Category: Politics

A brief note to people who voted for Trump to preserve their ‘conservative religious values’:

I am a devout (Brethren) Christian. I always look to preserve my religious values (which may be considered conservative) when I vote. Always. And I firmly believe that a Trump vote does not embody this.

When I look for a candidate who preserves my Christian values, I don’t look for if they oppose certain ‘taboo’ sins as considered by popular culture – but if they exemplify what a Christian is by showing a Christ-like love. This person is not Donald Trump. So please do not try to disguise your racist bias under your so called pursuit of Christ. Above all Jesus calls us to love him and one another (Matthew 22:36-40). His second greatest commandment is to love another and I would like to know how you believe Donald Trump is pursuing this doctrine.

I can see how coming from your place of (presumably white) privilege you can overlook his other flaws because nobody is perfect and you are pro-life above all. I’d just like to add that I’m very pro-life. Pro-life as in the lives of millions of immigrants (documented and undocumented) who fear for their safety, millions of LGTBQ who fear for their safety, millions of people of color (like me) who fear for their safety, millions of AMERICANS who fear for their safety. Pro-life as in the lives of millions of Americans who do not feel the love of Christ from someone you voted for. Someone you voted for to uphold your ‘conservative religious values’ which to me are ‘conservative values that are not at all religious but definitely borderline racist’.

So please, do not continue to spread the lie that your vote for Donald Trump was a vote to uphold your religious beliefs. Do not be fooled: your vote for Trump was not a vote for Christianity. It was a vote that supported Trump, as a sexually immoral, misogynistic, racist bigot. It was a vote for someone who definitely does not uphold Christian values.

The author proclaims to have ‘a conservative mind but liberal views’ because she believes that above all – Christians need to show Christ’s love first. She is a first year student of color at Columbia College for now, but like may students is considering transferring to McGill or really any other school in Canada if Trump becomes the misogynistic, racist leader he portrayed himself as being during the election. She is constantly praying for the state of this country (and is low key happy that she is not an American at this point in time).

On Tuesday, we elected a man who had double-digit sexual offense accusations to be our 45th president. We elected a man as President who repeatedly spoke of groping women and called them “pigs” and “slobs.” We  elected a racist and misogynistic man president, instead of a competent and experienced woman.

This makes me sick to my stomach.

Being a girl in the United States today means being constantly taken for a sack of meat. It means frat boys at the entrance of parties only letting girls enter  – and only the ones who they deem to be “hot” enough – so that brothers can maintain their monopoly on women. It means having to justify not wanting to sleep with this or that boy. It means having to explain why you don’t want to be grabbed by the ass by a boy you barely know. It means being called a slut or a bitch because you refused to go on a date or to sleep with a certain guy. It means having to put your headphones in and your chin up when you walk down the street to tune out the constant harassment.

Growing up a girl means being sexualized before you even understand what that means. It means checking with your father, mother, brother, or best friend about whether that skirt is long enough for you to wear outside. It means the constant “do I look skanky?” and “will I get in trouble?” It means having to second-guess yourself in the mirror every day to make sure you aren’t “provoking” anything or “asking for it.”

This isn’t about the glass ceiling, equal pay for equal work, or academic and professional discrimination. This is about how we relate to our identities and our bodies, about what it means to grow up a girl.

I consider myself a feminist, and yet, I find myself falling into the trap of all these accusations. I find myself wondering whether I was really right to refuse that date, whether it was really okay for me not to go back home with that boy. Boys and men have disrespected me more times than I can count. I have been called a slut for not going along with what a guy was asking of me a shameful number of times. Like this, myself and millions of other women walk on eggshells to avoid the stigma of oversexualization. We keep our eyes down and pull down our skirts not to be noticed, and we fight off unwanted gestures as swiftly as possible.

We all suffer from this, girls and boys, who play along with the trend to appear “tough,” yet we keep quiet. Yet again, yesterday we elected a misogynistic man to preside over this country. We elected someone who not only exposes and embraces the entire array of sexual violence – from harassment to assault – that we face every day, but also legitimizes it. On Tuesday, 53% of white women voted for a man who considers them nothing more  than objects.

We have normalized sexual violence to such an extent that it has become imperceptible. We hide behind our libertarian ideas of hookup culture, drink an extra shot and assume everything is fine. We forget the rapes, the unwanted touching, the gross comments, and, most of all, the pressure. The pressure to pretend that everything is okay, that we are young and free and so is our sexuality. We blame each other for being stuck up, for not playing along.

I firmly believe that this is fundamentally wrong. I also believe that this wrong will only be fixed when we all stand behind our female role models and help them lead. Until we trust our fellow women enough to stand with them and fight against this image. Until we all stand together and fight everyday sexist violence, until we realize it is not normal, we will not be able to change anything.

Ana is a junior in the School of General Studies majoring in MESAAS.

The Lion is the only campus publication with an open-submissions policy. To respond to this piece or to submit one of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com.

Although I had intended to continue the series on the neuroscience of education, when I sat down to write a column a day before the United States votes for a new president, many new senate members, and hundreds of ballot measures, I’ve found that this election has truly consumed us all. So instead, today’s column will be dedicated to the young realm of neuropolitics – and what ramifications neuroscience may have for tomorrow’s vote.

Although contentious elections are nothing new, this cycle certainly feels more polarizing than years past. Many people on both sides are in disbelief as to how supporters of the opposing candidate could possibly overlook the horrible things they’ve said or done. Both sides are utterly confident that not only are they correct, but that all the facts support their position. Here is where fMRI has an answer.

In one of the first studies of its kind right before the 2004 elections, 30 self-identified ‘strong’ Democrats and 30 Republicans reviewed John Kerry and George W. Bush making self-contradictory statements while having their brains imaged. In an experience familiar to anyone who has tried this tactic against a member of the opposing party, the participants were critical of the hypocrisy in the opposing candidate while letting their own candidate off easy. While that result is predictable, the fMRI results were not at all.

The participants achieved this feat of mental gymnastics by quieting down the part of their brains necessary for impartial reasoning like the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and instead lighting up emotional circuitry such as the amygdala, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the insula, which will all be important later. Specifically, an area of the brain called the basal ganglia lit up, which is, among other tasks, responsible for rewarding selective behaviors with dopamine. Effectively, partisan brains were triggering dopamine rushes for ignoring the issues in their own candidates’ statements and criticizing their opponents. Once entrenched, it seems very difficult to combat confirmation bias by rational arguments when the ‘rational argument’ part of the brain is offline during these discussions.

The differences that divide us seem to run deeper than confirmation bias. A growing body of research shows some fundamental wiring differences in the brains of liberals and conservatives. One study was actually able to use brain regions of interest from an fMRI to determine political affiliation with 83% accuracy, which is over 10% higher than the next-best factor of parent’s ideology. In general, a conservative brain will more strongly react to disgust and react with more emotionality to uncertain concepts or events, thanks to a larger and more active insula and right amygdala.

Liberals, on the other hand, are less fearful of new stimuli and less reactive to negative events, and more likely to adapt to changes in established patterns. Some of these effects can be attributed to their larger and more reactive anterior cingulate cortex, which has long been known to monitor and mediate conflicting information. From the psychology side of things, personality data shows that conservatives value loyalty, stability, and are both risk- and change-averse.

Meanwhile, liberals are more likely to change their opinions and base decision-making on new information, specifically the kind of fact-heavy information that activates the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Without placing a value judgement on either ideology, it seems that biological differences in how people process and respond to information aligns with ideological differences.

Of course it’s important to keep in mind that the brain is a highly plastic structure, so there’s a classic chicken-and-the-egg problem in play here. Twin studies, long the gold standard for measuring genetic influence, attribute somewhere between 40 to 60% of political preference up to genetics, as manifested by differences in brain structure. It’s also possible, even likely, that slight anatomical differences might snowball into bigger ones if those neurological pathways are strengthened by continued exposure to politically charged information.

As with much of neuroscience, it’s sometimes unnerving to think about how our decisions are so frequently based on the activation of subcortical structures, not conscious thought. While we may find it difficult how someone could possibly vote for the other candidate, perhaps political neuroscience can contribute some understanding to the underlying motivations that determine political choices. So as we decide on a new president this Tuesday, give a thought to those scientists trying to figure out what’s going on in your brain while you’re making that oh-so-important choice.  

Uniquely Human runs alternative Mondays. To submit a comment or a piece of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com.

If you watched the Presidential debate on November 1st, one of the issues raised was the question of Syria. From the greatest humanitarian disaster since World War II to the rise of a terrorist state, Syria seems to be the nexus of ills. Given the seriousness of the situation, politicians and military leaders are considering military action in Syria, from Hillary Clinton’s no fly zone to Donald Trump’s yet to be announced strategy to take down ISIS. For most of us, these are abstract things we discuss rhetorically when discussing American military strength. For over four hundred students, this is a well-lived reality. If you are veteran attending Columbia today, you probably served in either Iraq or Afghanistan, two of the longest wars in American history. You also have the privilege, like Vietnam veterans, of realizing that the public believes the war in Iraq was pointless and seeing those gains fall so easily to ISIS. After that, statistically, veterans tend to support candidates who don’t have a history of hawkishness, like Gary Johnson or Donald Trump.

On the bright side, when veterans return home, they rightly have an expectation that they will be treated with respect. They risk their lives for their country and their country should give back. One of the ways we as a nation rewarded their service was the GI Bill.  Passed during World War II, it gave veterans returning home assistance in paying for college and trade school tuition. We passed an extension to this to apply for veterans of engagements after 9/11. You would think this would be uncontroversial, but Donald Trump complicates everything. In May of this year, he said to CNN that he doesn’t support the GI Bill. While there was one time where the Republican Congress tried to shift funds from one GI Bill benefit to support other veterans programs, usually Republicans stop after suggesting the privatization of the Department of Veterans Affairs. For those unfamiliar, the Department of Veterans Affairs oversees the Veterans Health Administration which should handle healthcare once veterans get past the very deep backlog. If you are wondering, the VA’s website states “VA health care is NOT considered a health insurance plan” which one would need to not be forced to pay for Columbia’s insurance. This is all simple with the Democrats in that they have thrown their support behind the GI Bill and against privatization, but I honestly was surprised I was covering this difference at all. Usually serving veterans is bipartisan except for the tiny details. In 2015, nearly two-thirds of veterans opposed privatization of the VA in a bipartisan poll. If veterans have spoken, and we love them, why is this a debate?

Of course, I generalize. There are over 400 opinions on campus that are much more valuable than mine on these things. They can provide perspectives more grounded in reality than a first-year. But Republicans have touched the GI Bill before. If Donald Trump wins, they might change a few things here and there. That might affect people who attend this university, and therefore I felt that not saying when there is a significant difference on approaches would be a disservice, because those of us who haven’t gone to war still have to vote on Tuesday.

Ufon’s mini-series, Columbia and the 2016 Election, will run through the November 8th Presidential Elections.

The Lion is the only Columbia publication with an open-submissions policy. To respond to this piece or to submit one of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com

Photo Courtesy of Bradley Davison (CC ’17)

I’ve seen a lot of uproar on Facebook the past few days in response to an article recently published in the Columbia Daily Spectator. The intent of the article, as it seems to me, is to cast a light on the many different points of view held by our peers that feel “privileged, and therefore ineligible to speak” on issues surrounding race relations. Furthermore, the author posits that we, the Columbia community, have failed to realize the “colorblind society envisioned by Dr. King.” I believe the Martin Luther King Jr.  quotes have been discussed thoroughly. I want to dig at a more personal issue.

The grand “zenith” of this failure for MLK’s Dream is an exchange about attractiveness on a Facebook page. Let’s just start with that. [A: Is he cute? B: No, he’s white]

Consider this: “You’re really cute for a black girl.”

This is something that I have heard over and over again in the course of my life. In almost all of my classrooms before starting college, I was the only student with my hair in an unruly puff on the back of my head – the only one that was brown. As I grew older, was placed in advanced classes, achieved great success, I would remain the only one.

Having little exposure to people of color beyond those of my own family, I began to focus on how I could be similar to the white people around me and distance myself from the non-erudite image of “being black”. You know – the “black as a state of mind” thing – dress “like you’re black” – talk “like you’re black”. I observed that my academic pursuits aligned with the career paths of the white side of my family. My appearance, however, would never be similar. I spent hours each day making sure my hair was pin-straight, I spent hours wishing my thighs would be smaller so I wouldn’t look “ghetto”. I did anything and everything I could think of to shake that qualifier: “for a black girl.”

So, here’s the take-away: that anonymous person who made a remark about an unidentifiable white man’s attractiveness should not affect him personally – because the white man has not been made to believe his whole life that he is a sub-class of something better. Moreover, these qualified appraisals of beauty are most often obliviously meant as compliments!

Yet….

“I don’t know why he’d want to see a black girl. She’s not a pretty blonde girl like me.”

This comment has stuck with me for three years and is a reminder that these insecurities that I’d struggled with weren’t merely of my mind’s own creation.

I whole-heartedly agree with the article’s position that a transparent picture of the ugliness in this country and prejudices within ourselves is the only way to actually change anything. I disagree with her assertion that there is a color-coded right to speak.

Open discourse is essential for progress! WHEN A POC* RESPONDS TO SOMETHING YOU SAID, JUST LISTEN AND DON’T BE SO DEFENSIVE. This isn’t about taking away anybody’s right to speak; it’s about giving some other marginalized voices a chance to JOIN THE CONVERSATION.

I can’t speak for other people that look like me any more than I can speak for any other human, but I think we all just want to be happy and show who we are – the “content of our character” – rather than having our lives reduced to proving to the world what we’re not (pushing back against the judgment based on skin color).

* Person of color

Jacie Goudy is a third year student in Columbia College (2018) double majoring in History and Political Science. She is especially interested in the comparative study of social factors on the political economy between Eastern and Western societies.

 The Lion is the only campus publication with an open-submissions policy. To respond to this op-ed or to submit one of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com