Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Eating disorders affect up to 24 million Americans. To put that number into perspective, that’s more than the entire population of the state of New York. More concerning is the fact that only one in 10 seeks treatment, which means that the majority of those 24 million people are suffering in silence. But there’s something you can do to help.

In 2013, Representative Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) introduced the Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders (FREED) Act of 2013. If passed, this legislation would provide funding for gaps in eating disorder research, improve training for school and health professionals to better identify and treat those with eating disorders and would increase health insurance access to treatment.

One of the research gaps to be addressed would be a better idea of the actual prevalence, incidence and mortality rate of eating disorders in the United States. To date, if you viewed five reports on eating disorders in America, you would have read five different sets of figures. As all public health professionals know, the first step in addressing a problem is to have proper baseline surveillance figures.

The second goal of the FREED Act is to improve education and prevention initiatives. One of the main priorities of this goal is to target school and health professionals who regularly interact with the age group that is most at risk for developing unhealthy eating behaviors that can lead to eating disorders. The FREED Act wants these professionals to be able to confidently identify students who are exhibiting warning signs of unhealthy behaviors, as early diagnosis and treatment significantly improves the chances of recovery.

Another aspect of the second goal is to include eating disorder awareness in the preexisting national obesity initiatives. Compulsive overeating, which can lead to obesity, is in the spectrum of disordered eating. Therefore, federal research that has already been funded into lowering the rates of obesity should also include research into eating disorders. Current federal initiatives to treat America’s obesity epidemic have a wide reach, and if eating disorder education can be included in those programs, more people can learn about these issues that affect so many. For instance, if First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” program were to also address eating disorders along with childhood obesity, millions of school-age children and their parents and teachers would be reached.

The third and final goal of the FREED Act is to help improve the health insurance coverage for eating disorder treatment. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, yet health insurance companies routinely deny coverage for long-term treatment. The FREED Act would require health insurance companies (and Medicaid) to treat eating disorder treatment as equal to that of physical illness. Adequate treatment is essential to eating disorder recovery, but because of the gap in insurance coverage, many people find that they cannot afford the treatment that they need to get healthy.

If you’re still not convinced why you should support the passage of the FREED Act, think about all the people you’ve ever known and cared for in your life. And if you think that you don’t know anyone who has ever attempted to control his or her weight through unhealthy means, you’re wrong.

Just because someone has never been diagnosed with a full-fledged eating disorder doesn’t mean that they haven’t felt pressure to lose weight, no matter the cost to their health. And just because someone isn’t clearly underweight doesn’t mean that they don’t have an eating disorder (conversely, just because someone is underweight doesn’t mean that they have an eating disorder). The majority of people with bulimia, people who eat large amounts of food and then purge it from their system through either laxatives or vomiting, have a normal, if not high, body mass index (BMI). The problem with eating disorders is that so many sufferers are able to hide in plain sight, because they’re either too afraid to be stigmatized by society, they don’t know how to seek help or they can’t afford the treatment they need.

If you’ve decided that you’d like to help pass the FREED Act, you can make a difference by writing a letter to your local representative. The website for the Eating Disorder Coalition, an advocacy organization for eating disorders, has templates that people can use. Alternatively, people can write their own letters if they’d like to express a more personal appeal. Today, 24 million might suffer from eating disorders, but together we can help lower that number.

Caroline Pilewski is a second-year at the Rollins School of Public Health from Marietta, Georgia.

ahn

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Last Wednesday, the European Space Agency landed the Philae, an unmanned lander, onto a passing comet nucleus, the first achievement of its kind and a momentous event in the history of human space exploration. The project took approximately 11 years of preparation, and the lander’s journey through space took another 10 more years. It is an achievement made only possible by the joint efforts of the men and women who have devoted their lives to their respective fields, a truly remarkable feat that speaks volumes to humanity’s everlasting reach and its ability to shoot for the stars.

Maybe you weren’t aware of any of those details. I wasn’t either until I decided to research for this article. Rather, more likely than not, you’ve probably heard about this awe-inspiring occasion through the puzzling context of one particular t-shirt.

During the live-stream broadcast of the landing, Dr. Matt Taylor, the project scientist, wore what can only be described as a Hawaiian-style t-shirt covered with depictions of scantily-clad women wielding large guns in true comic style form. The internet was immediately set ablaze, with protests and criticisms directed at the rather cartoonish shirt. Many deemed his attire as sexist and misogynistic, and the public backlash was so intense that the next day Taylor gave a tearful apology.

Reasons for why the act of wearing that shirt was sexist range from its objectifying portrayal of women to arguments that it was an example of how uninvited women are in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). While I have my own personal opinions on this matter, I shall leave it to people far more qualified than I am to hash out the details in this very heated debate. Indeed, it appears that while initial reaction was strongly negative, in the days to come, numerous supporters have cropped up everywhere to voice their support, from op-ed pieces on Time and the Telegraph to a Facebook page dedicated to the now infamous shirt. There’s even an Indiegogo page gathering donations to send gifts to Taylor and his team in response to the negative backlash, and in its first three days, it managed to surpass its original goal of $3,000 by over 600 percent (and counting). Obviously, opinions vary wildly.

It is true that there is a disproportionate amount of women working in STEM fields. Also true is the fact that women are constantly on the backend of criticism and harassment in the workplace. And while these concerns should by no means be trivialized, I cannot help but wonder if such an outrage over a stupid shirt could also be generated over other far more serious crimes of gender discrimination.

Because at the end of the day, whether you like it or not, Taylor’s shirt is just a shirt (never mind the fact that the shirt was also a gift from one of his friends, a female designer). When was the last time you saw such immediate and public anger against the practice of child brides in Mali, or discrimination of education against girls in Afghanistan? How about the criminally underreported rape cases in India or the forced abortions of female fetuses in China?

Yet, a cursory glance at trending topics reveal that none of these are making headlines, or at least headlines as big and as controversial as the ones Taylor’s shirt seems to be generating. Why is that? Taylor’s shirt isn’t even the cause of gender-based discrimination in STEM fields. At its worst, it is a very small symptom of a far larger and systematic problem, one that Taylor probably unwittingly played a part in. And yet again, discussions on the actual reasons as to why women don’t go into STEM fields are rare. Instead, we as a public would much rather point fingers at a hapless man who made an innocent mistake than actually address these issues. This disappoints me.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t criticize what we believe is wrong. Far from it. If you truly believe that Taylor’s shirt is misogynistic, then by all means voice your opinion. That’s the beauty of living in America. But please, for the sake of women everywhere, don’t just stop at his shirt. Talk about finding solutions as to how we as a nation should encourage our future generations of women to get into science. Discuss the root causes as to why such discrimination occurs in the first place. Don’t just sit there in front of your laptop and lambast an innocent man who never should have been made into the face of injustice. And finally, if his shirt is really enough to cause such an outrage in your heart, then please also find in it an outrage for the other injustices out there.

One more thing: remember that we just sent a probe more than 300 million miles away into space and placed a lander onto the body of a speeding comet. Now go back, and read that last line again, and this time actually think about that.  Such an achievement could not have been done without the brilliant men and women working tirelessly to further our knowledge of the universe. And while it is important to become passionately furious over the wrongs in the world, there’s also something to be said in taking a moment to celebrate what we’ve accomplished so far.

— Eugene Ahn is a College senior from Raleigh, North Carolina.

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault

warkentine

Cartoon by Aarti Dureja, Editorials Staff

This summer I discovered almond milk.

I suppose I’d already found it, in the sense that I knew it existed, but a roommate that invariably brought the stuff back on her weekly grocery runs piqued my curiosity.

“Only 30 calories!” the labels claimed. I furrowed my brow.

When I buy food I calculate the total number of calories divided by the price, always trying to maximize the calories per dollar ratio. Growing up in Uzbekistan, I had neighbors with more kids than potatoes to feed them with. The fact that a company might have the audacity to advertise its product as basically water put me in a ponderous state of mind.

I realized something this summer. We – Americans, westerners, whatever you want to call us – do food backwards. We do food selfishly. We are all about the latest diet, staying slim, eating great-tasting food that’s not too fattening. The center of attention is our own bodies and how the food will affect us, and our gaze rarely widens enough to encompass  the web of production we enter through consumption.

Working on a Mennonite farm over the summer exposed me to Anabaptist theology (think Amish). The premise is simple: you are responsible for your every action; moreover, you are responsible for the full effect of your every action. One reason the Amish live in separated communities involves keeping the full chain of cause and effect confined within their colonies. If they tap into the local power lines, they  find themselves responsible for the coal burnt in power generators, the coal’s extraction and production, including the machines involved and their sources in turn, the workers and their plight, the environmental effects, and so on. Instead of facing this mess of effect and consequence, then, they are able to avoid it.

I maintain that the Anabaptist outlook on life is less abstractly theological than plain common sense.

When I buy meat at the local grocery store, my action is more complicated than one might first suspect. I am not merely responsible for supporting the store and the brand of meat. I have been implicated in a chain of production with unfathomably deep roots. I am suddenly responsible for an animal’s untimely and likely violent demise. I am likewise perpetuating the production of grain to continue feeding that animal’s kin, in turn exacerbating the destruction of South American rain forests leveled to keep up the demand.

The fact is, while there are those who still go to bed hungry in this country, we grow enough grain to feed the U.S. population over two times over – and feed it to our livestock. The amount of water and energy expended into bovine products is lavish to say the least. It’s simple biology: trophic levels. Imagine sitting down a meal of corn. You pile your plate high and gorge yourself. No matter how stuffed you are at the end of your meal, you’ll be hungry again in a few hours. Now think of a cow. He eats corn too. He’s a huge and hungry animal, and needs several times more than you do. He eats this much corn for years, until he’s finally fat enough for the slaughter. Now you sit down to a juicy steak dinner. But you’re not eating an eight or twelve ounce hunk of cow; you’re consuming the mountain of corn that it took to feed that cow over a lifetime – except for you its just one meal.

That’s an optimistic picture, if you can believe it. Many farms feed their cows expired candy. It induces diabetes, making the cows sick and obese – their meat tenderer.

And that’s just the animals. Thousands of immigrant workers pick fruits and vegetables for pennies. Many of the female laborers have been raped, threatened with losing their job if they did not comply. Dangerous pesticides and a lack of protection wreak havoc on their bodies. The hours are long and the pay is paltry. The story is not too different for the meat and other industries, all to ensure that the Jr. Whopper stays on the Dollar Menu.

The tragedy is not even so much the foods’ production, but the fact that Americans end up throwing out 40 percent of this questionably obtained sustenance, while millions starve worldwide – and indeed, in the United States itself, where one in six are said to struggle to get enough to eat. Just sit and watch the DUC disposal belt, where trays of uneaten hamburgers, whole sandwiches and uneaten fruit are chucked without a second thought.

It’s one thing if you raise a chicken with table scraps and eat it for Thanksgiving. It’s another thing if you take someone else’s cow, grown at unimaginable expense, and throw it in the garbage.

Simply put, we have lost the glory of the medieval worldview, the worldview still maintained in many non-Western cultures. Somewhere along the line, humanism and homo mensura (or “man as the measure”) eclipsed a more cosmic perspective on life, a vision of community that is more than the sum of its parts. Individualism triumphed at the expense of communities.

In our bodies, our cells undergo programmed death in the advent of mutations that could lead to cancer, an unflinching sacrifice for the good of its integrating organism. Our culture, however, has become myopic, losing sight of the ecological whole, forgetting that our purpose concerns not only ourselves, but ultimately our species and our world. We are small piece of the machine, a fleeting breathe of wind in a global weather pattern, far, far from the eye and epicenter of it all.

— Jonathan Warkentine is a College junior from Almaty, Kazakhstan.

atalla

Cartoon by Mariana Hernandez, Editorials Staff

Take a walk around Emory’s campus on a typical day, and you’ll find many signs of a community that values sustainability, and in particular, sustainable food. You might stroll through the Emory Farmers Market on a Tuesday, see placards indicating Georgia-grown vegetables in the Dobbs University Center (DUC) salad bar or stop to admire the ripening tomatoes in one of Emory’s Educational Gardens. All of these sights point to Emory’s commitment to sustainability, or meeting our current social, economic and environmental needs in a way that preserves the future generations’ ability to meet their own needs. One of the main ways that Emory addresses this challenge is through sustainable food. While sustainability in regards to our food choices is a critically important issue, it often overshadows another, equally vital issue: food security. Too often, food security receives little attention on campus, and when it is discussed, it is framed as separate from sustainability. However, sustainable food and food security are in fact inextricably linked, and if the Emory community wants to be a leader in sustainability, we must learn to view these social justice issues as two sides of the same coin and address them as such.

Of course, sustainable food as it is usually framed at Emory is undeniably important. The choices we make regarding what we eat, where it’s produced and how it’s prepared are intimately linked to sustainability. Countless resources, from water for grains and antibiotics for cattle to plastic for packaging and oil for transportation, go into our food. This means that the production, transportation and preparation of food have enormous environmental impacts. In many cases, large-scale agricultural operations contribute to water pollution, habitat loss, carbon emissions, erosion and a host of other environmental problems

However, fundamentally unsustainable food systems are not the only option. The sustainable food movement, which has gained significant traction at Emory, addresses the challenge of ensuring the availability of sufficient nutritious food while avoiding the negative environmental impacts of its production. As defined by Congress in the Food, Agriculture, Conservation and Trade Act of 1990, also known as the Farm Bill, sustainable food satisfies human nutritional needs, preserves environmental quality, uses resources efficiently, supports farm viability and improves quality of life for the broader society. Recently, Emory made a commitment to sustainable food, aiming to serve 75 percent locally or sustainably produced food on campus by next year.

However, Emory’s laudable commitment to sustainable food ignores food security. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food security as “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.” Food security is by no means a reality in the U.S.; the USDA reports that over 23 million Americans live in food deserts, which are areas lacking reliable access to fresh, healthful, low-cost food. Poverty, outdated transportation networks and the absence of supermarkets and groceries in low-income neighborhoods all contribute to food insecurity. In Atlanta, many neighborhoods are classified by the USDA as food deserts; by one estimate, approximately 30 percent of Fulton County residents live in a food desert.

These two issues, sustainable food and food security, are inextricably linked. If people have access to food that both satisfies their caloric needs but is yet over-processed, nutrient-poor and environmentally destructive, is it truly enough for “an active, healthy life?” If a food system, though organic and local, leaves some community members hungry, is it really sustainable?

A holistic view of food insecurity and sustainable food suggests that in both cases, the answer is no. The USDA’s definition of food security and the Farm Bill description of sustainable food clearly indicate that a steady supply of food does not necessarily equate to food security or sustainability. If the only food available does not satisfy human nutritional needs, it does not enable people to enjoy “active, healthy” lives and therefore is neither secure nor sustainable. In the same way, even if food is nutritious, organic and locally grown, if it is unavailable to many community members, it fails to improve the quality of life for the broader society and as such is by definition neither sustainable nor part of a secure food system. Additionally, a more in-depth examination of both concepts leads to the conclusion that agricultural systems which pollute water and air and contribute to climate change and destroy habitats, impede communities’ abilities to thrive, and thus compromise the active, healthy lifestyles that are essential to the definition of food security. Similarly, monocultures, which produce massive quantities of inexpensive food but are vulnerable to crop failures as a result of plant homogeneity, cannot be deemed secure nor sustainable, as they are liable to collapse at any point, leaving millions of people hungry.

Clearly, food access and sustainability cannot be tackled separately. Often, food insecurity is assumed to be simply a lack of food, which could be remedied through production of greater quantities of less expensive food. Similarly, when unsustainable food systems are viewed as an isolated problem, it would appear that the answer lies merely in scaling down agricultural operations, eating local and adopting organic methods. However, these solutions ignore the essential link between food security and sustainability. We must recognize that truly sustainable food security is achieved only when all people have reliable access to sufficient nutritious food which is produced in such a way that preserves environmental quality and is resilient to change. In other words, if we as a society want to achieve sustainable food security, our goal must be to provide the greatest quantity of nutritious food to the greatest number of people in the most environmentally responsible way possible.

At Emory, the conversation about sustainable food often lacks this connection to food access. Fortunately, there are many organizations in Atlanta working towards sustainable food security from whom we can learn. A step toward the union of food security and sustainability can take numerous forms. It can look like an old parking lot transformed into an urban garden, an after-school program that teaches children the importance of healthy eating or a restaurant that purchases its produce from local, independent farms. For instance, organizations such as Truly Living Well and the Atlanta Community Food Bank recognize the essential link between sustainability and food security and use urban agriculture not only to provide community members with fresh fruits and vegetables, but also to educate and empower them. Similarly, partnerships between local farms and restaurants, like that of Gaia Gardens and Farm Burger, both reduce the environmental impact of food production and transportation and ensure that urban agriculture remains viable in Atlanta, thereby helping more citizens access fresh, healthful food. When such organizations take a holistic view of sustainable food as fundamentally linked to food security, they can help create thriving communities and ecosystems.

At Emory, there are a variety of opportunities to engage these two social justice issues together. Emory’s Urban Health Initiative, for instance, works to “empower the community through sustainability initiatives,” including urban agriculture. Volunteer Emory offers weekly service trips with several community gardens and recently hosted a Social Justice Dialogue titled “Dine & Dialogue: Food in the City,” addressing the intersections of urban food access and sustainability. Campus Kitchens works to repurpose leftovers from Emory Dining for use in Atlanta food pantries. There’s also the Food Advisory Committee Emory (FACE), which fosters dialogue for students on ways Emory Dining can improve its quality and better meet the needs of students.

Clearly, there is important work on the intersection of food security and sustainability being done at Emory. Placing more emphasis on the union of these two topics in Emory’s conversation on sustainable food, however, can enable us as a community to think critically about what it takes to address both of these problems and what Emory uniquely has to offer. If the Emory community wants to remain a leader in campus sustainability, this is what we must do. Only when we adopt a holistic view of food security and sustainable food as fundamentally interrelated issues of social and environmental justice can we create truly sustainable, equitable solutions.

— Laila Atalla is a College junior from Placentia, California. Jacob Teich is a Goizueta Business School sophomore from New Albany, Ohio.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Last Friday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted in favor of a bill that directs the federal government to proceed with the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline expansion. The pipeline is owned by the energy company TransCanada and has been in commission since 2010. It has been a hot topic in Washington, with President Barack Obama rejecting an application to extend the pipeline in2 012, followed by a sustained effort on the part of lobbyists and political supporters to garner support for the project.

Unfortunately, though not accidentally, Native American perspectives have been left out of the national discourse. Native Americans in both the U.S. and Canada have worked for years to stop construction of the pipeline, but the dispute has flared up in light of the recent House bill. In South Dakota, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe released a statement last week condemning Congress’ approval of pipeline as an “act of war.” This comes on the heels of several tribes, among them the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, adopting resolutions against the pipeline in February. President Cyril Scott of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe said that “the House has now signed our death warrants and the death warrants of our children and grandchildren.”

Criticisms of the pipeline have heretofore been largely ecological; commentators have expressed concern about the dangers the pipeline could pose to its environment. Others, such as Obama himself, have questioned whether the pipeline would have any meaningful positive effect for the U.S., worrying that it might in fact hinder the American oil industry. The basis for Scott’s statements are apparent. Tribal governments are, ostensibly, sovereign. This means that tribes ought to be able “to govern themselves, define their own membership, manage tribal property and regulate tribal business and domestic relations.” Furthermore, any dealings between the federal government and tribal entities are as between two distinct governmental bodies.

From a political perspective, the construction of the pipeline extension represents an intrusion into land that is not under the strict control of the U.S. federal government. Thus, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s statement reflects the concrete reality that territories belonging to Native Americans are often treated indiscriminately.

And these concerns are not simply ground- ed in concerns of sovereignty, valid as they are. The Pipeline Permit Application submitted by TransCanada to the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission states quite clearly that the pipeline could result in the disturbance, demolition, removal or alteration of “prehistoric or historic archaeological sites, districts, buildings, structures, objects and locations with traditional cultural value to Native Americans or other groups.”

The material-historical consequences of the pipeline’s expansion are parallel to the environmental consequences of the pipe- line. Native American tribes have, in many ways, taken the lead in adopting renewable energy sources and, in general, taking steps towards preventing, and healing, environmental damage.

Keystone XL would be a blight upon the lands granted to Native American tribes. The U.S. treats tribal lands as sovereign only insofar as they are someone else’s to care for, but ignore all such considerations the moment tribal lands serve national interests.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s calls will likely go unheeded by American audiences. We must not view this as an unusual slight, but yet another cruelty in 500 years of violence.

For many, the narrative of Native American exploitation is ended. However, the reality is that the U.S. and its citizens continue to inflict demeaning, domineering and destructive acts against the people and societies of Native American tribes.

Only a direct recognition of these continued assaults can begin a mass movement to recognize the sovereignty, and humanity, of indigenous communities. This change is necessary if we wish to halt the cycle of oppression that characterizes U.S. relations with Native American communities.

Editorials Editor Rhett Henry is a College senior from Lawrenceville, Georgia.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Mississippi, my home state, passed Senate Bill 2681 (SB 2681): The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) last April. The deceiving title conveys a sense of progress, of protecting religious identities in a state where Christianity has been used to oppress non-Christians or even Christians of different races, backgrounds or ideologies. However, the bill, similar to the bill vetoed in Arizona in February, aims to perpetuate oppression of the same minority groups targeted throughout the state’s history. According to the bill, any private business, including medical practices, can refuse services based on “religious beliefs.” In practice, the bill is a tool of discrimination against people that don’t necessarily fit into the dominant stakeholder of Mississippi’s social wealth: white, straight, cisgender, Christian, able-bodied, upper-middle class men.

As a non-religious queer woman, I am one of the many Mississippians this bill targets. When the bill passed, the legislators of my home state told me that my voice is less important than Christians’ voices. The representatives of my family, my friends and my neighbors told me that my existence is not valid. I worried about my LGBT friends, still in Mississippi, who could be legally denied medical care when this bill became active.

The day SB 2681 passed was an emotionally devastating day for me. It caused me to reflect on my attachment to a state that failed to protect my basic human rights. It caused me to ask myself, “Why do I still love Mississippi? Why am I proud to be from a state that continuously invalidates my identity?” I found the answer in what made me love Mississippi to begin with: community and activism.

Mississippi’s progressive activists are unique. We are often found in small numbers in pockets around the largely rural, conservative state. We are angry and raw. We have not lost our culture in our frustration with our state. Our identity as Mississippians is crucial to our work. We embed our culture into activism: combining our politics with our sense of community. Our connection to our state is what equips us to be agents of change in our Southern communities. Because we are from Mississippi, we know Mississippi. We know how to address the ways our culture fails us while working to sustain the parts of it that make up who we are.

In October 2013 the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s (financially and visibly) largest pro-LGBT organization, launched a three-year campaign titled Project One America. The campaign broadly aims to improve the conditions of the LGBT community in the South, who account for one-third of the nation’s LGBT population. The campaign is currently located in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi.

The HRC has received a lot of criticism, particularly within the LGBT community. The HRC has a history of excluding people of color, queer women and transgender people from its campaign work. It also has often chosen to invest its resources into marriage equality, which many queer people — myself included — argue is not the gateway to LGBT advancement. Marriage equality is not a fix-all solution; it will not solve the LGBT community’s inflated rates of homelessness, job discrimination or physical and sexual harassment. Because of the HRC’s history, I was not excited to hear that the organization would be coming into my state. I anticipated that the campaign would embody its name — treating Mississippi as a discontinuous piece of the United States, buying into the idea that Mississippi is intrinsically more homophobic than the rest of the nation.

The framework of the Project One America campaign has resulted in a divide between Mississippi activists and HRC employees. Since the HRC set up camp in Mississippi, it has not been receptive to the needs of community members or the advice of local activists. When activists in Jackson and the Gulf Coast mobilized to rally at the governor’s mansion in protest of the RFRA, the HRC failed to offer us any support. Instead, their response to the RFRA was to buy out a grassroots campaign that provided stickers to businesses who wished to advertise that they don’t discriminate. As a powerful national organization, the HRC’s voice could have held weight, but the Campaign remained silent. By doing so, the HRC failed as an ally to Mississippi activists.

Unsurprisingly, the HRC has not been vocal in Mississippi until recently, when two Mississippian lesbian couples announced that they were going to court to challenge the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. The HRC has piped up since the announcement was made; they’ve attended media campaigns and press conferences and supported the couples during the trial last week. The visibility of support from the HRC outshined the work of Mississippians who have been working toward marriage equality long before the HRC set up shop in the state. The Campaign even boldly stated that winning marriage equality in Mississippi was the “finish line” for LGBT rights.

Will there ever be a finish line for LGBT rights? If there will be, it is not currently in sight — in Mississippi, the South or the United States. Although marriage equality may be a reality in our generation’s lifetime, marriage will not guarantee true equality. Ask the 13 year-old boy kicked out of his home after coming out as gay to his parents, if marriage is enough for him. Ask the transgender woman constantly sexually harassed as she walks down the street if marriage will help her. Ask the lesbian mother who lost her job because she was outed by a coworker if her marriage could protect her job security. Ask the gender non-conforming person whose safety is compromised and identity questioned every time they use a public restroom, if marriage will solve their problems. Ask the bisexual high school student who can’t focus on her schoolwork because her classmates constantly verbally and physically bully her if marriage will make her stop considering suicide. The HRC has failed to address these questions and thus has failed to protect the livelihoods of LGBT people.

The HRC’s statement insinuates that once we overcome marriage inequality in the South, full equality will be established. This is a failure to recognize the needs of LGBT people and a blindness to the challenges LGBT people are facing across the entire nation — not just in the South. The HRC is blind to the fact that anti-LGBT discrimination and violence is a product of a system that values straight lives over our own.

The system isn’t only concentrated in my home state of Mississippi or any other Southern state — It is an endemic. Stigmatizing the South causes Americans to see us as separate from and more dangerous than the rest of the nation. Taking the responsibility of positive change out of the hands of Southern activists — and ignoring the work we have already done — implies that we are not equipped to address our own unique issues.

Because I love my state and I believe in its ability to improve, I want to be part of the reason why it changes. I want my voice to be heard because I have lived and witnessed what we activists are working to change. I want my culture to thrive as my neighbors and friends are empowered. I want to take what belongs to me — my human rights — myself, instead of waiting for an outsider to hand it to me. Because I am a part of Mississippi, I deserve to help Mississippi succeed.

Kayley Scruggs is a College sophomore from Jackson, Mississippi.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Why are we attracted to certain people? Because they’re adjective, adjective, adjective, you know, the kinds of people you want to spend your time with. I don’t know what that means.

The use of adjectives to describe our love interests is an example of how we fail to properly engage with the people we love. Call your crushes enthusiastic, smart, charming, aggressive, athletic or daring. Call them whatever you want. Adjectives are both too temporary and too vague to convey a deep level of affection.

What is a deep level of affection? It’s love. But, of course, what is love? In terms of the drawbacks of adjectives, a quote from writer Haruki Murakami fits, “When you fall in love, the natural thing to do is give yourself to it. That’s what I think. It’s just a form of sincerity.”

Sincerity is genuine, but adjectives are temporary. Pretty people grow old. Nice people turn mean. To sincerely describe the people we love, we need words that do more than praise temporary states of being. Sure, a person could be pretty or nice his or her whole life, at least relative to certain people, but appearances change with time.

The vague conundrum with adjectives is that they’re such general words that they could apply to anyone you would ever date. Of course you want a person who is smart, attractive and fun. But how is he/she smart? How is he/she pretty? What’s so fun about him/her that you can’t get from anyone else? I’m no Yoda — I’m just a regular guy chasing the dream — and when girls ask me why I like them I tend to choke up, fumble over my words, and settle on a terrible response, such as, “punctual.”

If not with adjectives, how can we describe the people we love?

Murakami again offers insight, “Maybe it’s just hiding somewhere. Or gone on a trip to come home. But falling in love is always a pretty crazy thing. It might appear out of the blue and just grab you. Who knows — maybe even tomorrow.”

Love is not something you can see coming. It’s a crazy feeling that pops up one day, seizes you and refuses to let you go. And love is not obvious. It’s this hiding, mysterious thing that might come along soon or in a long time, but you don’t get to choose, which is why you must choose the words that you use to describe love wisely. Mysterious, hidden things rarely garner easy descriptions.

I spy with my little eye … No. The approach to a proper description must start deeper than sight. If the intention is to engage deeper with people then we need to dig deeper than obvious perceptions, such as physical appearance and basic behaviors in order to get to know people well enough to figure out if they’re worthy of a two-months’ salary.

Beware the metaphor. For example: His/ her eyes sparkle like the stars. That metaphor comes across as cliché to some and romantic to others, and you can say that line to any boy/ girl. Context matters, but if the metaphor can be applied to anyone, it’s just like an adjective. It’s too general. We’re searching for a type of description that can be both personal and permanent. Original, fitting metaphors can prove that you know a person, as a well-conceived metaphor not only demonstrates a deep understanding of a person, but your ability to translate that understanding into a phrase that is unique to the individual. Cultivating romantic metaphors requires an intimate kind of attention to all aspects of a person’s being.

While a step above adjectives, metaphors fall short because they equate people to other things. That’s a beautiful skill and I love a great metaphor, but it strikes me that if we’re truly in love we should be able to describe the person without temporary or vague words and without having to think of that person in terms of something else, because we love the person and not that something else.

At the moment, I am not in love, but it would behoove this argument to provide a taste of what I wish we could all do. Something like: I like him/her because he/she makes me want to own up to my past.

Nothing complicated, but the line is personal and timeless. I’m the guy who never knew how to really care for a girl until he fell in love too young, got his heart broken and ensued to never know how to care about a girl until, well, maybe now. It’s a big deal for a girl to make me want to own up to how callous I’ve been towards romance. That callousness is something that actually happened, so it can never go away, and so my desire to open up about my past is both a permanent piece of my history and a sincere compliment to the girl, because not one person has made me want to dig into the blood and guts of the past four years of my dating life.

All I’m saying is stop being lazy. Adjectives can apply to anyone. Metaphors can fail to do the people you love proper justice. Just think of a sentence — something short, sweet and to the point — that resonates with something deep inside you and presents itself only because of him/her, and tell him/her that. Tell him/her that he/she is someone who seemingly popped up out of the blue and who you’ve never met before, but in your own words.

Alex Rosenfeld is a College senior from Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Photo courtesy of Corey Oakley, Flickr

Photo courtesy of Corey Oakley, Flickr

At Wonderful Wednesday last week, Emory-Israel Public Affairs Committee (EIPAC) hosted an event called “Ask Me Why [I Love Israel].” Students were prompted to make signs expressing their personal love for the country; responses included “Because It’s the most free country in the Middle East,” “Because the people are diverse and united,” “Because Israel loves me,” “Because It’s the most accepting place on Earth,” “Because we value human life” and “Because why wouldn’t I?!” This event ignores many of the nuances present in the Israel-Palestine conflict and minimizes the struggles of Palestinians living in the occupied territories of West Bank and Gaza. The event promoted a blind patriotic love of a country that routinely seizes land, prevents Palestinian sovereignty and continues to commit numerous human rights violations.

In questioning this event, and Israel’s actions as a whole, we are not expressing hate for the country or its people; however, there are also many reasons to question Israel’s actions — especially in light of this summer’s most recent conflict. Israel is a country which is comprised of many opinions and perspectives on this conflict, and we refer to the nation unilaterally for the purposes of reflecting on this event in particular. We are by no means in support of the atrocities committed by Hamas, but we also feel that the Israel-Palestine conflict deserves the nuance beyond a “love” or “hate” of a country or people. The side of the Palestinians is often unheard at Emory, because events like “Ask My Why [I Love Israel]” ignore human rights violations and oppressions committed by Israel towards Palestinians.

Holding an event that lacks an educational component in regards to the Israel-Palestine conflict ignores and perpetuates support for the violent and oppressive aspects of the Israeli government. Though the conflict has been ongoing for decades, a war erupted in Gaza just a few months ago. The conflict wounded soldiers and civilians on both sides, but Palestinian casualties, particularly civilian casualties, greatly outnumbered Israeli casualties: 69 Israelis died, with 94 percent being soldiers, killed mostly during the ground assault on Gaza, while 2104 Palestinians died, with 70 percent being civilians and 495 being children. During this conflict, Israel bombed multiple United Nations (UN)-operated buildings, including a school that was filled with refugees. The attack killed at least 20 people, and led the UN to accuse Israel of violating international law. Yet beyond the setting of war, Israel has consistently expanded its own territory by occupying Palestinian land, and has systematically oppressed Palestinians by building checkpoints throughout Palestinian territory, constructing a separation wall that annexes Palestinian land, co-opting Gaza’s economy through an economic blockade, demolishing the homes of Palestinians to make way for new Israeli settlements and preventing Palestinians from accessing adequate health care. The Israeli government has also committed a myriad of other human rights violations since 1948 (the official creation and recognition of the state), including forced sterilizations, prison torture, detaining political prisoners, blocking asylum procedures for refugees and more.

Events like “Ask Me Why [I Love Israel]” create an environment in which it is acceptable to ignore and reject the nuances of the Israeli occupation and Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a whole. During the Gaza war this summer, hundreds of men, women and children died; thousands were injured; and even more suffered from hunger, illness and immense poverty. The Wonderful Wednesday event at Emory negates all of this suffering as well as the suffering of Palestinians at the hands of the state of Israel since 1948 by defaulting to a blind love of a country that perpetuated much of this conflict. The nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that it has many roots, including the forced displacement of Palestinians from 1948 until today, the ongoing economic siege of Gaza and the 50-plus years of Israeli occupation of UN-recognized Palestinian territory. The patriotic discourse perpetuated by events like “Ask Me Why [I Love Israel]” erases and silences the suffering that Palestinians experienced and continue to experience since 1948. In order to comply with Emory’s commitment to ethical engagement, it is important to address all sides of an issue — especially one as politically charged and ethically pressing as the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Many of the responses given by students during this activity at Wonderful Wednesday included references to Israel’s successes, including political exceptionalism (“the only free country in the Middle East”), technological innovation (“the most biotech startups per capita”) and environmental progress (“it recycles 70 percent of its waste water!”). All of these perceived “successes,” and most of Israel’s successes as a nation since 1948, are derived from its oppression and systematic displacement of Palestinians and contingent upon treating Palestinians like second-class citizens through over 50 laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel. This event ignored the social and political oppression of Palestinians as a key factor in Israel’s accomplishments, as evident from the responses. Classifying Israel as the “only free country in the Middle East” erases Palestinian existence from the map entirely, as thousands of Palestinians have been displaced from their home and subject to systematic human rights abuses by the government of Israel since Israel’s creation in 1948. Israel’s technological innovation is a result of immense foreign investment from countries like the United States that support Israel’s economic development while simultaneously turning a blind eye to the displacement of Palestinians that gives Israel the land and resources with which to develop infrastructure. The environmental advances that Israel has made, particularly how the country recycles “70 percent of its waste water,” can be directly attributed to how Israel dumps waste into Palestinian villages and more broadly, withholds water from the occupied territories. Praise for Israel’s environmental advances also disregards the environmental harm, such as groundwater pollution, that has come from the lax regulations on Israeli companies operating within the occupied Palestinian territories.

Generally, Israel bolsters its own economic development by treating Palestinian economic autonomy as a negative externality of its own advancement. However, it is important not only to focus on Israel’s advances, but also on how Israel has systematically destroyed the foundation for Palestinian quality of life since 1948. Measures that Israel has imposed for its own political and economic benefit have put Palestinians at an immense social, political and economic disadvantage. For example, Israel’s closing of the border between itself and Gaza, and subsequent prevention of exports from Gaza to the world, has completely shut down Gaza’s economy. Israel has facilitated the destruction of basic infrastructure — including hospitals, schools and roads — which directly affect any basis of Palestinian self-sufficiency and the possibility of any distribution of humanitarian aid. The agreement implemented on the Aug. 26 ceasefire brought nothing new to the table to help the humanitarian crisis in Gaza — containing nearly identical terms as the 2012 ceasefire agreement, it has opened border crossings with Israel to distribute humanitarian aid, extended fishing zones to six miles off of Gaza’s coast and opened the Rafah border with Egypt. Yet further Palestinian demands were not addressed, such as providing assistance to rebuild Gaza’s international airport (which opened in 1998, and was destroyed by Israel in 2002 during the second intifada), or helping to build a seaport which has been in planning for 20 years (and would bolster Gaza’s trade-based economy). The satisfaction of these two demands alone would create thousands of jobs for Palestinians, helping to address the over 40 percent unemployment rate in Gaza today.

In addressing any sort of conflict or contentious issue, an educational component is key, and that component must shed light on all sides of the issue. Bias is inevitable, but events like “Ask me why [I Love Israel]” silence oppositional voices on a campus where supporting the human rights of Palestinians is already taboo and spread misinformation on the occupation and Israel’s actions in general. One of the responses, “There’s no reason not to love Israel,” clearly demonstrates the naive and historically blind nature of the event as a whole. There are numerous reasons to question and critique the Israeli government’s actions and policies, and events like “Ask me why [I Love Israel]” prevent students from understanding basic facts regarding the conflict, limiting public and ethical engagement with America’s support for Israel. We ask that the Emory community, and EIPAC specifically, make a more conscious effort to engage with all facets of the Israel-Palestine issue in order to create a campus that is increasingly inquiry driven, ethically engaged and welcoming to people of all backgrounds.

Anusha Ravi is a College senior from Chamblee, Georgia. Ben Crais is a College junior from Atlanta, Georgia.

space

This was an important week for humanity’s relationship with the cosmos. On Wednesday, the European Space Agency (ESA) landed the spacecraft Philae on a comet for the first time in human history. Last Friday, Christopher Nolan’s intergalactic epic “Interstellar,” starring actors Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway hit theaters, making $130.6 million in its opening weekend. While the news of 2014 has been filled with negative stories, like those of ISIS, Russian aggression and the child migrant crisis, there is a quiet renaissance occurring in humanity’s interaction with the cosmos.

ESA’s mission to put a spacecraft on the comet, identified as 67P/C-G, is one of the most impressive feats of engineering in human history. The mission took 10 years, bringing Philae and the larger probe that was carrying it, Rosetta, all the way around the solar system twice, using planets’ gravity to build momentum. Then after these 10 years and millions of miles of travel, the spacecraft landed on a 2.5 mile wide comet.

The hardest part of all was actually landing Philae on the comet, which was traveling 84,000 miles per hour. The mission’s scientific aims are to analyze the comet’s composition, which has never been done before, increasing our understanding of the cosmos. This mission is a great next step in space exploration.

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot of Interstellar, and it has many plot twists and turns. But without revealing anything that was not in the preview, the movie is about a group of astronauts travelling through a wormhole to another galaxy to find a new habitable planet, as Earth is becoming uninhabitable due to climate change.  While the storyline is far from perfect, “Interstellar” does a spectacular job making some of the more mind-bending topics of physics — such as relativity, wormholes and black holes — comprehensible to laypeople.

Neither of these events will cause a paradigm shift in the way we view the universe, like putting a man on the moon or Copernicus discovering that we revolve around the sun did. Yet, they nonetheless are part of a flourishing in humanity’s interaction with outer space.

In January of this year, China became the third country to put a rover on the moon, after the United States and the USSR, and the first to do so since 1976. China sent a rover, named Yutu, to the moon’s surface to widespread fanfare in the country, although little coverage abroad.

In September, an Indian satellite entered Mars’ orbit, having been launched in November 2013.  Strikingly, the mission only cost $74 million — pocket change compared to the billion dollar price tags on NASA and ESA missions. The mission had a scientific purpose to try and detect methane, a sign of life, in the Martian atmosphere. But, more than that it was to demonstrate that India’s aspirations to be a great power, both terrestrially and extraterrestrially.

As India’s spacecraft went into orbit around the Red Planet, in September, Space X, a private space transport company, made history by becoming the first private company to do a resupply mission to the International Space Station. This is a landmark event in space exploration, as all previous major space missions had been done by government agencies, such as NASA. As space travel becomes privatized, with future government funded missions to be completed by private firms, the cost should go down exponentially because market forces will make private space firms have to compete with each other.  We are transitioning out of a time when government has a monopoly on space travel, stifling innovation and efficiency.

Space was also particularly prominent in pop culture this year, with the release of Fox’s reboot of the Carl Sagan classic miniseries “Cosmos,” this time hosted by astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson. While the miniseries did not attract the stellar ratings that were expected, it nonetheless had a wide viewership, with over 40 million viewers from around the world tuning into the first episode.

All of these developments, when taken individually, are all quite profound and impressive (as is most everything relating to the cosmos). But, when taken together, they mark the beginning of something even more spectacular, a humanity-wide embrace of the cosmos.  This will be a grand recognition of space as something that we are part of and should engage with.

Since past eras, the stars have been an integral part of the human condition, such as a means of navigation for the ancients, and during the Cold War, another sphere of power to be utilized for military and nationalistic purposes. Now though, we finally have the opportunity to continuously engage with the cosmos in new and profound ways, bettering our understanding of the universe and contributing to technological progress.

Ben Perlmutter is a College junior from Chappaqua, New York.

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