In you, everything sank. This phrase pops into my head, from an English class long past, or at least that’s how long it feels. We spent weeks upon weeks investigating every couplet, scrutinizing every stanza. I hated it. I hated talking about “author’s intent”. Why did Pablo Neruda repeat this line? Why was it a motif? Who gives a shit? In you, everything sank. I think about you and I wish I didn’t. The kid who sat next to me would always fall asleep. I couldn’t blame him. It was an easy escape. Why did I ever bother staying awake? His light snore invades my thoughts, of Neruda, of the teacher’s droning. It’s there, gently, always reminding me that there’s another way out.
In you, everything sank.
Stocks pop into my head. Our economics teacher was always right after English. He taught us all about the stock market that year. We even invested a little bit ourselves. I heard but didn’t listen. In you, everything sank. Science was next. We would skip class together, you and I. We’d sit in the stairwell and talk. Or we wouldn’t. But we always understood.
In you, everything sank. It happened on a Sunday. The Lord’s day. Funny, because we had always hated religion. I like to imagine you did it to spite God. I didn’t find out until Tuesday: you weren’t in the stairwell. They called me to the office. Your mom broke the news. In you, everything sank. On a whim today, I visit the bridge. The cold wind whips my hair, the seagulls below call, like sirens. And I, too, am sinking.
For this memory, my idea was to create not a single memory, but a series of smaller memories. This was inspired, to some extent, by Ken Kesey’s style of writing memories - a series of shorter thoughts rather than one larger one. I chose to kind of take the reader through a school day through memories to some extent. It creates a little more cohesion, which I believe is necessary in a story like this. To transition, I used the phrase: “In you, everything sank”, pulled from Pablo Neruda's Song of Despair, which was a big inspiration for the story overall: dreary, depressing, defeatist. It was the anchor that my story was based around, and inevitably the note it ends on.
09 March 2018
The United States of America faced a tragedy recently. A shooting at Parkland High School left 17 dead and many more injured. The nation, along with being in a state of mourning, was abuzz. Tragedies like these have been happening for years, and the answer lingers of “What preventative measures can we take?” Depending on your political view, your answer to that could be very different. If you lean politically left, as do many SLA students and faculty, the clear answer is to restrict gun ownership. Gun control, many believe, is the only way these actions will cease. If shooters can’t get guns in the first place, these shootings won’t happen. The other side of the political spectrum, however, believes that the answer to the problem is arming school faculty & teachers. They believe that preventative measures can only go so far, and that people who will commit these acts will find a way. For them, the prevention of tragedies must happen on the scene, where teachers can disarm potential shooters and control the scene. The debate between these two sides is one that has been in full swing as of late: both sides attacking one another, students from Parkland actively debating against NRA members. Inevitably, events like these act as one of many interesting case studies into the divisiveness of politics in today’s society.
It’s very easy to say that politics have always been divisive and that this era of politics is no different. What makes this era of politics stand apart from eras earlier is truly how radical each side has become. One of the best right-wing examples of this is the National Rifle Association. They have spent much of their history defending gun use on a state-by-state basis. For example, NRA leaders have put forth so much pro-gun legislature in Florida that it’s almost impossible for Democrat politicians to act against it in any way. However, they have not had the power to act nationally until recently, where their very radical plan to arm teachers has been viewed in the national spotlight. Their opinions have been spread through platforms like NRATV, which is their very own news source. This is an extreme idea, no matter how you look at it. However, many right-leaning people see siding with the NRA as par for the course. This opinion has made it harder for moderates to have a place in some right-leaning political climates, especially places like Florida, where 91% of Republicans have an A- or higher grade from the NRA (Spies).
The left is also very capable of committing the same acts of alienation. However, it doesn’t happen as much of the governmental level as it does on the individual. One of the biggest issues amongst left-leaning individuals is that of “political correctness”. Simply put, many older liberals are in contention with younger progressives on what should be deemed politically correct. Amy Chua, in a book about “political tribalism”, writes that “A shift in tone, rhetoric, and logic has moved identity politics away from inclusion - which had always been the left’s watchword - toward exclusion and division.” Left-leaning politics have created this alienating atmosphere by moving from a culture of acceptance to that of shunning those who do not agree with their point of view. As such, many liberals choose to not identify with their own side of the political spectrum, almost out of shame of what their own party represents.
An environment where every person is entitled to a unique opinion is of utmost importance in preserving a democracy. The unfortunate turn of our political climate, however, has been drifting from that. This has occurred not in a forceful way, but in a way that comes about from gradually increasing societal pressures to keep your social opinions in the majority, and that some fringe opinions are absolutely unacceptable. Every person in the United States needs to be able to listen more to disagreeable opinions, despite the fact that doing just that can be one of the most difficult things for someone to do. Living in a bubble of your own opinions, one where the viewpoints of others become completely blasphemous, is an undoubtedly unhealthy way to live. So why aren’t we changing?
Rauch, Jonathan. “Review | Have our tribes become more important than our country?” The Washington Post, WP Company, 16 Feb. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/have-our-tribes-become-more-important-than-our-country/2018/02/16/2f8ef9b2-083a-11e8-b48c-b07fea957bd5_story.html?utm_term=.858b435be686.
Spies, Mike. “The N.R.A. Lobbyist Behind Florida's Pro-Gun Policies.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 5 Mar. 2018, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/03/05/the-nra-lobbyist-behind-floridas-pro-gun-policies.
December 10, 2017
Language and Society: A Glimpse into the Eyes of a Confused Traveller
I’ve been honored with travelling the world many times in my life. Much of that has come with the Keystone State Boychoir, or KSB. A memorable event from one of our tours was over the course of my second international tour with KSB. We spent the tail end of December 2015 and the beginning of January 2016 in Chile and Peru. We stayed in several cities with four host families over the course of the trip. Of those 4 homestays, only one of the hosts spoke conversational English. It was very challenging: we had to live with people we could barely communicate with (at this point, I had taken only a couple months of Spanish, so I knew practically nothing). One memory I remember clearly was with our homestay in Calama. They spoke no English. When we arrived in Calama, they picked us up, and took us to their small, one-story house. Lunch was on the table, so we ate. The two of us (me and another choir kid, Jamie) ate mostly in silence while the large family made small talk in Spanish. The food was delicious, and we expressed this to them as best as we could.
“Muy bien,” we said. “Gracias.”
We spent most of that afternoon in the guest room. At some point, one of our hosts came in our room, and said something to us in Spanish. I looked at Jamie, and he looked back at me. We both shrugged. The “conversation”, if that, was one-way: he tried to communicate what he was talking about, and we didn’t get it. Finally, he said one English word: “Shower.” It clicked. He was going to show us where the shower was. We thanked him and he showed us the shower. It was one of many interactions of this sort with our hosts. It was tough for both , but they were still amazing hosts. We stayed in Calama for two nights, and they were very hospitable and lovely to us. At the end of our stay there, they presented us with some gifts from Calama. I got a small handbook from them that I still keep around, among other things. They were absolutely lovely, even though we didn’t really speak to each other much.
It’s tough being in a place where you don’t speak the language. However, it’s an inevitable fact of life. No one person can speak every language. Even those who are multilingual will find themselves, at some point, communicating in hand gestures or pointing at something or just having an awkward moment of that sort. Miscommunication is as unavoidable as communication. Despite the awkward, broken, language-bits you speak to someone else, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Language, as a whole, is what diversifies world cultures - almost as much as traditions, religions, and the like. People not only have their own languages for their own regions, but also establish dialect and other colloquialisms. There’s an interesting concept from a Chicano writer that touches on this: “There is no one Chicano language just as there is no one Chicano experience” (Anzaldúa 39). British English and American English is one such distinction: it sets the US apart from the UK in more than just an ocean. Linguistic distinction is also such a creative way to look at the world. Along with cultural differences, even within one language, there are characteristics of every language that makes them unique and interesting from a linguistic point of view. A “universal language”, though ideal for communication, would rid the world of not just culture, but linguistic creativity. Tom Scott spoke on this very eloquently in “Fantastic Features We Don’t Have in the English Language”: “If English had utterly dominated the world and stamped out every other tongue, then we'd lose not only these rich languages, but we'd lose the insights that we gained of what the human mind is capable of.” There are so many ways to speak, to read, and that’s important to remember when speaking to someone who doesn’t speak your language well. It’s very important to treat people like our hosts in Calama treated us: with hospitality, decency, and respect. Though it can be easy to see people who don’t speak English well as “uneducated” and “dumb”, it’s important to understand how their grasp on English is just one part of their intricate personality as a human being.
Anzaldua, Gloria. “How to Tame a Wild Tongue.” Borderlands/La Frontera. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1987. 33-44. Print.
Scott, Tom. “Fantastic Features We Don’t Have in the English Language.” YouTube. Tom Scott, 31 May 2013. Web. 10 December 2017. https://youtu.be/QYlVJlmjLEc?t=210
“Hereby it is manifest, that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in a condition which is called war…” Thomas Hobbes’ concept of bellum omnium contra omnes, or “war of all against all”, states that people will inherently result to war and warlike traits. There is nearly no better model of his ideologies than William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, a story about a group of deserted English boys who resort to savagery and brutality. The lack of a strong authority among the boys of Lord of the Flies leads them to make many savage and uncivilized decisions, which model the concepts of Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan.
Thomas Hobbes and his writing strongly advocated for a system of government that involves a strong central figure. His most famous work, Leviathan, speaks in-depth about this. His beliefs involving the state of a group without a leader are informative: “...continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” In Hobbes’ mind, a warlike state comes about easily without authority, and society falls apart. However, a strong power would hypothetically balance this issue, and create a system where people act differently. Hobbes’ belief in this warlike state is exemplified in an isolated system where there is no government, such as that of the island.
The final scene of Lord of the Flies is a hunt of main character Ralph. This hunt is brutal and real, until Ralph finds his way onto the shore, where he and the other boys run into the first adult in the book, who is their ticket off the island. The mood suddenly switches: “The ululation faltered and died away… A semicircle of little boys, their bodies streaked with colored clay, sharp sticks in their hands, were standing on the beach making no noise at all (200).” The juxtaposition between this scene and the previous is strong. Where the previous scene featured an intense chase with the savages and Ralph facing almost near-death scenarios, this scene features all the boys frozen and awkward. The presence of an adult, the only real change in the scene, establishes an aura of authority and peace, while simultaneously forcing each boy to question their actions. This strong power changes the state of each of these boys drastically from that of war to that of peace.
Another important belief of Thomas Hobbes, as seen in Leviathan, is his defense of why people who are not in the presence of a greater power fight amongst themselves: “And therefore if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies...” This belief not only shows a valid reason for why man will result to a warlike state, but also shows the competitiveness of a group of people. People in contention for the same thing, be it material or otherwise, will immediately spark conflict. This conflict will, in most cases, be single handedly responsible for the warlike state of everyone involved. The connections to Lord of the Flies here run deep.
The largest divide among the boys comes from direct competition between Jack and Ralph over who will become the leader. While Ralph was democratically elected and had his mind set on being rescued, Jack had his mind on hunting and savagery. His envy of Ralph’s leadership is obvious, especially when he finally breaks off from the main group: “‘Hands up,’ said Jack strongly, ‘whoever wants Ralph not to be chief?’ The silence continued, breathless and heavy and full of shame… ‘I’m not going to play any longer. Not with you (127).’” Jack’s constant vying for power creates tension between him and Ralph, the official leader. This fight for leadership is what establishes the main conflicts, and subsequently some of the least humane parts of the book: Simon’s death, Piggy’s death, and so on. Jack and Ralph’s conflict results in the most warlike parts of the entire novel, and affects so many others besides just the two of them.
Much of both Hobbes’ ideals and those of the boys on the island come down to moral code. Hobbes believes, in general, that a moral code is strengthened by an authority figure. The reverse of this is explicitly seen in Lord of the Flies: the morals of each boy fade away as their memories of civilized life do as well. This is, inevitably, what separates Lord of the Flies’ boys from any other group of people: their distance from civilization. This disparity not only causes them to act the way they do, but also brings out the Hobbesian state of nature. This can prove to humanity that having some tangible sense of civilization is the only way we can avoid Hobbes’ “war of all against all.”
Golding, William. Lord Of The Flies. New York: Penguin, May 2006. Print.
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. London: Pelican Classics, 1968. Website.<https://www.gutenberg.org/files/3207/3207-h/3207-h.htm>.
Vivo en Mt. Airy, en el norte y oeste de Filadelfia. Tenemos una comunidad muy diversa. He vivido aquí por toda mi vida, y me encanta. Me encanta porque mi barrio es muy bonito. Tiene mucho para ver y hacer. Cuando pienso sobre mi barrio, pienso en el Wissahickon, un parque grande que es un parte del parque Fairmount. Pienso que los eventos en mi barrio son muy divertidos. También, pienso en Germantown Avenue, la calle más importante de Mt. Airy. Me gusta la comunidad, los parques, y la naturaleza en general. Naturaleza es un tema importante de Mt. Airy. Hay muchos bosques y cosas similares.
Voy a poner mi arte público en una pared de Germantown Avenue. Esta calle tiene muchos murales grandes, y este mural va a estar en uno de los únicos paredes blancos. Voy a pintar este mural allí porque me encanta mi barrio. También, Germantown Avenue es el centro de mi barrio, y es una calle muy importante.
A pesar de los muchos murales en Mt. Airy, voy a poner mi mural aquí. Mi idea se llama “Mt. Airy Night Market.” El Night Market es un evento en Germantown Avenue una vez al año. Un parte del Germantown Avenue esta cerrado. Mesas y sillas están en la calle, y personas comen en la calle. Hay camiones de comida y muchas personas. A causa de su importancia en Mt. Airy, creo que lo necesita documentar en un mural. Este mural va a mostrar el Night Market. El mural va a tener una mesa con un grupo de amigos. El mensaje es, más o menos, es “Ve al Night Market!” y “Ve al Mt. Airy!” Existe para documentar una parte importante del Mt. Airy.En fin, mi mural es un buen ejemplo de arte público porque es una buena representación de mi barrio y los eventos que ocurren allí. También, creo que voy a hacer un mural que va a hacer la comunidad más bonita.
Una Oda a Pancho Villa
Fugitivo, Criminal, Inteligente
Cuando yo te veo pienso en tu dolor, tu lucha, tu fuerza, y tu impacto en las vidas de tu gente
Me haces sentirme como puedo ser fuerte para otras
Tú, un protector. Un líder. Un Robin Hood.
- El Wissahickon es muy importante para las personas de Mt. Airy
- Las personas de Mt. Airy son muy personales.
- Las personas de Mt. Airy encanta los parques y otras cosas naturales.
- El hombre que camina a la calle.
- La calle es Forbidden Drive, una calle qué no tiene carros (es solamente para caminar).
- El Wissahickon es muy importante para la comunidad. Es un cosa linda que es solamente en nuestro barrio.
In the eighth grade, I was an A/B student at Masterman. Most of my teachers liked me, and I was having a decent year. Now, eighth grade was important in that this was the year where everyone chose their high schools. It was almost an unspoken rule that everyone who got into Masterman would go there, and everyone assumed I was just going to Masterman for high school. Getting in would be easy enough, and there was no reason not to go to the best high school in the city, right?
From the moment my sister started as a freshman at SLA, she fell in love with it. There were countless family friends from my neighborhood who praised the school for how amazing of a place it was. As an outsider, I was enthralled. As early as sixth grade, I saw myself at SLA, and was convinced that it was the place to be.
So, when the time for high school application came around, I put SLA first and Masterman second, with Central and Palumbo on my list in case I didn’t get into the first two. I shadowed everywhere, even the two schools I probably wouldn’t go to. I wrote out an essay for each, and went to my SLA interview. After I had finished all the stress that comes with high school application, I waited.
Later that year, I found out I had gotten into every school I had applied to. It was exciting, yet equally overwhelming. I still had my eyes on SLA, and had started telling others that. The responses I got weren’t as enthusiastic.
The mother of a friend of mine was ecstatic at the thought of being able to carpool every morning. I had to break it to her that I wasn’t going to Masterman for high school, and she replied by letting out a despondent “Oh…” and changing the subject.
My math teacher, who I thought was a joy, had a similar response to my news. My history teacher, who went on to say I was one of the best students he had ever had, was simply crestfallen.We had a class period where we all stated our choices for high school, and others were surprised by my decision, some saying I had made the incorrect choice. This wave of disappointment from others turned into self-doubt on my end.
I remember vividly staying up late one night to finish an English assignment. Every month, we would write a letter to our English teacher, telling her what was going on in life, what we were planning on doing, that sort of thing. It was always the most superficial stuff: I saw this movie last week! I’m getting a dog!, whatever was literally happening in life. She would always respond with nice comments along the way.
I wrote my English teacher an emotional breakdown in a letter. I talked about this disappointment I was feeling, and how I hated it. What I really was looking for was empathy. She always wrote really sweet comments, and I really liked her as a teacher. I was hoping she’d understand and be able to help a little, at least. I turned it in the next day.
A few days later, I got my paper back. There were no comments on any of my emotional ranting. In that moment, I felt the insecurity booming inside my head. Not too long later, I would spend an entire English period sobbing. The disappointment, whether real or fake, had gotten to my head, and my own self-doubt led to me believing I had made the wrong decision.
With all this negative emotion bouncing around, I grasped to the support I was given. My family was entirely behind my decision, and I took a lot of comfort at home in those days. I had a close group of friends reminding me how excited I was for SLA. And, through the disappointment, I persevered.
It’s been a little more than a year since I left Masterman for SLA, and, in retrospect, I feel only a twinge of regret for leaving it all behind. In these situations, it’s often better to go with what you think rather than what others believe, because you know what’s best for you. I knew SLA was right for me, and I turned out well, despite what other people said.
Un niño muy único.
Mi familia me hizo,
Veo los países lindos en Europa, Australia, y America del Sur.
Oigo la música linda de mi coro.
Huelo el olor de una comida casera.
Saboreo el helado de un día en el verano calor.
Toco el pelo de mi perro.
Yo hablo con todos mi tíos y tías, primos y primas.
Yo canto con los olas de Lake Huron.
Yo como las papas y pan deliciosos.
Necesito mi familia grande.
Venimos desde muy lejos.
Somos de Europa
Dejamos nuestras vidas
Para los Estados Unidos,
Los pasturas más verdes,