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.

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 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!

The True Origins of Thanksgiving

BY ADARRA BLOUNT

The sole attribution of Thanksgiving to the 1621 feast between the Wampanoag tribe and the Mayflower pilgrims is not completely accurate. In fact, that historical feast wasn’t even referred to as ‘Thanksgiving’ until the early nineteenth century, and Thanksgiving didn’t become a national holiday until Abraham Lincoln declared so in 1863. So where did Thanksgiving begin? And what was it originally meant to celebrate?

The feast between the Wampanoag tribe and the English settlers in 1621 does play a small role in the history of Thanksgiving. Most Americans learn the story of Native Americans and their leader Squanto celebrating the harvest after a tough year. In reality, by the time that feast came around, the Wampanoag population had reduced from about 8,000 to 1,500 due to European diseases introduced by the settlers. Squanto himself had been captured by Englishmen years before, sold into Spanish slavery, and returned home to see his entire native Patuxet tribe extinct from smallpox. Squanto worked as a translator for the settlers and the Wampanoag tribe, and he helped the tribe teach the settlers how to farm in the New England environment. In 1621 the two groups joined to celebrate the victories of a successful harvest. This harvest would be an ‘eye of the storm’ so to speak, as it was situated between devastating population losses for both parties.

The positive relationship between settlers and Native Americans was short-lived; the second Thanksgiving was actually a celebration of the massacres that followed the original feast in 1621. English citizens quickly got word of the good conditions in New England, and settlers began to outnumber Native Americans in this region. Broken treaties and disputed claims over land exploded during the Pequot War. One specific massacre during the war resulted in another “Day of Thanksgiving” in the Plymouth and Massachusetts colonies.

The holiday as we know it today is not a celebration of the massacre of Native Americans or the brief peace between English settlers and Native Americans. Most Americans don’t sit down on Thanksgiving to remember those two events, so what changed? Well, George Washington issued his Proclamation of General Thanksgiving, which served as a “one size fits all” push for gratefulness. Then, in 1863, to unify celebrations across the country Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as an official holiday. Later, in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November to make the holiday shopping season longer. Now, Thanksgiving is largely celebrated as a day for families to come together and give thanks for one another. Families across the country gather around the table to enjoy a large dinner and each other’s company.

Still, the extreme injustice endured by Native Americans is not forgotten. While some may recollect grade school plays about pilgrims and Native Americans, Thanksgiving is also the National Day of Mourning. Established in 1970 by the United American Indians of New England (UAINE), the National Day of Mourning is set on the same day of Thanksgiving every year. The UAINE and others across the country use the day to remember ancestors, protest the treatment of Native Americans by the US government, and connect with spiritual beliefs. So whether you’re relaxing this weekend after your Thanksgiving festivities or protesting in the streets of New England, be sure to take a moment to recognize Thanksgiving as it was, as it is, and as it becomes.

The Future of Women’s Health Care Is At Stake

BY EBENEZER NKUNDA

The U.S. Supreme Court now has a conservative majority that is more than able to overturn the supreme court case Roe v. Wade. The addition of Brett Kavanaugh is all that is needed to overturn the law, as he replaces the previous swing-vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy. If the case is overturned, it would give state governments the power to ban or legalize abortions. According to history, at least half of the U.S. would criminalize abortion if this occurred.

In 2016, Texas imposed laws that forced more than half of the state’s abortion clinics to shut down. These were overturned by the Court, with Justice Kennedy casting the deciding vote. However, with Kavanaugh now on the Court, it is probable that he would allow such state-imposed restrictions to stand.

As a judge, Kavanaugh has never directly ruled on abortion. But based on prior precedent, it is clear how he would decide on the issue. He dissented on an appeals court decision that allowed a pregnant undocumented teenager in federal custody to have an abortion, which gives an indication to his views on the subject.

In addition to being anti-abortion, Kavanaugh is also opposed to birth control. One might suspect Kavanaugh would be pro-birth control, seeing that the purpose of birth control is to reduce the chances of a baby being conceived, but he isn’t. During his confirmation hearing, he described contraceptives as “abortion-inducing drugs.” It wasn’t clear which methods of birth control he was speaking of (e.g. pills, patches, and IUDs or emergency contraceptives); however, the term “abortion-inducing” represents a gross misrepresentation of contraceptives, as none can terminate a pregnancy. As Kavanaugh sits as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court for decades to come, the rights of women to health care and abortion that took so much time and effort to gain are at stake, and there is no guarantee what the future holds.