A Statue of a Horrible Person Was Taken Down and Nobody Rioted
Yes, the absence of a riot constitutes as news nowadays.
Until this past Monday, a statue of J. Marion Sims, also known as the “Father of Gynecology,” sat atop a pedestal in Central Park. However, he earned that name by experimenting on enslaved women during the 19th century.
Unfortunately, it isn’t really getting taken down. It will actually be moved to a cemetery in Brooklyn where Sims is buried. A new informational plaque will be added both to the empty pedestal and the relocated statue, and the city is commissioning new artwork to reflect the issues raised by Sims’ legacy.
As the statue was being taken down on Monday, a small crowd watched and cheered, New York Daily News reports, with one spectator calling out, “Off with his head!”
Vanessa Northington Gamble, a physician and medical historian at George Washington University, explains that in the 1840s, to develop a treatment for fistulas, Sims spent years experimenting on enslaved women. He conducted surgeries on a number of women, but we only know the names of three: Anarcha, Lucy and Betsey.
“These women were property,” Gamble says. “These women could not consent. These women also had value to the slaveholders for production and reproduction — how much work they could do in the field, how many enslaved children they could produce. And by having these fistulas, they could not continue with childbirth and also have difficulty working.”
In his autobiography, Sims describes negotiating with slaveowners: “I made this proposition to the owners of the negroes: If you will give me Anarcha and Betsey for experiment, I agree to perform no experiment or operation on either of them to endanger their lives, and will not charge a cent for keeping them, but you must pay their taxes and clothe them.” He also complains about the expense of feeding them.
In light of all the chaos that ensued only a few months ago in Charlottesville, partially because of the statue of Robert E. Lee, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that no one objected to the removal (or really more of a relocation) of Sims’ statue and that, in fact, people cheered instead. But then again, New York is a very different place than Virginia. Yes, it would have been much better if the statue was just taken down for good, but I still consider this a win.
John McCain and the Death of Civility in US Politics
In the Senate, few are able to rise to prominence while maintaining the respect of their colleagues on both the left and right side of the aisle, and in today’s shit-show of a political climate, this gap is only widening. In fact, since the 2016 Presidential Election, campaigns are less about the constituents and more about the controversy. Case in point: this genius, who is running for Governor in Georgia.
But why is all of the crazy bubbling up now? After all, when Barack Obama ran in 2007, it seemed to enrage and polarize Americans (well, a lot of middle-class, white Americans, anyhow) to an extreme extent. So why weren’t politicians pulling these outrageous stunts to both rapturous fanfare and outrage alike? The answer lies with the man who challenged Obama for the presidency in 2008 (and potentially the last of a dying breed of politicians, ones who are willing to reach across the aisle in the name of compromise): Senator John McCain.
Most people in our generation will recognize McCain from his unsuccessful bid for president in 2008 with running-mate and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. But he first rose to national attention in 1967, when his plane was shot down over North Vietnam; he was subsequently captured by the North Vietnamese Army. McCain’s father–John S. McCain Sr.–was an admiral in the US Navy at the time, putting him in the precarious position of being a high-valued asset for the NVA. He suffered fractures to both of his arms and legs during the crash, as well as injuries sustained while being beaten during interrogations, and it was only when they learned his father’s rank that he received medical treatment. Next, they offered him freedom.
As countries are wont to do during times of war, both the Americans and the NVA were attempting to fight a battle of “hearts and minds.” By releasing a high-value POW, the NVA portrays itself as a lawful, merciful nation. This was far from the truth, as McCain had learned by this point. He saw through the gesture and knew it to be a propaganda play by the NVA, and made them a counter-offer: they could release him from capture so long as they released every POW who was captured before him. They refused, and he was subjected to bi-hourly beatings and extreme torture, eventually going so far as to attempt suicide. He would remain in captivity until 1973.
The strength McCain showed during his capture is unbelievable, but what really commands my respect for him–despite what I consider to be a chasm of difference regarding our political views–is the strength of his character. He’s a man who can admit when he has been wrong, and isn’t afraid to speak candidly about his mistakes as a career politician. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he didn’t slur and bully his opponent, and repeatedly defended Obama’s character on the campaign trail from, well, idiots.
Throughout the campaign, it was reported that strategists advised him to take advantage of Islamaphobia and construct personal attacks against Obama. McCain refused to muckrake, and while he lost the election, he maintained his morality and credibility.
He’s also one of the few Republicans to come out of the 2016 election cycle with any semblance of a spine, decrying endorsements and votes along party lines and officially withdrawing his support for Republican candidate and now Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump a month before voting day. McCain had criticized a Trump rally in Phoenix, saying all he did was “fire up the crazies.” Trump’s response was about as expected, personally attacking not only the senator but every American prisoner of war: “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Since then, McCain has taken staunch opposition to the frantic dismantling of Obama-era policies in favor of timely partisan solutions, a drastic reversal from the time he spent trying to obstruct the same policies while Obama was president.
More than 40 years after his release from the “Hanoi Hilton” prison, McCain is fighting a different enemy, but one many Americans are all too familiar with: cancer. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor last summer, and has since taken on a reduced role in the senate. The New York Times reports that he spends his days sitting on the deck of his ranch in Arizona, teleconferencing with officials on policy between calls and visits from friends and well-wishers, including former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Joe Biden.
“I wanted to let him know how much I love him and how much he matters to me and how much I admire his integrity and his courage,” said Biden. “I wanted to see my friend.”
Now, I would not have voted for McCain had I been eligible to do so in 2008, mostly because of some of his policies regarding abortion, the war on drugs, and LGBTQ rights. But McCain’s character in the face of constant adversity, his moral courage when the low-road could have gifted him a presidency, and the respectful candor he displays at all times is something quickly evaporating from the political landscape, and something the next generation of lawmakers, be it Republicans or Democrats, should aspire to.
Of Cuba, Human Mendacity and other Miseries
The editorial board of the prestigious New York Times published an opinion piece on the new Cuban government on April 20, 2018 entitled “A New Cuba After the Castros? Not Quite.”
It all goes to hell after that. They claim that after 60 years of Castro rule—first with Fidel and then Rául—over Cuba, the new presidency of Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez is merely a “symbolic moment” because Rául Castro is still effectively in charge. The editorial board seem to be disenchanted with President Díaz-Canel already because in his first speech he “vowed that there would be no “capitalist restoration,” and he concluded by saying “Socialism or death!,” which the editorial board claim has not “roused the masses for some time.” But they appeared to be hopeful because “the history of Communist regimes suggests that once the revolutionary old guard passes on, change is possible.” That is to say, there is a chance that President Díaz-Canel will continue the Castro-style regime because he is an “apparatchik” of Rául Castro, but there is an equal chance that he will “break out of the Castro cocoon.”
It is necessary to “break out of the Castro cocoon,” according to the board because, even though Rául Castro opened up the island to private capital, the state continues to exercise a “firm and onerous centralized control.” And since the Soviet Union and Venezuela are no longer around to help, and since Mr. Trump has reversed U.S. relations with Cuba, there is persistent economic stagnation that puts Cuba “behind the rest of the world on most fronts.”
The editorial board of the NYT is comprised of ten “journalists with wide-ranging areas of expertise. Their primary responsibility is to write The Time’s editorials, which represent the voice of the board, its editor and the publisher.” In other words this article represents the opinions of the main cheeses, the big kahunas, whatever you want to call the leaders of this propaganda machine, so it amazes me—even though the editorial board is replete with the best and brightest experts on foreign, international, and legal affairs—that they forgot to mention quite a few things:
- The economic hardships are the product of a 60 year old criminal blockade imposed by the U.S. on Cuba, which has been condemned by the rest of the world—except Israel, but nevermind.
- President Díaz-Canel is not likely to go in the direction the U.S. government would like because “The people of the island wish to maintain (Castro’s) model of society. Cubans want to preserve the independence and all the social gains, such as free education and healthcare, culture for all, the security that the Cuban Revolution brought,” says Salim Lamrani, Professor of Iberian and Latin American Studies at the Paris IV-Sorbonne Univerisity. Socialism is an important part of Cuban culture and yet the editorial board suggests that it doesn’t “rouse” the people like it used to. Hmm.
- Cuba’s healthcare system ranks 23rd in the WHO ranking, ahead of developed countries. Their literacy rate is 3rd in the world. This despite economic sanctions and repeated attacks on their sovereignty; meanwhile the richest county on earth, us, the U.S., rank dead last behind all the developed nations. Join me in the chant comrades and friends, brothers and sisters: USA! USA! USA!
- Washington wants to force ‘democratization’ on Cuba and make sweeping free-market reforms.
- Ever since a young and good looking Fidel Castro (I would’ve hit it) took over Cuba, they have “always expressed its will to have normal and peaceful relations with the US as long as these relations are based on sovereign equality, reciprocity and no interference in internal affairs.”But as history, and number four suggest, what Washington is really after is the ability to exploit Cuba with greater ease. The U.S. has no intention of respecting the sovereign equality between the two nations. You see, we have been in the business of “democratizing” and “stabilizing” countries for a few centuries now and most of us can recognize the aforementioned words as American Newspeak for “I’ll be happy to take all those resources and riches off your hands, and fuck you and the future of your sons and daughters. Thanks.”
In any case, I don’t know which way it’ll go, but the new President seems promising. He is an approachable and charismatic leader and intellectual, and he has a great record thus far. For example, he has supported LGBT rights before it became official policy. He also supports “expanding internet access, and loosening state control of Cuba’s media.” However, he has yet to mention anything about implementing fundamental human rights reforms. Cuba has one of the highest incarceration rates, and inhumane prisons which are stocked, among other things, with political dissidents, critics, and activists.
Perhaps it is because my eyes are on fire due to the allergy season, or perhaps it is because I’m lashed by crashing waves of alienation when I realize I can’t trust the press of my country, or perhaps it is because of the cosmic levels of hypocrisy and cruelty, and how bleak, and futile, and hopeless the world feels after reading and writing about the news, I don’t know why, but I despair.
I am reminded of “Tras Una Enfermedad,” a poem by Cuba’s native son, Julián del Casal. After he recovers from a mortal illness he begs God to kill him once and for all, or to shield his eyes with the red veils of fever so that he will never again see the nakedness of human misery:
Ya la fiebre domada no consume
El ardor de la sangre de mis venas,
Ni el peso de sus cálidas cadenas
Mi cuerpo débil sobre el lecho entume.
Ahora que mi espíritu presume
Hallarse libre de mortales penas,
Y que podrá ascender por las serenas
Regiones de la luz y del perfume,
Haz, ¡oh, Dios!, que no vean ya mis ojos
La horrible Realidad que me contrista
Y que marche en la inmensa caravana,
O que la fiebre, con sus velos rojos,
Oculte para siempre ante mi vista
La desnudez de la miseria humana.
In a shocking turn of events, the Boy Scouts have recently decided to just become Scouts, or, to be totally accurate, Scouts BSA. The Boy Scouts have been welcoming girls into their younger program (the Cub Scouts) since 2017 and now girls will be allowed into the 11-17 program as well (they can even get the highest honor, the Eagle Scout badge!). Plenty of girls joined the Cub Scouts when it became permissible.
The activities that Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts do are different. Boy Scouts get to do more outdoor activities, like the Pinewood Derby, a race where the Scouts build their own car from a kit and then race down the hill all the way to the finish lines. Girl Scouts focus more on the infamous Girl Scout cookies and arts and crafts activities. Boy Scouts get steered towards the sciences more, and get to do tasks individually, whereas Girl Scouts are often told to earn their badges as a group, and focus on the arts.
While some people are very angry about this development, notably Mike Huckabee calling the Boy Scouts “effectively dead,” many parents are happy that their female children will be able to experience some of the fun activities that their male counterparts enjoy.
Alexandra, a recent addition to the Cub Scouts, told Moneyish, “It’s fun, and you can do more stuff: We use pocket knives; you can cut stuff, and carve stuff. We did rockets; we built them, and then we launched them. We met police workers and did fingerprints. We’re going camping pretty soon, and doing tie-dye t-shirts.” She seemed to be fairly happy about the change.
Nevertheless, the new name that the Boy Scouts will be under, Scouts BSA seems fairly strange. First of all, changing Boy Scouts of America to Scouts BSA for gender neutrality while still keeping the initial for “Boy” in it seems very much neither here nor there, as if it was a compromise. Furthermore, the name seems super clunky. Maybe they could’ve just kept Scouts, or Scouts USA or something. Who knows? All that is certain is that girls can now be Eagle Scouts too and plenty of girls are very happy about it.