Hate Speech, Political Gain, and the First Amendment

In 1789, when the newly created House of Representatives debated the proposed First Amendment to the Bill of Rights, two sentiments were predominant in regard to its clauses on religion: the necessity of impartiality on the part of government, and the protection of the individual. James Madison initially supported a version of the First Amendment that protected “equal rights of conscience,” understood as a right applying to both religion and moral beliefs.  But the House concluded that the Establishment Clause and protection of the individual’s exercise of religious freedom were sufficient. When these are viewed along with their sister clauses guaranteeing freedom of speech, press, assembly, and petitioning, it is clear that all of the amendment’s principles are related to freedom of expression, freedom for any act that involves imbibing or distributing ideas.

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America’s Nutritional Inequality

Just a week ago, I was in a van for roughly thirteen hours, driving from New York to South Carolina. My job entailed helping with navigation via Google Maps. Although we stayed mainly on highways and freeways, I couldn’t help but look at the rural, seemingly poor towns we passed. As I zoomed in closer on the map, I noticed the recurring presence of McDonald’s, Burger King, Hardee’s (once we reached Virginia), and other fast-food establishments. I thought about Whole Foods and a local health food store back home called Down to Earth, and the variety of fruits, vegetables, and health products one can choose from. Whole Foods and Down to Earth would be anomalies in most rural areas, where fast-food establishments dominate. Often we find ourselves so invested in the outcomes of major domestic and international events that we fail to think about issues like nutritional inequality, an issue that even one road trip can raise.

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Theresa May and the Aftermath of Brexit

On June 23, 2016 Britain voted to leave the European Union. This set off a populist wave across the Western world that resulted in, or encouraged, the election of Donald Trump and the success of a variety of right-wing and far-right European parties. After the vote, Britain embarked on a long process of negotiation that was supposed to end by March 29 of this year. Although that allowed Prime Minister Theresa May nearly three years to work with the EU on the terms of a deal, it proved to be not enough time to settle their differences.

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The Place of Confederate Memorials in America

The Civil War ended in 1865, but the United States has struggled to cope with its legacy ever since. Who is to be honored, and how should we remember those who fought and led troops on both sides? Recently the conversation over the place of monuments commemorating Confederate generals and soldiers has been prevalent in the news. To truly understand the issue, we must look to the origin of the monuments. Considering the time and place in which they were erected can help determine what to do with them.

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Colosseum as Icon

Over the centuries, many have come to Rome to stand in the shadow of the ancient monument to the Roman Empire, the renowned architectural achievement – the Colosseum. Travelers and academics often comment, however, that their visual expectations far exceed their first impression of it. Touring the Colosseum is almost anticlimactic. The magnificent amphitheater, faced with gleaming travertine stone three stories high and lined with statues --  a venue that that once hosted gladiator fights, mock sea battles, staged animal hunts, and public executions of Christians, criminals, and ill-fated persons -- now seems a mere skeleton whispering about its former blood-soaked glory, imposing structure, and storied history.

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Jussie Smollet Hoax

Recently stories of hate, intolerance, and injustice have flooded the media. Most people, out of compassion, rally behind those who have been hurt and take steps to ensure that we don’t allow these types of crimes to occur.

This was my initial reaction when Jussie Smollett, an actor and singer, reported that he had been the victim of a hate crime. He alleged that two men in ski masks had attacked him, calling him racial and homophobic slurs. According to Smollett, they even proclaimed,  "This is MAGA country." Smollett originally stated that the two suspects then "poured an unknown liquid" on him and put a noose around his neck.


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