HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW
SCHEDULE I SACRAMENT
INTERVIEW: MALALA YOUSAFZAI
VOLUME L NO. 1, SPRING 2019 HARVARDPOLITICS.COM
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This issue’s cover topic was originally proposed by Marian Bothner & Savitri Fouda.
Globalizing Hatred Jessica Boutchie
Raising Religion Beverly Brown
Different but the Same Cathy Sun
12 One Nation... Indivisible Alicia Zhang
Different but the Same Cathy Sun
27 Time for Climate Justice James Coleman
14 The Harvard Tax Kay Lu
37 Schedule I Sacrament Eve Driver
16 Investigating Care Marcus Trenfield
39 Making a Statement Sandra Ojeaburu
18 Tuition Woes Will Imbrie-Moore
42 The Face on Your Plate Ilana Cohen
21 Fifty States (and a Few Territories) Jamie Bikales
45 Girls’ Education and Refugees: Malala Yousafzai Hank Sparks
24 Who is a Refugee? Emily Moss
46 The Pivot to India: Brahma Chellaney Satish Wasti
27 Time for Climate Justice James Coleman
WORLD 30 Modi’s Conundrum Pulkit Agarwal
ENDPAPER 48 Privilege and Proximity Sal DeFrancesco
32 Unchaining Tradition Tamara Shamir 37 Schedule 1 Sacrament Eve Driver
34 A Walk Down Baltic Avenue Kendrick Foster
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FROM THE PRESIDENT
HARVARD POLITICAL REVIEW
A Nonpartisan Undergraduate Journal of Politics, Est. 1969—Vol. L, No. 1
EDITORIAL BOARD PRESIDENT: Russell Reed PUBLISHER: Wyatt Hurt MANAGING EDITOR: Chimaoge Ibenwuku ASSOCIATE MANAGING EDITOR: Katie Weiner ASSOCIATE MANAGING EDITOR: Jessica Boutchie STAFF DIRECTOR: Alexis Mealey SENIOR COVERS EDITOR: Sarah Shamoon ASSOCIATE COVERS EDITOR: Lauren Anderson SENIOR U.S. EDITOR: Amir Siraj ASSOCIATE U.S. EDITOR: Ilana Cohen ASSOCIATE U.S. EDITOR: Clay Oxford SENIOR WORLD EDITOR: Keshav Rastogi ASSOCIATE WORLD EDITOR: Kelsey Chen ASSOCIATE WORLD EDITOR: Corbin Duncan SENIOR CULTURE EDITOR: Savitri Fouda ASSOCIATE CULTURE EDITOR: Marian Bothner SENIOR CAMPUS EDITOR: Will Imbrie-Moore ASSOCIATE CAMPUS EDITOR: May Wang INTERVIEWS EDITOR: Gordon Kamer BUSINESS MANAGER: Cate Brock ASSOCIATE BUSINESS MANAGER: Cathy Yin SENIOR DESIGN EDITOR: Matthew Rossi ASSOCIATE DESIGN EDITOR: Madeleine LaPuerta ASSOCIATE DESIGN EDITOR: Trina Lilja SENIOR MULTIMEDIA EDITOR: Jacob Heberle ASSOCIATE MULTIMEDIA EDITOR: Nicolas Medrano SENIOR TECH DIRECTOR: Jason Huang ASSOCIATE TECH DIRECTOR: Natea Eshetu Bashada ASSOCIATE TECH DIRECTOR: Max Snyder COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT DIRECTOR: Alexandra Diggs
STAFF Alisha Ukani, Allison Piper, Amy Danoff, Amy Wang, Annelisa Kingsbury Lee, Audrey Sheehy, Bridger Gordon, Byron Hurlbut, Campbell Erickson , Carter Nakamoto, Chloe Lemmel-Hay, Chris Sun, Clara Bates, Colton Carpenter, Connor Brown, Connor Schoen, Daniel Friedman, David Gutierrez, Devon Black, DJ Kranchalk, Eliot Harrison, Elton Lossner, Emily Malpass, Erica Newman-Corre, Esha Chaudhuri, Ethan Schultz, Gabrielle Landry, Graham Walter, Hadley DeBello, Hope Kudo, Hossam Mabed, Ifedayo Famojuro, Isa Flores-Jones, Jake McIntyre, James Blanchfield, Jamie Bikales, Jamie Weisenberg, Jay Gopalan, Jennifer Horowitz, Johannes Lang, Jon Riege, Jose Larios, Jacob Kern, Joseph Minatel, Josh Berry, Katherine Ho, Kendall Rideout, Kendrick Foster, Kevin Bi, Lainey Newman, Lauren Fadiman, Lindsey Bouldin, Lu Shao, Manuel Abecasis, Matthew Hatfield, Matthew Shaw, Max Snyder, Meena Venkataramanan, Melissa Gayton, Mfundo Radebe, Michael Montella, Michael Wornow, Mikael Tessema, Mimi Alphonsus, Natalie Dabkowski, Nick Danby, Nikole Naloy, Noah Knopf, Noah Redlich, Pawel Rybacki, Peter Wright, Peyton Dunham, Rob Capodilupo, Roger Cawdette, , Ryan Chung, Samantha Frenkel-Popell, Sandy Koenig, Sanika Mahajan, Sarah Tisdall, Satish Wasti, Sebastian Reyes, Sophie Dicara, Tamara Shamir, Tom Slack, Trina Lilja, Vanessa Ruales, Victor Agbafe, Will Finigan, William Boggs, Yash Kumbhat, Yashaar Hafizka, Yuri-Grace Ohashi, Zachary Buttenwieser, Zehan Zhou SENIOR WRITERS: Akshaya Annapragada, Alicia Zhang, Andrew Zucker, Anirudh Suresh, Ari Berman, Beverly Brown, Chad Borgman, Cindy Jung, Darwin Peng, Derek Paulhus, Drew Pendergrass, Henry Brooks, Jacob Link, Marty Berger, Nicolas Yan, Perry Abdulkadir, Perry Arrasmith, Sal DeFrancesco, Sam Kessler
ADVISORY BOARD Jonathan Alter Richard L. Berke E.J. Dionne, Jr. Ron Fournier
Walter Isaacson Whitney Patton Maralee Schwartz
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nce every three months, the HPR staff gathers at our home in the Harvard Kennedy School to choose the cover topic for our upcoming print cycle. After everyone settles in, we run through the familiar procedure: members pitch various topics to the crowd, followed by lively debate to determine the winner. At nearly every meeting since I joined three years ago, one pitch has been met with groans and laughter: “Amen.” Without fail, the topic made the final round before losing out to criticism that it was too broad, or too banal. But in December, faced with rising religious tension and conflict in the news, writers voted decisively to dedicate this magazine to untangling the complex role that religion plays in politics and identity globally. Perhaps what makes religion seem mundane is its enormity. It is impossible to understand the history of the United States or of the world without understanding religion, and its legacies and symbols permeate the lives of even the most atheistic. But while it is commonplace, it also remains highly contentious. The media is constantly inundated with stories of violence and persecution fueled by religious difference, and in American politics it has emerged as a formidable tool for political division. Religion has formed nations and dismantled them, just as it has united people and driven them apart. And there is no real opt-out from religion in politics; even secular governments have been characterized primarily by their struggles against it. But despite its great geopolitical power, religion remains deeply intimate. According to the Pew Research Center, 83.7 percent of the global population belongs to an organized religion — and even those who do not are undoubtedly influenced by its existence. At churches, mosques, temples, and monasteries, billions of people interact with religion every day, forming spiritual communities while developing individual identities as well. Much like those who fled England for the Americas on the Mayflower 400 years ago, religious minorities today continue to risk their lives in pursuit of religious freedom, their faith proving stronger than their patriotism. For these
migrants and many others, the politics of religion is not banal at all. While we may shy away from discussing religion, its role in politics, identity, and everyday life cannot be exaggerated. In this edition of the HPR, writers explore a range of topics that lie at the nexus of politics and religion, illuminating nuances often overlooked in partisan media coverage. In “Globalizing Hatred,” Jessica Boutchie uncovers the complicity of American evangelicals in the rise of homophobia in Uganda. Cathy Sun explores religious plurality and persecution in China in “Different but the Same,” and in “One Nation... Indivisible,” Alicia Zhang follows the long legal history of religious language in an increasingly heterogeneous United States. In “Raising Religion,” Beverly Brown synchronizes the stories of two RussianAmericans to reveal an intimate portrait of the intergenerational persecution of religious minorities in Russia. These cover pieces are complemented by a breadth of articles in our recurring sections, including an exclusive interview with education activist Malala Yousafzai. It is with great pride that I present to you the first magazine produced by the HPR’s 51st editorial board. Behind every glossy issue lies the immeasurable talent and commitment of a whole team of editors, writers, artists, and engineers who, to my constant surprise, make it look effortless. We begin the year with a newfound commitment to inclusivity and representation — in our leadership, our larger membership, and our content — and hold fast to the belief that the quality of our content is intertwined with our ability to amplify the voices of our many writers, regardless of background, identity, or political affiliation. Thank you for reading, and for joining us in our undying mission to provide journalism that reflects the great diversity of the Harvard community. Enjoy!
Russell Reed President
n August 2018, a six-year-long court process against notorious anti-gay, evangelical pastor Scott Lively came to an end. In 2012, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a federal lawsuit in the state of Massachusetts against Lively on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a non-profit umbrella organization for LGBT advocacy in Uganda. The suit alleged that Lively, who had traveled to Uganda in the early 2000s, sought to deprive LGBT individuals in Uganda of their fundamental human rights. In the lengthy court process that followed, U.S. District Judge Michael Ponsor opined that there was no question that Lively’s actions “in aiding and abetting efforts to demonize, intimidate, and injure LGBTI people in Uganda [constituted] violations of international law.” However, given that the most significant parts of Lively’s conduct occurred on foreign soil, Ponsor decided that the court did not have extraterritorial jurisdiction over the case and dismissed it. In August 2018, Lively sought to have the pieces of Ponsor’s opinion affirming his crimes stricken from the record but was unsuccessful. Cases like Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Scott Lively provide insight into the bitter history involving American evangelicals and the extreme homophobia they have helped cultivate in African countries like Uganda. Though nearly a decade has passed since the most prominent interventions by American evangelicals,
LGBT individuals in Uganda continue to face intense persecution stemming from the rhetoric once used by these evangelicals. With ongoing efforts to repress LGBT individuals and U.S.-based evangelical groups continuing to intervene, activists warn that only a human rights approach — as opposed to an ideological one — can aid LGBT Ugandans’ struggle.
EVANGELIZING HATRED Christianity has a troubling history with anti-gay sentiment in Uganda. As prominent human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told the HPR, British colonizers created the first anti-sodomy laws in Uganda as early as the nineteenth century: “Colonizing nations, most notably Britain, exported and imposed anti-gay laws on the people they conquered.” They also “sent out fire and brimstone Christian missionaries who preached against samesex relations,” according to Tatchell. The colonial effort was thus bolstered by proselytizing Christians who sought to ‘civilize’ the once tolerant nations they encountered — in Tatchell’s words, “the existence of homosexuality in Africa was often used by missionaries and colonizers to justify what they described as a ‘civilizing mission.’” When Uganda’s colonial period ended in 1962, these British anti-sodomy laws remained, but went largely unenforced.
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It was not until the early 21st century that, following interventions by evangelical individuals and groups, anti-gay sentiment in the country became what Reverend Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian pastor, human rights activist, and scholar, refers to as “militant homophobia.” As early as 2002, Lively traveled to Uganda to meet and coordinate with Martin Ssempa, an anti-gay activist and minister. Ssempa later became a prominent advocate for the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009 that sought to punish homosexual acts with life imprisonment or, in some cases, the death penalty. Later, in 2009, Lively returned to Uganda and spoke at a three-day conference on homosexuality hosted by the Family Life Network, a New York-based Christian radio network. Throughout his talks, Lively framed himself as a human rights defender, a lawyer, and a theologian, warning that LGBT individuals wanted to “prey upon” and recruit Ugandan children in order to “defeat the marriage-based society.” “What Scott Lively was doing,” Kaoma explained to the HPR, “was to misrepresent, or demonize, a community of people who are already at the margins of society.” But, because the three elements he used to present himself in Uganda were all “very, very respected across the continent,” he gave himself a powerful platform and then “exploited it.” During his visit, Lively was also invited to private briefings with political and religious leaders and addressed the Ugandan parliament. Following this visit, Lively continued to fight against LGBT equality in Uganda, even discussing and providing suggestions for the 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Act through email exchanges with Ssempa and Ugandan MP David Bahati, the individual who introduced the bill before the Ugandan Parliament in 2009. As chronicled in the 2013 documentary God Loves Uganda, the early 2000s also saw an influx of Christian missionaries from evangelical Christian organizations like the International House of Prayer. In 2010, Lou Engle, a former senior leader at IHOP and the founder of TheCall Ministries, traveled to Uganda to host a rally discussing the alleged evils of homosexuality. Engle also used his platform to praise Ugandan politicians’ “courage” and “righteousness” in promoting the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009. Unfortunately, individuals like Lively and Engle do not act in isolation. As Kaoma writes in Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia, American evangelicals in Africa “provide social services, run orphanages, schools, and universities, and offer loans” to Africans through charities like World Vision and Five Talents, which “present a highly conservative, and misleading, position on homosexuality” to the Africans they serve. Of course, not all evangelical missionaries who travel to Uganda and other African countries present similar narratives or maintain similar beliefs. According to a 2015 Pew Research poll, the percentage of American evangelicals who believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society is steadily increasing, rising from 26 to 36 percent between 2007 and 2014. The issue, writes Kaoma, is that “Africans tend not to distinguish between moderate evangelicals in World Vision and far right figures like Scott Lively. For them, the term ‘evangelical’ conveys the notion of Protestant Christianity as a whole, without the substantive distinctions made by American religious groups.” The sensationalized anti-gay rhetoric delivered by extreme
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evangelicals like Lively, though widely dismissed in the United States, thus dominates the politics of homosexuality in countries like Uganda. “Having lost the battle against LGBT rights in the U.S.,” Tatchell summarized, “some evangelicals turned their attention to fighting against LGBT equality in African nations. They went to countries like Uganda and promoted a sensationalist and often fabricated account of gay life in order to provoke African people to turn against their LGBT sisters and brothers.”
FROM BULLY PULPITS TO PARLIAMENTS The messages of hardline American evangelicals resonated in the Ugandan Parliament. In October 2009, just months after Lively’s second visit to Uganda, Bahati introduced the aforementioned Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009. The bill did not pass through Parliament in its original form but was later revised, replacing capital punishment for some acts of homosexuality with life imprisonment. The revised bill passed through the Ugandan Parliament in late 2013 and was signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni in February 2014. The law built upon existing anti-sodomy laws in Uganda, adding punishments for any individual or group who offers counseling to LGBT individuals and thus threatening numerous LGBT rights groups in Uganda. Lawmakers in support of the bill argued that homosexual lifestyles threatened to destroy family units by recruiting Ugandan children into these “lifestyles,” echoing statements Lively made during his visit to Uganda in 2009. “All of the talking points that Lively delivered in Uganda [in March],” Kaoma confirmed, “were in the original bill, which was introduced in April.” This Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014 was nonetheless shortlived. In August 2014, Uganda’s Constitutional Court struck down the law, stating that the bill passed Parliament without the requisite number of MPs present. Because the law was struck down on a mere technicality, the potential for the passage of a similar law remains. As recently as April 2018, for example, Ugandan MP Nsaba Buturo called for Parliament to bring back the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In a similar vein, in March 2018, Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga threatened to withdraw from the InterParliamentary Union — an organization made up of members of parliament from 178 different countries that seeks to “promote, protect and strengthen democracy around the world” — after some nations attempted to include LGBT people in a declaration on migrants and refugees. The strong homophobic sentiment exacerbated by U.S. evangelicals in Uganda thus continues to influence Ugandan lawmakers today.
EMBOLDENING VIOLENCE Lawmakers, however, do not pose the only threat to LGBT Ugandans. The rhetoric of American evangelicals has also contributed to the dangerously homophobic sentiment that pervades day-to-day life in Uganda. According to the Human Rights Campaign’s September 2015 assessment of life for LGBT people in Uganda, LGBT Ugandans — not the Ugandan government — were blamed for the cutbacks in foreign aid that resulted from the passage of the 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Act. As such, in a country where 96 percent of individuals believe society should
not accept homosexuality, openly LGBT Ugandans “confront stigma, discrimination, legal restrictions, harassment, intimidation, violence and death threats” in their day-to-day lives. A 2016 report by Sexual Minorities Uganda, for example, documented 264 “verified cases of human rights abuses against LGBT Ugandans” between May 2014 and December 2015. One hundred sixty-two of these reported cases occurred between December 2013 and May 2014, the four-month span that saw the Anti-Homosexuality Act passed through Parliament and signed by the president of Uganda. In comparison, only eight human rights abuses were reported in all of 2013. The passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, fueled by the religious anti-gay rhetoric of years prior, immediately encouraged increased persecution of and violence against LGBT citizens of Uganda by both state and non-state actors. A 2016 report by a consortium of NGOs at the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum confirms this increased violence by non-state actors in particular. According to the report, non-state actors were responsible for 54.4 percent of verified cases of human rights abuses against LGBT individuals in Uganda. This percentage represents a striking change from the findings of previous reports, which show that state actors have historically committed the majority of verified violations. In the words of the 2016 report’s authors, the increasing treatment of LGBT individuals as “outcasts” is the “accepted norm,” and “this could be emboldening property owners and other non-state actors to violate rights of LGBTI persons.” Desperate to escape hostile conditions at home, hundreds of LGBT Ugandans have fled to Kenya, registering as refugees with the United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees. Conditions in refugee camps are not much better, however: after one gay pride event was held in Kakuma in June 2018, some LGBT refugees residing in that camp reported that other anti-gay refugees had deliberately set their shelters on fire. Persecuted refugees are then compelled to move to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, where they continue to face homophobia, xenophobia, and racism, as Adam Fitzgerald from the Refugee Coalition of East Africa told Reuters. That hundreds of Ugandans elect to flee to a country where they continue to face extreme homophobia, Colin Stewart, president of the St. Paul’s Foundation and founder of the Erasing 76 Crimes blog, told the HPR, is “an indication of how bad Uganda is [for LGBT individuals].”
been doing.” Fighting the actions and ideologies of the evangelicals themselves, however, is no longer the most viable option. What activists, journalists, LGBT-supporting evangelicals, and other Africans living in countries with anti-LGBT laws must continue to do in order to overcome the polarized political environment that these evangelicals have constructed, according to Kaoma, is reinforce LGBT Ugandans’ humanity and human rights. “The only way to fight this is by putting human faces to it, as opposed to arguing in the U.N., or in the churches, or in the conference rooms … Unless we do that, it will just be an ideological battle. But this is a life and death battle.” Kaoma continued, “I don’t think that many Africans will agree that we should kill gays. Many Christians will say that is beyond what we stand for. So rather than making it an ideological battle, we need to make it a human battle — by showing the face of the LGBT person, and what that demonization does to people.” A decade ago, extreme ideologies rooted in religious principles exacerbated LGBT Ugandans’ struggle. Today, only appeals to LGBT individuals’ human rights can help improve it. Lawsuits like Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Scott Lively do just that, affirming that efforts to demonize sexual minorities constitute crimes against humanity. n
THE POLITICS OF BEING Ten years have passed since the first major interventions by prominent American evangelicals, but their influence over Ugandan lawmakers continues. Ugandan politicians continue to deny rights to LGBT individuals both in Uganda and elsewhere. The Ugandan government continues to forbid gay pride celebrations, and the Ugandan police continue to raid the pride events that do occur. Most recently, in October 2018, the Ugandan government prevented LGBT activists from opening a center to support LGBT individuals in Uganda. Evangelical groups also continue to have a political presence in the region. According to Kaoma, despite extensive media coverage and criticism of the actions of individuals like Lively and Engle, some American evangelicals feel that now is “the time to stand up for their beliefs — so rather than retreating, they [continue to] go in there and support what Scott Lively had
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RAISING RELIGION Beverly Brown
hen the USSR fell at the end of 1991, along with it fell the idea that organized religion was a threat to the government. But the free practice of religion did not last. In recent years, the Russian Orthodox Church has gained power and popularity at the expense of other religions. Russia has returned Orthodox Church property seized during the Soviet Era to the Church, unlike other religions’ assets, and has granted the Church the right to teach its beliefs in public schools. On the opposite end, Russia has gone as far as declaring Jehovah’s Witnesses extremists to prevent the practice of the religion.
Under threats of persecution, ridicule, and arrest, many Russians left behind one life to pursue a new one in a country with a different language and, more importantly, different religious and cultural freedoms. Russian Jews in particular often made this same journey during the 1970s and 1980s. In an interview with the HPR, Russian natives Lilia Veksler and Sergey Kotelnikov discussed their stories of faith and fear. The differences in their stories show the changes Russia has made over time, but the mere existence of the second narrative reveals how the government has returned to an altered strain of the anti-religious practices of the Soviet era.
Lilia Genfan was 16 when her parents decided to leave Russia, she recalled in an interview with the HPR. She was in her last year of secondary school; she had friends, and she thought Moscow was the most beautiful city in the world, even though she hadn’t been to many other places. But Lilia’s parents, both non-practicing Jews, wanted the best for their daughter and knew the struggles she would face as a Russian Jew, so they began making plans to leave.
Expecting a baby is stressful enough for first-time parents, but the most pressing question in the minds of Sergey and Anya Kotelnikov when they were expecting in 2017 was, as Sergey explained via translator in an interview with the HPR,“Will my baby be safe in the community she is born into?” Sergey and Anya were practicing Jehovah’s Witnesses in the town of Sertolovo during the four and a half years before they left Russia in September of 2017. Sertolovo, 20 miles north of St. Petersburg, is a town with a prominent Jehovah’s Witness community.
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IN THE HISTORY BOOKS In the Soviet Union, the repression of religion was part of a political ideology. But even worse than religion was a lack of patriotism. Lenin believed a core component of Marxism was the idea that religion — any religion — exists to exploit and stupefy the working class. The recent persecution of Jews in Russia, stemming in the 1970s from Marxist anti-religious sentiment, was not a new phenomenon. In 1727, Empress Catherine I ordered the expulsion of all Jews from Russia, although the decree was not well enforced. In the late 1700s, Poland was divided between Russia, Austria, and Prussia. The Russian government realized that expelling the 900,000 newly-arrived Jews would be impossible, but still developed policies treating Jews as second-class citizens. Since then, policies and attitudes towards Jewish people have var-
ied greatly, even during the time of the Soviet Union when the government stood against religious association of any kind. Both practicing and non-practicing Jews are treated the same under these policies, which further complicates the role of Jews and religion in Russia. But after the fall of the Soviet Union, laws to protect religious freedom were put in place and more people began to identify as religious. Today, Russia’s issues with religious freedom stem from a fear of religious terrorism rather than the Marxist idealism of the USSR. Russians still value love of country; in fact, nationalism is on the rise. But unlike the 1980s, Russians today justify their persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses with their fear of extremist violence, not their opposition to difference. Russian people have seen the damage that groups classified as extremists, like ISIS, can inflict, so the combination of nationalism and fear leads to religious persecution.
LILIA VEKSLER Both of Lilia’s parents worked as engineers in Moscow. They had both achieved high levels of education: her mother obtained a master’s degree and her father, whose job often required him to travel for research meetings and conferences, obtained a PhD. Unfortunately for Lilia’s father, he could not actually travel; in the Soviet era, leaving Russia even for a short conference or vacation meant submitting an application to the government, and being a Jew in Russia meant that that application was consistently denied. Although Lilia does not recall knowing many religious people, Jewish or otherwise, she and her family occasionally visited the one synagogue in Moscow to observe Jewish holidays. Her memories of these visits consist of crowded streets, protests, and arrests, although fortunately she and her family were never detained.
SERGEY KOTELNIKOV As the situation worsened, Sergey and Anya began thinking about leaving Russia. It was during this time that Sergey and a group he worshipped with visited a town on the northwest border to spread the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The town, although too small for a police force, had Russian military stationed along the border. Noting that Sergey and his group were Jehovah’s Witnesses, the military personnel made direct, unveiled threats to falsify evidence to get Sergey and other Witnesses like him arrested. Around the same time, the police visited Sergey’s workplace — a programming and web development company — to encourage Sergey’s boss to dismiss any Jehovah’s Witness employees.
HISTORY REPEATS Jehovah’s Witnesses are required by the teachings of their religion to remain politically neutral. The official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses says they “do not lobby, vote for political parties or candidates, run for government office, or participate in any action to change governments.” While Witnesses are against warfare and violence, the religion’s interpretation of the Bible requires them to respect their government. So, with the important exception of the draft, Jehovah’s Witnesses pay taxes and obey the law, making their preferences in elections known only to God and praying that lawmakers will make the correct decisions. But in an interview with the HPR, Dr. John Burgess, a professor of systematic theology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, argued that the missionary lifestyle simply does not fit with Russian culture. “Russians don’t like to be accosted on the street — it is just so foreign to the way they act in public, and a group that is so militantly missionary like the Jehovah’s Witnesses is irritating.” Beyond the irritation, Burgess said that Russians view the religious group as a sort of cult that “manipulates people into doing things they wouldn’t normally do” — namely, refusing to
receive blood transplants. So in Russia, Jehovah’s Witnesses are labeled as extremists and treated as such. On April 20, 2017, the Russian Supreme Court expanded the definition of extremist groups to include Jehovah’s Witnesses and thereby made the act of “organizing, participating in, or financing the activities of” a Jehovah’s Witness organization punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Opponents of this decision argue that, since Jehovah’s Witnesses participate so sparsely in government affairs, it is difficult to determine whether any individual Jehovah’s Witness — much less Jehovah’s Witnesses as a group — favor or oppose any particular government leader or law. Soon after the Supreme Court decision, “Kingdom Halls” across the country where Jehovah’s Witnesses congregate to worship were searched for illegal gatherings and materials. Police claimed they found outlawed religious pamphlets and even grenades. However, those arrested contest the validity of these accusations.
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LILIA VEKSLER In 1979, Lilia’s parents filed what would be the first of many applications to leave Russia permanently. The application required a signature for each family member from a place of work or education, so Lilia brought it to school to be signed by her headmaster. After asking for a signature, Lilia, a straight-A student, received all Cs that year; because being a traitor was the one thing worse than being a Jew. She was kicked out of the youth political organization Komsomol without a positive recommendation letter, which was required to attend any Russian college beyond the equivalent of community college. Her father was demoted, and her mother lost her job. This was a high price to pay, but they were determined to get out.
SERGEY KOTELNIKOV Despite one negative encounter with the police on the basis of religion, Sergey and Anya felt no need to hide their religion from others before the Supreme Court decision. Soon after, however, they began to prepare for a life of underground worship. Many Jehovah’s Witnesses began gathering in apartments to worship in small groups, but when neighbors, who were increasingly influenced by government rhetoric against Jehovah’s Witnesses, saw groups of people arriving at apartments belonging to Jehovah’s Witnesses, they often called the police. Fortunately for Sergey and Anya, the police always arrived after their gatherings had dispersed.
LEAVE OR STAY Neither Lilia nor Sergey wanted to leave Russia. The personal fear that many of today’s Russians feel toward Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, has the potential to become even more dangerous than the outright hatred and disrespect that many in
LILIA VEKSLER When that first application to leave the Soviet Union was rejected due to an allegedly insufficient reason to leave, as many were during this time, Lilia’s parents filed another, and another, every six months for almost nine years. Her father’s PhD was eventually revoked to punish his effort to leave Russia, so he found work translating scientific documents. When Lilia graduated secondary school, she cleaned floors in local buildings to make up for her family’s diminished income. Still, they applied and re-applied as Lilia graduated first in her class at community college and was accepted to Moscow State University, despite being Jewish and lacking the proper recommendation letter. After she graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in math, her family’s application was accepted in 1987. They moved to Worcester, MA, and Lilia’s parents both secured jobs as engineers. Lilia went on to become a software engineer, met her husband, and had a baby girl. Last year she went back to Moscow with her daughter to attend a Moscow State University class reunion and show her daughter where she grew up. Lilia has seen many others since leaving, but still thinks Moscow is the most beautiful city in the world.
the Soviet Union felt toward Jews. People are acting not only out of prejudice, but also out of what they believe to be a genuine desire to protect their families and communities from religious extremism.
SERGEY KOTELNIKOV Sergey and Anya began considering the quality of life their unborn child would have in Russia. With no safe way to practice their religion, leaving seemed the only option to ensure the safety of their child. After considering the United States, Canada, Germany, and Finland, Sergey and Anya ultimately moved to Finland, only a three-and-a-half-hour drive from their apartment in Sertolovo, to join a few acquaintances who had recently left Russia for the same reason. The couple left their jobs and families to start a new life in a country whose language they did not speak. Sergey started a window-washing company with a friend, and Anya had her baby — a girl. Now, the couple is concentrating on learning Finnish and English, both of which are required by employers in Finland, while Sergey looks for a more profitable job in his fields of advertising and website design. Sergey told the HPR that, despite having less in Finland than in Russia, he is much happier knowing that he and his family are safe — but if the laws were different, he would move back tomorrow to be near his mother and to raise his daughter in his homeland.
LIFE AFTER LEAVING Lilia and Sergey lived in Russia at completely different times, and unlike Sergey’s, Lilia’s Russian story is now complete. She left to pursue a more free life, and she is now living that life with her family in Boston. She is confident in the safety of her neargrown child, and the Russia she knew has changed enough for her to visit freely with her daughter. But nothing is perfect, and Jews at Lilia’s old university are not completely worry-free. In January of 2018, a Moscow State University student was kicked out of an exam by his geography professor for wearing a kippah.
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While life for Jews in Russia has improved despite some ongoing hostility, the stories of Sergey and other Jehovah’s Witnesses are far from over. He and his wife left to secure their own safety and the safety of their child, but they might never be able to visit Russia together without fear of arrest. The prevalence of religious animosity in Russia may have waned after the fall of the Soviet Union, but recent moves by the Russian government against Jehovah’s Witnesses show not only a preference for Russian Orthodoxy, but also increasing discrimination against other religions. n
DIFFERENT BUT THE SAME Religious Persecution in China Cathy Sun
hile religious intolerance has long been intertwined with China’s history, measures of control have grown increasingly harsh under Xi Jinping. Since his ascent to power in 2012, particular religious and spiritual communities have seen increased constraints and more intrusive controls. In the region of Xinjiang, upwards of 3 million Muslim Uighurs have been sent to “counter-terrorism” or “re-education” camps, where they are tortured into renouncing their religion and forced to recite state propaganda. Their freedom of movement has also been severely limited by the confiscation of passports in addition to the collection of DNA samples, fingerprints, and other biometric data. Christian communities have also been threatened by the forced demolitions of churches and the detainment of pastors and priests. Meanwhile, new measures of repression further constrain Tibetan Buddhists’ ability to practice. State laws have codified harsher punishments for assisting self-immolators, in addition to canceling previously permitted festivals, increasing surveillance of major monasteries, and interfering in the selection of religious leaders. “Consistent with Xi’s rule on economic and security matters, his tenure with respect to religion has been marked by increasing control and regulations,” Human Rights Watch’s China Director Sophie Richardson said in an interview with the HPR. China’s persecution of religious minorities is part of a broader, systematic strategy to eradicate external influence in the social and political lives of citizens while harnessing aspects of religion that could serve the state’s interests. Its campaign of religious persecution is a not unprecedented effort to cement public recognition of the state’s authority and thereby generate
political conformity. At its core, China’s rigid political system can only derive legitimacy from continuously relying on instruments of repression, which is why it fundamentally opposes religious freedom.
RELIGION AND THE PARTY APPARATUS The state-sponsored coercive apparatus at the disposal of the Chinese Communist Party perpetuates religious repression under the guise of public safety and interest. The Chinese Constitution is deliberately vague when it comes to the scope of religious freedom. Under Article 36, citizens rightfully “enjoy freedom of religious belief” provided that they practice “normal religious activities.” The term “normal,” however, is ambiguous and leaves room for broad interpretation. In practice, the CCP has exploited this leeway to implement extreme measures of control and attack religious communities threatening its power. Under longstanding protocol, all religious groups are required to register, with the CCP’s permission, with one of five state-sanctioned patriotic religious associations which oversee the selection, training, and monitoring of politically loyal clerics. Only religions formally registered are recognized under the law. There are currently only five state-recognized faiths: Chinese Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism. However, no religion is truly free; even registered religions are subject to suppressive measures and threats of eradication. As carefully codified in the Chinese Constitution, public officials reserve the right to strictly monitor registered and unregistered groups to prevent events that “disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of
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the State.” In practice, constitutional government surveillance frequently targets peaceful religious activities protected by international law. The CCP has long distanced itself from religion, often violently. Under Mao Zedong, the CCP took extreme measures to eradicate religion and spirituality. Thousands of religious sites were destroyed, and countless numbers of believers were tortured or killed. Since then, party leaders have continued to grapple with the suppression and regulation of religion. Today, the CCP is still firmly separated from religion: it prohibits its 90 million members from holding any spiritual beliefs. Religious policy in China has consistently centered on shaping legal and bureaucratic instruments for three purposes: opportunistic exploitation, selective eradication, and longterm asphyxiation. “Religious policy in China is not just about outright repression — [it is] a combination of trying to maximize the potential benefits [of religion] to party rule, either in terms of control, profits, or social [stability], while minimizing the risks,” Freedom House senior research analyst Sarah Cook said in an interview with the HPR. “While religion exists, the party seeks to harness its benefits but carefully control and limit it under rule by law and selective eradication. [In the long-term], the party wants to curb religious expansion and accelerate the extinction of religion.” Under Xi Jinping, what seems to be a distinctly harsher religious campaign is no different.
XI’S SINICIZATION OF RELIGION The campaign of Sinicization, or making things Chinese in character or form, under Xi Jinping is an effort to consolidate power and curb social unrest. It is based upon a two-fold strategy of suppressing non-traditional or “foreign” religions while promoting traditional faiths. The first part of its strategy is rooted in the party’s deep-seated fear that religious individuals could form allegiances to authorities outside the state’s control. “As long as China is a one-party state, [there can only be] a single center of power that views all other organizing mechanisms as threats,” Richardson said. As identified by Freedom House, since Xi took the helm of the CCP, state religious policy has created a more restrictive legal environment, expanded its targets of repression, increased intrusion into religious life, and further capitalized on technological advancements. State laws have codified and given legal legitimacy to previously informal political directives under Xi. Updates to national religious affairs regulations have codified new provisions and harsher penalties in the criminal code. Crucially, under Xi, religious restrictions have also expanded their scope and targets: while many of the methods of control remain the same, the range of groups under attack has broadened. Harsher penalties and acts of government demolition, typically reserved for unregistered religious groups, have been increasingly extended to state-sanctioned religious communities. Even benign acts of religious expression, such as praying or lighting incense, have drawn harsher punishments from state authorities. For example, an Uighur teenager was sentenced to 15 years in prison for watching a religious video on his phone. Particularly intensified methods of control under Xi include the use of doctrinal manipulation to Sinicize religions and the further capitalization of technology. Under doctrinal manipulation, a thought-reform tactic, government officials or affili-
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ated organizations parse theological teachings to identify key elements compatible with party ideology and promote those elements. In addition, with more technological resources at their disposal, the CCP has adopted new modes of surveillance, ranging from facial-recognition cameras to online monitoring, to allow for greater intrusion into private lives. In stark contrast, the second part of religious strategy under Xi centers on leveraging the benefits of particular “traditional” faiths — namely versions of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism — to curb social unrest. While suppressing supposedly foreign religions such as Christianity and Islam, the state has promoted faiths deemed authentically Chinese as a way to fill a spiritual vacuum. These faiths offer outlets through which the party can placate dissatisfaction with its policies without losing its source of authority. For the disaffected individuals who cannot afford housing, education, or medical treatment, faith and spirituality offer a form of appeasement through self-reflection and inner peace. “The party is trying to come up with a positive narrative to bind society together, and part of this is restoring Chinese traditions,” said Ian Johnson, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author of The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao, in an interview with the HPR. “In this regard, Buddhism, Taoism, and folk religions are viewed as indigenized and helpful to the state,” he said. A similar capitalization on traditional faiths has been implemented by past Chinese leaders. Under Jiang Jiemin and Hu Jintao, the state passively supported the expansion of Buddhism because its growth aligned with the bolstering of state legitimacy; Buddhism helped to elevate an image of China’s peaceful rise on a global level and supported the party’s goal of fostering a “harmonious society” because of the values it preached.
RELIGIOUS RESISTANCE AND REVIVAL Whether or not Xi Jinping’s religious policies have actually been successful is debatable. When it comes to changing the deeply held beliefs of faith communities, the state’s measures have been counterproductive. Rigid state constraints have only encouraged more believers to operate outside the law, strengthening resistance and revival in response to government policies. Millions of believers defy religious restrictions in their daily lives, both in secret and in public. According to Freedom House’s report, Muslim Uighurs blacken their curtains to avoid detection, Tibetan Buddhists pray for the Dalai Lama’s health, Falun Gong practitioners meditate in the dark at home, and Christians find help through Hong Kong radio programs or mountainside workshops. Via the internet, smartphones, underground publications, and homemade DVDs, believers also access and spread spiritual teachings. In signalling trends of growing resistance, various faith communities have taken to advocacy within the existing politicallegal system or even through direct protest to challenge state religious policy. Leaders of unregistered churches have made efforts to build friendly relationships with local police forces tasked with monitoring them, and consequently, local officials have granted de facto approval to these “house churches.” Over many years, Falun Gong practitioners have reached out to thousands of judges and prosecutors within and outside of China to counter party propaganda and raise awareness regarding their inhumane persecution. Increasing numbers of local police of-
A Christian Church in China’s Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture.
ficers have refused to detain adherents, with some helping them in secret. A Chinese judge even granted the first de facto acquittal of a practitioner in 2015. Protestant and Catholic Christians have held sit-ins in an effort to physically prevent the desecration of their churches and have disseminated public information demanding the release of church leaders. Some of these efforts have resulted in concrete changes: demolitions have been prevented, detainees have been released, and information challenging government propaganda has been disseminated. In the long-term, the CCP’s repressive religious policies may in effect generate sufficient backlash and resistance to significantly undermine its legitimacy and authority. As it is, these policies are already introducing detrimental social and political consequences for the party. Tightening controls over benign and routine religious practices have created growing resentment among communities of believers and encouraged further radicalization. More individuals are engaging in direct and indirect forms of protest to challenge state policies, from sharing banned information to joining unofficial congregations across the country. “As the CCP expands targets of repression, they face greater backlash because people who previously would have been agnostic to or accepting of party rule begin to question the party’s legitimacy,” Cook said. “Growing resistance lays the groundwork for undermining legitimacy and creating some sort of change in the future.” These emerging social dynamics are exacerbating threats to the party’s goal of maintaining social stability, which in turn poses a serious risk to the party’s central authority. If the government under Xi continues to expand religious repression and persecution, as trends indicate, trust in the government will only erode further. More members of targeted religious groups, many of whom are part of the educated upper-middle class, will become increasingly dissatisfied with the party-state apparatus, and their activism and influence will create greater internal resistance within the party. Over time, increasingly organized movements will chip away at the CCP’s political control.
SUSTAINABILITY OF CHINESE AUTHORITARIANISM At its core, the Chinese authoritarian bureaucracy is structurally and ideologically inadequate to govern a rapidly modernizing and increasingly diverse society humanely. “It comes down to the nature of the party — Chinese authoritarianism will not allow for any individual, group [or] institution [to be] perceived as independent of its absolute control,” ChinaAid President Bob Fu said in an interview with the HPR. “To use a favorite phrase of Xi, ‘from east to west, south to north, peasant farmers to white collar workers, students to soldiers, the party controls all.’ According to Xi’s vision, the party has to be embedded in every [aspect] of Chinese society.” In order to legitimize and maintain its authority, the regime must continuously fall back on repressive instruments and tools of propaganda because it has not derived public trust and recognition democratically. For religious freedom to truly exist in China, its political system must shift toward more democratic reforms. From Guatemala to Papua New Guinea, many hybrid systems between democracy and dictatorship provide adequate space for religious freedom. It is possible for the CCP to ease religious restrictions and provide more space for religious practice, but that seems highly unlikely given the party leadership’s track record. Fundamentally, the core tenets of its rule and the sources of its authority seem at odds with religious freedom, and perhaps even long-term economic development. While it views the freedom of religious thought and expression to be antithetical to the centralization of authority, it is highly unlikely that the Chinese government will end its repressive practices. Instead, the global community must step up to support the activism of internal groups by applying external pressure. Whether it applies collective force through individualized sanctions against party officials or diplomatic censures, the international community can and should respond in concrete ways to uphold its commitment to human rights. n
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pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice
for all.” This pithy passage, the Pledge of Allegiance of the United States, is very familiar to those who were instructed to stand and recite these words every morning in public elementary school. However, for the average third grader, this daily ritual of facing the flag and placing their right hand on their heart contains far more controversy than they might expect. For years, the Supreme Court has gone back and forth on whether public school students can be legally compelled to stand for the Pledge. Although arguments about the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment have dominated many rulings, the establishment clause, which prohibits Congress from establishing religion, has recently taken the limelight. In particular, the phrase “under God,” which was added to the Pledge in 1954, has drawn controversy. The Pledge of Allegiance is not the only American expression that contains religious references: Judicial, military, and political oaths end with “so help me God,” and the official national motto of the United States is “In God We Trust.” These references have become commonplace and ubiquitous. For instance, few people, regardless of their religion or lack thereof, will bat an eye at passing around coins inscribed with “In God We Trust” on a daily basis. However, to best adhere to America’s secular roots, these ever-present religious references in statesanctioned public life must be carefully and consciously evaluated.
THE EVOLUTION OF DICTION In 1920, the Pilgrims fled religious persecution in Europe and settled in present-day Massachusetts, creating the shortlived Plymouth colony. Despite — or perhaps, due to — the religious undertones of its settlement, the political founding of the United States was remarkably secular. There is no mention of “God” or any other religious reference in the U.S. Constitution except for one sentence in Article 6 that prohibits “religious tests” for public office. This is in line with many other constitutions around the world — for example, the word “God” appears in only five of the 27 European Union nations’ constitutions.
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Kevin Kruse, a history professor at Princeton University and author of the book One Nation Under God, confirmed in an interview with the HPR that while the United States “was certainly a nation of Christians” at its founding, “that’s quite a different thing from the founders creating a Christian nation.” To Kruse’s point, the original 1892 Pledge of Allegiance did not contain the words “under God.” After its creation, the first edits to the Pledge in the 1920s were small: Some were grammatical semantics, and another appended the phrase “of the United States of America.” It was not until the religious boom of the Cold-Warera American public that “under God” was added to the Pledge. In 1954, the Presbyterian minister George Docherty gave a powerful sermon stating that, “to omit the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance is to omit the definitive factor in the American way of life.” A few months later, President Eisenhower signed the phrase into law. From the 1950s to the 1980s, dozens more references to “God” were added to oaths, currency, and ceremonial traditions and codified in American law. This religious revival in the 1950s was primarily motivated by corporations, which pushed ministers to preach free enterprise and “spiritual mobilization.” Peter Levine, a professor of public affairs at Tufts University, concurred that religion has historically played a large role in attracting people to civic involvement in an interview with the HPR. “There’s a lot of selfgovernance in religious organizations … they’re a place where people get drawn in,” Levine said. Today, the U.S. Code of Laws contains 68 references to “God,” and all 50 state constitutions also refer to “God” or a similar divinity in some context. An assortment of Supreme Court cases and opinions regarding religion in public life followed in the mid-to-late 1900s. In 1962, the landmark case Engel v. Vitale ruled official school prayers unconstitutional on the grounds that they violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Similar cases struck down mandated bible readings and prayers before graduation ceremonies. However, the Supreme Court has also ruled in favor of limited religious references in publicly sanctioned activities. For example, the 1983 Marsh v. Chambers case upheld a prayer prior to the Nebraska state legislative session. These esoteric and somewhat contradictory rulings have left the door open for more recent legal challenges to the Pledge. The Supreme Court has also equivocated on whether or not public school students can be legally compelled to stand for the
Pledge of Allegiance. After ruling in favor of the Pledge in the 1940 case Minersville School District v. Gobitis, the court quickly reversed that decision in the 1943 West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette case.
LEMONS, ENDORSEMENTS, AND CEREMONIES After a plethora of challenges, the legal basis for governmentsanctioned religious references has slowly become more welldefined. The Supreme Court has offered a few broad criteria for determining whether or not legislation violates the Constitution on religious grounds. Specifically, in the 1972 Lemon v. Kurtzman case, Chief Justice Warren Burger defined the “Lemon test,” which broadly outlines when laws regarding religion are unconstitutional. In the 1984 case Lynch v. Donnelly, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor elaborated on Chief Justice Burger’s words by articulating the “endorsement test,” which states that government action is unconstitutional if it creates the perception that the government is either endorsing or disapproving of religion. While the Lemon and endorsement tests are well-formulated, a more useful metric when it comes to the Pledge is O’Connor’s opinion in Elk Grove v. Newdow, where she articulates four criteria for deciding whether or not traditional observances can make religious references constitutionally — what she calls “ceremonial deism.” First, the reference must be historically ubiquitous, a condition met when “a given practice has been in place for a significant portion of the Nation’s history, and when it is observed by enough persons that it can fairly be called ubiquitous.” Second, the reference must not take the form of worship or prayer. Third, it must not refer to a particular religion. Fourth, the reference must be “highly circumscribed” and contain minimal religious content. Although O’Connor concludes that the Pledge of Allegiance is acceptable ceremonial deism, facets of her analysis remain contentious. In relation to the first criterion, the phrase “under God” in the Pledge has only been around since 1954 — debatably not a “significant portion” in the history of a nation that was founded in 1776. On the third criterion, O’Connor herself admits that the word “God” excludes people who adhere to polytheistic religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, not to mention a growing number of atheists. Kruse summarized the opposing viewpoint succinctly: The court calls “it ceremonial deism, or ceremony that doesn’t matter … but I think it matters for a lot of people.”
CONSTANT CONTENTION Controversy over religious references has continued into the 21st century. The most notable trial dealing with the constitutionality of “under God” was the 2004 Supreme Court case Elk Grove United School District v. Newdow. Here, Michael Newdow, an atheist and a California attorney, argued that the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in his daughter’s school constituted a violation of the establishment clause. Newdow claimed that even though students were not forced to participate in the recitation, compelling students to listen to the phrase “under God” still violated their rights. Yet instead of issuing an opinion on the pith of Newdow’s complaint, the Supreme Court dismissed the case, ruling that Newdow’s status as a non-custodial parent did not
give him legal standing to bring the case on behalf of his daughter. Since then, Newdow has continued litigating against religious references in government sanctioned acts. In 2007, he failed to convince the Ninth Circuit court to remove “under God” from the pledge and “In God We Trust” from currency in Roe v. Rio Linda Union School District. He later represented Olga Paule Perrier-Bilbo in her 2017 lawsuit to remove “so help me God” from the citizenship oath, although her complaint was later dismissed by a federal judge. Newdow is not the only person building cases against the Pledge of Allegiance. Parents, teachers, and the American Humanist Association claimed that the Pledge requirement violated the equal protection clause of the Massachusetts constitution in the 2014 case Jane Doe Vs. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District. The judge ruled in favor of the school district. A similar lawsuit in New Jersey also failed. Legislators have also stepped into the fray. In an attempt to prohibit future complaints similar to Newdow’s, Representative Todd Akin (R-Mo.) proposed the Pledge Protection Act in 2002, which would prevent all federal courts — including the Supreme Court — from hearing constitutional challenges to the Pledge. Although the act has passed the House of Representatives twice, it has yet to be approved by the Senate.
WHAT WAR ON CHRISTMAS? But while religious references are currently restricted to a few occurrences, accepting these as commonplace may set the stage for more religious influence in government in the future. Kruse told the HPR that he “kept seeing the Pledge of Allegiance being invoked for larger claims about the United States, claims for the need for religion to be put into politics across the board.” With Trump pronouncing the end of “The War on Christmas” and proudly stating that more people are saying “under God” and “Merry Christmas” since his election, Kruse seems to be correct in his observation that religious phrases are slowly creeping into the national public vernacular. Aside from the issue of religion, the controversy over the Pledge of Allegiance also questions whether or not it wrongly or incorrectly indoctrinates patriotism. Levine wryly stated: “It’s actually an empty pledge,” because minors — who make up the majority of the people who recite the pledge daily — cannot legally pledge their allegiance to anything. Although a final ruling has not yet been reached on the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance, school districts around the country are already taking decisions into their own hands. Some have suspended students for refusing to recite the Pledge, while others have begun skipping the Pledge altogether. In the near future, more legal challenges will likely be filed concerning religious references in public rituals, and the Supreme Court may soon be forced to issue a decision. At its root, the debate over the Pledge is not simply about adding or omitting two words. It is an argument about patriotism, history, freedom, and American tradition. Disregarding the true implications of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance may unintentionally pave the way for a slippage in the separation of church and state that America has treasured since its founding. n
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The Harvard Tax
alued at $39 billion, Harvard’s endowment exceeds half of the world’s economies. Recently, however, it has faced a serious challenge: a targeted tax that could cost the school over $40 million a year, equivalent to the cost of full-ride scholarships for 600 students annually. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, in an unprecedented move, axes university endowments’ tax-exempt status, imposing a 1.4 percent tax on realized income of universities whose investment assets top $500,000 per student. Non-profit universities have long enjoyed benefits from federal and local governments. Their tax-exempt status has been codified since 1894, and donations to these universities have been tax-deductible since 1917. These tax benefits honor the universities’ contributions to advancing research and enriching human capital, which boost productivity and enhance public living standards. This reciprocity, however, has been challenged by the 2017 tax reform. The new endowment tax will decrease the portion of endowments available for a university’s discretional use — in Harvard’s case, less than 20 percent of the total endowment prior to the endowment tax — and therefore negatively affect many programs that are essential to national progress in the long run, including educational equality, social mobility, and scientific research. Compared to the short-term monetary benefits and small political victories gained from the endowment tax, the government may lose much more in the long term by disincentivizing university donors and good endowment investment strategies.
A CHALLENGE TO (ELITE, LIBERAL) HIGHER EDUCATION Congress’s motivations to impose the endowment tax could be manifold: encouraging more endowment spending, raising revenue to support corporate tax cuts, or even deepening tribal
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politics between conservatives in control of Congress and elite universities, which are generally regarded as liberal. The concern over political control relates to the unconventional setup of the endowment tax. Most tax codes, such as that for the individual income tax, utilize a gradient structure in which incomes of different ranges are taxed at gradually higher rates. But this endowment tax is different in that it resembles a “discontinuity function,” said Thomas Brennan, a professor at Harvard Law School and an expert in tax policy. Currently, only universities with over 5,000 full-time students whose endowments exceed $500,000 per student, coupled with some other conditions, are subject to the tax. “Once [a university] reach[es] the threshold ... then all of sudden [they] have to pay this 1.4 percent tax,” Brennan noted. If schools “have a penny less per student,” however, they “would not have to pay any tax at all.” Brennan described this cliff in the tax structure as “strange.” “It feels a little more targeted at a handful of universities than would be consistent with a general principle of trying to get universities to spend more of their money currently,” he said. According to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the endowment tax is only applicable to 35 out of the 4,583 U.S. colleges — a mere 0.8 percent — including schools such as Princeton, Yale, Stanford, and Harvard, which offer some of the most generous student financial aid packages among private institutions nationwide. Harvard economics professor Gregory Mankiw has argued in the New York Times that this apparent targeting may reveal a troubling congressional motivation of tribal politics, as many targeted elite universities are known for their liberal-minded professors and scholars. The endowment tax code could be a congressional weapon to suppress the liberal influences that these elite universities bring. Universities are also concerned with the new tax for other reasons. Harvard’s ability to offer student financial aid and fund academic programs is already constrained, former University
President Drew Faust said in an interview with the Harvard Gazette, and would only be further burdened by the endowment tax. Brennan said that he is also worried that Congress would raise the tax following this first attempt, asking for far more than 1.4 percent in the future, which would render its impact potentially much larger and less uncertain. Another often-cited justification for the endowment tax is to punish universities for not actively using their money, thereby encouraging more spending on students. This criticism reflects a common misconception that elite universities could use any portion of their enormous endowments at any time on any activities. In an endowment, however, money is raised for the purpose of maintaining the principal rather than immediate spending. The income earned on this principal — interest, dividend, or investment profit — becomes available for distribution to the university’s operational activities in accordance with donors’ restrictions. For example, the SOHO China Scholarship, a $15 million donation by Xin Zhang and Pan Shiyi to the Harvard endowment, restricts the use of their donations to financial aid for undergraduate students from China. Moreover, actively spending more of the endowment is unwise, since it is expected to fund both present and future Harvard students and scholars. It can also be argued that the endowment tax is necessary for the overall balance of the tax reform, as other provisions of the Act cut corporate taxes drastically to create a more favorable business environment. The money raised on the wealthy universities — $1.8 billion in 10 years — conveniently serves as a revenue transfer to fill this gap, though lawmakers have also long held grudges against large university endowments as markers of rich students at high-tuition, elite universities.
ally benefit university endowments via holdings in equities and alternative investments, outweighing the potential impact of the endowment tax and the doubled standard tax reduction. However, the stock market is notoriously volatile. Although the S&P 500 index rose for the better part of 2018 — a rise that some analysts attributed to the corporate tax cut despite the index’s continual growth since January 2016 — the last two months saw a plummet that more than counteracted any growth. Even if the returns on Harvard’s investments are particularly promising for the coming year, it would be difficult to causally accredit any extra growth to this act. The endowment tax may even change Harvard’s investment strategy for the worse. The tax targets realized income, which means that unsold stocks do not incur taxes. Therefore, the Act may incentivize Harvard’s money managers to retain an outperformed stock longer than they should to avoid taxes on the realized profits gains, or to sell underperformed stocks prematurely to take advantage of the tax benefits for the net loss. Even advocates of the endowment tax like Daniel Halperin, an emeritus professor at Harvard Law School, object to taxes on realized income. An early proponent of the Act, Halperin believes that taxes on assets are better than taxes on net income because the former does not influence how managers invest. “The reason I think the former is better is that it does not affect the investment policy,” said Halperin, though he also acknowledged that taxing assets may incur difficulties in valuing assets, especially for Harvard, which holds over half of its endowment in alternative assets.
ADDING INSULT TO INJURIES: BROADER EFFECTS OF THE NEW TAX CODE
More importantly, even if the benefits of the corporate tax cut for Harvard indeed outweigh the endowment tax cost, this does not mean that Harvard should be responsible for filling the tax revenue gap due to the tax cut. It is true that the corporate tax cut would reduce the tax revenue received by the government, but this gap is supposed to be counterbalanced by the gains from an environment more favorable to investment. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said in an interview with Bloomberg News that economic growth and spending cuts should fill any deficit hole from corporate tax cuts. Even without the ability to collect more revenue, “as a Republican, the answer would be less spending, not more taxes.” Congress should make a more thoughtful investigation into the consequences of the Act before settling on a politically expedient way to collect the missing tax revenue. Putting this burden on colleges may generate more serious problems than expected because the aftermath will be longer-term and less quantifiable. But the effects may trickle down, and whether the $1.8 billion collected over the next decade at the expense of various benefits to society — such as social mobility, cutting-edge research, and new artistic movements — will be worth this sacrifice deserves further thought. The worst possible outcome is an endowment tax that imposes expenses on future generations more than it generates revenues for the present. n
In addition to the new endowment tax, a provision elsewhere in the law to double the standard tax deduction could also disincentivize university donors, since some of them will no longer obtain tax benefits. Previously, when the donation was greater than the standard tax deduction of $6,350, an individual would enjoy tax benefits for their donation. Now, they will only enjoy benefits from donations of over $12,200. Someone making a donation of $12,200 to Harvard, for example, does not receive any more tax benefits under the new tax code than someone making no donation whatsoever. Granted, this difference only matters significantly to small donors. While Harvard has not released its fundraising makeup, of the $1.13 billion that Stanford University raised from 76,000 donors in 2016–2017 — comparable to Harvard’s $1.28 billion — most donations were under $1,000, reflecting a long-tail distribution; fewer than 20 percent of the donors contributed over 80 percent of the total amount raised. Moreover, both Brennan and Howard Abrams, a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, said that small donors may continue donating despite the removal of tax benefits simply because they do not care, or even know, about the new standard tax deduction. However, even just a 1 percent decrease in fundraising would amount to over $10 million in losses, a non-negligible sum in addition to the estimated $40 million also lost to the endowment tax. Proponents of the tax reform also argue that the Act’s overall effect —specially its corporate tax cut provisions — will actu-
SHOULD HARVARD EVEN BE TAXED?
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I N V E S I G AT I N G CARE S
eptember 12, 2015 was supposed to be a typical Saturday, a reprieve from a week of classes as students began settling into their new schedules. Yet, the day would become one of heartbreak for countless Harvard students and affiliates. It was the day when then-sophomore Luke Tang died, as announced in a somber email from Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana. In the following days, the event swept into national headlines as publications raced to report any information that had been disclosed by Harvard or through the Crimson. Harvard affiliates held vigils for Tang, sharing their cherished memories as investigations commenced to determine the cause of death. Approximately a week after his passing, a Harvard representative relayed that Tang had died by suicide. For many students, Tang’s passing would continue to reverberate years after, impelling them to serve the Cambridge community in his memory. Yet for the rest of the nation, Tang faded into the thousands of other student lives tragically lost to suicide, the silent epidemic that has been sweeping through colleges nationwide. Suicide has grown to become the second leading cause of death for college students in the United States. Harvard is worryingly at the forefront of this trend, reporting a suicide rate of 7.4 per 100,000 undergraduates in 2015, though the Crimson calculated Harvard’s undergraduate suicide rate as actually closer to 18.18 per 100,000 students that same year — well above the national average of 13.9 per 100,000. Nonetheless, both rates are much higher than those reported by any other prominent college besides the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. These statistics belie Harvard’s continual attempts to offer better mental health services than many other colleges in the country. As the rate of student suicide climbs, so too does the number of families seeking reparations, which this November grew to include Tang’s family. Tang’s father filed a lawsuit against the Harvard Corporation, Tang’s freshman and sophomore resident deans, his counselor, and his psychiatrist. The case alleges that these parties had a “duty of care” over Tang, which they failed to uphold given their lackluster efforts to prevent Tang’s suicide. Though legal precedent suggests Harvard will likely be acquitted for these charges, the highly publicized case is an opportunity to remove the stigma surrounding the discussion of student suicide and to improve Harvard’s mental healthcare by fostering constructive discourse among students, faculty, and the community.
CURRENT STRUCTURES Discerning the implications of the trial necessitates a comprehensive understanding of Harvard’s current mental health-
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Marcus Trenfield care system. For most students, the journey into Harvard’s Counseling and Mental Health Services begins with an initial consult. During this 30-minute conversation, clinicians evaluate the severity of a student’s case to determine the appropriate course of treatment. Short-term treatment plans range from immediate referrals to the Bureau of Study Counsel to therapy, typically administered through 45-minute biweekly or monthly sessions. Long-term treatments involve referral to local therapists with whom students can forge longer relationships. CAMHS is continually seeking methods to enhance existing services to provide the best care for the growing influx of students. In this pursuit, CAMHS has designed multiple programs that are uncommon among colleges, such as virtual counseling program iHope and “Let’s Talk,” through which students can talk to counselors anonymously without a scheduled meeting. Furthermore, CAMHS has renovated their website to increase transparency and address questions concerning whether students will be hospitalized or required to report their mental health diagnoses to employers. Left unanswered, these questions often deter students from seeking mental healthcare. However, many students remain unaware of these efforts, revealing a severe communication disconnect between CAMHS and the student body. Apart from opening-days dorm meetings and Crimson articles, news of CAMHS changes does not often reach students. These communication gaps also manifest in the institution’s response to student suicide. Harvard’s attempts to console students following a suicide usually entail a templated email redirecting students to a vague assortment of resources. These cookie-cutter student suicide emails are commonplace among peer institutions. At Columbia University, which has experienced an uptick in suicides in recent years, sophomore Katie Santamaria told the HPR that “all the [student suicide] e-mails started blending together.” As a close friend of a student recently named in one of these emails, Santamaria added, “It’s just a very personal and difficult topic to address, but the way the administration is addressing it does not suffice.” In Tang’s case, Harvard employed the same impersonal reaction. Khurana’s response email followed the same format as all his previous emails regarding student suicide — a message that tiptoed around the term ‘suicide’ and was void of sentiments unique to Tang. Though CAMHS’ updated triage system strives to be the “best” method to attend to all patients, it remains flawed in addressing non-emergency cases, as demonstrated by the experiences sophomore Aarushi Shah ‘21 relayed to the HPR. In her initial consult, Shah “felt really comfortable ... describing why I felt that I needed therapy — that I was really stressed out about my personal life, my academic life, and just felt that I needed help getting a grip on things. By the end of it, the clinician stated that she was impressed that I was so self-aware and that perhaps
I didn’t need therapy, which kind of left me disheartened.” Shah recalled being strongly advised to “seek mental health care outside of Harvard’s campus,” explaining that “the way [the clinician] made it seem, was that therapy at Harvard was for students who were in great danger and I wasn’t, since I said that I wasn’t suicidal or considering suicide as an option.” Following her consultation, Shah reached out to local therapists, but was met with financial and logistical challenges along the way. Shah conveyed to a CAMHS clinician her difficulty finding an appointment, yet she did not receive any assistance until a few weeks after her message and was not connected with a therapist until more than a month later, in the midst of her finals. Shah will begin therapy this spring, though five months have passed since her initial consult. According to CAMHS’ statistics, however, Shah’s prolonged process is not representative of the usual CAMHS experience. Most students meet with a counselor within five days of their initial consult, and 76 percent of these student patients are satisfied with their treatment or would recommend their clinician. However, the student body seems to be unaware of CAMHS’ high satisfaction ratings or its constant innovation. When reflecting on a discussion she had with other students, Shah disclosed that “many students were complaining about how the only thing that they really knew about CAMHS was their events like bringing service animals to campuses or offering free food during exam periods … The way that CAMHS is portrayed through these events is as a program that believes that dog therapy or art therapy or just drinking hot chocolate or apple cider will alleviate student stressors, rather than more serious steps that could be taken.”
Court ruled that M.I.T. was absolved of any fault, clarifying that the age of universities standing in place of parents is long over. The ruling, however, clarified that “colleges have an obligation in some cases to prevent suicides and may be sued for failing to do so,” which included all faculty members. While for some, the resolutions’ pioneering status emerged from newfound faculty liability, forcing faculty to rise above being bystanders, Lake considered this ruling “groundbreaking” since it “validates the practices that faculty have already engaged in and [shows] we’re on the right path.” While the Nguyen v. M.I.T. case has reworked student suicide legislation, it has passed virtually unnoticed on M.I.T.’s campus. The case went to trial during student Jenny Chan’s time at M.I.T., and she told the HPR: “I don’t really think people were aware of that case. I remember reading about it, but no one really talked about it … it’s just such a bubble in college, you don’t really hear these kinds of things.” When asked whether M.I.T. has informed students about the lawsuit or is developing any new initiatives in response to the case, Chan recalled neither receiving emails regarding the lawsuit nor hearing of any new initiatives. Chan’s remarks accentuate the disconnect between universities’ responses to student suicide and subsequent changes. Harvard is also already following a similar trend. When asked about the Tang vs. Harvard case, Shah noted that she “had not heard about this case.” She remarked that “even when we had another student suicide [Alex Patel] last year, I hadn’t heard his name … mentioned in conjunction with that despite it being only two years earlier.” By reigniting the discussion surrounding Tang’s suicide, however, students can reflect on his legacy to revolutionize the discussion surrounding student suicide.
THE IMPACT OF THE CASE
BREAKING THE SILENCE
In Tang’s court complaint, the plaintiff argues that the callousness and inattention of CAMHS and Harvard became fatal. “As a direct and proximate result of Harvard’s negligence and carelessness … the Plaintiff’s decedent was caused to commit suicide,” the complaint reads. Yet, the current precedent on college mental health care opposses this. As Peter Lake, director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University College of Law, articulated to the HPR, “The standard of care is … reasonable care … and part of what’s reasonable is respecting someone’s autonomy.” Harvard’s actions in the months preceding Tang’s suicide go beyond these metrics of reasonable care. After an initial suicide attempt and inpatient treatment, a CAMHS counselor and his dean met with him to construct a treatment plan for both the remaining month of school and his summer abroad. If Tang missed a scheduled appointment with his dean or counselors, they would perform wellness checks. Although Harvard stopped contacting Tang during summer break, Lake clarified that this lack of response is expected: “When students return to their natural environment, the sharing of responsibility probably diminishes substantially if not completely and falls on [patients’] shoulders.” Despite Harvard’s probable acquittal based on legal precedent and expectations of university mental healthcare, the lawsuit still has the potential to significantly influence the legislation of student suicide. In the last major student suicide trial, Nguyen vs. M.I.T., the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial
As Lake opined, “When there is death on campus … everyone asks: What can we do better next time? What can we learn from that?” The 2017 film Looking for Luke not only answers these questions but also serves as a concrete model for how to improve student suicide discourse nationwide. In the film, Tang’s family and friends express the impact of his death and raise awareness of factors that lead to suicide. Following its release, Tang’s parents and the production crew held screenings across prominent colleges, allowing all viewers to express their opinions on student suicide. The screenings’ promotion of discourse and the sharing of perspectives sharply contrasts the silence which typically permeates administration-sponsored discussions of suicide. As Lake mentioned, “one of the things [university administrations] suffer with … is [that] there’s a certain taboo around suicide that we don’t want to talk about it. We don’t talk about what we’re doing about it.” Instead, Lake suggested, when administrators need to massemail their students to seek help in “understanding what more we can do to address … the cause of these losses,” they must separate themselves from the self-imposed stigma, be outspoken about their efforts and faults, and open the conversation on student suicide to the broader public. “Mental health issues, they’re health issues,” he said. “They’re just a slightly different version … and we should bring it out of the closet. And begin to have conversations about who we are, and what we’re doing, and how we respond.” n
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TUITION WOES Will Imbrie-Moore
ixty-seven thousand, five hundred and eighty dollars. This is the cost of tuition, fees, room, and board for a year at Harvard College, up nearly $2,000 from just last year. Many students and families squeeze their pocketbooks and scrape for financial aid or loans, while others must simply walk away. Even as a college education becomes increasingly necessary for success in the modern economy, it has been spiraling out of reach for students all over the country. “Tuition and fees have skyrocketed enormously over the past three decades,” Mamie Voight, vice president of policy research at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, told the HPR. “They’ve actually increased at almost five times the rate of inflation, four times faster than family income, and even twice as fast as health-care costs.” For families across the country, this is very much a kitchen-table issue. “They are rising in a way that’s placing a really substantial burden on students and their families in terms of trying to access college and succeed in college,” Voight said. As state governments have retreated from their role in funding higher education, students have picked up the bill. In particular, low-income students face the largest barriers to attending college. Technology has the potential to lower the costs of college, but the affordability crisis will not resolve itself. The government must restore and bolster its commitment to funding affordable higher education and prepare the next generation for
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a competitive economy.
LOW-INCOME AFFORDABILITY STILL MATTERS Low-income Americans remain decisively shut out of the country’s higher education system. “Less than 15 percent of lowincome students get a four-year college degree, but more than six in 10 wealthy students do, and that’s a gap that we should be working to close,” Voight said. In impoverished communities around the country, college degrees are essential for improving low-income students’ economic prospects. The College Board reported that the median earnings of bachelor’s degree recipients are 67 percent higher than those of high school graduates, and many middle-skill jobs are now excluding workers who lack a degree. Without access to the rewards of higher education, low-income people fall further behind in the U.S. economy. “Right now the system is really failing low-income students,” Voight added. “College should really be a ladder out of poverty.” If students could afford it, college would absolutely serve as this “ladder” to economic success. However, financial aid continues to lag behind tuition growth, and it has a very long way to go before closing the affordability gap. “Low-income students today have to devote an amount equivalent to more than 150 percent of their family’s annual income towards college costs, and that’s
after accounting for all of the grants and scholarships that they receive,” Voight said. On the other hand, “high-income students only have to contribute about 14 percent of their family income to go to college.” With such a large financial barrier to college attendance, students become largely shut out from the higher education system. “High-income students ... can afford to attend about 90 percent of colleges across the country,” she explained, but “low-income students and middle-income students can only afford between 1 and 5 percent of colleges.” As it stands, financial aid is only just beginning to equalize Americans’ educational opportunities. “The picture is dramatically different depending on what financial resources a student brings to the table,” Voight concluded. Nevertheless, need-based financial aid faces steep competition for funding. Its chief competitor is merit-based aid, which offers tuition relief to high-achieving students of all backgrounds. However, this practice leaves schools with less money to spend supporting low-income students. “Need-based aid can actually make a difference in students’ ability to attend a college and succeed once they get there,” Voight argued, “whereas non-need-based aid is pulling resources directly away from the students who most need that financial support.”
WE’RE NOT IN CAMBRIDGE ANYMORE Prestigious colleges have made strides toward growing their financial aid programs, yet only a lucky few of America’s low-income teenagers are awarded such opportunities. Harvard offers free tuition to any family earning less than $65,000 a year, but most universities do not have a $39 billion endowment to assist scores of students with financial aid. “Elite colleges … have a very particular role to play” in championing college affordability, Voight said, but notably, children “in the top 1 percent of family incomes are 77 times more likely to attend an elite college compared to children from low-income families.” Serving a small minority of students, elite private colleges will never be at the heart of the affordability crisis. Regardless, private school tuition is “leveling off,” said Martin Der Werf, associate director of postsecondary policy at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, in an interview with the HPR. “We had a situation in this country where tuition price equated quality, and so if you were too inexpensive, the market signal that you sent was that you weren’t very good, and that really got pretty carried away for awhile.” Fortunately, reciprocal tuition hikes cannot continue forever. “We’re at a point from an economic standpoint where there’s got to be some shaking out in the marketplace,” according to Van Der Werf. “Especially for middle-tier private liberal arts colleges, unless they’ve really got something that can allow them to compete, I think we’re going to see some closings in the industry” — an indicator that private college tuition is unsustainably high. The most important fights over college affordability are waged at public colleges and universities, which three-quarters of the nation’s college students attend. These schools have much more room for price hikes, and their long-term tuition outlook is bleak. “On the public side, I see tuition continuing to rise at a rate higher than inflation, and I think that’s going to continue for a while,” Van Der Werf predicted. This trend will impact not only out-of-state public tuition rates, but also the discounted in-
state rates that are essential to college access and affordability. “I think that public colleges are trying to raise their out-of-state tuition more than their in-state tuition, but at some point they’re going to reach the point of diminishing returns.”
WHERE DID GOVERNMENT GO? State governments are primarily responsible for funding public colleges, but “there’s been a real disinvestment in higher education on the part of state governments and legislatures,” Van Der Werf said. “And so to make up for that, public colleges have increased tuition. I think that’s been a huge factor on the public side.” The funding cuts to higher education date back more than a decade. “Beginning with the recession of ‘08, everything had to get cut, and higher education probably didn’t have as much political power as it once had, and so in many cases colleges and universities took bigger cuts than other state agencies did,” Van Der Werf explained. “They started cutting funding to higher education. They didn’t stop. And it’s been very slow to come back to its previous levels.” Reaching far beyond college administrators, the issue has fallen on politicians in state legislatures across the country. “That’s a political fight that’s going to continue to play out.” Students have witnessed the direct impact of inadequate state funding on tuition rates. “Several decades ago, we saw that states were covering the majority of tuition costs for students,” Voight said. “State support covered about 70 percent of college costs for students to attend public college, but today it’s declined to only about half for each student.” With fewer state resources, public colleges have forced students to bear the costs. “Students and families are left to pick up the other side of that equation and to invest more in their education out of their own pockets in order to access college.” Many higher education activists will not be satisfied by merely slowing or reversing tuition growth. Morley Winograd, president of the Campaign for Free College Tuition, is one of them. “Pretty much everybody thought we were crazy,” Winograd told the HPR about the 2013 beginnings of the movement, which is known for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) backing. Focusing on state-level reform, it has since developed a broad base of support, garnering impressive majorities of favorability in public polling. “We’re kind of pushing on an open door because the idea is so popular with constituents of all types,” added Winograd. “The real challenge for us in the states is finding a champion and finding the money, Winograd said, “and if you have those two things you get free college tuition.” More than 10 states — both Democratic and Republican — have now begun offering free two-year community college, though some programs maintain income eligibility restrictions. Hoping not to lag behind the European economy, they are following in the footsteps of Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland, which are among the countries that provide free or nearly free college tuition. In New York, four-year public college is now free for families earning up to $125,000. These developments are reviving the century-old cause of the movement for free high school. “Community colleges in short will be the high schools of the 21st century in terms of their relationship to the communities they’re in,” Winograd said. Politically, states are ripe for such an assertion of higher education’s
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place in American society, especially given the country’s economic momentum. “Right now, many states do have the money thanks to the expansive economy,” he added. Legislators must be prompt and decisive in affirming that college affordability is a worthwhile expense.
THE CHANGING FACES OF HIGHER EDUCATION As higher education becomes ever more embedded in the American economy, colleges will have to serve an evolving market of students. “They still are primarily focused on being an industry that’s educating recent high school graduates … It’s all built around 18 year olds,” Van Der Werf said. “The higher education industry needs to understand that that’s really only about a quarter of their market.” Many more adults have been returning to school in recent years, but they often struggle to afford it. “These are people who typically are coming back to college as a way of retooling themselves or brushing up their skills,” Van Der Werf explained. “These people tend not to be folks with a lot of disposable income.” Simply lowering tuition at residential, four-year colleges is not the solution for these students. “The affordability crisis is really going to have to force colleges to figure out ways to serve these people differently,” he said. “They need credentials, they need things that they can get quickly, and they frankly can’t be all that high-priced.” Many students turn to online education to find this flexibility and affordability. “We are reimagining education,” Anant Agarwal told the HPR. Agarwal is the CEO of edX, a non-profit created by Harvard and MIT that serves 14 million people with 1,900 online courses. “We are trying to reduce the cost of education while at the same time improving its quality and increasing
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access to learners.” In addition to offering low-cost certificate and degree programs, edX also allows anyone to watch its courses for free. Likewise, because “employers increasingly value online education,” according to Agarwal, edX partners with major corporations to synchronize its curriculum with the workplace and coordinate students’ eventual employment. “Technology has transformed virtually every field known to mankind, and technology has a very important role to play in education.” Nonresidential learners will not be the only students impacted by the development of online education. “Frankly, I think the days of 100 percent in-person education are numbered,” Agarwal said. “It will evolve to blended education, where at least some online education is intermingled with in-person education.” Constantly using online resources and streaming lectures, today’s undergraduates are already familiar with how the internet can shape their learning experience. “We have to be really careful that we also be cognizant of quality of education,” Agarwal warned, but “I’m really optimistic that in the future we should be able to make inroads into undergraduate education ... that is both very high quality and also with significantly lower costs than education today.” Bolstered by technology, the United States has the toolbox it needs to tackle the mounting college affordability crisis. Modern higher education is evolving, but government support has failed to keep pace. With an emphasis on the low-income students who need it most, state governments have an obligation to restore and build on their role in funding college. Without affordable higher education, the next generation is destined to fall tragically short of its economic potential. n
FIFTY STATES (and a few territories) Jamie Bikales
n the 1770s, American colonists rebelled against the British because they were being taxed without representation. After the Civil War, Abolitionists crafted the Equal Protection Clause because the Constitution was not being applied to all Americans equally. In the 1960s, young people pushed for the 26th Amendment, which set the voting age at 18, because they were being drafted to fight in Vietnam but could not vote for their commander-in-chief. Today, residents of the United States’ largely forgotten territories pay taxes despite having only non-voting delegates in Congress. The Constitution, and all of the rights enumerated in it, do not automatically extend to the people of the territories. They serve and die in Iraq and Afghanistan, but cannot vote for
the president who sends them there. The hard-fought battles that extended suffrage and political power to previously unrepresented groups in the United States have not touched people in the territories simply because of where they live. “No American community would accept being required to follow federal laws without any form of democratic accountability,” the president of the advocacy group Equally American, Neil Weare, told the HPR. “It wasn’t acceptable to Americans in 1776, and it shouldn’t be acceptable to Americans today.” The United States currently administers five permanently inhabited territories: Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, and Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, colloquially known as
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CNMI, in the Pacific Ocean. The territories in the Pacific are particularly affected by political and media structures that work against them. They lie thousands of miles off the West Coast and even further off of most Americans’ radar. This lack of representation has caused major issues that harm the daily lives of residents, but these issues are largely unknown to the American public. Improving this representation is key to alleviating those problems going forward.
REPRESENTATION? ‘THERE IS NONE’ When asked what political representation the territories had, Weare replied, “There is none.” Residents of the territories cannot cast a vote for president, though they can vote in the primaries. In Congress, each of the five territories is represented by a delegate who can participate in committees but cannot vote on the House floor. This leads to seemingly paradoxical situations. “When I turned 18, I had to register for the Selective Service at the same time as not being able to vote for president,” Weare, who grew up in Guam, said. “This idea that I could be drafted to fight in the war, but had no say when it came to political representation, struck me as something that was antithetical to America’s democratic and constitutional principles.” People living in the territories could be locked away for life or even given the death penalty by federal judges and prosecutors who are nominated by a president they cannot vote for, Weare added. In addition, constitutional rights do not automatically extend to the territories, as decided by a series of Supreme Court cases beginning in 1901 collectively known as the Insular Cases. Even one of the United States’ most well-known rights is not equally applied; the cases extended birthright citizenship to the residents of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, but not to American Samoa.
FORGOTTEN BY THE PRESS The territories’ lack of political clout feeds a vicious cycle in which territories are overlooked in the mainstream American media, which further detracts from their ability to push for important policy changes at the federal level. They are often treated as far-off, foreign places by the media, covered as international stories rather than domestic ones. Anita Hofschneider, a reporter for the Honolulu Civil Beat who grew up in CNMI, told the HPR that she thinks the root of the issue is ignorance regarding the territories. “They don’t often appear in history books, maps, and the broad national discussions we’re having about policies,” she said. But she does not believe this is an excuse for not covering the territories. “What journalists choose to write is often a reflection of what we think society should value, and when we decide not to cover territories, we are implicitly saying that the stories of those people don’t matter,” Hofschneider said. “These territories are not just these happy paradises, they have a lot of complexity, there are things we can learn from them, and there are really important stories that need to be told.”
The disparity in media coverage means territory residents do not receive the same support for their issues that mainlanders do. Last year, Super Typhoon Yutu, the second strongest storm to ever hit a part of the United States, battered CNMI, damaging over 3,000 homes. “There are thousands of people still living in tents, despite the heat, because there isn’t enough housing left,” she said. “With the coverage of Super Typhoon Yutu, a lot of the coverage that did occur was focused on the strength of the storm, but not so much on the experiences of people who went through the storm and who continue to struggle.”
UNEQUAL BENEFITS Even though the territories have some of the highest enrollment rates in federal welfare programs such as Medicaid, residents are not eligible to participate in all of the programs mainlanders can, according to a United States Government Accountability Office report published last year. In addition, residents of the territories, outside of CNMI, do not receive any Supplemental Security Income. According to a report prepared by Weare’s organization, the territories currently receive $7.3 billion in federal benefits yearly. If that figure was proportionate to their population, however, they would receive over $17 billion per year. A woman living in Guam recently sued the Social Security Administration for “categorical discrimination” in the distribution of SSI. Katrina Schaller and her twin sister Leslie, who lives in Pennsylvania, both have a genetic disorder that requires significant care and expense. Leslie receives SSI benefits to pay for her care, but Katrina cannot because she lives in Guam. It would be difficult for her to relocate, however, because her family and support system are in Guam. Veterans who have served their country face a similar difficult decision: whether to move to receive health care or to stay with their families. Residents of the territories volunteer for the military at higher rates than any other area of the United States, and that means they die at higher rates than residents of the rest of the country. Guam has a casualty rate for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan four times the national average. Despite this, the territories receive disproportionately low veterans’ benefits, and receiving PTSD treatment requires going to Hawaii, meaning veterans have to leave their support systems and communities.
HARMFUL REGULATIONS The Jones Act stipulates that goods moved between U.S. ports, including the territories, must be shipped on Americanowned and operated ships. Originally passed to stimulate the domestic shipping industry after World War I, Weare called it “another example where the territories weren’t really thought about in making the policy, but they bear the significant part of the burden.” Even though Guam lies more than 7,000 miles from the mainland, imports and exports must travel on American ships, meaning goods cost significantly more there than they do on the mainland or even other island nations, Weare said.
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Aumua Amata Radewagen (R-American Samoa) is one of several non-voting delegates representing territories in the House of Representatives. “The people who benefit from [the Jones Act] are in relatively concentrated jurisdictions that have voting representation,” Weare explained. More recently, a ban on cockfighting in the territories was included in the 2018 Farm Bill over the objections of the territorial delegates, but they were powerless to stop it. The ban “upset a lot of people” in the territories, Tina Sablan, representative-elect for precinct 2 in the CNMI legislature and former communications director for CNMI’s congressional delegate Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, told the HPR. “It was seen in many ways as an intrusion of federal law into the island without any real consultation with the people who live here.” Another recent battle with the federal government, this time over gun control, also made CNMI residents feel the effects of lacking representation. Implemented before it fully became a territory, CNMI had one of the strictest gun laws in the nation, banning handguns and semi-automatic weapons. In 2014, a federal judge, appointed by a president CNMI residents could not vote for, struck down that law. “People here were wanting to challenge that ruling and restore our gun restrictions,” Sablan said. In fact, the CNMI Legislature even re-passed the handgun ban in 2017, but it can only be enforced if the court case is overturned. “There was a sense of federal overreach,” Sablan said. “That was an instance where you could see the tension between local and federal law, and to what extent self-governance is really meaningful here.”
MILITARISM AND THE LIBERATION NARRATIVE The Pacific territories have long hosted important bases for the U.S. military. While much attention has been paid to how these bases helped the United States to victory in World War II, the military presence has taken away land and resources from residents, particularly native peoples like the Chamorro of Guam, said James Viernes, outreach director for the University of Hawaii’s Center for Pacific Island Studies, in an interview with the HPR. Viernes is Chamorro himself. Recently, as the Okinawa base in Japan is being downsized, a proposed plan would double the number of Marines stationed in
Guam. The military already controls 28 percent of land there. “Okinawa has long resisted the U.S. military presence. As that push has been moving forward, the answer the United States has come up with is to realign … that military presence to Guam,” Viernes said. While Japan has the political clout to push out the U.S. military, the territories lack political representation, and the military has taken advantage of that, Viernes explained. He said the military has also exploited a strong “liberation narrative that upholds the idea of American heroism, democracy, and patriotism” in the territories. During World War II, Guam was occupied by Japan for 32 months, during which native people were subjected to hunger, concentration camps, and sexual abuse until they were “‘liberated’” by U.S. Marines, Viernes said, emphasizing the quotation marks. At the heart of Chamorro culture is “reciprocity,” so he was raised to “give back to America.” He believes that this element of culture has justified not only militarism but also the unequal political arrangement. “When you have that narrative bleeding through the culture, to call into question U.S. Congress’ plenary power and the lack of the constitutional applicability becomes very difficult to reconcile,” Viernes said.
MOVING FORWARD It is clear that solutions to many of the issues in the Pacific territories will require a change in political representation. According to Weare, there are several different routes this can take. A territory can become a state, the course that most U.S. territories took in the 19th century. Alternatively, a constitutional amendment could grant the territories suffrage, as the 23rd Amendment did for Washington, D.C. Another option is independence, which would give the territories a “nation-tonation relationship” with the United States, Weare said. They could then negotiate military and economic agreements with the United States, a path taken by the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau. Daniel Immerwahr, associate professor of history at Northwestern University and author of How to Hide an Empire, a book about the history of U.S. territories, told the HPR that he does not see independence in the near future for the territories. Historically, he said, territories were only allowed to become independent when they posed an “economic challenge to the mainland.” The independence of the Philippines during the Great Depression was “a way of chucking the Philippines over the tariff wall, so the mainland wouldn’t have to compete with Filipino goods or labor,” he said. He said statehood might be more likely, especially for Puerto Rico, where 97 percent of residents voted for statehood in a nonbinding 2017 referendum, though it had low turnout. Immerwahr believes that the first step towards improving representation for the territories should be to let the people actually living there decide. “People in the territories at no point have had a chance to vote on exactly what relationship they would like to have to the rest of the United States — independence, statehood, or somewhere in between,” he said. “All of this has been done to the people living in the territories rather than with them. For me that would be step one.” n
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Who is a Refugee?
n December 19, 2018, Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan settled a case between the ACLU and the Trump administration concerning the eligibility criteria for asylum, ruling against the administration and in favor of the ACLU. In doing so, Sullivan struck down former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ policies restricting access to asylum for victims of gang violence and domestic violence. Sessions’ harsh policies had been based on a narrow interpretation of the definition of a refugee, which describes a refugee as a person facing “persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” Victims of gang violence and domestic violence are not always targeted based on identity traits or political opinions per se, and Sessions had argued that people fleeing these forms of violence should not be viewed as members of a “particular social group” either. Sessions’ decision was almost certainly aimed at Central American migrants, who frequently report these forms of violence as factors that force them to leave their home countries. The result was that migrants who legitimately feared for their lives could be denied asylum based on an ambiguous definition. Paradoxically, this definition — which was drafted after the Holocaust with the intention of protecting endangered people of all backgrounds — was exploited by Sessions as a legal pretext for the exclusion of Central American migrants in dire need of protection. Sullivan’s recent decision, in which he denounced Sessions’ policies as “arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law,” constitutes a positive first step in countering abuses in the asylum system, but the significance of the ruling remains disputed. Some analysts believe that the ruling will not have far-reaching consequences for asylum-seekers since it may apply only to
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migrants’ initial interviews with asylum officers and not to the decisions that ultimately take place in immigration court. Beyond questions about the ruling’s significance, there is also the looming possibility that it could be overturned on appeal. It seems clear that Sullivan’s ruling is not enough to prevent the ambiguous language in the definition of a refugee from being abused and weaponized in the future. When decisions about whether or not a person meets the definition of a refugee can mean life or death, it is unconscionable that we have tolerated ambiguity in this definition for so many years. Legislative action is urgently needed to reach a more permanent solution; the statutory definition must be revised to encompass people fleeing all forms of life-threatening violence.
THE CURRENT DEFINITION The distinctions between asylum-seekers and refugees are purely geographic. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the term “asylum-seeker” refers to a person who applies for protection while in the United States or upon reaching a U.S. port of entry, while “refugee” refers to a person who obtains protection in the United States after applying for such protection from a foreign country. However, whether a person is seeking asylum or refugee status, they need to fit the definition of a refugee in order to qualify; that is, they must demonstrate “persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” The fact that the definition of a refugee does not clearly encompass victims of gang violence seems to be an unfortunate accident of history, rather than a deliberately exclusive choice of language.
“The asylum laws on the books are dated,” said Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, in an interview with the HPR. “They’re from 1980 and really they’re framed off of the 1951 Refugee Convention, which was envisioned in the wake of World War II when we had individuals who were … members of very particular social groups who were fleeing acts of violence perpetrated by governments. So at the time, the definition for refugee or asylee made a lot of sense.” Today, however, “we’re living in an entirely different world,” said Pierce. She cited gender-based violence as a form of persecution that is extremely pervasive but is not clearly recognized in the definition of a refugee. Neither is gang violence. Over the years, lawyers have used case law to “compensate” for the “outdated” nature of the statute, according to Pierce. She explained that case law has been used to “modernize the statute a little bit, understanding that it’s a living and breathing thing and allowing for it to develop as our world and our understanding of what’s going on develops.” Pierce said that the “social group” clause of the definition of a refugee is the vaguest and most malleable, so this clause has been the focus of much of the case law. For example, Guatemalan women who are unable to leave abusive husbands have sometimes been classified as members of a “particular social group” in asylum cases. “Generally, if they were able to establish a particular social group and meet the requirements that had developed over time, individuals who were fleeing gang violence or domestic violence could potentially qualify under that,” she said.
SESSIONS’ DECISION The vague nature of the “social group” clause provided an opening for Sessions to limit eligibility for asylum. In a decision known as Matter of A-B, Sessions declared: “The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim … An applicant seeking to establish persecution based on violent conduct of a private actor must show more than the government’s difficulty controlling private behavior.” According to Sessions’ narrow interpretation of U.S. asylum law, the government of an asylum-seeker’s home country generally must play an active role in perpetrating violence in order for a person to qualify for asylum. Living in a country where the government has “problems effectively policing” violent behavior was, in Sessions’ view, typically not a legitimate reason for seeking asylum. In his decision, Sessions also argued that “a particular social group must exist independently of the harm asserted in an application for asylum.” This distinction was presumably intended to prevent categories such as battered women and people fleeing gang violence from qualifying as members of a “particular social group,” since their abuse would be the defining feature of their “social group.” It’s hard not to view Sessions’ declaration as intentionally targeting Central American asylum-seekers who are often trying to escape situations where the government has “difficulty controlling private behavior.” Sessions even explicitly stated that people seeking asylum due to gang violence and domestic violence “generally ... will not qualify for asylum.”
Sessions’ interpretation of the definition of a refugee, and specifically the “social group” clause, seems grossly misaligned with international human rights law. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that “the core principle [of refugee policy] is non-refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.” Sessions’ argument that only certain types of life-threatening violence should render a migrant eligible for asylum constitutes a blatant violation of the nonrefoulement principle. Sarang Sekhavat, the federal policy director at the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, wrote in an email to the HPR that he believes “it is absurd that so many women and children are being sent back into life-threatening situations due to political rather than humanitarian calculations.” Matthew Soerens, the director of church mobilization for the United States at the NGO World Relief, expressed a similar belief in the immorality of Sessions’ decision in an interview with the HPR. To Soerens, it is deeply unjust that ambiguity in the definition of a refugee would prevent victims of certain forms of life-threatening violence from being eligible for asylum. “If you’re fleeing violence, if you’re going to be killed if you return, whether that’s due to an abusive husband or to a ganginfested neighborhood, or to a community where the government is dictatorial and repressive, I don’t know that it matters who’s perpetrating the violence,” said Soerens. “I think from a moral perspective, we ought to encourage our government to provide protection to people who have a legitimate fear of being harmed.” According to Soerens, Sessions’ decision demonstrates that the definition of a refugee is “vague enough that it could be interpreted in such a way to exclude people who I think do merit protection from the U.S. government.” Still, both Soerens and Pierce suggested that the consequences of Sessions’ policy were not universal. “It wasn’t a guarantee that [victims of gang violence and domestic violence] would qualify under membership to a particular social group before Jeff Sessions ruled, and after his ruling, it’s not a guarantee that they won’t qualify,” said Pierce. “He just made it significantly more difficult for them to do so.” Soerens noted, “It might be too soon to say what the longterm effects of that decision were, especially now that it’s been put on hold.”
SULLIVAN’S RULING Sullivan’s ruling reversed Sessions’ decision, but the significance of the reversal remains disputed. Major news outlets seemed to tout the decision as a significant breakthrough for asylum-seekers. Jennifer Chang Newell of the ACLU called the ruling “a defeat for the Trump administration’s all-out assault on the rights of asylum seekers,” according to the Washington Post. However, Pierce said that Sullivan’s ruling is not as consequential as it appears in the media. She explained that the plaintiffs in the case were people who had been denied entry at the stage of their “credible fear” interviews — not at the stage of court hearings — and so “the scope of the decision cannot affect what’s going on in the immigration
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Refugees exist across the world, such as this mother and child who were put in danger by a volcanic explosion in Bali, Indonesia and forced to join thousands of villagers fleeing for their lives. However, ongoing debates are changing what we see as “fleeing for your life.”
court.” “There was tons of press about [the decision],” said Pierce, but “unfortunately it really just affected that initial credible fear interview, which most people were getting through anyway.” Still, Pierce suggested that litigators might push for more far-reaching changes in the future when it comes to eligibility for asylum. “I think that knowing that this case had success at the credible fear stage, I’m sure that there are litigators out there who are searching for plaintiffs who were denied asylum based on Matter of A-B at the immigration court stage and trying to organize them together to create a lawsuit,” she said. “I completely believe that that is happening.” Importantly, Sullivan’s ruling has yet to be appealed and could be reversed by a higher court. Soerens called Sullivan’s ruling a “preliminary decision,” explaining that he is “wary to get too excited” because he believes the case “could very likely get kicked up to a higher court.”
TOWARD A COMPREHENSIVE DEFINITION The chain of events from Sessions’ decision to Sullivan’s ruling suggests that the ambiguity inherent in the definition of a refugee profoundly undermines the integrity and humanity of our asylum system. Legislative action to change the definition of a refugee appears to be the only viable path to greater clarity and inclusion. Instead of specifying particular categories of persecution, a more comprehensive definition could simply refer to people fac-
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ing “persecution or life-threatening violence.” Soerens noted that if the legal definition of a refugee were to be revised and clarified, the outcomes of asylum cases would become less dependent on the viewpoints of particular asylum officers and immigration judges. He acknowledged that some degree of subjectivity is nearly inevitable in immigration court — noting, for example, that judges in Atlanta tend to approve asylum cases at much lower rates than judges in New York, “even though they are adjudicating based on the same U.S. law” — but that clarity in the language would help level the playing field significantly. “It would be really helpful if Congress would write a more specific statute and ... not leave it up to the courts to determine what should happen in these cases,” said Soerens. He added, “It is inherently going to be somewhat subjective, but I think the ideal would be for Congress to give more specificity to the law itself.” Notably, Sullivan wrote in his opinion: “It is the will of Congress — not the whims of the Executive — that determines the standard for expedited removal.” Yet the ongoing ambiguity in the definition of a refugee suggests that “the whims of the Executive” could strike again if the decision is overruled. Meanwhile, the discretion of individual officials is augmented by the vague wording of U.S. asylum law. A change in the statutory definition of a refugee is long overdue and is imperative if the “will of Congress” is to prove meaningful. n
TIME FOR CLIMATE JUSTICE James Coleman
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n an unprecedented move that would shock millions and capture national media attention, Rep. Alexandria OcasioCortez (D-N.Y.) joined a sit-in at Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office on November 13, 2018 alongside Sunrise Movement, a new environmental group led by young people who are working to make climate change a national priority. Their call: the formation of a select committee on a Green New Deal. But what exactly is the GND? Reminiscent of the New Deal policies enacted by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s, the GND aims to enact a slew of programs to address climate change within the broader context of racial and socioeconomic inequality. Since its debut following the 2018 midterm elections, the GND has gained public traction; a survey by Yale University shows support for the GND among 81 percent of all registered voters. The growing call for the GND represents not only a shift in popular environmentalist messaging toward an emphasis on social justice, but also the emergence of a bold new populist wing of the Democratic Party that is bringing racial and socioeconomic equality to the forefront of the Democratic agenda.
UNPACKING THE GREEN NEW DEAL The GND purposefully alludes to the popular New Deal policies passed under FDR. Among the 47 total programs passed as part of the New Deal were those establishing Social Security and a federal minimum wage. The New Deal aimed to address the national crisis of the time, the Great Depression. By allocating billions of dollars toward funding various social and economic programs, the New Deal ultimately succeeded in reinvigorating the economy. Similarly, the GND aims to address the greatest crisis of the 21st century, the threat of climate catastrophe, by calling for a World War II-esque economic mobilization effort. This effort entails using American industry to produce new carbon-neutral and renewable energy infrastructure while providing workers with higher wages and benefits. While often celebrated for its progressive policies, the New Deal’s implementation actually reinforced racial disparities. Although some New Deal programs did benefit AfricanAmericans, the New Deal was designed largely to serve the suburban white population of the United States. Infamously, the Federal Housing Administration blocked assistance for AfricanAmericans who had applied for housing in predominantly white neighborhoods, intensifying segregation. Additionally, FDR refused to include anti-lynching laws due to concerns that this would make it harder for the New Deal to pass in the South. The GND, by contrast, aims to fill the racial gap left by the original New Deal by acknowledging climate change’s disproportionate impact on minorities. It also specifically addresses poor people and women. In an interview with the HPR, Waleed Shahid, communications director for Justice Democrats, explained that the GND would address four systemic national crises: skyrocketing inequality, deepening structural racism, catastrophic climate change, and the takeover of American democracy by the ultra-rich and corporations. Initiatives such as carbon pricing, a federal jobs guarantee, universal health care, and a $15 minimum wage can all be included under this umbrella. The proposed programs would be designed to ease the stresses of an economic transition to dependence on renewable energy, while ensuring that no one is left behind. “That means
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financial support and training programs, for example,” explained Cassady Craighill, senior communications specialist for Greenpeace USA, in an interview with the HPR. Within a broader “focus on creating new jobs and economic opportunities,” this also means ensuring that the transitioning electricity, transportation, industrial, and building sectors “actually provide living wages — wages that sustain a family — good benefits, and job security.”
A STRATEGIC CALL FOR CLIMATE JUSTICE Unlike other calls for environmental legislation, the GND portrays government action in a favorable light, with the potential to not only prevent catastrophic climate disaster but also build a future that is clean, safe, and equitable. “Generally, in the climate movement, the demands are all negative,” Shahid said, “meaning like ‘keep fossil fuels in the ground,’ or ‘don’t build the keystone pipeline’ or ‘don’t pass the TPP’ ... Those are all necessary fights, but they aren’t visionary or forward thinking.” The GND has maintained widespread public appeal by remaining vague about what specific programs will be included. “The fact that the Green New Deal is still sort of a nebulous idea works in our favor because it means that people on the front lines of climate change really still have an opportunity to define what it is,” said Craighill. Communities threatened by rising sea levels in Florida could advocate for more affordable housing, towns ravaged by wildfires in California could demand stricter forestry regulations, indigenous peoples in North Dakota could call for an end to oil pipelines, and coal miners in West Virginia could fight for new job training programs. The open and ambitious prospect of the GND leaves room for people from diverse industries and communities across the country to realize their environmental and economic priorities. Tackling racial injustice and wealth inequality has also been central to the GND’s messaging, further distinguishing the proposal from more traditional calls for climate legislation. “The truth is, rich people like Trump can survive climate change,” said Craighill. Although the super rich and the largest corporations continue to climate change the most, they are more or less immune from its effects, while those who suffer the most are the poor who contribute the least. “If we don’t first reckon with the environmental injustice that is climate change,” continued Craighill, “then we won’t have made the progress that can match the scale of the climate crisis.”
CHANGING THE BRAND OF DEMOCRATIC POLITICS The growing popularity of the GND reflects a growing populist movement within the Democratic Party. Policies such as Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, and free public college that were once considered fringe ideas now seem mainstream. Justice Democrats, an organization dedicated to placing a new wave of progressive politicians in Congress and who backed Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional run, rejects corporate PAC money and supports a bold populist platform that includes the GND. Ocasio-Cortez and other recently-elected Justice Democrats have already brought the new energy of their progressive agenda to Congress; their outspokenness has left their more traditional colleagues scrambling for control.
As these new progressives shake up Congress, their push for a GND has met organized opposition from within the Democratic Party and its centrist leadership. Although climate change is a central issue in the Democratic Party platform, not every Democrat has enthusiastically signed onto the idea for a GND. Only 45 out of 235 House Democrats publicly supported establishing a select committee for a GND before Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the decision to create the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis last December. To the dismay of the GND coalition, the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis created by Pelosi will not have concrete legislative authority and is unable to issue subpoenas or bring bills to a vote on the House floor. Nor will the committee bar members who receive campaign contributions from the fossilfuel industry, a key component of Sunrise Movement’s proposal. To lead the committee, Pelosi appointed Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), a Congresswoman who had not previously signed the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge. Following pushback from progressives, however, Castor has since pledged to reject all future fossil fuel contributions. “What we are seeing now is not an honest, rigorous discussion between public intellectuals and scientists,” Shahid said of the Democratic politics around the GND. “Instead, what we are seeing at Washington is a battle over turf [and] over norms” with more senior Democrats reluctant to relinquish legislative power to progressive newcomers. This reluctance was on clear display last December when Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) purposefully blocked Justice Democrat Ro Khanna’s (D-Calif.) bill to bring broadband internet access to rural communities over a personal dispute on Khanna’s support for a GND. Pallone is the chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, which is usually tasked with climate-change legislation. He has been adamantly against the formation of a committee for a GND, arguing that it would hinder progress in existing committees. Pallone and other members of Congress from committees such as Natural Resources and Transportation — Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), respectively — have also questioned the GND committee’s necessity. Whether the GND’s opposition is rooted mainly in ideological concerns or ‘turf wars,’ centrist Democrats are already feeling electoral pushback from the pro-GND movement. Recently, Beto O’Rourke, a potential candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, was widely scrutinized by progressives over his vote to lift offshore oil drilling bans and his violation of the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge. “We’re now living in a stage where it is a political liability to deny climate change,” said Craighill, “but it could also be a political liability to not support serious proposals to solve it and that is a good thing for all of us and definitely because we have more progressive people in the [Democratic] Party and in Congress.” While the Democrats continue disputing the merits of a GND, the policy seems fully capable of appealing to independents and Republicans. Yale University found that 64 percent of registered Republican voters surveyed expressed support for the GND. Additionally, the GND has large implications for the agricultural industry, which accounts for approximately 9 percent of all U.S. GHG emissions and is largely Republican. The GND’s appeal to this sector reflects the possibility of new and vital support for emerging Democrats’ progressive policies if they are willing to
listen to the concerns of those traditionally outside of their voter base. Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, told the HPR that the GND’s broad agenda has had a mixed reception with farmers. He stressed the importance of including public funding for technological research and development in the GND and that the GND’s components must be science-based and justifiable. Reducing the carbon footprint of the agricultural industry starts with farmers adopting more environmentally sound techniques, such as the planting of cover crops, multi-species farming, and enhanced crop rotations. However, “given the economic stress that agriculture is facing today, many farmers are in a position where they can’t afford to do these things,” Johnson said. “If you want to make progress, we strongly believe that we need to get the incentives right, so that climate change can be dealt with in a meaningful fashion, with sort of a minimum of regulatory requirements but a maximum of incentive-based practices.” Strong financial incentives could encourage farmers to adopt more sustainable practices. These incentivized practices would be both environmentally effective and minimally burdensome for farmers, creating a low-risk and high-reward situation.
A RACE AGAINST TIME “The IPCC report that warns we only have 11 years left now to solve climate change also says that we can solve it,” Craighill stated. “We do have reasons for hope … this is a real ‘make or break’ moment for our climate right now.” While the time to take effective action on climate change appears to be running out, the fight to do so is far from over. The United Nations’ IPCC report and the latest National Climate Assessment, which forecasted hundreds of billions of dollars in climate-related damage to the United States by the end of the century due to intensified natural disasters and harms to public health, have brought a renewed sense of urgency to activist groups and environmental organizations. Justice Democrats, Sunrise Movement, and other progressive organizations are mobilizing the public and pressuring politicians to be climate leaders. “Young people know that we’ll be the ones to carry the burden of climate disaster. We don’t have time for games over turf and norms and what’s respectable or the right procedure,” said Shahid. The next decade of climate policy will shape the world in which today’s youth lead their adult lives. With major implications for what future climate legislation will bring, the 2020 election may prove crucial in determining who and how many will survive climate disaster. Many Americans will be looking for bold climate leadership in the 2020 presidential slate. While traditional environmental groups may be more inclined to work with existing procedures and support centrist Democrats, Justice Democrats and outspoken members of Congress like Ocasio-Cortez are not shying away from debate. For them and their supporters, business-as-usual politics and watered-down climate legislation simply will not cut it anymore. With hundreds of billions of dollars on the line, millions of lives at risk, and entire ecosystems in danger, the GND may be a part of the very solution to climate injustice and catastrophe that the world so desperately needs.
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he world’s largest democracy confronts a difficult choice in 2019. As India’s 875 million voters prepare for what is expected to be the most expensive election in history, its largest state — Uttar Pradesh — is ripe for sectarian battle. Uttar Pradesh elects 80 of the 543 members in the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament, making it critical to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s reelection strategy. Five years after the party won a sweeping victory in the state amid a period of episodic violence, communal tensions are set to soar once again.
WEARS THE HEARTLAND ON ITS SLEEVE Historically, the country’s religious fault lines have been more prominent in Uttar Pradesh than anywhere else. In December 1992, a mob of Hindu kar sevaks, or religious workers, demolished the centuries-old Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. They claimed it occupied the birthplace of Lord Ram and the site of an ancient temple, triggering major riots in the process. In March 2014, Narendra Modi, the current prime minister, announced that he would contest the forthcoming election results from the ancient city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to win his party a critical cache of seats in the Hindi-speaking heartland. The symbolism was hard to miss when he celebrated his resounding electoral success at the evening aarti on the banks of the holy Ganga river. In May 2019, he will return to Uttar Pradesh to seek a five-year extension for his party’s time in office. It is more than just its size — Uttar Pradesh is also politically significant because of its role in the origins of Modi’s party. The BJP’s brand of Hindu nationalism has its roots in the Ram janmabhoomi — “birthplace” — movement, which in the early 1990s catapulted the party to national significance and secured it a majority in the state assembly. In the following two decades,
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BJP officials shifted tactics, relying on more muted appeals to firebrand Hindus and suspending their focus on the janmabhoomi agenda, which led to a loss of power in the U.P. assembly. During this period, two regional, caste-based parties — the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party — dominated local politics, holding off both the BJP and the Indian National Congress, the country’s oldest political party. But Modi’s almost cultish popularity in 2014 renewed calls for a return to Hindu nationalism in Uttar Pradesh. In an interview with the HPR, Satish Misra, a senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, explained that the BJP’s 2014 platform did not necessarily prioritize economic reform over communal polarization, a common misconception: “[The BJP] knew they had to offer something to everyone. For many it was the promise of better jobs, better lives, and bullet trains, but for their core constituency it was Hindutva.” After much speculation, the party even sneaked support for construction of the Ram temple into its election manifesto, and also endorsed a uniform civil code that would remove special protections for religious minorities. It was hardly surprising, therefore, when the BJP appointed Yogi Adityanath — a controversial Hindu monk known for his incendiary, Islamophobic comments — to head the state upon its return to power in 2017.
SAFFRON BRIGADE VERSUS MIDDLE INDIA In many ways, Chief Minister Yogi has satisfied the more sinister yearnings of Modi’s supporters in Uttar Pradesh, much to the chagrin of its liberal, secular, and minority residents. The centrality of the state in the Mughal Empire, which governed much of the subcontinent from the 16th century through the 19th, left it with a rich legacy of Islamic culture and architecture. Institutions like the Aligarh Muslim University and the famed
Taj Mahal, the preponderance of Urdu in U.P. courts and public life, and the colonial vernacular of Indo-Saracenic architecture collectively mark the vibrant diversity of cultures which have been imprinted on this canvas. Yogi’s government, however, harbors a special disdain for this legacy. It recently renamed the Mughalsarai Railway Station in Varanasi after an ideological patron and the town of Allahabad to Prayagraj, a Hindu derivative of its name in the pre-Mughal era. It has presided over campaigns against beef-eating and so-called “Love Jihad,” the alleged practice of Muslim men marrying Hindu women for the sole purpose of converting them, contributing to a 28 percent surge in incidents of communal violence. However, the BJP knows all too well that its 2014 success cannot be replicated merely through further religious pandering in the heartland. Symbolically important as these issues may be, India’s growing class of middle-income, urban, and educated voters are unlikely to be convinced. Middle India has often played a constraining political role, punishing politicians who stray too far from the center. In 2015, the Aam Aadmi Party swept to power in Delhi only a year after the BJP had won all seven parliamentary seats in the city-state. More recently, even the heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh, each of which the BJP carried easily in 2013, ousted the incumbents and elected INC governments. In an interview with the HPR, Shehla Rashid Shora, a prominent student activist and vice president of the student union at Jawaharlal Nehru University, pointed out that Yogi had campaigned more in these states than the prime minister, underscoring the tendency for Middle India to eschew the boisterous political brand of the saffron brigade. “The Modi machinery may start trying to contain [Yogi’s] influence. Even the pro-government media outlet Republic TV recently criticized the U.P. law and order situation, highlighting the unusually high number of fake encounters,” she added, referring to the endemic, and purportedly growing, practice of staged extra-judicial killings of criminals by law enforcement. In another interview with the HPR, Shivam Singh, a young former member of the BJP who has worked with India’s foremost election strategist, Prashant Kishore, stressed the limitations of the BJP’s Hindutva platform. Unlike Misra, Singh asserted that religious appeals played a smaller role in the BJP’s 2014 electoral success than its focus on first-time, young voters who simply wanted change. He explained that “the core Hindu support had always been there,” but that “talk of corruption and policy-paralysis under the INC pushed the BJP to a majority.” Because “they haven’t delivered on either Hindutva or the economy,” Singh concluded, India is now “back to conventional politics.”
THE RETURN TO CASTE Indeed, despite controlled inflation and increased foreign investment, job growth under the Modi government has remained slow, while the twin shocks of demonetization and shoddy implementation of the new Goods and Services Tax have temporarily hurt the business climate. But the BJP’s traditional supporters should have welcomed its politics of ‘saffronization.’ “It hasn’t worked,” Singh noted, arguing that “caste is more closely tied with people’s economics than religion, and the BJP has hurt the livelihoods of many Dalits and Muslims by closing down illegal slaughterhouses around the state.”
Disenchantment among those from the historically lower castes has fueled a wave of alliances among regional, caste-based parties. The Samajwadi and Bahujan Samaj Parties, previously sworn rivals who command widespread support from Other Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes respectively, have joined forces in Uttar Pradesh. While Modi’s party won 71 out of 80 seats with just 42 percent of the vote in 2014, unity among opposition parties could severely hurt its performance in 2019, a trend that has already played out in two former BJP strongholds during the recent by-elections. Asked whether representatives of these two previously antipathetic parties could cooperate well state-wide, Misra reckoned that their “arithmetic will trump chemistry.” This highlights a major dilemma facing the BJP over the coming weeks, one opposition parties are hoping it will fail to resolve: How can it appeal to a broad base of supporters, many of whom are averse to communal polarization, while driving turnout among traditional Hindus in states like Uttar Pradesh? Even though doubling down on Hindutva has yielded limited success, turning away from it entirely may not be an option. Misra emphasized that many of the party’s cadres and leadership are still drawn from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing organization whose “political wing is the BJP.” The government’s recent support for a bill to extend reservations in public admissions by 10 percent for the economically backward is seen as a last-ditch attempt at pacifying the RSS, a predominantly uppercaste organization in the heartland. India’s affirmative action program had until now only accounted for caste; this change is thus likely to face both legal pushback and a backlash from those among the historically lower castes.
WHAT’S NEXT? Signs point toward a period of renewed disquiet ahead in Uttar Pradesh. Shora thinks the temple is just one of several issues the government might include in its platform to polarize the electorate along religious lines. Singh concurred, for even though Yogi was a prominent face in the recently botched campaigns, the BJP has yet to employ the “fear narrative” to drive solidarity among Hindus across castes. Given its lack of support from other quarters due to a controversial citizenship bill in the northeast and a historical lack of influence in much of the south, attempts to flare communal tensions may be the party’s last resort at holding on to the heartland. If they come to pass, expect Modi to leave the mudslinging to his affiliates, as he did in 2014 when Amit Shah, who nows serves as the party’s president, urged voters to “avenge” recent riots in the U.P. town of Muzaffarnagar. Despite recent stumbles, it would be a mistake to write the political obituary of the prime minister just yet. Behind his carefully cultivated persona of sociability is an undoubtedly astute operative. And regardless of whether he continues forging his legacy for another five years, there are crucial ways in which he has already permanently ‘Modi-fied’ India’s political landscape. Recent temple visits by the INC president, Rahul Gandhi, in poll-bound states and the reluctance of veteran liberal Shashi Tharoor to denounce gender segregation at a Kerala temple demonstrate the frenzy into which Modi has spun his opponents. Insecure as India’s conservative majority may be, it maintains a grasp on power which makes it impossible to ignore.
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UNCHAINING TRADITION Tamara Shamir
n 1995, after her husband’s physical abuse caused her to miscarry days before she was due to give birth, Tzviyah Gorodetsky filed for divorce. The 19-year-old Russian, who had just migrated to Israel, filed for the dissolution of her marriage under the Jewish rabbinic courts, which govern all matters of marriage and divorce. She was met with devastating news, however: under Jewish law, Tzviyah could not leave her marriage without a document demonstrating her husband’s official consent to divorce, known as a get. The rabbinic court, in accordance with its interpretation of the Talmud, could not annul Tzviyah’s marriage; instead, the court employed a series of increasingly harsh sanctions in an attempt to compel Meir Gorodetsky to grant his wife a get. After several years, the rabbinic court placed Meir in jail. His obstinance, however, did not waver, even when the court removed nearly all of his religious privileges, such as kosher food and Jewish garments. Susan Weiss, founder of the Center for Women’s Justice, the nonprofit that represented Tzviyah in the divorce proceedings, spoke about Meir’s attitude in an interview with the HPR. “Why don’t you take my underwear?” she recalled him once asking the rabbinic court judges.
THE CHAINED WOMEN NGOs estimate that hundreds of Israeli women, known as agunot from the Hebrew word for “chained,” are trapped in these unwanted marriages for years and sometimes even decades. The religious courts preside over marriage and divorce law for all Israeli citizens according to their interpretation of Halacha, or Jewish law and jurisprudence. They cannot annul a marriage without both partners’ consent. In an interview with the HPR, Diana Keplin, an Israeli di-
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vorce lawyer known for her work with agunot, said that a man’s decision to withhold a get might stem from practical or personal concerns. Husbands usually withhold the get as a bargaining tool, she explained, to negotiate shared assets, finances, and custody. Yet according to Keplin, the motivation to withhold a get can sometimes run deeper. “It can also come from ego,” she explained, adding that this behavior can stem “from the belief that a woman is property, a woman is furniture.” This mindset is indeed rooted in Jewish law, which centers around kinyan, or the purchase of a wife, and directly clashes with national Israeli legislation upholding equality between the sexes. Keplin called “the fight between civil and religious law” one of the “most interesting and hardest” battles facing Israel today. Since its inception, Israel has struggled to reconcile its responsibilities as a democracy with its duties as a Jewish nation, balancing the demands of a powerful Orthodox minority with the requisites for international legitimacy. During the first half of the 1950s, Israel passed a series of laws crystallizing an uneasy compromise between religious and secular leaders. This agreement, known as the “status quo,” included legislation recognizing the Sabbath as the official day of rest, affirming that only kosher food would be served in the army, and establishing the existence of a separate and autonomous system of ultra-Orthodox education. No piece of “status quo” legislation, however, has sparked as much controversy and criticism as the Rabbinical Courts Jurisdiction (Marriage and Divorce) Law of 1953, which gave the rabbinic courts jurisdiction over the marriage and divorce of all Israeli Jews. Although Israeli citizens can use civil courts to resolve ancillary matters to marriage and divorce, such as property and custody, only the rabbinic courts have the power to officially grant divorces. While a divorce requires the
consent of both spouses, the system is still lopsided: men can remarry even without a get, but women cannot move on or start new families without a formal divorce. Women are penalized heavily if they bear children with a new partner while they are still bound to a marriage: these children are labeled as mazmerim, or “bastards,” barred for 10 generations from marrying Jews. To many feminist activists in Israel, Jewish law feels immovably, irreparably misogynistic, unable to accommodate modern notions of gender equality. “The law itself is patriarchal,” Weiss said. “It’s hard to imagine [a religious divorce system] consistent with modern notions of freedom and equality.” The very structure of the rabbinic courts, in which a lone woman must explain the most intimate details of her marriage and beg for the sympathy of three male judges, is in itself “humiliating,” according to Keplin. And while she is not alone in viewing Jewish law and gender equality as fundamentally irreconcilable, not everyone agrees that the latter should always be prioritized. “Feminism has reached us from the United States,” Oded, an Israeli who asked to be identified only by his first name, told the HPR. Oded struggled for years in combative divorce proceedings and lost custody of his kids, leaving him disillusioned with Western notions of gender and marriage. “Here, we are Jewish.” The nature of marriage, Oded lamented, has fundamentally changed, rattled by imported Western values like individualism and romantic love. “We’ve gone totally crazy. The world has gone totally crazy,” he said. “Once a family was something that was closed from every direction. The rules were clear. No one could go in. The woman couldn’t leave the house.” Oded sighed. “People used to suffer a lot less,” he said.
ter for Women’s Justice after Tzviyah’s victory remarked, “the Halacha doesn’t change; we change so that we can see what is in the Halacha.” The “invention of tradition,” he claimed, is a crucial process in Jewish philosophy and law, and one that is constantly ongoing. Avishalom Westreich, an expert on Jewish marriage and divorce law, also believes that the court’s refusal to let women obtain a divorce without their husbands’ permission is not the inevitable interpretation of relevant Jewish law. The Halacha, he explains in his brief, timely book on Halachti solutions to marital captivity, is a dynamic and multifaceted legal system, with many distinct and often contradicting traditions. In the Babylonian Talmud, Westreich writes, sages had the authority to annul marriage in special cases, such as when there was a fault in betrothal procedures. Later, the idea of mekah ta-ut, or “mistaken contract,” which posits that a marriage is void if the consent to marry was based on misleading facts, such as a husband’s fertility, greatly expanded the sages’ powers to annul marriages. Mekah ta-ut, Westreich writes, was intensely debated from the start, and opened the door to new uncertainties. For example, did the conditions that caused the marriage to be void have to exist at the time of betrothal? Some rabbis believed that they did not, introducing the notion of “conditional marriage,” or as ada’ata dehakhi, which applied in cases when, had the spouse known that certain events would or would not occur, he or she would not have entered the contract. This idea, originally discussed in the context of leprosy and other skin diseases, also paved the way for the concept of umdena d’mochach, or objectively unlivable conditions, that the judges used in Tzviyah’s case.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS OLD LAWS, NEW VALUES In June 2018, the Center for Women’s Justice, the nonprofit representing Tzviyah in court, convened a private rabbinic — an unofficial, unrecognized assembly of Orthodox rabbis — to review her case. This private court, led by Rabbi Daniel Sperber, annulled Meir and Tzviyah’s marriage based on three central principles of Jewish law. The first was umdena d’mochach: The abusive conditions of the marriage were so severe that no one would have willingly entered the marriage had they known of them. The second was mekah ta’ut: The marriage contract was based on a mistake or omission, since Meir failed to disclose his mental illness. The final principle was kinyan: the idea that the marriage had not been valid under Jewish law because Tzviyah, and not her husband, had paid for the wedding ring. “I’m not sure it’s the convergence of the unique facts of the case as much as the underlying story that carried this case to its solution,” Weiss told the HPR. “The drama of the story — 20 years of marriage, the criminal aspects — [and] the changes in socio-political climate are more determinative than actual Jewish law.” According to Weiss, moreover, debate around divorce law in Jewish texts is remarkably diverse and at times dissonant. Centuries of rabbis have issued their own interpretations of a woman’s freedom to leave her marriage as she wills and the rabbinic court’s authority to compel a husband to “release” his wife. Contemporary rabbis, she implied, are presented with a chorus of Halachic — Jewish legal — voices which can shape their personal values. As an Orthodox rabbi who spoke at the Cen-
When asked by the HPR about the possible impact of the private rabbinic court’s ruling in Tzviyah’s case, Westreich was reserved. “The use of private courts as regards to agunot is a relatively new phenomenon, so I don’t know if we have enough data to give good answers — or, more precisely, I know that we don’t,” he said. However, the ruling, Westreich believes, serves “a public and political purpose: to promote the agunah issue.” While Tzviyah’s private court ruling cannot serve as a legal precedent, it still spotlights the dynamic nature of Jewish law: many different interpretations of the Halacha exist, and can be understood and debated in the context of contemporary cases. Tzviyah’s case, Weiss believes, will apply the sort of social and political pressure needed to ultimately “force the rabbinic court to do similar things in the future.” Yet even a more progressive interpretation of Jewish law, Weiss admitted, will not bring about complete equality for women. “It is difficult to imagine a system controlled by the rabbinic courts that is completely consistent with modern notions of freedom and equality,” she said. Rabbis are unlikely to ever completely abandon their conservative view of women’s rights in marriage and divorce. By reforming within a system that is unlikely to ever recognize complete equality between the genders, rulings like Tzviyah’s run the risk of obtaining short-term relief at the expense of long-term systemic changes. Using the Halacha to update Israeli marriage law, then, is far from a perfect solution; however, as Weiss confessed, women’s rights activists in Israel, who operate within a fragile, complex, and combustible social climate, must “shake up the system any way [they] can.”
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A Walk Down Baltic Avenue
n an April 2018 episode of Saturday Night Live, President Donald Trump zones out during a press conference with the leaders of the three Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — preferring to focus on such pressing issues as Roseanne and the Lithuanian president’s hair. Soon, the episode pivots from issues of foreign policy to domestic politics, much closer to home for an American audience. While many Americans certainly laughed at the president’s antics during this episode, citizens in the Baltic states are not laughing about America’s lack of concern for their nations. Indeed, Trump’s stance on NATO and perceived cozying up to Russia have deeply worried leaders of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, especially as they rely on the United States and NATO to maintain their defense against a much more powerful Russia. Russia has always cast a large shadow on the small Baltic states, and recent events in Crimea and elsewhere have only made them more leery of a potential Russian invasion. Although they face significant challenges in dealing with their larger neighbor, the Baltic states have strong tools at their disposal to fight Russian aggression and even the playing field, at least in some areas.
ALARMING TRENDS Since the Baltic states gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, they have “never had a particularly great relationship with Russia,” especially considering their recent trajectory toward the West, NATO, and the European Union, Mitchell Orenstein, a professor of Russian and East European studies at the University of Pennsylvania, told the HPR. Several overarching concerns make the Baltic states particularly antsy, especially Russia’s generally aggressive posturing. During his testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Rolandas Krišciunas, Lithuania’s ambassador to the United States, expressed worries about the rise of Russian militarism, nationalism, chauvinism, and expansionist foreign policy. Krišciunas also expressed concerns about Russia’s campaigns to foment division and polarization across Europe and its grow-
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ing rejection of international treaties. Furthermore, Russia’s campaigns operate at “a level where it’s very easy for Russia to either deny it’s involved or to simply say you don’t have any proof,” which makes it hard to deter and punish attacks, Ulrich Kühn, a senior researcher at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg, told the HPR. This New Generation Warfare, as Kühn described it, is “meant to make Western societies feel extremely vulnerable and feel that their security is at risk.” An additional concern is the large population of Russian speakers within the Baltic states. Thirty-five percent of Latvians speak Russian as their primary language, while almost 30 percent of Estonians are Russian speakers. This creates concerns about the loyalty of these populations to the state. “A lot of Latvians regard the Russian-speaking population as a fifth column, and there’s a lot of distrust in how committed they are to Latvian statehood,” Orenstein told the HPR. He continued: “Likewise, the Russian speaking population feels discriminated against,” especially because many hold only Russian citizenship or no citizenship at all. Since Russia used the protection of Russian citizens as an excuse to invade Georgia, Eastern Ukraine, and Crimea, the Baltic states fear that Russia will use this same excuse to invade them. Estonia in particular worries that Russia will annex Narva, a heavily Russian-speaking area right on the border, while Latvia has similar worries with its Latgale region.
MINDING THE MILITARY “There’s no question that Russia could easily invade the Baltics” due to the sheer size of Russian forces, Orenstein told the HPR. Although definite numbers are unknown, Russia could invade at any time with more than 845,000 troops, 2,600 tanks, and 5,500 artillery pieces. Geography also poses an important concern. “Russia … could cut through Polish and Lithuanian territory, basically leaving the three Baltic states to be cut off from reinforcement routes in Poland,” Kühn told the HPR. Recent actions have increased Baltic jitters about Russian military aggression. Several military analysts raised fears that a
major Russian military exercise, Zapad 2017, was a dry run for an invasion of the Baltics. Additionally, the growing militarization of the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad has certainly worried Baltic states, which lie within the firing range of Russian military tools like Iskander ballistic missiles. In the face of a numerically superior Russian army, the Baltic states have adopted a concept called total defense, in which they “not only rely on professional military defense forces … but [are] also able to use civilian society and the national economy” in times of crisis, Marta Kepe, an analyst at RAND Europe, told the HPR. The Baltics have limited human and financial resources, so total defense allows them to utilize more of those resources for defense purposes if necessary, Kepe noted. Both Estonia and Lithuania practice conscription, and all three Baltic states have encouraged their citizens to fight against occupation using guerrilla warfare. Latvia recently introduced a secondary school course related to national defense and security issues, while Lithuania published “a handbook of total defense” with “very short but clear guidelines” for people to use in a crisis, Kepe said. Estonia is a case in point: its military’s General Order No. 1 states that troops will start fighting Russian troops the moment they cross the Estonian border until orders to the contrary. Colonel Riho Uhtegi, head of Estonia’s special forces, told Politico that while the Russians can easily get to Tallinn, the country’s capital, “they will die in Tallinn. And they know this … They will get fire from every corner, at every step.” NATO will still play an important role in Baltic defense, however. “Regardless of how many people they’re mobilizing, [the Baltic states] are never going to stand a chance against Russia on their own,” Orenstein told the HPR. NATO’s “relatively small-sized symbolic force” in the Baltics serves as a deterrent to Russia, “mak[ing] Russia think twice about invading.” In the event of a conventional armed attack, Kühn told the HPR that the attacked state “would call for Article V, meaning it would call for the assistance of the other NATO member states” to defend against Russia. Overall, “the Baltic states are reassured by NATO.”
But NATO can still do more to support the Baltic states. Kühn noted that the Baltics “would wish for a stronger American presence” and suggested deploying these forces along border areas in order to “mak[e] sure that no disguised forces, little polite green men as they’re called in Russia, cross the borders into the three Baltic states.”
CYBER CONCERNS Russian cyberattacks in 2007 marked a fundamental turning point in the realm of global cyber warfare. In April of that year, Estonia announced plans to move a statue of a Soviet soldier from the center of Tallinn to a military cemetery on the outskirts. Russian media outlets exploded with outrage, especially amidst false reports of the statue’s destruction and the desecration of Soviet graves. Amidst the controversy, a distributed denial of service attack hit many of the country’s websites, taking down government, news, and banking sites. The Estonians suspect that the Russian government orchestrated the attack, although they cannot officially confirm this information. April 2007 did not mark the end of Russian cyberattacks on the Baltics. “[Russian] state-sponsored actors try continuously and persistently to get access to our systems,” Piret Pernik, an Estonian cybersecurity expert at the International Centre for Defence and Security, told the HPR. The Russians have unsuccessfully tried multiple times to infiltrate and take down the Baltic energy grid through malware and DDoS attacks, and Pernik noted persistent cyberattacks on critical infrastructure like the chemical industry and utilities. Estonia takes several important measures to defend its cyberspace. Every year, Estonia holds an exercise known as Locked Shields to respond to several cyberattack scenarios, and the country is in the process of creating “data embassies,” or offshore backup centers for Estonian data. A proportion of incoming draftees to the country’s military are termed “cyberconscripts” and trained in information warfare, while a civilian Cyberdefense Unit of the National Defense League serves a cyber militia to either mitigate ongoing cyberattacks or investigate past ones.
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The 2018 Cybersecurity Act, passed in May, has also introduced new lines of defense against cyberattacks. First, it required not only reporting of serious cybersecurity incidents, “but also risk analysis, assessment, and contingency plans,” according to Pernik. It also expanded the capabilities of the Estonian Information System Authority in responding to cyberattacks. EISA can install sensors to monitor internet service providers and telecommunications providers for signs of a cyberattack, and “in cases of a real serious cyberattack, they can also suspend functioning of some systems in this network.” EISA also has the power to “hack back,” as Pernik put it. Latvia is also implementing measures to educate their public about cyberattacks, develop cyber contingency plans, and improve response capacities. Pernik’s assessment of Estonian cybersecurity measures is positive: “[Estonian] resiliency and defenses are very good, and so far, they have kept the Russians out.”
WHO’S GOT THE POWER? Outside of military options, Russia can exert influence in the Baltics by shutting off power or gas supplies or merely threatening to do so. Because the Baltics’ power grids are connected directly to Russia’s, Russia has the power to unilaterally cut off power supplies to the Baltics. Additionally, the Baltics heavily rely on Russian supplies of natural gas, and the massive price increases and disruption to power grids after Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine for nonpayment in 2006 and 2009 underscores the dangers of dependence on Russian natural gas. As a result, the Baltics are turning toward Europe for their power supplies. In June, they reached a deal with the European Union to decouple their grids from Russia and link them to the Continental Synchronous Area through both existing and new cables. Lithuania has already constructed a new liquified natural gas terminal at Klaipeda, while the countries are working to construct new LNG pipelines to Poland and Finland to further reduce dependence on Russian energy supplies and remove a tool from Russia’s geopolitical arsenal.
POLARIZING PROPAGANDA Fake news and disinformation have been part of the Russian hybrid war arsenal in the Baltics ever since their independence from the Soviet Union. A recent exposé explained how the Russian government funded the creation of three sites, all called Baltnews, to push Russian propaganda despite the sites’ nominal independence. Conventional media outlets like Sputnik and Rubalt push Russian propaganda more explicitly, and Russia also funds a television network called the Baltic Media Alliance that spouts the Russian line on current events. Russian propaganda networks in the Baltics tend to focus on three main narratives. First, they portray the Baltics as fascist states and violators of human rights, even going so far as to foment fascist demonstrations and send in “skinhead” agitators from Russia. Second, they paint a nostalgic picture of the former Soviet times, arguing that the Baltic economy has gone downhill since becoming independent from from the Soviet Union. Third, they characterize the West and NATO negatively, creating narratives of NATO soldiers raping Lithuanian youth and arguing that Baltic independence was really the result of Western scheming against Russia.
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The primary goal of this propaganda is polarization. “Russian interference in the U.S. election has been a polarizing factor, but in countries that are much closer to Russia, [Russian disinformation] is an even more polarizing factor,” Orenstein noted. Polarization weakens the mandate of elected officials and foments instability, which in turn increases pro-Russian attitudes. Additionally, Russian propaganda seeks to shift Baltic public opinion away from the West and NATO and back towards Russia. The Baltics have responded in kind. Lithuania has introduced measures to monitor and analyze news for potential propaganda, while Estonia also launched a Russian-language public broadcasting service and supplemented that with blogs and counterpropaganda sites, exposing Russian propaganda and reiterating the actual truth. Krišciunas also suggested the expansion of American popular culture to further increase Baltic populations’ affinity for the West, while advocating for more resources devoted to measures to analyze and counter Russian propaganda.
SPYCRAFT AND SKULLDUGGERY The Baltic states also constantly deal with Russian special operatives and secret agents. “Almost every year, Russian ‘diplomats’ are expelled from Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius for spying,” Janina Šleivyte notes in her book Russia’s European Agenda and the Baltic States. In 2003, Russian operatives infiltrated the campaign and staff of of Lithuanian politician and later president Rolandas Paksas. In 2008, Estonian officials arrested Herman Simm, the country’s head of security, for feeding NATO secrets to Russia. Most famously, in 2015, the FSB kidnapped Estonian intelligence agent Eston Kohver, who was investigating a smuggling ring, and spirited him across the border to Russia. The three Baltic states devote ample resources to finding and rooting out Russian spies and are more than happy to “name and shame” Russian spies. For example, the Estonian intelligence service publishes an annual report on counterintelligence issues. This ultimately reduces complacency, Orenstein told the HPR. “If you call out and publicly identify spies, that makes people much more aware that there’s subversion going on.”
THE PRESENT AND FUTURE CHESSBOARDS Relations between the Baltic states and Russia are like a multi-leveled chess game, with some games played in the public world of diplomacy and rhetoric and others in the clandestine world of spycraft and skullduggery. On the military chessboard, Russia is poised to checkmate the Baltics thanks to its superiority in numbers, but the presence of NATO troops and the continued commitment of the alliance to Article V is so far keeping it at bay. On the other chessboards, the Baltics are holding their own with Russia, despite their much smaller size. Looking at the bigger picture, the United States and its allies must continue to support NATO in order to maintain the Baltics’ ability to keep Russia at bay. If they do not, much more than the three tiny Baltic states are at risk: an emboldened Russia makes the entire European continent, and even the United States, less safe. In that situation, nobody will be laughing at Saturday Night Live.
SCHEDULE I SACRAMENT
midst ongoing debates about the legalization of cannabis, a growing number of medical experts and activists seem to think that Americans might have an appetite for overhauling other drug-related restrictions. This past November, Oregon’s attorney general approved language for a ballot initiative that could legalize medicinal psilocybin, a psychedelic drug derived from “magic mushrooms.” The coalition behind this initiative is not comprised of rogue radicals. It has allies nationwide, such as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, whose mounting evidence suggests that psychedelics are making a thus-far graceful reentry into the “mainstream.” When widely-respected journalist Michael Pollan came out with a hyper-rational endorsement of psychedelics in his bestselling book How to Change Your Mind, minds did indeed begin to change, or at least open. It seems that the Schedule I classification of psychedelics, an artifact of the “psychedelic ‘60s,” may have gone too far, and that Americans may be ready to undo this mistake. The results of Dr. John Halpern’s 2005 study out of the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital suggest as much. Halpern conducted a double-blind study on the mental health of members of the Native American Church, whose members practice ritual peyote use. Peyote is a cactus that contains mescaline — part of the hallucinogenic, or psychedelic, class of drugs, along with psilocybin, LSD, and MDMA — the latter two more commonly referred to as “acid” and “ecstasy.” The study found that Native Americans who use peyote suffer no cognitive defects; indeed, while it asserts no direct causality, it found that peyote users were more mentally healthy, on average, than their nonusing peers. But it was not a dearth of similarly compelling research that led to the drugs’ Schedule I classifications; this legislation was a product of the psychedelic ‘60s, when the legal system’s inability to parse productive and destructive uses of psychedelics sparked a pre-War on Drugs moral panic. A far more controversial Harvard psychedelic researcher,
Timothy Leary, is often blamed. His LSD research marked the end of the “golden age” of psychedelic research that began in the 1950s; during that period, over 1,000 scientific papers were published exploring the role that these drugs could play in treating mental illnesses. Leary was fired from Harvard for giving LSD to students, and went on to become a face of the counterculture and hippie movements, ultimately irreparably stigmatizing perceptions of psychedelics. When they were banned in 1965, researchers aware of their promising therapeutic potential were unable to mount a legal defense; they could not yet claim to know a reliable and healthy way to “trip.” The ban had only one exemption. On the grounds of religious freedom, as well as native sovereignty, only the religious use of peyote by Native Americans was permitted. This allowance has left indigenous people to play a central role in the country’s legal debates about psychedelics. Those reopening this debate would be remiss to forget this part of the story. The regulation of psychedelics has a long and fraught history, full of difficult but crucial questions about the nature and limits of the First Amendment.
PROTECTING PEYOTISM Peyote has had religious significance to indigenous people since pre-Columbian times. Its use was prohibited by Spanish colonizers and missionaries, but it reemerged as the central sacrament of a new pan-Indian faith in the late 19th century. As this religion, known as modern peyotism, spread throughout tribes within the continental United States in the first half of the 20th century, many state governments began banning it. Congress almost did the same in 1918. As peyotism grew and faced mounting legal persecution, the faith became institutionalized as the Native American Church — whose contemporary members were the subjects of Halpern’s research. NAC members consume peyote as part of a formal ceremony with a trained religious leader, but even so, the first
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amendment protection for religious peyote use has been routinely contested. It was not until the cases of Arizona v. Attakai in 1960 and People v. Woody in 1964 that the NAC, with the help of the ACLU, first won solid protection on the grounds of religious freedom. Anthropologists have documented and testified to peyotism’s safety, morality, and religiosity for decades; Halpern’s work is only the most recent in a long line of similar papers. That this freedom was not already obvious and undisputed, and that Native American peyotists have repeatedly been dragged into courtrooms and forced to defend the authenticity of their faith, is an injustice in and of itself. But the popularity, and then abrupt prohibition, of psychedelics among non-native people in the ‘60s and since has further complicated the legal landscape, typically at the NAC’s expense. It was just a year after the Woody decision that the federal government prohibited all psychedelics as Schedule I substances, making the NAC’s use of peyote the single exemption. This exemption reflected progress, to be sure; however, coupled with the blanket prohibition, it ultimately spelled further trouble.
“PLASTIC SHAMANS” This legal system, in which all psychedelic use was prohibited except in the case of peyote use by Native Americans, sparked a flurry of attempts — including one by Leary himself — to use the same religious freedom argument to fight drug charges in court. In State v. Bullard, in 1966, a white college student claimed that he had become “a Peyotist with Buddhist leanings” and was a member of the Neo-American Church. In court, he argued that “peyote is most necessary and marijuana most advisable in the practice of my church’s beliefs.” Bullard lost the case. These non-native people who scramble to reap the benefits of the NAC’s legal exemption have earned the Church’s resentment. A more recent example is James “Flaming Eagle” Mooney and his Oklevueha Native American Church. Despite having no tribal affiliation and being denounced by the National Council of the NAC, Mooney has been using the legal exemption to protect his organization’s members — people of various ethnic and religious backgrounds who claim that their use of not only peyote, but also cannabis, psilocybin, and ayahuasca, is religious. Another member of Oklevueha was a woman who offered erotic “tantra” massages, in which orgasms were considered part of the spiritual experience, and on whose behalf Mooney testified in court. When asked about his standards for membership, Mooney told the HPR, “I had no vetting system — I was just going by their heart.” Mooney’s organization deeply offends the NAC; many members feel that groups like his compromise and exploit the integrity of their religious identities. In 2016, NAC leadership penned a statement explaining their frustrations: “We know who we are, and we know where we come from. We know the atrocities visited upon us. We reject the attempts to grasp onto our indigenous ways and deceive the public by claiming them as their own for their own personal enjoyment or for profit.” Peyote itself is also hard to grow and in short supply, and so its indiscriminate dissemination jeopardizes its accessibility for the native people for whom it is sacred, and not interchangeable
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with other psychedelics. And given that the NAC’s exemption was retracted in 1990, and then restored four years later, this exploitation is even more fraught. Sandor Iron Rope, president of the Native American Church of South Dakota, told the HPR, “The NAC has been subjected to punitive laws that were intended to stop abuses by non-Native people in contexts having nothing to do with it.” He added, “The real NAC still has to be alert to protect peyote and the land in which it grows in order to preserve a sacred and timeless way of life and pass it on to the coming generations of Native people.” Ever since religious freedom for the NAC became the only available avenue to claim the legitimate use of psychedelics, people like Mooney and Bullard — whose purported piety has ranged from dubious to ludicrous — have been incentivized to imitate and desecrate a persecuted faith.
“MEDICINAL,” “RELIGIOUS,” BOTH, AND NEITHER Joseph Calabrese, who studied the NAC with Halpern at Harvard and later authored A Different Medicine: Postcolonial Healing in the Native American Church, condemns the psychedelic enthusiasts who have gone after the NAC’s legal exemption. “But I think they are sort of forced into that, because only the NAC has received any level of protection,” he told the HPR. We could imagine an alternative history, in which a medicinal avenue to accessing psychedelics had become legal and commercialized back in the 1960s. Given its loose, often invented, religiosity, the market that Mooney has tapped into might have been far smaller if psychedelic therapy had been made available through overtly medicinal channels. In Mooney’s world, “Religious and medicinal use of peyote — they’re the same thing.” But the ambiguity between these categories transcends “plastic shamans.” Even for the NAC itself, the religious use of peyote has never been divorced from its mental health benefits. All the way back in People v. Woody, pharmacologists were called to testify — even though religious freedom was the legal principle at play — and they cited their research on mescaline’s therapeutic potential in defending peyotism. While the First Amendment demands a sharp distinction — one which put the NAC and pharmacology in very separate legal categories — these categories have failed to represent the often-overlapping contexts in which psychedelics can promote well-being. “Psychedelics have a way of obliterating any kind of category that you try to put them in,” wrote journalist John Horgan, author of Rational Mysticism: Spirituality Meets Science in the Search for Enlightenment. A reevaluation of the illegality of psychedelics, in Oregon or elsewhere, will require a reevaluation of these categories. Medicinal, religious, spiritual, and recreational uses of psychedelics are often indistinguishable — and not reliably aligned with the contours of ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ or ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe.’ An understanding of the collateral damage of the current legal framework bolsters the case for such a reevaluation. Not only have thousands been denied potentially life-saving treatments for mental illness, but a religion has been exploited and desecrated. Conceiving new and better ways for laws to trace those contours will not be easy, but perhaps Oregon’s psilocybin initiative is a start.
Making a Statement
ne shimmering foot in front of the other, she fluttered onto the stage. She was donned in yellow like the lifegiving sun, but her shoes … they were breathtaking! Oh yes, we liked those Balenciagas — you know, the ones that look like socks. On December 19, 2018, Michelle Obama set out on the Brooklyn leg of her book tour — with an emphasis on leg. Her glittery, gold, thigh-high Balenciaga boots made a statement: hear me, see me. Obama opted for an ostentatious outfit that contrasted with her traditionally modest garb as First Lady. This decision was of particular significance because black women are so often told to be cognizant of the clothes they wear, lest they come off as controversial, loud, or showy. In her book Becoming, Obama discusses how fashion is racially coded: “As a black woman, I knew I’d be criticized if I was perceived as being showy and high-end, and I’d also be criticized if I was too casual ... It was a
thin line to walk. I was supposed to stand out without overshadowing others, to blend in but not fade away.” In the age of fake news, authenticity is of utmost value, and identity politics dominate our newsfeeds. But what does authenticity mean, especially in fashion? Fashion makeovers are exhilarating because they let people mold and morph into different personas. But simultaneously, as society pushes people to be ‘real,’ fashion must follow. This leaves the fashion industry grappling with a million-dollar question: How can we sell authenticity? The answer that fashion professionals have found is a concerning one; the fashion industry tries to artificially produce authenticity and subsequently promotes the appropriation of displays of class and culture. Through an emphasis on authentic, real lifestyles, companies co-opt individuals’ identities and commodify vulnerable populations. It is time to rethink the implications of embracing authenticity.
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NOW, DON’T GET IT (AFRO)TWISTED For more privileged members of society, “authentic” expression is easy because the clothes they wear define what the world values. But for marginalized groups, fashion is made political, as their clothing is deemed unsophisticated or unprofessional — even though it may reflect important aspects of their cultures and identities. Hoop earrings epitomize this phenomenon: suddenly a mainstream trend, hoop earrings were long worn by people of Latinx or African-American descent and perceived as “trashy” for decades before being adopted by high fashion. Anything that adorns people’s bodies can act as a marker for a myriad of traits, including socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, sexuality, or personality. So to succeed in society, people typically choose to wear whatever will grant them the most benefits. But fashion is always political, and for some people, there seems to be no way to win. Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) learned this lesson again shortly after her election in November when she was criticized for being inauthentic. After walking to work in a black coat, Ocasio-Cortez was the subject of a critical article written by Washington Examiner staffer Eddie Scarry: “Hill staffer sent me this pic of Ocasio-Cortez they took just now. I’ll tell you something: that jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles.” His implication was that she could not possibly advocate for the working class while wearing clothes he deemed as highclass. In addition, Scarry dismissed Ocasio-Cortez’ presentation of herself as an advocate of the working class as inaccurate or manipulative. This same message is reinforced by brands and styles that are touted as high-fashion when worn by famous people and celebrities, but are undervalued or stigmatized on people of lower social status.
LET ME WALK A MILE IN MY OWN SHOES Class appropriation is loosely defined as the commodification of the lifestyle or uniform of the working class. This definition is not easy to unpack, however, because fashion is by nature about selling people the markers of lifestyles that may not even be their own — hence the tremendous popularity of the New Yorker tote and the other accoutrements of the millennial pseudo-intellectual uniform. Supporting the notion of fashion as a symbol of lifestyle, social theorist Georg Simmel first suggested that fashion acts as a tool to aid in individuals’ social adaptation and immersion into society and noted that social classes tend to unionize with fashion. “When fashion reaches the lower-class masses, it is no longer high fashion.” Therefore, what class appropriation means is the practice of high fashion co-opting the clothes of people that live a working class lifestyle and then re-coding this clothing as high fashion — at least when it is worn on rich bodies. Vetements, a fashion label owned by Demna Gvasalia, the creative director of Balenciaga, used the DHL logo on a polo shirt that resembled the uniform of DHL delivery people. As one would assume, none of the models worked for DHL, and neither does Gvasalia. Balenciaga then sold a bag that was almost an exact replica of Ikea’s blue 99-cent shopper bag — but this time, with a $2,145 price tag. Ikea responded playfully: “We are deeply flattered that the Balenciaga tote bag resembles the Ikea iconic sustainable blue bag for 99 cents. Nothing beats the versatility of a great big blue bag!”
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The issue with these practices is that they reiterate a system in which the wealthy have the leisure of choosing these styles according to preference, and of being celebrated as trendy for the same pieces that may be stigmatized on poor people. These accessories turn lives into costumes — but the reality is that one cannot conceal their class as easily as these models take off their DHL ‘delivery’ shirts. Might this, though, be a good thing? A way in which fashion can become more diverse by appreciating and paying homage to cultural and class diversity? Unfortunately, this is wishful thinking.
MOVIN’ ON UP These conversations are particularly lively on college campuses around the United States, where politically minded and fashion-conscious students alike are looking for ways to make sure expression doesn’t turn into appropriation. Harvard is no exception. In an interview with the HPR, Vermont native Ethan McCollister ‘20 described the difficulty associated with defining or changing class appropriation: fashion is unapologetic, and does not usually check with the groups that are being commodified. “A lot of people in rural areas don’t know about streetwear. And not many people even wear Timberlands, because they are expensive. There is internal significance to [familiar brands like] Carhartt, these things are representative and descriptive of a way of life — and it’s blue-collar.” Many affected groups, furthermore, do not have the social capital to protest this appropriation, furthering the power imbalance. And since there are few whistleblowers, designers are rarely held accountable for appropriation in fashion. The problems go beyond the details of the industry, though; McCollister sees fashion as a mirror for issues of class and power, just like other art forms like rap music. “To listen to rap and think the origins of rap were in 2008 and not know the importance to that community … [is like] not knowing a jacket has a particular class meaning. Authenticity has a similar place within all these power structures. It’s about social capital and class when you’re adopting the characteristics and important pieces of a lifestyle that has less economic capital.” Many people agree that this mobility of class in fashion is an important concept to be aware of. But in an interview with the HPR, Alex Zhang ‘20, who works for an Asian media brand as well as an Asian streetwear brand, explained that evaluating individual displays can still be challenging. “I do not know if society has reached a consensus on authentic participation in cultures. Because, especially in hip-hop, the question is: are you authentically hip-hop, are you of the culture? Or are you just eating off the work of others?” What does this idea, of ‘being of the culture,’ mean in reference to class appropriation? Using cultural appropriation, a more familiar practice, can help to understand class appropriation and why it matters.
PUTTING ON OUR WORK BOOTS For those affected by cultural appropriation, it is simple: the people of that culture decide who can wear their traditional garb, no questions asked. While that might seem like a nobrainer, the issue is far from resolved. As a Nigerian-American
woman, I have been disappointed to see traditional African clothing co-opted by designers such as Stella McCartney and Asian-American immigrants mocked in collections called “Chinatown chic” and “migrant worker chic.” Plenty of moments like these have left me wondering — why is it so hard for designers to understand? In an interview with NPR, associate professor of philosophy at Utah Valley University and author of Cultural Appropriation and the Intimacy of Groups C. Thi Nguyen explained that “each culture gets to give permission to share a cultural tradition — or not.” But this simple, respectful guide for fashion designers still places the onus for deciding what is acceptable in fashion on vulnerable populations. As Nikole Naloy, founder of Fig. Magazine, Harvard’s first fashion magazine, explained in an interview with the HPR, “People are fascinated by different cultures and as this global industry grows, they have yet to figure out how to mediate the desire between wearing traditional design from China, for example, and not appropriating the culture.” When victims of appropriation become whistleblowers or patrollers of their culture, they must constantly defend their right to determine who wears their traditional clothes. The issue of appropriation often arises when companies do not feel a need to ask for permission; instead, they believe that status and exclusivity legitimize their right to sell whatever they want. Or, maybe instead it is a more nuanced discussion: What is a cultural symbol and what is a depiction of a way of life?
A FRESH LINE UP This notion is where class appropriation and cultural appropriation intersect: at the crossroads of legitimacy within a cultural group and authenticity. In an interview with the HPR, Ashley Akaeze ‘20, photographer and aspiring fashion designer, argued that “people can authentically want to look fake. Fashion has always garnered inspiration from marginalized bodies and has used that as a template to dilute and sanitize and sell it back to people and that’s what people respond to.” Upon further analysis of the high-fashion industry and the trend of dressing of a different class, Akaeze mentioned, “There is this new romanticism and fetishization of looking poor.” She continued, stating that people following designers that depict class in this way, “would only do that if that if poverty was not the reality of you or the people you know,” as consumers familiar with poverty would better understand “the possible impact” of these styles. The romanticization of the lifestyle of the working class that Akaeze describes is a relatively new cultural phenomenon among today’s wealthy; the upper class has begun to opt for inconspicuous markers of wealth instead of conspicuous ones. In her book The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class, sociologist Elizabeth Currid-Halkett traces the evolution of what she calls the “aspirational” class, showing how “the power of material goods as symbols of social position has diminished due to their accessibility.” Instead of gaudy, showy, overtly wealthy pieces, the aspirational class has started to opt for fashion that reflects status and education — like an NPR tote bag or recyclable shoes. The statement that this clothing makes is that flashy clothing does not matter, as knowledge is more ‘elite’ than money. In response, designers have aimed to produce clothing that represents this laid-back, effortless lifestyle — often character-
ized by yoga pants and athleisure. While acknowledging the importance of freedom and creativity in the fashion industry, it is also important to remember that these trends can be insensitive to the actual challenging lifestyles that people live—the ones that people cannot just strip away by taking off work boots or ripped, paint-splattered jeans. Culture is not a costume, and neither is class.
GETTING OUR DUCKS IN A (CORN) ROW So what conclusion can be reached? Is there a such thing as authenticity in an industry as calculated as fashion? We know now that when the desire for authenticity and a “simple lifestyle” is funneled through the exclusive fashion industry, people are left locked out instead of empowered. It is difficult, but important, to reconcile the 3 A’s: appropriation, appreciation, and awareness. For Naloy, fashion is at a “critical moment” — as society explores conversations about inclusion of all genders, classes, and cultures, fashion will have to find a way to keep up. Her solution is simple yet effective: collaboration. According to Naloy, “The fashion industry should focus on making these collaborations between lesser known designers from other countries and fashion houses.” It might just be that simple: involve newer designers from diverse backgrounds and give them a seat at the table. When founding Fig. Magazine, Naloy wanted to bring these conversations about fashion, race, gender, class, and sexuality together. Her vision for the magazine is to spark conversations that the fashion industry is not yet having. The first fashion shoot for Fig. Magazine dealt with global warming and climate change; Naloy wants to prove that “designers aren’t making pointless clothing, they make clothing that speaks to an issue.” Naloy discussed some rising designers who are molding the fashion industry into a more inclusive, socially conscious space. Dapper Dan is an African-American designer from Harlem who repurposes luxury fashion house logos like Gucci and Louis Vuitton into hip-hop streetwear and who is now endorsed and financially supported by Gucci. Pyer Moss, a designer who focuses on activism and created shirts with the slogan “Stop calling 911 on the culture,” now partners with Reebok. And Virgil Abloh, founder of Off-White and artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear, produces fashion inspired by his upbringing as the son of Ghanaian immigrants in the outskirts of Chicago. Moreover, companies like VFILES act as social media platforms in which new designers from around the world can share their ideas, collaborate, and sell designs, while also serving as whistleblowers for colonial or hegemonic practices in the fashion industry. With the importance of awareness and respect among fashion consumers, is there still a place for authentic fashion? The fashion industry needs honesty. But it is also important to be cognizant of the power dynamics inherent in fashion that influence our understanding of the very idea of authenticity. The more we foster greater awareness of the social hierarchies ingrained in the notion of authenticity, the more we can push for real, honest expression in art and fashion that doesn’t come at the expense of vulnerable identities.
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THE FACE ON YOUR PLATE
ost of us fail to recognize the face on our plate. When we salivate over “chicken wings,” we do not associate our meal with what was once a living chicken. And this disconnect is critical: Acknowledging the face on one’s plate might mean acknowledging the cruel reality of the animal agriculture industry behind it. While cats and dogs in American culture are often seen as ‘part of the family,’ U.S. farm animals face physically and psychologically traumatizing conditions on factory farms and in industrial slaughterhouses, where they have been butchered while conscious. While this gross mistreatment of farm animals rarely has legal consequences, applying the same conditions to pets would not only provide grounds for prosecution but also incite public outrage. The seminal Animal Welfare Act, passed in 1960, along with many additional animal anti-cruelty statutes, excludes farm
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animals from protection. This exclusion, a product of factory farms’ strategic lobbying efforts and the expansion of Ag-gag laws, preserves practices that would otherwise constitute explicit animal cruelty. Beyond the industry’s political power, the complicity of American consumers continues to perpetuate farm animal suffering. Even with a growing movement for veganism, Americans are consuming a record-breaking amount of meat per year — literally buying into a manufactured distinction between farm and non-farm animals. Improving the lives of U.S. farm animals requires widespread cultural and legal change: Along with greater public awareness of the costs of industrial animal agriculture and a collective dietary shift away from its products, the law must recognize farm animals’ capacity for pain and protect them accordingly.
THE POLITICS OF THE PLATE Eight-point-five by 11 inches: a letter-sized piece of paper. This is the amount of space that the average chicken or “broiler” will have to herself while living in warehouses holding up to 20,000 of her kin on a factory farm. Living in these dense quarters can take a severe physical toll, inhibiting proper bodily development and causing respiratory problems. Upon reaching the slaughterhouse, broilers are often dropped into electric water baths prior to being butchered. All of this is legal. When it comes to the law, farm animals have little-to-no recourse. Excluded from the protections of the Animal Welfare Act, farm animals are denied minimal animal welfare standards in commercial and research settings, and are seen as legal property. Although all states now have felony provisions for severe acts of animal cruelty, many of these animal anti-cruelty laws do not include farm animals in their definitions of a protected “animal.” Most of the legal protections farm animals receive only come into effect when they meet their end. Under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, protected livestock must be “rendered insensible to pain” by a “rapid and effective” single blow or gunshot prior to the slaughter process. In addition to a glaring flaw — the legislation excludes poultry entirely from its provisions — the Act lacks any general enforcement mechanism. Section 1903, which barred the federal government from purchasing meat not produced in accordance with the Act’s standards, has not been replaced since its repeal in 1978. Although USDA inspectors can freeze the operations of slaughterhouses failing to meet these standards, there is a well-documented history of recurring violations. Due to limited legal protections, farm animals’ treatment is often left to the discretion of factory farms and what they consider “standard industry practice.” As Lori Kettler, vice president and deputy general counsel for regulatory affairs at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told the HPR in an interview, “the industry defines what’s cruel.” And standard practices include confining breeding sows to waste-covered gestation crates that damage their feet. For industrial producers, any effort at advancing protections for farm animals — even bolstering anti-bestiality laws — poses a threat. David Rosengard, a staff attorney in the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s criminal justice division, told the HPR that the industry’s eagerness to squash such efforts reflects a recognition of the “thin and arbitrary” nature of the distinction made between farm and non-farm animals. Without this superficial distinction, however, “standard industry practice” would constitute animal cruelty: Differentiating pigs kept as pets from pigs raised on farms means “one of them can be castrated without anesthesia, one of them can be killed … for convenience, and the other gets the full gamut of [legal] protections.” Rosengard contrasted the “grim and brutal reality” of industrial animal agriculture, which accounts for over 95 percent of the almost 10 billion farm animals raised in the United States, with the popular “Old MacDonald” myth of small-scale farmers tending to livestock. The industry’s vested interest in maintaining this myth and limiting public knowledge of its practices — its fear of people “looking behind glass doors” — has motivated socalled Ag-gag laws criminalizing the documentation of abuses at factory farms and industrial slaughterhouses by animal activists.
Both Kettler and Rosengard also lamented the discretion of individual prosecutors and regulatory agencies in addressing violations of animal welfare statutes. Ambiguous statutory language, such as a section excusing the mistreatment of farm animals when that conduct is “justifiable,” allows for disparate legal interpretations of when farm animal treatment constitutes criminal behavior.
A CULTURE OF ANIMAL-EATING Why do we love some animals and eat others? Americans invest a lot in their pets’ lives, and tend to brand themselves as animal lovers even as they are complicit in subjecting billions of farm animals to the horrors of industrial animal agriculture. It seems like a glaring hypocrisy. For author and psychologist Melanie Joy, this hypocrisy is driven by a culture of carnism, the popular belief system that justifies eating animals. Joy maintains that carnism is so internalized that most Americans do not even realize eating meat is a choice, nor recognize that in eating meat, they implicitly endorse violence against animals that they would never openly support. Philosopher and author Peter Singer attributes a culture of farm animal exploitation and consumption to speciesism, the belief in humans’ superiority to animals. Speciesism promotes a false conception of animal suffering as less significant than human suffering, making it appear more defensible. Even for those who agree that American farms are mistreating animals, a fundamental question over the culture of animaleating remains: Can it ever be justified? Although both aim to advance farm animals’ wellbeing, animal welfare and animal rights activists’ views on the matter differ substantially. The former tend to endorse animal-eating when coupled with improved conditions for farm animals, while the latter oppose consuming animals and animal products entirely. For Joy, improving animal treatment is important but insufficient: There can be no justice for farm animals so long as they are used to satisfy people’s tastes. As founder and president of the Beyond Carnism organization, Joy promotes veganism as the only solution to escaping the “carnistic box.” However, she also believes that animal welfare and animal rights activism can complement one another, and finds that the popular narrative of the two camps as oppositional is both misleading and counter-productive. The difference between the two groups is not ideological, Joy told the HPR, but strategic. Joy noted the value of animal welfare campaigns in reaching those who would not otherwise engage in pro-vegan movements like her own, exposing more people to the flaws of carnism and even inspiring an eventual end to their participation in the system. While animal rights and animal welfare activists may work in tandem, the growing marketplace for “humane meat” remains a source of tension between the two, reinforcing this fundamental split over whether animal-eating is inherently unethical. For Mike Beretta, CEO of humane meat producer Beretta Farms, eating animals is a natural process; it is the anthropomorphized treatment of pets — dressing up dogs in human outfits, for instance — that he finds inhumane. He told the HPR that he views humane animal product labels like Certified Humane as “requirements of the marketplace” rather than as comprehensive guides for the treatment of farm animals, setting a “minimum bar” for animal welfare that farmers must charge themselves
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hursday nights are a time celebration in Jordan, with surpassing. He believes that for animal rights activists often as peoplefamers’ across the countryto celebrate the and end to of their the fail to recognize dedication their work Theirmeat carscan blare but thehandled beats and animals,workweek. as well as how bemusic, respectfully and lyrics largely sound the same, blending together into a sea of consumed post-slaughter. generic songs. streets are devoid art, instead littered Bothpop Kettler andThe Singer, however, viewof“humane meat” as billboards and unadorned concrete. But the next awith contradiction in terms. For Kettler, the concept is “a generation myth … of Jordanians is channeling theirtofrustrations with stagnant fabricated by the meat industry make people feelabetter about societymeat.” and struggling economy their culture and eating Singer worries thatinto thereshaping concept obscures the imestablishing a thrivingmeat art scene that defies the Middle portance of reducing consumption overall, givingEast’s consumconservative traditions. Graffiti artists are shaking cans of spray ers the false impression that meat is necessary for their diets and paint, younganimal Jordanians cheer on rappers at concerts, and the lothat raising welfare standards justifies meat consumpcal beatboxing scene draws performers around the world. tion. Singer, who posits the ultimate goalfrom of what he terms “the The HPR spokemovement” with three young artists“equal pioneering change Animal Liberation as granting consideration” in Jordan. they come frompeople vastly different backgrounds to animals’Though interests, aims to bring as close to veganism andpossible practicewhile different crafts, their similarities speak volumes as raising awareness of the harms of speciesism. about shifts in thinking amongfor young Jordanians, and serve as He urges activists to advocate avoiding factory-farm proda signal of theencouraging dramatic social changes that be on Jordan’s ucts, instead people to turn to may plant-based alternahorizon. tives. Campaigns like the emerging Reducetarian movement have made progress in this regard, even while failing to fully meet Singer’s ethical standards. KING OF THE BEAT “Calling for the abolition of the meat industry and … for people As to be is going be a at very slow process of change, if it’s he vegan leans back in ato booth Cafe Rumi, smoking a cigarette aand process at all,” Singer told the would rather reduceisthe enjoying a cup of coffee, it isHPR. clear“I that Abood Aladham in suffering of animals now, especially as I adon’t seeabout that as any his element. The 25-year-old jokes with waiter hisinsmokway weakening the campaigns more far-reaching changes. as ing habit, then gives half of the for restaurant’s patrons high-fives On the contrary, I think do take these changes step bysportstep.” he walks to his table. Heyou strikes a distinctive appearance, ing designer clothing more typical of Brooklyn than Amman. But it is not justFARM his clothes that set him apart. Aladham is the JUSTICE FOR ANIMALS founder of the Jordan International Beatboxing Championship, an annual competitionnew thatand hasinnovative started to put Jordan on map In the courtroom, approaches arethe already for thedeveloped Middle East’s most talented beatboxers. being to defend farm animals against the violence of Before hislife. name became well known on the hip-hop scene, factory-farm Some animal advocates are seeking a “private Aladham grew up in Hai Nazzal, a suburb of Jordan’s capital right of action,” allowing individuals and organizations to bring that struggles with povertybehalf and violence. “It’s Compton, just lawsuits on farm animals’ when the lawlike does not explicwithprovide no shooting,” heto said. “There were a lot problems with itly for them do so. Others hope toof establish a system violence and small gangs there.animals, People have no plans for one theirin of legal guardianship for farm analogous to the careerfor or children futures. No is pushing you along.”Legal guardians place andone people with disabilities. Five ago, after fallingor inby and out with several music could beyears appointed by courts animal guardianship boards. groups, heiswent on hissupport own, convincing event organizers There also off growing for granting animals legal to let him on theirastages. The charm and swagger as he “personhood,” status held by corporations thatapparent would pronavigated thewith cafe the worked — heThe onceNonhutalked vide animals rightto tohis sueadvantage their abusers. himself ontoProject a stagepreviously at the Amman Summer Festival, and perman Rights sought to extend this status to formed in front 20,000 people. chimpanzees in of order to enable them to challenge the legalSoon, Aladham’s ambition expanded beyondlaw. his personal ity of their imprisonment under habeas corpus Now, thecareer, and in 2014 hethe raised 450 JD from local would contacts ALDF is appealing decision of (635 a caseUSD) whose success to fund the inaugural Jordan International Champiestablish groundbreaking legal precedent inBeatboxing this area. The case onship,Justice, informally knownhorse, as “The of theand Beat.” names a rescued as aKing plaintiff seeks financial Aladham selected top 16medical beatboxers Jordantothrough compensation for the the ongoing carein needed address elimination rounds, based on strict criteria: originality beat, the severe and permanent physical injuries he sufferedof due to technicality, flow.owner. 250 people showed up to watch the finalneglect by hisand former ists,While a largeemploying crowd forlegal the local beatboxing movement’sto first big tactics typically unavailable animals event. In recent that crowd hasadvocates swelled toare even may prove moreyears, challenging, animal alsolarger worknumbers: In 2018, beatboxers from Saudi Arabia and and Palestine ing to extend protections currently reserved for cats dogs to performed, and twocan women debuted at [farm] the competition in situfront farm animals. “We change the way animals are of anin audience of over ated the world and …400. improve the conditions they live in … in “It’s hard to meaningful be a hip-hopway” artistwithout here,” Aladham said. “I hope a substantively having a “drag-down I can on make thingsanimals a little easier. If I influence someone, they’ll fight whether are persons or property,” explained influence someone else and the effect will just become bigger Rosengard. andAmong bigger.”the protections Rosengard and the ALDF hope to extend to farm animals is their recognition as “crime victims.” This
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would provide for sentencing based on the number of individual A CONSERVATIVE CULTURE animals victimized — in the current system, defendants can, in effect, abuse one animal themost rest Jordanian “free.” Thisparents move could Laith Al Huseini is theand songet that help deter factory farms’ mass abuse of farm animals. dream of. The 25-year-old just graduated from medicalRosengard school at and the ALDF are alsoof working establish Courtroom the Jordan University Sciencetoand Technology, and isAnimal on track Advocate lawspsychiatrist. in multiple states entitle to becomeProgram a practicing But hethat liveswould a parallel life,aniin mals an advocate who couldWhen reprewhichprotected he is ableby tocriminal share hislaws truetopassion with the world. sent their interests in legal proceedings, is done with or human he’s not wearing medical scrubs, Huseiniasdons a beanie backvictims. The first this kind, Desmond’s ward baseball caplaw andofbaggy jeans,Connecticut’s becoming “Synaptik,” oneLaw, of enables to appoint advocates for the “interests of justice” Jordan’scourts most popular rappers. in cases around cats and dogs’ welfare. To inform prosecutors Like Aladham, Huseini’s love for hip-hop began in internet on how to apply such laws, the ALDF alsonetwork developing cafes. “When I was little, I would go toisthe shopfarm and animal prosecution guides for each state. all the PCs had a pre-installed playlist. It had Eminem, 50 Cent, The law can alsoThat provide powerful toolhad foratexposing some Tupac songs. was athe music we the time.indusI trial meat’s costs.”was, Withbut theI average Americanitspenddidn’t know“hidden what hip-hop started imitating and ing over twice as much on their pets as on meat every month, memorizing songs,” he said. theAfter low price of U.S.his meat from thehe recording firstprevents album atconsumers just 17 years oldfacing — when externalities of its production. In addition to animal suffering, was still in high school — Huseini’s career took off. In the past these include major costshave to the environment and of public health, year, his YouTube videos garnered hundreds thousands as well asand to the workers. While of views, he wellbeing performedofinfactory Beirut,farm Palestine, Berlin, anddifficult quantify, accounting consequences would Paris,toamong other locations,for asthese part of a tour launching hislikely first entail significant price increase industrial products. album.aHe dreams of being able tofor quit medicineanimal and become a Votersartist. can beThat a crucial vehicle for far-off, changing economic full-time dream still feels butthe it is closer for calculus meat consumption. Last November, California voters him thanof for most. passed Proposition 12, requiring more space for hens, Huseini understands that being successful byegg-laying Jordan’s more calves raised for veal, and breeding pigsup while conventional standards gives him a leg withprohibiting his artistic the casale meat respectively produced bymy animals reer.of “Ieggs thinkand medicine has helped when me communicate message confined to spaces that fail tohear meeta the newthey requirements. Inbetter, because when people rapper, immediately creasing animal welfare in this make think ‘poor guy, he failedstandards high school.’ Butway thencan I say, ‘I’manimal a docproducts more expensive, which hopes tor,’ and they have to respect me,”Singer Huseini said.will make plantbased substitutes for meat more economically competitive. He Huseini’s lyrics are often provocative, evoking controversial sees promise in the feminism, growing popularity of products such asfrom Betopics like religion, and corruption. It is obvious yond Meat Impossible Foods, now expanding listening toand his music that he is a native Jordanian onto — thecollege passion campuses, in the development of cultured or come in-vitro meat. with whichand he raps about these issues could only from For advocates of ethical meat-eating, humane meatHis is an someone whose life is intertwined with the country’s. priincreasingly accessible option. Beretta emphasizes mary motivation in making music is to connect withsmall-scale those who farmers’ responsibility feel unheard in society. to communicate their work’s value to consumers: “We ownhave our astories as brands so … he it’ssaid. up to us to “Communitiesallhere lot of stories to tell,” … share middle and educate people through it.” “When class and lower-middle-class people in areas that changes in the lawhear canmusic help mitigate farms’or areWhile poor, like East Amman, that tellsfactory their stories influence bythey extending farm animal protections and creating stories that relate to, I think they really appreciate that.” a marketplace for alternative products, whether animals’ But telling these stories can be challenging in farm Jordan’s conwellbeing takes precedence over meat and dairy servative culture. “Sometimes it’scheap hard for people to putremains up with largely up to from consumers. On a collective scale, dietary the shaming this judging community, whopersonal won’t help us change can have great impact. Individuals can also help exhip-hop artists, or artists in general,” Aladham said. pose industry practices and create pressure for changethe Hecruel described a scene five years ago which demonstrates by documenting processes inside factory farms and industrial disconnect between relatively progressive artists and their comslaughterhouses. years of released videos “culling” munity: During a Following street performance, Aladham used of projection or grinding to upcreate male chicks deemed valueless egggentleindustry, equipment light and shadow effects.to Anthe older United Egg Producers to eliminate thea man passing by saw thefinally effectsannounced and beganplans shouting, “Haram!” practice in 2016 after the development of new chick sex-deterterm which loosely translates to “sin.” Frustrating as these epimining technology. sodes are, the art community is less concerned with what people From swearing factory farm products to going fully vegan, think of them than off with the logistical obstacles preventing them the ofable changing one’s and diet create is not, art. Singer explained, in fromvalue being to perform committing an actinofJordan “personal purity,” but rather in opening “Doing shows is more difficult than other placesan … avenue forcompared greater political action and bringing animal suffering especially to Beirut or Palestine,” Huseini said. “The into public consciousness. venue owners don’t accept hip-hop or the crowd of hip-hop, because they’re lower-middle class. They say, ‘It’s going to be all guys from East Amman, they’re going to be rough and troublemakers, we don’t want to do a show for them.’”
GIRLS’ EDUCATION AND REFUGEES
MALALA YOUSAFZAI Malala Yousafzai is a 21-year-old female education activist and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. From the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan, she was shot by the Taliban for her activism. On her 16th birthday, Malala spoke at the United Nations, calling for education accessibility. She is also the author of I am Malala, an autobiography.
Last month, you launched your “Full Force” campaign to lobby G20 leaders to prioritize girls’ education and workforce training. Now that the G20 is over, what challenges do you think were met, and what challenges remain to be addressed? Malala Yousafzai: So, one thing that was very positive about the last G20 was that the leaders there were passionate about girls’ education. They all believed that investing in girls’ education is crucial for us to prepare the future workforce. They all make promises, but now I think it is time to hold them accountable. And so, that is really important, but also I’m focused on the next G20 and the next G7. Hopefully both Japan and France, both the hosts of these two platforms, will ensure that girls’ education becomes a top priority, because if we educate all girls and we give them a complete education, it adds up to $30 trillion to the world economy. But if we do not and we leave it as it is, that means one seventh of the world population — which is one billion girls — will be unprepared for the future workforce. They will not be ready because they will not have the skills that are needed. So it is crucial that they invest in quality education. But we are after them until they fulfill their promises and do something about this.
In your opinion, how should the United States respond to the refugees from Central America who reached our border last week? MY: Refugees do not leave their countries by choice. They are
with Hank Sparks
often stuck in situations where they have no other option. I am working on a book which will be released in the second week of January titled We Are Displaced, and I have met many refugee girls in many refugee camps and informal settlements around the world from Lebanon, Jordan, Kenya, Rwanda, and even in the United States. In Pennsylvania, I met refugee families. And the stories I have heard are so powerful and empowering. Oftentimes, you feel that you would not hear the word “hope” or that you would not hear the word “dream” in a refugee camp, but when I go to a refugee camp, that’s what I hear from these young girls. They have dreams, they have hopes, they are passionate. They want to be journalists, doctors, engineers. They want to go back and rebuild their country. They want to be architects because one girl was saying that she saw her country destroyed, and she wants to go and rebuild it. She’s a Syrian refugee who is in Lebanon now. So, this is the story of these amazing young girls, and I think oftentimes when we hear about refugees we hear about them in numbers; we never hear about their stories, that they’re human beings just like us. And even in Swat Valley, when we were becoming internally displaced for three months, our valley before that was in peace. Our life was just as amazing as you have in the United States, in the United Kingdom, in Germany, in France. Our life was just as perfect as yours. We had never expected that anybody would come and take away our peace — that they would be bombing schools, they would be banning women. So these things do not happen because of us. We are not responsible in this. It is never our fault. And it is important for us to make a choice to protect ourselves. And so there is just no option but to leave your homes. And I hope that refugees are welcomed and that they are never considered as a burden and that they are looked from the human eye, which we do not see in many countries. But I hope people do try and understand. And I hope that the presidents and prime ministers who do not understand these refugee stories actually go and meet refugees and actually go and talk to them. This interview has been edited and condensed.
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THE PIVOT TO INDIA
BRAHMA CHELLANEY with Satish Wasti Brahma Chellaney is a professor of strategic studies at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi and a fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin. Author of nine books, Chellaney is one of India’s leading strategic thinkers. His columns regularly appear in Project Syndicate and The Japan Times.
So the deterioration in U.S.-Russia relations makes his task more difficult. But I think more broadly he sees himself as a practical policy man, and he loves to play on the grand chessboard of global geopolitics.
How has Indian foreign policy evolved under Narendra Modi’s government?
Both India and Pakistan have non-traditional political parties in power now. How do you think this will affect the future of the India-Pakistan relationship?
Brahma Chellaney: What we are seeing under Mr. Modi is a new approach. As you know, Mr. Modi has animated domestic politics in India quite immensely. And to some extent, he has also animated the country’s foreign policy by departing from conventional methods. The question is whether, despite this change, the Modi era will mark a defining moment for India just as Xi Jinping’s ascension to power has been to China. The answer to that question is still not clear. What is clear is that Modi’s stint in office has profoundly impacted Indian politics and diplomacy. Mr. Modi has emphasized … building closer ties with likeminded democracies like the United States, Japan, Australia, and European democracies. They have been his primary focus. At the same time, he has also sought to build partnerships around China’s territory. Japan is very critical in that respect, so also are countries like Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan. For him, the ties with Russia remain very important because of the China factor.
BC: The future of India-Pakistan relationship, I am sorry to say, looks quite bleak because of fundamental asymmetries between India and Pakistan. India is a secular democratic state while Pakistan is a theocratic state guided by an anti-India philosophy. Also, in Pakistan the military controls strategic policy, while in India the military is completely under civilian control. These basic asymmetries make [the] prospect of a genuine rapprochement between India and Pakistan not very promising. The Pakistani prime minister recently compared the IndiaPakistan situation with Franco-German rapprochement after World War II. Now that’s a very inept analogy for the IndiaPakistan situation because the Franco-German rapprochement was facilitated by the fact that both these countries had similar political systems and both respected rules, norms, and constitutional principles. That’s not the case in South Asia between Pakistan and India. And you also have to add the military factor. Even
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though there is a supposedly elected government in Pakistan today, it came to office in what was widely perceived in Pakistan to be a military-manipulated election, an election that helped to bring to power the military’s latest puppet, Imran Khan. So Pakistan’s domestic constraints and the civil-military tensions make it very difficult for Pakistan to be at peace with India or with Afghanistan or with itself.
China’s influence in South Asia has been increasing lately. Could you comment on New Delhi’s response to this development? BC: China’s influence in South Asia has been growing quite rapidly, often at the expense of India. India’s response has been slow, but of late there seems to be some clarity in Indian foreign policy. And some developments are working to India’s advantage now. For example, in the Maldives the people have thrown out a dictator and voted [into] power a government that has promised to restore the country’s “India First” policy. There have also been setbacks. For example, in Nepal, the communists who are now in power are overtly pro-China. In fact, the Nepalese communists came to power with the support of China. They have made known their intention to cut dependence on India by building closer ties with China including by signing a transit agreement with China that will cut its dependence on India for trade with [other] countries. So, it’s a mixed picture, but three years ago, China clearly had the momentum and India was on the defensive. Now it seems that India is seeking to reassert itself and ensure that it does not lose strong grounds in South Asia. One other element which might work in India’s favor is that there is now an emerging backlash against China’s so-called debt-trap diplomacy, not just in South Asia but in the wider developing world. There is a rethink going on in many countries about Chinese loans and the Belt and Road Initiative. They are fearing that they are getting trapped by China in a situation where their sovereignty might be compromised. This rethink has resulted in countries seeking to renegotiate loan agreements with Beijing or even scrap some of the projects that they have agreed to initiate. So this backlash might be helpful for India to recoup its losses in South Asia.
difficult for India. India has been the main victim of American actions against Iran even if it was unintentional. The new American sanctions against Russia designed to undercut its arms export industry are also impinging on Indian interests because India has had a long standing defense relationship with Russia. Despite these irritants and other obstacles, the U.S.-India relationship is progressing quite well. New strategic elements are being introduced in the relationship. More importantly, the Trump administration’s paradigm shift in China policy is creating greater room for collaboration in a number of areas. As this policy shift on China becomes more pronounced, India’s role in U.S. policy will increase. Both the United States and India are the main drivers of the Trump administration’s new policy to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific. Japan is another important actor in this regard. The U.S.-India-Japan triangular relationship is central to achieve a stable balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region and stop China from establishing its preeminence in Asia. This triangular relationship is going to be critical in shaping an open, inclusive, and rules-based Indo-Pacific. I think Trump and Modi are playing an important role along with Prime Minister Abe of Japan in ensuring that there will be a stable balance of power in the IndoPacific and that no single power will be able to enforce its power in this part of the world. This interview has been edited and condensed.
Given the rise of China, a partnership between India and the United States seems quite natural. What do you think New Delhi and Washington should do to capitalize on this strategic convergence? Are there any particular challenges or opportunities the Trump administration presents for this relationship? BC: The U.S.-India partnership has become stronger under successive American presidents, and Trump is no exception. But the Trump administration’s transactional approach to foreign policy is troubling India like it is troubling other U.S. allies and strategic partners. For example, Trump seems to be concerned that the United States has a $29 billion yearly trade deficit with India. Additionally, the Trump administration’s Iran and Russia policies have created new irritants in ties with India. The Trump administration’s actions in May to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and to reimpose sanctions on Iran have made things
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Privilege and Proximity
n the hierarchy of client cooperation, Tyler* sat comfortably at the bottom. He never arrived on time for meetings, and he rarely paid attention to important details. A trying client but an easygoing 19 year old, Tyler often failed to take his impending trial seriously. Rather than walking into pre-trial meetings concerned about his future, Tyler entered with an aura of impunity, as though the words “not guilty” had already been pronounced and his trial had already been won. His sincerity shone through each time he arrived 20 minutes late — four feet, 11 inches of youthful innocence and nonchalant confidence. I assured him that attempted armed robbery was no small matter; in return, he assured me of his innocence. After nearly three months as an investigator with the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, I had learned that — whether convicted or released, whether first-timers or repeat offenders — most clients were not innocent. However, Tyler seemed different. I would never ask, but he would always tell. As I chose his dress shirts in the children’s department of J.C. Penney, he reminded me that he didn’t do it. As I helped him try on a black suit in the dressing room, he reminded me that he didn’t do it. As I paid for his five days’ worth of trial clothes, he reminded me that he didn’t do it. After having spent weeks conducting investigative work, tracking down other potential suspects, and scrutinizing every second of police body camera footage, I believed him. Nine days after our shopping excursion, we sat in D.C. Superior Courtroom 312, awaiting Tyler’s verdict. After five grueling days in trial, I was ready to congratulate Tyler on his rightful acquittal and to shake his attorney’s hand for a job well-done, solidifying our fourth case victory in as many weeks. I fully planned to celebrate our win with a well-deserved, weekendlong nap. We did not celebrate that Friday. We did not celebrate that weekend. And for the next 15 years, Tyler will not be celebrating. Like many of my peers, I arrived at Harvard with a fairly clear career path in mind. Whether or not I really wanted to follow that path remained an open question at the time. All I knew was that money and prestige mattered in the world, so I sought both without hesitation. Harvard did little to avert my gaze. In fact, it seemed like the heavenly gates of prosperity swung open with every drop of the “H-bomb,” like the whole university exerted its nominal might to place its students in seats of privilege, to distance them from the problems of the world around them. But proximity to suffering has a strange impact on a person. I myself am not in prison. My life has not been upended by a racially discriminatory criminal justice system, and it likely
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never will be. Yet the pain of becoming proximate to that system, of viewing that suffering firsthand, leaves its mark where no one else can see it. It lingers and festers in every thought. It depresses and distorts every moment. Then, one day, enough time has passed, and those thoughts start to fade. The demands of life pull us elsewhere to concern ourselves with problem sets and papers, with meetings and meals, with all the non-trivial trivialities of our own lives. Over time, this aggregated distance opiates the pain, but it also atrophies the empathy. In such cases, the old idiom takes on a different meaning: absence indeed makes the heart grow fonder, but that fondness takes the form of contentment with our own situations — a comfort that the indigent, the downtrodden, and the suffering struggle to know. Harvard’s campus breeds this contentment in every graduating class. Though talk of social justice rings in the air across campus, though many clubs and classes dedicate themselves to the study of inequality and injustice, such academic awareness fails to shine through in the career choices of its graduates. Rather than change the world, we become a part of it. Rather than move toward those in need, we double the distance. Rather than fight to ensure that people like Tyler can enjoy their lives with the justice they rightfully deserve, we feel the immediate demands of our own lives pulling us too strongly in the opposite direction. Although there is no shame in finding fulfillment in a vocation beyond that of activism and social justice, it seems clear that we Harvard students — abetted by the university itself — too readily capitulate before the privilege of institutional prestige at the very moment our culture of social action has the chance to move beyond these ivy gates. When Bryan Stevenson, a civil rights attorney and founder of the Equal Justice Institute, spoke at the Institute of Politics last December, he noted as much. He challenged an audience of Harvard students and freshman Congresspersons to invert this trend, to be willing to do the uncomfortable, to help the poor and the suffering; for as he writes in Just Mercy, “Hiding them from sight only ensures that they remain broken and we do, too.” So long as we, the progeny of Harvard, fail to practice this ethos of justice in the real world, our preaching of those values will be of little more consequence than Tyler’s declarations of innocence. So long as we maintain our distance, we will never earn the right to celebrate. * Name has been changed for confideniality
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While we may shy away from discussing religion, its role in politics, identity, and everyday life cannot be exaggerated. In this edition of...
Published on Mar 15, 2019
While we may shy away from discussing religion, its role in politics, identity, and everyday life cannot be exaggerated. In this edition of...