a.m. and Jonathan and I woke up to the sound of shrieking squawks.This alarmed Jonathan as he went to wake up his grumpy dad, who wondered if whatever happened was more important than his beauty sleep.

However, the moment Jonathan’s dad saw the chick pen, he knew he could sacrifice his beauty sleep for more wrinkles and gray hairs. Some fox had discovered a surplus of yellow protein snacks, leaving a pile of blood in Jonathan’s chick pen. The fox must have been hungry because four chicks were missing. In addition, another chick tried to escape under a crack of the house, but suffocated himself in the process. So, if the human race knows how to subtract, they’d know that there was only one chick left: Domino.

The chick pen’s puddles of blood and stench of death signaled for Jonathan’s parents to make a decision. It was a rather quiet breakfast as everyone felt remorse for the dead chicks.

Jonathan and I were chewing on our pancakes while Jonathan’s parents were thinking about their options for Domino. But before they considered making the chicken a dish on the dinner table, I said something that would change my life forever. “Can Domino stay at my house?”

So Jonathan and his parents decided it would be better for his chick to stay at my house. Usually, my parents would forbid any other animal other than my family to live on our property. But Domino was the exception; she brought poop and nostalgia to our backyard. My Dad and my Grandma remembered living in China with crazy chickens running across the village, and they thought they could handle one more. Back then, my Grandma and Dad lived in a poor village and there were no chicken coops being built. Domino still ended up driving my dad crazy; he pecked at the new lawn seeds my dad planted. No wonder our lawn had patches of dirt that summer. However, it was my sister and I who took care of Domino, so my parents weren’t the ones getting gray hairs from chicken poop or clawed grass.

My sister, Joyce, fell in love with Domino the moment she saw the tiny creature. At the time, she was 8 and any pet, no matter how weird, was the best present ever. Every day, Joyce would take Domino out of his “pen” (a fence) and allow him to run around in the yard. She would give Domino food when he was hungry and listened to my Grandma’s instructions on how to take care of chickens. All of that time paid off, and after two weeks, Domino liked my sister the best. I was extremely jealous, because my siblings and I would always fight over favorites. But I couldn’t do anything about it because if I tried to pick up Domino, she would squawk, try to fly away and claw me. After one month, Domino was becoming a big chicken. And just as parents talk about their children, my sister remembers Domino as a fast growing animal. “They grow up too fast!” my sister would say.

Despite being a chicken, Domino is extremely smart. She knows who is who and forbids anyone from picking her up besides my sister.

When my sister comes home, she runs towards her and squawks happily. And when I approach Domino, she gets extremely defensive unless I have food in my hand. But Domino was getting older and roaming farther afield and she needed a safer place to stay. My Grandma was going to stay with my cousins’ for a while and she could keep an eye on him. It was safer at my cousins house because they didn’t have a forest surrounding their home, so there was no chance of a fox prowling around for a snack.

After two months at my cousins’ house, Domino came back home. My sister was overjoyed, but not for long. After a few days of setting up Domino’s home, the chicken died. The problem was we put him near the fans outside the house that control the air conditioning. So when we turned on the thermostat, the fans outside made a loud noise, and Domino was frightened. She panicked too much and stuck her head through the fence, choking herself to death. My sister saw what happened and was trying to get our attention, but none of us were listening. After 20 minutes of screaming, my sister dragged my grandma outside to see what was happening. It was too late. Domino was gone.

That day was one of the saddest days for my sister. Being eight years old, the death of a pet closer than a dog was heartbreaking. She cried non-stop during the burial of Domino and the remembrance of the best chicken ever. She was our Domino, the only pet chicken in the county. The worst part was that the day Domino died was the day she was about to lay her first egg.

In my lifetime, I’ve always had problems with pets. From smelly hamsters to boring fish, my history of pets have always ended badly. But Domino was different. Domino became a special part of our family, using her feet to dig into our hearts. To this day, we have a placemat at our door of a chicken. For Domino.

Book Review for Sand Dollar Summer

This book review is about a fiction book called Sand Dollar Summer. I read this book because the blurb sounded interesting and because I had nothing else to read. I thought that this book was definitely more interesting than I imagined it to be. I liked this book because I was able to feel empathy for all of the characters and because I liked the suspenseful ending.

This story is about a girl named Lise with a little brother named Free. They have an awesome life until their mom gets into a car accident. Her doctor says that it would be good to get a change in scenery, so they move to Fiddle Beach for a while. Lise hates it there because there is nothing to do, but her mom wants to stay. Lise meets a man across the island named Ben and they become good friends. Ben is an old man and one of the kids that she meets calls him crazy. There is a huge storm and Lise wants to see if Ben wants to come to the storm shelter to save him…

I liked this book because I felt empathy for the characters. I was able to do this because the author was very descriptive and detailed about how they were feeling. I was always able to really get how they were feeling. I could also really understand what they were sensing. As an example, at the end of the story there is a huge hurricane and Lise wants to save her friend Ben from the storm and ends up in the water trying to get back to shore. She is then saved by her mom’s friend who is driving them to the shelter. The author really describes how Lise is feeling, like how she is scared of the water and I wanted her to be ok. Another example of the author’s good emotional descriptions is that the author was very detailed about Lise’s fear of the ocean and how she is nervous about all the creatures in it.

“I looked out at the miles and miles of nothing but water-moving, churning water-and I realized there could be anything out there, anything at all. Where I could see the bottom, there might be a piece of glass or a sharp shell hidden under the sand waiting to slice my soft feet, and where I couldn’t see the bottom, who knows? … And there was always the pull, the pull of the tide that sucked the sand from beneath you grain by grain, trying to suck you with it.”

 

This quote shows how scary it can be for Lise to be surrounded by ocean. The author also really showed the feelings of all the characters. Even though Free didn’t talk, I was still really able to understand what he was feeling.

Another thing that that I liked about this book was that it had a very suspenseful ending. I don’t want to give anything away. I thought that the ending was very suspenseful and it left me on the edge of my seat. I didn’t want to put the book down. One of the major parts that was really sad was when someone died and an animal died too. Many lives were in danger.

I definitely recommend this book because it is very good with explaining everything and I think that it is very kid friendly. I think that some kids will really relate to this story. I would give this book a five star rating.

A Void In My Life

An anomaly in my life has and will continue to forever shift the dynamic of my childhood. That is the lack of a father figure in my household. Especially as a male, not having a father that I can talk to about sensitive topics in a male’s life is extremely challenging. This becomes even harder when I see families and children with the exact thing that I lack in my life. What hurts me even more is that they don’t even seem to realize that having a father or somebody that you can talk to in your life is a blessing.

This abnormality was very hard for me to comprehend in my younger ages. I have learned to embrace it as opposed to hate it. I realized that I am blessed beyond imagination to have the family that I have. My mother, my grandmother, my sister, my brother, my puppy, and my grandfather who truly does fill this void in my life and much much beyond.

The absence of a father in my life is ultimately depressing, but what describes the dynamic of my household and my upbringing is the resilience that my family and I share in response to this dearth. This is the value that has really guided my life. The belief that a situation that is depressing or unfortunate, can be turned into great strength.

 

How to be a Friend 101

Making friends in our modern society today is easy: all you need to do is follow a few steps. First, select a random person from your favorite coffee shop. The best candidates would be a regular that goes to that coffee shop daily rather than a truck driver from Alaska that you will never see again. This is the most important part because you can waste time during this step while choosing between an old lady or a 5-year-old boy. Next, determine by their voice, style and height if they could be your best friend or a person who checks their texts every five years. This will allow you to decide your compatibility with that person, avoiding any future marriages that end up in divorce over a butt-dialed call. Then, if you are sure you and that person will get along, then start a conversation. Keep it natural by not smiling like a happy dentist and begin a conversation with a friendly hi. Some great icebreakers in a coffee shop could be, “How’s your coffee?” or “Have you noticed the pimple on your face?” Socialize with the person and tell a funny story. Then, make it a routine to go to the coffee shop everyday in your busy life of watching Netflix. If everything works out, then your “friend” may consider you as an amicable human and add you on all of his/her social media accounts.

And that’s how to make friends with people in our century today.

But in all seriousness, friendships aren’t as strong as they used to be. The definition for “friends” is vague, ranging from strangers chatting on Omegle to best friends since kindergarten. I think that this is a big problem. Back then, kids would spend the long hours of their summers with their friends and family, instead of watching TV. Socializing is one of the reasons we are humans, one of the reasons mankind has evolved so quickly. But the importance of interactions with others is slowly fading due to phone, social media and technology. However, strong relationships or social skills are the key to success. Friends lend a helping hand in times of need and make our life easier. They can offer a meal, explanations for homework or help someone deal with their feelings in times of crisis. It’s better to be facing the world with people rather than a piece of entertaining technology. Besides, it’s important to laugh, argue and cry with people that you know will support you. Making friends might be an easy task, but keeping friendships is something much greater, helping us get through the challenges of life with a person cheering us on.

Gluten Free is NOT a Fad

The gluten-free community has been expanding rapidly. Celiac, allergies to gluten, and gluten sensitivities are becoming more apparent all around the world.  However, there are some issues lately regarding how careful restaurants must be when they claim to serve gluten-free. Cross-contamination is one of the easiest ways to inadvertently ingest gluten. When a restaurant claims that it serves gluten-free food, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is safe for someone with an allergy to gluten or celiac to eat there. The food that they serve may have originally been gluten-free; however, if one of the chefs were to have used a knife that had been used on something with gluten to cut something gluten-free, there is a chance that the customer could get glutened (ingest gluten). The standards for a restaurant to say that they serve gluten-free should be stricter so that it is safe for people with celiac or an allergy to gluten can eat there safely.

Gluten is a protein that acts like a glue in different foods. Unfortunately, there are some people who are convinced that it is very unhealthy and that if it is cut out of one’s diet, it will be beneficial. They are making life tough for people with celiac and gluten allergies. Miley Cyrus, for example, tweeted, “It’s not about weight it’s about health. Gluten is crapppp [sic] anyway!” Gluten is not bad for you. According to Celiac.org, “Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (durum, emmer, spelt, farina, farro, KAMUT® khorasan wheat, and einkorn), rye, barley, and triticale. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together.” Gluten is not the thing to avoid. It is the foods that it is in. Some of the foods that have gluten in them are not necessarily the healthiest for you such as bread, pasta, and pastries. However, gluten-free bread, pasta, and pastries can easily be just as bad for you as ones with gluten. If someone is looking to lose weight, a gluten-free diet is not the way.

Being gluten-free has dangerously become a fad which makes it hard for people who are completely gluten-free to eat at restaurants safely. The people going around saying that eating gluten-free is a great way to lose weight are giving restaurants the idea that they do not have to make the gluten-free options completely safe for people with serious food restrictions. This is because those people do not actually need a gluten-free diet for health reasons. The restaurants do not have the same pressure to keep their kitchen clean and cross-contamination free. If a crumb of bread accidentally ends up in the salad of someone on a gluten-free diet to lose weight, they will not be affected. However, for people with the food restriction, they could have very bad reactions that can even lead to anaphylaxis.

This problem needs to be solved. People with a gluten-free diet need to have options and they should be able to trust the restaurants that say they can serve gluten-free. If a restaurant says that it has gluten-free options, they should be safe for people with celiac.

Albeit this is a large problem in the food industry, there are many ways we can solve this issue. For instance, a gluten-free safety assessment can be added to the typical health rating for restaurants that serve GF (gluten-free). Another example is confirming that the staff is well educated and the kitchen is well equipped to prepare gluten-free meals safely if they offer them. This will make it easier for the staff because they will feel more comfortable confirming that their food is safe and it will make the customers feel better trusting the restaurant. Lastly, we can solve this by discouraging gluten-free dieting for weight loss. By educating people and making health assessments, eating out with a gluten-free diet will become a much easier and safer experience.

The Guy’s Perspective

I was going on a date, was it a date or was it not. It was confusing. I mean it was not really officially a date but it seemed it. Well I got an uber to the longboard shop. My mum is so suspicious about me when I go out late. So I told her I was going with my friend Vikram and a couple of others. He is so trustworthy that my mum would let me go to an underground rave with him. Fortunately he was not there because he is the worst wingman ever. Anyway at the longboard shop I grabbed my board that I had left there and boarded to the theatre. When I got there I was waiting for my maybe date. I was nervous so I started boarding around. A security guard came up and yelled, “No boarding or I will take your skateboard!” I was so close to telling him it was a longboard but I didn’t.

Anyway it was about 9:25 p.m. and I was nervous I was going to get stood up. I mean it wasn’t really a date but I was still worried. I mean it seemed so impossible I was going to see a movie with this girl. She was so far out of my league it was ridiculous. I mean I was pretty sure she just viewed this as a platonic movie. But we were seeing Paper Towns, that is not a platonic movie to see. I was just sitting there as about 30 teenage girls walked past. There was a guy sitting on the bench across from me and I swear he thought I had been stood up. Just as I sent her a snapchat asking where she was I saw her.

Now I am not going to do the whole routine of how beautiful she was or anything like that even though she was but that’s too cheesy. But as a teenage boy I will say, she looked good! We made some small talk about how her little sister thought she had a boyfriend. When I heard that I was scared. Was this some kind of secret girl signal that I shouldn’t make a move or what?

We walked inside and this is where my English roots came in handy, I had bought both tickets and we just went in. When we got into the theatre, auditorium 4, I looked around. There were no guys anywhere. We made small talk, I think I slipped a couple of compliments in, but I can barely remember what about because I was so nervous. I could feel my heart beating so loudly. I am not usually like this but this girl was special, all I could think of was how out of my depth I was, and how out of my league she was. I made her laugh a couple of time and that made me feel better. She kept fiddling with her bag and I wasn’t sure whether it was because she didn’t want to be there or for some other reason. The lights went down and the movie started.

I kept thinking about whether I should make a move or what. I decided to go get a drink for myself and she asked for a slushie. She gave me a 20 to buy the drinks as I had paid for the tickets. I bought the drinks and paid myself. When I got back I gave her back her 20 and told her it was the change. I was hoping she was just going to put it in her purse but she realized that I had paid. I have been taught from a very young age that if you take a girl on a date you have to pay. This wasn’t officially a date but it was close enough. She was surprised I had paid but flattered I hoped.

I kept telling myself that the next time this or that happened in the movie I was going to do the whole yawn and put your arm around her. I kept chickening out and procrastinating but finally I built up the courage to do it. In regal cinemas you can lift up the armrest but it is tough to do so. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to lift it and would like an idiot. I lifted it up and put my arm around her. This is where it is the worst part from a guy’s point of view. You don’t know whether she is too scared to say no or really uncomfortable. About ten minutes later she went to the bathroom. I didn’t know what to feel. Maybe she was calling her friend complaining. Anyway I decided that when she got back I wasn’t going to keep my arm around her because she seemed really uncomfortable. When she got back we just held hands. This probably seems silly but for a guy the first move is the worst. After that you kind of know what to expect. The movie ended and we walked out. I was going to give her a goodbye kiss but she said her dad was nearby and the only thing scarier than teenage girls is their dads. I was so nervous about what to do I forgot my longboard. We just hugged and she left. For most this story seems kind of silly. But to a guy the first date (maybe, kind of, was it a date?) it is the most terrifying thing. I still don’t know what’s going on. Maybe she is creeped out and thought it was really stupid of me. Anyway, that is the guy’s perspective.

Starting School

If you were out in the morning of a weekday, you would see most kids up and getting ready for school by seven a.m. Most schools start at 7:30 to 8 a.m. and this is too early!  Since students wake up early and sleep late, they will probably get tired during school. This will cause them to start daydreaming or even falling asleep during class. This will not help them at school. Schools need to figure out how they can help students get more sleep. One solution is starting school later so then students can get more sleep.

Most kids are already up by seven to get ready for school. In old times, people would get up at six and already be sleeping by seven due to the need of sunlight. But we don’t need to sleep that early now because we have electricity, so the need to wake up early is unnecessary. Today, there are three main reasons why schools start early: making time for after-school activities, leaving more daylight time for kids, and making it safer for teens to walk home after school. But health is more important than school. If you are not healthy, then you wouldn’t go to school in the first place! Therefore, school should start later because sleep will improve health.

You can not focus if you don’t get enough sleep, can you? So that’s why lack of sleep can affect the grades that students get at school. Eight hours is the recommended amount for teens and preteens to sleep, and only about 41% of middle school students and 13% of high school students get that recommended amount of sleep. If you cannot focus on your studies, you cannot do well on exams. According to a study in Harvard (found on harvard.edu), sleep can help your body work such as having better memory and a better focus on learning.  Lack of sleep can also lead students to poor health, and that will cause plenty of absent days in school.

Teens sleep late for two reasons: they can’t fall asleep before 11 p.m. because of their brain shifts and also because of too much homework. Parents think that making their kids sleep earlier will solve the problem of their lack of sleep, but an average teenager can not fall asleep until 11 p.m. (says Dr. Lewin). Since the students are older now, they will get a lot of homework, so that could prevent them from sleeping earlier. According to the National Education Association, the homework time increases each grade by ten minutes. An average twelfth-grader has about 110 more minutes of homework than an average first grader.

Then at the end of the day, most middle-school and high-school students are up doing their homework, studies, and after-school activities. By the time they will be able to go to bed, it’s so late at night! Then they will have less sleep. This will result in accidents, poor health, being stressed and upset, and failing grades. Schools should start later in the day to prevent this and then more students will have more sleep and do better in school.

 

Criminally Unjust: A Tale of Two Justice Systems

Sometime past three o’clock, on a warm July afternoon, Eric Garner stood in front of a Staten Island beauty supply store allegedly selling what are commonly referred to as “loosies” – untaxed cigarettes usually sold for between ten cents and a quarter.  Hulking, black, with a broad chest, the 43-year-old grandfather was often described by friends as the “neighborhood peacemaker”; an amiable giant endowed with a generous, congenial attitude.  With his back arched against the store’s window, he is swiftly circled by a band of NYPD officers. At first the interaction remains unremarkable; one officer, as the video reveals, can be seen indifferently chewing gum as Garner explains the predicament to the small congregation of cops. Ardently waving his arms, a frustrated Garner tells the officers, “every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. Everyone standing here will tell you I didn’t do nothing.” To be clear, this story of dogged police harassment is one shared by many black men. Garner himself was arrested 31 times since 1980 – with only two charges yielding convictions. If his past history was any indicator, he indeed likely “didn’t do nothing.”

Yet, the exchange takes a hasty, tragic turn; what begins as a relatively peaceful discourse devolves into an Orwellian display of brutality. As Garner continues to complain, officers from both sides of the ring suddenly grab his shoulders, attempting to arrest him — notably without evidence of the so-called “loosies” they were originally seeking. He flinches in surprise, attempting to evade the officers’ forceful grasp. Yet rather than de-escalating the conflict – or giving the visibly shaken Garner a chance to regain composure – Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s muscular arms lock his neck in a chokehold.  Pantaleo constricts him with the authoritarian zeal of Judge Dredd, despite his desperate pleas for air. “I can’t breathe…I can’t breathe,” Garner begs, his consciousness slipping as the officer ceases to relent. For another 23 tortuous seconds, even after Garner falls to the ground, the officer continues to clench his neck, squeezing the life out of a man who two minutes prior was quietly idling in front of a store. When the officer finally subdues his boa-like constraint, the severity of Garner’s condition becomes evident: he lays lifeless on the sidewalk, prolonged oxygen deprivation having caused a massive heart attack.

The events of the now infamous video have evolved to become a symbol of police brutality; a rallying cry for those disaffected with our justice system.  Garner’s last words: “I can’t breathe,” have been adopted as the mantra of recent demonstrations. More importantly, unlike the shooting death of Michael Brown, whose case was enshrouded in a fog of conflicting witnesses and forensic reports, Garner’s death serves as an irrefutable, visceral testament to the violent excesses of law enforcement. Although the Grand Jury investigating Pantaleo’s conduct ultimately acquitted him of wrongdoing, much to the chagrin of civil rights activists, most who watched the video agree, at best, his behavior was an incompetent display of force. For others, the chokehold was a malicious tool of murder, driven by a more sinister undercurrent of racism. Even conservative commentator, Charles Krauthammer — not particularly known for his civil rights bona fides — noted that the grand jury’s decision was “totally incomprehensible.”

For most, Garner’s death has become a lesson in police brutality. Or the need to weed out bad cops. As   New York Police Commissioner, Bill Bratton, said in response to widespread demonstrations, we must remove officers who are “poisoning the well.” Body cameras, demilitarization, and increased regulations are all similar conclusions that have arisen from recent demonstrations and events. But largely absent from the outcry of protesters and public officials, has been the broader context; “the big picture.”  In a frenzy to vilify police officers, we have forgotten that they are not the enemy. Rather, we must acknowledge that bad systems make bad officers.

While it is quite possible that Pantaleo’s chokehold was the product of some sort of primordial sense of racism, it is equally, if not more likely, that his lethal use of force was the result of greater broken systems and broken policies.  We must treat Garner’s death not as the disease, but as a symptom of a broader justice system which increasingly equates poverty with crime.

One must understand that as our nation’s economic inequalities grow, so do the inequalities in our justice system: increasingly, race and class are determinants, not just of one’s income, but of one’s judicial treatment. On the surface America maintains the hallmarks of a healthy democracy: the right to vote, the right to a jury, and the right to an attorney. But underneath this glimmering sheen of equitable justice lies a dark labyrinth of policies and bureaucracies which ensure that we live in a nation of two justice systems: one for the rich and one for the poor.

To understand the magnitude of our increasingly fractured justice system, one does not need to prod particularly hard into the nuances of police behavior and government policy. In fact, many of the most egregious disparities between the treatment of the wealthy and poor are codified directly into our laws; a self-evident reality of our own legal existence.

On one end of the spectrum are crimes linked to poverty. These offenses such as drug possession, jumping turnstiles, loitering, and petty theft are non-violent misdemeanors primarily committed by those in poverty.  Often, these are crimes perpetrated out of necessity and generally have minor, if not negative impact on society.

Take drug possession – by far the most common source of non-violent crime.  In many disadvantaged neighborhoods, the selling and purchasing of drugs is a casual source of employment, where economic and educational opportunity otherwise remains low. Since many low-income households have little access to treatment programs and family support, rates of addiction also remain much higher. Therefore, it would seem that impoverished communities do not have a problem with crime, but rather with social and economic dysfunction. Yet in our near-dystopian penal code, drugs, as well as other non-violent crimes, are not viewed as a multidimensional symptom of entrenched poverty, but rather a scourge of society which must be “cracked down.” Confirming this, the United States Sentencing Commission released a report stating that “in 2012, the average federal prison sentence for a drug offender was almost 6 years.” Perhaps more disturbingly, there are over 2.8 million individuals convicted of non-violent crimes currently incarcerated, heavily skewed towards the poor and minorities.

Yet the draconian gavel of our justice system is not limited to drugs, either. For most poor offenders — whether it is three days or thirty years — their prison careers begin with the most minor offenses conceivable. Imagine being jailed for loitering? For stealing a two dollar can of beer? Or how about swearing in public? Recall Eric Garner: the infraction provoking his death was ultimately the selling of untaxed cigarettes to support himself financially. We must ask ourselves, in a fair and just society, should six children be left fatherless for what amounts to a minor, victimless offense? Can we tolerate a society in which the punishment is no longer reflective of the crime?

For many impoverished communities, the harsh penalties and enforcement of non-violent crime is only the beginning.  When an individual is convicted of a minor poverty-related crime, they are more likely to commit more severe crimes and less likely to find employment after imprisonment. In the violent, gang-ridden albatross that is our prison system, a minor drug offender may quickly become a hardened criminal. In other words, by aggressively prosecuting non-violent crimes, our justice system is effectively sanctioning a sort of vicious prison-poverty feedback loop: poverty leads to minor offenses which leads to imprisonment which in turn leads to greater level of poverty. In Daedelus, sociologists Bruce Western of Harvard and Becky Pettit of the University of Washington concluded that “once a person becomes incarcerated, the experience limits their earning power and their ability to climb out of poverty even decades after their release.” But the mass incarceration of poor, non-violent offenders also irreparably damages future generations.  Recent surveys indicate that “children of prisoners are more likely to live in poverty, to end up on welfare, and to suffer the sorts of serious emotional problems that tend to make holding down jobs more difficult.” In its zealous, authoritarian pursuit of minor crimes, our own justice system is keeping millions of destitute Americans in a state of perpetual suffering, destroying communities and bolstering social dysfunction; the criminalization of poverty.

On the other side of the equation, in the realm of the wealthy, the justice system fails to penalize crime, instead immunizing success and wealth.

At some level, we all implicitly understand that the wealthy will inexorably fare better in a court of law; with a vigorous legal defense team and other resources, one would assume that cases are naturally easier to win. Yet the inequities in our justice system are far more entrenched than merely the quality of legal counsel. As money increasingly dictates politics, the wealthy have built a layered bureaucracy and legal structure designed to insulate their harmful, yet massively profitable, financial practices from the rule of law.

The legal biases inoculating the wealthy are apparent in all stages of the criminal justice system; in arrest rates, convictions, and sentencing, the rich face a system entirely different than their poorer counterparts.  One now infamous Philadelphia study conducted in 2008, revealed that “of 3,475 juvenile delinquents…police referred lower class boys to juvenile court much more often than upper class boys, even for equally serious offenses with similar prior arrest records.”

With sentencing, the Dickensian inequities are equally alarming. Take, for example, the three crimes of robbery, larceny, and burglary; all three, in varying degrees of severity, involve illegally siphoning property from one person to another. Next, take fraud, embezzlement, and income tax evasion; again, all “white-collar” variations of theft. But despite their inherent similarities, one convicted of the former three offenses will, on average, receive twice the sentence of one convicted of the latter three offenses.

The most egregious example of our justice system, however, is in its handling of large corporations. Although it has become cliché, not a single executive of any Wall Street firm, has served or is serving time in connection with the 2008 financial meltdown. Many politicians, commentators, and President Obama himself have justified this by suggesting the offenses of corrupt corporations are merely ethical violations – minor missteps undeserving of prosecution.

But these so-called ethical and “minor missteps” are neither legal nor minor.  The crimes committed by large firms and their employees include concealment of financial transactions aiding terrorists, as was the case with HSBC, the blinding of criminal assets, deliberate tax evasion, large-scale fraud, and sub-prime mortgages, rivaling only the Great Depression in financial damage.  In the wake of the 2008 financial collapse, over 40% of the world’s wealth was lost, crippling the global economy and the American middle class.

Yet not a single prosecution.  A contingent of wanton, avarice-eyed executives single-handedly implode our economy and collectively receive a smaller punishment than a poor man stealing a can of beer.  If the purpose of our justice system is to “seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans,” as Attorney General Eric Holder himself wrote, then not only has it failed us, it has embarrassed the sanctity of justice itself.

The American psyche has long revered the justice system, at least symbolically, as a bastion of morality; an impartial arbiter of innocence and guilt. It was the justice system, after all, which desegregated our schools, ended interracial marriage laws, and protected freedom of speech. However, the harsh criminalization of poverty and the inoculation of the wealthy force us to reconsider this unwavering reverence. As impoverished teenagers serve draconian sentences for rolling a marijuana joint, wealthy bankers revel in a binge of unaccountability, demonstrating that the ideals of justice are often a facade for a system dictated by class. Tragically, our justice system has devolved into a virtual caste system where punishment no longer reflects the severity of the crime.

These dangerous trends can no longer be ignored. As the deplorable death of Eric Garner indicates, the stratification of our justice system is a national crisis for which blood is being shed. Garner’s daughter said in response to her father’s death, “justice, to me, is basically doing what’s right.”  With millions of Americans still protesting, and the inequities of our justice system increasingly evident, we must too ask ourselves: “Do we have the will to do what’s right?”

Food Entry 5

Food Entry 5:

On the second weekend of May, my mom and I ventured downtown to have brunch. Eating out with my mom is a pretty rare occasion because 1) my mom loves to cook and 2) our schedules completely clash, so when we do have the chance to eat together, I try to make the very most of it. Saturday was the first day I really felt like spring had made its transition into summer, even though it was only May. I had woken up with my hair plastered to my face and a dampness that seemed to surround my entire room. Shorts weather had come upon us and with it, the use of Air Conditioning. As my mom and I exited our building, steam clouded my glasses and the air felt as if it was trying to push me down onto the burning hot concrete. I squicked as I sat down on the hot black seat of my car, and immediately lowered the windows down, all the way. I decided that I was in the mood for a good iced tea. The nice thing about my neighborhood is that it is filled with trees that provide a good amount of shade, but as my mom and I got closer to our destination, the only thing that shaded us from the scorching sun were scattered buildings.

Shortly after finding a parking space, we headed to Jack’s Wife Freda, a small restaurant with a really big line. While we waited in line my mom and I chatted about school, the weather, and our summer plans. A good thing about my mom is that she is never lacking in conversation. Even if she has nothing new to say, she manages to find a subject, relevant or not, to discuss. That day the topic landed on Greece. Every summer since I was little my mom and I have gone on trips. This summer the destination was Greece and I was more than excited to venture there. My mom told me that the island of Santorini had the most beautiful sunsets in the world, and that the city’s architecture was also amazing. I was daydreaming of our trip when “Young, table for two” was called from the hostess and we then shortly entered the restaurant.

Filled with only a couple of tables, Jack’s Wife Freda was as homey as I had expected AND even better…it was air conditioned! I looked at the menu and ordered a large iced tea and eggs with mixed vegetables. My cold drink arrived, brimming with ice cubes and raindrops of water dripping down the side. As I brought the drink to my lips I felt a cool trickle of sweet tea run down my throat, refrigerating my body. I smiled and looked down at my newly arrived eggs, with a beautiful array of vegetables sitting by their side sparkling with carrots, spinach, tomatoes, green and yellow peppers, all the colors I hoped the Santorini sunset would hold. As I bit into my eggs, steam clouded my mouth, but instead of being annoyed by the heat, I devoured it. Every bite of egg was followed with a cool sip of iced tea, the perfect combination. As the iced tea washed a smile onto my face, I realized I had finally found the perfect spot to cool off from NYC’s summer heat. There are a couple ways to make New York bearable in this season that I’ve picked up over the years: Good food, shade, and dreaming of a far away place.

After finishing my meal, every last bite, my mom asked for the check. We soon rose up from our table and took a step from the cool room into the sticky outside. I could feel the cloud of heat hanging over my head, but this time a slight breeze whistled through my hair, cooling my brain and making me think about the island and those Santorini eggs.

Yellow Paint

When I was assigned to do a report on Vincent Van Gogh for school, I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy. Then, I started to research him.

Turns out, the old dude ate yellow paint because he thought it would get the happiness to be inside of him. Yellow is a happy color, and it always has been. He thought that eating the paint would make him happy.
You obviously must be desperate for happiness to do that because the paint can damage your insides, instead of making them happy. But if you want happiness so badly, you’ll do anything. He ate the toxic yellow paint, only to have it hurt him and not help. It’s really not that crazy if you think about it. Back then, they didn’t know as much. Yellow is linked to happiness, so why wouldn’t eating yellow paint also be linked to happiness? It makes perfect sense.

I’m sure everybody has been at the point where they wanted to eat yellow paint, or their version of yellow paint.
Think about how depressed you’d have to be to swallow poisonous paint. It almost seems unreal that someone would put that kind of thing into their bodies, hoping it would make everything better, but really digging a hole so deep no ladder could help get them out.

The yellow paint – he wanted it to help him, but it did the opposite. Some might say it’s his own fault, but he wanted happiness. Can’t blame the guy for wanting happiness.

St. Mark’s Place

Everyday after I come home after school, my mother always asks, “Any new grade to show me?” She never seems to understand that I would have to hand in a paper in order to get a grade. My mother is completely immersed in my academic life. She is always eager for my next A or waiting for my teacher’s latest comment on my essay. She checks my grades every night on the computer and talks to me about the A- that I received on a test, telling me to study more or to ensure that my grades would not continue to drop below a 95. Although I am still only a freshman, she countlessly reminds me that I should aim for valedictorian for my senior year and to think about ways to get into Harvard. This year, she tried to enroll me and my friends into multiple summer programs, which included a medical sleepaway camp and community service programs. My friends, thankfully, were not too excited about that idea.

My mother sees my friends as more of a hinderance to my academic life. She seems to think that they do not care about their future simply because they do not put in extra effort to get straight A’s. On the other hand, my friends would probably say that my mother is too strict and absolutely crazy. They describe her as one of those stereotypical Asian moms. My friends are the type of people that enjoy going to parties, being on their own, and, in general, doing things that their parents would not approve. In a sense, they’re what every other teenager aspires to be. They’re confident, bold, and independent, and those are only some of the qualities that I admire about them.

Many times, my friends and I would fantasize about getting piercings and tattoos and dyeing our hair crazy colors. I remember numerous text messages we sent of photos of only people with our desired look: gauges, facial piercings, a mix between adorable and edgy fashion. On Tumblr or other social media, I often find myself wanting to dress like these other girls and making them my style, but I always feel the need to hide my clothes from my parents. It’s not that I’m showing too much skin or that I simply look over the top. I’m really more concerned with how everyone, including my mom, always thinks that I want to copy my friends or that they have changed me negatively. Even though we continuously want to change our image, we could never go through with our plan because of our parents.  If we dyed all of our hair, the result would be too obvious to hide, and we were not willing to completely disobey our parents with tattoos, so my last option was to get a piercing.

I thought about the piercing for weeks. I was worried about how much it would hurt, whether or not it would heal in time for me to play volleyball and softball, but most importantly, how long I would be able to keep the piercing a secret from my mom. My friend, Lily, had already explained to me how much her cartilage piercing hurt during recovery, and pain was my biggest fear. Before getting the piercing, I thought a lot about how I might need my mother’s consent. I read numerous articles about St. Marks and underage piercings, so I wasn’t sure if I could even get it done. My friends and I even thought about going with Lily’s mom, so we could tell the piercer that I was adopted. I have always envied my friend for having one of those “cool” moms. She can talk to her mother about her boyfriends, parties, and fashion. Her mother even went to the piercer with her daughter. My mother, on the other hand, made fun of the idea of having multiple piercings. She believes that I should look more ladylike and less crazy. She says that she only let me dye my hair and go to parties so I wouldn’t do the same in college. I guess she thinks that if I have all my experiences in high school, I won’t need to have any more in the future.

On this day, Lily and I met up with our friend Nick. I told my mom that I was going to a Key Club event so I could be sure she wouldn’t call. I looked up multiple times the directions to St. Marks and for awhile, even got a bit lost when we exited the station. The street immediately made us feel apprehensive, especially when we stepped in front of the piercing shop. The clothing shops had the look of abandoned factories, and the workers all had either tattoos, huge gauges, or dyed hair. The three of us paused, waiting for someone to make the first move and go into the store. I was mostly afraid of looking like a poser since I felt that I didn’t belong at such an edgy place. I mean, all around me were six-inch platform creepers and leather chokers with spikes. Lily seemed to feel more at home at St. Marks. She wore clothes from Trash and Vaudeville and looked like the type of person that would fit in; multiple people have even mistaken her for Avril Lavigne. However, when it came time to actually get the piercing, she was as intimidated as I was. This first place we visited agreed to do it at first, but the piercer rejected us since I didn’t bring an ID. Disappointed, we walked further down the street in hopes to find another place. Luckily, as I was talking about the piercing, a shady man on the street jumped out from his small store to call me over. He was completely bundled up from head to toe in winter clothes. I couldn’t even tell where he was from because of his accent. It definitely wasn’t American though. He was willing to pierce my ear without an ID. I didn’t trust this bundled man at first, but in the end, agreed to let him pierce my ear since I felt that it was only option.

As I sat in the chair, I looked around to see dozens of photos of the people the bundled man had pierced before. His shop was tiny, probably even smaller than my bedroom. Lily even had to sit on Nick, sharing a single chair. There was no front desk or display case like the first store we went into and for heating, the bundled man worked around a small portable heater. He pulled out a couple studs for me to choose the design I wanted, but when I asked if I could get a ring, he strangely refused and tried telling me that using the gun piercer was better. (It wasn’t.) It seemed as if he wasn’t qualified to use a needle, so I didn’t mention it a second time. I thought about backing out multiple times. However, I couldn’t after dragging my two friends into the city. The bundled man was already marking my ear with a sharpie, and I was too afraid to even tell him to stop. I looked over at my friends, who were busy filming me for Snapchat, as I was experiencing the greatest fear of the entire trip. I thought over my decision multiple times in the short moment the bundled man was preparing to pierce my ear. Before I knew it, it was done. Strangely, I no longer felt worried about the pain or hiding the piercing from my mom. All of a sudden, the piercing wasn’t a big deal to me, and I even decided to get a second one.

After I got it done, I came back home confident that my mom would never see my piercing. In the first couple weeks, I had to cup my ear whenever she hugged me in case she would hit it in the process. She did that twice until I learned to protect it. I specifically got the piercing on my left ear since my hair would cover it. However, sometimes I even forget that it’s there, and I have to quickly take my hair out of a ponytail when she walks into the room. (The only person in my house that knows I have a piercing is my sister. She tends to keep all of my secrets and normally doesn’t judge the things I do, even if she thinks that they’re mistakes.) With my friends, I tend to show off the fact that I have multiple piercings by getting a matching earring with Lily and having my friends wait longer because I have to take out six earrings before the softball game. With them, I don’t have to worry; I simply get to be myself.

Dear Bully

Dear Bully,

Thanks for ruining my life.

No, really. Your two-year incessant torment of me has done a lot to make me who I am now.

I suppose that was your plan all along, wasn’t it? You wanted to make me a better person, didn’t you? When you called me an idiot in front of a class of thirty, you were trying to teach me that I wouldn’t always be the smartest. When you pulled the chair out from under me, you were showing me how to recover. When you spent whole class periods insulting me in multiple ways, that was to teach me to be able to grit my teeth and get through things like that. When you literally stood in the path between me and my goals, you were preparing me for other obstacles. When you were racist, and sexist, and every other kind of prejudiced, you were showing me examples of the worst kinds of people in the world.

I didn’t know, back then, that you were trying to teach me. That’s why I cried every night. That’s why I dreaded going to school each morning. That’s why I desperately wanted to be someone else. Everyone else had already learned these lessons. That’s probably why they all told me I was overreacting.

You were truly my best teacher.

Remember when I nearly pushed you into the pool? That was me taking your lessons and teaching them right back to you.

Dear bully, I hope you read this someday. I hope you know that I know that wasn’t your real plan. Your plan, if you had one at all, was to make a lonely, lost girl even more lonely and lost. You enjoyed watching the tears I shed almost daily. My stress was your de-stresser.

Even though you didn’t plan to make me a better human being, you did. I’m braver now, and stronger. Most importantly, I’ve learned to do the one thing you wouldn’t and be kind to others. I am enjoying a life where I, for once, control it. Not you.

What I’ve also learned is that I’m not the only one who’s had to go through this. Hundreds of thousands of people across the world go through the same thing you put me through. Now I know what bullying is, and what it can really do. I’ve experienced it myself.

And I want you to know right now that because of you, I will now stand up for every single one of them. Bullying is a problem. I know just how much that’s true. We need to stop it, and I will be the very first to put my life and soul into helping others that have had the same problems as me.

Dear bully, I will say the words you want to hear least–thank you.

And dear bully, I hope you can see how I’ve risen above you and will help others do the same.

I hope you can see how I won’t be hurt by you ever again.

And in the peculiarly accurate words of the All-American Rejects: when you see my face, hope it gives you hell.

 

Yours not-truly,

 

A Victim

The Ugly Journey

As I am putting on my shorts and shirt I hear my dad yelling, “Hey, Nathen, hurry up! Jack and Nick are already waiting for you!”

I start to rush, putting my clothes on as fast as I can and jump into the car. I sit next to Ryan and Nick while Jack sits up front. We head on the road and talk about how we always go to this climbing spot and go on the rock that looks like a horse’s head. My friends get so excited as we pull up and reach our favorite climbing area. I hop out and start running to the big rocks.

We always try to get to the highest mountain we can find at Joshua Tree but there is always a higher mountain to climb. On this climb, we get to the highest point we have ever gone. Usually we head back when we are halfway done with our water but this time we have a lot more water than usual. We are going at such a fast pace we are not paying attention to where we are, which causes us to get lost. We start walking back the way we came and eventually we start to go back down.

We start climbing down small rocks and after a while they turn into slightly bigger rocks. I think there is no way the rocks can get bigger than the ones we are already climbing, but sure enough, they start getting bigger. I start to get scared of the jumps we are making. After a while, we see the bottom flat rocks. There is about a tenth of a mile of bushes before we will reach our car. We do not know those bushes are actually rose bushes with many thorns. We try to continue but are so upset and stop five feet away from the bushes. My dad says he will get us ice cream when we get home but only if we go through with the plan.

Before, the worst part of us getting to our car was jumping down the rocks with two and a half foot jumps but now we have to go through a bunch of dry plants with sharp thorns. I look at my arms and legs and see I am scratched up and bleeding. I look back to see how far we have gone and it’s only about 20 feet. I start to lose hope and think we are never going to get home.

I start walking, trying to dodge the shrubs in front of me, still scared of how much farther I have to go. I see a much greater distance behind me and know we are close. I climb up and see we are a little bit more than half way. I start to smile and stop paying attention to all the cuts I have. After about 150 feet, I get to another high point and see we only have around 20 more feet until we get to the car! I start to sprint ahead of everyone because they don’t know how close we are. Now, I am free! I run to the car and hug it but it burns my skin because it has been sitting in the sun for all this time.

I see my dad and friends come out of the bush and everyone is happy. My dad puts his hands in the air with the biggest smile and we go home. I realize instead of ice cream we got a handful of bandages. But the bandages are better, and I thank my dad.