OPINION: GO BE A KID

India Kirssin | Managing Editor

Welcome to the jungle.

That’s always my first thought as I enter the St. Louis City Museum. Metal climbing monstrosities crowd the outside of the old downtown building. An old school bus hangs off the top and right next to it is a ferris wheel. On the roof. Inside, tunnels and slides hang out over the huge staircase, connecting each floor. A “forest” fills the foyer and inside each tree are a countless number of tunnels that lead to indoor caves, secret passageways and a 10 story slide. This “museum” is every kid’s dream.

It should also be every 18-year-old’s.

At a time when colleges are pushing for leaders, money is short and scholarships are sitting on a list that has yet to be checked off, reverting back to childhood seems to always provide and sure-fire stress relief.

I realized this when a friend and I visited the City Museum on break. After showing our IDs to prove we were 18 and could be responsible for ourselves, we spent the afternoon climbing in and out of spaces that were not built for us, fighting claustrophobia, and trying to keep up with the kids. Ironic, right? We were even scolded by a six year old who was tired of waiting behind us while we tried to squeeze through a “dead end.” It was not a dead end, and he was more than happy to point out that we were wrong in every way. Kids.

I walked away from the building content, tired, and relaxed. I may have looked ridiculous and lost my little brother in the tunnels more than once, but I was happy. I know it sounds silly but taking even the smallest amount of time out of your day to pause and reflect can make a world of difference. Participating in childhood activites remind us of a simpler time, a time were we worried about very little.

This was just my most recent reminder to occasionally let my inner eight-year-old out, and the surprising amount of adults at the museum who crawled and weaved through tunnels with or without their children helped solidify the craving we all have to let loose and be a kid again, if even for a short period of time.

So, when you’re lost and alone (or just plain stressed), find a playground, watch Hannah Montana, color, play kick-the-can, or do something from your childhood that helps you get nervous energy out. Sometimes our eight-year-old selves need to be heard.

OPINION: AMERICA’S GREATEST PROBLEM IS OURSELVES

India Kirssin | Managing Editor

What is the biggest problem facing America?

It’s a loaded question, right? The answers and opinions associated with this question are the source of some of the most vicious contempt in our country today. Everyone answers it a little bit differently, and not one person will answer it in the exact same way.

I was asked this question at a recent college interview and, quite honestly, I had to really think about what I wanted my answer to be. The answer needed to be specific and pinpoint a reason, but also broad enough to explain a multitude of problems. It also had to be reliable and play to my strengths. No matter how many opinions I have on the Republican plan for healthcare or on ObamaCare, I cannot talk about those because healthcare is a topic in which I am not extremely knowledgeable. So I talked about the media.

Specifically, I talked about the relationship between the media, the White House, and the people, because it’s changing quickly and it’s hard to keep up. With the terms “fake news” and “liberal media” becoming a part of everyday vocabulary, many Americans, including Donald Trump, have come to understand and accept that a rocky, untrustworthy relationship with the media is the “new normal.”

Many Americans trust Trump more than credible news outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post. They are, in the words of our president, “The FAKE NEWS… the enemy of the American People!” Facts supported by evidence are no longer viewed as the truth and correct grammar is not a top priority. SAD!

When I chose to talk about this on-again, off-again relationship, it was not to rag on Trump or to put the news on a pedestal it does not deserve. It was to address the uncertainty and mistrust felt within our country and countries around the world who are not sure what to make of Trump, or this “new” America yet. Bridging the gap between the White House, the media and the people is not going to fix the serious flaws our government has. It is not going to change if a person likes or dislikes Trump’s policies. But I truly believe it can help ease the uncertainty, the fear of the unknown. It can help Americans feel more secure. It can help the Trump administration project a more cohesive image to the public. And, as common sense tells us, good public image can go a long way.

I also talked about how this is not a one-sided problem. Most mainstream news sources have been very critical of Trump. They have bitten into the stories Trump has baited them to. They have taken small, stupid, insignificant events and blown them out of proportion. As a journalist, this has been frustrating and hard to watch. But they are not an enemy of the American people. In some cases, the press is the only reason we have any idea what is going on in the White House or have any hope at understanding the truth.

On the other side, Trump and top Republicans use conservative news sites, like Breitbart, that are the holy grail of fake news. Then they cite or tweet stories from these sites with absolutely no evidence to back them up, perpetuating the spread of fake news themselves. But what’s a government without hypocrisy? Trump has also blatantly disrespected reporters, complained about “hard questions” that anyone with any knowledge about public relations and government could give a competent answer to, and made a mockery of the White House press corps.

This is the greatest problem facing America today. It is not only setting a dangerous precedent and example for future press, public, politician relationships, but it is setting us down and slippery slope that must be corrected before we slide too far. Both sides need to reflect, calm down and ask themselves if they are doing their jobs and interacting with each other in the professional way they should be. This will never happen but one can hope.

OPINION: RENAMING BUILDINGS CAN’T DELETE HISTORY

India Kirssin | Managing Editor

What’s in a name?

This age old question has become a hot button issue on many college campuses across the country as students and faculty push to change the names of buildings commemorating US leaders who supported slavery and pushed systemic racism forward.

Last week, Yale announced it would rename Calhoun College because John C Calhoun’s view of slavery as a “positive good” doesn’t reflect the values of the school. The college will now be named after Grace Murray Hopper, a computer scientist and US Navy Rear Admiral.

As schools wrestle with how to incorporate monuments of the past into the modern world and rising racial tensions of today, the “renaming revolution” has swept through the South, where universities have a variety of Confederate symbols across campus.

In August of 2015, The College of William and Mary (W&M) decided to remove a plaque honoring students and faculty who fought for the Confederacy from its main building (the Wren Building) and move it to the library as part of a living history exhibit.

When I visited Williamsburg, Virginia that October, I happened to be walking through the Wren Building when an elderly gentleman asked a student helping to direct people where the plaque was. The student explained that it had been taken down to be moved to another location. He also added that the school was changing the plaque to honor those who fought on both sides of the war.

The elderly man, not thrilled by this answer, raised his voice, stood his ground, and lectured the student, myself and my friend about the history and culture of the South and how disrespectful it is to act like the war and our history never happened. At first, I was appalled by the speech. Partially because of the outburst and partially because of the viewpoint. I judged this man. I wrote him off as a racist, stuck in his ways with nothing better to do.

As I have read about more and more college’s changing the layout and culture of their campus by simply changing a name, I have been brought back to this man’s argument time and time again.

The argument on either side walks a fine line. There is no place in our country for the celebration of racism, intolerance or white supremacy. Many believe that keeping the name Calhoun College, or Tillman Hall (at Clemson), celebrates these things. But celebration and remembrance are two totally different things. Remembering a person or an event doesn’t mean you are celebrating it.

And, as the elderly gentleman pointed out, we can’t erase our past. The “out of sight, out of mind” approach will only make us feel better. But it doesn’t mean we have changed as individuals or as a country.

We also need to consider our historical figures in the right context. While their opinions are deplorable from a 21st century point of view, when they were alive their thoughts and actions were valid. In some cases, their beliefs represented an entire half of our country. They may not be looked upon favorably now, but they obviously did something to contribute to our society and to be immortalized in textbooks and buildings.

If we continue to have the “you’re on the wrong side of history, so you’re out” mentality, we will lose all accountability of our past and for our future. Walking past buildings engraved with the names of Confederate leaders and slave owners may hurt, but it should be a reminder that this is where we came from, and we can not go back.

This being said, there needs to be a balance. I’m not advocating naming every new college building after someone of the past we disagree with. Pick newer, more inclusive leaders to carry the battalion forward. Just don’t force the past out.

David Wilkins, Clemson’s faculty board chairman, said the following when announcing that Clemson would not be changing any of its historical building’s names: “Every great institution is built by imperfect craftsmen. Stone by stone, they add to the foundation so that over many, many generations, we get a variety of stones. And so it is with Clemson. Some of our historical stones are rough and even unpleasant to look at. But they are ours and denying them as part of our history does not make them any less so.”

OPINION: UNITED-ISH

India Kirssin | Managing Editor

I have been a fan of the ABC show “Blackish” since it began two years ago, watching it for its humor, its all-star cast, and its ability to discuss national issues in its own wonderful way.

The show follows the lives of the Johnson family, an African-American family living in upper-middle class America. Dre is the hotshot ad firm patriarch, Rainbow is a doctor and supermom, and Zoe, Junior, Jack and Diane are their four kids. The show also includes Dre’s parents Pops and Ruby.

Since “Blackish” aired in 2014, it has tackled racism, police brutality, gun control, the N-word, and, most recently, Trump. While many have criticized the show and its creators for being too assertive too controversial, I have thoroughly enjoyed every “controversial” episode more than the last.

The show waited until January 11 to air its post-election episode, titled “Lemons,” in a genius move that allowed the immediate animosity of November 8 to simmer. It also made way for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in its narrative, weaving in a story of hardship and love, while also reminding us of our mistakes of the past.

The episode dissects how the election has changed attitudes around the (pro-Clinton) Johnson household, the kid’s school, and Dre’s advertising firm. It also includes Junior and Pops talking about Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech and what happens when our eyes are opened to the true messages of the past.

It also asks the question: What happens when the winners and the losers are supposed to be on the same team?

In its main plot point, “Blackish” brings us a discussion for the ages, carried out at Dre’s firm between four black Hillary voters, one white woman who voted for Trump after voting for Obama both times, and a white man who usually votes Republican but couldn’t get on board the Trump train. Many different groups and viewpoints were represented in the tense argument, but Dre remained silent throughout, until his boss asked him why he doesn’t care about our country.

“What did you just ask me?” Dre said, before starting a heartfelt, painfully truthful monologue with, “I love this country, even though at times it doesn’t love me back.” This left me thinking about our humanity long after I had shut the TV off.

This is why the show has had so much success. I have never felt pressured into thinking a certain way, or terrible about my beliefs because of it. It has always presented and respected both sides, even when things are dicey. Every controversial topic is inclusive to all opinions and ideas, as each Johnson generation shares views based on the world they know, creating a relatable viewpoint for anyone watching from their living room, debating how they can relay these topics within their own families.

Between its powerful, realistic topic, timing, and representation, I would dare to say “Lemons” is an instant classic. I wish more shows would try to tackle issues the American people need to be talking about, but I’m not sure any would be able to do it as well as “Blackish” just did.

Here’s my take away from “Lemons” and an important message to keep in mind as we move forward: we may be divided on our new president, but we can not let that be an excuse for us to resort to hate. Hate helps no one. Let’s begin to build the bridges we’ve burned and continue on with life.

España: Verano 2016

It has been almost five months since I last shared my adventures from Spain, and for that I am sorry. Between senior year, editing the newspaper, playing soccer, and college applications I have had almost no time to stop and take a breath, never mind sit down and write an amazing, high quality blog about my trip.

I know I have been back in the U.S. for a LONG time, but don’t worry, I kept a prayer journal that tracked what I did each day, so I’m not making up the details of the trip. Ok, here it goes.

Sevilla

Dia Tres: Málaga to Ronda to Sevilla

We started off bright and early, leaving Málaga behind in the morning light, and driving two hours to Ronda, a city in the mountains. The drive to Ronda was filled with farms and small towns perched precariously on the slopes. Ronda sits on the top of a small mountain (or large hill, I’m not really sure) and is absolutely stunning. The city is small, but bustling and full of history. It is separated down the middle by a giant chasm, complete with an old bridge that is the only way to get across (as far as I could tell). Fun fact: the bridge is large and used to house the town jail inside of it. The idea was that even if criminals escaped, there was no where for them to go but down into the river at the bottom of the long fall. Cool right?

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The bridge across the chasm in Ronda. June 17, 2016

We wandered around Ronda for a little bit, checking out the amazing views and the bull fighting ring, which is very famous, then headed out to finish driving two more hours to Sevilla. Sevilla is a larger city than Málaga, which made me nervous because I’m more of a small city person so I know where I am at all times. Our hotel was not as close to the center of the city as the one in Málaga was, but it was next to the Sevilla FC stadium, which was really exciting for me as a soccer fan and player. Our first stop once we unpacked at the hotel was to lunch, where we enjoyed an assortment of delicious Spanish food. I sat next to Señora Richardson and a few of the boys and our topic of discussion centered around Will and the bidets in our hotel. It was hysterical and I was laughing throughout the entire meal!

After lunch we had our first experience on a Spanish metro system and it was very stressful trying to make sure our large group got onto the same train. We all made it on, but I was uneasy with the size of Sevilla the rest of the time we were there because I always like to know where I am in the city and Sevilla was too big for me to know where I was at all times (Madrid ended up being like this too).

Before dinner Robin and Pablo surprised us with a horse-drawn carriage ride around the city. We got to see the Plaza de España and many different parks and buildings during the ride and I really enjoyed the Plaza de España because of its size, unique architecture, relation to Star Wars and beauty. The people in my carriage challenged ourselves to speak Spanish the entire ride, but when we heard our driver softly giggling at us, we broke into English more than once to laugh at ourselves and joke about what he must be thinking.

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La Plaza de España in Sevilla. June 17, 2016

We ate dinner at a more modern, pub-like place that had TVs to watch the España v Turkey fútbol game in the EuroCup. Spain won easily, but the festive atmosphere was still very different from the soccer community in the U.S. and it was refreshing to be a part of it. After dinner we walked back to the hotel, and I was able to have an awesome conversation with Chris. He’s really nice and easy to talk to and I like him a lot (even though he goes to X). I’m glad we became friends through this trip.

That was it for day three of Spanish adventures but I was excited to get up and do longer more in depth tours of Sevilla the next day!

I almost forgot! La Plaza de España fun facts: Star Wars Episode Two was filmed there (it was Amadala’s palace), it was built in the 1920s to host an event similar to the “World Fair” that was meant to soften relationships between Spain and different South American countries, and it now houses government offices (imagine going to work there every day)!

Dia Cuatro: Sevilla

Today was all about the historical tours (yay)! We toured the Real Alcazar and the Cathedral of Sevilla and, for me, it was a great day. I know a lot of people don’t like historical tours, but I live for them. History is so cool!

La Real Alcazar was stunning. It is a palace a king built to hide away his mistress. The details in the artwork, glass and gardens is astounding when you think about how long it must have taken to build it. There was one wall of purple flowers that was my favorite spot in the palace. The flowers grew on the side of a wall and contrasted perfectly with the light blue tile work underneath them. I wish I could sit against that wall all day, every day.

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My favorite spot in La Real Alcazar. June 18, 2016

After the Real Alcazar we moved right over to the Cathedral of Sevilla, same tour guide and everything. I was in the more advanced group, so our guide spoke Spanish the entire time. This was great for learning purposes, but because I love history so much, I became a little frustrated when I wasn’t picking up on a lot of the facts. It became exhausting to try to translate back and forth so I had to take a break every once in a while. Our tour guide was very nice and funny though, and did a great job of being through.

The cathedral is huge. Inside, it had a gigantic gold alter that filled an entire wall and a tomb with the “real” remains of Christopher Columbus (a few different places claim to have them). One thing I learn while in Spain was that Columbus is a hero to them. He discovered the New World for their crown and set up years and years of colonization and benefits for them. His “discovery” also had a hand in the eventual founding of the U.S. making Spaniards believe they were crucial to our success. Whether this is accurate or not, they are very proud of Columbus. I found this very interesting because here in the U.S. (at least in my school) we are being taught that Columbus was actually a terrible person and his discovery was pure luck. We don’t even get school off on Columbus Day. The different perspectives on this topic are drastic and really showed me the cultural differences.

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The “real” remains of Christopher Columbus in the Cathedral of Sevilla. June 18, 2016

The cathedral also had a tall tower visitors could climb up. The trek up the twisting ramps was long, but worth it. From the top we could see over the entire city and it was breathtaking. On the way down, I dropped and broke my sunglasses and then dropped my water bottle. The bottle rolled down multiple levels of the tower ramps and I chased it all the way, drawing a few laughs from the other tourists calmly making their way to the bottom. It was embarrassing, but I guess it makes for a good story.

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My view from the top of the tower at the Cathedral of Sevilla. June 18, 2016

After our tour, a group went back to the hotel and a group stayed out to shop longer. Guess which group I was in. We weaved through small alleyways and in and out of small (touristy) stores, finding gifts and trinkets for our friends and family back home. After we finished shopping, an even smaller group (guess who was in it??) broke off and headed back to the Plaza de España to revel in its beauty one last time.

Our dinner was outside, on a large patio next to the street. I sat with Señora Richardson, Robin, and Julie and had a great time. We were lucky enough to witness a Spanish wedding taking place in the church down the street and Julie told us all about her wedding to Alberto that was held in Spain. A lot of us girls really bonded and decided to walk the streets some more after we finished eating.

We wandered for a while until we found fresh potato chips and a helado shop to get some sweet and salty snacks from. Señora Perry overheard a restaurant playing an Enrique Iglesias song and shouted “Enrique! Mi novio!” into an alleyway filled with Spaniards. They turned and stared and we laughed and kept moving on our merry way.

When we got back to the hotel, the high school boys and all of the eighth graders were playing volleyball and soccer in a back area with a group of Spanish boys who apparently appeared out of no where (Pablo explained that they were poor kids who spent a lot of time out on the streets). They were very good at soccer and quickly engaged the younger kids in a dance off that was very fun to watch. Even though the communication was limited, it was great to see the different kids interacting and having a good time.

We all went to bed excited to being our adventure to Granada the next day! Even though we were only four days into the trip, I was having the time of my life and thanked God every night for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime like this. Onto Granada!

Click on images below to enlarge and view as a slideshow.

OPINION: ARMY, NAVY RIVALRY BRINGS COUNTRY TOGETHER

India Kirssin | Managing Editor

The streak is over.

This past Saturday, Army beat Navy 21-17, breaking a 14 game losing streak. The last time the Black Knights beat the Midshipmen was in 2001, when they played only three months after 9-11 in an emotional game that showcased many young men who would be headed to fight The War on Terror soon after.

I have never been a huge college football fan, but the Army-Navy rivalry has a special place in my heart. My grandfather is a West Point graduate and former professor. My father was in the Army and still has friends who are serving. We can all agree that “Go Army. Beat Navy.” is a motto to live by.

While both academies are bitter rivals, the overarching understanding of brotherhood and service to country between the two is incredible. Foes on the field, these men become allies after graduation as they commit themselves to a cause greater than football and themselves. It’s inspiring to watch, even for neutral viewers.

It’s also an important reminder of the courageous, bright young men and women of our country. Men and women willing to sacrifice everything for the freedom of others. It’s a game that is bigger than the outcome (even though it was high time Army got to sing their fight song second).

This game is about love of country and unity in times of struggle. It represents two sides with different ideologies but the same end goal: to protect our country. In many ways it mimics our presidential election, yet the comparisons put the election to shame.

Both are patriotic competitions, but one battle ends with respect while the other ends with the disappointment and bitterness of many. One is conducted with honor and tradition, while one has both sides stooping to an all time low. One is fought for pride, while the other is fought for personal gain and backhanded, below the table benefits. You guess which is which.

Army-Navy was a breath of fresh air after the hate and nastiness of the election and the fallout that still reverberates amongst many.

Many of us struggle to accept each other’s opinions and views, whether we admit it or not. Some of us think that Midshipmen bowl with bumpers, while others think Army makes stupid signs. Most of us should just be paying attention to the facts (2016… Warriors blew a 3-1 lead, Indians blew a 3-1 lead, Navy blew a 14 year lead).

We like to say we are more open-minded than ever, yet we still look down upon those we perceive as having an inferior perspective of the world. It’s important to voice our opinion and stand up for what we believe in, but it’s also important to respect others and make sure we are staying within the boundaries we have been given. These values have seemed misguided and a little lost as of late.

Army-Navy exemplifies how we should be treating others –  taking shots in College Gameday signs and creating commercials humorously bashing the other side are fine as long as respect and admiration prevail. West Point’s motto is “Duty, Honor, Country.” Country. We are all on the same team. Army-Navy was a wake up call to start acting like it.

OPINION: Thanksgiving deserves respect

India Kirssin | Managing Editor

Today is November 18. That means we are roughly a month and a week-ish away from Christmas. Or, for those of you who are keeping track, exactly 37 days away. (I had to look that up because I do not keep track.)

We are also less than a week away from Thanksgiving. Six days to be exact. Six days until we get to eat whatever we want without feeling guilty, watch a few terrible football games, relive our childhood through the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and be truly blessed for all of the wonderful things we have in life. If you can’t tell, I love Thanksgiving. And I know saying this is probably treason, but I love Thanksgiving more than Christmas.

Every year for Thanksgiving my entire family travels and gets together. Some years our Thanksgiving celebrations are in Hilton Head, some years they are in Charlottesville, Virginia, some years they are in Disney. One year we went to the Dominican Republic. It really just depends. Thanksgiving is so special to me because my family has started and stuck with this tradition since before I was born. We always make sure we are together to enjoy each other’s company and physically be able to see a few of the many things for which we are thankful.

Another reason I love it so much is because my aunt and uncle cook dinner. And when I say cook, I mean cook. There are almost 20 of us to feed and they go all out. I have fond memories every year of myself and my cousins helping Uncle Jay and Aunt Karen peel carrots and potatoes. It’s something I look forward to year round.

Lately though, it feels like we have fast-forwarded through the Thanksgiving festivities and dived head-first into Christmas. Halloween ends and BAM, Christmas begins. I know there is no “Thanksgiving music,” and Christmas music is fun and catchy, and Christmas sweaters and traditions are cheerful and festive. But slow down a little bit.

I like for things to have a natural progression. Halloween ends, we get geared up for Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving ends and the Christmas celebrations can begin. It’s pretty logical when you look at the order of holidays on the calendar. I just want each holiday do have their own amount of observation and respect.

I am not trying to hate on people who play Christmas music the day after Halloween. It just feels like the importance of Thanksgiving has continued to get watered down as Christmas becomes more and more commercialized. Look at Black Friday. It now starts Thanksgiving night and consists of people shopping, and sometimes fighting, over material items when they should be at home enjoying food and family.

Thanksgiving is about looking back and being grateful for all our country, community and family has survived. It is about looking forward and knowing we will be grateful for so much more the next year because of the new blessings that will be added to our lives. Although it gets overlooked, its meaning has not been watered down, and this in itself is reason to celebrate. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with great food and company. After next week, I will join you in the Christmas hype. But not until then.