United We Stood, Divided We Are: Abortion, SCOTUS, and the Polarization of the Country

By: Valerie Hinkle

Protest

 

  As we come off the heels of the Fourth of July weekend, let us think about what exactly we are celebrating. Independence Day is meant to celebrate the United States, but can we really feel patriotic given the current state of this country? This year we’ve seen an incredible reversal of human rights enacted by our supposed “representatives.” We must sober up to the reality of our situation.

  When the Supreme Court’s draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked at the beginning of May, the people of the US were outraged by this rights-infringing decision. Two months later, it was officially overturned, leaving the legality of abortion to each state. On June 30th, six days after the decision, Politico published an article with a map of the US depicting abortion laws by state. So far, nine states have officially made abortion illegal with four more soon to follow. Many other states are in between, but fortunately, there are 23 states where abortion is still entirely legal, a reflection of the country’s majority opinion.

  But the court’s world-rocking decisions aren’t finished. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade comes speculation about what’s next on the hit list, with Justice Clarence Thomas saying that the court “should reconsider” Griswold v. Connecticut which gave people the right to use contraceptives, Lawrence v. Texas which decriminalized same-sex intimacy, and Obergefell v. Hodges which legalized and protected same-sex marriage, calling them “demonstrably erroneous decisions.” Texas Senator John Cornyn responded by saying, “Now do Plessy vs Ferguson/Brown vs Board of Education.” Both overturned racial segregation. 

   The abortion ruling is a gateway to undo decades of progress and an exercise in solidifying the “state’s rights argument” that was used to fight for the continuation of slavery. This morphing of a human rights issue into a state’s rights issue is a startlingly clear indicator of what could be coming next.  The Pew Research Center published a survey on June 13th stating that more than half of all citizens in the country did not want Roe v. Wade overturned, with 63% of all women and 58% of all men surveyed saying that abortion should be legal in most, if not all, cases. This past weekend was supposed to be a celebration of our country and its founding principles, notably our systems of democracy. However, the Supreme Court, an institution that is supposed to be the last stand for Justice, failed to represent its people and directly ruled against what the majority of its citizens wanted.

    Abortion has been debated for a long time, with people strongly pro-choice, pro-life, and many in the middle, but the conversation has been focused on morality as opposed to women’s health and rights. We have already seen many states banning all abortion, regardless of circumstance, even if carrying the baby to term presents a health risk for the mother.

  We cannot ignore that there are circumstances other than the death of the mother where abortion is a necessary choice to make. In cases of rape or incest, ectopic pregnancies, drug abuse, etc. the danger to the health of the mother and child is too great to justify carrying the fetus to term. Even in cases of minors getting pregnant, like the 10-year-old girl from Ohio who was denied an abortion and forced to travel to Indiana, states aren’t making exceptions.

  Women aren’t simply baby incubators whose only meaning in life is to birth children. The SCOTUS ruling is directly controlling women by taking away their bodily autonomy. Why should any woman be forced to go through extreme bodily trauma and be expected to birth and raise a child, sometimes on her own, shouldering that physical, emotional, and mental toll against her will? On top of that, this ruling will disproportionately affect women of color, whose healthcare is not prioritized or taken seriously. Yet another example of civil liberties being taken away from minorities.

  The current political climate of the country is also directly responsible for other civil safety issues. There have been over 300 mass shootings in 2022, including Highland Park, Tulsa, Uvalde, and Buffalo, and we are only in July. And yet, the NRA-bribed politicians have done nothing to legislate regulations that will work to eliminate this atrocious gun violence.

  We are in a time of extreme political and social unrest, and it is worrying to see our leaders actively dividing us and demanding we pick a side on a lot of these nuanced, hot-button issues. It has become a fight to decide who is right instead of a conversation about how to best protect everyone. This fiercely polarizing environment has encouraged racially motivated hate crimes, mass murder, and social regression that could inevitably change the dynamic of our culture. At the end of the day, choosing abortion is a woman’s right and a medical issue. This SCOTUS decision is a gateway to overturning those that the court deems “substantive due process precedents” as Justice Thomas wrote in his concurrence on this decision citing Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.

  It is not too late to turn back this ruling and work to put in place appropriate rules and laws to preserve everyone’s health and wellbeing. It is not too late to fight for our rights. We have to work towards a positive future and strengthen the democratic foundations this country represents. If you don’t celebrate what you want it to be, you lose sight of what it can be. We have to remember what we’re fighting for.

Continue reading “United We Stood, Divided We Are: Abortion, SCOTUS, and the Polarization of the Country”

Fiction Inspires Reality

“Reading is an act of civilization; it’s one of the greatest acts of civilization because it takes the free raw material of the mind and builds castles of possibilities.” –Ben Okri 
 

Fiction can be more illuminating than our own historical texts. Imagination can be more powerful than reality. Literature gives us the freedom to question the values on which our society is built and imagine new realities to better our own. We read to understand the past so we can learn from it and impact our future in a positive way, to look at our current systems without the clouded lens of inherent biases, and to explore the questions of who we are and where we fit in the universe. 

The two main types of fiction, literary and general, support these reasons. Literary fiction focuses on character and the human condition, whereas general fiction focuses on plot and storyline. Under both of these categories are many subgenres of fiction: sci-fi, historical, mystery thriller, crime, fantasy, contemporary, horror, romance, young adult, etc. The books I read are mostly historical, fantasy, and science fiction. 

Historical fiction lets us explore the past through the what-if possibilities of stories. Authors use first-hand accounts to construct a narrative that allows readers to interpret the past while staying truthful to the evidence. Historical fiction often allows us to understand the ideologies of the time, and gives us a forum to explore how we can improve the present by learning from that past. Two notable examples of this are Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut and The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, both of which give harrowing perspectives of the Vietnam War and WW2 respectively, and the lasting traumatic effects they had on young soldiers. 

Fantasy allows us to dive into imaginary worlds and explore our ideologies through clear eyes. The idea that anything is possible gives us space for self-reflection without internalized biases. Some good examples of this are the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo, which give us the ability to critique social discrimination and prejudice without the judgement-clouding context specific to our world, and the series An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, which presents a clear commentary on the power dynamic of a society in which the military is the main controlling power. Both stories allow the audiences to examine social and leadership systems free from our cultural context. 

Science fiction causes us to imagine what society would look like in a futuristic setting or present-day parallel universe, and how new advancements would change the social order of our world. Two of the most prevalent themes in sci-fi literature are futuristic technology and philosophical questions about humanity. Both types of exploration help us think about our place in the universe and our individual value systems. Many sci-fi novels ask what separates humans from artificial intelligence, to what extreme can society change based on how advanced our technology is, and what are the ethical dilemmas that accompany those questions. Two examples from this genre are Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, which brings up many questions about what it means to be human and have a soul, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, which discusses the themes of conformity, oppression of individualism, and technological consumerism. 

Fictional stories make us examine the moral basis of our societies and cultures. We look with a side eye at the foundations on which they were built, like capitalism, consumerism, and greed. The stories compel us to come together and make lasting changes in our world. They connect us to each other and give us the vocabulary and understanding to more effectively communicate our thoughts, feelings, and ideas. We can find guidance from fictitious heroes and leaders when the real world divides us. Reading fiction inspires and motivates us to believe that positive change is always possible. 

Spotlight-TRIOUD: Music from Greece and Turkey

Niko Mitrione, Spyros Pilios Koliavasilis, and Professor Ian Power Practicing

On Wednesday, March 16th, the Arts Production and Management Department, formerly named Integrated Arts, hosted an event in the Wright Theater called Trioud: Music from Greece and Turkey, featuring Spyros Pilios Koliavasilis, Niko Mitrione, and Ian Power. They played many Greek and Turkish pieces on the oud, including my personal favorites, “Azize” and “Kurdilihicazkar Longa”.  

The oud is a string instrument like the lute. It has a short neck, no frets, and typically has eleven strings. It is said to have originated in medieval Persia and is now found in Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Spain, and the Balkans.  

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Ian Power about his performance and history with the instrument. He told me that his oud was a gift from his wife’s parents, and he has now been enjoying it for eight years, getting to play the instrument with his teacher, Spyros, and fellow student Niko.   

As a pianist, Dr. Power told me about the transition to playing the oud and about the musical and modal changes that come with it. There are eighty-eight keys on the piano whereas the oud, being fretless, has an infinite array of possible notes with different intervals and shifts. So, playing scales, for example, on piano keys versus this multi-string instrument requires a different technical skill set. “It’s a fundamentally different way of thinking about music,” he explained. 

The oud is played using maqams, which are systems of melodic modes heard in music from parts of North Africa and the Middle East. They vary depending on the modulation of what is being played. Dr. Power elaborated on this saying, “A maqam works a lot like a mode or a scale, except that maqams have what are called behaviors. So, certain maqams you play may be more on the lower end of the scale most of the time.”  

As a musician who composes experimental music working with microtones, intervals between semitones which are not typically found in the customary music scales, Dr. Power was able to pick up the oud relatively quickly, however he said that “learning about those notes and…how they fit into the broader system of harmony is still something [he’s] working on.”  

The concert was about an hour and the trio played eleven pieces. Spyros described the last piece they played as “a traditional dance that we share on both sides of the Aegean Sea, with Turkey and Greece.” It is called “East Thrace Karsilama”.   

This concert was run by the Arts Production and Management Department as part of their series about classical music, and supported by the Dean’s Office, and the Peggy and Yale Gordon Trust. This was the first performance that was recorded and the first played since the pandemic.  

Dr. Power is the director of the APM, and his experimental digital albums Maintenance Hums and Diligence can be found on his Bandcamp at https://ianpoweromg.bandcamp.com/music. Spyros Pilios Koliavasilis is a performer, composer, teacher, and luthier currently running the Mediterranean Notes Music School and can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MediterraneanNotesMusicSchool/. For more details about his music school, contact mediterraneannotesmusicschool@gmail.com.  

Citations:   

Koliavasilis, Spyros Pilios. Concert footage. 16 March 2022.  

Navid. “Arabic Maqam Theory – A Brief Introduction.” Oud For Guitarists, 29 Nov. 2013, https://www.oudforguitarists.com/arabic-maqam-theory/    

Power, Ian. Personal interview. 22 March 2022.  

“‘ūd: musical instrument.” Brittanica, 20 Jul 1998, https://www.britannica.com/art/ud  

Professor Ian Power, Spyros Pilios Koliavasilis, and Niko Mitrione playing in the concert