• Remembering World War I and its Legacy

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    It was a full house at Bazarsky Lecture Hall this past Tuesday at Salve Regina University. A lecture was being held to discuss the legacy of World War I, with five speakers from Salve’s own faculty. Speakers included, William Leeman, Ph.D., Jim Ludes, Ph.D., Timothy Neary, Ph.D., John Quinn, Ph.D., and Maureen Montgomery, Ph.D. Each panelist spoke about a different element of the First World War, reminding the audience of the horrors that occurred and the consequences of the Great War.

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    Dr. Jim Ludes, discussed the ramifications of the end of World War I and how they shaped the rest of the 20th century. Ludes highlighted the significance of the Treaty of Versailles, specifically Article 231 (aka “the war guilt clause”), which essentially “laid the seeds of another war.” According to Ludes, the Treaty of Versailles ultimately left Germany feeling bitter, Europe feeling remorseful, and Japan feeling powerful. Ludes then proceeded to explain how British economist John Maynard Keynes pointed out the “glaring lapse” in the Treaty of Versailles—an exclusion of any economic fixes following the war. At the end of World War I, nothing was done to restore trade and the shattered nations of Europe were left to fend for themselves. Ludes concluded his discussion with the results of the Second World War—the terms that ended this war were made with the mistakes of the “Great War” in mind; there could not be a third world war.

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    After Dr. Ludes spoke, Dr. William Leeman examined the rhetoric of World War I. Leeman explained that at the start of the war, President Wilson asked the United States to remain neutral, a choice that the public had agreed with. It was not until April 2, 1917 that Wilson appeared before Congress asking for a declaration of war. Wilson wanted it to be made clear that the United States was entering the war not for revenge, but for peace. In January 1918, at the end of World War I, Wilson issued his Fourteen Points, which established things like freedom of the seas, equal trade conditions for all nations and establishment of the League of Nations. Unfortunately for Wilson, the only point that survived the Paris Peace Conference in 1918 was the League of Nations. Wilson’s other points did not see the light again until the fall of France in 1940 during the Second World War when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt essentially “dusted off Wilson’s Fourteen Points” and created the Atlantic Charter. After the United States entered the Second World War, Roosevelt saw this as the opportunity to try and reinstate Wilson’s original vision of democracy for the United States to lead and for other nations to follow.

    B24B3792The third speaker, Dr. Tim Neary, focused on the identity and citizenship of the United States following the First World War. Neary explained how Wilson’s push for a new world order abroad was also having an effect at home—American democracy “fell short in its promise of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’”. The citizens that often missed out on the latter were women, African Americans and Roman Catholics. Following World War I, these three groups pushed for equal citizenship, becoming the “new” citizens of America. The first group was the “new Negro,” a term coined during the Harlem Renaissance. Two factors contributed to the formation of this “new” citizen—“The Great Migration” of 1.6 million African Americans from the rural south to the urban north and their participatory role in the war effort with over 350,000 African Americans. The “new woman” came about in the late nineteenth century largely because of their support of the war effort at home and abroad. Lastly, the “new Catholic,” a term coined by Neary, describes how the status of Roman Catholics managed to both strengthen and weaken following the war. The participation of Roman Catholics in the war effort showed that they could love God and country just the same, yet immigrant anti-Semitism was heightened, especially against Germans. When a new immigrant law was passed in 1924, it severely limited the number of people that could come into the country each year. The post-war period created more opportunities for the three emerging American identities—the “new Negro,” the “new woman,” and “the new Catholic”—but not without creating an equal number of challenges.

    B24B3801Dr. John Quinn’s lecture focused on how the war affected Newport. Though it was a military town for many years before 1914 Newport saw a rapid influx of Naval recruits and personnel in the months before the United States officially sent troops to Europe. “The College Boys” as the residents called them, were often men from schools like Yale and Harvard who had joined to serve the United States. The town quickly saw itself fill to capacity as residents hurried to find space for them in their own homes. Over 75,000 men passed through Newport during training. Before World War I, Newport was home to a mere 2,400 residents. Once the war came to a close, Newport’s status had shifted to a military town, the military did not leave. The Gilded Age hit its peak during the 1890’s in Newport, the war and other events like the sinking of the Titanic and the government’s installment of income taxes dampened spirits. Newport was no longer the top vacation town for the affluent as it once was.

    B24B3813The lecture closed with a short commentary from Dr. Maureen Montgomery who focused on American authors during the Great War, like Edith Wharton. Wharton traveled to the front lines during World War I and writing about her experiences. Wharton was also well known for her charity work, specifically with refugees of the war. Montgomery also was able to personally relate to the First World War, through her home country of New Zealand. The small nation was deeply affected by the war, Montgomery pointed out that 1 in 5 men that left to fight in the war never returned. The New Zealand native also explained how World War I memorials can be found in almost every town throughout the country.

    At the end of the discussion, the audience was allowed to participate with a Q & A with panelists.

  • The Immigration Issue

    On one hand, you’re turning your back on innocent children, many of them escaping poverty, violence and a number of other horrors. Yet on the other side, you have legal American citizens who struggle day by day, single mothers, homeless veterans, and hardworking families who can’t catch a break. This is the question that Congress is being asked to answer before they depart for the month of August. In my mind, you cannot offer help to people who come to this country illegally when American citizens need support just as badly, if not more. For example, the unemployment rate in this country is 6.7%, better than it was, but still not acceptable. There are also a large number of homeless Americans, as of January 2013, that number stood at 610,042. These are only two of the numerous problems this nation faces, yet instead of addressing our own issues; we have decided to handle the burdens of other nations.

    Most of the unaccompanied children that try and enter the United States each year are from Central American countries such as Honduras and Guatemala. The children are fleeing a life violence and poverty and venturing to the United States with hope of staying with relatives or with the belief that they won’t be turned away. How can this country be asked to take care of the 90,000 children that are anticipated to arrive this year when we’re still struggling to take care of our own?

    On Monday, an article published on CNN.com explained how Congress has less than two weeks to come up with a solution to the immigration issue. President Obama is asking for about $3.7 billion to fund what the President calls “a humanitarian situation.” The money would be used to provide housing for the immigrant children, to further support border control efforts and the rest would be sent to Central American countries to prevent parents from sending their children to the United States.
    Meanwhile in Congress, Republicans are aiming to use the money to fund border patrol and turn immigrants away immediately. Democrats want the money to fund immigrant processing, which should speed up the process that decides whether or not the children may stay or go. They have 12 days to come to an agreement, but that doesn’t look too promising.

    I can see the appeal of both sides. The Republicans are eliminating the problem swiftly but harshly. Democrats seem to be taking more of a middle ground approach, but still want to use $3.7 billion dollars that could be used for another issue that we currently face. The problem will not be solved completely even if Congress does come to an agreement. This is a complex issue that needs to be addressed on a permanent level. Legislation needs to be passed and changed for the times.

    I can remember sitting in class in elementary school learning about Ellis Island and the relief it brought to these people knowing they made it, they were Americans. That said, it’s hard to ignore the irony of this situation. We were once a nation that welcomed immigrants with open arms, and now we’re going to extreme lengths to keep them out. The Statue of Liberty with her torch held high was a symbol of hope and a better life. Now it’s nothing more than a historical landmark with a representation of what the United States used to be.

  • Our Culture’s Role in the Tragedy in Isla Vista

    The results of May 23 are yet another example of the blatant need for mental health care reform in the United States. The shooting in Isla Vista, California reminded us of numerous other issues, bullying, gun control, and equality, but none more critical then mental health care. Based on the number of videos, articles, tweets, and shares out there, almost all of these issues have and are being addressed by Americans. Twitter ran rampant with tweets donning the #YesAllWomen, Facebook was subject to lengthy statuses on varying opinions immediately following,  but all of these opinions carried little weight when nothing substantial has yet to occur. Mental health was a vital part of this horror story, but by uncovering the disturbed thoughts of the alleged shooter, Elliot Rodgers, it was made apparent that there is more to it. American culture today may have played a part in the tragic events of that fatal day.

    First, it is important to address the oversexualization of American society today. The United States places such an unusually high importance on sex and gender roles, which are usually found through the media. A 2007 article in the Washington Post titled, “Goodbye Girlhood,” discussed the sexualization of girls based on a study done by American Psychological Association. The APA stated, “Throughout U.S. culture, and particularly in mainstream media, women and girls are depicted in a sexualizing manner.” The study also made clear that, “such images are found in virtually every medium, from TV shows to magazines and from music videos to the Internet.”  Young men are not exempt from the oversexualization either. “Boys, too, face sexualization, the authors acknowledge. Pubescent-looking males have posed provocatively in Calvin Klein ads, for example, and boys with impossibly sculpted abs hawk teen fashion lines,” writes Weiner.  Like many young Americans, Elliot Rodgers grew up in this sexually charged world. Combining that with mental health disorders and there is a disastrous outcome.

    Besides the oversexualization of America, the stereotypes associated with young adults aged from 18-25, most likely in college, are influential as well. You don’t need someone with a PhD to tell you how the typical American college student is portrayed. Take a look at the movie “Neighbors” currently in theatres. Zac Efron and Dave Franco play lead roles as frat boys who move their frat house into a residential neighborhood. The movie pays almost no attention to the academic aspect of college life and focuses solely on partying, drinking, and girls. This movie is just one example of what college life should look like, creating a stereotype of never ending parties, binge drinking, and endless sex with women of their choice. Arizona State University student Ashley Haines wrote an article in 2011 for the university’s newspaper where she agreed that the media influences the way college life is portrayed. Haines wrote, “Many people have preconceived notions of what the college experience is for all students thanks to the media.” American culture has a way of telling its young people the life they should be living. Rodgers did not fit the mold, as he explained the night before the tragedy.

    In a YouTube video is titled “Retribution.” Rodgers explains his deadly plans and his reasoning behind them. Remarking on how he was 22-years-old virgin, Rodgers reiterated his hatred for women, seeing females as the enemy. In his chilling video he says, “I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires all because girls have never been attracted to me.” He also makes the point of saying that he has never kissed a girl. In what society besides the United States are either of these considered something to be ashamed of? Living in a society that places unusually high importance on sex and gender roles, a disturbed individual will inevitably feel the pressures in ways others will not. This also begs the question, what about those who do not fit the mold, where do they fit in? In 1999 Universal Pictures released the movie “American Pie.” The movie told the story of four guys making a pact to all lose their virginity before they graduated high school; they all felt the pressure to become sexually active. American Pie gained so much popularity that three other American Pie films were made.  American culture depicts a society where becoming sexually active is a social requirement.

    The cause of the events on May 23 cannot be reduced to one thing. Various causes led to that fatal day, you cannot dismiss the broader social issues at play. As a female college student, I am fully aware of the pressures men and women my age face in their own sex lives. While girls are shamed for having too much sex, men are shamed even more so for their lack thereof. American society has created a warped sense of reality for its’ young people. We are constantly reminded of how women are portrayed as objects for the solely for male pleasure. Arthur Chu’s article  titled, “Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds,” takes a look at the life of Elliot Rodgers from a different perspective. He says, “The overall problem is one of a culture where instead of seeing women as, you know, people, protagonists of their own stories just like we are of ours, men are taught that women are things to ‘earn,’ to ‘win.” This constant victimization of women leaves men almost forgotten on this spectrum. It is easy to disregard the role that today’s men are supposed to play, as a dominating force to be desired by all women. When a young individual like Elliot Rodgers finds himself not fitting into the mold, he allows his contorted mind to lead to horrific actions.

    While the actions of Elliot Rodgers are one very extreme example of what expected gender roles can cause, they are not the sole cause of this tragedy. Our culture has impacted the events, but it always circles back to mental health. The mental health care in the United States has to be addressed. It is very easy to overlook mental health issues and place the blame on guns or other factors. Individuals like Elliot Rodgers, Adam Lanza, and Seung-Hui Cho were all very disturbed individuals who lacked the proper treatment. While we cannot rewrite the past, it is difficult to ignore the what-if in this scenario. Would all of those men, women and children still be alive if the mental health care in the United States had been different? There is no way to answer that question, all we can do is learn from it and prevent anything like it from ever happening again. By accepting the problem and working to find a solution, we can get these individuals the help they need, preventing them from causing harm to themselves or others. We will not be able to say that shootings like the one on May 23 will never occur again, but we will be able to say with confidence that we are working our hardest towards prevention.