On Wednesday, October 18th, the Coalition of Graduate Employees held a ‘work-in’ demonstration in the Kern Graduate Building. This demonstration took place outside of the room where the Graduate Council was meeting, which creates and institutes policies for the Graduate School. There have been several like it in the past, including on Old Main lawn. During ‘work-ins’, Grad students conduct their work as a form of demonstration that they are more than mere students.
The Coalition of Graduate Employees (CGE) represents the more than 3,500 graduate employees at Penn State. They are the graduate assistants, teaching assistants and researchers at every department and college.
Within the last 2 years, they began a campaign to unionize graduate students at Penn State. According to youngworkers.org, a union is “an organized group of workers who come together to make decisions about their conditions of work”. By joining unions, workers are able to have a strong impact on their wages, work hours, benefits, safety and other concerns related to work etc. To give just a few examples, union demonstrations helped spark enough political momentum to give us the weekend, minimum wages, employer-based health insurance and work safety standards.
In February earlier this year, the CGE filed for representation with the PLRB. The PLRB is the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. Months after the filing, on April 3rd, 2017, President Barron released the following statement: “…the University’s relationship with our students is fundamentally different from that of an employer and employee. For this reason, Penn State opposes this petition for representation with the PLRB.”
But the relationship is hardly distinguishable between that of an employer and employee. Graduates sign contracts with the university, are on Penn State’s payroll, pay taxes, are provided a health insurance benefit etc. And a survey conducted by CGE showed that 94 percent of respondents reported being half-time Graduate Assistants, which is defined by the university as 20 hours per week. Yet, the results also indicated that 47 percent of respondents reported working for the university more than 20 hours per week.
Some of these students report discrepancies between what their contracts say their supposed to work, and what they actually work. According to the survey, students have said:
“It’s an absolute insult that my contract says I work 20 hours…I’ve been very explicitly told by people in power that it needs to be over 40 hours a week...”
“Half time? What a joke. I’m in the lab 50 plus hours a week.”
“I am funded as an appointment for 20 hours per week and paid accordingly. However, I am required to work a minimum of 50 and frowned on below 60-70...”
40 hours a week, is considered full-time work according to the federal government.
The poverty line in State College for a single person is approximately $22, 667 a year before taxes. GA’s receive about $21,000 in annual income (on average). With that, many are struggling to make ends meet.
Brianne Pragg, graduate student in Sociology and Demography, who is an active member of CGE, said “I know a number of grad employees who make so little that they need government assistance. It is not really uncommon.”
17 percent of respondents reported making under $18,000 a year. Of those 17, 63 percent stated they work more than 20 hours per week. The latest U.S. Census indicated that there were 360,000 graduate-degree holders on public assistance, with the number doubling from 2007 to 2010.
“We are workers and we are valuable to Penn State.” Brianne said. “The administration said during one of their hearings that the teaching we do is just done in service of the university, that research is just a part of training; when our research goes towards Penn State’s rankings as a research institution, and our teaching teaches undergraduates. I actually have a friend in mathematics, who did some calculations and found that about 30 percent of classes are taught by grad students. And that’s approximate, but the point is that this university would not be able to operate without our labor. It’s important that our labor is recognized, because really, it’s just insulting.”
Unions have been recognized by universities across the nation for decades, including Temple University in Philadelphia. Of the hundreds of American graduate schools, 33 have unions. Even so, the administration, Brianne says, is avoiding CGE. They would rather sneak into back doors than recognize the value of their labor.
The work-in on Wednesday was a respectful demonstration, and ended without major incident. Administrators walked out of the meeting room and avoided eye contact with the protestors. Many of them walked hurriedly, clearly flustered by the presence of graduate employees.
“This isn’t about everybody hating their university. We are doing this because we truly love Penn State, and we want it to be better. What we are trying to accomplish is good for everybody. When graduate employees are happy, they’re going to be able to produce better work.”
Indeed, a wealthy university with a reputation as a world-class research institution, and with one of the most successful college football programs in the country, should, at the very least, ensure that none of its graduate employees have to resort to government assistance. CGE proposes that graduate employees should have a basic living wage, and they deserve all the support they can get from the Penn State community.
And even though unionization will face opposition from higher-ups, remember what was written a year ago in the Collegian by Shakil Rabbi: “power can be derived from two sources – money or people. As PSU graduate employees, our power is clearly the latter.”
If you’d like more information on CGE, visit their website: http://cge-psu.com/
To get involved, please contact here: http://cge-psu.com/get-involved/
And don’t’ forget to give them a like on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cge.psu/, and follow them on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cge_psu
Every 90-days, the President is supposed to ‘certify’ the terms of the Iran Nuclear Deal deal so as to reaffirm US commitment. Trump has already recertified it twice since becoming President. On Friday, October 13th, he announced his decision not to recertify the agreement. He offered a dilemma to Congress: draft new requirements to strengthen it, or else I’m leaving it.
“We will not continue down a path” Trump said during a White House speech, “whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror, and the very real threat of Iran’s Nuclear breakthrough.” He spoke in reference to the Iran Nuclear Deal, which is an international agreement spearheaded by the P5 + 1 and European Union. The P5 + 1 refers to the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – The United States, United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany.
Donald Trump’s rhetoric once again does not reflect reality. He claims that regional stability is in jeopardy because of the deal, when in fact, regional stability would be jeopardized in the very near future without it.
The Iran Nuclear Deal, also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was endorsed by over 90 countries of the world. It was passed unanimously by the UN Security Council in 2015 after years of tough negotiations with all the parties involved.
Uranium and plutonium are radioactive materials used to make nuclear weapons. They go through an enrichment process that allows them to become weapons-grade. The agreement forced Iran to reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98%, and to stop producing weapons-grade plutonium in their Arak reactor (the only one capable of enriching plutonium). Prior to the deal, Iran was 2 months away from their first weapon, which would have begun a Middle East arms race. After implementation, Iran still does not have a nuclear weapon, and their nuclear research and development capabilities will be heavily limited for 15 years. Some restrictions, like UN 24/7 inspection and access measures are in effect for 25 years. If any of the terms are violated by Iran or any parties involved, a “snapback” will occur, meaning that the deal becomes null and crippling economic sanctions will be imposed on Iran. In exchange for Iran’s cooperation, Iranian markets can do business with the West. This has benefitted the Iranian economy greatly, so their incentive is to maintain the terms.
If Trump were to scrap the deal, which he has threatened to do, US influence and control of the situation will be diminished. He will push Iran to the brink, and on top of ramping up their nuclear program, their government will likely seek sympathy points from other governments in the region and the world, which will further the risk of them assembling a nuclear weapon in a shorter period of time.
He also says that Iran is not following the “spirit” of the deal, what does that even mean? UN Inspectors have gone into Iran since implementation and confirmed that Iran is following the terms of the agreement. The Chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, has said that “I can state that the nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the (nuclear agreement) are being implemented”.
There are valid criticisms, such as the fact that the agreement only provides limited access to Iranian military installations, and, that it is temporary. However, the state of international politics indicates that the terms are probably as good as they can realistically get. Several of the administration’s own national security aides, such as Defense Secretary James N. Mattis have voice their support for the agreement. Not to mention that the consensus among foreign policy experts is that the JCPOA is a step in the right direction.
The leaders of the United Kingdom, France and Germany issued a joint statement that they remain committed to the deal due to the “shared national security interest”. They also strongly advise against leaving it, adding in their joint statement “we encourage the U.S. Administration and Congress to consider the implications to the security of the U.S. and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the nuclear agreement”. Additionally, neither China nor Russia support Trump’s decision. This again leaves the President at odds with the majority of the large industrial nations, but that should serve as no surprise considering his past actions. He received criticism from almost every nation on Earth after leaving the Paris Agreement, and was roundly criticized for leaving NAFTA.
The ‘all or nothing’ attitude displayed by the President is not only politically impossible, but it’s irresponsible. He places our national security at risk once again, by engaging in unpredictable, ill-advised, and embarrassing behavior.
Since May of 2009, Donald J. Trump has given Americans a plethora of outrageous, provocative, and often baffling Tweets to ponder. But when the president took to his favorite social media outlet the other week, he left his followers with what may have been one of his strangest posts yet.
When hurricanes Harvey and Irma devastated the continental (and red) states of Texas and Florida the president expressed his whole-hearted support of disaster recovery efforts on multiple occasions. Now that Hurricane Maria has devastated the island of Puerto Rico, however, FEMA apparently has more important matters on its hands. Generally, I have faith in the president’s ability to help the government properly allocate federal aid resources. But given that the majority Puerto Ricans are struggling to obtain basic survival items, such as medicine, food, and even clean water, I am simply at a loss as to what those more important matters are. So is the Republican-controlled House, which approved $36.5 billion in relief funds for Puerto Rico, among other hurricane-devastated areas, by a vote of 353-69. Such bi-partisan support of relief efforts in Puerto Rico begs the question, "Why is President Trump in such a hurry to move FEMA and first-responders elsewhere?"
A large portion of Donald Trump’s voter base, non-college educated, white Americans, feel that a recent influx of Hispanic immigrants from Mexico has enabled foreigners to steal “their” jobs. As a result, many of Trump’s ambitions as president, from ending DACA to building a border wall, have been largely focused on altering United States immigration laws in ways that would have large impacts on the country’s Hispanic population. Unfortunately, in addition to spurring widespread bias against Mexican-American immigrants, these efforts have also inspired prejudice against many law-abiding U.S. citizens of Hispanic backgrounds and strengthened nationalist movements in America. Puerto Rico’s lack of statehood and heavy Hispanic population cause many with such prejudices to view the island as a lesser part of the U.S. than any given state. Therefore, Trump’s motive to undercut relief efforts in Puerto Rico was likely the chance of solidifying the support of his base.
This motive seems even more probable considering his remarks during a trip to Puerto Rico earlier in the month. During the surprisingly brief visit, Trump trivialized the damage done to the island by comparing the death toll of Hurricane Maria to that of Hurricane Katrina. Because Maria’s death toll of 16 seems relatively low in comparison to Katrina’s 1,800+ fatalities, limiting federal aid to Puerto Rico may seem more reasonable. However, these numbers are misleading, since the damage done to Puerto Rico extends far beyond the lives lost to the storm. Yet again, Trump attempted to make his lackluster job performance seem exceptional and his lack of compassion acceptable.
For a number of reasons, the idea that the U.S. president values the support of potential voters over the lives of minority citizens should be deeply disturbing to Republicans and Democrats alike. All branches of the government are ultimately responsible for protecting and ensuring the well-being of all United States citizens. If the president is willing to compromise the health of some citizens to win the votes of others, the Executive Branch is corrupt. Furthermore, the president’s hasty decision-making demonstrates that he is easily manipulated by anyone on whom the longevity of his power and influence depends.
From blessing the rains down in Africa to racing up Smithsonian stairs to touring the monuments under a full moon, I and 30 members of the Penn State College Democrats did plenty during our weekend in Washington D.C. to unify our club even further.
Two Fridays ago I was behind the wheel of my car driving four hours, listening to the Hamilton soundtrack with my passengers and anticipating our arrival. That night, we walked from our hotel downtown to the White House. There, about one hundred people were gathered, called on by a Facebook event gone viral to sing “Africa” by Toto. A guitar and ukulele accompanied our voices as we murmured the half of the song’s lyrics we remembered and laughed at the half we forgot. The lights from our phones and from inside the White House illuminated the night sky.
We took a break from college dining halls to indulge in some city food. I watched Penn State take on Northwestern in a restaurant bar while sharing a basket of buffalo chicken fingers. We won, and Oklahoma lost its game, ensuring our rank as number three in the new AP poll. I found some fellow Rick and Morty enthusiasts in our group and set out on a mission — which we unfortunately failed — to get limited-time Szechuan sauce from McDonald’s.
We visited and took photos at the Capitol against a blue sky in 85-degree weather despite it being October. Inside, we observed models depicting D.C’s evolution and growth around the Capitol. We visited a few of the many infamous Smithsonian museums. I and several others took our marks and raced up the flights of stairs to the American Art Museum. We gazed upwards at the airplanes hanging by cables from the ceiling of the Air and Space Museum.
The trip to D.C was both a chance to meet with prominent organizations and plan our own education rally but, maybe more importantly, gave new club members a chance to get to know each other. Our 30-person group occupied nearly an entire hallway of double rooms in the Holiday Inn we stayed at. We had to be quiet to avoid disturbing unsuspecting guests, but we met up in our hotel rooms at nights. We engaged in general shenanigans, playing games with an abundance of icebreakers. Several of us spoke in turn about how grateful we were to be so involved in a club so early on.
Before I manned the steering wheel and waved goodbye to the city, we did my favorite thing of the weekend: a night tour of the monuments. There was a full moon and purple sky when we arrived at the Washington Monument. I stood against its side — with my counterparts doing the same — and looked straight up to notice how much taller the 550-foot spire appeared while lit up at night. We sat together on the steps of the Lincoln monument around midnight and walked to the World War II, Korean, War Veterans, FDR and Thomas Jefferson Memorials.
This year being my first in the club, I hardly knew anyone when I left campus that Friday. After a weekend of music, socializing and exploring, I felt like I had made some friends and even felt like I belonged.
Let's be clear:
Sexual assault is never acceptable.
Sexual harassment is never acceptable.
Sexual misconduct, of any sort, is never acceptable.
Any assailant who has thoughtfully infringed upon the rights of another, regardless of their gender, accomplishments, reputation, or politics, is an unquestionably horrendous offender to their community, and society at large.
In a tweet last week, the Penn State College Republicans called upon us to formally "denounce the allegations against Harvey Weinstein," given his legacy as a donor and supporter of Democratic causes, such as the Hillary Clinton campaign. Their full statement can be viewed here:
Done as easy as it is said, I write the following portion on behalf of the entirety of Penn State College Democrats, the executive board, the various committees, and all participating members. We, as an organization, whole-heartedly and unequivocally denounce and condemn Harvey Weinstein along with all perpetrators and assailants of sexual assault and harassment. Sexual misconduct is not, and shall never be a partisan issue. We will not be deterred in our condemnation of Harvey Weinstein, or ever be deterred in the condemnation of any sexual assailant, because of a history of supporting Democratic causes and candidates. We, the College Democrats, understand sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct as a paramount, abhorrent violation of the rights of others, regardless of the assailant's or victim's gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or fashion expression- that victims of sexual misconduct deserve our fullest listening, support and attention, and that perpetrators deserve prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.
We, the Penn State College Democrats, unequivocally expect and look forward to seeing Harvey Weinstein receive the fullest legal consequences, and look forward to seeing him delivered to justice given that such allegations are true. We easily accept the invitation to hold offenders responsible for their actions, and uphold and confirm our principles that sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct of any sort, are incredibly serious matters.
Furthermore, we invite, encourage, and expect the Penn State College Republicans to formally condemn and denounce the sexual misconducts of several notable figures of conservative media, political office, and other right-wing causes, including Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly and even the notably inappropriate statements of the President himself that help to encourage and normalize sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct. We reasonably expect the Penn State College Republicans to hold themselves to the same integrity standards they expect of others, without any apprehension or challenge.
We shall always take this responsibility seriously, that we shall never cower from confronting the gravity and seriousness of sexual assault in the interests of partisanship. The moment our commitment to civic responsibility is lost in the interest of partisan agenda, we will collectively lose our integrity as a society.
I would like to pose yet another important question, perhaps a challenge, to the Penn State College Republicans. From here forward I now write entirely out of my personal interests and concerns, and would like to make clear that going forward in this post, I am no longer representing the varied interests and opinions of the College Democrats as a whole, or any of its individual members, other than myself. I think it's important that we acknowledge the reality of the political climate in which we find ourselves today in late 2017. With a new administration and with a perhaps a new cultural tone since last year, it's important that we ask the Penn State College Republicans an important question: are you still the party of 'small government and family values,' the party of Nixon, Reagan and the Bush family? Or, are you planning to go forward as the party of Trump, the party of nationalism, scientific-skepticism, and frankly, anti-intellectualism?
We don't have to pretend that there aren't voices questioning the best message for the Democratic Party going forward. Yet while we discuss methods of execution, we are united in the cultural ideals we expect for this nation. I await your eloquent response, arguing that perhaps they aren't, as I think that its fair to say that we liberals, moderates, and frankly the rest of the world, equally observe that yes, the two value-systems currently splitting the Republican Party are very much mutually exclusive, and you are at a crossroads of how to best define your future. I hope you're aware of just how important the choice is, the choice that you are in the process of making.
Will you be the party that advocates for personal responsibility and limited government? Will you align with the John Kasichs, the Ana Navarros, the John McCains? Or, will you be the party that advocates for cultural nationalism (note: not patriotism), and resistance to the scientific and academic communities to the likes of Steve Bannon, Steve Miller and President Trump?
Writing for the College Democrats, I, along with many of my peers, will gladly concede that the Democratic Party, as an institution, is far from perfect. I will gladly concede that Hillary Clinton was far from the perfect candidate. However, will you have the courage to stand up to President Trump in his moments of inexpertise. Be it in a critical or friendly, advisory, manner, will you have the courage to suggest that perhaps the President Trump could make better use of his tweets? Will you have the guts to stand up the administration and the President when perhaps he could make better use of his time and reorganize his priorities, and advise him through his learning curve into political office? You have the choice the help steer the debate toward issues that matter: designing a more effective tax policy, discussing the most efficient means to ensure that 330 million have access to healthcare, how to administrate Social Security and Medicare while mitigating the national debt, which will affect our generation more than our parents- discuss the real substantive issues that actually put bread on the table. Or, you have the choice to fall into the trap, align with the proudly blind 'Kool-Aid block,' and continue to allow the President to steer the conversation into divisive cultural issues. YOU have the power to determine whether or not the conduct of NFL players in face of the national anthem is more substantive than appropriate hurricane relief for Puerto Rico. YOU have the power to decide whether defining and combatting 'Fake News' is more of a priority than fixing the complications in our healthcare system. YOU have the power to decide whether the affairs of transgender individuals and their ability to serve our nation are more dire than ensuring that GDP and stock-market growth is reflected in rising incomes for families and low-income Americans. President Trump is not beholden nor responsive to us. YOU have the choice to determine your own narrative as a campus organization, or waver to the interests of the Kool-Aid block and have the President and his twitter determine it for you.
College organizations, we equally participate in this beloved, 'millennial' generation, the culture that enough of our parents, especially on the conservative-end, find pleasure in criticizing. We know ourselves. We know that with technology and the speed of communication available to us, the cultural gap between ourselves and our parents might just be greater than those of generations before. We, "the millennials," have the privilege of access to the fullest extent of human knowledge at the ease of our fingertips, that we have an unprecedented exposure to people, cultures, and ideas, from all corners of the world. We are the future. Do you understand this? How will you help to guide the Republican Party and its message as it transitions from one generation to the next? Given how often our parents and the Fox News pundits love to complain about our generation's political identity, I think it's fair to say, in regards to President Trump and the development of this administration- that not very many of us are buying this shit. The generation that we are, its hard for us accept arguments that belittle the importance of the environment, and actually go as far as to refute scientific and academic consensuses concerning it. It's becoming harder for us to accept arguments that the humanity ought to best develop on its own, within the frame of their national boundaries. Globalization- we all know its happening whether you like it or not. If you're really against it, get off the internet, prove it. Instead, maybe we can talk about how we best deal with globalization? It's becoming harder for us to accept that there is a major political party who authentically advocates for 'small government,' when it often becomes so invested in regulating the personal affairs of other people's lives, using its power to enforce the morals of one group of people upon others, inhibiting people's liberties to lead their own lives by their own definitions, even if such definition bears absolutely no consequence on anyone else, whatsoever. The mob mentality is strong right now, it's a natural part of the sociology of democratic societies. The Kool-Aid vote may continue to have a strong voice for the time being, but our generation is progressively coming up to bat, and those before us will soon fade out. I encourage you to enjoy your electoral successes now as they occur, because while I expect you to laugh and defensively scorn at what I am about to say, I think it's pretty obvious: if the everyday nonsense coming out of this administration and those who represent it continues, the Republican Party, and the conservative principles of 'small government and family values' will be damaged for a generation to come. I almost hope that some of you are laughing right now, so strong in your 'alternative reality,' refusing to acknowledge any of it. If you actually value 'small government, family values, and personal responsibility,' as your party has liked to champion for decades, now is the time when you need to reassure yourselves of that, and continue to defend it, as this new faction within your party clearly seeks to change that. YOU have the power to lead the future of the Republican Party toward the libertarian principles you claim to stand for, and ensure that the Republican Party is truly a party of 'small government', in both our wallets and in our bedrooms. YOU have the power to choose or not if the Republican Party will return to the world of science and academia, or continue to refute it and play the harp of the certifiably insane.
You are presented a choice that determines the Republican Party's cultural vision for the future, for the future of this country. It's 2017. President Trump is watching you. Breitbart and Fox News are watching you. The rest of the world is watching you from a far, as you make this choice. Don't be afraid, because more important than perhaps anyone else, history is watching, and history will remember the choices you made at this moment in time. History will remember the choices we all made, across the political spectrum, to confront the serious issues that confront our time, and how we respond to the different faces of power that seduce their way into authority. History is watching, and in the end, history always speaks.
Frankly, I'm not sure if I expect CRs to respond to any of this. Frankly, I'm not sure what to expect. If they have learned enough from the new President representing them, admitting to your faults and being open to change is be avoided at all costs. Deflect, blame, and the use of twitter as a platform for playground fights have become the new norm. Thanks to Trump, personal responsibility, as a tenet of the Republican mantra, has been completely thrown out the damn window, and may God help you if you actually try to otherwise.
Predictable Trumplicans won't respond to any of this. A predictable Trumplican would instead draft back a fiery response about 'Predictable Democrats' and how we need to redefine our party and cultural vision because we're too radical and thus keep losing elections, and Antifa, and BLM...yada yada yada. A Somehow it will all be Obama or Hillary's fault. Somehow Trump will bear no responsibility in being absolutely damn inept to push forward any of his legislative agenda. It's Mitch McConell's fault. It's the 'Fake News Media's' fault. It's establishment Republicans' fault. It's Democrats' fault for being so obstructive, as if they forget how much hell and obstruction Republicans gave Obama since 2010, yet 44 still got things done. Trump has the ENTIRETY OF CONGRESS to enact his agenda, yet HE STILL CAN'T GET ANYTHING DONE. But yet, no, somehow it's not just because he's an inept doofus who literally has no idea what he's doing, in the eyes of a committed Trumplican. He is adept at one thing, having a twitter account more insecure and immature than a teenager, and being able to distract his army of zombie-like supporters, so brainlessly happy after drinking the Kool-Aid that they'll happily vote against their own interests. Democrats aren't perfect. I agree. Though when it comes to intellectual dishonesty, for Trumplicans it is not only an art form, it is a sport, with Sean Hannity and Milo as quarterbacks, and that is why I can no longer identify as Republican as I was first raised to in my childhood.
But, I know, I know, I know....I'm just a fiery liberal spewing my liberal hatred for the President, and that makes me un-American. All we liberals do is hate, hate, hate, we claim to be tolerant but we're tolerant up until the point where you disagree with our viewpoints, etc. I just love the different forms of right-wing self-victimization, despite their loathing of victimization culture. You know what? If you're a Republican that resorts to facts, science, and reason to form a substantive debate, I will gladly respect and listen to your opinion, even if I disagree with it. If your political and cultural philosophy is formed on the intolerance of other people whose lives bare no consequence to your own, no, and I will say this proudly: I will not tolerate you. You are the cancer of our society.
Deflect, blame, re-assign fault: that is the Trumplican motto. Let's not be blind.
So, what will be the definition of the 21st century Republican? Based on many of the Republicans our age, I do have hope. I do have hope that they will take the reigns and steer their party's narrative back to the principles championed by its greatest leaders. I have hope, that while maybe it is too soon, this all being just too fresh, that they will come to stand for what is honest and true. Maybe one day in the future, some of them will be able to confidently and courageously look at history in the eyes, and let her know that they were the ones who finally did something.
On Indigenous People’s Day, the Daily Wire, which is the conservative opinion website founded by firebrand Ben Shapiro, posted a video ‘satirizing’ indigenous people’s day.
In the cartoon, Native Americans are depicted as savages who ate each other, and were in a state of constant war. Then, it shows the onshore arrival of the white man (Christopher Columbus) in 1492. Columbus hopes off his ship, begins to build, domesticate animals, and grow food. The Native Americans are in shock and awe over their savior. It fast forwards to 2017 and shows the modern bustling city in all of its glory. In the next frame, there’s a ‘list of contributions’ from the pre-Columbus and after-Columbus era. The pre-Columbia list shows only 3 contributions, and the after-Columbus era shows a laundry list of modern contributions. It signs off with ‘Happy Indigenous People’s Day!’
Soon after the video was posted on the website, there was backlash against it for its racist connotations. Ben Shapiro was quick to fire back. Here is his statement, which was originally posted as a Tweet by CNN correspondent Oliver Darcy at the following link:
"I’ve been on vacation for the last two weeks, and I’m only just seeing the video now. While I didn’t greenlight it, it’s obvious to me that it’s satire and must be evaluated by those standards. Everybody needs to calm the hell down. The video is obviously a response to the Left’s decision to turn Columbus Day into a story purely about Western civilization “genociding” Native Americans rather than the great gain Western civilization brought the world via entry into the Americas, despite awful wrongs committed in the process, as I tweeted. Conservatives are allowed to make satire, too."
In response to his statement I have two things to say. One, satire is supposed to be funny. And I am stunned about how a Harvard law graduate can’t seem to comprehend that racist satire is not funny to most people. He actually feels attacked that empathetic people don’t find it funny, and resorts to the usual ‘conservatives are oppressed’ talking point. The real satire isn’t the video, it’s Ben Shapiro himself. How could anyone take his constant self-victimization seriously?
Two, his defense of the video is whitewashing, plain and simple. Nobody says that Hitler helped to modernize Germany, even though under his tyranny Germany developed the Autobahn and Volkswagen was created. We call Hitler for what he is. “Entry” into the Americas? Is that what we call land invasion now? With a force of 17 ships, Columbus “entered” the Americas in 1493 by appointing himself as governor of the Caribbean and the mainland of America. As “governor”, Columbus set up his headquarters in Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti) and implemented policies of slavery and extermination of the native Taino population. Prior to Columbus’s arrival to Hispaniola, it is estimated that the Taino population in Hispañola was upwards of a million. After just 25 years of Columbus’s policies, the Tainos were reduced to tens of thousands or less. In 1542, only 200 were left. I’m sorry – is that not genocide? Anyone who tries to claim otherwise doesn’t want to face the truth. Even one of those among the early invaders recognized this. Bartolome de Las Casas, was a prominent Spanish Dominican friar whose family became wealthy from their trips to the Americas. After seeing the treatment of native Americans in Hispaniola, which included unwarranted killings and the encomienda system (a form of slavery), he underwent a profound change and began writing about what he had seen. He writes in Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies:
Yet into this sheepfold, into this land of meek outcasts there came some Spaniards who immediately behaved like ravening wild beasts, wolves, tigers, or lions that had been starved for many days. And Spaniards have behaved in no other way during the past forty years, down to the present time, for they are still acting like ravening beasts, killing, terrorizing, afflicting, torturing, and destroying the native peoples, doing all this with the strangest and most varied new methods of cruelty, never seen or heard of before, and to such a degree that this island of Hispaniola once so populous (having a population that I estimated to be no more than three million), has now a population of barely two hundred persons.
In what is the present day United States, the story wasn’t much different. European settlers did not suddenly have a change of heart, as the writings of Las Casas resulted in virtually no immediate change. It is true, that disease is thought to have killed as much as 90% of Native Americans. And in some cases, Native Americans attacked English settlements. However, most people would take issue with strange men with muskets claiming land that you’ve occupied for generations. For the remaining 10%, what can we say? We can say that the Sand Creek, Gnadenhutten, Conestoga, and Camp Grant massacres, Indian Removal Act (Trail of Tears), forced assimilation policies and white supremacy of Manifest Destiny point to how the colonizers viewed Native Americans. A Century of Dishonor by Helen Hunt Jackson highlights some of the key points that Ben Shapiro seems to not want to face. Why massacring women and children is considered ‘civilized’ to anyone, is beyond me.
Which brings me to my next point. Ben’s statement (and the video) reflect an all-too-common sentiment that Western civilization has magically manifested all good into the world, all by itself. This is called Eurocentrism. And history textbooks are known for being Eurocentric, as shown over and over again in Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen.
Sacagawea was invaluable to the Lewis and Clarke expedition. She was also adopted as an early feminist figure by the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Native Americans were crucial to many expeditions throughout North America, when they weren’t being massacred. Benjamin Franklin was inspired by the Iroquois confederacy (which is the subject matter of a Senate resolution in 1987). Native Americans first learned how to grow potatoes, beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, wild rice as well other foods, and in the moments of relative peace, taught the colonizers their farming knowledge. And with Thanksgiving around the corner, I’d like to mention that they were the first to raise turkeys.
Over 60% of the global food supply comes from Native American agriculture. They introduced colonizers to Tobacco. They introduced them to snow shoes, canoes, kayaks, lacrosse, cotton, rubber, etc. They were the first to extract valuable metals like gold. They were the first ecologists, and long ago preached the need to live in harmony with the natural world, an idea that we are just now ‘rediscovering’.
As Ben Shapiro would say, “facts don’t care about your feelings”. I couldn’t agree more. And let me rephrase that in a more appropriate fashion, facts don’t care about your Eurocentrism.
You may have heard by now enough of your peers on social media advocate for the celebration of Indigenous People's Day. It may no longer be news to you that a rising amount of voices is taking issue with the commemoration of Christopher Columbus with his own holiday. But, how can what is frankly just an ordinary federal holiday be a source of such tension, in need of re-examining? Christopher Columbus is the central hero of the American narrative, for not only the United States but all of western civilization as he discovered the New World for all of us to settle and thrive upon, right?- At least that's what we're taught. The culturally-resistant right-wing media will surely eat up the idea of Indigenous Peoples' Day, hosting panelists on Fox News Segments and publishing a day's worth of Breitbart articles dismissing it as another facet of 'the political-correctness agenda,' another example of how liberals are trying to 'destroy America and its culture,' and 're-write history.' However, the reality is, the idea Indigenous Peoples' Day doesn't re-write history, instead it does the exact opposite, correcting history and restoring an accurate depiction of the events of Columbus' arrival that Columbus Day actually seeks to re-write and distort. So, what is Indigenous Peoples' Day? Well first, let's ask ourselves what exactly Columbus Day is anyway?
Columbus Day is that early-October federal holiday when most government buildings and banks are closed in 'observance.' We are all taught from elementary that 'in 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria too....etc,' and that such may have been the most pivotal moment in the history of western civilization, as Columbus' expedition 'discovered the New World' and opened it for European colonization. Columbus' arrival has been commemorated well before becoming a federal holiday. New York and other U.S. cities of the time celebrated its tricentennial in 1792 (1). However, establishing Columbus Day as a federal holiday took more time, and was accomplished largely through the lobbying efforts of the Knights of Columbus, a cultural organization dedicated to promoting Roman-Catholic values and culture in the United States, which at the time of its founding, was much more dominantly Protestant (2). Christopher Columbus, of Genoa, was an ideal, Italian, Roman-Catholic role-model whose enshrined efforts would help to promote the image of Italian-Americans and Roman-Catholic Americans and their contributions to our society in culture. It was in 1934, by proclamation of then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, that a day in early-October, then the 12th, will be enshrined on the federal calendar as a day of cultural commemoration. So, this still doesn't explain the controversy, and why advocacy groups have been introducing an alternative, instead.
Christopher Columbus, of Genoa, then an Italian maritime city-state, sailed under the Spanish crown, on his three ships, and made aware to European Society that additional continents existed beyond the ocean, open for exploration, exploitation, and colonization. This is common knowledge. What should also be common knowledge by now is that Christopher Columbus was not the first person to set foot in the New World, to 'discover' it quite as we've liked to proclaim. Norseman Leif Erikson had already set foot in the Americas centuries before, and of course, the Americas were home to human civilizations well before the arrival of the Europeans. To say Christopher Columbus 'discovered America' is something we no longer accept in its literal sense.
What appears to be less known, are the atrocities committed by Christopher Columbus and his crew upon the human populations already existing in the lands he revealed to Europeans, among them: genocide. It is cited that from 1493, when Columbus returned to the Americas to govern discovered islands in Spain's earliest colonial stage, to 1496, the native Taino population to the islands which were overseen by Columbus, diminished from eight million to three million (3). While diseases brought from Europe were certainly a factor, the enslavement, starvation, and general maltreatment of the natives by Columbus are equally to blame. Columbus oversaw a genocide as horrifying as any modern genocide of the past century, as by 1542, only 200 of such Taino population had remained. Over such years, the Taino population had been employed as slaves by the ruling Spanish in order to maximize the output of gold and other resources that were found abundant on such islands. Mistreatment and dehumanizing on behalf of Columbus and his counterparts contributed to their populations decline. The full extent of Columbus' atrocities and the damage he had inflicted on these people is worth a much longer exposé. Yet, we continue to identify Columbus solely with his accomplishment, seeming to erase the reality that he is directly responsible for overseeing of one history's worst genocides. Columbus Day rewards Christopher Columbus by both commemorating him for his accomplishment, and erasing the history of his atrocities from the slate of common knowledge, thus, it is inappropriate and historically irresponsible.
Indigenous Peoples' Day has been suggested has a healing alternative, to commemorate the cultures that pre-existed the arrival of Europeans, and continue to co-exist with them despite their various hardships and injustices throughout history, calling attention and raising awareness to such. It was in 1992, at the five-hundred year anniversary of Columbus' arrival, that Berkeley, California became United States city to adopt Indigenous Peoples' Day, after successful advocacy efforts by Native-American interest groups (4). Indigenous Peoples' Day does not discredit Christopher Columbus of his accomplishment, although it is worthwhile truly understanding that Christopher Columbus did not 'discover' America, seemingly as the first person, even from Europe, to encounter it, but rather he opened the door of opportunity for European settlement and development. Indigenous Peoples' Day merely restores the historical reality, that has been over-painted and re-written by Columbus Day, that while having an important place in the history of civilization, Christopher Columbus is simply no man to honor.
Fourth of July fireworks fanatic. Barbecue enthusiast. Cub scout. Boy scout. Eagle scout. Yes, I’m as American and patriotic as they come, and as a child, I was taught to respect the national anthem. Twice, my school choir performed the Star-Spangled Banner at the Baltimore Orioles’ Camden Yards. Not once have I, personally, refused to stand while it is played at a sporting event. But when New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, and Miami Dolphins took a knee during the anthem at their respective games last Sunday, I applauded their refusal to stand idly by as their president tried to silence voices bringing awareness to the issue of systemic racism in the American Justice System.
America is not broken, but President Donald Trump is bent on the idea that standing for the anthem is required of anyone who wishes to be considered a patriot. At a rally in Alabama on September 22nd, Trump referred to kneeling NFL players as “sons of bitches” as he called for their removal from the sport. However, by conflating a willingness to stand during the anthem with a sense of patriotism, the president has ignored American ideals expressed in the First Amendment of the Constitution. The First Amendment gives citizens the right to peaceably assemble when they feel they have been wronged or let down by their government. Why? Because in light of the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers wished to encourage citizens to speak out against unfair and unjust government policies when necessary. And in a year when the percentage of the African American population fatally shot by police is 2.7 times that of America’s white population, it is clear that speaking out is now necessary. A person who truly loves his or her country, a patriot, seeks to rectify such issues. Thus, by advocating positive change in America through striking, but peaceful, demonstrations, NFL players are, in fact, acting patriotically.
Moreover, by calling for the punishment of professional football players who have chosen to take a knee during the anthem, Donald Trump has unpatriotically attempted to abuse his power and influence as president to limit freedom of speech. Although he has not promoted legislation requiring all American citizens to stand as the anthem is played, his loud and public discouragement of a form of peaceful protest is still inappropriate and disturbing. It is crucial for Trump and his supporters to understand that anyone has a right to voice their grievances against the country in any manner that is peaceful and does not impact the safety or well-being of others. By continuing to kneel together, NFL players have sent the message that the president cannot deter demonstrations through the use of harsh words, threats, and name-calling.
Some argue that if NFL stars truly cared about the issue of systemic racism in the United States, they could and would use their wealth and fame to bring awareness to the problem in other ways. Individuals with such arguments assert that football stars are only continuing to kneel during the anthem because they wish to bring attention to themselves. However, it seems that their fans are actually less interested in watching them play after such demonstrations. According to a CBS News report, online NFL ticket sales have plunged by double-digit percentages over the past week. For example, the report states that this week’s ticket sales on the website TickPick are 17.9% lower than last week’s. Since interest in the sport ultimately behooves NFL players, it is unlikely that they would continue to protest solely for media attention. Therefore, further demonstration is likely driven by a legitimate desire to protest.
Sadly, the only reason the president and his supporters are so vehemently opposed to this form of protest is that they find it “disrespectful”. Yes, ironically, the same conservatives who love to label those of us on the left “liberal snowflakes” are railing against peaceful demonstration that offends them. The fact is that kneeling during the national anthem neither causes nor incites violence, and is therefore a right possessed by NFL players as well as all other Americans. To challenge that right is to challenge the very ideals upon which this country was built, and is, therefore, unpatriotic.
Penn State College