Terrorism is Terrorism. Drop the Subtext.

NickDefaultNick Wallace ’14

I have not felt strongly patriotic in a long time. With the continued discrimination against minority groups here at home and the continued use of drone attacks that target civilians in Pakistan, it is sometimes hard to be. But this past week has given everybody, including myself, a chance to be a bit more patriotic than usual.

A week ago today, I was receiving text message updates on my phone indicating the speed at which my roommate was running the Boston Marathon (He flew through the race in under three hours, by the way). I was checking my phone periodically through the morning, hoping to see if my roommate was keeping the pace he had hoped to maintain throughout the race. The race finished, and I immediately texted my good friend to congratulate him on fulfilling a lifelong dream. Little did I know how much chaos would soon ensue.

I will not recap that horrific day, as I am sure all of us will always remember where we were when we first found out that a bombing had taken place at the Boston Marathon. As a native New Yorker, I remember as a child watching the morning news with my family before boarding the bus to go to school on September 11, 2001. I remember some of my peers being pulled out of class and told that they were going to be picked up from school early. I remember one particular classmate asking our teacher powerlessly if her father, who worked in New York City, was going to be okay. As I watched the news with my friends last Monday, the same feelings of confusion and vulnerability sunk in as I contacted friends to see if they were safe and heard my other roommate (a Boston native) frantically try and contact his family members.

But similarly strong was the sense of pride I felt while watching the Red Sox defeat the Royals 4-3 this past Saturday in their first home game since the Marathon. It was the same pride felt the day following the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Danny Nava’s homerun was reminiscent of that of Mike Piazza’s on September 21, 2001. In both instances, something as common sporting event was able to bring the city together in a time of need. It is safe to say that the nation was cheering for Boston in that baseball game, and that the win for the Red Sox was for the entire city.

But as we as a nation rally behind our flag following this tragic attack, it is important not to isolate certain members of our community. It was almost surreal how quickly the mass media tied the bomber’s religion to this entire incident. While watching CNN, one news analyst reported that Tsarnaev had just recently become a U.S. citizen on September 11, 2012, and was speculating whether the suspect had purposely chosen the date as a symbolic representation in the name of Islam. Truth be told, nobody chooses the day he/she becomes a citizen in the United States.

Similarly, the word “terrorist” was quickly applied to the Boston bombers. I do not wish to suggest that these men were not terrorists; their acts confirm that they indeed were. But let us be careful about associating the word terrorism with specific groups of people. Note well that terrorist organizations exist across the globe and identify under a diversity of religious denominations. The actions of the Ku Klux Klan, for example, can be considered terrorism. I do not think many rational people can argue that the lynching of innocent human beings can be considered anything but acts of terror. Furthermore, the Ku Klux Klan often cited Christian doctrine for committing such crimes in the first place, and attempted to maintain the traditional social ordering that existed in the United States. But by no means are all Christians associated with the Ku Klux Klan.

Likewise, The Lord’s Resistance Army, formerly led by Joseph Kony, operates in Uganda, South Sudan, and the DRC. The group characterizes itself as a fundamentalist Christian movement, and yet has been responsible for widespread human rights violations including murder, rape, child slavery, abduction, and mutilation. It is safe to say that like the Ku Klux Klan, not all Christians are associated with the Lord’s Resistance Army.

And there is the Westboro Baptist Church…. have I made my point?

Unfortunately, Arabs and Muslims are disproportionately depicted in the American mass media as extremists, terrorists, and villains. Action packed movies often contain violent Muslim extremists who are wreaking havoc, while white Americans are the ones to restore order. Even cartoons that Americans deem acceptable for children contain discriminatory undertones. A perfect example is Aladdin, which is considered a Disney classic. In the movie, the lighter skinned protagonists, Aladdin and Jasmine, have westernized facial features and Anglo-American accents. This is in contrast to the other characters, which are dark-skinned, bloodthirsty, and villainous. They are cruel palace guards or greedy merchants with Arabic accents and grotesque facial features. Moreover, the movie’s opening song sets the tone:

“Oh, I come from a land, from a faraway place, where the caravan camels roam, where they cut off your ear if they don‘t like your face, It‘s barbaric, but hey, it‘s home.”

Clearly, the Disney movie Aladdin encompasses racial and religious discriminatory undertones. But this movie is just one example. All across the board (including MSNBC, Fox, and everything in between) Muslims are disproportionally depicted in a negative light. The following statistics show the consequences of this one-sided media coverage:

-48 % of Americans believe that torturing suspected terrorists is often or sometimes justified.

-39 % of Americans believe Muslims living in America are not loyal to America

-More than 1/3 of Americans believe Muslims living in the US are sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

-Nearly ¼ of Americans say that would “not like to have a Muslim as a neighbor.”

(USA Today Gallup Poll 2008)

What is alarming is that the one-sided media coverage that exists leads to fear. As stated in the documentary The Mean World Syndrome, “this type of fear and condemnation of entire groups of people seems to be less based on our actual relationships with people and more on our relationship with media.” Without positive depictions to counteract the negatives, the most extreme members of minority groups are allowed to stand out above the rest, creating a distorted and menacing depiction that leaves viewers feeling “under attack.”

Let’s not make the same mistakes we have previously made in regards to racial profiling and religious discrimination. Do not assume, by any means, the ridiculous assertion that all Muslims are terrorists or sympathetic to terrorist. These Boston Bombers do not represent the views of either their nation or their religion. Whether or not they acted alone, or within a larger group, these people represent an extremely miniscule minority of people; they are certainly not in the majority.

A Pledge to Remember. A Pledge to Run.

Guest Chat

Sean Aherne ’14

Patriots’ Day in the greater Boston area is an experience unlike any other. There are re-enactments in Lexington and Concord, the Red Sox play an 11:00 AM matinee game, and for the last 117 years the city of Boston has cheered runners in the famed Boston Marathon. Monday afternoon, while streaming the marathon live on my computer, I saw something ghastly. While the details of the attack and the resulting deaths and injuries are still not fully known, one thing is clear, the city that I love and treasure and the marathon I have dreamed of running for as long as I can remember will never be the same.

My heart sank as I saw the explosions happen over and over again as CNN played it on a loop. It was so surreal, a double bombing at the Boston Marathon. It was an event that never even entered my worst nightmares. Boston is tough and resilient. We will stand strong. We will care for each other and we will come out of this a stronger community. As I scrolled through my twitter feed searching for more news on the attack, I came across a tweet that will never leave me: “Reports of Marathon Runners that crossed finish line and continued to run to Mass General Hospital to give blood to victims #PrayforBoston.” I felt an instant chill. In the immediate wake of arguably the city’s worst tragedy in its history, the true character of the city was coming out.

Enough cannot be said about the work of the first responders who rushed in to help the injured and dying without fear of personal harm. We are the 9/11 generation. Everything we say, see, do, or experience is viewed view the lens of having experienced that unspeakable tragedy. With the acknowledgement of this lens, I must say that the first responders in Boston on Monday were spectacular. At an interfaith prayer service in Boston honoring the first responders and victims, President Barack Obama said it best, “We may be momentarily knocked off our feet, but we will pick ourselves up. We will keep going. We will finish the race.”

In a world with a 24 hour news cycle, the press can impede an efficient, effect, and fruitful investigation. Despite a few instances of the press over stepping its bounds, overall the police and press worked well to keep the public informed, find both suspects, and not compromise either responsibility. Never in our country’s history has a city been shut down in the way that Boston was on Friday. However, it was imperative that every resident of Boston, Watertown, and other area cities and towns stay safe. Residents did follow the orders of government leaders, enabling police and federal authorities to the final suspect almost a full day after the first suspect was killed. The second suspect, now in custody, is receiving medical treatment. He is being questioned without being read his Miranda rights because the justice department is evoking the public safety exception. Whatever one’s views on this loophole may be, for now, we must trust in our justice system.

I will make one promise: I will run the Boston Marathon next year not for any selfish reason, but rather to honor those who tried to run this race and were robbed of that opportunity, especially those tragically robbed of life, limb, or family members.

Sean is the PC Student Congress President-elect, an avid runner, a perennial Boston Marathon fan, and a native of the greater Boston area.

Of, By, and For Whom?

HannahDefaultHannah Howroyd ’13

Traveling through New Jersey by way of Amtrak is a wasteland. Anyone who has taken the train from Connecticut to Washington, DC can attest to this fact. Yet while I was traveling last December, mile after mile of graffiti-stained junkyards, industrial plants, and warehouses whose chipped paint hasn’t seen a new coat since the railway’s inception, I noticed one salient commonality, one constant amid the cacophonous vista from CT to NY to NJ to PA to DE to MD to DC: the American flag flying at half-mast. Less than a week earlier had been one of the most startling, jolting, and preventable losses my state and my country had witnessed. Yet there, looking out my train window, the half-masted flag stood as a visible, tangible testament to a nation united. Yes, it may have been the obligatory Bruce Springsteen blaring through my headphones that put me in an ultra-patriotic mood, but I am sure it was something deeper. It was the concept of solidarity. Of common loss. Not of Republican or Democrat, just but of one singular American sentiment.

Now fast-forward from December to April. Initial aftershock and emotion amongst the American people further translated to a continued call for common sense gun controls and regulations.  90—yes, 90—percent of Americans backed universal background checks as part of the bipartisan Manchin-Toomey bill. However, the bill’s failure was a testament to the disparaging influence of the NRA, the nation’s top special-interest lobby.

guncontrolcomic

The legislative process we’ve come to know and love in the Land of the Free has become so convoluted, so encumbered by special interest that it is unfair to in full-faith call it democratic. How can one constituent phone call and letter be comparable to millions of dollars and lobbyist clout thrown into the ring each year by special interest? Modern American politics—as this week’s Senate rejection further exemplified—can increasingly be seen as a check on the will and voice of the American people.

If you think I’m blowing the NRA’s role in the Senate’s rejection of the bill out of proportion, I’ll let the facts do the talking. $3.01million—the amount of reported NRA expenditures in 2012 on federal lobbying efforts. $1.5million—the reported total the NRA spends on campaign and PAC contributions. $19million—the reported total of money spent by the NRA on outside spending to influence elections. And these figures are for 2012 alone. Not convinced? Let’s look some more cold-hard facts. As the Chicago Tribune reports, “Six Republicans — Orrin Hatch, Mitch McConnell, Jeff Sessions, Richard Shelby, Mike Crapo and Chuck Grassley — who voted for universal background checks in 1999, when the NRA supported them, voted against background checks this week, now that the NRA opposes them.”  That my friends is a textbook definition of flip-flopping.

The notion of public service is all but lost on many in Congress that take the oath term-in and term-out. The thirst for re-election at any coast, a de facto nature of the political beast, trumps the irrefutable needs of the common American. When will elected officials have the courage, back-bone, and principle to stand up for their constituents not only when favorable, but in adversity to the choke-hold lobbies and interests? These are the questions I am dealing with when I look at my faith in the US Senate.

The sad thing is, they are getting away with it. Just today Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had the gall to say, “We kept hearing, again and again, that ninety per cent of the American people wanted us to vote a certain way. Well, at the end of the day, we decided that we weren’t going to cave in to that kind of special-interest group…If the American people think that just because they voted us into office and pay our salaries, benefits, and pensions, we are somehow obliged to listen to them, they are sorely mistaken.”

How is it that one can vehemently vote nay on such sensible and popular safety measures as universal background checks? How can one assuredly bow to the pressures of the NRA while looking into eyes of the families of Newtown sitting in the Senate Gallery?  Our children may not be of legal age to cast a vote for your re-election, but does this mean that their welfare goes by the wayside? Does their safety matter less in an age of modern politics in which political solvency is tied inherently to special interest?

Political resilience, in my view, comes not from a politician’s padded campaign contributions, but from the courage to stand with the American people in the face of special interest. That being said, kudos to the four Republican lawmakers—Sen. John McCain (AZ), Sen. Mark Kirk (IL), Sen. Susanne Collins (ME), and Sen. Pat Toomey (PA)—that broke traditional ranks to side with the 90%. It is paradoxical to think that courage in the modern political definition would pertain to public service being accountable to the public (what an abstract idea), but that is where it dishearteningly stands.

I, and ninety percent of my fellow Americans agree, that universal background checks are common-sense legislation. The rejection of the Manchin-Toomey bill is not the end of the battle on gun control by any means. However, what it shows is the negligence of the Senate on the prioritization of the will of the American people. It is increasingly clear that for necessary gun reform to occur, there needs to be a push for accountability between the representative and the voter. My mother always tells me that just because I’m loud doesn’t mean I’m right. Well, we need to remind the elected official that it is the true voice of Americans, not the presently louder one of special interest that has the final say.

The featured cartoon was originally published in US News and World Report

Checkpoint: Providence

mattdefaultMatthew Henry Smith ’16

A week or so ago, a friend of mine was stopped after using his student ID to scan into the Peterson Center. Security asked to see his ID, because they thought he might have been a “neighborhood kid”. He is from Massachusetts.

About two or three blocks from the gates on the corner of River and Eaton Street is my house. I’d lived there in the Elmhust area of Providence all of my life until I came to live here, a few backyards away, in Friartown.

Still, I am a neighborhood kid.

My friend has soft brown skin, dark friendly eyes and the resilient swagger of any student who fights the race barrier each day at this school. My skin is pink and freckled, my eyes blue, and I walk through campus wondering why, despite actually being a kid from the neighborhood, I have never been stopped.

If only the issue of minority v. security were new, but it reaches far beyond even the time here spent by our senior class. According to students who have been the subject of “random” checkpoints, stops like these can happen as many as fifteen times in a single student’s academic career. This article is looking at only a fistful of threads in what is the tapestry of issues with diversity on campus.

It’s not just the stops. It’s not just the skin. When six male students passed me late one night and called me a faggot, I timidly took my story to safety and security. No safe-space sticker in sight, the officer who took my information (assuming from my look and candor that I was heterosexual), stated, “you know, they probably just thought that you were somebody else.”

With all due respect, those boys were just bigots; making aesthetic assumptions is the office of Safety and Security’s consistent transgression.

This year, Safety and Security announced that it would be pursuing accreditation. This month, in the wake of an uptick in racial profiling allegations, the department hosted a “listening session” where students with issues could address the department without feeling like they’re accounts will be discredited. I was in attendance, and noticed that while Major Leyden and Officer Dunbar listened attentively, the person who was overseeing the accreditation offered unwarranted, inappropriate excuses after every student testimony. It boiled down to victim blaming, telling students that they are responsible for coming to security (the department whose members have profiled them) post profiling to document the incident. This was not the meeting students were told they were having.

On the flipside of this issue is the question of “the neighborhood kid” and more importantly, PC’s relationship with the neighborhood.

When the suburbs were being developed the Federal Government granted housing development loans to white people, but not to people of color. This practice known as “redlining” resulted in significant race segregation, as well as financial segregation. White people built up equity and wealth in suburban home-ownership, but people of color were not even allowed to take out loans to renovate their apartments in the city.

This is not to say that there are no wealthy people of color in the US, or low-income white people who come from cities. But when, two afternoons a year, the greater-than 88% percent white and high-income student body dons their pearls, Vineyard Vines, Patagonia and Chubbies and drunkenly occupies the Chad Brown area, we must reassess our practices.

When we parade our relative wealth through an impoverished area, but assert that people who have an “impoverished look” haven’t the right to be on our campus, that is more than a curious injustice. This is the violent gentrification of the neighborhood. And in tandem with the rampant racial profiling on campus, it chimes a harmoniously harrowing message:

Faculty, staff and student, alike, we must consider how our interactions have directly contributed to the canon of American inequality.

This Week in Good Ideas: Bring Back the Date

mhagandefaultMichael Hagan ’15

After I finish a massive English paper this afternoon (and maybe, if I’m lucky, take a nap), I’ll be cleaning up, picking out something to wear, and perhaps even ironing a shirt in preparation for something I haven’t done in a while: going to dinner. Yes, I eat dinner all the time; I’m talking about going to dinner. Tonight, thanks to the efforts of a few creative PC students, a sellout crowd is going to have the opportunity to do something that seems foreign to us as broke college students. We’re going on a date!

Now what does it mean to go on a dinner date? It could mean going to dinner with a significant other. It could mean going to dinner with someone you’re trying to get to know and may be interested in developing a more serious relationship with. It could involve an old friend you want to catch up with, a good friend you see every day, or a friend-of-a-friend who you’ve been set up with. It could be romantic; it could not. Ultimately, a date is a mutual acknowledgment between individuals that they want to spend an hour or two away from the distractions of their everyday routine in order to get to know each other/catch up and enjoy each other’s company.

But the date has become relatively foreign to most college students. It might have something to do with the fact that it’s cheaper to get drunk than it is to get dinner for two, or with how busy we all are right up until the hour we hit the neighborhood on Friday night. Whether for convenience’s sake or for the sake of thrill, the hook-up has supplanted the date. Campuses across the nation have forgotten that there are more relationship options than A) Not speaking to someone at all and pretending to be invisible and B) Drunkenly making out with someone against a wall in a basement and then who-knows-what.

But what’s unique about “Bring Back the Date” is that its organizers are not trying to tell you how to date, whom you can date, or that you can’t hook-up. These are students like you and me; they are simply offering us the chance to enjoy doing something that we don’t get to do often. And it’s open to everyone! This event is a stellar example of student leadership. Hats off to the organizers who put it together.

Tonight, I’m looking forward to having a great meal, spending time with friends, and promoting a healthy dating culture. I’m excited to see this great idea come to fruition, and I can’t wait to see what this energetic group of student leaders come up with next.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a date to get ready for. Have a great weekend, everyone!

10 Steps to Make PC the Place it Claims to Be

mattdefault

Matthew Henry Smith ’16

Whether Providence College does or doesn’t indirectly market itself as a place to come and get drunk is up to anyone’s discretion. But with the event “Bring Back the Date” coming up, (a sweet, albeit a heteronormative, attempt to set this campus straight) it’s time for Friartown to take a serious look at how policies on this campus are perpetuating all of practices the administration claims to abhor. Here are ten things PC can do to make it the place it claims to / would like to be.

1.     Bring back hard alcohol to campus.

Drinking at any age occurs at any college. But why is it that the school that has banned hard alcohol consumption on campus consumes more than any of its peers nationwide? This trend only substantiates on a smaller scale what everyone already knows: the greater the taboo, the greater the abuse. Additionally, when an administration chooses to believe that their students don’t use booze, that is when students leave campus in droves, become intoxicated in an unfamiliar city and walk back into the arms of welcoming arms of muggers.

 2.     Make all dorms co-ed by floor.

Boys would behave better. And probably shower more.

 3.     Eliminate parietals.

Nothing promotes healthy sexual culture like a campus that assumes all of their students have chosen chastity (not that there’s an issue with abstinence) and that mandates boys and girls need to vacate spaces of cohabitation at certain arbitrary hours. Studies have shown that, regardless of whether or not students are taught abstinence or safe-sex, they begin having intercourse at the same average age. Parietals do not discourage sex, they promote hook up culture (which is not as yet Vatican approved).

 4.     Safe-space trainings at Orientation (or at least as a graduation requirement).

Providence College is a safe space…. For socially ignorant young people people to become ignorant graduates. As it stands, our campus is a somatic utopia for the wealthy cisgender heternormative Christian to not have to learn about the beautiful diversity of God’s holy creation in other human beings. For as long as we don’t educate our student on the gender/sex spectrum, the fluidity of both and the truths about non-typical identities and the struggles people face, we are fostering adversity and prejudice, and creating a false illusion of the world outside of Providence College.

5.     Allow Student Congress to do its job.

When Congress, say, passes legislation to say that we don’t have the right here to discriminate based on sexual orientation, don’t veto it and say, “Just because it isn’t included in our antidiscrimination clause doesn’t mean we don’t uphold the dignity of all persons.” Give equality some teeth, or admit that your “love for the dignity of all persons” is a lukewarm love at best.

 6.     Create legitimate weekend programming.

Bringing back the date is only as necessary as the school has made it by indirectly and apathetically determining that the only socially acceptable weekend activity is to get your money’s worth out of your fake ID. Informal dances should be more routine. Turn the Smith Arts Center into a Double-Feature Movie Mecca for people to go on Friday and Saturday nights.

 7.     Require Public and Community Service Courses.

If you want the greatest microcosm for the scourge of poverty and abuse in the world, look no further. The city of Providence is a wondrous but impoverished place. The Providence students most often see, however, is an exclusively Federal-Hill-and-Capitol-Grill-Filled-Thayer-Street-rumpus of indulgence. While natives like me are grateful that the disposable incomes of most Friartown families are stimulating the local economy, we must remember that our poor are the world’s poor, and their problems are universal. We should be exposing our students to the reality of poverty and incentivizing student participation in God’s active love of the poor. Think what a culturally aware place Providence College might become.

 8.     Endorse Diversity instead of simply “respecting” it.

I’m not going to explain this one.

 9.     Stop enabling student entitlement.

And this happens in part when you…

10.    Decrease cost.

First of all, 56k is an arbitrary number that materialized from the ether of parochial competition. But with students (or mom and dad) paying for this there comes a certain demand of product satisfaction. $50,000 a year entitles us to an education. That’s it. It does not entitle us to lord over those who keep this campus running or those who live just outside our gates. Providence College should make the altruistic first step towards a frills armistice in higher education. We are contributing to the disorder of designating education as an exclusive luxury, when we should be the most aware that Jesus taught for free.

Welcome Aboard, Matthew Smith!

Friarside Chats is pleased to welcome Matthew Henry Smith to our team of regular contributors. Matthew is a Providence, Rhode Island native, and is a member of the class of 2016. We are excited to listen to and share his perspective and opinions as we continue our dialogue. We are confident that readers will find his writing enjoyable as well as thought-provoking. His insightful perspective is just one more reason to stay Friarside.

You can learn more about Matthew and read his posts on his page.

Penalizing the Poor for Being Poor

-Guest Chat-

Caroline Heider ’15

As a Social Work major it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to many that I’ve been exposed to a variety of articles, videos, and books concerning the sad reality of poverty.  Much of what I’ve read or watched has certainly been eye-opening, disheartening, and more than a little upsetting; yet one article entitled “Is It Now a Crime To Be Poor?” disturbed me more than all the others. It is one that I have not since forgotten.

In her article on the criminalization of poverty, Barbara Ehrenreich discusses how the enforcement of certain laws and ordinances serve to push already impoverished people further into poverty.  The examples are endless: a homeless man who is fined for sleeping on a park bench, a kid who is fined for being on the streets when he should be in school, people in public housing who are subjected to frequent drug tests.

City laws and ordinances that ban sleeping in public areas such as subways, parks, and sidewalks punish people for not having a home and then push them further into poverty by making them pay fines with money they cannot afford to lose.  When a public overcrowded bus drives past children without stopping, kids are left on the street and risk being fined for truancy (failure to attend school).  This, then, discourages parents from even sending their children to school in the first place, and education, understandably, becomes less important than surviving—and so the cycle of uneducated children continues.

Laws that arrest and fine impoverished people for doing things and being in situations that they cannot avoid are catalysts in the cycle of poverty.  These laws are not helping to eradicate poverty; they’re helping it thrive.  These established laws do not take into account a person’s situation or story.  They leave no room for moral consideration.

In her article, Ehrenreich says, “Poor people have become a source of revenue for recession starved cities.”  A sad irony lies in this statement.  City laws and ordinances squeeze a lot of money out of the people in our society who have the least of it, and then the government makes it a crime when the poor cannot pay their fines. I stumbled across a quote by Malcolm X in another social work book I read, which summed up Ehrenreich’s article and the situation of poverty in America.  It read, “I have no mercy or compassion in me for a society that will crush people and then penalize them for not being able to stand up under the weight.”  How can our society ignore people who have fallen down and then punish them for trying to get back on their feet?

If Americans truly want to work toward ending poverty, the laws regarding the issue need to be reevaluated.  Lawmakers need to keep first in mind the inherent dignity of all human beings and the common humanity everyone shares, and then remember that justice cannot be completely served without a little bit of mercy.  Until these two things are remembered and woven into the system, the cycle of poverty has no other choice but to keep turning.

Caroline Heider is a sophomore social work major. The referenced article was published in the New York Times on 8/8/09

Marriage Equality: A Civil Rights Struggle

NickDefaultNick Wallace ’14

Gay marriage is the latest socio-cultural issue to come to the forefront in mainstream American politics. The Supreme Court is currently hearing two cases, with decisions in both most likely coming in June. First, Hollingsworth v. Perry, otherwise known as the “Prop 8 case” takes on the issue of whether the Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantee of “equal protection” prevents states from defining marriage as only between one man and one woman. California’s Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriages were legal in 2008. After the statewide ballot measure banning them passed with 52% of the vote later that year, gay and lesbian marriages were put on hold. The other case, which involves DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), involves a number of appeals from multiple states, all questioning whether DOMA violates equal protection guarantees in the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, as applied to same-sex couples legally married under the laws of their own state. While the constitutionality of same sex marriage will ultimately be decided by nine unelected justices, I only have one thing to say to opponents of marriage equality; stop the nonsense.

Opponents of marriage equality often cite their personal religious beliefs as reasons for supporting “traditional marriage.” They claim that the Bible denounces homosexuality. This may be true; however, it is also true that Jesus Christ never explicitly says anything in regards to sexuality. According to Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, in no book of the Bible will you find Jesus Christ condemning sexual relations between people of the same gender. You will find the Bible condemning such acts, but we need to read and analyze the Bible like any other work of literature. We cannot take everything the authors say to be true, and biases must be taken into account. True Christians follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ never denounces homosexuals in any way; the authors of a collection of books do. I admire Thomas Jefferson for many reasons, one being that he created his own “bible” to follow, in which he simply cut everything out except Jesus’ teachings. He realized the Bible was opinionated, and instead focused only on what Jesus is reported to have said. Some of the most vocal opponents of marriage equality who cite religion as a main reason for objection falsely proclaim that Jesus Christ “hates gays.” As a non-Catholic, even I know Jesus tells us to love everyone, and as shown above, he certainly does not tell us to discriminate against homosexuals.

Moreover, those who oppose marriage equality from an ideological standpoint simply contradict themselves. It is no secret that same-sex marriage has turned into a partisan issue, with mostly Democrats in support and Republicans in opposition. Interestingly, the Republican party of today prides itself on small government. The official website of the Republican Party “opposes interventionist policies that put the federal government in control of industry,” and “government-run health care.” However, a writer of The College Conservative recently wrote an article entitled, “Keep the Government in Marriage,” which proclaims, “Taking the government out of marriage is a sure way to destroy marriage and any hopes of shrinking government at all. By doing so, we’ll be funding larger welfare programs and facing an even more anemic culture in terms of things like drug usage, sexual promiscuity, and crime.” Besides being completely ignorant and misinformed, this idea itself is highly hypocritical. Conservatives argue for little/no government intervention in the economy and health care, but advocate “keeping the government in marriage.” It’s a double standard if I’ve ever seen one: small government for this, and big government for that. A true conservative would argue that the government has no place in marriage. Likewise, it certainly has no right to tell two people who love each other that they cannot be together. Interestingly, several Republicans recently came out in support of gay marriage because it would allow for “two-parent households.”

And to those who argue that gay marriage ruins the sanctity of traditional marriage, you cannot possibly be serious. We live in a country in which 50% of all marriages end in divorce: So much for eternal love. More, we concentrate our attention on celebrity marriages that often demoralize what marriage is supposed to be about in the first place. Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries were married for 72 days, but gays are ruining the meaning of marriage? I find that hard to believe.

The sad truth is that gays are still disgustingly discriminated against. In an interview with Fox News analyst Chris Wallace, Rick Santorum argued that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should not be repealed because it would be “injecting social policy into the military” and that it would negatively affect “retention and recruitment of people to live in that environment,” implying that heterosexual soldiers would be uncomfortable with their gay counterparts. Fox News then placed a quote on the screen that read, ““The army is not a sociological laboratory. Experimenting with policy, especially in a time of war, would pose a danger to efficiency, discipline and morale and would result in ultimate defeat.” Essentially, Santorum agreed with all of these points in his previous comments. The quote is not about allowing gays to be in the military, however. It is from a WWII general arguing against racial integration of the military. Santorum is not alone in his reasoning for why Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should still be in place (thankfully, it is not). However, his statements clearly show that this debate has happened before with the issue of African Americans being allowed to fight side by side with whites. Until Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed, we were simply repeating our previous mistakes.

Similarly, we are repeating the mistakes of previous governments in terms of marriage. In Loving v. Virginia, (1967) the US Supreme Court invalidated all laws that prohibited interracial marriage. The ruling was controversial at the time. In fact, Alabama finally became the last state to adjust its laws to align with the Supreme Court ruling in 2000, over thirty years after the initial ruling. I do not want to suggest that race is the same thing as sexual orientation. I understand they are two completely different things. However, the similarities of the discrimination scenarios are striking. Loving v. Virginia disallowed any state laws from prohibiting marriage bewteen two loving partners on the basis on race. Currently, states are allowed to prevent people from being married because of their sexual orientation. It sounds pretty similar to me. Most sane people today would argue it would be ludicrous to disallow two people from getting married because of their race. And yet, only 53 % of the US population now supports marriage equality. Yes, it is a majority, but it is not enough.

Does this look familiar?

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Opponents of marriage equality also argue that with the use of civil unions and domestic partnerships, there is no need to allow marriage to homosexuals. However, there are many benefits to marriage that do not come with either civil unions or domestic partnerships. Marriages are recognized by other states under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution. This same clause allows things such as driver’s licenses to be recognized by a state-to-state basis. For example, a legal Iowa driver at the age of 15 is legally allowed to drive in the state of New York, which requires independent drivers to be at least 17. Similarly, a same-sex couple can get married in Massachusetts and then move to Rhode Island and have the marriage be recognized. Civil unions and domestic partnerships do not work the same way. Additionally, since the federal government does not recognize civil unions, same sex couples that are not legally married cannot file joint-tax returns and are not eligible for tax breaks. Because of DOMA, same-sex couples have to file single on their federal tax returns. More, the General Accounting Office in 1997 released a list of 1049 benefits available to heterosexual married couples, including survivor benefits through Social Security, sick leave to care for ailing partner, tax breaks, veterans benefits and insurance breaks, family discounts, obtaining family insurance through your employer, visiting your spouse in the hospital and making medical decisions if your partner is unable to. While Civil Unions protect some of these rights, they do not protect all of them. Subsequently, by disallowing marriage equality, homosexuals are being denied basic rights that are readily available to heterosexuals.

But denying gays the right to marry is just one of the many ways in which homosexuals are continually discriminated against. Less than half of the states (21) have laws that outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. Furthermore, as a Providence College student you do not have to travel far to witness the continued discrimination of homosexuals. In fact, you do not even have to leave campus. Providence College has a policy that allows discrimination of faculty members based on sexual orientation. That’s right; here at PC a teacher can officially and legally be fired for being gay. According to the Providence College Employee Staff handbook, “Providence College does not discriminate in its admission or employment policies and practices on the basis of extrinsic factors such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, religion, national origin, disability, or status as a veteran of the Vietnam War era, or as a disabled veteran.” Sexual Orientation is clearly absent. The Cowl asked Father Shanley about this issue in 2010, in which he explained that Providence College adapted its Employee Staff handbook mission statement from other Catholic colleges and universities. He said while Providence College does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, he could not support unequivocally adding the phrase into the staff handbook because of the “repercussions that would follow.” According to Shanley, such actions would conflict with the college’s religious views and Catholic identity.

It is appalling that here in 2013, Providence College refuses to list “sexual orientation” as a factor in which the college cannot discriminate against. Even more nonsensical is the fact that Father Shanley himself said that the College does not discriminate based on sexual orientation, but he couldn’t support adding it to the Employee Staff handbook. If we already do not discriminate, what’s the harm in officially stating it? More, according to that same 2010 Cowl article, Father Shanley said the mission statement of the Employee Staff Handbook was molded based on those of other Catholic universities, implying that other Catholic institutions also excluded sexual orientation from their non-discrimination policy. A quick examination of the Employee Staff handbook of Boston College, (a school Father Shanley likes to compare us to) however, shows us that “sexual orientation” is indeed covered under their non-discrimination policy. It seems that Boston College has no problem officially stating that it cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation. Why can’t we?

In the end, my life is not going to be dramatically affected by the rulings of the two Supreme Court cases regarding same-sex marriage. As a heterosexual male, I am not being denied the basic right to marry the person I will one day love. I am, however, a straight ally who refuses to wait an additional 40 years for 48% of the American population to realize its ignorance. Stop treating these human beings inhumanely. Give them the right to marry whom they wish. Stop discriminating against these people in the workplace and in all other facets of life. Now is the time to change. To refuse to do so is backwards, cruel, and downright unacceptable.

Think Outside The Bottle!

-Guest Chat-

Sarah Fitzgerald

On the heels of a campus-wide World Water Week celebration (did you see that sculpture?) and mounting campus buzz about the dubious effects of bottled water on our health and the environment, Student Congress is set to vote on a forward-thinking piece of legislation which would prohibit clubs and organizations from using allocated funds to purchase bottled water.

Here’s the deal: water is a basic human right, not a commodity to be bought and sold for profit. But even if you aren’t looking at the issue from a human rights angle, it’s simply silly for Providence College to be wasting resources on purchasing bottled water. Why spend money on a product that is less safe and less regulated when a cheap, environmentally friendly, healthy alternative comes straight from the tap?

Thanks to the grassroots education efforts of the Think Outside the Bottle campaign, voting on this piece of legislation should be a no-brainer for the members of Student Congress. Over 700 students have signed the pledge to choose tap over bottled water, numerous clubs including BMSA back the initiative, and Father Shanley himself has voiced support for the campaign.

“It’s been an incredible year,” said campaign organizer Lexi Moubarak. “We’ve gone from a campus where hardly anyone knew that Providence has the second cleanest tap water in the nation, to a place where students are proudly toting reusable bottles. Now we’re going beyond individual education and asking Student Congress to set an example for the school by making it an official policy, and a popular one at that!”

Like I said, it’s a no-brainer. Student Congress has the opportunity to step up and make our campus (which, for the record, has abysmal environmental ratings) just a little greener. Tap water is better for our health, better for the environment, and better for the budgets of clubs and organizations. It’s that simple.

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If you feel strongly about this piece of legislation, please reach out to your class officers and representatives before the vote on 4/2/13 at 5:30 PM.