What defines a sport? Sports, when taken at face value, are physical activities that result in a winner and a loser. So are advanced videogames like StarCraft sports? StarCraft in particular has been compared to chess; the mental processes needed to play the games are incredible and the New Yorker article “The Rise of the Professional Cyber Athlete” described the game as “strategic and extremely difficult, requiring a mathematical cast of mind.” Although the game requires a certain amount of quick hand movements, the overall conception of the game and its players as a sport and athletes respectively is an incorrect classification. Without a certain measure of physical movement involved, videogames simply cannot be called sports.
The world of sports is a challenging place to navigate, and for women, this world can be downright ruthless. But depending on where in the world women are, the challenges posed in the world of sports can be very different. I attended two theme semester events: one was a documentary of how women are portrayed by the American media, and the other was a documentary about teenage girl boxers in Kabul trying to make it to the Olympics. The women in each respective documentary have drastically different relationships with sport: in the former, women and girls are encouraged to participate in sports from a very young age and practice and compete in safe, sterile environments. In the latter, girls are highly discouraged from competing, and their coach is often threatened with physical violence.
How do you define the word “hero”? Does a hero have to be six feet tall, with perfect hair and a red cape trailing in the wind? Of course not, you say. A hero can be anyone who has made an impact on the person that you yourself are aspiring to be. Heroes can be parents, athletes, actors, singers—anyone who possesses qualities that we wish to see reflected in ourselves.
You’re probably thinking of someone who is your hero. What a great person, you think to yourself. So imagine how I felt when I heard that my childhood hero, Andrea Joyce, was coming to speak at the University of Michigan. Read More
When I was six, my parents told me they were having another kid, and it was a boy.
Of course, I love my brothers—nothing can change that. The three of us have always been close, are equally intelligent, and share the same blonde hair and sense of humor. But as I reached high school, I started to isolate subtle differences in the way that we were treated. When my older brother would go out, my parents didn’t tell him to keep pepper spray on hand. They didn’t tell him not to walk alone at night, and they didn’t tell him to always walk with a friend. They didn’t tell him that certain articles of clothing were too revealing, or that he had to call home before staying over at a friend’s house. None of these rules applied to him, and I soon realized why—because he is a boy. I, on the other hand, had the apparent misfortune of having an elaborate set of guidelines established for me—because I am a girl.
If you have two ears, a television, and the ability to read, you probably have an idea of what is happening in Ukraine at the moment. The present tumult has resulted in more awareness for the nation than it has ever seen; surprising, given that Ukraine is the largest country that exists within Europe’s boundaries. For centuries, Ukraine has fallen prey to Russia’s imperialistic actions, and, for centuries, Ukraine has maintained a sense of nationalism that cannot be smothered.
When learning about European history, how often did you even hear about Ukraine? Have you heard of the Holodomor? Likely you haven’t. The Holodomor was a massive genocide instituted by Joseph Stalin in 1932 in which he ordered Russian soldiers to move from village to village, collecting food supplies so that the Ukrainians would starve. It worked. At least three million Ukrainians starved to death in the year that the famine lasted. Current numbers estimate Ukrainian losses in World War II to be at upwards of eight million soldiers and civilians. One may argue: at the time of these atrocities, Ukraine was a part of Russia. While it is true that Russia at the time claimed Ukrainian land as its own, Ukraine has maintained a national identity distinct from Russia since the beginning of its existence. The point is that before Putin’s current reign, Ukraine as a nation has survived, with little recognition, more atrocities than the modern world is aware of.
Ukraine’s predicament parallels that of the Melians in Thucydides’ Melian Dialogue. The Melians refused to bow to the Athenians’ wish that the Melians would hand over their land, culture and people without a fight. The Melians proudly say that it would be a display of “cowardice in us who are still free not to try everything that can be tried, before submitting to your yoke…action still preserves for us a hope that we may stand erect.” What the world does not realize is that since its inception Ukraine and its people have been surviving on hope, on the notion that one day an autonomous Ukraine may be recognized for its resources, culture, and language separate form any connection with Russia. At the moment, debate has been ignited over whether Russia has violated the Budapest Memorandum, in which case the United States among other nations is obligated to protect the sovereignty of Ukraine. When in crisis, sometimes a state—in this case, both the Melian state and Ukraine—has no choice but to hope against hope, to use every resource available to them to maintain the dignity of their homeland.
A nation could have an army full of hundreds of thousands of soldiers ready to mobilize at any moment. But what truly gives a nation a fighting chance is heart. This sounds cliché, I know, but it’s true—the Melians knew that they were facing widespread destruction and casualties but they agreed to fight to defend their honor. Ukrainians feel the same. Too much Ukrainian blood has been shed on Ukrainian soil to let Putin’s current crimes be validated. The spirit of Euromaidan, the central setting for the battles that Ukraine has faced in the past year, must inspire all of us to never settle for what is unjust. If it comes down to one Ukrainian against the entire Russian army, he will fight.
Ukrainian culture has thrived in the States since the first diaspora arrived on Ukrainian soil, and those of us here today will not stop fighting until Ukrainian independence is respected by neighboring Russia and all may know peace. Part of the solution is to understand the problem, and in this case, understanding the problem means digging deeper into Ukraine’s history than textbooks will ever permit. As Ukrainians everywhere say, Слава Україні! Героям слава! Or, Glory to Ukraine! Glory to Our Heroes! May we always remember to honor those who have given their all to fight evil and bring peace to our global community, and above all, may we always find it within ourselves to stand up for that which is right.
Do me a favor. Make sure no one’s around you, and then say the word “warfare” out loud. What did you hear? You said one word, but you heard two: “war” and “fair.”
Now say “worship.” Again, you said one word—but heard two. The act of reverence toward a god is identified as “worship,” a homonym for “warship.” When spoken aloud and out of reasonable context, these words are undistinguishable from each other.
The examples above bring to light startling ironies about war. Since when has war ever truly been fair? Since when has participation in battle been a basic tenet of religion?
Kids on the playground know that a game is unfair as soon as a player starts to change the rules to fit how he believes the game should be played.
Religious combat is not so advanced.
The fundamental problem with wars waged over religion is that everyone believes that God is on their side, and that this alone is enough to justify senseless fighting and an absence of rules. If God (by “God” I mean whatever higher power to which you may subscribe) calls for war, then who are we as humans to deny His wishes? Who are we to demand peace against the demands of an all-powerful deity? As long as religion has prevailed, so has religious warfare. In the medieval ages, the church lorded (pun intended) over human society with an iron hand, using the threat of God’s wrath as incentive for all to cooperate with the church’s law. While our material world has changed, the foundation of religious power remains in many parts of the world today the same as it was when the bloody Crusades raged: if God is on our side, we have a reason to fight. If God is on our side, we can do no wrong.
Unfortunately, God is not sitting in Vegas placing bets on the victor and pulling for that side to come out victorious. If He was, the world would likely be a much more peaceful place. Thucydides’ transcript of the Melian dialogue captures perfectly the hubris of each state as war grows nearer on the horizon. The Athenians state, “When you speak of the favour of the gods, we may as fairly hope for that as yourselves… Of the gods we believe, and of men we know, that by a necessary law of their nature they rule wherever they can.” The Athenian sentiment towards involvement of the gods was expressed in 431 BC. But if we study history so that we may avoid mistakes of the past, why do we keep making this same mistake over and over again? Why, in 2014, are wars still fought under the guidance of God’s favor and will?
Why, in 2001, was New York City brutally attacked by terrorist group al-Qaeda? The United States’ support of Israel, an enemy of the attackers’ Islamic state, is one reason; opposition to the involvement of American troops in the Middle East is another. Following the attacks, Americans from all walks of life came together to honor our heroes, regardless of religious creed or preference as a poignant show of solidarity. Why must religious vendettas be carried out through means of violence? The prolonged existence of religious conflicts worldwide tells us that there is no solution to these questions and that no one nation is immune to the dangers of religiously fueled animosity.
Nothing about this is fair. Perhaps if we all examined our own religious ideals with a sense of introspection, and we may realize as a global community that we are not so different after all. Since the days of the Crusades, the fine line between “worship” and “warship” has only been blurred, and will likely stay that way forever (or until God starts making his bets public in Vegas, whichever happens first). Religious warfare is the undisputed author of its own rulebook, one where, as the saying goes, all is fair in love and war.