Democracy in Peril

The divisions only deepen as the tug-a-war between parties continues to escalate, with democracy as the dangerously fraying rope.

October 7th, 2018 will go down in political history as a blazing warning underlined in red. It was the day when former United States Circuit Judge, Brett Kavanaugh, was finally sworn into the US Supreme Court after a long battle against accusations of sexual assault stemming from three women. Christine Blasey Ford was the first and main accuser.

 

Ford, an American professor in psychology at Palo Alto University, claimed that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a party when they were teenagers. Ford recounted an intoxicated Kavanaugh and some of his friends forcing her into a bedroom, pinning her down, and attempting to remove her clothes one summer night. “I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from yelling. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me.” Terrified, Ford stated that she made her escape when Kavanaugh slipped and fell, and had steered clear of the man afterward.

Until now.

When Kavanaugh announced his nomination as a Supreme Court justice nominee in July, Ford wrote a letter to the Washington Post and her congresswoman, Anna Eshoo, about the incident. Ford begged for her identity not to be revealed, as she was afraid of the consequences and public backlash. Eventually, Eshoo and Ford decided to take the matter to Senator Dianne Feinstein, who later revealed to the public (without revealing Ford’s name) that she was withholding a Kavanaugh-related document. As the media started to track Ford down, Ford decided to go public, causing the matter to spiral into a national issue. And at the peak of all the tension, September 27th, Ford walked into Capitol Hill, raised her right hand, and gave her testimony on how Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her 36 years ago.

In the eyes of the feminist, men and women who had lived and endured the trauma of sexual assault were holding their breath on October 7th, hoping for Ford’s victory in the vicious battle between her and Kavanaugh. Millions were devastated and outraged when Kavanaugh was sworn in as one of the justices of the Supreme Court as the result of the closest vote in the last 137 years: 50 to 48.  

This extremely close margin stemmed from nearly all members of the Senate voting along their party lines—Republican or Democratic. Their motivation? Securing power for their own party in both the Supreme Court in the form of a swing vote and also gaining a slim majority in the Senate. President Trump was exultant that his favored nominee was now a justice—and mocked Ford’s testimony and the voices of her supporters as “phony stuff”. By treating her courageous decision to represent her rights as a woman and the rights of all the other sexual abuse victims in the country to walk into court and testify as a joke, Trump provided the entire nation a wall of hollow laughter and derision to hide behind and deny any blame or wrongdoing. And this cowardly behavior only stirred up more conflict and increased polarisation between parties, as Democrats continued to rally the anger of their liberal and victimized citizens to their side.

The #MeToo movement has been a trending hashtag for many months now. It has exploded into a huge movement for the voices of sexual harassment victims to be heard, as well as an enormous form of courage for those who had previously been afraid of the negative social backlash of telling their stories. It has become a beacon of hope for all victimized citizens in the country.

But Kavanaugh’s nomination became a major obstruction on this path to justice.

The election had placed the country smack in the middle of a tug-of-war between parties for increased political power, pulling and yanking and casting aside people’s worries, doubts, and rights in exchange for the influence both sides so coveted. The victims of sexual abuse were slighted, their testimonies either ignored outright or placed in a glaring spotlight, only to guilt-trip politicians into supporting their party. Citizens were reduced to mere trophies or to nothing at all.

The resulting anger and disappointment were evident on Sunday. Many citizens felt betrayed, their faith in the leaders of their country challenged at the core as their voices were not heard—as there were no ears to listen. Screams of “Shame!” resonated as demonstrators were restrained by the police from mobbing Capitol Hill when the news of Kavanaugh’s nomination was released. “This is a stain on American history,” one woman shouted. “Do you understand that?”

But while Ford became a figure for the support of for the voices of the abused and oppressed, Kavanaugh became a representative for many resentful men—their resent stemming from “smearing,” or cases of women falsely accusing men of sexual assault to cause their fall from power. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell claimed that the real victim is Kavanaugh, suffering “the weaponization of unsubstantiated smears.” Many others also rallied to the same cry on Capitol Hill, clashing with the shouts of Ford’s supporters and creating a discordant sound of chaos and conflict.

In the case of Ford vs. Kavanaugh, it is impossible to truly discern which side is telling the truth. Obtaining evidence for a case like this is extremely difficult. However, the absolute truth should not matter in this situation. The saying “innocent until guilty” has been used over and over by Kavanaugh supporters in order to prove his qualifications as a Supreme Court justice. But the fact that three allegations of this weight were pressed against him, and the fact that one became a nation-wide controversy, should be enough to bar Kavanaugh from becoming a representative of the nation’s values of justice and inclusivity.  

The people instilled their trust into certain individuals in the form of political power with the expectation that they would gain, in return, a platform of reasonable discourse and action regarding their fears and concerns. Yet this has become a situation where the greed for political power has caused these fears and concerns. New York senator and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer expressed these sentiments powerfully: “When the history of the Senate is written, this chapter will be a flashing red warning light of what to avoid.”

By a margin of 2 votes, Kavanaugh managed to slip his way into the position of justice—but whether he managed to slip his way into people’s hearts, the nation is not quite sure. This uncertainty will prove to be poisonous to the U.S. unless the power-blinded politicians of today set their priorities straight once more. And this will not happen without a strong public voice to guide them.

Kavanaugh’s nomination was a failure and a disappointment to democracy. Let’s make sure history does not repeat itself.

– Lauren Cho (’22)

Featured Image: CNN/Clare Foran

Between the World and Me: Through the Eyes of an Asian Teen

In his ground-breaking novel, Coates tackles the struggle of African Americans through letters to his son. But what does this all mean for an Asian teenager?

“ You are the bearer of a body more fragile than any other in this country.”

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(seattletimes.com)

These were the words of Ta-Nehisi Coates to his son in his novel Between the World and Me. In his epistolary memoir, Coates, an American author and journalist, attempts to explain to his son about his own fear and insecurities on this “terrible and beautiful world.” As a man who faced discrimination at a young age, Coates traces his own experience and intertwines it with examples today to touch on one of the most sensitive and grave issues of America today: the lives of African Americans.

I am a Korean Australian teenage girl who has fortunately experienced little racism. The most serious encounter being only when three Australian boys yelled at me “die Chinese girl! Die” as I was entering my mom’s car. Worse, I have seldom witnessed racism in the lives of Blacks. For me, my connection with them was through texts: the countless U.S. history textbooks that fill the chapters with the Civil War, the lengthy essays and speeches in AP Lang prompts that inundate students with topics on slavery and equality, the limitless passages in the SAT that continuously highlight the Black struggle. My relationship with racism was felt inauthentically. They never felt tangible.

When you enter Mr. Brondel’s class and see the screen with the word “slavery”; when you flip over to the essay prompt as Mr. v starts the timer; when you open the SAT package and the proctor says “start the reading section”; you groan and sigh to find that the topic is on African Americans again. Even I as someone who tries to appreciate texts, it is at times frustrating to read about a topic that I have so little relation to.

However, Coates’ use of rich language drew me in to take a peek at their lives. The use of ‘body’ as a fragile belonging of African Americans elucidates what it means to live in fear. For us, the body is just an identity that we own. But for Coates, it is a precarious, delicate part of their lives that could be broken, stolen, or even abused: a part of his son’s life that is prone to be vulnerable. Coates, by doing so, makes such struggle real; the multitude of textbooks, prompts, passages in my shelf slowly took form into life. For once, the words and feelings started to make sense.

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(npr.org)

Some of my fellow peers, on the other hand, may argue the contrary. I asked my friend the other day whether or not she could empathize with the struggle of African Americans. She told me that she did because she was once an Asian in a country of White. Sure, perhaps she felt excluded from the majority. Sure, she may feel as if she was marginalized. But as I was reading Between the World and Me, I realized how her thought, which many other teenagers around me may agree, is false. The African American’s fight for equality is so unique and ingrained in such complex heritage that it cannot be generalized to mere ‘racism’ or ‘discrimination.’ No matter how much I face marginalization or discrimination, I can never fully understand, empathize, or feel their pain and fear. Their experience and story are distinctive; it isn’t something we can completely understand.

But by no means am I saying that we should all now relinquish our fight for equality just because we cannot wholly feel their experience. I am not in any way pitying their lives or degrading ourselves. I am just arguing the need to realize that the struggle of African Americans can never be completely felt by those who say that they were merely excluded in a society. I do not know what the solution is to gaining equality for all race and peoples. But what I do know is that Coates has shown me that the struggles are more profound, more complex, more humane than just a chapter in a textbook or a passage on an exam. And for that, I want to thank Coates for showing me a glimpse of their lives and for making my connection to them more real.

– Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)

Featured Image: http://www.boredtodeathbookclub.com/2015/12/10/between-the-world-and-me-ta-nehisi-coates/

Sources:

https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/books/qa-with-ta-nehisi-coates-author-of-between-the-world-and-me/

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/07/10/421469553/ta-nehisi-coates-looks-at-the-physical-toll-of-being-black-in-america

Recap: Women’s March

A recap of the Women’s March focused in Seoul.

After the nerve racking election between Clinton and Trump, citizens of the United States have prominently shown their reaction to the announcement of Trump becoming president. Due to his gratuitous and offensive remarks with his view towards women, the outraged feminists around the world, though most distinguished in the States, stood up to voice their opinions and rights at: the Women’s March. Known as one of the first and largest protests of 2017, thousands of people protested from January 21 to 22, countering Trump’s anti-feminist policies. An overwhelming amount of 2.9 million people showed up to support the cause.

#WhyIMarch, a hashtag, trended with thousands providing pictures of their participation at the women’s march. More people participated in the Women’s March in Washington D.C. than Trump’s inauguration to express their rage and therefore take action by voicing their opinions against the policy.

There are many personal anecdotes posted online about the Women’s March and the moment that the event withheld in their life. It was a historic day in which women supported, fought, and leaned on each other to make the one purpose of this day: the path to equality.

The Women’s March was not only constrained to the United States but were prominent in other places such as in the city of Seoul where many people from Korea International School participated in this event.

“More than being an activist and a very proactive feminist, taking part in the march was taking part in history. This event is something that will be recorded in history and will be a historic milestone. A lot of the things I do as a feminist go unnoticed, but this march was very symbolic to me in a way as a group of people got together to root for the same cause. One of posters I wrote was ‘I’m a nasty woman and I’m proud of it.’” – Sara Kim (‘18)

Despite the weather being below freezing in Korea, an estimated 1,000 people showed up and marched in Gangnam for three hours. The protesters confidently carried posters while chanting “My body, my choice.”

A short clip of the march in Seoul can be seen here : 

Video Credits: Cory & Marie 코리 & 마리

Variety of genders and races can be seen in this video, marching and chanting together. There were many stickers, posters and flags that read “Rise of the Nation= Rise of the women.” Especially within Korean culture and society where the system is quite patriarchal, men came to support their wives and daughters to voice against misogyny. A instance where Korean women are downgraded in society would be the recent Gangnam murder incident where the murderer claims that “women have always ignored [him]” self proclaiming that he is a misogynist.

The sad realization for the world hits when we all realize that history is repeating itself. Just as Sara Kim explains her “unnoticed hard work”, Korea and other countries around the world have made the mistake of not taking action towards such injustice. The feminist finally voice their opinion through the Women’s March which showed a special case with more than 70 countries participating for a same cause. This march was not only for women but immigrants, LGBTQ people, and people of color.

All these people have one thing in common. Hope and the craving for full equality.

– Tae Young Uhm (’18)

Featured Image: http://www.koreaboo.com/news/hundreds-korean-women-join-sisters-womens-march-seoul/