by Mikai Tilton
Early Westerns starred white cowboys on a picture-perfect landscape saving women from Native American tribes or other rogue local villains and being vigilantes in solving and bringing justice to other crimes.
These portrayals of Native Americans were always lined with a fundamental lack of knowledge surrounding Native American culture.
Many early films starring Native Americans were laid on a premise of fascination with the supposed “mystique” of Native American tradition. This pandered very well to white audiences living in major cities, the majority of which who had little to no substantial knowledge of Native American culture. Lighter portrayals of this nature almost always incorporated magic or other “spiritual” characteristics into their characters. A reference to this archetype can be seen in the gift of seeing into the “spirit world” possessed by Nobody, a Native American character in Dead Man (1995).
As time went on, this fascination with Native American “mystique” morphed into a more violent and dangerous misrepresentation of the group.
D.W. Griffith, director of Birth of a Nation, released The Battle of Elderbush Gulch in 1913. In it, two hungry Indians steal a young woman and her newborn baby’s puppies for food. After being tracked down, one of them is shot and killed. The other Indian goes back to his tribe where they perform a war dance and then attack the young woman’s village. The newborn baby is captured by the Indians and the white settlers’ cabin is set on fire. White soldiers arrive to save the day as the Indians almost make it into the cabin. All Native Americans, as well as a “Mexican,” are portrayed by white actors. The film does not provide much of a motive behind these crimes other than an inherent and natural “evil” of the entire Native American tribe, adding a dangerous evil mystique to Native American culture.
A recurring image in classic Westerns—the likes of which can be observed in The Searchers (1956) or The Battle of Elderbush Gulch (1913)—is a cavalry riding in and “saving” the protagonists by massacring a tribe of Native Americans at the very last minute.
White audiences at the time knew almost nothing about Native Americans except for battles or massacres against them by the U.S. Army. It could be assumed, based on a lack of any other knowledge about Native Americans or their culture, that Native Americans were a danger to American citizens or a force that needed to be controlled—why else would the army commit such atrocities or expend so much energy to this cause?
White audiences’ lack of knowledge and stereotypes surrounding Native Americans freed directors to portray villains without needing to provide a motive for their crimes, as well as add a dimension of “magic” through Native American characters without much explanation. Directors likely didn’t know much about Native Americans, either, but it didn’t matter—white actors could be interpreted as “Indian” for simply wearing face paint and putting feathers in their hair. This misinterpretation helped spur widespread modern injustices (dangerous and harmful mining, land theft, and cultural destruction) that can still be seen today.
On Friday, September 21, 2019, a few Watershed students, joined by 6.7 million other individuals worldwide, skipped school to participate in the global climate strike. Some made their way to the Norlin Quadrangle on the CU Boulder campus where, despite on campus regulations that established a noise limit and group boundaries, they joined other students and citizens of Boulder in protest while listening to a variety of speakers. Others engaged in a protest outside of the Starbucks on the corner of Pearl and 28th demanding that the company takes steps toward zero waste. A few other Watershed students chose to cram onto packed buses to Denver. There, they joined kids and adults alike as they marched from Union Station to the steps of the capitol building where multiple hours of presentations were held. The presentations included speakers and performers of native American descent as well as many youth speakers ranging in age from 8 to 18.
Who organized it?
The strike was spearheaded by a 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl named Greta Thunberg. In 2018, Greta skipped school every Friday to stand outside the parliament building in Sweden demanding change in climate policy. She has since grown in popularity, making her way to the US via a zero-emission boat, and being featured on many media platforms.
What was the goal?
One of the biggest topics at the march was the Green New Deal. In Denver, call and response chants cascaded through the crowd of people.
“What do we want?”
“The Green New Deal!”
“When do we want it?”
The Green New Deal is a fourteen-page resolution released by Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey and New York’s district 14 representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in February of 2019. The deal proposes the goal of meeting 100% of the United States’ power demand through renewable sources within 10 years. The deal also plans to upgrade infrastructure (buildings, transportation systems, etc.) to have as little greenhouse emissions as is “technologically feasible.”
Another chant that was common during the march was, “this is what democracy looks like!” This highlights one of the biggest goals of the strike: to bring awareness to the impact of climate change, and show the governments and people in power that it is a topic that the people--specifically youth--care about.
The strike was strategically timed to be three days before the UN climate action summit where leaders of the UN met in New York to discuss progress (or lack thereof) regarding climate action plans. These plans would ideally be on track with the agreed-upon goal of “reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050.” Realizing that estimates show that the world is not on track to meet these goals or goals established in the 2019 Paris Agreement, participants of the strike used the power of democracy to hold the UN leaders accountable to their goals.
The goal set by the Paris Agreement is to maintain no more than a 1.5℃ increase in global temperature levels from the pre-industrial averages recorded in 1880. Current estimates project that the total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide will reach 55 gigatons by 2030. This amount of greenhouse gas emissions would lead to temperatures that exceed the 1.5℃ limit. To attain this goal, emissions need to remain below 44 gigatons. To put these numbers into perspective, the world has to reduce its greenhouse emissions by 22 x 10^12 lbs in 10 years. That is 22,000,000,000,000 pounds of gas.
What was the outcome?
The UN Climate Action Summit resulted in new initiatives, including:
On the local level, the city of Boulder had an event at CU on Thursday, September 26 launching the Climate Mobilization Plan. The 11th and 12th grade expedition class attended this event. Although the plan appears to still be in the curation process, it is clear that companies and officials in Boulder are putting time into instigating action.
Where these goals and action plans with end up is unclear, however, the attendance and publicity of the September 21st climate strike cannot easily be ignored. Climate change is a topic that concerns many citizens of the world and steps are being taken to mitigate the global impact that humans continue to create.
by Dani Cooke
There is no denying that climate change is a real, human-caused, and terrifyingly urgent issue for our planet. (Just refer to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations’ Climate Change Summit, the National Climate Assessment, or any number of scientific and governmental analyses addressing our changing climate.) Significant change is needed—on the personal, corporate, legislative, and global levels—to combat the dangers of this problem. Still, climate change deniers run rampant, willfully blind to the future we’ve created for ourselves.
But the side of environmental activists is not immune to such blindness. Attendees of the Boulder chapter of March 15th’s Climate Strike, a national movement for students advocating for the creation of policies to address and reverse the dangers of climate change, are bound to remember the repeated mention of a Senate Bill 181. The event’s speakers—a combination of determined high school students, Earth Guardians, elementary-school activists, and concerned parents—urged attendees to vote “Yes” on this bill when they see it on their ballots. However, not once during the rally was it explained what the bill entailed.
As published on the Colorado General Assembly website, this bill
Section 3 of the bill addresses the control and monitoring of air quality and hydrocarbon emissions through review and reparation of leak detection practices. Section 4 clarifies the authority of local governments to regulate the oil and gas industry as well as impose fines, fees, and additional reviews relevant to the industry. Section 5 repeals an exemption for oil and gas production from counties’ authority to regulate noise. The bill contains twenty sections and is currently being worked on the floor of the State Senate.
The concerning nature of the Climate Strike’s promotion of SB-181 extends far beyond the contents of the bill, however, which contains a controversial mixture of environmental regulations with both positive and negative implications. Rather, it illustrates a mentality often found in activist circles, one to which I have fallen victim many times throughout my life: blind trust the activist with the loudest voice—or, at least, the one with the megaphone. Overly sensitive to the desire for political correctness, to the self-awareness which demands the constant concession that they know better, we trust the words spoken by more experienced activists and decide that, if we disagree, this must mean we haven’t yet shed the prejudices instilled in us by our privilege.
SB-181 however, is not about political correctness nor privilege. It is also not without its flaws—some of which are deeply concerning and merit careful analysis. (I highly recommend the succinct and very well-written article, “Give SB 181 the Careful Consideration it Deserves” from The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction’s local newspaper, here, for one take on these concerns.) The most obvious negative consequences of this bill are the loss of state revenue and thousands of industry jobs that would result from limiting the oil and gas industries in Colorado. Some people also express concern about the fast-tracked and “hasty” nature of the bill, which many view as “ill-considered” and destabilizing to both sides of the fossil fuel debate.
Other aspects of the bill—including increased monitoring of hydrocarbon emissions and greater transparency regarding leak protection practices—would likely have very positive implications.
The implications of this discussion go well beyond simply SB-181. When deciding how to vote (on a bill or a candidate), take the time to do the necessary research. Learn enough different opinions that you feel informed enough to develop your own. Voting is crucial to the functioning of a democratic society—but it only works when supported by an informed populous. The debate surrounding SB-181 provides one striking example of this necessity.
Note: This article was originally written in Spanish and then translated into English for The Watermark.
I. What is inclusive language?
Currently, in the Spanish-speaking world, there is a linguistic battle; in the simplest terms, it is a fight between tradition and progress, between machismo culture and the feminist movement, between institutions and the people. But, in reality, the movement is much more complicated and much more controversial.
The problem of machismo—a construction of masculinity which has historically permeated Latino culture and has been connected to the very high levels of femicide, sexual violence, and gender inequality in many Latin-American countries—is well-known in gender studies and social movements. While the feminist movement expands and gains global strength, more and more aspects of society have been called into question as machista institutions—including the Spanish language and its use of gender.
This fight exists in the form of “inclusive language,” which aims to balance the use of masculine and feminine words (for example, using todes nosotres in place of todos nosotros [all of us] or los niños y las niñas in place of los niños when speaking about a group of children with mixed genders). The movement is strongest among students and young people in Argentina, a country known as very progressive, but it exists in many other countries as well.
The topic of inclusive language has become so large that the Royal Spanish Academy—an institution with the mission of “ensuring that the changes undergone by the Spanish language in its constant adaptation to the needs of its speakers do not break the essential unity maintained throughout the Hispanic world”—has published some formal opinions about the issue:
Still, despite the fact that inclusive language is not accepted as “correct” in Spanish language institutions, the linguistic movement has become common use for many Spanish-speaking people.
II. Inclusive Language: An Analysis
It is true that a language shapes the ideas and values of a society. At some level, it is not possible to separate the use of language from its ideas, because communication is limited by the medium of communication. So, the debates about the use of gender in the Spanish language have a point. If a language considers the masculine as the default, what does this say about the ideas of the society which uses this language?
But inclusive language contains some problems as well. Changing the “o” to “e” (as with todes nosotres) seems like Catalan, and can cause confusion or change the meaning of a word.
I am inclined to say that there are greater problems than inclusive language—after all, Latin America has some of the highest rates of femicide and sexual violence in the world. But this reasoning has also been applied to arguments about sexual abuse in the entertainment industry; about racism in contemporary times; about poverty in the first world. Justifications like “things could be worse” or “there are bigger problems,” historically, have been used to discredit the struggles of people that want to improve their conditions and argue for more justice. Thus, who am I to say that inclusive language is not a valid or important movement?
III. My Opinion
In my perspective, there are bigger problems than inclusive language. But my opinion is limited—by my country (the United States), by my primary language (English), by my age (young), by my life experience (limited and sheltered).
I agree that language is not separate from meaning. For example, I think that the reality in Latin America that the feminine words for some animals have derogatory meanings reflects societal points of view of women as inferior. (In some countries, including Mexico, the slang perro [dog] means “handsome” or “cool,” but perra has the same meaning as “b*tch;” the slang zorro [fox] tends to mean “intelligent” or “clever,” but zorra means “wh*re.”) This tendency of the Spanish language is based in a societal perspective that women are worse and deserve less respect than men, and this is especially clear because slang comes directly from common use among people.
But, at least superficially, the Spanish use of masculine words as the standard words is not based on sexist ideas—it is based on the Latin language on which the majority of its rules are based. This justification does not mean to say that the movement is not valid, and of course I recognize that the voices of Spanish-speaking feminists are more important than mine in this movement, because they are the most affected.
But it is also important that people recognize the origins of the language that is allegedly machisto and the limits that exist for a language. It is necessary that language is accessible—and inclusive language carries with it the risk of complicating communication between people.
I do not know if inclusive language should be incorporated into common use or not. It depends on the context and the beliefs and intentions of each individual person. As a more or less inexperienced Spanish-speaker, I do not use inclusive language, but this has much more to do with the level of difficulty than anything else.
I predict that, eventually, the Royal Spanish Academy will accept inclusive language as correct, because it seems to me like the movement has gained strength recently. But, until then, it will be a very prominent movement in the linguistic field—and in feminist struggles as well.
Alemany, Luis y Prieto, Darío. “Política, machismo y privilegio: lo que hay más allá del debate del lenguaje inclusivo.” El Mundo, Unidad Editorial, S.A., 3 December 2018, https://www.elmundo.es/cultura/laesferadepapel/2018/12/02/5c016226fc6c8398358b46c0.html.
Benegas, Lucía. “Lenguaje inclusivo: ¿Un nuevo género o moda pasajera?” Parati, Infobae, 29 June 2018, www.infobae.com/parati/news/2018/06/29/lenguaje-inclusivo-un-nuevo-genero-o-moda-pasajera/.
“Los ciudadanos y las ciudadanas, los niños y las niñas.” Real Academia Española, Real Academia Española, http://www.rae.es/consultas/los-ciudadanos-y-las-ciudadanas-los-ninos-y-las-ninas.
“Orientaciones para el empleo de un languaje inclusivo en cuanto al género en español.” Naciones Unidas, http://www.un.org/es/gender-inclusive-language/guidelines.shtml.
“La Real Academia Española volvió a rechazar el lenguaje inclusivo.” Perfil, 27 November 2018, https://www.perfil.com/noticias/actualidad/rae-real-academia-espanola-rechaza-lenguaje-inclusivo.phtml.
Salgado Borge, Antonio. “Lenguaje inclusivo.” El Diario de Yucatán, Megamedia, 17 September 2018, https://www.yucatan.com.mx/editorial/lenguaje-inclusivo.
On January 19, 2019, individuals in cities all over the world took to the streets for the third annual Women’s March. For some, it was a display of solidarity or allyship; for others, a policy-specific act of civil disobedience; or, for those identifying with a different side of the movement, an opportunity for counter-protest. In times of massive societal momentum like this one, the classroom is never exempt from these discussions. And, at a school like Watershed, the classroom embraces them.
This semester’s 11th- and 12th-grade Expedition class, “Gender, Media, & Technology,” seeks to explore how understanding gender, media, and technology—both independently of one another and as they connect—can help individuals develop agency in their lives. In the days approaching the Women’s March, the in-class discussion turned toward an examination of gender-related issues and the movements that seek to address them.
Using an episode of the podcast On Being, entitled #MeToo Through a Solutions Lens, as a starting point, we discussed the Me Too movement and contemporary feminism as it relates to intersectionality, anger, vulnerability, and alienation. Students began by discussing shame and the structure of gendered expectations in society.
“I think that there’s this instilled shame between groups of women, especially growing up—there’s no happy medium for a lot of the stuff we do,” Sophie Kennedy explains. “If you’re too conservative, then you’re a prude; if you don’t wear enough clothes, then you’re a slut. If you are mean, then people hate you; if you’re too nice, then people think you’re being fake.”
Societal expectations based on gender—often referred to as “hegemonic” or “prescribed” femininity and masculinity—apply to all genders, but have a tendency to manifest themselves in different ways. “For all genders, there is a ‘goal’ that everyone is striving for, and to not meet that goal causes people to feel ashamed,” says Teo Schollmaier, adding that the goal tends to be “more complex” for women.
Grace Phillips theorizes that the complexity of hegemonic femininity may have a basis in the fact that femininity has been reworked and redefined so many times, while the expectations for men have remained more static. On the other hand, however, especially in today’s society, men may find it more difficult to break free from these expectations. Theresa Dooley observes the greater range of acceptable behaviors for women. People associate allowing men to be more sensitive and feminine with weakness and view it as a step back, while women “stepping up” and acting more traditionally masculine is seen as an act of empowerment.
One such act of empowerment, according to Rebecca Traister, an author of the podcast, is the reclamation of women’s anger. “Women angry about workplace inequality helped launch a labor movement; women angry about racial inequality and injustice [helped launch] the Civil Rights Movement… A lot of this stuff is about permitting yourself to feel the anger, to note where there is inequality.” To her, anger is an essential foundation of the feminist movement.
In many ways, women allowing themselves to be vocally angry is a large part of the feminist movement due to the dangerous stigma surrounding men and emotion. Standard ideas of masculinity have come to accept that anger is the only valid emotion for men, whereas women historically have been encouraged to never raise their voices and to never show dissent. As a result, reclaiming anger as an emotion is the basis of deconstructing the expectations that uphold gender-based oppression. Further, certain ideas of psychology suggest that shame is anger turned inward; so, if shame is something that’s truly fueling gender inequality, expressing that outwards is one way to dismantle that inequality.
Anger can also act as a “wake-up call,” and the women’s movement is one example. Eloise Howell describes that the contrast between anger and the emotions typically associated with women might act as a bridge for communication between men and women. And Kate Hranko observes that the anger of women is often taken less seriously than that of men, creating an environment in which the emotion is all the more necessary to get things done; women are, at times, expected to “meet” the anger of men to get their point across. At the same time, as Leo Sipowicz adds, the association of anger with masculinity is a dated paradigm becoming more antiquated by the second and isn’t always relevant in today’s world.
Anger can also lead to impulsive actions. The line between a movement and a riot can deteriorate rapidly, and anger is instrumental in the maintenance of that boundary. Though it often shows itself a reflection of injustice—a necessary component of social justice movements, as Jacob Wolhandler states—it can also be incredibly destructive.
Some people set anger as oppositional to rationality; others see it as an offshoot of reason. Sophie emphasizes that, in the historical push for gender equality, “[women] have been calm and maintained composure, and should be met here rather than having to be compulsive or having to get angry in order to be heard.” Yet, in the eyes of many, that hasn’t happened.
Regardless of its justification, anger has certainly taken a place in the women’s movement. It shows itself in the chants and signs at the Women’s March and showed itself well over a hundred years ago at the inception of the movement for women’s suffrage. It carries through the foundations of social justice, commanding attention to injustice as it seeks to topple systems of oppression. Even if feminism could exist without anger, it certainly hasn’t and shows no signs of doing so.
As Rebecca Traister writes, “Anger is often an exuberant expression. It is the force that injects energy, intensity, and urgency into battles that must be intense and urgent if they are to be won… Anger is moving women and their thinking on inequality forward, in ways that are both legal and tangible, and also imaginative and ideological. And sometimes the anger is working its magic simply by existing, persisting, unrelenting and unapologetic.”
In our extremely polarized political landscape, the recent midterm elections were undeniably important. An estimated 49.4% of the voting-eligible population turned out to vote in the 2018 midterms . If this estimate holds true, it will beat the turnout for the year 1966 (48.7%) and possibly be the highest midterm voter turnout since 1914 .
In mid-October, just under three weeks before election day, the 11th and 12th-grade classes traveled to Sterling, Colorado and Scottsbluff, Nebraska—two rural and generally Republican areas—to expand our view of the political spectrum in our region. In Sterling, I asked a number of students if they planned to vote in future elections. From each student I asked, I received a similar answer:
“I won’t vote, because my vote doesn’t matter.”
This perspective is not limited to the so-called “forgotten Colorado,” the parts of the state neglected by the government powers centralized in the Denver Metro area [3, 4]. Rather, I’ve heard this same sentiment expressed by my friends in Boulder and Denver. Amid intense partisan unrest, young people aren’t convinced that their vote matters.
In spite of these doubts, however, the 2018 midterms saw a massive turnout of young voters. According to Tufts University’s Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement , 31% of citizens between the ages of 18 and 29 turned out to vote in the most recent election. While this number may seem small, it marks a 10% increase from the 2014 midterms. And this vote is far from immaterial—in fact, the youth vote has been cited as a “powerful voting bloc” which “almost certainly” contributed to the Democratic Party’s takeover of the House of Representatives after the most recent election. Overall, in states with a higher turnout of youth voters, Democratic candidates tended to win their respective races.
Indeed, young people are far more likely to vote for Democratic candidates. However, within this generalization lies a significant problem. In the months preceding the 2018 midterms, a number of youth movements arose in order to encourage voting among students: The Future Coalition’s Walkout To Vote , Vote For Our Lives , and Box The Ballot . These movements, whether unintentionally or by design, have been almost entirely steered toward liberal voters in support of Democratic candidates.
Voting is the foundation of our representative democracy, regardless of political agenda. The importance of voting should be stressed not for the growth of one political party, but rather for the promotion informed political action demanded by our governmental system. Amid discussions of voter suppression and the fact that election day is not a national holiday, preventing people from successfully making it to the polls, those who have the power to vote should use it.
“Voting is the only way to ensure that our values and priorities are represented in halls of power. And it’s not enough to just vote for president every four years. We all have to vote in every single election.” - Michelle Obama, When We All Vote.
2018 Midterm Elections Analysis
(x) Election Results: PBS
(x) Analysis of the Election Results: The New Yorker
(x) The “Youth Wave”: The Atlantic
(x) Youth Voter Turnout Statistics: CIRCLE
(x) Trends Among Youth Voters: Harvard Institute of Politics
Challenges of Voting & Voter Suppression
(x) Fighting Voter Suppression: ACLU
(x) The Difficulties of Voting: Pew Research
(x) Voter Suppression in the 2016 Election: The Atlantic
(x) Voter Suppression in the 2018 Midterms: The Atlantic
(x) The Democratic Party Voter Suppression: FiveThirtyEight
(x) Voter Eligibility Information for Colorado
(x) Voter Registration FAQs for Colorado
(x) Register to Vote Online
With many unhappy with the current state of the government and a law against any form of opposition to the legislation, violence has overtaken the streets of Nicaragua. This violence has resulted in more than 400 deaths and a suffering economy which in turn has lead to many people losing their jobs. Numbers of asylum seekers have shot up in 2018 as many Nicaraguan citizens seek safety and jobs.
This summer, I had the privilege to travel to Santa Cruz, Costa Rica. While there, I had the opportunity to interact with some of the locals—one of whom was Franklin, a Nicaraguan citizen who had moved to Costa Rica in June of 2018. Hearing bits and pieces about his story while in Costa Rica was very interesting, and once back in the United States I found that I had questions and wanted to learn more about his experience. Quite frankly, I was scared to talk to him and to write this article because it is a story that is not my own and that can potentially hold a lot of emotion for people. That being said, I believe that there is a lot of value in understanding the experiences and perspectives of others. I am very grateful to Franklin for willingly opening up and telling his story, it has given me perspective on events that before seemed so distant, and in writing this I hope that others can receive the same insight.
“Usually, Nicaragua is a country with opportunities, with enough resources for people to have a good life. What is not possible sometimes is to have access to those opportunities and that lifestyle, not because we do not have the resources, but because of the systems that develop.” Franklin believes that systems have developed in Nicaragua that are stripping people of their freedom, a violation that has no ethical justification. Franklin has also witnessed firsthand the effects of the oppression. Before the events, he was working at an organization in Estelí, Nicaragua that coordinates programs for foreign volunteers. He said the progression was slow: “little by little, from safe to unsafe.”
The protests started in the capital of Managua. At this time he would get calls from coworkers and friends in the U.S. consoling him based on the news, but he dismissed it believing that the events would soon come to an end. However, the protests increasingly spread throughout the country including Estelí. Franklin said that he would be safe as long as he avoided the protestors, but that was not a simple task. “I remember by June I not able to go to work without any problem.” Most of the protests took place on the main roads making any form of travel more difficult. As the violence increased, the organization that Franklin was working for could no longer host international volunteers, and, in turn, had no livelihood in which to support their employees. Anyone without a permanent contract was fired, the U.S. citizens were told by the U.S. embassy to leave Nicaragua, and remaining were the permanent employees from Nicaragua. The organization realized that these people would be unable to maintain a livelihood in the country so they were sent to similar organizations around the world. This is how Franklin ended up in Santa Cruz, Costa Rica, organizing student volunteers like me.
Despite the certain difficulty that comes with this story, Franklin is aware of his fortune. “I am one of the lucky people in hundreds,” he said, recounting stories of his friends and coworkers. He mentioned his relationships with people who have been convicted of participating in the protests or helping those who were injured during protests “and they are not bad people.” He also spoke about the fact that many people in his country have lost their jobs, and few have been able to find a steady source of income since. This is where Franklin realizes that he is fortunate. With family and citizenship in Costa Rica, his process of finding safety and stability held fewer complications, unlike many others.
In fortune or lack thereof, humans all around the world are faced with instability. The complexities of human interaction cause an entanglement of conflicting stories that frequently lead to misunderstanding and dispute. So much value can be found in giving space and listening to these stories that others possess as their own. This again is why I would like to thank Franklin for opening up with his story. “Any pleasure that is robbing or taking other people's opportunities of freedom is a pleasure that should be given up.” Freedom is being taken away from the citizens of Nicaragua, and even though the problem spreads beyond the borders of this Latin American country, recognizing the story of one can give insight into the broader contradictions of our world.
by Nina Auslander
Perhaps one of the worst parts about being a teenager is the universal scorn coming from any generation older than you. Everyday, articles are written about the idiotic challenges your generation is starting, and the various cultural norms your generation is eroding with your outlandish behavior.
As you may have noticed, this trend has abruptly stopped with the Parkland shooting. Teenagers across the country have been praised for their activism. While it may feel refreshing to bask in the praise, it does leave one wondering. Why now? What’s special about our generation? Why did the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High start a revolution where others failed?
Perhaps it helps to examine the context of this movement. As the New York Times observes after a mass shooting, “The national response plays out in a rote, almost performative way. The outcry lasts only a few days before guns fade back into the background noise of American politics.”
In the immediate aftermath of the Parkland Shooting, the atmosphere felt similar. Already, the nation seemed resigned to another round of infighting, followed by nothing.
Yet, a couple of days later, the voices of student activists David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez (along with others) emerged from the rubble to tell their side of the story.
Why are the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students so effective?
Unlike most public schools across the nation, Marjory Stoneman has a strong commitment to debate skills, student journalism, and student speech. According to Slate, “ [the] school system boasts, for example, of a ‘system-wide debate program that teaches extemporaneous speaking from an early age.”’ Every middle and high school in the district has a forensics and public-speaking program. Coincidentally, some of the students at Stoneman Douglas had been preparing for debates on the issue of gun control this year, which explains in part why they could speak to the issues from day one.”
What’s special about our generation?
Well besides our apparent propensity to eat certain laundry products, our generation is coming of age during a rather turbulent time in America. Reared under the the shadow of 9/11 and raised during an age where active shooter drills began in kindergarten, the thought of imminent danger looms above us. Yet, (supposedly) we are not as cynical as those who came before us. We haven’t lost our ability to believe that change is possible in America, even if it is hard to come by.
If you’ve been living under a rock for the past 15 months or so, than you would be pretty surprised by the amount of activism in today’s American politics. From the Women’s March to the March for our Lives, marching one’s outrage has become pretty de rigueur for today’s liberals. This has certainly helped the recent gun control movement gain steam.
by Dani Cooke
We all know that Watershed is a small community in a small residential neighborhood in a small yet ultra-progressive city—so, when about fifty of us decide to walk out of class and sit on the pavement by the front office, the world doesn’t exactly take note.
To me—and many other students with which I’ve spoken—these are beyond difficult times. It is far too easy to feel helpless and small, so when students are getting shot in their classrooms, the only way we know to respond is to get up and hope someone notices what it’s like when we’re gone.
We talk with our friends. We hug our parents. We read the news. We get coffee and sleep too late and binge-watch Netflix when we should be doing homework.
And when armed with paper and pen, we write. We demand change.
Over the course of the walkout, Sam Andrews and I organized one major action component to offset the seemingly futile nature of our civil disobedience: a write-in. Lasting all of seventeen minutes, these letters were brief but mighty.
Dozens signed pre-printed letters to Congress. Almost fifty used an online form to send a letter in their name. A handful of students and teachers even hand-wrote letters of their own. All of these were sent to Cory Gardner (R), one of our Colorado state senators who still opposes greater implementation of legislation against gun violence. Additionally, brief notes were sent to senator Michael Bennett (D) and representative Jared Polis (D) thanking them for their policy-based action in Congress to prevent future mass shootings.
This was more than just a walk-out, and the work is far from over. Want to send your own letter? Write your own or send a pre-written letter in your name at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VGC6LV6.
It was a cold, clear day, with a couple of clouds dotting the sky. A light breeze continued throughout the morning. As is typical in Colorado, the sun shone brightly, illuminating the pink hats of the crowd.
All in all, a picturesque day to protest today’s tempestuous political climate.
However, a curious emotion seemed to permeate the crowd—not anger, not hate, but joy at the community surrounding them. People moved slowly in the crowd, laughing, joking, participating in chants with a smile on their face.
Last year, in protests nationwide and around the world, women and men made it clear to the new presidential administration that they were not going down without a fight. Immense numbers spanning the globe came to support this message; according to some estimates, 3.3 million women attended a women’s march, far exceeding the 160,000 that showed up for Trump’s inauguration.
After the resounding success of the 2017 Women’s March, many people had doubts that the protest would spark change for women’s rights. Yes, it was impressive that millions of people across the globe had turned out to champion women’s rights in mid-January, but would these women be able to sustain the momentum they had gained?
Well, yes. Two of the defining stories of 2017 were the #MeToo movement and the number of women running for office in 2018. This year, 392 women are planning to run for the House of Representatives, and 49 women are planning to run for the Senate, more than 68% higher than the same amount of women who announced they were planning to run for senate in 2014. More than 25,000 women have contacted Emily’s List, an organization dedicated to electing pro-choice democratic women, with interest in running for positions ranging from the local school board to a senate seat. This is a marked contrast to the 920 women who contacted Emily’s List between 2015 and 2016.
While the Women’s March has impacted people nationwide, it has also impacted our small, very progressive private school in Boulder, CO. This year, I attended the women’s march in Denver with Dani Cooke, Leo Sipowicz, Grace Phillips, and Sam Andrews. While the crowds were not quite as impressive as last year in Denver (60-70,000 compared to 150,000), there was still quite an impressive turnout. While it seemed the march’s attendance had decreased, there was in increase in the number of noticeable counter protesters: from 0 to 2.
Off to the side, nearby to the Denver Modern Art Museum, two men held signs protesting the women’s march. One read, “Proud to be a straight, white male,” and the other held a sign that read “Feminism is cancer.”
Sam Andrews, typical to his nature, informed the rest of us that he was going to go talk to the protestors. While our party mocked his decision off to the side, a local CBS reporter, impressed with Sam’s willingness to talk to the two men, decided to interview him on television.
A rather extraordinary thing happened while Sam was talking to the reporter: a women ran up next to the protestors and proceeded to take off her top, revealing mastectomy scars.
The man with the sign that read “Feminism is cancer,” tilted his sign down towards his lap, so that no one from the crowd could see it.
A woman shouted from the crowd, “You should run for office!”