Thursday, February 26, 2015

Unchained, Unbroken

By Emily Wirtz

Recently, during the final weekend of January, amidst the chaos and costume of Ohayocon, members Ashland Women’s Chorus had the opportunity to travel to the Ohio State University to participate in the CONCEPT: Freedom Choral Festival. To raise awareness and funds for human trafficking and its prevention, OSU hosted the choral festival over a three-day period, consisting of a screening of Very Young Girls, a Women’s Glee club performance, featured speakers, a photography exhibit, “Unchained” fashion show, and CONCEPT: Freedom.

Kristina MacMullen, who also contributed to many other aspects of the program, was centrally the director of the CONCEPT: Freedom Chorus group, putting together a collection of three pieces, sung by multiple groups who had never before sung together in the span of a three-hour morning rehearsal. The pieces, “Untraveled Worlds,” “Will There Really Be a Morning?,” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” were all incredibly moving, their subject matter consisting of breaking through bonds and adversity—the overall message of the program.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

#TheSelmaProject – Racist Normativity

By Emily Wirtz

Selma—both the movie and the city—has raised a lot of thought-provoking questions, some of which have clear answers: Yes, racism does still exist. Some questions, on the other hand, remain pretty vague: I don’t know, what do we do about it? While I don’t have an answer as to how we go about knocking down racism in its entirety with a single hit, I do have a proposal. We need to talk about it—not just “we” as Americans, but we as Caucasian Americans who somehow still believe we live in a world of equality. We have to stop acting like racism doesn’t exist, or at least like it doesn’t affect us, and we have to start becoming aware. “Well, what the heck does it mean to be aware of it?” Listen, and in time, speak.
When I was in high school, I dated a guy for a short period of time—we’ll call him Phil. White, blonde hair, blue eyes, middle-class guy who listened to punk rock and country music. Country music was big. Austintown is barely a twenty minute drive to the Canfield Fair Grounds, which holds the largest county fair in Ohio and always has at least one country artist playing that week, only about 40 minutes from the Dusty Armadillo, Ohio’s leading country bar/club, and about 20 minutes away from Yankee Lake, which hosts Y.L. Truck Night every Friday in the summer. Now, I’m sure I don’t speak for everyone, but truck night was a little off-putting to me when I finally tagged along with Phil. Granted, I don’t at all mind watching a line of drunken people dance to Cotton-Eyed Joe, or the monster truck school bus go mudding, or even the occasional decent-sounding band. What I minded was the incredible number of rebel flags on display. “I don’t think that means what you think it means…” They were everywhere.

Friday, February 6, 2015

#TheSelmaProject – The Movie and the Aftermath

By Emily Wirtz

After Dr. C.T. Vivian’s extraordinary visit, the Ashland community was moved by his passion, stories, and testimonies to the cruelties of racism and segregated persecution. Those on both ends of the activist spectrum—those who criticized Vivian’s bias on racism as well as those inspired to change the presence of racism—spoke out. “Not all white people are racist.” True. “Racism doesn’t really exist anymore.” Doesn’t it? “I’m not privileged because I’m Caucasian.” Are you sure? His discussion clearly brought about a variety of opinions from all ethnic and race groups in the community and here on campus. A week later, a few faculty members and students came together with the Diversity Group and Student Affairs to drive through Sunday’s blizzard and into Selma.

I’d never been to Mansfield’s Cinemark, and I’d thoroughly enjoyed the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. event, so “why not?” I dragged my roommates out into the snow, bribing them with promises of popcorn and pizza and a free movie. They joined me, half-enthused by my desire to save the world by watching history unfold on the big screen. I’m glad they came. So, we hoarded into a van of people we didn’t know, bought some popcorn, and sat down for the always-exciting previews. Two minutes into the movie, the roommate to my left was in tears and she to my right was wide-eyed and watching intently as the camera zoomed in on the bodies of four little girls crushed and intertwined in a mound of church remains. Two hours later, we’d had the experience of witnessing MLK, C.T. Vivian, and LBJ make history. I’ve talked about history books and the distance they create—and they do. A factual, emotionless description of such events sometimes makes me question both the heart of the author and that of myself as an unmoved reader, but such is the way of a text book. A dramatic, emotionally-fueled account of America’s painful history, brought to life with real voices, untouchable filmography, and Oprah revokes all questions because a text book is a text book, but the history contained within holds such an incredible amount of pain, pride, failure, and triumph, any American History book editor would be brought to tears.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#TheSelmaProject – The Encounter

By Emily Wirtz

When Dr. C.T. Vivian arrived on Ashland’s campus Monday, January 19, I was both inwardly and outwardly ecstatic simply to witness from a distance this civil rights legend. It’s not very often that one has the opportunity to meet someone from the history books. At first impression, prior to the event, I’d expected an ordeal—some kind of showy, Obama-esque, “look at my battle scars” kind of encounter. What I got on Monday evening was my grandpa. Granted, there was a glaring difference in skin tone between my biological grandfather and this legend standing before me, but all the same, Vivian was much less and yet so much more than I was expecting.

Down-to-earth and socially-aware are not two descriptions I would usually put together. I see the “check your privilege” bloggers who in the most basic sense are holding themselves on a privileged pedestal with an “I’m better than you because I’m socially aware” aura. Then I see the sincere, stay-out-of-the-way people sitting in the back corner of events like these, not because they’re okay with social injustice, but simply because they’re not public orators. Vivian, in a sense, held the best qualities of both—though obviously he was a public speaker. That is why my impression was that he was my grandfather reincarnate. I know that sounds a bit bizarre. In middle school, I did a history fair project on the March of Bataan in WWII, in which my grandpa was a prisoner of war. When I interviewed him about his experiences, an entirely different person I had no idea was there came through. In that moment, my down-to-earth grandpa became a victim, a hero, and a survivor, doing so with the humility with which I was familiar, but with an additional distance—he was a man from my history books. This is what Vivian became. He began as a legend, someone who existed in textbooks and documentaries but who I’d never encounter in a real-life setting. The privilege of meeting him completely shifted that outlook.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Thoughts on the Cuban Missile Crisis

By John Stratton

“Who do we want to be with when we die?” That was the question. Should we be with each other or with our families? I was a senior in high school during the Cuban missile crisis, and that was the question we asked each other as we heard about the Soviet missiles in Cuba and about “our” response.

I don’t remember being shocked that we were asking that question. We were accustomed to the idea of “mutually assured destruction.” We all knew that if someone — i.e., the Soviets or us — launched a nuclear missile, the other side would launch its missiles. Mutually assured destruction — and I don’t know of anyone who commented, then, on the acronym. It was the official policy of the nuclear age, the way to keep us safe — Mutually Assured Destruction, MAD. It was madness we had come to accept, and that acceptance was another kind of madness.

One of the unexpected joys about sitting in a doctor’s waiting room is finding old magazines, sometimes with really interesting articles. That’s how I found “John F. Kennedy's Vision of Peace” by Robert Kennedy, Jr, in Rolling Stone.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

One Hundred Years Ago — Christmas Truce

By John Stratton

What if they gave a war and nobody came?

This was a favorite slogan during Vietnam protests. The idea is wonderful. “They” have declared war, as “they” do for whatever reasons “they” declare war, but this time no one comes to the party. No soldiers, no war. It made a kind of cosmic comic sense; it still does.

The amazing thing is that it once happened: Christmas Eve, 1914.

When I first heard the story, I assumed it was apocryphal, a wish that people had for peace in the carnage of World War I.
The Christmas Truce 

For a generation, World War I was known simply as the Great War. Before that it had been known by different hard-to-resist propaganda slogans: the War to End All Wars and the War to Save the World for Democracy. Like most wars it was a failure: probably 7 million combat deaths, another 3 million military deaths from disease, accidents, malnourishment and maltreatment in POW camps; perhaps 6 to 10 million civilian deaths, perhaps more. Twenty million deaths in a war that was the prelude to another World War in 25 years, when two or three times as many would be killed. Twenty million deaths in a world with a total population of less than 2,000 million (2 billion). Perhaps one or one-and-a-half percent of the world killed. Shall we note there were probably 20 million non-lethal casualties of one sort or another.

But the Christmas Truce was not apocryphal. It was real, a spontaneous gesture reaching across no-man’s land on Christmas eve, 1914.

The War had begun just months before. The assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife in Sarejevo occurred at the end of June, and that set in motion the dominos of mutual defense alliances. Of course it could have been stopped, but no one was willing to stop it. Young men rallied to the cause — whichever cause they rallied to — as a way to test their manhood. The recruiters, including the press for both sides, said it would be over by Christmas, but it was just beginning.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Human Up!

By Peter Slade

In the aftermath of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program that revealed, among other things, that two psychologists were paid $81 million to design and participate in the CIA’s so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques, Fox news got an exclusive interview with Dr. James Mitchell - one of the psychologists that Physicians for Human Rights is calling a war criminal.

I watched the interview online and found the experience equal parts disturbing and morally disorienting.

Dr. James Mitchell presents himself as a reluctant torturer. A man compelled to abandon his “moral high ground” by the events of 9/11 to save American lives. That the interrogation techniques were in fact torture (whatever legal definitions the CIA hides behind) is clear from the interview. Dr. Mitchell told Megyn Kelly that “the techniques are so harsh that it’s emotionally distressing to those who are administering them.” One can only imagine how distressing they are for the subject of those techniques.