Sunday, December 11, 2016

In Trump's America, can evolutionary thinking help us?

Ten of my students bravely took advantage of my offer to post their recent thoughts to The Mermaid's Tale. I pasted those ten writings below. Be sure to read all the way through to last one, number 10. Here's what they responded to:

Extra Credit Assignment 
Anthropology 201: Human Origins and Evolution

What does evolution* have to do with our current cultural and/or political climate pre- and post-Trump’s election?
What insight can evolutionary thinking bring to bear on our current cultural and/or political climate pre- and post-Trump’s election?
Can evolutionary thinking help us?

*the definition(s) of evolution that we use in this course, not the poetic use

In at least 300 words, answer one of those questions up there (or something related that I didn’t spell out explicitly but that compels you to write). Whatever you write, be sure to apply your understanding of evolution to some sort of analysis of what has transpired during the presidential campaigns and/or since the election of Trump to be President of the United States of America, or be sure to apply your understanding of evolution to draft some aspect of the way forward. Guidelines: Although I’m asking you to write only a page at minimum (300 words minimum), begin with an introduction, make sure each sentence logically follows the one before, and then provide something in the way of a conclusion. Check your spelling and grammar. Write coherently. Demonstrate that you understand evolution, or don’t demonstrate that you don’t understand it properly. Finally, this is a chance to rant if you wish, but if you do you must rant coherently and excellently.


The Perception of Evolution in our Society

The recent presidential race has taken the entire world by surprise to say the least. For the longest time, the entire world was hoping that the Trump campaign would be a joke, that the bubbling hatred and xenophobia would fade away, that the hate crimes would decrease. People are shocked at the response, left astounded, wondering (as SNL poked fun at) ‘is America really racist?’. Some attribute Trump’s win to his unconventional approach and tactics. Some argue he’s a babbling baboon who doesn’t have any so-called ‘tactics’. And there are some who will go to their graves swearing that Trump will be a success with his “kick-ass attitude”. What shocked me the most, however, was not what Trump was saying, but rather the reaction to his words. 

People have been using Trump’s words and beliefs to justify hate crimes. There is no doubt that white superiority beliefs have been, and will probably continue to be, on the rise since Trump first ran for presidency. The false claims behind these hateful thought processes have been justified by evolution. Simply put, the belief of natural selection has led some to believe that the white race is more evolved than other races, therefore the best race. This thought process stems from the 19th century, when European nations ventured to other parts of the world and deemed the locals primitive savages. As Angela Davis explains in an interview with Anna Deavere Smith, race was invented to justify racism. (Race isn't real although it's implications in racism are, but ethnicity is real, which is what accounts for the diversity in humans). 

Evolution, when thought of in this manner, damages relationships to people. Because it is thought of as simply survival of the fittest, people may view themselves as the ‘fittest’, and others as inferior due their origin. However, evolution is more than just natural selection and helpless women clinging to only the kick-ass men. Evolution is a lot more complex, and gives us insight to our rich past which is only a minute fraction of the Earth’s beautiful history; it is not a justification for bigotry and racism. 

Evolution, when properly understood, helps us simply because it allows us to question and seek answers instead of feeding on ignorance. It gives us an appreciation of how far we’ve come, how much we’ve changed, how much we can change. 

- Anonymous

 1 This interview was performed verbatim by the talented performer Anna Deavere Smith in her play Fires in the Mirror, 1992

 2 A reference to a book Donald Trump wrote, the name of which I do not know


After Donald Trump had won the 2016 election, it is clear that something influenced his winning. Not only did he make himself an enemy of many Americans, but he also portrayed himself in a negative manner. But maybe his rude comments are part of political evolution. Society is always undergoing change. These changes can be a result of evolution. Technology is getting more advanced; medicine is advancing so it would only make sense that politics are changing too.

Evolution occurs when there is a mutation in an individual of a species. If this variation helps the individual whether that be sexual, in the environment or competing against other individuals, then the trait has a better chance of being passed on. The mutation could or could not be passed onto the offspring. But if the mutation ends up being beneficial over time it will be found in the majority of the species’ genes. Donald Trump being elected for president is equivalent to a mutation in politics. Trump could be good for the country. He could fix the financial state of the country, help the unemployed get jobs, help people in poverty and so much more. If he does well in his first term, then he could be reelected, and if he continues to do beneficial things for the country than someone with similar views of Trump could be elected after. Trump could be the "mutation" that changes United States politics.

Donald Trump could also be a mutation that does harm, has no effect on competition (in this case other countries), or just does not get passed along. Like in evolution some mutations go away. Trump and his absurd ideas may go away and not continue through future generations. In this case, the species stays the same. Trump being impeached or not reelected would keep American politics the same.
No one will know if Trump (the mutation) will evolve American politics. Some mutations are good, other mutations are bad and others have no effect. Only time will tell how Trump will evolve American politics.

- Andraya Ferraro


Can evolutionary–thinking help us? 

            The term and belief in “evolution” has served as the basis for many arguments over the last hundreds of years. When combined with differences in opinion along the topics of religious, scientific, and political ways of thought, it seems everybody is going toe to toe to prove that they have all the one true answer. Everybody on earth is entitled to his or her opinion, but this doesn’t mean that everybody should voice it. The problem nowadays is that too many people are going off ranting and rioting with their one minded way of thinking, and not putting in the effort to do their homework first.  If one is attempting to win an argument with someone else, the very least that they could do is completely understand everything there is to know about the subject. If more people did the proper research before voicing their opinions, then there would be much more productive and educational debates that would not become a detriment to public viewers. 
            Growing up in the world of private catholic education has definitely given me some bias when it comes to science versus religion. This is in no way stating that my belief in God overpowers the facts brought forward by scientific discovery. Rather that I chose to believe in what the Bible says, as well as what science has to say about the creation of earth, man, and the world as we see it. Part of being a confirmed catholic is to accept truths that science states, and interpret in our own way. For instance, true Catholicism does not teach that at a certain time on earth, a single man and woman roamed the earth alone. The Bible is not a piece of literature that is meant to be interpreted literally, instead it is supposed to be interpreted as a collection of stories that have a much deeper and symbolic message; but trying to understand everything written in the Bible is a strenuous and extensive research in of itself. Unfortunately, there is always room for error in everything that man does. There are those that take everything in the Bible word for word and refute most of what science has come to either prove or disprove in regards to their religion. Fortunately enough for myself I was able to witness a truly fascinating and eye opening debate amongst Creationist Ken Ham, and pop culture icon and renowned scientist Bill Nye. In the debate, each opponent had a certain time to plead their case to the audience in an attempt to prove that they have the correct answers. The questions asked dealt with the existence of God, the plausibility of Noah’s Ark, the age of the earth, and many more.  While each opponent has a high level of education and “proper” background, it was very fascinating to see that whenever one of them was called out on something, they acted like children trying to be the correct one. 
            How does this relate to political matters today? Well with all the country tearing itself up over the past presidential election, I fear that not too many people would be concerned right now with comeuppance of man arising from other species. Right now groups are confusing the difference between protesting and rioting. Perhaps the theory of evolution is not what we need to focus on right now, but more of the thinking behind it. In the world of science, you have to be able to have an open mind. You cannot simply label something as the truth and then totally disregard everything else people say. Currently, people are naming President Elect Trump as an egotistical, racist and overall bad man. But for all of those that preach to be people who love one another but feel an extreme hatred towards Trump, why is it right for them to hate and wrong for him? People have already died in violent protests between Trump supporters and non-supporters. This waste of human life can all be avoided if people are willing to set aside their differences and focus on what they have in common; the desire for peace. Do I personally believe in everything that Donald Trump supports? Not necessarily. Do I believe in some of what he has to say? Yes. Is he the most evil man ever to be created and run a country? No. Finally, do I believe that Donald Trump will be a good President? Yes. Already, that last comment can start to send negative emotions towards my character, but here me out. As part of a religion that believes in accepting everyone for what they believe in, I try to find the positives about this political situation, and continue to have an open mind and accept the reality that Trump is president, and that is the end of it. He is a very successful businessman, and potentially going to run the country in a very different way. Change can be scary, but it is necessary for progress in the modern world, so it is time for everyone to enter the New Year with a new president, and fresh mindset. So can evolutionary thinking help us? Only if we are willing to accept the unknown but take new risks for the development and betterment of society as a whole. 

- Anonymous


Can Evolutionary-Thinking Help Us Post Election?

President Elect, Donald Trump. This result shocked many in the nation, leaving many critics to call the nation “The Divided States of America”. This change is something that many Americans felt the country needed, whether they support president elect Donald Trump or not. Many have adopted the saying, “it’s going to get worse before it gets better”. This saying can be related to evolutionary thinking, and how change over time can occur, and how something can start off as a simple form, but then develop into something more complex.

These election results needed to happen, because we as a nation needed to see how divided we were. As a Muslim American, I am not at all happy with the election results, and can only be thankful that I live in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, where many of my neighbors and fellow citizens feel the same way, or else I might have a harder time living in America. I feel like now that we know so many people in our nation have a certain feeling towards certain things, these things can be addressed, and it can help to educate all of our citizens. Evolutionary thinking can help us understand this, because it started off as something very simple, a man who was running for president, with certain rhetoric that was very anti many things, but now it has changed into something much more complex, that will cause us to hopefully, change for the better as a nation after these 4 years are up. Had Hillary Clinton won, our nation would have been 100% better off yes, but at least now we know how many of our fellow citizens actually feel this way. If I happen to meet someone who voted and currently supports Trump, I will be more friendly and engaging, and probably debunk some of the ideas they might have about Muslims, which hopefully cause them to think that Muslim isn’t as bad as the media portrays them to be, and maybe even tell their friends! While I understand that it’s not fair for us minorities to be judged on a single person's action who may be from that particular minority, that is the way it goes in this country. If every time a Trump supporter met an African American, a Muslim, a Latino, a gay person, etc, their views on that person and minority in general might change for the better. While this is not fair that for an individual who is a minority, because they are representing their entire minority based on their own actions, it is how society has formed ideas about minorities. As minorities, we can strive to do this because we now know, that so many people support this man and his rhetoric, so if we can debunk and educate them, just in the slightest way, an idea in the simplest form changing to something more complex, we may be able to change their view about certain things, and by the end of the 4 years, we can become the UNITED States of America again.

This is a very optimistic view to look at things, but unfortunately, there is no going back and changing the results to what we wish they could be. As a nation, we are in this together, and hopefully we can see some changes for the better, and unity. It has already unified many people around the nation, many people find themselves sticking up with minorities and people directly affected by Trump’s rhetoric, so if we can just expand that unity to those who might be in support of that rhetoric, we could be a united nation again.

- Yasmin Hussein



Global Warming has been a persistent problem with our planet since the dawn of the Ice Age. Global Warming is the process of Earth’s surface temperature rising, causing warmer climates and destruction of regions of the world such as Antarctica. The process of Earth’s rising temperature is natural, but since the presence of human life and the Industrial Age, the process has been sped up. Greenhouse gases are the main cause of Global Warming and us humans are the ones responsible for this catastrophe.

Humans emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the rate plants and the ocean can absorb it. Because of the emittance of these gases, destruction has occurred all over the world, from the North Pole to the Great Barrier Reef. There is no way to reverse Global Warming but there are ways to slow down and halt the mess we have made. Sadly however, with our new President-elect Donald Trump, there isn’t much future for repair to happen.

The Great Barrier Reef is known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and its lifespan has existed from 25 million BC until today. There has been much controversy over declaring the Reef dead, but in all reality it’s just dying it’s not actually dead… yet. With all of the plastics and trash being thrown into the ocean, on top of all those oil spills and the rise in temperature of the Earth, will take extensive resources to fight for the life of the reef- but it is not impossible. However, with Trump’s execution of the Environmental Protection Agency, it may be.

From the beginning of Trump’s presidential campaign until now, he has been an advocate of dismantling the EPA, stating “they do a disgrace…” because attempting to save the environment is a disgrace right? Anywho, although it is unlikely for him to abolish the EPA completely, a lack of funds he wouldn’t provide for them could cause their end just as easily. President Barack Obama has been an advocate for many issues, from gay rights to black rights to saving the earth, he may as well just be known as a social issue God. He has been very efficient on helping pass laws to better the Earth and is attempting to pass a vehicle greenhouse gas rule before his term in office ends. Personally I think this just goes to show the priorities of our two presidents… One is trying to save the economy while one is trying to save the economy AND the earth. Earlier this year Obama and the Supreme Court administered the Clean Power Plan to help reduce carbon pollution from power plants. Trump refusing to fund the EPA just reverses everything Obama has strived for since he got into office and it is also a big step back in evolution.

The earth has existed for 4.5 billion years, and us humans have maybe existed on this planet for a mere 200,000 years. Somehow from the Industrial Age (about the 1800s) to now, we have been able to raise the earth's temperature, destroy the Great Barrier Reef and let the polar bears go nearly extinct. In the sense of human evolution, we will not have enough time to evolve to fit earth’s changing climate at the rate we have begun to change it. Plants and animals thrived for thousands of years before the first trace of a human was ever discovered, and without the emittance of greenhouse gases it still took them years to adapt to their given circumstances. Humans are not enabled to live in gaseous or aquatic climates. At the rate China keeps emitting gases into the air, their main cities will be declared unbreathable. With the rising sea levels, land mass will shrink and mass overpopulation can occur due to lack of land.

Not to say all of this destruction could occur because of Trump, and all my scenarios are just theories, but we as humble peasants to the earth have to pay our respects and that means taking care of her and attempt to save her in every way we can. The earth isn’t just home to humans, but plants and animals and fish and all future offspring- unless we reject protecting it.

-Chase Reynolds

"Donald Trump on Environment." Donald Trump on Environment. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.



To understand the results of the recent election, we must start at the very beginning of the story. About 200 kya the anatomically modern humans appeared due to mutations, genetic drift, and natural selection. From these humans, and through hundreds of thousands of years of genetic changes, you, me, and coincidently Donald Trump came into the picture. While all of this is happening, the society we live in today developed as well. For the purpose of this story we will focus on the political system we have today. Fast forward about two hundred years of history; wars, presidents, taxes, and laws, and here we are. It is now 2016 and the United States of America has elected Donald Trump to represent and lead our country of about 300 million people diverse in their cultures, education, and political views.

Eight years ago the American people elected our first African American president Barack Obama. After 8 years of serving and protecting our country, our progression has seemingly stopped. In the aftermath of the primary election, he stated at Rutgers University’s 250th commencement, “Progress doesn’t travel in a straight line.”... “It remains uneven and at times, for every two steps forward, it feels like we take one step back.” This election is our step back.

America chose a man who wants to send people back to countries where there are wars and violence based on their religion. Someone who shows little understanding of science and diplomacy. Someone who talks over women to assert his dominance and childishly argue when things don’t go his way. This is the man this country chose to lead our country, so now we must deal with it.

In the aftermath, we must make an effort to begin our two steps forward. To do this, we should think evolutionarily. As we have seen in our study of human evolution things can only go forward. Time is in constant motion and thankfully, we are in constant change. In our time here on earth there will be glitches or mutations-- some good and some bad both that can change the course of history. To many people this election is a bad mutation but we can find solace in the fact that we as a society can continue to select for change and a return to acceptance and respect of all peoples, places, and things. Through this, good change will come. We may have to fight for it but if we work hard and are dedicated, change will come.

- Kate Fish



Can evolutionary thinking help us?

Evolutionary thinking is being aware that we live in an ever changing world, understanding what came before us, and how we are interconnected with all other living things on this planet. When studying evolution, you unravel the history of yourself.

Learning about evolution is an eye opening, and at the same time, humbling experience. You learn your similarities with other mammals, and your unlikely historical connection with fish. An aspect of respect is gained when you learn that you have a connection to the fish in the sea and the primates of the jungle. You are a collaborative consequence of little parts of past species tweaked and tinkered with until Homo sapiens “popped up”. Though you are made up of little parts from other species just changed a bit, we are truly a unique species. We’re actually total aliens compared to the rest of the species on this planet. None of them have conquered and dispersed over the entire earth as intensively as we have. We have created an entire virtual reality of how to live and what we do. Humans are the weirdest things the earth has ever seen. We build shiny buildings and go to big boxes filled with stuff to get our food. We get so wrapped up in these lives we’ve created that we forget what is actually important: our close relationships with those we love, what we put in our bodies, being healthful and happy, having a sense of purpose, sustaining this planet. Thankfully, thinking evolutionarily can help us.

One thing is very clear in evolution: everything is a process. Change takes time. This kind of thinking can help humans out.

Many of have this sort of anxiety that plagues us, myself included, “I’m not doing enough” “I’m not doing it fast enough” whatever “it” may be. “It” could be getting your dream job, finding your soul mate, your sense of purpose, doing your homework, or making friends. I feel it all the time, part of it being we’re too hard on ourselves. The push to be better is fantastic but the negative doubt, not so much. In evolution, change happens over generations and generations, sometimes a species splits off, and tries something adapted from another. Evolution is experimental, it’s seeing what works. That is a good way of thinking about your life, you have to experiment, try things out, take risks. Creatures that do not adapt, die. Trusting that everything will happen in time is reassuring, it will make us more patient and peaceful. Now this isn’t to say to just sit around on your behind all day expect to magically start earning a million dollars a year. It takes work, risk taking, trying new things, adapting the old, putting effort in, and patience. Be diligent, work for it, but be forgiving, it’s a process not perfection.

You are a mish mosh of adaptations from fishes fins to reptile's jaws. Knowing you weren’t birthed from gods is humbling. You are just another species that sprouted out of this earth. You have occupied a sliver of time on this floating rock, and we’re not doing a very good job sustaining it (but that is for another rant). The point is that learning about how you’re just the result of evolution, just like everything living thing on this earth, is humbling. It’s the feeling when you look out into the ocean or up into the stars and realize how small you actually are. You are a grain of sand in the desert, but a grain of sand that is like no other. No living thing will ever be exactly like you, your exact DNA and genome has never existed and will never exist again. This kind of thinking inspires the kind of thinking people have when they find out they’re gonna die soon, that why not?

Why not go sky diving? Why not risk opening a business? You only live once anyways, why not try? It’s better to have tried and failed than never have experienced it at all. Why be average when you can be the one to make a difference? More people thinking like this is better for the common good in that they’re living fully, they’re trying, they’re growing. This makes happy people, and happy people want more happy people. It all starts a reaction, like a ripple effect. Truly happy people have no hate in their heart, they aren’t racist, they say “heck yea gays can marry each other, who am I to say they can’t? Who am I to prevent others’ happiness? Why would I want to do that?!” This leads to a group of progressive people, people who believe in equality, they believe people have the right to be happy. They believe that before we should worry about being millionaires, we should first make sure everyone has clean water to drink, food to eat for every meal, and a safe place to rest their heads at night. These are very basic needs that we should have but so so many people lack.

Recently, here in the United States we had an election to vote on who would become our president this January after Obama’s second term. Obama was the first Black man to be elected in the United States.

This was a step in the right direction, with there being a push to a more equal viewing of people of color. Many people deny there is a race problem in the United States, though we have gained great leaps in rights of people of color in the United States, many people still perceive people of color as less than them. They think they’re less educated, lazy, dangerous criminals, etc. Claims that have virtually no evidence. In fact there is more evidence of just the opposite of these claims. Even so this racist bias is a common perception among many people in the United States. However, we thought we were moving away from this archaic thinking with no basis when we elected a black man as president in 2008. However, this recent election proved just the opposite.

A man named Donald Trump, a TV star, millionaire, failed business owner, ran a campaign that horrified the nation. Throughout his campaign he repeatedly declared racist, sexist comments/opinions, stated things as horrid as “grab her[women in general] by the pussy”. He was accused of sexual assault by over ten women. One of his main policies was to build a wall between the United the States and Mexico. He called all Muslims terrorists. And said that climate change was a hoax created by the Chinese to slow down American production. And he won. On November 9, 2016 the morning after the election, I awoke to find out this ignorant, arrogant, crazy, narcissistical, evil man had been elected by the American people to be our leader. I was heart broken. I sobbed. I was distraught the entire day. Not only was I disgusted by this man, but I had lost hope in the American people. How could so many people stand by him? Support him when his beliefs were the most unprogressive thing since before the Civil Rights movement? Millions of people believed in his words, millions shared the racist beliefs that he shouted on the TV screens. This was an exposure of the hatred in the hearts of the Americans. I sat in reflection, and after some time, and a plethora of optimistic words from my peers, I regained my faith, not in Americans, but in humanity.

Evolution opens eyes to understand life more fully. There are in-betweens, not just one or the other. It demonstrates that every living thing is a strike of luck that it exists. There are so many things that could go wrong, from conception to birth to growing into an adult, yet there they are, breathing and living life like it’s no big deal. But it is a big deal, in fact it should be considered a miracle. A single mutation could have left you without an arm. If the tiny bundle of cells that would become you attached to your mother's fallopian tubes instead of her uterus you and likely her wouldn’t be alive. Life is a miracle, no matter what color your skin or where you’re from in the world. All life should be respected because it exists, same goes for how you should be respected. This kind thinking seems utopian but it really isn’t. If people thought this way, gave respect to others, and didn’t blame others for their problems, we would live in a much better world. I’m not saying understanding evolution is the answer, but it might just be the key that opens minds.

- Alexa Bracken



Evolutionary thinking has caused us as humans to move forward throughout time and space. To keep doing better every day and to make the most out of our existence, we must continue to learn and grow as individuals and human beings. Every single life is precious. It is amazing to be alive on planet Earth because the likelihood that your particular DNA makeup got paired together to create you is astounding and you should celebrate your existence each day.
            Yet the world is a vast place, filled with so many people that can make you feel inferior. There are so many people out there, and many are suffering and worse off than you. How can your life matter compared to theirs? Well it does. Everyone’s lives matter. How can you make the most of your time on Earth? Make somebody else’s day better. Instead of trying to tear someone else down, build them up. If someone is already down, reach out your hand and help them up. We’re here for such a short period of time; we need to do the most we can while we can. Make an impact on someone else’s life. No matter how small that might be; little actions go a long way. Just a simple smile and a friendly face can make someone’s day.
            After the election of Donald Trump as president, most of America is crying out for help. Not only did America elect Trump into office, America elected misogyny. Racism. Sexism. Homophobia. Hate. America elected hate. After everything we have fought for as a country: freedom, basic rights, legalizing gay marriage in every state, etc. Now it feels like we are going back in time, going against our evolutionary thinking. We are not growing with this backward thinking. What happened to America, land of the free, home of the brave?
            We deserve to have our freedom back, and our freedom includes a sense of safety living in our own country. Many citizens do not feel safe with Trump as our president. If our own president can say and do such terrible things, then citizens will feel like it is okay for them to say and do these things as well. What can we do? We can stick together. Push forward together as one. The election has left our nation divided, our titles, skin, and appearance speaking for us, rather than our hearts and our minds. Forget skin color, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and race; because we are all one race: the human race. Yes, we have our differences, but we are all the same on the inside. Didn’t elementary school teach is that it’s what’s on the inside that matters? So let’s revert back and remember that we are all just human beings trying to make the most out of our existence and live our lives.
            So let’s live our lives together. In peace and harmony. Think about the future and how we can better our country and ourselves for our children and our children’s children. Because when it is all said and done, we will all end up back in the Earth's soil, together. So let's be united above ground first.

- Sunny Davis



The Election of Trump and Evolution

How can the election of Donald Trump be explained using evolutionary thinking? I had so many emotions and so many thoughts about this election and about this assignment that it took a while for them to settle enough to write something cohesive that tied in evolution.  I gained some inspiration from Trump himself and from an interview with Jon Stewart.

In a passage from one of Trump’s books (which Trump probably had more than a little help writing), he essentially puts himself up on a pedestal as the pinnacle of evolution. Apparently obnoxious men like himself (especially himself) are the crowning glory of humanity. Error number one, evolution doesn’t seem to have a goal in mind. He also says that women always go for strong men who can provide for them and that they always have and always will. In addition he asserted that primitive men didn’t care about what others thought of them. This passage is just another example of his narcissism, sexism, and general cluelessness. Do some women go for men who can provide for them, often unconsciously? Yes. Do they always? No. Sometimes women chose a kind man over a strong provider, sometimes they get both, and sometimes they remain single because a woman can stand on her on two feet. Love is more elusive than evolution. Women are just as encephalized as men and are capable of making choices, not just being blindly led by primitive instincts. He implies that there has been no change over time, which is the opposite of what evolution is.

So how did we get here? How did we elect such an ignorant buffoon? According to Jon Stewart we are not a fundamentally different country than we were before the election. He also said that the United States is unique in that we are a multi-ethnic democracy. Stewart claims we are battling thousands of years of tribal history and behavior and that what we are doing is not easy. Essentially the United States of America is a huge social experiment.

I would argue that while our physical evolution may have very little to do with our current political situation our social and cultural evolution does.We have certainly come a long way from living in small tribal groups and sheltering in caves.  Humanity through the ages has not only created government but we have invented numerous forms of government. Democracy is relatively young. We are still struggling with key issues like how to truly give everyone a voice. Ours is such a populous country that it is easy to feel unheard. Many people don’t vote because they erroneously don’t think their vote will have an impact. In this election many people were disgusted by both major candidates and so in protest they either didn’t vote or voted for a third party candidate. Numerous Americans are feeling insecure for a multitude of reasons. They wanted to try something different.

Our nation has evolved since its birth in the 1700s. How do we protect and remain true to the monumental and sacred document that is our constitution while being realistic about modern issues? We are much more connected globally than we were then. Many nations are very interested in American politics. This is probably in part because we are a wealthy powerful nation but perhaps it is also because of the grand social experiment that we are conducting. The person sitting in the oval office has a lot of influence on our reputation in the world. I hope that we can stay fundamentally loyal to the core values of liberty and justice for all that our nation was founded upon through a Trump administration and prove to our neighbors that a diverse people can live united.

I pray that this is just a growing pain and that we will learn from this choice. I am encouraged that Trump did not win the popular vote despite the fact that he did succeed with the Electoral College because this means that there are still many Americans who oppose bigotry and divisiveness. There are many who have moved past this idea that we must compete for survival. Not even everyone who voted for Trump is hateful and ignorant just because they voted for someone who is.
I hope that we as a dynamic evolving people realize that it does not have to be us vs. them and that this beautiful melting pot democracy we have created can work and thrive and grow. We can stand strong together.

- Katherine Serra



Serenity Over Exceptionalism

On election night I fell asleep watching a digital map of America slowly change from pale red states to the color of blood. When I woke up, the sky was neutral gray and I headed to class. This year is my second go around at higher education. My first attempt involved me being young and naive and doing what I thought was required to become a successful member of society. Not only was I wrong, I failed miserably. Partly because making mistakes is an integral part of growth. Partly because I was in the midst of an opioid addiction that nearly killed me. However, I did not die.

Now, I am back with direction and purpose—to become a published writer. Also, I have ten years clean. The first published book I write will hopefully offer a form of inspiration to any addicts out there in the trenches. That is my own evolution in the poetic sense of the word. My slow change over time. I know how to fight—both literally and figuratively—against something that controls me. I know how to identify a problem from within and overcome it for the better. The solution, however, doesn’t necessarily arise right away. Moments of clarity are seldom amidst the chaos of it all. Just for today, I know that I will not go back to my old ways and every day I become a better version of myself. Every tomorrow is a gray sky being broken open by sunlight that shines down on the world because that is all it knows how to do. 

Everyone is always dismantling utopian ideas as idealist garbage or unrealistic. I do know this, had I settled for a lesser evil in terms of my addiction, I would be dead. It would not work. I know that I went from a life of chaos, to finding the closest thing to serenity that could possibly exist in my life—peace within myself.

My country is one that settles for evil in both the lesser and simpler definition. Settling for lesser evil is on par with replacing one addiction with another. Here is a pill to get off a pill. This lesser evil ideology is a byproduct of fascism—regardless of the binary opposition we are forced to accept and choose within the two-party political system here in the United States where the popular vote is meaningless.

Democracy is homonym. Some say it is dying. Some say it is dead. Some say it never even existed. When we pull back and look at our country as a whole—we are seemingly one fascistic unit. When we detach ourselves from political affiliation we have to ability to see both Hillary and Trump as victims. Regardless of how skewed and negative their ideologies or motives both might be. They are products of the system. And we allow that to happen because we too are products of this system. Two parties feeding off one another perpetually in the name of the holy American Empire under corporate control. The divisiveness between our parties—or any parties—is war within itself. We are hesitant to admit we have a problem that cannot be solved by two-party politics. We are addicted to capitalism, misogyny, racism, drugs, fossil fuels, fear, hate, violence, war—to name a few. More over, we are addicted to binary opposition and all of the aforementioned stem from the nonchalant acceptance of always having an enemy. Binary oppositions appear in everywhere. Democrat/Republican, female/male, black/white, gay/straight, war/peace. That dash is a divide driving our insanity. Labeling who we are and are not, pitting us against each other in terms of race, gender, sexual preference, religion, political affiliation, and countless other divisions. We are a nation constantly at war even during peacetime.

On this spring-like December day, while I watch an ice cream truck circling the block, I think how can this change. For these things to change, we must rely on our individualities as a collective. In her 1941 essay, “Thoughts On Peace In An Air Raid,” Virginia Woolf proposed a new idea of peace. She wrote, “We must think peace into existence.” The thought itself is beautiful in its simplicity. We must think peace into existence. Say that out loud, slowly. We must make peace a part of our genes. A trait that is passed down to our next generations through inheritance. Thinking peace into existence means it is something that does not exist at this current moment in time. So no, it is not Hillary Clinton. So no, it certainly is not Donald Trump. Reform is not revolution. Reform is not evolution either. Reform is like writing “small change over time” on a chalkboard a thousand times only to erase it at the end of every day. Reform is the old way that does not work. It is an attribute to neofascism. We cannot start to nail wood onto a house that is in the process of burning to the ground and expect to get somewhere. Fire will do what it knows how to do—burn. We know what does not work in America. From the subtle transitions of power in Presidencies, the Supreme Court, the House, wherever—we are bound to microfascistic ways. Continuations of what the other did wrong. One problem leading to another. An endless cycle called addiction.

Constitutionally incapable is a term used in Alcoholics Anonymous. It refers to individuals that cannot recover from addiction. They are essentially morally and physically “bankrupt” to the point where treatment is worthless. As depressing as it is to say, they lack the self-awareness to actually change. I do think we are at that threshold as a country. My country, your country, our country—more over, our planet. However, I do not see us as a constitutionally incapable individual. We are a nation—a collective of individuality and singularity. A brain connected through the internet that can rewire itself to think peacefully. All genders, races, ages, sexual preferences, religions. If we are truly the greatest country in world—as so many of us claim—then why not set an example for the rest of it. Not in a sense that we are any more civilized than another, but simply in the sense that we recognize a problem and do something about it. A more elegant way of putting it would be to embrace serenity over exceptionalism.

One that acknowledges and disbands the systematic oppression of races within our country, one that helps pull women up to where they always should have been, one that helps build a world rather than an empire, one that feeds and clothes the impoverished instead of stockpiling weapons, one that must be brutally aware of how finite our time on this planet is and how are resources are not infinite, one that does not see any of the aforementioned as means of monetary gain. I understand that the world is imperfect which means the voting process will also be imperfect. Some go as far as to say voting a lesser evil is practical—however which way we spin it. I view that statement as one who refuses to admit they have a problem even if they are well aware. The telltale sign of addiction.

What will it take for peace to truly exist in this world? To break the violent cycle we have created for ourselves? In terms of evolutionary thinking, we are so unique. It took so much for me to get to where I am to type this very sentence, and equally, for you to read it. The odds for each of our singular existences are 1 in 10 followed by 2,685,000 zeros. Yet we dismiss that. Evolution helps us to understand where we came from. And also, gives us some insight to see where we are going.  

Evolution—in the biological sense—explains that all life on Earth shares a common ancestor. That means every man, woman, and child on this planet is related. And not in the poetic sense of the word. Through small change over time we have developed into bipedal (walking upright) products of encephalization (having big brains). Our brain size has given us the opportunity to evolve socially into the civilizations we see today. Underneath our own layers of individuality, we all have the same gray brains, white bones, and red blood. Inwardly, we are all the same. Though the world is obviously not equal. Somehow we have become a world that accepts binary opposition as normal. That proposes one side will always be more exceptional than the other. A violent act within itself. The course we are on is one bound towards inevitable destruction. In the kind words of John Lennon, “Violence begets violence.” 

Our greater social skills have landed us in the position we are in today. Perhaps they can be viewed as a double-edged sword. What I propose is this, first, admitting we have a problem. Getting to that point will prove trying enough. Our country is very settled in its ways. Making that first plunge into recovery is never easy. From there—our slow change over time—our evolution will materialize. One day at a time, one person at a time. The ability to realize the old ways are not working will inevitably come to fruition through the continued degradation of whatever it is we call our country. And as our country slowly starts to turn, we can use our greater social skills for greatness to teach our offspring the right way to live. 

Are we not inherently good from birth? Are we not inherently altruistic? We are taught binary opposition from the social structures that bind and divide us. Once we make peace with ourselves, we can move on to making peace with the world. Again, in the eloquent words of Woolf, “We must think peace into existence.” I am not saying that it is that easy, but at the same time, I am. A choice between a life of chaos or serenity. One final act of binary opposition. I do not have exact solutions or some scientific plan to dissolve the state, disarm the world, and battle climate change. Though all are achievable from the deconstruction of binary opposition.

When I got clean, I did not think about how I would slowly piece my life together in the coming years. It just happened. I knew that my life had become unmanageable and I reached a point where I had enough clarity to walkaway. It took me a long time to realize that I was not only harming myself, but everyone around me. Several failed attempts and a complete loss of hope included. I was caught in the lesser evil ideology waiting to die. Practicality does not exist in that place. Nor does it exist here. No matter what we tell ourselves to sleep at night.

We are bound to microfascist ways. Meaning, at this current point in time, we desire the very things that control and oppress us. Neoliberlism turning to neofascism. We divide our country with these binary oppositions which are acts of war. Opposing sides will always think they are the more civilized and dominant than the other side. In turn, causing us to see everything as two sides, perpetuating competition instead of cooperation. Instead of agreeing to disagree and continuing this endless cycle, we must think through our differences. We must think peace into existence. We must embrace serenity over exceptionalism. From there, thought can compensate the loss of weaponry to build the world and beyond, defining our evolution past our bipedal footsteps on this planet. Otherwise, we will always be at war, not only with ourselves, but with the world in which we live—micro to macro.

Within this Trump presidency I do not see all gray skies. I do see rock bottom, and from there, a moment of clarity. A burnt down house, and from the smoldering foundation, a new blueprint. Peace going from an undefinable word to being filled with definitions. I am looking up at the sky right now, and it is in fact gray, though the sun is still shining through the clouds even if we cannot see it because that is all it knows how to do. And in terms of nature, we will evolve because that is all we know how to do.

- Sean Hayes

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