Vol. XXIV, Issue 3 February 26, 2013


the case against Free speech
Vassar Debate


Miami Herald

RemembeRing AndRei buRyAchenko ‘13 LibeRAL PAt-on-the-bAck SyndRome

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Vassar & LocaL page 4-5

Do Something VC: What are they Doing?

ChroniCle, February 2013

the VASSAR chRonicLe

table oF ContentS
Staff Editorial Vassar & Local National Affairs Foreign Affairs Debate & Discourse Humour The Last Page 2 3 6 7 11 15 16

Editor-in-ChiEf SEnior Editor
Zack Struver

Will Serio

President Obama’s plan to tie federal aid to college “affordability” and “value” proved quite the spectacle in his State of the Union Address on February 12.

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Thomas Enering Michael Greene Gregory Perry Matt Zavislan Hannah Matsunaga Jenna Amlani Marya Pasciuto Christa Guild Alina Rosenfeld Joshua Sherman Madeleine Morris


SOTU: Obama Threatens Stricter Regulation of Higher Education
bring their Pell Grants to or get federal loans through just about any institution of higher education, including the growing sector of for-profit colleges. These federal financial aid programs and the tax-exempt status colleges receive save colleges and students billions of dollars they would otherwise incur. From this viewpoint, perhaps it is not too much to ask for a little more accountability, as the federal role in higher education is significant. Unfortunately, the language used by Obama obscures the truth of the proposed reforms. Terms like “value” and “affordability” are purposely vague. The real issue at stake here is whether keeping prices down interferes with providing access to low-income students? On this point, the outcomes of new policies could be quite detrimental. Counterintuitively, increasing tuition and fees allow schools like Vassar to continue their generous financial aid policies. The economic concept at work is price discrimination. Students whose families are able to pay more for a Vassar education receive less financial aid, while low-income families receive more financial aid. As such, increasing prices does not exclude lower-income students, so long as the institution remains committed to providing need-based financial aid. Facing new requirements based on “value” and “affordability”, schools may have to cut their budgets. These regulations would decrease aid for schools that raise their prices more than the limit determined to be fair by the federal government. And since financial aid costs comprise such a large chunk of many schools’ budgets (nearly one third of Vassar’s), budget hawks have a prime target. Perhaps most troubling is the fact that this is not the first time the President has spoken in such a threatening manner on this particular issue. It was only a year ago, in his 2012 State of the Union, when he exclaimed pointedly, “Let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.” Since the Higher Education Act must be renewed by the end of 2013, and the 2012 elections are over, we can be sure that this is not just political posturing anymore. This law may very well be changed to the detriment of low-income students, and the language being used by the President provides ample cover for members of Congress. Perhaps it would serve us well to “Do Something” about this. —The Staff Editorial is agreed upon by at least a 70 percent majority of the Editorial Board.

StaFF eDitorial

n February 12th, President Obama delivered the first State of the Union address of his second term. He dedicated most of his speech to proposals aimed at creating jobs and educating America’s workforce for those jobs. Accordingly, he spent a fair amount of time on education, though a relatively small amount was dedicated specifically to higher education. The few lines we did get were quite ominous. President Obama said that, “taxpayers can’t keep on subsidizing higher and higher and higher costs for higher education. Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure that they do. So tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid.” This critique was leveled squarely at the institutions that, despite pleas from Washington, continue raising their tuition and fees (i.e. prices, not costs, an important distinction). He was talking to institutions like Vassar, and we should be listening very carefully. As the President pointed out, the federal government heavily subsidizes higher education. Currently, there are very few strings attached to these programs from an institutional perspective. For example, students can

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ChroniCle, February 2013

Remembering Our Friend and Classmate, Andrei Buryachenko ‘13


e all lost a classmate a little over a month ago. Unfortunately, most of the campus may not have met Andrei Buryachenko or even known of him. Nevertheless, by virtue of his enrollment here, he was intimately connected with all of us. Consequently, any recollection of his presence here at Vassar, however brief or seemingly insignificant, is meaningful insofar as it adds to our collective memory of Andrei. Most of my memories of Andrei come from the few Economics classes we took together. Along with other classmates, we would spend hours together in whatever quiet space we could find on campus, working on problem sets into all hours of the night. Even within these fleeting moments of doing homework, Andrei’s unbridled ambition, persistence, and genuinely caring nature came across. Andrei would always be coming back from or on his way to New York City, either returning to campus or heading back from his job at McGraw Hill, a job


Will Serio Editor-in-Chief

he held until his passing in early January. These moments we spent together were his few free moments, dedicated to his schoolwork. Over time, I was fortunate enough to gain a fuller perspective of Andrei. This seemed to be a function of hanging out with him outside of our normal homework sessions, since it was certainly not due to his schedule being any less packed. He started coming over to my TA, as one of my housemates, Kris, had grown close to him through the their work in and shared passion for the Russian Department. Most vividly, I remember him coming to a Halloween Party at our TA with a large bag of pistachios. To my knowledge, no one had asked anyone to bring anything to the party. Andrei said that, in his culture, it is impolite to show up without a gift. We all laughed, grasping how unique this was–it was a Halloween party in the TAs, after all–while sincerely appreciating his kindness. So we stood around the island in our kitchen eating pistachios and talking, and after a while I noticed he had disappeared. On looking around for him, I found him right outside our TA with one of my best friends, and

his future girlfriend, Alicia, whom he had immediately connected with upon meeting her that night. It was great to see them together, not just because they were both close friends, but because it showed me a side of both of them I’d never seen before. These are the moments I found to be most important and prominent in my mind, the good times that we spent together. They’re nothing especially deep or lucid; in fact, to me, they feel all too common. But that October night really captured Andrei’s personality for me: extraordinarily thoughtful and kind. I understand that, at this point, I’ve focused on Andrei’s presence, and lack thereof, at a party, as well as a bag of pistachios. And therein lies the most frustrating part of this unfortunate situation: the constant, nagging feeling that comes from grasping at any possible memory, examining and reexamining it ad infinitum for some deeper meaning. I can’t begin to describe the angst I felt while searching my kitchen for the cloth drawstring bag that clothed the pistachios that night. I knew we had left it in one of the drawers, and yet it was nowhere to be

found. It would be so easy to just buy the exact same bag from the grocery store, but it wouldn’t be the same. That lack of material solace is at once so trivial, yet, paradoxically, extraordinarily vital to grieving and remembering. Perhaps the gravity of this situation has caused me to make far too much out of a seemingly small gesture of kindness, but I’m sure that anyone who knew Andrei would know exactly what I’m getting at. Anyone would have appreciated Andrei just being around to chat with. He was extremely bright, he always listened to others and had thoughtful things to respond with, and I honestly can’t think of a single time when I was unhappy being around him. No matter how much work he had, he never let it discourage him; he was a sort of happy warrior. All of this makes it all the worse that he left us so suddenly. The absence of his presence on campus leaves us with an unambiguous pain, though I truly hope it drives us to be a bit kinder in the day-to-day and appreciate the people we love. As cliché as it sounds, and really is, that is what Andrei would want, and that is how I plan to remember that friend I miss so dearly.

ChroniCle, February 2013

PAge 3


Zack Struver Senior Editor

VC Organizes



n Feb. 10, 2013, I sat in the library, ostensibly doing homework and laughing hysterically because an infamous hate group had finally gotten around to coming to Vassar. Initially, I had difficulty taking the statements of the Westboro Baptist Church seriously; in fact, I still do. Something about an organization that claims to accurately represent Vassar’s values to the public, lives off media attention, and stifles public discourse strikes me as simultaneously horrifying and hilarious. Thusly confronted with the embarassment of attending a “filthy institution,” I felt the best thing to do was to laugh. I wasn’t surprised that the Westboro Baptist Church had chosen this particular time to come to Vassar—with Cappy gone, it’s much easier to get away with doing ridiculous things. Like everyone else, I had my fun posting jests on Facebook and Twitter, but the fun ended when things got serious. Organizers reigned in the facetious Facebook groups, calling for collective and decisive action. Spontaneity would only be tolerated to the extent that it produced pragmatic ideas for resistance through counter-protest. The student body was told that a meeting would be held the following night, Monday, Feb. 11, at UpC. “A group of students informally organized throughout the day on Monday, Feb. 11 to discuss some facilitation strategies for the meeting later that night,” as Do Something VC put it. At that meeting, “members of the Vassar community would be able to come together and channel their passionate reactions to the announcement into something positive.” And they did; over 300 students met at UpC to discuss their reaction to the Westboro Baptist Church, and how they felt the campus should respond. These students “separated into twelve smaller groups to discuss [their] personal reactions to the news and propositions on how to move forward. Each group wrote down their ideas for a mission statement and their goals for an organized reaction as a campus. These ideas were shared with the entire collective at the closing of the meeting.” After the meeting, the facilitators of Do Something VC “took all of the notes from the 12 small groups that night and compiled them in order to come up with a mission statement.” After revisions and input from all leaders of Do Something VC, the facilitators agreed on their mission: “Do Something VC is a student led group that supports and celebrates the diversity of Vassar students, faculty, administrators, staff, alumnae/i, the greater Poughkeepsie community, and peer institutions; aims to facilitate understanding, solidarity, and mindful discussion around issues of identity, power, and oppression; and takes peaceful and thoughtful action to promote equality, acceptance, and social justice through dialogue, outreach, education, art, and the media.” Although I take issue with some of this mission statement, such as the fact that it is hard to have solidarity when identity,


power, and oppression are such fluid issues, I applaud Do Something VC for advocating that Vassar should put its money where its mouth is. For a school that loves to tell itself that it’s committed to social justice, how many organizations actually leave the Vassar Bubble to help others. Refreshingly, this mission statement comes from a good place in aiming to promote social justice. And I don’t mean fundraisers—great, you had a bake sale, go pat yourself on the back (for more on back-patting, see page 12)—from which most of the proceeds go back into campus orgs anyways. Nor do I mean attending a teach-in at Vassar where some Occupy protesters preach to the choir about the evils of capitalism. What I’m referring to is connecting with the community surrounding Vassar. For example, I think that sending Vassar students to counter-protest at West Point, where military discipline forbids cadets from doing so, is a great idea; I hope that members of the Vassar community attend this counter-protest. And, I hope that if Do Something VC continues to operate after the 28th, it remains committed to taking real action, rather than armchair slacktivism. Further, this mission statement and

opened up the various committees in their organization to the general body— including the “art, religious and spiritual life, fundraising, community outreach, legal, action, communications, and education” committees—that “any student who wanted to have a role in facilitating these committee meetings or planning the next all-community meeting” was given the role as “committee facilitator” after attending a debriefing with the overall organizational facilitators. That, however, only answers part of my question. No answer was given as to how the chief leaders of Do Something VC were chosen, other than that they spent a day organizing a meeting in UpC. And, once again, I don’t doubt their intention to do good, but why should they be in charge of the campus response? This led me to another question, one that I posed to Do Something VC: “What makes Do Something VC better suited to organize a response and counter-protest than other umbrella organizations, such as the Spectrum Leadership Council, the Grassroots Alliance for Alternative Politics (GAAP), or the Vassar Students Association (VSA)?” There was no explicit response to the

including “Spectrum Organizations (like the Queer Coalition of Vassar College [QCVC]), African-American/Black, Latino, Asian/Asian-American, Native American [ALANA] Center Organizations, GAAP, Student Class Issues Alliance, the Unitarian Universalists, Catholic Community, Vassar Jewish Union [VJU], student theatre, acappella, Vassar Athletics teams, the VSA, and local Poughkeepsie organizations.” None of these organizations claim to represent all students at Vassar. Only the VSA does, and perhaps they should have on this occasion. Through the VSA, these organizations would have been better able to collaborate in response to to the Westboro Baptist Church. The decentralized structure of other Vassar organizations makes campus responses through the cooperation of these orgs uniquely effective. The VSA’s official endorsement of Do Something VC, both through assistance with procuring a website and funding, warranted broad oversight of operations. Indeed, it verges on irresponsibility for the VSA to offer an unofficial organization access to Vassar’s resources. Why is this irresponsible? First, because this decision goes beyond VSA

Students meet at UpC on Feb. 10 to plan a response to the Westboro Baptist Church, which will protest at Vassar on Feb. 28.

Do Something VC

the values expressed by Do Something VC were crafted primarily by the leaders of the organization. I asked Do Something VC how their leadership developed, and how they formulated their mission statement, and whether they were chosen in a way that is consistent with the democratic principles that guide how we choose the leaders of the student body. I think it is important not only for Vassar students to know who has been authorized to represent their views, but how those people came to hold these positions. Do Something VC tells us that after they

question. The VSA spent two weeks appointing a new VP for Student Life—Dallas Robinson ’14—in order to determine that she is qualified to represent the non-academic interests of the student body and to deal with campus offices including, most importantly, the Office of Campus Life & Diversity, which oversees the LGBTQ Center and the Women’s Center. These two groups ought to be especially concerned with the Westboro Baptist Church. Members of Do Something VC represent a wide variety of campus organizations,

regulations. The Finance Committee can and should allocate resources to only certified organizations or preliminary organizations. Second, because none of the individuals in charge of this unofficial group were either duly-elected by the student body or sanctioned by the elected officials of the VSA. How do we know that individuals leading any such future organization will be responsible or skilled enough to handle a campus response? We are fortunate enough that the leaders of Do Something VC happen to know how to organize a counter-protest, but we

Continued on Page 5

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ChroniCle, February 2013

Vassar Students Need to Question Power Structures
Continued from Page 4 may not be so lucky in the future. Third, while unofficial organizations can be held accountable under student regulations for funds granted, these organizations might not appropriate said money efficiently. Do Something VC is a reactionary ad-hoc organization. While I certainly agree that we should “Do Something VC” to counterprotest the pernicious rhetoric of the Westboro Baptist Church, a permanent structure to respond to hate groups should have been, and should still be, established by the VSA and other umbrella organizations. Past campus events, such as extensive graffiti and incidents surrouding harmful rhetoric, warranted the creation of such an organization. We have failed to create such an organization, and have made no steps in that direction. Indeed, more could have been done in these past two weeks. Sure, fundraising is great. And dealing with this specific hate group is important. But we’re missing the bigger picture. There are wider implications to this counter-protest. This is an opportunity for Vassar to make a general statement against hate groups. So, will Do Something VC continue to operate after Feb. 28? They have informed us that, “right now, we hope that the spirit and collaborative community–efforts of our group can continue to make positive change on campus after the 28th. we hope that our community’s interest and involvement in an array of issues related to equality, acceptance, and social justice will continue past the 28th. But we are so busy with planning for our events this week and next that we have not had time to think about the long-term future or how the group could specifically [sic] continue to exist. These conversations will begin shortly, and we hope we can find a sustainable model for our group and its intentions to continue in years to come [emphasis added].” I can only hope that, in the week since I’ve received this response, Do Something VC has thought harder about whether or not it will continue to “Do Anything” past Feb. 28, and if so, in what capacity. It appears as though Do Something VC has begun to implement its goals, however narrow. They are in full-swing, planning the counter-protest and raising funds for local charities. Let’s turn to how they’ve handled these tasks. We’ll start with fundraising. An email to members of Do Something VC stated that the Fundraising Committee had asked Josh de Leeuw ’08 to “take down” the Crowdrise webpage which has, at the time of writing, raised over $88,000 for The Trevor Project—an organization that provides “crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth.” Do Something VC’s stated goal in that e-mail was to transition fundraising activities from The Trevor Project, a national organization, to more local charities. While I think it’s fantastic that Do Something VC wants to promote local charities, I feel a bit uneasy that they asked an alumnus to dismantle such an incredibly successful fundraiser. Given that this fundraiser has been receiving publicity from publications such as the Poughkeepsie Journal, the Dartmouth, Huffington Post, the LA Times, and the Chicago Tribune, why ask an alumnus to nuke it? Indeed, Do Something VC could have piggy-backed on this attention, as they chose to with the Huffington Post. So, I felt obligated to ask them the following: “What benefit did the Fundraising Committee see in transitioning from a well-known and successful fundraiser to raising money for local charities, rather than allowing both to coexist?” Their response follows: “As you know, an alum started a Crowdrise fundraising page for The Trevor Project. The amount of support for this cause, in solidarity with Vassar standing up against hate, has been overwhelming and amazing. Many VC students and alums wrote to our group expressing their joy over the success of the page and the cause overall. In doing so, many VC students also expressed an interest to see a student-led, on-campus fundraising initiative for more local organizations. Many alums told us that they wanted to be able to financially contribute to LGBTQ programming at Vassar. When the Fundraising Committee met, we decided to act on all of these suggestions and implement another fundraising drive, one that would benefit the Hudson Valley Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the Ali Forney Center in NYC, and LGBTQ programming on campus through the annual fund. Some students at the Fundraising Committee meeting questioned how we could launch our initiative alongside the wildly successful Crowdrise fundraiser for The Trevor Project. We decided we would privately inquire with [sic] its creator about his overall goals for the project. In our email correspondence with him, we reflected upon what was discussed by students, alumni, and VC administration in the fundraising committee meeting. One of the many suggestions was to transition the focus from a nationally-known organization to lesser-known and smaller organizations, especially those with a local impact. This would appease the alums and students who expressed interest in contributing to different causes, like local organizations or Vassar itself. After a conversation with Josh, we came to an understanding that both of our initiatives could exist side-byside and complement one another. The Trevor Project fundraiser will not be taken down, nor does Do Something VC believe that it should be taken down. We have been and will continue to be in coordination with these efforts, linking to one another on our respective pages. As we are both members of the VC community, we support each other.” I am confused about the initiative to claim an exclusive fundraising role. To complain that another charity, with identical goals, is siphoning money from yours, is more than a little absurd. Josh de Leeuw was getting a lot of press—why didn’t Do Something VC ask him to refer journalists? Do Something VC has explained to me that their committee meetings are “safe spaces for free and open conversation,” where anything “said and suggested would not be judged,” and where “everyone ought to be comfortable to speak their minds.” They have quite obviously judged this course of action to be the best. Should they not have consulted their general body before making such decisions? This mismangement reflects poorly on Do Something VC and on Vassar as an institution. Finally, I’d like to discuss the reappropriation of rhetoric. The Westboro Baptist Church vowed to protest our supposed support for the language they use against us, particularly the phrase ‘Ivy League Whorehouse.’” But, as they explained seperately, all committee members have an equal voice. So, why can Do Something VC make such a judgement prior to the meeting of the committee? To have mindful discussion entails a plurality, rather than a singularity of views. Do Something VC’s view on the discretion of its leadership is based on the underlying assumption that we should focus on “us, not them [WBC].” As a satirist and

If you’re reading this, Fred Phelps thinks you’re a sinner.

The Sun

“fag agenda” and our participation in the “satanic Zeitgeist.” While attacking Vassar’s positions on social justice and on religion, they also decided to dub Vassar an “Ivy League Whorehouse”—obviously, an apt characterization (see page 15)—as well as criticizing us as “doomed academics” for fancying ourselves smarter than God. Needless to say, I found those statements quite problematic. Personally, I think Satan deserves, to have the adjectival form of his name capitalized, at the very least. Furthermore, when they use the phrase “fag agenda,” do they refer to the interests of the tobacco or the firewood industry? Are Vassar students actually “champions of whoredom,” or are they merely foot soldiers? If you do not have a sense of humour, or if your ass is tighter-clenched than John Boehner’s, you might have some difficulty understanding that the previous paragraph reappropriates the Westboro Baptist Church’s rhetoric in a satirical fashion. This blatantly undermines their positions by asserting that, first, to link ultimate evil to homosexuality is abhorrent and ridiculous, and second, that Vassar does not view any sort of sexuality or “social deviance” as evil, and starkly opposes the rhetoric of those who do. Do Something VC notes, correctly, that some individuals express “discomfort in [sic] using the same language [sic] used by the Westboro Baptist Church, including the term ‘Ivy League whorehouse.’” So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that an email sent out prior to a meeting of their merchandising committee stated that, “Designs are encouraged to include ‘Do Something VC’ and messages of positivity—discouraged from our designs will be mentions of the WBC or the

occasional “doomed academic,” I have a few problems with the wholesale repudiation of reappropriating oppositional rhetoric. Firstly, I understand that a lot of people in the Vassar community are committed to an almost puritanical form of political correctness. To those individuals, I say, chill the frack out! Secondly, this construction of an “us versus them” dichotomy presents a few problems. Critical theorists tell us that if we wish to understand ourselves, we must understand the position of the Other. While they don’t always speak to the rhetoric of the Other, they do tell us that the construction of one group as objectively good and one group as evil sets a dangerous precedent. Thirdly, I think that reappropriating terms can defuse their harmfulness. The queer movement provides an example of successful reappropriation of terms, with slogans such as, “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.” They confront pejorative labelling by comandeering tools of hatred. Indeed, many Americans still hold homophobic, transphobic, etc. views. If we want to understand why a group of people in the 21st century would ever use such rhetoric, we need to engage against their discourse. With the protest on the horizon, I ask that you reflect on not only Vassar’s values as a community, but also on what actions we can take to create a better world. Although, in my estimation, we’ve fumbled a bit, I’m confident that on Feb. 28, the Vassar community will come together succesfully in a display of hope and encouragement for those who face hatred, intolerance, and injustice. —National & Foreign Affairs Assistant Editor Gregory Perry contributed significantly to reporting and editing.

ChroniCle, February 2013

PAge 5

NRA, Gun Lobby Lacks Effective Solution to Gun Violence
Matt Zavislan Natl. & Foreign Affairs Asst.

nAtionAL AffAiRS


ust hours after 24-year-old James Holmes open fired in a crowded Aurora, CO movie theater, killing 12 and leaving 59 more wounded, a Twitter account run by the National Rifle Association (@NRA_Rifleman) tweeted the following: “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?” Although the result of an automated tweeting service, the tweet from @NRA_Rifleman perfectly underscores the casual approach to gun ownership taken by many of the county’s pro-gun organizations. This casual approach is further demonstrated by the NRA’s next move: a fundraising push to prevent the introduction of limitations on gun ownership. Then, in a similar vein, following the Dec. 12 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, which left 20 children and six adults dead, NRA chairman Wayne LaPierre unveiled a plan to install armed guards at every school in the country, a plan dubbed the National School Shield Program. LaPierre, attempting to justify the NRA’s proposal, argued that, “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” while simultaneously denying that the ready availability of guns played a part in the fatal shooting. I suppose it can be said that the NRA is nothing if not consistent. In the wake of this year’s share of gun-fueled tragedies, the NRA’s response seems to be that America needs more guns and that these tragedies occur simply because nobody was on site to fire back. Hypothetical images of panicked, untrained teachers or moviegoers firing into crowds aside, the position makes sense in strictly logical sense. Nobody likes to get shot, criminals included, so if citizens armed themselves, everyone would be relatively safer.

“In the wake of this year’s share of gun-fueled tragedies, the NRA’s response seems to be that America needs more guns and that these tragedies occur simply because nobody was on site to fire back.”
As both a Colorado native and a debate coach at Newtown High School, the proposal to increase the presence of guns in our communities seems to be both an inadequate solution for the escalating violence of this past year and, in the words of one of my debaters at Newtown High School, “insulting to the memory of the slain.” Instead of compassion or attempts at fostering communal solidarity, the response of pro-gun advocates has been, in the words of the same student, “nothing more than a political move to raise money and rally support.” The logic of gun-based deterrence is the same as that of the Cold War arms race, a calculating stalemate in which both

sides rush to arm themselves to the teeth in case the other side decides to make a move. The analogy fails, however, when one considers the distinction between the motivations and psychology of the actors. Unlike in the Cold War, where both sides were well-armed national powers in a perpetual statement, the phenomenon of crime involves the interaction between an aggressor and a victim. Thus, the situation is completely different. While hypothetically the willingness of both the U.S. and USSR to attack the other was equal, in the criminal situation it is only the aggressor that has already made up his mind to use force. The victim, however well armed, is not necessarily as willing to respond in kind. Thus, the question that should be asked is not whether gun ownership has any deterrent benefits, but whether or not those benefits are extensive enough to outweigh any negative externalities incurred, specifically in this case, that of escalation. Just like in any confrontation, be it between individuals or countries, disagreements have a tendency to escalate beyond simple arguments. In most circumstances, this is relatively harmless; harsh words are exchanged and, in the worst cases, perhaps punches as well. In a world where private possession of firearms is the norm, it is easy to imagine a situation in which instead of two people leaving a bar with bloody noses, one of those people leaves in a body bag. The possibility of policies such as banning guns in bars or restaurants could help to mitigate the escalation of relatively harmless fights to deadly levels. It still seems, however, a high risk to take for the possibility of reducing crime. Crime reduction is not the only argument used by pro-gun advocates. In fact, it’s not even the most common. A quick Google search will reveal a moral and legal dimension to guns completely distinct from the argument of crime deterrence. Separate from the necessity to possess weapons for defensive purpose, groups such as the NRA have declared that Americans actually have a right to possess guns, a position stemming from the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” In 1975, the District of Columbia passed the Firearms Control Regulation Act (FCRA), banning residents from owning handguns, automatic weapons or highcapacity semi-automatic weapons, as well as requiring all firearms to be kept unloaded or bound by some kind of trigger lock. In 2003, however, the FCRA was challenged on constitutional grounds for violating the Second Amendment. In the landmark Supreme Court Case, District of Columbia vs. Heller, the Supreme Court held that these provisions were unconstitutional on the grounds that the government didn’t have sufficient justification to warrant the abridgement of constitutional rights, finding that possession of handguns was an extension of the right of citizens to self-defense. The decision in Heller, as well as the subsequent decision in McDonald v.


“...1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms. It doesn’t matter how many lemmings you get out there on the street begging for them to have their guns taken. We will not relinguish them. Do you understand? And that’s why you are going to fail and the establishment knows no matter how much propaganda, the republic will rise again when you attempt to take our guns.” — Alex Jones on Piers Morgan Tonight, Jan. 7, 2013

Chicago, which applied the ruling in Heller to states, laid the constitutional foundation for gun ownership. The current understanding is that the government may not restrict gun ownership in such a way as to jeopardize the right to selfdefense or to make a symbolic or political point about the nature of gun ownership. Rather, limitations and restrictions on private gun ownership must constitute a legitimate and compelling government interest. While Heller may restrict the government’s ability to prohibit ownership of firearms used for self-defense or sport, it seems as though a more extensive gun control package is feasible. For instance, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired on Sept. 13, 2004, prohibited the sale or distribution of a specific category of firearm, usually distinguished by certain cosmetic and functional features such as a pistol grip or detachable extended magazine. Similarly, attempts are currently being made at both the federal and the state levels to limit magazines to no more than ten rounds (New York State recently enacted legislation establishing a seven round maximum), in order to curb gun violence. Pro-gun lawmakers and interest groups have criticized these measures as constitutionally suspect, arguing that the government has failed to demonstrate a legitimate and compelling interest for the limitation of magazine size and that doing so would be harmful to an individual’s ability to defend him/herself from an attacker. When one considers the immediate practical effects of such proposed limitations however, it seems abundantly clear that the government indeed has a legitimate claim to the limitation of gun ownership. Highcapacity magazines give would-be shooters the ability to fire more rounds before needing to pause to reload, time which, in the chaos of events such as

the Sandy Hook or Century 16 Theatre shootings, could mean the difference between life or death. The corresponding argument is that the legal availability of assault weapons and handguns with high-capacity magazines will prevent such tragedies from happening in the first place. This theory, however, rests on the assumption that more bullets yield a greater defensive effect. The problem with this assumption is that the only situation in which larger magazines would have an impact is if defending oneself or others required discharging a significant number of bullets. When one considers that, according to data released by the New York Police Department, trained police officers only have a “hit-percentage” of around 34%, larger magazines seem to introduce an additional element of chaos. Whatever the intentions of the person pulling the trigger, once the round has left the barrel it doesn’t discriminate between innocent bystanders and mass murderers —a bullet wound is a bullet wound. If the government has the ability to impose restrictions and conditions on the purchasing and ownership of a firearm (e.g. one must be over 18, mentally stable and not a convicted felon), then it seems to follow that the government should also be able to restrict what kind of firearm one is able to purchase. It is no longer 1789—gone are the times when civilians were called upon to form militias to fight for their freedoms. The phenomenon of the local militia remains only as a cultural memory—with their modern irrelevance comes the increasing irrelevance of private gun-ownership as a means to protect oneself. For those Americans who feel unsafe without a gun, you don’t need a 30 round assault rifle to protect yourself any more than you need a bazooka. The solution, in the words of our ever-so-eloquent VicePresident, is to “buy a shotgun.”

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ChroniCle, February 2013

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Ghana Must Confront History, Ethnicity, and Nationality
Kweku Attafuah-Wadee Contributor


rowing up in the suburbs of Accra, Ghana, two of my greatest idols were Azuma Nelson—a world renowned Ghanaian professional boxer—and Kofi Annan—the two-term United Nations Secretary-General. As an avid boxing fan, I would wake up early in the morning before school to catch a glimpse of Nelson besting a multitude of opponents during prize fights in the U.S. To my ten-year-old mind, he epitomized Ghanaian strength and invincibility. Annan, on the other hand was, well, Kofi Annan. He was the most prominent Ghanaian on the planet and the head of the UN—a position, I then thought, was second only to that of Bill Clinton in terms of power. Annan and Nelson were, and still are, two of the most prominent Ghanaian personalities. Nonetheless, even in my youth I could sense differences in the reception that these two individuals received from the various ethnic groups that make up Ghana. Annan, as a member of the Asante ethnic group—descendants of a powerful empire that ruled most of modern-day Ghana in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—is one of the most respected sages of the Asante people. Nelson, on the other hand, is a proud son of the GaAdangbe ethnic group of southeastern Ghana. Though the Ga-Adangbe people admire and respect the achievements of Annan as a Ghanaian, the strong ethnic bonds they share with Nelson place the now-retired boxer on a higher pedestal in their hearts and minds. The way in which the Asantes perceive Annan mirrors this sentiment. Such expressions of ethnic pride and allegiance are not only prevalent in Ghana, but also in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa; they are a powerful manifestation of the complex relationship between ethnicity and nationality in the region. The main question here is not necessarily which of the identifiers—ethnicity or nationality—Africans acknowledge, but rather which identifier is considered a better representation of one’s identity and, thus, an indicator of the pivot of one’s allegiances. The manner in which African citizens approach such questions of identity has led to profound socioeconomic and political realities that have stifled national growth and development. In postcolonial Africa, the urban political elite have hindered attempts at promoting a strong sense of nationality so as to achieve short-term economic and political gains by pitting ethnic groups against each other. This has led to widespread ethnic fragmentation in many African countries and subsequent cases of political and economic disenfranchisement and civil war. The recent creation of the nation of South Sudan and the ongoing Tuareg struggle in Mali are archetypal presentday examples. European colonization of Africa is largely to blame for this predicament.

Before I continue, I would like to emphasize that colonization did not give birth to nepotism and ethnic fragmentation in Africa. On the contrary, there are more than enough historical sources that indicate the presence of ethnic rivalry on the African continent prior to its contact with Western European nations. More accurately, colonization facilitated the modern expression of ethnic politics in Africa by creating new or exploiting entrenched ethnic power dynamics. One can observe a textbook example of this phenomenon by studying the history of the West African nation of Nigeria. Before Nigeria was internationally known for its remarkable and vibrant film industry—“Nollywood”—or as a source of annoying spam e-mails, it made the international news circuit in the late 1960’s due to a breakaway movement that had developed in its southeastern region—the subsequent civil war known as the Biafran War. Even today, there are certain elements, albeit weak, that are agitating for a breakaway Biafran state of its own. During the first week of November 2012, a group of about 100 Nigerians claiming to be members of the Biafran Zionist Movement were arrested for treason during a protest that called for the secession of the oil-rich southeastern corner of Nigeria. Chilos Godsent, a member of the Imo Mass Movement and a supporter of the protest, made the following comments to The Guardian: “The policy and leadership of this country has done everything to exterminate and dehumanize the Biafran people. It is only through an independent nation that our capacity can truly be developed. Within that context we feel like we have the right to self-determination.”

The ethinic landscape of Nigeria has lent itself to a political structure favoring regional rivalry.

“Such expressions of ethnic pride and allegiance are not only prevalent in Ghana, but also in the rest of subSaharan Africa; they are a powerful manifestation of the complex relationship between ethnicity and nationality in the region. The main question here is not necessarily which of the identifiers—ethnicity or nationality—Africans acknowledge, but rather which identifier is considered a better representation of one’s identity and, thus, an indicator of the pivot of one’s allegiances.”
Similarly, the internationally acclaimed Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe has recently expressed concern over the alleged persecution of Igbos—a prominent ethnic group in the southeast region—by the Nigerian government. The Biafran War is an example of the

intricacies of ethnicity and nationality in African countries and is directly linked to both British colonial exploits in Nigeria and post-independence ethnocentric distribution of national resources. The British colony of Nigeria, though a jigsaw puzzle consisting of about 300 ethnic groups, was primarily dominated by three of these groups: the HausaFulanis in the north, the Yorubas in the southwest, and the Igbos in the southeast. The British administered the colony based on the spheres of influence of these ethnic groups, creating three administrative regions. Of these three, the northern Hausa-Fulani region was arguably the most economically dominant. The British also implemented an indirect-rule system that ensured that each of the major traditional leaders of the administrative regions was in charge of their own affairs, with minimal political interference from the British colonial establishment. This manner of administration led to the creation of culturally-distinct sub-colonies within the colony of Nigeria. During the negotiations that led to the independence of Nigeria, the Hausa-Fulanis successfully demanded the continuation of the British-style of ethnicity-based regional division within a new federal national state. This decision ensured that the Hausa-Fulanis, members of the largest region in terms of size, population, and economy, obtained the largest share of Nigerian wealth. The strong desire for independence, coupled with the fact that groundnuts, then one of Nigeria’s main cash crops, were largely grown in the north, outweighed the concerns of the Yorubas and Igbos over the potential Hausa-Fulani domination of the new government. The power dynamic changed sharply, however, with the discovery of oil in the Igbo-dominated southeast region. Immediately following this discovery, the ethnic groups in the southeast called for more power in the administration of the oil wealth; many in the southeast felt

that the northern-dominated Nigerian government was usurping their oil wealth, to the detriment of the economic and social development of the peoples of the southeast. These calls, unsurprisingly, were met with fierce resistance from the Nigerian government. Hence, in 1967, leading military officials from the southeast attempted to secede from Nigeria, announcing the creation of the new state of Biafra. These rebels were eventually defeated, but only after severe starvation, massacres, and destruction of infrastructure in the southeast. Like the Biafran War, many African conflicts are deeply entrenched in ethnic tensions and their ensuing power struggles, which find their roots in colonial ethnic power dynamics. With this history in mind, it is up to the current African generation to strive for a radical improvement in interethnic relations. Trends promoting reconciliation, such as the ones in Rwanda today, are encouraging and should be replicated. Africans should also pursue other steps, including discouraging ethnic-based political parties, addressing nepotism, and promoting equality in relation to access to national resources and services. It is also important to acknowledge new social developments that are helping to improve inter-ethnic relations. With rapid urbanization on the continent, the environment for social interaction between members of different ethnic groups has expanded. Especially for young urbanites, this social centralization has aided in promoting a stronger sense of national unity. Personally, with my limited exposure to conflict resolution in Africa, I do not pretend to possess the silver bullet for this problem of ethnic rivalry. However, I do believe that promoting a better understanding of the historical events that have paved the way for ethnic strife in Africa is essential to reaching closure on this quandary.

ChroniCle, February 2013

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British Misinterpret “Flag Riots” in Northern Ireland
Thomas Enering Publisher-in-Exile

foReign AffAiRS


ithin the very first weeks of my time at Cambridge University, I learned that nothing so completely shatters the bonhomie of a Members’ Formal Dinner than a reference to what English aristocrats of previous generations called the “Irish Question.” Although the Good Friday Agreement ostensibly crafted a peace between Nationalists demanding a unified Ireland and Unionists hoping to strengthen ties with London, lingering questions on the future of Northern Ireland profoundly inform both contemporary British politics and everyday conversations. Idealists predicted that long-standing tensions between Nationalist Catholics and Unionist Protestants would dissipate following the 1998 mediation led by U.S. Senator George Mitchell. To the surprise of many hardened Ireland-watchers, the Good Friday Agreement actually confirmed these optimistic predictions and proved remarkably successful in minimizing violence. During the course of negotiations, the parties accepted the fundamental premise that they stood to gain far more through democratic engagement than through sustained conflict. Rather than emphasizing the sacrifices expected of each side, Mitchell accentuated the benefits that all parties would receive by buying into a parliamentary system that eliminated the devastating tit-for-tat violence that all but the most extreme groups realized was destroying Belfast’s economy and exacerbating social inequality. On a conceptually important level, the Agreement recognized that while a majority of Ireland hoped for a united and autonomous state, most of the residents of Northern Ireland expected to maintain strong connections to England. The future of the territory’s allegiance would only be determined by popular referendums within the territorial confines of Northern Ireland. Adding to this respect for the wishes of Northern Ireland’s citizenry, Nationalists consented to a decommissioning of armspolicy for the military wing—the Irish National Army (IRA)—of their largest political party, Sinn Fein. In the most innovative portion of the Agreement, the parties expressed a commitment to strengthening human rights as a tool for conflict prevention and peace building. As such, the disempowered Catholic community received promises that the government now possessed positive duties to promote economic equality, protect traditional Irish culture, enact policing reforms that required hiring Catholic officers, and, perhaps most critically, actively investigate impingements of fundamental human rights. Such elaborate guarantees ensured that violent organizations became relegated to a fringe role on both sides of the aisle. However, a string of recent protests over the past two months has prompted some commentators to fear regional destabilization. On Dec. 3, 2012, the Belfast City Council voted to cease permanently flying the Union Jack over the city’s parliamentary building—Stormont—and

Stephen Barnes

Following a decision to only fly the Union Jack on designated days, working-class Protestants protested Belfast’s parliamentary building.

restrict displaying the flag to 17 designated days annually. Protests flared across Northern Ireland, with particularly violent reactions occurring in East Belfast, a redoubt for radical pro-British Unionists. The intensity of the rioting reached its pinnacle in early January, as Unionists threw petrol bombs at police officers for six straight days, and, on Jan. 12, 2012, injured 29 police officers. Displaying “No Surrender” banners, around 1,000 alienated Protestants surrounded Stormont and demanded a return to flying the Union Jack daily.

“The construction of a narrative that enshrines the British role in defending both regional stability and constitutional values but casts Nationalists as determined to undermine the prevailing legal order guarantees that we remain trapped in a worldview dating back to the 1920s.”
Yet talk of politically-motivated violence reemerging has largely proven hyperbolic. By the end of January, not even the most radical fragments of loyalist paramilitary groups had targeted Catholic civil or political leaders, and the protests had declined in number to around 100 disaffected teenagers each night. The Ulster People’s Forum—the group claiming to represent the interest of most protesters—descended into irrelevancy as its leaders struggled to exploit community anger for parliamentary gains rather than

locating a coherent strategy for pursuing their immediate ambitions. The scope, communal grievances, and long-term political ramifications of the Flag Protests may not endanger Northern Ireland’s stability, but they do highlight how Britain insists on embracing antiquated analytical frameworks. In fact, the narrative heard at Cambridge and its surrounding pubs closely parallel the flawed perceptions that continue to permeate high-level policy debates. As one denizen of The Eagle Pub phrased the crisis, “Of course there should be a British flag flying. They’re in Britain and it’s a British government building. Taking it down is against the law.” Feel free to bring up the fact that the Good Friday Agreement concedes that a substantial portion of the Northern Irish population itself contests their British citizenship. Mention that something cannot be “against the law” when the state’s highest parliamentary body elects to alter said law. Our dear pub friends stay obdurate: the English are upholding “law and order,” while Nationalists strive to subvert the legal order by challenging not only the flag, but all symbolic representations of English culture. The construction of a narrative that enshrines the British role in defending both regional stability and constitutional values but casts Nationalists as determined to undermine the prevailing legal order guarantees that we remain trapped in a worldview dating back to the 1920s. As arch-conservative Margaret Thatcher famously reflected, “Those terrorists will carry their determination to disrupt society to any lengths. Once again we have a hunger strike... There is no such thing as political murder, political bombing or political violence. There is only criminal

murder, criminal bombing and criminal violence. We will not compromise on this.” Of course, more detached observers can note that it is quite possible to revile the IRA’s targeting of civilians, while still highlighting that Nationalists sought to do far more than “disrupt society to any lengths.” Yet Thatcher’s phrasing epitomizes the rhetorically-infused, brummagem vision that has dictated British policy for the last century. Namely, the Irish are incapable of advancing rational, substantial demands that retain intrinsic value or accomplish more than threatening the English-dictated order. This seemingly common-sense driven argument about what is “right” or “legal” underscores what I found to be a still potent bitterness directed at Bill Clinton’s intervention in the peace process and the sort of philosophy that seeks to exclude previous adherents of the IRA’s more violent ideology from the democratic process. Consequently, though American observers tend to characterize Clinton’s decision to invite Gerry Adams—an immensely controversial leader of the Republican Sinn Fein—as an audacious diplomatic maneuver that demonstrated to the IRA the benefits of democratic engagement over violence, few topics are capable of inspiring such vitriol nearly 20 years later. Bringing this up as a diplomatic triumph of the Clinton Administration inevitably invites the same response from both students and town residents: “Since when did the United States start negotiating with terrorists?” This question, of course, reveals the emotional complexity of the crisis, but also a strange British intransigence and tendency to embrace maxims over viable political solutions. In other words, liberal mocking of George W. Bush for adopting Continued on Page 9

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ChroniCle, February 2013


Continued from Page 8 what they considered an imperial obsession with stamping out global terrorism is quickly followed by a reversion to the most hackneyed Thatcher dictum: “Northern Ireland is as British as Finchley.” Indeed, from the left-wing Guardian to the more conservative Telegraph, mainstream British media sources accept negotiating with the Afghanistan Taliban—an organization that funded groups intent on imposing far more existential threats to the British state than the most radicalized IRA partisans ever dreamed—but continue to disseminate the argument that Adams was not actually concerned with representing Irish values; he was instead interested in challenging the legal order that the English had so assiduously worked to maintain in a land deemed both domestic and dangerously foreign. At a more pragmatic level, both the British and Irish governments need to recognize that communal tensions can no longer be so neatly defined as existing between Catholics and Protestants. Subsequent interviews revealed that the vast majority of those who participated in the Flag Protests were either unemployed or underemployed Protestants. Instead of accepting the misleading notion that hundreds of years of religious tension fuels Protestant antipathy, policymakers must acknowledge the economic underpinnings of violence in Northern Ireland.


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“At a more pragmatic level, both the British and Irish governments need to recognize that communal tensions can no longer be so neatly defined as existing between Catholics and Protestants.”
In the early 1990s, Catholics struggled to find even working-class positions on the Belfast piers; the idea of gaining employment with the local police force would have struck many Catholics as unimaginable. However, the peace dividends and policing reforms produced by the Good Friday Agreement offered new opportunities to Catholics; the unemployment rate dipped to a low of 4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2006. However, the global recession has ensured that nearly one quarter of 18-24 yearold men have not worked in the past year. Such employment downturns make young Protestants particularly susceptible to arguments that the Agreement transitioned their jobs to traditionally disenfranchised Catholics. Naturally,

this kind of narrative must be challenged in order to prevent working-class resentment from hardening into violence and reinvigorating a discourse that pits religions against one another in order to obtain scarce employment opportunities. As the manufacturing jobs that traditionally buoyed Belfast’s economy disappear, Loyalists will become even more prone to latch onto symbols of British culture and perceive them as being undermined by pro-Irish Catholics. Although the 2012 Peace Monitoring Report revealed that the proportion of lowincome households is much higher among Catholics (26%) than among Protestants (16%), the sharp increase in Protestant unemployment, compounded by declining Catholic poverty, accelerated misgivings about the peace process and hardened support for tangible signs of British culture. Perhaps Professor Pete Shirlow of Queen’s University of Belfast most eloquently encapsulated this misguided media emphasis on religious distinctions: “We are trapped in politics where culture is more important than poverty; politicians in the Northern Ireland Assembly have not done enough to reverse the trends towards poverty. Cultural issues, like the flags, are a diversion from the lack of jobs, poverty, and a lack of prospects for some young people.” In short, politicians cannot expect social cohesion without first addressing the poverty that enhances the likelihood of cultural disputes, and simplistic “law and order” frameworks are even more likely to obscure the factors truly motivating social unrest. But perhaps the most damaging narrative can be heard during any campus lunch from English students who completed their undergraduate degrees at Queen’s University of Belfast. Just as the most shameless Development Studies majors divest sub-Saharan Africa of its indigenous populations and reconstruct the continent as a foil for their own adventurousness, Belfast is stripped of its status as a vibrant European city. Despite the fact that it is located just over 300 miles from London, stories of imminent sectarian violence and narrowly escaping across the Catholic section through the “Peace Lines”—a euphemism for walls that divide the religious communities—transform Belfast into what Edward Said referred to as the “other.” Under this narrative, the European Union’s renunciation of violence and embrace of a “post-modern” ideology that renders inter-state conflict unthinkable is constructed against a depiction of a city ensnared by the ethnic violence that characterized the twentieth century— an era the rest of Europe managed to escape. Belfast remains characterized by visceral, primordial hatreds perpetually

Steve O’Brien

Ingrained stereotypes and tensions remain divisive in Belfast.

on the verge of spreading into a greater conflagration. Perhaps unsurprisingly, resolving the crisis depended upon the external intervention of a U.S. special representative—an individual far enough removed from such an emotionallycharged narrative. On the one hand, English policymakers presented the Northern Irish questions as intractable— sustained by radicals incapable of grasping the benefits of belonging to the British Empire. On the other, the English insisted that all citizens of Northern Ireland remained willingly English; both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan found their mediation efforts rebuffed by policymakers, insisting that the crisis was an internal one that could best be managed by the English themselves. Of course, English promises of engagement soon devolved once again into the historical tactic of promising to endow (debatably) sovereign peoples with an external order, then appearing shocked when those on the ground rejected this order for a self-defined solution. The official policy responses to violence in Northern Ireland then accentuate this tension between concurrently seeing the Irish as British citizens and fundamentally foreign entities. In the end, the perspectives of Cambridge PhD candidates and local residents converge around remarkably similar thematic points. Clinging fast to the nineteenth-century notion that the British Empire serves as the best defender of societal order, far too many citizens remain

unwilling to admit that the status quo might not represent the optimal possibility for the citizens of Northern Ireland. Even when being challenged by Protestants—the “orderly” British citizens—media sources immediately speculate on the importance of maintaining “stability” and avoiding a descent back into sectarian violence. But surely this “law and order” discourse obfuscates the demands of a working-class that has been particularly damaged by the global recession. Rather than reading the protests as either a harbinger of religious confrontations or as disempowered groups clinging to the patriotic symbols of England, policymakers need to evaluate the economic challenges that induce citizens to embrace these cultural signs in the first place and, more importantly, to recognize how limited their primary framework is for understanding Northern Irish tensions. To regard the Good Friday Agreement as creating an ideal status quo that must be relentlessly defended risks transforming an admirable ceasefire agreement into an instrument for divesting all political participants of their capacity to voice legitimate grievances. Quite simply, a multiplicity of perspectives exists in contemporary Northern Ireland. Reducing these opinions to signs of imminent conflict is surely the most likely way to actually usher in violence. —A former National & Foreign Affairs Editor of the Chronicle, Thomas Enering ’12 is now pursuing an MPhil in International Relations at the University of Cambridge.

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ChroniCle, February 2013

PAge 9

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Pope Benedict’s Resignation Needs Historical Context
Michael Greene Natl. & Foreign Affairs Editor

his Thursday, February 28th, has taken on a lot of significance to the Vassar community over the last few weeks as we prepare our responses to the planned protest by the Westboro Baptist ‘Church.’ Naturally and rightfully, such a direct attack on Vassar’s shared values of open-mindedness and tolerance have grabbed and held our attention; events closer to home, particularly hostile ones, always do. Nonetheless, February 28th, 2013, will also be an important and historic day involving a very different church. I am, of course, referring to the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, who at the age of 85, and reportedly in increasingly frail health, announced on Monday, February 11th his intention to step down from his position as Pope, spiritual and administrative leader of the one-billion member Catholic Church. Elected in 2005 following the death of his long-serving predecessor John Paul II, Benedict XVI—until then known as Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger—has been a consistently controversial figure, under whom the church has been rocked by the eruption of a sexual abuse scandal, as well as what many see as the inadequate response of the church to such matters. Benedict’s exit on grounds of ill-health stands in sharp contrast to the image of his predecessor, who remained at his post until his death. As a historian-in-training, the key to understanding the seemingly unprecedented event of a papal resignation is to look at the historical context it fits. It would take up too much time and be of very little use to recount here the evolution of the position of Bishop of Rome into what it is now—the spiritual head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the tiny Vatican City state—but it is sufficient to say that being chosen as the successor to Saint Peter would seem to be a spiritual elevation from which a person cannot simply walk away. Despite this, a small number have. This likely seems surprising to those not well-versed in Church history because no such event has happened in the lifetime of anyone now living. In fact, the last papal resignation, or abdication, took place 598 years ago, in 1415 CE, at the Council of Constance. The Council was called to end what has become known as the Western Schism, which beginning in 1378 saw at first two—and eventually three—popes competing for mastery of the


Church. Exacerbated and prolonged by the political divisions of Late Medieval Europe, the Schism, and the attendant absurdity of three people masquerading simultaneously as the one head of a nominally indivisible Church, is often cited by historians as a key period in which Europeans began to take on a more critical, even anti-clerical attitude toward the church. This was also a time when French popes in Avignon ignored Rome and Pisan popes such as John XXIII seemed to behave more like local generalissimos than spiritual figures. By 1415, political alignments and general exasperation with the inability of the Church to solve the issue at the Council of Pisa in 1409, lead to John XXIII convening a General Council of the Church at Constance under the strong influence of the German Emperor Sigismund. It is here that the story becomes much more complex and troubling when comparing it to the current situation. Gregory XII, who was then pope in Rome, effectively paved the way for the resolution of the Schism when he informed the council of his willingness to abdicate the Papal throne either at the beginning of the Council or after it; the Council accepted his resignation as the basis for proceeding with electing a universally recognized successor, Martin V, in 1418. John XXIII and the Avignon pretender Benedict XIII were also subsequently deposed by the Council. The voluntary abdication of Gregory XII must thus be understood as an example of a Pope stepping aside in order to secure the greater good of the Church, and the deposition of the other pretenders by the General Council can also not be ignored as a key moment when the Church took, for a while at least, a path toward a more conciliar nature in place of Papal absolutism. That the Popes eventually rid themselves of the councils, which had failed anyway to effectively carry out reform, cannot detract from the importance of Constance and of Gregory’s gesture. This, of course, is the obvious point of comparison with the modern case of Benedict. The image of Gregory stepping aside to allow a Council to do what was best for the good of the Church finds no direct parallel in Benedict’s case. Though the official reason given is of course his frail health, the truth of which I don’t think can be doubted, it should be remembered that Benedict has a reputation as a reluctant Pope, both at the time of his election and

now of his abdication, and there is a sense that he will be more happy at home quietly writing his theological works. But behind this it is not difficult to speculate that there might be other factors. The Catholic Church under Benedict has experienced numerous scandals and controversies, the most severe of which being the sexual abuse scandal that broke in 2010. Although Benedict was extremely visible in meeting with victims, critics point out that the Church’s response, which was for many years to move offending clergy from post to post, has remained largely torpid and ineffective. In this vein, it should be remembered that the new guidelines released in 2010 for disciplining offending clergy were themselves the center of controversy when they needlessly listed the ordination of female clergy as equally offensive as child molestation, apostasy, and schism. More recently, this past summer saw the Vatican crack down on a group of American nuns for devoting more of their efforts to charity work than to espousing highly conservative attitudes toward abortion and homosexuality. Critics have rightfully questioned why the Church has shown itself so quick to act against issues like abortion or women’s ordination, while far more serious issues like sexual abuse have been handled far less aggressively or openly. Benedict himself has also come under fire for controversial statements exonerating the Jews from blame in Christ’s death, a move that offended many despite being supported by some Jewish groups and religious leaders, or when in 2006 he quoted the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II’s critical words toward Islam, saying, “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” Benedict has by this time become a highly divisive and controversial figure, and it is not beyond the realm of the possible that his resignation reflects a loss of confidence in him by the Church hierarchy, and possibly a desire to elect a leader that, even if still conservative, will moderate the Church’s discourse enough to restore faith to many in Europe and America who have been put off by the conduct of the Church in recent years. On the other hand, it cannot be realistically said that Benedict is in any sense surrendering the destiny of the

Church to an uncertain direction, as he has meticulously picked like-minded, equally conservative cardinals throughout his reign. For all the speculation of whether the next Pope will hail from Latin America, Africa, or Asia, the truth remains that he will almost assuredly differ little on points of faith, principle, or policy from Benedict. Therein lies another glaring problem confronting the Catholic Church at this historic juncture: demographic change. As ABC News notes, half of the world’s Catholics now live in Latin America, but Europeans still dominate the College of Cardinals, even though Europe now accounts for only about a quarter of the Catholics and, to a much greater degree than Latin America or Africa, that number is shrinking to growing communities of Protestants and increasingly Nonbelievers. Just as with the issues of gay rights and feminism, the church seems to be institutionally unable to adjust to the shifting demographics and an increasingly liberal world. Even if the next Pope does come from Latin America or Africa, they will necessarily themselves be conservative and closely in touch with Euro-centric Rome, although it must be conceded that such a figure would likely spark some level of Catholic renewal either in Latin America or Africa. But if Benedict’s resignation is in fact a sign that the Church wants to move in a different direction, perhaps the College of Cardinals can match the historic papal resignation by taking recourse to a tactic they haven’t tried in seven hundred years: choosing a non-cardinal as pope. In 1294, faced with a Church mired in corruption, as the Medieval Church frequently was (and a College of Cardinals too tied to vested interests to enact real reform), they elected instead Pietro da Morrone, the monk and wandering holy man who founded the Celestines and was an outsider of unquestionable piety. Morrone was a man whom the College believed could overcome factionalism and renew the institutional Church. After only five months however, he found the Church incapable of reform and, like Gregory XII and Benedict XVI, he abdicated, only to find himself imprisoned by his successor, and later died in supposed foul-play. If such a benevolent man like Morrone could be found, perhaps the attempt could be made again. But, as the history of the Church makes clear, hoping for change of any appreciable sort is liable to leave one open to disappointment.

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PAge 10 ChroniCle, February 2013

debAte & diScouRSe
Ought Hate Crimes Warrant Stricter Punishment?
Hannah Matsunga, Debate & Discourse Editor Marya Pasciuto, Copy & Style Asst.


ach state defines the notion of a “hate crime” differently, but, in general, a hate crime is defined as a criminal offense, typically an act of violence or intimidation, that is intentionally targeted at an individual or their property because of the victim’s perceived or actual religion, race, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability status. Currently, forty-five states and the District of Columbia have penalty-enhancement laws, which award harsher sentences to perpetrators for crimes they’ve committed if the prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim of the crime was intentionally targeted in whole or in part because of their status as a member of a group protected by these laws. In this Debate of the Month, Debate & Discourse Editor Hannah Matsunaga ‘16 and Marya Pasciuto ‘16, a member of the Vassar Debate Society, discuss the following question: Ought Hate Crimes Warrant Enhanced Punishment? Marya Pasciuto ‘16: To begin, I’d like to draw an analogy to a related area of law. Hate crime laws are very similar to antidiscrimination laws, in that the legal language they use is similar and they often protect the same groups of people. Both areas of law are grounded in the battles for civil rights that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s. Anti-discrimination laws attempt to prevent discrimination in hiring based on race, religion, national origin, gender, or disability, while hate crime legislation seeks to prevent violence predicated on social prejudice. In an ideal world, prejudice and discrimination would not exist, but in the real world, they do, so we have laws in place to protect groups that are often the targets of discrimination or violence. Hate crime laws make sense for the same reason that anti-discrimination laws make sense; they ensure that all citizens have the same opportunities to live, work, and not be victimized based on something like religion or sexuality.

crime codifies into law what citizens are and aren’t allowed to think or believe, degrading the amendment which gives us our most basic freedoms. It’s important to remember that our right to free speech is not and should not be contingent on whether or not that speech is pleasant. This First Amendment right to free speech applies equally to Mr. Rogers singing children’s songs and the Westboro Baptist Church picketing soldier’s funerals or Vassar College. It applies to the right to burn a flag and do a bunch of other things that could be considered distasteful, wrong, and offensive. To put it simply, if I murder somebody, the thing that should matter is the fact that I committed a murder, not that my victim was gay or an ethnic minority or in some other protected group. Taking this idea further, the existence of hate crime laws essentially enables the government to prosecute thoughtcrime, which is the kind of 1984 stuff our Founding Fathers were not down with. Although most people find it distasteful to think in this way, bigots deserve all of the rights that non-bigots do, and they should be punished the same as non-bigots when they commit acts of violence. MP: Okay, but the justice system does look at intent when prosecuting crimes; it’s why we have a distinction between murder and manslaughter. The United States legal system has a set precedent that intent does matter. We say that killing somebody after planning it out thoroughly is worse than killing somebody by accident. We say that vandalizing property because you hate the somebody’s religion, race, or sexuality is worse than a random and senseless act of vandalism like writing “WAR ISN’T REAL” on the side of an academic building. Additionally, gang-related violence is punished more harshly than non-gang-related violence because the government recognizes that gang violence is more systematic and thus more dangerous. Hate crime laws aren’t used to prosecute thoughtcrime. Everyone has the right to his or her opinions—even if they’re bigoted—and what matters is whether or not these opinions manifest themselves in the form of violent actions against individuals. I like to think of it this way: you have the right to think what you want, because the government obviously can’t read your thoughts and you have the right to do whatever you want, so long as you don’t infringe upon the rights of others. Keeping your racist or homophobic or otherwise prejudiced thoughts to yourself means that you’re not harming anyone, but once you act on those thoughts by attacking someone, you’re violating another’s right to live in peace. HM: If we’re going to talk about the criminal justice system, we should break down what the purpose of a criminal justice system is and what a good one should desire to achieve. The four functions of a good criminal justice system are generally agreed upon as: retribution against the criminal, protection of society from further criminal acts, deterrence, and

Hannah Matsunaga ‘16: While I agree that hate crime laws and anti-discrimination laws impact the same groups, the problem with saying one is an extension of the other is that refusing to hire or promote somebody is in no way analogous with committing an act of violence or intimidation. Not hiring somebody is, in general, not a crime, but something like, say, beating someone senseless, is. Violence and intimidation are crimes on their own and should be treated as such. However, the issue of hate crimes boils down to free speech. Americans are and should be free to believe whatever they want. Our first and most sacred Constitutional Amendment says that Congress cannot infringe upon speech, assembly, religion, etc.: things that people believe in. Giving additional prison time for what the perpetrator of a crime was thinking at the time of the

tion. These four things are all fundamentally connected to actions, not thoughts. We can’t and shouldn’t punish people for having specific thoughts, even with really harsh laws, because we can’t take revenge on someone’s thoughts, nor can we deter thoughts or protect people from thoughts (by virtue of their not being actions), and prejudice is not something we can rehabilitate for. Bigotry is not a mental illness; it’s merely an alternative way of thinking that people are entitled to. We as a society don’t need to, and furthermore, shouldn’t aim to, change the way people think. To conclude: individuals are and should be allowed to have opinions, even when those opinions are negative or hateful. Furthermore, giving a harsher sentence to a criminal for a bias-motivated crime is likely to increase bias, not decrease it. Perpetrators will see themselves as victims of a system punishing them more harshly than others who commit the same crime for simply having different beliefs. With more uniform punishments, the government sends a message that justice truly is blind–it doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe. If you commit X crime, you will do Y time in prison for it. It’s simply fairer. MP: I’d argue that hate crime laws actually better serve the function of a successful criminal justice system, especially as a deterrent. Hate crimes are more often than not committed by people affiliated with hate groups, such as the KKK. Organizations like that need to know that there are laws in place that will punish them harshly for specific hateful actions. It’s also worth noting that people who commit hate crimes, especially those who are members of hate groups, are more likely to repeat their crimes after they’re released. Longer sentences for crimes of this nature ensure

the protection of potential hate crime victims in society. Hate crime laws offer a sense of safety to victims and potential victims. They’re the government’s way of saying, “We acknowledge that prejudice exists and we are trying to make sure that you are as safe as possible from it.” Additionally, when hate crimes occur, victimization is not limited to the individual victim of the crime; hate crimes don’t just injure people, they injure society. All members of the targeted group are victimized in an indirect way. The KKK burning a cross on one black family’s lawn doesn’t just impact that one black family; it impacts all people exposed to it. I also think that offender rehabilitation is a substantial justification for prosecuting hate crimes. It is in everyone’s best interest that people who commit crimes fueled by hatred of other people based on their race, sexuality, gender, etc. learn how to function in society without putting people in physical peril. Of course, the penal system can’t drive the hate out of a person, but maybe we can try to counsel those who commit hate crimes to refrain from acting on their bigoted thoughts when they get out of prison. HM: Okay, so in essence, this is a debate about the tension between the right of an individual to hold beliefs that society may deem unpleasant and the obligation of a government to make sure that its citizens, especially those in marginalized groups, feel safe. I think you’ve done a solid job of proving why hate crimes are bad, but I still don’t buy that a government, especially one that values free speech as much as we do, can police the private thoughts and innermost beliefs of a human being, even if that policing provides general benefit. If a racist commits a murder, try him for murder, not murder and racism.

ChroniCle, February 2013

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debAte & diScouRSe
Enshrinement of “Free Speech” Devalues Speech
Ethan Madore Alumnus


he Westboro Baptist Church plans to picket Vassar later this week and students are doing an excellent job in organizing a response. As with many groups of its ilk, from the Ku Klux Klan to the American Nazi Party, the WBC inspires little open support from outside of its own ranks. I have rarely met a person who wanted to openly defend the WBC’s message, though I do know many, even among the WBC’s most ardent opponents, who would—when pressed—defend its right to proclaim its message where anyone else would have that right. The reason: that even the most vile among us keeps their right to free speech. While that might currently be the case, the question of whether or not that ought be the case receives infrequent attention. Most of us take it for granted that a specifically enumerated freedom of speech is an essential component to good governance and do not consider how it might be otherwise. While an official reassessment of our First Amendment is currently—for many reasons—a political impossibility, I am not convinced that it deserves the reverence we give it. I contend that the freedom of speech can be seen to do society more harm than good and that arguments that assume the importance of free speech do little service to the messages they allegedly defend. Why does our constitution ensure free speech and not, for example, a broader freedom of action? The driving underlying assumption is that speech cannot be directly violent: actions are potentially violent and demand obvious regulation, but speech, at its worse, merely incites violence. This assumption falsely conflates violence with physical abuse, disregarding the existence of non-physical violence by misunderstanding the core of what constitutes a violent act. Violence is, at its core, a forceful imposition of a limit. It diminishes the capacities of another person, either ultimately through murder or by lesser means such as injury or forceful restraint. While inflammatory speech often elicits physical violence, speech itself can be directly violent in at least two ways. First, misinformation greatly reduces a person’s ability to make proper decisions, to act in desired ways, and to fully exercise a rational capacity. A politician’s lie, for example, that a potential enemy assuredly has weapons of mass destruction and the intent to use them offensively, does not merely incite the violence of war; it is directly violent against the citizenry by destroying their ability to make an informed decision or to achieve a higher level of truth. Such an act of deception does not vary in any significant way with the use of physical violence to coercively achieve a desired result. In a modern, information-based society, misleading statements are often more directly harmful to a person’s capacities than a savage beating. The second way in which speech is directly

violent comes from an understanding of identity as a codification of personal limits. An individual measures and records his perceptions of his capacities within the notion of his own identity. Identity is not formed in isolation, but rather in the interplay between the individual and society, a process that occurs through the dynamic medium of language. Insofar that the cumulative effect of speech shapes the landscape of language, it changes the terms by which individuals express their identities and perceive their abilities and

however, counter with the notion that if the problem in society is bad speech, then the solution is more speech, not limitations on speech rights. This proposed truism rests on the optimistic notion that there is attainable truth that negates and is easily more convincing than currently circulated falsehoods. It is somewhat less than a step away from the naive worldview that maintains that things get better and problems are solved unaided, save by time—that good, by its nature, triumphs over evil. Of course, easily grasped notions


limits. Because it is exactly that perception that limits, an identity is violently changed when it internalizes specific connotations pressed onto it by speech. For example, the Westboro Baptist Church’s deplorable rhetoric infects discourse surrounding homosexuality with bizarre and monstrous claims. If components of that rhetoric are absorbed into the lexicon of sexuality and are internalized by individuals in a way that either limits the scope of identities seen as available to them or impacts how they perceive their own capacities because of how they identify themselves, then violence has been achieved. If you accept that language at least influences the range and shape of potential thoughts (even if it does not, as some argue, strongly determine them) and that language is constantly reforged through individual uses of speech, then the true power of speech is unveiled. While this expansive definition of violence implies that speech of violent potential is widespread essentially in any society, I do not mean to argue that it would be proper to ban all speech that can loosely be defined as harmful. Rather, I advocate this understanding merely to show that speech is not a special, benign category of action: it has consequences that individuals cannot simply ignore or overcome through force of will and specific instances of speech can be judged by those consequences, just as specific actions are permitted or suppressed through a tally of their merits. Proponents of unbridled speech,

of definitive truth are often as far away as manifestations of absolute good and evil. There is no reason to assume that good speech prevails or that violent speech will be shunned and harmful claims dislodged without a mechanism for collective action. Discriminatory speech has not disappeared and bad assumptions, once propagated, can just as easily become entrenched in our culture and institutions as rejected by them. Additionally, there is often even more personal incentive to spread misleading information than to give an argument in more frank, rational terms. In our current system, a politician has more reason to run an attack ad that misleads voters while narrowly avoiding direct slander than to take the time to explain the complexities of an issue. The voice that delivers hate speech is often louder and more impassioned than its rational rebuttal. The strongest argument for free speech is the allegation that it is the only way to prevent a sort of tyranny—that without the defined right to speech we would live in an Orwellian world of unconscionable government acts and heinous crimes without the power to speak out against it. Many have argued that once you begin to limit some speech you are on a slippery slope to suppressing all speech. There is, however, a reason why the “slippery-slope argument” is more correctly known as the slippery-slope fallacy if it is presented without a mechanism. In order to accept the proposition that moderate regulation

of a thing will eventually lead to its complete abolition, you necessarily accept, as a corollary argument, that rights are only stable in their extreme form: that in order to safely ensure that some commerce is permitted, all commerce must be permitted. This reasoning is absurd, and frequently employed by extremists in order to limit the debate to a choice between extremes, which is the only way that their positions can masquerade as reasonable. While a single change might have a cost-lowering effect for subsequent changes in certain instances, there is no reason to believe that the regulation of speech would move beyond a reasonable level if the bright-line was set anywhere other than at speech’s non-regulation. We trust government institutions to regulate an endless number of actions without the paralyzing fear of our rights vanishing. We do not expect that laws prohibiting the sale of cocaine will lead to the confiscation of lemonade stands or that mandate of a certain style of dress will follow from our regulation of public nudity. Why, then, do we have to coddle speech? Americans often assume that we are protected by our Bill of Rights and yet it seems the rights specifically enumerated in our Constitution are the ones most often considered under threat. The slipperyslope argument is more frequently used in the context of free speech, freedom of religion, and gun rights, than seemingly any other right. The rights to life, property, privacy, expression, education, and health—all of which many would consider as more dear than speech rights—are either unmentioned by the Constitution, only tangentially derived from other rights, or included with specific mention of how they can be taken way. And yet we are able to both value these things and regulate them without dire fear for their extinction. It might be the case the framers of the Constitution wisely enumerated the rights they knew would become besieged and trusted to commonsense active governance to protect other rights, but I disagree. I suspect that there is more reason to believe that it is the very enshrinement of a right that hinders its ability to contribute to good governance. Our enshrinement of rights creates bad priorities and hobbles otherwise effective solutions. When something is taken as a paramount and inflexible rule, whose seed is divine endowment, it becomes a very brittle thing. If we protect a value by turning it into a clause in a document we elevate over ourselves, we risk allowing its presence in that document to be its most cited reason for importance. That is why the slippery-slope argument then becomes the most prominent defensive tool for an enumerated right: the impact of the slippery slope is tautological. It asserts that the harm in limiting speech is the eventual limitation of more speech, without establishing the underlying reasons for why speech is valuable. Over time, the buttressing philosophy of a right becomes ignored as the simple existence of the right takes all prominence. Eventually, individuals are no longer as capable of Continued on Page 13

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ChroniCle, February 2013

Rights Framework Obscures Debate Over Utility of Speech
Continued from Page 12 articulating why a right is necessary and therefore become susceptible to the violation of the spirit of a right, so long as such actions are not seen as directly prohibited by a right’s specific wording. For example, we are more willing to deny due process to non-citizens when our goal is merely fidelity to the Constitution, rather than fulfilling the value of having a high standard of deliberation and truth when deciding punishment. Wherever the jurisdiction of a right ends, so does the value it attempts to maintain. Enshrined rights also create impossible demands. Situations when rights compete with one another, or when upholding a right would cause great harm, lead to instances within which rights are eventually abridged. This happens constantly under our current system. The truth is, speech is limited all the time by the courts in many commonsense rulings. The problem is that we still have a document saying we have an unqualified right to free speech, as well as an unabridged right to bear arms, and many other specifically enumerated, seemingly absolute rights—a document or not specific speech is worth its costs, but whether or not certain speech is even legitimate speech, or speech at all. This is by far a greater devaluation of that speech and a more permanent bar to reconsidering its acceptability in the future than deciding that a statement is speech not worth its consequences in a specific context. In hand with the paradoxical weakening of consecrated rights, unnamed principles become devalued in contrast to enumerated ones. This gives rise to the bizarre notion that we do not legislate morality, when in fact essentially every action we take through government encapsulates a normative claim. If we allow ourselves to become dependent on textual expressions of shared morality, we lose the means to advocate for causes that are not specifically mentioned as rights. The loose notions of health or living free from fear seem less important compared to enumerated rights to speech and arms, and therefore the very principles we mean to maintain erode values that we might have once thought were even more intuitive. a right incurs collateral damage and it becomes apparent that its moderate and stable regulation would have a net beneficial effect, then there is no reason, apart from the misguided deification of rights into a sort of public, secular religion, to always uphold it. It is true that, absent from any other factors, the ability to speak freely enhances a person’s ability to lead his desired life. There are many instances in which allowing certain speech incurs much more harm than its suppression. Why can’t the tools we design for collective action regulate speech in the same way that it regulates so much else? A categorical rejection of authority’s power to regulate speech is as wrong as a categorical acceptance of all speech as proper. Arguments for allowing certain individuals’ speech made under the assumed paramount importance of free speech evaluate only whether or not a thing is speech, thus devaluing its specific message. If we allow a dissident group to speak only because of a requirement, then we do not truly care if their message is heard or think that speech has any value. We merely accept it on the distant principle of accepting speech. There are specific reasons why we value speech and try to err on the side of leniency, preferring to allow speech unless there is an overwhelming reason not to. Increased discourse shepherds good decision-making and increases estimations of citizens’ efficacy. Diverse speech that encourages disagreement enriches the public’s intellectual and artistic life and allowing that variance of opinion reminds us that most issues have no clean answer and it is not the duty of our shared institutions to decide proper opinions in every instance. There are, however, instances of speech to which these benefits are alien: violent speech, or speech which makes no attempt to contribute to public discourse other than in inflammatory ways or that corrodes the ability of others to speak. In specific cases, we better fulfill values when we limit those instances of speech. If the benefits gained through limitation outweigh a careful consideration of the harms of both losing that speech and the cost of limiting an instance of speech, and such a decision is openly and fairly made, then we should limit that speech. The Westboro Baptist Church’s protests might be one such instance, along with other impassioned hate speech. This approach to evaluating speech could also provide tools to regulate out of control campaign finance, empowering us to look beyond absurdities like “money is speech” and instead investigate whether or not free spending on political messaging buffets or supports our values. The change I advocate is essentially one of attitude: to resist endowing simple safeguards with overriding agency and undue reverence. I’m obviously not a constitutional scholar, but I guess that the elevation of rights to the level of dogma is related to the position of religion in contemporary America. Even though our Constitution is interpreted to promise a separation of church and state, there is likely more truth to the assertion that America was founded with a Christian identity in mind than we care to articulate. The First Amendment’s non-establishment clause was probably intended more to prevent one denomination gaining state sanction in light of the repeated religious conflicts in England in the centuries leading up to America’s independence. That is not to say that identity should determine how we treat religion in America today, and as America has become increasingly

debAte & diScouRSe

“The American popular approach to governance falsely holds our rights to be inalienable while seeing our well-being as expendable.”

Extremist protestors illustrate the potentially violent nature of speech.


our government maintains it is faithful to. This creates a sort of cognitive dissonance. Either we see that the Constitution is inaccurate, in which case it loses its power by not reflecting the society it attempts to outline, or—even worse—we doggedly uphold the notion that the Bill of Rights isn’t violated by these limitations. We therefore are forced to recast obvious violations of rights in order to maintain this illusion. Thus our definitions of what constitutes speech, or bearing arms, shift to exclude specific incarnations of those rights that we have decided are OK to ban. Arguments are not over whether

The American popular approach to governance falsely holds our rights to be inalienable while seeing our wellbeing as expendable. We often miss the notion of what rights are, allowing them to become ends themselves. A right is merely a crude approximation of a value, a rule that we institute not for its self-evidence, but rather from the fear that we have no perfect institution that can correctly choose when to uphold its principles. It is an axiom that we phrase as an entitlement and accept on the basis that it will contribute to a harmonious society. If the universal application of

cosmopolitan the non-establishment of religion has been reinterpreted to mean a wider disassociation from any religion, which I would call a good change. The thing is, early Americans, living in a more homogenous society in terms of religion, had a mostly shared reverence for some form of the Bible and all of its supplementary interpretation, giving them a unifying document that expressed, more comprehensively, the values they wanted for society and the reasoning behind the enshrinement of those values, even if those reasons were contained in parables or were primarily divine mandate. As our understanding of the separation of church and state moved towards its modern form, religion became an increasingly inappropriate and ineffective medium through which to discuss shared values, leaving a vacuum that was filled by increased reverence for our remaining shared documents, most prominently the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The problem is that both of these are declarative documents. They give a partial list of values without any attempt to outline relative priorities, to explain the reasoning behind their claims, or to provide a source for their “self-evident” assertions. And at an even more fundamental level, a list of restrictions cannot be anything more than a supplement to articulations of guiding values. What we need is a shared project through which to express the values we want to manifest in our society and a list of qualified rights and values that includes specific reasoning based off of accessible and modern moral and political philosophy. We should endow our government not only with the duty of protecting certain rights, but with principles that legitimize and expand the scrutiny of the courts, the power to moderately and considerately abridge those rights, and the ability to clearly articulate the importance of those values and protections. —Ethan Madore ‘12 is a co-founder and former Senior Editor of the Vassar Chronicle.

ChroniCle, February 2013

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Django Unchained Illustrates Liberal Pat-on-the-Back Syndrome
Gregory Perry Natl. & Foreign Affairs Asst.

debAte & diScouRSe

jango Unchained has been receiving quite a lot of attention recently. In the interest of consciousness-raising, the new Quentin Tarantino film features a marathon of black people getting demoralized and mutilated in front of white people chuckling in suits. The acclaimed retribution scene comes in the last twenty minutes or so of this nearly three-hour film. Aside from a few earlier short-lived, yet powerful, revenge scenes against slave-owners, the rest of the film is composed of unabashed and resentful condescension in the opposite direction. Controversy has been raised regarding both the frequent use of racial slurs as well as the extent of gore throughout the film. Some consider both as prerequisites for any depiction of slavery claiming to do some justice to our actual history, and I do not necessarily disagree with them. I wish not to deal with these issues, as I believe there is a greater predicament to be delved into. The film is commended because it leaves people feeling disturbed, guilty, and uncomfortable, as the history should make us feel. As we watch the depiction of the toothless, jabbering slave trying to spell, and we pat ourselves on the back for our awareness “appreciation” of the circumstances–products of reprehensible systems of oppression— we must keep in mind that there exists an alternative commentary in the United States. The fact is that most people are not adequately educated in this country, and thus they do not have an adequate appreciation of history. Outside of our blissful liberal enclaves exists a vast geographical majority of the United States which operates within an entirely different framework of reference. While liberals transform the tightening of their stomachs into a selfcongratulatory elation of how far we’ve come, they seem to be oblivious as to how far we still must go. Racism is still profuse in the United States, both in our institutions and mentalities. Although I entertain notions of artistic value, Django—as a Hollywood production—is fundamentally entertainment. Its purpose entails the accrued profits that correspond to maximized consumption. The incessant degradation of blacks in this film is celebrated as accurate within liberal spheres, in a context of a somewhat informed discussion about the vast systematic atrocities that have been implemented in the United States. But this context is not universal. Whether or not the work was intended as exploitation is somewhat irrelevant. The fact is that it allows exploitative manners of consumption. This type of consciousness-raising, although valuable, is utterly inadequate as a deterrent to racism. It’s not that the film perpetuates or solidifies racism directly,


although it may in some places. It most certainly does, however, lead people to adopt mentalities that solidify the status quo. While the integrity of Tarantino may warrant separate discussion, it must be pointed out that this film caters to consumption by audiences on both sides of the spectrum. The caricature of the ignorant, babbling slave evokes very different thought processes in a hefty slice of the American populace. Lots of hopeful, well-intentioned liberals would love to point out that there exists a significant difference between violence-prone, hate-infused racism and the mom-and-pop brand of naïve, “well-intentioned” racism, merely “born from ignorance.” This is problematic in a couple of ways. First of all, those who entertain the notion that we have transcended overt racism, and have entered into a distinct era of “modern racism,” are sorely mistaken. They forget that the civil rights movement was by no means a smooth transition and that the individuals who composed the opposition did not cease to exist after legislation was passed. The unfavorable truth is that those people have indeed endured and procreated, subsequently passing on their world views to younger generations. It is certainly true that the degree of open racism in the country has decreased to some extent. However, it still persists in abundance. To deemphasize this fact is to prolong it. Secondly, constructions of this type imply a dichotomy of “the lesser of two evils” that is wholly inappropriate. Contrasting “bad racism” with “not as bad” racism creates the idea of “not so bad racism,” for which there is no place in contemporary discourse. The lesser of two evils is not an applicable framework to two unacceptable and avoidable options. The idea of the “modern racism” that

Madeleine Morris

“While liberals transform the tightening of their stomachs into a selfcongratulatory elation of how far we’ve come, they seem to be oblivious as to how far we still must go.”

we have achieved being less reprehensible than violence-prone racism is toxic. However agreeable it may seem at face value, it is an idea that facilitates complacency. To set up a contraposition between these two options is to artificially elevate the justifiability of the former. Both forms are abhorrent. It is selfevident that a decrease in overt and violence-prone racism constitutes progress. But to venerate such a change, in the presence of such an unyielding problem, reinforces the tendency to erroneously equate racism to “hating

black people.” Racism includes allegedly “benign” forms of ignorance, and is not confined to association with explicit animosity. All racism stems from ignorance, thus the categorizing of naïveté-induced racism becomes utterly meaningless. Such a distinction serves only to legitimate intolerance. Accountability for one’s ignorance is quite a different discussion from that of the presence of racism. One can distinguish only between civil racists and hostile racists. Malevolence and threats of violence are already unacceptable, regardless of a racial component. Neither explicit hate, nor the implication of violence, is a prerequisite for the legitimate labeling of something as racist. Sentiments such as “I don’t hate black people, they just scare me sometimes,” or “I’m just not ready for a black president,” are unequivocally racist. Yet, they often go unchallenged or excused, in contrast to the belligerent “racism of the past.” The pat-on-the-back undermines the persistence of the problem. Congratulating ourselves too early and too frequently is not only unprofitable; it is starkly counterproductive. We emphasize contrast between the past and the present at the expense of future progress. Although one could argue that the depiction of the decrease in racism as a positive step might alter conventional wisdom for the better, it must be pointed out that there has been a serious confusion between wishful thinking and reality. (See post-feminism for an example). Our children are taught that we live in a “colorblind society” in order to inspire them to be “colorblind.” This sounds all well and good. But when the world we actually live in still suffers from

racism permeating all levels of society, this teaching strategy yields more of a blindness to racism than a blindness to “race.” New York City’s “Stop and Frisk” policy proves more than adequate to demonstrate the types of structural racism that still permeate the United States today. The policy’s expressed purpose is to remove guns from the street and to decrease gun crime. In 2011, the NYPD made 685,000 stops, and found 780 guns. 85% of stops were black or Hispanic, who make up less than 54% of the population of the city. Young (aged 14-24) black/Latino men make up just 4.7% of the population, yet constituted 41.6% of stops. Of all the stops conducted, 605,000 (88.3%) were found to not have engaged in any unlawful behavior whatsoever. More than half of the reports listed “furtive movement” as the reason for the stop, which simply amounts to an officer’s personal hunch. A weapon of any kind was found just 1.9% of the time. Young black men number at about 158,000 in the population, and 168,000 in stop count. The number of stops of young black men exceeds their total population by ten thousand. When one projects an embellished image of success, the result is a deflated construction of the persistence of the problem. This clearly impedes the ability to solve it. Liberals have become so busy being proud of having their gut wrenched, and of having come such a long way, that they falter in their depiction of how much still must be gained. The propensity to prematurely selfcongratulate is detrimental to progress. Racism is still ubiquitous in both our institutions and our mentalities. Anything that deemphasizes this fact yields the effect of prolonging it.

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ChroniCle, February 2013

Students to Host Founder’s Day Events at President’s Home
Joshua Sherman Contributor


embers of the Vassar College administration, VSA Executive Board, and Founder’s Day Committee announced Sunday that, in lieu of traditional Founder’s Day events normally hosted at Ballantine Field, the VSA will be hosting a “baller-ass” party at President Catherine “Cappy” Bond Hill’s house. “What Cappy doesn’t know won’t hurt her,” said a member of the VSA Executive Council, “Plus, Sergeant Sal’s down to party–he already contributed $150 for a seriously sweet kegger.” This semester, Cappy’s house found itself unoccupied, as Hill left for her sabbatical at Oxford. The Founder’s Day Committee saw this as a prime opportunity to host the greatest Founder’s Day in Vassar’s history. The President’s House has been a home to seven of our Presidents, and with them a multitude of social gatherings, but according to the Vassar historian, “Never has this humble home been exposed to a party of this magnitude. Little Matty V [Matthew Vassar] himself would be proud.” It’s already clear the College community is

preparing for a gala like none other this May, and everyone is quickly showing their support for the grand occasion. Acting President John Chenette expressed his full support for the new Founder’s Day plans, adding that, “as long as it’s not at my house, you’re free to go wild.” Chenette also added that, “Deep down, I also know this is exactly what Cappy would want for our Vassar family. Williams has been outdoing our parties for too long now, and we need to show them what Vassar is made of.” In an e-mailed statement, Dean of the College Chris Roellke also gave his blessings to the upcoming festivities at Cappy’s residence, and offered to open his home–Pratt House–up for overflow if necessary. He encouraged the move in the hopes that it will help bring Vassar’s inaugural values back to the campus. He stated, “I feel a lot of the meaning behind Founder’s Day has been lost in recent years as our campus has evolved. We need to remember what Founder’s Day is really about: celebrating the achievements of a rich white man whfo made his fortune making booze.” Roellke also went on to applaud the many creative ideas he had

heard from the organizations involved in Founder’s Day so far, and looked forward to see how the final event would unfold. New plans for Founder’s Day are being worked out in great detail with the Founder’s Day Committee, but support and collaboration has been pouring in from all across the student body and many organizations. To reflect the new location, the Founder’s Day Committee has already announced that the theme for Founder’s Day will no longer be “Alice in Wonderland;” instead, the theme will be “Party on the Hill.” Students will be encouraged to wear gender neutral business-casual power suits and scarves. Awards are to be given not only for “Most Cappy-esque,” but also for whichever Economics student can chug a six-pack the fastest. Several campus organizations are already hard at work helping implement the Founder’s Day festivities. ViCE has requested funds to install a 5,000 watt subwoofer in the basement to keep the “bass bumpin’” for the duration of the weekend, and the Vassar Greens are currently installing tire swings and hammocks on the trees surrounding the President’s House. The

VC Punx have begun removing antique, priceless furniture from the sitting room, bedrooms, and study for a huge bonfire on the lawn surrounding the home. Although Founder’s Day is traditionally celebrated with carnival rides and pedestrian vendor food, this year the Committee plans on bringing string quartets, an outdoor ballroom dance floor, and free caviar. Merchandise for purchase will include diamonds engraved with “Founder’s Day 2013” and handmade silk bowties in Vassar’s traditional rose and gray. Buildings & Grounds is working around the clock on converting all the sinks in Cappy’s home to beer faucets, to serve a special stout developed by the chemistry department in a makeshift “Brewer’s Brewery” established in Cappy’s master bathroom. Activities will include champagne pong in the dining room and limo rides around campus. “It’s almost magical how we’re all coming together for this occasion,” a student from the Founder’s Day Committee told us, “It’s great to see that there are at least two things all students can get behind: free alcohol and the destruction of school property.”

Vassar Cracks Down On Ivy League Whorehouse
Zack Struver Senior Editor


assar College recently came under intense criticism for the now widely reported Ivy League whorehouses being operated on campus. Vassar Safety & Security recently deflowered one such whorehouse in TA 38 [disclosure: Vassar Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Will Serio ’13 lives in TA 38] this past Thursday, after neighbors complained that they had seen women of alleged “improprietous character” consistently flowing in and out of the apartment all night. Collectively, the housemates have denied the allegation, but when one of the residents, who chose to remain anonymous, spoke with the Chronicle, he said, “Yeah, we’ve got some real Ivy League whores here, especially [name redacted]. But really, we’re just a small fraction, the tip of a rod that’s rammed itself down the middle of Vassar’s once-pure community.” Don Marsala, Vassar’s Director of Safety & Security, noted in a campus-wide e-mail that this shut-down, as well as other recent actions performed by Safety & Security, was a part of “Operation Big Bang.” Marsala claims that this is an attempt to

end the underground prostitution scene on campus led by “Madame Cappy,” or Vassar College President Catherine Bond Hill, who is on sabbatical this semester. “While the Madame’s away, the whores we’ll slay,” wrote Marsala. Indeed, the scandal has shot off beyond just the one senior apartment. The Chronicle, in conjunction with affiliates at the Westboro Baptist Church, unrobed a prostitution ring that has erected a massive presence on campus. “Almost every dorm on campus houses at least 10 Ivy League whores,” said a member of the college’s Campus Life Committee in a recent statement, “They generally pick up their Johns at campus events, like Mug Nights and Villard Room parties.” These shocking revelations have caused many within the college community to confront difficult questions. “I’m worried that my neighbor may be an Ivy League whore,” explained one sophomore, “There’s just no other way to explain his cosmopolitan attitude and preppy clothing.” One Ivy League whore, however, warned the Chronicle that there are more of them than we think. “Almost anybody can be an Ivy League whore,” said our source, under condition of anonymity, “in fact, most Vassar students are.”

knoW you’Re funny? WRite foR the chRonicLe.
iVy league Whore “reaDS” book
ChroniCle, February 2013
Zack Struver

PAge 15

The LasT Page
“We Will burn that briDge When We Come to it.” — Johann WolFgang Von goethe

Madeleine Morris

ChroniCle, February 2013