Democracy is more than a vote

Alison Macbeth – Anchor Staff

The talk of voting has been ubiquitous this past week with midterm elections. Although voting is extremely important, it is not the only way to be involved in creating change in our communities and government.

As a democracy, the United States operates with popular sovereignty. This means that the power to make legislation lies with the people rather than one sovereign, such as a king. Voting is one way to determine the opinions of the majority.

As we saw this past week, voting is an important part of democracy. Our structure would not work without people casting their ballots. However, voting is not the only means of being an involved citizens. In fact, spending a few minutes at the poles to fill out a ballot hardly captures the nuances of the political system.

Who introduces the ideas that turn into ballot measures? Who does the research? Who organized protests and interacts with the public to change their thinking?

While Americans should gladly vote, it is important to exercise the freedoms we have to raise awareness on issues, contact our local representatives, be aware of town and local elections, as well as become part of organizations that represent our causes.

CNN Politics noted 25 ways to be involved politically some of which included reading up on American history and civics, being part of a campaign, attend town halls, and volunteer with an organization that benefits your community.

If you were disappointed nor thrilled with the results of the midterms this past week, remember that your vote is not the be-all end-all. Don’t get bogged down with your pessimism or optimism. Local and national issues still need your involvement. And this exceeds just a post on Facebook that all your similarly-minded friends will like. Be a leader in your community and work hands on with the issues you are passionate about.

So, yes, please vote. But also, recognize that a democracy not only rests on the freedom of voting but also the participation, the voice, the pressure and interaction of the people.

A rebuttal to your excuses for not voting

Catherine Enos – Opinions Editor

As someone who feels that voting is one of the most important ways to make your voice heard, it’s disappointing when people decide to skip the polls for some reason. Here’s my response to some excuses people may have for not going:

Photo courtesy of liberty.me

My vote doesn’t matter.

It’s true that you are just one amongst millions of voters. But there have been times in the past where a few votes changed the outcome of an election. For example, in the 2000 presidential election, George Bush won the electoral votes of Florida by 537 votes. Had those 537 people decided not to vote that day, Al Gore would have been our president.

I don’t know anything about politics.

Most people don’t. You should do some research before you vote, but you shouldn’t stop yourself from going to the polls if you don’t know much about the candidates. Another thing to remember is that you can never know everything. I’m a political science student and there are some areas that I struggle to comprehend. An important thing to understand is that everything these politicians do has a direct impact on you. If there is at least one topic you find really important, do some research on that and choose a candidate this way.

I don’t have time.

All polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Maybe there’s time for you to stop in before or after school (or work). And, in the future, you can always opt for an absentee/mail ballot. The state of Rhode Island has what are called “No Excuse Mail Ballots.” All you have to do is apply within 20 days to do so and mail the ballot so that it reaches the polls by 8 p.m. on election night. It’s too late to do that this time around, but this is a plausible option for the future.

I don’t have a ride.

According to their website, Uber will be offering $10 off a single ride to the polls on election day. And according to Lyft’s website, they will be providing 50% off promo codes and free rides to “underserved communities that face significant obstacles to transportation.”

ProJo’s no-no: insensitive placing of an ammunition ad

Alison Macbeth – Anchor Staff

The Providence Journal is a beloved publication in Rhode Island. As the only newspaper, our tiny state fondly looks through the pages and smiles. But not this past weekend. The day after the detestable Pittsburgh shooting, the Providence Journal missed the mark.

The Sunday paper’s front cover ran in big, bold letter “Shooter kills 11 in Shooting Rampage.” The story is devastating. It feels like one after another grievous and fear-inducing events have lined up and appeared on our headlines like a conveyor belt. While we are all repulsed by this act of violence, we have to be honest. Somehow we are getting used to the terror of the ubiquitous violent headlines. And so is the Providence Journal.

The Sunday newspaper often includes a coupon to promote a local business. This Sunday’s paper featured a coupon that just happened to be for the Preserve Sporting Shoppe, an outdoor gear shop that was hosting its grand opening this weekend. But here is the shocking part– the coupon was for a “free box of ammo for every firearm purchased.”

Photos courtesy of Alison Macbeth

The juxtaposition of a coupon for ammunition and a headline highlighting the largest mass shooting of the Jewish community in the United State is undeniably insensitive. While I want to give the Providence Journal the benefit of the doubt and recognize this was an oversight, there is a bigger story and analogy here as well. We are becoming numb to senseless violence. It is as if mass shooting are an expected part of the newscycle. In the past two years, it is hard to recall all the shootings and events where a firearm in the hands of an American citizen was used to purposefully murder a large group of people.

The synagogue massacre is another call for changes to be made in the U.S. system regarding firearms. We are done with the headlines– and the free ammo too.

The Forgotten War and Why It Matters

Kaila Acheson – Anchor Contributor

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s ongoing war affects all of us on a global scale. With a country with vast natural resources and threats of Ebola, this war should not be forgotten. The Congo has been a tumultuous region since the Scramble for Africa, when King Leopold II of Belgium acquired the land and essentially turned it into a huge work camp. Despite being rich in resources, the people are still poor. Ever since 1994, as a result of the Rwandan genocide, The Congo has experienced the horrifying effects of war.

As of in the last month there has been a report that the rebels have killed 15 innocent civilians and threatened the outbreak of ebola. The Red Cross is attempting to contain the ebola virus but now villagers are so paranoid due to the constant rebel attacks and so isolated that they are becoming sceptical if the ebola virus is even real. The villagers are now beginning to fear The Red Cross’s intentions and are relectent of seeking their help. The civilians are now becoming hostile towards the ones attempting to protect their population and the world from an outbreak.

Accompanying the threat of a viral outbreak, The Congo’s main exports are copper, cobalt, diamond, crude petroleum, and cobalt ore. The Congo’s main partners are The United States and China. About 70% of their exports is oil. This could deeply impact global manufacturing and the economy if The Congo continues to be unstable.

The Congo has a lot of potential and is considered to be an area that could connect Africa because it is geographically positioned in the center of the continent. The first civil war in the Congo started in June 1997 and although there was a peace treaty signed in 2003 the fighting has never ceased. Violence has been continuous and recently the rebels have been out of control. If this unfortunate war were to end then a lot of problems would be solved.

Hearts break across the world for Pittsburgh

Tim Caplan – News Editor

At Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, PA on Saturday, October 27, a radical anti-Semite opened fire on innocent people celebrating an eight day old Brit Milah’s naming ceremony, killing 11 and harming several. Shortly after the news broke, I went to Twitter and saw a bunch of quasi-political internet personalities blaming the president’s rhetoric for this shooting.

To politicize a tragedy means to make a hind-sighted comment placing blame on those not directly responsible or using the deaths of others to justify a political policy and ostracizing those who disagree. In each case for personal gain or social capital. If you think this mass murder is the fault of anyone but the shooter, you are wrong. I think that if you blame Trump or gun laws for this you’re completely missing a huge problem not so easily solved by simple political answers, while politicizing a tragedy. If you place blame on the government of Israel or the moving of the United States embassy to Jerusalem like GQ writer Julia Ioffe, you are not only politicizing a tragedy, but actively participating in the kind of anti-Semitism that encourages killers like this to feel justified in their actions.

Anti-Semitism has a history ranging back thousands of years. There is, unfortunately, a long history of anti-Semitism in the United States. In colonial America, Jews were banned from practicing medicine, law and from serving in public office in states like Maryland, Massachusetts and even my home state of Connecticut.

Even though anti-Semitism was present throughout the early part of U.S. history, this country has taken huge steps forward since its inception. Throughout years of the American experience through different industries, intellectuals, and services, along with passing legislation like the Civil Rights acts, Jewish people have flourished. A lot of Jews like myself feel Jewish people have created a great home in America.

I believe that solving the problem has to do with addressing the rising anti-Semitic sentiment felt in the Western world over the past few years. This includes the march in Charlottesville, and the stabbing of an Israeli student outside of his yeshiva in New York City in 2014. This is not a phenomenon in just America however, France and Sweden have seen a large exodus of Jewish people in the last few years as anti-Semitic attacks have risen in Europe. In 2012, an anti-Semitic extremist attacked a Jewish school in Toulouse, France. He killed four people including two children ages three and six. In 2014, an anti-Semitic extremist opened fire on a Jewish museum in Brussels and Belgium, killing four people. In 2015 a Kosher supermarket was sieged by terrorists, in which they killed four Jewish hostages. These constant attacks on the Jewish community have occurred all throughout history, and will continue if these societies do not begin to understand and retaliate against these hateful ideologies.

I continue to believe that The United States of America is the safest place in the world for Jewish people to live, but the evil of anti-Semitism has no borders or language, and Americans need to fight for the values of tolerance and freedom of speech, religion and association that built and held together this country together in its toughest times. Please send your thoughts and prayers to the victims of this tragedy and their families. You can help the victims and the community of Squirrel Hill by donating to https://www.gofundme.com/tree-of-life-synagogue-shooting. I’ll end this with a quote from the late Mac Miller, a Jewish artist from Pittsburgh: “People change and things go wrong, but just remember life goes on.”

Letter to The Anchor Editor

Faculty response to the Lauren Enos article, “Let’s Talk about professor evaluations” published in The Anchor on Oct. 15 of this year.

Lauren Enos raises really good questions about professor evaluations in her October 15 opinion column for The Anchor (“Let’s Talk about Professor Evaluations”). As a professor who cares a lot about my student evaluations, here’s how I would answer some of her questions:

What happens after I fill out course evaluations? The chair of the department reads them and then passes them along to the professor. Professors can do what they want with them after that, but many keep them on file—I still have every evaluation for every course I’ve ever taught.

Do my professors read my evaluations? I can’t speak for everyone, but every colleague I’ve ever talked to reads every word of their course evaluations. We may not agree with everything you write, but we take it all seriously. I’ve removed readings, changed topics, and added activities based on my course evaluations.

Do written comments matter? Personally, I find written comments more helpful than numerical scores. Many of you are more specific in written comments than when you fill out your Scantron sheets. And I can promise you that whether they prefer written or numerical comments, most of your professors are reading both.

Do my evaluations matter? Absolutely. Your evaluations matter to your professors, but they matter to RIC as well. Student evaluations are a critical part of whether we get to keep our jobs, used in promotion and tenure files for every professor.

Why are some of the questions so basic? Lauren is right that there’s a lot more to a good class than whether it starts on time, but these basic questions are important too. Student evaluations are the only way for RIC to find out what your classes are really like—if a professor consistently shows up late, or struggles to answer questions about course material, your evaluations are the best way to make sure RIC knows about it. If none of the questions on your evaluation form ask about things that were important to you, that’s what the written comments are for! (Again: I promise most of us read them.)

How can I write helpful course evaluations? Lauren didn’t ask this question, but I still want to talk about it, since you have control over just how valuable your evaluations are. Here are two things I encourage my students to consider doing. (1) Be specific. When a student writes, “I hated this course,” that makes me sad, but it doesn’t tell me what they hated. “I loved this course” makes me happy, but it isn’t all that helpful either—I don’t know what they thought was good about the course! The evaluations that are the most helpful to me are the ones that tell me about a specific reading, or assignment, or activity that a student liked or disliked. (2) Be professional. Your professors are people too! Comments that swear at us, or are illegible, or say nasty things about our appearance are unhelpful at best and hurtful at worst. While student evaluations are valuable, studies consistently show that people who are old, male, and/or white are evaluated more positively than people who are young, female, and/or people of color are. Be honest with us about how the class went, but pay attention to whether you’re giving different kinds of feedback to different kinds of people. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to writing professor evaluations that encourage your professors and give them constructive feedback. Your professor’s future students will be better off because you did.

– Amy Berg

Assistant Professor of Philosophy 

Halloween age limits: another futile law

Catherine Enos – Opinions editor

Photo courtesy of wquad.com

Imagine it’s Halloween, you’re 12 years old and you’re out with friends trick-or-treating. Now, imagine this: you get arrested and you face fines, jail time and a misdemeanor charge. This is what could happen to 12-year-olds in Chesapeake, Virginia.

Apparently, the ordinance in this Virginia city that sets this guideline is not new. It was originally established in 1970 (according to Chesapeake’s municipal code), but recently gained attraction on social media for its absurdity.  

Virginia is not the only state with ridiculous laws– there are examples of bizarre laws across the country. To put things into perspective, there’s a couple examples in our very own state. An example of one of these inane laws states that “impersonation of town sealer, auctioneer, corder, or fence-viewer” is a criminal offense.

Maybe stupidity is “in the eye of the beholder,” but why would a state ever need laws like these? The answer is: they don’t. Lawmakers have to decide where to focus their time and to pick their battles. Their limited energy is going to be focused on areas of utmost importance.

At the end of the day, lawmakers (and we) know that the law likely won’t be enforced. People probably won’t be arrested for impersonating an auctioneer and children won’t really be arrested for trick-or-treating. So lawmakers don’t waste their energy on giving the law attention.

A law that isn’t enforced has no power and is eventually forgotten– that is, until someone digs it out of the municipal code to snap a picture of and share online.

There’s a lesson in this story: don’t believe everything you read online. Everyone’s guilty of this. This particular law is a real law, but the vagueness and recency of the viral post lead people to believe that it was a recently-passed law. Social media users were ready to attribute reasons as to why the law may have been passed. Maybe there’s some truth in people’s analysis of the text, but you can’t know the whole truth unless you look at the big picture.

Your mental health is valid–shocker

Ariella Jeter – Assistant Copy Editor

Oct. 10 was World Mental Health Day, (which is kind of ironic because I actually took a mental health day that day). Mental health is something that we do not take seriously enough in this country, because if we did, we would not need an entire day devoted to reminding you that your mental health is not only valid, but important as well.

Too many of us do not take care of our brains the way that we take care of our bodies. On the other hand, we also misuse mental health terms and excessively self-diagnose ourselves. Just because you’re feeling a little blue one day does not mean that you suffer from depression, but we can still make efforts to better our mental health. Our minds are tricky beings and deserve to be taken care of whether or not you have a mental illness.

As someone with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, I know a thing or two about taking care of the machine that basically runs my whole existence. Suffering from a mental illness does not mean you are weird or weak… it just means your brain is just wired differently. You do not need to feel bad about yourself or embarrassed. What you do need to do is listen to your therapist (if you have one), take your medications (if you are prescribed them) and enjoy the little things in life that bring you joy.

Regardless of whether you suffer from a mental illness, it is important to take care of your brain. Don’t overwork it. If you need a break, then take it. You are not being lazy or unmotivated. Take some time to treat yourself to a few of your favorite things, spend some time in nature, or maybe just lay in bed all day doing nothing if that’s what makes you feel better. Mental health is so important and is a main key to our functioning. Rhode Island College recognizes this and offers great counseling services in Browne Hall, suite 100.

For those of you who know the feeling of not being able to get out of bed or not being able to be “all there” or feel any emotion and maybe even stressed to the point that you cannot breathe––you are not alone. And for those of you who have only experienced this to an extent or maybe even never at all––you are not alone either.

My best advice I can give is to take care of your mind. It is delicate and deserves to be loved just as much as anything else. I can’t say life is this beautiful, amazing thing that we are all blessed with and blah, blah, blah. But what I can say is we are stuck here for a while, so we might as well make the most of it. In order to do that, we need to get our minds right.

Government in America: a broken system

Derek Sherlock – Anchor staff

Two events this past weekend have proven to me that our government does not care what the people have to say. Not only has Brett Kavanaugh been sworn in as the newest Supreme Court Justice, but here in Providence, I witnessed white nationalists and neo-fascists marching in large numbers with the protection from both state and Providence police.

Witnessing both of these events proves to me that without a doubt, the entire system just does not give a damn about us at all. In the case of  Providence, just seeing the police protect the fascists after they started brawls with many of the counter-protestors, they crawled back to safety behind the police once we stood up to them. In the eyes of the police, the fascists did no wrong and we were the villains on Saturday. To make things worse, the cops also pointed assault rifles at us and had snipers on the roof of the State House pointing down at us. It shows us that they do not want to protect us from fascism since the police are one of the biggest supporters of fascism.

Brett Kavanaugh’s swearing in shows us that mostly old white men do not care that women were sexually assaulted, because it will ruin the life of another white man. The Republican party is telling women and girls that you can be sexually assaulted and they do not care about it because it will ruin the life of some young man, but only if he is white. They are telling young men and boys that you can pretty much rape someone and get away with it because (surprise!) the GOP do not care about women unless they are creating the next generation of soldiers to go off and fight their wars for them.

The whole political system, as well as the police and prison systems, needs to be destroyed. The whole racist system that white America benefits from needs to be burned to the ground. As a white person, I do benefit from this racist system in which we lock up Black and Latinx Americans for crimes that whites get a slap on the hand for– but it needs to be destroyed and something new needs to be built in its place.

I want a system that will value black beauty as equally as white beauty instead of telling black and latinx girls that having white features and acting white is what you need to strive to be. I want a system that will value trans people or people who are within the LGBTQ+ community instead of just the cis-heterosexuals. I want a system that will combat racism and say that it does not belong in this society. But I don’t believe we will ever see that type of system.

What Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment means

Catherine Enos – Opinions editor

In many ways, the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States only confirms what has been occuring in this country for a while: we, as a society, ignore women’s legitimate complaints against harassers.

I’m not inferring a judgement about whether Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is telling the truth or not. But this much is true: a large part of the Senate (Republicans) was dismissive about these charges from the start and specifically sought out information that would confirm their beliefs.

Photo courtesy of The Cut

The first thought that occurred to me was: why Kavanaugh? After he was accused, why didn’t Senate Republicans ditch Kavanaugh and find another equally conservative judge? The answer to this has two parts.

The first part is that Donald Trump was figuratively breathing down the Senate’s neck for a speedy confirmation. In Trump’s eyes, losing this confirmation would only display gross incompetence: the GOP is in the majority in the Senate, the House of Representatives and the Presidency, yet they can’t agree?

The second (and most important) part of the answer, however, is the fact that midterm elections are in a few weeks. It would be impossible to find another nominee and go through the process again.

I, a liberal female, feel hopeful about some of this information. I’m not excited about Kavanaugh being confirmed to the Supreme Court, nor am I excited that Senate Republicans (seemingly) could not care less about legitimate accusations of serious sexual assault.

I think the fact that Senate Republicans were absolutely scrambling to get this done before midterms sends a clear message: “we’re scared we’re losing power.” This is a definite possibility– the GOP barely has a majority over Democrats.

The more Republicans do to grasp at straws, the more people will see through the facade. This confirmation is only the beginning of the GOP’s fight for relevance and power. This is the dim light at the end of a long and dark tunnel.