Skip to main content


American Flag painted hand holding pain brushes up

Art in Trump’s America

By UncategorizedNo Comments

Art in Trump's America Title

Many in the nation woke up the morning of November 9 in a sort of hangover, dazed with complete disbelief. They were waking up to Trump’s America.

Never before has it been “Insert-President’s-Name-Here’s America” as much as it is now Trump’s America. Since election day, there has been a constant chorus of, “People are scared,” “What just happened?” and “What now?”

For artists like Joseph DeLappe, who is also the former director of the digital media program at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Department of Art, it’s no different.

“I guess I have mixed feelings about what has happened,” he said. “It’s been heartening on the one hand to see so many artists having a wake-up call in a way, sort of like, ‘Oh, crap! We’ve been fiddling while Rome burns,’ type of thing.”

Like many elections in the past, there definitely was no shortage of art. Artists kept busy, pumping out diverse works from portraits of Trump painted with menstrual blood, a naked Trump statue, and countless pieces of street art, to Saturday Night Live satire and comedy.

In what many consider turbulent times, art can change the narrative, according to DeLappe.

“In these kind of circumstances, I think what artists do becomes very important,” he said. “It becomes a way of not just reacting, but perhaps helping form other ways of dealing with our contemporary situation.…[It’s] giving opportunities for dialogue, giving you information that allows you to make up your own mind, and opening those gates in a way that are not always addressed typically.”

Despite the flood of creativity sparked by the election, DeLappe believes the art world could have done more—a lot more.

“The art world has always been a kind of separate entity,” he said. “It would be interesting to see whether this translates into concrete action or results on the part of artists.”

It’s no doubt that artists are aware, but to DeLappe, the question lies in the decision to ignore reality.

“I think artists tend to be some of the most … engaged in terms of what’s going on in a kind of zeitgeist sensibility,” he said. “There is a responsibility on the part of artists to not disengage from this world. I think we can’t afford to. The stakes are too high.”

Definitely, in the last 15 years, DeLappe himself immersed his work in politics more than anything else, working on projects like “Liberty Weeps,” a collaboration with 3D artist Charlie Becker for a Los Angeles exhibition called Manifest Justice. The cardboard sculpture reflects Lady Liberty with her face buried in her hands, weeping. It expresses a “sense that things have gone wrong in this country,” according to DeLappe. Originally intended to portray feelings toward police shootings of young black males and its issues of justice, its meaning has morphed since its inception in 2015. Now, it means the current state of immigration to Antonio Varga, who came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant from the Philippines. To many more, it personifies this election.

Undoubtedly, the President’s campaign over the last election cycle raised fears that under his presidency, First Amendment rights could be restricted and even threatened.

“When you have someone like Trump coming in who’s uniquely unqualified and really doesn’t seem to be even aware of that basic tenants of our legal system, justice system, constitution, it’s scary,” DeLappe said. “I think we need to be ever vigilant.”

With Trump’s claims to “open up libel laws,” threats to revoking citizenship of flag burners, and Tweets about shutting down “boring and unfunny” shows like Saturday Night Live for their criticism, Trump has talked the talk. But, can he really walk the walk?

Patrick File, a professor in the University of Nevada’s journalism program with a specialty in media law and policy, highly doubts it.

“Broadly speaking, some of the claims that the president has made, his direct ability as president to do that is relatively limited,” he said. “It’s a stretch to assume that the election of Donald Trump automatically starts to erode the specific legal principles or protections under the First Amendment because those rely on court rulings.”

Graffiti Stair Well

According to File, Trump would have to appoint a series of justices that completely align with his ideology, which is never guaranteed, to overturn a Supreme Court precedent like those set in New York Times v. Sullivan. This case reinforced cornerstone First Amendment values.

Even if Trump does manage to secure these like-minded justices, File said, the most that can happen is a weakening of those legal standards over a long period of time.

“If you’re a public official in this country, thanks to the First Amendment, you have to put up with a great deal of criticism,” File said.

File said that the standard set for the First Amendment is what Supreme Court called “a commitment to wide open, robust … conversation about political issues.”

“The president doesn’t get to just change [Supreme Court rulings],” File said. “The point of checks and balances is having these separate but co-equal branches of government so that the president, for that very purpose, can’t just say, ‘Well, we’re gonna have a new law…as far as what can be protected by the First Amendment or what cannot be protected by the First Amendment.”

So, despite the talk, artists should be okay—legally.

“The landscape of American law is INSIGHT 24 one that makes it more difficult than other places around the world … to just crack down on art that the government doesn’t agree with or that people find offensive, troubling, or opposite to the dominant views,” File said.

He also believes that in many cases, it’s less about the law.

“[The presidential administration] can set a landscape and a tone, as the campaign did, that is either accepting of ideas … that are themselves not necessarily censorship and aren’t necessarily the government censoring the people’s speech, but that make it so people don’t feel comfortable speaking up,” he said. “So if you’re an artist who’s a person of color, a Native American, a Muslim, or even for that matter a woman, you may feel less comfortable talking and speaking up … not because there’s any explicit legal ban on you doing so but because you feel like there’s a stronger social backlash.”

The hateful rhetoric seen throughout Trump’s presidential campaign is already cultivating this kind of atmosphere, with CNN reporting several hate crimes post-election.

To Cullen Wegman, a second year graduate student at the UNR’s Fine Arts program and a self-proclaimed political artist, art is the weapon to fight back.

“I think that art is a tool that will help those [minority] communities to find one another and find solidarity and strengthen the resistance,” Wegman said. “Trump is never going to listen to anybody who thinks differently from Trump. But, if you find enough other people who will listen to you because they’re genuinely interested in what you have to say, that’s where their art becomes a very powerful tool.”

Dr. Julianne Lindberg, Assistant Professor of Musicology at UNR’s Department of Music, shares the a similar sentiment.

“I think now is the time to make art, honestly. Some of the most repressive times have produced some really interesting and completely different art.”

Here, she references the birth of a particularly unique and novel art form in the late 80s and early 90s: hip-hop. This new genre was bigger than just catharsis. It was also “a direct reaction to the Reagan administration … [and] how the urban areas and cities were left behind.”

“I think that’s a fundamental and important part of art making, to address your particular circumstances but also speak to the powers that beat,” Dr. Lindberg said.

In a time where most people see history repeating a very grim part of itself, she believes this is absolutely the time to continue making art, not stop it.

“There’s different reasons to do it,” Dr. Lindberg said. “Part of it is to express yourself, to have your voice be heard. Some other reasons are because art, depending on the context, heals and speaks to communities in larger ways, not just simply looking at the facts of whatever repressive political climate that you’re in.”

Art is here to stay, then, and artists are definitely finding a lot to say as President Trump’s administration pushes onward. Who knows what can come out of it in the next four years? Weird times call for weirder measures.

“I think there is a prevailing view that art should be there to please and to entertain,” Dr. Lindberg said. “I think there needs to be more discomfort and analyzing why you feel uncomfortable. Ultimately, art is about expression of individuals, of groups, of societies. Listening is always better than not.”

three fists with painted nails

What a Trump Presidency Means for Women’s Reproductive Rights

By UncategorizedNo Comments

Reproductive Rights Title

As the country continues to transition into Donald Trump’s presidency, women should be aware of how their abortion rights could change. Currently, women are legally allowed to get an abortion in the U.S. under Roe v. Wade. However, if Trump does as he says, he will appoint Supreme Court Justices that are in favor of overturning the 43-year-old Roe v. Wade court decision.

The first course of action Trump needs to take in order to overturn Roe v. Wade is appointing a new, conservative Supreme Court Justice to replace Antonin Scalia. Scalia served in the Supreme Court for 30 years until his death in February of 2016. Before Scalia’s death, the Supreme Court’s opinion about abortion was split. Half approved of Roe v. Wade, while the other half opposed the law. Even with Trump’s pick to replace Scalia, which will most likely be a conservative, the Supreme Court will remain deadlocked over the issue.

As of now, Roe protects the right to an abortion until the fetus can live outside the womb. Twenty-seven states have at least one additional regulation, including mandatory waiting periods, restrictions on health insurance coverage and bans after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Trump says that if Roe v. Wade was overturned, the decision to make abortion either legal or illegal would return to each individual state’s will.

When asked what women seeking abortions would be left to do, Trump simply said, “Well, they’ll perhaps have to go—they’ll have to go to another state.”

Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota have laws to automatically outlaw abortion if justices overturn Roe. Eleven states have retained their pre-Roe bans, which would again take effect in such an event. Seven states, meanwhile, have laws that protect the right to obtain an abortion prior to viability or when necessary to protect a woman’s life. According to studies conducted by Planned Parenthood, 7 out of 10 Americans are in favor of safe, legal abortions. Despite that, the Trump Administration is persistent on making abortion illegal on the federal level. His Vice President, Mike Pence, is equally notorious for his pro-life stance as well.

“I’m pro-life and I don’t apologize for it,” Pence said. “We’ll see Roe v. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs.”

Planned Parenthood remains willing to fight for women’s reproductive rights as they have said on their website. Former Vice President of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, Alison Gaulden, stresses that even if abortion was made illegal, risky abortion procedures will ensue.

“Abortions will never go away; women will always have abortions. What happens is if the safety goes away then they will die of abortion, they will die of inadequate care,” Gaulden stated. “Making it illegal or hiding it, doesn’t make it go away. It makes women more vulnerable.”

Before Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court in 1972, 17 percent of all deaths due to pregnancy and childbirth were the result of an illegal abortion. These procedures were often done in unsanitary, unsafe environments and performed by people who were not experienced health professionals. After Roe v. Wade was passed, only 0.3 percent of women who have legal abortions die from procedure. Gaulden is confident that Planned Parenthood will continue their commitment to providing safe healthcare for women.

“Planned parenthood will always find ways to help women in need,” Gaulden said.

Many women would end up struggling financially if the right to an abortion was taken away. For example, some may not be able to afford a child in the first place but in other instances, having a child means it is harder for women to find work and/or keep a job. Ann Crittenden, an author and former reporter for The New York Times explains in her article “The Mommy Tax,” that most companies seek workers that are unencumbered. Those who can’t devote all of his or her time to their career have permanently lower lifetime income. For women, this means that they will no longer have a chance to decide between motherhood and a career. If women are not allowed to terminate a pregnancy they will automatically carry a financial burden for the rest of their life. Sociology Professor Dara Naphan at the University of Nevada, Reno agrees with the article by Crittenden.

“It (abortion) has a lot to do with economic dependence for women and I think that’s key,” Naphan said.

Child care is an important factor in determining gender inequality. It is common for men to leave a woman they impregnated because they don’t want to be responsible for the child. If abortion rights were taken away, that would automatically put the burden of child care on women because they have no choice but to have the child.

“If child care disproportionately falls on women, then you know that society has a high level of gender inequality,” said Naphan.

Gender, Race and Identity instructor Alissa Surges, at the University of Nevada, Reno says that this is an obvious representation of how women’s health is seen by the government.

“To many of the men who oppose abortion, the message is the obvious one: women’s health does not matter,” Surges said. “(Because) abortion rights are not seen as a health issue, it shows their limited understanding of socioeconomics, health, and women’s rights.”

Naphan echoes that statement adding that the social constructions about gender are a major reason why the struggle for women’s rights and equality is ongoing.

“If you look at politics and how men dominate politics, it shows that it’s a huge part in the social construction of everything,” Naphan said.

Cool Cave Lake

Traveling Through Self-Realization

By UncategorizedNo Comments

Tori SittingLiberation—a complex and formidable word that contains several layers of meaning according to the person it possesses. What does pure liberation mean? Is it never having to face oppression or inequality? Could it be never staying in one place and experiencing life according to the direction the winds are blowing? How about being completely in tune and comfortable with yourself to the extent which no other person’s opinion or judgment has the potential to impact you? The true meaning can only be defined on a person-to-person basis. Liberation is something that one has achieved for themselves regardless of the path it took to get there. One’s sense of self is composed of countless experiences and hardships that then become a part of the rewarding aspects of liberation. But, how does one just obtain a pure and true knowledge of thyself? The answer is simple. Travel. And I don’t just mean to a nearby part of town either. I’m talking about a place that will push you out of your comfort zone and challenge your current perspectives. How do I know this methodology is effective? I put it to the test myself.

Yes. I— a then 20-year-old, inexperienced girl—decided it would be a good idea to travel abroad in order to take part in a medical internship in Pula, Croatia, despite the apprehension I received from my family. Looking at my itinerary on paper, it all seemed so easy. I had never visited a different continent before, but how bad could five connecting flights and over 24 hours of travel time be? With my two suitcases in hand, I stomped inside my hometown airport trying to exude confidence. The truth was, I had never been so scared of something in my entire life. It was my responsibility to make it to Croatia in one piece, as I was the only person I could depend on for this journey to be a success. I shook off my fears long enough to make it to New York.

Already feeling a little homesick, I texted goodbye to my parents as I really didn’t know the next time I would have access to Wi-Fi in order to talk to them. Once I arrived in Germany, it was just as I had expected—no internet access. This was the first time in my life that I had no communication with the outside world. It was just me, myself, and I at this point—so I naturally started to panic. While waiting for my fourth plane to arrive, I watched the countless blobs of faces that passed me by. I wondered where they were going, and if they felt as lonely and afraid as I did. Not knowing the languages or places around me, the unfamiliarity started to suffocate me. Not wanting to cause a scene, I began to breathe deeply and remind myself that this is what I signed up for. I wanted to be challenged, and above all else, I wanted to be brave. This is when I made the conscious decision to embrace the culture shock I was experiencing instead of resisting it. I took in any slight difference in the behavior of the people around me, the smells of the cuisine wafting down the terminal hallway, and even the infrastructure that I was enclosed in. I documented it all. Although frightening and unfamiliar, I knew this was something I never wanted to forget.

Fast forward twelve hours and I had finally arrived at my target destination: Pula, Croatia. I trudged off the plane and into the terminal to meet with the program coordinators I signed up with. I had reached a whole new level of exhaustion at this point and couldn’t wait to exit the airport in order to draw in fresh air. While being driven to my living quarters, my eyes were glued to the window. I didn’t want to blink or move. My brain was taking in sights faster than I could process them. I was in pure disbelief at the amount of green, grassy meadows that engulfed my surroundings, the hundreds of sailboats that grazed the deep blue water nearby, and the antiquity of the tall buildings that were dispersed evenly throughout the city. Complete and utter disbelief. Nothing else mattered to me in this moment. I was consumed by the unknown that surrounded me and I loved it. Looking back now, it was a memory that can’t be described in any other way besides actual bliss.

While in Croatia, I tried to keep up the same mindset I had while in the airport—soak up every moment, even if fear is present. I tried the local cuisine, went to the beach by myself regularly, traveled to other cities in Croatia, took tours of local monuments, and fell in love with a place I never knew existed six months prior. I was living my life based on my own agenda. I had no outside pressures of society telling me how I should spend my time, so I capitalized on the fact that I had my own aspirations and I was going to abide by them. Was there a time when I was unbearably lonely? Of course. But for the first time in my life, I was able to listen and comprehend my loneliness, instead of fight it. I became in touch with my emotions in a way that allowed me to feel deeply, but also be completely content with those feelings—good or bad. I came to appreciate solitude and reflection periods in order to better myself and learn what I really wanted out of life.Because I was essentially a human sponge in another country, I was able to learn a lot about the culture that engulfed me. I listened to the conversations being exchanged around me even if I couldn’t understand them, I talked to people with the few words I knew in Croatian, and above all, I learned humility about things I had been taking for granted my whole life. Croatians didn’t center their lives around material items. They were all about experiences. Experiences with one another, experiences with nature, and experiences with their own culture. No one cared if you had a nice car because guess what? A bus got you to your destination just as fast. The people were about the people, and I never realized how little I had been living my life like this up until this turning point. Being American, I had always dreamt of having material things in order to indicate success in life, but my ideals were completely turned upside down when I observed Croatian society. I couldn’t get happiness via a car or a big house. I needed it through human interaction. Through human decency, or through the indulgence of nature. These people were completely content with the lives they had. They weren’t striving for more stuff, rather, they were striving for more happiness. More self-fulfillment. With this observation, I knew that my aspirations had shifted to ones that didn’t involve materials. I wanted to travel more, learn about the values of other cultures, and ultimately, become a person that appreciates experience over materials.

Traveling to a different country popped the bubble of conformity I was consumed with for the entirety of my life. Before Croatia, I was walking a path that all of society approved of. It told me to fear the unknown and not to question the progression of American life. By finally leaving behind this society and the means to communicate with it, I was able to determine my own mindset regarding my future, aspirations, and morality. I drew in a fresh breath of perspective and originality that cleared my mind of previously conceived notions put into my head. This intake led to a confidence in the person that I wanted to become when I returned home. I was self-aware, and completely content with myself because I wasn’t tainted by others’ opinions. I was able to free my mind from the judgments that were subtly bestowed on me throughout American culture and be the person that I truly wanted to be. I finally felt complete liberation.

guitarist playing with drum artist in the background

Pack Profile: Assistant Professor Ben Birkinbine

By UncategorizedNo Comments

Ben BirkinbineProfessor Ben Birkinbine may be considered relatively new to teaching at the Reynolds School of Journalism. He has been a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno since 2014, yet he’s considered to be a fan favorite among students for his knowledge of freedom, journalism, and pop culture references. Birkinbine teaches several courses at the Journalism School including ‘Foundations of All Things Media’, ‘First Amendment and Society’, and a graduate course called, ‘The Future of Journalism’.

According to Birkinbine, the desire to become a professor can be traced back to a couple things—one of which includes coming from a family of educators that taught at public schools back in Wisconsin and having the teaching trait in his blood. Birkinbine also noted that during his freshman year of college at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay , he took a course by the name of ‘Freedom and Social Control’ that he considered ‘life changing’.

“That [course] really inspired me to continue investigating more complex issues. Issues in history, politics, culture and all of the rest of that stuff. I was just amazed by the stuff that I was reading, and it was just a big awakening experience,” said Birkinbine.

He recalls the first day of class when his professor wrote, “What is freedom?” and, “What is social control?” on an old fashioned chalkboard as he and his fellow students wrote their ideas down on paper—a familiar assignment he’s implemented in his ‘First Amendment and Society’ course here at the University. Birkinbine remembers the course as being one of those special classes; an awakening experience that would later inspire him to go on and pursue graduate studies.

However, in the run up to the financial crisis, Birkinbine took a job as the director of sales and marketing for an international translation company right after his undergraduate studies. Instability in the company due to rapid expansion also persuaded Birkinbine to further pursue his academic career by getting his master of arts in Media Theory & Research from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, as well as a doctorate degree from the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon, where his teaching career began.

During his time pursuing a PhD at the University of Oregon, Birkinbine was assigned to be a teaching assistant for the First Amendment course under a professor infamously known for being an authoritative source on First Amendment law in the United States, according to Birkinbine. Over the course of a year and a half as a teaching assistant, Birkinbine became intrigued by the ideas of the course and tried to formulate the knowledge he was acquiring into his own teaching style. Later on, the professor from the University of Oregon became rather ill, and Birkinbine was asked to step in and fully teach the course. It was during this time that his experience teaching the law course landed him a job here at UNR on a visiting appointment. He then went on to become a tenured professor in media studies.

What’s rather unique about Birkinbine’s First Amendment and Society course is the complete dive into the case law. He teaches students to not take freedom for granted, expanding young minds to larger ideas about freedom and social control.

“I’m not trying to get you to talk about the social contract,” said Birkinbine. “I’m trying to get you to think about what would absolute freedom look like, just even put yourself in that headspace, right? And it’s disheartening when students can’t even imagine.”

To Birkinbine, total freedom would be the absence of control and influence from any level. He notes that for some, you can never really become detached from all of those things that influence you. But at some point in college—hopefully—you should encounter an existential crisis. According to Birkinbine, it’s here where you can begin to question what it all means, and why you’re here. To him, when you reach this point it can become very empowering because you feel comfortable with the direction you’ve chosen for your life. You become imbued with your own sense of self-worth.

“What would you do if your parents wouldn’t tell you you couldn’t? What would you do if your church said you could do whatever you want? What would you do if the government said you could do whatever you want? What would you do if money was no option? What would you do if anything?” Birkinbine asked. “It’s Freedom of mobility, freedom of opportunity, freedom of anything.”

According to Birkinbine, once you get yourself in that headspace, you start to make particular decisions about your own life, and only by pushing yourself outside of those constraints can you really appreciate it. This is where his course on the First Amendment tends to dive into a deeper meaning about larger, more complex ideas. He often ponders the question: What would you do if you could do anything? As well as the concept of freedom and how you would live your life to give it value.

“The kind of dark side of that is the very humble recognition that we’re all going to die. And so if we’re all going to die, we know there’s an end to this whole journey that we’re on,” said Birkinbine. “The question for you is what are you going to do until that point? You never know, it [death] could really happen at any time, and so what’s going to give your life meaning?”

To Birkinbine, these are the broad subjects you have to wrestle with when thinking about freedom, control and where the two meet. He doesn’t want his students to take these ideas for granted. He wants them to understand the richness of thought that goes into law. To Birkinbine, it’s important to ponder the ways in which you’re free now, and how that translates to concepts like freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Another component to Birkinbine’s academic background is the research and writing he takes part in. The main area of research he’s involved in is called, ‘political economy of communications,’ which is primarily concerned with investigating the structures that enable the production, distribution, exhibition, or consumption of media resources. Birkinbine, along with two other editors and 27 other contributors, published “Global Media Giants” last year. According to Birkinbine, there were other texts similar, yet outdated, and the time was right for another volume that would investigate specific companies, analyzing the ways they have political, cultural, economic, and other power.

In addition to his recently published book, Birkinbine says he’ll be traveling to London this summer for research similar to his dissertation, focused on free and open sourced software that will he hopes will lead to a solo authored book.

As an authority on the First Amendment, Birkinbine doesn’t actually believe that it’s in danger despite concern being rather prevalent. He describes it as being one of the hallmarks of American democracy with a longstanding tradition of being there. Yet to Birkinbine, the more that organizations sprout up and pedal fake news, or distort some of the facts—it undermines the credibility of the media as an institution and does become a threat.

Birkinbine, along with other colleagues at the Reynolds School of Journalism and local activists, have recently been asked to give talks about the first amendment to the Reno community by request from the Nevada Humanities Council and Action Together Nevada. According to Birkinbine, people come who are concerned about threats to freedom of speech and to freedom of press on behalf of the current administration.

“We fielded the questions and talked about our own experiences with free speech, the press, etc., and just answered questions from the community, and I think that was really impacting,” said Birkinbine.

In addition to the studious work and research Birkinbine does as a professor, he is also the bass player for Fine Motor—a local, independent rock band composed of himself and several members from the English Department at the university. According to Birkinbine, Fine Motor has been described as sounding similar to The Velvet Underground with a dreamy, poppy, surfy, shoegazey sound.

Birkinbine and his band do mostly originals with a few covers thrown into their shows at the Holland Project and Sundance Books. They even have an album coming out through Exotic Fever Records around July. To Birkinbine, it’s great to have a creative outlet simply because he grew up around music, taught himself to play and went to punk rock shows in the midwest in his youth.

According to Birkinbine, when it comes to the band or shows, he shamelessly promotes them in his lectures and highly encourages people to check out Fine Motor.

“I think it was at the end of last semester. There were actually quite a few students who showed up. They made signs. It was quite embarrassing,” Birkinbine said, laughing. “For them, not for me.”

Yet, if Birkinbine and his band were to make it big in the music business, he said he wouldn’t quit his day job. After briefly being in a band with De’Mar Hamilton, drummer for the Plain White T’s, and being friends with their tour manager—Birkinbine says that he knows just too much about the music industry and how temporary it can be. Plus, he really enjoys being a journalism professor.

What Birkinbine likes about teaching is getting students excited about communications, journalism, media, and trying get them to see why it’s important; why they shouldn’t feel like it’s an undervalued subject area.

When it comes to his love of teaching Birkinbine said, “It may be a cliche answer, but I do think it’s that seeing the progress of students and seeing students get interested in a topic.”

Black and white American Flag

The Cost of True Democracy

By UncategorizedNo Comments

It’s Fall- and the most wonderful time in democracy… election time: wonderfully stimulating and wonderfully aggravating, as many would agree. Fall beckons for boots, sweaters, and all the pumpkin spiced goodies you can get your hands on. Fall also signifies democracy, in the form of election season. This year, we will take part in a history-making presidential election. Democracy in its true nature compels “we the people” to participate in the choice process that will lead to what we hope will be a governance of freedom and equality. Nearly anyone and everyone of voting age gets the opportunity to voice their opinions of Trump or Clinton, whether it be in a class discussion, a public forum, a Q&A, Facebook post, or even a tweet.

Though despite the overall lack of political interest from many citizens throughout the year, Fall renews our sense of civic-mindedness. When election season comes around, we all seem to have our own perspective to share. From the passionate war vet fighting for her rights, to the small business owner interested in economic prosperity, to the stay-at-home dad who just wants a better education for his children, it’s fair to say that it’s likely… even expected …. that we all hold our own political hopes for the future. Yes, there certainly seems to be something captivating about true democracy, whether it’s uniting or dividing us, (I guess that’s up for individual interpretation). But from where did this divide originate? Is it from the political candidates themselves? Or does political division center around disagreements over public policy and social issues? Perhaps there’s another underlying cause for this division?

Speaker at podium

To consider the cause of political division, let’s first turn our attention to the political candidates themselves. We see it every election season, what appears to be an all-out battle for presidency. We the people are bombarded with countless media interviews, newspaper articles, debates, the Democratic and Republican conventions, not to mention social media propaganda. In today’s highly technologized and globalized world, it’s hard to escape the political realm of incongruity. Even from the early days of Hamilton and Jefferson, there has existed this competition in an effort to bring liberty to our society. It’s understandable that the candidates and representatives who come from opposing parties are bound to disagree. Instead of putting in the time and energy to tear their opponent down, however, what would happen if that energy was poured into cooperating and compromising with an opponent instead? When considering the impact this political divergence has on public opinion, professor of Political Science and Department Chair Erik Herzik seems to believe that this leads to two possible conclusions. First is the notion of “confirmation bias”, meaning that people believe what they want to believe, despite any negative statements or ads made against a candidate, which is particularly prevalent to this election season. The second result is what Herzik describes as a “deepening distrust in politics” between the public and government. Over the course of the years, citizens have continued to lose faith as well as trust in government due to a lack of appropriate representation. We hold this idea that democracy is based on representation of the people, but the more we see these black and white or should I say  red or  blue extreme sides of political parties, the more inclined we are to either pick a side, resulting in not feeling fully represented; or not choose either side, resulting in not feeling represented at all.

Though it’s easy to blame political leaders, (they are, after all, the center stage players during election season), it is fair as well as wise to consider that we as citizens have to hold some accountability for this division as well. How well do we listen to our peers and their concerns? Do we listen to understand? Or do we merely listen to respond? This seems to be an unavowed and continuous problem in our world of communication.

Democracy, or at least the democratic process, has undeniably created a sense of division in our society. This division has likely emerged from continuous political competition as well as our disinterest and lack of willingness to communicate with one another. Still, other factors need to be considered. First, we come from the melting pot society, a society originally praised for its diversity, but bound to encounter disagreement and conflict. This conflict has led to an outward competition among political parties, thus creating a partition. Secondly, our world today has become so highly technologized and globalized that it allows anyone to voice their opinion to the world at a mere fingers-touch, in a matter of seconds while also allowing a sense of anonymity. This has certainly changed the way democracy is viewed and practiced.

Lastly, we must consider that our world is continuously evolving. Every day is an opportunity for new problems to appear, and resulting conflict about how to solve those problems. Together, these factors along with the deepening competition among political parties and ourselves has led to a divide in our country. So, is this the cost of true democracy? If so, what can we do as individuals and as a society to close this division.