Oct. 13, at 12:20 p.m. — The English lounge was packed with people sitting under a shroud of excited silence. They were all there for the Refugeography, Bao Phi’s introductory event to the Cornell community. Bao Phi, a Visiting Critic in the Department of Literatures in English for this academic year, has won the Minnesota Grand Slam twice, made it to the finals for the National Poetry Slam and has written three heavily awarded children’s books. After Bao Phi was introduced on stage, he confessed that this event would be his first time performing in-person since March 2020 — no one would have been able to realize.
“Flowers and butterfly mask the genocide on the Karen People. A girl hiding in the Burmese forest from the brutal military junta. Many Karen crossed the Sarawren to peace and security in Thailand,” reads the text placed at the bottom of the three panels.
A Cornell professor lamented on Wednesday that the United States is abandoning its humanitarian tradition by limiting the number of refugees it resettles in the country during the first “Chats in the Stacks” book talk of the semester.
Hannah Arendt wrote that terror is the foundation of totalitarianism. The regimes of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin bound individuals into a single quivering mass through which terror coursed unhindered. Some say money is the root of all evil. I say fear is a more likely bedrock. Fear was an important, primal reaction that helped our ancestors survive – and we are all descended from the same; all races can trace their lineages back to the same primate forebears – in a dangerous world.
I don’t particularly want to talk about politics. Throughout these past two years as an opinion columnist at The Sun, I have made the conscious decision to never directly address a political party, a candidate or the policies enacted by the US government. Don’t get me wrong — I have plenty to say, and I strongly believe that refusing to talk politics with the people around you is refusing to engage opinions other than your own. Acknowledging political opinions is attempting to understand and engage in a political atmosphere that reflects the values and happenings of a world that is greater than your own. Yet I will not dedicate the ~800 words I am allowed every other week in The Sun to attack a party, a policy, or a candidate.
“Sometimes I feel like we’re stuck in our own Cornell bubble,” said Salma Shitia ’18. “But to have an entire community and an entire city that also feels that way is very rare, and I’m honestly so grateful that I could attend Cornell and be a part of the Ithaca community where individuals are so kindhearted and open-minded.”
Sitting in an advanced English course in a German high school, Jane* blends into the crowd. She is surrounded by white faces and occupies her place amidst the neat rows of off-white desks. She reads the same textbooks, laughs at the same jokes and writes with the same pencils as her classmates. Yet, her past is so starkly different from the peers she sits next to. She is a refugee, who initially escaped to Greece and now lives in Germany with her mother.