When asking the basic questions to get to know a person, we ask for someone’s favorite color, their family, their pets. Often, the last two can be complexly intertwined, as the status of pets, namely dogs and cats, has risen to accepted family members in the opinion of many. Pets have been by our sides for millennia, but the past few decades have had a shift in social attitudes towards our animal companions. Pets now have more rights and protections than any other non-human animal in our country, especially when regarding the court cases that have recently elevated them to quasi citizens which is a status normally reserved for long term residents of a foreign nation.
Animals started developing into a quasi-citizenship position as early as 1822 when the British enacted the Martins Acts, thus protecting domesticated animals from acts of cruelty. These legal boundaries have been pushed more often as people’s relationship with their pets progress.
Consider, for example, the case in 2007 that gave a golden retriever a court-appointed lawyer to look after her best interests in a custody suit. That same year, a woman was given a court mandated restraining order from the ex-husband’s dog, since pets are often attacked in situations of domestic violence. Fast forward to this year where a police officer was fired after fatally shooting a family dog due to public outcry.
Even looking away from the legality of pet rights, the economy for the pet industry has never been higher. Last year $55 billion was spent on people’s animal companions. More than a few cats have received liver transplants, which is not a cheap expenditure. Instead of spending enormous amounts of time pondering over why this shift has taken place, we must discuss what this means for the future.
Personhood is the state of being an individual or having human feelings. When talking about personhood rights in the eyes of the law, this means granting additional legal protection for animals while toughening animal cruelty laws. On the surface there are tweaks such as changing “owners” to “guardians,” but at the core personhood requires a right to bodily integrity if the animal in question has practical autonomy (the ability to desire, fulfill those desires and have a sense of self-awareness).
Most people, no matter how much they love their furry friends, can’t seem to fathom the thought of them having personhood rights. And why is that? The two biggest issues forming the base of the opposition are self-interest and the concept of non-people having people rights.
Taking a look at the first point, giving personhood to pets can be seen as a slippery slope. There is a great fear that if the neighbor’s dog gets rights, then what’s stopping those rights from extending to that tasty fish you eat at Red Lobster or KFC goodness? Let it be known that I am no vegetarian. I think this argument has two major flaws.
One, it completely ignores the possibility of strict parameters based on an animal’s species and intelligences as there are already scientifically ranked hierarchies of animal intelligence (also known as cognitive ethnology). Animal intelligence is measured with tests that include tool use, problem solving, displays of emotions and consciousness, spatial memory and language acquisition. These tools allow us to create a clear language for discussing animal intelligence.
Secondly, the slippery slope argument is at its core a fallacy in which a person declares that some event (no more meat meals) must inevitably follow from another (specific animal personhood) without any rational argument for the inevitability of the feared outcome. This line of thought fails to account for the ways in which real world scenarios can play themselves out. I find it irresponsible to hold back on protecting intelligent lives in apprehension for lifestyle restrictions that are not in any way set out as inevitable.
If you think that pets should not gain more personhood rights because personhood is for people, I would like for us to consider corporations. The infamous legal concept of corporate personhood is a doozy. Even though corporations have had personhood since 1888, the concept was refreshed to the American population this summer in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores where the Supreme Court allowed the corporation to make religious objections to generally applicable law. Now, whether or not you support this decision or the ideas of corporate personhood, you must admit that corporations are made up of people and are not living, breathing people themselves. I am not here to debate whether corporate personhood is good or bad, but I am surprised to see people accept businesses as deserving of personhood but balk at the thought of animal personhood.
In San Diego and Orlando there is a debate heating up over SeaWorld’s treatment of orcas (a highly intelligent species) that has been going on for years. The documentary “Blackfish” in 2013 took the issue of captive orcas head on and multiple awareness groups have arisen to challenge SeaWorld to face the public over the controversies detailing the physical and psychological damage that orcas experience in captivity.
SeaWorld’s only public response to the film has been a website titled “Truth about Blackfish” while calling the documentary propaganda pushed by animal-rights extremists.
As a corporation, SeaWorld has more rights than the animals in its care despite the mounting evidence that captivity is shortening the “Shamus’” lifespans by half a decade among other major health issues.
I only wonder what amount of animal rights would end debates such as this once in for all. It is slowly but surely becoming probable that the future will hold positive changes in the case of pet personhood.
As more neurological research and ethical debates build the background of legal cases regarding animal rights, it is difficult to refute the shift in attitudes towards what personhood really is and who (or better what) deserve it.
Erin Degler is a College junior from Orlando, Florida.
In a recent article featured in Politico, Erwin Chemerinsky, the Dean of UC Irvine School of Law, wrote an article concerning Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s decision to remain on the Court despite mounting pressure from liberals for her to retire. He writes, “If Ginsburg – nominated in 1993 by President Bill Clinton – had stepped down this past summer, President Obama could have had virtually anyone he wanted confirmed.” Chemerinsky goes on to say that while Ginsburg is a paragon of the Supreme Court’s liberal wing, she is too old to stay on for long. He argues that Ginsburg, who is 81, needs to retire “yesterday” so that Obama can nominate an equally liberal successor before the November elections, when Senate Democrats are supposedly set to lose their majority and thus would remain paralyzed to confirm a successor thereafter.
Chemerinsky wasn’t the first pundit to express this sentiment; however, it is part of an unnecessary discussion. Even the thought of calculating the departure of a Supreme Court Justice and the successive nomination is part of an unnecessary conversation. Ultimately, it seems as if Legislative politics has entered the Court, a grave outcome which harms the checks and balances set in place by our Constitution.
A variety of decisions from the Court have come to influence modern American politics. In the 50s, 60s and 70s, the Court issued a blizzard of decisions that affected American policy. For example, in the Roe v. Wade case, the Supreme Court in 1973 issued a majority decision in favor of a woman’s right to privacy when deciding to perform an abortion. Roe wasn’t the only decision that sparked political movements however, as many of the decisions of this era of the Court are still debated today. Yet, this case was significant in that it elevated the Supreme Court to its current status as a mediator in particularly divisive issues.
What has essentially ensued from Roe and other decisions alike is a need to pack the Court with “conservative” or “liberal” justices in order to satisfy political agendas. Decisions such as that of Roe have increased the theatre of the Supreme Court and have also caused party politicians to consider the Court as a political vehicle when making their calculations. Nowadays, even the District Courts can serve to political agendas, such as the DC and 11th District Court’s rulings on the Affordable Care Act.
Because the Court has the authority to weigh in on a variety of issues, ranging from civil rights to teeth whitening at tanning salons, it is important that we do not nominate Justices based solely on ideological climate. Doing so corrupts the system of balance the Court has against the Legislative and Executive Branches by essentially combining the two into one governing body in a manner modeling an oligarchy.
If we could replace Justices on a whim, then the Court would not have to not check against the Legislative and Executive Branches, but rather serve them. This is why the life term of a Supreme Court Justice is so important, specifically in terms of the integrity of our government, and why Ginsburg has both the authority and the right to choose when she leaves the Court.
While the life term can seem to create a Court that is often decades behind the current political faction in power, it is important to recognize that this Constitutional mechanism is contingent towards an effective government.
In an era where party politics dominate progress, it is the Supreme Court that acts as a buffer against the calculations of any party. Truly, it is one of the few institutions that can still affect change without needing to bow to politicians or outside influences. While the Court has issued many decisions with its usual drama that seem to paint victory for one side and defeat for the other, (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, for example), its integrity as a system of governance, not a system of politics, must be maintained.
The pressure from pundits and politicians alike for Supreme Court Justices to conform to the whims of party politics is certainly nothing new. From Franklin Roosevelt to Chermerinsky, politics has played a huge role in the trend of those wishing to alter the Court in the name of a larger political agenda. However, as history says, the Court has ultimately rebuffed such challenges to its structure, and has remained an institution like no other because of this invariability. The Court still retains its central purpose by serving as a buffer against the abuse of politics gone too far – immune to outside influence and political threats, the structure of the Court is inherently an apolitical institution, and should remain that way.
Ultimately, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a Justice with liberal leanings, but one who interprets the Constitution in her own lens, not the Democratic Party’s. Even though she is considered an “activist Justice,” her decision to continue serving on the Court is representative of the Constitutional structure of the Court at work. Justice Ginsburg, along with moderates such as Justice John Roberts and more ideological justices such as Antonin Scalia, is part of a Court that has largely been consisted of justices across different political spectrums. The fact that Justices have too often cross aisles to issue majority decisions means that the outcomes of cases from the Court reflect not one will of a majority, but rather the conglomeration of multiple perspectives. This diversity of interpretation has been the crux of many historical decisions from the Court.
The Founding Fathers intended for the Court to consist of Justices from all political spectrums across multiple Presidents, such that tyranny of the majority does not overtake the Court. The prevention of absolute power of one party in any Branch of government has been a common theme of many Constitutional mechanisms, and is why bipartisanship is so often observed. It’s a system that has been described as messy, but our government is ultimately one that can accommodate a small majority like the conservative Justices, and a vocal minority such as Ginsburg because of its structure.
As with the other Justices, Ginsburg is free to interpret the Constitution as she wishes for however long she intends to. To begin to tell her that she “doesn’t belong” on the Court any more is both impolite and inconsiderate of her background as one of the few female lawyers in her graduating class at Columbia Law School. It also reflects a misunderstanding about the sole purpose of the Court: to serve as a Constitutional check against the much more ideological (and political) Legislative and Executive Branches. Justices ultimately do not and should not have a duty to any party, President or ideology, but rather to how they see they interpret the document that has been the foundation of our government for generations. While the meaning of those few thousand words can change over time, the document still continues to exist in its full integrity thanks to the Court.
— By Somnath Das, a College sophomore from Warner Robins, Georgia.
- By Zach Elkwood
Armored vehicles lumber down the dusty road of a small town; heavily armed men sporting body armor and tactical gear ride along in the back. This is the reality of post-9/11 America.
Many military operations overseas are coming to a close, but the War on Terror is still happening. An alarming amount of ordinance from foreign wars is being funneled back into the United States and being given directly to law enforcement agencies.
This, coupled with an upswing in the predominance of paramilitary tactics utilized by local police, has permanently transformed policing in the U.S. and could alter American society as a whole.
The use of assault weapons and military-style tactics by the police are very troubling for a number of reasons. Statistics released from the U.S. Department of Justice shows that the vast majority of weapons used in violent crimes are handguns or knives, which makes the use of assault rifles by police seem like overkill.
The use of “no-knock warrants,” which allow police officers to enter a home without immediate or prior notification to the homeowners, is a tool increasingly utilized by police officers. No-knock warrants are used when it is believed that evidence in a home may be destroyed during the time it takes police to identify themselves. Warrants of this nature have been decried as violating the Fourth Amendment. On top of constitutional challenges, the warrants are controversial for other reasons. For example, burglars have broken into homes by claiming to be police with no-knock warrants. Armed homeowners who believe they are being invaded have exchanged gunfire with officers, leading to deaths on both sides. The use of no-knock warrants has grown from about 3,000 raids a year in the 1980s to about 70,000 raids a year.
But what was the catalyst behind this trend in American policing? The proliferation of heavily armed police is directly correlated to America’s “War on Drugs” and “War on Terror.” We might like to think of increased militarization as a result of our post-9/11 mentality, but it is really a symptom of policies from more than three decades ago.
In 1981, President Ronald Reagan passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Act, which allowed and encouraged the military to cooperate with local, state and federal law enforcement and render assistance via research, equipment and other assets to assist with the then-nascent “War on Drugs” initiative.
This act of government authorized the military to train civilian police officers to use the new high-tech weaponry, instructed the military to share drug-war–related information with police officers and authorized the military to take an active role in preventing drugs from entering the country.
Thus the precedent was set, inviting future legislators to pass laws in a similar vein and thus decrease the distinction between the military and police, all in the name of keeping drugs off the streets. Modern theories of policing define the police as civil-servants working through local government for the prevention of crimes and apprehension of criminals. Police are supposed to utilize a proportional amount of force as required by the situation whereas soldiers on a foreign battlefield may utilize any amount of force necessary to ensure the completion of the mission. But with the large amounts of military grade equipment and training made available to the police, the traditional mind set of police officers is changing to justify the use of these assets.
More recent legislature passed after the events of September 11, 2001 has transformed the issue from one of drug suppression to one of fighting the menace of terrorism. Legislature passed as early as the 1990s has resulted in thousands of pieces of military hardware, ranging from weapons to vehicles, being passed into the hands of the police for use on U.S. citizens.
This increasingly militarized police force could adversely affect police-civilian relationships as the general populace feels more and more like a people under occupation.
Recently, with the winding down of military operations abroad, the Department of Defense, along with the Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department, have made it easier than ever for local police departments to obtain military vehicles. Heavily armed and armored mine-resistant, ambush protected vehicles (MRAPs) have recently found their way into the hands of civilian police. 175 of these hulking behemoths of war had been doled out to various police departments across the U.S. when they first became available in the summer of 2013, and the number of requests for MRAPs has quadrupled in the past year.
Many civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have condemned the use of military vehicles in American municipalities, stating that the use of military and SWAT style tactics for simple arrests or warrant servings is far from necessary.
The purchasing of military grade equipment, ranging from body armor to the aforementioned MRAPs is made simple for even the smallest and most low key of police departments through a series of grants from the Department of Homeland Security. These grants are issued to “enhance the ability of regional authorities to prepare, prevent and respond to terrorist attacks and other disasters,” per the department’s own website.
Not only are these weapons made available to local police departments, but with these grants allow greater access to these weapons of war, a fact that has alarmed many Americans who hold strong convictions about the necessity of a civilian police force as opposed to a military or national police force.
In fact, an Associated Press investigation of the Defense Department’s military surplus program shows that a large percentage of the $4.2 billion worth of equipment that has been distributed over the past 25 years has gone directly to police and sheriff departments in rural areas with very few officers and low crime rates.
This overt militarization also comes at a time when reports on police brutality are occurring with more frequency than in decades past, contributing to an ongoing image problem of police in the U.S.
Every few weeks, stories about police brutality, accidental fatal shootings or other high profile run-ins with the police permeate media outlets and online blogs. Images of police officers raiding the Occupy encampments across the country with brutal efficiency, the beating to death of mentally ill homeless man Kelly Thomas by California police, the shooting of 18 year old Keith Vidal; these incidents, coupled with an increased emphasis on paramilitary training and mindset for police, could lead to a very serious breakdown in respect for law enforcement.
It is an unfortunate reality of our time that we live in an era of uncertainty. With terrorist attacks seemingly able to manifest out of nowhere, we rely on internal security forces more than ever for the protection of citizens. Training and arming police with the best equipment seems like a proactive step to helping them in their anti-terrorism responsibilities.
The problem arises when police begin utilizing these tools in their day-to-day operations; for example, serving a warrant for a non-violent drug offender does not merit the use of full body armor and SWAT-style raids. This disproportionate use of force on a nation’s citizens fosters resentment and suspicion toward law enforcement officials.
Ultimately, police militarization does more harm than good. Police come to be viewed as oppressors and citizens are viewed as potential threats. The result is that we as a nation are more endangered by our own police forces than by terrorists, and this reality causes distrusts of police on a fundamental level.
When you are more likely to end up dead at the hands of those sworn to protect you than those sworn to destroy you, who is the bigger threat?
— By Andrew Morsilli, a College senior from East Greenwich, Rhode Island
Luis Blanco is a member of the Class of 2017. His cartoons appear in every Friday issue of the Wheel.
Before I begin, I would like to give a disclaimer: in no way am I minimizing the seriousness of the anti-Semitic act that occurred on campus on Oct. 5. The act was heinous and totally unacceptable. The perpetrators need to be found and receive a proper punishment; however, the act comes as no surprise. Racism and prejudice against those who are commonly defined as “other” is not new to the Emory community. In fact, it is quite common.
Within the Emory community, there is a lack of sensitivity and acceptance towards those who are different than the majority of the faces seen on campus. This lack of acceptance is something that many individuals, including myself, have frequently experienced since becoming a part of the Emory community. This is a problem in and of itself because as members of the Emory community, and more importantly as a citizen of the world, we should be accepting of all people, and we should be intolerant to all forms of hate.
But a bigger issue is how we, as a community, respond to the hate that we witness and experience. After the huge outcry for solidarity following the swastika incident, it has been made clear that discrimination is only unacceptable when it is against certain people. It is clear that at Emory, only certain people matter to the greater community. The response to this recent event has showcased ways in which Emory responds and does not respond to forms of hate.
By all means, we should stand in solidarity for humanity. No group should be discriminated against, and no group’s history should be made into a sickening joke by those who are ignorant. But why is there a community outcry for this incident and not for others?
Where was the solidarity when chattel slavery and the oppression and dehumanization of black Americans was essentially minimized by a comment made by Emory President James W. Wagner stating that the Three-Fifths Compromise was used as an example of a good compromise? When this incident occurred, a majority of the response came from members of Emory’s black community. There was neither solidarity nor support from the Emory community as a whole.
Where was the solidarity when the largely white fraternity Kappa Alpha turned a confederate cannon on the house of the historically black fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha? Where was the solidarity when jokes about lynching and “finding the people who do not belong and are only at Emory because of affirmative action” were made on “The Dooley Show”?
Although the students working with the show issued an apology days after the incident, there was not as much community outcry as a result of this incident. President Wagner did not write a letter apologizing to the black community at Emory because of this event.
When students discuss professors referring to Asians as “orientals,” it is ignored. When students make ignorant comments about those of Middle Eastern descent, it is overlooked. Issues that affect people of Latin American descent, Native Americans and other ethnic and racial groups are not often openly discussed either.
But when Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) was discriminated against, everyone was disgusted. I realize that being Jewish is not synonymous with being white, but within Emory, many of the people that identify with the Jewish faith are white or white-passing. Thus, when white people are discriminated against, everyone is disgusted.
Why doesn’t this “solidarity” and disgust for discrimination extend to all people of the Emory community? Why do certain groups deserve a larger platform for their plight than others? These are questions that need answers. It seems that many people are shocked by this terrible incident, but what I do not understand is why they are shocked.
Racism is not a shock to those of us who deal with it every day. Racism is not a shock to those of us who are forced to wake up every morning and remember that we are viewed as the “other” by the majority of the people we encounter every day. Racism is not a shock to those of us who have been historically marginalized. Oppression is not a new occurrence. Oppression is what built this nation and made it into what it is today.
The exploitation of marginalized peoples is the reason institutions like Emory could be founded in the first place. So why are we shocked when discrimination occurs? Are we shocked because it occurred against white people? I ask this because it seems that we are blind, deaf and numb when it occurs against everyone else.
It is disappointing that a group of white people have to be discriminated against for people to open their eyes and realize that prejudice exists at Emory. We allow anti-blackness to run rampant, but we are asked to stand in solidarity with AEPi and Emory’s Jewish community, although I am not convinced the same would be done for us if the situation was reversed.
We are asked to take a back seat to incidents like this in order to not be viewed as “self-righteous” people who constantly ask white people to check their privilege. When incidents occur when young black men — such as Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Oscar Grant and John Crawford III — are murdered (modern day lynching considering the circumstances), we are asked to be quiet and not view it as a race issue.
We are constantly asked to view this nation as a “post-racial” society. We are demonized and blamed for these incidents occurring. We must have “done something,” because nobody in 2014 would be so openly bigoted. When blatantly racist cartoons are printed in newspapers such as the Boston Herald, we are asked not to be so sensitive. We are asked to accept the discrimination we face. But when “certain” people are faced with similar treatment, we are asked to stand in solidarity. Is this not an explicit demonstration of white privilege? I believe it is.
I realize that many of the incidents I mentioned were incidents in which black people were the target. This is because I am a black person, and these are the issues that are most known to me; however, that doesn’t mean that the point of this is to say that the black struggle is more important than the struggle of others. The point is that there is only community outrage when white people are targeted and when people of color (all people of color, not just black people) are targeted, we turn a blind eye.
The point is that a conversation about solidarity is well overdue and should’ve happened a long time ago. The point is that it shouldn’t take white people being attacked for this to become a realization.
As a community, if we are going to stand in solidarity, we should do so for all people who face discrimination. We should be outraged by all of these incidents. We should be disgusted that anyone has to deal with prejudice, not only when certain people are the target. We should never overlook what people have to deal with on a daily basis just because we are not directly affected by it.
— By Malika Anderson, a College junior from Chicago, Illinois.
Illustration by Aarti Dureja
The Supreme Court decided on Oct. 6 not to review lower court decisions striking down same-sex marriage bans in five states. This is a watershed moment for the marriage equality movement. On Monday, the Court issued seven curt one-line statements that sent the cases back to the lower courts, all of which approved same-sex marriage.
This event is eerily similar to a 1972 case where the legal battle for same-sex marriage began. That year, the Court issued a similarly brusque summary dismissal of an appeal from the Minnesota Supreme Court called Baker v. Nelson. In it, they declined to hear an appeal from a gay couple wishing to marry, “for want of a substantial federal question.” Unlike today, the Court’s refusal to hear the Baker appeal would have a profoundly negative impact on the legal landscape regarding LGBT rights for decades.
The legal environment today is extremely different. Since Baker, the Court has issued three landmark decisions regarding LGBT rights and over 40 lower court decisions have nearly unanimously found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Unlike in 1972, however, and despite the mixed feelings expressed by many marriage equality supporters, today’s one-line orders by the Court are an unprecedented step forward for the cause of same-sex marriage in the United States. It is also the right decision.
The Court of the United States is unique from all other federal courts in that they get sole discretion to choose which cases they wish to hear. It takes four justices out of nine in order to grant certiorari and hear a case. Despite the rabid reactions from the extreme right-wingers, Monday’s denial of certiorari was an exemplary case of judicial restraint.
Every circuit court that has weighed in on the issue has arrived on the side of marriage equality. The decisions from the Fourth, Seventh and 10th Circuit that were before the Court had all struck down their respective bans, as did a Ninth Circuit decision released one day later. Additionally, every state in the First, Second and Third Circuit have legalized same-sex marriage, negating their need to enter the debate.
Because of this unanimity among the lower courts, there is currently no legal conflict that the Court needs to resolve. From the Court’s perspective, it is better to let these cases percolate among the lower courts for now, rather than wade into a potentially explosive social issue.
Controversial social issues are something the Court should tread carefully on in order to avoid the kind of public backlash that occurred after Citizens United (campaign finance laws) or Roe v. Wade (abortion). Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg has in the past indicated that Roe may have pushed the legal boundaries too far and too fast to the detriment of the pro-choice movement. Learning from this, Ginsburg said last month that she feels content to simply let the lower courts figure out for themselves the same-sex marriage question, for now.
What the Court’s refusal to review these cases means is that every state whose same-sex marriage ban was directly struck down by the lower circuit courts are immediately enjoined from enforcing the ban. In addition, every state that is located within the jurisdictions of the four circuit courts will soon have their same-sex marriage bans overturned as well, after some procedural hurdles.
To see how unprecedented this is, only two years ago, just six states and the District of Columbia legalized same-sex marriage. By this past Sunday, that number had risen to 19. But with the Court’s action on Monday, that number has immediately jumped to 26, and within a few weeks, it will be 35 states.
The meteoric rise of acceptance of same-sex marriage is nothing short of astounding. After what happened on Monday, nationwide marriage equality is absolutely inevitable. Now is the time for patience. I understand that gay couples living in states that aren’t covered by Monday’s action, including Georgia, are still living without legal recognition of their relationship and the benefits that come with such recognition.
I can feel that impatience of wanting those legal benefits that are deservedly theirs. But we must be patient and let the Court conduct its business. It may seem slow, but the end is clear, and nationwide acceptance of same-sex marriage may likely happen within a year.
In a way, everything has gone full circle. What began with a short dismissal in 1972 has ended now with a short dismissal in 2014. With its action, the Court has quietly given the national push for marriage equality an air of momentum and legal legitimacy (not that it didn’t already have that).
For marriage equality supporters disappointed that the Court did not decide to end the discussion once and for all and establish a constitutional right to same-sex marriage nationwide, upcoming decisions in the Fifth, Sixth and 11th Circuit within the next several months may cause the conflict that the Supreme Court is looking for. If so, the eventual outcome would still be the same as if the Court decided to review one of the cases it denied: a Supreme Court decision next June.
It is also possible that the circuit courts may all come down on the side of marriage equality. That way, the Supreme Court may never have to wade into the issue. In a sign of how accepted same-sex marriage has become in American society, how ironic would it be that this decade-long struggle for marriage equality would conclude so quickly with a series of short, one-line procedural orders? There would be nothing better than the Court basically insinuating that same-sex marriage is such a fundamental right that they only needed one line in order to enforce it. For a civil rights movement, this is nothing short of miraculous!
I understand that the courts can sometimes be arduously slow. But the United States has a rich constitutional tradition, and while letting this tradition play out may feel like an unjust delay of fundamental rights, the courts do have a tendency to eventually end up on the right side of history, as they did in Brown v. Board of Education (segregation), Lawrence v. Texas (gay rights) and Frontiero v. Richardson (gender equality), among others. With the Supreme Court’s non-decision last Monday, the marriage equality movement is nearing its victory.
— By Edmund Xu, a College senior from Los Altos, California.
The recent incident in which the Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) fraternity house was disgraced by swastikas serves as a close-to-home reminder that despite all the progress our society has made since the Holocaust, anti-Semitism still very much exists in this world. While the Emory community as a whole has strongly stood behind AEPi and the Jewish community by renouncing this vile act, anti-Semitism has reemerged across the Atlantic with greater strength than in recent memory.
Anti-Semitism has deep roots in European culture. From the Middle Ages until World War II, the European Jewry was forced into ghettos, denied fundamental rights and faced violent riots aimed specifically at them, called pogroms.
Most horrifically, the Nazis and their supporters tried to commit genocide against the Jews (amongst other minorities groups, such as the Roma and homosexuals) in the Holocaust, killing over six million European Jews. In reaction to the Holocaust, the states of Europe vowed and redoubled on their efforts to quash anti-Semitism within their borders.
For the most part, Europeans succeeded in ceasing anti-Semitism and reintegrating Jews into their society. European Jews now have equal rights as citizens in Europe, and in Germany, and it is even a criminal act to deny the Holocaust.
But recently, anti-Semitism has reemerged across the European continent. In recent months, anti-Semitic acts have occurred in reaction to the Israel-Gaza conflict over the summer. Protests, sometimes violent, proliferated across the continent in reaction to Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip.
Yet, these protests went beyond merely criticizing Israel. Rather, many of these protests were directed at the entire Jewish population, including those in Europe that had nothing to do with the conflict in the Levant. Protests included signs with horrible messages such as “Gas to the Jews” and “Death to the Jews!”
Some of these protests even led to mob violence against Jews. In July, in reaction to the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, a pro-Palestinian demonstration in the Parisian suburb of Sarcelles turned violently anti-Semitic. Riot police eventually stopped the violent protesters, but not until after the protesters looted multiple Jewish-owned businesses and attempted to storm two synagogues.
In addition to this misdirection of anti-Israel sentiment toward the Jews of Europe, there is evidence that anti-Semitism is on the rise in the general European population. Anti-Semitic sentiments have begun to re-proliferate in the 70 years since the end of the Holocaust. The Anti-Defamation League, an international Jewish organization that fights anti-Semitism, revealed some shocking results about the prevalence of anti-Semitism across Europe: “When asked if they agreed with the statement ‘Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind,’ 33 percent of the population in Belgium agreed. The responses varied little from country to country. In France, it was 31 percent of the population; in Germany, 28; and in Italy, 28.”
Far-right parties have also made some anti-Semitic comments. Members of the Hungarian ultra-nationalist party Jobbik, which is the third largest party in Hungarian parliament, has called Hungarian Jews a “national security risk,” amongst other anti-Semitic hate speech. In France, the far-right National Front, which received almost one-third of the vote in the European Parliament election in May, has also been accused of anti-Semitism.
While these parties do not seem likely to gain control over any European governments any time soon, they nonetheless represent a significant chunk of the European electorate, indicating the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe.
Despite the newfound anti-Semitism in Europe, no catastrophe resembling the Holocaust, or even anything like the preceding centuries’ pogroms and Jewish ghettos, will happen in the foreseeable future. Anti-Semitism these days tends to come from the fringes of European society, so no broad-based anti-Semitic movements with grave consequences like that of the Nazis will occur. The European mainstream establishment remains firmly committed to protecting Jews and there is no indication that this will change.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a September speech about the recent rise in anti-Semitism: “I do not accept any kind of anti-Semitic message or attacks at all, not least the ones that were recently seen at the pro-Palestinian demonstrations, disguised as alleged criticism of the policy of the state of Israel.” Even as we move past the anti-Semitic vandalism that occurred on our campus, let us not forget that anti-Semitism remains an enduring force in the world.
— By Ben Perlmutter, Contributing Writer
We may not have flying cars, time travel or robot maids, but we do have an innovation seemingly straight out of a science fiction novel. Tenofovir/emtricitabine, sold under the brand name Truvada, is a pill that could reduce the risk of contracting Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) by 92 percent when taken daily. This is a revolutionary opportunity for individuals at risk of HIV infection to protect themselves.
The statistics surrounding HIV infection are predictably terrifying. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals aged 13 to 24 comprised 26 percent of new infections in 2010. Men who have sex with men (MSM) made up 72 percent of youth infections. Between 2008 and 2010, young MSM saw a 22 percent increase in HIV incidence.
In Atlanta, the city some of us call home, a heartrending 12 percent of young African-American MSM in Atlanta contract HIV each year, according to a Rollins School of Public Health report. If we extend this projection into the future, 60 percent of today’s 18-year-old black MSM will be HIV-positive by their 30th birthdays. This is consistent with the finding that about 60 percent of black MSM above the age of 30 are HIV-positive.
Antiretroviral drugs have been used to manage HIV since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first, AZT, in 1987 to delay the onset of AIDS in HIV-positive individuals. However, HIV-negative individuals can also use Antiretroviral’s to reduce their risk of infection, a treatment known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Truvada has been used to treat individuals with HIV since 2004, but was approved as PrEP by the FDA in 2012.
Truvada is recommended by the CDC for individuals in particular risk groups. These include: people who sometimes have sex without condoms, people who are in a relationship in which one partner is HIV-positive and the other is not, people who inject drugs, people who are unsure of their partner’s status, people with multiple sexual partners and those who have recently contracted a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Just as there was significant opposition to the oral contraceptive pill when it was first introduced in the 1960s, not everyone has embraced PrEP with open arms. Larry Kramer, the 79-year-old playwright of The Normal Heart and longtime LGBT rights activist, was quoted in the New York Times saying, “Anybody who voluntarily takes an antiviral every day has got to have rocks in their heads. There’s something to me cowardly about taking Truvada instead of using a condom. You’re taking a drug that is poison to you, and it has lessened your energy to fight, to get involved, to do anything.”
Although Kramer co-founded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis nonprofit and inspired the creation of ACT UP, he is wrong. Even with perfect condom use, there is not a 100 percent guarantee. According to a mathematical modeling study, 51 percent of new HIV infections in Toronto occurred during anal sex with a condom. Condoms break; condoms slip off. MSM at risk need every weapon in their arsenal to fight back against HIV.
Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, has a long history of attracting media attention through controversial statements. Weinstein said to the Associated Press: “If something comes along that’s better than condoms, I’m all for it, but Truvada is not that. Let’s be honest: it’s a party drug.”
His inaccurate and paternalistic statement was published in a variety of news outlets. This perpetuates the false paradigm that presents “both sides of the story” when only one has scientific evidence. Weinstein seems to regard Truvada as similar to cocaine, MDMA or amyl nitrate (poppers). If Truvada were taken only during parties, it would be utterly ineffective. Individuals are not taking PrEP for hedonistic pleasure, but rather to protect their health.
A derogatory term has sprung up for PrEP users who opponents fear will stop using condoms: “Truvada whores.” Some PrEP users have taken steps to alleviate the stigma, including creating t-shirts with “#TruvadaWhore” on the front that can easily be found online.
Although Truvada is certainly new and exciting, other methods of preventing HIV are not. Truvada is not meant to be the sole line of protection against HIV. Across all groups, it’s important to ask your partner’s status, to always use a condom (or dental dam), to avoid having sex while intoxicated and to get tested regularly.
A major concern about Truvada is its cost. Its sticker price, about $13,000 a year, may be steep, but it’s covered by most private insurers and by Medicaid. Gilead Sciences, Truvada’s manufacturer, even provides financial assistance to people without health insurance. Side effects are comparatively minor, including nausea, headache and stomach pain and, much more rarely, kidney and liver damage.
PrEP is currently available at the the Infectious Diseases Clinic at Emory University Hospital Midtown. This fall, Student Health Services will offer maintenance visits for PrEP to stable patients with no copay for the provider visit. Students followed-up with at Student Health Services will need to have had a minimum of two visits at the Emory Midtown Infectious Disease Clinic: an initial assessment and one follow-up visit with lab testing to assess compliance and side effects. With easy access, we can all work to reduce the 50,000 new HIV infections each year in the U.S.
– By Hobie Hunter, a College sophomore from Boca Raton, Florida.
Like many at Emory, I identify as Jewish, but I would not label myself as religious. As a ‘non-practicing Jew,’ I feel the need to speak out on the recent anti-Semitism on Emory’s campus. Naturally, as with any act of anti-Semitism, my Jewish identity passionately erupts when hate attacks, but then I don’t worry about identifying as Jewish the remainder of the time. Am I allowed to speak out on behalf of the Jewish people when religiously I fail to identify as Jewish? Yes.
The foundation of my Jewish identity is my family history. As far back as my family can remember, we’ve been Jewish. Every grandparent, aunt and cousin is Jewish or converted to Judaism. I am Jewish by birth, which means you could say that I’m Jewish because I have to be, and that’s what has always bothered me about being Jewish. I think it would bother me regardless of my religion since birth. Why do I have to be Jewish? Let me choose.
But I have embraced my Jewishness. I have chosen to be Jewish, but not in a strict sense. My Jewish identity is founded in Jewish ethics, such as justice, love and compassion. I appreciate my Jewish heritage because even when I am avoiding synagogue, not believing in God or wondering if I should identify as Jewish, my Jewish identity reminds me that Judaism is not only a religion but that Judaism provides guidelines to being a good human being.
John Biguenet, the Robert Hunter Distinguished Professor at Loyola University, has a short story entitled “I Am Not a Jew.” Taking place in post-World War II Germany, the story follows a man who is not, and claims to not be, Jewish. When the man finds himself stuck in a cemetery with a gang of anti-Semitic boys, the man asserts his lack of a Jewish identity in order to avoid harm.
The story tracks the man’s developing guilt over not standing up to the boys, and at the story’s conclusion, the man’s wife struggles to understand her husband’s decision to convince the boys that he is not Jewish, as opposed to standing up to the gang. “You lied to those Nazis in the cemetery,” the wife says. “How was that a lie? I’m not a Jew,” the man replies. “Ich bin nicht Juden,” to which the wife asserts, “Wir sind alle Juden. We are all Jews. After Hitler. What choice do we have? We have to be Jews, all of us.”
Biguenet has no idealistic notions of converting the entire world to Judaism. The story’s central question is what do you do when you encounter injustice? Do you stand up to the anti-Semitism in the cemetery, or do you protect yourself from unnecessary harm? Do you choose to identify as a Jew when a swastika appears on your school’s frat house, or do you remind yourself that you’re not a religious Jew or a practicing Jew or even a Jew at all?
This is not a matter of submitting to Judaism or even to its ethics. This is a matter of identity. Are you fluid enough to become who you need to be when injustice strikes? I am not gay, but I support gay rights. I am not a woman, but I support feminism. I am not a Muslim, but I care about Islamophobia. Of course, I will never be gay or a woman or Muslim. I am a straight, white Jewish male, about as generic as they come at Emory, but identity does not need to be so rigid. That’s the true beauty of Biguenet’s story. He invites you, just for a moment, to assume the identity of a Jew, and that’s when the understanding kicks in.
You can care about things that reside outside of your inherent identity. You can stand up when others like you think it best to wait their turn. You are allowed to say no to anti-Semitism as a non-Jew, because just for a moment, the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house became a symbolic representation of all our houses, and the swastikas were incised on all of us.
I think a lot of non-Jews feel uncomfortable entering into a passionate dialogue about anti-Semitism, and for good reason. As a white male, I’m timid to engage in discussions on black culture and feminism. It’s scary to enter discussions of discrimination when they fall outside of your inherent identity. But remember Biguenet’s story. It serves as a reminder that, with a bit of imagination, we can come to empathize with other identities and feel more comfortable talking about and resisting hate in any form. We are all partitions of what we love, which means we are our races, sexualities and religions, but we are also supporters of other races, sexualities and religions that we don’t identity with.
So, no, we are not all Jews, but it’s the non-Jews who are the most important voices at this time, because, of course, Jews stand against anti-Semitism directed towards them. But what about everyone else?
— By Alex Rosenfeld, Contributing Writer
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