Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Same Sex Marriage: The 21st Century Human Right Debate

            Same sex marriage has been a controversy in the United States and a cause for social movements across the country. State Legislatures and Courts have split views on the issue. Many have raised the moral question and argue marriage has been traditionally between a man and a woman. The increasing amount of legislative repeals, reviews, and numerous court cases has finally led to the Supreme Court to announce it will review the issue in April and deem if the US Constitution allows same sex marriage. However, the decision that the Supreme Court will be making is very heavy; the Supreme Court is going to be making a decision about a human right, marriage.
            After World War II, the Declaration of Human Rights was written. It opens stating that everyone has human rights despite any conditions that could cause discrimination. Further in the document, in article 16, the declaration of Human Rights states “men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality, or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family.” The articles never say a person cannot marry another person of the same sex; it only states that men and women have the right to marry. 
One of the main arguments of people against same sex marriage is that same sex marriage is morally wrong and violates traditional practices. However, denying same sex marriage might be a moral wrong as well. Article 16 of the Declaration of Human Rights continues with two more statements. One of those statements states that marriage is to be entered into only with the full consent of the two people seeking marriage. If two of the same sex people wish to wed, the question of someone, who is not engaged to either person in the wedding party, to decide that two people cannot be wed arises. If two people wish to be wed, no one should have the ability to stop it. In today’s society, government is trying to put a halt to some weddings. The same weddings that the two brides or two grooms fully consented with.
The Supreme Court will also be making a decision on the final point in article 16 of the Declaration of Human Rights which declares that the state is responsible for the protection and recognition of a family unit because it’s fundamental to society. When same sex marriage occurs, some states will recognize the marriage and some won’t. This becomes an issue when birth certificates are made. If a same sex couple has a child, there are two parents and a child. Technically, that’s a family. If same sex marriage is deemed unconstitutional, society might decide not to recognize same sex families. Already, gays face bullying and personal attacks. There is no denying that children of same sex couples will also face personal attacks. If government does not recognize and protect these families through legislation to minimize the attacks, it’s a clear violation of human rights.

The United States Supreme Court is faced with a heavy decision. A modern 21st century social concept is challenging not just the United States Constitution, but to what extent will the United States uphold itself to the Declaration of Human Rights. In just a few short weeks, the Supreme Court Justices will decide. Not everyone will be pleased with the decision, but in a country where human rights and human freedoms are preached from town halls to national televised events, the decision is more than just an issue of marriage. It’s a decision concerning the moral obligation for everyone to have human rights.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Battle of Algiers: Nationalism vs. Morality.

            The Battle of Algiers, an Italian produced film about an Islamic based colony in Africa seeking freedom from French control, highlights many of the struggles faced by both the Algerians and the French during decolonization.  The Algerians are faced with discrimination and segregation due to racial and ethnic stereotypes set by white Europeans. The French are faced with loosing a colony and trying to control the shootings, bombings, and rebellions occurring inside the colony. However, the award-winning movie uses the characters Colonel Mathieu and Ali la pointe to illustrate the Battle of Algiers not as a battle for Algerian independence. The Battle of Algiers uses Colonel Mathieu and Ali La Pointe’s FLN to portray a battle between choosing actions based on nationalistic goals and actions based on human rights, morality, and a good conscience.
            Ali La Pointe is one of the first characters introduced to the audience. He’s an Islamic Algerian, former boxer, gambler, and violent in nature with a criminal record. While in prison he witnesses a martyr being executed. It triggers something deep inside him to help the cause of the Algerians; he decides it’s his life’s purpose to help free Algeria from French control even if it kills him.
            After being recruited by the FLN, he joins in willingly with their violent actions. He assists in police killings and sneaking weapons across the French-Islamic quarter border. Ali and the FLN fight against the French because the French promises of freedom weren’t all what they cut out to be. Separate quarters for the French population ended up being more modernized with boulevards, automobiles, electricity, and well lit shops and cafes. The French quarters also provided jobs. The Islamic quarters, however, provided housing and narrow streets that resembled alleyways without much lighting. Electricity was sparse and jobs were barely present.
The native Algerians already had the short end of the stick and that end continued to get shorter as tensions increased with the violence. Eventually, barricades were set up and curfew hours were put in place in an attempt to stop the terroristic actions of the FLN. People who wore traditional Islamic clothing were held back and often retained for extra screening before being allowed into the French quarter. Ali and the FLN had to encourage the women to cut their hair and wear European dresses in order to pass through security without being checked. The plan itself worked flawlessly. Each woman managed to pass through the guarded checkpoints with guards never questioning the bomb-loaded baskets. The biggest concern of one of the guards was getting to go to the beach with one of the European dressed FLN bombers. The French were so set on a stereotypical image of an FLN assassin, men wearing traditional Arabic clothing, that they let the enemy walk right through the barricade without screening.
When the French police signaled to France that they needed help to control the Algerians, they called on a French World War II hero named Colonel Mathieu and a band of French Paratroopers. Entering the streets of Algeria with their heads held high with national pride, dark aviators sunglasses covered the colonel’s eyes; his face showed no emotion as the French population cheered for him.
            Colonel Mathieu had the task of putting down rebellions led by the FLN. As he completed his job of finding out about the organization and ending it’s rule over the native Algerians, two faces of the colonel were present. As he gave orders and spoke about the nature of interrogations used on Algerians, he wore his dark aviator sunglasses. Wearing the dark sunglasses allowed for the Colonel to represent the French Government. The sunglasses covered up most of his face, hiding any emotion that might suggest he has the ability to feel remotely human. He made all his military decisions so France being could hold on to Algeria, including decisions about torture.
            One of the opening scenes in the movie is a scene in which prisoners were being tortured to get answers about the FLN’s leaders. Waterboarding and electrocution were just two of the ways paratroopers sought to get answers. None of the French paratroopers paused to consider their actions for it was all for France. It wasn’t until a press conference that a reporter brought up torture and the actual need for it. It was one of the few times that Colonel Mathieu removed his glasses. Instead of giving a straight answer, the colonel responded with a question for not only the reporters in the press conference but for the entire country of France and the world.
The questions asked by Colonel Mathieu targeted exactly how the public of both the French and Muslim quarters of Algiers felt. The first question he asked after being told that torture was against the law concerned how the public was justifying the bombing and killing of innocent French civilians. He did this to prove that everything was different in times of war; their were no considerations of the enemy being humans. The second concerned how much the people of France were willing to sacrifice for their nation’s control of Algeria. If France truly wanted to remain in Algeria, the torture was a necessary cost and would be continued.
The questions caused a stir within the press conference, the same way that news reports of conditions in other European colonies caused a stir throughout other nations. In the end, the people colonized might have dressed differently and had strange religious beliefs in comparison to the Christian religions of the Europeans. They might have started violent rebellions. However, people usually don’t rebel unless they have a just reason and cause to. For the FLN, the Algerians had a cause; freedom from being pushed into a corner and attempts to change their culture. They wanted to be able to walk down the streets of the French quarter without the entire city pointing out and accusing them falsely of being a crimminal.

In the final scene, Colonel Mathieu located Ali La Pointe and three of the remaining FLN conspirators. After threating to bomb their hideout unless they surrendered, the colonel walked away only to return with the dark glasses off and offerings for a peaceful surrender. He offered them multiple second chances. However, Ali and his companions did not accept any of them. Instead, they chose to die as Martyrs. The colonel walked away with his head hanging down; his glasses in a hand dropped to his side. His thoughts focused not on how foolish it would be to die for independence, but rather on how foolish it is that people have to die in order to prove that despite skin color, ethnicity, and culture, everyone is human.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Academy Awards and The Modern Social Revolution

In my History class we have current events that we analyze. The following text is how the Academy Awards reflected the Modern Social Revolution concerning inequality currently going on in the United States. It discusses how society is still not conforming to key elements of the social contract theory that came about during the Revolutions of the 18th century.

The Academy Awards and The Modern Social Revolution

Sofie De Wandel
March 3, 2015

            Throughout history racial inequality is a reoccurring issue. Slaves were brought over into the areas now known as Latin America, South America, and the Caribbean by conquistadors during the 1500s. Slaves during the French and Haitian Revolution struggled to understand why the ideas of the social contract theory did not apply to them. Despite the 87th Academy Awards, held on February 22, 2015, happening roughly 400 to 500 years after the first African slaves were brought over to the New World, racial inequality is still present in today’s society. Having the Oscars highlight inequality through a perceived lack of diversity in nominees, the performance of the song “Glory”, and two musicians’ Oscar acceptance speeches brings to light that society is still refusing to live up to it’s own standards set in the social contract theories of the revolutionary time period.
            The opening remarks of Oscar’s host Neil Harris started off the theme of inequality. He joked, “Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest. Sorry, brightest.” It turns out, in all four acting award categories, not a single minority group was represented. Only one director nominated for the Director Honors of Best Picture, Alejandro G. Inarritu, wasn’t white. The director of best picture nominee “Selma”, Ava DuVernay, an African American female, was left off the director honors list. The fact that an African American was left off of the director’s honors list while whites and a Latino man made it onto the list begs the question of how the Academy of Film actually views African American directors. Such as in the casta system of colonial Spain, whites were higher up and portrayed to be able to have more privileges and obtain higher cultural knowledge than the indigenous of the Americas and the African Americans were at the very bottom of the list of ability to obtain such privileges and knowledge.
            While Ava DuVernay was not able to have her name on the list of director’s honors, the movie “Selma”, which she directed, still got recognized in a unique way. Musicians John Legend and Common performed the song “Glory”. The song itself talks about not giving up the fight for equality. It touched issues from the civil rights movement and issues that have been swept under the rug by the news media; issues like the Ferguson trial. After the performance received a standing ovation, the song received the Oscar for best original song. As if the performance itself did not send out a message to the audience in the theater and everyone watching from a television screen, Common and John Legend made sure to emphasis the need for equality during their acceptance speeches. They compared how there are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. They didn’t focus solely on African American’s either. The also spoke of the song and how it was meant to also be a call for equality concerning race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and social status.
            John Legend and Common’s song advocates one of the main points of the social contract theory; everyone has the right to life, liberty, and property. Bringing up the Ferguson shooting, where an African American man was reported to have been shot unarmed at night by a white male police officer, allowed for both musicians to challenge that society in a free country was preventing people of color from having life and liberty. Bringing this issue to light during the Oscars was a way to peacefully grab the attention of the news media and the audiences watching. It allowed the issue to be presented to not just minorities but to majorities of the population. The same way that the French Revolution took off by having the ideas of the social contract theory spread through the populations of both France and Haiti, the modern day social equality revolution achieved a modern parallel of that; it spread through not just to the elite of Hollywood, but to everyone watching.
            Najee Ali, head of a National Action Network chapter that had scheduled a protest during the Oscars concerning the lack of diversity, made the statement “Art can change the world…” With minority directors becoming recognized in the Academy Awards and songs concerning equality being performed on a stage with thousands of people watching, that statement becomes a reality. John Legend, Common, and Alejandro Inarritu took the meaning of art changing the world and set down a corner stone for a modern day social equality revolution.