Why I Proudly Chose A USA Dorm Theme

Why I Proudly Chose A USA Dorm Theme

My dorm is the land of the free, home of the brave.

Asking an incoming freshman what their dorm theme is, is like asking someone what their favorite ice cream flavor is. You are guaranteed at least a combination of different answers depending on the individual. Some use their favorite colors, others showcase their creative talents with their inspiration coming from Pinterest or Tumblr. But for someone with barely any artistic abilities, I chose an American theme.

Why? I love the United States. When I told a few friends before leaving for school about my USA theme, their responses were that I was "generic" and that my stars and bars were offensive. I not only wondered why, but more importantly, I wondered, "How?" I thought to myself, "Am I not allowed to love my own country? Is it truly offensive to display American flag memorabilia? And if it is, how would you be able to distinguish that between patriotism and arrogance?"

To set a few things straight, this country is the farthest thing from perfection. I cannot ignore the many injustices and atrocities that Americans and our citizens have encountered throughout our history--from Columbus' brutal treatment of the Native Americans all the way up to the recent attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia. I know that the flag I choose to hang on my wall has history of brutal bloodshed, battle victories, and civil injustices. And trust me, America never will be perfect. That isn't the goal; hanging my flag is not obnoxiously reminding people of these daily horrors. Rather, the goal for a better America is not to be perfect but rather to be a "land of the free"-- to work together with all people from diverse religions, ethnicities, socio-economic status, and cultures, to rid the world of evident racism, white supremacy, and bigotry, and to unite as one to combat acts of terror and violence.

America is NOT Donald Trump. We wear freedom, not blonde toupees. America is NOT Charlottesville. American is NOT the Ku Klux Klan. We do not wear white hoods of racism and bigotry.

America IS Walt Disney. America is creators. America IS Albert Einstein. America is innovators. America is soldiers. America IS Alexander Hamilton. America is immigrants. America IS Eleanor Roosevelt. America is powerful women and men working together.

Whenever I think about what the United States represented to people in the past, I think of my Italian ancestors who immigrated to the United States a couple of generations ago. Their eyes awed at the sight of Ellis Island as they finally completed their strenuous journey across the Atlantic, and their hearts yearned for a new life according to the mirage of the "American dream". To them, America was more than the Red Scare which immersed their new culture in fear.

I think of the families who suffer civil injustices in Syria, who distract themselves from the bomb sirens with the thought of being saved or for a better life in America. My flag is a symbol of hope--not hate--for you.

I think of the armed men and women who sacrifice themselves every single day for the sole purpose of service. To them, I owe the utmost respect and honor; because without them, I could not imagine what kind of life I would have. To all those who serve or have served, and to my friends who will one day serve in the Navy and Merchant Marines, my American flag hangs high in my dorm because of you.

I think of the admirable efforts women have made within the past century. Women like Susan B. Anthony all the way up to Malala continue to fight for women's rights all across the globe. Together, we have truly made progress in a world that was once shut off to our opinions; a world where we were considered second class citizens. Now, we know what equality is like in this country when we marry the person we want, receive our college diploma at the university we chose, and plan the career we have always dreamed of.

However, these rights are not found throughout our global community. Women cannot drive in various parts of the Middle East, women are gang raped in sections of Africa and Asia, women are mercilessly mutilated, and women continue to be sold to much older men against their will. These acts of injustice should not be tolerated, regardless of whatever oppressive culture extols them. And I hope and pray that this generation, including myself, recognizes these injustices and helps to modify these outdated and brutal societies. My Rosie the Riveter "We Can Do It" poster is in my room because of you and the struggles we still face today.

I chose an American dorm theme not because I am intolerant or unaccepting of other nations and their cultures. My dorm is a land of the free, not a place to brag. I am not selfish because I love my country. I am not obnoxious if I hang an American flag. I am simply passionate about the values that my country was founded upon, the values Washington, Hamilton and Jefferson-as imperfect as they were as normal human beings-built this country on. From there, I can only hope we, as a country, work towards a greater community amidst the hate, terror, and injustice of our time.

Cover Image Credit: Juliana Cosenza

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Teach Him What You've Taught Me

I'm not the problem, so quit treating me like one.

Last week, I attended what has been the sixth sexual assault/harassment workshop of my freshman year. This is in addition to the numerous rape-awareness emails, PSA’s, conversations with my family about safety, and grade school safety campaigns that I, as a female, have been subjected to for the last 19 years of my life.

At this point, I now know all the tips and tricks to save myself should predators set their sights on me: scream, walk with my keys between my fingers, carry pepper spray, always have your phone charged and ready to call 911, always go out with friends, tell at least three other people where I’m going, don’t go out too late at night, say no, struggle, fight, use a safeword.

Society has spent so much time and effort teach me about consent, harassment, and assault.

I have to wonder: do males have these conversations?

My parents sat me down and explained that the world was dangerous, that some men just don’t understand that no means no, but why not? How come these men never learned what "no" meant? Why haven’t parents taught their sons the intricacies of consent the same way they taught me?

While the world taught me to keep my head down when being catcalled and to hurry inside, were the boys ever taught not to catcall? That no matter who I was how I was dressed, that I did not deserve to be demeaned?

While my sorority hosted a workshop about date-rape drugs and how to keep your sisters safe from would-be abusers, did fraternities host similar events were brothers were taught about what actually did constitute as a yes, and how to keep their guests safe from being roofied?

I’d like to believe this happened, but the world I live in makes me doubt it.

I had feminism and modern-minded, empowered women to teach me that my sexual experiences or the way I dressed did not dictate my worth or mean that men had any rights to my body.

The world, sadly, has taught most males the opposite.

Music, movies, and our overall culture glorifies overly-aggressive men who objectify women. Slut-shaming is such an integral part of the world we live in that it’s sadly become commonplace. Young men grow up with media that teaches that it is acceptable to refer to a woman as a “hoe” or a “slut.”

So many girls are taught that if a boy is mean to them, it’s because the boy likes them. Intentionally or not, this teaches children that abuse equates affection. It teaches that instead of being open about their feelings, it is more acceptable for males to lash out either verbally or physically. It teaches girls that males will not be open with their feelings, but if they do, that is abnormal and he is somehow less of a man.

Society spends so much time shaming natural, normal things like period or breastfeeding that people can't even see those parts of life as normal anymore. Somehow the human body is shameful and deserves to be covered. Instead of seeing a feminine body as skin and sinew and cells, refined by thousands of years of evolution, it is perceived as a sex object. Something that is only skin with no intrinsic extraordinariness is marketed as a dirty secret, like collar bones or bare thighs are somehow forbidden fruit meant to be locked away

Plenty of people say that girls acting “slutty” should be condemned, but what does that even mean? Her bare shoulders are visible? She “looks like” someone who is sexually active? How could you possibly know what she is truly like? And even if she is sexually active, how is that possibly an invitation for insult and abuse? How could you possibly be ok with you son viewing a women's’ bodies so hypersexually?

As a female in the modern world, I have had so many social movements to empower me and keep me safe from dangerous situations. The time has come that the male catches up.

Parents, teach your son consent. Teach him that women are people too, and deserve just as much respect as men. Teach him not to sexualize women's’ bodies. Teach him that she doesn’t have to be fighting and shrieking “no!” for it to be rape. Send your son off into the real world armed with the knowledge of what harassment is, and how to truly respect women. Teach him the intricacies of sexual consent the same way you teach girls.

Most importantly, teach your son that his worth does not come from his aggression, dominance, or how often he gets laid. As an adult, men should know that women are their equals.

I am grateful for these conversations about safety and rape-awareness. This education has protected me from danger countless times. However, all the safety workshops and lectures in the world cannot save me if we continue to produce rapists, harassers, or abusers if men remain ignorant of what is appropriate behavior.

You have taught your daughters. Now teach your sons.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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The Media Needs To Stop Making Excuses For Domestic Terrorists Just Because They're White

In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, the media must stop painting white criminals as pitiable and colored criminals as terrorists.

It really was a perfect, sunny day when Nikolas Cruz took an AR-15 assault rifle (a common weapon among school shooters) and opened fire on the students and staff of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. This is a story we have all heard reiterated in the media countless times, but the other common factor in these stories is the portrayal of Cruz.

19-year-old Cruz is currently on trial with 17 counts of murder, which he has readily admitted to. And yet, media corporations, such as the New York Daily Times, are publishing articles worrying about whether or not Cruz will receive a trust fund of $800,000 from his deceased parents. Why are we even considering giving a murderer $800 grand (aside from whether or not he is eligible for a state-provided attorney)?

When he pointed an AR-5 assault rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and fired the first bullet, all his chances of living a comfortable, guilt-free life vanished. He doesn't deserve the gifts the American people are giving to him: the gift of a fair trial (considering everyone saw who walked into that school and killed 17 people), the gift of considering giving him a state-funded attorney (even though he is very wealthy from his parents' deaths) and the gift of bothering to check up on his past (trying to justify his actions with some pitiful backstory).

Why are we giving a murderer so much humanity? Why are we desperately searching for reasons in his backstory to defend him?

Most sources defend Cruz by saying that his mental illness and his parents' deaths caused him to be an inherently violent child and shoot innocent children and adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. This is an all-too-common story nowadays for a certain brand of criminals, especially shooters.

What's giving him the privilege of using these excuses to seem more pitiful instead of despicable is his race.

There have been 97 mass shootings between 1982 and February 2018, and 56 of them have been caused by white shooters. However, not a single one of them has been formally called a "domestic terrorist". Shocked? We should be. Anyone who intimidates civilians with heinous acts of violence must be called as they are: domestic terrorists, whether they are white, black, Asian, or any other race. Most people associate the word "terrorism" solely with the Islam, although most violent crimes that can be counted as terrorist acts are not initiated by Muslims.

SEE ALSO: Muslim Americans Fear What Trump Symbolizes

When the instigator is white, instead of identifying him (shooters are predominantly male) as a terrorist, the media gives the mental health excuse, which muddles the morality and evil nature of the act committed. If the person was not completely well mentally, it becomes harder to blame him for the action because the American course of action for the mentally ill is to treat, not to condemn. When he has a tragic event in his past like the death of a parent, it becomes easier to justify the action as something of a trauma-induced breakdown. It humanizes the shooter and paints him as a person whom the system failed, instead of a criminal with vicious intent.

However, these excuses are solely reserved for young, male, and white school shooters.

Another young, white and male shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, fatally shot nine African Americans at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. Instead of being labelled as a domestic terrorist, he was humanized and made excuses for, which (unsurprisingly) included the mental health excuse. Even a former FBI special agent, Jonathan Gilliam, was interviewed on CNN and was recorded saying that Roof "probably has some mental issues" and was unaware that he had done anything wrong. White criminals are also always labelled as "lone wolves," which isolates the crime from their race.

People of color are afforded no such mercies. When a colored person commits a crime, he is immediately linked to terrorism and his entire race is defiled. This has been seen time and time again with Trump calling for bans on Muslim immigration and promising to build a wall between America and Mexico, because too many "drug dealers", "criminals", and "terrorists" are coming from these countries.

SEE ALSO: Unconstitutional Or Not: What You Need To Know About Trump's Travel Ban

Colored criminals' backgrounds are not looked into at all, so any potential mental illness or past trauma that may have pointed to the cause of their crime are left unseen and ignored. An excuse of mental health has never been afforded to a colored shooter, although this excuse is consistently seen in every single case of white violence.

Even colored victims are vilified. Take, for instance, the case of Trayvon Martin's fatal shooting at the hands of George Zimmerman back in 2012. Fox News anchor Geraldo Rivera even asserted that the African-American Martin's clothing (yes, clothing!) may have incited the Caucasian Zimmerman to murder him in cold blood. In the media, colored victims transform into menacing adults, such as in the case of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot by police when he was playing with a toy gun and was consistently referred to as a "young man” by the media afterwards. Meanwhile, white mass shooters are portrayed as innocent children, even ones well into their 20's like James Holmes, who, although he shot dozens in a movie theater, was described as a "normal kid," a "smart kid." and a "typical American kid".

Nonwhite criminals and victims are not given the opportunity to be anything other than malicious and their backstories and intents remain unexplored, while white criminals are provided every excuse to use in the media. So, no, Nikolas Cruz isn't a lamentable case of when "the system" failed him. No, he isn't just a pitiful child who must be treated with understanding. No, he isn't an orphan just wanting to be understood.

This racism-based media narrative must be eliminated. White shooters are not always lone-wolf, mentally ill children who must be helped. Colored shooters are not always menacing terrorists whose races must be stopped. We must label all criminals, including white criminals, as what they truly are.

Nikolas Cruz is a domestic terrorist.

Cover Image Credit: Instagram

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