Category Archives: Viewpoints

Polarization has human consequences

Alexander Cohen

Contributing Writer

 

Polarization is an unfortunate phenomenon. In today’s polarized political climate, I find it important to comment on the nature of polarization in an effort to help stave it off. Have you ever thought about how we justify various policies? Should we keep children locked in cages or is that going too far to curb undocumented immigration? Should women have a choice, or should we follow God’s word and preserve the right to life for that collection of cells and soul? Should we make the possession and sale of firearms illegal or do we have a civic duty to protect ourselves against a tyrannical government? 

No matter where you stand on these issues and many others, it is generally accepted among our society that we need justification for the opinions we undoubtedly have regarding them. For example, “Undocumented immigration is a legitimate problem and needs to be stopped; it is a woman’s body and therefore, a woman’s choice; so on and so forth.” But I’d like you to go further than justification. It was one of Immanuel Kant’s most contested arguments in his moral philosophy that the will to perform an action is just as important as the action itself for one to be considered morally culpable. Our justificatory reason(s) for one position or another tends to rely on various schools of thought, methodologies and interpretations. “I own a gun, because it’s my right as an American citizen; abortion is wrong because it goes against my beliefs as a Christian.” This is insufficient. To be clear, a stance premised entirely on one’s justification for that stance is dangerous, misguided in its intentions, shortsighted in its objectives and is wholly incomplete in its application. 

When it comes to policies that affect people’s lives, we need to think about the consequences at least as much as we think about our reasons for believing whatever it is we believe. When two people have a political disagreement, it is likely that the disagreement is due to different methodologies used to approach the same problem. And what makes polarization so natural in this type of disagreement is that the reasons one uses to justify their position — “abortion goes against my religious beliefs” or “gun violence in metropolitan America warrants more anti-gun legislation” — are not seen as justificatory reasons by the opposing party. Put simply, divergent methodologies yield divergent sets of beliefs. What needs to be done, then, to avoid such polemic and cyclical disagreement? How can we as a society depolarize if our beliefs cannot be understood as rationally justified by those with whom we disagree, and vice versa? 

Think about the consequences. How do the laws in this country affect its citizens? I am not so much interested in why you believe what you believe; I care about how it affects people’s lived realities. What is there to show for “tough-on-crime,” retributive justice legislation or the policies enacted in the name of the War on Terror? Are people’s lives better because of these policies, or have certain groups of people been marginalized, silenced, ignored and harmed or killed because of the principled stands we took and didn’t fully think through?

 

ICE abuses reveal priorities of white feminism

Annays Yacamán

Contributing Writer

 

Content Warning: This article contains reference to violence against people with uteruses and people of color, human rights abuses, and forced sterilization. 

On Sept. 15, 2020, the first day of Latinx Heritage Month, the people of the United States were forced to reckon with another violation of human rights by The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as well as this country’s long history of eugenics. A whistleblower, Dawn Wooten, revealed that at least 20 women were forcibly given hysterectomies at a privately funded ICE detention facility in Irwin, Georgia. 

Immigrants in detention centers have faced a lack of COVID-19 protections for months, including risk of sexual assault, lack of sanitation, a repulsive lack of access to legal representation and lack of medical treatment that in the past has led to death. Wooten courageously spoke up for these migrant women. They confided in her, telling her that they had been given hysterectomies against their own will. Wooten was asked by a patient if the doctor was “the uterus collector.” 

She also described experiences of people filling out paperwork to get medical help, but instead having their documents shredded by ICE personnel, the horrible lack of sanitation during COVID-19 and stories of medical personnel telling people who were detained that nothing was wrong with them. Women were asked to sign paperwork that was in English, even though they only spoke Spanish. They were not given a Spanish translator, even though those are easier to come by in the United States (in comparison to other indigenous languages).

However, when it came to hysterectomies, the doctor was eager to perform them. One of the women — once released — went to another medical professional who told her this procedure wasn’t necessary. Another woman only found out that she was scheduled for a surgery because a nurse told her that she had a surgery scheduled for the following week, leaving her shocked.

Forced sterilization is genocide. Our people are undergoing senseless and harmful procedures, yet many are surprised. They are ripping our children away at the border and ripping any possibility of having children from women’s uteruses. Why are we surprised, though? The United States has a long history with the sterilization of Black, Brown and Indigenous people. From the assault on people with disabilities and mental health issues to the Jim Crow era where Black women and immigrants were targets of forced sterilization as a part of the United States’ campaign of racism and xenophobia, these cruelties have long been present in the United States.

Between 2006 and 2010, California prisons conducted an estimated 150 coerced hysterectomies. California was known for performing these due to their history of anti-Asian and anti-Mexican hysterectomies. These federally funded forced sterilization programs were present in 32 states in the 20th century. By the 1970s, it was estimated that a third of all women in Puerto Rico had undergone sterilization procedures as a means of population control. It is estimated that between 1970 and 1976, 25-50 percent of all Native American women were forcibly sterilized. 

So, I ask the question again, why are we surprised? I find it ironic that just three days after the news of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg broke, white women rushed social media to ask, “What will happen to my reproductive rights?” Should this not have been asked decades before when Black, Brown and Indigenous women were being stripped of their reproductive autonomy? Aren’t we only free once we are all free? Or is it true that white feminism is just another tool of white supremacy?

Sources: https://www.aclu.org/issues/immigrants-rights/immigrants-rights-and-detention/immigration-detention-conditions

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/sep/21/unwanted-hysterectomy-allegations-ice-georgia-immigration

https://www.pbs.org/independentlens/blog/unwanted-sterilization-and-eugenics-programs-in-the-united-states/

It’s okay to not be okay in a pandemic

Aspen Rush

Contributing Writter

 

If you had asked me a year ago to predict what I would be doing right now, I would have guessed studying abroad, working at the Voice, writing my junior I.S. and going to dance parties. I never would have guessed I would be taking a gap semester, living in my hometown and working two jobs. I swore to myself I would never end up back here. It feels like I fell asleep in February and woke up in an alternate reality. Somewhere in between those months, I’d lost the person I hoped I would be. The person I am now seems a far cry from the successful college student I was in January.

This isn’t another article to tell you about how you should be taking this time to better yourself or to find happiness in the small things. I beg of you, please stop trying to tell me to find the bright side in a pandemic. This is a time of loss. Some of us have lost people, lost graduation, lost closure, lost jobs — and the list goes on infinitely. At the very least, we all have lost time. The months taken away feel like years; a pre-pandemic world feels like a dream. I’m beginning to forget what it feels like to dance with my friends, or to hug my grandparents.

In March and April, I scrolled through Instagram to find people picking up quarantine hobbies like knitting or embroidery or chicken raising. I tried to do that. I have a quarter-inch scarf I will never finish knitting sitting in my closet. To everyone who picked up hobbies during this pandemic, I admire you. I was too caught up in my own emotions that all I could stomach was a couple episodes of “Too Hot to Handle.”

Now that the initial shock of the pandemic has faded, it seems that most people have continued on with their lives, only minorly inconvenienced by masks. While some students have returned to campus or found comfort in their hometown friends, I feel I have lost my community. However, I know I am not alone in feeling the intense loneliness of distance.

While I will not tell you to find a silver lining in a pandemic and I can’t even say that better times are coming (thanks, global warming), I will tell you to open yourself to all of the ugly emotions. Mourn your canceled study abroad or your graduation. Allow yourself to mourn the things you have lost, no matter how small. You don’t have to juxtapose your loss with everyone else’s. Mourn every single thing the pandemic has taken from you. As we grieve, be gentle with yourself and be gentle with everyone around you.

RBG wants you to vote

Abigail McFarren

Contributing Writer

 

This Viewpoint was written on Tuesday Sept. 22 and facts may have changed by the time of print. 

Shock. Fear. Grief. Those emotions washed over me like a tidal wave within the first minute of my hearing the news about the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG). I was spending the evening with my roommate, who is just as insanely politically active as I am, and one of our STEM major friends, who is less intensely consumed by politics. We were about to start watching a movie and could not bring ourselves to press play until a good 30 minutes later because of all the potential consequences running through our minds. We barely had time to truly grieve this enormous loss because of all the uncertainty her death created. Who would be her replacement? Who would get to choose her replacement? Would Republicans act with any sense of decency and follow the precedent they set in 2016? Now, three days later, some of those questions have clear answers; others, not so much.

In 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in February, eight months before the general election in November. President Obama put forth a name to replace Justice Scalia: Merrick Garland. However, the Republican-led Senate refused to even vote on the replacement because, in their opinion, it was unfair to appoint a new justice when the election season was already underway. At the time, multiple Republican senators said that they would hope to be held to the same standard if a similar incident occured during an election if  a Republican were president. Those senators have since proven that those words were a bold-faced lie. Republican senators, with the exceptions of Senators Murkowski and Collins, have expressed their intentions to move ahead with a vote on President Trump’s nominee, and President Trump has said that he fully plans to put forth a nominee on the Supreme Court by Saturday, Sept. 26. This puts the court in the position to have three liberal justices and six conservative justices, a position that would be hard to come back from for at least 30 years, and could put so many civil rights at risk.

 We do not have to sit quietly while this is happening. There are ways for us as citizens and voters to make our voices heard. First, make sure you are registered to vote. It can be completed online in Ohio and takes about five  minutes. Call or email your senators if they have not already agreed to vote “no” on the nominee. Use their past words against them. Senator Portman of Ohio supported holding off on voting for President Obama’s nominee but now says he plans to fully support President Trump’s. In 2016, he even went so far as to write an editorial in the Cincinnati Enquirer to support his opinion. Call his office and remind him of that. Volunteer to phone-bank with candidates across the country. Electing Democrats is still incredibly important.

Even if we are not able to stop RBG’s replacement from sitting on the court, Justice Breyer is 82 years old. It is important that we elect Joe Biden so that Justice Breyer has the ability to retire and we can replace him with a younger justice. Also, there is still potential to flip the Senate. Volunteering in competitive Senate races can make a huge difference. And most importantly — vote! This is so incredibly important for our generation. Our age range voted in record numbers in 2018 and we saw the results. If we turn out, our votes can make a difference.

Do not respond to RBG’s death with silence. Respond with the full force of your political power. May her memory be a blessing, and maybe even a revolution.

#ScholarStrike: A Call to Action

MorganAnn Malone

Contributing Writer

 

Education is not only vital to strengthen your own knowledge and intelligence, but also to enforce it and bring it out in others. I had the incredible opportunity to take part in the recent #ScholarStrike teach-in. From Sept. 8 through Sept. 9, 2020, educators across the nation stood in solidarity with activists in professional athletic fields — namely, Colin Kaepernick and Naomi Osaka — to “underscore the urgent importance of addressing racism and injustice in the United States,” from the #ScholarStrike homepage. They did this through means of teach-ins, strikes and protests.

On Tuesday, Sept. 8, Professors of Political Sciences Michelle Leiby and Désirée Weber at The College of Wooster held a combined class with their Human Rights and Intro to Political Theory courses, respectively, and hosted a teach-in about the modern civil rights movement condemning police brutality and racial discrimination. Through a discussion and question-and-answer format, we discussed what the movement meant to each student and how the atrocities committed against victims of police brutality violated various treaties outlining inalienable human rights. 

We examined documents such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR), statements from the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention against Torture, as well as Martin Luther King Jr’sLetter from Birmingham” and his notable “I Have a Dream” speech. Through these documents, we learned about the right to strike, the right to freedom of association and the right to not be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, especially not by order of a state official. These were the rights that came up regularly in our class discussion and had to do with the current epidemic of police brutality. 

Through this discussion, our professors provided information designed to challenge anti-Black sentiments and actions, as well as historical documentation that presented linkage between current events and constitutional laws and violations. We learned that the human right to assemble — as seen in the ICCPR — grants people the right to peacefully protest, much of which we have seen recently. Additionally, we deduced that the epidemic of racial profiling and police brutality faced by the Black community is an example of cruel and unusual punishment as seen in the Convention against Torture. 

I greatly appreciated being a part of this portion of the #ScholarStrike movement. Professor Leiby and Professor Weber used their position as educators to emphasize the importance of education within activism. We gathered that education is truly the key for society to improve. Though we all came from a variety of backgrounds, we were all encouraged to think of different solutions to the problem at hand. 

The education surrounding human rights as a whole is a great starting point for examining the injustices faced by various groups, and this is what the #ScholarStrike aimed to do. Not only was it very informative and eye-opening, but it was also very energizing. By getting a better idea of what the current movement entailed and what human rights were being violated, we were very inspired to think about whatever we could to add to the movement. 

One of my biggest fears about this movement is that it will lose momentum and will become a passing moment just as other iterations of the Black Lives Matter or anti-police brutality movements in the past. Through my small participation in the #ScholarStrike, however, I am determined to keep the momentum going in whatever way I can. I also hope that the Wooster community — both on and off of campus — will acknowledge the work that needs to be done and do their part to contribute to the movement so its power does not dwindle.

Inconsistencies undermine COVID response

Laura Barnhill

Contributing Writer

 

Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful to be back on campus, and I completely understand that we are living a reality that none of us have ever experienced before which makes it difficult to find ways to operate safely in the midst of a pandemic. However, a lot of the decisions made by the College to respond to COVID-19 simply don’t make sense to me.

Before coming to campus, I had every intention of making a COVID pod with two friends and staying completely socially distant from everyone else. That plan went out the window very quickly as I realized that there was simply no way to maintain that bubble while living on campus.

The main issue I have with the College’s COVID-19 response is the change in dining services. I understand the decision to eliminate self-serve options, and I think it is wise to not allow students to handle the food-serving utensils in Lowry. My issue is with the physical space of Lowry. While capacity has been reduced, the chairs at the round tables are not placed six feet apart, so if you want to eat in the dining hall, you cannot maintain social distance. Additionally, because it takes so long to get food now, Lowry gets so crowded that even if you decide to get food to go, you can’t social distance even when trying to get food. I also don’t understand the decision to close Mom’s on the weekends. This means that there is only one viable meal option on weekends, forcing even more people to congregate in Lowry. This seems contradictory to the intention of reducing crowds on campus. To really reduce social contact on campus, there needs to be another dining option open every day of the week. My suggestion would be to reopen Kittredge.

Another part of the COVID response that I didn’t understand was the decision to put campus on “lockdown” for the first few weeks of the semester, but still allow tours to go through campus buildings. I found it exceedingly frustrating that, after coming to campus, I was not able to pick up my textbooks to use in class because I hadn’t gotten my test results back, all while visitors were allowed to walk through Knowlton on tours. The only logic I can see behind that is that the school wants to make money, and that makes me as a current student feel secondary in their eyes.

At this point, I want nothing more than to be able to stay on campus and have some semblance of a normal senior year, but I am also worried that if anyone gets coronavirus, we will all get it. Campus is so small that even if we maintain social distance where we can, there are too few degrees of separation between people. Be it standing in line at Lowry during the dinner rush, or going to a class where there are more students than there are socially distanced desks, I hope the school recognizes that students will not be solely responsible if there is an outbreak on campus, and the last thing we all want is a repeat of last spring.