Biting the Apple: The Rubber-Neck Effect

Amanda Talbot ’15

Connecticut State’s Attorney Stephen J. Sedensky III stands in my kitchen. He’s got a bright yellow sweatshirt on and he’s stamping his feet and rubbing his hands from the cold. He came in through the side door, walking through my garage and walking past the washing machine and my family’s pile of boots and sneakers still dripping with snow. He did so because he found a funny article in the paper about pit-bulls and thought my family might like it since we have one. Connecticut State’s Attorney Stephen J. Sedensky III is my neighbor and just a normal looking guy. I like seeing him this way, since media likes to paint him up and down with colors of both honor and a healthy dose of infamy. He’s the man with a tight grip on the first amendment and the safety of the children and families of Newtown. Over the last several months Sedensky fought to keep the explicit details of the tragedy including 911 phone calls, texts, time-tables and photographs out of the hands of the media and from they eyes of the town’s youth. Pushing but ultimately losing the case of child endangerment upon its release, it is easy to be upset with the man who refuses to give up information.

Yes, it is extremely important that we learn from our tragedies, we examine our loops holes and we understand the errors our past, and yes, these reports do provide the kind of evidence that can be used in the future to bolster arguments, fluff the regulation of gun sales, school safety and research into special needs. Yes, I see and agree that there are surmounting issues that come with the territory of the growing knowledge of the case, but I cannot help but take the arm of my neighbor on this one. As I watch news source after news source update their social media pages about the oncoming full report about the shooting which will be provided on Connecticut’s state website at 3 pm on Friday, December 27th I feel an incredible unease settle on me.

Upon the first release of the initial report of the shooting on November 25th 2013 the media rushed to involve itself once more into the nightmare this town had to live through. Divulging in pictures and graphic details, news sources gallantly flaunted the cold facts- the psychotic knacks of the shooter, his video games, his computer files, his old elementary school writings, and every last gun in his home. The pictures of destroyed windows are chilling at best and the time-tables are difficult for me to read. What kind of apple are we biting into here?

I understand that we all at some point have a particular macabre scratch we’d like to reach for. We all have sat and watched a few moments on a Columbine special on television, read about a car wreck, stopped to skim the article about the drowning in the quarry. It is human nature to seek out information, it is human nature to be interested, but as I flick through my favorite time-burning websites and stumble onto their own articles about the “20 most creepy things about the Newtown shooting” right next to “The top 13 things curly haired people are tired of hearing” I get upset.

My town is not a freak show. This shooting is not an attraction. That man was not a villain whose effigy you still need to burn.

There is an extreme and explicit difference between using police reports to help the country in ensuring that these kinds of tragedies cannot happen again and using the evidence to exploit the victims and even the villain.

I read the “article” in horror as the authors pulled out the juicy bits of the murder of 26 people from my town and gave online spectators the ability to comment on the out-of-context bullet points. And what can I say? Of course, there will always be people who will snoop out a story or search for it with the same morbid curiosity that can settle on us, but as I read comments from men and woman assuring readers that the whole event was a sham it really hit me. We were being trivialized. These days everyone is waiting for the next big thing. Tragedies wash up on shore everyday, and just as the water rolls out, so do they. We forget what frightens us, we forget what scares us. I am by no means saying that we regard some tragedies and not others, what I am saying is that we must respect them for what they are: a horror for some people whose lives are actually altered. It is wonderful to be supportive of those in need. It is not wonderful to forget about us or make us a spectacle. Highlighting the madness that was the shooter in list format does the victims no justice. It is only a sore, sick reminder of something we didn’t see coming. And while those unaffected may look to the right side of their screen and follow the link to the top 25 greatest moments of the VMAs, those affected by the tragedy may sit in embarrassment as the worst day of their lives is broadcasted in a harsh, unbridled way.

We will always have tragedy- some will stay with us more than others. I expect no one to keep track of every sad moment on the world’s history- I am asking however to practice love in a pure sense. Because when Mr. Sedensky comes to my house it is not to lament or whine or lash out about what details he knows of the case. He stops by to show love to his neighbors, even if it is just a newspaper clipping of a silly story. That is healing and that is strength.

In short, please, do not trivialize tragedy. Save the shock and awe for a Miley Cyrus video- not on my town’s history. When the full report comes out please reserve your right to take a big juicy bite.

Amanda is a Junior management major and a theatre minor. She is a proud resident of Newtown, Connecticut. 

2014: The Year of the Moon

AbbyDefaultAbby Hevert ’15

So let’s add this up. Final grades have just come in: they may have not been stellar. Pounds may have been added due to holiday festivities. Money has most likely been drained because of holiday shopping and perhaps some retail therapy. Internship placements may have fallen through. You’re still broken up. One pair of hands may be still eternally missing from the decoration of the Christmas tree. Your parents’ divorce is still very much final. Santa Claus forgot to drop off the extra dose of sanity and strong drinks that are often needed during the “most wonderful time of the year.” All is supposed to be right in the world and, yet, the same old crap that bogs you down every day doesn’t magically disappear when the Christmas tree and the menorah are lit. A famous Christmas song even promises it: “have yourself a merry little Christmas- from now on our troubles will be out of sight.” But the troubles are still very much in sight. So you wait. And you hope. The magical date of January first looms nearer as you place your happiness in the promise of a fresh start in the form of your new year’s resolution.

So who am I? Well, some may consider me the holidays’ scrooge. Here I am reminding you of how stressful your life can get when Hallmark convinces us that this is a time of year for magic and a renewed beginning. And, in a way, it is. After the partying happens on New Years Eve, gym memberships are purchased. Appointments at the tutoring center are made. Volunteering opportunities are scheduled in order to procure that spot in Heaven. Vows to stop smoking are said. And yet, the crap: it lingers. We still can’t catch on to the groove of complete happiness that we are taught is the norm from the time we are infants: normal people are completely happy people. So what the hell is wrong with us? Why can’t we measure up to the happiness that is sold to us in the form of flawless magazine models, picturesque nuclear families on TV, and the girl who has 2,000 “friends” on Facebook? We have to fit into the happiness mold! And 2014 is the year to do this! Resolutions help us become happy! They give us control; complete happiness is now in our reach.

Here’s the catch, though: life is, by my own definition, a period of time in which we struggle to find the good. And it is through this struggle that happiness is found. It is stumbled upon when dragons are slayed and fleeting moments when the good guy wins. It is through the struggle that true value is found. I would argue that the fight for the good is the good itself.

One of my favorite artists, Jason Mraz, summarizes this sentiment perfectly when he sings:

 

“240 thousand miles from the moon, you’ve come a long way to belong here, to share this view of the night, a glorious night, over the horizon is another bright sky…sometimes it may seem dark but the absence of the light is the necessary part.”

 

It is in this way that the experience of the darkness is a privilege. There is no reward without striving; there is no light without the darkness. And even though we are always 240 thousand miles from the moon, its light overcomes the black abyss. The moon is never within reach, but it guides and motivates us just like happiness does. Like the moon, happiness is never completely achievable; the darkness will always separate us. But the striving: ah, it is through the ever striving to reach happiness and the metaphorical moon that keeps us engaged in our own light.

So this New Years, let’s get realistic and learn to dance in the darkness. Savor the hard time and throw yourself in it. Because while I hope 2014 is a year filled with bliss for you, I also hope that there is some darkness involved. But mostly, I hope that, perhaps for a change of pace, you regard the darkness as a privilege as it presents to you the opportunity to overcome hardship and find the good that is striving itself. Of course, many of you will still buy the gym memberships and the Nicorette products. And for that, I applaud you. I always encourage health and balance; too many of us lack both.

But for all of you, I hope that you never forget that little light just 240 thousand miles away. Know that it dances just for you; it will always overcome the darkness. Go outside and savor the majesty of the being that only appears in the utter blackness and is still revered by all when it comes to its fullness and glows with the promise of guidance in the dark blanket of the night.

This year, go be a helper of the moon. The world needs more people who light the night and who can come to their fullness in the midst of hardship. After all, the other stars will imitate it. And the sky will light up.

Finally, the sky will be lit up.

 

Yes, Providence, There is a Santa Claus

mhagandefaultMichael Hagan ’15

It’s been 116 years since the now defunct New York Sun published its immortal response to eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon’s letter to the editor in which she wrote:

“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. 
”Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. 
”Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’ 
”Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?”

In his unsigned piece published on behalf of The Sun’s editorial board, Francis Church wrote:

“VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little…

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy”

There is a Santa Claus, Providence College. This is something that I believe at the age of twenty more than I ever believed as a child. I learn more about him every year, and I pray that you would do the same.

I make fewer assumptions about Santa than I used to. I do not presume to know how he can be so generous, though one day I hope to. That he can be present in homes the world over in a single night remains in my mind a miracle, though I have ceased to try to explain just how he achieves it. That he has invested so much time, energy, and attention into creating some of the most special memories of my childhood despite my utter inability to reciprocate is something that has come to mean so much more to me now that I know just a little bit more about him.

In learning more about Santa, I have seen the ways in which he has been so formed by his childhood experiences. Santa Claus is a witness to his heritage; he reflects those best traits of those who came before him.

Santa is someone whose gracious giving begets gracious receiving. He renders no child beholden to him. Not even the most imaginative among boys and girls can think up a way to one-up or get even with Santa Claus. They can hardly imagine a place to start. No one can pay Santa back; we can only pay forward.

And thus in Santa I see a reflection of one whom I can only be certain of through faith. You see I’ve come to understand a little bit about the timing of Santa’s annual routine. Santa didn’t choose Christmas, but Christmas chose him. And “chose” may not even be the right word; Christmas moved him. I believe that Santa sees in Christmas a gift for which none of us can reciprocate. He knows that Love has given the fullness of itself to us as a perfect gift, and that no gift of human design can measure up to this. Love’s fullness is a gift given with full knowledge that no recipient can give an equal or greater gift in return. Instead, it is a gift that we are invited and moved to accept and be joined to.

And while I can’t say with certainty that he always realizes the full extent of what he is doing, I believe that Santa is preparing children to accept that gift that is the very essence of Christmas. He has certainly prepared me.

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve come to learn about Santa is just how much he has in common with you and me. The magic of Santa Claus, which so enraptured us as children, is something that age brings us to a point of decision about. As children, how could we not believe? The evidence was under our trees and in our stockings. The explanation surrounded us. With childhood goes the sufficiency of such evidence in accounting for literal fact. But the truth of Santa Claus, like some of life’s other greatest truths, is not contingent on literal fact. Those who talk about Santa in terms of being “real” or “not real” miss the point. Fact is not the question; truth is. Santa Claus is true; this manifests in very real joy on gleeful Christmas mornings and in the fact of his abiding role in the lives of children and their parents through generations.

“You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart… Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.”

Yes, PC, there is a Santa Claus. With each Christmas may we see more of him in ourselves and eachother and prepare to one day introduce him to a new generation.

“Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

I wish each of you a very merry Christmas, and I warmly look forward to returning to Providence College in the New Year. God bless us, everyone.

Gladiators on Ice? Why the Goons Have to Go

NickDefaultNick Wallace ’14

I’ll never forget my first ever PC hockey game. The crowd was electric. The Pep Band was grooving. The community-like atmosphere of Schneider Arena made me feel like I was on the ice with the players. During the first intermission, a local Pee Wee hockey team scrimmaged one another. All of a sudden, I watched two kids (no older than 8 years old) drop the gloves and begin to fight. I was astonished. Most of the student section was amused. Nevertheless, those two kids were simply emulating perhaps the most unique aspect that comes in the game of hockey: fighting.

Admittedly, I’m not exactly sure how I feel about fighting in hockey. On the one hand, it’s exciting. Fans enjoy it. It can change the momentum of the game. Two players both agree to drop the gloves, duke it out, and spend five minutes in the box before returning to play. While the two players are going at it, their teammates are cheering them on from their respective benches. Sometimes, the two players will even shake hands or pat each other on the back before heading to the penalty box, offering a sign of mutual respect to one another. Fighting allows for the individual battles that develop on the ice to be sorted out: You have a problem with me. I have a problem with you. Lets drop the gloves then move on. In a sense, fighting is a way of the players self-policing the league of the dirty acts that occur on the ice.

However, hockey is unique in its allowance of such an institution. Throwing a punch in any other major sport comes with an immediate ejection and a subsequent suspension. And more physical sports like boxing and MMA? Those athletes wear gloves, and put Vaseline on the areas where they are most likely to witness impact (like their faces) in order to make the skin more elastic and slippery, in turn decreasing their chances to being cut. Thus, hockey seems to be the only professional sport that allows bear-knuckle fighting to take place. Not only that, but we as fans encourage the fighting to take place. We stand. We scream. We cheer. We pay to see them fight. We pay to see them punch. We pay to see them fall. Hockey players become gladiators on skates, fighting on a slippery surface, in an arena equipped to seat thousands of fans.

Fighting is no longer enough, however. Each team features at least one “enforcer,” whose sole job is to protect his teammates and inflict pain on his opponents. Enforcers are big, strong bruisers. They are supposed to instill fear into the opposing skill players. Presumably, the Sidney Crosby’s of the world will be less aggressive with the puck, less likely to skate across the middle, and less likely to attack offensively if they know that a 225-pound monster is trying to hunt him. Furthermore, enforcers must protect their own offensive skill players from other enforcers. Consequently, what has ensued is an influx of goons on the ice, whose sole purpose is not to put the puck in the net, but to instead physically hurt others.

The latest goon-like actions took place in a game between the Bruins and the Penguins on December 7th. As two of the top teams in the East, and long-time rivals, the game was expected to be fast-paced and physical. What resulted, however, was instead a disgusting and unforgiving act of vengeance. During a stoppage in play, Bruins Forward Shawn Thornton pulled the Penguins’ Brooks Orpik to the ice, from behind, and punched him several times in the head. Orpik left the game on a stretcher, and suffered a concussion. Shawn Thornton received a game misconduct, and has been suspended for 15 games, which he is currently appealing.

The incident followed two other extremely physical moments in the game. Orpik (the victim of Thornton’s attack) knocked the Bruins’ Loui Eriksson out of the game earlier with a big hit. Eriksson, who suffered a concussion earlier in the year, suffered another concussion as a result. Additionally, Penguins’ James Neal struck Boston’s Brad Marchand with his knee as he skated by Marchand, who had fallen to the ice at the time. It should be noted that Orpik’s hit was clearly high, Erriksson never actually touched the puck, and Orpik should have be called for an interference penalty; the ref’s decision not to was horrendous. Additionally, Neal’s knee to the head of Marchand led to a 5 game suspension.

The passion that comes within sports needs no introduction. At every level of the game, athletes fight hard to win. Emotions run high, and sometimes our competitiveness overcomes our mindfulness. It can be argued that Thornton was trying to protect his teammates. He attempted to fight Brooks Orpik earlier in the game, but Orpik refused. Some will argue that had the two just dropped the gloves, Thornton’s actions would have been prevented. However, the fact that Thornton’s actions were provoked by the “dirty,” physical acts of his opponents does not justify his malicious intent. There is a difference between “getting back” at an opponent within the context of a game, and purposely and willfully trying to harm another human being. In hockey and football there are hard hits. In basketball, there are hard fouls. If such physical acts cross the line, penalties are assessed. But Shawn Thornton approached Brooks Orpik from behind with the intention of hurting him. He took him to the ground and punched him multiple times in the head. If such actions were done anywhere else- a shopping mall, a school, a city street- they would lead to an arrest and possibly a jail sentence. But since it occurred in a sports arena, Shawn Thornton was cheered on Bruins fans, and simply given a 15 game suspension.

            I’ve never played hockey, but I’ve been around it my entire life. My brother plays in the newly established Premier Junior League, and hopes to be playing college hockey next fall. Thus, I’ve been dragged to enough amateur hockey games in my life to tell you the existence of goons goes beyond the professional level. In fact, I argue that there are more goons at the amateur level than the professional level. I’ve seen hard hits, high elbows, and swing-like slashes. Amateur hockey players imitate their idols. Junior Leagues allow fighting to take place, some giving players a game-misconduct, others just the traditional 5 minute trip to the penalty box. I once witnessed a game where all 10 players on the ice (excluding the goalies) were fighting at once, each member of a team matched with an opponent. We allow this to take place because it has become an accepted part of the sport. (Interestingly, the NCAA prohibits fighting.)   

Across the board, professional sports leagues in the United States have been instituting regulations and rule changes to crack down on concussions. Starting in 2011, the NFL moved kickoffs up 5 yards, which led to a 26.7 % decrease in kick returns. Just last week, the MLB announced future plans to eliminate home plate collisions, which has the potential to go into effect starting next season. The NHL has recently outlawed hits to the head, and has released official statements supporting player safety and concussion prevention. (In the 2012-2013 season, 85 NHL players suffered a concussion) The truth is that rule changes won’t stop concussions. They can happen at any time during the game, and often happen as a result of physical acts or hits that are legally allowed by the rules of the game. However, that doesn’t mean that precautionary measures shouldn’t take place in hopes of creating a safer environment for players. We cannot eliminate concussions altogether, but any decrease in the prevalence of such injuries is a victory. I’m okay with rule changes as long as the players and owners agree with them. The safety of the players should come before the entertainment of the fans, not the other way around.

It’s one thing to play physical; it is another to harm an opponent with malevolence. Shawn Thornton has a reputation for being a stand up guy. Although he may be the Bruins enforcer, he’s never been suspended before, and felt remorseful after committing his actions. All of these things were taken into account when the league issued its suspension. Nonetheless, first offense or not, 15 games isn’t a harsh enough punishment to prevent things like this from happening again. In my opinion, Shawn Thornton should be suspended for the rest of the season. I’m not ready to call for the outlaw of fighting in hockey just yet, but the NHL must crack down on the nonsensical acts like those of Shawn Thornton AND James Neal. Fighting should not be the source of worry in regards to concussions. Instead, the existence of goons, who dress for a 60-minute game, but play 3 total minutes in shifts and accumulate 7 minutes worth of penalties, should be concerning to all those who worry about player safety. If the NHL is serious about concussion prevention, then the goons have to go.

I Bring You Glad Tidings of Great Joy

mattdefaultMatthew Henry Smith ’16

There’s a spectrum on which most Americans find themselves. On one side are those who are in the practice of saying “Happy Holidays” to all they encounter from Black Friday to Christmas. On the other side are those who vigorously assert the phrase “Merry Christmas” both as a greeting and form of protest to the assault on the holiday by the painfully politically correct. And of course, there is a whole range of convictions and ideologies that float between the two.

It is unfortunate that the greetings of the season have become political. In an effort to either be vaguely inclusive or rigidly true, our best intended salutations get lost in frustration. Perhaps it is this frosted tumult which has us bickering absurdly over the skin pigmentation of an illusive icon or, even more foolishly, over the ethnicity of Christ.

But because you can find bloggers chastising Fox’s Megyn Kelly throughout the web or writing paragraphs about the plausibility of Black Santa on other progressive media outlets, I’d rather take this opportunity to posit a different thought. I want to present the case for the value of celebrating secular Christmas and why we should respect those who do.

This editorial acknowledges that American culture forcibly baptizes all of its citizens into a general and ambiguous Christianity; God is on our money, in our pledges, on our memorials. It must therefore be equally acknowledged that a side effect of forcible national evangelization is the general misappropriation of a Christian Holy Day.

Wishing people “Merry Christmas” becomes a non-issue for me because I take the time to respect the secular celebration of Christmas. I accept that my friends of differing faith backgrounds will celebrate Christmas in secular ways. I invite them to take as much from Christianity as they can.

This secular Christmas celebration I’m talking about isn’t the corrosive consumerist binge fest. It’s the gathering of families and friends to share in some of the values associated with the birth of my God; faith in good will, family, forgiveness, gratitude, mercy, humility, hope. It is the communal prayer to powers unseen. It is reunion of estranged relatives and lost friends. It gives direction to the aimless. It engenders selflessness. It focuses the attention of the misery on the poor and vulnerable.

My family and I attend Church every Sunday, and though I’m not a Catholic whose principles are perfectly consistent with Church teaching, nor am I a biblical scholar or foremost thinker on issues of interreligious dialogue, I am a snapshot of the average American-Catholic growing up in a time when Advent is ground-zero in a war I’ve been told I’m a soldier in.

I protest. My faith demands it.

To my fellow imperfect practitioners of Christianity: the secular celebration of Christmas does not change Christmas for us. It won’t change the fact that I’ll be sitting with my family at the 5:00PM Christmas Vigil at St. Pius Church on December 24th. It won’t dissolve our Savior. If it could, Christ wouldn’t be much of a King, would he?

Celebrating Christmas without Christ is like drinking orange juice instead of eating an actual orange. You get the essence, but not all of the complexity and the fibers and nutrients. But, I maintain that drinking juice is better than going entirely without sustenance.

And who are we to hold the infant Jesus up as an ultimatum? To say “you will have this Child in your heart, or you will have nothing in your heart at all?” Is our faith not rich enough that we must eviscerate another human’s expression of the same intangible values?

I am an advocate of respecting secular Christmas for the non-religious because I’m called to look at everyone as Christ. In this way I welcome you into my imperfect stable of a world. The war never began. Jesus still is born, is among us, is crucified, is risen.

I pray that when America gathers next week – at tables or food pantries or in places of worship – that we all might enjoy the gifts of the Son regardless of whether we all understand Him as the original Giver.

And I wish you a very Merry Christmas.  

Fast Food Strike Comes To Rhode Island

defaultDavid Pinsonneault ’14 

WARWICK, R.I. – Workers, community supporters, politicians, and religious leaders met outside at a Warwick Avenue Wendy’s at noon on December 5th.  This was done in conjunction with a nationwide effort for fast food workers to earn $15.00 an hour and the right to form unions without interference from employers.  The group gathered across the street from the Wendy’s and then walked over to deliver their message to the restaurant.  Management locked their doors and did not allow the group inside.  Further, management did not accept the strike notices delivered on behalf of the workers earlier in the day.  The action took place in front of the Wendy’s where the group outlined why they were there.  StrikePhoto1

A study conducted by the University of California at Berkely found that 52% of fast food workers rely on government assistance, compared with 25% of the workforce as a whole.  The fast food industry is worth billions of dollars annually.  Minimum wage in Rhode Island, however, stands at $7.75.  As it was chanted on Thursday, “Can’t survive on $7.75.”  Workers can be employed by a fast food employer for years and see very little pay increase.  One woman who participated in the strike had been employed by the Warwick Avenue Wendy’s for a few years and still makes less than $8.00 an hour.  In one year (working full-time), this amounts to about $15,000.  How can making this amount of money pay for rent?  How can this amount of money pay for childcare?  How can this amount of money pay for health care?  For food?  The answer: it can’t.  Workers in the StrikePhoto2fast food industry are not paid a living wage.  The CEOs and upper level management in these corporations do not have to worry about paying for rent or health care.  They maintain their comfortable lifestyles, while the day to day operations at the individual restaurants are maintained by workers who do not have wages that do them justice.  It is time for this to change; it is time for corporations to know that they cannot continue to mistreat their workers.

In a survey of 500 fast food workers, 84% reported at least one instance of wage theft, while 30% reported at least four violations.  Common sources of wage theft include unpaid work, not receiving required breaks, and delivery-related issues.  This is what workers in the fast food industry are forced to deal with, and cannot complain about because their jobs are not protected.  Many are asked to take out the garbage or count the money in the cash register before their shift starts or after it ends.  This type of behavior cannot be tolerated.  Fast food industry response has not been kind.  While there have been pay increases in specific stores (not the chains as a whole), the industry argues that they would not be able to hire as many workers at $15.00 an hour and that entry-level jobs in their companies are for workers under the age of twenty-five.  An industry making billions of dollars a year can still be profitable while providing living wages for their workers.  The average age of a fast food worker is twenty-nine.  It is a simple fact that the fast food industry does not rely heavily on teenagers.  One-fourth of fast food workers have children to support.  Fast food workers need a raise. And they need it now.StrikePhoto3

Today’s action was special because it brought together members of the community from different backgrounds: fast food workers, organizers, politicians, religious leaders, members of the community, and workers in other areas- either from other unions or people working in retail.  Their shared a common goal: solidarity.  Workers are stronger together.  One member of Local 63, a firefighters union, was there because he wants to see a stronger middle class in the United States.  This cannot happen if corporations insist on paying poverty wages to their workers.  Work opportunities are not the same for all people.  Segregation still exists.  Racism still exists.  Discrimination still exists.  Government policies were largely responsible for creating ghettos and the subsequent problems people who live in low-income communities are faced with.  This can be traced back to the Federal Housing Administration’s decision in the 1950s and 1960s to allow white people to move out of cities without allowing minorities to do the same.  A living wage for all workers is one viable solution to help address these problems.  President Obama wants to increase minimum wage to $10.00 an hour.  He recently stated, “Fast-food workers, and nurse assistants, and retail salespeople who work their tails off and are still living at or barely above poverty.”  This is the truth but it appears unlikely that the House will vote to increase minimum wage.  This is why the action occurred in Warwick and across the United States.  In part, it created a purposeful disruption in the everyday world of the fast food industry.  It brought attention to workers and their rights.  Corporations need to start listening.  Every member in society should be able to have access to affordable StrikePhoto4housing, health care, and food.  It is an individualistic approach to think that others deserve more because they had better opportunities presented to them.  This is why today’s nationwide movement was powerful.  It brought together a large community of people from different backgrounds to address inequality.  And, if this community does not have their voice heard, their chants rang loudly, “We’ll be back, we’ll be back, we’ll be back!”

“Shmacked?” “Gone?” PC’s Social Brand: Not For Sale.

mhagandefaultMichael Hagan ’15

On September 12, students from colleges and universities across Rhode Island descended upon Roxy nightclub on Washington Street in downtown Providence to participate in the event that provided the lion’s share of footage for this video. The event and video, produced by social media upstart I’m Shmacked, featured primarily URI students. These Rhody Rams so generously volunteered their likenesses, livers, and such inspired quotations as “I’m fucked up as shit right now” and “Welcome to the Ocean State, bitch” in order that the good folks at I’m Shmacked could advance their brand and grow their profits.

The strange phenomenon that is I’m Shmacked leads one to wonder what is the greater suppressor of inhibition: alcohol or the camera? Something changes when the camera rolls. Parties become performances. Drinks more often end up poured over another’s head or chest than into the pourer’s mouth. People get louder; they address the camera instead of their peers. These parties don’t intensify organically; they are productions. Participants are putting on their best renditions of what has been first sold to them as the ideal form of a college party.

We Providence College students know a thing or two about partying. And yes, this has always been a revenue source for local package stores and bars. Students buy drinks, pay cover, and order buffalo chicken pizzas. There is a simple exchange of money for goods and services here. But what about business models like I’m Shmacked that capitalize on campus culture to build a profitable brand around exaggerated portrayals of college parties? How do students benefit from this exchange? How did the girl who passed out on Washington Street on September 12 benefit or stand to benefit? The same question applies to the University of Delaware Rugby Team, whose conduct during the Newark, Delaware stop in the I’m Shmacked tour led to the team’s five-year suspension four days earlier. These students made mistakes and suffered; I’m Shmacked indifferently reaped footage and profit. Friars know better than to allow themselves to be exploited like this, right?

In the past couple of days, a music video featuring recognizable and underage Providence College students filmed at a house on Pinehurst Avenue has been circulating via web link around the PC community. The video was picked up by popular website barstoolsports.com before being prudently locked from public view on YouTube. All aesthetic assessments of the song “Gone” aside, the video was made up of footage similar to material I’m Shmacked collects in order to advance its brand: students putting on a performance for a camera. The video was anything but original, participants acted against their better judgment, and I’m pleased for the sake of the students portrayed that it is, at least for the time being, “Gone” from the public eye.

I do not criticize the lyrical or performance ability of the song’s artist, but the fact of the matter is that the material of the video was tasteless. The video’s subjects were trying to conform to an abstraction. In the rush to live-up to this image of what pop-culture thinks our parties ought to be like, boundaries were crossed, inhibitions were lost, and clothes came off. But does this image really match PC? How does this video speak to the sense of camaraderie shared between partygoers at our small college with big school energy? It fails even to attempt to represent the sense of comfort and security amidst madness shared by revelers at what really are the best of PC parties. And what about the less glamorous though perhaps more enriching side of party culture? Sunday morning struggle-brunch in Ray, laughing about and learning from weekend antics, and helping out a friend who might not be having the best of nights are all parts of the PC social experience. But this video simply relies on the all too common glorification of male libido and objectifying portrayal of women in order to conform to somebody else’s brand. It captures none of the best parts of party culture at Providence College. It tests the degree of easiness with which sex and fear of missing out sell. PC students participating in the video misrepresent themselves and their school. The true PC social brand far exceeds what this video seeks to conform it to in order to break into a lucrative market. Let’s not sell out on that brand. If they were aware they were being filmed, the subjects of this video were far too eager to allow our campus culture to be misrepresented and exploited.

I’m glad the video is “Gone,” but it’s memory should remain as a lesson. Our social scene and campus culture is something that has been built up through decades. The fun-loving reputation of Providence College, try as some administrators may to suppress it, is rooted in friendship and campus camaraderie. Most other colleges and universities cannot make such a claim. This is a tradition we should be both proud and defensive of. We should not allow anything, be it I’m Shmacked or any other pop-culture influence, to undermine us.

Be safe, be yourself, and party on.

A Letter to a Perfectionist During Finals Week

Abby Hevert ’15AbbyDefault

Dear Perfectionist,

Exhausted yet? I have the feeling the answer is yes. The sleepless nights have probably gotten to you. Your professor has just sprung another assignment on you and that long paper is still staring at you, your outline proving to be sub-par in your incessantly self-judgmental eyes. The tears have probably come. A prayer to the chemistry gods for a kind of divine inspiration for how to solve an increasingly difficult problem has been offered. Laundry and your self-preservation have been forfeited in the name of an “A.”

People have often told you that your drive for perfection is admirable. And why wouldn’t it be? Perfect is supposed to be perfect. But in reality, it just is a warning. A kind of caution sign: “Don’t mess up! If you aren’t perfect anymore, no one will admire you. Maybe no one will love you! Dammit be more perfect next time! You aren’t ‘enough’ if you aren’t perfect anymore!”

Here’s the real reality, though: you were born being enough. Love and belonging have been yours since the minute you entered this earth. So stop hustling for approval; literally nothing can make you more lovable.

Sure, things can make you more likable. Being nice, friendly, academically successful, and generally appeasing can help in this endeavor. And while some of these things are worthy goals, some of them can leave us exhausted. Fake smiling, studying, working out, participating in excessive extracurriculars, and answering constant emails leave us depleted. They literally eradicate energy when done in an excessive way. I have something to tell you, Perfectionist. You aren’t going to like it, but I am going to tell you anyway:

 

You are certainly imperfect but you are also certainly enough.

Do me a favor and make some room for this imperfection. Get comfortable with it now; we certainly won’t get more perfect with time. The fight is pointless; the reaching for an end that doesn’t exist. You were born worthy of love and respect from the time you took your first breath- no need to grapple for it. Go to bed tonight knowing that the world is happy you are here. It is even happy if you fail the test. Maybe instead of stressing, you could lean into some joy. Call a friend. Listen to some James Taylor. Say a prayer. Go for a relaxing run. Decorate your dorm. Have faith that the universe is ultimately good and that perfection will not make you any more worthy of love or acceptance. The only real worthy test of finals is seeing the amount of self-compassion that you extend to yourself during a week that seeks to funnel your self-worth into a series of numbers and letters. You are enough. You have always been enough. An “A” does not make you more “enough.”

Anyway, being “more enough” is impossible and isn’t even grammatically correct. So suck it, perfection.

Xo,

A Recovering Perfectionist

 

Just Do It: Just Say No To Nike

Liz McQueeney ’15

Look down at what you are wearing right now. I can probably tell you one thing about most of the items of clothing you have on: they were made in a sweatshop.  People died making that shirt or pair of pants or pair of sneakers. This is a sad reality.

People are dying by working in sweatshops.  Sweatshops are factories that have terrible working conditions, abuse their workers, break child labor laws, and don’t pay their employees a living wage. People are forced to work in sweatshops in order to survive because it is the only work available.  They put their blood, sweat, and tears into making us a pair of sneakers or our beloved iPhones. They get paid less than a dollar a day and have to fight for their lives just so we can have these luxuries at an affordable price. We need to open our materialistic eyes and see that this is not okay; we need to put an end to sweatshops.

So why focus on Nike? Well, Nike leads the shoe industry in sales with annual revenue of about $24 billion. We need to focus all of our attention on taking this greedy, inhumane company down because if we take the industry leader down, the rest will realize they shouldn’t use sweatshops either. That’s right: boycott Nike. This is the first step to eliminating sweatshops.

Jim Keady, founder of Team Sweat, gave an inspirational talk to the students of Providence College a few weeks ago. He has been working for years to bring down Nike and their sweatshops. He inspired a group of about 18 students to start spreading the word about Nike sweatshops.

This group of students, from the International Human Services class and Amnesty International, is beginning to educate the PC community about the problem of sweatshops. Please keep a look out for students at Raymond Dining Hall handing out information about Nike sweatshops as well as a hilarious orange man, who is against all logos on clothing, taking pictures with students who are saying no to Nike. This group is trying to get the student body to get involved by educating everyone and having people cover up their logos, sign a petition, and boycott Nike. They are also trying to connect with the bookstore on campus to put Nike products towards the back of the store and products that are sweatshop-free on the front displays.  Also, they hope to talk to the sports teams that have endorsements with Nike in order to get them to choose a different company and eventually go logo-free.  The ultimate goal is to get Providence College to become completely Nike-free and show the company that they need to get rid of sweatshops and pay their workers a living wage before we give them our business again.