A Year to Remember...

A Year to Remember...

A Review of the Events that Characterized 2017
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From bombings and attacks that broke our hearts, to rallies and movements that restored our faith in humanity, 2017 was an eventful year we won't soon forget. So before we break out the champagne to toast the beginning of 2018, let's take a look back at some of the biggest headlines from this past year.

January: Banning of Refugees

On January 27, the New York Times published the headline "Trump Bars Refugees and Citizens of 7 Muslim Countries", causing a stir within the American community. Hundreds of people joined together, protesting the legislation and showing their support of refugees, while others struggled to bring their family members home from overseas.

February: Oscars Mistake

Big "Uh-oh" moment at the Oscars held in February 2017, when La La Land was named the winner of Best Picture, only to discover, after a number of acceptance speeches had been made, that the award actually belonged to Moonlight.

March: President Trump Accuses Former President Barack Obama of Wiretapping

Ah, yes, the wiretapping scandal. On March 4, President Donald Trump tweeted accusations against former President Barack Obama of wiretapping the Trump Tower during the 2016 Presidential Campaign. After a number of press releases, briefings, and investigations, the final verdict was released on March 20, 2017 that there was no evidence to suggest validity of the president's accusations.

April: Gay Officials Elected to Anchorage Assembly in Alaska


A huge achievement for the LGBTQ movement occurred on April 3, 2017 when two openly gay candidates were elected to Alaska's Anchorage Assembly. Christopher Constant and Felix Rivera became the first openly gay officials to become elected officials in Alaska.

May: North Korea Accelerates its Nuclear Weapons Program

In response to President Donald Trump's "aggressive stance towards the regime," North Korea announced its plans to "accelerate its nuclear war programme to 'maximum pace' and test a nuclear device 'at any time'". Thus began the theme in the news of 2017 of increasingly hostile relations with North Korea.

June: London Terrorist Attack

On June 3, 2017, "a van was driven into pedestrians" on the London Bridge; the drivers then exited the vehicle and proceeded to stab a number of people in Borough Market until they were shot and killed by Metropolitan Police. At least seven people were killed and many others were injured.

July: Priest Arrested and Questioned for Drug-Induced Gay Orgy

The secretary to Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio was arrested when his apartment was raided by Vatican City police during a "drug-fueled gay sex party" . The priest was questioned for his possession of the drugs, "as gay sex is legal in Vatican City" (NY Daily News).

August: White Nationalist Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia

A white nationalist rally held in Charlottesville, VA on August 12, 2017 to protest plans to remove the Robert E. Lee statue became violent counter-protesters arrived. Several people were injured and one person was killed when a vehicle was driven through the crowd of counter-protesters. President Donald Trump called the event an, "egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides," inciting disgust from multiple critics.

September: Cleveland Indians Break Major League Baseball Record

The Cleveland Indians beat the Kansas City Royals after tying the game in the eighth and ninth innings, breaking the record for the longest winning streak in Major League Baseball with 22 wins in a row. The record was previously held by the 1935 Chicago Cubs with a record of 21 wins in a row.

October: New York City Terrorist Attack

On Halloween night, 2017, eight people were killed when a man drove a truck down a bicycle path into a crowd of people. The man, identified as Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, claimed he did the act in the name of ISIS.

November: #MeToo

The hashtag #MeToo appeared across the Internet in October 2017 as thousands of people spoke out against sexual harassment and assault. On November 12, thousands met and marched in Los Angeles, California chanting a number of phrases, including "Whatever we wear, wherever we go, 'yes' means 'yes', and 'no' means 'no'" and "not in pots, not in plants, keep your junk inside your pants".

December: Geminid Meteor Shower

On December 13, the sky was filled with meteors as Mother Nature displayed her beauty with the peak of the Geminid Meteor Shower . A spectacular showing and a beautiful ending to another year.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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My First Political Debate Experience Only Revealed The Messed-Up Reality Of American Partisan Pandering

More sinister than fake news, more timeless than Trump and Kavanaugh, the deceit and radicalization of modern politics is poisoning America.

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Given my age (almost 16 and a half!) and my nonpartisan perspective on most issues, it's rare that I attend any politically motivated function (much less in person). Unfortunately, my first taste of official political discourse only encapsulated everything I dislike about American politics.

Upon learning that my high school was hosting a debate between two candidates for the district's representative position, I was immediately intrigued. Admittedly, I had my expectations set high. I had jotted down "House Rep. Debate" on my calendar a week in advance and marked off the days the event neared. I would finally get to learn firsthand about the issues affecting my community and about the people with plans to fix them.

To a certain extent I got what I had hoped for, but certainly not in the environment I had anticipated.

When the student moderators introduced the candidates, Democrat Angelika Kausche and Republican Kelly Stewart, to the stage, it was already abundantly clear how ideologically distinct the two opponents would be.

The first question, which asked each candidate to describe how their views aligned with their party's platform, revealed just how cut-and-dry the candidates were at representing their respective factions. On the left, an unwavering conservative with a keen avoidance of overspending and socialist policies. On the right, an equally grounded liberal with a passion for tackling humanitarian injustices and enforcing moral correctness.

This circumstance certainly isn't unprecedented, but the rest of the night only proved how their narrow-minded partisan loyalty served as barriers to productive discourse.

Right off the bat, Kausche avoided the clearly stated question by taking the time to thank the John's Creek Community Association for hosting the event.

Stewart, however, dove right into her response, which turned out to be a fine-tuned diatribe about Georgia's budgetary deficit and Kausche's supposed lack of budgetary experience and the budgetary concerns and the budget. Finally, Stewart concluded that perhaps the most important thing to consider is, you guessed it, the budget. She even printed out budget sheets for attendees, which I found extraordinarily useful as a handy notepad.

My head perked up when I heard a question regarding Georgia's healthcare policies. Admittedly, I know less than I should about the subject and was curious to know what each candidate thought.

Shockingly, Republican Kelly Stewart opposed the expansion of Medicaid while Democrat Angelika Kausche vehemently supported it. I start to wonder what the point of having candidates' names on the ballot is when their political stances just as much could be conveyed with the letters "D" and "R" to the tee.

Neither candidate veered from their party platform for the rest of the night, with only a few moments of forced agreement (always around the fact that an issue exists, never about how to solve it). On a few occasions, a candidate would utter an especially radical idea (i.e. Obamacare is at blame for the opioid crisis. Medicaid should be for all people. Teachers should be armed.) and was almost always met with either overwhelming applause or a sea of groans.

The room's reaction was so powerful in either candidate's favor that I was genuinely confused who was the more favored of the two.

To be abundantly clear, I wholeheartedly support voter efficacy and staying informed, and I understand that debates inform voters of their representative's ideals. I also don't mean to criticize Kausche or Stewart or even the policies they endorse. I only question the point of debate when it's anchored in stiff, unrelenting party platforms. This is symptomatic of the larger trend at work in American politics: the exploitation of party differences by politicians to entice a demographic of their constituents.

If you're wondering what that means or demand evidence, just take President Trump. Back in 2016, his presidential campaign threatened to run as independent when he felt he wasn't getting enough support from the GOP. Now, he champions radicalized views of the right and has emboldened members of the far-right (along with alt-right neo-Nazis and racists) with his entirely anti-PC attitude.

Similarly, it's rare to find a democratic politician that deviates from the extensive list of liberal ideas that are expected of them. Consider Trump's opponent Hilary Clinton, who originally made it clear in 2014 that she was against nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage. Isn't it suspicious that in 2015, without explaining why her stance changed, her presidential campaign later advocated for this right, thus garnering support from the LGBT community?

There's so much more wrong with the state of American politics than your opposed party controlling political office.

The effect of the American people allowing this pandering and doublespeak is political inaction among policymakers, who can preach a set of ideals independent of their actual intentions.

The other result is voter apathy among constituents, who therefore feel their vote holds little weight.

With such deceitful rhetorical tactics dominating the political sphere, it's easy to believe that we've all been given a voice. But when that voice only ever tells us what we want to hear, it's important that we stop to question whether we're really being heard.

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