Punching Through Jamestown

The blood on Akimos Annan Ampiah’s hands wasn’t his own; it belonged to a boy who foolishly told him he couldn’t walk down the street. The boy punched Ampiah in the face. Ampiah responded with a left jab, followed by a quick right cross and left hook that sent him to the ground. Ampiah stopped; he can’t fight blood, he says, it makes him feel bad.

Two years ago, on that day, a spectator saw potential in the 18-year-old Ampiah, took him to a boxing gym in Accra, and paid for Ampiah to train there. Within a year, Ampiah was on the national team. Currently, he is training for the All African Games and the 2016 Olympics.

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Your Freedom of Speech is Not Under Attack

Here’s the thing about speech: It’s never free.

Billy Bob Thornton was right when accepting his Golden Globe this past January: “These days you get into a lot of trouble no matter what you say… you can say anything in the world and get in trouble. I know this for a fact. So I’m just going to say thank you.”

Being right isn’t the same as being smart.

Justine Sacco was fired from her PR job after a tactless tweet about white people not contracting AIDS. When Patricia Arquette said in her Oscar acceptance speech that it’s time for all gay and colored people to “fight for [women] now,” she came under fire for being white, privileged, and insensitive to minority intersectionality. Journalists and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo were threatened and then attacked for drawing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

All these are cause and effect. You have the right to say and do anything within the realm of the law, but can’t ignore that words and actions carry consequences, regardless of whether or not those consequences are justified or legitimate. From internet shamers to fanatic extremists, the consequences can include public humiliation, loss of employment, and even violent and fatal attacks, which leads to the intersection of free speech, hate speech, and responsible speech; being right versus being smart.

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The Function of Truth: Operation Protective Edge and the Media

Originally published by Journal of Politics & International Affairs, April 2015.

rockets

Out of the 4,500 rockets Hamas fired from Gaza into Israel over the summer of 2014 during Operation Protective Edge (OPE), the western media did not capture a single launch on film.

“You can miss one, miss 100, even 200,” said Ron Prosor, Israeli ambassador to the UN. “But if you’re sitting inside Gaza and you weren’t able to show one missile being launched, that’s very strange.”

That summer, the world saw many images, mostly those of the tragic destruction in Gaza caused by Israel; ruined schools and hospitals, dead women and children. Yet there was a “lack of proportion between representing Israel as causing all this destruction, and no footage of [Hamas] firing from within mosques, hospitals, and schools,” Ambassador Prosor said. “And the amazing thing is that no one asks the question, ‘How come we don’t see these images?’”

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The ISISlamic Debate

Much has been said recently as to whether or not the Islamic State is Islamic. President Obama explicitly said in September that “ISIL is not ‘Islamic.’” The White House referred to ISIS as “violent extremists” rather than “Islamic extremists”. One hundred and twenty Muslim scholars wrote an open letter to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, accusing ISIS of misinterpreting Islamic law in order to justify horrific acts of violence, and arguing that not only does ISIS not represent Muslims, but that it isn’t at all Islamic (Ortega). Dar al-Ifta, a leading Islamic authority in Egypt, has even requested a change of name from ISIS to QSIS — “al-Qaeda Separatists in Iraq and Syria,” in order to reject the “stereotypes that attach the name of Islam to bloody and violent acts committed by such groups” (Taylor).

On February 16, 2015, Graeme Wood said in no uncertain terms that the “reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic.” In his 10,000-word cover story in The Atlantic, “What ISIS Really Wants,” Wood claims that the “religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam,” and while nearly all Muslims can and do reject ISIS, “pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it” (81). Wood’s article created a ripple in the media and inspired a flurry of response pieces, many taking issue with his claim of ISIS being Islamic.

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The Problem with Zero Tolerance

Parker Rice and Levi Pettit were expelled on March 10 from the University of Oklahoma, two days after the two were filmed leading their Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity members in a racist chant on a bus. Many on the bus, including Rice and Pettit, repeatedly sang, “There will never be a nigger at SAE, you can hang them from a tree, but they’ll never sign with me.”

The expulsion of these students is problematic. Whether we agree with the expulsion or not — and despite first amendment issues that exist — expelling these students for a racist chant creates a zero tolerance standard that will be too complex and almost impossible to uphold across the board. Continue reading

Dear 18-Year-Old Omri: Happy Enlistment

You get on the bus. It’s just for show, the bus only takes you about 200 meters into Tel Hashomer Base; you and all the others enlisting with you can just as easily walk. But it means something to get on that bus, for your family to see you doing it. It’s the last time they’ll see you as a civilian. You’ll come home that night or the following week or month in uniform. A soldier. You look behind you and smile, then you take a seat.

Omri Enlistment Bus

You come home that night and the uniform you have on is green and crisp and new. You look awkward wearing it. You’re not really a soldier, not yet, only by name. I look at this picture of you thirteen years later and there’s so much you don’t know, so much I want to tell you to make the following years easier for you. To put you more at ease. The truth is, I don’t remember you at that age anymore. I don’t remember what you were like. I don’t know how much of you was you back then, and how much of you was built over the following two or five or even eight years.

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War Stories

The soldier sat on a hill and assembled his missile. It was daylight, but he could do it in pure darkness just as easily and just as fast. His crewmate — who also served as his best friend and missile spotter — had been complaining quietly about his girlfriend the entire morning, but was now silent as he handed the soldier the pieces he needed, one by one. They had done this many times before; no words were necessary. The soldier’s commander knelt three steps behind them, checking radio communications. The soldier finished setting up the missile, pressed his eye into the viewfinder and quickly oriented himself within the Palestinian city of Nablus of the West Bank in Israel. He found the cafe where the terrorist was scheduled to be, according to good intelligence. This would be the most difficult and complicated shot he had ever taken; shooting the missile from one-and-a-half kilometers through electricity wires and poles, through the window of the cafe, and into the number one terrorist of Hamas. They all waited. Fifteen minutes later the terrorist entered the coffee shop and sat near the window. The soldier switched the safety off of the missile and waited for the green light to fire. Continue reading