Category Archives: Opinions

Cultural Appropriation or Misappropriation?

GiovanaDeOliveira and BridgetHoffmann, Staff Reporters

In  recent years, there’s been a growing debate over cultural appropriation, which is the adoption of elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture. While cultural appreciation is used when elements of a culture are used while honoring the source they came from. It can be difficult for one person to distinguish the fine line between either of these scenarios. How can both sides of this controversial topic be happy without crossing the line of cultural or racial insensitivity?

It all begins with respect and knowing what rules you can not violate. For example, imagine someone decides to dress up as a Native American and wear a headdress for Halloween or a music festival. Yet, they have no sort of cultural background as a Native American and the place that they will be going to has no sort of aboriginal background within the community. That would then be wrong and it crosses the line of cultural appreciation and appropriation and the elements aren’t being honored like they should for appreciation.

The significance of religions and cultures are rooted in history. This means that if one decides that they want to wear something that comes from a different religion or culture to look “hip” or “trendy,” then they’ve crossed the line and are no longer appreciating that culture.  However, when you try to participate in another culture and religion in order to show its members your respect, it has to be done right in order to truly be appropriate.

Understanding the culture and being able to use it in your own style depends on if you have any type of connection with it in your background in order to make sure that it does not become an inappropriate use of its relevance. No culture nowadays is homogeneous, meaning that it’s a society that has similar kinds of people, especially where there are no significant ethnic differences. This means you need to understand the history of its people to appreciate the culture correctly. However, no variation of using other cultures or religions to just be trendy is acceptable. Understanding where one person crosses the line of appreciation and into appropriation is essential to understanding how to not be offensive and disrespectful to others.

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Strange Bedfellows

Donald Trump sits alone at the beginning of the G-20’s plenary session on July 10, 2017. (Photo: Felipe Trueba / EPA) – via NBC News

EthanBenn, Editor-in-Chief

In the age of Trump, decades of foreign and domestic policy are all worthy of shakeups; the way the United States currently approaches defense spending, immigration, environmental and industrial regulation and much more presents a clear break from prior presidents. So, if any president were to reshape the way America conducts itself abroad, it would surely be him.

But in his quest to “make America great again,” the president is relying on outdated and deeply flawed tactics of realpolitik that discard sacred American values for political – and personal – gain.

For the purposes of this article, realpolitik describes a diplomatic strategy that prioritizes political success based on the harsh reality of the modern world over greater moral principles and ideological stances. The strictly pragmatic, goal-oriented stance inherent to realpolitik has led to decades of American support for authoritarian regimes, human rights abusers and outright intervention that still continues to this day.

What separates President Trump from his predecessors is the open embrace of realpolitik’s moral ambiguity: support for Saudi Arabia or Russia normally occurs within the framework of a “necessary evil.” Even the most liberal of presidents, President Obama, vetoed a congressional bill enabling families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in 2016 (albeit for some understandable reasons), and under his watch, the United States continued to supply arms, intelligence and aerial refueling to the Saudis for their operations in Yemen.  

Trump and his advisors perhaps view these strange diplomatic ties as opportunities for self-aggrandizing trips or photo-ops and a bit of graft on the side, of course. From laying his hands on a glowing orb with the Saudis to using Mohammed Bin Salman as an easel to boast about American arms sales or even showing off the presidential limousine to Kim Jong-Un in Singapore, it seems like President Trump is all too willing to work with unsavory figures.

Again, it’s not as if President Trump is the first to shirk diplomatic relations with Europe or traditional allies to side with nations that are, at the very least, behind the times. From oppressive tactics against citizen activists and the press, their love of autocracy and authoritarianism and overt belligerence to neighboring powers, America’s new “friends” seem to have walked right out of the 1930s.  

But the gusto with which Trump and his State Department are pursuing diplomacy against American values is frightening. Does the United States truly gain anything by employing realpolitik to secure Middle Eastern oil and counter Iran if it costs innocent lives? North Korea may remove their missiles (or, as reports show, they may not be), but what does giving them recognition on the world stage do – and what about their egregious human rights violations?

Realpolitik doesn’t care to answer questions like these. Morality and ethics get in the way of lowering gas prices or winning a Nobel Peace Prize for kowtowing to a dictator. Unfortunately, the outsider president’s foreign policy is firmly under control of insiders who have been pushing the same policy for decades: shoot first, ask questions later.

But if the United States wants to be taken more seriously in this day and age – and it ought to – the American foreign policy of tomorrow needs to incorporate one thing: morality. Dictators and authoritarians alike should no longer count on continued material or diplomatic support from the leader of the free world. A commitment to our own values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness must determine our involvement and diplomacy around the world.

 

2018: A Year in Review for America, and Ourselves

Young people visiting the Newseum look out upon thousands of people gathered for March For Our Lives on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. (Photo: Michael Reynolds, EPA-EFE) – via USA Today

EthanBenn, Editor-in-Chief

2018, the never-ending year, is finally drawing to a close. What seemed like eons ago was only a month or two in the past, and every day has felt like a week. Yet, at last, the year is ending.

What a year 2018 has been. From threats of nuclear annihilation, a once-in-a-lifetime lunar eclipse and one of the worst shootings in American history to royal weddings, international summits and the centennial of one of mankind’s deadliest conflicts, 2018 has had plenty of ups and downs.

With regards to the mundane, 2018 will go down like any other year. Life went on, and we laughed, cried and cheered all the while. Unfortunately, though, the past 12 months have been beset by tragedy.

Ask the peers of the 17 students at Stoneman Douglas High School, who on Feb. 14, had their lives shattered forever; ask those at Santa Fe High School on May 18, who faced the same fate; or the reporters at The Capital on June 28; the attendees of a video game tournament on Aug. 26; the worshippers in a synagogue on Oct. 27; or the folks out for the night near Los Angeles on Nov. 7.We will all hear the broken and battered spirits of our time – at least those that made it onto the 24-hour news cycle.

We’ve seen the degradation of our ethics and values as roadblocks to politicians with ulterior motives, some with hate firmly in their hearts. From partisan squabbles over a ballooning budget at the year’s beginning and now at its end, conflict at the border and policy via Twitter, it is some comfort to know that 2018 was relatively consistent. Words like corruption, bribery, treason and  conspiracy fly from talking heads so quickly they can hardly be digested before the next news bulletin.

Was 2018 the year of doom and gloom?

Not entirely, for life goes on. Community meetings and memorials, candle-lit sermons and mass gatherings and so many other acts of humanity have turned the tide of  hopelessness that seems as viral as the common cold.

2018 was the year Americans decided to once more stand up for their own beliefs, their own values, their own institutions. They marched in the streets, from Denver to D.C. and from New York to New Orleans; they marched to voice their views through ballot boxes around the nation; and most of all, they marched into the unknown of tomorrow.

The next year is here and now, and Americans nationwide are ready to offer their blood, toil, sweat and tears for the betterment of their fellow citizens and the world around them. Whatever 2019 may bring – good or bad – the resilience of the American people will go on.

 

The Real Americans

3,000 years ago, there were 73 million of us Latinos and Native Americans living in America. It wasn’t until the great extermination that 95 percent of our population was killed off, leaving only 3.65 million of us to carry on our cultural history. Since then, we’ve managed to survive all of the colonization’s, all of the wars and all of the sacrifices that we’ve had to make in order to earn our place in America, yet we are still not fully respected. What most don’t know is how much Latin people have contributed and sacrificed for this country we call home.

Our contributions to America vary from serving in American Revolutions to World War Ⅰ and much  more. In fact, Latinos and Native Americans are the only ethnic groups that have fought in every single war America has had. But why? We think of the U.S. as our own home and we have always fought for her freedom so that one day we might get the chance to be free as well. Roughly 10,000 unknown Latino soldiers fought in the American Revolution, 20,000 Latinos fought in the Civil War, 30,000 fought in World War I, and almost 500,000 of us sacrificed our lives in World War II. Apart from that, General Bernardo Gálvez donated $70,000 worth of weapons to George Washington. So, not only did Latinos and Native Americans fight in the American Revolution, but we financed it as well.

After all of the fighting, we’re still here. But the only difference from then and now is that we aren’t fighting for the freedom of America but for our own freedom. We have had so much taken away from us in the last 3,000 years,  starting with the conquistadors from Spain that stole 500,000 tons of gold and twice as much silver to the expedition led by Hernán Cortés to colonize the Americas in 1520. In addition to everything the conquistadors have stolen from us, they also brought with them all kinds of diseases such as typhus, cholera, malaria, tuberculosis and the black plague.  

And that’s just the beginning of our history. We can’t forget about the famous Christopher Columbus who never actually set foot on mainland America, just in the Caribbean. After making himself comfortable in foreign land, he decided to rape 9-year-old Taíno girls, which spread syphilis throughout the population. Additionally, he enslaved all of them and exterminated them, which is known today as the Caribbean Holocaust.

After all the suffering the Hitler of the New World brought to us, we then got the updated version of him, Herbert Hoover. He “repatriated” 500,000 Latin people, and the ones that stood their ground were  lynched. Between 1830 and 1930, 600 Latinos were lynched because they simply wanted to keep their homes that they had worked so hard for. But if I could write about everything we’ve been through, you’d be reading for a lot longer: that’s not even half of it.


I, for one, find it unbelievable how Latinos have stood their ground all of these years. It may just be because of how stubborn we are, but I like to think that it’s because we are willing to sacrifice anything for those we love. Even though some people in this country don’t even want us living here, including the president, they keep forgetting that we were here before everyone. We were here before Columbus and we were here before King Philip of Spain sent his little minions to do the work for him. After all, every time America fell onto her knees, we were always there to bring her back onto her feet – not the colonizers or the conquistadors, but us. Like John Leguizamo said,”We too are the sons and daughters of America.”

To Exempt, or Not to Exempt

The weather is getting colder outside, the days are going by quicker and finals are right around the corner: it’s that time of the year again. Time to run on loads of caffeine to get through a night full of studies and come back in the morning feeling prepared, that is, until the caffeine wears off. And then – boom –  the exhaustion hits. But what if students didn’t need to go through this amount of stress? What if the students who worked their hardest throughout the year didn’t have to worry about taking a test that may make or break their grade?  What if both lower and upper classmen were able to exempt a final for the classes that they have at least an 85 or higher in? That would not only help the students focus on the classes that they need to pass, but also alleviate some of their stress.

Let’s be real for a second; we all know that there’s quite a handful of seniors that are taking some less challenging classes due to senioritis, and that’s completely normal. If that is what’s going on, we have to keep in mind the lower classmen and juniors that are constantly working and studying for their AP and Honors courses. Some may even be working harder than seniors to maintain an A-plus average in their classes. And for what? To take a test on the entire course that could very easily demolish their grade. Other schools such as Johns Creek High School allow the freshmen to exempt one final, the sophomores to exempt two finals, and so on based on grade level. As long as the students meet the criteria, they are allowed to exempt the finals.  It would definitely help the students that are stressed, and we are all aware that stress leads to numerous complications for students, such as depression and anxiety. In addition, why would students who have a perfectly decent grade in a class be forced to take a test that could potentially end up harming their average?

I, and many others, don’t see the reason why students should be obligated to take finals if they have worked the entire semester to maintain an A-plus average in the class. Keeping an A in most classes, especially in AP and Honors courses, is difficult enough as it is. Giving us a test that covers the entire semester is just more work added to the load. Our brains don’t have a switch that just magically returns all of the information we’ve learned. It takes time to reboot our brains, yet we don’t even have that much time because we’re too busy with another final to study for. Now, I might be biased because I’m a student, but that automatically makes me and other students more knowledgeable to the situation than any teacher. I think I speak for some students when I say that not only should seniors be able to exempt finals, but lower classmen as well.

 

Loesch’s Train Tantrum Shows Conservative Cultural Warriors on the Rise

Pictured: Dana Loesch at CPAC in 2015, courtesy of Gage Skidmore 

Children are now in play in today’s hyper-partisan world, and every group, from all sides of the political spectrum, surely recognizes their importance. From religious-based kindergartens and private schools to literature extolling the virtues of diversity, conservatives and liberals alike know just how important capturing the youth of today (and their parents) is.

However, the willingness to influence the politics of Americans a decade away from voting is not popular with all.

Dana Loesch, who became famous for her defense of the National Rifle Association after the Parkland High School shooting, has quite a lot to say about “Thomas & Friends.” But the content of her message says much less about her than it does the organization she represents. “They’ve decided that the next stop is Virtue Town,” Loesch complained, though she is certainly signaling something of her own. In focusing on the presence of diverse characters in a children’s show, Dana Loesch exposed the NRA’s leaders as being more concerned with cultural talking points than firearm legislation.

This is hardly a surprising critique. Those concerned about animated trains and those concerned about the waning power of the Second Amendment have seemingly nothing in common, and the NRA, already controversial, champions the former group .

Loesch’s and the NRA’s attitudes, though, reflect a new strategy: create moral panic and inflame aggravation in order to mobilize (mostly right-leaning) voters. The topic of concern may not even be about firearms, like children shows, as the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action homepage makes clear.

In fact, many of the issues adopted by culture warriors contain little actual substance or policy – they generally tend to rely on impassioned feelings over genuine facts. Opposition to gay marriage, welfare spending or the trend of children’s shows emphasizing diversity are often justified more by righteous emotion than well reasoned debate. And while progressive Democrats may be guilty of promoting their own feeling-based opinions, it was candidate Donald Trump who garnered support from “economically anxious whites.” Whether economic anxiety or concerns of cultural displacement propelled him into office, playing into popular feeling over provable fact is an essential culture warrior move.

Ultimately, Dana Loesch and the National Rifle Association represent a growing movement in American politics from real and difficult issues towards social and culture change. Yet much like the TV show they lament, the NRA – and all culture warriors – have decided that the next stop is Virtue Town.

The Self Destroying Industry

ClaireBunnellStaff Reporter

We live in a society full of young people who are obsessed with the way they look, dress and appear on social media. For as long as anyone can remember, the beauty industry has put a great deal of pressure on  teens and adults to conform to an unrealistic conception of beauty. Beauty is now based on the images shown in magazines and social media – imperfections are looked down upon. If someone does not conform to the manipulative advertisements that are displayed, then they are considered an outsider. Being exposed so frequently to the expectations and unrealistic features the beauty industry portrays can lead to a serious decline in one’s self esteem and confidence. The beauty industry has become a role model for women all around the world; however, this isn’t a good thing.

The majority of teenagers rely on the appearance of celebrities, models and what social media demands to define their interpretation of beautiful. I remember being 13 years old, comparing myself to the way Miley Cyrus looked, learning to find imperfections in my body. At the time, the norm for girls was to be as skinny as a stick, a description I did not match. My stomach hung over my pants, I didn’t have skinny legs, and due to participation in sports, I was a lot more muscular than other girls my age. I found myself pushing away the plate when it came to meal time, in the hope that not eating would transform my body into what society wanted. This psychological burden, driven into the minds of young people, is overwhelming. Young girls especially struggle with conditions like anorexia, bulimia and malnutrition in order to try to achieve society’s idea of perfection. The beauty industry has defined beauty for the world, but it is not a realistic goal anyone can reach.

Over many decades, the way women are ‘supposed to look’ has changed drastically. Just 10 years ago, it was demanded for women to be thin, but now it is more popular to be curvy, have a big chest, big butt and an hourglass figure. It seems as if the expectations are just becoming more extreme as years progress. Moreover, it is almost impossible to transform a woman’s body every couple of years when society grows bored of the way they look. It is not acceptable to discriminate against women who were born a certain way, especially when they can’t control it. Making young people believe they have to change the way they look crushes their self-esteem and is not humane.

In recent years, the makeup industry has become even more influential.  The beauty industry claims they are advertising natural beauty, while acting totally oblivious to the fact that all their models are wearing a pound of makeup. They believe acne, caused by puberty, and a natural part of life, should be concealed and covered completely. This makes young people feel insecure and guilty for going through this era in their life. In teenage years, there are so many developments happening in the female body which is hard enough as it. The last thing a young woman needs is to feel as if what’s happening to her is ugly and should be hidden. It can be extremely difficult to grow up to be a confident individual when a huge corporation is always pointing out flaws.

The beauty industry is a constant reminder to people that they are flawed and should continually alter their natural beauty. Society is already faced with many battles. People have more to worry about than their appearance, and as a community, the main focus should be lifting up one another. Every individual is different in his or her own way, which makes each and everyone beautiful. The beauty industry doesn’t have the authority or the right to declare the way humans should present themselves.