Catalonia: Understanding the Situation in Spain

On October 1 of last year, as most Hamilton students were preparing for midterms, civil unrest and violence broke out in Catalonia, the northeastern region of Spain, as a constitutionally illegal referendum shocked one of Europe’s largest countries. The news did not have a big impact in the United States, and understandably so. The Catalan independence referendum occurred on the same day as the worst mass shooting in American history, when Stephen Paddock killed 58 people in Las Vegas. On October 2, many news outlets reported the vote and unrest in Spain, but it took a necessary back seat to a story which news outlets had to cover for the American public. And with that, the Catalonian events soon faded away from America’s attention. I must admit that I too brushed aside the referendum in light of the massacre in Las Vegas.

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Is Joe the New Jack?

Congressman Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts delivered the Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address last week. Speaking to a small audience in Fall River, Massachusetts, Kennedy elicited a range of responses during CNN’s live Facebook stream. One of the most-liked comments on the stream came from an older man who said he “closed his eyes and heard him.” Other commenters were quick to agree that Joe Kennedy III sounded like his great-uncle, the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy.

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What You Didn’t See in the News: Myanmar

Last Friday, Hamilton College hosted the Model African Union Conference for the New York Six. The keynote speaker was Adama Dieng, the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Genocide Prevention. Mr. Dieng spoke about Myanmar, a country in Southeast Asia. Myanmar (formerly Burma) has a population of roughly 53 million people. While its major religion is Buddhism, there are 1.1 million Rohingya in Myanmar, according to a recent article posted by the Qatar-based news organization Al Jazeera. According to the article, the Rohingya are a Muslim-majority ethnic group who have lived in Myanmar for centuries. During his keynote address, Dieng spoke of the mass persecution of the Rohingya peoples . His message was simple: action must be taken. The world cannot stand by and let Myanmar government carry out these atrocities on its own people.

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On Liberal Elitism

Turn on Fox News between 8 and 11 p.m. and watch for an hour. There is a good chance that you will hear the words “liberal elitism.” Occasionally, liberal elitism is referred to as “northern” or “coastal” elitism, due to the locations (the Northeast and the West Coast) of these liberal elitists. While the Oxford English Dictionary has yet to define the term, resources such as the Washington Post, National Review, the Huffington Post, and the Independent have attempted to provide a definition. The most concrete definition I’ve found is from Wikipedia, which defines liberal elitism as “a pejorative term used to describe politically leftists, whose education had traditionally opened the doors to affluence and power and form a managerial elite.”

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Common Ground

Among the countless e-mails Hamilton students received last week, one in particular caused me to jump for joy. It told of the availability of a free ticket to “Common Ground featuring David Axelrod and Karl Rove, moderated by Susan Page.” However, my joy quickly turned to apprehension for this coming event when I shared my excitement with another student. The student commented in reply: “Karl Rove really is a terrible person, though”. I was struck by the gravity of this statement. I realized that the event could lead to campus-wide protests.

I remembered the events last year at the University of California-Berkeley as well as our fellow NESCAC school, Middlebury College. Last February, former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos was invited to speak at Berkeley. The campus did not respond well to the idea, and a protest resulted that according to a CNN report caused over $100,000 in damage. These protesters “tore down metal barriers, set fires near the campus bookstore and damaged the construction site of a new dorm.” In another case, people at Middlebury blocked Charles Murray, a libertarian and social scientist, from speaking on campus. As a result of another round of “protests,” Murray feared for his safety and a faculty member was seriously injured in an attempt to defend him.

So here we are, Hamilton. There’s no need to sugarcoat it: Our campus is strongly liberal, at least socially speaking. Yes, Karl Rove was a senior advisor to George W. Bush, a Republican. But this essay is not in defense of Mr. Rove’s views. I am not a Republican, and am not stating that I agree with the views of Mr. Rove. What I am trying to say, and warn about using the examples above, is that Mr. Rove has the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The purpose of this event is to allow two of the most prominent minds on each side of our political spectrum to discuss political topics that are tearing our nation apart. It’s also to invite a community of intellectuals to listen, and observe what two giants in the political field have to say. You may not agree with Mr. Rove, and you hopefully won’t always agree with Mr. Axelrod, but hear them out.

Hamilton has a wonderful opportunity to establish a reputation as a left-leaning college that allows free thought and discussion, as opposed to schools like Cal and Middlebury. So I urge you, fellow Hamilton students: Hear them out. Let Wednesday, October 18, 2017 be an evening when Karl Rove and David Axelrod hold an epic debate in the field house. Do not let it be the opener to a New York Times article the next day about an unruly and violent protest.

Hypocrisy in the Senate

On March 16 of last year, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. But over the next couple of months, Garland faced adamant opposition from the Senate Republicans, who refused even to hold a committee hearing for him.

As Democrats, including Obama, strongly criticized the Republicans for this action, I criticized along with them. Ideological differences aside, I could find no reason for Republican senators to block Garland’s appointment. He seemed to be qualified for the job, and I thought it likely that as a justice, he would refrain from ruling on the basis of political preference. It seemed to me the Republicans in the Senate were being immature about the entire thing. Blocking Garland’s confirmation not only put a strain on our judicial system, but would have left the door open for Hillary Clinton – had she been elected – to nominate someone even further to the left.

Fast-forward to last week, when the Senate Republicans – led by Mitch McConnell – decided to execute the “nuclear option.” In doing so, they effectively guaranteed the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch by disallowing filibusters against Supreme Court nominees.

The Republican decision to take the nuclear option came in response to Senate Democrats, who were preventing Gorsuch’s confirmation by blocking a vote on it. It dawned on me that these Democrats were now doing basically the same thing that the Republicans had done to Garland. They were now engaged in the “anti-democratic” action they had publicly criticized just months before. The saddest part is that these Democrats have yet to provide a sound rationale for their behavior. It appears as if they attempted to block Gorsuch because they wanted to match the move the Republicans made last year. Although the Senate Democrats, among others, disagree with some of Gorsuch’s views and opinions, that doesn’t make him an illegitimate or unqualified nominee for the Supreme Court.

The truth is that the country took a turn in the last election. A much more conservative president was elected, and the Republicans maintained control of Congress with only minimal losses. As much as the Democrats dislike this, it is the result of the democratic process. I have the same reaction as many when I hear President Trump make a remark that is far from presidential, or see that Congress has taken action towards a strong conservative agenda that I may not agree with. But I accept it. I read it, nod, and acknowledge that I am still grateful to live in a country like our own.

Perhaps Congress and the White House do not share my views, but they do share the views of those who voted them in. Democrats and Republicans alike – although Democrats seem to be the ones doing it these days – should not simply halt vital governing processes, or manipulatively frustrate them, just because they disagree on ideological grounds.

If the Democrats, after pointing out that Senate Republicans’ blocking of Garland a year ago was against the spirit of the constitution, had then done their jobs and voted for or against Gorsuch – in the spirit of the constitution – a week ago, they would not have looked nearly as hypocritical.