All in Main Menu

This July, while interning for l’Organisation Marocaine Des Droits de l’Homme (OMDH)/Moroccan Human Rights Organization, I saw the streets of Rabat, Morocco adorned with red and green. The Moroccan national flag was displayed at every street corner, and pictures of King Mohammed VI were hung in every restaurant. The country was preparing to celebrate Throne Day, the ten-year anniversary of King Mohammed VI’s ascension to the throne.

My grandfather’s voice over the phone was quiet, but I could picture his mise-en-scène clearly. Sitting on his favorite chair in the veranda, he would be sipping his tea, occasionally pressing his glasses back up over the bridge of his nose to better watch the sun set over his small West Bank town of Nablus. He waited patiently as I fumbled through our tried-and-true conversation topics: family, the weather, regional politics. Finally, in a desperate attempt to revive our conversation, I asked for his thoughts on Barack Obama’s proposed freeze of Israeli settlements.

“This is a historic election,” pronounced the morning newscaster. “This country is going to change,” announced a political leader. He posed in front of campaign posters that read, “This is change we can believe in.” To an American audience, these phrases would immediately conjure up images of President Barack Obama’s election in November 2008. But here they referred to Japan’s lower house elections on August 30 2009, leading to Yukio Hatoyama’s victory on September 16 as the new prime minister.

“Indian peasants live in such a primitive way that communication is practically impossible… The price they must pay for integration is high-renunciation of their culture, their language; their beliefs, their traditions and customs, and the adoption of the culture of their ancient masters… Perhaps there is no realistic way to integrate our societies other than asking the Indians to pay that price…”

The pose is almost menacing. Two penetrating, steel-blue eyes gaze downward at the viewer, the mouth calm but clenched. Russian president Vladimir Putin, Time’s 2007 Person of the Year, projects a threatening image in the magazine’s cover shot. The same could be said about Russia’s current image in the West.

Rampant apathy and cynicism. Growing civic disengagement. Hedonistic individualism. These accusations have often been leveled at our generation of students. The lack of traditional engagement by the 18-24-year-old cohort has been seen as the end of student activism. But these criticisms are blind to the diversity and subtle power of the student action happening today.

In an effort to recast himself as a “compassionate conservative,” President Bush often invokes HIV/AIDS relief as a key component of his foreign policy. Amid a history of strong-armed diplomacy, this altruistic endeavor is distinct. Launched during the 2003 State of the Union, “The President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief” (PEPFAR) garnered rousing bipartisan applause and was awarded legislative authorization just three months later. At $15 billion in funding, PEPFAR shattered records as the largest commitment by any nation to focus on a single disease.

The US Congress recently attempted to pass a law officially recognizing Turkish genocide of Armenians. Backed by more than half the members of the House, the bill called upon the Turkish government to acknowledge the Ottoman Empire’s role in committing atrocities against its Armenian population from 1915 to 1924. Yet the motion was ultimately quashed. As a New York Times editorial put it, “Historical truths must be established through dispassionate research and debate, not legislation.” In other words, history, like religion, is not something the state should be institutionalizing.

You hear the story every year around this time: Turks massacred hundreds of thousands of Armenians in the early 1900s. The modern state of Turkey claims that the crumbling Ottoman state did not premeditate or direct the killings, noting that the Turks suffered as many deaths as the Armenians. Armenians, for their part, want the episode recognized as genocide, and they blame the international community for its inattention and hypocrisy. It sounds like one of those debates that will go on for eternity.

This passage from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude could be read as another example of the Nobel Prize-winner’s genius ability to use fantasy as a metaphor for everyday life. It could be an imagined story that references the violent history of Colombia and the country’s seeming inability to learn from its experiences. Yet as those who visit Colombia will realize, Marquez describes Colombian reality much more often than one would think, and this case is no exception: in Colombia, banana companies help pile people like bananas.

“I don’t drink Starbucks.” That used to be my mantra. They had destroyed Spinelli’s and were squeezing Martha’s, and I did not appreciate it. It wasn’t that I did not love their orange-mocha frappuccinos (I did), but I felt like buying their coffee would be an unforgivable breach of my ethical codes.

In the past few weeks, Hillel Neuer, the executive director of the watchdog organization UNWatch, has become the persona non grata at the recently overhauled UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. At the Council’s fourth session in late March, Neuer delivered a speech that so infuriated Council President Luis Alfonso de Alba that it was stricken from the official UN record. What could Neuer have said to provoke such censure?