DJEMBE Intercultural Affairs Journal 2013
Table of Contents The American Holocaust.............................................................Caitlan Hinton Meeting Mourna.................................................................Stephanie Barnhart
Choosing a Job: Chinese and ............................................... 9 American Considerations..................................................................Hao Han Cat and Mouse in Cairo.........................................................Brianna Vorce 12 Socio-Cultural Responsibility in ........................................... Contemporary Literature and Art......................................Austin Gerth 13 The Economist’s Armchair: A Discussion.......................... of American Exceptionalism...............................................Jacob Amos 16 The Same.......................................................................................Amy Tran 21 22 Will Civilizations Clash?.................................................Sam Swanson 24 Sydney Lights........................................................................Kyle Thiele Respect the Right of................................................................... 25 Freedom of Speech............................................Palwasha Quasim We Are All Responsible ............................................................. for Peace..............................................................Howard Mukanda 28 30 Her Hands......................................................................Maria Sturtz 33 My Days on the Stage..................................Tatyana Ryobova 35 Pat’s Travels.......................................................................Pat Ross 38 Staff Biographies
What comes to mind when you hear the word
GENOCIDE? Your mind probably conjures up images of Hitler, the Holocaust, maybe even Darfur or Rwanda, for good reason. The Holocaust is well known and is a common subject taught in school; Darfur and Rwanda make their way to the news or classroom occasionally. Yet, chances are indigenous Americans are far from your mind whenever genocide is mentioned. Native Americans bring to mind buffaloes, teepees, war paint, horses, and headdresses. In standard schooling we’re taught about their hunter-gatherer lifestyles, their housing arrangements, Sacagawea, and that friendly meal with the pilgrims known as Thanksgiving. It is rare that Native Americans and genocide are spoken of in the same breath. However, this sugar-coated version of their life stories fails to address the atrocities done to the indigenous Americans by Christopher Columbus and those who followed. We learn that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue with three ships and discovered the New World. History books portray him as an American hero. But, it is the things Columbus “did” that we do not read about that are the most worthy of our attention. Not only was Columbus not one of the first discoverers of the New World, but he is certain-
ly not worthy of the hero title. Columbus began and set precedence for a genocide that plagued the Americas for the next 400 years. Nearly no indigenous people survived the American Holocaust. The crimes committed by Columbus and those who followed deserve to be held at the same level as the Holocaust. The mass extermination of the indigenous Americans by Christopher Columbus was genocide, and celebrating Columbus Day only furthers this idea of Columbus as an American hero which plagues the minds of the American people. Christopher Columbus, his crew, and his three ships left from the city of Palos, Spain, in August of 1492. They left behind a Spain suffering from disease, violence, and intolerance towards Jews, and they set out into the Atlantic where they soon came across the islands of the Caribbean. Columbus traveled from island to island, planting a cross which claimed the land for Spain, and called his work – his “execution of the affairs of the Indies” – the fulfillment the prophecies in Isaiah (Manuel). In his early days on the islands he describes them as a paradise of kind and beautiful people. Due to the poor treatment they received from Columbus and his men, the indigenous people soon became hostile and were stereotyped as subhuman savages (Gelman). In his book American Holocaust, David Stannard, a profes-
sor of American Studies, describes Columbus’ journey from island to island. Stannard reveals that upon encountering indigenous people, Columbus read to them a statement informing them of the truth of Christianity and the necessity to swear their immediate allegiance to the Pope and the Spanish crown. When the indigenous people refused, or rather didn’t understand, the statement continued: “We shall powerfully enter into your country and shall make war against you… We shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them…” (66). And Columbus did as the statement had promised, taking nearly 600 slaves during his first voyage (Stannard). The destruction was also unintentional, as European diseases began their own conquest of the indigenous people. Though the assault on the Americas had begun, it was Columbus’ second journey that really initiated the invasion of the Americas. In early 1494, Columbus and his crew of 1500 men aboard 17 ships arrived in Isabela, Hispaniola, where Columbus had chosen
indigenous people were all but eradicated (Stannard). This is only one account of one island; the happenings on Hispaniola were not confined to just this one landmass. The other islands of the Caribbean and their indigenous populations faced the same fate as the inhabitants of Hispaniola. If you can imagine, the cruelty was only magnified. After ravaging the Caribbean, the Spaniards moved on to mainland Mexico, first arriving at Tenochtitlan, where they came in contact with the Aztecs, Incas, and the rest of the indigenous populations of South America. While others, such as Cortés, were responsible for the deaths of these populations, it was the raids of Hispaniola by Christopher Columbus and his men that set a model followed by the Spanish for many years to come. As time progressed the genocide moved north into what is today the United States, resulting in the near eradication of the Native Americans there as well. It is incredibly difficult to give statistics about this American Holocaust because the population of the Americas was not well documented before Columbus and others arrived in the New World. By the time the Europeans set out to count the indigenous people, a substantial number had already perished. In his article “Selected Death Tolls for Wars, Massacres and Atrocities Before the 20th Century,” Matthew White, librarian and author of The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History’s 100 Worst
“systematically slaughtering ill and vulnerable indigenous Americans by the thousands” to build his New World (Gelman). Upon arrival, an unknown sickness, thought to possibly be swine flu, broke out among the Spaniards and with virulence among the indigenous Americans. Before long there were more indigenous people dead than could be counted. Every time the heavily armed Spaniards set foot on shore they brought with them diseases and ferocious dogs, and they set about killing and looting the indigenous people already overcome by sickness (Stannard). The indigenous people quickly discovered that between disease and sheer killing force, fighting the Spaniards was futile. Columbus increased his efforts, bringing together hundreds of troops, cavalry, and more attack dogs and set out across the country systematically slaughtering ill and vulnerable indigenous Americans by the thousands. Spanish accounts of this genocide tell of their terrible acts. The accounts include such horrific acts as taking babies from their mothers and killing them with rocks, and running through villages testing the sharpness of their swords on unsuspecting victims. In one such village named Zucayo, the Spaniards claimed 20,000 lives in one raid (Stannard). When Columbus arrived on the island of Hispaniola in 1492, the estimated population was eight million. Just four short years later about four million indigenous people were dead, and by 1535 the
Atrocities, compiled statistics of the American Holocaust from multiple authors. These popular approximations estimate between 40 and 100 million indigenous South, Central, and North Americans were killed during this American Holocaust. In parts of the Americas 98-100% of the population was exterminated (White). And yet, regardless of the size of these numbers, they are just statistics. They do nothing to describe the torture, the pain, and the gruesome, systematic killing of these people. It is apparent, therefore, that this American Holocaust is the most devastating genocide the world has ever seen in terms of sheer numbers and expansiveness. The American Holocaust swept across two continents, lasted four centuries, and slowed only when there were few left to kill. Yet, despite all of this, most have never heard of the American Holocaust. Most have no idea that the original inhabitants of the place we now call home were victims of the worst geno- cide of any race in history (Charleston). Most have no idea that it
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was Christopher Columbus who began this American Holocaust. Despite what I would call overwhelming evidence, there are still those who support the celebration of Columbus as a great explorer. They call Columbus a flawed hero, but a hero no less. Daniel J. Flynn, an American conservative and author, argues that “fixation on his sins obscures his accomplishments,” namely discovering two whole continents. However, historical records show us that Columbus was not the first discoverer of the New World, not even the first European. Warren H. Carroll, a leading Catholic historian and author, and the founder of Christendom College, states that Columbus was the first person to collect data and really analyze it to hypothesize that there had to be land between Europe and Asia. Despite this, Columbus still arrived at the New World believing Cuba to be Japan and the mainland to be China. Considering the land mass of North America lay between him and China, it is no real miracle that Columbus happened upon it. Supporters of Columbus say that he set out in the name of God, battling all odds with the explicit purpose of discovery (Carroll). However, it seems to me that calling oneself a man of God and making a risky journey does not make up for the direct and indirect mass murder of entire races of people. Even supporters of Columbus acknowledge a rough relationship between Columbus and the indigenous Americans, but they claim that the account of the interactions between the indigenous people and Columbus and his troops is exaggerated. Flynn and Carroll claim that Columbus was not the genocidal mur-
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derer as he is portrayed. They argue that Columbus discovered, not a peaceful people, but ferocious savages who often practiced cannibalism and regularly had wars amongst themselves. Yet, even Columbus himself called the people kind and generous, and stated that the indigenous people were shocked at the presence of the Spaniards’ weapons and vicious dogs (Rodriguez-Salgado). Flynn contends that the discovery of the indigenous Americans and the New World allowed the indigenous people to discover Europe. Flynn argues that Columbus discovered naked, savage people with no language and no technology, and he ridded them of human sacrifice and cannibalism by converting them to Christianity. Again, I must beg the question: does any of that outweigh the conquering and killing of whole races of people? I have come to the conclusion that no, it does not. Not even close. Around 70,000 B.C. Siberians crossed over into what is now Alaska (Loewen). These people were the first discoverers of the New World, not Christopher Columbus. It is also apparent from the evidence of the genocide of the indigenous Americans that Christopher Columbus is not the hero we make him out to be. So why is the information we are given so sugar-coated? Why are we not taught the truth about the Europeans who came to
the New World and their treatment of the indigenous Americans? Why is it that when we speak of racism and genocide, indigenous Americans are nowhere to be found in the conversation? Steve Charleston, a Choctaw Indian himself, claims that this American genocide is not heard of because there cannot be “crime without a victim.” Statistics clearly show the victim has been all but eliminated, and from the beginning Native Americans have been belittled and have been the victims
“Why is it that when we speak of racism and genocide, indigenous Americans are nowhere to be found in the conversation? Steve Charleston, a Choctaw Indian himself, claims that this American genocide is not heard of because there cannot be ‘crime without a victim’ ” of the racist propaganda. The propaganda has intentionally directed attention away from the actual events of the American Holocaust and has portrayed them as unfortunate but necessary to use the things in the land that the natives were too primitive to use (Charleston). We have been raised to celebrate a day dedicated to Christopher Columbus. We have been shown over and over again the images of peaceful and happy Native Americans and pilgrims sitting down to a large Thanksgiving feast together. These things have, in a way, brainwashed us into overlooking any wrong do-
ing by the explorers, mostly because we are not taught of it, but also because this sugar-coated portrayal of the Natives is blocking the view of what really occurred. Additionally, the word “genocide” has been made synonymous in our education with concentration camps, the Holocaust, and the killing of Jews. Because of what we have been taught of indigenous Americans, and the narrow coverage of genocide, it’s no wonder most people don’t see the indigenous people and genocide as related topics. The underlying cause of this faulty portrayal of Columbus is how his life story is taught to young and impressionable children in the classroom. Teaching the frightening truth to seven-year-olds may be out of the question, but one small stride we can take is correcting how Christopher Columbus is portrayed in our schools and society today. Columbus Day, dedicated to this “American hero” is recognized as a federal holiday and celebrated on the second Monday of every October. It’s safe to say that next to no one actually celebrates Columbus on this day. More than anything, Columbus Day is a day for us all to take a long weekend and possibly spare a few moments to observe some passing thought about this man. However, the inclusion of the day on the United States’ list of federal holidays only contributes to the misguided views of Christopher Columbus already plaguing the minds of Americans. Columbus Day is meant to commemorate the landing of Christopher Columbus in the New World on October 12th, 1492, and the first celebrations of Columbus took place in 1792 as a celebration of
Italian-American heritage. In 1937, President Roosevelt proclaimed Columbus Day as a national holiday originally observed every October 12th. In 1971 the day of observation was changed to the second Monday in October. This day is also recognized in some Latin American countries as a day to celebrate Hispanic culture’s vast roots, and it is known as Día de la Raza, or literally Day of the Race (Columbus Day). Columbus Day is becoming an increasingly controversial holiday as more and more people realize the actual nature of Columbus’ voyages to the Americas. As we more closely examine the actual history for ourselves, it becomes apparent that Columbus Day is actually a rather gruesome and inappropriate day to celebrate. Columbus Day
that resulted in more deaths than the Holocaust his own holiday? It is impossible to know why Columbus has been portrayed in the way that he has. Maybe it was done purposefully to overshadow the crimes committed on the indigenous Americans, to protect the population from the gruesome truth. Maybe we don’t learn of this American Holocaust because after Columbus did his part, other conquistadors and the settlers that followed treated the indigenous people just as poorly, and we don’t want to believe that our ancestors were genocidal murderers. Rather, we slip into a cultural amnesia and tell this beautiful story starring Columbus as the valiant hero and the settlers as the brave protagonists who set out into the unknown and beat all odds to colonize the
“Celebrating Columbus and his accomplishments is analogous to the celebration of Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust.” recognizes everything Columbus accomplished during his life. However, Columbus’ accomplishments by no means outweigh the genocide he committed on the on the indigenous people. Celebrating Columbus and his accomplishments is analogous to the celebration of Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust. Hitler did horrid things to the Jews, but he was fantastic at leading and mobilizing a large group of people. Nevertheless, no one would consider creating a holiday in his honor. So why do we give a man who began a genocide
New World. It is understandable why we may be hesitant to put the full, gruesome story in our history books and lay it out before eightyear-olds. However, there must be a happy medium between completely glazing over the actual history, and presenting elementary school children with a graphic account of what was done to the indigenous people. There is no reason to glorify our past, to cover up its blemishes. No country in this world is perfect, for we know perfection is unattainable. No country has a clean past, a beautiful present, and a
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promising tomorrow. Yet, here we are trying to paint a picture of our past that is as unblemished as possible. As we know, if we do not learn from history we are condemned to repeat it. As genocide continues to plague countries today, this becomes the very reason Americans need to know the actual accounts of what occurred when Columbus landed on the shores of the New World. We can begin to expose Americans to these truths by removing Columbus Day from the list of federal holidays or by renaming and repurposing the day and allowing it to serve as a day to learn about our Nation’s history. In some parts of the country the replacement of Columbus Day has already taken place. Native Americans’ Day is celebrated in South Dakota instead, and Berkley, California, celebrates Indigenous People’s Day. Some schools in Florida use Columbus Day to teach students that Columbus had faults, and others with large Native American populations don’t celebrate Columbus Day at all (Keller). The rest of the country needs to follow suit. The best way to achieve a repurposing of Columbus Day is to bring this issue to the attention of our senators or representatives. We must inform them that we are appalled by what Christopher Columbus did to the indigenous people of America and we are shocked that we still celebrate this man. We must tell our senators and representatives that we, as a country, need to rethink Columbus Day, that it should be a day of remembrance for all the indigenous Americans who suffered and a day of learning about the history of the Americas. It seems impossi-
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ble that so many Americans are still wholly unaware of the genocide that occurred right here in our homeland with the wealth of information readily available at our fingertips. However, if we are to avoid repeating our past, we must actually learn the his-
tory. We can begin to make the truth known by removing Columbus Day or repurposing it to serve as a day of remembrance for the American Natives and learning the true story of their lives.
References Carroll, Warren H. “Honoring Christopher Columbus.” Catholic Education Resource Center. Christendom Press, 1992. 7 March 2012. Charleston, Steve. “Victims of an American Holocaust.” Confronting Columbus: An Anthology. Ed. John Yewell, Chris Dodge, Jan DeSirey. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc, 1992. 159-62. Print. “Columbus Day.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, LLC, nd. Web. 6 March 2012. “Columbus Day in the United States.” Timeanddate.com. Time and Date AS, nd. Web. 5 March 2012. Flynn, Daniel J. “Christopher Columbus: Hero.” Human Events: Powerful Conservative Voices. Human Events, 11 Oct. 2010. Web. 7 March 2012. Gelman, David, et al. “Columbus and his four fateful voyages.” Newsweek 118.10 (1991): n. pag. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 March 2012. Keller, Jack. “Schools take decidedly different approaches to Columbus Day.” Curriculum Review 49.4 (2009): 6. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 March 2012.
We rolled up in two black Mercedes-Benz vans, driven by our Scottish adventure guides, and all I could see was Mourna. She walked past the quaint farmhouse snug between a barn and brown pasture, the Highlands air – rain imminent – and the several dozen sheep, wool off-white like dirty snow. Her pink rain boots came up to her knees, keeping calves and toes dry but drowning the 8-year-old shepherd. Her dance around the pack of border collies said she didn’t care. I wanted to be her friend. Too much time with the same twelve college friends this May, I thought, I need a kid fix. Neil, her father, head shepherd, whistled a loud, piercing cue the collies knew and they sprinted into formation, ready to perform for the visitors. And while the rest turned, cameras on, to watch the sheep dog show, my eyes stayed on Mourna. She picked up a staff, curled at the end as a real staff should be, and stuck it into the soft muddy ground – authoritative, like she’d been a shepherd all her life. Oh, but she has. My four week escapade into kilts and castles and mountains and pipes is the backdrop for Mourna’s everyday Scottish adventure. She skipped towards the collies as her father yelled commands in old Gaelic and the dogs raced to and fro around the sheep,
Lowen, James. “Columbus in High School.” Confronting Columbus: An Anthology. Ed. John Yewell, Chris Dodge, Jan DeSirey. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc, 1992. 90-103. Print. Manuel, Frank E., Manuel, Fritzie P. Sketch for a Natural History of Paradise. 85 vols. The MIT Press, 1955-2006. Web. Rodriguez-Salgado, M. J. “Columbus’ fall from grace.” Society 29.5 (1992): 48-52. Academic Search Premier. Web. 17 March 2012. Stannard, David E. American Holocaust. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. Print. White, Matthew. “Selected Death Tolls for Wars, Massacres and Atrocities Before the 20th Century” Necrometrics. Historical Atlas of the 20th Century, Jan. 2012. Web. 17 March 2012.
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chasing them down the field and back again into a huddle where one would be captured and sheared. Mourna took the tools as her father held the sheep between sturdy legs in green weathered overalls. With shears too large for small hands, Mourna shaved the wool from the animal, showing the crowd what to do, then stepped away, toward me, as Neil asked for volunteers. One moved forward to try, and gained a souvenir: that small piece of wool he snipped away. I wanted to try my hand, but I couldn’t – I was too busy asking Mourna her name and age (7) and favorite thing about being a shepherd (the collies). Her dimples, innocence, confidence, made me forget again about the reason we came to the sheep farm, to meet Neil and see the dogs. We paid Neil in British pounds, then, for the dog show, and for teaching us about culture beyond kilts. We took a picture together, Mourna and me, before we left in our black vans, and I felt I should have paid more for that moment with her, a new friendship I received for free.
Choosing a Job: Chinese and American Considerations
Do you remember the
reason why you chose your job?
Recently, I have thought about this question a lot because I always hear people complaining about their jobs. If people don’t like their jobs, why did they choose these jobs first? Choosing a “wrong” job will waste a person’s time and life. As a college student, especially as a freshman, it becomes important to know which kinds of jobs will be useful in the future and to prepare for that during the years of college. After I came to Concordia and talked with some of my American friends, interestingly I found that there are some differences between Chinese and Americans when they look for jobs. So, finding out why American and Chinese students consider different things when they search for jobs could be very helpful for them to know themselves better. To solve these questions, it is necessary to understand the differences in education, cultural mindset, and population between China and America. First, when choosing a job, Chinese students will consider salary, location, and opportunities. I graduated from Changchun University of Science and Technology in 2012, so I know about how Chinese college students find jobs, and I know very well what they think when they choose jobs. I still remember when my classmates chose jobs; salary was the most important factor for
the decision. They compared jobs to find which ones can pay better. Then, they considered the location of the job. Many students prefer to work in big cities because there are more opportunities for them to find a better job. Thirdly, they think about whether they can learn something or whether they can get more experience from the work. Only a few people keep the same job for their whole lives. The rest of us will always try to find a better job. So whether you can learn something from the job you are taking as well as getting ready for applying for the next job is also important for Chinese students. If a job can satisfy all those factors, it can be a “good” job for Chinese students. Perhaps, if they have time, they will think about whether the job satisfies their interests. However, they will not change their minds to find a new job even though they do not like the job. For example, my roommate at my Chinese university found a job at Samsung in Beijing, which is really good. It’s a famous company, has a promising future, and has well-paid and stable careers. There was no reason for him to drop it. Comparing with interests, though, he preferred to take the opportunity to
work at Samsung because he was not sure that he would find another job as good as that one. Comparing with the Chinese, although Americans also consider salary, interests, location, and time, there are still differences between them. I talked with some of my American friends; perhaps they cannot represent all the American students, but I still can see some differences from them. One of my American friends, a guy from the Concordia basketball team, told me that for him, salary and interests were the first two things he would consider. Of course he wanted to have a good life, but he must also think about whether or not he would like the job. If he did not like it, he would choose another one which
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perhaps paid less but was more otherwise they will fall behind and likeable. Then he would think about cannot get a good score in the end. how far it was from his home to the In China, students only need to get workplace. He wanted to stay near ready for the final examination, and his family. Also, he would think the final score only depends on how about work time. He hoped he had well students do on the test. I found, time to stay with family members. at Concordia, students can choose And another friend, a girl on the classes by their interests until they swim team, also gave me the same decide their majors, which is imanswer. It seems like both Chinese possible in China. In China students need to choose a major before they go to college, and once students get in a college their classes are chosen by the school. Also, Concordia tries to help its students find part-time jobs. Some of them work on campus while others work off campus. I think it is very interesting because in China colleges have never done this for students. Students and American students consider need to find jobs by themselves. salary, interest, working place, and Only a few Chinese students want working time when they choose to find part-time jobs when they are jobs. However, Chinese students in college. It is a good way for stucare more about the salary while dents to be more familiar with soAmerican students care more about ciety, and the part-time job experience will be helpful when they find their interests. Lots of reasons can explain the jobs in the future. Moreover, in China, students do differences between Chinese and American students, but the main not have to study very hard in colreasons are the contrasting cultures lege compared to high school. High and education systems. The first school is the hardest time for Chireason why these exist is differ- nese students. We have to arrive at ences in education. After I came to school before 7:00 AM or earlier Concordia, I discovered that college and leave school after 10:00 PM, life here is very different from Chi- and when we go back home, we nese colleges. The first difference still need to study until 12:00 AM is students have to study every day, or later. Because the teachers are
“In America, college is the hardest time for students. Once they get into the college, they need to study very hard just like we do in high school. At the same time, the school will help them find out their hobbies and bring them opportunities to have part-time jobs to make them familiar with society.”
not so strict in college, some students do not study anymore. They don’t go to class. Instead, they will hang out with friends or play computer games in their dorm. They don’t have any plan for their future lives. When they graduate, they do not even know what their interests are or what kind of jobs they want. They just choose the job with the best pay. Then they will start to learn the working skills from the beginning with the help of workmates. However, in America, college is the hardest time for students. Once they get into the college, they need to study very hard just like we do in high school. At the same time, the school will help them find out their hobbies and bring them opportunities to have part-time jobs to make them familiar with society. Some students will have their own plans for their future, and they make themselves work hard at college. Other students who do not have plans for their future will get help from school. Their academic advisor, school working center, and many other students’ clubs will help students to figure out their hobbies and set goals for their lives. Another reason is that there are cultural differences between Chinese and Americans when considering jobs. Chinese always care about their reputation. We always like to compare with others and to prove that we are better than others. For the workers, the best thing to compare is the salary. They do not care whether the other person likes their job or not. They only care how much the other person earns, where they work, and what they do. For Americans, I think they care more about themselves. It means they do
not care so much about how others look at them. They just care about how to live better. Finally, the large population of China causes problems for students when they are looking for jobs after graduating. This year, I just graduated from Chinese college. Even though at that time I was busy preparing for the TOEFL test in order to go abroad, I still remember how hard it was for my classmates to find a job, even harder to find a good job. China has the biggest population in the world. Sometimes people say it is awesome to have the biggest market in the world or it is great to see people everywhere when compared with US because it is a little bit scary when you can’t see any people on the street. However, having the biggest population causes lots of problems. For students, having the biggest population makes it very difficult to find a good job because they have to compete with so many people. Of course, in China we also have many job opportunities, but it doesn’t mean all of the jobs are suitable for everyone, and people can’t spend time to apply for all of the jobs. It is hard to imagine that during my last year in college, almost every day, hundreds of companies came to bring some job opportunities. Because of so many students and because of so many companies, it is impossible for one to apply for all the jobs. So it becomes very important for one to think clearly about what kind of job he or she wants and why he or she wants it. Different education systems, cultures, and population lead to the different thinking when Chinese and Americans are finding jobs. Com-
“There are no standard factors to think about when choosing a job. It all depends on your purpose.” paring with the U.S. education system, the Chinese education system makes Chinese students care more about their future by themselves. They can’t wait for someone else’s help. Also, because of the culture, when Chinese people find jobs, they will care more about how people will look at them instead of caring about their real feelings. Finally, the large amount of population makes finding good jobs even harder in China
than in the U.S. However, there are no standard factors to think about when choosing a job. It all depends on your purpose. If people want to find a good job and live better lives, the most important thing is that they have a plan for life, and that they know how to achieve it.
Cat and Mouse in Cairo
St. Simon the Tanner Coptic Orthodox Church Mokattam Garbage Village Cairo, Egypt
In the parking lot, surrounded by cliffs and sand, Egyptian nursing students play cat and mouse. One cat, one mouse, chasing each other in the center of a circle. We watch, fourteen Americans, pockets heavy with passports, change, and cameras. Here, across the ocean, they play the same game we’ve played at home, after school, in gym class. Different country, different language, same rules. Then someone asks if we can join. An excited murmur of trilled r’s and throaty Arabic h’s breezes through them as they make room, widening their circle for the pairs of American college students. We smile. They smile back. They point at us, heads leaned together. The girl next to me, short bob and bright blue makeup, asks me a question in a string of Arabic. A pause – I laugh, pointing to my ears, I don’t understand. Her face is blank – it must mirror my own. You happy? she asks. I nod. Her question is understood, and her friends elbow her. You do this often? I ask. Another blank stare and a beat –we shrug and smile, surrounded by new and old friends, cats and mice.
Socio-Cultural Responsibility in Contemporary Literature and Art
The essay “Joy Luck and Hollywood,” from Amy Tan’s The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life, tells the story of adapting her novel The Joy Luck Club for film, and it indicts the cultural dilettantism that pervades discussions of artistic works by ethnic minorities. Though the essay gives the reader a behindthe-scenes look at the mind behind a popular book and film, it also brings up an interesting question: is it possible for writers and artists of diverse ethnic backgrounds to produce work that doesn’t include issues of racial, ethnic, or cultural identity as the main focus without facing disdain or misunderstanding from critics, readers, and peers? In the essay, Tan tells of how, upon publication, The Joy Luck Club became a surprise bestseller, and movie offers quickly began to roll in. Tan worried that her book might be mishandled, so she refused all of these initial offers. She changed her mind only after meeting director Wayne Wang and screenwriter Ron Bass, with whom she shared an immediate artistic affinity. Though Tan, Bass, and Wang were initially unable to sell the movie idea to any major studios, they eventually agreed to develop a script. Once finished, the trio sold their script to Disney’s Hollywood
Pictures. Tan’s essay then details her gradual adjustment to the tropes of screenwriting life and gives an insight to the way she and her collaborators worked together on the script and its various drafts. Tan’s writing throughout the piece, which began life as a series of answers to emailed questions from the Los Angeles Times, is breezy and light, marbled with wry humor. She makes the movie-making process sound surprisingly easy and carefree, though she is forthright about her worries regarding the commercial prospects of a film about a group of Asian women with no bigname stars. Tan never forgets to emphasize the input of her co-writers, Bass and Wang, and makes a point of not disparaging Disney’s handling of the project in any way. Tan does write of occasional disagreements during the writing process and of difficulties during the filming in China, but even these anecdotes are largely humorous. The biggest issue Tan addresses (albeit briefly) in her essay is the biased way the media views the art and literature created by ethnic minorities. She writes:
“She makes the movie-making process sound surprisingly easy and carefree” I know from reactions to my fiction that there are people who believe that the raison d’être of any story with an ethnic angle is to provide an educational lesson on culture. I find that attitude restrictive, as though an Asian-American artist has license to create only something that specifically addresses a cultural hot point, and not a work about human nature that happens to depict that through Asian-Americans. (191) Tan believes critics and readers (when reading a work by, say, an Asian-American or Native American author) may not accept work that doesn’t simply reinforce a politically correct view of the ethnicity of the author, or agitate for the advancement of said ethnicity—the story being told always seems to be subordinate to the cultural narrative. It would be very difficult for an author from a non-Caucasian1 background to write a book that focused
S o c i o-C u l t u r a l on characters of similar ethnicity without overtly commenting on the challenges faced by that ethnicity. Also, it would be difficult if he or she simply didn’t bother with ethnicity at all (by simply focusing on the story at hand). These instances could cause the author to run into some sort of backlash or bewilderment at the hands of critics or from readers.
R e s p o n s i b i l i t y in a new, subjectively exotic locale: the writing comes across more like an anthropology project than art. It becomes difficult, while reading, to move beyond the novelty of a different ethnic or cultural group’s traditions to get at whatever greater implications the story may have for people as a whole. Since a good deal of the literature in question is intended to address the same totality of life as the work of more mainstream authors, this poses a problem; a wall of un-relatability goes up between the reader and a literary work that looks at the world from a different vantage pointhis wall becomes highly problematic when evaluating the work of a diverse array of authors. An overwhelming majority of the literary works regarded as classics are/were written by white authors, and the only cultural minority works that earn the distinction often seem to be the ones that do the best job of tackling race issues. Another example of a writer dealing with such a situation is Louise Erdrich and her second novel, the Beet Queen, from 1986. Erdrich, a Native American author, had earned a significant amount of acclaim from her 1984 debut novel, Love Medicine, which used multiple narrators and a good deal of jumping back and forth in time to tell the story of an extended family on a North Dakota Indian Reservation from the 1930s-80s. The Beet Queen, though located in the
“When one considers that a majority of the people holding the authority to decide what is and what isn’t classic literature are probably white, it begs the question of whether or not there is a bias” When one considers that a majority of the people holding the authority to decide what is and what isn’t classic literature are probably white, it begs the question of whether or not there is a bias toward one’s own culture when reading books that deal with in-depth character study or metaphysical introspection, rather than some broader, more politically charged subject matter. There is a (subconscious) response to literature of cultures other than our own, one similar in nature to the response of an American tourist 1Caucasian
being the majority ethnicity in the U.S., and therefore also being the predominant ethnic vantage point from which art is interpreted and critiqued, regardless of whether this viewpoint is assumed consciously or not.
c o n t i n u e d same area, focused mostly on the non-Native American people of a town near the reservation, which prompted another notable Native American author to accuse Erdrich of abandoning her heritage in favor of postmodern literary frippery. The author, Leslie Marmon Silko, wrote a fairly negative review of The Beet Queen when it came out, in which she criticized the lack of realistic racism in the portrayal of North Dakotan life on and around an Indian Reservation in the ‘30s. Such criticism assumes that Erdrich intended to comment on racism in the ‘30s rather than write about the interactions between characters. Tan faced the same problem when making The Joy Luck Club into a film (Kroeber). Tan, at an earlier point in the essay, mentions her nervousness at how a movie about a group of non-Caucasian women would fare in the American film environment of the day. She worried, while writing and shopping the script around, about the possibility of studio lackeys trying to change the characters or otherwise tweak the story, departing from the vision of her novel in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Ironically, this situation reflects a sub-plot in the film of the Joy Luck Club where one of the principal characters, rebounding from a recent divorce, begins dating a kindly American buffoon and worries incessantly about her mother’s approval.In this scenario, Tan is the divorcee and the American film industry is the buffoon, with the American movie-going public playing the role of the divorcee’s (Tan’s) mother. Tan worried both about the way a film starring non-Caucasian women would be received by a largely Caucasian public and about
what would become of her if her movie were to inadvertently portray Chinese Americans in a negative light. Additionally, because Joy Luck Club was being financed by a major studio, rather than on independent dollar, it might be seen as a referendum on the viability of other films of its kind (Tan 190). What is left is a question of the artist’s responsibility to his or her cultural roots. The work of Asian-American writer Amy Tan connects to a broader question of whether or not writers and artists from diverse cultures have any kind of responsibility to their ethnicity in
their writing/art. Ultimately, they don’t: art is art, and making rules about what writers or people in general should or shouldn’t produce will only lead to creative stagnation. The Joy Luck Club refuses either to blatantly exploit negative Asian-American stereotypes or to merely give an innocuous lesson on Chinese tradition. The film’s strength is that its characters are flawed human beings first and flawed Asian-Americans second, and these characters and their flaws remain the focus at all times. Everything is subordinate to the storytelling.
“Art is art, and making rules about what writers or people in general should or shouldn’t produce will only lead to creative stagnation”
References The Joy Luck Club. Dir. Wayne Wang. Prod. Wayne Wang, Amy Tan, and Ronald Bass. By Amy Tan and Ronald Bass. Perf. Chin Tsai, Chinh Kiều, Lisa Lu, and France Nuyen. Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc., 1993. DVD. Kroeber, Karl. “SAIL Ser.1, 10.4.” SAIL Ser.1, 10.4. ASAIL, 1986. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. <https://facultystaff.richmond.edu/~rnelson/asail/ SAILns/104.html>. Quennet, Fabienne C. Where “Indians” Fear to Tread?: A Postmodern Reading of Louise Erdrich’s North Dakota Quartet. Münster: LIT Verlag, 2001. 7-9. eBook. Tan, Amy. “Joy luck and Hollywood.” The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life. New York: Penguin, 2004. 176-204. Print.
The Economist’s Armchair: A Discussion of American Exceptionalism
“Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state lives at the expense of everyone.” So posited economist Frédéric Bastiat almost 200 years ago. While not credited with any innovative economic ideas that blazed the trail for the discipline’s evolution, Bastiat was onto an idea novel even to so many modern minds. Indeed, Bastiat’s definition of the state is one at which so many politicians and economists, especially of the conservative variety, would begrudgingly agree: “The State is the great fiction through which everyone endeavours to live at the expense of everyone else” (Bastiat 1848). It is far from an uncommon occurrence that Americans, both citizens and leaders, bewail the taxes the commoners are forced to surrender in the name of hoisting up an allegedly inefficient and interruptive government. This is a popular notion among even the most brilliant
economists: the government that governs least governs best. However, in the same breath so many will decry the poor pay of public educators, of the need to subsidize the farming industry, to pave better roads, and so forth. It is as if there exists some world wherein opportunity costs become ethereal and nonexistent, where the necessary tax revenue is drawn from either some fantastical money tree or evil Wall Street banker who treats his millions like chump change. As may be apparent already, it is not the goal of this contributor to segregate the political and economic spheres of public discourse. While political matters often obscure practical economics, insofar as it is necessary to employ political processes for economic policy, it is impossible to elude their hybrid. November’s election demonstrated most supremely this common grievance over tax policy and its cultural contradictions. The two combatting sides were dueling more over ideas regarding the proper size, scope, and role the government ought to play —
“Many will decry the poor pay of public educators, of the need to subsidize the farming industry, to pave better roads, and so forth”
particularly in the economy, though as well in the social sphere — than over specific policies and concrete ideas. This was an unmistakably necessary argument for the American public to endure. “America needs a serious debate about the size and scope of government, and how to pay for it… it taxes itself like a small-government country, but spends like a big-government one” (Economist 2012). Perhaps Bastiat was on to something. It is high time to rethink America’s paradoxical persuasion, to reconceptualize the American exceptionalism that allows its citizens to think that they can pay no taxes and still live at the expense of the state. More importantly, what implications these considerations have for economic policy. To do so requires a comparative analysis that places America in relation to the nation-states around it — not at center stage, but caught, as it is, in the wake of today’s global economic challenge. According to The National Interest: [American Exceptionalism is]
the widespread public belief… that the United States is uniquely virtuous in word and deed. This axiom derives from our historical democratic perspective and overwhelming power since World War II. Today, it assumes that we are the greatest force for good in the world (Abramowitz 2012). Often one will hear that America is a “center-right” nation. From high school civics teachers to others parroting the sentiment, it is a commonplace assumption. It is likely that most square with this on the basis of the understanding that America is fundamentally different from the rest of the world. Though there is some truth to that sentiment, there are nuances not often understood. Indeed, America does enjoy her paradoxes. For instance, social security has been in place for decades in many forms. However, there is a growing “grassroots” movement of constitution-crying Tea Partiers that consider it all some big Ponzi scheme conspiracy. There may be some disconnect here. Medicare and Medicaid offer help to the elderly and the poor, respectively, so that they may have greater access to health care. However, the second the Affordable Care Act was born, every resource has been heaved first at its legislative dilution and then at its judicial repeal. Getting beyond the idea that America is the greatest country on earth allows an insight into the rest of the world’s take on these matters and on how America handles
them. American exceptionalism can mire its citizens in an inability to compare America to the rest of the world on the grounds that the United States should be setting the example for others to follow. That mindset becomes a problem. Take the healthcare example. According to the World Health Organization, America spends more of its
On the other side of the Channel, England is not too far different from its grandchild. London is one of the world’s financial centers precisely because of its tendency towards deregulation of the financial industry. English citizens are not as tolerant of high tax rates as some may assume. These are valuable lessons. Deregulation and tax reductions can and do encourage business, which does stimulate the economy. The Occupy Wall Street movement was cute but misguided in the sense that corporations and financial markets help hold up the economy. From job-creation to consumption multipliers, the suits of the world play their part. Not every economic policy costs money. Trade is one area of economics for which many Americans have an exceptionally self-centered, if not delusional understanding. There is a commonplace understanding, however inaccurate, that outsourcing, immigration, and buying from other countries inherently hurts the economy. To be clear, these assumptions are incorrect.
“Getting beyond the idea that America is the greatest country on earth allows an insight into the rest of the world’s take on these matters and on how America handles them.” GDP than any other country in the world but ranks 37th in health care. France comes in first. While France spends four international dollars per person on healthcare compared to America’s one, its citizens probably spare the hellfire-and-brimstone sentiments on taxes when the government covers 77% of their medical bills (World Health Organization 2000). France’s culture is different, however, and carries its own problems. Their new leader, François Hollande of the Socialist Party, campaigned to raise the top income tax rate to 75%. While “Hollande never pretended that the 75% tax rate would raise much cash, but hailed it as a ‘symbolic’ measure,” such a gesture can “bring lasting trouble” (Economist 2013). Entrepreneurs and businesses have threatened fleeing a country they now perceive as hostile to wealth generation. Departing business does not help France’s struggling economy.
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First, outsourcing is not an insufferable ill for the American economy so much as it is an indicator that the national economy is progressing, moving from manufacturing to more developed sectors, like services. Perceiving outsourcing as a grand theft of American employment sees the world from an ethnocentric perspective that fails to understand that those jobs are not only being created for less developed economies that also need them, but that such outsourcing makes the domestic economy more efficient and creates different kinds of employment. Second, a growing pool of research has been indicating that immigration is a practice with positive economic outcomes. “A change of political tune is badly needed. Evidence suggests that increased flows of people across borders could ignite global growth” (Economist 2012). There are several reasons, but at some point Americans must think twice before blaming immigrants for poor economic growth and start to look inward for ways to maximize the potential wealth to be derived from other countries. Finally, buying from other countries does not do immediate harm to the American economy. This practice not only stimulates growth in other nations, which comes back to America in a positive way, but it also encourages innovation and efficiency in the U.S. while supporting global growth through trade. Not to mention the fact that many American firms have operations in other countries. That won’t be counted in GDP, but it counts in both GNP and building a healthy, interconnected global economy. Were these global economic phe-
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nomena to in fact be immediately detrimental to the American economy, they aid in the long run by helping developing nations evolve. As the world is becoming more and more globalized, interconnected, and interdependent, in the long run a developing economy elsewhere will be in America’s best interests. For economic policies that do require capital, however, a population willing to provide that capital is necessary. Sweden’s people exemplify a citizenry that is more understanding of liberal tax codes. “For most Swedes paying high taxes is a benefit, not a problem” (Fouché 2008). While many Swedes do work in the public sphere, there also exists a greater trust in the government to handle the money well, simply because the Swedish government is more efficient. Such a trust is virtually nowhere to be found in the United States, and for good reason. “A Swede pays tax more willingly than a Californian because he gets decent schools and free health care” (Economist 2013). Politicians use debt ceilings and phenomena like the “fiscal cliff” as means to help them play games of political chicken, as happened in the summer 2011 debt ceiling negotiations. Such a problem exemplifies another structural issue that implicates concerns for global economics. America’s two-party system is often taken for granted by its citizens. Though a considerable aid in providing simplicity to complex political matters, it overcorrects by blurring the nuances to discourse
and brightening the imaginary lines between the aisles, making it easier to take sides. The system makes it easier to perceive “friends” and “enemies,” which can have devastating results. For example, the 2011 government shutdown that came from political gridlock over raising the debt ceiling — which should have been a no-brainer — resulted in a downgrade of the U.S. credit rating
“For economic policies that do require capital, however, a population willing to provide that capital is necessary.” and a resulting cascade of economic turmoil. Republicans had an incentive to slow negotiations because poor economic times are typically blamed on the president, which would hurt President Obama’s reelection prospects. Put in as basic of terms as possible, citizens’ livelihoods were used as political poker chips for political ends, and such games played no small part in the relapse of economic hardship. The two-party system has become so familiar that other modes of operation seem, well, foreign. While they are indeed foreign, multi-party systems are not uncommon. Countries with more than two parties include France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, and Sweden. Perhaps such a popular model is worth attempting. As more people become disillusioned with mainstream politics,
however, the opportunity arises for third parties to gain greater visibility and, in turn, potential to challenge two-party dominance and introduce a refreshing brand of moderation and iconoclasm. Americans may get so frustrated that structural change occurs. Such a departure from the present standard could move its bickering leaders away from the dysfunctional gridlock that has been plaguing the national and global economy. America could also afford to learn from other countries in a moral sense. “Unlike some other Western countries, the United States remains an overwhelmingly religious society,” (Land 2004) and that influence carries a sense of morality that keeps society from falling into chaos. There are, however, areas of social and moral economics in which America could learn some things from its Western friends. A religious demeanor carries its own paradoxes as well. The stereotypical American conservative — that liberals just love to use as an example of their archenemy — loves God, guns, and above all, ‘murica.’ While this categorization is little more than a drastic oversimplification, there remain some inconsistencies that need to be addressed. Especially between God and guns. That deserves reiteration. There is some inconsistency between the love of God and the love of guns. More than that, it is a truly American inconsistency. The Economist summarized this point as aptly as is possible: If America is ever to confront its obsession with guns, that time is now. America’s murder rate is four times higher than Britain’s and six times higher than Ger-
many’s. Only an idiot, or an anti-American bigot prepared to maintain that Americans are four times more murderous than Britons, could possibly pretend that no connection exists between those figures and the fact that 300m guns are “out there” in the United States, more than one for every adult (Economist 2013).
the demand side of the equation while leaving the supply untouched, a brilliantly simplistic strategy that is proving effective. This policy allows prostitutes an out. If they were forced into the profession unwillingly or have been beaten by either employer or client, they may go to the police without the fear of getting arrested. In America, prostitutes do not have
“Americans may get so frustrated that structural change occurs. Such a departure from the present standard could move its bickering leaders away from the dysfunctional gridlock that has been plaguing the national and global economy.” Britain and Germany are not the only ones that could teach America some lessons on social policy. Sweden embodies a juxtaposition with America in one of these more nuanced fields of economics, a social and moral domain: prostitution. Make no mistake, prostitution’s implications are not confined to studies of morality and ethics. Economics plays an unmistakable role both in its motivations and its outcome. And Sweden’s model provides an example of how creative policy can serve considerable social good. Prostitution in the United States is illegal, with a few exceptions for select locations. Prostitution is also illegal in Sweden, but in a different way. It is illegal to purchase prostitution, but selling it is legal. Put another way, the policy attacks
that luxury (for the most part). Sweden’s policy also makes it so a prostitute is safe if caught, while a customer is not. Such a demand-focused policy serves the moral purpose of slashing the prevalence of the act while not hurting those forced into it. From an empirical standpoint, the policy is actually reducing the prevalence of prostitution.
Comparatively, America’s policy — outright illegalization premised on moral outrage — becomes tragically myopic. This moral absolutism clouds an economic analysis that could take steps towards righting some of the ills posed by such perceived indiscriminate immorality. This brand of economic morality has been controversial. In Freakonomics, the authors employ severe economic analysis to show that Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision making abortion legal, was responsible for the seemingly inexplicable drop in the crime rate during
the 1990s (Levitt and Dubner 2005). Peering at the world through the lens of economics is an easily despised practice, and rightfully so in many respects, but it can reveal some telling and helpful information. So many Americans would like to have their cake and eat it too, to ignore opportunity costs, to tax like a small country and spend like a big one, to maintain Christian morality and stop the sex trade. Such paradoxes are attractive, alluring, and easy, but any introductory economics class will be quick to point out that “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” There are more factors
to analyze than most are ready to accept. In that same Freakonomics book, the authors discuss the value — or often lack thereof — of conventional wisdom. Perhaps the most ubiquitous of wisdom in American culture is that the United States is exceptional. Comparatively, though, there are certainly some lessons to learn that other countries, cultures, and worldviews offer. It is high time that American citizens expand their vision, and learn some lessons that the rest of the world may be keen to teach.
References Abramowitz, Morton. “Hot American Exceptionalism Dooms U.D. Foreign Policy.” The National Interest, October 22, 2012. Bastiat, Frederic. Selected Essays on Political Economy. Trans. Seymour Cain. Library of Economics and Liberty, 1848. Economist. “À Bas Les Riches!” The Economist, January 5, 2013. Web. Economist. “Another Fine Mess.” The Economist, July 28, 2012. Web.
The Chinese teacher laughs, sharing his memory. “When I first come to America, everyone look the same to me.” His thick accent – er-ryone, sehm – is too enthusiastic, is too inviting to the students who glance at each other, eyebrows raised, shifting in their seats. Unaware, he continues, “Do you think all Chinese people look the same?” Peep-oh, sehm – invites a smile from the boy in the front row, blue-eyed, slouching, casually says, “Yeah. ‘Cause y’all do.” He looks around, pleased, his smirk showing off the strong line of his jaw. He knows his place in the room – the front row. It allows him this sentence, the words not a challenge but a statement of fact. No disagreement, until he hears the voice of the girl behind him, who has the same almond eyes of the teacher and a small, clear voice as she corrects him. “Because you all do.”
Economist. “Border Follies.” The Economist, November 17, 2012. Web. Economist. “Newton’s Horror.” The Economist, January 2, 2013. Web. Economist. “The Next Supermodel” The Economist,February 2, 2012. Web. Fouché, Gwladys. “Where Tax Goes Up to 60 Per Cent, and Everybody’s Happy Paying It.” The Guardian, November 15, 2008. Web. Land, Richard. “How Religion Defines America.” BBC News. February 25, 2004. Web. Levitt, Steven, and Stephen Dubner. Freakonomics. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005. Print.
World Health Organization. The World Health Report. World Health Organization, 2000. Web.
Will Civilizations Clash?
Is culture something that will bring people together,
or will it serve as another source of conflict in the world? At Concordia we are encouraged to BREW, and we have been taught that intercultural dialogue is a way to solve problems rather than a means to create more conflict. However, the article, “The Clash of Civilizations,” by respected scholar Samuel Huntington, claims that culture will be the largest source of all major conflicts in the future, rather than economic or geopolitical factors as we have seen in the past (Huntington). Globalization is making the world a smaller place and is creating more interaction among people who have fundamentally different ideas about life. Huntington’s idea is very different from what we promote here at Concordia, where we encourage the tolerance of other cultures and other beliefs. Is it possible that we are wrong? That no matter what we do, our cultural differences are so
different that we will not be able to overcome them? Before we try to decide whether we are going to agree with Samuel Huntington’s argument or not, we should examine why he believes that this will be the case. Huntington claims there are basically eight civilizations in the world. He splits the world up into Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latina American, and African Civilizations. He splits them into these groups because he believes that they have fundamentally different values and worldviews that stem from completely different historical experiences (Huntington). He believes all major conflicts between different civilizations will fall along these fault lines. While these very different civilizations may exist, one wonders if this really makes our cultural differences irreconcilable. Huntington posits six reasons for why he thinks the way he does. He first says, “Differences among civilizations are not only real, but they are basic.” History, language, culture, and religion are what differentiate one civilization from another, and these differences are not easily changed (Huntington). Second, he says that due to globalization the world is becoming a smaller place, and this increase in communication will accentuate these differences. He obviously does not mean that the world is literally becoming smaller; he means that with inven-
tions such as planes, telephones, and especially the internet, people can communicate across the world with no trouble at all. Therefore distances have less meaning. Third, he believes that people around the world are associating their identity less with their country and more with their religion, which has caused a widespread return to “religious fundamentalism” among the religions, primarily Western Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. These religions, he believes, are fundamentally different from each other and will inevitably lead to conflict (Huntington). Fourth, Huntington says that people around the world will return to their roots in backlash to the preponderance of power of Western Civilization. Western Civilization, including countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Western Europe, has had the most power for the last half a century and has attempted to influence the world through its cultural perspective. Rather than accepting this, most people have returned to their cultural roots (Huntington). This brings us to Huntington’s fifth point, that a person’s culture is not as easily changed as political or
“The ‘Clash of Civilizations’ theory does not explain the existence of countries that support a wide variety of cultures and peoples from other civilizations, wherein everybody seems to get along well.”
economic characteristics. He writes, “Communists can become democrats, the rich can become poor and the poor rich, but Russians cannot become Estonians” (Huntington). A person’s culture is something he or she lives with every day, and this is not likely to change easily. Finally, he says that we have seen an increase in intraregional trade, meaning much more trade within the civilizations rather than between them. This seems to already be proving his point that people are retreating into their civilization. Is this really an accurate representation of world? Many scholars have criticized this theory for a variety of reasons. First, it fails to account for conflict within civilizations. The civilizations that Huntington uses in his thesis are not completely unified cultural units and have many cultural divisions within them that are much more divisive than differences with other
civilizations. The argument can be made that these civilizations share a similar history, not the same history. This leaves the possibility for differences to arise within these civilizations (Sato). The “Clash of Civilizations” theory does not explain the existence of countries that support a wide variety of cultures and peoples from other civilizations, wherein everybody seems to get along well. The United States, for example, is made up of different cultures from all around the world and has been able to survive, even thrive, without any major culture conflicts that were not eventually resolved. If it is true that different cultures can coexist without major conflict within a country, then cultures should also be able to coexist beyond individual country borders (Said). Huntington’s theory also seems to ignore the closed relationships that transcend the boundaries of
Huntington, Samuel P. “The Clash of Civilizations?” Cambridge: Har-
vard University, John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, 1993. Print. Nye, Joseph S., & Welch, David. “Introduction.” Understanding
Global Conflict and Cooperation: An Introduction to Theory and History. Boston: Pearson Longman, 2011. Print. Said, Edward W. “The Clash of Ignorance: The Nation.” The Clash of
Ignorance: The Nation. Web. 15 Dec. 2012.
Sato, Seizaburo. “Clash of Civilizations and Its Critiques.” Clash of Civilizations and Its Critiques. Web. 15 Dec. 2012.
specific civilizations. According to the “Clash of the Civilizations” theory, conflict is likely to occur between countries like the United States and Japan, nations from very different cultures, but there is very little substance to suggest that these countries that have been strong allies for a long time will change anytime soon (Sato). Countries from different civilizations have been able to resolve their differences before, and there is little evidence to support that they won’t be able to do so in this era of globalization. People could, and probably will, forever argue whether or not Samuel Huntington’s theory is correct. However, I think a better way to look at Huntington’s theory is as a warning and as a challenge. It serves as a warning by telling us all of the problems the world may have to face in dealing with different cultures. He draws awareness to our differences and to how important a person’s culture is to them, as well as the problems that might arise when dealing with people that have a fundamentally different view of life than our own. I also think that along with this warning comes a challenge: a challenge to be better than the differences that divide us. People are special in that we can make decisions. Every decision we make has consequences, it is up to us to make sure these consequences are positive. As another famous political scientist, Joseph Nye, once said, “Nothing is inevitable.” Conflicts between different civilizations do not have to be the reality. As human beings we have the unique ability to make choices and shape our own future, so let it be one where there is not a clash of civilizations.
Oil on canvas
“Sydney Lights” was inspired by my semester abroad in Australia. While studying at the University of the Sunshine Coast, my friends and I were able to travel to Sydney and experience the natural and architectural beauty of one of the country’s most famous cities. The Opera House was an obvious choice for painting because of its national symbolism and striking qualities. The color scheme came from a photo of the Opera House during their 2012 light show, which I unfortunately missed by a month, and I wanted to reimagine that event on canvas. I painted in highly saturated colors and an impressionistic style to capture the movement felt when viewing the Opera House for the first time.
Respect the Right of Freedom of Speech
As a Muslim living in America, I have seen that Americans have the best of everything. We have maximum resources, efficient transportation, responsible government, and more than that, we are making the best of all these facilities. We have the latest technology and can do almost anything within seconds, which is nothing less than a miracle. We have the freedom of speech which means we do not have to conceal our thoughts and can express our opinions in any way or anywhere we like. But how far can we go with all this? If we utilize all the resources in the end we will deplete them, leaving us with nothing. If we are too dependent on technology, then we make ourselves mere servants of it, as it will control us and our actions. If we misuse our freedom of speech, then we might insult or offend another person, group, or community. One such recent act has been done by filmmaker Sam Bacile by producing a movie titled Innocence of Muslims which contains disrespectful material against Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him)1. This film is a violation of free speech because it presents harmful stereotypes about Muslims and therefore needs
to be taken off the Internet. America is said to be one of the few nations in the world which truly exercises freedom of speech, but sometimes it leads to trouble and opposition. This film is an example of the American freedom of speech creating negative reactions on an international level. The problem I face in writing this paper is the lack of information about the movie as I am not able to watch it myself, but I have two strong reasons for that. The first reason is that I am a Muslim, so it is just impossible for me to watch the film because it hurts my sentiments to the core. It is the same as if someone had beaten up or insulted one’s parents and some other person had videotaped the incident. Now the child of the insulted individual is supposed to write about it but will not be able to gather the courage to see the recording. The second reason I am unable to watch the video is that if I do, I will not be able to keep a neutral point of view because the content will definitely make me angry. But here arises a question of why I am talking about something that causes me so much pain: I think it is important to let the
people know what the truth is and to clear all the misunderstandings surrounding the content of the film, and in the end, it might eventually result in removing that video from YouTube. For all those people who are still wondering what I am talking about, I would like to give a brief summary of the film. According to The Huffington Post, the movie was originally titled Desert Warrior, and it was about a character named George. The movie was supposed to show life in Egypt 2,000 years ago. The
Muslims, we always use this term whenever we say or write the name of our Prophet, to show him love and respect.
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trailer was uploaded onto YouTube September 12th, 2012 under the name Innocence of Muslims (Makarechi). The trailer itself shows Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) as a rapist, child abuser and a corrupt person (Naoozubillah)2 which is entirely based on falsehood. It seems that even the actors of the movie were unaware of the fact that the movie would include such hateful content. They reported that they had been manipulated and their actions misused. One actress named Cindy Lee Garcia even filed a lawsuit against the producer and YouTube, as she claims she was misinformed about the content of the movie. Unfortunately, she was unable to prove she was unaware of what was taking place. Peter Bradshaw writes in his blog for The Guardian, “It is quite possible that the actors had no idea what they were doing.” In my opinion, the actors knew what they were doing, and now, as a result of all the protests, they are opting out of what they had actually done. Nobody wants to take the blame and be held responsible for this movie, but that doesn’t stop the continuous unrest it is causing in different societies that have been offended by its content. Considering another angle, one can say that nobody benefitted from the creation of this movie, not even the makers themselves. So why did they do it? These actors or producers were not given any reward from the American government. They were not appreciated by the interna2This
is a term used by Muslims whenever they are talking about something which directly or indirectly is disrespectful and false about GOD and Prophet.
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tional media. They were not nominated for any prestigious movie awards. The only logical answer is that it was produced to create social and political unrest in societies around the world. There have been rallies in different Muslim countries of the world, including Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan involving thousands of Muslims filling the streets, carrying slogans against America, and burning the American flag. Because of this one video, almost seventy-five people lost their lives including the U.S. ambassador in Libya, J. Christopher
er. Even love sometimes may cause you to hurt someone else, but respect makes you cautious of your actions and words. Respect the right of freedom of speech as it helps you in respecting all other people, nations or communities. This respect could be between the Americans and the Muslims or between the Non-Muslims and the Muslims; I don’t think these terms make any difference. The most important thing is respect, and it should be present among human beings belonging to different or similar cultures, religions, communities, and societies. For the sake of respecting humanity, any action that stops spreading that video would be appreciated. The opinion of a few Americans who publically condemn Islam obviously cannot represent the population of 313 million, and Muslims need to recognize that. The violent protests do not help their cause nor do they harm the Americans’. They will only destroy the peace of the world and undermine the teachings of Islam. On the other hand, those few Muslims who show higher levels of aggressiveness do not represent the whole Muslim community. People around the world think of Islam as an aggressive religion which is a big misconception. Like other major religions of the world, Islam preaches peace and friendliness, and it prohibits the taking of even a single human life. Unfortunately, people of the world – mostly westerners – get a different idea of what Islam is about through media and widely held misconceptions. This video further encourages these inaccurate percep-
“one can say that nobody benefitted from the creation of this movie, not even the makers themselves. So why did they do it?” Stevens, and hundreds of people have suffered from injuries and financial losses (Kay). I have the same question again for these protestors: What did they gain from all this? The blasphemous video is still on YouTube. They did not get any sympathy from most of the nations of the world and no action was taken against the movie. All this could have been avoided if only an action was taken to remove the video from the Internet. The movie might be an example of freedom of speech to the fullest, but it violates so many other human rights. Above all, it undermines the right of respect that every human, living or dead, deserves. I think that in order to survive in this world, it is very important to respect each oth-
“The movie might be an example of freedom of speech to the fullest, but it violates so many other human rights. Above all, it undermines the right of respect that every human, living or dead, deserves.” tions by false portrayals; therefore its removal is necessary. Instead of violent reactions, there should be peaceful protests and wise action. The website france24.com shows that people belonging to a certain Muslim organization distributed the English translation of The Holy Book Quran to the Non-Muslims so that they can understand what Islam is (Sheikh). This is the best way of making people understand and removing the misconceptions. Some things have been done about the video but to no avail. People like Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney have condemned the movie and have seen such acts as reprehensible, unacceptable and violating the right of freedom of speech. The disappointing thing is that the video is still on YouTube in spite of demands for its removal by Muslim nations and also the governments of Turkey, Russia, and Brazil. In contrast, Google refused to remove the video because they “already determined that the video did not violate its terms of service regarding hate speech. In this case, the video stays up because it is against the Islam religion but not Muslim people” (Miller). It is beyond my understanding as to why hate speech is only against a living human being and does not maintain the status of hate speech after the person’s death. A person who has died deserves as much respect as a person who is
alive; the loss of life does not mean loss of dignity. A hate speech for me is anything that attacks the sentiments of another person or group of persons, and this video is all about that. Therefore, I do not want the existence of such hate speech in our world. Above all else, if Google and YouTube would consider the sentiments of millions of people out there instead of their policies, it would stir major actions towards
making peace between both the sides of this controversial video. As I said earlier, America has access to the latest technology, and we know how to use it to our benefit. Unfortunately, American citizens, Muslim and Non-Muslim alike, lack the compassion to use it for the best of humanity. We have all the possible resources to voice our opinions on different issues, so why rely on violent means? It is actually quite easy to make people understand that one needs to be respected if one uses a respectful and peaceful way to say it. There is no need to yell on Facebook posts or YouTube comments, no need to create hatred pages or websites, and definitely no need to target any specific group or community through any means.
References Bradshaw, Peter. “Innocence of Muslims: a dark demonstration of the power of film.” Guardian.co.uk. The Guardian, 17 Sep. 2012. Web. 15 Oct. 2012. Kay, Jonathan. “Don’t let the idiot speak: The case against Terry Jones.” Nationalpost.com. National Post, 10 Oct. 2012. Web. 24 Oct. 2012. Makarechi, Kia. “Anna Gurji & ‘Innocence Of Muslims’: Horrified Actress Writes Letter Explaining Her Role.” Huffingtonpost.com. The Huffington Post, 17 Sep. 2012. Web. 24 Oct. 2012. Miller, Claire Cain. “Google Has No Plans to Rethink Video Status.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 14 Sep. 2012. Web. 24 Oct. 2012. Sheikh, Naif. “UK Muslims distribute Koran in response to anti-Islam film “. France24.com. France 24, 19 Sep. 2012. Web. 15 Oct. 2012.
We Are All Responsible for Peace
Global Studies Essay Contest Winner
WORLD The w orld is different now. With the introduction of democracies and the United Nations, our thoughts about wars and diplomacy have progressed. Contrary to centuries before, the idea that empire-building is an honorable sport has subsided. Intolerance of ethnic and racial difference has diminished considerably as well. Most importantly, people are beginning to understand that nations don’t cause wars; it is we as individuals who suppress peace and democracy and then cause war. I have learnt to fully understand that as individuals, we are liable to preserve world peace and democracy. Growing up, I did not fully understand that I have the power to change things. I had a general assumption that issues pertaining to peace and democracy were the politician’s duty to take care of. For most of my life, I was in a country that was infested with political violence and suppression of human rights by corrupt government officials. Zimbabwe made it in head-
lines around the world as a “failed state” and as having the worst hyperinflation in history, even more than hyperinflation during Germany’s 1923 catastrophe. My experience of being exposed to violence as a way of resolving conflict also profoundly changed my personal view of the world. It all started within my family framework; pertaining to old African patriarchal culture and tradition, a man can physically assault his wife and there is nothing wrong with that. When I was five years old, my parents used to fight all the time. Seeing my dad physically hit my mother was a gruesome moment for me. I always felt that something was seriously wrong, but under the specs of my society, there was nothing wrong at all. My parents finally divorced, but the gruesome images of my Mom crying were still engraved in my mind. Furthermore, as a teenager I was further exposed to yet another well-pronounced example of violence as a way to resolve
“Growing up, I did not fully understand that I have the power to change things. I had a general assumption that issues pertaining to peace and democracy were the politician’s duty to take care of.”
conflict. By this time, the very people that I thought I could trust with preserving peace and order were the ones acting against it. The intense political violence that spread through Zimbabwe from 1999 until the present reaffirmed to me that violence is the way to resolve conflict, even though deep inside I know that there are better ways to resolve conflict. As if this was not enough, I read the news, and on headlines I could see war and terror: images of dead people in Iraq, Sudan, Somalia and other parts of the world. As a child with a malleable brain, I was partially convinced that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflict, but this confused me as I battled with the gruesome images of the suffering people that I had seen and the feeling that some of them did not even deserve to die or suffer the pain they did – especially political victims. This caused me to become very curious about better ways to resolve conflict, and I had a need to fully understand what peace and democracy meant. As a result of my childhood experience, I decided to dedicate my college career to a Global Studies major, and I hope that I will get
to fulfill my desire to seek further understanding about global peace, how nations are run democratically, and how various societies deal with conflict and manage to progress. Last summer I was honored to be a Nobel Peace Prize Scholar and I spent the time in Norway learning more about peacemaking and dialogue as a nonviolent way of resolving conflict. During this time I learned a lot. After spending a lot of time analyzing the current conflicts in the world (Iran, Israel, Congo, etc) as a Peace Scholar, I realized that peace resounds within individuals. We are all responsible for the current state of our societies now and the world catastrophes that we are facing. Reflecting on my childhood again, it is not surprising to me that some of my classmates who are now married abuse their newlywed wives. Some of them are even the manpower behind the political violence and murders that are going on in Zimbabwe now. Society shapes how children
“my high school friends are now part of the abusive gangs organized by the government to terrorize opposition parties.” will behave when they become adults. If I had not attained the level of education I have, who knows, I may have been one of those men abusing their wives in rural Africa today. Whatever values that we expose to our children, the odds are high that they assimilate them and recreate them because that’s all they know. It is therefore not surprising that some of my high school friends are now part of the abusive gangs organized by the government to terrorize opposition parties. Would one blame them? The notion of identifying and resolving conflicts peacefully was never instilled in them. It was the society they grew up in that showed them violence was the answer. Just like how Crandall R. Kline states in Peace within Our Grasp,
“If I had not attained the level of education I have, who knows, I may have been one of those men abusing their wives in rural Africa today.”
there are fundamental moral rules that society can implement to attain a peaceful global community. Although we may take it for granted, we need to emphasize nonviolence – an understanding that no one has the right to kill or harm anyone else. This can be further strengthened by educating society that lives and land are sacred. No nation has the right to invade another nation, kill the people, or take their land. Citizens must withdraw support for any leader that violates human rights. Groups of people have no more right to kill than individuals have. Governments have no right to kill anyone. Not only do we need the right rules, but we need enough people who understand them and who are concerned enough that they will speak up and demand that the governments and policy makers implement them.
My grandmother sits in her recliner rubbing her hands. Of all things that have been taken away from her in her lifetime – an education, a newborn daughter, her eyesight – it is her hands that have molded her story. Hands have been used to build and sustain civilizations, to create masterpieces of art, and to radiate love through human touch. In my grandmother’s lifetime, she has accomplished all of these and more. Her hands have the marks of years of tireless labor and the scars from managing her life with diabetes. Age spots have invaded the spaces between the wrinkles on her translucent skin, revealing her 83 years. Even though her hands appear delicate at first glance, they are deceiving. It’s what they don’t reveal at the surface that makes her so extraordinary to me.
care of her younger siblings while also sharing some domestic duties or working in the fields. Later she married my grandfather, a strong silent type who was ten years older than she. They immigrated to America from Mexico to find work for him. Once she was settled in Montana, my grandmother spent a lot of her time tending to her garden of vegetables and patches of flowers, an activity she had carried over from her life in Mexico. Her garden was at its prime when all of her grandchildren were available as eager helpers, willing to trudge around in the clods of dirt in our quest to keep all weeds away from my grandmother’s glory. I remember summer after summer, the image of my grandmother on her pastel green foam knee pads, stained with patches of fresh mud layered over the dry dirt from days before, always with her handheld shovel and a watering hose. Wisps of her thin, silvery hair would slip out of the braided crown atop her head and frame her face as she bent on her hands and knees, hard at work. 7:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. was devoted to weeding, watering, and pruning the plants. The cut-off time was always the same because ten o’clock was when her day-long series of soap
“Her hands have the marks of years of tireless labor and the scars from managing her life with diabetes.” My grandmother is one of the most independent people I know. Still living on her own, she rarely asks for anything beyond the necessities. Her experiences growing up in Mexico instilled in her a hard work ethic beyond my understanding. She spent all of her life taking care of others. Instead of attending school, she stayed at home to take
operas began. She would spend the rest of the day on her recliner, her latest crochet project in hand, to enjoy her marathon of soaps. I don’t think a tornado could have shaken my grandmother from this routine. Her hands were always moving. The rest of her body could be perfectly calm, but there was always a new project at her feet and a needle in her hand. When it came to crocheting or sewing, my grandmother was a master. She would complete one blanket and immediately begin the next without ever needing an excuse to start a new one. It would become a varying array of striped, bright colors that had no distinct pattern to it, developing its own design as she progressed. Anyone who received one of my grandmother’s creations was the envy of the family. There was always an abundance of crocheted treasures lying around her house – stretched across the back of her couches, folded over the ends of the beds, and tucked in storage containers for bitter winters. The toll of a lifetime of continuous work began to minimize what my grandmother could tackle with her hands in a day. Slowly over time, the garden ceased to sprout
but has still lived to keep its namesake as ‘The Garden.’ It has become nothing more than a small field of thick grass, dried and yellowed by the damage of years of smoldering summers with little tending. Still, with the help of my aunt, my grandmother is determined to see a few plots of flowers dispersed through her backyard grow back bright and colorful each spring. Likewise, her crochet projects may be untouched for days on end, but they are never fully forgotten. Not only were my grandmother’s hands used for growing and creating, but also for teaching her expertise in the kitchen. My grandmother, my mom, and I have been a trio, a team, a well-oiled machine in the kitchen as far back as I can remember. My mom was the captain and navigator of all of our expeditions in what I would call the heart of our home. I could easily read directions and measure out ingredients. I was the one to slice, stir, or sauté whatever I was ordered. My grandmother’s contributions have been the ones that have changed the most as she has reached her eighties. The loss of her eyesight and the gradual dwindling daily portions of energy have demoted my grandmother to a
“No batch of tortillas has been successful without my grandmother’s guidance.”
sous-chef. No longer is she the one to command, but the one to follow instructions. When I was a girl, I saw my grandmother and my mom as equals in the kitchen: the oldest generation a master of her traditional Mexican recipes that have never had a science to them but have never changed as long as I’ve been able to enjoy them. The other is a pupil in the Mexican dishes but a master in her own Better Homes recipe book style of cooking where she has developed a collection of her own specialties throughout her experiments. The most iconic memories of my grandmother have been of her in her small kitchen, commanding her daughters in how to make mole or menudo, tamales or tortillas. The most memorable culinary missions were those at my grandmother’s home. It was a place where all of the cousins, aunts, and uncles were drawn by the scent wafting from the cracks in her old house. No couch, chair, or spot on the floor would be left uninhabited for long when my grandmother’s food was involved. Stories of my grandmother’s earlier life in Texas and Mexico spurred up most often when she was slaving away in the kitchen or after our bellies were full of her spicy dishes possessing the power to warm us from the inside. She always told her tales in a weaving of broken English and once-fluent Spanish. She would begin speaking in English until her
memories couldn’t translate into anything but their native language. There was never any conscious evidence that she had changed languages besides the Spanish words rolling off her tongue a bit swifter. All I could do when she got onto this tangent was listen intently, as if each alien word didn’t slip in one ear and exit out the other without any registration of meaning. My Spanish was limited, but it was her tone and pace, the adjustment of her expression, and the way she moved her
“The toll of a lifetime of continuous work began to minimize what my grandmother could tackle with her hands in a day.” hands or held them still that told the story to me. I learned as I got older that if I interrupted with questions, she would add enough English that I could use context to piece together what she was trying to say. The first place I picked up my limited Spanish vocabulary was in the kitchen. It was always, “Grab the manteca, Maria” or “Dame la leche.” It didn’t
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take long to learn the daunting lingo. I was conditioned each time I had to return the butter to the fridge – that was not the ‘manteca’. There was always one word that didn’t need a definition, one that made everyone’s mouth water in its anticipation – tortilla. My grandmother has a certain magic about the way she makes the seemingly simple flour tortilla dough. The best tortillas I’ve ever tasted were made solely by her. No batch of tortillas has been successful without my grandmother’s guidance. She uses her experienced touch to combine the flour mixture and water into a dough that is treasured as if it were family gold. When we were younger, we played a game to see who could master the art of rolling perfectly round tortillas. I always remember my grandmother being the patient one when we attempted the impossible as children. Our geometry skills were obviously lacking. We tried to name which state our tortillas resembled most, or any object really. My mom was the opposite. She has always been a tortilla rolling machine, and the games would end as soon as she decided she wanted to be done with making tortillas. My grandmother always let us taste test anything she was cooking, and I was always the first. I can’t count how many tortillas I tasted: a warm one straight off the griddle, the one shaped like Florida, the one on the bottom of the stack. It’s a first-come, first-served event for those tortillas. Each aunt and her family would be given a share of the goods to distribute – it’s the family distribution that isn’t always fair. I’ve seen some tragic fits, and taken part in some, when only a measly portion of the prized torti-
llas are left for the last person. One rule has never changed: the final few off the comal, made extra big, have been the claim of my grandmother. There has always been a silent code of respect towards my grandmother. She is served first, thanked first, and always given the most admiration on the wonderful food, no matter if she was the cook or not. The work done with my grandmother’s hands have always been special to me. Her entire life seems to be molded and shaped by them. Everything she has crocheted, cooked, and grown was always, and
always will be, the humble things that remain of her. She has tenderly made them with her finest tools. Besides having the privilege of sharing my grandmother’s name, I have yet to develop that connection to her accomplishments in the garden, in the kitchen, or in the home like my mother and aunts. But I will not let this hold me back from appreciating everything my grandmother has given me or taught me through her most valued experiences. The way I see it, there’s always more to learn from her, and whether or not she will be around to see it, I will make her proud with what I can bring to the earth with my own hands.
Grandma’s Flour Tortillas 12 cups flour 1 cup shortening ½ T. baking powder ½ T. baking soda 1 T. salt Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt completely in a bowl with your hands. Add shortening, and incorporate into flour really well. Add enough warm water (approximately 2-3 cups) until it makes soft dough. Knead for about 4-5 min. Cover with a towel and let rest for about 10 min. In the meantime, set your griddle on medium heat – a cast iron griddle works best. Form dough into 1 ½ - 2 in. sized balls. Roll tortillas out to about 1/8 of an inch thick. Cook on griddle until nicely browned.
My Days on the Stage
I was only nine when I began to perform. I sang songs and did dances, read poems at the school stage. I stood at the end of the school line at gym class but had the best score in the rest of the subjects. I had to be courageous. My songs had no music, just my own voice. But I was successful. I liked to dance also, enjoying the music and wearing costumes as well. I’m so sad we have no photos of this. I only have photos of my sons dancing. When I was eleven and could use the tramway, I went to the Palace for children; we had one. The Kids’ Palace had many clubs. “You go for sewing,” suggested my father. But I chose another. I wanted to be an actress. You do not believe me? My choice was the puppet theatre. I wanted to perform as another creature. Sometimes it was a very unusual person. I want you to know the difficulty of performance. Sometimes it took eight months. We had to rehearse every day.
The team of the actors, no matter their ages, worked as a unit for the main idea of the spectacle. We must have the perfect performance at the finish. And we must be ready to show the applauding audience. The children were happy, twice as happy as actors. They actually were not adults. The impression from the stage captures young souls forever. Once you have the feeling of being an actor you cannot forget it your whole life. You cannot explain it. It’s power of the art, and people will cry, be angry, and laugh.
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At age thirty-eight I bought an accordion with buttons. I studied quickly without a teacher. I played Russian songs; They are very melodious. I was fifty-three when my son brought me to the USA. Once I listened to his church’s music. I’ll play it with you, I told him, because many times he asked me, Play music at Church stage with me. This music was beautiful; My son also sang. The time passed – I’m sixty, a granny as well, but ready to be an actress at my home theater, remembering spectacles and how to perform them. I hope my son and his wife will join me as well as my grandkids. And all will be perfect! And all will be happy! And all are welcome to Russia to watch my spectacles!
In the early 1960s, travel by jetliner was brand new and a status symbol. The glamorous connotations of the jetset have faded—instead airline travel is commonplace, legroom is measured in inches and security measured in liquid ounces. Now every press outlet is stocked with travel writers guiding you to your destinations, and vacations are booked online through discount hotel outlets. It seems like everyone from Kerouac to the guidance counselor to your neighborhood Starbucks blogger insist that travel will revolutionize your point of view—a single unified jolt to the consciousness. Maybe that’s true, but I don’t think that’s enough— Location: we travel and build up experience bit by bit, like anySangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico thing. The following are recollections of trips big and Country: USA small that have built up over the years. Date: 2007 It’s only eleven o’clock and I’m sick of today. The “Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I rebandana I’ve tied around my head is already damp member, and remember more than I’ve seen.” -Benand sliding down my forehead. On the sixth day of jamin Disraeli this hike I’m counting down the days to go (another six), the hours left (more than six, for sure), the miles ahead (roughly forty or so) and the clean socks left (zero). Colin decided we needed to take the long way to this outlook. We finally clear the trees and open onto the ridge. I toss my pack off next to a tree and do nothing for my mood as I watch the spout of my water bottle fall and slake the dirt’s thirst. Upset, I Country: Germany grab the disposable camera I’ve opened for the day Date: Late 1990s and snap pictures in rapid fire, continually winding Everything is just sketches in a ten-year-old mind. away as twenty pictures burn into film. None of this comes through in the grainy slides
“we travel and build up experience bit by bit”
my dad will print. This is not going abroad but going away where people don’t speak your language. The country is dark whistling castle rooms that give way to wine valley vistas. It’s learning what wine is, “what’s a goulash?” and subsistence living off of street vendor pretzels. Pop back down the alleyway behind the café and this is Bonn and up the stairs is the rest of the bed and breakfast, car rides where everything seems like castles when you can only see up out of the window and the signs don’t make sense and the history of Baden-Baden. There are old men with lederhosen marionettes at the side of a Black Forest lake before the endless switchbacks. Above all, Germany is “Is this where I lived?” and “This is where you were born.”
Location: Rome Country: Italy Date: March 2008 A flashbulb pops in the audience. This is the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs. Holy music rings through the space, trumpeted between brass choirs at opposite ends of the church. Both the music and the church were two hundred years old when the United States began. This is the old religion, the brazen blare deafening as sound bounces over arches and pillars designed by Michelangelo himself. The music is home again, brought here by American students barely old enough to understand the passage of time in their own lives. The audience’s applause is thunderous.
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Location: Galway Country: Ireland Date: June 2009 Things are a little fuzzy both to my eyes and the rainy lens of the camera as I snap a triptych of the exterior of this bar. I am wet and slightly tipsy for the first time in my life, staring at the side of the pub, trying to identify American rock legends. Naturally, my dad and I are competing to name all the painted icons. Standing in the cobbled streets of Galway, we’ve been caught in the net of this tourist spot while doubling back to find a music store. A store, I should add, that we’ve passed at least three times while hopscotching our way between folk seisúns. We’re in town tonight to watch Irish musicians playing their folk songs as my dad and I play ours in similar corners of similar bars at home. We’re also here to buy a flute, one that I will never master, but one fated to join a collection of instruments from across the globe. Location: Cancún Country: Mexico Date: February 2011 A week from now when the photos develop, I’ll be surprised how well sunglasses hide the pain in my eyes. The smile however, is sincere. I am sunburned. The outlined thumbprint on my arm is proof of that. The shrimp tacos with salsa and ... something (whatever that last word on the menu meant) sitting next to my drink are proof that you can find happiness, perhaps at a plastic table down a flight of stairs from the street in a shock of palm trees next to the bay. I’ll spend tomorrow on the porch covered in shade, nursing the burn and reading Hemingway.
Location: The Maize, Moorhead, Minnesota Country: USA Date: 2011 Listening to Minnesotans compare travel experiences is often a self-defeating exercise. Just having been on an airplane will set you apart from the rest. In fact, the students behind me are debating who’s gone farther: Is Des Moines or Green Bay a longer distance? While we try to set ourselves apart as a school with a strong study abroad program, it hardly makes us world travelers. As the son of a pilot, I’ve been privileged enough to grow up in airports and travel from an early age. Yet I don’t call myself a world traveler. To me, that implies some element of permanence, dedicating time to living abroad and exploring many cultures over decades of travel. The rest is just snapshots. Location: Tokyo-Narita Airport Country: Japan Date: May 2012 Breeze down the Tokyo jetway, through the line for security–this is no big deal–take off my belt, shoes, jacket, wonder whether my Cobber ring really has to come off. It’s the same routine planet-wide. Grab my backpack from the bin, shoes back on, duck around the corner and...stop. I can’t read the departure sign. Any of it. I have been on more planes than school buses and spent more nights sleeping in airports than I’ve done all-nighters. And now, across the globe, I’m illiterate. More startling, I’m lost. What more can I do but take a picture of the moment: characters I don’t recognize on a departure board thousands of miles from home.
Location: Hong Kong Country: China Date: May 2012 It sounds crazy: bring seventy students and staff to a country where the language is entirely unlike their own, with the guidance of two tag-teaming, Chinese-speaking professors. Going to Europe is one thing – at least the alphabets and languages have the same roots, and English is common. China is different. How fitting, then, that our first day in the country is spent at an international middle school, tucked away outside the city and perched high above a dark bay speckled with millionaires’ yachts. The building
Location: Fargo, North Dakota Country: USA Date: December 2012 The window from floor six of the hospital gives a great view of downtown Fargo. On a winter’s night, the snow catches the light and adds a shimmer to the glisten of Broadway. Above and below me are nearly 600 hospital beds and possibly the most diverse population in the city. Everyone needs hospitals. There are people who have never left the state. A woman points out her flowers, explaining where each one came from while at the same time she slowly pieces out her Christmas plans. This morning a man put his jacket on backwards. As his son teased him for acting drunk, he slurred, “It’s the whiskey I had with breakfast” in a slow rancher’s drawl as he placed a Stetson hat on his head. There are those that give you the briefest glimpse into their lives, with all the turns that we can’t see. A man still groggy from surgery recounts how he bought one of John Wayne’s old movie horses that everyone else had given up on, thanks to a broken horseshoe. It’s a story that sounds like hope in the wake of a bitter divorce. “She took my dog.” A former EMT tells me she realized she was going into tachycardia when her training kicked in, and she forced herself to calm down. She doesn’t say it, but she knows she may have saved her life through sheer willpower. The hospital also hints at what lies ahead. Floor four is pediatrics and the birth center. You can tell when visitors come for fourth floor. Floor seven is oncology, where the patients we get to know best age before our eyes. Almost miraculously, we never see death. I only know the morgue is in another basement. A woman notices my Cobber ring, and learning that I still haven’t graduated, smiles. “Aw, you’re still a baby!” Tonight, as I leave the hospital, I turn around to capture a Christmas tree lit with white lights, stained blue by the electric ribbon that encircles the hospital. You can only faintly make out the windows housing patients.
“silent mountaintops hung with mist, the hawk floating in front of the giant windows, watching the children play soccer as we play” itself is practically abandoned, and a mist falls about the school as we carry instruments into the band room we’re using to practice for the day. Only after settling in do we realize that the shimmering back wall is made of floor-to-ceiling windows opening over a hundred-foot drop. At the foot of the hill is where the school has gone for the day; it looks like the elementary students are having a soccer tournament. Behind them rise mountains covered with lush palm trees. At the end of the rehearsal, we’re distracted – a hawk of some sort is drifting in and out of view, riding the thermals. Dr. Jones finally relents and tells us to turn in our chairs for the next piece, O Magnum Mysterium. He steps back, eyes closed, his baton falls slowly, and we begin. Half a world away from home and it all falls away. Everything outside of the music is peaceful: silent mountaintops hung with mist, the hawk floating in front of the giant windows, watching the children play soccer as we play. There is no language barrier within music. No language barrier when no one is here to speak. Our photographer, padding behind us, snaps a picture that none of us notice.
Djembe Staff - 2013
C o p y
Liz Rahn A d v i s o r
is an Assistant Professor of English and has been teaching at Concordia since 2005. She teaches courses in composition, American language and culture, introduction to literature, global literature, and British and American literature. In 2009 and 2012 Amy traveled to Rwanda with Concordia students and had rich, fulfilling experiences each time. She hopes that Djembe can help to bring intercultural conversations (similar to those that she and students have with Rwandans) right here to campus, and open up dialogues for all of us. Credit for Djembe goes entirely to the student team working hard all year to make it happen; Amy just considers herself lucky to be a part of it.
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is a junior from Eagan, Minnesota, studying finance in the Offutt School of Business. While traveling in college, Matt has studied ethnography and the sociological theory of habitus in a Scottish firehouse, and he intends to travel to India in 2013 to spend time working with NGOs and a multinational corporation. He hopes readers enjoy this fourth publication of Djembe and many more to come!
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is a junior majoring in English literature with a minor in history. After graduation, Liz plans to pursue further education in graduate school and eventually become a professor. In addition to being an editor for Djembe, she is also on the editing staff of AfterWork literary publication, a member of the Chapel Choir, and is involved in the theatre program on campus.
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is an English writing major from Thousand Oaks, California, and a senior at Concordia. Her goal in life is to write and to travel the world. She hopes to live to at least age 70. She gives thanks to her Djembe Family (DFFL: Djembe Family For Life). Her favorite meal is strawberries with whipped cream.
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Rachel Lindgren M a n a g i n g
E d i t o r
is a sophomore from Bismarck, North Dakota, and is majoring in English writing and mass media communications. On campus, he is involved in jazz band, symphonic band, and trumpet ensemble, and he is also a literary editor for AfterWork. Upon graduation he plans to go into advertising, but he hopes to one day make a living through his writing.
is a junior from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, majoring in English literature and political science. Outside of classes, she enjoys working for America Reads as well as Campus Lights at Concordia. She is always on the hunt for a great story and has found her experience at Djembe to be enriching and satisfying.
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is a sophomore from the prairies of Dawson, Minnesota. He is majoring in English writing and theatre art. He is often a part of Concordia Theatre onstage or backstage, and he works in the shop building props and scenery. He is also an editor for AfterWork. If you’re looking for him, he’s probably either indoors reading or outdoors exploring. He hopes one day to become a professor so that he may do these two things for a living.
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is from Alexandria, Minnesota, and she is a senior English education and communication-arts literature major at Concordia College. She has studied abroad at Liverpool Hope University, England, and she has traveled to Scotland and France. She is currently student-teaching 12th grade Language Arts at Fargo North High School and will graduate in May.
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Siangicha “Sia” Caroline Mbatia is a junior from Moshi, Tanzania, with
Mathematics and English Writing majors. She is involved with the International Student Organization and the African and Black Student Unions. Sia hopes to return to Tanzania after graduation and teach Mathematics and English, and then come back to the U.S. to work for the NBA... and hopefully watch free games.
D e s i g n e r
is a senior graphic design and English writing major. She is a student worker at the campus information desk and a graphic design intern on campus. Traveling, photography, family time, and skiing are her other passions. After college, she hopes to work at a fun graphic design firm while still making time to travel.