Monday, December 6, 2010

Horizons sovereignty dilemma

"The only way to keep them safe is to be separate. A nation with the power to protect its own." Horizons, p. 245

I cannot agree holistically with the sentiment described above in Mary Rosenblum's novel, nor can I condone the belief that "sovereignty protects difference." In my opinion, such a way of thinking is dangerous and irresponsible, especially when applied to our discussion of the Other. The separation portrayed by Rosenblum in her fictitious, futuristic narrative mimics actual human history's infatuation with racism, prejudice, segregation, ethnic cleansing, religious crusades, etc. Sovereignty can be utilized as a way of protecting one population's cultural and geographic ties; however, mankind cannot afford to use the physical boundaries of sovereignty to dictate human interaction. A nation may choose "to protect its own", yet that does not necessitate isolation from external influence. Horizons explores this concept through the continual debate within the Platforms regarding trade agreements with Earth. The same discussion occurs within our own political environment, among the First World and the Third, between the East and the West, between communist and democratic forms of governance.  Sovereignty, in this context, has less to do with protecting one's own people and everything to do with solidifying the divide between us and them. Physical borders and separations based upon ideological difference or skin pigmentation (in addition to countless other "sameness" checkpoints) highlight those so-called disparities even further and inspire more suspicion between the two groups. At times sovereignty seems, to me, to be far too easy an excuse to which apprehensive isolationists may cling. And in an increasingly globalized dynamic among "nation-states", the purview of sovereignty becomes all the more ill-defined. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Reflection 15 :(

College! I can’t believe the first semester of college is over. Everyone wasn’t kidding when they said that these four years will fly by- we’re 1/8 of the way done and it felt like I just got here. I am so grateful for all the experiences and the opportunities that we were given as a UC- to visit great things that really let all of us witness the movers and shakers of Washington. The places we’ve gone are all really amazing collectively; seeing the Pentagon, going into the Newseum and Spy Museum...all just on a regular Wednesday. The discussions have really opened up my eyes to the happenings everywhere that have affected us so greatly on an international scale.

From actually being able to define something so broad as sovereignty to playing Diplomatic Risk and interpreting it as a microcosm for the real world...this has been a great experience overall. The people I’ve met and connected with have also greatly affected my time here- and made it all the more enjoyable. We really have bonded as a floor and I think it is in part due to the hard work of Gunperi and Erin. I have really been surrounded by people who care so much about what happens in the world and are fully capable of discussing world events and politics in a knowledgeable and intelligent manner. This upcoming semester will be even better because of how much we have learned and how strongly we can apply everything to daily life and new classes. Honestly, I cant wait.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Reflection: My First Semester at AU

I am a firm believer that everything in an individual's life happens for a reason and that all things are interrelated. I now know, after only the first semester, that I am where I belong- in D.C., at American University, in UC World Politics.
I am truly thankful that the UC program exists and that I chose to take part in it. It helped make my transition from high school graduate to college student much easier. The program has brought me to a new group of friends that I believe will be around for the long term, and to the doorstep of professional and academic betterment. I now have a strong support network of extraordinary friends to aid me both in my academic and personal journeys, as I am there to help them with the same. The unique aspect of this class bringing a new group of friends extends far beyond my personal life. As a result of living with classmates there was reinforcement of the curriculum, whether it popped up in general conversation or actually was the conversation at the moment. This helped to not only expand upon the information learned but further solidify my knowledge as I had to defend my point and reinforce it.
Furthermore, the combination of knowledgeable PA's (Gunperi and Erin) and access to DC resources (Wednesday lab's) proved to further reinforce my knowledge and expand my horizons as to career opportunities, what is going on in my community, and extent of issues (past, present, and future). Also, the ability to get to know Professor Jackson in greater depth then an average class would allow helped to solidify the curriculum, helping to strengthen and mature both my arguments and knowledge.
I can sincerely say that if I was given the opportunity to do it all over again I would choose the program again (and again). It saddens me to think that I might not be living with these extraordinary people next year or have the same abilities to bond as a group, such as the UC common events.

Reflection 15

It’s hard to believe that this semester is already over. It feels like it has just started, but it is hard to deny that I have learned a lot both in World Politics and in my other classes.

I feel like I learned a lot especially in World Politics. It was helpful not only in learning about IR theory (which will only help me more as I continue at AU, because I’m in SIS) but I also thought the structure of the class provided a good learning environment, too. The discussions were very enlightening, because it allowed me to consider points of view that I had not previously given thought. Despite enjoying this phase of the class, I am very excited that it is over so I can begin working on the research project next semester. I am excited about our group’s topic and I am really looking forward to putting the project together.

Even though I have learned a lot in the class as it has progressed, since receiving the essay topic I keep revisiting our first blog entry. I wrote that the economy is the main issue in world politics. I still agree that it is a very important issue that affects all countries, but I am hesitant to say that it is the most important issue, so I doubt my final essay will be about this topic. I definitely have to do some thinking for the final, and figure out what I believe, because if nothing else this class this class has shown me that there is no one right answer in world politics.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


In light of the recent discussions about Thanksgiving and its rather cruel origins, I found myself looking a little more closely at where we stand in commemorating the actual meaning behind Thanksgiving. The common consensus at our dinner table on Thursday was that Thanksgiving is only celebrated so popularly because it is not tied in anyway to a religion so people have very few qualms about it. I found it odd that people generally agree that it is such a non-controversial holiday now because of political correctness, but it has foundations as one of the most controversial holidays- the essential wipe out of an entire people as a mechanism of racism and greed.

The setting in Horizons is similar to the feeling of newness that I felt when being brought out of the home I had grown up in. The personality changes that I experienced, the evolution of character I saw as I stayed with different people for different amounts of time and left others was clearly visible as circumstances and settings changed for me. The same is true of Horizons, because I essentially saw a struggle in myself to reform what I had previously identified as bad characteristics and traits in myself and keep the good characteristics. What choice did Ahni have in preserving certain characteristics of the previous life that he had known? Do you hand-pick the parts of humanity that you approve of now? Who is to decide the good characteristics (the keep-able ones) of humankind?

Reflection #14

The timing of Horizons in the semester could not have been more perfect; as I read of Ahni's trials and tribulations on Earth and beyond its atmosphere, I recognized the parallels between the characters' experiences and my own. The feeling of marginalization, or simply of difference, resonated profoundly as I made the nine-hour journey back to Massachusetts via bus, then train, and finally by car. To say that I was anxious would be a gross understatement; the day I left campus with my suitcase, the day that I arrived in Westfield after three and a half months of preoccupied distance, did not pass as quickly as I had hoped as I squirmed in my bus seat and nearly flattened everyone in my path through Grand Central. In retrospect, my agitation was due to my curiosity of what waited for me beyond campus, of what I had left behind and would find again in my hometown. I wondered if things would be as effortless and natural with my friends that I've shared everything with since the third grade, but who I've lived apart from since mid-August. I wondered if I would feel out of place sitting in my solitary bedroom or at an actual table in a non-TDR setting. These were thoughts that plagued my mind as I tried to concentrate on Horizons. My chief concern continually revolved around the concept of then and now, here and there. And I believe that is one of the motifs that haunts the pages of Mary Rosenblum's novel. Ahni, and humanity itself, struggles to preserve the familiar traditions of the past (life on Earth, familial ties, definitions of human) and embrace the progress promised by the future (life on the Platforms, new acquaintances, who is entitled to the parameters of humanity). As college freshmen, we confront the same tension, especially at this time of year when our worries are amplified by final exams and the ghosts of times past that visit us during breaks from school. I'm not certain how to effectively settle this disparity between old and new, or if it is supposed to be managed at all. Until then, I will search for the way to properly integrate both aspects of my life into the present, to cherish both the here and there as components of my here and now.

Reflection 14

I was very excited to come home for Thanksgiving this past weekend. It is not one of my favorite holidays (I enjoy the thought behind it, but I cannot get past the country’s past treatment of the Native Americans and how many people choose to gloss over these events) but I was eager to go home to visit my family and friends.

The discussions in class, during the very appropriate time of the week before Thanksgiving, really articulated different issues I have with the idea of conquest and with the founding of America. However, there was one issue that Todorov brought up in “The Conquest of America” and that we discussed in class that I had never considered. What is the link between understanding and elimination? Is understanding necessary to elimination? Is elimination a natural effect of understanding?

These are very hard concepts to wrestle with. It is hard to disagree with the notion that understanding has a very important role to play in the elimination of a group. It undeniably helped Cortes conquer the Aztecs. This idea has also played out in different genocides throughout time, too, though sometimes in different ways. The Holocaust is one of the more recent and probably the most-often talked about genocide in history, and it probably would not have happened if Adolf Hitler did not have understanding. However, his was not understanding of the people he targeted and ordered to be murdered. This understanding was of the people he manipulated into his way of thinking. Understanding and elimination might have a connection, perhaps in more ways than one.