A comment that Asma Khalid, a campaign reporter for NPR, made on the September 1 edition of the NPR politics podcast has relentlessly made the rounds in my thoughts like a SpongeBob-style earworm. Khalid’s colleague, Sam Sanders, spoke briefly on Colin Kaepernick’s protest and what it meant for Sanders to be American as a black man, to which Khalid, a Muslim woman, responded, “I will say, no matter where I am at any campaign event, particularly if it is a Republican campaign event […] I stand. Even if I’ve got a laptop in my hand. And I put my hand up just to ensure that I make everyone in the crowd feel comfortable with me.”
Khalid’s statement is woefully poetic. To ensure that I make everyone in the crowd feel comfortable with me.
If someone were to misread one of my pieces, they might mistakenly assume that I am an angry or unhappy person. Yet anyone who knows me must know, I hope, that this couldn’t be further from the truth. While I certainly have every right to be or feel angry (and let’s not get that twisted), I am actually just an unflinchingly honest person — or, at least, I try to be. I harbor no bitterness in my heart, only an irrepressible impulse towards love and truth — love and truth, I reiterate, because the former is incomplete without the latter. Please, let me explain.
I have often wondered why the world insists that ISIS is not a state. I understand that there is power in being a state and giving any power to these terrorists seems inherently wrong. Yet, terror seems to be at the heart of many nations’ foundings, and while it seems to be on a new scale, when did we as a world forget our own history? Was it once the fear was gone? The danger of the past becomes more forgivable, especially when you have to live with the product.
The 2015 biopic Trumbo depicts the struggle that many screenwriters faced during the Red Scare. Dalton Trumbo (played by Bryan Cranston), along with nine other screenwriters, was tried and charged for contempt of Congress under the accusation of writing films promoting anti-American ideals. As a consequence, he and many other writers faced blacklisting, forbidding them from writing and getting paid, wasting an enormous amount of talent. After his jail time, he decided to use the loopholes in his court orders to his advantage. Trumbo wrote films under the identity of Robert Rich (another screenwriter who was away on military leave) and even won an Academy Award for Best Original Story for The Brave One.
There is a salient reason why the contumacious phrase “Make America Great Again” has become so popular. A lot of clubs that I am a part of on campus have crafted innocuous modifications of Trump’s catchphrase to inspire members and inject wit in agenda e-mails. The words “Make _______ Great Again” will definitely crop up on some organization’s Slope Day shirts by the end of semester. There is so much more to these words than mere rhetoric. Noam Chomsky’s cogent argument attributing Trump’s ascent to “deeply rooted — and potentially fatal feelings of fear and anger.”
There have been several theories attempting to demystify the emerging approbation for Trump’s jingoism.
When Michael Moore responded to the deaths of 12 innocent high school students with Bowling for Columbine, no one could have argued against the film’s political significance. A fiery critique of congressional negligence to curb gun violence, Moore’s impassioned documentary was so charged with a palpable, collective anger that many still refer to it as one of the most compelling political statements made by any documentarian. Even watching Bowling for Columbine nearly a decade after its initial release as an Australian high school student did little to weaken my appreciation of its persuasive fury. And the fact that U.S. legislators have failed to account for the thousands of victims of gun violence and have written off their deaths as an acceptable cost for the preservation of a 200-year-old constitutional amendment has only strengthened the contemporary legacy of Moore’s most important work. Moore’s latest film, Where to Invade Next — despite being deceptively titled to suggest a censure of American foreign policy — focuses on social welfare offered by other countries that Moore believes America ought to imitate.
As Cornellians we are called to highest level of intellectual introspection and reflection. One step towards understanding ourselves is realizing that the American society pushes us to establish our identity through “othering”: the act of labeling people as “others” different from ourselves. Our ontology is formed using an “us” versus “them” system. “We” are “us” because “they” are “them.” Through residential segregation we distanced ourselves. Our suburbs emerged through the creation of ghettos.
There are plenty of pressing issues at hand — the environment, our foreign policy regarding the Middle East and the economy to name a few. We hear these topics covered in the presidential candidate debates nonstop and as important as they are, they can draw attention away from other issues important to this country, specifically our broken justice system. There is plenty to be said on this issue — I’d say its most pressing concern is racial bias — but I would like to discuss another worrying trend in our justice system: the increasing privatization of our prison system. Privatizing prisons does nothing for us in the long run. I don’t care what you think the point of prisons are (be it to punish the guilty, or rehabilitate them back into society), when the system becomes private, prisoners begin to become a financial bottom line.
If not for the strong desire to assimilate into American culture, the film world would have struggled to launch itself. Immigrants came to America and found it easier to adopt these values instead of embracing their own culture. However, the content of film was just as important. With this, there was an ability to make, edit and distribute movies. There was a drive in the technological world, thanks to Thomas Edison and Eadweard Muybridge.