Thoughts and Prayers: A Reflection on Grief in Crisis

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BY SUZANNAH CLAIRE PERRY

It happened again.

I checked my phone this Tuesday evening to see that another school shooting had taken place. The fifth one this week. On a Tuesday.

Like many Americans, I’ve become desensitized to gun violence. It seems that every day there’s another story about a far off shooting in a far off place. They’re senseless, they’re preventable, and they’re tragic, but they’re more of a political talking point than a loss of human life when they’re so distanced from my reality.

As I opened my Twitter feed, however, I realized that this shooting was different. The logos, the colors and the hashtags associated with this shooting were all familiar, too familiar. UNC Charlotte may be two hours away, but it’s deeply ingrained in the fabric of the Cary High community. Many of my senior classmates will be attending Charlotte next year, and many Cary alumni are a part of the terrified, grieving Charlotte community. This wasn’t just another school shooting, this was our state, these are our friends, this is our community. This is real.

I scrolled through Twitter and saw videos and pictures of students running away in fear with their hands held high, protected by policemen with big guns on a campus just hours from mine. This is a school, not a warzone. Two students were pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting. Were they two students that I knew?

Everyone that I reached out to on the Charlotte campus was shaken, but safe. I knew I was supposed to feel relieved, but as I scrolled through my Twitter page and read more details and updates from students about the attack, I felt nothing but grief. My friends and classmates in Charlotte’s class of 2023 could just as easily have been gunned down on April 30th 2020. I could have just as easily been gunned down at Cary on April 30th of 2019. These students aren’t people I know personally, but really, they are- they’re all of us. A generation lost to senseless, preventable gun violence. My Twitter page was filled with condolences from activists, chancellors, governors and even presidential candidates. Among those tweets, however was a sentiment that stuck with me as I closed my feed- “stop sending thoughts and prayers when they are not enough”.

 

With nothing on my mind but Charlotte, the lives lost that could’ve been my friends and classmates and siblings, that could’ve been me, this tweet, a sentiment I’ve seen and agreed with so many times in the wake of other mass shooting tragedies, infuriated me.

 

Don’t get me wrong- I’m all for smart, comprehensive gun legislation to prevent the senseless casualties of gun violence. But Charlotte is a real community with real people- students who have lost their friends and classmates, families who have lost their children and siblings, young adults who lost their lives, their future. Gun violence is a serious, addressable issue and we shouldn’t discount the need for legislative change to prevent future tragedies, but the UNC Charlotte community doesn’t need legislation or politicization right now– they need condolences, they need sympathy, they need support. They need thoughts and prayers. Giving thoughts, prayers and condolences in the wake of such a tragedy as this doesn’t make you weak on gun control or politically apathetic, it makes you human, and in times like these, our shared humanity is what allows us to find meaning in grieving the events that we can never change or comprehend.

Tomorrow we can fight for common sense gun legislation, tomorrow we should fight, tomorrow we will fight. But today we must fight for that humanity, we must fight to honor the victims of this shooting not as victims but as human beings. Tomorrow is for change; tomorrow we will have change. But today is for grief, for community, and for humanity; today is for thoughts and prayers, and that’s OK.

How To Choose Your College!

BY JONAH LAWSON

Are you a junior who can’t decide which college is best for you? Are you a senior who doesn’t understand what’s on your financial aid award? Then look look no further, as the information below is here to help you.

4-Year College v. Community College

Many discount the benefits of attending a community college. If you were to attend Wake Tech for two years and then transfer to NC State, you could save around $8,000 while still obtaining the same bachelor’s degree. For families struggling to pay for college, this is an easy way to save money without sacrificing education.

Small v. Large

Typical* Characteristics of Large Universities (15,000 or more undergraduate students):

  • More variety in available majors
  • Better-funded sports programs
  • Better research facilities
  • Larger alumni networks

Characteristics of Small Universities (5,000 or less undergraduate students):

  • Smaller class sizes (allow more one-on-one time with professors)
  • Advisers who know their students better and can provide more assistance
  • A strong sense of community

Urban v. Rural v. Suburban

Characteristics of Rural Schools:

  • Less networking/job opportunities
  • Less efficient transportation (especially if you don’t own a car)
  • Isolation from big cultural/entertainment hubs
  • Unique opportunities for those pursuing degrees in Agriculture or Environmental Science
  • Quieter, more bucolic settings

Characteristics of Urban Schools:

  • Compact campuses
  • Things to do (shows, performances, restaurants, shops) in free time
  • Diverse communities
  • Crowded walkways, libraries, restaurants

Characteristics of Suburban Schools

  • Blend of urban and rural (internships, transportation, and strong sense of community)

Public v. Private

Private schools offer many of the same advantages as smaller schools, as the two often go hand-in-hand. While it is true that private schools generally have higher ticket prices than public schools, they are not always more expensive in the end. Private universities have more funds (called an endowment) to provide financial aid and scholarships, which can reduce the price drastically for prospective students. If your household income is less than $60,000, a private university may give you a full ride if their endowment is large enough.

Liberal Arts v. STEM

It’s important to go to a college that accommodates your career interests. Some schools are STEM-focused, while others emphasize a “liberal arts” education. Some smaller, typically private schools are known explicitly as “liberal arts colleges” because they don’t have any graduate schools; liberal arts colleges typically excel in quality of teaching and access to professors. Davidson College, Meredith College, and Amherst College are examples of liberal arts colleges. Many universities offer opportunities for students interested in both STEM and liberal arts subjects. Although NC State may be known for its engineering school, it still offers wide-ranging majors. Check online to see what kind of degrees a college offers and what its reputation is in those fields.

Close to Home (In-State) v. Far from Home (Out-of-State)

Schools close to home/in-state may offer:

  • A place to stay if on-campus housing is too expensive
  • Support from family (occasional laundry, home-cooked meals) and an established group of friends
  • Cheaper costs among public schools

Schools farther from home/out-of-state may offer:

  • More experience in the outside world
  • More independence

Graduation Rate

A low graduation rate may indicate that a college doesn’t properly support its students academically. Maybe professors and advisors don’t help students who are struggling. Another factor could be that students aren’t satisfied with their school, possibly because faculty members disappoint or tuition is too high. It could also mean that schools often deal with underprivileged children who have a higher propensity to drop out. Checking a school’s graduation rate is a good idea, but keep in mind that the number itself doesn’t tell the whole story.

Social Life at the College

When choosing a college, one should consider both the diversity of the student body and how well one might fit in. Gender distribution and racial diversity can usually be found here. Unigo, Collegevine, and Niche are websites that offer student perspectives on university life, including the party scene, LGBT friendliness, greek life culture, political leanings, and much more.

How to Decipher Your Financial Aid Award

financial aid
  • If the words “grant, award, or scholarship” appear, the money in that section does not have to be paid back.
  • A subsidized loan is a unique government loan that won’t gain interest while you are attending school.
  • All other loans will accrue interest during your time in school and beyond–these loans are not ideal.
  • Student employment, also known as “Federal Work-Study” is a job provided by the college to help you pay bills.
  • If you have any questions about your financial aid statement, reach out to the school’s Office of Financial Aid.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for more money if you need it. It can’t hurt and might make your dream school affordable.

*Note that there are always exceptions to these generalities, and each college is unique.
Have you decided what you want in your college? Click here to find your dream school!

In Memoriam: John McCain

BY JACK MORGENSTEIN

Senator John McCain died of a brain tumor at the age of 81 on August 25, 2018. Looking back on his life, many will recall a seasoned hero and Vietnam veteran who served our country for 23 years, or perhaps a six-term conservative “maverick” from Arizona. But the true John McCain was much more than that; he was a family man with a loving wife and seven children, a man whose passion for life earned him respect across party lines. To understand the international respect for McCain, one must look at the extraordinary life of a man who was deeply loyal to his country and beliefs. When John McCain followed in his four-star Admiral father and grandfather’s footsteps and enrolled at the Naval Academy in 1954, he never could have known the impact he would have on our country and the world throughout his long military and political career. At the Naval Academy John McCain earned the respect of his classmates, not through his stellar academics (he graduated 894th out of 899) or familial connections, but through his sense of duty and leadership.

After graduation, John McCain was commissioned by the Navy to be a naval aviator. Although McCain would eventually rise to the rank of captain, it wasn’t due to any natural talent passed on from his veteran father and grandfather; during his training as a pilot, he crashed two of his flight missions and collided with a power line during a third. An instructor rated him as “sub-par,” but McCain refused to let this get in his way; less than a year later he was marked as a “good flier.” In the Vietnam War McCain was assigned to Operation Rolling Thunder. (His deep-rooted sense of duty compelled him to specifically request a combat assignment.) During the infamous fire on the U.S.S. Forrestal, where McCain was stationed, he put himself in harm’s way and saved the lives of multiple fellow pilots.

On John McCain’s twenty-third bombing mission, he was shot down by North Vietnamese troops and placed in Hoa Lo Prison, the infamous P.O.W. camp that became known as the “Hanoi Hilton.” Even with a fractured arm, a bayonet wound, and a crushed left shoulder, he received no medical attention and was beaten and interrogated daily. John McCain’s patriotism (and quick-thinking) showed when, instead of telling the North Vietnamese the names of his fellow pilots, he gave the names of the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line. In 1968, a prison doctor told John that his wounds were fatal and that he had less than a week to live. He not only lived but helped other prisoners, even though this brought the risk of more beatings. In early 1969, when the Vietnamese learned his father was the commander of U.S. Vietnamese forces, John McCain was offered release, but he refused, requesting that every soldier before him be freed first. The torture inflicted on McCain would leave him unable to lift his arms above his head for the rest of his adult life. But actions like these, putting the lives of other Americans before his own, are what make John McCain an American hero. He embodied his belief that “it is your character, and your character alone that will make your life happy or unhappy.”

Despite an offer to be honorably discharged from the Navy, McCain continued to serve the military until 1981, when he decided he could do more good from the Senate. McCain’s military decorations and awards included the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Star Medals, two Purple Hearts, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals and the Prisoner of War Medal.

McCain’s first foray into public office was a race for the House of Representatives seat in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He narrowly won the seat and was reelected in 1984. With rising ambitions, McCain ran for and won a Senate seat in 1986. Although he suffered greatly as a prisoner in Vietnam, McCain visited multiple times, advocating for peaceful relations with Vietnam. In his own words, “no just cause is futile, even if it’s lost, it makes the future better than the past.” McCain was never afraid to speak his beliefs—even when it went against the party line, such as when he openly opposed the US’s military involvement in Lebanon in the mid 1980’s. This willingness to act on his beliefs and go against his party throughout the 90’s and beyond earned the nickname “maverick.” McCain had a deep desire to make the world a better place, which inspired him to run for President in both 2000 and 2008. Despite being political adversaries, McCain earned not only the respect, but the friendship of the these two eventual presidents due to his passionate, thoughtful nature.

John McCain went on to serve six consecutive terms in the Senate before his death. During that time, his bipartisan “Gang of 14” in Congress solved a crisis over judicial nominations, and he became chairman of the Senate’s Armed Service Committee. While his congressional accomplishments were incredible, it was his clear passion for life and willingness to stand up for his beliefs, no matter the cost, that earned him the respect of his fellow lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. At McCain’s funeral in 2018, former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama delivered eulogies, and former President Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, as well as numerous other public figures, were in attendance. John McCain was an American hero whose accomplishments weren’t measured in laws but in people he helped and lives he touched. Perhaps a quote from the dearly departed senator himself sums his life best: “courage is not the absence of fear, but the capacity for action despite our fears.”

 

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Straight Actors, Gay Roles

BY JONAH LAWSON

For the past decade, straight actors in Hollywood have pursued LGBT roles to prove that they can play a character whose life experiences have been greatly different from their own. From Armie Hammer to Cate Blanchett, many have gone through this rite of passage, and their fans have applauded them, calling them heroes of tolerance and progress. At first, this was wonderful; the actors who took on these roles dealt with them seriously and were almost always important advocates for the LGBT community. Timothée Chalamet, who stars in Call Me By Your Name, has donated to the LGBT center in New York, and Jake Gyllenhaal, who stars in Brokeback Mountain, donates to LGBT charity GLAAD. Along with their charity work, these established stars can bring lots of attention to LGBT movies, thereby raising awareness of different issues that many would not hear about otherwise.  Eddie Redmayne did this when he played one of the first trans people to undergo a sex change in The Danish Girl.

Although I can’t imagine Modern Family without Eric Stonestreet (who plays Cam), straight actors need to allow for greater opportunity for LGBT actors. According to LGBT magazine The Advocate, 52 straight people have received Oscar nominations for gay roles, and actors such as Sean Penn for Milk and Tom Hanks for Philadelphia have taken home the award for best actor, while no openly gay man has ever taken home the award. The work these actors have done to raise awareness is greatly appreciated, and of course straight actors can certainly play an LGBT role every once in a while, but it is also extremely important that the people representing the LGBT community on television are themselves LGBT, so the youth in that community can have role models who share their experiences.

Why You Should Take a Language in High School

BY JACK MORGENSTEIN

We’ve all been in the position before of selecting classes for our next semester. Odds are, if you’re anything like me, you find the sheer number of courses overwhelming. Most colleges require two language credits, but is there any other benefit to filling up one of your valuable class slots with a higher-level language course?

The answer is a resounding yes—and not for the reasons you may think. The most valuable part of taking a language in high school is not at all about actually speaking the language. According to President Lyndon B. Johnson, “If we are to live together in peace, we must come to know each other better.” This concept is more relevant today than ever before, as we live in a highly interconnected global community where misunderstandings between business and political leaders have cascading effects on the global stage. Mutual understanding could be the difference between world peace and nuclear destruction. Learning another language has given me a newfound appreciation for many diverse cultures. An integral part of any good language course is learning about the associated culture. Long after all the Spanish I’ve learned has left my mind, I’ll still remember singing in Sra. BA’s room and learning traditional Spanish legends in Sra. Stewart’s room. I have gained a respect for other cultures I could never have otherwise gotten here in suburbia. This respect leads to mutual understanding, which can create connections between all of us and lead the way to peace on a wide scale and better interpersonal skills in everyday life.

Whether or not college is in the future, taking a world language is an important step to becoming not only a global citizen but a better person by informing conceptions you may have about others and creating respect. The next time you’re picking classes, consider checking the box for a language.

The Creep Before Christmas

BY RILEY BERGAMASCO

We’ve finally made it to winter break, but you would have to be blind to not have noticed that the holiday season’s been here for a while already. Stores are filled to the brim with Christmas decoration from lights to trees to candy canes. December is the month of Christmas… but according to stores, so are November, October, and sometimes even September. As strange as it seems, most people aren’t surprised when they see these products filling stores as early as September. It has become a normal occurrence due to a marketing technique used by almost the entire western retail industry.

“Christmas Creep” is a merchandising phenomenon in which retailers advertise Christmas-themed products earlier than the traditional Christmas season. In many cases, Santa store displays go up in October, radio stations begin playing Christmas music in November, and people become sick of Christmas before December even starts. For some, the earlier and longer holiday season spoils the excitement of Christmas. Others argue that the increased commercialism ruins the family aspect of Christmas as well as its religious roots. But the most noticeable and likely impactful consequence of Christmas Creep is the effect it has on retailers.

Because many stores rely on the holiday season to make a large portion of their profits, they take advantage of this phenomenon to increase the length of sales. The holiday season grows each year and with it, the sales. These sales are not exclusively related to Christmas—they also include Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales which often last at least a week each, if not more. When people believe they are getting a good deal, they are more likely to spend more money, so retailers take advantage of the holiday season to increase their profits. It doesn’t always work out though. These increased sales create a sense of mutually assured destruction for businesses. If one refuses to drop their prices, they will lose out to the others that do, causing retailers to continually cut prices and often lose profits.

Despite the downsides and irritation it may cause, Christmas Creep is not always bad. For example, people in Finland can’t wait for the lights to go up because the sun sets so early. And ultimately, for people with an undying love for Christmas music and Santa decorations, a longer holiday season is a longer period of joy.

The Way-Too-Early 2020 Democratic Nomination Power Rankings

BY STEPHEN ATKINSON

 

While there are still another two years before the Democrats officially face-off with President Trump, hopeful Democratic politicians are already hitting the road in early primary states like New Hampshire and South Carolina. Here’s a ranking of potential nominees for the Democratic party and how their chances stack up for primary season.

 

  1. Beto O’Rourke

Beto O'Rourke

He’s said he’s not running, he lost his Texas Senate race, and he’s relatively inexperienced. So don’t expect O’Rourke to make his presidential bid in 2020. However, if he for some reason did, his viral popularity could carry him far, and crazier things have happened.

 

 

 

 

9. Sherrod Brown

Sherrod Brown

The gravelly-voiced Ohio senator has been one of the most liberal Democrats in recent years, but as 2020 hopefuls flock to the left, there will be less and less to distinguish him from the pack.

 

 

 

 

8. Julian Castro

Julian Castro

After a rousing speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Castro was considered by many to be the party’s biggest rising star. Since then, he hasn’t generated much publicity at all, but as a young hispanic politician from Texas, Castro is still a sound option for Democrats looking for the anti-Trump.

 

 

 

7. Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomber

This mega-billionaire and former New York City mayor has flirted with presidential runs many times before. His pro-business, socially liberal brand is unique in the Democratic field, which is good in a sense… but mostly bad. It’s hard to believe the same party that propelled Bernie Sanders to national prominence would elect a centrist who also happens to be the 11th wealthiest man in the world.

 

 

 

6. Cory Booker

Cory Booker

A couple years ago Booker—a charismatic New Jersey senator—was labelled the next “rising star” of the party, but that title has since been overtaken by Kamala Harris. Booker aligns with the centrist “New Democrat” movement of politicians like Bill Clinton and Joe Biden, and that’s not where excitement in the party base lies. He even expressed staunch support for “private equity” in a 2012 interview that will likely haunt his nomination chances.

 

 

 

5. Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar

Despite her low name recognition, Amy Klobuchar is a very logical pick. In the midterm elections she won reelection in Minnesota by over twenty points. (Remember that Donald Trump’s shocking victory was largely due to his success in the midwest.) As a woman, a moderate, and a Rust Belt politician with an uncontroversial personality, a Klobuchar ticket could be the perfect concoction for a single-term Trump presidency. But is she exciting enough to win primary season? At this point, probably not.

 

 

4. Joe Biden

Joe Biden

In a recent poll by CNN testing potential Democratic candidates, Biden came out on top by far, garnering 33% to second place Bernie Sanders’ 13%. It makes sense—he’s near-universally well-liked and well-known. But is a seventy-five-year-old politically moderate white man really what the Democratic party needs right now? And Joe Biden himself still seems unsure about running. He’s acknowledged that his age should be a factor voters consider, which doesn’t sound like the type of talk from a future nominee.

 

 

3. Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

It looks like #Feelthebern is fading. Based on the 2016 elections, Bernie Sanders should be the automatic favorite for the Democratic nomination, but his momentum is sliding. He’s old, white, and male. And while the Vermont senator’s progressive socialist message may be more inspiring to younger voters, there will likely be other more polished and diverse politicians who will compete for the same voting bloc, like Warren, Harris, Booker, and Gillibrand. If Sanders does find success, it’s through the message that, unlike many of his colleagues, he’s been devoted to the same policy stances for a whole lifetime.

 

 

2. Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren

After refusing pleas to run in 2016, Warren has kept herself in the news cycle; her active social media presence and openness to the press indicates she’s likely gearing up for a run in 2020. She’s an established member of the Democratic party’s progressive wing, which looks to be gaining the most momentum after the rise of Bernie Sanders. Plus, she’s a woman (a big advantage in the #Metoo era) and a polished public speaker, which could set her apart from ally Sanders.

 

 

1. Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris is the early favorite, but keep in mind: it’s still very early. At fifty-four, she’s relatively young. She’s a woman, a daughter of immigrants, a solid liberal, and a polished orator with a confident stage presence. That crosses off just about all the possible checkmarks Democrats are looking for. While her name recognition is lower than some of the veterans on this list, it has rapidly grown as her fiery Senate speeches and savvy tweets have gone viral. She still has some potential weaknesses—her time as a public prosecutor in California and her sudden (politically motivated?) shift to the left on many issues will certainly attract criticism—but overall, she maintains a slight advantage in what looks to be a very crowded 2020 field. So crowded, in fact, that who knows what surprises could be lurking outside of this list!