Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reflection #15: My Last Thoughts

As I think back to last spring as I was sitting at my kitchen table browsing through the University College application and the options for the various topics that were available, my casual attitude towards these decisions starts to scare me. I thought it would be fun because my friend Mark Buente’s sister was in a UC and said she loved it, and since I was planning on being an International Studies major, it just made sense to make World Politics my first choice. If only I knew this decision would turn out to be one of the best, and more important ones that I’ve ever made. I can honestly say my best memories of the first semester, whether experiences or friendships were all a result of this program.

Our weekly trips embody my thrill for being in DC. I’ve only been here a few months and I’ve been to some of the most important places in the country. I came here because I wanted to be surrounded by people who were capable of living for something bigger than themselves, and I wanted to be in a place where important decisions were being made by some of the brightest minds of our generation, although this desire probably has to do with my frustration with living in a small town when I clearly do not share the same values of religiously keeping up with everything that is the SEC, or having my life goal be to end up back in Knoxville with a husband, two kids, and an SUV. My point is not to hate on where I come from, in fact I love visiting, but to rather emphasize how refreshing it’s been to be surrounded by students who care about the same things I care about and who understand the importance of being a global citizen.

Our class discussions have opened my mind to different beliefs, while also challenging my own. I now have strong opinions on topics such as security, development, and IR schools of thought. Things I never even thought about before. I love being in a class where people are so passionate about their opinions that they are genuinely interested, rather than dismissive, to hear why others do not agree. I think a lot of this growth has to do with the set up of our class, and the insight that Gunperi and Erin are always willing to offer.

Lastly, I have no idea how I’ve gone eighteen years without these people. I think it can best be exemplified by the horrifying moment mid way through the year when Dayna, Katrina, and I thought that we had to be de-tripled since rooms were opening up for freshmen. I thought living in a dorm would be the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with, and now I’d rather not have any space to move, than even think about not living with them. There are very few people we’ve met who don’t comment on the fact that Letts 6 never does anything without each other. It’s incredibly rare for a group of people with such strong personalities to bond the way that we have. As dysfunctional as we may be, these people have become my family and there’s nothing that could have possibly made my first semester of college any better than it’s been.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pride, Solidarity, and Power.

Somewhere beyond the sea… is where the goal stands, soaring high above the clouds. We searched for it extensively and valiantly; seeking to find the true, all encompassing solution to the ever so menacing chalice of global issues. This seminar of great minds and daring intellectuals presented a wonderful opportunity for both me and my comrades. We discussed a multitude of concepts and heated topics that catered to the development of varying explorations into diplomacy, war, and state authority. Often times the seminar found itself leaving the session more questions and inquiries than when they arrived, but on several occasions we discovered enlightening facets of our personal opinions – and it was on days like these that I remembered why I was here at this university.
I am extremely honored to be a member of the Letts Six South community and Professor Jackson’s World Politics seminar. It was a wonderful experience and I feel that we all discovered interesting new concepts and experienced intellectual growth. Perhaps, even, I can isolate one particular discovery of mine? I can now firmly state my faith in the power of national sovereignty when back by popular support. A united populace, welded solid by national pride is an unstoppable force. Power through Solidarity, Solidarity through Pride. The world is kept secure and stable by strong nation-state competition… Realism, a concept from my own heart.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Last Reflection

This semester has ended much quicker than I thought it would. However, it doesn’t feel like we have actually reached an end yet. Even though the World Politics formal class is ending, we will all still be living on the floor together, we will still be seeing plenty of Gunperi and PTJ, and world politics will still be a major part of our lives.

I’m very appreciative of all that I’ve gained from PTJ’s World Politics class. Including the very unorthodox and unique class structure, it was an overall pleasing experience. After reading and gaining my own opinion on the articles, it was an interesting idea to have us discuss these opinions and thereby gain substantial knowledge from these readings. My favorite discussion from the semester was in reaction to Enloe’s “Margins, Silences and Bottom Rungs.” Considering the radically differing spectrum of opinions we have within the class, it was intriguing to observe the various ways in which people saw Enloe’s argument. The dynamic of our class in general was always fascinating.

As a whole, this class was an excellent introduction to world politics and a significant step towards my major in International Studies. Because of this class I’m really excited for the rest of my education at American University. Clearly we have excellent resources, incredible professors, and unbeatable company. It’s only going to get better from here.

The End

As the first semester winds to an end, and as we all dive earnestly (or not) into the matter of studying for our final exams, it is time for one last reflection on our World Politics class. I have to say that this class was different - better - than I'd expected. Not that I expected it to be a dud, of course; that said, I was always stunned at how easily that discussion moved every day. A cohort of intelligent people doesn't always lead to productive or active discussion; however, it always seemed to bring us to that point on Mondays and Thursdays, and for that I am thankful.

Now, was that due to the particular students here on Letts 6? Was it due to the instructor? Was it some strange synergy of both? I'd have to peg it on the latter. PTJ is a perfect devil's advocate and conversation starter, certainly (although some of his decisions were heart-breaking - what happened to the ball??); even so, it was my fellow students who really drew the class along. There were more contested opinions than I would have expected from a school with such a liberal reputation, and I never felt marginalized or ignored when I spoke. Such an open and open-minded table meant for healthy talk and solid debate. I can think of some people in particular - Christian, Aubrey, Priyanka, Colin - who really impacted the way I have viewed certain issues thanks to their rhetoric and flair in our World Politics class; however, every person on this floor has contributed to the atmosphere that drew me down to class every morning, waiting for someone to say something that would make me think. It happened every day without fail. Thank you, everyone.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sovereignty and Differences

In Rosenblum’s Horizons, she argues that the only way to keep these phenotypically different human beings safe is through sovereignty over their own land. One interpretation of this idea is that sovereignty protects difference. However, I disagree. This can also signify that sovereignty defends common interests, values, and goals.

The threat that faces these slightly different humans is persecution from earth-dwellers that only see their differences. The natives are very aware of the differences as well, “They just know that you smell wrong, move wrong… don’t seem like them. Body language, facial expressions, body odor… you’re different. Not tribe” (158). Furthermore, Rosenblum demonstrates throughout the novel that human nature is to hate anything that is different, which explains the vast amount of genocides. Therefore, the push for secession in the novel comes from the native-borns out of their need for protection. Therefore, sovereignty doesn’t preserve those differences; it simply acts towards the common goal of protection from persecution.

A real life example would be that of the United States. Does our sovereignty protect that which differentiates us from the rest of the world? No because there is no one culture that can be identified as wholly “American.” There are specific ideas and values that do, such as democracy and individualism. In this sense, our sovereignty defends our rights to pursue these common goals and values. If others around the world disagree, then they can theoretically find another sovereign territory in which their values are upheld.

Sovereignty is not simply a means of protecting differences. I believe that its true function is to allow people to pursue common goals together. We can coexist because we have sovereign territories that protect our common goals within our communities, rather than our differences in comparison to others.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Travesty That Is Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving conveniently happened to occur right after we finished Todorov’s Conquest of America. Coincidence? I think not. Therefore I’m dedicating this reflection to the irony of the unifying nature of Thanksgiving and the hypocrisy of the holiday.

Thanksgiving is the day we commemorate that wonderful day when Native Americans and pilgrims feasted together at the same table, celebrating the fruits of their labor. It is believed that this first meal was more of a harvest feast, rather than a meal of thanksgiving. This tradition only developed later on in American history, while the colonists were busy conquering the native heathens that helped them survive those first winters so many years ago. Only at this time, were they giving thanks for the good fortune that they had received. So what exactly is behind these heartwarming feelings that bring us together on this holiday? I would argue that we’re all just tired and need a break because, frankly, it can’t be that we’re celebrating the history of Thanksgiving.

Just as the Museum of the American Indian demonstrated, Thanksgiving is another portrayal of how the United States has not taken responsibility for the genocide of the Native Americans. We try to redeem ourselves with the exaggerated story of Thanksgiving, which is seen in what our youth is told about the holiday. We teach elementary school children that Thanksgiving is about how two different groups of people came together to share a meal and count their blessings together. However, history tells us that this is not entirely accurate, and also not the full story of Thanksgiving. Why is the United States still unable to confront its demons? Regardless, Thanksgiving is a nice holiday to celebrate because of the values we currently associate with it, as long as we ignore its murky history.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Turkey and North Korea

So, I was excited to go back down South and chow down on some turkey, but I get a news update from MSNBC at around 2 am saying that North Korea had fired several dozen artillery rounds at a South Korean island-based military installation. How am I supposed to feel about that? Way to ruin my Thanksgiving break mood, Kim Jung-Il. But, let us not forget that this is the 16th skirmish between the two Korean states since the truce was called at the end of the Korean War. So, what else can we assume? This is just a prime example of yet another simgle-party communist state flexing its muscles, hoping that the prosperous West is scared and impressed.

We have two possible end-results to this scenario: 1) Mr. Kim is bluffing - as usual, or 2) this time the 6 million man military of North Korea is actually going to put their words into action. If they are bluffing - which is the likely result - then the West will, of course, verbally sanction their actions; and if they are not bluffing, then me and every other adult male between 18 and 35 are going to get drafted. Who's ready for Korean War round 2? It's alright, the U.S. can take'em!