Who can speak up

It was a hot summer day in NYC; as I sat down to enjoy the new Hercules movie in the brand new 86th street theatre.  Twenty minutes into the movie my phone would not stop buzzing.  At once the whole theater seemed to be staring at me with a look of disdain.  I ran out of the theatre while my phone was blowing up from all of the twitter notifications.

A black man, Michael Brown was fatally shot by a white police officer named Darren Wilson. My twitter feed was out of control

Signs made by people after the death of Michael Brown

Signs made by people after the death of Michael Brown

with posts about his death.  Everything from RIP to “The Wade family hearts and prayers go out to the Brown family. #RIPMikeBrown”.  

In the article Where Are the Jocks for Justice?, by Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier, the authors state how athletes are often scrutinized for speaking up about political issues.  In the article, Candaele and Dreier mention how many athletes visit hospitals or do other charity work, but rarely speak up about more extreme issues because they are “expect[ed] to perform not pontificate”. The article also states that many athletes do not voice their opinions because “it is not our role to go around taking positions on things for the sake of taking positions.” (Donald Fehr, Head of MLBPA) 

In lecture this week, we also discussed the state of advocacy in todays professional athletics. We learned of Olympic athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith who, in the summer of 1968, decided to raise their fists during the national anthem in an act of solidarity for the black power movement. This moment was considered to be one of the defining moments in the history of political activism in sports.  However, Where Are the Jocks for Justice? argued that modern day athletes lack the same feeling of individualism held by athletes in the past like Carlos and Smith.

I disagree with Candaele and Dreier view that most athletes nowadays do not speak up when major political events occur.  If we look at the one of the most recent political controversies, the death of Michael Brown, we see an outpour of tweets and

 Johnson Bademosi #24 of the Cleveland Browns displays a message protesting the death of Eric Gardner

Johnson Bademosi #24 of the Cleveland Browns displays a message protesting the death of Eric Gardner

posts from athletes.  After Brown was not indicted Serena Williams tweeted, “Wow. Just wow. Shameful. What will it take???”  and Kobe Bryant tweeted, “The system enables young black men to be killed behind the mask of law #Ferguson #tippingpoint #change”.  Social media has given people the ability to voice their opinions to the entire world in a matter of seconds; and athletes have taken full advantage of this.  Not only have athletes been voicing their opinions on social media, they have also been doing it with what they wear.   After the death of Eric Garner, in a video of the arrest, Garner can be heard gasping, “I can’t breathe.”  Many athletes like Cleveland Browns cornerback Johnson Bademosi, wore warm up shirts with the words “I can’t breathe” on them, while others such as Davin Joseph, a guard for the St. Louis Rams, wrote the words “R.I.P. Eric Garner” on his cleats.  And after the death of the Late Trayvon Martin, Lebron James tweeted a picture of the Miami Heat wearing hoods with their heads bowed in support of Trayvon Martin.  Athletes are glorified and

Lebron James and the Miami Heat wearing hoods with their heads bowed in support of Trayvon Martin

Lebron James and the Miami Heat wearing hoods with their heads bowed in support of Trayvon Martin

looked up to as heroes for many people; and because spectators put them on a pedestal they need to be given the right to voice their opinions.


Hands Up, Don’t Shoot?

On November 30th, five players on the St. Louis Rams entered the field with their hands in the air referencing the “hands up don’t shoot” gesture that has been receiving a lot of attention in recent weeks. This salute began after the recent events of the Michael Brown Case. For those of you who might not be informed of the Michael Brown Case (I’d be surprised if you aren’t), I’ll give you a quick recap.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at St. Louis Rams

St. Louis Rams demonstrating hands up, don’t shoot

Michael Brown was an 18 year old from Ferguson, Missouri. On August 9th, Michael and a friend robbed a convenience store a few blocks away from Michael’s house. On the walk back, Darren Wilson, a Ferguson Police Officer, is responding to the robbery call and stops Michael because he fit the profile of the perpetrator. Read More

Time for Confrontation

We live in the 21st Century and yet racism exists in every corner of the United States.  The most advanced, developed country in the world discriminates against people every day.  While the rights and opportunities of women, immigrants, and minorities rights also fail in comparison to that of white men, the black population seems to have it the worst.  Black citizens are shot and killed by police twice as often as any other racial group.  The Caucasian population uses five times as many drugs as African Americans, but African Americans go to prison for drug-related charges ten times more often than Caucasians.  The average Caucasian household makes $91,405 each year, compared to $6,446 for the average African American household.  These statistics, and many more, strongly suggest a racial problem, decades after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lost his life seeking change. Read More

Let’s Take Mill’s Advice When Protesting About Michael Brown’s Case

The shooting of Michael Brown has been all over the news lately. The fatal event occurred in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9th, 2014 and since then, the subsequent occurrences (that is, the trial and protests) have grown with a snowball effect. No longer do people think of Michael Brown’s death as the killing of an unarmed civilian by a police officer; now people are talking about race discrimination and the failure of law enforcement institutions to protect the people they are supposed to serve.


Protest in Ferguson. Picture by: Loavesofbread

On November 24th, a grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson and since that day, violent protests started all over the country. Whereas it is true that many people protested peacefully, others resorted to violence to express their frustration. There has been shootings, rallies, hundreds of arrests, tear gas breakups, fires, and many other raging demonstrations in cities like Ferguson, Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, and Washington.



John Stuart Mill (Picture considered public domain in the U.S.A; author London Stereoscopic Company)

This chaos broke down while we were reading John Stuart Mill‘s book “On Liberty” for our Polsci101 class, which analyses issues such as  social values, proper behavior in society, vices, virtues, individuality, and the limits to authority over another individual. Therefore, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to explain why Mill would argue the Ferguson’s riots harm the community and won’t be beneficial in any way. This is what Mill might have said:

  • John Stuart Mill would have objected against these non-peaceful protests since he believed when someone did something you strongly disapproved of, you could argue with this person, but never use violence as a mean to demonstrate your opinion. Therefore, he would say the people who are going on the streets with signs in order to express their disapproval on the jury’s ruling have all the right to do so. They might try to convince other people and use words to prove their points; but Mill would not support any violent action against another person.
  • He would also say people are free of doing whatever they want unless they harm someone else. Mill believed people should be free to act out their opinions under any circumstance except when these actions result in harm to others. And it is no secret that the riots that have started across the nation as a reaction to Michael Brown’s case have resulted in a lot of damage. Not only has property being destroyed, people have being physically hurt as well. Ironically, the protests that started after Brown died have caused many more people’s deaths.

Michael Brown’s mother has asked protesters to remain peaceful. So has President Barak Obama, the Attorney General Eric Holder and Brown’s father. They think as Mill would have; that a violent confrontation will be counterproductive. I personally believe violence can not be fought with more violence, because then the argument has a self-defeating purpose. I don’t want to take sides on Michael Brown’s case because I don’t think it is my place to do so; I only wish people in the riots could express their opinions in a peaceful way. Go to the Diag to show your anger and sorrow, march down the streets, post your opinion on the internet  if you want, but don’t let a mother lose another son or daughter due to violence.

America: Puffing up the Chest or Building the Muscle

The world is a scary place. And for a very long time, America has beamed through the haze of fear, war, and terror as a beacon of self-confidence, strength, sovereignty, and solace. However, if we take a step back and observe today’s world, the shifting tides of power and the threats that face America as well as Western civilization, we realize that we, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, actually have something to worry about both internally and externally. It seems that more and more Americans are beginning to realize this sense fear and insecurity. The source of this fear and insecurity stems from Machiavellian ideas. Read More

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Everyone

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.

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Spartan soldiers ready to march into battle–with the gods on their side.

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.

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Forever the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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.