You’re lying in bed at night, sweating from the overwhelming summer heat in rural Western India, when the convulsions begin. First your heart begins to race, beating loudly enough that you’re sure your entire village can hear its battle cries inside your chest. You bring your right hand to cover it, wishing you could reach inside and hold onto it – tell it to slow down, tell it you don’t want to go through this again. Next is the shaking. It always starts with your knees, then spreads. You curl your fingers now, clenching your fists and tensing all your muscles to try to reinstate control. It never helps, but you go through the motions anyway, thinking maybe if you were just a little stronger you could force it to stop. Then the last stage begins, and this is where you close your eyes tight and wish you were anywhere except in your body. The invisible hand grips your throat, squeezing, squeezing, squeezing, and tiny wisps of breath rattle around inside your lungs, not sure where to go except for to clog the bottleneck in your throat.
Polarization, fake news, echo chambers. These are three phrases that have been bouncing around the public consciousness since the shocking November election. All three of these have alarmed a local retired school counselor, Frank Lagona, who worked as a guidance counselor at school 69 of the Buffalo Public Schools: Houghton elementary school. He is a conservative with a liberal girlfriend, and together they raise biracial children with special needs. He voted for Trump in the election, while his girlfriend was a staunch Hillary supporter. He does not fit the mold of what one might expect from a Trump supporter: Frank spends much of his time in an urban neighborhood, has worked with all types of refugee and minority children, and asserts that “some of the best and brightest Public School students are refugees.” He does not want to hurt them or their families, but wants to make sure that they are not leaving their own war-torn countries for yet another one; he wants the country to be safe for them as much as for American citizens by birth.
To begin this brief self-care session we will practice a form of meditation with proven health benefits: ranting. Honestly, let it all out. There’s a lot going on right now. I’ve compiled a list of things you might be stressed about to help get the process started:
I started this semester with a growing interest in journalism due to the drama of the 2016 election. It seemed frightening to me, how little trust there was between the media and people, how fake news seemed like it would end all intelligent civil debate and how there seemed to be an obvious and disturbing propaganda war going on between the candidates that served to further divide people who, having been able to talk calmly and openly about their opinions, would have found that they had a lot of common ground between them. Journalism in the digital age is a good class to take – whether or not you’re looking towards journalism as a career – because now common citizens who have not been trained in the ethics and nuances of unbiased and clear reporting are much more in charge of information distribution than in the past. Our role as citizens seems to me to indicate that we should all feel a level of responsibility towards protecting the truth: aiming to find it, aiming to tell it, and aiming to see through sensationalist, hateful rhetoric from both sides of the political spectrum that serves to divide us.
What caught my eye this week was a podcast interview of Tanisha Fazal, who is a professor of political science and peace studies at Notre Dame. The interview was posted on the blog “Council on Foreign Relations,” and was titled “State Death, War Declarations and Battle Deaths: A Conversation with Tanisha Fazal.” This interested me because I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about war; World War II seems as unrelated to my life as the Civil War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the conflict in Syria, seem as intangible as conflicts of past generations. The interview brought up several interesting concepts, but the main point that reverberated in all of them was that this generation seems to think it has solved the problem of war, but really all we have done is redefined it so that its consequences are harder to determine and harder to solve.
The novel “Without You There Is No Us” is a well-written and eerily enticing look into the mystery that is North Korea. It is an exemplar of investigative journalism, providing detailed and gripping commentary on what is was like for the author, Suki Kim, to travel to North Korea to be an English teacher. It is her account of her interactions with students who were lucky enough to be born into elite families, closely aligned with Kim Jong-un’s party, who were able to avoid being forced to work at construction sites. They were the few who were still able to attend school when all of North Korea’s other schools were shut down in 2011.
Leslie Veloz, running on the “Voice of Change” ticket was elected president of the University at Buffalo’s Student Association this past week. Formerly the president of Black Student Union, she is a qualified, thoughtful and well-articulated individual who emphasizes the importance of her accessibility towards the student body and of an inclusive campus that makes everyone feel welcome. She believes that her primary duty as SA president is to be the top representative for the student body, and is ready and excited to listen to the concerns and desires of all different groups on campus. She plans to do this by organizing meetings with heads of clubs, organizations and faculty, but she asserts that her goal is not simply to represent the interests of clubs, but to ensure that the interests of individual students are the top priority. She strives to represent all student interests accurately.