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Ways of Seeing the World

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By Bel Rosenthal

No flat map is a fully accurate map of the world; each expresses a specific perspective and set of priorities. Regardless of whether you care about or pay attention to maps, they have shaped the way we all see the world. Call one to mind; it is a familiar picture — probably brightly colored, with Russia stretched largest across the upper right-hand side, Europe toward the middle, the U.S. most prominent on the left. South America and Africa are smaller and closer together on the bottom, like the kids of two friends awkwardly ushered together, and then there’s Australia off in the corner. Everyone grows up with maps; they are on the walls of school classrooms, in textbooks, used as decoration, on the news, in movies, and more.

The way that we see the world is not objective. Our perspective and our understanding of things are shaped by our cumulative experiences, many of which we cannot pinpoint or remember and that are constantly changing. This is visible through the example of map projections. Due to the challenge of trying to portray a spherical shape onto a flat surface, all world maps are also distorted and, like us, have a distinct perspective. By not addressing this inherent inaccuracy we have grown to see ourselves as reliable judges of “truth.” However, if we choose to reexamine our beliefs, starting with what the world we live in looks like, we can begin to see how perspectives we may or may not agree with, and that we may or may not even be aware are being presented to us, have shaped and influenced our own beliefs and ideas.

A common comparison used to help people picture the problem presented by trying to transfer the image on a globe to a map is the challenge of peeling an orange so that the peel all comes off in one piece and can be laid flat. It is often in ragged shapes, with disconnected features and little resemblance to what we imagine a holistic map to look like. So, in order to create a cohesive map, the accuracy of some aspects must be sacrificed to allow for accuracy in others. Each of the strategies for doing this is known as a projection or, “a method for taking the curved surface of the earth and displaying it on something flat, like a computer screen or a piece of paper” (“What is”). For example, the land masses and bodies of water closer to the poles could be stretched to maintain lines of latitude and longitude that are as straight as possible. This is done with the Mercator projection (“Mercator,” fig. 1).

The Mercator projection was initially designed for ocean navigation by European explorers and was later used, along with other maps, as a way European colonial powers were able to assert dominance over regions that had not yet mastered geographic mapping (White). Its straight lines made it a very effective tool for ocean navigation, but it is used for other purposes now. It is likely the map you are most familiar with, from its role in most classrooms around the world and even by Google Maps. This, like our own distorted perceptions, is important and sometimes even dangerous because of the ripple-like effect it has on our beliefs and actions. We define much of the rest of the world by its relationship to Europe as the center, e.g., the Middle East or the Western World. The central placement of Europe, on the very map they used to colonize large parts of the rest of the world, reinforces their perspective of colonial superiority and view of their own dominance — and lowers the perceived status of the peripheral regions (Snyder; Wood et al. 90-93).

One of the more popular solutions proposed to address this issue – which was adopted by Boston’s public schools in 2017 (Walters) — is to replace the Mercator projection with one called the Gall-Peters projection (“Mercator,” fig. 1). The Gall-Peters projection gained a lot of attention in the past several years for its more accurate presentation of continental size in comparison to the Mercator. It is seen as an ethical choice for a more balanced view of the world. The fictional “Organization of Cartographers for Social Equality,” that appears in an episode of the TV show West Wing, is frequently referred to as support for this argument (“Somebody’s Going”). The segment’s amusing and easy to follow argument explains many of the problems with the Mercator projection. However, it glosses over the Gall-Peters’ own drawbacks. While the Mercator can feel laughably wrong in that it portrays Africa and Greenland as roughly the same size, when in actuality Greenland is about 14 times smaller (“The True,” fig. 2), the Gall-Peters, in order to present more accurate sizes, distorts many of its shapes and loses directional accuracy. By presenting the replacement of one distorted map with another, they have failed to address the larger issue: that neither is fully accurate and that varied perceptions of truth exist everywhere. The important lesson to take from inconsistent presentations of information – excluding, of course, actual verifiable facts – is that there may not be a “right” one, each shows a slightly different truth, and the best way to get a full picture is to view a variety of different perspectives with that awareness in mind.

Studies on implicit bias, summarized by the Kirwan Institute, also concluded that the beliefs we hold, specifically those that we are not aware of, have a real and measurable effect on how we think and act. They define implicit bias as, “the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.” They looked at implicit bias through its connection to racial inequities and found that these subconscious beliefs led pediatricians to be more likely to prescribe painkillers to white patients than black patients and that, even when controlling for a number of other factors, they resulted in people with more prominently African-looking features receiving longer prison sentences. They also state that these views do not necessarily align with the ones that we consciously hold, meaning that we are not at fault for acquiring these biases, but also that they are worth recognizing and challenging. Even more hopefully, they assert that we have the ability to reshape and unlearn them (“Understanding”).

My own interest in the way choices made on maps impact our worldview was sparked when I was 11 years old and came across a map on the wall of a restaurant near the southern tip of South America (“The World,” fig. 3). It depicted the Southern Hemisphere on the top half of the map and the Northern Hemisphere on the bottom. I was confused and intrigued by this weird “upside-down” world. After reading the short explanation written across one of the oceans, I realized that simply because Europeans had created the map we use, I had until that moment believed my half of the world to be up. It is clear from the way we speak that we associate up with good and down with bad. Heaven is above us and hell is below; on the ladder of success, that defines America, up is progress and down is chaos. We want to “move up in the world,” sometimes we “feel down,” and we strive to be better than or “above” something. Whether or not we consciously recognize, by being placed on the top, we get to feel superior to those on the bottom. This realization did not feel frustrating or make me angry, though; it was an exciting revelation. Being faced with facts that challenge what you believe can be scary, but it can also allow us to better understand our own perspectives and better communicate with others.

Just because the information we receive is somewhat subjective, that does not mean that it is worthless. Take the example of op-eds; these opinion pieces are inherently subjective, but we still read them. They are published by newspapers and scholarly journals. They introduce us to new perspectives, inform us about relevant issues, and can present nuanced views and reliable information. As you now know, the maps you have seen of the world are also not entirely objective. However, through them you can gain an understanding of where you stand in the world, what our planet generally looks like, and how to get to the closest Chipotle, but also how parts of the world view each other. English professors have likely counseled you to think about the position behind what you are reading with questions like: who is the author, what audience are they trying to reach, what might they be trying to accomplish, and who might that benefit. This works for maps too, and is what the authors of Seeing Through Maps, encourage us to do when seeking a map that suits our needs. They propose the questions, “What can I discern about the self-interest of the mapmaker and/or those who commissioned the work? How do you suppose that self-interest or agenda may have influenced choices of what to include or omit?” (Wood et al. 12). By examining the perspective behind a map or opinion piece, what is prioritized or emphasized and what is sacrificed or sidelined, you are more able to understand the perspective and bias it reflects. From there it is up to you to decide what you do with your source. For a map, maybe think about whether its priorities match what you are using it for. For an op-ed, let it inform your sense of its reliability; learn what it teaches you about the subject, and about the author. Rather than being less useful than an objective source, a subjective source can actually provide you with more information than a direct statement of fact. These questions can be a way to look at any perspective-influenced information you receive, and most information is influenced by perspective in one way or another. If you imagine the subject of your source as the scene in a photograph and the perspective as the photographer, it is clear that knowledge of the photographer increases your understanding of the photo and analysis of the photo increases your understanding of the person who took it.

Works Cited

“Mercator Projection and Gall-Peters Projection.” Mapping, Society, and Technology, University of Minnesota Libraries, https://open.lib.umn.edu/mapping/chapter/7-lying-with-maps/#footnote-402-1.

“Understanding Implicit Bias.” Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, 2015, http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/research/understanding-implicit-bias/.

Snyder, John P. Flattening the Earth: Two Thousand Years of Map Projections. University of Chicago Press, 1993.

“Somebody’s Going to Emergency, Somebody’s Going to Jail.” The West Wing, season 2 episode 16, NBC, 28 February 2001, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVX-PrBRtTY.

“The True True Size of Africa.” The Economist, 10 November 2010, https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2010/11/10/the-true-true-size-of-africa.

Walters, Joanna. “Boston Public Schools Map Switch Aims to Amend 500 Years of Distortion.” The Guardian, 23 March 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/mar/19/boston-public-schools-world-map-mercator-peters-projection.

“What is a Map Projection?” Caliper Mapping and Transportation Glossary, https://www.caliper.com/glossary/what-is-a-map-projection.htm.           

White, Nathan. “Geography and Empire.” Postcolonial Studies @ Emory, October 2017, https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/postcolonialstudies/2014/06/20/geography-and-empire/.

Wood, Denis, Kaiser, Ward L., and Abramms, Bob. Seeing Through Maps: Many Ways to See the World. ODT, Incorporated. 2006.

“The World.” The Upsidedown Map Page, https://www.flourish.org/upsidedownmap/.

Is Diversity Needed?

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By Anonymous

Goucher College has requirement courses that students are recommended to take their first two years of college. If not by then, they must take them by the end of their 4 years here, in order to graduate and receive their degree in their major. These courses are designed to shape each student to be more well-rounded and gain knowledge in different subjects. Complex Problem Exploration (CPE) is an example of a Goucher required course. The general description of CPE courses consists of, “CPE courses build on student learning in the FYS and show students complex problems from more than one angle” (“The Goucher Commons Curriculum”). How would you feel being taught about what your ancestors have been through, through the eyes of the oppressor, just to fulfill a requirement?

I have personally witnessed students “not caring” about their CPE classes and expressing that they’re just trying to get the two courses “out of the way”. This results in students not actually paying attention in class or engaging in group discussion. It is frustrating to see those that are not of color, refusing to take a step back and realize that it is beneficial to take courses that can expand your knowledge on other cultures, and diversity in general. The problem comes in when those that are not of color, do not understand the difference between appreciating new cultures and appropriating those cultures.  

When is the line drawn between learning/acknowledging a culture or appropriating it? Here at Goucher, there are a lot of culturally based courses that are taught by white professors; however, the amount of Black professors here can be counted on one hand, which is very disappointing. As a Black woman here at Goucher, it is hard to “learn” about such sensitive topics through the eyes of the “oppressor”. The topics that are covered in each CPE are very sensitive, and it is hard to comfortably share my opinions when my professor does not understand personally where I am coming from. Diversity is well needed in every educational setting in order to fully accommodate student’s needs, especially obtaining the knowledge needed to properly learn in the CPE courses.

If there are not going to be an equal amount of professors of color hired at Goucher, each professor should be required to fulfill cultural workshops and practice their empathy/sympathy for others who may not be as privileged. “The 21st – century teacher should be an interculturally competent person who knows how to address and exploit differences among students in a class in a positive manner, as well as manage conflicts and conflict risks successfully” (Boghian 1). Many students have confided in me that they do not feel comfortable engaging in conversation with their professors because of their different backgrounds, and the fear of belittlement towards the student’s perspectives.

Why wouldn’t one want to feel comfortable in a learning atmosphere? We should all be able to put our obvious differences aside and fully hear out what those that are a part of a minority group have to offer. When in class, there should be more student-driven conversations in topics that interest us as individuals instead of grouping us all together. For example, assignments that are personal to our backgrounds, like traditions. Students do not want to learn about the surface level of slavery or Martin Luther King’s take on anti-capitalism. The repeated “facts” are somewhat whitewashed and put people of color in the spotlight in class, and even throughout history. But learning from a white person makes it a somewhat humiliating experience, and they actually may “need” it more than others but are too scared to speak up on the past, or do not care overall.

I have experienced a CPE here at Goucher with one of the Black male professors and it helped a lot to hear firsthand experiences from him and what he has experienced as a person of color traveling the world. This brings another perspective to the concept of cultural traditions and past supremacy. I have also experienced a Black woman as my history professor. There was no shame in the execution on making sure that everyone in the class was engaged. On the contrary, it is very obvious that there is shame (white guilt) from the other professors, which comes off as lenient self-pity. Instead of making sure that everyone is engaged and admitting their white fragility and trying to change it around for the better, there is a lot of awkward silences; there is not a clear motive on trying to make sure each student is personally learning something. Instead, a movie or book that us students have read/seen before is thrown at us, like The Hate You Give and Born a Crime, which puts us in a non-progressive predicament, because no one is personally engaging in change.

“Education is about having dialogue, action, and reflection about ideas, practices and policies germane to the living conditions of persons” (Westfield 74).  I feel as though we (as a committee) are missing pieces to this strategy presented by Nancy Lynne Westfield, who has a PhD in writing and teaches at Drew University. This strategy could help a lot of teacher-student dynamics because it refers to a hands-on approach by quickly adjusting to students’ discomfort, rather than professors boasting about those without power, every single class. There is more to “Complex Problem Exploration” than to be talked at for two hours and have to absorb everything like a sponge, but not have guidance on applying it to personal lives, that may need diversity. Admitting to one’s privileges is the first step, and a lot of professors are refusing to do so.

To add another outlook into the discussion, Angel Carter, a scholar at Tulane University expanded her knowledge on those that do not look like her by going to a university that is 75% white. This is an example of hands-on change. Angel states, “I hadn’t had many interactions with white people” … “I wanted to work on that: How do I code switch? How do I approach situations with people who do not look like me?” The statistic is very similar to Goucher, by simply stepping on to the campus, you can see the lack of diversity. Here at Goucher there should be an equal balance of white people and those that identify as a person of color, learning to adapt to different culture shocks and using it as an advantage towards building academic relationships. We are all on this campus together, we should learn to not just “get used to one another” but fully educate ourselves on white fragility and ways to add different perspectives to the classroom/classes (CPE).

Works Cited

BOGHIAN, Ioana. “Empowering Teachers to Deal with Classroom Diversity.” Romanian 

Journal for Multidimensional Education / Revista Romaneasca Pentru Educatie Multidimensionala, vol. 11, no. 3, Sept. 2019, pp. 1–9. EBSCOhost, doi:10.18662/rrem/134.

Mongeau, Lillian, et al. “America’s Colleges Struggle to Envision the Future of Diversity on Campus.” The Hechinger Report, 16 Jan. 2019, hechingerreport.org/whither-diversity/.

 “The Goucher Commons Curriculum.” Goucher College, www.goucher.edu/learn/curriculum/.

Westfield, Nancy Lynne. “Teaching for Globalized Consciousness: Black Professor, White  

Student and Shame.” Black Theology: An International Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, Jan. 2004, pp. 73-83. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1558/blth.2004.2.1.73.

To Go or Not To Go?

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By Angelica Calo

            Are you a college student looking to go on a vacation in Orlando with your friends? There are beautiful beaches, sunny skies, and fun attractions—amusement parks galore! There is Disneyworld, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld. What more could you want? When choosing a perfect vacation, you always want to make a plan of activities beforehand, and let’s face it, money is a major factor in these decisions. Disneyworld and Universal are both crowded and overpriced! Why not go to SeaWorld instead? It is cheaper yet still popular, and has amusement park rides, food, games and many animals like the infamous killer whale! Sounds fun right? Well, if you are thinking about SeaWorld, you might want to rethink that decision.

            Now, I know what you’re thinking—why? It’ll be so much fun! Well, it may be fun for you, but it might not be as fun for the animals inside. In a recent study on captive orca dental health, biologists have found that, “In total, 713 of the 1127 (63.3%) teeth (mandibular and maxillary teeth combined) evaluated for coronal wear exhibited varying degrees of the pathology; 142 of 1116 (12.7%) teeth exhibited fractures; 234 of 1154 (20.3%) teeth were worn to or below the gum line; 158 of 1056 (15%) teeth were positive for bore holes; and 22 of 1130 (2%) teeth were missing (Jett et. Al)”. Now let’s break that down so we have a better understanding: Scientists observed the mandibular and maxillary teeth by looking at dental images of 29 captive orca owned by SeaWorld. Each tooth was scored for coronal wear, wear at or below the gum line and bore holes, as well as looking for fractured and missing teeth. They found that all of the whales had teeth damage, but the majority had coronal wear (Jett et. al). What do teeth have to do with anything you may ask? Well, the scientists believe that the wear and tear on the teeth are caused by oral stereotypies, such as chewing on concrete walls. Dr Lori Marino, a neuroscientist, says that this action is heavily influenced by psychological stress. In short, the orca are chewing on concrete due to their environment in captivity and this in turn is causing problems with their dental health.

            If that is not enough, scientists have also found that that mortality rates in captivity are extremely high. In the wild, orcas generally live 50-70 years, sometimes even 100! In captivity, most orcas do not make it beyond 20 years of age. According to the US National Marine Mammal Inventory, and USDA Inspection Reports show that “between 1971 and 2017, there have been 35 documented orca deaths at SeaWorld facilities alone (Kielty, 2011; Robeck et al., 2015; Aiello and Moses, 2016; Rose and Parsons, 2019)”(Marino et. al.). When causes of death were available, the most commonly implicated conditions were viral, bacterial and fungal infections, gastrointestinal disease, and trauma (Jett and Ventre, 2012)”(Marino et. al.). It was also found that another common cause of death of captive orcas was gastrointestinal ulceration. “Gastric ulceration is often caused by prolonged stress, as well as being associated with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (Nomura et al., 1994)”(Marino et. al.). Although it is possible for wild orca to contract similar diseases, it is a lot less common and abundant then it is in captive orca.

            In 2013, a documentary was released about SeaWorld, and it featured clips, images, eye- witnesses, and scientists which provided evidence against captivity, while promoting a seaside sanctuary. The documentary, Blackfish, quickly became popular, and has since made a huge impact on the marine park industry’s sales. However, they are still not willing to give up their orcas and have since spoken out against the film stating that it is “propaganda”. Now the question is—is it propaganda? Honestly, it is not; there are many facts proving Blackfish’s claims. However, many people are still supportive of SeaWorld and their decisions.

            Since the release of Blackfish, SeaWorld has ended their orca breeding program and has changed their shows to be less entertainment based, and more “educational”. Some may argue that they have changed, and it is still okay to go. SeaWorld does conservation work too, so they must be a good business to support! But what does that do for the orcas? Great! They are no longer forced to breed unnaturally and no longer have to do unrealistic tricks! However, that does not change a thing. They are still held captive in a concrete tank with no mental stimulation, exposed to the harsh Florida sun and infections, they are still dying prematurely, and have no choice but to live their life in a small tank suffering from boredom and depression.

            SeaWorld has refused to give up their whales because they believe they won’t survive in the wild. Which is true, the captive bred orcas cannot survive without human care. The wild caught orcas have been held captive for so long, they would not either. However, their mental capacities are amazing, and they have wonderful memories. The wild caught orcas can be acclimated and possibly released back into the wild and to go to their families who are still alive! This must be done before it is too late! It has been done before and can be done again. Even for the whales who cannot be released, the goal is to give them a more natural and stimulating life.

This is an amazing opportunity for communities to learn natural orca behavior and provide a better life for all captive cetaceans. Recently, The Whale Sanctuary Project has selected a seaside sanctuary site for captive orcas and cetaceans to retire. They would be in the ocean yet separated to where they still have that human care. They can swim 100 miles a day like they would naturally, rather than in circles in a tank. They will also have the mental stimulation of living in the ocean and can even learn to hunt. Still thinking about SeaWorld? Maybe Disneyworld is the better choice. After all, it is the happiest place on earth!

Works Cited

Bekhof, Mark. “The Harmful Effects of Captivity on Orcas.” Psychology Today, 26 Jun. 2019,

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/animal-emotions/201906/the-harmful-effects-captivity-orcas

Blackfish. Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, performances by John Hargrove, Samantha Berg, Dave Duffus, Ken Balcomb, Mark Simmons, Carol Ray, John     Jett, Jeffrey Ventre,    and Lori Marino. 2013.

Jett, John, et al. “Tooth damage in captive orcas (Orcinus orca).” Archives of Oral Biology. Vol. 84, December 2017, pp. 151-160. Science Direct.              https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003996917303138#sec0010

Marino, Lori, et al. “The harmful effects of captivity and chronic stress on the well-being of         orcas (Orcinus orca).” Journal of Veterinary Behavior, Jan.- Jun. 2019. Science Direct,     https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1558787819300164?via%3Dihub.

A JERUSALEM ISRAELI’S FIRST-HAND ACCOUNT ON THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

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Logo of Mobileye Intel, an Israel safe-driving startup. Courtesy Jonathan Trauner ’16

When the Covid-19 virus first arrived in Jerusalem Israel two weeks ago, my workplace Mobileye Intel, a global safe-driving startup, cancelled work days and shut doors indefinitely. I celebrated the Jewish holiday of Purim again in Jerusalem for the third straight year with my Israeli family members however, for the first time, in all of the years that I have celebrated the holiday of Purim, I could not even listen to the Torah’s Megillah Esther readings of my Jerusalem Israel synagogue community of Kol Haneshama of Baka Jerusalem since global groups from abroad (potential covid-19 carriers) typically attend our holiday services. I also have had to enter quarantine in my home for at a week at minimum even though I did not test positive for the virus and no one else at Mobileye tested positive with Covid-19.

Throughout my experiences hearing of Covid-19, I have remained fully calm and precautious. However, in my Israeli-Aunt Mrs. Mira Zada’s Jerusalem Israel home neighborhood a French and Israeli Jewish religious synagogue community called Or Tziyon was forced to completely shut their doors after a synagogue member contracted Covid-19 from Europe. At home, I followed all the statistics of Israel. Right now, more than four thousand Israelis have reported they tested positive for the coronavirus and at least fifteen Israelis have passed away due to the virus.

 I am happy to announce to Goucher’s Alumnae and Alumni Association and Goucher Hillel’s Alumnae/i Association, both organizations of which I am a member, that the majority of our Covid-19 cases have been fully contained, and that the majority of our Covid-19 patients we will continue treating will make a full recovery. The city of Jerusalem Israel will defeat the coronavirus epidemic outbreak and contain it. As Jerusalem has survived thousands of years of war and adversity, I have endless faith as an Israeli and Jerusalemite that we will defeat and eradicate the Coronavirus and that the world will know love and peace every-where we go. Only through love and togetherness, can our world collectively defeat Covid-19, contain the virus, and return to normal life as seamlessly and as easily as possible.

Alumni Submission from Jonathan Trauner ’16

WONDROUS (A FUTURE ASSOCIATED PRESS PUBLISHED STORY)

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Gal Gadot in the 2017 film Wonder Woman. PC: Vox.com

At the CCXP Comic Con Brazil Festival that took place earlier this year, Wonder Woman 1984 film director Mrs. Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman Mrs. Gal Gadot took center-stage to release and unveil the Wonder Woman 1984 film trailer globally. Joy and excitement filled Brazil’s CCXP theater arena space as the courageous Wonder Woman Mrs. Gal Gadot debuted the Wonder Woman 1984 trailer. “My life hasn’t been what you probably think it has. We all have our struggles,” Wonder Woman 1984 picks up where she left off from Wonder Woman 1, and spreads Wonder Woman’s timeless message of “we all can be the superheroes of our own life stories.” Superheroes go through struggles because struggle arms our humanity with the resilience and perseverance to triumph over evil. Gal Gadot, as Wonder Woman, through her W shaped crown and her lasso of truth teaches us, that no matter how daunting our obstacles can be, we can achieve any impossible dream and goal we have in our hearts and souls, no matter how many times our humanity gets counted out. Mrs. Gal Gadot’s main makeup artist Mrs. Sarah Brock has two older adult sons with High Functioning Autism, and they lead loving, kindhearted, empathy filled, and compassionate and gratitude led lives. Why should people with disabilities be judged for them loving themselves unapologetically? All we need to live the lives of our dreams and to direct the film stories of our souls is to be ourselves.

Mr. Pedro Pascal’s character in Wonder Woman 1984’s main trailer, Mr. Max Lord, shows us with the quote, “Life is good, but it can be better, so why should it not be. All you need is to want it. Think about having everything you always wanted,” that there is no goal humanity cannot achieve. Following Pascal’s words of hopefulness and faith, Mr. Steve Trevor as a resurrected and revived warrior spirit returns fully alive by telling Gal and Wonder Woman herself, “I can save today, but you can save the world.” Once Gal said Steve, and Gal embraced Steve with a loving hug and true tears of love, I cried as much as Gal cried because I myself reflected on where I was when I saw Wonder Woman 1 in Jerusalem in November 2017. In Jerusalem’s Cinema City Theater, during the premiere of Wonder Woman One in November 2017, I remembered Wonder Woman say, “I stand for love,” when finally defeating Ares The God of War. Not only do I believe in love, I believe we all have a place for everyone.

On November 28th, 2016, I earned my Israeli citizenship despite my High Functioning Autism. Today I daily save lives from car accidents for the Jerusalem and global safe driving startup Mobileye Intel as a computer algorithms Quality Assurance technician which is directly responsible for saving peoples’ lives from car accidents with safe running Mobileye car GPS systems.  As a 25-year old Israeli living in Jerusalem with High Functioning Autism and as a writer, I know that God has made our souls and hearts to achieve the impossible. Joaquin Phoenix, 2020 Oscar Academy Award winner for The Joker, eloquently quoted a beautiful message from his brother River: Joaquin’s words ring true: “Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow.” In togetherness and love, the world will truly know hope.

Alumni Submission from Jonathan Trauner ’16

A Gopher in Musherib: Life under Quarantine in the Arab Gulf

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Handshakes, hugs and sighs of relief filled the air outside the Intercontinental Katara, in Doha, Qatar. An unusually cool breeze had settled as the Rolex clock on the curbside chimed midnight alongside a row of the seven remaining brand new Jeep Cherokees and Dodges Durangos. The usual exchange of farewells was in full swing. I congratulated the drivers, 7 out of 30 of whom, Najib, Sajid, Suheer, Mustaq, Jyothi, Rogelio and Jameel were present. They told me how they looked forward to their day off, but many worried for the coming days. The peninsula within a peninsula, the State of Qatar had registered 24 active cases of Covid-19 thus far. Schools had already been closed for two days, Jyothi, Mustaq and Najib were assigned to families for school drop offs and pick-ups the following week while the rest of the guys were scheduled to work for an international football tournament the 2022 World Cup hosts were putting in a week’s time. It would be money lost for the Sri Lankan trio. Jameel had the last word however, reassuring us that once the heat returned, Qatar would surely be safe from the virus. As we all normally did back then, I gave them a final cheerio and shook their hands one last time. I woke up the next day having slept more than 4 hours for the first time since February, finished a report and played a game of football that evening. This was the gang of Colombians and Venezuelans, the theme for that night’s game was El Classico, Barcelona fans vs. Real Madrid fans. Following the Blaugrana’s 7-5 victory, tradition at the Doha Sports Park on the outskirts of Lusail stipulated that pints were in order and the losers were paying. Alcohol here is only sold in hotel bars and select sports clubs. This is one of only two places I know were of you can have your lager outside, and for $9.50 USD a pint, it’s a bargain for this country. We were excited for our game against a team of Japanese engineers in two days’ time. We loved welcoming the weekend with a game, the dads in the team would bring their families since the club hosted BBQ on lawn every Friday for Brunch. But the conversation soon turned to the Coronavirus, the songs going viral in Latin America, in particular a Mexican corrido and an excellent Colombian cumbia on the highly infectious phenomena. Carlos and Gio were instructed to work from home by Qatar Petroleum, the Emirate’s largest company. We questioned why on earth would the Qataris close schools if only 24 cases were reported so far, and also had a laugh at hookah loving Javier because it was announced earlier that day hookah bars were closed nationwide. Gustavo couldn’t be with us because he would be on the graveyard shift at the Al Khor Hamad Hospital in the north of the country, a nation so small it takes longer to reach Philly from Goucher than traverse from north to south.

Suddenly, my phone dings, among the jovial mood all I could do was laugh at what I just read, it was the 11th of March, it was still a joke back then… Remember. I passed my phone around, and we all had a smile on our faces, at least it all made sense now. We got used to living in place where you read the paper and it’s all good news, a prime minister resigns and no one bats and eye, in the comment section under most news stories, the same 3 words read in the comment over and over again in different levels of broken English: I love Qatar. The previous post on that news website reported that the Ministry of Interior was taking action on people spreading rumors to prevent “false panic”. That was the norm, but a jump from 24 cases to 238 in one day, that, was not normal. Closing time would arrive eventually, conversation had long since changed to the Champions League the following week and our families back in the New World. I didn’t know as I shuffled my way up the steps in front of my building that it would be the last time I would be outside for anything other than groceries.

PC: Alex Sanson Gomez ’21

As I write this article, I have spent 14 days with my family in self-isolation. I witnessed Qatar shoot up to the top 10 in per capita cases at one point only for the rest of the world to catch up and race past our numbers. In the meantime, bars closed, as did parks. Soon my hopes of cycling outside were canceled too, as the police were given the power to fine people for non-essential travel or time outside. Soon, public transportation followed, restaurants were delivery only, and yet more restrictions were to come. The most impactful decree of all was the closure of mosques a few days before Friday prayers. The comment sections suddenly flooding with indignation, “God would protect us,” some would say. “How could a Muslim country close mosques?” others replied. In a country that is deeply devout it was a shock. Mosques simply do not close. More was to come, in a country where 88% of the population is non-Qatari and where the Indian community alone out numbers the total citizenry by 2 to 1, another decree hit home. As many schools around the world closed, Qatar closed its borders to non-Qatari nationals without warning. All of sudden a lot of students, husbands, wives, partners and other loved ones were separated. Ask any of your parents if you were studying abroad or not home until recently about their anguish, and there lies what my mother has been living the past week and a half. Despite being an ambassador, she is powerless to bring my two brothers home. My father went over there to join them and coordinate their stay in the UK till we find a solution. Thousands of other people can’t return to their homes on the peninsula and thousands more can’t leave because they either fear or can’t afford not being able to come back to the office. But the worst of all is the plight of the working class in this country.

The outbreak surge on the 11th of March originated in a laborer housing camp, where people live with 4 up to 16 people in one room. With conditions ranging from crowded to inhumane. Soon after, in a segregated sector of the country called Industrial Area, where plenty of workers live and where most Qatari manufacturing is based, camps 1 through 32 were turned into a quarantine zone patrolled by police. No one is allowed in or out, an ordinary person can’t drive near it. These workers are most likely not getting paid, they are not allowed to walk around and it’s simply unknown what conditions they are in at the moment. Many employers have sent workers on unpaid leave, exit visas were canceled so people were quite simply repatriated to their home country with whatever money they have had in the moment. Workers are still bused into their workplaces on small crowded buses from their accommodation sites, easily facilitating infection. People are worried, asking for even further restrictions. Workers would like to cease working, but there is World Cup to build here, and nothing will stop construction here for the time being. On other matters, the government has waived rents for businesses for 3 months as well as banks loans for individuals for 3 months. In all of this mess, I have been unable to get in contact with my drivers since the quarantine was imposed. Being here, we get used to an Orwellian way knowing and yet not knowing what on earth is going on. As for Qataris, in a country where reputation, honor and image are held in almost Victorian regard. Qataris returning from abroad are sent to quarantine at the Grand Hyatt, the Hilton, Qatari women are at the St Regis among other five-star hotels in Doha. They are also given the option to spend quarantine at home under certain terms and conditions, first and foremost is not being able to leave their homes. Nevertheless, for the past 3 days the government has publicly shamed and arrested those who break their oaths, publishing almost three dozen names so far. These people could face up to 3 years imprisonment and be fined up to $5,500USD. All for not staying at home!

 As for myself, like many of you I am spending a significant amount of time on zoom. While you spend it with your peers and professors, I spend it with my bosses, finishing my report on my last job as Head of Transport for it to end up in a Tournament Transfer of Knowledge document. After that, my next few gigs have been canceled, but I am privileged enough to have a place to stay and very supportive boss helping me find alternative income here. When I am not working, I spend time helping my 13 year old brother with his homework, cooking, and playing Football Manager on my PC. We are worried as a family for my brothers and father in the UK as the situation gets messier there. Overall, I would say we are week ahead than most of the USA in terms of when the crisis began here. But in so many ways this country is much more prepared. With a small population of 2.6 million, the most doctors per capita on earth, universal healthcare for all residents and an authoritarian system that allows for centralized decision making. Her Excellency Lolwah bint Rashid bin Mohmmed al Khater, who is the spokesperson of the Supreme Committee for Crisis Managements hosts a daily press conference announcing various policy changes every day and updating the populace on the patient situation. She inspires confidence and is transparent on the efforts of the country to combat the virus. Updates are published daily on the condition of patients, the number of individuals in intensive care and the total number of recoveries. As I write this article the country has 485 cases, 41 recoveries and so far, no one has died. In the middle of so much uncertainty in the world right now, as a resident here there is a sense of reassurance that this crisis is not politicized. This crisis will be a testing time for western democracies around the globe and its ability to handle pandemic. Freedom will be in conflict with measures that may infringe on the rights of the individual for the sake of the collective. The streets are empty here, the rules are the rules and infection rates have been stabilized. It weird, in contrast to the images of the US last week, or most infuriatingly the images of Mexico right now.

I would like to finish this article however with a message of hope. While I lived in the USA, I witnessed the ability for communities like Goucher to rally for one another. You may not be on campus to see it bloom again on your way to class as the morning dew is scintillating as the sun brings much missed warmth back to that special little place on Dulaney Valley road. But we are still one as a college, in the age of social distancing we may not be not be able to be face to face in the Ath, but your friendships and camaraderie are in the palm of your hand. It’s a testing and usual time and having been away since last May I can’t honestly say I have a gauge of what you must all be feeling right now. My heart goes out to the seniors in particular for whom this crisis couldn’t have been happening at any worse a moment in their college careers. This will still get worse before it gets better, but it will get better. I hope you manage to have a postponed commencement whether it be on a humid summer day or even if it’s snowy muddy scene and it’s blistering cold surrounds us as the warmth of your friends and family surrounding you as you walk up on to that stage. You all deserve that eternal minute on stage, the cathartic moment leading up to you having that bloody diploma in your hands at last! I hope I can be there too, in the audience, cheering you on. As we say here in the Gulf, inshallah (God willing).

By former Goucher student Alex Sanson Gomez ’21

A pint of lager after a pickup game of football. PC: Alex Sanson Gomez

Letter About ACE

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Dear President Kent Devereaux,

I am writing to express my deepest concerns about the decision to lay off ACE staff members Peejo Sehr and Kay Beard. I am aware that the outcry about the staff cuts has not gone unnoticed, however the attempts by the administration to address student, alumni, parent, and faculty concerns have yet to even acknowledged the problem, let alone offer a suitable solution. The reason that the Goucher community is outraged at Peejo and Kay’s departure from the staff is not for fear that the Academic Center for Excellence as a support service will cease to exist, but rather that there cannot and will not be an Academic Center for Excellence that offers the same level of care and support to students without Peejo Sehr and Kay Beard.

Student support is essential on a college campus. College is often the first time a student is away from home for extended periods of time, and there is an abrupt change in a student’s academic and social life that can leave students feeling lost and alone. I can only speak from my experience, but my freshman year was incredibly difficult. I chose Goucher because of the tight-knit community that was advertised to me, but when I arrived, I realized that the whole admissions spiel was nothing more than a façade. In reality, the community is broken; bits and pieces can be found intact, but mostly the community can only be found in tiny nooks and crannies, each group hiding from the other to avoid communication lest it turn to confrontation. Yet, the school carries on, trying to forget our abysmal retention rate that causes even more fractures within the community. Being confronted with this reality as a first year was incredibly difficult, and I honestly felt like I had very few people who would listen to my struggle with college life until I found ACE.

When I walked into my first appointment with Peejo Sehr, I knew that I had found home. She was the first person at this school who truly listened to me, who saw me as an equal, and who wanted more than anything for me to succeed. Because of Peejo I found my voice, my community, and my own identity here at Goucher. The reason I am telling this story is not to be anecdotal, but rather to give a specific example of how ACE was instrumental in my decision to stay at Goucher after a very hard transition to college. I have talked to countless other students who have similar stories of feeling that ACE is their home and that the women who run it are their family.

Kay and Peejo have fought to support students holistically, by supporting them as individuals instead of as names on a page. Peejo’s meditation workshops have given students a way to destress and become healthier, happier people. Kay’s coordination of the Supplemental Instructors has helped raise student’s grades and give them more confidence in their classes. It is impossible to put a price tag on their contributions to the Goucher community, and the fact that their very positions were deemed as unnecessary to the school is the greatest of all insults.

The administration may have the power to make the decision to remove Kay Beard and Peejo Sehr from the staff, but they will pay the price if they do not reverse their decision. I can already predict what will happen. First and foremost, ACE will not be able to continue to provide the same holistic academic support that it previously offered, as Peejo and Kay were driving forces behind the push to mentor students in a way that would not just focus on grades, but also the health and wellbeing of the students. Because of this, students will not receive the same individualized support and attention, leading to more students feeling alone and frustrated at Goucher and making the decision to transfer. Not only will Goucher lose current students, but they will lose prospective students, as ACE as it is today (including Lucy, Peejo’s dog, who has been a support animal for many students at Goucher) is a major selling point of the school. Students’ grades will also drop, as there will not be enough trained Academic Coaches at ACE to support the number of students who come seeking academic support. It is not yet clear how the SI program will continue without Kay’s dedicated work, which yet is another reason why the academic rigor of the school will suffer. But above all, ACE will never be the home that it used to be to so many students and those students will remember the people who made the decision to take away their support network.

I understand that Goucher needs to make budget cuts in order to continue to operate, however I find it utterly perplexing as to how the administration could have determined that making cuts to ACE staff would assist in that endeavor. It is possible that for the time being having to pay two less salaries will save the school money, but if Goucher is thinking more long term, as it should, the results of this decision can only be negative. Furthermore, I very much doubt that any student on this campus would say that ACE resources are a waste of the college’s money and the fact that we, as a student body, were not consulted about our opinion on the value of the different administrative services is insulting. We, the students, are supposed to be the most important factor in this equation, yet it appears to me more and more that we do not matter, that we do not have a voice, and that we are the last people the administration cares about.

Sincerely,

Emma Kristjanson-Gural

Class of ‘22

Editor’s Note: To submit a letter or other form of opinion piece the to The Quindecim, please email quin@mail.goucher.edu.

Are We Doing Enough?: Teens and Mental Health

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There is no question that this generation is far more different than any other generation in the past. From mass shootings to extreme climate change, we are experiencing very drastic changes that are impacting us all. I could go on and on but the one thing that is a growing epidemic in Generation Z are mental health issues.

     About two years ago during winter break at my high school (Dulaney High School), a student committed suicide. He was struggling with depression and difficult situations going on at home and he couldn’t take it anymore. He did not receive any treatment due to financial issues and did not receive help from the school. After that student committed suicide, my school brought in local therapists as well as other mental health services. They also had us fill out gratitude slips at the beginning of every day so they can post them around school. They went all out in ways I’ve never seen before, and it made me think “where was this before?” After a few months passed, they stopped doing that and things went back to the way they were before, when none of those resources were there and there were just the five counselors catering to the needs of over 2,000 students. 

MentalHealth-tout
Art by Lydia Ortiz (Courtesy of Teen Vogue)

     I had to go to counseling a few times during my high school years and to sum it up, it wasn’t that great. When you make an appointment at Dulaney, you go to the counseling office, fill out a request form, and wait for about a week before a counselor gets back to you. On the day of your appointment, you go in and you vent to them and they sometimes help out, but the most they can do is give you a pamphlet and tell you to go back to class. What kind of method is that? That right there just told me that they didn’t care. There are over 20 local counselors and mental health services in the Baltimore area and public schools are not taking advantage of them. The only time they do take advantage of them is when it’s too late.

     Recently I conducted a survey directed towards Dulaney High School graduates who graduated between the years 2016 and 2019 to ask their opinion on having more mental health resources at Dulaney and as well as other public schools. 81 people took my survey and 94% of the responses agree with having more mental health access and 84% agree with putting more counselors in overcrowding schools like Dulaney to fit everyone else’s needs. If there are only about five or six counselors in a school with 2,000 students, how can the school provide support for every one of them? How can students easily access support services with that ratio?

     Towards the end of my high school career, it was time to start applying to colleges. While doing my college research as well as going on college visits, one of the factors that stood out to me about Goucher is the amount of support services they have. There’s the Student Counseling Office, Wellness Center, Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) and the Health Center. On a tour, I also found out that at Goucher there are Fresh Check Days to check in with college students and see how they’re doing. Imagine if public high schools had these resources. Like I’ve said before, I came from Dulaney High School, one of the best high schools in the state and when I came to Goucher, it made me realize how much I was missing out on. There were all these resources I could’ve used back in high school when I was going through a lot of rough times, but couldn’t due to lack of availability.

     I’ve been at Goucher for about a month or so and recently I’ve made appointments with the Student Counseling Center. When you make an appointment, you call them and tell them when you’re available. Then, the Counseling Center will send you an email explaining what the appointment will be like and provide other mental health lines in case of an emergency. On the day of your appointment, the counselor will ask you thorough questions to understand the issue you’re experiencing. They help you map out a detailed plan and figure out ways they can fully address your needs for the rest of the semester. 

     Now imagine that process at a public middle or high school. Think about all the benefits of having this type of process. Instead of having to wait for a week for a counselor to get back to you, they answer you right away. Imagine them helping you create a detailed plan for the rest of the school year to cater to your needs. 

     As stated in the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) webpage about “1 in 6 children between the ages of 6-17 years old experience a mental health disorder each year.” It also states that depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in children. According to the Central for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, “about 3 in 4 children ages 3-17 years old with depression also have anxiety.”  This issue is growing at alarming rates within adolescents. The time to take action starts now and it starts with us. 

     According to the Mental Health Foundation, “Good mental health allows children and young people to develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.” We the students, have the power to bring attention to these issues in so many ways. Create a mental awareness club, start a petition to gain attention from your school administrators and get other students together to organize events that promotes awareness as well. Shedding light on this topic will help administrators as well as other high-ranked school officials to see how the benefits will impact young people in the long run. 

BY MONICA VALDEZ RAMOS

Recognizing Female Athletes

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If I said the names Corene Amoss or Kristin Carey Schulze, would you know who I was talking about? These two women, along with many others, helped shaped the women’s athletics programs here at Goucher today. Corene “Renie” Amoss played two sports, basketball and tennis, and ran track and field. During her four seasons playing basketball, she tallied 2,220 points—a total no Goucher woman has come within 500 points of totalling. Kristin Carey Schulze played on the lacrosse team. In two years, she scored 77 goals and had 26 assists. Schulze was the leading scorer on the lacrosse team during her final two seasons. These two women hold records that have not been broken for decades and are in the Goucher Athletics Hall of Fame, yet not many people know their names. Not only does this occur here at Goucher College, but female athletes are not getting enough credit all around the world. 

     If I asked you to name to name a famous athlete, who would you say? If I had to guess, you most likely said a male athlete. For centuries, sports have been linked to men. Some of the most well-known athletes are men. Babe Ruth, Kobe Bryant, Wayne Gretzy, Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Phelps; all these famous athletes are men. But what about Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Serena Williams, Danica Patrick, and Ronda Rousey? All of these women are just as athletic and talented as (if not more than) the men, but we hear more about the men on television. Even the boys’ Little League World Series is played on ESPN, but the girls’ little league softball world series is only shown on lesser known channels.

      On July 7, 2019, the USA Women’s National Soccer Team completed their journey to success for the second time in a row and won the FIFA world championship. Most people around the world witnessed this historic victory, yet the whole time I was watching the tournament, I kept wondering “how many people actually watch a women’s sport that often?” Not that many people—about 24 million people watched the women’s FIFA World Cup this year, but Abigail Hess reported that seven out of ten people couldn’t name more than five people on the team. 

     If you didn’t know who Megan Rapinoe was before the summer started, you definitely know her name now. During this tournament, Rapinoe had six goals, became the oldest female to score a goal in the final game, won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player, and the Golden Boot as the top scorer. Yes, I know that Lionel Messi achieved the best men’s soccer player of the year award and Cristiano Ronaldo led Portugal to win their first National title, but Megan Rapinoe did both of those. She scored six goals alone throughout the tournament and received an award for best player. Neither Messi or Ronaldo could do that during their World Cup run. And what I especially love about Rapinoe is that she shared her accomplishments with her team. She wasn’t selfish or self-centered. So spread those arms out wide for Megan Rapinoe. 

     When I type “who are the best tennis players to ever live” on Google, the only options I get to choose between are male tennis players. While there are a bunch of phenomenal male tennis players like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic, I really want to know why Serena Williams’ name is not at the top of the list. One of the possible reasons is sexism. Take one long look at Serena Williams’ career—that’s what a true professional athlete looks like. She is strong, confident, powerful, influential, and a full-on athlete. Plus, this 37-year-old woman is a great mother to her two-year-old child and she has won 72 single matches and 23 double matches. No one else can say they have done the same.  

     Some might remember Williams as the athlete with the really bad temper, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be a great athlete. Because she is a Black woman, when she passionately argued a call, it was considered a temper tantrum. But if someone like Rafael Nadal argued a call, he would be considered a hero for sticking up for himself. I believe it shows how much Williams loves the game and competition. She would rather lose fairly than cheaply, and that I can respect. 

 

Day Twelve: The Championships - Wimbledon 2015
Serena Williams after winning Wimbledon in 2015 (Photo credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

 

     Mixed Martial Arts, also known as MMA, is a full-contact combat sport that allows striking, grappling, kneeing, and pinning. The most well-known fighters are Connor McGregor and Tito Cruz, but if you ask me, I believe the best fighter is Ronda Rousey. Rousey is a versatile athlete and first became an icon when she won a bronze medal in judo at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Having retired from judo, she quickly joined the world of Mixed Martial Arts. Remaining undefeated until her final fights to finish with a 12-2 record in December 2016. Rousey may have recently retired, but she remains one of the most recognizable faces (male or female) in MMA. She is a role model to so many young boys and girls. As I’ve gotten older, Rousey has become a huge inspiration for me. I believe that she can look a fight in the face and laugh—that’s how I want to live my life. Through her, I’ve learned that women can be extremely strong and powerful and that we never have to back down from a fight. Some people claim that MMA is only meant for men. Sports Illustrated contributor Andy Benoit even tweeted once that “women’s sports in general are not worth watching.” Ronda Rousey proves this to be completely and utterly false. She has proven herself on multiple occasions that she is stronger and feistier than most men. Going undefeated in the MMA and now killing it in the WWE, Rousey doesn’t have to prove herself to anyone. 

     When asked to think about famous athletes, take a second and really think about who you want to argue for. Take a second when walking in the Decker Sports and Recreation Center, look at the multiple names that are posted on the wall. While you could argue for some men and why they are great athletes in their field of play, women are not given enough credit for all of their effort and determination they put into their sport. Next time you’re asked who about who you believe to be the best athlete in a specific sport, consider a female athlete and all they do. I know I will.

BY DANIELLA BLITZ

Works Cited

Hess, Abigail J. “US Viewership of the 2019 Women’s World Cup Final Was 22% Higher than the 2018 Men’s Final.” CNBC, CNBC, 10 July 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/10/us-viewership-of-the-womens-world-cup-final-was-higher-than-the-mens.html.

Lamonier, Paulana. “The Business Of Being A WNBA Player.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 3 July 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/plamonier/2018/07/02/the-business-of-being-a-wnba- player/#1ec113885af1.

Ottaway, Amanda. “Why Don’t People Watch Women’s Sports?” The Nation, 21 July 2016, https://www.thenation.com/article/why-dont-people-watch-womens-sports/.

 

America, Your Xenophobia Is Showing. This Time, It’s In Your Music

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Grainy footage from an old recording show the stage as only a single bright white blob among a sea of thousands of people moving in unison, with bright lights flashing across the audience, as fans are swaying uncontrollably to the rhythm of the song. Their screams have radiated out of stadiums and arenas around the world, so loud that people blocks away can hear not only the music, but the cries of band members names being yelled from fans with their whole chests instead of singing. From the view of an outsider, these concerts may sound like something out of Beatlemania. However, this is really just the new generation of fans engaging in the new wave of pop music sweeping the entire world: K-pop.

     And this new sensation, with one group leading the pack, is already starting to overtake the U.S, against every American tradition and commonplace actively trying to stop it. 

BTS-New-York-City
BTS in April 2019 (Photo credit: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

     In August 2018, the seven member K-pop boy band BTS sold out their first ever U.S. stadium performance at Citi Field in just about 10 minutes. This event brought 42,000 attendees, primarily young women, into the stadium for 2 and a half hours of BTS’ signature pop music and choreography amid the sounds of non-stop screaming and general hysteria from their fans. These BTS devotees, dubbed ARMY, are known for their massive and calculated bursts of action to support their idols in both social media and success in the music charts. These results including the band’s 22 million Twitter followers, and them racking up 85 awards internationally by the end of 2018, including cultural merit awards given by the President of South Korea for their work spreading Korean culture abroad via music. BTS’ popularity in America is only growing into becoming an even bigger sensation than previously considered possible for a group who doesn’t sing in English. Their international success as a K-pop band is unprecedented.

     However, this kind of water-crossing frenzy isn’t at all new. 

     In August 1965, The Beatles sold out one of the first ever stadium performances. Playing at Shea Stadium (now torn down, and replaced with Citi Field) for 55,000 fans (primarily teenage girls), the band’s 45 minute setlist could hardly be heard over the sounds of fans hysterical crying and screaming for their idols. This surge of Beatles fans, now known as Beatlemania, caused the group to skyrocket on the charts and in the public eye. Over the next year, The Beatles were nominated for four Grammy awards and received many others internationally, including MBEs from the Queen of England. The Beatles forever changed the way in which pop music has been made, and have inspired millions of people across the world. Their impact as a band is unrivaled. 

     Although referring to BTS as The Beatles’ ‘contemporary’ seems like a bit of a stretch, there is legitimacy behind it. This year, BTS reached three #1 albums in a single year, a feat last done by The Beatles for their Anthology series. However, some may argue that this doesn’t make BTS as remarkable, as they would need to also be outselling modern American artists at the same rate The Beatles did to the American artists of the time.

     And they are. BTS has absolutely dominated in terms of YouTube and music videos, recently taking the record for most views in 24 hours for their most recent single, “Boy With Luv,” gaining 74.6 million views in such a short amount of time. BTS is also the first Korean act to win awards such as the Billboard Music Awards ‘Top Social Artist’ and ‘Top Duo/Group,’ beating acts like Justin Beiber and Ariana Grande for the former, and Imagine Dragons and Maroon 5 for the latter. BTS’ is also starting to inspire even the most popular American artists. This year, Taylor Swift sold her newest album Lover in four different versions, with each containing different photos. This is exactly how BTS sells their own releases. Additionally, both Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran have recently included a way for fans attending their concerts to participate in their show more by giving them colored plastic to put over their phones flashlight to create lights to wave during the show. While both artists were praised by fans for this idea, that concept is already so popular in the K-pop industry that groups, including BTS, sell lightsticks that fans can sync up to the venue for an even more vibrant experience.

     Despite all of this, BTS has yet to have moved on from being seen as a simple commodity or passing fad from a majority of American media, as well as American music award shows. This issue is especially difficult for them to surpass because of the language barrier, as well as the subtle xenophobia that has been a part of almost every interview BTS has done for an American news source. One of the most recent cases of this was The Hollywood Reporters’ October edition featuring BTS, where many fans were upset with the interviewers lack of knowledge or interest of the group, as well as his condescending tone towards the members. Treating a group of men in their mid-twenties who all work to write, produce, and perform their own music as if they can’t answer questions deeper than ‘what’s your favorite color’ shows just how little American mass media actually care about BTS’ incredible success or legitimate talent. One of the few questions they’re ever asked that actually relates to music, however, is ‘which American artist do you want to collaborate with next?”

     For the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards, BTS did not receive nominations for ‘Best Music Video’ despite breaking the record for most YouTube views in 24 hours. Instead, they were nominated for ‘Best Collab’ with American artist Halsey. In order for them to have success or be considered real artists, they have to have a connection with an American act. 

     Maybe we can look at The Beatles for an answer to why this is happening. When The Beatles first entered the American eye, critics discredited them because of their looks, their appeal to young women, and the sugary pop music they made. BTS is experiencing much of the same thing. They’re not taken seriously because of their popularity stemming mostly from female fans, and the music they produce comes off as formulaic and overdone to American ears that can’t understand the lyrics (or be bothered to look them up). This as a whole is a disservice to the group, as their style has constantly been changing and developing since their debut in 2013.

     Only time will tell what impact BTS will make on the American music industry in terms of fully breaking that barrier between ‘others’ and ‘recognized artist.’ It seems like they are currently taking a stronger approach to being legitimate players, as this winter they are listed to perform at the 2019 JingleBall in Los Angeles, instead of being at the Mnet Asian Music Awards (or MAMA’s, the largest music award show for K-pop) which takes place two days earlier. For right now though, we in the U.S. should pay a bit closer attention to BTS and K-pop. Things you can look out for are the January 26 Grammy nomination announcements, the media’s reactions if BTS receives a nomination and, hopefully, the win of their first Grammy next February. 

BY JONATHAN YANNES

 

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