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  • Ridley Scott’s Napoleon

    Upon learning about Ridley Scott’s upcoming film on Napoleon last summer, I immediately selected a Napoleon biography as part of my summer reading list to acquaint myself with the historical context in expectation of Scott's highly anticipated movie. I was particularly captivated by the monumental work Napoleon: A Life by the prominent British historian Andrew Roberts. Roberts’ meticulous approach painted a comprehensive portrait of Bonaparte, delving into his intellectual development, personal relationships, and military genius. Noteworthy is Roberts’ dedication, having personally visited fifty-three of Napoleon's sixty battle sites during his research. It is regrettable that Scott, a compatriot of Roberts, did not exhibit the same level of professionalism when portraying one of history's most captivating figures on the cinema screen. My visit to Claremont Laemmle theater to watch Scott's Napoleon was approached with skepticism –– given the criticism from Napoleonic Era historians regarding the movie's historical accuracy. Therefore, instead of concentrating on Scott’s lack of knowledge of Bonaparte and his era, I watched the movie to infer Scott’s underlying messages in the film. As you may know, Scott's works typically carry a political undertone. For instance, in the Kingdom of Heaven, which was shot in the post-9/11 political climate where Islamophobia peaked, Scott’s portrayal of Saladin and King Baldwin was interpreted as the director’s call for interfaith dialogue. So, it is inevitable to consider the contemporary political environment's influence on the making of Scott's Napoleon. The intense anti-Putin sentiments in the West following the Russian invasion of Ukraine form the intellectual basis of Scott's work. Portraying Napoleon merely as a power-hungry, ruthless, and evil figure seems to be an attempt to draw parallels between the 19th-century French leader and Vladimir Putin. Scott's explicit comparison of Bonaparte to totalitarian figures like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, as revealed in an interview, sheds light on the grand motive behind the movie. One doesn't need to watch the entire film to reach this conclusion; the ending, where Scott attributes all deaths in the Napoleonic wars to Napoleon, is telling. If Scott had presented a more nuanced portrayal, such as showcasing Napoleon's scientific expedition in Egypt instead of fabricating events like the bombardment of the Pyramids, perhaps I could have sympathized with Scott's Anglo-Saxon Grudge to some extent.

  • Goldwater’s Legacy is Trumpism

    Superficially, the two leaders of the conservative movements of their time could not be more different. Barry Goldwater was resolute and well-spoken; Donald Trump is goofy and simplistic. Goldwater would’ve cringed at Trump’s comments about Mexicans or Muslims. And the man that respectfully conceded the 1964 election definitely would not have approved of the January 6th attack. But regardless of Mr. Conservative’s would-be objections, Trump – and his supporters – are a natural result of Goldwater’s influence on the American Right, distrust of the political establishment, “outsider” identity, and emphasis on states’ rights. The clearest parallel between Goldwater and Trump is their tendency to view the establishment in Washington and the other halls of power as corrupt and beholden to pernicious interests. Goldwater disparaged the “radical ideas that were promoted by the New and Fair Deals,” that “dominate the councils of our national government,” in his manifesto Conscience of a Conservative. According to Goldwater, this included a belief in excessive government power and a conciliatory disposition towards the Soviet Union. Trump’s rhetoric of “Drain the Swamp” reflects much the same attitude: that the nation’s capital is overrun with crooked politicians seeking to enlarge their own power and influence at the expense of the American people. When Trump blasts the “Swamp,” he’s not just referring to Democrats – he’s after establishment Republicans too; he has denounced “RINOS,” or “Republicans in name only.” But once again, Goldwater did it first. In Conscience, he criticized the national Republicans for utilizing “the coercive power of the federal government” in tandem with their Democratic counterparts. Their willingness to criticize their own party reflects a common identity of an outsider who promises to save the party and the nation from its corruption. This identity seeks to capitalize on the growing distrust of politicians, especially career politicians, of the American people. They both sought to represent the common American citizen in their fight against an unscrupulous, narrow-minded, and elitist group of federal politicians who were not truly accountable to the people. Because both claimed to represent not just a party, but a movement, neither of them held strong party allegiances that compelled them to withhold their judgment of their fellow members. By appearing non-partisan in their criticisms, they both amassed followers from both major parties, at what they viewed as the temporary – and necessary – expense of the national party apparatus. Goldwater’s “outsider” strategy was indicative of the birth of a modern American conservative populism. Conservative populism stood in contrast to the left-wing populism of the New Deal Coalition and the segregationist – yet still government centered – populism of certain Dixiecrats. Instead of pitting the people against exploitative corporations, the libertarian populist style of Goldwater pitted the common man against the “oppressive federal government.” Arguably, this form of populism was more suited to the America of the 60s: a prosperous nation with a large and growing middle class than that of previous eras. Ronald Reagan did not hesitate to build upon Goldwater’s libertarian populist ideology. In fact, he first gained national attention from his "A Time for Choosing" speech supporting Goldwater. Reagan would go on to launch his 1980 campaign, whistling his support for 'state's-rights,' in front of a crowd of white voters in a Mississippi town where young Black civil rights activists had been violently murdered during the civil rights movement. Of course, those slain in Mississippi had been fighting for the very Civil Rights Act that Goldwater notoriously opposed. Trump represents a revival of not only the “outsider” strategy, but of the same form of anti-establishment populism. Even beyond his “Drain the Swamp” rhetoric, he continues Goldwater’s populist legacy by attempting to address issues facing the working class, such as the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to foreign countries – but with conservative rhetoric. The campaign promise of “bringing the jobs back” also allows Trump to blame the “Swamp” for “selling out” the United States to foreign nations like China and position himself, the “outsider,” as the one that is “defending American interests.” Even the charge of establishment complicity in Chinese attempts at exploitation is reminiscent of Goldwater’s claim in Conscience that “American leaders … are searching desperately for means of ‘appeasing’ or ‘accommodating’ the Soviet Union.” Beyond identity and rhetoric, Trump and Goldwater still share a commitment to states’ rights: Trump’s view on abortion is remarkably comparable to Goldwater’s regarding civil rights. Recently, Trump, the self-proclaimed “most pro-life president ever,” was rebuked by an anti-abortion group for stating that abortion laws should be determined by individual states after the Dobbs decision. Goldwater, similarly, was supportive of integration, but was “not prepared … to impose that judgment … on the people of Mississippi or South Carolina.” Despite major sections of the Republican Party’s support for federal abortion bans, Trump – whether because of a desire for electability or true personal beliefs – thus maintains the position that would make Goldwater proud. Even Trump’s rise to national leadership mirrored Goldwater’s. At the 1964 Republican National Convention, moderate Nelson Rockefeller, Goldwater’s main competitor for the nomination, stood up and condemned the Arizona senator’s extremism. The crowd booed and heckled him. The American Right was no longer satisfied with lightly tempered spending and careful internationalism. In 2016 Ted Cruz gave a similarly poorly received Republican Convention speech failing to endorse Trump, the newly selected nominee. Once again, amidst the crowd’s jeers, the nation realized that its right wing hungered for a more conservative, populist vision. Both Goldwater and Trump successfully led an internal movement that usurped the dominant perspective of the party – only Trump actually achieved the presidency. If Goldwater lived to see what became of his party, he probably would have made a few horrified comments to the press about Trump’s antics. But secretly, inside, he might’ve wanted to give a smile of approval.

  • The Claremont Institute Strikes Again

    Not far from the Claremont Colleges sits an ideological mecca of Trump’s populist brand of conservatism. A think tank that grabbed headlines over the last eight years through numerous mishaps, including an infamous comparison of Trump’s 2016 campaign to Flight 93 passengers fighting back against Al-Qaeda on 9/11. They awarded Jack Posobiec, who initiated the Pizzagate conspiracy, a fellowship in 2019. They stood by when Senior Fellow John Eastman spearheaded Trump’s fraudulent election challenge on Jan 6th. The “West Coast Straussians'' at the Claremont Institute once commanded respect among conservative intellectuals. Now they are synonymous with conspiracy and the far right of the Republican party’s schism. Harry V. Jaffa, a former CMC professor known for his application of Straussian philosophy to American political thought and Lincoln, taught the four students who founded the Institute. Their mission was to establish a holdout against historicism, statism, and relativism. The founders of the Claremont Institute’s rejection of Hegelian thought and postmodern philosophy laid the foundation for their mission “to restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life.” One might believe that those who place such value in the Nation’s founding principles — and in the republican institutions the Framers built —- would reject political figures who advocate for their erosion. But the Claremont Institute continues to surprise us, even after the entire John Eastman January 6th debacle. In January, the New York Times published ‘America Is Under Attack’: Inside the Anti-D.E.I. Crusade, recounting a systematic right-wing effort to dismantle diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs at universities and schools. At the heart of this thrust against DEI is the Claremont Institute. The Times gathered evidence of the Claremont Institute’s involvement in a campaign to pass legislation and spur movements that cleanse education of what they categorize as ‘woke indoctrination.’ Successful bans on DEI offices, programs, and training in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Florida are early crusades in what is shaping up to be a prolonged battle over school curriculums. Despite publicly advocating for academic freedom, the Institute’s movement covertly seeks to rid university systems of left-wing professors. While organizing the defense of Amy Wax, a University of Pennsylvania Professor accused of racism, the Claremont Institute worked with their established allies at Hillsdale College — another bastion of Trump’s conservatism. They grounded their arguments in stirring liberal fears that firing the professor would “only embolden red-state lawmakers to fire controversial left-wing professors.” Inquiring about the strategy, Dr. Azerrad, a Hillsdale professor, asked over email: “But don’t we want this to happen?” “Yes,” replied Claremont Fellow Dr. Yenor, “But your audience doesn’t want it to happen.” The emails shared by the Times reveal, among other things, a prejudiced coalition of people leading advocacy that is dubious as it is deceitful. Following the release of the article, and others by Vox and The New Republic, the Claremont Institute issued a response: Why America’s “Anti-Discrimination” Regime Needs to Be Dismantled. In the article, they laid out their opposition to DEI programs and America’s “reigning civil rights ideology,” which they regard as a “grave threat to free speech and free elections,” that has the potential to bring about the “end of liberty and republican self-government” and is “a mortal threat to the American Way of Life.” The Institute points to DEI as a means for bureaucracies and businesses to undermine traditional American values, gain more power, and violate principles of equal protection under the law. Notably missing from the response is any acknowledgment of their eager challenges to the censorship of conservatives while they covertly campaign to censor liberals. Claremont’s actions expose plainly hypocritical views on academic freedom and the First Amendment. Recently, The Guardian reported that emails and donation records connect Ryan P. Williams, the Claremont Institute’s president, and Fellow Scott Yenor, to an all-male fraternal organization called the Society for American Renewal (SACR). The organization’s internal mission statement outlines a desire to uproot the multiracial, multicultural American republic and install a renewed patriarchal regime grounded in Christian nationalism. Membership entails pursuing numerous objectives that will bring about a new “aligned regime,” such as “collect, curate, and document a list of potential appointees and hires for a renewed American regime.” Members must also “understand the nature of authority and its legitimate forceful exercise.” In their own words: President Ryan Williams also responded to questions about what a new regime may look like: “it would, more likely than not, be some form of the US constitutional order, but with much higher fidelity to that order before it was corrupted and subverted by modern progressivism.” This connection between Claremont and SARC unveils a concerted effort to undermine the very identity of America as a pluralistic democracy, which underscores the Institute's radical philosophical pivot.

  • Claremont McKenna College: An American Al-Azhar

    I am writing this piece not with frustration but with disappointment in myself. Following the events after October 7th, 2023, in Gaza, I realized that I had to spend four years of my undergraduate education at Claremont McKenna College to discover that our region’s salvation does not rest in the American way but in itself. How naïve I am! Perhaps if I had given an ear to İsmet Özel, I would not have had to spare four years of my life in California away from my loved ones to reach this conclusion. Nevertheless, let us accept what I will tell you as an experience that helped a young man find the truth about himself, his region, and his belief: Almost like Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man! After I completed my high school education in Istanbul, Turkey, I decided to continue my higher education at Claremont McKenna College, a prestigious liberal arts college based in Claremont, California. I thought an interdisciplinary education at Claremont McKenna could mold me into the knowledgeable and well-rounded politician I want to become someday. However, as an international relations and economics major, my recent experiences at CMC made me sure that my mission catastrophically failed. On October 23rd, more than sixty CMC faculty members signed a letter titled “Statement on the Hamas terrorist attack of October 7, 2023.” Naturally, the Professors paid respect to the lost Israeli lives following Hamas’ incursion; however, many students were shocked by the statement’s complete disregard for lost lives in Gaza. I had to read the statement several times to be convinced that faculty members did not show the courtesy to mention the lost Palestinian lives in Gaza, as I would have never guessed this disrespect from my professors. In response to the student backlash against the faculty statement, faculty members had to write another statement, but again, this time, they did not use the word Palestinian. Instead, they decided to call Palestinians “innocent people who just happen to be living in the wrong place.” Later, much more provoking and disrespectful things happened on the CMC campus. In an event about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hosted by CMC’s Keck Center, CMC’s Middle Eastern Politics Professor Bou Nassif, who is also a politician in Lebanon, gave a keynote about the ongoing conflict while Phalangist militant Bachir Gemayel’s picture in his background. Those who are knowledgeable enough about Middle East politics know that Bachir Gemayel is the figurehead of Phalangist radicalism, which is the fundamentalist ideology behind massacres in which Gemayel and his troops killed thousands of Palestinian refugees. The Keck Center’s event was a depiction of utmost hypocrisy on the CMC campus as Hicham Bou Nassif was criticizing Hamas’ fundamentalism while, at the same time, glorifying an ethnic cleanser. When I reached out to the Keck Center regarding the professor’s insensitivity, the Center’s director, Hillary Appel, thanked me for my input and disregarded Bou Nassif’s disgraceful display. Furthermore, she allowed Bou Nassif to keep Gemayel’s image in his background for the professor’s second event on the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Some may argue that Bou Nassif is entitled to glorify a fascist figure. I agree with this viewpoint. However, we – CMC students interested in Middle Eastern politics – are also entitled to take Middle East politics classes from a different professor. The CMC administration should ensure faculty viewpoint diversity instead of showcasing a radical and mediocre politician. Although, as I have previously mentioned, I am disappointed in myself since it took four years for me to realize the salvation for the Middle East does not rest in the West, I still want to thank Claremont McKenna for helping me to understand why Sayyid Qutb did not become an Islamist in Cairo but in Greenly, Colorado.

  • Pomona Faculty Condemn Use of Police and Punishment of Protesters

    On April 11, more than two-thirds of voting Pomona College faculty supported a motion to condemn and reverse the college’s response to the April 5 student protests. The motion is non-binding. On Monday, earlier in the week, Pomona professors called an emergency faculty meeting to discuss the student arrests and suspensions. At the meeting, which was open to all faculty, President Starr explained that she had been in contact with Claremont Police the week before the protestors’ occupation of Alexander Hall. Professors considered a motion but ultimately did not vote on it. On Thursday, around 140 faculty reconvened to discuss the administrative response. During the meeting, 68 percent of the faculty members approved the following resolution: The faculty condemns the present and future militarization and use of police on the campus. It insists that the College immediately drop criminal charges and reverse the suspensions and all related consequences against student protesters for their actions of civil disobedience. Faculty passed the resolution as hundreds of students marched across the Claremont Colleges.

  • An Open Letter to Students Moving to Claremont in the Spring

    At the time of writing this, Los Angeles has zero percent I.C.U. capacity. Roughly 1 in 5 people in Los Angeles County have been infected with COVID-19. The state of California cannot handle the number of bodies from COVID-19 related fatalities. Concurrently, more students than last semester are planning on moving to Claremont and the greater Los Angeles area for the spring semester. Donnie Denome and Becca Zimmerman of TSL wrote on why students shouldn’t move back to Claremont. Uma Nagarajan-Swenson of TSL warned of the tragedy that could come with irresponsibility. Despite their dire pleas, people aren’t listening. There are several reasons students are moving back to Southern California. Their mental health might be suffering at home. Time zones might conflict with classes. First-generation and low-income students might struggle to succeed in online school at home. I understand the frustration that comes with remote learning, especially for first-years. They were robbed of the freshman experience; the first taste of being on their own. They missed WOA, their first Toga party and Collin’s late-night snack. They simply missed having their first year on campus. Many of us are lonely and fatigued. Even so, every single student moving to SoCal this semester has a moral obligation to be safe and responsible. Young people can still have fatal symptoms. A quick Google search of “college student dies from COVID” shows us the grim reality that active and young people can die from complications. Even if you don't have severe symptoms, you will still impact the surrounding community. You might unknowingly spread the virus to a grocery store cashier, or a fellow shopper that takes care of elderly parents. A brief exchange with someone in the Village might mean that they infect their whole family. There is so much at stake. Failing to recognize the responsibility that we have to keep ourselves and the community safe stems from a position of privilege. It is an attack on working-class families and communities of color that are especially suffering during the pandemic. Spreading this virus will cause more unprecedented death and destruction. Several students tested positive for COVID-19 this past fall semester, including from Halloween parties in Claremont. It’s clear that some are not being responsible guests in the community. Many have already signed leases and are on their way to move into their apartments. This week, Dean of Students Dianna “DT” Graves noted, “Thus far, just over 800 students have provided a spring address. Among those, nearly half plan to live in southern California, and around 200 plan to live in or within 4 miles of Claremont. It is critical that students familiarize themselves with and follow the public health guidelines in their community.” It is futile to expect that people won’t move to Claremont. We attend a school that prides itself on integrity and social responsibility. Do better.

  • Opinion: The 5C Housing Exchange Program is well worth the “complications”

    When I arrived at Claremont McKenna College my first year, I felt the way many students feel when they get to college: overwhelmed. But as I settled into my new home in Fawcett 503, I soon found an abundance of things I loved about living at CMC: an amazing roommate, a quick two minute walk to 6 a.m. cross country practice, a prime view of the sunset every night from the fifth floor, and the quiet study space just a few floors down. Yet, as my highly anticipated and idealized expectations of the “college experience” began to meet the reality of being an introverted person in a new place surrounded by (mostly extroverted) people I had only known for a couple months, I found myself feeling more and more isolated and unhappy. By the end of the fall semester, I was opting for green to-go boxes from Collins instead of eating with others, and spending most of my free time alone in my room. Luckily, in the spring things began to look up. I grew closer with my teammates, joined a new club, and took my first class in CMC’s literature department. My closest friends soon became the amazing ladies in my year on my cross country team, most of whom attend Scripps College. I found myself spending most nights studying and hanging out at Scripps, always followed by the trek back to my South Quad dorm. The walk was nothing to complain about, but it was lonely. I don’t quite remember how I first found out about the 5C Housing Exchange Program, but what I do remember is, for the first time, genuinely looking forward to living at school. I found someone from Scripps who wanted to live at CMC, went through the Scripps room draw process, and ended up in a quad with three of my closest friends. My sophomore year was one of the best of my life. While a lot of factors went into that, I believe the biggest was that I finally felt at ease in the space I was living. People generally seem to experience a lot of confusion when I tell them that I have spent half of my time at CMC living on a different campus. It is shocking how often I’ve been asked the question, ‘Are you glad you came to CMC?’ My answer is, without hesitation, yes. I love being at CMC academically (special shoutout to the Literature department!). I have been very active on campus all four years, from Amnesty International club, to the Mgrublian Center for Human Rights, to writing for The CMC Forum. As it turns out, it is entirely possible to love the education and resources you are receiving, without loving the campus dorm culture (and honestly, the aesthetic). In fact, I believe it is the duty of a college to be cognizant of the fact that not every student is going to love every aspect of the school they are attending, and to provide resources for students to find a situation that works best for them. For me, that situation was living at Scripps, with or near my best friends, in a quiet and low-key environment, surrounded by fruit trees (sounds nice, right?). I don’t see how that preference has much to do with my personal academic and extracurricular fulfillment. All this to say, when I heard the news that the Claremont Colleges ResDeans have decided to “discontinue” the 5C Housing Exchange Program, I felt shocked and gravely upset. Obviously as a senior this will not affect me in any great way. I am graduating soon, and will live out the last months of my college experience in my happy place: a spacious single room in Toll Hall, a few doors down from my best friend, with a window view of the Scripps rose garden. Yet, I couldn’t help but imagine how my first-year self would have felt if the 5C Exchange Program had been shut down that year instead. There were indeed some “complications” (to quote the February 16 email) that I had to traverse over the years: finding someone to switch with can be a trial, there was a fair amount of paperwork, somehow my key card never worked the first fews days, or perhaps my name was wrong on my door. But complications aside, I cannot even begin to describe how vital the program was to my overall enjoyment of my experience at CMC. The reality of the Claremont Colleges is that students come here because they value the benefits of attending a Consortium: classes, or even majoring, at other colleges, shared resources, the feeling of a medium-sized college, and of course the absurd number of dining hall choices. The vast majority of students here have close friends from schools other than their home institution, are involved with 5C or multi-C activities, regularly attend classes with 5C students, and make constant use of the shared resources we have here. I don’t believe that students should be barred from making a mutually beneficial decision with another student to switch rooms. I have witnessed the process time and time again, and while I understand that the program does create some complications for the Colleges’ ResDeans, I certainly do not agree with the assertion that the program “posed more complications than benefits to all involved.” To assert that the benefits for all involved were outweighed by the complications of the program, is to assert that one of the most important parts of my— and many other students’ — college experience was not worth a 30-minute student-Dean meeting to fill out paperwork, and the time it takes to add the Scripps dorms to my key card access. But the Colleges’ ResDeans wouldn’t know the impact that this program has had on me, because they’ve never asked me about it. In light of other recent announcements made by the Colleges— such as CMC’s withdrawal from the Keck Science Center, or even the not-so-subtle name change from “The Claremont Consortium” to “The Claremont Colleges”— it’s hard not to feel that this is just another move in the direction of disintegration. While I never anticipated living off of CMC’s campus before coming here, I applied knowing that I loved the idea of studying at a Consortium. We all use the benefits of the Consortium, some of us perhaps in more unique ways. Not all of us can fit perfectly with all the aspects of our home institutions, but that’s the beauty of studying here: students can pick and choose what works best for them. It might create some “complications,” but in my opinion, it’s what makes the Claremont Colleges special.

  • The Ath Review: Jeffrey Toobin, Jan. 25, 2018

    “Cases and Controversies: Pivotal Legal Questions of Our Times” Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018 As the senior legal analyst for CNN, staff writer for The New Yorker and Supreme Court aficionado, Jeffrey Toobin had a lot to say. On a general level, Mr. Toobin gave a very engaging talk. He’s clearly comfortable in front of crowds and definitely had the audience laughing throughout the talk. Many times that laughter could be attributed to how unapologetic and unrestrained he was in his opinions. (Impromptu third-party rant I’m looking at you). The actual talk served as a quick but fairly substantial history lesson on the U.S. Supreme Court. As a Government major who powered through a semester of Constitutional Law, his content wasn’t really anything new. However, those who have escaped Con Law found it to be both interesting and enlightening. The political leanings of the various justices that have served on the Supreme Court over the last 100 years, and the kinds of effects it had on American political life in general, were the focus. The “pivotal legal questions” that the title of the talk alluded to are essentially the cases that would be brought under review should any of the Chief Justices, such as Ginsburg or Kennedy, step down during the Trump presidency. Reversing Roe v Wade and lowering restrictions on campaign finance are just a couple of the laws Toobin predicts would come under review in the event that Trump appoints another conservative justice to the court. Part of the reason he focused so much on the history of the Supreme Court was to demonstrate that there are no moderate conservatives like there used to be. Adding a Trump appointed justice would create an overwhelmingly extreme conservative-leaning Supreme Court. It was kind of sobering to be reminded of the things that would change drastically should that occur, and also kind of cathartic because he’s funny. Overall, the talk didn’t offer any major revelations or change my worldview. However, it was a very entertaining talk from someone who is clearly passionate about the Supreme Court. Best Moments of the Night He most definitely launched into a hysterically passionate rant about why the third party system is essentially pointless. The words “is of no consequence in American political life” were said. It’s worth mentioning twice. His genuine consternation that Donald Trump is the president. Same Mr. Toobin, same. Saying that California is closer to Puerto Rico than to an actual state. This somehow came from a question about state vs federal power and the legalization of marijuana. Crediting Miranda v. Arizona with forever changing the landscape of police procedurals. The thought of supreme court justices arguing over the artistic merit of putting the icing on a cake is just too good. Food Review Overall, I was unimpressed by the Salmon. The French Onion soup contained an excessive amount of onion, but the Ath did serve a lovely French clafoutis for dessert, which I now know is a buttery cake with blueberries (or maybe black cherries?). Also, apparently a semester abroad means that I forgot which way to turn my cup at the Ath to get tea.

  • On Tourism and Publishing: A Reflection from Studying Abroad in Bali, Indonesia

    I began my endeavor into recreational writing––first penning news articles and then poems––during my junior year of high school. Shortly after I began, I started sharing my work through my school’s literary magazine and newspaper. I continued publishing until I went abroad my junior year of college to Bali, Indonesia in the fall of 2017. Before my jettison into Indonesia, I recognized Bali as a vacation hotspot but knew nothing else of the country or island: not that it is the fourth most populated country, nor that it has the largest Muslim population, nor that there was a genocide in 1965. I somehow knew there were great beaches there. Why? Western anthropologists journeyed to the island in the 1930s, enthralled by its unique customs. An island ravished by imperialism, its Dutch and Javanese invasions blended a Hindu-Buddhist religion existing in Java with a native Balinese Animism creating a one of a kind cultural heritage. This heritage engendered dance, sculpture, and painting, unlike anywhere else. The island attracted artists such as the German musician and painter Walter Spies and the infamous American anthropologist Margaret Mead who conducted research with her English husband Gregory Bateson on the island. They were among the first anthropologists to incorporate film and photography into their research. A troupe of Balinese Legong dancers––an indigenous Balinese dance involving intricate finger, eye, and head movements––traveled Europe in 1932. That same year, Charlie Chaplin fled to the island after the invent of talkies to consider his career’s future. A Mexican artist, Miguel Covarrubias published a detailed study of the island in 1936. This western diaspora then disseminated their Balinese-inspired work in the Americas and Europe, contributing to the island’s radical rise in popularity. By 2017, the small––95 mile by 70 mile––island of Bali made up 40% of Indonesia’s tourism revenue and has been regarded as the center of the country’s tourism industry. The island exists as two coexisting spaces. First, the demand space––the developed tourist areas with grocery stores stocking gluten-free crackers, five-star luxury beach hotels owned by foreign investors, and multi-floor nightclubs like Sky Garden that have hosted DJs like Steve Aoki, Marshmello, and Afrojack. Second, the supply space––comprised of Balinese men and women who manage the hotels for foreign owners, sweep the floors, maintain the front desk, and drive the taxis and Grab bikes––Southeast Asia’s Uber or Lyft. Most of these employees live in villages separated from the amenities created for tourists. Single-story family complexes, traditional food markets, and hand-crafting artisans make up the supply space and there are no locations designed for tourists. If tourists came, they wouldn’t have places to sleep or activities to compile an itinerary. I lived in a village homestay within the supply space. I drank at hole in the wall warungs––family-owned cafés to eat, drink coffee, and smoke cigarettes–– and steadily improved my Bahasa Indonesia––literally meaning “Indonesian Language”––by speaking to community members on my walk to and from my program’s center. Most times I struck up a conversation with a young man he would reveal his entrepreneurial position in the supply space, telling me he drove tourists around. He would give me his card with a reminder to spread his number if I had friends or family visit the island. While many indigenous Balinese people supplied their bodies and time to drive tourists around the island, many others could be found supplying labor to the expensive hotels and restaurants those same tourists would return to each night. Students attending university often pursued majors in tourism to acclimate to this lucrative sector of the economy. My itinerary consisted of six weeks in Bali, six more weeks in Jogjakarta, a city in the adjacent island of Java, a month conducting research in Bali, and then two final weeks in Jogjakarta. During my first six-week jaunt in Bali, I got a seemingly random text from my grandma asking if I was okay. She asked me if I had been affected by the volcanic eruption of Mount Agung. Eruption? I hadn’t been aware, but somehow, my grandmother who lives in a suburb of St. Louis was more informed than a student just miles from the epoch. Thus began a sputtering of texts from friends and family back home, asking about my safety. Each time, I assured the sender I was okay, in fact, I hadn’t seen any response in Bali to the Mount Agung news. The executive leadership of The School for International Training (SIT) also phoned my site’s program director telling her that we may have to remain in Jogjakarta for the remainder of the semester. We were astonished. The 28 of us were on the island and had felt no consequences of this volcanic activity. I started looking at the articles published by media sources in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand and found trends. The articles mentioned that the last time Mount Agung erupted in 1963, over 1500 people died, that tourist hubs were near the volcano, and the airport was potentially closing temporarily. None of the articles included statements from Balinese people, or responses from people on the island. This reveals a third space in addition to the supply and demand spaces: the publishing space, which connects international consumers to the demand space and completely shuts out the supply space. Instead of existing within a physical location, like the demand and supply spaces do, the publishing space exists as information. It influences the consumers who make up the demand space, by creating an attractive or unattractive getaway location. The supply space then needs to provide the right material goods and labor to accommodate the consumers. Even though local Balinese producers feel the effect of the publishing space, they have very little access to it. The publishing space is content written almost entirely by Westerners, for Westerners, shutting out the ability of the supply space to sculpt its own narrative. A few days before we were to leave Jogjakarta and head back to Bali, our program director sat us down and told us that the leaders of SIT may not let us go back to Bali. We understood that they were concerned for our safety, no one cared more about our safety than us, but we had seen absolutely no effect of this volcanic reaction before we left Bali, and we knew we were a 50-mile drive from the volcano itself around which, even when the volcano was erupting forcefully, there was only a six-mile evacuation perimeter. If there was a massive eruption, we would remain unhurt from the eruption itself, although a dispersion of evacuees into the area and ash into the air were the primary concerns of SIT. We received approval to go back to Bali at the end of October, where I began my four-week research paper. I traveled to remote parts of the island where no one speaks English, and to the most popular tourist locations like Seminyak, Ubud, and Canggu. Everyone was unaffected, but with the increased activity in mid to late November and the beginning of the six-mile evacuation, we were forced to spend the final two weeks to present our research in Jogjakarta rather than in Bali. My mom met me in Bali after the program ended, in an island almost unrecognizable to me. I explained to her that the locations we reclined in––Sanur and Ubud––were as crowded as New York’s Penn Station just weeks ago. Whereas there were once tourists commanding their way through streets and beaches, there were now just Balinese vendors, taxi and boat drivers incessantly asking if we wanted to enlist their services. The publishing space had decimated the demand space, sharply decreasing the number of tourists in the area. This was December, peak holiday season. When we went back to my homestay village, my young-adult friends urged me to broadcast that Bali was safe to people back home. They had to use me and my networks as a conduit because they were denied access to the publishing space; I was seeing the publishing spaces’ real influence on their livelihood. There were surely actualized fears from the volcano. 100,000 people were ordered to evacuate and it was reported that 40,000 did. After the first evacuation request in September, some had stayed in the evacuation centers for months. Due to ash, the island’s only airport closed on November 27th and 28th. However, these incendiary effects were amplified exponentially by the publishing space. News.com.au reported on December 29, 2017 that the island lost 1.5 billion US dollars in revenue. A tasty meal is about $2 at a local spot. For an entrepreneurial island, in which tourism consists of 60% to 70% of the island’s economic activity and generates 68% of tax income and absorbs 42% of new labor, a dip in tourism has the potential to topple the whole economy. When I arrived back in the United States, I kept up to date with the reporting on the island. Of the multitudes of articles, only one or two included interviews of Balinese citizens. Most articles simply stated the death count of the previous eruption in 1963, an astonishing 1500 people. Writing, or publishing at least, has detrimental consequences. I suppose this is obvious, but I had never felt or conceptualized its potential dangers. First, the dissemination of Bali’s culture lured Western tourists to the island and, coupled with policies in the Suharto era (1967-1998), encouraged massive and unregulated foreign investments in only one sector of the island’s economy, tourism. Second, Western journalists focused just on the sensationalized facts of fall 2017, the previous death count, and a few days the airport closed in the end of November. This continued an ongoing practice of mapping a false world onto the actual reality of Bali, which further resulted in a dramatized and woefully incomplete understanding of the situation on the ground. This begot massive financial losses for the tourism-based economy on the island. This piece is hypocritical, doing the very thing it’s critiquing, and I’m not sure how to settle that. I guess I’m publishing now because I think words mended carefully together can speak in union with, rather than on top of, muffled voices. Before going to Indonesia, I equated writing with expression and communication, without considering the potential of boisterous and errant story-telling. More startling, I’m sure all of these writers had no knowledge of the potential impact of their stories or how they might snowball. One of my Balinese mentors estimated that the tourists came back around March to April of 2018, and there have been no deaths from Mount Agung’s eruption.

  • Yesterday, They Came For The Jews

    The tragic shooting in Pittsburgh yesterday has left a dark cloud over me. While every mass shooting is truly awful, the anti-Semitic intent hit home particularly hard for me. This was an attack on my community and my people, the deadliest attack against Jews in United States history. While I am not particularly religious in my Judaism, I said the Mourner’s Kaddish, the prayer for those recently lost, to myself as I read the names of the victims this morning. I am fearful that the kind of violent anti-Semitism we had previously only seen in history and on the other side of the world has now reared its ugly head in the U.S. I have read about rabbis calling in extra police protection for their Sunday Schools today and having to worry about active shooter drills and escape routes from their synagogues. This is not what should be happening in any place of worship in this country. If the Jewish people are to survive dark days like yesterday, we need non-Jewish allies who are just as willing and active in speaking out against anti-Semitism as they are against any other form of hate that we see in this country. Many in Claremont like to think of themselves as activists or strong supporters of social justice causes. However, my experience as a Jew on campus does not instill confidence in me that those who stand up for social justice will stand up for me today. I instead remember all of the times that I have heard, explicitly or implicitly, that anti-Semitism is not a real problem in the contemporary United States, and that not much needs to be done to address it. Especially looking at the last 24 hours, this cannot be further from the truth. In moments like these, it is crucial to show support for the community that are the victims of violence. People can no longer deny the danger of anti-Semitism in America. The Jewish community needs non-Jewish allies who will stand up and speak out against attacks on our community. And the Jewish community needs to stand up and speak out against attacks against others. This terrible time also provides an opportunity for our Claremont community to look inward to examine the issues the Jewish community faces on our campus. While the Claremont Consortium is very much a bubble, and may not have as severe of an internal threat of far-right anti-Semites, anti-Semitism on the left is alive and well, and must be addressed all the same. Here is an initial overview of some of the origins of anti-Semitism, and why many on the left are often blind to their own bias. While reading one article alone will not be enough, I hope it can start to open the eyes of our campus to the anti-Semitism that happens here. We as a Claremont community need to be aware and willing to speak up against all forms of bigotry and hate, while also recognizing that we can’t expect other people to show up to support us if we are not supporting others. I want to end with a poem, written by German pastor Martin Niemöller about his experience in pre-World War II Nazi Germany: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” I encourage you to think to yourself: how did you react to the news from Pittsburgh yesterday? What have you done to support the Jewish community in this difficult time? Complacency is not an option. Yesterday, they came for the Jews. What are you going to do about it?

  • Our Campus, Our Responsibility

    In a room of one hundred, there were seven male students and a dozen older men from the Claremont faculty and community. The Ath event was entitled “We Move as a Group: Uniting the Genders in the Fight Against Rape Culture”. The description seemed to me welcoming and unintimidating, reflecting renowned author Alice Sebold’s intention to “provide hope by working to dismantle the antiquated and destructive divisions that still exist among us and to inspire a more open dialogue.” So why the lack of participation? Before delving into the disappointment I felt while sitting in a room of almost entirely women listening to Sebold’s beautifully crafted speech on trauma and the changing reality of our culture, I want to first acknowledge and thank everyone who is an ally, advocate, and friend to victims of sexual trauma. To the seven male students in the room, thank you. To the guys I know I can confide in and who I know will listen, thank you. In doing so, I truly do not mean to come off as patronizing. I think I speak for many of the women at the Ath that night who appreciated the compassion in the room from the men who were there. Your empathy did not go unnoticed. I have come to see sexual harassment and sexual assault as the single worst problem afflicting college campuses today. Our campus is certainly no exception. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, statistically one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted during college. These numbers are startlingly high, and in my experience, accurate... perhaps even an underestimate. This problem exists among people of all sexual orientations and gender identities and it exists both within and outside of committed relationships. Even if we don’t think we are directly contributing to the problem, opting out of conversations crucial to progress may be detrimental to promoting an inclusive and safe campus culture. We can always learn more about being a better ally and a more vigilant and active bystander. Engaging in conversation and listening is enough to learn something new and vital. We can only change our misguided conceptions about consent by participating in potentially uncomfortable and complex conversations. There is no learning without listening. The Athenaeum is meant to be a space for students to engage in conversations that may fall outside of our comfort zones. At CMC, we purport to be students who care about cultivating a stronger sense of self and personal agency. At the same time, it saddens me when I see our students shy away from some of these difficult conversations. Security Pacific dining room was packed to its capacity at moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s March 22 Ath talk about the growing ideological divide in our country caused by people’s unwillingness to hear opinions that challenge their own. The room pulsed in agreement with Haidt’s argument that college is precisely the place for encouraging this type of personal growth, exploring and challenging the opinions of others, and engaging in more difficult dialogues. Sitting at Haidt’s talk, I could feel students' resolve to be more open to counter-arguments and opposing ideologies. So why did these same students not feel the same resolve to hear Sebold’s testimony and join us in exploring how to unite us all against perpetuating rape culture and sexual trauma? Is it a difficult conversation to start? Yes. Is it perhaps the most important one to spark on a college campus? Also yes. Unfortunately, this was not the first time I was at an event where I felt disappointed with student turnout for important discussions on sexuality and sexual trauma. The CMC Advocates organized CMC’s first ever “Sex Week” in October, including events such as Ath talks on safe sex practices, CARE center conversations on “Queering Safer Sex,” workshops on BDSM, discussions on sex after trauma, and a comedy show. The events were meant to attract widespread participation by evoking curiosity and highlighting topics that aren’t often openly discussed. While the turnout for CMC’s inaugural Sex Week was exciting and promising, there was still a disproportionate lack of male participation. Still, I have high hopes for the future of CMC Advocates’ Sex Week and their mission to create a more open and inclusive dialogue on campus. When I speak to my closest guy friends from CMC and from colleges all over the country and ask them where they think this lack of male buy-in originates, a common thread in their answers is the notion that these conversations are geared toward empowering and uniting those who are most affected by the issue. So, because men are statistically less likely to be victims of sexual violence, they shy away from attending these talks with the fear that their presence is not welcome. If you feel this way, I’d like to be the one to let you know that not only are you welcome in these conversations, but you are NEEDED. I believe I speak for many women my age when saying: we welcome you, we want you, and we need you to be a part of this effort. I encourage CMCers (and all college students and all people) not to settle for simply being a friend and an ally to survivors. While that is extremely important, it is also necessary to actively engage with the broader dialogue about our campus climate. The Ath and the CMC Advocates’ “Sex Week” presented opportunities to listen to others, engage in dialogue, and reflect on personal beliefs and practices, all with the goal of being part of the solution. It’s our responsibility to actively engage in these opportunities. If you previously haven’t felt welcome to fully participate, I hope I can reassure you that you arewelcome in these spaces. By simply being there and making it a priority in your life to actively engage in the solution, you will help make our community safer and bring us closer together. I know that the Claremont community is made up of compassionate, motivated people who take personal and aggregate social responsibility. I know that our students really care about each other, the problems we all face, and the actions we can take toward solutions. My hope is that our community will have these conversations, including and encouraging voices from all identities, and broadening the scope of “trauma” so that we can better understand each other, our struggles and our shared responsibility to do better. Together, I know we can do better CMC.

  • National Debt and the 5Cs: Why You Should Care

    If college students are asked about debt, most will think of their own impending payments of student loans. The average amount of student debt nationwide has skyrocketed over the past 20 years and now exceeds $26,000 per undergraduate student. Student debt is an increasing threat to the financial security of an entire generation and clearly must be addressed in the coming years. However, debt on a different scale has been growing in Washington, D.C. for years. Recent changes to the federal government’s revenues are projected to worsen the problem, and the urge for action on the national debt is more pressing than ever before. Rising national debt has serious implications for the next generation of workers, especially college students. On Friday, Dec. 22, 2017, Congress passed its first piece of tax reform legislation in more than 30 years. The sweeping bill cut taxes across the board in the hopes of spurring economic growth and creating jobs. A few weeks later, the federal government shut down after Congress failed to reach a deal to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the tax reform will push the federal deficit to almost one trillion dollars and increase the national debt by 1.5 trillion dollars over the next decade to more than 20 trillion dollars. In 2016, the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) was 18.57 trillion dollars. By 2050, the GDP is forecasted to be approximately 37 trillion dollars. At the current rate, the national debt will increase by more than half of the U.S. GDP by 2047. Service on that debt, the monthly or yearly interest payments the federal government makes to creditors, will become the third largest government “program” behind social security and Medicare. Interest in the national debt will crowd out other productive investments, such as education, research and development, and infrastructure spending. Social programs that many Americans rely on, especially social security, are not sustainable at current levels of debt and spending. To remedy the problems left to us by the previous generation, millennials must become aware of how the national debt has grown and its future projections, debt’s effect on the economy, and proposals to address it. Current college students are particularly affected by the national debt due to the burdens of an already high average student debt. Service on student loans lowers rates of saving and homeownership among young people, limiting both investment and retirement savings. Millennials are shaping up to be an educated but poor generation, saddled with the obligations of previous generations. This trend will only increase as student debt rises and wages continue to stagnate, yielding a reduction of the average assets of young people. Without social security and other social programs, millennials and future generations may face challenges such as buying homes, building assets, starting a family, and retiring. The current trend of increasing debt is clearly unsustainable for the next generation and it is imperative for the future of our nation to minimize this burden. Understanding both the causes of and the proposed solutions to the national debt is a matter of balancing federal revenues and costs. To balance the annual deficit, the federal government must raise taxes or decrease spending. The challenges lie in deciding which programs’ funding to cut, which taxes to raise, what the timeframe for a balanced budget should be, and how to sell higher taxes or less generous government programs to the American public. Balancing social programs, economic growth, and a balanced budget is a politically untenable challenge in the current polarized climate. While Democrats and Republicans often do not align in their views on policy issues, both sides acknowledge that the growing national debt is a problem that must be addressed. Policy experts from across the ideological spectrum have provided potential remedies that can be difficult to reconcile across party lines and loyalties. It is clear that current trends are unsustainable and the next generation of workers are uniquely unprepared to shoulder the excesses and mistakes of the current and past generations. Both sides of the ideological spectrum have presented plans for balancing the Federal budget and tackling the debt. However, without Congressional action, even the most sensible plans cannot produce concrete change in the national debt. Millennials must ensure that the current and future members of Congress are cognizant of the importance of curtailing the growth of the national debt. As part of the most educated, informed, and politically active generations to exist, students at the Claremont Colleges are in a unique position to advocate for action that can prevent the grim predictions of the CBO. As a network of schools with the capacity to produce political and social leaders, the Claremont Consortium must keep the national debt in mind, even as we are entering the workforce and dealing with the consequences of the decisions of previous generations. Raising awareness of the national debt is the first step towards a more sustainable future: a future where debt is not a looming concern and the productivity created by the millennial generation can be used to achieve better standards of living for everyone.

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