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Any discussion of flag burning must start from one critical point: it is constitutionally protected as free speech per the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v Eichman. Last Friday, Timothy Messen ’18 gathered a group of people of different views together for a discussion on flag burning — and I walked away from the Green that day, more confident in human goodness and able to rethink the way we treat those with whom we disagree.
At Dartmouth, Greek letters float across Tuck Drive and through Baker lobby on t-shirts and sweatshirts. Our affiliation has practically become a suffix to our names. Most Wednesday evenings call for a flood of text messages across campus with the words, “Are you going to meetings?” We speak Greek, we engage in Greek politics and we breathe Greek each time we enter a fraternity basement and inhale the sickly-sweet aroma of stale beer and other fluids I’d like to forget. That most of us hardly notice the stench anymore is proof of the pervasiveness of Greek culture.
Activism isn’t activism unless it has the ability to bring about political or social change. Burning the American flag is, quite literally, too incendiary to accomplish that task. It won’t breed constructive, meaningful discourse. It won’t even make a nuanced statement about how a subset of the currently disenfranchised are feeling. And perhaps most critically of all, burning the flag gives President Donald Trump’s followers evidence to support their claims that those who oppose the new administration are anti-American.
Colorblindness: a cartoon.
There is a literary motif of a line of thrones filled with carvings of kings and queens: the first rulers with wise, kind faces in a line that descends into an ending of cruel and twisted effigies. Here lies a metaphor for the sweep of history, with societies first valuing noble, gracious sovereigns, then — through strife and corruption — selecting instead those of lower moral bearing.
Even before the impending presidency of Donald Trump, American culture has seen a trend of growing isolationism. With just a computer, one can live in a personalized (albeit lonely) virtual world. Facebook conveniently filters out alternative viewpoints, providing fake news to your liking. You can use Tinder and Friendsy to mechanically swipe through faces instead of meeting people in real life.
One of my earliest memories of President Barack Obama was his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, back when the Democratic Party still preached straightforward, persuasive ideologies. I was only a 6-year-old back then, but the memory of his message that night still lingers on with me. That eloquent message of optimism and hope, unity and patriotism, unselfish motives and unfaltering strength. It wasn’t even his election, but it certainly seemed so; Obama spoke for his party’s candidate — then-Sen. John Kerry — but it almost seemed he was offering his own story and his vision for the first time.
“Why isn’t Ireland racist?”
One has to wonder at the fortitude of winter’s merrymakers. From the depths of January, on evenings worn black by nights already eight hours old, you can observe something strange. Scurrying about Webster Avenue in the freezing cold are spectral lumps. These creatures mill over icy roads and through weather-biting winds, and a stench of beer incubates beneath their heavy winter layers to be released as a heady perfume upon arrival at some familiar destination … The cold air often invigorates these inebriates, and it is perhaps at this moment that one of the creatures recalls those now indelible lines from College President Phil Hanlon’s Moving Dartmouth Forward plan: “Our vision is for Dartmouth to be a place of around-the-clock learning.” The student grumbles, to no one in particular, “Around-the-clock what?” before continuing a jumbled march onward, unsure about what this sentence could mean in a world as cold and confusing as ours.
After President Barack Obama’s historic presidency, President-elect Donald Trump will follow him into the White House with a regressive agenda. He is responding to and playing on fears many Americans rightfully have in ways that may enrich his family and inner circle of supporters. This cynical appropriation of American nationalism that enabled the takeover of the government by an ultra-wealthy cabal has brought latent hatred to the surface of public life.
We have a tendency, in a world saturated by media, to be drawn to that which feels familiar. That is why, to cite anecdotal evidence, we might be more inclined to watch a reboot of a movie franchise that supposedly ended 10, 20, 30 years ago than to choose a new and unknown movie from the thousands of internet options. Familiarity is comforting. It is safe. What’s so bad about that? Intrinsically, there is nothing wrong with sticking to what you know. It is when the familiarity, safety and goodness that accompanies a recollection of the past prevents us from discerning the flaws of the past that we become entrapped in nostalgia.
As if questions of so-called fake news could not get any more lurid and absurdist, on Tuesday night Americans were treated to a report published by Buzzfeed news that, amongst other things, claimed that President-elect Donald Trump paid a slew of Muscovite prostitutes to defile a bed used by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama while Trump watched. Whether the claim is true is, ultimately, relatively immaterial: millions of Americans will hear it and believe it, many millions more will dismiss it as propaganda regardless of its provenance or any process undertaken to confirm or rebut the accusations.
I published an article entitled “In Defense of Fraternities” which received a fair amount of criticism. My argument was three-fold: that fraternities offer benefits for members, that they are not as limiting as stereotypes may suggest and that during my first term in a fraternity, I had a positive, enjoyable experience.
One of my best friends has a Donald Trump sticker on her laptop. When I saw it, I was so appalled by this shameless show of support for the president-elect that I proceeded to scratch angrily at the corners of the sticker, trying to rip it off, while she wrestled her computer away from me and yelled something like “That’s my sticker!”
Did you know that three out of ten millennials do not know who Josef Stalin was? Or that only two out of ten recognize the name Mao Zedong? It is these sorts of horrific statistics that give shame to America and its next generation. And these are not due to the blatant ignorance of these 18 to 34 year-olds, but rather because those first two things I said were completely false. I just made them up.
I found myself at it again. I had written an email to check on the status of an application but as my mouse hovered over the “send” button, I froze. What if they thought I was being too pushy? What if this action meant my application would be automatically rejected? It took some mental prodding and persuasion before I could bring myself to click the grey paper airplane button.
When I was 11 years old, I had an irrational fear of sailing. I didn’t like the way the wind jerked the boom violently in irons, it filled me with an overwhelming anxiety. This changed when my summer camp counselor taught me a lesson that has stayed with me for over two decades.
For many Dartmouth freshmen, winter break is a time to reflect on the past term while relaxing with family and planning for the terms ahead. It is a much-deserved period for rest and introspection. And, of course, a time to watch Netflix.