Skin was never designed to look like glass. Why are we telling each other it’s normal to spend hundreds of dollars on it anyway?
(Image Courtesy of Town & Country)
The first time someone told me to start an elaborate skincare routine was when I was thirteen. I remember going with an older girl to a woman who specialized in selling expensive skincare products from a store wedged between the high-end shops of West LA. Like most people who wait in the aisles of cosmetology stores to give advice on which goops to apply at night and which goos to apply in the morning, this woman had no formal degree in dermatology. She simply loaded my shopping basket with products that no thirteen-year-old had any business buying with their hard-earned babysitting money, explaining how they would ‘brighten’ the eyes, get rid of nonexistent acne, and cleanse the skin of ambiguous impurities.
Of course, none of these products made an impact on the appearance of my skin. The true influence of this experience was my internalization of the need to care about the appearance of my skin to the extent of dishing out a few hundred dollars a year on special (aka ineffective) products.
Many people, especially women, have been lied to about the attainability and necessity of glass-like skin. Social media influencers, celebrities, and product promoters have made this ideal especially apparent, posting promotion after promotion of products promised to bring someone’s skin one step closer to appearing as if it were glass. Many of these advertisements conceal themselves as empowering women; I wonder how a company could pass itself off as such when they implicitly tell women their natural beauty needs to be fixed. Like the woman from the skin-care industry of my teenage years, none of these people have credentials in dermatology, yet they claim to have the answers for any skin care-related insecurity.
Skincare products that are sold via social media are often within high price ranges and require more than one product to be applied at multiple points of the day. One popular skincare company advertises the ‘sale’ of a thirty-milliliter product, sold for $80 instead of the average $100. In fact, skincare “has become the most profitable sector of the cosmetics industry,” growing “some twenty billion dollars between 2014 and 2019” (Jarvis). Further, the popularization of skincare regimens has been at the hands of skincare influencers, with hundreds constructing their own ‘perfect’ combination of toners, serums, and lotions. As a result, millions of people feed into the system of buying wildly expensive products advertised as life-changing, by nonprofessionals, multiple times a year.
Playing off of a societally-conditioned need for women to feel as if they’ve met the idealized standard of femininity, the skincare industry has created the perfect scheme of creating and maintaining a dependent group of consumers.
Despite the fact that perfect skin is in no way attainable or lasting, most skincare products that promise to transform it are, in general, ineffective. Monty Lyman, a dermatologist, and James Hamblin, author of “Clean: The New Science of Skin” (Riverhead), both argue that skincare products are overemphasized when we talk about skin health. They claim that the science of skin health “suggests that we err when we think of skin as static or as separate, to be ministered to by surface applications of various cleansers and moisturizers, goops and goos” (Jarvis). Though some products do and have worked well for the appearance of many individual’s skin, it is not the only aspect that goes into healthy skin. Further, healthy skin does not translate into glass-like skin.
When we think of skin, we must think of it as another part of our body we can love and maintain, not transform or erase. Our skin, specifically that on our face, is microscopically a beautiful ecosystem “in constant connection with the health of the rest of our body, as well as with the world beyond” (Jarvis). Treating it as it is something constant amongst individuals, something that can be changed to look like that of ‘normal’ people, inherently shows that our natural state is not worthy of love and existence. As put by writer Jessica Defino, “it’s a good thing that glass skin is unattainable IRL (honestly, have you ever seen glass skin outside of social media?), because all the features I’d need to erase in order to get that smooth, glassy glow literally exist to protect me.”
I by no means am trying to denounce the field of dermatology, for it is an important medical resource like any other, and many have had their lives greatly improved by these doctors. Nor am I trying to invalidate the very real insecurities that come with imperfect skin. It is one thing to critique a system that tells us our natural state is imperfect; it is a completely different thing to get rid of the internalized yearning for perfection.
In short, I think that skincare influencers need to worry about the messages they are sending into our communities about perfect skin, specifically in the ways it impacts a teenager’s perception of their appearance.
I only recently have abandoned the skincare routine I’ve been tweaking for years following my initial trip to the skincare shop. Interestingly enough, my skin has never been clearer of acne or brighter than it is now. Nonetheless, the confidence in the way my body naturally presents itself is something I’ve gained from my departure from the skincare industry, confidence I hope no thirteen-year-old girl ever has to question. My bank account is thoroughly relieved too.
Why ideas should be freely exchanged, and not censored by big tech corporations.
You’ve likely seen a little figurine of a triad of monkeys, one with its hands over its eyes, another with its hands over its ears, and the third with its hands over its mouth. But what if, instead of these monkeys covering their own eyes, ears, and mouth, someone else did? What if that “someone else” was Big Technology? And what if the monkeys were you?
Questions about the role corporations like Twitter and Facebook play in the distribution and censorship of information resurfaced last week with their decisions to reduce or disallow entirely the postings of a New York Post article on Hunter Biden. But should these social media corporations be limiting what their users can post and see?
To determine whether the First Amendment or the privately-owned status of these corporations holds precedence here, we must first discuss the distinction between a publisher and a public forum. A publisher determines what content it will and will not publish and can also be held liable for publishing stories that contain non-protected speech, like libel. A public forum, on the other hand, is a space in which all ideas can be voiced and which cannot be held liable if non-protected speech should be voiced within its borders.
The Collegian, for example, is a publisher. A quad at a public university, on the other hand, is a public forum.
Public forums can exist virtually as well as physically. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube—all of these are considered to be public forums, as anyone can log onto them and post immediately. If these corporations were to be considered publishers, they would need to ensure that content be submitted to them prior to posting and would then need to determine whether or not to publish it.
Section 230 of The Communications Decency Act of 1996 states:
It is the policy of the Unites States...to encourage the development of technologies which maximize user control over what information is received by individuals, families, and schools who use the Internet and other interactive computer services. (The Communications Decency Act of 1996)
Preventing an individual from publishing or reading information, then, is discouraged under American policy.
But, more than that, it is contrary to the First Amendment.
For Big Tech, which controls the digital manners in which Americans are able to convey information, to determine what can and cannot be said strikes at the very core of freedom of speech. To prevent an individual from posting or reading information on their social media platform is the same as clapping one’s hand over the monkey’s eyes, ears, and mouth and releasing one’s hand to allow in or out only what one wills.
But what about a commitment to truth and facts? This, I contend, belongs in the realm of the publisher, not the public forum. And, seeing as there is a general inability in our society today to agree upon basic facts on just about any matter, for tech companies to remove or prevent the posting of information for being misleading can hardly be construed as fact-checking. It might be fact-checking in the manner in which one group understand the facts, but not necessarily fact-checking in terms of objectivity.
Ultimately, I think that these corporations should allow for the free exchange of ideas, censoring only that which is inappropriate or excessively violent (censoring for which the Communications Decency Act allows). Censoring on the basis of ideas can never be objective, even if it is performed by a non-entity, like an algorithm. Every algorithm is coded by a person, and there is no such thing as an unbiased human. Every time information is censored, what is actually occurring is the deciding by an individual that the ideas conveyed through that information are, on his terms or the terms of his corporation as agreed upon by other men, unsuitable. He—or they—doesn’t think it fits with the world as he sees it. Thus, it has to go.
The American people are smart enough to make that decision on their own. Let them have access to the information and make of it what they will. Ultimately, somebody somewhere has to “make something” of each bit of information, deciding whether or not to grant it credence. Either that can be done by Big Tech or it can be done by the American individual. One way increases control, the other increases freedom.
Freedoms are best eroded when people aren’t paying attention. A little child swipes a cookie off the tray when her parents aren’t looking. So, too, do institutions with the ability to control swipe freedoms away when people have their backs turned. To shrug this phenomena off today as untrue or unimportant is to virtually guarantee a future in which each of us will be shaking our heads and saying, “I wish I had done something earlier, when I still could.”
So, will we be like the monkeys, with Big Tech covering our eyes, ears, and mouth, determining what we may and may not see, hear, and say, or will we practice freedom, seeing and hearing with discerning eyes and ears and speaking with a well-informed mouth? This battle is one likely to be fought in the halls of our government. Let us pay close attention, while we can, before the blindfold comes.
What Is Morality?
I can’t help but laugh when I’m told that wearing a mask during COVID-19 is the moral thing to do. That’s not to say that there might not be good reasons to wear a mask, or that I don’t care about the lives that were lost because of the virus. Rather, we modern day people don’t know what we’re talking about when we mention morality.
Suppose for a moment our fictional person, Karen, was not wearing her mask in public. Should we tell Karen to put on a mask?
Why should we? Doesn’t Karen, like all people, have bodily autonomy? Isn’t that what some of the “political experts” tell us? Instead of telling Karen to wear a mask, wouldn’t it be more consistent to say to her, ‘It’s your body, your choice’? Are we really going to tell a woman what she should wear? Come on, it's 2020.
Furthermore, wouldn’t it be judgmental to tell Karen that she’s not being moral by not wearing a mask? I’ve always been told that it’s not okay for someone to impose his or her moral compass on to someone else. Do we just pick and choose when it’s okay to impose a view and not to impose a view? If imposing a view on someone is always wrong, then to tell Karen that she is doing something immoral requires those who impose their view to do something immoral.
Putting all my passive aggressiveness aside, a question must be raised. By what standard are we to say that wearing a mask is moral? Should each and every person follow his or her own personal moral compass? Or, is there an objective moral compass that we should all follow? The two previous, possibly offensive, paragraphs merely show that if morality is something subjective, then we have absolutely no basis to tell someone what he or she should do.
Suppose one says to Karen, ‘Hey, maybe you should put on a mask because that will help save lives.’ Saving lives is a good thing right? Definitely! But it cannot be denied that wearing a mask and social distancing does not put an end to the spread of COVID-19; it merely reduces the probability of giving the virus. If one were to wear a mask, social distance, and yet still spread the virus to someone, then are we to blame the person who wore a mask for giving the other person the virus? Absolutely. Perhaps in this view then, wearing a mask isn’t enough. Maybe we would all have to start wearing those hazmat, astronaut-looking, suits. Maybe then, the person wearing a mask wouldn’t have spread the virus to another.
Either way, wearing a mask and social distancing would not be enough, and therefore would not save lives. Thus, merely wearing a mask and social distancing is not moral. (Saying that wearing a mask and social distancing is not moral differs from saying that wearing a mask and social distancing is immoral. For example, drinking water after a run is neither moral nor immoral.)
We as a society have no basis to say that we have a moral duty to wear a mask. This does not mean that wearing a mask is bad, or that it might actually be immoral. All I’m arguing is that we don’t know what we’re talking about when discussing morality. To claim that there is just so much that we don’t know about the virus and yet also claim that wearing a mask helps stop the spread is an awkward position to take. Even if it were true, not all masks are equal. For example, my SMC cloth mask is inferior to an N95. Perhaps if we are to take this COVID-19 thing seriously, we would all be wearing N95 masks and Hazmat Suits. But who am I to judge? It’s your body, your choice.
Rideshare and delivery drivers should not be treated as if they are valued less than working-class Americans
Election season has been welcomed this year just as it has any other: with overwhelming and excessive political advertising. If you’ve seen some of the advertisements this year, odds are you saw one for Proposition 22. As a result of Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and Instacart spending at least 180 million dollars on getting the proposition passed, this is the most expensive proposition in state history according to nonprofit site Ballotpedia. Simply googling the word ‘uber’ will bring one to a page where the first result is the ‘Yes on Prop 22’ website. The excessive amount of money being spent on this measure brings into question the power these multi-million dollar corporations have over our elections, specifically in their ability to over-advertise and drown out the voices of opponents.
Proposition 22 is in direct response to California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) that was signed by Governor Newsom in 2019 and went into effect this January. AB5 put strict regulations on who could be considered an independent contractor, forcing employers such as Uber and Lyft to consider their drivers employees and provide the appropriate rights and benefits as such. Proposition 22 was brought up by rideshare companies in response to them falling under the regulations that would inevitably cost them money. The proposition on the ballot will ask
should app-based rideshare and delivery drivers be classified as independent contractors (not employees) and require rideshare and delivery companies to adopt labor and wage policies unique to these drivers?
According to the League of Women Voters’ website, if passed, Proposition 22 would reclassify Uber, Lyft, and other companies’ drivers as independent contractors unless they receive set hours, are required to take specific jobs, or restrict their ability to work for other companies. Further, the LWV states that the drivers would not receive employee benefits and protection such as a set minimum wage, overtime pay, unemployment insurance, or worker’s compensation.
However, drivers would be paid 120% of the minimum wage for the hours they spend driving, receive a healthcare subsidy, have an option to buy on-the-job insurance, and be limited to twelve-hour workdays. Workplace discrimination would be prohibited and companies would need to “develop sexual harassment policies, conduct criminal background checks, and mandate safety training for drivers” (LWV). One of the biggest wins for rideshare companies with Proposition 22 would be the prevention of local governments from setting their own rules such as a higher minimum compensation. The Fiscal Impact of the measure would be the lowering of costs and raising of profits for rideshare and delivery companies while forcing drivers and stakeholders to pay more in income taxes.
One does not need to have a complex understanding of economics to know that this proposition would allow rideshare and delivery companies to maximize profits while providing minimum compensation for their employees. However, the ‘Yes on Prop 22’ website has a plethora of misleading reasons why this measure would improve the lives of their drivers. They claim that the proposition would ‘protect’ their drivers’ ability to choose independent work, provide them with new benefits and protections, save their jobs, preserve food and grocery delivery, and implement new public safety protocol.
Notice how they divert attention away from the proposition benefitting multi-million dollar corporations, for they know that voters would not want something that benefits the few at the expense of the many. Beyond their list of ‘pros,’ the campaign also has the endorsement of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and proudly places it at the top of their homepage. In this way, it is apparent that the campaign is attempting to divert attention away from the corporate benefit and instead morally appeal to voters. They draw attention to the benefits of rideshare and grocery delivery in general instead of the proposition itself, misleading voters and making it seem as if the stakes involved with Proposition 22 are higher than they actually are.
The California Labor Federation is a prominent voice that is speaking out against the ‘Yes on 22’ campaign. The organization is described by Ballotpedia as a defender of “the interests of working people and their families,” showing their oppositional leanings in who they represent in the context of this proposition.
On its website, the organization lists several reasons why Prop 22 would hurt drivers associated with these corporations. They claim that the proposition would deny rights and protections such as sick leave and eliminate safety protections for riders and drivers while also removing any liability from the corporations themselves. Further, they claim that the proposition is misleading and was hastily put through using unfair political operatives. The proposition would inevitably lead to the exemption of these corporations from paying their fair share of money to safety net programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment Insurance. They even state that this proposition would eventually lead to job loss in that it threatens middle-class jobs with low-pay, no-protection business models. Thus, the California Labor Federation shows that the facade ‘Yes on 22’ and rideshare corporations are putting on is hypocritical, for the individual as well as the working class is negatively impacted by the proposition.
If Proposition 22 is not passed, workers would likely be considered employees and receive benefits as such. It has been speculated that the prices of rideshare and delivery companies will go up, but if this at the cost of a workplace ensuring rights such as minimum wage, overtime pay, paid sick leave, worker’s compensation, and unemployment insurance, this issue should not be a difficult one to decide on. Corporations should not be allowed to utilize their employees to maximize profits while keeping them in below-standard working conditions. Nor should they be able to sway elections with their financial power in advertising. The situation that has been brought up by Proposition 22 brings into question the role misleading advertising plays in our elections, specifically when it comes to the role corporate power plays.
The Search For Truth Will Unite Us
Instead of hating people with different viewpoints than ours, let’s come together and dialogue about the common good. In dialoguing, our opinions matter only in as much as they conform to the truth.
It is easy to have an opinion on a certain issue; everyone has an opinion just like how everyone these days has an iPhone. We are constantly told to ‘respect all opinions.’ But why? Why should a Democrat respect a Republican’s opinion if the Republican’s opinion is wrong? Or similarly, why should a Republican respect a Democrat’s opinion if the Democrat’s opinion is wrong? Obviously then, not all opinions are worth respecting.
On the other hand, People are always worthy of respect. This is what we as a society are lacking; we fail to respect others. Republicans and Democrats can never be friends nor even get along if such respect for each other does not exist. Respecting a person means to love that person. It means to want what is good for that person and to uphold his or her dignity.
We as a society cannot start wanting what’s good for others if we don’t have the common good in view. Modernity has attempted to destroy the common good by saying that what is good for everyone and every society is merely subjective. Our society has accepted this view, but I don’t think we fully understand the repercussions of such a view. Should we say that to Hitler, what he did was good? Can we only personally disagree with Hitler’s view of the Jews, since who are we to impose our opinion on others? Of course not. But if we are to disagree with someone like Hitler and his actions, we must have a standard by which we do so. This standard cannot be something subjective, but objective, like the common good.
Since the common good is the aim of all politics, and a body politic which does not aim towards the common good fails to be a good society, it would be best if Republicans and Democrats converse about what is the common good, and what leads to a flourishing society. Both parties can have their opinions on the issue, but neither party’s opinion will matter if what they believe is not true. This doesn’t mean that the person who is wrong does not matter, but only that their opinion does not matter. You are not your opinion.
Conversing about the common good allows Democrats and Republicans to have better and stronger friendships with each other. For example, a Democrat might disagree with a Republican because he or she thinks that the Republican is wrong about an issue. But, since the common good is the aim of society, the Democrat would disagree not out of hatred for the Republican, but because the Democrat wants the Republican to flourish. This means that the Democrat would want what is best for the Republican, and similarly, the Republican would want what is best for the Democrat.
Caring for the other leads to a strong foundation for friendship with the other, since friends want what is best for each other. So instead of judging the character of someone based solely upon that person’s political party get to know the person. Have conversations with him or her. Love that person by wanting what is best for him or her. Such love will lower both parties’ guards down, allowing for Republicans and Democrats to have fruitful conversations that all lead to our society’s flourishment.
An introduction to old-time radio and why you should listen in.
If you ever happen to have half an hour or so on your hands that you can’t figure out how to spend or are working on homework and would like to find something to sustain you, I would like to suggest that you take a trip into the world of old-time radio.
Most people are acquainted with a few especially memorable moments from radio’s golden age, like Orson Welles’ earth-shaking production of The War of the Worlds or Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” baseball skit. These programs are good introductions to old-time radio, but there is a veritable sea of information and culture swelling beneath them into which I think we should take a dive.
Old-time radio is made up of a plethora of genres and provides something for everyone. Comedies, science fiction, westerns, dramas, detective stories, fairy tales, quiz shows, movie adaptations, music programs, presidential speeches—there isn’t anything you can’t find here!
But hasn’t radio been eclipsed by television? Perhaps; but that doesn’t negate old-time radio’s own merits. Radio programs can be listened to while one performs other tasks, whereas television generally preoccupies one’s entire attention. You can listen to old radio shows while doing homework, working on various projects, or even while falling asleep. Television, on the other hand, precludes multitasking.
Some might find the idea of listening to audio entertainment from the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s to be stodgy, but I think that, once one gets into them, one realizes how wonderful they are at expressing stories and at entertaining. Through old radio you can discover a by-gone era of talent and artistry, a scene which once preoccupied America’s imagination and expresses truths and history behind our culture. Wonderful performances can be listened to. You can hear Groucho Marx (the inspiration behind the children’s glasses with a schnozz, mustache, and eyebrows attached) quiz contestants in You Bet Your Life, hear Lucille Ball in a budding role in My Favorite Husband, listen to Gene Kelly tap dance, or even hear a young Ronald Reagan makes guest appearances in various programs.
A radio show, from our perspective as people living after the advent of television, comes across much like a television show, lacking only in images. Timing, sound effects, consistent casts, and running gags are techniques that create this similarity. To listen to a radio program feels very much like watching a television show with your eyes closed, albeit more entertaining, for a radio writer had to include dialogue and sound effects to keep the listener invested in the action. When a doorbell rings, for example, you will hear the character’s shoes walking to the door, or he will speak while he walks so as not to lose the listener’s attention. A television program, on the other hand, can depict a character walking to open a door without any commentary at all. The radio program must provide commentary, or else the listener will lose track of the storyline.
One might compare radio programs to the podcasts of today, but I think that to make this comparison on the simple basis that both employ sounds instead of sights is too simplistic. Podcasts are rather harder to sift through, seeing as just about anyone can produce one, whereas old-time radio consists of recordings from live radio programs, which means that, while there is a plethora of radio programs, the number is much more limited, as only one show could be broadcast through a specific station at a time. Podcasts are not hindered by time or distribution. Radio is. This means that radio producers had to be much more selective about their content and more invested in crafting shows that amused a wide variety of people.
And, whereas one is generally spoken to in podcasts, radio invites one to listen in. Radio is, I think, more akin to cracking open a storybook than it is to listening to a podcast.
If you would like to crack this storybook open, then here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Fans of crime stories might take a listen to Dragnet, whose famous catch line is, “The story you are about to hear is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.” For other detective and suspense stories, try out The Shadow, The Whistler, or the aptly named Suspense.
Westerns aren’t mass-produced today, but Western radio programs exist in abundance. Try Gunsmoke or The Lone Ranger to begin.
I personally have always favored comedy. Shows like The Jack Benny Program, Burns and Allen, Our Miss Brooks, and Henry Aldrich might sound unassuming at first, but when one becomes introduced to the characters and plot schemes (dealing with a miserly radio host, a cigar-puffing husband and absent-minded wife, a mishap-inclined English teacher, and a troublemaking teenager, respectively), the shows cease to exist as appellative titles and almost take on living and breathing personas.
If you’d like to listen to a fun, well-written story of a simpler time, take a foray into old-time radio. As an old-time commercial might go, “Try one, today!”
Do the American people benefit from an hour and a half of bickering?
Presidential and vice-presidential debates are in place to allow the American people to formally hear the political positions of the Democratic and Republican nominees. Contrary to the debate that took place on September 29th, 2020, it is not a place for presidential candidates to prove their dominance over, give their take on the intelligence of, or discuss the familial history of the other candidate. Nor is it a place to throw the whole organization of the event into chaos by debating the moderator.
Those who watched Tuesday’s presidential debate, and even those who read the headlines, know that this is exactly what happened throughout the night. Many brought up how it was embarrassing to Americans on an international scale, one reporter describing it as a “dumpster fire,” another a “trainwreck.” The debate and its reactions from media outlets raise the question for many of whom debates serve in our current political climate. With a country so divided, it is worth questioning whether Trump-Biden debates are necessary during this election season or if they push the two parties further away from each other.
Despite the importance of addressing the incivility of the evening, it is initially important to sift through the chaos and understand the content that was conveyed. Though it is distracting—perhaps even intentionally—to have two candidates speak over and consistently interrupt one another, it is still important to look past the interaction and examine what was said. By endorsing a group called the Proud Boys with the words “stand back and stand by,” Donald Trump openly called to action a group described by the Anti-Defamation League as “misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic, and anti-immigration,” as well as frequently associated with antisemitic and white supremacist groups.
As a nation recovering from its history of racism, sexism, and xenophobism against its citizens, the acknowledgment of this group in a positive way showed that the President of the United States is neither representative nor inclusive of all of those who they serve. The weight of this endorsement in it of itself brought the validity of the evening into question, for it gave a platform for presidential approval of hate groups on a national level.
Much more can be said about other dangerous assertions Trump made throughout the evening, such as the outright lies and attacks on deceased children that he brought up, but after four years of picking apart the carelessness of his claims, it is most productive to shift the attention back to the American people.
The presidential debate is specifically designed to inform the country on who they’re choosing to represent them for four years. The debates belong to the American people, for it is our right to know the positions of those we vote for in an open and straightforward setting. To make a mockery of this evening by intentionally obstructing the information shared by each candidate is to take away the American voter’s right to information about their election.
CBS reports that Donald Trump interrupted Joe Biden seventy-three times throughout the evening, and those who watched live were bombarded by these dizzying interruptions when the former vice president attempted to answer the moderator’s questions. Language such as “will you shut up, man?” and “will he shush for a minute?” were used by Biden on multiple occasions in reference to Trump, and moderator Chris Wallace appealed to Trump’s interruptions with “I’m the moderator of this debate and I’d like to ask my question.”
Due to Trump’s unprecedented interruptions, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), has announced that it will change the format of future debates to ensure a less chaotic exchange. This could include the cutting of microphones when candidates interrupt each other, something that the Trump campaign has criticized. Nonetheless, it has been announced that both parties will be informed of the new rules before the debate. Furthermore, the CPD has now proposed that the candidates debate online in light of Trump’s COVID diagnosis. This has also been rejected by the Trump campaign.
The incivility that was brought to the evening is comparable to the behavior of children, with preschool and kindergarten teachers offering advice to the next moderator to take on the two candidates. Running with this comparison of the candidates with school children, it is apparent that Trump did not do his homework, for it is reported by CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins that he took less than two hours to do the necessary preparations for the evening. Thus, the behavior exhibited in the context of the first presidential debate demonstrates that providing an informative evening for American voters was not on the agenda for the night.
This raises the question of whether presidential debates are serving their purpose to the American people and whether they are in need of restructuring or complete abandonment. With many of the questions going unanswered and many topics unaddressed, many felt that the evening reported little to no new information about the candidates’ standings on different topics. Further, the BBC has estimated that 90% of Americans already know who they’re voting for or have already voted. This can be attributed to the deep partisan climate that exists in our country, something a chaotic first debate fueled even further.
The next presidential debates are scheduled for October 15th and October 22nd. In light of the president’s coronavirus diagnosis and negative reception of the previous debate, many have questioned whether the next two will happen.
Unless candidates can ensure we won’t have to experience another ‘dumpster fire’ doubling as a plug for white supremacy, I think our country could do without it.
On October 3, The Holy Father, Pope Francis, released an Encyclical letter titled, Fratelli Tutti. In that Encyclical, the Pope intends, “Simply to consider certain trends in our world that hinder the development of universal fraternity.” One of these hindrances, according to the Pope, is Capital Punishment. Thus, he writes, “Today we state clearly that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible’ and the ‘Church is firmly committed to calling for its abolition worldwide.”
Such a statement has given occasion for certain influential people to say, ‘Pope Francis closes the door on the death penalty in Fratelli Tutti.’
But did the Church’s teaching on Capital Punishment really change? I am not convinced.
The current issue surrounding the Death Penalty in the Church is quite confusing. Personally, I am still learning the arguments from those who are both for and against the application of Capital Punishment. But at the same time, the Church, if she is who she claims to be, cannot change its teaching on the doctrine of the Death Penalty. Capital Punishment cannot be at one time a non-intrinsic good or evil, and at another time, an intrinsic good or evil. Such an idea violates the principle of noncontradiction, and therefore reduces itself to absurdity. To say otherwise would be akin to saying 2+2 no longer equals 4, but now equals 5. It can’t happen.
Furthermore, we cannot understand the Death Penalty’s current inadmissibility to mean that Capital Punishment is intrinsically evil. For then, Catholics would find themselves at odds with Scripture, as well as notable theologians such as Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint Jerome, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Pope Pius XII. One can, on the other hand, argue that though Capital Punishment is justifiable, we should avoid applying it and use other means of punishment that are proportional to the crime. However, avoiding the use of the Death Penalty vastly differs from Capital Punishment itself being an intrinsic evil.
Those who say that the Encyclical changed Church teaching on the Death Penalty cite Pope Pius XII, who says that Catholics must give assent to a Pope’s Encyclical. They would be correct to say this, insofar as he teaches in matters of faith and morals, given that an Encyclical is a Magisterial Document. (A Magisterial Document is a document which has teaching authority in the Church). The only time a teaching in the Magisterium is to be outweighed is if a teaching with even higher authority overrides the Magisterial Teaching.
Now, Christians believe in Sacred Scripture, which is the inerrant word of God and is therefore, to my knowledge, of higher authority than any Encyclical. Since there are passages within scripture which suggest that the Death Penalty can be used, there must be a way to understand Pope Francis’ words in light of what is taught in Scripture. (For passages on the Death Penalty, see Genesis 9:6, Acts 25:9-11 and Romans 13:1-4.)
Just as we cannot say that doctrine regarding the Death Penalty changed, we also cannot say that what has taken place is a development of doctrine. A development of doctrine presupposes that we move from a vague understanding of some doctrine to a more clear understanding of it. But this cannot be said of Capital Punishment. The Pope is speaking of the application of the Death Penalty, and not the Death Penalty itself. Perhaps it’s possible to come to a deeper understanding of the application of the Death Penalty, but, as stated earlier, the application of it is different than the Death Penalty itself, just as we would say that what we do with a hammer is not the same thing as the hammer itself. Therefore, those who argue that Pope Francis’ teaching is really a development of doctrine are not careful in distinguishing between the doctrine itself and its application. The doctrine remains the same, whereas one’s judgment about its implementation may change. Thus, those who believe that doctrine developed in regards to Capital Punishment itself, fall into the same error as those who believe that the doctrine changed. They give the same argument as those who believe that the doctrine changed, though disguising it as a development.
Since the Church’s teaching on the Death Penalty is a doctrine, it follows that the Church’s teaching on the matter cannot change. Therefore, the Church’s teaching on Capital Punishment did not, and cannot, change.
Link to Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Fratelli Tutti
Link to an article which claims the doctrine did change
Link to an Article on whether the Catholic Church’s doctrine can change
A Catholic Perspective on Voting
What does it mean to be a Catholic voter? This question isn’t too hard to answer. To be a Catholic voter is to vote keeping in mind Jesus’ words, “‘Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me’” (Mt. 25:40, NABRE).
The Church never tells us who to vote for. But she does tell us what we should think about before we cast our ballot. We are called to vote in a way that respects the dignity of human life at all stages: to protect the lives of unborn children, to safeguard the elderly and the sick, to respect migrants, to assist the poor, to stand against racism, to curtail violence at home and abroad, to take care of the environment, and to protect the freedom of worship.
Thinking through these principles, one will quickly realize that neither of our two major political parties align with the Catholic view of protecting the most vulnerable. Well, then, what are we to do?
Ultimately, we are all called to vote listening to our consciences. But our consciences must be well-formed. To assist in that formation, I would like to bring our attention to the issue that the American bishops have described as “our preeminent priority.” This issue is abortion.
Perhaps you agree with the bishops on this matter. Perhaps you do not. In the case that you do not, I would like for you to pretend with me that we are citizens of a country called Imagination. The land of Imagination is a very strange place, since they have a law that makes it legal every January to run over pedestrians in crosswalks. It is not legal to do so, however, in the other eleven months of the year.
As a concerned citizen of Imagination, you might scratch your head and ask, “Now wait a minute. If it is legal to run over pedestrians in January, then why shouldn’t it be legal to run them over in February or June? I mean, if a pedestrian’s life has no value at the beginning of the year, then why does it have value later on in the year?”
Let’s step out of Imagination now and apply this thinking to real life. If it is legal to kill a baby in the womb, then why shouldn’t it be legal to kill a baby outside of the womb? If it is legal to take an unborn child’s life, then why not a toddler’s, or a teenager’s, or an adult’s, or an immigrant’s, or a disabled person’s, or, frankly, anyone’s?
Either life is deserving of respect at all stages, or it is deserving of respect at none. This is not a scenario in which we can have our cake and eat it, too.
If we do not respect the unborn child, then there is no logical reason whatsoever to respect migrants, to care for the poor, or even to be concerned about infecting others with the coronavirus. Under the law as it currently stands, these lives didn’t matter before they were born. Why do they matter now? If innocent, helpless life does not deserve to be protected the moment it begins, then all life is up for grabs.
One might rejoin and say, “I agree that abortion is wrong. I am personally pro-life, but I don’t want to tell other people what to do.”
I recognize the desire to do the right thing that one carries in this sentiment. But the thing is, we do tell other people what to do, and all the time, too. We tell people that they can’t steal, can’t kidnap, can’t counterfeit, can’t lie in court, can’t drink and drive, can’t shoot bald eagles, can’t run through red lights, can’t litter. If society can tell us not to throw candy wrappers out of our car windows, then do you think that society can tell us not to take the lives of unborn children? I know how the unborn children would answer.
If our country had stood for the dignity of the unborn back in 1973, there would be 60 million American babies who would not have lost their lives. 60 million. We, the United States of America—the land of the free!—have killed the equivalent of the entire population of Italy. That’s the price we have paid for being “personally opposed to abortion.” A hefty price indeed.
So, what do you think? Will your vote be a voice that says, “All people deserve to be respected”? Or will it be one that, in its logical repercussions, says, “No people deserve to be respected”? What is it that your vote will do to the least among us? What is it that your vote will do to Christ?
That’s the choice we’re going to have to make. Choose wisely, choose well. Life—at all stages—is on the line. It’s in your hands.
Individuals who are interested in reading more in-depth about a Catholic’s responsibility towards voting should check out the bishops’ letter, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”at https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/upload/forming-consciences-for-faithful-citizenship.pdf
Opinion Columnists Katelyn McCarthy and Melanie Moyer write conflicting views about Amy Coney Barrett's SCOTUS appointment.
Pro Appointment: To Confirm, Or Not to Confirm
Why Precedent Is in Amy Coney Barrett’s Favor.
By Katelyn McCarthy
“[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint...Judges of the Supreme Court” (U.S. Const. Art. II, § 2).
Nowhere does the Constitution limit the President’s ability to nominate a Supreme Court justice, or the Senate’s to confirm her. The idea that a President ought to not nominate a justice during an election year is purely arbitrary. Let’s follow the logic through. If the President shouldn’t nominate a justice during an election year, then why should he be able to nominate one the year prior to the election? Or two years prior to the election year? Or three? In fact, why ought he be able to nominate anyone at all, ever? And the Senate, too. If they ought not confirm a justice during an election year, then why ought they be able to the year before—or at any time at all?
“Because,” some will say, “it is hypocritical of the Republicans to vote on Judge Barrett, seeing as they refused to vote on Merrick Garland. And he was nominated in March of an election year, whereas Barrett was nominated in September! Mitch McConnell, who refused to bring Judge Garland to a vote because it was an election year, has flip-flopped this time around.”
Let’s take a closer look at what Senator McConnell said about Judge Garland’s nomination. On February 18, 2016, Senators McConnell and Chuck Grassley of Kentucky and Iowa, respectively, co-authored an article in The Washington Post in which they stated, “Given that we are in the midst of the presidential election process, we believe that the American people should seize the opportunity to weigh in on whom they trust to nominate the next person for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.”
But the buck doesn’t stop there. The following sentence states, “It is today the American people, rather than a lame-duck president whose priorities and policies they just rejected in the most-recent national election, who should be afforded the opportunity to replace Justice Scalia.”
This time around, we have two notable differences. President Trump is not a lame-duck president. And the American people did not reject his priorities in the most recent national election—we expanded them.
Here are the facts. In 2014, the Republicans in the Senate kept all of their seats which were open for election, and gained nine seats previously held by Democrats, whereas Democrats picked up no seats previously held by Republicans. The Senate flipped from Democrat control to Republican control. In the 2018 elections, by contrast, Republican control in the Senate remained and was expanded.
To compare the current Supreme Court situation to that of 2016 is to make a false equivalence. Yes, the same specific event is taking place—namely, a Supreme Court seat is open. However, the situations surrounding those openings are different. The first involved a Senate which, in the prior election, had flipped from the Democrats to the Republicans. The second involves a Senate in which Republican control has been expanded. For all intents and purposes, this expansion serves as a green light from the American people.
Now, McConnell and Grassley’s position is not inherently constitutional. By that I mean that the Constitution contains no provision that a lame-duck president whose party has lost the majority in the Senate ought not nominate a justice. Not at all. President Obama was acting constitutionally in nominating Judge Garland.
But McConnell was acting constitutionally, too. The Constitution does not require the Senate to bring a judicial nominee to a vote.
His actions seem, frankly, rational and expected. Why would a Republican-controlled Senate (or a Democrat-controlled Senate, for that matter) that disagrees with the jurisprudence of a nominee bring that nominee to a vote, especially when they have the chance of winning the presidency and confirming a nominee with whom they do agree on the law?
Let’s take a look at history. There have been 29 vacancies on the Supreme Court in election years or lame-duck sessions. 19 of these 29 times, the same party has controlled the presidency and the Senate. Of those 19, 10 times the president has made a nomination before the election. Nine times out of the 10, the nominee was confirmed.
By contrast, in 10 of those 29 times were the presidency and the Senate controlled by different parties. Of those 10, six times the president nominated someone before election day. One time out of the six, the nominee was confirmed.
If history is a guide, to confirm a justice this year would be in line with precedent. Not to have confirmed Merrick Garland in 2016 is also in line with precedent.
One might accept the constitutionality and the precedent of this matter, but think that there is a sense of decorum the Republicans are breaking. I would like to ask any Democrat politician out there: if your party controlled the presidency and the Senate, if there was a vacancy on the Supreme Court, and if we were two months away from an election which you may or may not be going to win, would you delay nominating and voting on a judge until the election passed?
And it is not as if a dark horse has been sprung upon them, for Amy Coney Barrett is no stranger to the Senate. They reviewed—and confirmed—her in 2017. Surely, they can’t have forgotten their reviews and hearings from three years ago!
Ultimately, I think the reason that this nomination is so contentious, and why nominations have become more and more contentious over time, is because of the increasing prevalence of a loose constructionist manner of reading the Constitution. If the Constitution doesn’t mean what it says but means what any one judge wants it to mean, then two things occur. The Court is used as a tool by which to “pass legislation” by means of judicial activism, and the opinions of any one justice become of utmost importance. “We have to have judges who think what we want so that they’ll do what we want,” is the underlying mentality of a loose constructionist.
In the end, the partisan fight over Supreme Court nominees is not going to be solved by delaying their confirmation hearings, regardless of which parties control the presidency and the Senate. A return to strict constructionism will guarantee that the law is interpreted fairly and that the Court is not overstepping its bounds. Amy Coney Barrett is such a constructionist.
Con Appointment: A Position on the Supreme Court Should Not Take Precedence Over the Entire American Population
Appointing a new Supreme Court Justice in over half the time it usually takes to vet their candidacy will have immeasurable impacts on the American people. Is this a risk we’re allowing Mitch McConnell to take at our expense?
By Melanie Moyer
The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a gender equality and reproductive rights icon, shook the nation in a year that has been wrought with world-changing events. Beyond recognizing the importance and legacy of RBG, her death has made many Americans reflect on who will fill her position in the Supreme Court. It would be an understatement to say that no one could hold the same importance as she did on the Court, yet the seat that is left absent in the wake of her death is of the utmost importance in this political climate.
In the final few weeks before the next presidential election, Donald Trump has made it more than obvious that filling this seat is extremely important for the power of his administration and the fate of the country as a whole. The urgency that has been given to appointing a new Supreme Court Justice has proven that putting the Rebuplican party at an advantage over the Democratic party has been prioritized over the wellbeing of the American people.
Unlike the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh that was contested on the premise of his predatory behavior towards Christine Blasey Ford, the character of Trump’s new appointee is not a part of the main discussion surrounding her appointment. This shift in focus should be indicative of the danger appointing a new Supreme Court Justice holds right now, for Trump’s pick is not without a problematic history.
Further, many have gotten the impression that the argument against appointing a new Supreme Court Justice in the short time before an election lies in Mitch McConnell’s previous oppositional stance to something very similar during Obama’s presidency. While this double-standard is an issue, there is no evidence that McConnell has the integrity to stay true to his political stances when party benefit is involved. Thus, while it is discouraging and alarming that our standards of conduct in the Senate are so low, it is vital to go beyond partisan politics and react in a way that takes the needs of our country as a whole into account.
When we go beyond partisan politics, there exists permanent damages that can be created by a rushed appointment of a nominee. Adam White, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a professor at George Mason University Law School as well as a supporter of the Trump administration and the Supreme Court nominee, brings up several dangers of Trump’s rushed appointment. He discusses the weight that the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice holds, for it seems as if many forget that it is a lifetime position. He advises that senators “take prudence” and “wait until after the vote to take stock of the situation, and also to take their time in vetting the nominee” (NPR).
The Congressional Research Service reports that the average time it takes between the nomination and the final Senate vote on a Supreme Court Justice since 1975 is 67 days (2.2 months). With the proposal that this vetting process is cut in more than a half with the election in less than a month comes the danger of a rushed appointment, something that could take decades for our country to recover from. To maintain standards of our political integrity, the vetting process should be done right and given the proper amount of time to ensure constitutional behavior.
Further, it needs to be recognized that any bipartisan behavior in this political climate will cause adverse reactions from both political parties. Many Democratic leaders have proposed that they could add more justices to the Supreme Court if there is no integrity in who is appointed. While creating new positions is an issue that requires further examination, many Republicans are seeing it as a problem of “court-packing.” White advises that “moderate senators ought to really consider a way to settle both this vacancy and the court-packing plan [to] make some sort of deal” (NPR).
The partisan atmosphere that already exists shouldn’t be provoked by a rushed appointment because both sides are talking about making irreversible changes to the Supreme Court. Given the state of our country as a result of a pandemic, shaky foreign relationships, civil unrest related to police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, and, most importantly, the climate crisis, it would be better for the general population of Americans for the Senate to reach an agreement rather than continue with partisan actions that do not remedy that issues that plague our country. With two political parties that are so polarized against each other, actions should be that of compromise and not political warfare.
There exists the argument that a new Supreme Court Judge is needed before the election in case Trump decides to contest the results and not have a peaceful transfer of power. This leads many to think that Trump is using his ability to appoint a Justice who would vote in his favor to remain in power longer than he is constitutionally allowed to. Though the problem of deadlock in the Supreme Court is an issue that many are arguing for in a rushed appointment, the question is raised whether this hypothetical problem outweighs the lifetime position of a Supreme Court Justice. In the context of the election, it makes sense that the proper channels of justice should be used to ensure a fair election; however, it’s dangerous to believe that a single person—in this case Trump’s nominee—should decide the results of the election. If unprecedented behavior such as rushing the appointment of a Supreme Court Judge is needed, it should not be at the cost of an entire generation of Supreme Court decisions.
The job of the Senate is to make decisions that best serve the American people, not the president, not a political party, not an individual. By rushing the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice just weeks before an election, Trump and the Republican-led Senate gambles at the cost of the entire American population. With cases coming up in the Supreme Court such as decisions related to the Affordable Care Act, we need to realize that the position of this Justice will sway the stance of the Supreme Court for decades. Thus, the questions that remains are how Americans actually benefit from a rushed appointment and are Republican Senators considering what is at stake with this appointment, regardless of who nominates them.
Ryan Ford '23,