Tag Archives: history

The Confederate Flag Debate

The Confederate Flag being removed from its post – photo from ABC News

It is the debate that never seems to die down, partially due the groups of white supremacists that continue to pop up and partially due to a stubborn refusal from many people in the American south. Many people wish to fly the Confederate battle flag both on their personal property and at public and/or government buildings. Many of them claim it is part of their heritage and part of the history of the U.S. While it may be a part of the history of the U.S., that does not mean it should be flown, if anything it means the flag should be kept exclusively in a museum. And as far as heritage goes, it is a heritage of hate and slavery and you should not be proud of that. It is part of an abysmal chapter in the history of this country and people need to get over the fact that the Confederacy lost.

The Confederate flag does not honor anyone or anything, including the troops who fought under it. They were traitors to this country, which was the whole point. They were a part of a group of people who decided to leave the Union and fight against it for the sake of keeping slavery. This is not something that should be celebrated or honored, it is a disgusting display of racism. That is what this is all about, a bunch of people who do not want to give up their racist ideologies, because that is what the Confederate flag represents. It should be in a museum as a warning and a lesson from that past, not “flown proudly”.

Supporters of flying the Confederate flag need to realize that it is a symbol of hate and racism, of years of systematic abuse and dehumanization, one whose effects can still be felt today. Many likely do realize and simply do not care, content with their racist ideologies and wanting to preserve them but decorating it as “heritage” and “history” for the sake of avoiding the backlash they know they will face for being racist.

Will History Repeat Itself?

There have been a number of concerns since Donald Trump took office a little over two months ago. Various activist groups and minorities have been voicing their concerns about Trump’s attitude towards his new position and the effect his policies and his beliefs could have. And while there are definitely more immediate concerns with Trump’s policy making, there are many who are concerned with the long-term effects and potential results of a Trump presidency.

One of the more famous people voicing their concerns is George Takei, an actor who is most famous for his role as Sulu on Star Trek. He has said the current political climate looks similar to the time leading up to the mass internment of Japanese Americans in America during World War II.

George Takei arrives at the Premiere of "Bridegroom" at The Samuel Goldwyn Theatre on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
“He has said the current political climate looks similar to the time leading up to the mass internment of Japanese Americans in America during World War II.” Photo from: http://instinctmagazine.com/sites/instinctmagazine.com/files/images/blog_posts/Nigel%20Campbell/2015/10/14/george%20takei.jpg

George Takei was one of the many Japanese Americans who were unjustly placed in internment camps during WWII, and he fears that similar events many happen to people of the Islamic faith. He is concerned that the similar rhetoric used against Japanese Americans is now being applied to Muslims in America. People would say that a person of Japanese ancestry was an enemy of the state, just because they were Japanese, and now people are calling anyone of Islamic faith a terrorist (1).

At the rate things are going, will we end up having another national crime where we wrongly incarcerate an entire group of people because of baseless and bigoted fears? Trump has already issued a travel ban against Islamic countries and he did it within the first week of his presidency. What will happen two or three or four years down the road? We’ve already gone down this road before and it was a national embarrassment and an inexcusable act of mass discrimination. We need to make sure history does not repeat itself.

  1. http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/18/opinions/george-takei-japanese-american-internment-day-of-remembrance/index.html

Power Outage

I sit on my grandmother’s porch and pray for a breeze.

She complains about the heat from behind her fourth glass of sweet tea in as many hours.

The distant, unending buzz of cicadas stretch every lapse in half-hearted conversation.

She eventually disappears behind the screech of a flimsy screen door,

But I hardly notice her absence.

As I lean heavily into one of the wooden beams keeping the home relatively upright,

I pick absentmindedly at the chipping brown paint.

photo album
“Grainy instant photographs labeled with fading ink, Smiling family members I’ll never meet.” Photo from: nibsblog.files.wordpress.com

She returns from the pitch-dark house

Clutching a thick photo album in her shaking grip,

Pulled from wherever it lurked,

Locked tight in some cabinet I wasn’t allowed to touch.

She motions me to sit next to her

And I wordlessly oblige.

 

Grainy instant photographs labeled with fading ink,

Smiling family members I’ll never meet.

Wistful recollections of long past memories.

My grandmother pours decades of family history into a single, sweltering afternoon.

I couldn’t tell you what time the lights inside finally flicker back to life;

Neither of us notice when it happens.

Art and science: the world’s best couple?

Do art and science make a good couple? Graphic by Katie Gibson
Do art and science make a good couple? Graphic by Katie Gibson

Art has been one of the most efficient ways to learn about the cultures of the world. There isn’t an exact estimate on when humans began making art, but we have examples dating back to roughly 50,000 years.  From what we have gathered, prehistoric art was created to depict religious stories and rituals.. Creating statues for their gods and goddesses in hope it would provide them good fortune, fertility, food, etc.

5,500 years ago, the first known system of writing was developed by the Sumerians. This form of writing is known as cuneiform.  Somewhere in the fourth millennium BCE, the ancient Egyptians developed the world’s first writing system, which we all know today as hieroglyphs/hieroglyphics.  Each of these writing systems used little symbols and pictures to depict stories and historical events.

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Which brings me to my point– art not only has been influencing the world historically, but also scientifically.

The reason we view some art and find it visually appealing, is because the artists took the time to create what they knew our brains would like biologically. When we see a cute little kitty, we think it is cute because their eyes are so much bigger in proportion to their heads. Imagine if we saw a cat with eyes the size of a rat’s eyes. They would probably be terrifying then.

When you view a work of a human who is represented as innocent, or perhaps devout, then maybe they would be represented with larger eyes to show their purity.

Art could also walk hand in hand with psychology. In art, there is this principle called line. It can be an actual, visual line that we see, or an implied line that our brain fills in. In psychology, we call what art calls implied line, closure.  Closure is where our brain will see a cut out figure, but then fill in the gaps to create a new image. There are many other examples of how the two tie together, such as how sometimes our brain recognizes one image, and then another although it is just one image made up of many other images. In art that would most likely be known as illusion. Our brain likes to play tricks on us, and artists know exactly how to create compositions to do just that.

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There is a video by a youtuber under the name Vsauce, who talks and describes in a video titled  “Messages for the Future” just how we use art and science to potentially inform other lifeforms. In this video, Michael Stevens tells us about how there are these satellites launched up into space, some in orbit within our solar system, others, interstellar. Some have records with images of earth and earthlings. There is one, that has these plaques on it with images of what the typical human being looks like and messages written on them in binary code, in hopes that if someday, extra terrestrial beings were to discover them, they would be intelligent enough to decipher it. One satellite even has a record with a recordings of songs, human voices, animals and even a message from former president Jimmy Carter.

This record also contains 116 images, as well as the directions encrypted on the back. Stevens not only explains this, but also other ideas of how we could potentially reach out to other life, so be it. If interested, please check out the video, it is extremely informing and enlightening, and also shows how today, we still refer back to that ancient way of art, to document our existence.

Women’s history at RU

Women’s History Month began as a week-long celebration in 1981. Congress asked the President to start “Women’s History Week,” in honor of women who had made invaluable contributions to the world.  As of 1995, each president has continued to support Women’s History Month.

Women’s History Month was celebrated

at RU on April 1 at the Covington Center for Visual and Performing Arts. In attendance were members of the RU campus community who lead panels, lectures, workshops, performances and exhibits. The whole month of March was devoted to celebrating and began with Sarah Hastings–director of RU’s psychology program–and a Circle of Life Inter-generational Dialogue. Every Monday in the month, different generations of women reach out and speak to each other about how they’re living based on their age.

women historyOn March 2, author Dorothy Allison , writer of “Bastard Out of Carolina,” appeared on campus. President Penelope W. Kyle also gave a short speech to the attendees of the presentation, “Our Wretched Sisters: Gender and Executed Women,” held in the Bonnie. In addition to the closing remarks about Women’s History Month, other events were also held, like the performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” and other sketches.

Although the concept of a month devoted to women is no longer foreign to me, it still makes me think. Is it just a little strange that we have a whole month devoted to the female gender? If Women’s History Month is only in March, does that mean every other month of the year (besides Black History Month) celebrates men’s history? There are a lot of skeptical remarks to be made about times like those. However, I think that the basic purpose is to reinforce and build the relationships with others around us.

To do that, we need to understand and appreciate one another. Sometimes it takes a lot to open up other’s eyes to show them what you’re really capable of and that you can make a difference. At this point though, doesn’t that seem a little weird? Shouldn’t we all know by now that we are part of one race: the human race? With that in mind, I still feel very conflicted about celebrating each part of society individually.


Not all marriages are Christian

In the debate over whether or not gay marriage should be legal, I’ve often seen Christian right-wingers cry that marriage is a religious act. Although many marriage ceremonies involve religious text or traditions, marriage didn’t form from Christianity by any means.

There’s plenty of archaeological evidence of ancient marriages. Marriages were once considered a contract between two families. Fathers would often marry their daughters off to someone whose family was deemed valuable or powerful. The families would enter a sort of alliance, wherein the families would support each other. Women in the ancient world were often considered property and their importance was found in the title of being someone’s “wife.” Women were considered vessels in which men would grow their offspring and spread their genes, therefore spreading the family’s “empire.”

In ancient times, men would often have multiple wives to produce more children and make the family more powerful. Polygamy also served the purpose of fulfilling duties. For example, polygamous families who lived on farms never had a shortage of hands to get work done quickly and efficiently. In ancient Greece, wives were meant to be baby-making machines and housekeepers. Men in Greece were often expected to have sex with courtesans for pleasure; the wives were simply child-bearers and kept the house clean and safe.

Wives weren’t for emotional support. Ironically, in those times, the most ideal situation was for people to marry someone of the same sex. The most elite members of society who had no need to reproduce, or could afford servants to keep up with the housework, often married someone of the same sex. It was understood that people of the same sex could understand each other’s emotions and provide support.

Early Christians believed that celibacy was the most ideal thing for a person to commit to. Marriage only became acceptable because its purpose was procreation. Early Christians believed that sex was evil, but was tolerated for married couples who wished to spread their genes. Thus came the idea of abstinence before marriage.

Only in recent centuries did it become ideal for people to marry someone because they were in love. Marriage has become a symbol of great affection between two people. Married couples often support each other emotionally and financially. To think that marriage is only for procreating and that men and women have specific roles is sort of barbaric. Humans are much more advanced than that these days.

In Franklin County, Virginia, an atheist couple who wanted to get married in the courthouse were turned away by one judge-appointed officiant. The judge agreed with the officiant, and sent the couple to a different officiant. The new officiant agreed to marry the couple. Although the problem was easily solved, it just goes to show that religious discrimination of married couples still exists.

Marriage is a legal right of everyone, and the fact the officiant turned the couple away because of religious bigotry should have been enough to get him fired. He’s a public servant, which means he should serve every member of the public and leave his personal beliefs at home.

Christians who want to claim that marriage is specifically a religious act need to crawl out of the rock they’ve been living under. Many couples choose not to have children, or simply can’t have children. Many Christians may argue that marriage is for procreating, but with the world quickly running out of resources and facing overpopulation, it’s a good thing that marriage is evolving out of the old idea that it’s meant for making babies.

Couples in the United States are embracing the idea of religious-less marriage ceremonies– and instead focusing on the love they have for one another. If they choose to turn that love into a human being, that’s ultimately their choice.

The Great White Moby Dick! Why is it great?

What makes a book a classic? Or even, who decided that book was better than another one. When you Google the question “What makes a book a classic?” An answer immediately comes up. “A classic book is a book accepted as being exemplary or noteworthy, either through an imprimatur such as being listed in any of the Western canons or through a reader’s own,” No one said it was a good answer, but we shouldn’t rely on Google for a good answer. We look to them to have the right answer, and as far as I’m concerned, that was the right answer. A classic book is more or less called a classic, until everyone else has caught on and agreed.

One example of a classic work that remains a mystery to me, as to why its a classic, is Moby Dick. To start with, who wants to read about whales? The book was received terribly by the public, no one cared or even wanted to. That isn’t entirely true, but from Melville publishing the book in 1851 to his death in 1891. Only 3,500 copies of the book were sold. That means in the span of forty years, he sold less than a hundred books a year.

MobyDickTonyMillionaireCoverPoster
“Whales were just something not enough people care about, because realistically who cares about whales?”

By today’s standards that wouldn’t get you nationally recognized or anything, but it would get you that pat on the back from your friends. All of them probably saying the same thing, “Oh yeah! Its a great book, I don’t know why more people don’t read it.” Then as soon as your back is turned they start to wonder how you even got published in the first place, because they wrote a novel they want to get out there, since you did, so can they.

Melville was not a bad writer. His plot is a solid one, he created some of the most noteworthy characters of all time, and his visual imagery is excellent at points. The only problem is the subject. Whales were just something not enough people care about, because realistically who cares about whales? Not in the environmental way, as in when they die the ecosystem goes out of whack. But more along the lines of, people are not frequently affected by whales, so why think about them?

The thing that eventually drove people to pick up this book was the publicity it received from other academics, such as D.H Lawrence or Nathaniel Hawthorne. Back then that was the equivalent to having the sticker that said New York Times best seller on it. This brought in waves of new readers, just because this smart guy said it was good, I’ll believe it’s good too because I’m smart too. One thing that helped is half the people reading didn’t believe in whales. Because the idea of a sea monster was fiction. Of course now the idea seems silly, because we have seen whales on TV or documentaries or wherever. But back then people who didn’t have anything to do with the ocean job-wise stayed away from the ocean.

The main idea is that Moby Dick would not have become a classic on its own merit. So who is to say that it should be a classic at all? The only thing I saw when I was reading it was an outdated “bromance” story. Because honestly, the book was about whether Ishmael liked Queequeg or Ahab more. Whales were just a side thing.

RU Home for the Summer: Stafford, Va.

There are five high schools in my county, and every spring the juniors at each one develop a very particular kind of restlessness. As their glorious last year — and the reality of college and the future — approaches, they all make the same passionate declaration.

Welcome to Stafford. Photo by Rachel Klein.
Welcome to Stafford. Photo by Rachel Klein.

“I can’t wait to get out of Stafford,” they say. Continue reading RU Home for the Summer: Stafford, Va.

Is the Tea Party really something America needs?

Recently the popular Tea Party has grown larger and larger. With more members hating the current administration, a question of its necessity for America is in order. I guess to answer such a question, one must first look at the reasoning for having such protests. So far the only thing I have gotten out of the entire Tea Party movement is the fact that Americans are at a state of severe desperation. With a devastating high unemployment rate and the economy in a near purgatory-like situation, it is obvious why so many of us are gathering together to collectively shout out our pure rage.

Desperate and fearful people make excellent sheep; that is something all of us should keep in mind. What that means is that today, people are in fear of a failing America so they are looking for anyone who might have the answers to their troubles. So along come individuals such as Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and many other conservatives who give us a name we should be mad at, aka the government. They say that it