There is no denying that we often bend or at least are more accepting of bending the rules for the ones we care about. Our siblings borrow things and sometimes break them, without asking. Our parents make mistakes, our distant relatives may break the law, our friends may test your trust. Nevertheless, you love these people and so, you let the transgressions slide.
However, it begs the question: when someone we trust continuously breaks promises, at what point do you draw the line – the one that makes or breaks the relationship?
Take for instance that boyfriend. The one that says all of the right things – things you maybe have never heard before. You are finally being seen, heard and appreciated just for being you. It’s refreshing and validating. In a word, it’s nice.
You like what he’s said and what he has promised about your future, together. The promises he makes directly correlate with what you believe in and hope for. It’s as if he’s speaking directly to your heart. Not only is he promising, but he is also powerful, in fact he was just promoted to President of his global company.
Unfortunately, not all of your friends and family approve – an issue, but not a deal-breaker. It causes rifts and arguments and even the end of some relationships, but he’s your man. And if they can’t see how good he is for you and how he can provide for you– well then, forget them.
Gradually however, he begins to lose people who are closest to him. One by one, they disassociate with him. The little voice inside your head starts to chirp a warning. But then you hear him charismatically assure you and his remaining friends that there is nothing to worry about and that voice goes away.
Time passes. More talks about what he is planning to do for you. He follows through on the smaller promises, but when it comes to the bigger goals, it surprises you how long its taking him to commit and follow through. But he’s at least trying right? Plus, you love him and have chosen to stand by him. A relationship takes work, right? So you press on.
Then scandals begin to emerge. One by one, they begin to leak out. Your man doubles down to refute such claims. His enemies are at it again. They’ll do anything to destroy him and you. So you join in and dig in to defend him, vehemently. You are closer now more than ever - united and committed to each other. It’s you and him against the world.
While you enjoy how bonded this has made you, deep down you begin to wonder how long that this backlash will last. You’re hoping that these scandals will blow over, eventually.
They don’t. More and more continue to come out, and more of his close friends leave his side. Meanwhile, his enemies only seem to grow. Instead of proving them wrong, he continues to dig in and verbally defend these scandals. That voice inside your head begins to reemerge… “A lot of talk and no action, despite their being a lot of alleged bad action.” You begin to doubt . . .
Then he does something monumental. He accepts his rival’s invitation to a round of poker on foreign soil. This is huge. No one has met with this rival before in many decades. Your man’s actions are inspiring; there may even be an end to this decades-long rivalry. The photos say it all: friendship over adversity. This is a momentous day – a huge win indeed. He returns home and you celebrate his mighty achievement. This is what you’ve been waiting for.
All the while you are celebrating, you are drowning out his loud critics. You ponder – why can’t we celebrate or at least acknowledge his achievement without bashing him? Can’t they see what he has accomplished – the end to an infamous rivalry – a laying down of weapons if you will. One of his critics gets to you when they ask “What has he accomplished?” You respond “He is talking in order to prevent and to end fighting. He has made a peace deal.” They retort “Yes, but the deal is currently being broken.” You sit there in disbelief. They continue, “He made your man look like a fool.” And that hit home. How dare they.
So, you do research to investigate how to prove this critic wrong and all of his haters, for that matter. You research and stomach reading all of the hate. You filter the bashings from the seemingly more factual based, more objective arguments. You still don’t like it, but you do begin to wonder – does this have merit? If so, how much? Doubt starts to trickle in.
His critics and scandals only seem to grow with time and fervor. How much longer will this go on? Can you both survive this?
None are more concerning to you than his alleged affair with Peter S. Burg, former spy and now president of rival company, RSA Federation. Not too long ago, he went to Peter’s headquarters and met privately with him only to then publicly state that Peter is not the threat that your man’s friends and trusted colleagues have said. You are watching this, agape. How could he negate what his own company and his own people have to say in favor of his rival? This is not helping his case in the slightest. Since he was promoted to president 2 years ago, the police have opened an investigation to see if there was any collective fraud being committed by both sides. Your man has and continues to publicly deny these claims, but the investigation is ongoing and people are being indicted and sent to jail. So for him to meet privately with this former secret agent with whom there is a lot of controversy around, for him to then speak out against his own company and people, and then proceeded to invite Peter, home, well it’s unwise to say the least. This puts not only your future together in jeopardy, but your safety as well. To reassure you, he has asserted that he has the best lawyers and is so powerful, that he won’t end up in jail. You know an innocent person does not state that.
That warning voice inside your head has never been louder.
So what now? Stay in this abusive relationship or muster the courage to leave?
Do you have a line? And will you stick to it?
The day was June 26th. It was the afternoon on the last day of school for all New York schools and I was making my way back uptown for an end-of-the-year staff celebration.
As always, at slightly after five p.m., the metro buzzed with out-of-work excitement. I also sensed the collective urgency of the crowded trains of everyone wishing and rushing to get where they needed to be —home and out of the New York summer heat that makes a person melt as soon as he or she steps outside. The train was so crowded that people were unable to board, leaving little to no room for any sort of maneuvering. Slight shifts occur at each station as people make space, or have the opportunity to sit down after a long day’s work.
As I boarded the train, I positioned myself right next to a pole, to lean on for stability as I was carrying two bags. I took out my book and started reading, occasionally glancing up to check that my bags weren’t in anyone’s way and to check the station. At one stop, I stepped closer to the doors that were not opening. The contact of strangers passing was normal.
Mid-chapter, I felt heat pushing against me from behind, so I shifted to balance my weight on my other foot, thinking it was nothing other than another person in close proximity, suffering from the heat. As I shifted, the thread of heat followed me and rubbed against me, up and down along my work pants. It was then that I turned around to stare down the outline of an erect penis in a jumpsuit that was being stroked by a man, I stood eye-level with. Startled by my realization that this man had been getting off quite literally on me, I flipped around and shoved myself away from him, appearing rude to unaware bystanders as I had disrupted the position of several other commuters. He was unruffled by my reaction and through his dark sunglasses gaped in my direction as if to indicate that his game would carry on,uninterrupted.
I stared, unable to speak, as he slyly positioned himself behind another woman, with his hips thrusted forward and his right hand firmly grasping his penis pointing it at his next target. I shooed him away from her, but still was not able to say anything. As the train approached the next station, he positioned himself at the mouth of the door —ready for his next perverted enterprise. I watched as he attempted to follow a high-school girl that had just boarded the train. I finally had it in me to tell the guy to get off at the next station. He did.
Nearing my stop, tears swelled in my eyes. No, it wasn’t rape and no, he did not physically hurt me or them, but he did violate us. He violated us more than every cat-call ever could. He violated our right to merely ride the train and again, stripped women of their voice —their consent. Frotteurism, the act of rubbing genitalia against a stranger, without consent happens at high rates, almost always in crowded places, such as subways, or escalators, so the person has no idea it has occurred, or they believe it was an accident. It’s not - it is illegal.
Disappointed in my ability to call this man out in the moment, I phoned the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). They immediately put me in contact with a detective that is solely in charge of cases of this manner. The seriousness of the the NYPD and the MTA comforted me, yet I am still frustrated.
In the past several years, women have come out in unprecedented numbers to talk about their experiences, and how they too, have a story. I have read stories about the mountain towns that I call home about which girls are scared to go home because of the reminder of high school involving peer-pressured nights that led to hook-ups that they never agreed to. They followed through because of the pressure that they felt as if they owed it to a boy who drove them around or bought them a meal. I have also talked to friends and family whose lives have been altered because of abusive relationships, suicide threats from significant others, and worse - the many women who have been raped.
I’m grateful that these stories are coming out. These stories are part of the solution vis-à-vis the formation of a culture that doesn’t value woman on 10 point scale, but rather as a valuable member of society. However, the greater solution lies in raising better men and not letting our daughters go down on a male because it is easier or he feels that as a male, that he is entitled. It’s time to erase the stereotype that a female is expected to please a man, yet should the female choose pleasure, she is labeled as an outcast, whereas her male counterpart - for the same actions, would be praised. The narrative must change. This requires people to say no, to speak out, and to report any nonconsensual acts. As a fellow woman, we can lift each other up and support one another as opposed to viewing ourselves as competition. Men have the ability to change how they speak to and about women. In turn, they will see much more than a body—but also a person with opinions, capabilities and dreams.
In the end, I think that lasting change most strongly rests with our generation raising the next in a manner that teaches them to acknowledge and to value women as human beings - not as objects or prizes to be won or possessed.
As news headlines inform readers about the upcoming summit between American President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, it’s not difficult to see parallels in the news coverage of the July summit with the very recent summit between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un last June. Summits are again becoming popular terminology as they once were during the Cold War.
The term ‘summit’ was coined by Winston Churchill in 1950, where he stated that “the idea appeals to me of a supreme effort to bridge the gulf between two worlds, so that each can live their life if not in friendship, at least without the hatreds and maneuvers of the Cold War.” In other words, a summit offers a chance for two leaders, who view each other through an animosity-tinted lens, to meet. With technology such as air travel as weapons of mass destruction, summits became not only easier to coordinate, but also become necessary and urgent.
Despite these lofty goals, the history of summits is somewhat mixed. Some have led to great breakthroughs in diplomacy while others have not prevented the march of war. One of the perhaps most infamous failed summits is the Munich Agreement between Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler in 1938. Intending to forestall war, Chamberlain gave up parts of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, for so-called peace. As history shows us, this failed. Another failed summit was the meeting between American President John Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Rather than the informal meeting to discuss issues equally, Kennedy was berated for many American actions. Further, the calm brought on by this summit lasted less than a year with the outset of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
However, the outlook isn’t as bleak, as these two summits might lead one to believe. American President Richard Nixon met with Mao Zedong, the Communist party chairman of China, in a successful summit in 1972; thereby opening China to the world and ending much animosity between the two countries. American President Ronald Reagan’s summit with Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik may have not been successful in setting up new arms control measures, but it did set a precedent for the two countries to agree on new arms agreements two years later.
In the wake of the Cold War, summits became more than simply meetings between American and Soviet leaders. Instead, they rose to be global summits between economic powers. The Group of Seven (previously known as the G-8) began meeting in the 1970s. It laid the tracks for the inaugural meeting of the G-20 in 2008. These meetings are not nearly as adversarial as the previous summits might have seemed – but they are just as important in establishing amicable relations between cooperating countries.
The issue surrounding summits is the difference between rhetoric and reality. In the recent G-7 summit, President Trump spoke highly of the alliance, only to harshly rebuke it in the wake of remarks from Canadian President Justin Trudeau. Another contention is the wait time surrounding the summit’s impact. How does one know if the summit has done any good until many years after? Trump and Kim’s recent summit for example, may have gotten rave reviews in the media for opening the door to North Korea, but as of yet, there are no concrete steps towards denuclearization. Negotiations have gone nowhere – apart from Trump claiming he would pull out all of the American troops from South Korea. Instead, there is only coverage of the two leaders apparently having good rapport. While useful, rapport can only go so far, particularly if the goodwill is one-sided.
From July 11-12, Trump met with NATO for their annual summit in Belgium. As is with most summits, speculation is rampant about Trump’s tweets. This time they focused on increasing European NATO members’ military spending to four percent from the current goal of two percent of their GDPs. Katie Rogers of the New York Times noted the awkward family photo atmosphere that the summit had produced – leading many to consider the continued closeness of NATO allies to one another. With so many members at these summits, one has to ponder their usefulness in achieving goals besides maintaining the connection between member states.
On July 15, Trump will meet with Putin in Helsinki – a meeting that provokes different emotions on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Whether or not the summit is useful will remain up to the two leaders. British Prime Minister Theresa May suggested the summit could lessen tension between Russia and the West. This could be the case. However, given Trump’s recent history with Kim Jong Un, one has to wonder whether or not Trump will be goaded into a meaningless summit yet again. Because while no concrete negotiations have come from the Kim-Trump summit, what has come is the perception of an American President who is willing to risk political backlash at home for potentially nothing. For Putin, however, a summit with Trump is already a win. A summit shows the world that Russia has a status as a great power and that its interests must be taken into account. It allows Putin to claim that Russia is on par with the United States – something that many analysts claim has been an aim of post-Soviet Russia since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
So, let us return to the question at hand - summits – how useful are they? Their track record varies and who comes out on top depends on the situation at hand. They can be helpful for countries like Russia, who may want to use them as political fodder to come out of isolation. They can also fail as they did in the Munich Agreement. With this recent stream of summits, rest assured that they will continue to be relevant in the near future.
Who can make a difference? Does it take a special breed to take the reins to generate change in a neighborhood, in a country, or even globally? Or can the common man can? Who Cares? is a Portuguese documentary written and directed by Mara Mourão that dives into who can make a social impact.
The film focuses on the concept of social entrepreneurship. Who is a social entrepreneur? What does it take to become one? Coined by the social entrepreneur himself, Bill Drayton defines social entrepreneurship as the action of a pragmatic individual who seeks to change the future with his or her vision by developing programs, businesses, etc., in order to make change, now.
Who Cares? follows people from around the world - from Germany to Peru, from Switzerland to Brazil and even Bangladesh. The documentary’s goal is to illuminate how people, regardless of their nationality, desired to generate change and acted upon it. Each country case began at the grass-roots level, with a response that was community-centered and community-driven and ultimately, effectuated waves of change. The film's two major takeaways being: 1)No matter how large your act is, change has the ability to make the world better 2) The act of becoming a social entrepreneur impacts the world one act at a time.
Who Cares? is an inspirational work that encourages its viewers to consider their passions and to examine how they can even bring about a difference, in their small circles. There is no such thing as too small of an impact. After all, once a person makes waves, the possibilities render a world of change.
Watch the documentary here.
If you are in the New York area, every Thursday, Idealist features documentaries that prompt discussions regarding living with an impact. On July 12th, they will be showing the documentary Tomorrow. Catch the trailer here.
If you are seeking a job that focuses around making a social impact, view the Idealist job board here.
Witnessing America as an American during this particular time in history can be challenging. On one hand, many disagree strongly with the President’s actions abroad. On the other hand, America is home and a large part of how many identify as people. Defining what kind of culture one can call home can mean lots of things. It can mean what music one finds comforting, what food one loves or how one defines good and bad. But it’s almost impossible to separate one’s home country from its culture.
So, when a country begins to exhibit ideals and ideas that don’t jive with personal morals – it can be difficult to cope. How can someone claim to love their country and yet be so angry with the actions its leaders take? One way to handle the dissonance is by reading about the past. Being an American isn’t just about Congressional deadlock, although disagreement and argument do seem to be at the core of our republic.
To understand American culture, whether local or not, history is tantamount. What is the Constitution? How was it formed? What were the Federalist Papers and why is everyone so up in arms about open seats on the Supreme Court? Of course, America can be understood on a surface level without these key pieces of knowledge – but it helps to clarify some things beyond the headlines. People ask why America is so divided these days. But, thinking back, America has always had division and disagreement. It’s part of what makes up the culture of the country. The founding fathers believed that argument and debate would give way to the best solutions.
The Constitution, for example, wasn’t formed simultaneously with the Declaration of Independence. Rather, it took time. The former British Colonies were ruled using the Articles of Confederation for many years after independence, because it allowed each state to maintain a veto vote in the federal government. It meant that states’ rights always superseded the federal government. It took time, 85 Federalist Papers and virulent opposition and debate to form the Constitution. The two main warring parties, the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists, wrote papers, screamed and argued until a compromise was formed. The Constitution was only ratified by the states because of the Bill of Rights, also known as the ten amendments to the Constitution that ensure the rights of the people. So, dissonance and debate has always been part of American history and culture.
Where does that then leave wary Americans who don’t feel at peace with their country or the actions of their leader? By reading about the past and understanding just how much debate there was, how much rowdiness there has always been in American history, can act as a sigh of relief. American history shows that political actions might not always seem right at the time, but through honest debate that gives everyone a voice and right to speak – the path has mostly kept its course. Reading about the past helps to put the present in perspective and that, while it may seem like today is a dramatic and intense age of American politics, it might just be par for the course.
Being an American living abroad makes it difficult to square American governmental actions with their moral beliefs, and many often find themselves questioning their culture. But spending time examining American history may reassure them that they not the only American who has felt confused and angry, and they certainly won’t be the last. So long as there are people who speak up, make noise, and demand equality – America will find its way back to the right path.
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