Imported Animation

[pic1]It’s safe to assume that just about everyone at one point has been mesmerized by cartoons. Whether you rose at 6 a.m. on Saturday mornings to watch them or were engrossed by comic heroes in flashy graphic novels – cartoons pervaded many of our childhoods. From Bugs to Mickey, Scooby Doo to Thundercats, Care Bears to Ninja Turtles – we all started with a childlike lust for the animated. But many are still religiously hooked on cartoons, and we’re not just talking about South Park and Family Guy.
Images of futuristic worlds, high-octane martial arts moves and even steamy love scenes fill the screen. Exploding with a vivid assortment of vibrant pixels that dance like a pupil-seducing eye massage, these ‘toons are far from the toilet humor and elementary artwork of some adult cartoons. While others will never see anything more than a flashy childish cartoon, this isn’t just another form of dry animation. No, this isn’t “kid stuff” or your regular Saturday cartoon. This is anime.
“Anime is the new wave of entertainment for the younger and older crowd,” said architecture junior Brittany Cartwright. “It is changing how children and adults perceive cartoons; they no longer have to be childish and have pointless story lines…but mature meanings which are delivered to all ages.”
Cartwright’s philosophy is one shared by many on MSU’s diverse campus, where an anime-enthusiastic mode has settled in the campus air. After the mainstream boom in the 1980s took Japan by storm, the reprised production values of anime in the 90s and beyond have allowed an overseas fan base to flourish, thriving in places like East Lansing. Producing a culture in and of itself, anime has taken both MSU and America by force.
Anime is a very distinctive type of cartoon animation that is commonly produced and imported directly from Japan. The genre is depicted in numerous mediums, such as full-length movies, television shows, DVDs or video games. Most commonly, anime is derived from Japanese comics called Manga. The complex style is cultivating in surprisingly large niche communities and in a huge assortment of campus underbellies, gamer circles and “Otaku” communities. More significantly, the vines of fascination are spreading past the hardcore base to the casual viewer. It shouldn’t be too shocking nowadays to find out that your good buddy is a closet anime fan. [quote2]
So what sets Anime apart from other typical cartoons and video games? One of the central points is that it is spread out over a bevy of themes and sub-genres, most of which are rife with adult philosophy, political intrigue, and perspectives and content not targeted at children.
“To me, anime is so appealing because of the art. It is so simple, yet so complex,” said veterinary medicine freshman Angie Hardy. “The way they draw things is amazing. The stories are usually very catchy where you can\’t stop watching; they’re humorous, scary, intense, sad…everything really.”
The animation is commonly labeled and categorized into various sub-groups depending on what the theme of the content depicts. From the explosion driven action spectrum, you might find anime groups like Shonen or Seinen which depict violent displays of graphical flare while other poles of the universe might elicit more centralized descriptions like that of horror, drama, fantasy or even subverts like religious theory, animated historical documentary, mecha, cyberpunk thrillers and even residual film noir. A minority of titles also exhibit further themes such as ecchi, which is a collection of shiny sexual innuendos and humor, or hentai, which is at its basic level: full blown animated pornography. The canvas for anime is wide, and the range is vast and varied.
“Japan is filled to the brim with art…and it has to do with their ability to create something unique that I can’t find in any other country,” said Cartwright. “Anime is so interesting and in many categories it can be silly in the way of stupid jokes or containing serious philosophy. We see ourselves in those characters, or we wish we did. It’s appealing to the imagination, and I feel it\’s the kid left in me that is reaching out while the mature side is able to relate.”
Apparently, Americans all over the country are able to relate. The success of mainstream children shows like the popular Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh have spawned a revolution in merchandising and gear. Capitalizing on the trend are niche-based franchises like Cartoon Network’s [Adult Swim] which has single-handedly brought adult-themed anime to the mass spectrum of American households.
“It might be more of a fad than anything else,” said science and engineering freshman Thomas Santini. “Most of the anime that people I know watch comes from Cartoon Network\’s Adult Swim block, so the popularity of Adult Swim has a lot to do with it, I think.”
Santini’s viewpoint is one that is rapidly growing alongside the Anime boom. The engineering freshman, along with several other MSU students, believes anime is just an overly dramatic cartoon style with an annoying and often “geeky” fan base. “Specifically, the type of animation bugs me,” said Santini. “It\’s jerky, and it’s lazy at times. They all seem to be about the same thing, too. I could rattle off about 10 different anime show titles, but I couldn’t tell you the difference among all of them. Most of all though, it\’s the hardcore anime fans that I can\’t stand, above the anime itself. These people talk about it constantly, use Japanese words in their daily speech, dress up like anime characters, and are just – in my opinion – insufferable.”
Whether or not anime fans are “geeky” is subjective, but the Otaku, or hardcore Anime supporters, are direly passionate and sometimes utterly obsessed with the medium. It wouldn’t be anomalous to find a member of this demographic participating in “cosplay,” which is basically dressing up like your favorite anime character and joining hundreds of other dressed up Otaku at large conventions to talk about, you guessed it: anime. [anime2]
“Of course I don\’t think it\’s ‘geeky’ or ‘nerdy,’ I think those who believe that are again afraid of change,” said English freshman Tybithie Harris. “People are not so accepting of anime or it’s culture because most people do not like change. When something is different and out of their comfort zone, they tend to hate it.”
“I think a lot of people aren\’t accepting of anime because it is labeled as ‘geeky’ and some might not think all the ‘revealing clothing’ [referring commonly to anime vixens] is appropriate,” said Hardy. “Look… some anime is very geeky, some is not. I used to think it was really nerdy, until I actually sat down and watched some. Now I realize it has so much talented art in it.”
While anime is a grandiose, motion-fixated art form, stripped to its bare bones it has been argued that the categorized cartoons should be seen as nothing more. Is some of it geeky and bizarre? Maybe. However, the notion quickly becomes that this is the general texture of the entire genre. The fans simply want everyone to appreciate the passion they share for the moving arts. Are some of them geeky and bizarre? Maybe. But if you look at any channeled fixation, whether it’s video games or movies, sports, cars or even fashion, it becomes immediately obvious that every base will have its hardcore and its casual.
However, within the realm of anime, the hardcore is spreading…rapidly. “Anime is the future of cartoons,” said Cartwright. “It will get better and it will become more mainstream. It is now the mature Bugs Bunny.”

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From Tijuana to iTunes

[1] Amidst the tumbling barrage of high-crest and low-dipping pitches, unconventional chords plucked in unperfected syntax and an uneven bar arrangement poured over an unrecognizable language, a large niche core is swelling around the Latin Alternative music scene. The niche, marked with a burgeoning young fan base,owes its very soul to the cohesive catalyst of Internet socialism.
Crafted meticulously from the esquina de la calles (corner of the streets) of Monterrey, the patios traseros(back patios) of Tijuana and the estudios of El Salvador, Latin Alternative or simply \”Alternativa,\” is a musical genre slowly blossoming from its Latin roots into American headphones by culminating in epicenters like El Paso, Seattle, New Mexico, New York and L.A.
Alternativa is, at its core, a creatively unique aural blend of hip-hop, progressive rock, electronica, salsa and Spanish syllables, all with certain shades of traditional Latin influence thrown into the mix. In other words, the genre is a veritable potpourri of differing styles without a musically centralized base. While it has been spreading northward, the new genre of music has yet to spread through MSU. But as the alternative styles continue to expand, you may soon hear some new sounds echoing from speakers and headphones across campus.
[quote1]Born from the snare drums of suburban youth and the beat machines of the inner-city, it’s hard for many to put a specific label on the all-encompassing genre of alternativa. In fact, “Latin Alternative” is merely a phrase coined by media aficionados and slapped on the brand during the mainstream Latin pop boom of the 1990s; Ricky Martin’s unmarketable kid sister.
Creeping delicately under mainstream channels for the past 10 to 15 years, “unmarketable” is a word that generally corresponds with the often avant-garde scene.
However, thanks to the steep incline of Latino-American citizenship and the end of the pop era a few years back, the alternative music scene finally began to culminate with its own unique and ever-expanding fan base. Glue these aspects to the limitless stimulation of the Internet music community, and you have a genre that is now beginning to skyrocket in U.S. popularity at a blistering pace. Listen for it.
Catalizador/Catalyst
More significantly, the genre owes its newfound livelihood to the electronic networking of the Internet.
The voice thrives with blogging, message forums and informative Web sites. The music soars with live podcasts and profile venues such as MySpace. The business succeeds through open Web site samples and electronic promotions. Latin Alternative is a brand that owes its roots to the Internet just as much as it does to its various native wombs.
In a music industry that is increasingly succumbing to cold record sales, Latin Alternative is a brand that is beginning to heat up significantly. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, in 2005 the genre cashed in a reported $650 million in sales.
Experts of the industry only expect business to get better, stating that the number could explode to over $1 billion within the next five years.
You would be hard pressed to find someone with more industry knowledge than Josh Norek, the VP of Nacional Records. Nacional is one of the leading Indie-Latin labels in the nation, producing and fusing some of the hottest music in the entire alternative wavelength from its Hollywood haven. They produce acts such as the up-and-coming Nortec Collective and award winning Colombian singer Andrea Echeverri.[2.5]
“Business is really good right now,” Norek said. “We’re starting to branch out to places we’ve never been before; we’re starting to get play on stations and mediums we didn’t think were possible. It feels really good.”
Norek recognized that a part of this success is largely thanks to the waves of continuity the Web has been making, a Web that has synced the genre to an audience that would never have known even where to look for music of this caliber.
“I absolutely think a medium, like MySpace for instance, is doing a great deal to get our voice out there,” said Norek. “You know, by and large, the term ‘Latin Alternative’ is just a way to get above being labeled ‘español-rock’ or ‘spanish rap.’ That’s not who we are. And when our music is as undefineable as it is, yes… it’s incredible to have something like MySpace. How else is the public going to find our voice? The radio? We need these sorts of mediums to spread, to survive.”
Sombra Del Dilema/Shadow of the Dilemma
The irony of the alternativa scene is incredibly complex and sickeningly immaculate. If you need an example, try describing Latin Alternative to someone: a mixture of rap, electronica and various types of rock… sometimes… It’s nearly impossible to explain.
The great irony is that this is what fans revel in. In fact, you can almost attribute part of the success of Latin Alternative up to this point to its level of indefinable depth. The growing cult following actually adores the genre for not really being a genre at all.
Unfortunately, major record executives and mainstream radio stations don’t find this amusing, and neither does much of the American public.
Spanish junior, in major and heritage, junior Aubrey Devine was partly raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, one of the proverbial centers of Latin Alternative. She recalls hearing the sounds of her upbringing and provides insight into why the genre falls short of the popular consciousness, including the ears of a majority of MSU students.
“I don\’t think alternative music is mainstream on campus because there is such a small minority of Chicano/Latino students on campus to begin with,” Devine said. “And alternative Latin music just isn\’t very popular.” [quote2]
The fact is that Latin Alternative as a whole enjoys its underground position. If the business wanted to become more marketable, people like Norek wouldn’t waste time signing legitimate acts to cater to its Indie fan base. But the un-genre resides happily raw, uncategorized and loyal to its educated listeners.
“Mediums like print media and public radio seem to be more educated,” said Norek. “They have been very supportive of us. We don’t get too much radio business. In the States we have to deal with a language barrier, and in Latin communities the music is often too complex. It’s a tough thing to manage.”
Devine expressed her perspective on the industry: “That music just isn\’t my style,” she said. “I think Reggaeton is becoming so popular because it embraces a side of American culture since it has a hip-hop vibe, but it also celebrates Latin culture which is beginning to sweep the nation, since the Latino population in the U.S. is skyrocketing.”
Devine is right. It seems that whenever the industry begins to gain any sort of ground, the shadow of another Latin boom robs its deserved thunder. In this case, it’s the hip-hop infused “Reggaeton,” a genre that fuses the mainstream rap bravado with catchy Latin-based soul.
It’s the next fusion trend, and with artists like Daddy Yankee, Pitbull and Don Omar, the alternativa industry might have to come to grips with its place in the shadow of the more popular medium—not that it isn’t happy there.
Calidad/Quality
[mars]The future of Latin Alternative is shrouded in more mystery than the nature of its very essence. It’s a genre that is moving at a rapid pace, but without any lofty goals. Indie artists like Echeverri, Candela Soul and Maldita Vencidad y los Hijos del Quinto Patio have set out to create music with resounding quality while crossover artists like The Mars Volta and Shakira try to bridge the gap and create a more popular persona among the masses.
No matter how many units the industry manages to move or how many fans it picks up along the way, the music is decidedly profound, vivid and imaginative.
“I think people will start to appreciate all forms of Latin music more in the future since Latinos are becoming the U.S.\’s largest minority,” said Devine. “Hopefully people will accept it with open arms.”

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Flashy Philanthropists

If he chooses to do so, Bono could take all the money required to pay your full four year tuition at MSU, spend some obscene amount of cash to have a French designer roll it up into a giant toilet-paper-money-spool-thing (accented with gold trim)…and then proceed to exuberantly wipe his ass with all of it.
Yet, for some inexplicable reason, it appears that Bono chooses to use his money to help people who can’t afford to know French designers. In fact it seems that more and more, celebrities are using their cheddar for increasingly noble purposes – a trend that is starving to be explored. [bono]
The majority of America doesn’t really care about federal spending or corporate mergers. We don’t lose sleep over filibustering or the national deficit. No, what the majority of this country really cares about is why Brad broke up with Jen and what J-Lo is going to be sporting on the red carpet. America is controlled by Washington and consumed by Hollywood. And celebrities are our royalty.
“Celebrities gain their money and influence due to the fact a large percentage of this country worships the ground they walk on,” graphic design junior Mike Colombo said. “It boggles my mind to know there are individuals who base their life work around celebrity gossip. All the magazines, all the shows, the whole lot of it is crap. It boggles my mind when I realize the ridiculous economic ramifications celebrities have on this country.”
It wouldn’t be so disgusting if we all knew that celebrities weren’t just shoveling money into the giant self-absorbed capitalistic furnace of well, nothing. We all understand fast cars and big houses, but blinged-out Jesus pendants? Ridiculous, gigantic rims? Obscenely expensive African-mined diamonds? Golden doggie houses?
For every new piece of meaningless garbage celebs mindlessly splurge on, it’s sadly apparent that a child somewhere on this earth is going to go another night without food or will die of a disease they don’t even know exists. It’s sad really, but that’s not news. What IS news is that our “royalty” seems to finally be taking notice.
You can now find your favorite celebs donating generous amounts to charities, spawning new foundations and even lending a helping hand to international strife…but why? Is this just the “hot new Hollywood trend” or are the beautiful people really trying to make a difference? What do MSU students think about the fact that attention to celebrity-infested television has seemed to be increasing as rapidly as the number of Bono’s passport stamps? [quote]
“The thing about celebs donating to charity is that it\’s foolproof PR,” journalism sophomore Rachel Wilkerson said. “I mean, if you\’re going to get your name out there, it might as well be attached to a good cause. You can\’t really knock them for that.” “Most people do have a cause that is important to them and celebrities are no different. I think it\’s nice when the person speaks out about why they chose a particular cause, like how they personally have been affected. Some people think the ‘best’ donors are silent, but if it\’s a cause important to you, it\’s hard to be silent about it.”
Despite celebrity charity representing what may look like a good token gesture for a shining tax write-off, celebrities ARE giving. Most usually have their own specific cause like rap mogul Jay-Z who gives generously to the New York City Mission Society to raise money for underprivileged children. Or take Micheal J. Fox, who is afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, and has since established a research foundation with the goal of finding a cure in 2010. It even gets as specific as Alica Silverstone who loves to throw her bucks at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an organization where she also publicly models “pleather.”
For the most part, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt,” communications sophomore Kacy Kligore said. “If they are out there getting their hands dirty, then it\’s much easier to believe that they are actually genuine. It\’s a win-win situation. The charity benefits as well as the celebrity’s image.”
However, donations on this level are less than chump change to a big time celeb. I’m sure the City Mission Society is less than a tiny sliver on the Jay-Z pie chart and while it’s fairly apparent that most celebs are giving back, many question the credibility of these disproportional ventures.
“Celebrities can do whatever the hell they want. It’s their money,” Colombo said. “I don’t care what celebrities are doing with their spare time. I don’t care if they donate money from their infinite checkbooks just to make themselves look as though they give a shit about something. Every citizen in this nation has a voice. Whether or not a celebrity chooses to use his or her vast resources to make a difference is entirely up to them.”
However, this is a new age in celebrity generosity and, to an elite minority of wealthy givers, going above and beyond the call of duty is paramount to their image and key to their diamond encrusted consciousness. Celebs are taking it to the next level, and they’re doing it overseas.
One of the best examples of this is nestled in the United Nations Children\’s Fund, a philanthropist organization that devotes all its efforts to the betterment of impoverished children around the world. The bottom line, UNCF is a hotspot for celebrity taglines lets celebs from all aspects of the biz become real live UN ambassadors.
Among the glittering names are recording artists Shakira and India.Arie, big time Hollywood players like Laurence Fishburne, Sarah Jessica Parker and Lucy Liu and a smorgasbord of other celebrated talent. Thankfully, its not all just show at UNCF, as celebs dedicated enough to join the organization have a solid track record of keeping busy by visiting live field operations and reaching out to impoverished children on the front lines.
“Considering the impact that celebrities do have on society, it can be a double edged sword,” packaging junior Ryan Killing said. “In one respect, celebrities bring the media with them wherever they go, giving exposure to nations in turmoil. But, on the other hand, there are those who have geared their entire life at being an ambassador to other countries, learning both the language and the culture to amplify their impact on the people.”
It is difficult to deny this sort of glowing compassion. However, the debatable aspect is not in the bleached teeth of our favorite Hollywood heroes, but in the camera that just always happens to catch the smile of a perfect photo opportunity. It’s good to see Alyssa Milano wearing her Gucci’s as she cradles malnourished children in the hot Indian sun. But after that photo did she stay and discuss a plan for AIDS prevention or did she hop in her air-conditioned limo to discuss image enhancement with her agent over a pair of exotic cocktails?
“I think many famous people have a cause that means a lot to them and so their efforts seem very genuine. And getting dirty doesn\’t hurt,” Wilkerson said. If some pampered actress builds houses with Habitat for Humanity, that\’s always nice. That said though, keep out the paparazzi. It\’s got to be a little offensive to the charity cases you\’re working with.”
The biggest force in celebrity humanitarianism currently has to be the tandem of worldly Hollywood vixen Angelina Jolie and her new main squeeze actor Brad Pitt. [angelina]
Jolie is like the proverbial flying saint or maybe even an angel. Since 2001, Jolie has become a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, donated at least 3 million dollars of her personal expenditures in international relief, became one of the leading spokespeople for third-world children (has adopted two of them) and continues to tour lesser developed countries throughout the globe.
“Angelina Jolie is pretty amazing, Wilkerson said. “She donates her money and time. I don\’t think it\’s a PR stunt. I don\’t know many people who are going to travel to third world countries just for a photo op.”
However, Jolie’s biggest contribution might not be from her deep pockets but from her maternal devotion. After already boosting foreign adoption rates by adopting son Maddox from Cambodia in 2002, Jolie then assumed parental rights for Ethiopian daughter Zahara in 2005, an act that international adoption agencies have cited as witness to a direct doubling of inquires for adoption in Ethiopia. Now that’s influence.
But even Jolie is just a small fry compared to the real charitable heavyweights.
Nationally and internationally, you can’t ignore Oprah. At an estimated net worth of $1.4 billion and a syndicated daily television show averaging 9.3 million viewers, Oprah’s power and influence are unlimited. If heaven exists, “sponsored by Oprah” is probably written on the pearly gates.
Naturally, America’s most powerful woman named her charity, or empire, “The Angel Network,” an organization that gives more away then any one human could ever possibly acquire. The mega-star’s charity efforts make it nearly impossible to demonize, criticize or even look at Oprah the wrong way. How can you say anything bad about a woman who every year gives the proportionate value of a small country to random people?
“As much as I hate to say it, Oprah has definitely made considerable donations through her Angel Network, as well as her own money,” Killing said. “Bono is also a big force-his efforts and the use of his charity concerts have raised substantial amounts of money.”
Ah yes, it all comes back to Bono. A man so disgustingly selfless that he is humorously and commonly referred to as, that’s right, Jesus. If global celebrity humanitarianism is a burning fire of flashy philanthropy, this man started the spark a long time ago. It goes without saying that this Nobel Peace Prize nominee is the father of modern international celeb-driven humanitarianism.
It would be impossible to list all of Bono’s good will, but let’s just say he is something of a charitable oddity. If you can’t find Bono successfully bartering with global politicians to relieve Third World debt, then you’ll find him raising record setting numbers for international AIDS awareness. In fact, throw away any pre-conceived notions you have about the sunglass sporting U2 front man and just know that he encompasses more international charitable causes than anyone you can think of.
“Considering the fact that you hear about so-called donations on shows such as Extra, and E-entertainment how can you not believe that the main interest of the people making the donations is to promote their own image?\” Killing said. \”I always imagine that just behind the cameraman, Britney’s, or whoever’s manager or agent is there, smiling with the satisfaction of yet another nationwide television spot. In my opinion, there are celebrities that have donated in the best interest of mankind. The celebrities that do make donations with zero self interest in mind are not handing over a comically sized check in front of paparazzi. You just don’t hear about it.”
The American celebrity is a sovereign and glorified position. Therefore, it is good to see celebs getting dirty in places the common plebian would never expect to find them. And while it’s hard to believe, we can make just as much of an impact as they can, maybe not individually but in numbers.
It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s all for PR, what matters is that we see them making a difference. What matters is that we are inspired to donate our time and money by seeing the ones we glorify accomplish these tasks.
Celebrities should be doing as much as possible, Kligore said. “It is everyone\’s responsibility to give back as much as they can. Celebrities just have the ability to give back on a bigger scale.”
We wear what they wear, we talk how they talk, we do what they do and it’s finally starting to become a good thing.

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Under the Glare of Big Brother

[camera]When every blinking light in the sky isn’t exactly a star, when little black domes beep meticulously at your every step, when the clicking on your phone conversation becomes overbearing, when you feel an ever-growing warm spot on the back of your neck…
You may be under surveillance.
Welcome to the future
We are living on the cusp of a new era in surveillance technology. An army of robotic eyes and ears hovers over a nation that fears the invisible. Overhauled advancements in nosey contraptions such as wiretapping, directional microphones, powerful security cameras, reconnaissance satellites and a mass of minimalistic nano-spy gadgets unknown to public knowledge are being designed to spy, on you.
This is nothing entirely new – in fact, surveillance has been an inherent part of human history. However, it hasn’t been until recently that the modernization of spy technology and the ongoing paranoia from recent terror attacks have culminated into what some are calling surveillance saturation.
“I think that surveillance should have a sense of justification, or otherwise shouldn’t be done,” communication junior Joshua Clark said of continuing surveillance of civilians. “No one likes to know they are being watched.”
Is it right for surveillance to be administered so publicly under political order? Or are governmental liberties being fundamentally abused? Students at MSU and political authority figures struggle with the debate.
From public information software, like Facebook and Myspace, to incognito street cameras and serious adjustments in surveillance regulation, the nation seems to be uncontrollably shifting into its own looking glass. However, is this necessarily a bad thing?
“Well there are always going to be people who agree with the president and will feel that whatever liberties they need to give up to fight ‘terrorism,’ they are going to,” said hospitality business junior Jeff Rosenfeld. “I believe, however, that there are many people who haven’t really given it much thought in the past, and I do believe that it has affected the trust of many Americans to now hear of what exactly is going on.”
If you can remember a time before national safety was interpreted in the form of a color or going through an airport checkpoint was a procedure and not a complex dance, then you may be aware that 9/11 changed the nation and world as we know it. Taking this unforgettable tragedy into consideration, some have come to believe government surveillance is needed.
[lukequote]“In the world we live in today I feel surveillance is necessary,” said environmental science sophomore Luke Tomczak. “It has helped in many ways. I feel safer. I think it is very helpful to cut down on crime and such. If something does happen, we have tapes to go back and look at to see the truth.”
The “Act” that spoke louder
Discussion that was once mere casual debate among political wingers is now heating up. Security requirements have been raised to astronomical levels, resulting in an increase in the routine surveillance of citizens and giving the government additional prying power. While many Americans look to this as a welcome increase in the safety of our country, others are beginning to fear 2008 could become another 1984, bringing a second surveillance revolution.
Passed on October 26, 2001, swiftly after 9/11, the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act amplified the authority of U.S. law enforcement for the announced purpose of “fighting terrorist acts” in the United States and abroad. According to advocates of the Act, this “expanded” legal authority is also used to detect and prosecute other alleged potential crimes.
The Act is, of course, met with a landslide of credible opposition, mostly from the highly critical left wing. The biggest claim is that some portions of the Act are unnecessary and allow U.S. law enforcement to intrude upon rights embedded in the first amendment, such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Issues concerning the right to privacy also arise with the Act.
The leading critic of the PATRIOT Act has undoubtedly been the American Civil Liberties Union. Priding itself on being the foremost authority on maintaining civil rights, the ACLU fights anything that may threaten this concept; and if it’s one thing the ACLU now readily fights on a consistent basis, it’s the Bush administration’s counter-terrorism plan.
Communications director for the ACLU of Michigan, Wendy Wagenheim, commented on the organization’s view of the Act. “There are 15 or 16 provisions of a 150-provision act that we find problematic,” Wagenheim said. “Is the ACLU asking that the PATRIOT Act be removed? No. We are asking that these specific provisions either be removed or changed in order to restore the checks and balances instilled in this nation.”
Central arguments are nestled in section 215 of the Act. This section allows judges to grant specific divisions of government the ability to look into private accounts including financial, medical, Internet, library and phone records, which might display vital personal information.
The argument is that surveillance granted steps over “probable cause” outlined in the fourth amendment and can easily target innocent citizens. “Well, since it has been seen that they have used the powers given under the PATRIOT Act for things other than \’fighting terrorism,’ I can’t really trust them to keep to their word about only using these powers for what they claim they are for,” Rosenfeld said. “The PATRIOT Act was used in busting Tommy Chong for selling a bong online leading to jail time. Yeah…that’s not what that was passed for.” However, it is important to note that the Act was passed through congress by a landslide vote and is reported by the administration to be the direct cause of nearly 200 arrests related to terrorism. Also, while the USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll found 26 percent of Americans think the PATRIOT Act is going too far, 43 percent agreed with the extra coverage of the government. But the poll was taken in February 2004, a time before recent controversy stirred a new debate.
“Maybe it would make me feel better if they have concrete evidence that these people are legitimate suspects,” said Clark. “This totally feels like an invasion of privacy, and the federal government keeps moving further and further into seeing what they can get away with.”
[joshuaquote]“The PATRIOT act has blown things out of proportion with the recent scandal over wire-tapping ‘could be’ suspects,” Clark continued. “Its like people just know whatever they do, they are being watched.”
Through the wire
Surveillance didn’t stop there. In December 2005, President Bush admitted to ordering secret authorizations for electronic eavesdropping, phone line wiretapping and physical searches carried out by the National Security Administration.
Given the nation’s new surveillance policies and movements in spy administration, an order of this sort would normally pass without question. However, this situation is fundamentally different with the discovery of one detail: the president did not have a warrant.
The Bush Administration claimed that maneuvering around this issue was necessary in order to speed up the surveillance process.
“Without the arduous steps needed in order to finally obtain a warrant, the process of apprehension can move much faster,” said packaging junior Sean Chao. “Yeah, it was probably a bad move, but that’s all it really was.\”
The ACLU said it was more than just a bad move. In January, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency. Filed in an eastern district court of Michigan, the lawsuit claims that President Bush is now unlawfully spying on citizens and that “the president is not above the law.”
“This is breaking the law,” said Wagenheim. “There absolutely must be a search warrant present before a wiretap can be included in any way. There are no exceptions.”
“We now want this program stopped,” Wagenheim continued. “We shouldn’t have to live in a country where this is allowed to happen.”
Outrage over these recent events has only deepened a wound that for many began over four years ago with the onset of the PATRIOT Act. Many non-profit activist organizations throughout Michigan shared their distrust of the current administration.
The Rev. Peter Dougherty, a member of the Michigan Peace Team, was particularly disgusted by the news. “This is truly frightening,” said Dougherty. “The government is now creating new categories in order to actively go around the law. When a disaster like September 11 happens, the tendency is to abuse the oversight…control to the point of being out of control. It seems like the people in Washington are beginning to feel like they can do whatever they want. Citizens need to rise up and do something.”
Margaret Nielsen of the Greater Lansing Network Against War and Injustice shares a similar viewpoint. “I see risks to our nation\’s constitutional freedoms and to the courts\’ protection of our civil liberties,” she said. “The domestic spying that the Bush administration pursues secretly is unworthy of a free society. This warrant-less spying threatens to shred the constitution the president has sworn to protect. Congress and the courts must find a way to stop this dangerous assault on our freedom as a society.”
Yeah, we’re ‘friends,’ but I would never actually talk to you
So what are your impressions of current surveillance?
Given five minutes, anyone could find out, along with your favorite music, movies, hobbies, who you’re dating and who your friends are, who your friend’s friends are and what their favorite quotes are.
Web sites like Myspace and Facebook have become population goliaths nearly to the point that if you don\’t have a profile on one of these sites, you are thought of as some sort of recluse or rebel. Are these sites intrusive, helpful or a little of both?
“Something like this is usually helpful,” said Tomczak. “People have the choice on whether or not they want to participate on these Web sites and what information they put on them. I think these Web sites are usually harmless.”
Facebook was founded in December 2004 as a self-proclaimed “social networking service.” One year later, the site had exploded, containing the largest number of registered users among college-focused sites, with over 6 million student accounts.
“Sites like Facebook are a ridiculous waste of time,” said political science sophomore Rachel Balik. “It’s in no way intrusive…in fact, in many ways I would call it self-indulgent or exhibitionist. Yeah, you do a little electronic stalking but that’s what people want you to do…that’s why you register. It’s disgusting, and I personally can’t get enough of it.”
Coping with inevitability?
We are under surveillance.
And while that may make people wince or form a paranoid twitch, there is really not much we can do about it. The federal government provides its citizens protection in exchange for productivity. As part of that agreement, our government has recently decided to use surveillance as one of its primary policies.
Beyond this concept, there probably always will be privately owned security cameras and mass government surveillance in our future. Closer to home, highly popular stalker Web sites will continue their reign as long as we love to watch and be watched. It’s our job as citizens to make sure our surveillance culture doesn’t get out of control. It’s our job to stay informed.
Beyond that, it might ultimately boil down to how comfortable you feel in your own skin. After all, they are watching.

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Peaceful Solution

On any given whim, our country has destructive power profound enough to obliterate any nation in the world. But just because we can doesn’t mean we should. With all of the power the U.S. holds, would it be wise to devote some of it to making and keeping peace?
Bernard K. Doyle, Jr., a retired U.S. Army officer, would agree. He served 27 years as an infantryman and although he gives his full support to the military and sympathizes with the men overseas, Doyle said he no longer condones war as a solution. “I am aware of lobbying and movements at present and in the past that have been developed to end war, something that will not catch on quickly in this nation and other nation states,” said Doyle. “However, it appears to me that the loss of women, children, old people and institutions such as churches, museums, power plants, water sources and the like make the people of a country suffer beyond the aims of war.”
We as Americans are protected by the most powerful military on the planet, but is this still a comforting thought? Many are beginning to disagree. Throughout MSU and across the nation, Americans are crying out to the U.S. government for an alternative method for handling conflict – many Americans are crying out for peace. [hillquote2]
The state of Michigan has become one of several focal points for the peace mission and the suggested Department of Peace. Gwen Hill, the Department of Peace’s Congressional Team Leader for the 9th district of Michigan, does her part every day to spread the word about what the proposed organization would, and does, stand for.
“This is legislation that is meant to last longer than any one war or administration,” said Hill. “We live at a time when we all see the level of violence that permeates our lives and our communities. One glance at the headline stories on TV news reports is enough to understand that violence threatens to overtake our intentions. It\’s wearing us out.”
And the movement isn’t about just the war overseas. “Many people believe that the movement for a Department of Peace is a response to the war in Iraq,” said Hill. “This is incorrect.”
Hypothetically, the war serves as an arena for the Department of Peace movement itself. What would it do to help the situation? While the proposed department’s attention span certainly isn’t limited to war situations, including the controversial one in Iraq, it gives a good launching pad for discussion on just how the Department of Peace would respond.
Doyle, having served his country, expressed his concerns about the current situation. “I believe that now, deeply ensconced in a war, we are extending ourselves beyond our means and dollars,” the veteran said. “People are now beginning to question the validity of this war and its toll of more than 2,000 of our young men and women. People are unsure of the outcome – withdrawal when and how, the timing – when will it stop?”
Some wonder if a Department of Peace could have kept the war from escalating. “If a Secretary of Peace had been a part of the Cabinet prior to the Iraq war, we might never have entered a war of these proportions,” said Hill. “We might have had a clear exit strategy that promoted peace between our nations. We might not be creating four new terrorists in the families of every one terrorist that we kill. There might be fewer people in the world who hate us for our disrespect of cultural norms and our violent aggression toward countries whose cultures are not westernized to our liking.”
Despite the lack of anything that resembles a peace department in our nation’s contemporary government, this is not the first time a concept of this nature has been suggested. In fact, propositions of a governmental peace agency date back to discussions among framers of the Constitution. Throughout American history, the notion of having something on this scale has been brought up several times, resurging in the minds of revolutionary officials but having no real momentum. That is, until now.
Dissipating poll numbers are beginning to show a growing unrest regarding the war in Iraq, while peace protests and anti-war demonstrations litter the nation each year. More importantly, the rest of the world grumbles with a critical tongue and glares with a disparaging eye. When did America become the evil empire?
The first formal proposal for the establishment of a U.S. Department of Peace dates to 1792, when architect/publisher Benjamin Banneker and physician/educator Dr. Benjamin Rush proposed the idea. The initiative was for a “Peace Office” that was to be equal with the “War Office,” but the concept never received sufficient footing.
On July 11, 2001, congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced legislation to create a cabinet level agency dedicated to peacemaking and the study of conditions conducive to peace. Hill said progress was being made in getting the bill passed through congress. She further explained there are now 60 congressional co-sponsors of this legislation. There is a bill on the floor of the House (House Bill # H.R. 3760) and within the past few weeks, a similar bill was introduced on the floor of the Senate (Senate Bill # S.1756) by Sen. Mark Dayton of Minnesota. There are activist groups in more than 280 congressional districts in 48 states and now activist groups in every congressional district in Michigan.
This is the potential Department of Peace: a theoretical executive branch cabinet that would handle all matters in foreign and domestic conflict resolution. The bill also provides for a Peace Academy that would train people in peace and peacemaking strategies, just as our military academies train students in military strategies.
With conflicts and crisis around the world, the proposed organization would act as an alternate solution for the loss of American lives in a wartime situation. Many are wondering why America, the world’s foremost “superpower,” does not already have a peaceful organization to avoid or resolve conflict? [cooganquote]
“At the international level, the bill provides for a Secretary of Peace on par with the Secretary of Defense,” said Hill. “When cabinet members meet to respond to an international conflict, the peace secretary would put peace options on the table for discussion and make recommendations to the president.”
Hill said, in a war situation, a peace secretary would provide input from peace-building experts on how to begin a war with peaceful outcomes integrated into the strategy. “In this way, we can show the world that a desire for peaceful coexistence is central to American operations abroad,” she said.
The department would not just be an agency on the international level but a worldwide organization that deals with many fronts, including state, local and domestic issues.
Hill explained, on a domestic level, the bill provides for trained peace experts to present options for making and maintaining peace in response to conflicts that occur within our nation and at the local level. And the bill funds a way to coordinate the application of best practices of the many local organizations that respond to violence and conflict in our cities and towns.
”Imagine, for example, local police departments that are burdened with responding to domestic violence complaints would be able to easily initiate a coordinated community response that included family counseling, violence prevention strategies, conflict resolution strategies, etc.,” said Hill. “Families with repeated domestic violence issues could be served in ways that can prevent serious injury, murder or jail time. The savings to our communities would be significant.”
While Hill’s enthusiasm for a more basic solution is understandable, many disagree an organization is required for that purpose. Dave Coogan, second vice chair of the College Republicans and international relations junior, is decidedly skeptical about this affair. “The domestic solutions the Department of Peace is supposed to provide are already handled at the local level,” he said. “The Department of Peace is going to address problems like drug and alcohol abuse, spousal and child abuse, civil rights, sister city programs and animal abuse. I can assure you that your city and state government is going to handle these problems better than the federal government.”
Coogan is also weary of the financial costs the department would bring. “If I remember right, the Department of Peace budget would be almost $10 billion. I don\’t think that the United States government should be spending money on a Department of Peace,” said Coogan. “The problem isn\’t that peace is a bad idea…the problem is the Department of Peace would be completely ineffective.” [hillquote1]
The budget for the Department of Peace is a key issue, and Congress’s ultimate decision could rest solely on this pivotal matter. “The proposed budget for a Department of Peace and Nonviolence would be only 2 percent of the budget of the Department of Defense in any given year,” said Hill. “We know that effective, preventive measures save money. The war in Iraq is costing us approximately $1 billion each week. Without an exit strategy, who knows how long this astronomical drain on our economy will last?”
Aptly named the War Department before 1947, the U.S. Department of Defense’s budget exceeds approximately $425 billion a year (not including the tens of billions more in supplemental expenditures allotted by congress) and since its birth has waged major campaigns in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. The Department of Defense includes the combined powers of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, as well as non-combat agencies such as the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Coogan was adamant about his opposition to the proposed organization, stating most of the international issues the Department of Peace will deal with are handled by the Department of State. “The Department of Peace being a counter to the Department of Defense?…not going to happen,” he said. “Even if the Secretary of Peace was on the National Security Council, he or she would still be one of the President\’s supporters. They would not be bringing an alternative policy perspective to the discussion.”
This is another problem facing the proposition, does the U.S. really need a department that could easily be covered by another faction? While this is a major question, Doyle said there are no attempts at issues of peacekeeping at home and abroad. He said it could be to the nation’s ultimate benefit to have one organization in charge of handling conflict decisions. “I do not see the Department of Peace conflicting with the Department of Defense but rather being an alter ego for it and the entire government,” the former soldier said. “Our national constitution is built on equality and fairness. We need to be reminded of that. A Department of Peace would make that more evident. We need to develop peaceful alternatives to conflict.”
With all the praise and opposition, the Department of Peace is either a saving grace for world and domestic issues or a doomed ideological venture – and a costly one at that. “I think it would just be a costly government office that would make people like Martin Luther King Assistant Secretary to Civil Rights,” said Coogan. “He would then be working in the government bureaucracy instead of creating change in the street.”
Expressing what the organization could mean for us as a whole, Hill said, “It\’s you and me and our neighbors being responsible and responsive citizens. This campaign gives rise to a renewed level of good citizenship. Peace is what our citizens want. The Department of Peace and Nonviolence campaign gives ordinary citizens the opportunity to learn about how legislation get passed. It gives us a vehicle to make a meaningful contribution toward the kind of society Americans really want.”
She continued, “What Americans are learning is that our democracy does not work without us. Our democracy is meant to be by the people, of the people and for the people. The ‘people’ is us.”

For more informatino on how to get involved with the program. Go to www.thepeacealliance.org and request to find a point person in your area.

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Ms. President

The United States is still a baby. Sure, we’ve come a relatively long way in our nation’s diminutive 200-plus-year saga, but as a whole, our history is still a young one. In a country founded on the ideal of “all men…created equal,” it seems we are still far from general equality. And while we’ve made progress with the balance of man, what of his eager sister? Where does she stand in all of this?
It may be time to find out.
A little less than half a lifetime ago, talk of a female president would be considered ludicrous. In about 40 years, this nation has gone from not understanding why a woman would pursue a dream outside the household to observing women who pursue White House dreams.
You heard me, White House.
But is this country ready? Is it possible for the American people to accept a woman as the nation’s most powerful figurehead? Through recent governmental decisions, media hype and even a television series, attention to the White House has shifted. MSU women and men alike toil with the idea as they express mixed reactions.
“The simplest answer to this question is, yes,” said anthropology and English junior Rebecca Fabian. “The more complicated version is, yes, with conditions. The people that I hope will be leading this country in the future – in politics, intellectually, economically, in the arts – are, I believe, ready for there to be a female in the White House.”
Make no mistake, the evolution of women in this country has progressed by leaps and bounds. The feminist movement has taken the contemporary woman from suffrage to CEO. American women are now on the Supreme Court bench (albeit in small numbers), throughout the news and while we may still have a while to go before sexism is vanquished and direct equality is established in both wages and respect, the modern American woman has never been more powerful. [quotetommy]
A nationwide poll conducted by the Siena Research Institute and sponsored by Hearst Newspapers found more than six in 10 people are ready for a female president. Even more astonishing is the same poll found an even greater majority – a staggering 81 percent – said they would vote for a female president, whether this country is ready or not.
However, not everyone supports the idea of electing women into the White House. “At this present time, I do not believe our nation and government is stable enough to handle having a woman in the White House,” said journalism sophomore Kristin Lee. “In a time of fear and suspicion, people tend to find comfort in a father figure because of the male-dominated society ideals which have been cemented into our minds for centuries.”
Up to this point, it’s clear Lee’s perspective is one that has been vehemently cemented in national leadership, at least as a trend in executive branch appointments. The United States has never had a female president or vice president. No woman had been nominated to either office by a major party until July 1984, when democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale appointed Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate. And many would disagree that a father figure is what the country needs.
While the American public has never seen a female in the White House, it’s clear numerous qualified women are comfortable in an executive role. An obvious representation can be found right here at MSU with President Lou Anna K. Simon. Simon, elected as the 20th school president since 1857, is the first female to serve in MSU’s top position. She is also one of only nine women with the position of chief executive officer among the entire Association of American Universities.
Of course, president of a Big Ten university and president of the United States are two wildly different titles. However, it is critical to remember the two communities share a host of similarities. Both institutions have their own population, goals, enemies, alliances, flag, songs, partnerships, problems and a sense of loyalty.
Being the president of anything is not an easy position. If anything goes wrong, the top official is always the first to blame. The question then arises as to whether or not a woman at the highest position in the nation can handle that sort of hostility.
“It would be difficult for a woman to be president because she’d be subjected to a myriad of opposition,” said psychology junior Jaclyn Scott. While Scott said she supported the idea of a woman for president, she warned the practicality of the situation would make for a tumultuous exhibition. “I don’t question a woman’s ability to handle the opposition, but I can only imagine that she would be watched under a magnifying glass. I feel like a woman would have to work twice as hard to prove herself as the qualified person in power. She would set the standard, and that’s a lot of pressure.”
However, students like Fabian passionately disagree and believe the time for a female president is now. The 20-year-old feminist, whose passion has culminated through helping to found Feminist Uproar Magazine last year, for which she multitasks as the magazine’s staff writer, editor and financial director, was assertive in her opinion of a female-led America. [women magazine]
“I think that feminists and other people who may not want to be labeled as such but still work toward equality between the sexes, have made great advances in changing the thinking of the majority of the population about what it is like to have women in the workforce and in positions of power,” she said. “There will always be a segment of the population that is averse to these ideas and who will never be ready for such a radical change. But as history and recent times have shown, having a male ruler is not necessarily the key element in productive leadership.”
One of the strong catalysts for this debate is lighting up American homes during primetime television through ABC’s new hit show, “Commander in Chief.” Starring Geena Davis as president, the show is a virtual example of what having and being the female leader would be like and is stirring up more than a casual debate – it’s stirring up an influence.
“A part of me thinks that [the show] looks a bit too dramatic, but at the same time I think that what’s on television is a representation of what is going on with popular thought in the country at the moment,” said English and social relations junior Chris Matus. “We’ll have to wait and see. If the show is really popular, then there is a good chance that America is ready for a female president.”
And its influence is already obvious. “Commander in Chief,” airing Tuesdays at 10 p.m., has peaked so far at 16.94 million viewers, keeping it at the top of Tuesday night ratings and at the forefront of American dinner table discussions. Hot on the heels of the 2008 election, the show is sparking political interest in female leadership. “I think it is opening many people’s eyes to the fact that a female president may be in the future,” said journalism sophomore Kelly Kane. [quotekrasman]
And how about that 2008 election? Is it possible we could have a woman candidate? Yes, not only are America’s top political aficionados calling it possible, most are calling it likely.
The buzz is mostly centered on Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady and current Democratic senator of New York. Although Clinton hasn’t announced or even whispered the possibility of a run for the top seat, the senator seems to be sculpting her image to obtain a more moderate, nationwide appeal.
If her recent behavioral trends are trying to suggest anything about a trip to Washington, it seems to be working on the American people. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll showed although 46 percent of Americans were either “not very likely” or “not at all likely” to vote in favor of Clinton, 53 percent said they were “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to support the potential candidate.
“There seems to be a lot of females who feel as though they can relate to Hillary Clinton, which is an important factor in winning over someone’s vote,” said kinesiology junior Danielle Krasman. “However, I’m not sure that’s enough to get a female into office. I think it will take more of the nation to believe in women’s equality before a woman can be voted in.”
Some Spartans don’t seem to buy any of the hype. Craig Burgers, first vice chair of the College Republicans at MSU, disagrees with the controversy surrounding the debate. “The media likes to make a bigger deal out of it than it is,” he said. “I think most people would have no problem supporting a woman for any position, including president. We have seen this in the U.K. with Margaret Thatcher and now in Germany with Angela Merkel.”
We can sit around all day and speculate on “what if,” but this goes deeper than aesthetics. As a nation we have to get off the narrow track of speculation and begin to start thinking critically and analytically. Tommy Simon, English junior and active member of the Students for Economic Justice, shared his perspective on the dispute. “A lot of us work really hard to make a difference in the world, and the one thing that really gets us down is politics. You see, politics are used to distract people from the real issues. People become so wrapped up in wanting to win that they forget what they are fighting for.”
Instead of worrying whether a woman will be elected president, we should attack those in power and force them into advancing a feminist agenda,” Simon said. “Remember, the people in power are there to reflect the people’s will. Therefore, it shouldn’t matter who they are, but what the people want – democracy. I am more concerned about people than politicians.” [womentommysimon]
Continuing with his outlook on the political architecture of our society and his idea on the political ramifications of having a female president, Simon expressed serious concerns. “If we work to have a woman in the White House, we will end up with a person whose absence of a penis only lasts until we see the men controlling her strings,” he said. “But, if we work for love, justice and anti-oppression, we will begin to naturally elect candidates who represent those values. What our ultimate goal must be is a society where there is no power structure that can be abused.”
There is a good possibility 2008 could be the year that finally sees a female candidate run for the White House. Whether or not we’re ready as a nation is still to be decided. Students at MSU, including Simon and Fabian, will be watching the political scene closely as the election approaches.
“For us, we define feminism as empowering women; not trotting upon anyone else on our way for equal rights, but lifting ourselves up through the help and support of others to accomplish those things we set out to achieve,” Fabian said. “Those aspirations can be anywhere from being a full-time mother, which is recognizably a very taxing and rewarding job, to being the CEO of your own company, or, who knows, maybe even president of the United States.”

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Beneath the Surface

Rachel Expose sat paralyzed in front of the glare of continuous CNN headlines. August 29th had taken its toll on her. From the living room she could hear repeated dialing from her father’s fingers, but she knew he was getting nowhere. She watched from afar as her Cajun roots became submerged in the murky waters of Hurricane Katrina. All she could do was watch as her family struggled to survive.[rachel]
“I was terrified,” the interior design junior said. “I have family in New Orleans, Monticello and Jackson, Mississippi. When it hit, my dad was on the phone all night with his mother (who lives in Michigan). The next morning, I called him to see how my relatives were, and he didn’t have any information. You can’t imagine what that’s like. My whole family could have died, we just had no idea.”
Before the billions in damages were assessed, before the finger pointing and bureaucratic accusations, there was a city and its people. Before the state of emergency, military mobilization, fatality estimates and the stories of survival, there was a place that many called home. Before the winds of Katrina laid waste to the Gulf Coast, New Orleans stood as a cultural symbol of a nation. That was all before the city became marred with misfortune.
East Lansing, just like several communities around the nation, has been directly affected by the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina. Many truly consider this to be a defining event that shows our nation’s humanity-whether good or bad. This has been reflected in the intelligent and wildly diverse student base at MSU. Despite differing political parties, social perspectives, and race and class viewpoints concerning the way the aftermath of Katrina was handled, MSU students and faculty agree that everyone should be doing something to, at the very least, help survivors.
Consequently, it was the polluted waters of Katrina that allowed many Americans to finally see our nation’s glaring poverty line and the racial separations. Those above the line had the resources needed to flee the area. But we also saw the people below that line who had to struggle and fight to survive. New Orleans is one of the most impoverished cities in the nation second only to Detroit, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and black Americans make up 67 percent of the entire city, and a vast majority of them live well below the poverty line.
However, to Expose, these people weren’t just ill-fated survivors in a newspaper headline—this was her family. The 20-year-old stood impatiently idle and regrettably anguished. “We were out of contact with my relatives for about two weeks. It was very scary watching the news and not being able to talk with them and see if they’re ok.”
The rest of the country watched attentively for days as survivors of the storm, marooned on roofs and in attics, perished while waiting for rescue. The nation saw the strain of those stranded in the Superdome as food, water and sanity became scarce. Eventually, people grew tired of watching and growing outrage began to spread.
Nationwide criticism and accusations began to mount against both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Bush administration, stating that the slow response time of the federal government was due to the race and class bracket of ‘Katrina refugees.’
Numerous students here at MSU we’re appalled by the Bush administration’s handling of the situation. “I don’t understand how they all blame each other when the blame should always go to the top,” proclaimed Kashif Saleem, an accounting junior. “It’s obvious that race had a lot to do with it.”
Kashif’s perspective was shared by Rohit Burde, a junior at MSU who watched the news in disbelief. “This is unacceptable. I think President Bush’s higher priority is international relations than the welfare of his own citizens,” stated the human biology major. “It all leads back to the President and how he runs his administration. The U.S. Government scrambles to the aid other countries in relief after a big disaster; I can’t believe they would wait to help their own citizens.”“This has truly made it clear to me that there have been two societies in this nation for a long time,” communications professor and Detroit News political blogger Bonnie Bucqueroux said. “We have made no progress or inroads into poverty—if anything, it’s on the rise.”
A large amount of the American population began to curse the federal government for its shortcoming. Within the time it took from when the hurricane hit to when the administration finally decided to send a reasonable amount of aid, FEMA, already fumbling with the lack of a response plan, began a rigorous campaign of explanations while Bush took a considerable amount of heat from the public and media.
As stories began to stack and pictures began to surface, tension in the Expose household began to rise. Although she eventually discovered her family was in tact, Expose still expressed a great deal of anger and questioned efforts made by the government. “I’m very angry that more wasn’t done to evacuate residents, and the government’s lack of involvement is upsetting,” she said. “I hate to bring race into it, but I can’t help but feel that if New Orleans had been a different demographic, the whole situation would have been handled faster and more efficiently.”
“I’ve been reading a lot of editorials from people who aren’t from the Gulf Coast and who don’t have family there, and they applaud the administration for their part in the relief effort, and it makes me extremely angry,” she added. “I have spoken to family members who were there through the whole hurricane and the aftermath, and for people to praise a government that doesn’t seem to bat an eyelash at its own citizens dying, it’s appalling.”
Some students do not necessarily think race directly played a large role in relief effors. “Within the city, a large percent of the victims were poor African Americans, but I think the fact that they were poor had more to do with the situation than the fact that they were also black,” said packaging junior Michael Lohmeier. “For the poor it was harder to simply flee the city, and that is where the problem came. They were simply unable to get out.”
Lohmeier had been watching the Katrina disaster with skepticism, but while most were quick to jump on the back of the administration, he saw the situation in a different light. “It was harder to simply flee the city, and once inside, once the water was rising, race and money no longer matter. They were now in a desperate situation,” he said. “With no infrastructure left, saving these people would take time. I think it was their situation, and the situation in the city that prevented prompt rescue.”
Other students share Lohmeir’s view. “It is indeed a tragedy, but no one could have foreseen the devastation,” geological science junior Eric Ventura said. “As much as I dislike the current administration, I don’t think race can be attributed to anything that is viewed as a bad move by our government in terms of Hurricane Katrina.”
The rift in perspectives has made racial issues float to the top of national debate. A poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 71 percent of blacks feel that Katrina showed racial inequality as still being prevalent throughout the nation, while 56 percent of whites feel this was not the lesson to be learned by the disaster. The same poll stated that 66 percent of blacks thought government response would have been faster if Katrina survivors happened to be white, while 77 percent of whites felt differently.
Bucqueroux emphasized that the nation’s cultural divide has been evident for quite awhile and entitled Katrina as a cultural resurfacing. “If people thought there was a white face on the person who was being denied welfare benefits wouldn’t happen—but since it’s a black face, well that’s acceptable”
As issues of race and class surrounding Hurricane Katrina continue to churn, the continuance of relief efforts at MSU are also present. Barbara Steidle, the point-person for all Katrina relief efforts at MSU, cited numerous programs and events that students and faculty are doing to benefit the situation. Steidle’s list included temporary housing for Tulane University students, numerous donations such as a cut from football game day profits and several benefits (a comprehensive listing can be found on the MSU Web site).
Let MSU’s perspective as a diverse campus be our advantage. There are few places in the country where one can find a cultural makeup quite like ours. While opinions will differ, let students’ mutual respect for each other and our backgrounds set us apart. What matters is that we care passionately enough about humanity to react to a disaster instead of finding a way to distance ourselves from it.
But what also matters is the debate itself— and that we choose to stay engaged to issues that affect everyone. Sometimes our differences can show us how similar we really are.
Beneath our very different skins, we all bleed red, green and white.

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