This week, the Nass considers the implications of online activism, imagines a new future for Princeton, and recommends blueberry picking.
The Nassau Weekly Volume 42, Number 6 July 28, 2020 In Print since 1979 Online at nassauweekly.com
July 28, 2020
Party of None Masthead Editors-in-Chief
By Meera Sastry
Dear April, May, June, July
Ruminations on a Homeland
The Cheapening of the Left
The Pandemic: A Portal to a Better Princeton?
By Tess Solomon
By Mina Quesen
By Paige Cromley
By Lauren Aung
By Elliott Weil
By Sam Bisno
By Cassandra James
The Avatar and Me
FIRST YEAR VOICES
Faith Emba Tess Solomon
Managing Editors Peter Taylor Andrew White
Design Editor Mika Hyman
Assistant Design Editor
Blue Silver Linings
Senior Editors Pat MacDonald Joshua Judd Porter Tara Shirazi
Junior Editors Abigail Glickman Drew Pugliese Mina Quesen Meera Sastry Elliott Weil
Art Director Nora Wildberg
By Ellen Su
Copy Editors Maia Harrison Isabelle Casimir
Crossword By Andrew White
Read more on page 12, 15, 21, 24.
Business Manager Violet Marmur
Web Editor Gina Feliz
Social Chair Isabelle Casimir Maia Harrison
Background painting, “A Bigger Splash,” David Hockney, 1967. Photograph by Richard Kolker, 2011.
Volume 42, Number 6
8:00p Princeton in DC A Conversation with Dugald McConnell ‘93 and Loully Saney ‘16
8:00p Smithsonian Hubble at 30 (John N. Bahcall Lecture)
11:00a Whitney Summer Studio: Experiments with Color Inspired by Emma Amos
2:00p LCA House Flow Dance Class with Cameron McKinney
12:00p Campus Rec Pilates
7:30p Shopee Design Design Language System 101: From Consistency to Market Localisation
1:30p How to Academy The Virus in the Age of Madness with BernardHenri Levy
5:00p P&P Live! A celebration of James Baldwin with Eddie S. Glaude & Jon Meacham
11:00a Smithsonian Live Conversations in Marine Science with Captain Woody Lee
12:00p LCA Intermediate/Advanced Ballet with Kathleen Moore Tovar
1:30p How to Academy Lily Cole: Reasons for Optimism in Our Changing World
6:00p Ailey Extension West African Dance with Marguette Camara
12:00p Princeton Campus Recreation Pilates
5:00pmThe MET ETHEL and Friends: Balcony Bar from Home
Email Richard Yang at email@example.com with your event and why it should be featured.
For advertisements, contact Violet Marmur at vmarmur@princeton. edu.
In the wake of our nation’s recent reckoning with institutional racism, racial violence, and injustices that have been overlooked for far too long, the Nass has decided to use its platform this summer to highlight Black charities and organizations, especially smaller, less wellknown ones. The organizations we’ve highlighted from the month of July are listed below. Follow our Instagram @nassauweekly to continue seeing these charity highlights. Any donations, no matter how small, would be valued. To donate, please visit their websites. Black Writers Collective About Black Writers Collective (from their webpage): “Black Writers Collective is a private network for literary creatives who dream of a supportive,
empowering environment to engage with fellow writers for accountability and the positive motivation to be the writer you feel called to be…. BWC helps aspiring writers to not only take their talents more seriously and view their dreams as attainable, but helps them to finish their projects and transition from writers to published authors.”
Afrotectopia About Afrotectopia (from their webpage): “Afrotectopia is a social institution fostering interdisciplinary innovation at the intersections of art, design, technology, Black culture and activism. We began as a new media arts, culture and technology festival designed to recognize the contributions of Black artists, celebrate recent innovations, collaboratively design Black futures, and
Nassau Weekly is Princeton University’s weekly newsmagazine and features news, op-eds, reviews, fiction, poetry and art submitted by students. Nassau Weekly is part of Princeton Broadcasting Service, the student-run operator of WPRB FM, the oldest college FM station in the country. There is no formal membership of the Nassau Weekly and all are encouraged to attend meetings and submit their writing and art.
share opportunities.” Thus far, Afrotectopia has highlighted over 100 Black innovators as presenters at their annual festivals, awarded a $5,000 NYU scholarship, invested over $20,000 in Black/POC businesses and creatives, and many other accomplishments.
The Loveland Foundation About the Loveland Foundation (from their webpage): “Loveland Foundation is committed to showing up for communities of color in unique and powerful ways, with a particular focus on Black women and girls. Our resources and initiatives are collaborative and they prioritize opportunity, access, validation, and healing. We are becoming the ones we’ve been waiting for…. Loveland Therapy Fund recipients will have access to a comprehensive list of mental health professionals
across the country providing high quality, culturally competent services to Black women and girls…. Black women and girls deserve access to healing, and that healing will impact generations.”
Innocence Project About the Innocence Project (from their webpage): “The Innocence Project, founded in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck at Cardozo School of Law, exonerates the wrongly convicted through DNA testing and reforms the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice…. The Innocence Project’s mission is to free the staggering number of innocent people who remain incarcerated, and to bring reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment.”
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We meet on Mondays at 5pm est over zoom. If interested in joining, please contact us.
July 28, 2020 PAGE DESIGN BY MIKA HYMAN
“Consider us the Great American Experiment.” By CASSANDRA JAMES
am most likely a road trip. I go on for too long, like a cheap pop song, in every direction. I’ve probably spent half my life between minivans and U-Haul trucks, just another piece of luggage. Consider me the Great American iteration: it’s a family in a car with the kids and the dog, eating PB and Js out of a cooler and picking the crumbs off of their laps. It’s missing the exit and taking a two-hour detour riddled with poison darts of passive-aggression. And then it’s stumbling into a roadside hotel, sleeping between sheets that smell
like bleach, groaning over the break-your-back mattress until someone puts a mandatory “shut up” order into place. Forgetting where you are at any given time is a natural side effect. Are we in Virginia? One of two Carolinas? Is that still the Gulf of Mexico? Consider us the Great American Experiment: I’m learning math out of a used textbook in the backseat while we drive to Texas for the burial of a Colombian cousin I’ve never met; then Kentucky and Tennessee blur together in an ongoing monotone, a note held out into infinity, and I’m reading Ayn Rand with my head against the window. My mother
calls it car-schooing; we laugh at our irreverence. I can recommend the best rest-stops on the Eastern Seaboard, if you’d like—do stop for roadside peaches in Georgia, and don’t, in the name of all that’s holy, stop in Jersey. I’ve seen almost every state but never far-flung Alaska or Hawaii—and only because you can’t get there by car. In my dreams I sometimes drive in montage with Iowa corn sprouting from red Oklahoma dirt and the distant roar of Atlantic waves tumbling inside my ears. We tell time by when we went here or there—yes, that was Florida-to-Maine, so it must’ve been 2013. We don’t think it’s strange to have been everywhere and yet be from
nowhere. I don’t consider it a perversion until I drop a “y’all” between my words and an eyebrow shoots up. And the sniggers: “Didn’t you grow up in Jersey?” I don’t remember any of the houses we lived in before the third. And even then, there’s only a kitchen in my mind, with a Spanish-style backsplash and yellow paint on the far wall. If you ask me where I’m from I’ll tell you Florida—if someone asks you for the time, you don’t tell them how to build a clock. Does it really matter if I can walk in Boston from the North End to Newbury Street without a map? Sometimes I wish I was a plane trip, from here to there—a discounted one-way
ticket. I wouldn’t have to explain the state of things in alternate edits, “long answer” and “short answer.” But I’m a car on a highway, straddled between this place and that, with memories of Where I’ve Been in the rearview and wild imaginings of Where I’m Going just far enough ahead to pull me on, on, a string tied around my ribs, and I’m straining toward the ache of belonging.
If someone asks Cassandra James for the Nassau Weekly, she doesn’t tell them how to build a clock.
July 28, 2020
PAGE DESIGN BY MELINA HUANG
The Avatar and Me On falling in love with a childhood favorite as an adult. By MEERA SASTRY
efore I continue, I need to make something clear: I watched Avatar: The Last Airbender for the first time last month, and I wholeheartedly consider myself a fan of the show. I’d been recommended Avatar many, many times throughout my youth and adolescence, told it was a genuinely good show regardless of its target age range. I chalked most of that up, though—as I did with so many of the culturally iconic things I missed out on when I was younger—to the nostalgia of the recommenders. As a kid, I wasn’t really allowed to watch TV, so I missed the window to see Avatar when I was younger than or the same age as the characters, and assumed that that would deplete it of the magic it seemed to hold for so many others. Those who told me to watch it were very emphatic about their love for the show, but I’ve also spent the past 10 years of my life hearing people gasp in horror when it comes up in conversation that I’ve never seen a single episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, so excuse me for being a little
discerning. Childhood baggage aside, I decided to finally take a stab at Avatar after classes ended for the summer, now that it was on Netflix and I wouldn’t have to deal with the extra obstacle of a low-quality stream on a janky anime site. And, yeah, I kind of fell in love with it, as much as a judgmental eighteenyear-old can fall in love with a children’s cartoon that she’s seeing for the first time. I could wax poetic about why, exactly, I’ve converted to an Avatar admirer— about the world-building and how the character arcs foil against one another, about how Azula is a perfect villain who reignited my fear of 8thgrade-girl-bullies despite the fact that I thought I’d laid that to rest upon my entrance to high school. But I’d rather tell you to watch (or re-watch) it and realize how well it holds up on your own. Praises of Avatar are cheaper than a dime a dozen, and I won’t waste your attention on an ode to Prince Zuko. Critiques of the show and its worldbuilding primarily based on Asian cultures, however, are too often overlooked. The chief creative team behind the show—creators Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, and Aaron Ehasz—are all white Americans, and so is the CONTINUED ON PAGE 6
vast majority of the voice cast. Avatar is usually lauded for its representation of Asian and indigenous cultures, which are often excluded from the American children’s media landscape. The New York Times even recently noted the exceptionality of the show’s total exclusion of whiteness. However, the background of its creators means that the cultural traditions from which the show draws and the allegories about imperialism and colonialism in its storylines are necessarily viewed through a white lens. In order to deal with this, the creators hired an Asian-American media consultant and avoided explicitly depicting real-world Asian nations and cultures. Though the Fire Nation is kind of Japanese, and the Earth Kingdom kind of Chinese,
July 28, 2020
and so on and so forth, all of the cultural groups defined in the show draw from multiple traditions. This, for the most part, is effective; the characters are very Asian (or, in the case of the Water Tribe, indigenous, specifically Inuit), and there’s no shying away from that fact. Still, while watching it, I couldn’t help but feel a little weird about the way that different traditions are glossed over and absorbed into a kind of generically Asian vibe. The characters do see the world in a distinctly Eastern way, as opposed to a Western or American one, but it remains defined by its distance from a white perspective rather than existing unto itself. One gets the sense that each of the Four Nations has its depth as a fully developed
society within the Avatar world, but the Asian-ness of them seems like an aesthetic choice at times. This is compounded upon by the fact that many of the character designs are subtly whitewashed to make this aesthetic more palatable for a Western audience: names like “Aang” and “Yue” are mispronounced, and there is nary a dark brown eye to be seen. It’s hard to tell whether the creators used Asian and indigenous cultures as a noble way to de-center whiteness for Avatar’s audience or whether they did so to make their world seem more… exotic. Because of the fact that every national entity depicted in the show is an Asian or indigenous one, the conflicts do inherently disprove, however, the prejudiced misconception
many ignorant Americans hold of Asia as a monolith. Asian nations and Asian people have been fighting between themselves since the dawn of time, and although most of us suffered from the effects of Western colonization, we have also been colonized by one another. The Fire Nation’s imperialist, colonialist project in the Earth Kingdom and Water Tribes and its genocide of the Air Nomads reflects the dynamic and resentment between Asian countries in a way that’s not only serious and nuanced but also comprehensible for American children. Because of the previously mentioned genericism, though, I’m not sure that the politics of Avatar actually captures much of the reality of colonialism and its cultural and political ramifications
from both Asian and white oppressors. Of course, it is a 60odd episode show that aired on Nickelodeon fifteen years ago, so it doesn’t have to do this political work in order to be good, or good representation. However, there are some moments where Avatar drops the ball with regards to representation in a way that has the potential to be truly harmful in its propagation and reinforcement of stereotypes that hurt real-life marginalized peoples. I think first of possibly the most-criticized depiction on the show, Guru Pathik, who serves as a “spiritual guide” to Aang, the titular Avatar, and who is pretty clearly a stereotype of an Indian/South Asian person. There are no other characters in Avatar who seem to be South Asian, and it’s
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PAGE DESIGN BY AVA JIANG
completely unexplained where he might have come from or where he lives (other than in some abandoned ruins). He’s played mostly as a kooky joke, rambling on about chakras and forcing Aang to eat a disgusting smoothie. Though most of the Eastern philosophies on the show are painted sensitively and taken seriously, Guru Pathik isn’t afforded the same respect. This issue becomes especially glaring upon consideration that so much of the mythology of Avatar is based on South Asian religion and philosophy. Those chakras and the spiritual energy they control—concepts derived from Hinduism—play a crucial part in the plot of the show, and even the name “avatar” is a Sanskrit word that refers to a specifically Hindu concept
of incarnation. Guru Pathik’s shallow and reductive characterization, then, sticks out in a show that otherwise largely avoids basing humor on its characters’ diverse identities. Worse yet, it reinforces the concept of a “hierarchy” among Asian ethnicities which places East Asians above South and Southeast Asians: an idea that is racist, colorist, and that has strong and dangerous implications in the lives of real brown people. On this subject, it’s also worth noting how the diversity within the Earth Kingdom is portrayed. The kingdom is most closely analogous to China, but there are episodes where our protagonists encounter minority ethnic groups within the nation: there are “sandbenders” who are vaguely
Mongolian, or possibly Arabic, and there are “swampbenders” who bend water, rather than earth, seem culturally Floridian (?) yet have Vietnamese names. The corruption of the Earth Kingdom as a monarchic government with a disorganized army is dealt with extensively throughout the series, but the treatment of these minority groups ends up falling flat, just as Guru Pathik did. Unpacking the “sandbenders” would be better done by someone belonging to or more knowledgeable about one of the cultures that they stereotype, but even quick examination reveals flaws in this portrayal. Though they might be read as Mongolian, given their association with the China-like Earth Kingdom, the sandbenders’ relatively dark skin tone, their
desert home, and the headwraps they wear indicate that part of their real-world inspiration was Arabic culture. Thus, the fact that they are portrayed fairly unequivocally as villains is problematic, or even dangerous when taken alongside the original mid-aughts airdate of Avatar. Their main purpose within the narrative is to kidnap a beloved animal member of the team, giving an ethnic minority a bad name in a show where most villains have a depth uncommon for a children’s cartoon. The “swampbenders”, on the other hand, are shown to be unsophisticated and almost backwards—what actual Vietnamese people might call “nhà quê”. The swampbenders are allies to Team Avatar, rather than villains, but come off
largely as a joke, and the show seems to view them through a patronizing lens. Although the journey of most of the Water Tribe characters reflects the after-effects of colonization with great nuance and care, the deliberate association of these uncultured swamp people with the Vietnamese, who were colonized by other Asian nations and by Western powers before being decimated by the Vietnam War, is harmful. It again reinforces a hierarchy that places East Asian culture over Southeast Asian culture in the American mindset, differentiating for Avatar’s audience between the Asians whose culture is cool, aesthetically pleasing, and worth admiring, and the Asians who are barely a step above “savages”. There are also points to be
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and Me made about the series’ treatment of colonialism on a grand scale. The consequences of it ring throughout the series and are shown in a detailed and complex manner, but the show’s “happy ending” is a perpetuation of the same monarchic and imperialist system that got the Avatar world into their mess in the first place, only with “good” people in charge of the nations as opposed to “bad”. This very typically American conclusion is predictable if a bit cheapening, given that the show’s arc is not structured to include an unpacking of decolonization. What the finale does do well, however, is illuminate the true strengths of Avatar: the characters and their relationship dynamics. While the series’ politics might be shaky from a real-world perspective, it’s nigh-impossible to get to the end of season three and not cheer along with the satisfying final beats of each individual arc, and I was no exception. What I found perhaps most interesting about my Avatarwatching experience, though, was not that it was excellent but flawed. Rather, it was that it was so personally excellent to me because of its flaws. I’m a mixed-race Asian-American of Vietnamese, Indian, and white descent, so, needless to say, I’ve never been represented in
terms of my ethnicity onscreen or really anywhere. I’ve struggled throughout my life to find a sense of community and to connect with my heritage: it’s not just that my family is originally from another country and I was raised in America, or just that my parents don’t share a common heritage, but that I feel a profound sense of isolation that compounds on and combines those felt by many Asian-Americans and many mixed-race people. I appreciate media that features Asian characters, and I can often connect to portrayals of Vietnamese-American and Indian-American characters, because I do have some handle in each of their cultures. But despite the positives of this representation, these narratives also remind me of just how much I don’t know and how I’ll never fully belong in either community. With this in mind, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I connected with Avatar precisely because of how generic the representation of Asian culture was. Somehow, their technique of drawing from a myriad of different national and ethnic traditions in service of a vibe more than anything else really resonated with me as someone who feels excluded from every specific Asian culture I’ve encountered
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but nevertheless is, at my core, Asian-American. In a certain way, I’ve only ever been able to see Eastern or Asian ways of life from a Western, American perspective, and so this bad and politically incorrect representation inadvertently became a reflection of my own views. I felt deeply entertained, perhaps even gleeful, watching episodes like The Beach, wherein a gang made up entirely of Asian teens spend the entire runtime biting each other’s heads off because they’ve all grown up too repressed by Fire Nation society to communicate any other way. That was legitimately what my friend groups were like in high school, in the very best possible way—we were able to figure out our identities and lives together specifically because we were all raised with a weird blend of Asian and American values. I can honestly say that I’ve never felt so seen, at least in this dimension of my life, by any other piece of media. No other American show or movie would dare portray a core group that was entirely composed of Asians, and no Asian media has ever been accessible to me because of how necessarily grounded it is in one specific culture. Somehow, some way, the white imperfections of
Avatar took it above and beyond for very Asian-American me. So yes, although I’ve watched Avatar: The Last Airbender with the critical eye of an adult, and seen exactly how its representation, while amazing on the surface, can be lacking in depth, I am a loyal and loving fan. In the end, Avatar gives me hope, and empowers me to demand for all the nuance that children like me deserve when they turn on the TV. Maybe, in whatever show comes next, they can even learn how to properly pronounce a simple name like “Mai.” It’s really not that hard—just ask an Asian person! I promise that we have a lot to say.
One gets the sense that Meera Sastry has her depth as a fully developed society within the Nassau Weekly.
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PAGE DESIGN BY MIKA HYMAN
“At the end of July, I think I am waiting for time itself to act, to catch up with itself, to wake us up again.” By TESS SOLOMON
Frank Ocean’s album Blonde came out in August 2016, but it was not until October that I listened to it in full, and then listened again, and then caught up with some of the hype about it. It had not been necessary to me yet, but all of a sudden it was, and I absorbed it with
devotion. I have had similar feelings at various points with Ocean’s work: I somehow need it at a particular juncture. It has felt necessary all of quarantine to me, for example. It feels to me like the perfect soundtrack emotionally, calm and melancholic, not sad exactly but unambiguously affecting. Some moments are rapturous. As has been widely commented, it seems like music of and for loneliness. It evokes reflectiveness, quiet solitude, a sense of nostalgia you can lean into. It is more than an emotional
fit for the moment, however. Since the first time I fell in love with Ocean in October 2016, I have remembered one line from Carrie Battan’s review of Blonde in The New Yorker: “his work feels not only post-genre but post-album, and even postsong.” The concept of “postsong” has come to mind often throughout quarantine, even as it winds to a close for me in New York. In the way Ocean’s work is post-song, there is a way in which I now feel postday, post-week, post-month. The labels we have collectively
decided to attach to time to reasonably divvy it up have dissolved with our inability to separate time spatially, with no events that work as anchors for the concepts of Before and After. This feeling, right now, is most specifically a response to “Dear April,” one of his two spring public releases with “Cayendo.” Apparently, the track was not written with any kind of quarantine in mind (it debuted at Ocean’s controversial PrEP+ club night in October and has been available for pre-order on vinyl since then), but the song speaks to our current circumstances not unprophetically. Several websites reporting its release in early April announced the arrival of the song in even more obviously religious terms: A writer at the New York Post wrote, “Frank Ocean has blessed us all when we needed it most.” The particular brilliance of “Dear April” is that it retains its “post-song” status in its ranging non-cohesion, challenging
our expectations of time in sound, while simultaneously designating a period of time in its title—and addressing it directly. There is some disagreement on the internet as to what the song means, but in my affective interpretation, I feel sure that when Ocean sings, “Dear April / the only face in the crowd that I know,” a real, specific month, well-defined and recognizable, becomes his interlocutor. As April is addressed, it is identified, to be cherished as a period of time in a mass of incomprehensible happenings. The speaker of the lyrics struggles to progress, repeating himself often, leaving development throughout the song questionable. He seems to desire motion, at some points believing it has happened: you “made us new / and took us through / and woke us up.” Yet the speaker circles back to question that evolution again and again. The speaker ends the song at its beginning, calling out “Dear April,” as the
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May, June, July
music fades out. It is a song of swirling non-advancement, and the speaker does not decide whether he is in a gauzy, gorgeous reverie or a troubled dream. The reason I love the song is because that last point, identifying a motionlessness but remaining undecided as to how to feel about it, is one I recognize. I have enjoyed some parts of the timelessness I think so many of us, as students stuck at home, share right now. I find some comfort in haunting my home, of being attached to a place as helplessly immovable as a ghost. I kind of like that all this time has blurred into one thing. I wonder if it will, in retrospect, be a time of unprecedented stillness. But even thinking in those terms reveals a striking solipsism that makes me laugh at myself. These past few months have been broken up in the most serious and dire ways. The illnesses of family and friends, the Covid-related deaths of members of my community,
the murders of so many, the protests against police violence and racism that shook my city and my country awake, have all been harrowingly real. Despite all of that, and despite the fact that it is in the media I consume constantly, timelessness is a reality in my quarantine that has proven impossible for me to move beyond, and it is one that I am scared of. I have experienced all of those things from right here, from where I am sitting as I write this. Separated from the spatially dependent aspects of time perception, I am unable to clearly articulate what has happened when, in relation to what. How do I keep in mind that I am living through history when everything that would normally mark change, like a different environment or schedule, is not feasible? In August 2016, Battan described Ocean’s work as containing “a kind of listless beauty,” which made some sense then, when his variety of structural transgression seemed
to unassumingly achieve an astonishing freedom. “Dear April” contains the same quality, but if I map this lack of form onto my reality, what I see is the dark sister of listless beauty, a kind of lazy disquiet, a pervasive feeling that something is wrong that does nothing in particular but sits with me in my room on my computer like everything else does. And like everyone else, I am restless. Ocean sings at one point about April: “I believe that no matter what / It can make us new / Take us through it / and wake us up again.” At the end of July, I think I am waiting for time itself to act, to catch up with itself, to wake us up again.
Tess Solomon struggles to progress, repeating herself often, leaving development throughout the Nassau Weekly questionable.
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Hikari by Mina Quesen
PAGE DESIGN BY MIKA HYMAN
Half-closed eyes Count heartbeats between flashes See how far the storm is When the room lights up White Momentary Unforgiving It’s common in the evenings Like afternoon sun showers On the drive home The sky turns dark, pitch You can only see the clouds When electricity crawls across them They glow in eerie light Or crack in spiderwebs Lightning never strikes the same place twice But I keep moving––forward, back, I am the rod misguiding It’s route, re-aiming, It keeps striking My heart, my skin Is red, burned, peeling There’s no aloe or cream To soothe it, lull it, coax it into s l e e p, It’s life, this lightning, straight from sky to me.
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今かくれてる I lived in strike zones Home in buzzing light shows Raised in lightning’s model Silence, Emptiness is disquieting When your classroom was The lightning capital of the world We grew up never fearing storms Because the air was always buzzing Lightning claps when the tension is High, we clap when the show begins We know where the trouble is, How to stare into its eyes Come brilliantly Come boldly Come breaking false peace Don’t let them forget A force of nature いなびかり
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PAGE DESIGN BY MELINA HUANG
ribbons “I didn’t miss the ceremonies or events so much as I mourned the idea of them, what had crystalized in my mind as essential coming-of-age moments.” By PAIGE CROMLEY
ewly eighteen, college acceptances in hand, the world as my oyster. I turned the corner of a fresh decade, ready to squeeze out a few last drops of high school glory before leaving my hometown behind. Looking forward to an American Graffiti summer and the future beyond, I felt myself on the cusp of something almost profound. Like I was standing on the horizon with the ocean at my feet and a sunrise glinting off the waves. I’d be jumping into the water after a picturesque last summer, goodbyes tied up neatly as bows. But then the world stopped, and I found myself shuttered inside, stuck in limbo between past and future. I had put all my eggs in one basket and was unprepared when it dropped. Relying on senior prom, graduation, and summer bonfires for closure; convinced that I could move on from my hometown only after receiving my diploma or having one final summer lake day
with my childhood friends. I didn’t miss the ceremonies or events so much as I mourned the idea of them, what had catalyzed in my mind as essential coming-of-age moments. I mourned these missed moments even months after school canceled, after my state reopened and shut down again, never quite grasping how silly I was being. The whole time, I was fully aware of how self-indulgent I was being for pitying myself; looking back, however, I wasn’t naïve for wallowing (I am a teenager, after all), but for ignoring the coming-of-age moments I did have, all in my misguided attempt to place importance on arbitrary events as turning points in the journey of growing up. While I wasn’t able to get dressed up for senior prom and curl my hair and gossip about the upcoming night with my friends, I had already had the pampering, the photographs, the dancing that comes with prom. All those mornings I woke up ten minutes early just because I wanted to put a little more effort into my appearance, all those Friday nights I fixed my friend’s mascara in the bathroom as someone nocked loudly on the door, all the times we poised for pictures in everyday clothes rather than floorlength dresses. In retrospect,
I cherish these s It wasn’t one transformative night, but snippets that seemed insignificant at the time. The ending of high school snuck up on me too. I didn’t get to walk across a stage to receive my diploma in an epic instant of finality. There was no ending scene, because it wasn’t a movie.. It unfolded one little moment at a time, d, little dabs of paint creating a whole picture only in hindsight. The ending of high school was hitting submit on my college applications. It was the three-hour drive to Austin with my friends on my eighteenth birthday. It was my classmates waiting for me outside chemistry after a hard test. More than anything, it was realizing the upcoming fading of friendships and accepting being ok that nothing lasted forever. Nothing was tied up neatly as bows. But the ribbons made more sense anyway, braided together and tucked in my back pocket.
In retrospect, Paige Cromley cherishes the Nassau Weekly that seemed insignificant at the time.
July 28, 2020
Ruminations on a Homeland On leaving home (and finding it). By LAUREN AUNG
hen I biked home from work in China, I anticipated not my homestay family’s apartment building, a nondescript, five story complex on top of convenience stores and massage parlors, but the building across from it. At twenty stories high, it towered over mine, and two looming characters perched on either corner blazed in red: 天 and 地, or heaven and earth. My Christian roots compelled me to recall those first verses. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep…”. Until I was eleven and had repudiated my faith in a fit of teenage angst, I dutifully attended church every Sunday and Jesus camp every June. China had the tendency to reveal my bare bones, and as I returned after a long day of stumbling over my tones and tongue, I was comforted by the faith. I was comforted for the same reason I almost attended church on Christmas, or why my ears perk up at the idyllic sound of hymns. The notes of “Amazing Grace” have been indelibly etched into my subconscious whether I believe the lyrics true or not. Humming along, as I’ve done for my whole life, makes me feel at home. I flew into China with a month of Mandarin lessons under my belt and with an obsession to connect with my “homeland.” From
sixth to twelfth grade, I attended an Episcopalian school in West Austin, that is, white Austin. In the early 20th century, government city officials, who feared integration, dictated a “Negro District” in the East part of the city. Through redlining, zoning laws, and other policies, officials crafted Austin. The white, wealthy suburbs where the authorities lived were meticulously built in the West, and neighborhoods of minorities, uncared for by the government, bloomed in the East. I-35, built in the 1960s, runs an asphalt scar down the city, delimiting these racial and socioeconomic spheres. I drove into West Austin from my home in the North every day for school. A nervous Chinese girl with an underbite and a bad case of eczema, I craved belonging in the West’s gilded, gated community. Through boat parties on the lake and in mansions adorned with liberal yard signs and vestigial Doric columns, my peers moved with an ease that eluded me, an effortlessness that seemed to equate to belonging. Once high school came around, a new car at sixteen, college after graduation, and Migos performing at a birthday party all seemed equally unnoteworthy facts of life. My high school graduation was held in my school’s chapel, a beautiful high-ceiling wood and limestone building. White, peaked tents blossomed like giant tulips along the sides of the sanctuary. My aunt and grandparents sat in plastic chairs underneath one, saving seats for the rest of my family. A mother of one of my classmates
PAGE DESIGN BY GRACE LEE
Volume 42, Number 6
Ruminations on a Homeland
The moment someone spoke to me, the illusion of us as a family shattered.
approached my aunt. A lovely occasion, isn’t it? Yes. Good thing the rain stayed away. That would have been such a pity— they’ve worked too hard to have their celebration ruined. A pause, and a smile. I see you’re saving a lot of seats. We have a big family. I don’t think you quite know how we do things around here. The issue of being a person of color in a historically white space is that the community will always be rooted in whiteness. White people dictate the collective of what and who “we” are. Even if what is accepted, such as anime or boba, stems from another culture, people of color do not possess the clout to assert the legitimacy of their own cultural objects. They must either fully adopt the norms of the white space they dwell in or remain on the margins. Despite my adaption to the entitlement felt by the wealthy, I found no place for my familial quirks or the food I liked in the culture of my peers. My Asianness hung on me like an ill-fitting coat for seven years, and my position as
a foreigner in the community I grew up in pushed me to find a home in my own ethnicity. Kunming, the modestly-sized Chinese city of six and a half million in which Bridge Year China is based, is an hour by plane from my father’s familial hometown, Tengchong. Before my grandfather immigrated to the United States, my father’s family lived in Tengchong for twenty-one generations, a longer span of time than America has been a country. I’ll fit right in, I thought, and when I walked around Kunming with my homestay family, I pretended I was their daughter. I walked with them in anonymity through open-air markets, bok choy and bitter melon resting on checkered blankets while hawkers scrolled through their WeChats, megaphones blaring their prices on repeat. Together, we drove out to the countryside, where the mountains rise quickly, and the sparsely spaced homes testify to the rapidity of Kunming’s growth into a metropolis of shiny malls, generously sprinkled into the city every few
blocks. One night after dinner, I followed my homestay father and sister home on bike. Dark had already fallen, and the high rises around us were lit with shifting strips of light shimmying down their glass walls. At times I raced them, lazily pedaling until we biked side by side, only to pull ahead once we drifted together for a second too long. My homestay sister waved her arms as she rode through a large intersection; the cars stood tensely frozen, still like actors the moment before the curtain rises, and whisked away by the momentum of the moment— lights flashing, mopeds swerving, them laughing—I saw my homestay sister’s arms move in slow motion, the wind heavy. China felt like this to me: I floated above, ungrounded and drifting, the video of my life speeding up and slowing down indiscriminately. As I moved through Kunming with my host family, I felt akin to a citizen of Jerusalem, watching Jesus enter the city from afar, the hooves of the messiah’s donkey crushing a tenderly laid carpet of palm leaves underfoot.
The moment someone spoke to me, the illusion of us as a family shattered. I sputtered a response, and my flat, cobbled words exposed who I was. My homestay mother rattled off a refined speech to explain me: “Ta shi yi ge meiguoren. Ta tingbudong zhongwen.” (She’s an American. She doesn’t understand Chinese.) Without fail, the person discovering me replied, “Keshi ta kanqilai xiang yi ge zhongguoren.” (But she looks like a Chinese person.) I grew to hate the sound of this phrase. “Looks like” is not “is”. “Looks like” is a facade, a wall, an inconvenient obstacle to the truth. The phrase nurtured a bitter anger. Eventually, the anger burst pus and blood whenever I heard the phrase— for a moment, I wished I looked American. Then, I would realize I just wished to look white, and the sour shame I’ve swallowed since twelve would rise again. There was no escape from my brittle relationship with China while I lived in it. Constantly surrounded by people who looked like me, yet with whom I
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could not identify linguistically or culturally, I desired to both assert my foreign roots loudly, but also blend in seamlessly. To be at once noticed and unnoticed, fully Chinese and fully American. When news came that Princeton planned to move us out of the country due to COVID-19, I smiled, and I was ashamed of my happiness to leave.
OVID eventually hit the States harder than it did China, and having returned to the US in mid-March, my gap year shrunk to the size of my childhood home. In May, I watched my cousin marry through a YouTube livestream as I sat in my living room. Originally, the ceremony was planned to be held in their Southern Baptist megachurch with over five hundred in attendance, but God has his plans, and her grand wedding became an intimate ceremony held in a petite white chapel. When my cousin walked onto our TV screen, my whole family gasped. At twenty-two, she looked grown up. The priest, gold iPad in hand, talked about
how the couple got married the right and righteous way, with both families heavily involved and with Christ at the core of their union. My cousin expedited the date of her wedding so that she could move in with her husband before medical school. As her mother, father, aunt, two uncles, and grandfather are all doctors, her career path was not met with surprise: in my mother’s family, the tradition of physicians extends far back into when we were still in Taiwan. We were also one of the first Taiwanese families to convert to Christianity. The faith passed down since the Dutch landed on Formosa, only to reach its limit with me. Despite my skepticism, I still cried when the priest read from 1 Corinthians 13, verses written on photo frames scattered throughout my childhood home. The familiar inflections of the voice of a sermon brought me to a quieter place, where things like ethnicity and language and identity pale in comparison to one’s relationship with God. If life in China was a challenge of alienation, life in the
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Ruminations on a Homeland US during COVID was a challenge of entrenchment. Falling asleep at three and waking up at eleven, I filled my days empty with an indifference toward most everything and aimed fleeting spurts of zeal at various hobbies. I baked a French silk pie. I sewed a green gingham crop top. I listened obsessively to freak folk music. I threw myself onto my bed and mediated upon heat death in the dark like a proper Atheist should every once in a while. And then I read Educated. Tara Westover, when she describes her stress regarding college tuition, relates “curiosity is the luxury of the rich.” I thought about my private education, thousands of dollars a year to study Ancient Greek and astrophysics on a three-hundred acre campus, about my future education, paid for by a college fund created before I
was born, and about the present moment— I could afford the time to read. I could afford to loaf and postulate and bemoan. The combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests have revealed to the privileged the extent to which their power affords them easier, healthier, more secure lives. Among other systems, the structure of healthcare, of the economy, and of law enforcement, as well as the policies which comprise them, distribute and reinforce power. By nature of growing up in the United States, I actively participate in such systems, and they shape who I am today. America’s healthcare system pays doctors and thus my father handsomely, so my mother could retire from her medical practice to care for me and my siblings, drive us to
Latin competitions and cross country meets. The school which formed me intellectually and socially was only accessed through my family’s wealth. The same wealth decreases my chance of dying from COVID because I do not need to go into public and work in order to survive. I did not feel I belonged in my middle or high school, which was located in the planned center of whiteness in Austin, because I am not white. My Asian heritage also means I am nowhere as viscerally vulnerable to the police as Black people are in America, and I can go through everyday life without fear of losing my body to the state. My desire for Chineseness was vague, a lofty want sprung from what I saw as a lack of Americanness. Thus, my experience in China was similarly insubstantial: no matter how
much I desired to see myself reflected in it, China did not shape me. Perhaps, then, a homeland is not made of ethnic origins, patriotism, or even acceptance into the collective. To have a homeland is to understand the placement of oneself in the context of power; it is to acknowledge that these dynamics have and continue to directly impact one’s lived reality. In the same way Christianity, neutral to my lack of faith, informs my identity because I have been steeped in the religion since birth, I am American because I was born into structures that enforce power relations particular to America now, and these systems, having given and restricted privileges, are inextricable from how I have become the person I am today. My determination to find a sense of home in China was
based on the belief I was separate from the social fabric I inhabited in the United States. The contrary is true: like a religion practiced during childhood, a homeland becomes part of oneself. But as importantly, one is also part of a homeland and all the people who populate it. Accompanying this understanding of social solidarity in view of structural suffering, I sense a prerogative to not view the world as scripture, but to strive toward more equitable distributions of power by changing the structures that exacerbate inequality. For I know I will always be part of America, and it will always be part of me.
PAGE DESIGN BY MIKA HYMAN
Volume 42, Number 6
C C OF THE LEFT H H EE A A PP EE I N N II N N G G In the age of online activism, a writer considers how progressivism has become fashionable. By ELLIOTT WEIL
’ve been surfing a lot recently–I know, a very cool guy thing to do. I go with some of my best friends who are around my skill level, which is to say they suck. Our “sessions” are just a series of falls, slams, slips, and tumbles. The waves throw me into the sand, spinning underwater as I try to breathe, completely unsure of the direction of the surface. If you are even remotely online, especially on Instagram, you’ll know what I mean when I say my feed is like being held-under. Inundated with takes, the more overt politics and rhetoric, seemingly a diversion from more subtle aesthetic signaling has illuminated a predictable flaw in online social justice: information overload. Slideshows, dubious Change.org petitions, and quickly crafted -- but surely
confident -- tweets have more or less become THE discourse. And not to get on my high horse; I’ve fired off some Instagram stories into the void myself. It’s just too easy. We can represent our politics however we want, completely detached from action, and access more credible arbiters of the same take almost instantaneously to affirm and move on. Even more encouraging for us lazy political posters, it all disappears in mere hours. Contrary to your mom’s warning of, “what goes on the internet stays forever,” the Instagram story attention economy allows for seamless revision. You can delete whatever you’ve said, upload a flagrantly contradictory post, and avoid consequences entirely– who’s to say you can’t grow, learn, “do the work!” This even assumes any of your followers, overwhelmed by hundreds of minutely different posts, give enough of a shit or see any hope of dialogue in calling you out. The most shocking effect of this phenomenon to hit my Instagram timeline, as a
well-off left winger, has been the embrace of radicalism by a primarily liberal and private-schooled follower base. Future partners at KKR or Bain citing the works of Angela Davis. Angela Davis! An orthodox communist that assisted in the August Coup! Of course, centrist social democrats have a lot to learn and enjoy in a Davis text, and political agreement isn’t a prerequisite for academic engagement. However, the recommendation of Are Prisons Obsolete? as a way to understand the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah Daniels, and countless others, or calls to defund the police are without a doubt revolutionary prescriptions. Not just in the carceral sense, but against capital and its violent enforcement. And again, this wouldn’t be the first historical occurrence of a decently popular bourgeoise critique of “the powers that be.” But an embrace of the left (in aesthetic, to be clear) from the wealthiest Americans speaks to a certain weakness in working class organizing specific to this era.
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PAGE DESIGN BY NORA WILDBERG
With the huge popularity of a legitimately left-wing candidate in Bernie Sanders came many eager to harness his energy. Socialist messaging has been cheap and popular so that executing ages-old electoral field strategy with a veneer of revolution was easy. The thing is, Bernie had credibility in his decades old record and rhetoric, where newer candidates benefitted from the same Insta-leftist culture discussed earlier, without a nasty history of working-class politics sure to scare the new generation of corporate progressives. The most famous candidate of this approach, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, became the most recognizable politician in the country by outright using the socialist label. Unfortunately, though, her time in office has paid few dividends to this branding. Poor commitment to anti-imperialism, lack of clarity in policy around progressive taxation, and collaboration with the Democratic Party’s most corporate personnel has rendered her a run of the mill “progressive” with
the occasional tweet about Jeff doom-and-gloom about it. Bezos being bad. Attending protests, working Most demoralizing for the with pertinent organizations in left though, is the integrity of my home city of San Francisco, its infrastructure beyond elec- and talking to peers interested toralism. Cortez was backed in politics beyond the internet, by what is considered the larg- I see the contradictions of capiest left-of-liberal organization talism getting to people. When in the country, Democratic revolution happens though, Socialists of America. While it won’t be with a turquoise its membership is rising, its graphic posted in the window activities continue to drudge of an Austin coffee shop. And through organizational road- until then, arrest the murderblocks and dispersed visions ers of Breonna Taylor, a victim for what building socialism of brutal liberal militarism, not actually looks like. With union the martyr for an Instagram membership continuing to hit story campaign. annual record lows and global fascism annual record highs, leftist organizing is seeing most success, pathetically, on Twitter. And however painful it may be to communist posters online, eager to dunk on consultant-activists or AOC, it’s hard to see why they too are not just liberals playing pretend. Social media would have you believe we are on the precipice of revolution. With no need to credibly commit to your Pol Pot quote post, it’s hard to take the Elliott Weil is not completely doom-and-gloom about the Nasnoise seriously. I’m not completely sau Weekly.
July 28, 2020 PAGE DESIGN BY MIKA HYMAN
The Pandemic: A Portal to a Better Princeton? A call to reimagining what a college education can be -- and who it can include. By SAM BISNO
ne morning last December, I exited my Pittsburgh public school—a giant building with a monolithic facade of brick and concrete whose distinguishing feature, its students will tell you, is the absence of windows—and headed downtown. My destination was the Allegheny HYP Club (HYP being short for Harvard Yale Princeton). I was there as a “P,” having received my acceptance email about a week earlier. The event was an annual holiday luncheon put on by the local alumni association. The venue was cozy and understated, a small, immaculately maintained, red-brick structure tucked into Pittsburgh’s crowded downtown, dwarfed by the surrounding skyscrapers housing mostly offices for business executives (I would later learn that some of the luncheon’s attendees had made the short jaunt from those very offices). I recognized the club’s quiet
cobblestone courtyard gated by an elegant, wrought iron archway; I had Googled the place ahead of time. The club has a website and even a motto: “An Historic Club … in a League of its Own.” Like most august institutions, it also has a founding myth: “Today, as it has since 1930, The Allegheny HYP Club represents an uncompromising standard of value and service for Pittsburgh’s professional men and women.” Another quick Google search revealed that it had begun admitting women only in 1980 and opened its doors to members without degrees from Harvard, Yale, or Princeton only in 1987. While enjoying a fancy lunch, I chatted with current and former Princeton students who told me how great the University is, how much I was going to love going there, and how proud I should be that I had gotten in. At some point, one of the heads of the alumni association stopped by my table and said offhandedly, “You know, Princeton could admit three times the number of students that it does without any drop-off in the quality of applicants. The only reason
they don’t is the shortage of beds.” I was struck by this. I suspect most Princetonians are well aware of Princeton’s miniscule acceptance rate and feel a certain pride at being one of so few who meet the school’s standards—certainly, I did. The whole atmosphere of the Allegheny HYP Club spoke of distinction and achievement. Yet I had just found out from someone intimately familiar with the admissions process that there were at least two kids just as qualified as me who, a few days earlier, had learned— or thought they had learned— that they were unworthy of a Princeton education. Actually, there just wasn’t anywhere for them to sleep. Enter COVID-19. I’m now an enrolled Princeton student listening to Dean of the College Jill Dolan and Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun answer dozens of questions over Zoom about the University’s plans for safely educating 6,000 undergraduates in a pandemic. Only half of us will be on campus at any one time, they explain, and no matter where a student lays their head, the bulk of their
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In a moment of historic crisis—but also unprecedented innovation— American institutions stand at a crossroads.
instruction will take place online. They also announce that tuition will be reduced by 10 percent across the board. Initially, I was upset that I would spend half of my freshman year in Pittsburgh. Then it hit me: it was now possible to receive a Princeton education without a bed at Princeton. Why not triple the class size? In recognizing that Princeton is not confined to the walls of its campus, to the number of beds it has, the University has laid the foundation for previously unimagined access to all it has to offer. Whether or not they intended to, Dean Dolan and Vice President Calhoun drew a roadmap for a world in which more students from across the globe can learn from the incredible professors who call Princeton their home, professors whose teachings have until now been reserved for a few thousand fortunate individuals; a world in which lectures and class materials are made available to the general public; a world in which educational opportunity is prioritized over exclusivity. And by reducing tuition, they demonstrated that it’s possible to make a world-class liberal arts education more affordable
and therefore more widely available. The pandemic and the events of the past four months have shone a bright light on the deep-seated flaws and inequities of American society. The lack of paid sick leave for nearly 34 million Americans—1 in 4 U.S. workers—has been exposed as a public health menace to us all. Tying health insurance to employment for 58% of nonelderly Americans has proved similarly disastrous: 5.4 million workers lost coverage in the first four months of the outbreak as a result of the associated economic crisis. School districts across the nation that closed to prevent the spread of the virus were faced with the challenge of continuing to provide meals to millions of children who depend upon school for their basic nutritional needs. And police brutality and systemic racism now occupy the forefront of American politics and social action following the horrific killings of George Floyd and other Black Americans in recent months. In a moment of historic crisis—but also unprecedented innovation—American institutions stand at a crossroads. Do they remain in a holding pattern, implementing short-term
fixes until things “return to normal,” or do they instead confront their role in perpetuating structural inequality and lean into the widespread push for fundamental change? Certainly, the former is easier. But thinkers and activists across the United States are devoting their talents, creativity, and passion for justice to ensure that we learn from the events of the past several months and emerge from this pandemic as a more equitable and inclusive America. Chants of “defund the police” echo throughout American streets, a recognition of the fact that those entrusted to “protect and serve” pose a systemic threat to people of color. Leading politicians demand an Essential Workers Bill of Rights to finally institute protections for working people that should have existed long ago. Princeton is not exempt from the choice between maintaining an unjust status quo and taking leadership in driving lasting reform. The only question is: which path will we take? In April 2019, I visited Princeton as a high school junior beginning to think about college applications. A section of the tour was led by a Black
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former student who had gone on to work for the University. My dad asked him about his experience as a Princetonian of color. “It was fine,” he responded. “Unfortunately, we can’t admit as many Black students as we’d like due to socioeconomic factors.” In his statement last June explaining the University’s decision to rename the Woodrow Wilson School and Wilson College, President Eisgruber wrote that Princeton “scholars, students, and alumni must stand firmly against racism in all its forms.” The decision to change the names of the buildings was, without a doubt, long overdue. It was also not even close to enough. If Princeton is truly committed to combating racism “in all its forms,” perhaps it’s time we stop accepting “socioeconomic factors” as an excuse for why the undergraduate student body is only 9 percent Black when Black Americans comprise 13.4 percent of the U.S. population. Why not acknowledge that Princeton’s admissions policies and practices—which help determine which young Americans will have access to an elite education as well as to powerful
social and occupational networks—are themselves a socioeconomic factor? Black Americans are more than twice as likely to face poverty as white Americans. By disproportionately rewarding students who have access to wealthy high schools, SAT tutoring, and college essay advisers, the entire business of deciding who gets a bed at Princeton is a form of institutional racism. I am a white, relatively privileged person. I don’t believe I have all of the answers about how we rebuild this unjust society we’re living in, and I certainly don’t think my voice is the most important as we decide how to move forward. But as someone who has observed from the sidelines the way Princeton has navigated the past few months and is now preparing to become a part of its community, I do think some of these ideas might be a good place to start. As Arundhati Roy wrote in her beautiful and compelling essay, “The pandemic is a portal”: “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the
next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.” Six months ago, the notion that a Princeton education could be delivered with half of the student body away from campus would have been unthinkable. Now it’s mandatory, and the implications are profound. I am excited to enter Princeton and join a community, virtual and physical, of thinkers and learners whose ideas and choices will have an impact well beyond the University’s walls (and beds). Let’s commit to working—and fighting—to figure out how we can challenge the status quo together to build a new and better Princeton and world in the months and years ahead.
Thinkers and activists across the Nassau Weekly are devoting their talents, creativity, and passion for justice to ensure that we learn from Sam Bisno.
A PORTAL TO A
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PAGE DESIGN BY GRACE LEE
Blue Silver Linings “Although seasonal, costineffective, and often buggy and sweaty, few activities rank as highly as fruit picking.” By ELLEN SU
have always been conflicted about the summer season while growing up in woodsy New England. Beaches relieve the mind, but the persistent grains of sand in my pockets and the painful slap of sun on my shoulders remind me to limit my beach days. Longer hours of sunlight are an objective win (more time equals more productivity, which, I’m
sure, is something many of my fellow students also yearn for), but the prevalence of mosquitos combined with my unmatched and unwanted attention from them is less favorable. A break from school, another pro—even the Philomath in me can appreciate a chance to breathe and catch up to my own life. Fruit picking, though, is the characteristic of summer that convinces me that these warm months are net positive. Although seasonal, cost-ineffective, and often buggy and sweaty, few activities rank as highly as fruit picking in my mind. It isn’t a particular liking
for one fruit that draws me in. I’ll take anything: apples, strawberries, peaches, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, nectarines, plums, cherries, or pears. Perhaps my fondness for personally choosing my fruit off their vines or bushes or trees arises from the positive memories I have from my childhood, but I cannot shake the certainty that this wholesome activity will live up to its own esteem time and time again. For those who have yet to partake in any sort of fruit picking or have been unimpressed by the overrated apple season, let me attempt to
convey the beauty in the simplicity of the activity. You arrive at the farm, you pick the fruit, and you pay for it. Yet somewhere between those concrete and mundane steps, there is a lifting of moods. Something in its innocence promises enjoyment. While fruit picking, all that concerns me momentarily is finding the rounded, frosted, greyish bunches of berries that weigh down the thin stems and nudging the largest berries on the cluster, ready to burst from their own skins, into my bucket. They demand my attention and replace all other responsibilities with a need to taste two
or twenty-five berries from each bush to make sure that they do not underperform compared to their neighbors. Tasting, peering, reaching, nudging, examining, moving two steps to the right. Rinse and repeat. Thus, when my mom rushed into my room the other night to announce that we were leaving at 7:00 am the next morning to beat the crowds at Parlee Farms on the opening week of blueberry picking, I set my alarms without question. At the farm, for a few fleeting moments, I didn’t think about the coronavirus and its accompanying suitcases of discouraging charts and stats and headlines. I didn’t unproductively fixate my thoughts on the uncertainty of the near future. Only hours earlier, I had been moping around about everything I would lose from my college experience, but all of that temporarily slipped away. Maybe fruit picking can be compared with reading a good book or watching the sunrise. Activities so simple yet charged with the power to transport one’s mind. I don’t want to inflate my blueberry picking experience into a life-altering shift of perspective, but I do think that it grounded my day, maybe even my week. In a time where so many, including myself, are
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dejectedly accepting 2020 as a hopeless nightmare, picking blueberries with my family remains a gentle reminder that the world isn’t ending. Some things won’t ever be the same after this pandemic, but other things, the simple things, will always be here for us. And, more importantly, as I conclude my experience with an appropriate batch of blueberry lemon muffins (recipe from Cookie and Kate), it reminds me to think of silver linings, to be grateful that I am able to pick blueberries during a global pandemic. Grateful for my health and my family’s, my life’s stability, my ownership of free time, my community. Grateful for my two eyes that can see, my hands that can touch, my tongue that can taste. For the farmers who plant, the bees which pollinate, the sun that energizes. Grateful for nature. For things that we can count on. For the security that no matter what happens, we can always come back home and pick some blueberries.
Maybe Ellen Su can be compared with reading the Nassau Weekly or watching the sunrise.
Something in its innocence promises enjoyment.
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by Andrew White
ACROSS 1. Rapid-fire gun 4. NFL team that moved from St. Louis in 2016 10. One may be taken at a party 14. Nick, maybe 15. Cold summer treat 16. Last word at an auction 17. *Jim Carrey title role 19. Contraction that starts “Jabberwocky” 20. Nice summer? 21. “N ___?” (Agatha
Christie novel) 23. Not feel well 24. Like some cold brew 27. *World’s largest venomous snake 30. How many TV shows are shown 31. Not acquainted with 32. *Accommodation in some hotel rooms 34. Flip-flop 37. Sofa feature 38. 39-across platform 39. See 38-across
41. Gossip, slangily 42. Volleyball venue 44. *Spy series starring John Krasinski 46. “Full disclosure...” 49. Man, in Mantua 50. *Certain bicycles 52. Children’s Doctor? 53. Rose of Guns N’ Roses 54. Suffix with arbor or ether 55. “I’ll pass” 56. Movie-rating org.
58. Poker player’s dream, as hinted by the starred entries 64. French bridge 65. Main course 66. Indent key 67. Keyboard sequence that gave its name to a popular series of internet “films” 68. Some rental trucks 69. Where the wild things are?
DOWN 1. Fall Out Boy song “___ Thurman” 2. “High School Musical” icon Efron 3. Wrath 4. Not be straight with 5. Teenager’s woe 6. Emeritus: Abbr. 7. “The Simpsons” character who has come under fire in recent years 8. Nincompoops 9. Sprinkle, in technical speak 10. Army NCO 11. Response in introductions 12. Studio sign 13. Car company with socalled “Gigafactories” 18. Like some salsa 22. Disney’s Scrooge 24. Facial covering for some Muslim women 25. Accustom 26. Australia, to Tasmania 27. Lego competitor that sounds like what its pieces do 28. Birth control option, briefly 29. Mel honored in Cooperstown 31. Swiss bank with a threekey logo 33. Zero chance 35. Dunder Mifflin units 36. Some iPods 39. Father time? 40. Coolers, for short 43. IV amts. 44. “The Bachelorette” winner Wyatt 45. Actress Mercedes of “Lost in Yonkers” 47. Warmer, in a way 48. Arson or larceny 50. Florida city on a bay 51. Montreal team, once 52. They may be cracked 55. 29-down, e.g. 57. Justice Dept. division 59. Abbr. in a financial report 60. Sum up to 61. Big name in pretzels 62. ___ Paolo 63. “Game of Thrones” channel