The Dividing Line

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Photo by Peter Lawson

By Rachael Whitlock

Typically, when we order barbecue at a restaurant, we don’t think about the animal that the meat came from. We don’t think about the 9.2 billion animals that are slaughtered every year in America for food (Human Society of the United States). Instead, it’s just a product – something that has been processed for our taste and enjoyment. But if someone ever put a plate in front of us with a piece of dog meat on it, most of us would not see edible food. In fact, many Americans would picture their own four-legged friend, with his wagging tail and lolling tongue, and would be repulsed at the thought of eating him. For hundreds of years, humans have divided animals into two separate categories: the ones we eat and the ones we don’t. In the United States, cows, pigs, and chickens fall into the “edible” category while cats, dogs, and horses fall into the “inedible” category. In other cultures, although animals might fall into different categories than these, there is still a dividing line between the spared and the slaughtered. But how have we come to create such a line? Why is it that people find it acceptable to eat some animals but not others?

It would be difficult to argue that our companion animals are more intelligent or more sentient than at least some of the animals we eat. A series of studies published in the International Journal of Comparative Psychology in 2015 found pigs to possess more cognitive capabilities than dogs, and to be on about the same intellectual level as chimpanzees. In order to conduct these studies, pigs had to pass a series of tests involving using mirrors to find hidden food, completing mazes, learning a simple symbolic language, and manipulating a joystick to move an on-screen cursor. Another study concerning farm animal sentience done by researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, indicated that pigs may be able to empathize with their pen mates, a trait previously assigned only to humans and primates (Scientific American, 2015). To conduct the study, scientists trained a few pigs to feel either happiness or stress based on whether they received rewards or punishments. The untrained pigs began to show the same signs of happiness or distress as their pen mates, even though the untrained pigs had no knowledge of the rewards and punishments. Based on the pig’s reactions, the researchers were able to conclude that the animals possessed the capacity to be effected by, and share the emotional states, of each other (Scientific American, 2015). The study on empathy in pigs was published in the journal Animal Cognition.  These studies conclude that at least some of the animals we eat, including pigs, are as intelligent as our beloved pets.

But even with evidence that dividing species is nonsensical, many of us continue to eat farm animals without blinking an eye. Today, the general public is so far removed from living, breathing, farm animals that the disconnect many feel is understandable. Few people still work on farms and interact with their food before it’s on their plate. Most Americans no longer have to collect chicken eggs, milk cows, and slaughter pigs they’ve raised since birth. After all, it seems the most obvious reason we don’t eat dogs and cats is because they play such a large role in our lives. We feed them, play with them, and sleep with them; many people would find it difficult to fathom eating their companions. The apparent reason for our choices is simply because that’s the way it has always been done.

The point of this article is not to influence people to start eating their companion animals, but to ask people to think deeply about the reasons they eat (and don’t eat) certain animals. Realizing that “edible” animals are intelligent and emotionally cognitive could suddenly make it more difficult to eat them with a clear conscious. Our pets and our food are much more similar than they are different, and, because of these similarities, we should think more closely about the moral dilemma eating animals poses.  Next time, when ordering a rack of ribs, think about that pig as you would think about your dog and ask yourself, should there really be a dividing line?

 

What do you think of this article? Share your feedback in the comments section.

 

References

  • (2017). Protect Farm Animals. Humane Society of the United States. 28 March 2017.
  • Griffiths, Sarah. (15 January 2015). Pigs Have Feelings Too! Farm Animals Feel Empathy Towards Their Penmates, Study Claims. Daily Mail. 28 March 2017.
  • Marino, Lori; & Colvin, Christina M. (2015). Thinking Pigs: A Comparative Review ofCognition, Emotion, and Personality in Sus domesticusInternational Journal of Comparative Psychology, 28 March 2017.
  • Muth, Felicity. (13 January 2015). Can Pigs Empathize? Scientific American. 28 March 2017.
  • Reimert, I., Bolhuis, J. E., Kemp, B., & Rodenburg, T. B. (2014). Emotions on the loose: emotional contagion and the role of oxytocin in pigs. Animal cognition. 28 March 2017.

 

Make America Think Again Part 1: Experience

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Photo by Samuel Alvarado

By Samuel Alvarado

In the United States of America, there have been marches, protests, and riots in reaction to the current Trump administration. It has only been a month since Trump has taken office, and he has caused more division as he thrives on the fear people have and has used it to propel himself to the oval office as a savior for Republicans. I see that we have elected an inexperienced, egoistic man to the highest office in the country we all call home as Americans. Currently, it seems that we have lost touch with what to look for in an electable leader.

Here in the United States of America, we have elected a man to lead an increasingly divided nation in hopes that he can “Make America great again.” However, many are in dismay with President Trump’s leadership already, as his rhetoric alienates the Democratic left of the nation. He seems to only focus on pleasing the conservative republican half of the nation that helped to elect him. With actions that seem reactionary at best, President Trump has only furthered the polarization between the democrats and republicans. The increasing polarization brings up the idea of how we see a solid foundation for leadership. Since ancient times, leaders have risen and fallen as they were tested by the challenges that presented themselves during their tenure. If anyone was an option for president, I would interject he or she would have the three qualities of relevant experience, flexibility, and civic mindedness.

An ideal candidate would have relevant experience in leadership, or better yet in government. Experience is important as relevant experience in local or state leadership can go far in helping run the national government. Some examples of recent candidates for president with relevant government experience would be Bernie Sanders, Rick Perry, and Chris Christie. Experience in government is not necessary to be president, but it is helpful in the transition of power and adjustment to the highest executive branch in the land. Just as experience in an executive board translates into a more effective executive president, a candidate for the presidency of the United States of America should be expected to have experience in similar leadership conditions. The experience of being on an executive board, for example, may help the council president to serve his or her post with better judgment and by extension a better ability able to take on the challenges that come with the job. Whether a person is a leader in a state governorship or in a position as small as an executive board member for a student organization, any relevant experience can only help leaders better serve the people who elected them to their current positions. A candidate who has such experience in government will better understand the limits of his or her own power and how to interact with legislative and judicial bodies. This experience would better enable any president to govern with the understanding that he or she is nothing without the consent and approval of the people.

Going forward, every move a leader makes has direct impacts on the people who he or she governs and, as such, any leadership position demands great care and responsibility. An example of a country that President Trump has insulted and will affect us most evidently is our southern neighbor, Mexico. Mexico has already begun talks to divest from U.S. companies and reduce imports from the United States of America if President Trump continues to strain relations with demands for a border wall and vitriolic insults at Mexico’s expense. If a trade war breaks out because of President Trump’s policies, it will directly affect the American people as any Mexican import would be subject to a tariff and American businesses would have a surplus of products that are primarily exported to Mexico.This is just one example of the possible effects that an inexperienced leader can have on his or her people and the people that they interact with. President Trump’s comments could lead to drastic actions and scenarios because his comments can be seen and interpreted by anyone and in any way. Because Trump has no prior experience in governmental leadership, it would be wise of him to consider the impact of his words and actions. Now, I am not criticizing Trump as a person, I just believe that his actions so far as a leader have not met the criteria for what I consider to be an effective leader.

President Trump has made several controversial decisions in his time as leader of our country. It is in my opinion that these decisions were made because Trump does not already have the proper experience needed for his position. I do, however, want to say that we can still hope that as he serves as President of the United States for the next four years, that he will gain the experience he needs to truly make America great again.

Beethoven and His Greatest Pieces of All Time

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Photo by Sabrina Corbin

By Sabrina Corbin

What makes you happy? What makes the entire world melt away when you’re stressed? What makes you, you? Imagine that the one thing that makes you who you are is tortuously being stripped from your grasp. Suddenly, everything you’ve ever known is gone along with the old version of you. With the feeling of a hole in your chest you realize you must redefine yourself. You must find something else that makes colors brighter and makes the world worth facing, because the weight of the world is on you as you grieve for what you’ve lost. This is what it would be like for me to go deaf as a musician, and I can only imagine Beethoven felt the same. Throughout the centuries, there have been many innovative and famous composers, such as Vivaldi, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky. However, by overcoming all his obstacles, I believe Ludwig van Beethoven was the most brilliant and most well-known. Out of his numerous compositions, I believe Symphony No. 9 and Moonlight Sonata were, and continue to be, the most prodigious of all time.

Although many people might assume Beethoven was deaf since his birth, he actually went completely deaf around his mid-forties. Beethoven was taught music at a young age and continued to learn it throughout his life. Young Beethoven was considered a child prodigy when it came to music and performed his first public concert in his hometown of Bonn. At the time of this concert, Beethoven was just seven years old. Beethoven’s entire life up to age seven had been relatively normal for him because he composed, published, and performed music at such a young age that he was used to music in his life. Wowing the people of his time, Beethoven was creating quite the astounding reputation for himself.

Around Beethoven’s early 30s, his hearing began to fade from what we think was a debilitating illness, such as syphilis or typhus. To understand the seriousness of this situation, we must consider that music was all Beethoven had ever known. Beethoven losing his hearing would tear his life apart financially and emotionally, but, impressively, he didn’t let that stop him.

As Beethoven’s hearing declined, higher pitches became difficult and likely painful to hear, so he decided to cut them out all together for a while. This timeline brings us to the first incredible piece: Moonlight Sonata. Like I said before, Beethoven could hardly hear the high notes, hence the consistency of very low notes in this piece. Personally, Moonlight Sonata is one of my favorites for its dramatic staccatos and emotion, staccatos are notes that are played abruptly and shortly. It’s almost as if you can see Beethoven pounding the keys in frustration as you listen. The solemn beginning is portrayed to me as Beethoven’s sadness, because he knows he will not be able to hear for much longer. The usage of many sharps, notes that are raised a half step above their normal pitch, adds a sort of eeriness and emptiness that you can feel in your soul, as I imagine he felt strongly. It should say something to you as a listener when you can feel and see the emotions as you listen to a piece of music. Although Moonlight Sonata practically oozes melancholy, it is beautiful for that reason, and it will never be forgotten, especially by me.

The ideas I’ve presented bring us to the period when Beethoven has lost his hearing completely. Beethoven can now switch back and forth from high and low notes because the high notes no longer hurt him. It’s difficult to explain how one can switch between high and low notes without diving into the fundamentals of music. Basically, Beethoven had an above average knowledge of which notes sound well together (chords), and he had roughly twenty years of experience that helped him learn this knowledge. Therefore, the most likely explanation  is that Beethoven’s genius allowed him to tell the beauty of music without being able to hear it. At this point, we reach Symphony No. 9, which is extremely different from Moonlight Sonata in that it begins quite jubilant and almost victorious feeling. Throughout the entire piece are feelings of happiness and playfulness but, most importantly, more dramatic staccatos. It’s impossible to get disinterested while listening to Symphony No. 9 because of the heavy dynamics in the piece. Beethoven uses some intense crescendos and decrescendos to keep you on your toes and make it hard to guess what will happen next. The symphony is simply the perfect blend of everything that good and exciting music should consist of! Symphony No. 9 begins loud with a perfectly blended middle section, and ends loud just like perfect music should. Music ending loud and being blended well is equally important as authors needing a bang to fulfill the end of a long story. It’s the resolution to any tension created in the first half of the music. Keep in mind, this symphony was all composed while Beethoven was completely deaf! Symphony No. 9 is a truly perfect piece considering his ailments. Proof of Beethoven’s enduring status was shown to me loudly this past summer when I went to a Drum Corps International (DCI) competition in Georgia, a marching band competition consisting of only brass instruments. My favorite corps is Carolina Crown, and, lo and behold, the first piece of their show was the beginning of Symphony No. 9 which they played flawlessly. After 245 years, Beethoven’s music is still with us prominently.

Beethoven proved his worth throughout his successful life by doing what I believe no other person on this planet could ever do: continue his musical career while deaf. Beethoven’s two pieces, Moonlight Sonata and Symphony No. 9, will be forever remembered by his noticeable traits, like his flair for the dramatic and intense emotion that can be felt by any who listen to his works. Throughout my life, no matter what my career may be, I plan and hope to also have a successful music career on the side. Beethoven serves as a huge inspiration to me, proving that when roadblocks are thrown in your way you should never give up on your dream. Yes, it’s cliché, but it will never not be truthful. Find your passion, as I have found music. Find what makes you, you, and makes your world worth facing. Chase that passion, and cling to it for dear life, because someone or something will always be there to try to take it away from you.

The Poet That Started a Movement

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Picture by Rachael Whitlock

By Rachael Whitlock

Phillis Wheatley once said, “In every human beast, God has implanted a principle, which we call love of freedom; it is impatient of oppression, and pants for deliverance.” When people think of February, Valentine’s Day is typically what first comes to mind. But February isn’t only the month for celebrating love, it is also Black History Month. It is a time to celebrate the most prominent African American leaders in history, and their contributions to society. It is also a time to celebrate the African Americans who, after centuries of oppression, challenged molds and societal roles that were once forced on them. Although there were plenty of well-known leaders who fought for human rights, there were also many artists, musicians, writers, and poets that used their talents to challenge the oppression they faced. One of these people was Phillis Wheatley, the first African American poet whose work helped set the stage for the abolitionist movement in the late 1700s.

After being kidnapped and enslaved when she was just eight years old, Phillis Wheatley became the first African American, and one of the first women, to publish a book of poetry in the colonies. Wheatley’s owner, John Wheatley, who originally purchased her to be a servant for his wife Susanna, quickly realized the girl’s intelligence. Although most slave owners at the time discouraged their slaves to read and write, John and Susanna Wheatley were different. The family began to educate Wheatley in theology, Latin, mythology, and Greek, and greatly encouraged her literary pursuits. By the time she was thirteen, Phillis Wheatley had her first poem published in a local newspaper, and continued to publish work as a teenager.

In 1773, Wheatley became the first African American to publish a book of poems when she wrote Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. This was a landmark achievement in American history, as it began to change colonists’ perspective on African Americans’ capabilities. Not only was Wheatley now an accomplished poet, she was also a strong supporter of American independence from Britain. She even wrote several poems in honor of George Washington, who eventually invited her to visit him in Washington.

Unfortunately, the years to follow her first book’s publishing became more difficult for Wheatley. Both John and Susanna died a few years apart, which devastated Wheatley, who had come to see them as her own parents. In 1778, Wheatley married a free African American and had three children, but they all died in infancy. The couple’s marriage was constantly strained by poverty because, as growing tensions between America and Britain grew, Wheatley couldn’t find a publisher in London to take any more of her work. Ultimately, Wheatley spent the rest of her life working as a maid in a boarding house and died in her early thirties.

However, despite Wheatley’s hardships and struggles as a writer, she is still regarded as one of the most prominent poets and influential figures in African American history. Her work as a woman, and as a slave, presented opportunities that many previously didn’t think possible. She also proved that African Americans were equally as capable, creative, and intelligent as anyone else, and should be encouraged to read and write. In this way, Wheatley’s work was instrumental in setting the stage of the abolitionist movement and helped pave the way for other African American poets throughout history.

Homecoming

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By Joseph Cox

The wind wisped through the tree in an eerie flow and whistled through the depths of my hallowed soul. The willow hung dreadfully over me, as a fitting blanket for a lonely day. The table on which I sat had aged. When I was here last, the polished tan oak stood in contrast of the olive-green grass, but the graying wood now fades into the deepness of the green. I’ve faded too over the years, for time is rarely kind to the body. I had not wanted to come here again, but here I sit with the splintering wood jutting into my tailbone, as I helplessly prop myself on the table top. I slump over with my feet stamped into the seats of the table, and stare at the horizon. I do not know what I was looking for, but I knew this was the only place that it could be found. I cannot see my breath in the fading daylight, but I know it is cold. The air is much cooler than the last time I was here. It has an icy thickness to it. I took comfort in its steel embrace, for it reflected what I held back.

She didn’t take long to arrive. I heard her coming, as the wind wiped the moss along the bed of grass behind me, but I did not bother to turn around. She sat down behind me. Her body filled the small space left in the old table, and it creaked beneath the weight of a new wandering soul. At first, she sat upright to let me savor my final moments in the chilling tranquility. Soon, she would begin to pry her way in, and I played into her hand. I pushed my body upright, clenched my eyes, and felt the air seep into the goosebumps on my skin.

That’s when I felt her touch again. The contact was nothing more than a graze. She had pushed herself into me, but only to the point that her back lightly met my own. I could feel only the wool of her sweater, but that was enough. In just that graze, she had cut through the cold. She had ice picked her way inside me again, and I forgot why I had ever let her go. The chill within me melted down to the bones, as if my muscles had become rigid from ice. I could not remember the last time I had truly breathed. Everything felt limp, and I seeped into her, as I had done years before.

We sat back to back now. Our breaths in sequence with one another, and our hearts beating with the new-found freedom. Her head rested beneath mine, and her hair weaved its way onto the back of my neck. Amid this winter evening, she was the breath of spring. Her scent dug into the air around us, and encompassed me. I was caught once again, and had no desire to let go.

Here, in this warm embrace, we sat for what felt like hours. The time I had spent without her seemed distant now. The setting sun eclipsed on the horizon, and I felt tears well up in my eyes. I felt the warm water drift down my chilled cheeks, and began to breathe in bursts of exhalations. Weight escaped my shoulders with each passing moment, and each breath brought decompression to my constricted lungs. I thought I had lost her for good this time.

“Why did you come back?” Her voice wisped with the fairness of the wind. For a while, I did not answer; I just smiled, like a parched nomad that had finally found fresh water. Part of me did not want to reply, but bask in the glory of the moment. “Because I thought I had lost you for good this time,” I said to her between my deep exhalations. “I could feel my heart beat, but did not know if you were still there.” I had been broken, but with her I could heal once again. I could be free once more.

Words Not Spoken

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By Jade Jacobs

Stolen glances, racing heart, and the desire to speak but how do you start? How do you spark a conversation when your heart’s full of elation, and there’s such a strong temptation that the words don’t leave your throat? Sweet desire fueled by fire, that draws you in, but not again. The heart may have forgiven yet the brain has not forgotten what it means to succumb to this feeling that leaves you numb and reeling.

You opened up once before, but they purged the pictures of personality, skewed what was reality, falsified hospitality, and left you in catastrophe. They changed the locks on all the doors until your heart was no longer yours. Months passed before you decided to move out of the poisoned place that had been so familiar, but turned foreign floor by floor. Months still before the barren walls of a heart bereft began to bedeck themselves with recollections worthy of reminiscence.

Finally, you settle in, and then a stranger comes again just waltzing in and makes you feel a whim of something you figured you wouldn’t have anymore. Maybe they could be the one to make your light shine bright again, help you learn to fly again, so you forget what made you cry again. If you let the craving go could the confidence begin to show you what you’ve known all along? Another glance, it’s a risk but it’s a chance worth taking for a heart afraid of breaking will let thorns blind them from seeing the beauty of the rose. But how do you spark a conversation when your heart’s full of elation, and there’s such a strong temptation that the words don’t leave your throat?

The Price We Pay For Being Gay

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Artwork by Samantha Ellis

By Samantha Ellis

Growing up, you are taught to love many different individuals. You love your parents, your family, supposedly your siblings (but you are not always sure). You love your friends, your mentors, your pets. If you are a girl, you are supposed to find a nice young boy to bring home to the family. If you are a boy, you are supposed to find a kind girl to start a family with. Traditionally, this is taught to us as love. But what happens when your love deviates from the traditional? What do you do when you find yourself in love with your best friend? She was loud and brash with a brain that far excelled my own. Her hands were always cold but warmer than any other I held, and her eyes, they were beautiful. They told far more stories than I had ever remembered spilling from a boy’s mouth. In this situation, what do you do?

I buried these feelings, far down where I did not have to see or feel them. “This isn’t normal.” I said. “This isn’t how the world teaches you to love your friends.” I would argue. But somewhere along the line I forced myself to accept it. But what was it exactly that I was accepting?

That I was gay.

I have known that I liked girls since I was 13, came out to friends years later, and when I turned 18 I gained the confidence to be able to call myself gay. I told my parents soon after, and luckily, they love and support me regardless. But they stay worried. “Are you sure?” They ask. “It is a dangerous world out there.” They remind me. Being gay comes with a risk, a stigma, a long line of other queer individuals that have died fighting for the rights I have and are still denied. This love has come with a price.

I, as well as many others pay for it daily when it comes to holding our partners’ hands, ignoring slurs and those who believe our rights have not been deserved, mourning those who we have lost to years of homophobia and racism. None of it is deserved, and it takes its toll on all who experience it. My love is not traditional, but is more authentic than any other I have experienced in my life.

This love has created me, fueled my passions, and wakes me every day and reminds me of who I am. This love has given me friends, crushes, and worlds I would have never explored otherwise. But the taboo around it has taken as well. It has taken connections, opportunities, loved ones, and potential friends. When a close friend’s parents would not accept who she was, they had to learn to accept her death. The price of this love is steep. I miss her every day.

But when given the option, I would pick my love every time. My love will change our world, and it is changing our world, one day at a time. One day, these prices will not have to be paid.

I am gay, and I am full of love.