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With the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the United States ushers in an entirely new era of legality. Chief among the staples of this paradigm shift: the retention of a conservative “political” majority. Mind you, I wholeheartedly believe that justices should serve as objective arbiters of the law, but I’m not so stupid as to presume that human beings suddenly eschew their beliefs and predilections the moment that they don those dapper, black robes. A consensus in viewpoint is thereby nothing short of monumental. But unlike the previous 5-4 majority, Kavanaugh represents a grand unknown atop the bench. His predecessor, Justice Anthony Kennedy, was renowned for his propensity to forego an automatic adherence to party lines. He was conservative, of course, but one couldn’t predict his judgement simply by glancing at the accompanying “Republican stance” on any given issue. Such is the sign of a great judge: putting objectivity before subjectivity. And Kennedy should be commended for it.
Nike made headlines this past month by introducing Colin Kaepernick as the face of its newest advertising campaign — “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” the campaign’s slogan declares. It illustrates how Kaepernick sacrificed his career in the NFL to protest police brutality and social inequality by kneeling during the national anthem. The release of the Kaepernick ad on Instagram shattered Nike’s previous record views on any post by the millions. Not all viewers double tapped, however, and while Nike’s sales surged in the days following the release of the ad, videos of Nike apparel being torn apart and burned went just as viral.
Reporters were treated to a one-of-a-kind show in the Oval Office this past Thursday. While it may have been sloppy journalism, the White House spectacle did not fail to cover a wide range of important topics: everything from stop-and-frisk, Chicago and Larry Hoover, to manufacturing, Foxconn and hydrogen-powered airplanes.
As a child, I always pictured sayings in my head. When people claimed something was the “best thing since sliced bread,” I’d picture sandwiches being made between two huge half-loaves. For some reason, “break a leg” was a chair, lopsided due to a snapped leg. But a more significant phrase had a very specific picture, and it was one I had to face in many important moments of my life. The phrase was “let it go,” and the picture was a small girl hanging off the edge of a cliff.
The comparisons were too easy to make. The world watched a charismatic leader and advocate of democracy released from years of confinement by an authoritarian government, who went on to win the country’s first openly-contested elections. Many people, including myself, firmly believed that Aung San Suu Kyi’s impact on Myanmar would mirror Mandela’s reformation of South Africa, that she would eliminate the draconian restrictions of the established military government and herald a new era of Burmese democracy. This, however, has not come to pass. Tragically Suu Kyi, now the country’s de facto leader, has overseen the erosion of democratic potential in Myanmar. The country that so recently carried the hopes of the international community has regressed.
“Thank you for trying out … unfortunately, we are unable to offer you a place this year.” Over the past few weeks, such blunt statements have had a dominant presence in my inbox. Yet despite experiencing so many rejections in my first month on campus, I couldn’t be happier.
The Brett Kavanaugh hearings felt like rock bottom. They won’t be, of course — if we know one thing, it’s that scandals will keep rolling in. Still, there’s something deeply concerning about a Supreme Court hearing turned to partisan theater. Every hour came breaking news about scandalous details of high school yearbooks and binge drinking. Not that those things aren’t serious and relevant given the assault allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. But still, reality-television style politics dominated the confirmation process.
Dartmouth is full of beloved traditions, and the Homecoming bonfire every fall reigns as one of the most sacred and celebrated. The bonfire saw its first flames over a century ago, and every year since has welcomed home a new class with warm and open arms. Dartmouth alumni, no matter where they end up, return home en masse to pay their alma mater a visit. Amidst shouts of “Touch the fire!” and “Worst class ever!,” it sends the message to the newest members of the Dartmouth community that her spell on them truly is enduring.
Before coming to Dartmouth, everybody had something to tell me about the Greek system: it’s the campus social scene; one can find friends outside of it; it’s pervasive; it’s a great community; it’s overbearing. Most of my peers told me that despite my reluctance, I’d probably end up joining a sorority — it’s just what Dartmouth students do.
Two phrases every Dartmouth student knows and loves: “distrib” and “NRO.” These terms epitomize the unique Dartmouth experience — a wide range of knowledge gained through 14 required courses, colloquially known around campus as “distribs,” and the safety net that comes along with learning a new subject, the Non-Recording Option. Dartmouth prides itself on its liberal arts focus, claiming to offer students (albeit forcibly through graduation requirements) a “breadth” of knowledge. The College encourages its students to take advantage of this breadth through the NRO — a relieving way for students to exclude a grade from their transcript if it doesn’t reach their selected threshold. Unfortunately, Dartmouth does not allow these two aspects of its curriculum to work together. The NRO, if used on a distrib, will bar the distrib from fulfilling its graduation requirement. This has deterred many students from choosing a distrib by interest, and has caused them instead to fill their distribs using course-difficulty indicators, such a past medians, syllabi and Dartmouth’s version of RateMyProfessor: LayupList.
This past week, the Department of State announced that the U.S. will deny family visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats or employees of international organizations who work in the United States. This means that those who are already in the country must either get married or leave by December 31st this year. Since 2009, same-sex partners were considered family under the G-4 visa policy. This rule reversal, according to a State Department official, was made to “promote and ensure equal treatment” for both same and opposite-sex couples. Though this new policy grants exceptions for the partners of diplomats who are from countries where same-sex marriage is illegal, the caveat is that the other country must recognize same-sex spouses of U.S. diplomats posted there. This most drastically affects same-sex partners of international employees who work for organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, since the exception does not extend to them.
The 2016 presidential election mucked a phrase up from the dark corners of the internet and into the public eye. By questioning the biases of mainstream media, people began to doubt their very foundation of truth. Suddenly, media with which people disagreed became “fake news” and the only reliable sources those which supported their beliefs. Now, it seems “fake news” and news are equally prevalent. At some point or another, every major media outlet has been labeled “fake news” by those who disagree with what they publish, and no one blinks an eye at the assumption.
Dark days are upon us of the Dartmouth Introvert. Dark days, indeed. Foco (the Class of 1953 Commons), that pristine chapel in which we worship the God of buffets most delectable, has succumbed to the latest in a long line of debilitating plagues: castigating the loner. Indeed, the bar-esque chair layout that once adorned the wall opposite the kitchen windows on the “light side” (for the common folk: the well-lit section of the first-floor seating area) has been supplanted by a series of two person-booths. Booth-table-booth; lather well, rinse thoroughly and repeat until the space, which I’ve termed “introvert row” lies filled to the brim. And quite honestly, the decision to do so befuddles me, as this (d)evolution lies more inefficient and inconvenient — to solitary foco-goers, at least — than its apparently maligned predecessor.
If I were to describe a leader who framed himself as a political outsider, who decried the corruption of the established elite, opposed such things as the Paris climate accord and has become famous for making outrageous comments, I suspect you would not immediately think of the Brazilian politician Jair Bolsonaro. But maybe you should. Brazil is about to elect its next president, and Bolsonaro will likely take up that mantle. This will be a wasted opportunity to turn the country around, but the result should not be considered surprising. Brazil’s recent problems have perfectly set the stage for Bolsonaro’s grand entrance, creating populist conditions in which the far-right strongman can easily establish control.
You are late and tired. Walk faster anyway. Sit down. Listen. Take notes. Depart and repeat at another desk. Classes are over. The bell tolls. How many times have you heard the peals today? How many times have you listened? Go eat. I hope you ate already, as it is past noon. Maybe eat with a friend, maybe go on a date. You probably won’t go on a date because, statistically speaking, it is unlikely. People eat with friends more frequently than they eat with strangers or acquaintances.
As the country reflects on allegations of sexual assault against a young, drunk Brett Kavanaugh, I cannot help but think about my own college days at Dartmouth in the late 1990s. I did not sexually assault anyone, but I can see how it could happen and wish I knew then what I know now.
This weekend, I returned home for 36 hours. I slept in a bed that was not a twin XL, I drove around my home town, I ate authentic Chinese food — in short, I enjoyed the comforts of home. At the same time, it didn’t really feel like “home” anymore. My childhood bedroom was given to me for a night, but it had been occupied by my sister for about two weeks, due to the presence of relatives staying over. My sister’s belongings decorated the crevices of the room I had always thought of mine. This time, I felt like a guest. My customary mug languished in a cabinet; I fumbled a bit with the new coffeemaker. I could still navigate my home town with ease, but I felt out of place at my regular nail salon. The suburban moms who usually frequent the salon gossiped about places and people whom I no longer recognized or knew much about. Thankfully, the Chinese food still tasted delicious.
As the controversy surrounding Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination process to the Supreme Court reaches its climax, the nation’s attention has shifted to the elite spaces that nourished him. Recent exposés of Kavanaugh’s fraternity and secret society at Yale describe cultures of binge-drinking and law-breaking. Comments by friends and former classmates, as well as anecdotes given by professors and mentors describe a culture of excess opportunity, privilege and power foreign to most Americans.
This summer at a family barbecue, conversation turned –– as it so often does –– political. At some point in the conversation, my dad divulged that he identifies as an independent voter, to which his friends responded with shock and horror: “But don’t you care about politics?”
It could happen here — it has happened here.