Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Tunisia made international headlines in January 2011, when a young fruit seller, Mohamed Bouazizi, committed self-immolation, sparking the Arab Spring — a series of popular uprisings and revolutions, the effects of which are still being felt in the Arab world. Yet, since these early days of the Arab Spring, Tunisia has mostly fallen out of international headlines, as the events in its neighboring countries have overshadowed its relatively peaceful transition from the Zine El Abidine Ben Ali dictatorship. Syria remains in the throes of civil war, Egypt has returned to military dictatorship, and Libya is stuck in a chaotic power vacuum and civil war. Tunisia, meanwhile, is executing a relatively successful transition to democracy.

Yet this successful democratic transition risks being undermined by a range of causes, including domestic terrorists and economic and regional troubles spilling over into its borders. Upon this backdrop the United States has done little to support the nascent Tunisian democracy. America and its allies must make a greater effort to help Tunisian democracy flourish as a model of Arab democracy amidst the chaos and autocracy of its regional neighbors.

While the rest of the region burns in chaos or mires under autocratic governments, Tunisia is in the midst of a democratic transition. Quickly after the longtime dictator Ben Ali was ousted from power in January 2011, the first leader to lose power in the Arab Spring, Tunisia set about enacting democratic elections and drafting a new constitution. Ennahda, an Islamist party, won a plurality of the vote in the first election, with secular parties winning large shares as well. Rather than try to seize as much power for itself as possible, Ennahda formed a coalition government with other
secular parties because it wanted to establish a broad consensus in the establishment of its
democracy.

Ennahda’s policies have been in stark contrast to those of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, also an Islamist party, who after securing a parliamentary majority following the overthrow of the Hosni Mubarak dictatorship, unilaterally instituted a heavily Islamist constitution. The Brotherhood was thrown out of leadership in a military coup within a year of taking power, and has subsequently been heavily persecuted by the new military-led regime.

Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of Ennahda, said in a Washington Post op-ed: “Sacrificing party interest in this way was a small price to pay for national unity. A 51 percent vote may be enough to give a new government legitimacy in established democracies such as the United States. But in a place like Tunisia, where the foundations for democratic rules are still being constructed through a delicate process of consensus-building, acting with such a narrow majority risks polarizing the people.” Ennahda has learned from the Brotherhood’s mistakes, and will not repeat them.

Ennahda made sure to get a broad consensus while drafting the constitution. Minority parties’ opinions were taken into account, resulting in a remarkable 94 percent of the national legislature approving the new constitution in January. Additionally, 41 out of 89 members of the national legislature are women, which helps ensure adequate protection of women’s rights. Many outside groups were also involved in drafting the constitution, including the military, unions and business associations.

Most recently in the Tunisian democratic transition, presidential elections were held in
October. No candidate won an outright majority, so there will be a runoff election later this month between the two leading candidates, Beji Caid Essebsi, of the secularist Nidaa Tounes party, and Moncef Marzouki, a leftist dissident who attracts much of the religious vote. Ennahda decided not to run or endorse a candidate in the election to preserve the unity government in place.

All of these promising democratic developments risk being undermined by a variety
of factors. Libya, Tunisia’s neighbor to the east, is in the midst of a chaotic civil war with many competing factions and no end in sight. Tunisian politicians are worried that violence, terrorism and chaos could spill over onto Tunisian soil. There are also many refugees flowing into Tunisia from Libya, costing the Tunisian state already scarce resources to deal with them. These struggles are undermining business confidence in the North African region, decreasing foreign investment that could help the Tunisian economy.

An increase in foreign investment would be particularly helpful, as the Tunisian unemployment rate is disconcertingly high, at 15 percent. Unemployment is even higher for youths. High unemployment was a large factor in the fall of the Ben Ali dictatorship, so there is fear that it could likewise undermine the new transitional democratic regime.

Like much of the Arab world, Tunisia struggles with a domestic Islamist insurgency. A small Islamist insurgency is being waged in the western mountains of the country, near Algeria. Also, approximately 3,000 Tunisians are fighting for the Islamic State, who many fear will be a future threat to peace and the growth of democracy in Tunisia.

While all of these threats are serious, none seem as if they will cause a backslide away from democracy in the near future. Tunisia holds great promise for democracy to flourish, serving as a potential role model for the rest of the region.

Therefore, the United States and its Western allies should do more to promote Tunisian democracy. At the moment, the United States has only committed $350 million since the 2011 revolution to support Tunisia’s democratic transition — a fraction of the billions in aid that the United States gives each year to support Israel, which has caused widespread international outcry for its excessive use of force during the Gaza campaign this summer, and the repressive
military regime of Egypt.

The Obama administration has moreover under-acknowledged Tunisia in its Middle East policies. Tunisia is proving to be a political model for the Arab world, and the Obama administration should embrace Tunisia, increasing aid and holding it as an example rhetorically, so that its neighbors may follow its example.

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

mariana

Cartoon by Mariana Hernandez/Staff.

“I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”

Those were Eric Garner’s last words, uttered in vain as a trained police officer choked him to death on July 17, 2014. Those are the words uttered by protestors in New York, Oakland, Atlanta and all across the nation as our justice system has once again failed to offer even the chance of justice to a black man murdered by the police.

The grand jury decision not to indict officer Daniel Pantoleo is outrageous. A homicide indictment requires evidence of a homicide. But apparently, a video of the homicide isn’t evidence enough.

The New York Police Department has a policy against the use of the chokehold, which is what Pantoleo used on Garner. The police waited seven minutes before trying to give Garner CPR. The coroner ruled Garner’s death a homicide. But apparently, all this isn’t evidence enough.

One frustrating aspect of this case is that it solved some of the ambiguities of the Mike Brown case. The conflicting eyewitness testimonies that threw doubt on the events become inconsequential when there’s actual footage of the events; that footage, however, becomes inconsequential when it is basically ignored.

It seems to me, at this point, that no amount of evidence would be enough evidence. That’s because the problem clearly isn’t with the amount of evidence at all, but the color of the victim involved.

Some people may believe institutional racism doesn’t exist. Some people may believe white privilege doesn’t exist. Those people are wrong, and cases such as these prove that.

Personally, I’ve always been aware of racism, yet that awareness was vague until recently. I had knowledge of racism, in its various forms, yet for a long time it never really sunk in with me. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a diverse environment, with friends and teachers from all types of backgrounds. I never really felt the effects of racism, and I thought, perhaps naively, that the situation of others mirrored my own. I thought that racism existed, but it was on the verge of disappearing.

I was wrong, and recently, I have come to know that. I’ve learned that the experiences of most black people didn’t mirror mine. In fact, it’s far more uncommon, unfortunately, for black people to live like me, almost isolated from the effects of racism, than to have experienced racism first hand.

Though I was fortunate enough to live without being treated unfairly by police; though I was fortunate enough to have been given many opportunities to advance, whether it be in school, in organizations or finding jobs; though I was fortunate enough to have been judged by others by the content of my character and not the color of my skin, most others have not been so lucky. I’ve learned that over the years, and recent events have shown it to me further. Racism is not dead by far.

What’s more troubling to me is that there doesn’t seem to be a solution to the problem ­— that racism is so ingrained into our society and our institutions, and there is no clear way to rid it from our country. Protests are only a start; they call attention to a problem, and show that people are aware and in solidarity against that problem, but they don’t fix the problem.

So if protests won’t work, how do you fix the problem? How do you fix a country where white men with criminal records are more likely to be hired than black men without records? How do you fix a country where black people are less than 15 percent of the population but make up 40 percent of the prison population? How do you fix a country where police officers can kill unarmed black people and not even stand trial for it? How do you fix a country where black people are treated by the law and by those who enforce it as second-class citizens?

Racism is embedded in our culture and our institutions, into the very fabric this country is made of; it was even built on racism, in fact. I’m not sure it can be fixed.​

Nathyia Watson is a College freshman from Buffalo, New York

An old high school teacher of mine once made me promise not to be inspirational. People like me, he said, people who have more labels than a commercial racecar and more pills and treatments than Walgreens, only let their diseases win by becoming advocates and activists for said causes. It’s a different kind of winning, for sure, but the proverbial “normal life” is nonetheless consumed in a sort of obsession with one’s ailment and to speak out about it will only give it more underserved attention. It made sense at the time, in a Joseph Heller novel kind of way. But what if the attention actually is deserved? What if speaking out is actually the best thing one can do?

Since Senate Resolution 199 passed in 2011, the United States Senate officially recognizes Dec. 1 through 7 as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Awareness Week. Not to be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), IBL consists of Crohn’s Disease (CD), Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Indeterminate Colitis (IC), a family of autoimmune disorders of the hygienic, developed world that it seems everyone has vaguely heard of or known someone affected by but no one can actually describe, at least not in polite conversation. Even given extreme pain, fatigue, total dietary dysfunction and internal complications, IBD’s worst and strongest of symptoms are shame and silence.

While the progressive trend of modern times and the increasingly anonymous and uninhibited medium of the Web has opened many difficult conversations from sex positivity to the complexity of gender identity, much of the affected anatomy and many of the entailed symptoms of many chronic diseases, but especially IBD, remain entirely taboo except in code words spoken in hushed tones underneath tables in buildings within a three mile proximity of a Mayo Clinic on odd numbered Thursdays between midnight and 2 a.m. And of course I keep forgetting the hand signals and how to point the flags.

This is where things get tricky, because the ad absurdum of this position, that all topics should always be appropriate and nothing ever off-limits, is absurd. A completely uncensored world without boundaries would be an unnavigable mess. In these times especially it is important to draw the line somewhere. But does it have to be drawn here?

Yes, bowels are not most people’s favorite topic. And they make for boring television if you don’t have an IV of drugs in your arm, even during sweeps week when they bring out that little arm to snatch up tissue samples. But what about health? Isn’t everyone a fan of health? And dignity? Last I checked dignity was tracking entirely too well. And how about resilience in the face of overwhelming odds? That’s plenty popular, until it becomes a daily struggle.

Society doesn’t like to remind itself that one’s life can change with a colonoscopy at 15 and then never be predictable again. People don’t want to talk about a large population that is routinely robbed of the basic human dignity of toilet training and that has no cure for its myriad recurring symptoms. No news network will risk ratings on such unsung heroes fighting every day to survive in a cyclical quagmire.

And bowels? Why did it have to be bowels? Genitals, sure; we could make that work. But bowels? It’ll make a punchline at best. But this is no laughing matter.

It is with this understanding that the populace will choose ignorance that organizations such as the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) are built, and it is for that cause that they deserve the chance to spread awareness not just for the first week of December and on May 19, World IBD Day. Resources are always out there, be it by CCFA, Great Bowel Movement (GBM) or just the collective online advocacy of an underrepresented minority whose core tenet is resilience. Fundraisers and events like CCFA’s Take Steps and Team Challenge are happening all over the country. It’s just that nobody talks about them.

So I ask you, for this one week at the very least, to get informed about IBD and be against stigma. Let go of your hang-ups and see the challenge for what it really is. If you’re having trouble making the connection, I call upon the Asher Yatzar, the so-called “Bathroom Blessing” seen on the restroom doors of many synagogues, which I here abridge “Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Who formed man with wisdom and created within him many openings and many cavities … that if but one of them were to be ruptured or if one of them were to be blocked it would be impossible to survive and stand before You.” So don’t take your bowels for granted. It is with this spirit that we should empathize and advocate this week and all year.

Sam Ready is a college sophomore from Atlanta, Georgia

murder

“Indict, convict, send those killer cops to jail. The whole damn system is guilty as hell!”

(Attempting to) study for finals, I heard these words echo through the tall structures of the Robert W. Woodruff Library. At first, I thought that the shouts would subside, and that I could eventually get back to reading Tumblr.

What I didn’t realize, however, is that I severely underestimated the power of a student movement.

Historically speaking, students have often been at the center of progressive movements. LGBTQ rights, sexual assault prevention, environmental issues and net neutrality have all been key issues on the student agenda. From across the globe, students have both cultivated their minds at our nation’s many universities and have formed a diverse array of opinions of key issues. Free from the limits of home, students have taken to the streets to shout to those who observe that they are the agents of change.
However, not until this moment did I realize that civil rights are an issue yet to be crossed off.

Recently, I wrote an op-ed noting that the media had already forgotten about Ferguson — a place plagued by a history of tension, injustice and most importantly, inequality. News outlets stopped covering the story, treating it as another isolated incident.

As recent events have shown, what happened to Michael Brown wasn’t an isolated incident. The patterns present in Ferguson show that Ferguson isn’t the only place where injustice has occurred. There is evidence that Brown’s death isn’t just an isolated incident, but rather an indication of a pattern of violence that occurs across the nation every day. Eric Garner’s death proved just that.

Ferguson was an incident that was by no means small or insignificant. Brown was shot dead; whether his death was an act of self-defense or racial prejudice, we may never really know. The act itself was heinous, but unfortunately, it was soon forgotten. Police Officer Darren Wilson’s non-indictment, however, exposed a key flaw in our society that allowed for Brown’s death to occur without justice. The system had already buried Brown long before he was killed that very night — the protests died, the media shifted perspective and ultimately, we simply didn’t care anymore. Even I kept this issue at the back of mind for so many months.

But, indictment is a different story. The United States of America watched, twice, the system’s true nature being exposed in the raw on television. In those moments, we saw an evil twist of the term “innocent until proven guilty.” In those moments, we saw the system’s cruel and unusual punishment of Brown and Garner, along with their families and loved ones. In those moments, our justice system did not represent “We, the People,” but rather “They, the People.”

Even conservative bloggers like Charles Krauthammer have joined in the chorus saying the system was wrong. They, too, realize that there was a flaw in the handling of Garner’s case. Why had the grand jury chosen to not even give those grieving for Garner a voice in court? More importantly, how could both these non-indictments happen despite mounting statistical evidence that such outcomes are rare?

Regardless of what those who would defend the grand juries may claim, we cannot help but say that there are flaws present both in the justice system and our national discussion on race. The United States is blessed with a Constitution that does protect human rights in theory — we are a nation that doesn’t kill people by the thousands daily and have blessed our citizens with a Bill of Rights, guaranteeing freedoms that are as old and protected as our Constitution. However, as these past events have shown, the citizenship in the United States hasn’t afforded true equality to all in this nation.

Social movements are only successful whenever those who participate in the movement can convince those in power to listen to their collective voice. In essence, social movements take much time, patience, blood, sweat and tears; however, they are by far the most democratic and successful method of affecting true change.

Change can begin in the streets of New York or on Clifton Road. There are hundreds of brave souls who are, in essence, truly wishing to tell the world that they are aware of the causes behind Garner’s, Brown’s and many others’ deaths, and that they are angry.
Yet, change only continues if movements can propose solutions and create harmony out of discord. This aspect of the social movement is what requires even more effort than the former. While peaceful protest is the beginning of a necessary dialogue, there are other aspects of the solution that need to be maintained in order for a social movement to be successful. Awareness, education and the willingness to compromise are distinct elements of a successful social movement.

Thus we, the Emory community, have the ability to affect what is happening around us. We can protest, we can stand in the streets, we can shout at the top of our lungs. We can become social activists, civil rights lawyers and politicians who listen to the will of the people. We were blessed with this opportunity, the opportunity to cultivate our minds and discuss with those around us these horrible events without fear of repercussion.

The potential for the discussion that could occur at Emory can extend far beyond the reaches of the classroom or Wonderful Wednesday. At Emory, as with many universities across the nation, the community has the ability to engage in a dialogue without fear of persecution. We can be the voice of strength for the weak. We can speak for the minority struggling for representation. We can protest an injustice in the library without fear of being attacked. Solidarity is very possible; however, an informed public declaration of injustice involves that all those wishing to participate in a dialogue advocating for change be aware of both the problems and potential solutions.

Finals are around the corner, which will make it much more difficult on the community to actually focus on this issue. However, the only way we can extend this discussion is if we keep Brown and Garner alive in our minds and hearts. I am not urging aggravating protest or violence by any means, but rather awareness of what happened these past couple of weeks, and how these events relate to critical flaws in our society.

Emory students can create a movement that extends beyond our university, but this requires a continued dedication towards understanding just how our system is broken. This commitment is the first step to contributing towards the social movement rather than contributing towards prejudice. We cannot go to sleep and think these events are isolated and over. We cannot allow the dreams of those grieving for Michael Brown and Eric Garner to die.

Somnath Das is a College sophomore from Warner Robins, Georgia.

closet

By Sam Ready
Photo darwin Bell | Flickr

I want to get up and wear dark colors under a trench coat with aviator sunglasses and bedhead. This was my look in high school, and I still like the way I feel in it. But instead I will wear a pink shirt and khakis, with a hoodie and a colorful vest, because I know better now.

People have found me intimidating for my whole life. Some of it is verbal; I know now, for example, that kids with no nonverbal learning probably shouldn’t attempt to mimic the old “He’s totally going to kill me/I’m gonna kill you” line. Apparently this hyperbolic and idiomatic use of the word “kill” is one television imitation reserved for the “normal” and neurotypical. I know that now; mea culpa. I know to use my inside voice and a vocabulary of more common words. But I had learned and compensated for these things before the end of high school, and, as long as I wore the coat, people still feared me. My main barometer for this, other than what I heard here and there, was the inversely proportionate relationship between tragedy and proximity: Every time a school shooting was reported on television, people walked just that much farther to the side of the hall when I’d walk by. The pattern never failed, to my last, graduating day.

This isn’t just simple impressions anymore. The truth is that while schizophrenics and borderline personalities often take the lion’s share of mental health stigma in everyday conversation, the aloof Asperger kids have also gotten an undeserved bad reputation, associated incorrectly with threats to public safety. Why? Because we are eccentric, don’t say much or dress differently. I guess we’re just more likely to break social norms and attract attention to ourselves. Simply put, we have entered an age of neurodiverse profiling.

That this connotation should fall on the benign Asperger kid is absurd. But Columbine couldn’t ruin neurotypicality (which the perpetrators were) for everyone, so it ruined trench coats instead. It’s an entirely too easy leap to scapegoat the nonsocial guy in the coat as the antisocial ticking time bomb, even though one has absolutely nothing to do with the other. I am continually refreshing my wardrobe with softer patterns, cooler colors and carefully planned accessories to foster a more approachable image. I’m not really convinced that it’s working, but I still try. I have to try, because that’s a new burden on the autistic spectrum and on the neurodiverse in general. I’m not saying that it is the same thing as other prejudices in our society, but it is real, and it is a burden. I think about it every time I plan an outfit or cosplay a character with any sort of firearm; because apparently even the obviously fictional phaser is too real a threat in my hands.

I love putting on my retro patchwork vest and my kooky accessories and even my pink shirt. But I know that, if it didn’t matter, I’d wear the trench coat and aviators instead. That I don’t do so makes me feel that I don’t really even have a choice in the matter. As an example of the accessories, I have a fun yellow wallet with robots on it. Why? Because I love bright colors and robots are awesome … Or was it part of a larger, calculated scheme to systematically reinforce to onlookers that I’m completely harmless? I actually don’t even remember anymore. I don’t remember the origin for a lot of the things I do.

I used to not care about appearances at all. You probably figured that out from the bit about the trench coats and sunglasses. But now one might say I have a sort of obsession lingering in the corner of my mind. It’s honestly getting ridiculous. And now that I have glasses always slipping down my nose, I’ve gone full George McFly, patron saint of pencil necks and poindexters. The simple answer would probably be to ditch the formalwear pieces for a nondescript T-shirt and jeans, but that’s not me. I like to dress up. There is a projection outward and inward. But my erring on the side of the silly is getting out of hand and perhaps still getting me nowhere. If the button I picked up at Active Minds is to be believed I am supposed to be a “#stigmafighter,” whatever that means.

Threat assessment for unstable personalities and future perpetrators of violence pretends to be an exact science, but it really isn’t even close. The end result is usually a broad reaching-out of support resources for all like the Emory Helpline (the right way) and the singling out of the guy in black wearing sunglasses indoors because he’s clearly of a different mindset (the wrong way). This is why the Aspie needs to wear the outrageous sweater, and fast. And lose the sunglasses, no matter how exponentially it hurts your social game. It’s surface judgment, and it cuts both ways.

Because it’s not just my ties and slacks I worry about, either, anymore; it’s other people’s, too. I find myself constantly in a state of Terminator-like vision, scanning and breaking down every outfit I see into baseline research for how not to look like a potential school shooter. That and judging people. I’ve been judging people a lot; who’s smart or not, who’s cultured or not, who’s mature or not, as if such things could even be quantified externally. But to be honest, I shouldn’t be surprised at that; my entire scheme depends on people judging other people by their clothing, and one can only attempt to reverse engineer that process for so long before succumbing to its elitist itemization oneself.

This obsession is unhealthy. I still wear one of my long coats sometimes as an overcoat in cold weather, but only if I’ve got something cheerful or colorful to balance it out. The pink shirt, perhaps. Or that colorful vest that makes me so happy when I put it on and so depressed when I “have to” wear it to class. But until our society gets to a more knowledgeable and understanding place about mental health, people like me just have to play the clown. I pray we won’t have to wait long.

Sam Ready is a College sophomore from Atlanta, Georgia.

RonAlmog | Flickr

RonAlmog | Flickr

By Alyssa Weinstein and Nate Silverblatt

We are lucky.

Attending a university that spearheads inclusion, community and innovation is not always commonplace. Despite its shortcomings, Emory is close to being a diamond in the rough. With its precedent for high moral standards in the academic community, Emory parallels another entity in the world: Israel.

Both places instill the same values, although others may not. While these two communities are not normally associated together, they have more similarities than one might think. And while tragedies occur in both places, bloodshed and war are never fully justified. We should, however, realize that Israel truly earns the right to be regarded as just.

Two weeks ago, we, the Emory-Israel Public Affairs Committee (EIPAC), were proud to have nearly one hundred students approach our table at Wonderful Wednesday to share their reasons for loving Israel. We gave out Israeli chocolate bars, distributed Israel-themed apparel and discussed the accomplishments of the only Jewish state in the world. This event was not designed to be political or to create a dialogue on the Israel-Palestine conflicts, as many of our other events are designed to do. Rather, we wanted to highlight the successes of a country that is smaller than the size of New Jersey, surrounded by enemies and under constant threat — yet it is still able to boast accomplishments like having the highest ratio of university degrees per capita in the world.

Then why is EIPAC under scrutiny for asking students why they love Israel, and nothing more? Why can’t students, Jewish and non-Jewish, celebrate all the accomplishments Israel has achieved in the name of peace? Acknowledging the good a country does unto others in no way negates the fact that this country is far from perfect. So, when we read the editorial, “Emory Community Should Question Israel,” written by College senior Anusha Ravi and College junior Ben Crais, we were upset for several reasons.

First, their article, which attacks our event on the basis that “the 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,” reflects an inherent bias and double standard often conflated against Israel. During the United States’ Fourth of July celebrations, we don’t see opinion pieces in The Emory Wheel that we are minimizing the struggles of Native Americans. If this were an “Ask Me Why I Love France” event, there would not be protests that the event was ignoring the plight of Jews throughout that country.

The Israel we love is a complex country; there is a difference between having national pride for a country and having blind approval of a country’s government and policies. Instead, the criticism of our event is derived from the constant questioning of Israel’s legitimacy. No other country in the world is asked to give back land won in defensive wars, just as only victims of terrorist attacks in Israel are reported in the context of Israeli provocation.

Second, the piece minimizes the accomplishments of Israel and attributes its success to the plight of Palestinians. It claims that “these perceived ‘successes,’ and most of Israel’s successes as a nation since 1948, are derivative from its oppression and systematic displacement of Palestinians and contingent upon treating Palestinians like second-class citizens … ”  This is not only untrue, but also a blatant attempt to discredit the remarkable triumphs of a country; its existence is a feat of its own. When looking at Israel’s accomplishments, it is easy to see that this argument is an oversimplification of a complex conflict.

This tiny piece of land in the war-torn Middle East strives to help others on a daily basis. No less than a decade after its creation, the State of Israel was helping other countries thrive. For example, it taught the citizens of Ghana better irrigation techniques and water development methods; many other African countries soon reaped the benefits of these efforts as well. Israel is not afraid to assist others, regardless of the consequences.

These efforts include needed medical treatment for a relative of one of the Hamas’ top leaders — a leader in same organization that calls for Israel’s destruction in its charter. Israel’s medical assistance reaches not only the leaders of Hamas, but also the Palestinian people. Under the Palestinian Authority, health care is extremely expensive and difficult to receive. However, at one of the leading Israeli hospitals, 30 percent of the children treated are Palestinian.

Israel not only assists citizens in other countries, but simultaneously cares about its own civilians with the same passion; it is also the only country in the Middle East that allows all religious groups to practice freely. These achievements happened because of the hard working, innovative people in Israel, not because of security measures taken against Palestinians.

And third, the article is intrinsically hypocritical. It states that, “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 Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Despite the fact that the event was not geared towards engaging in the conflict or its politics, the authors themselves did not live up to this commitment in their omission of several key facts. In the discussion of the summer 2014 war in Gaza, they describe how “Israel bombed multiple UN-operated buildings, including a school that was filled with refugees.”

However, there is no mention of the UN’s three separate discoveries of Hamas weapons caches in its schools. There is no mention of the Hamas policy of shooting rockets from residential areas, schools and hospitals to maximize civilian casualties at the expense of Israel’s image.

And there is no mention of the disputed and possibly inflated number of casualties from the war, with the difficulties of differentiating between militants and civilians. The difference in casualties between the Israelis and the Palestinians this summer was not a result of Israeli aggression, but of Hamas’ disdain for human life and Israel’s priority for defense.

When we host events to promote dialogue and engage in the politics of the conflict, we ensure that all the facts are presented and all viewpoints can be addressed. And when we write articles, we also must ensure that both sides of the conflict are reflected.

Israel is doing what every community should do: overcome negativity by moving forward and helping others. Let us acknowledge the good in a country that may not always make the right choice, but often rises to the highest possible moral standard. Events like “Ask Me Why” at Wonderful Wednesday are designed to reinforce the patriotism many students feel about Israel, without the polarization found at the usual political events. Israel may not be a diamond, but the valiant and selfless acts of this country are the purest of form.

Alyssa Weinstein is a College junior from Short Hills, New Jersey. Nate Silverblatt is a College freshman from Sugar Land, Texas.

Goodrich C. White Hall. Photo by Jason Oh.

Goodrich C. White Hall. Photo by Jason Oh.

By Erik Alexander
Assistant Editorial Editor

Here I am, a college student reviewing my semester at four a.m. Overall, the semester’s been a pretty bland one. I did decide to change my major from economics to history. An enormous amount of introspection and second-guessing went into making this decision. I think it is fair to say that this has been the defining moment of my semester, and possibly my whole undergraduate career, because it taught me that the most obvious answer is not necessarily the most practical one.

My initial decision to declare my major in economics seemed obvious enough at the time. I was, and still am, fascinated by how frequently Keynesian economics, which  calls for public spending in times of recession and monetary contraction in times of inflation, is tossed aside in favor of supply-side economics with all its unsubstantiated trickle-down mumbo jumbo and deficit-hawkery. I figured that by learning the history of economic policymaking from the dawn of modern capitalism to the present I could better understand why this is the case. I was wrong to believe that being an economics major was the best way to acquire this knowledge.

To put it simply, I find economics courses above the introductory level very boring. Right now I am on track to fail the only economics course that I am enrolled in this semester, a result of sheer disinterest in the material. The likelihood of this happening brings with it a sense of impending doom, one that I cannot escape.

Reality is not a desktop computer that can be shut down at your leisure. Performing poorly in a course you are taking to satisfy a major requirement should concern you. Thus as I came to terms with the likelihood of my failing this course, I was forced to reconsider my commitment to studying economics. I still intend to learn about the history of economic policymaking, and a history major affords me this opportunity.

“I’ll at least keep economics as my minor,” I initially figured. I so desperately wanted to salvage what I thought was a necessary component in learning about the history of economic policymaking. But were I to do so, I would have been subjecting myself to the same problem I faced as an economics major, just on a smaller scale. So I searched for a minor that would complement my new major and my focus on economic policymaking. I settled on philosophy because sitting in philosophy courses tends to sharpen my mind. My philosophy of science course, for example, has activated two epiphanies in my brain, both of which have made me more confident in my new major.

The first epiphany was sparked after reading contemporary philosopher Helen Longino’s article “Values and Objectivity” in which she emphasizes the social nature of scientific inquiry. I had always been naïve in my view of science as above politics, exempt from the imposition of subjective ideas by those who have the most clout. Even worse, I considered economics to be something more than a dismal science, a misunderstood lamb that tried too hard to be accepted by the rest of the flock. It turns out I was wrong on both accounts. Science is politics, and economics is not even science.

The second epiphany came about after reading Karl Popper’s criticism of logical positivism. The logical positivists asserted that the determination of what counts as science, otherwise known as demarcation, ought to revolve around the verifiability of the theory in question. What they mean is that a theory should only be regarded as scientific if it has the capacity to be proven true or false.

Popper critiques the positivists’ notion that any theory can ever be verified with absolute certainty and offers a new demarcation criterion known as falsifiability. While we can never be certain of a theory’s truth, we can be certain that certain theories are false. We gain knowledge when we falsify a theory, not when we verify it, is Popper’s argument in a nutshell.

As soon as I managed to grasp Popper’s critique of verifiability as a demarcation criterion, I realized another value in changing my major to history. Science is not verifiable, but history more or less actually is. While scientific posits can never be proven true, historical events can be verified as having occurred through primary sources. Thus I now take enormous comfort in my major switch on the basis that I will be acquiring objective knowledge to a degree unattainable by even the most universally accepted scientific theories.

This all goes to say that sometimes the most daunting of realities can be overcome through deep introspection. I may still fail this economics class, but now that it is no longer my major, I can sleep more easily at night, hopefully. My new major will allow me to continue chasing my goal of learning the history of economic policymaking despite my being a poor economics student. My new minor will generate within me ideas that progress my understanding of both myself and the world in general.

Assistant Editorials Editor Erik Alexander is a College junior from Alpharetta, Georgia.

voting

Photo courtesy of Jean-Pierre Lavoie | Flickr

By Edmund Xu
Staff Writer

There is no mistaking it: earlier this month, the Democratic Party and its candidates were electorally annihilated all over the country, up and down the ballot. The nation saw a red tsunami sweep through most of the country, from the Governor’s mansion in deep blue Massachusetts, through red Kansas and its unpopular incumbents, all the way to purple Alaska and its competitive Senate seat.

The GOP captured the Senate by gaining an impressive eight seats (possibly nine, pending a run-off in Louisiana) and is one member short of matching their post-World War II record high in the House of Representatives of 246 seats out of 435. On the state level, it didn’t matter if a state was normally red or blue. If a race was seriously contested, the Republican almost always won. That is how the Republican Party won control or continue to hold the Governor’s office in blue states such as Illinois, Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Maryland, as well as state legislatures in states such as Nevada and Pennsylvania. Beginning with next year, the GOP dominance in the U.S. Congress and statehouses will have reached dizzying heights.

But politics never rests. It is now time to look forward to 2016. The question everyone is asking is: how can the Republican Party win during presidential turnout levels? Based on the results of the elections earlier this month, it may seem that Republicans have an overwhelming mandate to govern and are certain to clinch 2016. It’s not that simple.

One important result of this year’s results that has barely been discussed by the media is the overwhelming victory of progressive ballot initiatives across the country. “Personhood” amendments, which would have defined an unborn child as a “living person” in relevant wrongful death and criminal statutes (and effectively criminalize abortion), failed in two states that elected Republican senators this year — North Dakota and Colorado. Four other red states — Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota — passed minimum wage increases. Additionally, Alaska and Oregon passed measures allowing for the recreational use of marijuana, Washington state voted to expand background checks on gun purchases and California voters chose to water down the state’s tough-on-crime laws. Across the country, voters chose to increase taxes to pay for expanding public transit infrastructure, from San Francisco to Arlington, from Detroit to even in Atlanta. These were all issues championed by unions, progressive activists, environmentalists and allied groups of the Democratic Party. On the other hand, Republicans were mute on issues like same-sex marriage and gun control.

Voters chose the Republican Party to govern the country out of the dysfunction we’ve experienced for the past few years. I believe that unless the GOP acts on this mandate appropriately, 2014 will be a short-term victory the same way 2010 was a short-term victory for them before Obama was spectacularly re-elected into office two years later. The GOP’s prospects two years from now will be very dim unless they can prove that they can govern smartly, reject dogmatism and dramatically hew to the political center.

First of all, the math shows that 2016 will be a difficult year for Republicans. This year, only 36.4 percent of eligible voters turned out to vote, the lowest in 70 years. With the excitement of a presidential election at the top of the ticket, turnout in 2016 will be far higher. Younger voters and racial minorities, a demographic that has always leaned Democratic, will turn out in greater numbers. Voting suppression efforts underway in Republican-led states, such as creating stringent voter ID requirements or closing urban voting precincts, have the practical effect of making the voting process confusing and difficult for enough to dissuade people from going to the polls. The impact of these laws lie squarely on the shoulders of racial minority groups and college students who do not have the proper ID or the means to get one, or the time to waste waiting in line to vote.

Whether or not this practice is legal, it is at best a short-term victory for the Republican Party. The Democrats will soon get their act together and make sure their base understands the Byzantine process in order to get a ballot in these states. In the meantime, the long-term effect is that voters will never forget which party tried to stop them from voting.

Additionally, the GOP faces in 2016 what Republican Chris Ladd calls the “blue wall.” This wall consists of states that have voted for a Democratic candidate in every election since 1992, plus Nevada, New Mexico and New Hampshire. These states collectively control 257 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, and no Republican can realistically hope to win them in 2016. Democrats have such a lock here that every single Democrat won their respective Senate races in “blue wall” states this Republican wave year. Any Democrat starts out with only 13 electoral votes left to victory.

The 2016 math for the U.S. Senate races is even worse for the Republicans, if that’s even possible. Senate races are up every six years, so 2016’s class of senators are the same who survived the Democratic wipeout in 2010. If a Democrat could win that year, then they are virtually invincible in a presidential election year. The only remotely competitive Democratic-held seat is in Colorado. On the other hand, Republican victories in blue states in 2010 are coming around to bite them: GOP-held seats in eight seats are potentially competitive. More could become competitive if Republican incumbents choose to retire in states like Arizona or Kentucky. On the surface, it looks like the incoming Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has only been given a two-year loan in his new office.

In the aftermath of the election this year, NBC and the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) interviewed the electorate to capture an understanding of what America’s expectations and priorities for the new Congress are. The top five most important issues were student loans, infrastructure spending, raising the minimum wage, funding to fight Ebola and climate change and reducing carbon emissions.

What I see in the 2014 Republican wave election is a mandate from the voters for the Republicans to govern maturely and responsibly, for the issues they care about. Instead, I see Republicans interpreting the election results as a mandate to push through controversial and radical conservative policies that do not sit well with the majority of America. So what are the priorities of the new Republican congress? First of all, I am afraid that they will continue wasting congressional resources on sham hearings where they screech and whine about the made-up ‘scandals.’ Additionally, I fear that no executive appointment that President Obama makes will pass the Senate, leaving our government increasingly crippled. We do not have a Surgeon General, for example, to lead America’s efforts in fighting Ebola because the Republicans refuse to allow a vote on Obama’s nominee. Obstruction is the game here.

In terms of their productive efforts, I believe that one of the first bills to be passed will be a repeal of Obamacare. This is a pointless exercise because Obama will surely veto any blanket repeal. Problematically for the GOP, this proposal is third-to-last place in terms of support among all of the policies that NBC/WSJ interviewed McConnell about.

Republicans will no doubt continue to try any method of thwarting Obama’s executive action on immigration. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has already threatened to turn back any Obama appointment for Attorney General over this issue, leaving the country without its top attorney and legal advisor. Opposition to this executive action will not be popular among Hispanics, whom the Republicans critically need in order to expand their tent.

Republicans have also continued to foolishly deny the science behind climate change. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is slated to chair the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee in the next Congress. Inhofe is one of the Senate’s most vocal virulent climate change deniers and a champion of the environmental disaster known as fracking.

Indeed, congressional Republicans’ plans for the next two years consist of more of the same: obstruction, negativity and continued intransigence. But in order to win the White House and maintain their grip on the U.S. Senate in 2016, Republicans must reshape their agenda to reflect a positive and productive outlook. They must be specific in their policy points and avoid the tempting short-term rewards that come from endlessly pursuing a policy based solely around opposition to the President.

This year’s electorate presented the Republican Party with a chance to lead. They must take this mandate and pursue a path forward by making tough decisions, tackling challenging questions and providing real solutions for real problems. Wealth inequality is skyrocketing and the middle class is being economically squeezed. Students are finding that the decision of whether or not to go to college is a question between lifelong debt or unemployment. Beyond our borders, we are facing a crisis of trust among our allies and rising anti-American sentiment among others. And the world must work together to solve the problem of climate change and rising seas if we are to share our beautiful planet with our grandchildren.

Instead, the Republicans have eschewed compromise in order to pursue Benghazi. Don’t they know that Obama can no longer be their scapegoat? They are in the leadership now, and voters will assess their performance come 2016.

The conservative base may like it when the Republicans antagonize Obama. But America would like it if they did what we voted for them to do: get things done.

Edmund Xu is a College senior from Los Altos, California.

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