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Kenyon Observer

the Era? End of An Fisher v. University of Texas and the Future of Affirmative Action

Jacob Fass | page 8

September 25, 2012

Sodexo, a Story:

James Neimeister|page 6

the

Kenyon Observer October 31, 2012

Kenyon’s Oldest Undergraduate Political and Cultural Magazine


Kenyon Observer the

October 31, 2012


The Kenyon Observer October 31, 2012

5 From the Editors Cover Story

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jacob fass

End of an Era? Fisher v. University of Texas and the Future of Affirmative Action tommy brown

6 Ohio’s Chance for Reform

Issue 2 and the Problem of Redistricting megan shaw

7 A Shady Compromise

Paul Ryan’s Dishonesty Regarding Abortion gabriel rom

10 No Exit

The Prospect of a Lawless Afghanistan jacob weiner

12 The Pitfalls of Rights Rhetoric in Political Discourse ryan mach

The Last Word

Cover Art by Nick Nazmi

Editors-in-Chief Gabriel Rom and Sarah Kahwash Managing Editor Yoni Wilkenfeld Featured Contributors Tommy Brown, Jacob Fass, Ryan Mach, Gabriel Rom, Megan Shaw and Jacob Weiner Content Editors Tommy Brown, Andrew Gabel, Megan Shaw, Tess Waggoner and Jacob Weiner Layout/Design Sofia Mandel Illustrations Peter Falls Nick Nazmi Faculty Advisor Professor Fred Baumann The Kenyon Observer is a student-run publication that is distributed biweekly on the campus of Kenyon College. The opinions expressed within this publication belong only to the writers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Observer staff or that of Kenyon College. The Kenyon Observer will accept submissions and lettersto- the-editor, but reserves the right to edit for length and clarity. All submissions must be received at least a week prior to publication. Submit to Sarah Kahwash (kahwashs@kenyon.edu) or Gabriel Rom (romg@kenyon. edu).

Quotes Compiled by Megan Shaw


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FROM THE EDITORS

Dear Prospective Reader, With the election only a week away, our third issue begins with both local and national coverage: Tommy Brown takes a look at the Ohio Redistricting Amendment, while Megan Shaw criticizes the GOP ticket for its inconsistent positions on abortion. In our feature on affirmative action, Jacob Fass reflects on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the Supreme Court case making headlines nearly a decade after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor claimed to have put the contentious issue to rest. Turning to the nation’s political discourse, Gabriel Rom diagnoses a bipartisan myopia in the fight over the endgame in Afghanistan, and Jacob Weiner takes on some problematic aspects of rights rhetoric. We encourage Kenyon students, faculty, staff and community members to think about the views printed here, form their own opinions and engage in political discourse. As always, we welcome letters and fulllength submissions, both in response to content and on other topics of interest. Gabriel Rom and Sarah Kahwash Editors-in-Chief


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TOMMY BROWN

Ohio’s Chance for Reform ISSUE 2 AND THE PROBLEM OF REDISTRICTING Every 10 years, we witness one of the greatest crimes in politics. Following the census, each individual state reassesses their Congressional districts, growing and contracting them to fit population shifts. As innocent a process as it may sound, redistricting is rife with partisan motives across all states, and certainly both parties. With an election in full swing, Ohio newspapers are flexing their journalistic muscles, endorsing candidates and issues across the board. Issue 2, in its diversity of support and opposition, is no exception. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Toledo Blade, and Athens News have come out in favor, the Columbus Dispatch and Canton Rep opposed. The Ohio Democratic Party is in favor, while the Ohio Republican Party is opposed. It is being pushed by the Ohio League of Women Voters, opposed by the Ohio State Bar Association and supported by the AFL-CIO. It is clear that Issue 2 elicits strong opinions, as it should. At a time of steep partisan divide, in an essential swing state, there is a tangible feeling of discontentedness with government. As the pivotal example of political gaming, it should be no surprise that voters are taking issue with redistricting. It is a problem that few deny in our political system and, though Ohio is certainly not the worst case, it is clear that there must be a level of accountability in such a fragile and consequential process. I doubt there would be much support from voters to make it a more partisan process, but the question remains as to whether or not Issue 2 makes it a less partisan process. Each state’s approach to redistricting differs; Iowa, for instance, uses a nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency that only takes into account population shifts. Because the Agency only utilizes population data, it is seen by many as an example of a non-partisan redistricting process. Ohio, on the other hand, uses a commission of five elected

officials: governor, state auditor, secretary of state and one member from each major party. In the current political environment of the state, that amounts to four members of one party and only one member of the minority party, a fact that, some complain, may make the process extremely politicized. Redistricting can make fundamental changes in a state’s electoral landscape and, if done largely at the behest of a single party, is vulnerable to manipulation. Issue 2 is an attempt to address many of these problems, replacing the five-person panel with a commission of twelve Ohioans, four from each party and four independents. The general argument in favor of the constitutional amendment is that it removes elected officials and lobbyists from the process with the hope that this prevents invested political interests from influencing the commission’s decisions. The argument against the amendment is more nuanced, but most contend that while the process does need to change, Issue 2 is not the right approach. Complaints are many: the amendment requires the involvement of Ohio courts in such a political process, the branch most isolated from elected government. Moreover, despite the regretful politicization elected officials create over redistricting, voters are at least able to hold them accountable through ballot box and are not afforded the same check on the newly created commission. Nuance and argument aside, Issue 2 raises an interesting point on political compromise. Though few authors attempt to persuade their readers that changing the redistricting process is without merit, the current process is widely accepted as fraud. Voters will face a decision in November: whether to take a chance at fixing the complexities of redistricting or to hold out for a more comprehensive solution.TKO

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MEGAN SHAW

A Shady Compromise PAUL RYAN’S DISHONESTY REGARDING ABORTION At the end of the recent vice presidential debate, moderator Martha Raddatz turned to the two candidates with a rather personal question. Both Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan are vocal about their devotion to faith and the Catholic Church, yet Raddatz noted that each hold very different views on abortion. Biden, while accepting the Church’s view of abortion in his personal life, is politically pro-choice, while Ryan is both personally and politically pro-life. In the debate, Ryan took issue with Biden’s pro-choice point of view while accepting the Church’s stance of life beginning at conception: “If you believe that life begins at conception,” he argued, “that, therefore, doesn’t change the definition of life. That’s a principle. The policy of the Romney administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.” The Romney-Ryan ticket and a large portion of the pro-life community hold this stance on abortion—that abortion is incontrovertibly unethical, except in cases of rape and incest, or when the mother’s health is in danger. Common sense dictates that this point of view would be seen as more moderate and more reasonable than a staunchly pro-life position that disregards exceptional circumstances. The logic behind this argument is fallacious. Ryan says that life begins at conception, and thus the removal of a fetus via abortion qualifies as murder, a belief he highlighted in the debate when he gave an emotional account of seeing the first ultrasound of his daughter. Ryan, in other words, assigns personhood to the fetus. Ryan claims that “science and reason” form the basis of his pro-life position, while also defining life as beginning at conception; this rhetoric seems confused if we reflect on the scientific evidence against this definition. Regardless, if Ryan truly believes that abortion is murder, why should abortion be acceptable in cases of rape

or incest, or in which the mother’s life is at risk? After all, if a fetus is a person, it shouldn’t matter what the situation is. A life is a life. Would it be ethical to murder a person because they were the product of rape or incest? Would it be morally acceptable to choose who of two people should live and who should die? The contradiction in Ryan’s projected views is puzzling. Because, if Ryan truly believed that a fetus’s life was just like any other’s, he would not allow for those exceptions. If Ryan truly believed that a fetus was a person, he would not necessarily allow for intervention in a case where the mother’s life is threatened. I am left to draw the conclusion that Ryan does not oppose abortion simply because he believes that life begins at conception. There is another option: that Ryan, like much of the pro-life movement, opposes abortion because he believes women should have to deal with the consequences of sexual intercourse. It is, perhaps, an echo of the conservative backlash against Sandra Fluke for wanting birth control covered under women’s health insurance in the same way that Viagra is for men on so many plans. It begins and ends with an overwhelming lack of concern for women. The Romney-Ryan opposition to abortion does not rely on the hope of protecting lives, but rather on the oppression of female sexuality and an outdated desire to control the actions of women. Whether or not the possibility of the overturning of Roe v. Wade under a Romney administration is feasible depends on one’s personal opinion of the power of the executive branch. Regardless, for a party that proudly touts itself as protector of freedom and democracy, and that fervently denies the existence of what the media has dubbed the conservative “War on Women,” this election’s Republican ticket seems to be unconcerned with women’s best interests.TKO

tko@kenyon.edu


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JACOB FASS

End of an Era? FISHER V. UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AND THE FUTURE OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

This month, the Supreme Court met to revisit the make so frequently that it quickly becomes familiar to issue of affirmative action in Fisher v. University of Tex- high school seniors in the throes of the college search. as at Austin, a case that brought to light an interesting Unlike the students who were admitted under the 10 cleavage in the debate about merit and race in Ameri- percent plan, the admission staff considered a variety ca. On one side is Abagail Fisher, a white, 22-year-old of factors on Fisher’s application. They looked at her woman who applied to and was rejected from the flag- test scores, essays, family background, leadership poship campus of the Universitions, community service, sity of Texas. On the other work experience, awards and he current justices of SAT scores relative to her side is the university itself and the educational estabthe upreme ourt seem school’s average. lishment that has rallied beAnd they looked at her hind it. race. It was of course this likely to invalidate the The majority of each inlast consideration that exas program and ban or launched Fisher’s constitucoming class at UT is filled through the 10 percent severely limit the use of tional challenge and carried plan, a rudimentary process it all the way to the Supreme through which each student race in admissions Court. in the top decile of Texas Fisher sued the Univerhigh school seniors is autosity on the grounds that its matically granted admission. This is designed to attract consideration of race violated her right to equal prothe best students from a wide range of high schools tection under the Fourteenth Amendment. Supreme and social circumstances. Abagail Fisher narrowly Court has a record of upholding affirmative action missed the 10 percent cutoff at her high school and programs. In the 1978 case Regents of the University of applied for one of the remaining spots at UT Austin. California v. Bakke, and most recently in Grutter v. BolThe college admissions staff examined her applica- linger, the court has approved the use of race in certain tion in a process deemed holistic, a claim universities circumstances, on the premise that racial diversity in

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.”

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the educational sphere is in society’s best interest. In the latter case, former Justice Sandra O’Connor stated that “we expect that 25 years from now the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest we approve today.” That was in 2003, just nine years ago. But when the Court agreed to hear Fisher’s case earlier this year, it shook the legal and political foundations of affirmative action to their core. Based on their comments, the current justices of the Supreme Court seem likely to invalidate the Texas program and ban or severely limit the use of race in admissions. The academy, the business establishment and even the military, all of which use race to compose diverse organizations, have reacted furiously, filing dozens of briefs in support of the University. When Lyndon Johnson first proposed an aggressive program of affirmative action in 1965, he used a metaphor to describe American society: “You do not take a person who for years has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say ‘you are free to compete with all the others’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.” Affirmative action was perceived as a form of reparation in a society plagued with endemic discrimination, a way to level the playing field in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Act and Brown v. Board of Education. As time passed, the intellectual justification for affirmative action has shifted its focus from fairness to diversity. Colleges argue that incoming college classes need a wide range of racial backgrounds and perspectives to fully realize their educational mission of training global citizens; without the additional push that affirmative action provides, these institutions claim, they would be unable to create diverse classrooms. This was the same rationale that O’Connor supported in Grutter v. Bollinger. Several technical and legal inconsistencies undermine Fisher’s case: she has graduated from another college, there has been no disagreement about the case in the lower courts, and O’Connor’s pronouncement in Grutter v. Bollinger is less than a decade old. More importantly, though, Fisher v. University of Texas compounds two opposing notions of equality. One side is the formalistic view that the constitution is color blind and any use of race in government policy is verboten. In this view, efforts to integrate public schools through busing are the constitutional and moral equivalent of Jim Crow—a beautifully simple but unfortunately misinformed perspective. The problem with Jim Crow and segregation was not merely

that it used race as a factor in designing government policies, but that it sought to perpetuate a caste system in which one race of people lorded over the other. The difference between policies of outright racial hatred and those designed to remedy the problems of discrimination are obvious. When Union generals created schools that catered to former slaves or proposed other programs to aid African Americans, they recognized that race consciousness, while troubling, is well-intentioned and can sometimes prove socially beneficial. The same spirit is present in the UT program, one which seeks to aid underrepresented minorities while providing the benefit of diversity to the entire student body. But with the replacement of O’Connor bwithSamuel Alito, it is clear the days of affirmative action are numbered. Affirmative action may be entirely constitutional and even beneficial, but this will matter little if five members of the Supreme Court think otherwise. In the case of such a verdict, colleges will be faced with the difficulty of finding other ways to help many of the students affirmative action is already designed

“R ace consciousness well - intentioned and sometimes

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is present in the of

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to assist. They might weight economic status and family background more heavily to compensate for their inability to consider race, giving preference to underprivileged and lower middle class applicants, who may be first-generation college students, come from a family unable to afford adequate standardized test preparation or whose secondary schools offered a limited curriculum. Such a program might command the support of Americans, who are just uncomfortable with racial categories. Of course, it would have its disadvantages as well; one of UT’s main arguments is that this solution would fail to promote diversity within racial groups in the same way that affirmative action does. But by allowing students to rise above the circumstances of their birth, it would further a meritocratic ideal that is at the heart of higher education in this country. No matter what the Supreme Court decides, that is a worthwhile effort.TKO

tko@kenyon.edu


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GABRIEL ROM

No Exit THE PROSPECT OF A LAWLESS AFGHANISTAN

As Samuel Beckett once said, “Fail again. Fail better.” The American project in Afghanistan has failed, but how do we, if at all, salvage eleven years of bloodshed? During the vice presidential debate, an oily Joe Biden sneered at Congressman Paul Ryan’s naivete on Afghanistan. According to Biden, if there was a ticket out of this graveyard of empires, it would be through the Afghans themselves; it was a ”pack up and don’t look back” strategy. Ryan felt otherwise. “Listen to the generals,” he preached between forced anecdotes about his love for American GIs. Ryan awkwardly stood his ground in the face of Biden’s gung-ho condescension, retorting that the Afghans needed help, not abandonment. For the sake of national security, he argued, we should refuse to put a drop-dead date on our withdrawal. Unfortunately, they were both right. As New Yorker reporter Dexter Filkins put it, “We can’t leave and we can’t stay: that’s the very definition of a quagmire.” Recent months have brought a spate of attacks by “friendly” Afghan forces against their American counterparts. Dozens have died, and mistrust between the two security forces is at a boiling point. It is obvious that Afghans, at best, are ambivalent to

the American presence, and, at worst, are violently opposed. The Taliban has again surged in popularity and power across the country. America has not been wanted in Afghanistan for more than a decade, if ever. Yet by leaving hastily, America opens up a political vacuum that the Taliban and al-Qaeda might fill. America’s mission in Afghanistan was not only to eliminate the masterminds of the September 11th attacks, but to destroy the al-Qaeda network completely. Foreign policy expert Peter Bergen has remarked that “the whole Taliban project has been about protecting al Qaeda.” President Obama has said, wisely, that there will never be an ideal time to leave Afghanistan. You don’t get to leave horrifically bungled wars underneath the banner of “mission accomplished” (which, ironically, was closer to Biden’s theme than to Ryan’s). In many ways, America lost Afghanistan years ago and everything since has been damage control. Leaving Afghanistan is a necessity, but there is a strong case to be made for leaving slowly. A phased drawdown allows America to recalibrate its forces rather than leaving with its eyes shut. Make no mistake about it: the war in Afghanistan

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might have been completed in six months, but disintegrated into an eleven year occupation due, in large part, to American hubris and haste. Terror prevention lost out to nation building. President George Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld underfunded the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), allowed Pakistan to play both sides of the coin, and refused to invest substantial resources in Afghan infrastructure. The United States cannot remake Afghanistan in its image even though our nation’s leaders had their hearts set on it. Morally, such an endeavor is questionable; pragmatically, it is impossible. But we are where we are. These are mistakes that America must live with. Contrary to Biden’s claims of a strong and stable Afghan society the civil society of Afghanistan is an artificial construct propped up by American manpower and money. Afghanistan has no native organs of state and is mostly comprised of tribes that see themselves as autonomous. The notion of a unified national identity is a foreign concept. A unified armed forces that serves all of Afghanistan is a pipe dream of the Obama Administration. Even as Biden assured the country that Afghanistan would remain stable, a fractured post-occupation Afghanistan is a risk that the Administration seems willing to take. Nothing destroys votes more quickly than staying in unpopular wars. During the debate, Biden mused that if only his Afghan friends would take a dose of American individualism, pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and take “responsibility,” things would all work out for the best. According to Biden’s logic, America has no responsibility for Afghanistan’s future. The United States cannot occupy a foreign nation for over a decade and expect to leave the work of rebuilding to the occupied. Such paternalism smells of the logic used in the colonial scramble out of Africa. The European powers knew they were on the wrong side of history, and they packed up and left Africa without taking an ounce of responsibility for the conf licts that followed. As the number of foreign troops dwindle, the Afghan Taliban has surged back to political and cultural relevance. The Taliban is not a single political entity but a loose group of affiliated networks that share some fundamental principles of religious law, jihad and allegiance to certain mullahs. Some of these groups, like the Haqqani network, have direct connections with al-Qaeda; others do not. According to Nadira Geya head of the Directorate of Women’s

Affairs in Afghanistan for the United Nations., “Old mujahideen commanders used to feel that if they did

“T he T aliban surged

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power across the country .

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anything wrong they would be held accountable. But after the departure of US and NATO forces...they feel that they can do anything they want.” According to a 60 Minutes report by CBS journalist Lara Logan, the Taliban receive considerable training from alQaeda in Afghanistan. Logan asserts that the narrative being sold by the Obama administration of a defeated al-Qaeda which is “one drone strike away from obliteration” is “total nonsense.” Logan’s claims are difficult to substantiate but offer an important counter-narrative to the Administration’s. Some policy realists believe that the danger of an untended Afghanistan becoming a safe haven for alQaeda is just a hawkish myth. But there is enough overlap between al-Qaeda and the Taliban to warrant serious concern. Paul Cruickshank, a fellow at the NYU Center on Terrorism put it well when he stated that “the danger of al-Qaeda again setting up operations in Afghanistan should be neither exaggerated nor discounted.” It is true that subtle points on national security are anathema to the spectacle of the debate, but when Joe Biden stated that al-Qaeda has been completely obliterated, he spun a half-truth, ignoring a wealth of evidence that argues otherwise. al-Qaeda might be a weakened force, but a lawless Afghanistan and an emergent al-Qaeda remains a possibility. Reasonable people can disagree over the seriousness of this threat, but if America is going to learn from the failure of its war in Afghanistan, the poverty of the current situation cannot be ignored. We cannot shut our eyes to what we are running from.TKO

tko@kenyon.edu


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JACOB WEINER

The Pitfalls of Rights Rhetoric in Political Discourse The idea of individual rights has influenced documents from England’s Magna Carta of 1215 to our own Declaration of Independence, with its insistence upon “certain unalienable Rights.” Our contemporary political discourse is saturated with “rights rhetoric”: the practice of framing personal demands or interests or positions in the heavily loaded language of rights. President Obama’s administration has advocated a “right to control how personal data is used” and the Republican Party Platform champions the “rights of conscience of public employees.” Groups ranging from factory owners , who have asserted a right not to hire unionized workers , to the LGBT community, which has asserted a right to gay marriage, have all employed the tactic of depicting their interests in terms of rights. Regardless, framing demands in the language of rights has far-reaching consequences. Most immediate of these consequences is the “devaluation of rights currency.” Invoking a right no longer makes reference to a universal, objective notion of the standards of human life, to the degree that agreement on such things is possible. As a result, the

distinction between rights and privileges has all but vanished in contemporary politico-legal discourse. Documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights cannot help but be weakened by the near-ubiquitous re-casting of interests as rights. Furthermore, rights inherently alienate individuals —and, in some cases, groups of individuals — from their greater community. Rights do this with the stated interest of providing the right-holding individual from hostile acts, either from their government or from other individuals. Take, for example, the countermajoritarian right —the right of minorities to be protected from the will of an opposing majority. An excellent example is the case of the Park51 project, the proposed Islamic community center to be built near “Ground Zero” in Manhattan. A CNN poll found that two out of three Americans opposed the building of the community center. In defense of the minority, however, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) supported the project on the grounds of religious freedom. In the United States, we generally consider the countermajoritarian right to be an unequivocally good thing, offering protection from the rise of political factions.

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As law scholar Christopher Edley argues, however, as long as this right “trumps the community’s democratic processes, those processes and the sense of community they would create are impaired.” In other words, the countermajoritarian right can slow the movement of the democratic process, as well as promote divisiveness in what might otherwise be a community unified by a sense of democratic consensus. Furthermore, individuals who assert this sort of right alienate themselves by “insisting on exemption from some collective purpose or judgement”. Individuals who assert countermajoritarian rights not only retard the democratic process, but also distance themselves from their political community. There exists a question of whether groups can properly be said to have rights. This is a question for another time, but the consequences of rights rhetoric when employed by groups are fundamentally the same as when it is employed by individuals, albeit on a larger scale. Group rights can unify a group of individuals, providing them protection and benefits. Consider the case of affirmative action, in which an asserted right to equal employment protects historically marginalized minorities. On the other hand, in a community of groups, rights can atomize groups in much the same way that they atomize individuals. This is evident in the tension between national sovereignty and human rights, given that we consider nations to be large groups of individuals. On an international scale, the United Nations often insists upon standards of human rights from its member nations. The right to national sovereignty, however, conflicts with the capacity to interfere in another state’s internal affairs, effectively alienating member nations from accountability and collective judgement. Many proponents of lower taxes and smaller government are fond of employing rights rhetoric as a way of distancing themselves from collective responsibility. These individuals and businesses insist upon a right not to have their income taxed and a right not to be excessively regulated. These demands are often framed within a right to “freedom,” in the particular sense of freedom as the capacity to do whatever one chooses at any given time. They make these arguments particularly when

they perceive the beneficiaries of public policy to be underserving of the benefits they receive. Take, for example, Governor Mitt Romney’s suggestion that 47 percent of Americans do not “take personal care and responsibility for their

“A s

much

as

A mericans

should have a spirit of unity and togetherness , the fact remains that the

50

states

are often worlds apart .” lives.” This sort of reasoning fails to take into account that membership in a community necessarily involves “loss shifting” —the movement of the burden of disadvantage away from disadvantaged individuals and onto the community as a whole. To demand a right not to participate in this loss shifting is to exclude oneself from the community, and thus from the collective benefits of public policy, like roads, defense and a legal system. The disadvantage that loss shifting seeks to address can take many forms, like poverty, old age and illness. Conservatives often insist that benefits ought to be provided only to those who are deserving of them, who are often defined as those who cannot help but be disadvantaged (like the elderly, for example). The problem with this argument is that it involves a fundamental misunderstanding of the workings of positive rights. Positive rights are rights to certain things: rights to food, welfare and housing, among others. Part of what makes the rights doctrine so powerful is that it denies the necessity of desert —people do not deserve their rights, they simply have them in consequence of being human. It would be absurd to argue that people deserve a right to free speech, just as it is absurd to suggest that people have a right not to starve only if they have demonstrated that they deserve not to starve. This conservative doctrine of extending benefits only to the deserving has far deeper implications than many realize, for it denies some of the most fundamental and universally accepted human rights.TKO

tko@kenyon.edu


RYAN MACH

The Last Word I feel that ever since I returned to Kenyon for my third and penultimate year, all I’ve heard is self-righteous admonishments for any sign or symptom of political apathy. “You should watch the news more.” “Stop littering.” “Please don’t talk so loud, I’m trying to watch the debates.” “Have you registered to vote?” I’ve had all this invective and more directed at me for the past few months an innumerable number of times. The truth is that I do watch the news, and even though I’m stoned a lot of the time I develop a lot of interesting opinions that my friends have called both “smart” and “clever.” And obviously I’ve registered to vote. It would be totally ignorant if I didn’t register to vote. But I also think that anybody who goes around talking about how they’re going to vote for this or protest that don’t know what they’re talking about. If they did, they would know that it doesn’t really matter what you do because modern life will inevitably continue to be increasingly meaningless, painful and lame. Republicans are crazy. You don’t have to be a political scientist to know that. Their foreign policy platform is actually fascist and their views on birth control are literally medieval. But what I’ve come to realize as I’ve intellectu-

Illustration by Peter Falls

ally matured is that Democrats are basically the same in that they also put on suits and ties and try to get people to vote for them. When you think about it, do you really want to vote for somebody who says things that they don’t even necessarily mean? For some reason, it seems like everybody we elect seems to care more about getting us to like them than about what they truly feel inside. Is that what you call democracy? Because I call it phony. It seems like nobody even considers how much of a joke American politics are. We all know that the average American is stupid and uninformed, but I’ve observed that even at this institution of higher learning, most people are tragically uninformed too. I’ve had conversations with peers whom I took to be intelligent, only to be utterly disappointed. I’ll try to talk to someone about how the new season of Breaking Bad is clearly the pinnacle achievement of American television, and my conversant will ceaselessly try and interrupt with his or her thoughts on the current state of discourse on women’s rights or the whatever genocide they’re pretending to care about this week. It’s like, have you ever read “Lyndon” by David Foster Wallace? Do you even have a clue that you’re so totally powerless over your own fate? Aren’t you embarrassed by your sense of duty to your generation? I guess they don’t talk about that stuff on the Daily Show. When I head to the polls next month, I don’t plan on irresponsibly wasting electric and internet resources by researching all the candidates—I plan on assuming that all candidates care about being elected and are therefore bad candidates. I think the most adult choice would therefore be to close your eyes and press all the buttons until the machine says you’re done. It may not stop our existences from completely sucking, but I think we can all take solace in the fact that we’re fighting ignorance—the true scourge of modern society. TKO


TKO 10.31.2012  

The Kenyon Observer's fourth issue of the 2012-2013 year.

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