The Human Connection

By Justin Graves

Hi. I’ve got two questions for you.

  • When you think about your own unique talents, what are some things you think of?
  • When you think of what’s important to you in the world, what are some things you think of?

There’s a whole realm of possible answers. Maybe you value the fact that you have a really strong artistic ability. Maybe you’re really passionate about your faith, or about sustainable and green living.

For me, the answer to those two questions are intertwined. For as long as I’ve had legitimate memories, I’ve valued the fact that I’m an extrovert. I write “extrovert” to mean that I get most of my energy from other people. Simply being an extrovert is not a special or unique talent, though. But I do think being able to connect with other people through such a trait is unique.

When I think of what is important in the world, I consider this fact: if you are reading this then you are probably, also, a human being. As human beings we have the wonderful opportunity, numerous times throughout our day, to connect with other people. As an extrovert, I take that responsibility very seriously. I own it, I practice it, I refine it, I learn from it, and I live by it.

I have a goal of meeting 1 new person every single day. This goal relates directly to what I think is unique about me, and what is important to me in the world: human connection.

It hasn’t always been that way, though. I’ve been told stories my whole life about how I was profoundly introverted as a young child. I wouldn’t really stray too far from my  parents and older siblings and I always preferred to keep it that way. Even in the grocery store, it was like pulling teeth to get me to make eye contact with the nice person helping us bag our groceries. But that all changed, and apparently it happened on one particular day. It was the day that I gained my physical disability of paralysis.

Just Being “Happy” is Overrated

By Olivia Ellis

Happiness: The state of being happy

Happy: Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment

Definitions by Google Dictionary

Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment…

Happiness is contagious. When you see someone smile, it makes you want to smile. In psychology this is called mirroring. And if you act and behave in a certain way, this can impact how you feel. If I smile, it can make someone else smile. And if we both smile, maybe it can impact how we are actually feeling in that moment. After all, being happy is feeling or showing pleasure or contentment. But the truth is, regardless of how someone behaves or acts, the moment of happiness reflected on their face does not always show the rollercoaster of what life has been and what it will continue to be.

A few years ago I started actively pursuing trying to make others happier. My mantra for years was that I knew I wouldn’t be the one that cured the common cold or cancer, but I could potentially be the person to make them smile. From there I began to do what I thought would make others smile. I started carrying bubbles with me everywhere so that if I saw someone having a bad day, I could offer for them to blow a bubble (the act of blowing a bubble and even being offered to blow a bubble typically made people laugh at the absurdity). I would seek out other opportunities to make people’s days. But often I felt that there was a larger piece of the puzzle I was missing. How can I help raise the average person’s happiness levels just a little bit more? Not just for a fleeting moment, but for an extended period?

This led me to start studying the science behind happiness (positive psychology). A few months into my studies I started to develop symptoms of depression. I remember watching a video of Shawn Achor (author of The Happiness Advantage) in which he described developing depressive symptoms while studying happiness at Harvard. At the time I didn’t understand how that was possible, but finally, it made sense. I was learning all the tools that science was telling me could make me happier, and forcing myself to do them. At the same time, I was becoming depressed and frustrated that they weren’t helping me become happier, thus making me feel helpless. I felt overwhelmed, undernourished spiritually, rest deprived, and doing things that weren’t authentically me. At the same time, I was trying to appear like the person I was when I felt I was at my happiest. In other words, my desire to achieve “happiness” led me to unhappiness.

The Importance of Escaping Your Corner

By Erin Scherer

“Most people try to settle into a corner on a spherical planet. Don’t be one of them.”

I stumbled across this quote online the other day and I thought it raised an interesting point. Geometry was never my strongest subject, but I do understand how the geometrics of this quote don’t quite add up. There are no “corners” on Earth, it is spherical. Yet many people seem to get locked into their “corner” of the world for much of their lives, going through their daily routines of working to live which often turns into living to work. But life is bigger than what we do for work, even if it is work we love. I made a commitment to myself a long time ago that I would make travel a priority.

In 2011, I embarked on an adventure that would eventually change my life’s course. I had dreamed of studying abroad in London since I was in high school, and JMU’s renowned study abroad program was one of the primary reasons I decided to attend there. By the time I was  a senior at JMU I had saved enough money working as a waitress to make this dream a reality. In the fall of my senior year I, along with 26 others, traveled across the Atlantic to what would become our home for the next 3 months. I was both excited and nervous to be so far away from everything and everyone I knew, but the experience of living in England and exploring a new continent proved to be more meaningful than I had imagined.

What Conservatives Get Wrong on Race

By Thomas Wheatley

On race, conservatives are right—but also wrong. To be sure, the fundamental principles of conservatism are the perfect antidote to racism in America: free market economics, Aristotelian virtuousness, and equality in a state of nature provide a field-tested model for prosperity that is wholly intolerant of unjust prejudice. Additionally, the conservative understanding of America’s founding is spot on—the Founders did not aim to make slavery a permanent fixture in American life (quite the opposite, in fact). Where conservatism falls short, rather, is its inattention to the lasting scars of history. Although the pain of institutional racism recedes with each generation, the memory nonetheless survives, affecting how many black Americans today understand their relationship with the rest of the world. Time heals wounds—but it does not undo them.

I. America’s Original Sin

America’s racist past is undeniable. Since the republic’s inception, people of color have struggled to find equal treatment both under the law and among their fellow countrymen. An early example of this racism may be found in the revisions surrounding the Declaration of Independence. Although the Declaration’s text reveals hundreds of worthwhile insights into the minds of the Founding Fathers and serves as the basis for sound ideas that would later appear in the Constitution, it is likewise revealing, however, to note what the Founders struck from the Declaration’s text—specifically the following:

“[The King] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation tither.” 

Historians explain this omission as an act of judiciousness; that the success of the war of independence relied on the unity of the colonies, and such unity could only survive if all involved—including slaveholders—believed the new government would preserve their most valued institutions, slavery in particular.

A similar compromise was repeated at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Four provisions were offered to the slaveholding states in exchange for their support for the new Constitution. First was the Three-Fifths Clause, a compromise on representation which deprived the Southern states of a decisive numerical advantage in Congress. Second was the Slave Trade Clause, which imposed a limit on Congress’s authority to regulate the slave trade until 1808. Third was the Fugitive Slave Clause, which provided that escaped slaves would be returned to those who claimed ownership. Finally, Article V bestowed upon the first and fourth clauses of Article I, § 9 immunity from repeal by constitutional amendment. Although the words “slavery” or “slave” never appeared in the Constitution’s text, the demands of politics ensured slavery’s survival.

Are First-Generation Americans Foreign?

By Martin Garcia 

Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None” is the perfect representation of millennials. I speak of this show because there is one specific episode that resonated with me more than anything I had ever seen on television before. Episode Two of this series approaches the nuances of being a first-generation American citizen and how they (as newcomers to this Western world) navigate life. I only speak of this specific episode is because it was a moment in television where I felt like I was being accurately represented and understood. This episode made me think of all the sacrifices my parents had to make so that I could live the life I have today. It gave me a deeper appreciation for my parents.

Born and raised in Northern Virginia, I have had a drastically different upbringing compared to my parents. Growing up, my father’s family lived in an abandoned movie theater on the small island of Bohol in the Philippines. My dad was a paperboy delivering newspapers for less than minimum wage. And here I am growing up in Northern Virginia, with everything I could have ever wanted. However, I wanted more. I wanted reciprocated love that I saw in my friends’ households. In (most) Asian cultures, parents are stereotyped to give “tough” love to their children. This tough love is defined by priorities, where school is the top priority and everything else comes second. I would compare this to my white friends who I had met at private school. Their parents would wear their love on their sleeves. Kisses, hugs, “I love you” – a type of affection my parents had never shown me growing up. But, like I said, all the sacrifices they had to make exemplifies unconditional love coming from my parents. They might not openly show it, but it’s clear that they love me. As I’ve seen them navigating American culture, they’ve indoctrinated that display of love I saw with my white friends as a child. While a good thing, my psyche was conjuring up more complex life questions.

Truth, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Art

By Pablo Gonzalez

Donald Trump is a fascist. I do not use the term sarcastically, nor is it meant to be hyperbole; it is merely a fact, and a fairly evident one to anyone that has been paying attention. There has been very little alteration in the operations of fascist leaders since Benito Mussolini founded the political movement in Italy, and, though today they may hide behind labels such as “alt-right”, their game plan remains the same. Among many, many others, Italian writer and philosopher Umberto Eco wrote extensively about fascism and its legacy, including a fourteen-point list of its defining characteristics in his essay “Eternal Fascism”. It should come as no surprise that Donald Trump, referred to hereafter as variations of his imperial title, “The Fuzzy Pumpkin”, checks almost every box in the list.

The Angry Orange’s campaign and post-election behavior have been marked by deceit, paranoia, intolerance, xenophobia, and sexism, but perhaps the most damning, and the most worrying, of his qualities are his attitudes towards information and dissent. The fascist playbook relies on total control of a populace, and every action they take, every policy they pass through, serves to further that goal. They engage in syncretism, the combination and perversion of beliefs; picking and choosing in order to arrive at one truth, their truth, one that is absolute and unchanging. They create cults of tradition and personality, a normalization of behavior that would otherwise be considered abhorrent. It does not matter where the beliefs came from, or if they contradict each other. It matters only that the people follow those beliefs blindly and unquestioningly, and he has employed several tools to spread misinformation and splinter the American public.

Trump’s attempts at totalitarianism are evident in his interactions with the media. He is obsessed with public perception. He cannot stand the idea of anyone saying anything negative about him, regardless of veracity. In the only press conference he has taken part of since his election, Trump refused questions from CNN, labeling them “fake news”, before taking a question from Breitbart, an ACTUAL fake news outlet that (surprise, surprise) constantly publishes articles supporting Trump and condemning his opponents. Just a day after Trump’s sparsely-attended inauguration, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, accused the press of inaccurate reporting, then proceeded to lie about the number in attendance at the inauguration ceremony. Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the President, went on to state that Spicer did not lie, but rather presented “alternate truths”, just after stating that, unless the media was willing to play ball, the administration would have to “rethink [its] relationship to the press.” Trump has been President for less than a week and he has already attempted state control of the media, threatening to shut them out if they continue to write negative (and accurate) pieces. They are shameless about their deceit.

An Unpopular Way to Be A Feminist

By Carlin Becker 

“Today, the ideology of contemporary feminism seems to be evolving into a dogma with which women cannot disagree without being defined out of the movement,” writes Wendy McElroy. “More and more there seems to be only one stand that a card-carrying feminist is allowed to take on issues such as sexual harassment or affirmative action.”

In a country in which it seems women who do not strictly prescribe to liberal ideology are frequently labeled as anti-feminist or anti-women, this essay serves to give my perspective on an underrepresented and misunderstood type of feminism and to show that feminism, like women, can come in many different forms. American women are diverse in thought, and by sharing a version of feminism that is fairly uncommon, I hope to show that there is certainly more than one way to be a feminist.

To me, libertarian feminism, like progressive feminism, is based on the belief that men and women should have equal liberty and is rooted in the idea of individual rights and the equal freedom of all people. Like progressive feminists, we reject gender role stereotypes and believe that men and women have both been harmed by them because they limit individual choice. However, we look to voluntary arrangements rather than to the state (aka government) as a solution to the many problems women face.

Progressive feminists often tend to identify gender-based concerns and immediately turn to the state to solve those issues through increased regulation or new legislation. Libertarian feminists seek equal treatment under existing laws and equal representation within existing political institutions before urging for the creation of new laws. In other words, we’d choose the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision—which found a woman’s right to an abortion free of undue burden to be an already existing right within our already existing governing body of law—over Congress passing new legislation guaranteeing that same right. That does not mean that new laws are never necessary, but we seek to limit their number when possible by reexamining current law.

We are means-oriented rather than ends-oriented, but do have a goal of liberating women so that they are free to make their own choices about their own lives and bodies. In believing that the ends do not always justify the means, we’re skeptical of using government to enforce our vision of a just society because doing so often infringes upon the liberty of others. What good is it to take down the patriarchy if we are to simply replace it with another form of oppression?

As Sharon Presley put it, “We see coercive government as just another form of patriarchy. Whether a government of mostly men, as we have now, or even a government of women and men equally divided does not change the nature of such government. It is inherently coercive.”

What Could Have Been

By Madison Irving

Hillary Clinton deserved to lose.

This needs to be stated explicitly and directly from the start. I don’t think anyone really deserves the Donald – but Hillary deserved to lose. This is a fact that far too few liberals seem to be willing to reckon with. There is a feeble attempt amongst those who want to look at every reason that Hillary lost without blaming her and her pathetic, narcissistic, incompetent campaign and it’s rancid collections of bootlicking, influence-peddling ignoramuses who preached models and data over people and emotions.

To hear the Clinton loyalists tell it from their distant echo chamber that is void from the reality in which millions live, voters in Barron, Burnett and Kenosha voted against Clinton only because of a cruel media, FBI director Comey, Benghazi (we can’t forget about that), her emails, and Vladimir Putin — and not because, by every metric, they hate her fucking guts and have for the past thirty years. Obviously the hatred for Hillary comes from many different sources, some deserved and others not. Misogyny undoubtedly played a role. Clinton was almost certainly right that her decades in the public spotlight have exasperated and multiplied the contempt for a woman who’s been playing what has historically been a man’s game.

But maybe it was because of her own irrational, egotistical hubris and the gross – dare I say, criminal miscalculations of her campaign staff. The way they always cited the “models” instead of listening to seasoned field operatives about where to channel campaign resources. Perhaps it was refusal to actually campaign in the states hit hardest by the corporate written and funded “free trade” agreements. The refusal to speak to the anger of those who have felt most left in the dust.

This is the reality anybody with any recognizable form of brainpower and a Rust Belt address might’ve stumbled across, yet has been seemingly impossible for Democratic partisans to ascertain.

However, there may be a more fundamental reason for loathing of Clinton. The Democrats, for anyone who cares to look, are plainly co-conspirators in the destruction of American life. They are the willing errand boys of the free-marketing Wall-Street criminals, of warmongers old and new. Clinton was basically bred to be an ignorant war hawk, with no actual conception of how her actions have destroyed the lives of millions, not just domestically but abroad. She is a fanatic in her pursuit for wealth. A lying hack who couldn’t, for the life of her sound honest or like anything more than a robot during her staged interviews that appear to be nothing more than a puppet show. Her blatant refusal to believe she should possibly be held accountable for her actions may be most what caused her undoing.

Whatever combination of hatred caused her inevitable demise matters not. What does matter is the outcome. And that outcome is Donald John Trump and the GOP holding more control of the government of the United States than any party since FDR’s Democrats in the 30s and 40s.

The New Wild West: Lawlessness on College Campuses

By Sara Scherer

Congresswoman Jackie Speier recently introduced a bill that would require college administrations to mark the academic transcripts of students who have been found to have violated the school’s policies on sexual violence. This bill, masked as an effort to promote safer college campuses, is really just a way to permanently brand young men, who have been suspected of committing sexual assault, as rapists.

The bill, called the Safe Transfer Act, would require the information to remain on the accused student’s academic transcript for five years. The purpose of the bill is to notify other schools of the accused’s alleged misconduct if the student applies to transfer elsewhere. If the accused attempts to transfer schools while a case is pending, the case will be documented on his transcript for one year. In other words, under this bill students are labeled as sexual offenders before any formal determination of guilt—a determination that college administrations are ill-equipped to address.

To be fair, the Safe Transfer Act must comply with existing disciplinary procedures; however, in doing so, the bill legitimizes the fundamentally flawed and unconstitutional procedures that college administrators employ when determining whether a student should be found responsible for a particular criminal act.