Washington U niversity
POLITICAL REVIEW 27.2 | October 2017 | wupr.org
TABLE OF CONTENTS 4
Spreading the Word: Latin America’s Hanna Khalil Max Lichtenstein
The Power of Religion
The Evangelical Right
Living on Hope
Hind(WU)?: A Forgotten Religion on
Religion - Are We Better With or
What Reading Joe Biden's Memoir Taught Me Syrus Jin
What is Sessions Smoking? Max Lichenstein
Separation of Shull and State Kayla Steinberg
The Case for the Trustee Model of
Transcending WUSTL's Ignorance Daria Locher
Apologia Americana Christopher Hall
Religious Minorities in Some of America’s Largest Cities
Religious Revivial in an Automated Future Reuben Siegman
Shift Away from Catholicism
Why the 2016 Election Was Not the Worst
Defend Our Religious Freedoms
Election in American History
He's a "Big Fan of Hindu" Ishaan Shah
Next Year in Jerusalem Rachel Olick-Gibson
EDITORS' NOTE Editors-in-Chief: Rachel Butler Dan Sicorsky Executive Director: Sam Klein Staff Editors: Michael Fogarty Max Handler Daniel Smits Katelyn Taira Sabrina Wang Features Editors: Hanna Khalil Max Lichtenstein Finance Director:
Dear Reader, Chocolate, quinoa, and kale aren’t just our favorite foods, and McDonald’s isn’t just where we go for a burger. We encounter and interact with food and the food industry every day—in our homes, the DUC, the supermarket, and our favorite restaurants. Sometimes, food passes our lips without a second thought as we cram for an exam or binge-watch the new season of our preferred TV show. But when we pay attention to what we eat, we can feel joy, disgust, nostalgia, excitement, and other sensations that can’t always be articulated through words, but rather through tastes, smells and textures. Food is a necessary presence in our lives that is deeply entwined in many issues. Our nourishment surely impacts our politics on the individual, national, and global scale. For this reason, we invited writers and artists to play with their food in WUPR’s last issue of the semester. We were impressed by the diversity in the interpretations they cooked up. Annie Johnston writes about the connections between food, class, and our judgment of others. Considering Lady Gaga’s meat dress, Julia Widmann discusses the sexual politics of meat. In a feature, Haley Myers writes about communities formed around the dinner table.
Adya Jain Director of Design: Dominique Senteza Web Editor: Nicholas Kinberg Director of External Operations: Josh Hill Programming Director: Liza Sivriver Front Cover: Neema Samawi Theme Spreads: Dominique Senteza
As always, our writers also engaged with a range of national and international topics. Katy Brainerd and Daniel Grossman, who are cousins, write about the shifting landscape of disability protections under the Trump administration, and Sam Klein considers the future of self-driving cars. As we say au revoir to our executive board members who are going abroad, we also want to welcome four new members to WUPR’s behind-the-scenes team. Max Lichtenstein will join us as a Features Editor, Josh Hill will be the next Director of External Operations, and Sophie Attie and Daniel Smits will join the team of Staff Editors. The different talents each brings, and the passion they share, will lead WUPR into 2018 and beyond. This break, wherever you find yourself—a holiday party, skiing piste, or childhood bedroom—we wish you a healthy respite from campus. As for us: Until January, WUPR will be collecting submissions for our Religion issue. If you would like to contribute your work on the theme (or on any other national or international topic), reach out to us at email@example.com. As always, we’re thankful to you, our readers, for supporting what we do. Until soon, Rachel Butler & Dan Sicorsky Editors-in-Chief
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SPREADING THE WORD: LATIN AMERICA’S PERCENT OF POPULATION IDENTIFYING AS CATHOLIC Latin America 1900-1969 2014
Brazil 1970 2010
Mexico 1970 2012
ver since missionaries descended on Latin America during the European colonization of the 16th and 17th centuries, Catholicism has been the dominant religion of the region, from Puerto Rico to Chile. Home to 425 million Catholics, Latin America is home to over 40 percent of the world’s Catholic population. Brazil and Mexico boast the world’s two largest Catholic populations. It isn’t hard to see why in 2013 the Catholic Church elected Pope Francis from Buenos Aires, Argentina to lead its 1.2 billion faithful. However, developments that span only a generation demonstrate a shift in religious practice away from the Catholic Church and towards “Evangelicos,” the name given to the primarily Pentecostal Christians that have increased dramatically in number. Today, nearly 1 in 5 Latin Americans identify as Protestant (the majority being Pentecostal). This shift is recent and ongoing: according to a Pew survey, one out of every three current Protestants was raised Catholic and over half were baptized in the Catholic Church. What can help explain this unprecedented change in religious identity? The Protestant Church is Less Political In the 1970s and 1980s, the Catholic church developed an ideology known as liberation theology. Catholic leaders called upon religious imagery and rhetoric to inspire Latin Americans to confront authoritarian regimes, such
as the military dictatorships in Argentina and El Salvador. Linking the language of the bible with political activism and issues of poverty, justice, and oppression, liberation theology motivated many to rise up in resistance. However, the carnage and death that followed these resistance movements pushed Latin Americans away from the highly politicized Catholic Church and toward Protestantism, with its heavier focus on personal salvation. This emphasis on the individual offered converts a deeper attachment to the church, as well as an alternative to Catholic congregations that often did not have the resources to educate their congregants in the faith. Protestantism Focuses on Health and Healing Pentecostalism and Neo-Pentecostalism specifically emphasize faith healing, which draws in many converts suffering from illnesses. Despite the region’s push toward universal health coverage, 51% of Latin America’s population does not receive formal health care due to economic or geographical obstacles. The massive inequities in healthcare access make these informal, spiritual health sectors invaluable. Furthermore, a large demographic of Latin America’s urban poor suffer from substance abuse and addiction. Pentecostalism stresses heavy lifestyles, and its churches offer some of the largest rehabilitation and detox centers in Latin America. While the centers are free to patients (and in some cases in Guatemala, involuntary, as addicts
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SHIFT AWAY FROM CATHOLICISM 90% 69%
are taken off the streets against their will), the programming includes an acceptance of the Pentecostalist faith. These programs range in size, intensity, and radicalness, but generally follow the model of secular rehabilitation (a rigorous schedule of chores, counseling, and work duties), with the major difference of perceiving addiction as a sin rather than an illness. Accordingly, internees are encouraged to find God in mercy and discover their value in the eyes of God. To this end, programming can include bible study classes, baptisms, and speaking in tongues, which is when a member of the faithful is miraculously gifted the ability to speak a language otherwise not known to them. Pentecostalist Priests Tend to be Local Protestant church-goers also tend to have an easier time connecting with their religious leaders, as the shortage of Catholic priests in Latin America means many are “imported” elites from Europe, and are usually white or Mestizo. The shortage of priests in the Catholic Church has always been a problem, a product of the rigorous and long-term training period. By contrast, evangelical priests in Latin America are widely uneducated and local, since one does not need nearly as much formal training to become a priest in a Pentecostalist or Neo-Pentecostalist church. Their abundance, responsiveness, and integration in the community make for a more “homegrown” religion.
Initially, a change from one denomination of Christianity to another may not seem like a significant shift. But as the Catholic Church continuously struggles to adapt and keep up with the needs of its followers, a shift this large in a region that was once seen as a Catholic stronghold is noteworthy and telling, and concerning for the Vatican. No matter the reason of a personal conversion to Pentecostalism, the movement away from Catholicism represents the Church’s eroding ability to connect with its previous members, and suggests that it should not take its dominance in the region for granted. The success of Evangelicals in Latin America also generates debate surrounding the effects of missionary work and proselytizing on society, especially within indigenous populations. In some ways, the promises of services such as medical care are reminiscent of the “development” brought by Catholic missionaries centuries ago,and the ways in which colonization was justified as serving indigenous communities. And in countries where large portions of the population face poverty and a lack of access to basic services, the connection of religion to social support has inherently political consequences. Only time will tell the effects this religious shift will have on Latin America, but it is clear that change has already begun.
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THE POWER OF RELIGION Kirk Brown | Illustration by Avni Joshi
reedom of religion. Separation of church and state. These are some of the more common phrases that people think of when referencing the connection between religion and government. Although our government has made efforts to keep religion separate from politics since the inception of our country, religion still permeates many parts of the political process in our lives. Kids in public schools around the country pledge allegiance to “one nation, under God,” services are unjustly denied to members of the LGBT+ community from different companies due to a “violation of political values”, and politicians disclose their religious backgrounds to voters during election periods. This demonstrates the extent that religion works in our political system. These examples beg the question: how much power should religion have in government?
What is interesting about how much power religion has when it relates to government is that, although it is meant to be separate, government protects religion. In the writing of our Constitution, our founders were focused on avoiding the kind of tyrannical rule that they had experienced under the English crown, especially the laws that forced them to share the same religious beliefs as the rest of England. To show this distaste for forced, shared views, the First Amendment was written to guarantee the right to practice any religion that one chooses. This element of our country’s government convinces many immigrants to move here. In many countries around the world, there is no freedom of religion. People are persecuted around the world every day for not subscribing to the system of beliefs that their countries deem acceptable. This freedom to worship in whatever way we please is enticing to many people and has been prioritized in our country for centuries. Now, I was raised by two devoutly Christian parents. They taught me to say my prayers every night before I went to bed and to thank God for all the blessings that he provided our family in life. We attended church every Sunday (ok maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but I didn’t say we were perfect Christians) and we treated holidays like Christmas and Easter as holy days of
the birth and death, respectively, of Jesus Christ. Although I still believe in God, I came to question whether my faith was something that I actually believed in, or something that was force-fed to me by my God-fearing parents at one point in my life. This perspective has allowed me to recognize and question the level of power that Christianity has in our country. Christianity has had more sway than other any other religion in our government. It is alluded to in our Pledge of Allegiance and private Christian schools were funded by the government in some cases in our nation’s history. Many voters in America even use Christianity to determine who they will vote for and which issues they will align with. These issues range from abortion to the death penalty. Although many of our nation’s citizens practiced Christianity at the time of our country’s inception, the religious demographics of our country have changed since then. We have more citizens who aren’t Christians than we did at our country’s inception. Giving Christianity more power in our government is unfair to millions of citizens who don’t identify as Christians, and who call this country home.
In the future, religion probably won’t have as much sway in politics as it does now. With the increasing number of religions that people in our country practice, it would be both impractical and unjust to give one religion more power over another. Citizens would rise up to protest the favoritism that one religion would receive over another. Furthermore, it would be too tedious to try to regulate and balance religious interests from different religions. It would be far simpler to not give any religion say in government and not risk giving one more power over another. We need to stop pretending as if Christianity is the only viable option for our government and stop letting religion guide our government. We can’t let one religion regulate how we govern millions of people who do not believe in it. This would allow us to stay true to the values that the founding fathers originally embedded in the Constitution.
Kirk Brown ‘20 studies Political Science in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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THE EVANGELICAL RIGHT Josh Hill
he Evangelical Right has long been a staple coalition in the American political process, regularly injecting an uncompromising, quasi-Christian conservative ideology into the national discourse. It’s coordinated voting-block behavior has made the Evangelical Right a powerful force in our electoral system and consequently our legislative and executives bodies. Despite its long history and repeated appeals to supposedly unwavering moralities, understanding the choices of this capricious voting group has become increasingly difficult.
The Evangelical Right claims to uphold “traditional Christian values,” which would imply that understanding traditional Christian values would be to one’s benefit when attempting to predict this coalition’s actions. Unfortunately, as a comparison of the Bible’s text to Evangelical politics reveals, that is simply not the case. “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” [1 John 2:9-11] Roy Moore, a recently defeated senatorial hopeful in Alabama, was accused by a total of nine women of inappropriate sexual conduct. Three of the women said they had been sexually assaulted by Moore when they were 14, 16, and 28. His other mentionable qualities include supporting laws that would make homosexuality illegal, calling for a ban on Muslims serving in Congress, supporting Neo-Confederate groups, and even disagreeing with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was a candidate thoroughly washed in bigotry and hatred. Despite these potentially criminal accusations and plainly hateful statements, the Evangelical Right turned out in droves to cast their ballot for Roy Moore, nearly leading to a win for his campaign. Moore was clearly a man blinded by hatred and indecency who didn’t deserve the support of any voter whatsoever, but especially those claiming to uphold the principles of Christianity.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” [Matthew 5:38-39]
Moore was clearly a man blinded by hatred and indecency who didn’t deserve the support of any voter but especially those claiming to uphold the principles of Christianity. Last August, President Donald Trump made a statement that included a threat of impending “fire and fury” against North Korea if it continued advancing towards nuclear competency. This threat was made in the wake of dictatorial regime’s continued testing of both nuclear explosives and rocket propulsion. President Trump’s statements contributed to the situation’s already tense atmosphere and had a broadly unnerving effect on the sense of security we usually take for granted as US citizens. The President was widely criticized for meeting Kim Jong-Un on his own psychotically reckless level and spreading such destabilizing rhetoric. Nevertheless, only a few hours after President Trump’s speech, Robert Jeffress, a member of Trump’s Evangelical advisory committee, issued a statement wherein he praises Trump’s aggressiveness and says that “God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un.” Statements like these bear little resemblance to Jesus’s own belief in turning the other cheek and do little to
show that Robert Jeffress, whose sermons are broadcast live in over 195 countries weekly, is a man with ‘traditional Christian values.’ “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” [Luke 14:13-14] The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a governmental assistance program that provides for the health insurance of over 9 million children from low-income families in the United States. As printed in the Washington Post, Timothy McBride, a professor of health economics at Wash U and the chairman of Missouri’s Medicaid oversight committee, says “CHIP is probably one of the most successful government programs we’ve enacted in the last couple of decades.” The program is set to expire on September 30th of this year and Congress has done nothing to extend its funding despite the recent passage of The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Were the Evangelical Right’s lobbying efforts focused on protecting the poorest children among us from losing their much-needed health insurance? No. It was focused on repealing the 1954 Johnson Amendment which restricts religious institutions from engaging in political activities as 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entities. These single-minded efforts were nearly successful, but the relevant item was eventually dropped from the bill. The Evangelical Right does little in the way of promoting the values they claim to champion. They use Christianity to legitimize and unify a profoundly strange belief system. Understanding and predicting the Evangelical Right is so difficult because of its almost unending willingness to stray from the doctrine that supposedly guides it.
Josh Hill ‘17 studies in the Olin Business School. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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LIVING ON HOPE Jordan Hughes
ven the youthful grow tired and weary, and the young men stumble and fall. / But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” - Isaiah 40: 30-31
This verse was most likely written during the 6th century BCE, yet people in every corner of the world today know it by heart. One has only to walk from campus across Skinker and have a quick conversation in order to find the truth in these words. Faith, religious or otherwise, is a commitment to hope. Its power, the legendary healing and strengthening magic of faith, surrounds us as students of Wash U every single day. It is one of the many lessons that we all should take the onus to learn from our allegedly most hopeless neighbors, the homeless community of St. Louis. Once, as a heartbroken and melodramatic high school sophomore on Valentine’s day, I wandered into a homeless shelter in St. Paul, Minnesota. Having grown up in poor rural Virginia, my new exposure to realities of urban homelessness perplexed me. But maybe growing up without the exposure to urban life also kept me from developing certain understandings and stereotypes shared by my friends; to me at the time, a homeless shelter during the day was just a building with open doors, and people looking for someone to connect to, not so different from my privileged, self-absorbed, young self. Stepping across the threshold of the shelter that day, a door opened for me that would never close; the relationships I began to form in the Dorothy Day Center became a focal point of my life and education for the rest of high school. During my time as a student in St. Louis, I began finding words to formulate the questions that had nagged me for so long. And as I continued to forge relationships and broaden my own community in the new city, one question in particular kept me up at night: In a city with so many empty houses, with so much violence on the streets from guns, weather, and wild dogs, with so much wealth for development visible
but inaccessible only a couple blocks away, how does a homeless person find the strength to keep going? What could possibly give someone the strength to stand outside every day, refusing to give up on life or the world around them, bracing themselves against the worst of weather and humanity until night comes, and getting up to stand strong again the next morning? My relationships in the homeless communities around me continued to strengthen, and my new friends opened up to me about their lives. I learned about their families, neighborhoods, and the people they’ve lost or left behind. Eventually, I gathered my courage and began asking that central question: “What gives you hope?” For many, the answer began with religion. Eventually, accepting their invitations, I began to join them for impromptu prayer circles in Central West End, joining hands with whomever was close and feeling the power of that most unexpected human connection. One man, Kevin, was insistent that I take part and even lead a couple prayers, calling his fiancé Jennifer with my phone so that she could hear my underwhelming and improvised words. I was surprised to find in their company a renewal of my own faith, not in God, but in the surreal power of faith itself. In the love it creates between strangers. In the strength of sharing a commitment to hope. In the accepted promise that every day is a blessing and every struggle a test and that maintaining faith against all odds can be a victory worth celebrating all on its own. Of course, not all of St. Louis’s homeless population are religious. But I find that almost everyone I speak with has some faith, some commitment to hope. Over a sandwich outside of Kayak’s, Will tells me that he hopes he will see his daughter again, that every night he goes to sleep with the commitment to wake up the next day, and to stay strong enough that he is not a broken man upon their eventual reunion. Mark, a poet with a wrist broken from being jumped and then re-fractured while escaping wild dogs, finds his hope in the strength of his mom – a sweet lady suffering from severe mental deterioration. Mark takes his strength from watching her fight the
disease, knowing that if she can hold on as long as she has, then there is nothing he can’t come back from. Laquifa’s faith that her now sevenyear-old daughter Skylar will see better days gets her through the worst of them. And Bradley, a friendly wanderer I’ve run into as far West as Shrewsbury, keeps his faith in the people around him: “If I can smile, and you smile back, and we know nothing else about each other beyond that smile, we’re seeing each other as people, and there’s gotta be some good in that, right?” There’s a touch of deep sincerity in his voice that he doesn’t let show very often. “The person who meets my eyes makes up for a day of people avoiding it, it reminds me that we’re all people, we’re all lost. And people can do a lot of bad, but we do a lot of good too. People can do anything.” Being homeless is the most dehumanizing experience one can feel, Bradley tells me. But the kindness of strangers reminds him that he’s human, too. His faith in humanity is also a kind of faith in himself: that he’s one of many people who struggle and fight and are capable of doing good and are worthy of being loved.
His faith in humanity is also a kind of faith in himself, that he’s one of many people who struggle and fight and are capable of doing good and are worthy of being loved. On a bus to Hamilton Heights, my friend Keith is starting to nod off. He tells me he hasn’t slept in a bed in almost seventeen years. Even when he has access to one, he prefers to sleep in a chair; he worries that at this point being in a bed might cause him to oversleep, and he can’t
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afford to miss a shift of work. As he nods off, a child across from me starts crying and her parents seem on the brink as well. I pull out a tennis ball (I have a couple that travel everywhere with me) and, seeing her fixate on it, start playing catch with the child until Keith opens his eyes. We’re at his furniture store, so I give the ball to the girl and we get off. “I hope in tomorrow” Keith tells me when I finally ask him. “The sun has risen every morning I’ve been alive… everywhere I’ve been…I know it will tomorrow. That gives me hope.” Faith and sincere religious beliefs are blamed for many things. Our world today feels divided by people holding seemingly irreconcilable beliefs, and people are defined by the hopes they commit to. On a university campus so committed to finding truth through scientific methodology, unshakable beliefs are often ridiculed, even when their persistence perplexes us. But everyone believes in something. Everyone is human. Maybe it is time to start embracing the beauty of faith, of sincere commitments to hope, and to begin learning from those who use their commitments to drive them. There is power in faith, and power is neither good nor bad. Faith is both a belief in something and an empowerment to fight on, to persist against all odds and overcome all struggles. Faith itself is something to be celebrated.
I was surprised to find in their company a renewal of my own faith, not in God, but in the surreal power of faith itself.
Those who hope will renew their strength. This is the knowledge I’ve taken, one of many lessons the city of St. Louis has taught me, not so distant from that one accredited to Isaiah twenty-six centuries ago. And I see this strength all around me: in the activists, who keep faith that a patriarchal rape culture can be dismantled. In the investigators and public defenders I work with, who keep faith in the humanity of people even when seeing them at their worst. In the teachers who refuse to give up on their students. In the students, who refuse to give up on themselves. So, I make sure as often as possible to reflect on the things I have faith in, and I invite you to do the same. Whether it’s God or a friend, your family or the good of humanity or the perseverance of your own mind and body; find strength in it. When you stumble and fall, use it to get up again. Commit to that hope. Let the faith keep you from growing weary even when the entire world feels tired and dark.
Jordan Hughes ’19 studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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HIND(WU)?: A FORGOTTEN RELIGION ON CAMPUS Devika Jaishakar
m Shanti Shanti Shanti – the time-honored invocation of peace that ends every Hindu Sanskrit prayer, a resounding message that rings clear through a cramped temple sanctuary as 300 individuals lift their voices in perfect unison. Upon entering college, I thought that I finally found peace with religion, that I had fought all my battles with religious uncertainty and ostracization. I didn’t think twice about Wash U’s lack of a Hindu students’ association, especially astonishing given the fair number of South Asian students on campus, or its baffling under-involvement in religious organization on campus. I was content to remain an infrequent devotee, free to celebrate major holidays in secular fashion and pursue individual prayer at home or at temple, lacking any concern for the broader state of my chosen religious institution.
That is, until recently when my little brother shared a story that left me deeply unsettled. He confided in me that two of our family friends, boys just a year older than him, had teased him for choosing to eat meat, questioning how our family could be active in our Hindu temple community but disregard vegetarianism. As an older sister, watching my 13-year old brother, the same unfettered kid who used to reenact Indian religious epics of Krishna on the playground, feel embarrassed about his own religious convictions struck a nerve deep within. In many ways, his qualms echoed my own struggles with religion, my most uncomfortable relationship. I grew up as a young Hindu girl in the heart of the Bible Belt in a tiny town of 2000 people known for its record-breaking churches to person ratio. I originally attended a Southern Baptist private school where every day my lessons about the one supreme and exacting God directly clashed with my understandings of religious tolerance and diversity within Hinduism as a religious tradition and way of life. I was caught living in the shadows, feigning a pseudo-Christian facade out of fear of revealing my true religious beliefs. I was caught in a world where I smiled through
discussions of church camps, Sunday school, and baptisms, when all I really knew was a love of Diwali and long road trips to our nearest temple. I spent my childhood afraid of being spotted outside of church services on a Sunday morning. I can recall in my earliest memories a knot of anxiety brewing in my stomach during my first Easter services and discussions of judgement day, fearful of my fate as a “non-believer.” I held my breath as I escorted friends past the Hindu deities arranged beautifully in our kitchen, praying each time that they would refrain from asking any uncomfortable or probing questions. It was these feelings, these doubts and frustrations, that suddenly resurfaced when I heard my brother tell his story. In that moment, I recognized the inaccuracies in my rose-tinted portrait of Hinduism. While my brother and I were frequent participants at our local temple and developed an affinity for Hindu story and tradition from a young age, our Hindu community had failed to equip us with the tools to discuss our faith with pride and propose Hinduism as an acceptable, valued component of our American lifestyle. Instead, my brother and I were faced with rhetoric from our own religious community and beyond that planted a seed of inadequacy in our minds, that attached shame instead of self-esteem to our Hindu identity. The Hindu community has failed to move beyond ceremonial pujas and exquisite temples, beyond its insular and fragmented organization, to create larger, national networks aimed at providing necessary social organization and education about Hindu tradition for both our own community and the larger populace. Although my parents took great care to educate us on the deeper meaning behind Hinduism’s most perplexing tenets such as “Shiva the Destroyer” or the presence multiple “gods,” our larger religious institution has done little to contend with the belittling interpretations of Hinduism in history books and the effects of religious intolerance in our own schools and neighborhoods. In short,
the Hindu community has failed to posit a modern iteration of the religion for a new generation, a distressing trend suddenly apparent in Wash U’s glaring absence of a college-based organization for Hindu students. Amidst college’s exploratory engagement of race, class, and other identities, how did religion – Hinduism in particular – become one of the forgotten identities for a large section of our campus? Some may argue that religion becomes less salient in college as we find religious ritual and commitment incompatible with a collegiate way of life and we begin to place our trust in science or the pursuit of knowledge. For Hinduism, however, there is great synergy between the notions of the Big Bang Theory and evolutionary processes I studied in science classes and the discussions in the holy Vedic texts about multiple universes and the reincarnated progression
I grew up as a young Hindu girl in the heart of the "Bible Belt," in a tiny town of 2000 people known for its record-breaking per capita churches to person ratio. from fish to man in the Dashavatara. Further, appreciation of Hindu principles of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness are entering the vernacular culture at ever-increasing rates as from scientific studies confirm the benefits of these practices. As Hinduism gains more mainstream
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appreciation and begins to shed its imperialist stereotypes about the primitiveness of monkey gods and “idol” worship, why do we see less participation from our Hindu community as opposed to more involvement? Why is it that one is more likely to only learn even the most basic tenets about Hinduism from an anthropology class taught by a professor as opposed to religious education from priests and scholars among our own community? The relatively small Hindu population, a mere .7% of the American population, is often posed as an explanation for the limited Hindu involvement in the US. However, Pew Research finds that Hindus living within the US are one of the most highly educated and prosperous religious groups; over 1/3 of Hindu families have a household income of $100,000 or more. In addition, since their true introduction in the early 1970s, over 450 Hindu temples have emerged throughout the US, with the largest temple in the world now located in suburban New Jersey. Yet, the true problem lies in the fact that although more than half of the Hindu population prays daily and attends religious services multiple times a year, 58% of the Hindu population reports participating in scripture study or religious education groups seldom to never. Thus, Hinduism in the US, which prioritizes individual introspection and devotion and lacks any notion of education in the service of religious conversion, has jettisoned its foundational responsibility as the crux of education and social meaning within the community. While my childhood friends were enmeshed within a social fabric of Sunday school classes, youth groups, and summer camps that have long been part of American Christianity, Hinduism has missed an opportunity to reach out to younger generations that seek to assimilate and adapt Hindu philosophies into an ever-modernizing way of life. One would be remiss to not acknowledge the uphill battle facing Hinduism. Unlike the Abrahamic religions, Hinduism provides few if any prescriptions about expected practice, leading many devotees to describe their adherence as a “way of life” malleable to personal preference, as opposed to a formalized religion. Nonetheless, while Hindu beliefs in India remain idiosyncratic and dissimilar across region, ethnicity, class, and creed, I believe the obstacles faced by Hinduism in the US mirror those confronted by most other
Why is it that one is more likely to only learn even the very basic tenets about Hinduism from an anthropology class taught by a professor as opposed to religious education from priests and scholars among our own community. religious entities, especially on college campuses. The challenges – to remain relevant, to effectively utilize burgeoning technology and communicate through social media platforms, to encompass interests in philosophy, spirituality, and ethics within a Hindu “religious” paradigm, and to reframe religion as an essential tool for social gathering and identity formation still pertinent in the 21st century – appear daunting. While other religious institutions can draw college students into various national networks and organizations, Hinduism has been debilitated by the proliferation of only locally-rooted Hindu organizations and weak, unrecognized national networks with distasteful ties to the Hindu rightwing nationalists and religious extremists. Yet, despite the poor odds and a declining attraction to religion as a whole, Hinduism has a duty to thrive on college campuses. Universities, as the beacons of knowledge and the heart of scholastic inquiry, play an enduring role in checking the tides of intolerance and preserving while also reexamining knowledge for future generations. If Hinduism is to be maintained within its traditions of religious tolerance and inclusivity and extracted from the domineering grasp of
right-wing religious fanaticism, the millennial generation must become truly invested in its permanence. This lofty goal first demands a space, an educational center, and an organization for students to rally around. Georgetown, a Jesuit institution, hired a young, dynamic Hindu priest as its chaplain and preeminent religious leader and created interreligious services that maintain their integrity while simultaneously drawing students in with a “deeper understanding of Hinduism.” What is stopping Wash U from doing something similar? Let’s not forget that diversity is not just about secularizing our language but also promoting a space where people can be proud of their beliefs, engage in dialogue with each other, and ultimately learn from each other in the best possible ways. If we aim to combat the bigotry and prejudice sweeping our nation, we must begin by proposing an alternative – an essential education and support structure on college campuses that can advocate for the richness and diversity of religion throughout our own communities and many others. If we are to ensure the continuation and flourishing of a proud Hindu identity, we must do more to lift our voices in support of those children who fear mockery of their elephant-god deities or vegetarian lifestyles – those continuing to live in the shadow of religious difference.
Devika Jaishankar ‘18 studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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RELIGION- ARE WE BETTER WITH OR WITHOUT? Christina Passerell
hen I saw that WUPR was looking for articles that tackle the theme of Religion, my mind immediately, and excitedly, raced back to December 2015 and a paper I wrote in high school titled, “Religion - Are We Better off With or Without It?” I had a Back to the Future moment, where I wanted to go back to the past, find the paper, and dust it off for the audience I must have been writing it for two years in the future. The paper is too long to present in its entirety here, but because the topic is relevant and worth considering, particularly because we seem to be living in an era where religion is increasingly shunned and the lessons of the past are lost, I’d like to share some of the points of the paper.
A 2015 Pew Research Center report found that a strong majority (76.5%) of U.S. adults said they believe in God and identify with a religion (70.6% Christian faith, 5.9% non-Christian and all other world religions). However, this is down from 82% found in a 2008 Harris Poll. The Pew report shows atheists increasing from 1.6% to 3.1% and agnostics from 2.4% to 4% over the same period, and the debate about religion only seems to be growing in intensity in our society. For example, there is a Freedom from Religion Foundation, but also a Freedom from Atheism Foundation, which offers aid in case “you or someone you know has been the victim of militant, confrontational atheism.” It is not difficult to find debates in the media or on social media sites about whether or not the world is a better or worse place because of religion. And the debate picks up when acts of terror are committed in the name of God, or someone’s idea of God, anyway. This gives rise to an important question: Are we better off with religion or without it? Many people argue that religion and science cannot co-exist and are somehow at odds. Of course, the scientist credited with advancing the Big Bang Theory, George Lemaitre, was a Catholic priest. Albert Einstein wrote in his
1941 Symposium Science, Philosophy, and Religion, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind”. It is only slightly ironic, then, that scientific studies examining the benefits and effects of religion in people’s lives show religion is a positive force. Researchers from the University of Michigan, analyzing data from an annual survey of high school seniors from 135 schools in 48 states, found that religious involvement has a large impact on students’ present lifestyles and sets them up for a healthy adult lifestyle. How so, you might ask? Many of the students held beliefs about “moderation in all things,” and “maintaining the purity of the body as the vessel of the soul.” They had religious practices that involve delaying, or even denying, harmful things and self-indulgent behaviors. The study found that students who said religion was important in their lives, and attended religious services frequently, had lower rates of drinking, smoking, and drug use and higher rates of healthy eating, seatbelt usage, and not carrying weapons. The researchers found these practices carried forward in life, significantly reducing exposure to major risk factors that cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other major causes of death in our society. Good health and increased longevity in religious people have been proven time and again in studies. Why the connection exists is something of a mystery. Yet hundreds of studies, by different researchers, observing different populations around the world support this relationship. On July 12, 1999, twelve of the world’s leading theologians, physicians, and psychoneuroimmunologists came to Duke University to study this. Their work was especially important because the group included scientists who were, in their own words, “highly skeptical” of religion. The group learned that the mind-body-spirit are “intimately connected through many neurological, endocrine, and immune pathways,” and acknowledged “the close connection between mental health and immune functioning.” They
stated that “even the most ardent skeptic may admit the emotional benefits of faith, the physical ramifications of religious belief.” Given the data from so many studies and the exhaustive research of top experts, even “ardent skeptics,” if honest, must acknowledge the positive force of religion. Research that overwhelmingly shows higher rates of happiness for religious people is important because the number of people indicating some religious affiliation is declining at the same time our mental health is declining too. The National Institute of Mental Health estimated the rate for major depression in American adults at 6.7% in 2013, representing almost 16 million adults. According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, that number more than doubled from 3.33% just a dozen years earlier. And the rate for major depression
Students who said religion was important in their lives, and attended religious services frequently, had lower rates of drinking, smoking, and drug use, and higher rates of healthy eating, seatbelt usage, and not carrying weapons.
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was highest among 18-25 year olds at 8.7%. This same group has a rate of religiousness that is declining more than other groups - a 2015 Pew survey showed 36% had no religious affiliation. There are certainly other factors that affect their mental health, but religion has been shown to be a positive force linked to improved happiness and a longer lifespan. A large study by the University of California at Berkeley in 1971 found that the religiously committed had much less psychological distress than the uncommitted, and study after study conforms that finding. Lim and Putnam, professors from the University of Wisconsin and Harvard, respectively, say there is controversy about how religion shapes satisfaction. But, they say, “The positive association between religiosity and life satisfaction is well documented.” I also want to address a misguided criticism that is often repeated despite having been disproved many times. That criticism claims religion is the cause of most wars, and that more people have died in the name of religion and religious wars than anything else. In his comedic analysis of the Ten Commandments, comedian George Carlin used to say, “More people have been killed in the name of God than for any other reason.” His shtick was hilarious, and drew loud applause, but as a factual matter, this is untrue. In their well-respected three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars, authors Philip and Axelrod document the entire history of recorded warfare and note that from their list of 1,763 wars, only 123 had a religious cause. In other words, less than 7% of wars, representing less than 2% of all people killed in warfare, could be classified as religious. In his book, Lethal Politics and Death by Government, R.J. Rummel says, “...men, women, and children have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed or worked to death, buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed or killed in any other of a myriad of ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens and foreigners. The dead could conceivably be nearly 360 million people.” The most devastating totals include Joseph Stalin (42.7 million) and Moa Zedong (37.8 million). These death totals dwarf the estimated 1-3 million people killed in the Crusades and perhaps 3,000 killed in the Inquisition. As author Jimmy Akin explains on his website, “Religion is
Less than 7% of wars, representing less than 2% of all people killed in warfare, could be classified as religious.
relationship is a convincing one. Given the many studies and the enormous body of work showing a powerful, positive relationship between religious commitment and physical health, mental health, increased longevity, personal happiness, and other desirable traits, it seems clear: We are much better off with religion than without it.
a powerful motivator, and thus is often evoked in wartime, but the real reasons most wars are fought have nothing to do with it.” He goes on to explain that the real reasons have to do with gaining or staying in power, gaining political control of resources, or simply a leader’s ambitions. In a HuffPost Religion column, Rabbi Alan Lurie details major conflicts, including genocides in the 20th century alone that killed over 160 million civilians, and concludes, “History simply does not support the hypothesis” that religion is a major cause of conflict. In my high school paper I cite Patrick Fagan, Ph.D., who, while looking at the impact of religious practices, noted that the most comprehensive reviews of studies reveal that 81% show positive benefits of religious practices, 15% show neutral effects, and only 4% show harm. “Religious practices,” Dr. Fagan concluded, “appear to have enormous potential for addressing today’s social problems.” While it seems like he could have said that yesterday, Dr. Fagan was writing in 1996, and the societal problems he noted include violent crime, substance abuse, rising illegitimacy, and welfare dependency. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that these issues seem to have worsened over last 20 years given the statistics that show religiousness has declined during this time as well. People have held religious beliefs and practiced their religions for thousands of years. There is overwhelming evidence of the positive benefits associated with religion and those who are religiously committed, much of it coming from or being confirmed by the scientific community. We may not understand the why or the how emotions, mind, body, community, or something else - but with such compelling evidence, the
Christina Passerell ‘21 studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. She can be reached at
WU POLITICAL REVIEW | RELIGION
SEPARATION OF SHUL AND STATE Kayla Steinberg
t isn’t just antisemitism in France. It’s an anti-religious fervor sweeping the nation, causing people to tuck in their crosses, stars and crescent moons and save religious practice for the home. Sure, there are places of worship dotting the landscape — France is beloved for its astounding Catholic architectural works, historical masterpieces such as the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sacre Coeur Basilica. Yet in schools or marketplaces today, religious apparel and prayer are seldom to be found. What happened to the once proudly Catholic nation?
In 498 AD, with the baptism of King Clovis, France was crowned “eldest daughter of the church,” for it was the first nation to be crowned Catholic after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. For centuries, Catholicism was its state religion, and France was linked intimately with the Pope. However, beginning in the mid1500s and exacerbated by the 1789 French Revolution, religious conflicts tormented the beleaguered nation until the Catholic Church was eventually persecuted by the state in 1790. Though Catholicism became the state religion once again during the transfer of power after Napoleon in the 1814 Bourbon Restoration, the renewed bond was short lived: a law passed in 1905 separated church and state once again, and it still remains in effect today. The rift between religion and state has since become total. Unlike in the United States, religion in France is hidden behind closed doors. Rather than promoting religion in public spheres, France upholds laïcité, its version of secularism. In schools and other public places all over the country, posters with a guide to laïcité adorn walls, instructing its citizens to save religion for their homes. I joined a Jewish family for dinner one night during my recent stay in Paris. Benjamin, one of two sons, had just returned home from studying Gemara (a commentary on the Jewish Oral Torah) to join his parents, his sister Justine, his brother Raphael, and me at the table. “Benjamin is becoming more frum,” Raphael told me, his parents chiming in to describe how Benjamin now keeps the requirements of the Sabbath,
despite the rest of his family not doing so. I studied Benjamin at the table. He appeared at once wise and questioning, confident in his devotion to Judaism but uncertain as to the extent of his practice. I noticed that he was not wearing a kippah, or yarmulke, his brown curls unmatted atop his head. A bit of multilingual small talk commenced. I spoke with everyone except for Benjamin in English; the family spoke some rapid French amongst themselves, translating for Benjamin, and I tried a bit of my broken Hebrew on Benjamin, who understood it perfectly. After a few minutes of careful conversation, I decided to get right to the point, asking Benjamin why he was not wearing a kippah if he was indeed becoming more religious. Benjamin replied in a multilingual mix, explaining that in France, it is dangerous for people to outwardly show their religion. Neither he, nor any of his family members, has faced persecution for being Jewish in France. Nevertheless, they do not want to take the risk, for they know of people – particularly Jews and Muslims – who have been religiously persecuted. Benjamin said that only extremely religious people wear kippot, hijabs, and other religious garments in France, and that he is not quite frum enough to put his life on the line for a head covering. Separation of religion and state in France applies to people of all faiths, but for Jews and Muslims the consequences of displaying religion in public are more extreme. In 2010, France instituted its “burqa ban,” preventing Muslim women from wearing the traditional full body covering outside of the home. Additionally, as of 2016, over 30 French towns had banned burkinis, the swimsuit equivalent of a burqa, on public beaches. My Christian friend Natasha Maters, a US resident and self-professed liberal who currently studies at Sciences Po in Reims, France, has experienced firsthand anti-religious feelings in France, specifically in relation to the burqa. She finds the burqa ban to be “contrary to [France’s] whole culture and spirit,” which promotes equality and personal freedoms. The ban is “less
about religion and more a threat to liberalism and openness,” Natasha explained. However, she finds burqa wearing itself to be a barrier to connection, contradicting liberalism and openness, and limiting women's freedoms. “I want people to be able to express their religious beliefs, but I think there is a line,” she said. This line is drawn at the point of danger. For safety reasons, France banned wearing ski masks and motorcycle helmets in regular public spaces, just as it did burqas. Yet while Natasha opposes burqa wearing, she wishes that France did not have to enact a law to prevent them from being donned; the law is may be a form of religious persecution. Jews, too, face persecution in France, though of a slightly different nature. In April 2017, Dr. Sarah Halimi, a retired kindergarten teacher, was murdered and thrown off her balcony in Paris, as her assailant shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is the greatest). In August 2016, a Muslim man was charged with "attempted murder based on
It could not only ruin her business, but also potentially make her the target of attack, because anti-Semitism is alive and well everywhere in Europe. the victim's appearance belonging to a race or religion” after attacking a kippah-wearing Jew on the streets of Strasbourg. And in 2015, in one of the deadliest anti-Semitic shootings in France, a terrorist who had pledged allegiance to ISIS murdered 4 people and held 15 hostage in a Kosher food supermarket. These are not isolated incidents — several hundred anti-Semitic acts
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ranging from car attacks to stabbings are carried out in France each year, and they have terrorized French Jews for the past several decades. This is why Benjamin and so many others opt not to wear kippot; the fear of being attacked or killed is real and horrifying. While in Paris, I travelled with my friend Omri, who, like Benjamin, is in the process of becoming frum. In his home state of California, Omri openly wears his kippah and tallis katan, a version of the traditional Jewish prayer shawl meant for everyday wear. However, in Paris, Omri felt compelled to cover his kippah with a beanie and tuck in the strings of his tallis katan, fearful that he would otherwise be attacked. This 21st century antisemitism is a shocking departure from treatment of Jews in the middle of the 20th century. In the first two decades following World War II, France welcomed Jewish immigrants, many of whom came from northern Africa, seeking refuge. The French government also passed laws to protect Jews in France and reduce antisemitism. However, after the Six Day War in 1967, during which Israel conquered considerable territory in the Middle East and triumphed over its hostile Arab neighbors, antisemitism in France rose. It continued to escalate in the 1970s and 1980s with the French anti-Zionist campaign, while the 1990s saw an increase in Holocaust denial. Unrest deepened at the turn of the century. The Second Intifada — the 2000-2005 Palestinian uprising against Israel — escalated religious tensions in France, particularly between Jews and Muslims. Jews increasingly began to identify with the Israeli cause and many Muslims with the Palestinian cause. Ironically, at the beginning of the 21st century, France was home to the third-highest population of Jews in the world, after only Israel and the United States. However, the rate of Aliyah (immigration to Israel) of French Jews has since skyrocketed due to an increase in anti-Semitic verbal and physical attacks, surpassing the Aliyah rate of American Jews in 2014. Antisemitism is not just growing in France, but also in nations across Europe. Growing numbers of Muslim immigrants to European countries, often sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, oppose Judaism and the self-proclaimed Jewish
He is not quite frum enough to put his life on the line for a head covering. state, Israel, condemning it through the United Nations. Additionally, thousands of anti-Semitic terror attacks occur annually throughout Europe, many in the name of ISIS. As a result, Jews across Europe often hide their identities publicly for safety. While Omri and I were strolling through London, the night before we travelled to Paris, we heard a familiar sound — an Israeli accent. We walked towards the woman, a merchant at London’s beloved Winter Wonderland carnival. “Do you speak Hebrew?” I asked her in Hebrew. “No,” she replied quickly, and in English. Deflated, we turned our backs on her shop and walked away. “Well, we can confirm two things,” Omri decided. “One, she is Israeli. And two...” he trailed off, looking into the distance. We knew that the woman was able to understand Hebrew from her rapid comprehension of my question in Hebrew and the fact that she was able to logically reply. But worse, we knew that she had to hide her identity as an Israeli Jew, for it could not only ruin her business, but also potentially make her the target of attack, because antisemitism is alive and well everywhere in Europe. Antisemitism has historically been even worse in France. So I pray for the day when there are no more religious attacks in France, in Europe, or anywhere else in the world. For the day when people do not have to conceal their faith behind the doors of their homes, when Omri and Benjamin can proudly don their kippot and their tallitot in public, when Muslims can wear burkinis at the beach. Because right now, in France, the separation of shul and state has gone too far.
Kayla Steinberg ‘20 studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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DEFEND OUR RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS Jack Goldberg
e believe that an athlete’s success should be decided by the natural talent and practiced skill of the athletes themselves. We believe that a student’s success should be determined by the student’s own knowledge, preparation, and mental acuity. When a baseball player uses steroids to improve his performance, we say his success is unearned. When a student plagiarizes her essay or sneaks note-covered index cards into an exam, we say she cheated. In short, we believe that in competitive endeavors—whether academic, athletic, or something else entirely—peoples’ success ought to depend on their own personal abilities. Outside aid, whether from illicit drugs or hidden note cards, allows a person to perform better than he or she deserves, and so we ban such outside aid.
even if the friend refuses the request. In the eyes of the university it’s the attempt that counts, so we can’t pick out a difference between prayer and more secular cheating solely from the actual success of the student or athlete. Now picture a student who asked his classmate to telepathically send him the answers to test questions, and who did so as a genuine, un-ironic attempt to receive assistance with the exam. He would not be penalized. Academic integrity committees do not regard this as an attempt that has any chance of success, which is presumably why the student is not punished. This attempt at telepathic cheating is blatantly absurd, and this leads us to the most likely reason that institutions do not treat prayer as cheating. They see prayers for success as similarly absurd, with similar chances of success.
This has interesting implications for religion and prayer that I’d like to explore. A particularly devout student may pray for wisdom and success before taking an important exam. An especially devout athlete might pray for skill and his team’s victory. Ordinarily we think there’s no problem with that—people have the right to believe whatever they want, pray or not pray as they choose. But what are these prayers if not requests for outside aid? Surely, if God decided to act on an athlete’s request and grant that player the extra talent needed to win, that would skew the results of the competition. The miraculous extra talent isn’t one’s own, it’s given to the player from the outside, which is exactly what the player was praying for. If God acted on a student’s prayer and granted her wisdom while she took her MCATs, that success would be unearned, and her improved score would place her above many students who worked harder and longer and smarter. But I’m not writing to argue that students and athletes shouldn’t pray for success. I’m writing to ask a single, vital question: why are these types of prayers not treated as the cheating attempts they so clearly are?
In short, we believe that in competitive endeavors—whether academic, athletic, or something else entirely—peoples’ success ought to depend on their own personal abilities.
The most obvious answer is that universities do not consider them realistic attempts to cheat. Picture a student who asks a friend to whisper him the answers during a test. That’s cheating
Whether you’re religious yourself or not, you should be seriously offended by this. We have a right, both legal and moral, to practice any religion or none at all. Most of us value this right regardless of our personal religious view. By implicitly declaring our prayers absurd, by implicitly ruling that obviously a person cannot actually receive divine aid, these universities disrespect and discredit any religion with such a theology. If it were individual professors or
individual university employees who held this view, that would be fine. It might be fine even if it were every professor and every university employee who held this view. But anti-religious sentiment should not be codified in a university’s rules and policies. Such institutional dismissal of religion is discriminatory and disrespectful in a way that our laws usually forbid, and in a way that our morals usually abhor. The only way for our institutions to avoid showing religion this implicit but profound disrespect is to prohibit such behavior as we prohibit other realistic attempts at cheating. Our universities must regulate the prayers of their devout students as religiously as they regulate other forms of academic dishonesty. Prayers for wisdom, for knowledge, for success on a test or in a sporting competition, for divine aid of any kind in any competitive endeavor, must for the sake of our religious freedom be forbidden. Only then will our fundamental right to worship be protected. Do not be deceived: this form of religious discrimination goes far beyond attempted cheating, and even after we see this change implemented there will be work to do. Our next goal should be more ambitious; we must ensure that those who pray for the deaths of others are prosecuted for attempted murder. These individuals have avoided their just punishment long enough.
Jack Goldberg ’19 studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at jackgoldberg@wustl.
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HE’S A “BIG FAN OF HINDU” Ishaan Shah | Art by Natalie Snyder In October, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, Sangeet Som, declared that the Taj Mahal was a “blot on Indian culture” for its Muslim heritage. In November, Donald Trump retweeted an anti-Muslim propaganda video from the leader of a prominent hate group in England. The BJP stood silently as multiple Muslim cattle ranchers were lynched for transporting cattle in April. Trump has repeatedly called for bans on Muslim immigration in 2017, even successfully signing an executive order to temporarily block immigration from some Muslim-majority countries. The parallels are uncanny. The BJP and its leader, Narendra Modi, have a history of a Hindu nationalist agenda. While in power, they have normalized Islamophobia and the erasure of Muslims from India’s history. In America, Donald Trump’s agenda falls not far from Modi’s. He has overtly promoted Islamophobia, largely equating Islam with the prevalence of radical terrorism, while standing silently as violence against Muslims and anti-Muslim rhetoric burgeons. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has already made it clear that the two countries are on track to build an “ambitious partnership which will expand bilateral trade between the two regions and promote their economic prosperity.” However, the partnership between the two countries seems to extend far beyond economic terms and reveals a far more insidious agenda. Islamophobia is not new to the United States nor India. India has a history of conflict between Hindu-nationalists and Muslims and the United States has become hyper-aware of “Islamic extremism” in the post 9/11 era. But according to the Pew Research Center,
anti-Islam sentiments in the United States are more centered around political conflict while in India they focus on religious disputes. Furthermore, the alliance between the U.S. and India has been weaker while the U.S. government maintained stronger alliances with countries neighboring India like Pakistan. Nonetheless, the alliance between the U.S. and India is growing, and the anti-Muslim actions coming from the BJP and the Republican party aren’t coincidental. They suggest a coordinated effort to spearhead a nationalist agenda in both countries by targeting and oppressing Muslims. At the intersection of both of these political movements lies a largely forgotten but growing group of voters: Indian-American immigrants. Indian-Americans currently make up 1 percent of the American population and, in the last year, have won five seats in the House of Representatives and secured multiple appointments to leadership positions in the executive branch. Their voting behavior hasn’t been well studied, but in past elections they have disproportionately voted for Democrats. An article in the Harvard Political Review analyzing IndianAmerican political identity argues that while the conservative values of the Republican party align with cultural values of Indian Americans, Indian-Americans have often been marginalized by the Republican Party as religious and ethnic minorities. Indian-Americans have been hard to characterize as a voting bloc as voting patterns seem to vary by religious and language divisions.
the South Asian American community turn the group into a swing vote in the forthcoming elections. Growing Islamophobia pits the desire to lift up all oppressed minorities from discrimination against the competing desire to distinguish oneself from the rampant racial profiling of Muslims. The signs are already there. Last October, the Republic Hindu Coalition set up an event to garner support for Donald Trump which featured a performance where the lead singer was “attacked by jihadists and rescued by Navy SEALS.” At the event, Trump also claimed that he is a “big fan of Hindu” distinguishing Hindus from Indians, a crude attempt at replicating the nationalist agenda promoted by today’s BJP. While the coordination is not perfect, the intent is clear: isolating non-Muslim South Asians from Muslims and making anti-Muslim sentiment a more pertinent issue. If violence against South Asians continues to rise, many Indian voters may become single-issue voters and support discrimination against Muslims in exchange for self preservation. It wouldn’t be unheard of as Indian immigrants keep close ties to their families back home and support for the BJP’s agenda is frighteningly high. If the Democratic Party wants to maintain their dominance of the Indian-American vote, they must work harder to address violence against South Asians and promote solidarity among Muslim-Americans and the South Asian American population as a whole. If they do not, they risk losing a pivotal voting population which will have growing importance in upcoming elections.
With the rising normalization of discrimination against Muslim minorities, religious divisions among South Asian voters stand to become far more important. Already, there have been multiple acts of violence against Hindu- and Sikh -Americans who were mistaken for Muslims, and violence against South Asian Americans is at its highest since the era immediately after 9/11. Efforts to address this rise in violence have focused not on fighting against anti-Muslim violence, but on emphasizing the distinctions between the various religious groups that make up the Indian diaspora. As activism pivots from solidarity to separation, there is a risk that religious divisions within
Ishaan Shah ‘20 studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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RELIGIOUS REVIVAL IN AN AUTOMATED FUTURE Reuben Siegman America is bound to have a religious renewal in the coming decades. This may be a surprising prediction, as there has been a distinct decline in religiosity amongst Americans at a time when religion is becoming increasingly tied into partisan politics. Moreover, religion is least popular with millennials, adding to the suspicion surround religion rising. Yet, these factors pale in comparison to the larger factors that will change society and result in a rise in religion—namely dramatic changes in the social structure due to job loss. When people envision the biggest challenges we will face in the in the future, they often foresee increasing automation and a world dominated by artificial intelligence (AI). Many economists have predicted that this increased reliance on robots will put millions out of work and drastically change the economy as we know it. The last time automation significantly changed our economy we invested in education, resulting in a shift from agriculture and factory jobs to service sector employment. Economists fear that the current wave of automation, however, will not provide a new field for jobs to shift to. Instead, they predict a world where AI is able to do almost all the tasks humans currently do, and robot intelligence will even surpass our own. Katja Grace and researchers at the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford conducted a study of leading AI experts to get a sense of how quickly AI will take over human tasks. The average expert predicted AI would have the capacity to be a retail salesperson within the next 15 years and write a New York Times best seller or perform surgery within 35 years. Even starker, they predict a high enough level of machine intelligence to replace almost all human tasks within 45 years. While these are only predictions, in the past, predictions have underestimated AI. There are many implications of this increased reliance on robots, but the one that concerns most people is the fear of losing jobs forever.
There are a variety of ways to respond to this fear of job loss. One of the most popular ideas is a Universal Basic Income, or UBI. This policy is based on the idea that because automation will replace so many jobs, and at the same time increase productivity and efficiency of society, the government ought to give every citizen enough money to survive. This money would be paid directly to members of society so they can care for themselves and their families, as opposed to enhancing current social safety net programs. There are many other ideas aside from UBI, and most of them rely on similar concepts of redistributing the increased productivity from automation back to people so they have adequate resources on which to live. While these ideas are a start to thinking about how to deal with a changing society, I believe they miss a key issue that a society facing increasing job loss due to automation will have: a struggle to find meaning. Jobs have historically been a major source of meaning for people. They take up most of the day, and allow workers to bring back resources to their families. Jobs also provide people with a community, as people tend to make friends and form relationships through their workplace. As Voltaire once said, “work saves a man from three great evils: boredom, vice, and need.” Jobs form the structure of people’s lives. While those without formal jobs have also been able to find meaning (such as the traditional house caretaker role, of which women were historically pushed into), jobs have historically provided a major source of meaning for our society. MIT research scientist Andrew McAfee, an expert on the impact of technology on the economy, recently spoke to the New Yorker regarding his concerns about a rapidly changing economy. In his research, he found that we should not be worried about the actual number of jobs lost, as our economy absorbs one and a half million people that get laid off each month, but rather the fact that those who are losing their jobs—the
uneducated, middle to lower class folks—will find it much harder to adjust to a changing economy. In response to UBI advocates, McAfee talks about the communities he’s visited that have been affected by automation. Those communities do not suffer from starvation or an inability to provide resources to their community. Rather, they suffer from losing the other things that a job provides: dignity, community, and a sense of meaning and purpose in life. His observations seem to be related to the growing phenomena of so-called “deaths from despair,” or deaths by suicide, drugs, and alcohol that have increased dramatically according to Princeton researchers Anne Case and Angus Deaton. They hypothesize that this rise in deaths among non-college educated white Americans over the last couple decades is caused by the loss of jobs in many of these communities. Their residents had been reliant on factory or industrial labor, creating distress and social dysfunction that has built up over time. Comparing these numbers to
Religion provides many of the qualities that places devastated by a loss of jobs lack. It gives people meaning and purpose in life, creates tight knit communities, and provides, and provides structure, discipline, and dignity.
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college-educated white Americans who haven’t seen this increase in death rate, they conclude that these deaths are caused not from poverty and lack of resources, but rather from the sulking despair and sadness that accompanies job loss. These people do not have the skills to shift jobs and do not want to move to find other jobs. Instead, they are left confused and despondent about what to do with their lives, resulting in “deaths from despair.” Furthermore, it is not just these older factory town workers that one imagines when thinking about rising job loss who seek meaning and structure from their jobs. In fact, polling from the Allstate/ National Journal Heartland Monitor shows Millennials care even more about having a fulfilling job than their predecessors did. Millennials not only want jobs, but jobs that they find enjoyable and that allow them to make a difference in the world. They often look for their jobs to be their primary source of meaning. If the predictions economists make about the economy are true, and there is widespread job loss, our country will have to deal with a potential rise in despair and the cultural crisis of dealing with a population that is no longer able to rely on jobs to provide meaning, structure, and dignity in their lives. Instead, people will be forced to look elsewhere to find these essential qualities that jobs once provided for them. I believe that these economic conditions make it ripe for a renewal of religion in America. The current trend of automation, and the potential widespread job loss that will accompany it, will result in a cultural shift that will make religion more popular than ever. Religion provides many of the qualities that places devastated by a loss of jobs lack. It gives people meaning and purpose in life, creates tight-knit communities, and provides structure, discipline, and dignity. While there is currently a rise in “nones,” or people without religious affiliation, there is also an increase among these unaffiliated people who claim to be spiritual, but not religious. Spirituality is a way of searching for meaning, and it demonstrates the desire to find some sort of purpose in the world. The unaffiliated often leave organized religion because they see corruption, or find that the politics of religious organizations go against their values. Today we see
Economist fear that the current wave of automation, however, will not provide a new field for jobs to shift to.
will not be solved purely though public policy. I believe that organized religion provides people exactly those qualities that massive joblessness takes away—meaning, community, and structure, and thus I foresee an increase in organized religion in the coming future.
some of the most populous religions attempting to fit into the modern times by reforming themselves, and adjusting religious doctrines to fit what is becoming more popular and acceptable in society. One example of this is the Catholic Church under Pope Francis, which has shifted its rhetoric about still loving people who are gay, and the importance of caring for the poor and the environment. Additionally, there has been a resurgence of the religious left. After a disproportionate amount of spotlight on the conservative Evangelical Christian right, people now see that religions can fit within a variety of different political viewpoints. As leaders of the political right have brought religious conservatives into the political fold in the last quarter century, so too have leaders of the religious left tried to bring some of the political left back into organized religion. Organized religion is slowly but surely responding to the gradual “emptying of the pews”, which they have experienced. Moreover, globally, more people are creating new religions and new denominations to better fit with current ideas of what religion should look like. In a future that holds the potential widespread job-loss, society is ripe for significant change. We could radically change our economic policy, our culture, or our structure of life. In order to prevent the “deaths of despair” that have already affected so many people, society will have to respond to the other problems created by job loss, aside from resource distribution. Much like we care for our bodies holistically through physical and mental health, we have to care for citizens holistically. It is not merely enough to make sure people have enough money to get by, but we also must make sure they have meaning, community, and dignity. This is clearly a difficult problem, and one that
Reuben Siegman ‘18 studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
San Francisco 2nd-most practiced religion: Hinduism (5%) 3rd-most practiced religion: Judaism (3%) Total non-Christian: 50% Los Angeles 2nd-most practiced religion: Judaism (3%) 3rd-most practiced religion: Islam (2%) Total non-Christian: 34%
San Diego 2nd-most practiced religion: Judaism (2%) 3rd-most practiced religion: Buddhism (1%) Total non-Christian: 32%
Phoenix 2nd-most practiced religion: Hinduism (2%) 3rd-most practiced religion: Judaism (1%) Total non-Christian: 33%
espite the First Amendment’s role in the separation of church and state, the United States is far from a secular nation. God is invoked in our Pledge of Allegiance, dollar bills, and in nearly every inaugural address since James Monroe’s in 1817. Biblical references in these inaugural speeches, during elections, and following national tragedies suggest to many that the civic religion of America is profoundly Christian. The insistence of conservatives like Newt Gingrich on returning the nation to Judeo-Christian values, and President Trump's promise to save the term "Merry Christmas" only compound such sentiments. This domination of Christian language has a profound effect on important religious minorities, alienating and othering them as un-American. However, cities like New York, with a substantial population of religious minorities such as Muslims and Jews, paint an entirely different image of America. How can we label the United States as a Christian nation when more than 40 percent of its largest city, and an icon of American culture, do not identify as Christian? The specific religious tinge behind much of the nation’s rhetoric situates itself in direct conflict with America’s actual culture and demographic. This topography of urban religion shows that non-Christians’ presence is significant and cannot be ignored. * “Total non-Christian” includes all those practicing non-Christian faiths, as well as the religiously unaffiliated, such as atheists and agnostics.
Dallas 2nd-most practiced relig Judaism (1%) 3rd-most practiced religion (1%) Total non-Christian: 22
ed religion: %) eligion: Islam
RELIGIOUS MINORITIES IN SOME OF AMERICA'S LARGEST CITIES Chicago 2nd-most practiced religion: Judaism (3%) 3rd-most practiced religion: Islam (2%) Total non-Christian: 29%
St. Louis 2nd-most practiced religion: Judaism (1%) 3rd-most practiced religion: Islam (1%) Total non-Christian: 25%
Houston 2nd-most practiced religion: Judaism (2%) 3rd-most practiced religion: Islam (1%) Total non-Christian: 27%
New York City 2nd-most practiced religion: Judaism (8%) 3rd-most practiced religion: Islam (3%) Total non-Christian*: 40%
Philadelphia 2nd-most practiced religion: Judaism (3%) 3rd-most practiced religion: Islam (1%) Total non-Christian: 32%
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APOLOGIA AMERICANA Christopher Hall
hat is America’s role in the world? We are committed to defend a quarter of the world’s population. We have bases in over seventy countries. The institutions we helped found after World War II, from the World Bank to NATO, are still operating and healthy. Yet we are more divided than ever, a polarization that is prompting worry from Berlin to Canberra to Jerusalem. According to a 2016 Pew Research poll, a majority of Americans on both sides of the aisle believe that the other party’s politics are not just misguided, but so misguided that they threaten the well-being of the nation. Abroad, Obama’s “red line” in Syria that turned out to be a bluff and Trump’s disinterest in NATO and other Western institutions have convinced many that America is in retreat while China and Russia ascend on the global stage. Polls show that a growing share of Americans say that the U.S. should be active in world affairs, more than at any time in the last 15 years. Yet we do not seem to be a nation capable of consistently projecting our values and influence abroad. Of what use is our military, economic, and diplomatic clout, if we cannot even agree on the content of our values?
to see that this would leave us much poorer. Our engagement with the world has helped foster the most peaceful and prosperous eras in modern human history. According to Oxford University’s Our World in Data project, the amount of deaths from war has plunged since 1946 to never-before-seen levels, less than a quarter of the average since 1400. At the same time, the World Bank notes, the number of people living in absolute poverty has plunged over the last decade. This has been in large part due to the world system underpinned by the United States. It has been the expansion of economic opportunity through global capitalism that has lifted legions out of poverty, and it has been the success of organizations such as the United Nations, along with the overwhelming military force of the United States, that has helped keep the peace. This has served the U.S. as well as the global community. Everything around us, from the made-in-Vietnam clothes we wear to the global connectivity of social media to the comfort and safety of international travel, is built on this history-defying period of peace and prosperity. And yet we appear to be turning our back on this bounty.
Throughout American history we have been called to define what it our nation stands for.
We have been here before. Throughout American history we have been called to define what it our nation stands for. In 1941, just before Pearl Harbor, the editor of Time/Life wrote that “this nation, conceived in adventure and dedicated to the progress of man…cannot truly endure unless there courses strongly through its veins from Maine to California the blood of purposes and enterprise and high resolve.” He echoes Abraham Lincoln, who in the depths of the Civil War spoke of this “new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” But as the Time/Life editor wrote on the eve of the second World War, “is there nothing between the absurd sound of distant cities, and the brassy trumpeting of majestic words?” What does it mean to
There are few nations that could turn their backs on the world as easily as America. Oceans and friendly nations surround us. We are a vast country, and have few needs that could not be met at home. But it does not take much insight
stand for Democracy and Liberty, Freedom of Opportunity, and these beautiful yet hard-tograsp concepts? What separates us, practically speaking, from Beijing and Moscow? And is that thing, whatever it is, worth expending time and money? For what do we stand? In an age of division, we must come back to what unifies us. In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such from as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” This paragraph has informed and underwritten the United States for the last 241 years. It was radical then; it was a statement that seemed entirely out of context with the realities of how governments worked. If it seems less radical today, it is only because we have become used to the world it promises. All the principles that define America at its best – the Bill of Rights, the 13th and 19th amendments abolishing slavery and granting the right to vote to women, the Civil Rights Act – all have been reflections of this statement. With this paragraph, Thomas Jefferson created a platonic ideal of the United States as a land of perfect equality and freedom, with a government beholden to its people and created to serve them. That we have so frequently fallen short of this ideal serves as a reminder of the radical nature of its promise. We must re-engage with these values at home, to remind ourselves not of the many issues that
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divide us but rather the powerful few which unify us. We must then craft our foreign policies in service to these values. Let these standards be our creed: that we stand for human freedom, the right of every man and woman to pursue their life as best they see fit. That we stand for freedom of expression, freedom of worship, and freedom of conscience such that no person should be forced into silence for their beliefs. That we stand for opportunity and prosperity, where any person can succeed on their own merits and their own hard work, and through their labors pass on a better life for their children. That we stand for the rule of law, the absence of corruption, the honest competition of the marketplace, fairness in the courts, and all the other accoutrements of a fair and just society. That we stand, above all, for the right of people to form their governments and pursue their lives as best they see fit, without fear of oppression, violence, or intimidation. Let this serve as our creed, at home and abroad.
Of what use is our military, economic, and diplomatic clout, if we cannot even agree on the content of our values? These principles still have enormous power. In the very recent revolutions in Ukraine, Myanmar, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Syria and the protests in Hong Kong, Iran, and Venezuela the demands are all the same: honest, restricted government and economic prosperity. Venezuelans have taken to the streets for months in protest of the autocratic, socialist leadership of their country, and as I write this Iran is being rocked by its biggest protests in a decade, sparked by a poor economy and a feeling that the government is corrupt and unresponsive. These people are attempting to exercise their right to “alter or abolish” their governments, as they find them
destructive to securing the ends of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Even when the phrasing is different, and the demands are articulated in a different language, the unmistakable cry for freedom remains the same. Foreign policy is ultimately a question of belief. Do people believe that their government, created and supported by their participation, is a force for good in the world? Do they believe that active, purposeful engagement with the world is a gain for themselves and their communities? Our hard-won peace and prosperity cannot endure on their own. Indeed, they face unprecedented challenges. From the South China Sea to Crimea, tensions are on the rise. These challenges can only be met if we know and agree on our fundamental beliefs and principles. In an age where it seems so little unifies us at home, we must base our principles on the foundation of our society. It is not enough to speak of “engagement,” “isolationism,” “internationalism,” or even heady terms such as “liberty” and “democracy.” We must remember the radical promise of our founding document, and craft our foreign policy in service to those ends. Let our creed be defined by the practical promise of those high ideals: that if human beings are allowed to live their lives free from oppression and corruption, they will be empowered to create better lives for themselves and their children. These principles are as unifying as they are radical, as uncontroversial as they are revolutionary. Across the world, people have laid down their lives for the freedom to choose their own governments and the ability to build a more prosperous future for their children. Their freedom, and the peace and prosperity of our current age, are goals manifestly worth supporting and defending. And perhaps, by coming together behind universal principles abroad, we may begin to heal some of our divisions at home.
Christopher Hall ‘18 studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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TRANSCENDING WUSTL’S IGNORANCE Daria Locher | Illustration by Edison Ho
ave you ever had a professor make a joke about your genitals?” Ricki asked, beginning our conversation about Wash U’s “staggering ignorance” concerning the transgender community. Ricki (who asked for her last name to not be published) has now graduated from Wash U. An advocate for transgender students who struggled every day on campus and off, she was a co-facilitator of Transcending Gender at Wash U, a student-run organization working as a support group for transgender students. Federal guidelines concerning treatment of transgender students are based on Title VII, which states: “It shall be an unlawful…to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Any person (transgender or cisgender) is legally required to not only be treated the same, but also to be offered equal “benefits” regardless of these aspects of their identity.
In 2014 the Department of Justice decreed that Title VII extended to gender identity. Obama’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2015 pronounced workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal, but left a grey area as to whether gender was included. In fact, 30% of transgender people in the workforce reported being fired, denied a promotion, or experiencing some other form of mistreatment in the workplace due to their gender identity or expression (NTCE’s Transgender Survey, 2015). That’s one in three people. This legal nondiscrimination doesn’t address previous names being required for background checks or protect against de facto workplace discrimination. In July 2017, Trump’s administration removed these protections for the LGBTQIA+ community, stating that “Title VII does not bar sexual orientation discrimination” or “discrimination based on sex,” on the premise that men and women are already treated equally, making this protection redundant. Adding to the absurdity, Trump outlawed the CDC from using seven words including “vulnerable,” “diversity,” and, most concerning, “transgender.”
Statistics show that executive orders inflict real damage on individuals. In a 2015 survey performed by the National Center for Transgender Equality, 54% of respondents who were out or perceived as transgender while in school (K–12) were verbally harassed, 24% were physically attacked, and 13% sexually assaulted for being transgender. 17% experienced such severe mistreatment that they left school. 39% of respondents experienced serious psychological distress in the month prior to completing the survey, compared with only 5% of the U.S. population. Among the bleakest findings is the fact that 40% of the respondents had attempted suicide in their lifetime—nearly nine times the attempted suicide rate in the U.S. population (4.6%). One in twelve (8%) respondents who were out to their immediate family were kicked out of the house, and one in ten (10%) ran away from home. Finally, one in four (25%) respondents experienced a problem in the past year with their insurance related to being transgender.
How would you feel if a professor in one of your classes asked you intimate questions that qualify as sexual harassment? In the past couple years, Wash U has been making slow but steady progress to get rid of antiquated policies that disadvantage or hurt transgender students. This effort, spearheaded by the club Transcending Gender, as well as Ricki herself, included implementing the preferred name policy. This policy was instituted recently, allowing students to easily change their names in the university system, only having to wait one business day for the administrative change to take place. This is especially important for transgender students who have not completed the
legal paperwork to change their name and who wish to be named correctly on their student IDs, Blackboard, class rosters, and CAREERlink. The reason why this is so important for transgender students is because their birth names—alternatively called their “deadnames”—are a reflection of society misgendering them and forcibly assigning their birth name. Unfortunately, trans students’ deadnames still occasionally appear while logging into computers in the library and the mail service. Even in the case of a legal name change some email lists, Student Health Services records, and mailroom records have to be individually addressed and changed. Housing rules changed as recently as 2014 due to efforts made by Ricki to allow trans students to room with other students of their gender. In 2012, her freshman year, Ricki was randomly assigned to room with a cisgender guy, but she moved in with a female sophomore year. This was before the more inclusive housing policy, and she had to explain to Reslife (the entity in charge of organizing student housing) that she did not want gender-neutral housing—she wanted female housing, because that is what she is. Female. Ricki confronted similar issues with SHS even after the implementation of the preferred name policy, since their system has both a student’s legal and preferred name. SHS reportedly called out her deadname repeatedly (or inexcusably even a feminized version of her deadname). This caused her to go alone to SHS to avoid people she knew hearing her get misgendered—she doesn’t even tell her friends her deadname. To address this gross misunderstanding of the preferred name policy, Ricki met with the Wash U medical and mental staff to help them learn how to help trans students. However, Wash U healthcare policies for trans students are still impossible to find online and are often described differently based on different people you ask. Additionally, a significant part of the preferred name policy is that it is implemented on every Wash U server, but deadnames also come up at random occurrences, which have to be fixed through individual emails and painful conversations. Nevertheless, there have been professors
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who went above and beyond in the inclusion of transgender students in their classrooms. For example, her stage manager and professor, Gena Savoie, helped change an online discussion board that automatically posted with Ricki’s deadname (this was before the implementation of the Preferred Name Policy at Wash U). The goal is for people like Ricki’s stage manager not be standouts, but the norm. And if you are a cisgender student reading this: congratulations, you took the first step to become more informed. Through researching correct information that transgender students want cis people to know, you can avoid accidentally hurting the feelings of your transgender friend, family member, or acquaintance. Trans students have to deal with complications that cis students don’t even think about and therefore can unintentionally be insensitive about. As a student, for example, trying to study abroad becomes much more difficult when you don’t know if you could be targeted because of your gender identity. Even at home, though, trans people are not necessarily safe. Ricki confided that she was physically assaulted six days after the presidential election in November 2016 because her assailants “somehow found out” that she was trans. However, this is not an isolated occurrence—especially since Trump’s election, we have seen countless news stories about the discrimination and endangerment of trans people in the United States. Some resources for a trans student at WashU include the National Center for Transgender Equality (not the Human Rights Council) and Transcending Gender at school. TG and Pride Alliance are both great resources for information, support, and a community. TG is anonymous and very easy to reach out to. Doctors like Dr. John Daniels at Barnes Jewish Hospital provide hormones to WUSTL trans students. Additionally, Travis Tucker (the assistant director for Leadership and LGBTQIA involvement) is an incredible resource for information and counseling at Wash U. Off campus, the Metro Trans Umbrella Group offers Trans 101Training, Q&A Panels, trans community meet-ups, and other events. We have to address the ignorance in the Wash U community: cisgender people have to realize that some things that might seem like light banter can be incredibly harmful. To begin with,
anyone making “light” jokes about a student’s genitals is not ok. How would you feel if a professor in one of your classes asked you intimate questions that qualify as sexual harassment? Instead, politely ask a person’s pronouns and Google answers to any questions you might have about transgender people. Check out the National Center for Trans Equality, Youtube, or Google—try to learn, and care enough, to know how to treat trans students as human beings. Don’t use the Human Rights Council website, because it is outdated, transphobic, and carries incorrect information. If you get to college never having encountered openly trans people, learn what you didn’t know before. If you mess up pronouns, don’t make it a big deal. Ricki said to me, “I wish ‘what are your pronouns’ was as common a question as ‘what is your name.’” Don’t ask your trans friend about being transgender—they have been asked the same questions a hundred times over. And don’t ever ask someone about their genitalia. If you wouldn’t ask a friend the color of their labia, or the girth of their penis, because that is a vulgar and personal question, don’t ask your trans friend whether they’ve had
surgery or not. Honestly, if you’re not having sex with that person, it doesn’t matter one way or another what is happening down there. According to the NCTE survey, there is a growing acceptance by family members, colleagues, classmates, and other people in the respondents’ lives, and more than half (60%) of respondents who were out to their immediate family reported that their family was supportive of them as a transgender person. Lawmakers are beginning to fight back against Trump’s transphobic orders, such as the Defense Department, who began allowing transgender people to enlist in the military beginning January 1st. It’s a slow climb, but institutional and individual changes at Wash U will create a more accepting society.
Daria Locher ‘20 studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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THE CASE FOR THE TRUSTEE MODEL OF REPRESENTATION Connor Warshauer
he Trump era has created a new dilemma for Republican congresspersons, now forced to reconcile the preferences of their base with their potentially contradictory personal beliefs. This highlights an under-examined question in political theory. Namely, what should democratically-elected representatives do when their own moral compass points North, while their constituents’ points South? Can representatives ever be forgiven for betraying the democratic will in favor of their own pet morality? Or conversely, can they ever be forgiven for blindly obeying Trump’s newly formed base at the expense of doing what’s right? It’s tempting to answer these questions on a caseby-case basis; it’s easy to argue that the public will can never justify draconian measures like Trump’s travel ban. But it’s just as easy to argue that a Massachusetts representative shouldn’t vote to repeal Obamacare. Focusing only on the extreme circumstances won’t do. A comprehensive answer to the broadest version of the question must be sought after and adhered to, especially in the era of Trump. We must answer the question, “What are the ethical responsibilities of a democratically elected representative?” Conventional political science conceives two answers to this question. The first, the delegate model, decrees that representatives are essentially mouthpieces for the public responsibly only for enacting the policies desired by their constituents. The trustee model, on the other hand, envisions representatives as highly esteemed individuals entrusted to make decisions on difficult matters according to their best judgement of what’s best for their constituents. In any delegate system, delegates must decide what it means to represent the will of their constituents. The most obvious means of doing so would be strict majoritarianism, probably determined through direct polling. This system of decision-making creates a serious problem for the delegate model because it almost inevitably leads to a tyranny of the majority.
For example, a government in a society of ten individuals may be considering use eminent domain to pave a new road that would give seven individuals the ability to drive to work more directly. However, the other three individuals would be uprooted from their homes, which lie in the path of the proposed road. A delegate conducting a poll would conclude that the road should be built, even though the three other members of society would almost certainly collectively be harmed more than the other seven would collectively benefit. This example illustrates the problem with strict majoritarianism: a simple majority vote has no means of dealing with relative differences in utility gained or lost. Many policies would have a minor positive effect on the majority and a severe negative effect on the minority. In these cases where the relative utility for each individual affected by a policy differs substantially, majoritarian policies do more harm than good. In theory, the delegate model has the ability to cope with this problem. In a theoretical scenario in which every single constituent was polled on their preferred policy option on a given issue as well as the degree to which they cared about it from 1-10, a delegate could create a formula for choosing. In reality, delegates have only simple polls to work with, in addition to calls, letters, and other lobbying efforts from their constituents. One might argue that delegates should use these forms of lobbying to determine the degree to which constituents support a policy position. However, there’s a response bias that ensures all concerned citizens express their demands as a 10. If I contact a representative with the goal to persuade the representative to support my preference, I’m incentivized to present my case as strongly as possible regardless of my actual interests. And if I don’t care that much, I simply won’t make the effort to call in the first place. Delegates evaluating lobbying would be forced to decide for themselves which constituents receive varying amounts of utility lost or gained from a certain policy. Because these decisions
could only be personal judgments about the policy, the delegate making them would be adopting the role of a trustee. A true delegate can only look to serve the majority and all its tyranny. On the other hand, the trustee model easily deals with the problem of the tyranny of the majority. A trustee can simply analyze a policy context and determine what solution would be best for their constituents instead of looking to their particular desires; a trustee would simply decide that the use of eminent domain to destroy three peoples’ homes would be net harmful. While many laud the delegate model as more purely democratic, the problem of the tyranny of the majority demonstrates the danger of a direct democracy. A representative trustee system satisfies the core principles of democratic theory by giving the people control of government without sacrificing the minority at democracy’s alter. The trustee model has another advantage over the delegate model in that its implementation typically results in better policy outcomes. Representatives may not be any more enlightened or policy-savvy than the average voter, but
A representative trustee system satisfies the core principles of democratic theory by giving the people control of government without sacrificing the minority at democracy’s alter.
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they do have far better tools available to make decisions. Representatives have access to classified government information that provides details that may be crucial to policy decisions. Further, most have huge support staffs to analyze research and access to policy reports from institutions like the Congressional Budget Office. These resources ensure that trustees occupy a far better position to make decisions about policy than delegates who rely on the opinion of relatively uninformed voters. One might object that even if trustees can make better decisions than individual voters, voters collectively reach better decisions. James Surokiecki has presented strong evidence that the aggregate predictions and decisions of crowds of individuals working separately were far better than even the best prepared individuals and research think tanks. For example, he points to the ability of betting markets to predict election results far more accurately than even the best polling analysts. There are two problems with this argument, as it applies to the delegate model. First, the nature of informational asymmetry between trustees and voters. While crowds may perform better than think tanks, the degree of differences of information in these contexts was relatively small compared to certain policy contexts. A policymaker making decisions about NSA surveillance may have access to classified information about thwarted terrorist plots that would be totally unpredictable for the average voter. In cases like these, no amount of aggregation of voters will be able to make as effective decisions as a fully informed trustee. More importantly, Surokiecki’s argument only applies when individuals work toward the same objective. In betting markets, all the gamblers use different methods and strategies to accomplish the same goal: predicting the election correctly. Crowds’ wisdom derives directly from their identical objectives; crowds do better than individuals because they consider all possibilities and methods to achieve a particular objective, while individuals are limited by their own biases. Voters, however, have very different objectives in voting. Many voters cast their ballot according to their self-interest, according Jason Weeden and Robert Kuzban. They point to data that suggests, for instance, that three-quarters of the
Only the trustee model can avoid the tyranny of the majority and produce better decisions - and free Republicans to do the right thing even in the age of Trump. unemployed believe the government should provide a decent living for the unemployed, while less than half of employed people agree. Voters who act in self-interest have different objectives. Bob’s objective is maximizing Bob’s utility, but Jerry’s objective is maximizing Jerry’s utility. Even selfless voters, however, have different objectives. Voters have a plurality of value systems that they use to determine policy preferences. Many vote for the policies that maximize freedom, while others vote to maximize equality or utility. These varying objectives also dilute crowd wisdom, and prevent the majority policy opinions from being particularly wise. As such, an extremely well-informed trustee with a single value system has a better chance of producing good decisions than a crowd of differently valued and often selfish uninformed individuals. While the plurality of value systems creates an advantage for the trustee model in terms of producing high-quality decisions, it also forms the grounds for a compelling case for the delegate model. Given the plurality of value systems, it’s arguably impossible for a trustee to truly act on behalf of all her constituents. The trustee model presumes that “what’s best” for the constituents can be objectively determined, but different constituents have different goals in mind when making policy decisions. Since a trustee can only have one value system, what she thinks best for her constituents totally excludes some from being represented. The delegate system, on the other hand, allows each constituent to use their own value system to reach their conclusions and simply aggregates the ultimate decisions of voters.
This admittedly presents a definite problem for the trustee system. I would argue, however, that the ability to elect a trustee of choice sufficiently resolves this objection. In any democracy, the policy outcomes will not align with certain voters preferences, largely due to differences in value systems. A legitimate democracy must offer voters an equal voice in the value system and policies ultimately implemented. While a delegate system accommodates this requirement more transparently, by allowing voters to support policies which align with their value systems, the trustee system also accommodates it by giving citizens an equal opportunity to choose a delegate who will support their values. Given the inevitability of outcomes not preferred by all parties, this more oblique version of accommodating this requirement doesn’t actually meaningfully dilute any voters’ voices. There’s certainly a particular attractiveness in the delegate model’s direct democratic approach. However, upon rigorous examination, only the trustee model can avoid the tyranny of the majority and produce better decisions—and free Republicans to do the right thing even in the age of Trump.
Connor Warshauer ‘21 studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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WHAT READING JOE BIDEN’S MEMOIR TAUGHT ME Syrus Jin
romise Me, Dad recently joined the ranks of the few books written by modern American politicians that I have read from cover to cover. Joe Biden’s memoir covers the period from Thanksgiving 2014 to the months which followed his son Beau’s death in May 2015, and it is worthy of the praise that it has been given by critics. It is moving and mostly unpretentious. It is a window into a year of Biden’s life with the glossy veneer scraped off, exposing that which is raw and relatable. Joe Biden has a reputation of a man who shoots from the hip, leaving gaffes and political misstatements in his wake. This memoir, though, both humanizes and dignifies him. When so many politicians use books as glorified PR machines, Biden’s sincerity towards his personal life is remarkable.
Yet, as I finished Promise Me, Dad, I felt bothered. The memoir was at its weakest when the narrative transitioned to Joe Biden’s political life. The quality of writing certainly drags as Biden spends a little too much time describing Russian troop movements and aid packages to Colombia. But more importantly, as the book covers to his duties as Vice President, the language and tone shift into something that isn’t completely relatable, genuine, and human anymore. I felt similarly to how I felt when I was reading The Giant of the Senate by Al Franken—a memoir that was outrageously funny and interesting, but littered with campaign-worthy rhetoric whenever the opportunity arose. It seems to be ubiquitous in books by modern American politicians that political decisions and interactions which are recounted have to be not only glorified, but justified extensively. Reading Promise Me, Dad felt like reading two different books. One was a heartfelt reflection on personal loss, written by Joe Biden the father, the husband, the friend. The other, however, was a depiction of responsible political decision-making, written by Joe Biden, former Vice President. This should be expected. Politics is complicated
and messy. Politicians are hyper-aware that there is a clamoring constituency looking for reasons to vote them out of office; any personal admissions of weakness carry enormous risks. They are often forced by necessity to present the dry facts and then put the best spin on them. It is unsurprising that Biden’s personal voice gets lost when sanitized rhetoric is employed to glide over the grim reality of geopolitical turmoil. To his credit, even within this decontaminated zone of carefully-chosen prose, Joe Biden is more candid in how he describes his political life than most other politicians in their memoirs. Still, I felt disappointed as the book progressed, as those instances of family and the struggles of a man dealing with personal tragedy were swept to the side by Secret Service agents hustling the Vice President to foreign policy meetings. I don’t think Biden should be faulted for how his language changes as the book shifts to his political life. It simply demonstrates how the pressures of a political life process the humanity of an individual, only allowing an alien, well-groomed, electorally-viable creature to emerge. As the former Vice President recounts how he took the lead on gathering congressional support infrastructure spending bills or negotiations in the offensive to retake Tikrit from ISIL, his language shows that he – like all successful politicians – is very aware of the audience reading. His political decisions become the punchline after a series of justifying details, small victories are tinged with the pride of someone who feels that they are a great decision-maker. What was once a refreshing window into the unpolished aspects and intimacies of his life abruptly transforms into a stage, complete with microphone and podium. Even though Biden wrote this memoir after he left the Vice Presidency, aspirations of maintaining a legacy and, perhaps, positioning himself to run for president in 2020 are rude motivations. Those sections of Promise Me, Dad which depict Biden’s political life not only intrude into Biden’s personal life, but are also written in such a blasé manner that any politician could have authored it.
It seems to be a ubiquitous trait in these books that political decisions and interactions which are recounted have to be not only glorified, but justified extensively. Promise Me, Dad is remarkable for how much it humanizes Joe Biden. There were heartrending passages that recount exchanges between him and his son. But it was precisely the level of sincerity much of the book demonstrated which makes the presentation of rest of the story so jarring. Once the topics turned from the decisions Biden made in with his family to the decisions he took as a public servant, it was if a spotlight turned on and made him aware that a reader was paying attention. In a process that is indicative of the experience of most elected officials in this country, Joe Biden the father, the husband, the friend, is swallowed whole by the lingering necessities of public relations and political posturing.
Syrus Jin ‘19 studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WU POLITICAL REVIEW | NATIONAL
WHAT IS SESSIONS SMOKING? Max Lichtenstein
ttorney General Jeff Sessions’ memo reversing the hands-off approach to state laws allowing for the medical and/or recreational use of marijuana has introduced a great deal of tension between federal and state laws. While marijuana-friendly states were not given absolute freedom from federal law under Obama and former deputy Attorney General Jim Cole, they were nevertheless granted the oversight of U.S. attorneys, so long as the in-state marijuana industry did not impose upon other federal laws. Sessions’ memo undoes this set-up and allows federal attorneys to “follow well-established principles when pursuing prosecutions related to marijuana activities,” regardless of state and local laws. This poorly defined system is confusing, irrational, and draws heavily on the ugly racialized history of drug laws.
marijuana for recreational use, which has raised more than a few eyebrows. This timing, along with Sessions’ history of extremism regarding marijuana, makes the reactionary nature of his memo obvious. Sessions has famously declared that the drug is “only slightly less awful” than heroin and asserted that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Under the Trump administration, Sessions established a subcommittee to the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety dedicated to marijuana enforcement policy, and sought to dismantle RohrabacherFarr, an amendment protecting states with legal medical marijuana from federal prosecution. He resents and seeks to directly challenge the marijuana laws in these states, but lacking the authority to dismantle them entirely, he has created this strange legal paradox.
The problem here lies in the very logic of the motion to reverse the rules the Cole memo established. The Cole Memo was put forward in 2013 as a direct response to the increasing number of states moving to legalize marijuana, beginning with Colorado and Washington in 2012. Encouraging U.S. attorneys to look the other way in these states acted as a negotiation between the existence of the Controlled Substances Act, which has been in place since 1970, and the sovereignty of the states to vote for legalization. In other words, Sessions’ move to crack down on all 50 states puts federal and state laws in a nonsensical contradiction with one another, as he is reversing a decision predicated on a changing United States. This “return to the rule of the law” is a return to a rule of law that governed a United States without legalized recreational marijuana, and it makes no sense in the nation’s current context. Perhaps Sessions is trying to create an atmosphere of conflict in law, in case this strange disparity in state and federal rules is taken to the Supreme Court, with the hope that a Trump Court would back him.
Amidst all this chaos, the most egregious part of this crackdown lies in its racial undertones. The broad statement of allowing federal prosecutors to take legal action where they see necessary seems alarmingly selective. The memo states that prosecutors should make their decision based on “the seriousness of the crime, the deterrent effect of criminal prosecution, and the cumulative impact of particular crimes on the community.” These motivations of seriousness and impact on the community call to mind the rhetoric of Reagan’s racially charged war on drugs, an especially poignant comparison considering Sessions’ support of private prisons. While it seems unlikely that conservative U.S. attorneys will now prioritize marijuana crimes, the language remains dangerous. Reagan’s alarmist attitude regarding an American drug crisis, combined with his establishment of mandatory minimum prison sentences and targeting of black communities, proved detrimental to the African American community. Sessions’ crackdown on marijuana continues these failed trends. In cases where U.S. attorneys do decide to prosecute, statistics show us the defendants will be disproportionately black. According to the ACLU, black people and white people use marijuana at about the same rate, but the arrest rates for marijuana possession (which compose 52% of all drug arrests) for black people is about four times that of white people. One can assume
Regardless, congressmen on both sides have lambasted the memo with outrage and confusion. Several have accused Sessions of pursuing his own personal agenda against the drug. Indeed, Sessions put forward the memorandum a mere three days after California began selling legal
that when Sessions, a man whose political reputation has continually faced accusations of racism, speaks to negative community impact of marijuana use in a state like California, he is picturing the teenagers in a Compton park, not the ones in a Stanford dorm room. In a nation that seemed to be normalizing both the medical and recreational use of marijuana, a black young adult may still be at risk of losing a great deal of socioeconomic mobility for the possession of a small amount of marijuana, even in a state where they thought it to be legal. In both legal and social justice spheres, Sessions’ agenda moves the nation backwards.
Max Lichtenstein ‘20 studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com.
WU POLITICAL REVIEW | NATIONAL
WHY THE 2016 ELECTION WAS NOT THE WORST ELECTION IN AMERICAN HISTORY Luke Voyles
generally despise using generalizations without near-encyclopedic citations. However, it must be stated: the 2016 election received universal criticism. Nobody beamed with pride at either set of candidates. Many Americans loathed both tandems and gritted their teeth at the ballot box. If an American did vote for one of the two sides enthusiastically, they firmly denounced the integrity and the policies of the other party’s candidates. Many observers saw the election as the worst in American history due to both the quality of the candidates and negative campaigning of both sides.
I could not disagree more with the final assessment. Perhaps various media outlets and endless online and/or interpersonal debates convinced people. The lack of historical perspective was a direct result of presidential elections being defined by the years that the elections occurred. For example, referencing the 1988 presidential election in comparison to the 2016 election promotes images of hair metal and large hairdos. However, I could compare the 58th quadrennial presidential election with the 51st quadrennial presidential election (1988) and no image inherently appears in the readers’ heads. The years in which presidential elections occur obfuscate comparisons between any of the presidential elections with the simple retort from responders that the times have changed. The fact that time changes is tautological and redundant to my argument that the 2016 election was not the worst in American history. Therefore, I classify the presidential elections chronologically rather than by the year it occurred in this article. The candidates of both the Republican and the Democratic Party were declared unfit to be present both for lack of experience and for past acts. While Trump may be unqualified, plenty of elections have had inexperienced candidates. The 34th quadrennial election (1920) featured the least qualified foursome of all time. The Republican presidential nominee was Warren Harding, a senator from Ohio (1915-1921), who previously served as the lieutenant governor of
Ohio before that and as the editor and publisher of the Marion Star newspaper. Democratic presidential nominee James Cox was the governor of Ohio (1915-1921) and only obtained that position as the publisher and editor of the Dayton Daily News, while his vice presidential nominee Franklin Delano Roosevelt had only served as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy during the Woodrow Wilson administration. In short, none of the four major candidates for executive office were qualified for those offices. By contrast, only Trump had never held political office while Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine, and Mike Pence all had considerable experience within various branches of the federal government while Kaine and Pence were governors on the state level. Historian Eugene Rosebloom wrote in 1957 that the most unqualified presidential candidates of all time ran during the 22nd quadrennial election (1872). He was completely correct. The incumbent president Ulysses Grant of the Republican Party ran against the Liberal Republican (and Democrat-supported) Horace Greeley. Other than Grant’s victory in the 21st quadrennial election, neither ever held an elective office. However, both Grant’s running mate and Greeley’s running mate had experience in the United States Senate. Their qualifications elevated the four candidates in the 22nd quadrennial election above those in the 34th election, though certainly not above the 58th election’s candidates. As for the negativity surrounding the elections, the 58th election was not the worst in that category either. The 51st quadrennial presidential election (1988) involved brutal attacks from both Republican George H.W. Bush and Democrat Michael Dukakis. Parents complaining that the 58th presidential election was not appropriate for children would have stood aghast at Bush supporters’ ad concerning convicted murderer Willie Horton’s crimes while on furlough in Dukakis’ state of Massachusetts. Additionally, Bush openly lambasted Dukakis for not supporting compulsory Pledge of Allegiance recitation in public schools and for
not supporting a ban on flag-burning. However, even the 51st presidential election was not the most divisive of the 20th century. That distinction belongs to the 46th quadrennial election (1968). There were protests outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago some protestors sought to hoist the flag of the Viet Cong, while George Wallace of Alabama won five states in the South. The Vietnam War and the presence of overt racist rhetoric provided a much tenser background than perhaps any other election. One election cycle later, the 47th election presented the dirtiest election in the nation’s history, with Richard Nixon’s Committee for the Re-Election the President attempting to put George McGovern campaign literature in the home of George Wallace shooter Arthur Bremer’s house while also writing a fake letter from Democrat Edmund Muskie that used the word “canuck.” The letter controversy had Muskie in tears, and his campaign for the Democratic nomination was ruined. At least five elections were worse than the 58th quadrennial presidential election, and the 58th election was not worst in aggregate or in any one particular category, other than inappropriate tweets.
Luke Voyles ‘18 studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WU POLITICAL REVIEW | INTERNATIONAL
NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM Rachel Olick-Gibson
resident Trump’s decision to move the United States embassy to Jerusalem from its former location in Tel Aviv resulted in an immediate outcry from the international community. While one would expect this move to at least enjoy the backing of the Jewish-American community, it overwhelmingly lacked such forthright support. Far from gaining traction in the Israel-Palestine peace process, this action instead served to bolster support from Trump’s base of supporters.
The history of the city of Jerusalem is one infused with the religious creeds of three of the world’s major religions and ingrained in the memories and identities of each. For Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, the city serves as a center of both theological and cultural religious experience. However, Jerusalem has increasingly become a symbol of nationalism and political identity for Israelis and Palestinians alike. Proposals for the status of the city of Jerusalem have ranged from sole ownership by Israel to its designation as an international city under the governance of a “special international regime.” However, popular opinion in recent years has held that Jerusalem’s status be determined through peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Many policymakers have argued that the ownership and potential division of Jerusalem be the last discussed item in the peace process. Since 1967, the international community has identified Israeli settlement of East Jerusalem as illegal. President Trump’s decision to move the United States embassy to Jerusalem, thus officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, hinders our ability to secure lasting peace in the region. While Trump could have used this designation as a bargaining chip in order to extract some form of concession from the Israeli government in exchange for the move, he freely handed over one of the greatest incentives our country could provide Israel in a mere show of solidarity. This act of
solidarity with Israel holds vast implications for the future of U.S. foreign relations and of the Middle Eastern region as a whole. Several members of the Arab world view this act as a clear demonstration of America’s unassailable bias in favor of Israel over the Palestinian people. Therefore, Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem not only alienates some of our closest Arab allies but also inhibits our ability to secure lasting peace in the region, as it forfeits the confidence that pertinent nations have in America’s ability to impartially facilitate peace negotiations. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority President, stated, “the US has chosen to relinquish its competence as mediator, and to disqualify itself from playing a role in the peace process. We shall not accept any role for the United States in the peace process.” Meanwhile, a statement from a meeting of prominent leaders of the Muslim world in Istanbul declared that “Trump’s decision marked America’s disqualification as an honest broker in the IsraeliPalestinian peace process.” Through this action, Trump has not only isolated the United States from the peace process, but has also jeopardized the already precarious potential for future Palestinian-Israeli agreement as a whole. As the President was made keenly aware of the potentially catastrophic implications of such a decision, his determination begs the question, why? One would assume that this action would at least hold the support of the majority of the Jewish people. However, AJC’s 2017 Survey of American Jewish Opinion found that a mere 16% of Jewish Americans support Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem at this time. Meanwhile, only 36% of Jewish Americans were reported to support the move of the embassy to Jerusalem “at a later date in conjunction with progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.” These reports suggest that Trump’s decision, lacking of the approval of a plurality of
the Jewish American community, was not made in alignment with this community’s desires. However, a different domestic community may have had a more significant influence on Trump’s decision. A poll conducted by Brookings Institution found that 53% of American evangelicals favored Trump’s decision. Evangelicals’ consistent support of pro-Israel policies stems from both theologically and racially-charged notions. While a portion of evangelicals hold that, in order for Jesus to return to Earth, the Jewish people must be in possession of Israel, other evangelicals believe that the United States should join with Israel as part of a religious alliance between Jewish and Christian civilizations against Islam. Trump may have used this action to solidify the evangelical hold on governmental decisions. This would suggest that Trump’s actions align perfectly with his “American first” foreign policy objectives as defined by both campaign rhetoric and his inaugural address. However, the America he seeks to prioritize is not the ethnically, culturally, and religiously diverse America as it exists in its current state but rather as the white, predominantly Evangelical Christian America that he and his base of supporters champion.
Rachel Olick-Gibson studies in the College of Arts & Sciences and she can be reached at email@example.com.
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