Desperation in South Sudan

Since it’s founding in 2011, South Sudan has been a bitterly troubled nation embroiled in a culture of war and tribal rivalry that threatens to completely destabilize the country. Fighting between Vice-President Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir has left millions on the brink of the biggest famine in human history. Rebel fighters have systematically destroyed villages and driven farmers away from their crops during the important growing season. As such, no food is available during the rainy season leaving millions hungry and desperate. Dinka and Nuer leaders (the two main tribes in South Sudan) need to understand that their actions only hurt the innocent and no one will win as a result of the petty fighting that has occurred and continues to occur. Dialogue sorely needs to happen because both groups only benefit from a peaceful, vibrant, and economically secure nation.

International governments need to do more in order to avoid a complete humanitarian disaster that would be unparalleled in human history. They must also act immediately. Now is not the time for words. Action is what is required. In addition, the corruption that has been exemplified over and over again by the South Sudanese government simply cannot continue if there is any hope of a successful and sustained turnaround.

-Andrew Cooney



Genocide: Simple Solution, Complex Implementation

“Silence provides public space for injustice.”

Genocide has been four times as deadly as war. An upwards of 170 million people have been murdered in genocidal slaughters since the 20th century began.

How do we take a massive problem as complicated as genocide and hope to end it, to resolve it?

In an article, Argumentation and the International Problem of Genocide, taking on a communication and argumentation stance is vital in answering this question. To improve the human condition globally, we must recognize three criteria.

The first of the three is a moral notion to discursive complexity, which is the capacity of a group to allow and encourage dissent. Through a recent epiphany, I realized how fundamental communication, conversation, questions, and awareness are in understanding the way in which people think, behave, understand, and make decisions. Societies with high discursive complexity encourage critical thinking and lessen the expectation and need for violence. The solution is simple then: “…powers that limit free expression should be pressured to allow greater capacities to question authorities about the use of power.”

The second of the three is a “heightened rhetorical sense of the perpetrators to genocide.” Something I really don’t think about right away, as many people don’t, is how linguistics has the ability to limit how and whether we understand an action or idea – a very Burkean standpoint. So, the solution here is also simple: be aware.

The third criterion is the “building of a broad critique of state’s rights.” What this is implying is that a sovereign state’s rights are inherently placed before the rights of an individual. States carry selfish motives to the point that they deem economic, social, political, etc. advances are of greater importance than that of a human life. The solution here is simple: fight against this.

Genocide is complex. The solution in regards to a communication standpoint is simple. But the implementation is difficult.

-Urvi Patel

The Matryoshka Doll of Civil War

Civil War: armed conflict between citizens of the same State.

Hopefully we are all aware of the American Civil War. To refresh any foggy memories, the Northern and Southern colonies divided and engaged in battle during 1860’s over slavery. Although slavery was abolished, our country is still afflicted by the aftermath today. Cue racism.

Why am I talking about this?

Because “The” Civil War is one of too many that have and are occurring throughout our world. While there are students in schools all over the United States studying this history (likely incorrectly, but that’s another discussion), I’d debate that very few are learning about the civil wars and genocides that have and are happening. The Civil War is the closest representation, although to a much smaller scale, of what the world is undergoing today.  If our culture is still being negatively affected by a war that was waged 151 years ago, imagine the lasting effects the matryoshka doll (pictured above) of civil wars will have.

Enter Sudan and South Sudan. The civil wars within a civil war. Civil War broke out in the 1960’s between the majority Arab North of Sudan and the predominately Black South of Sudan. After decades of violence, exploitation and horrors, the South gained independence in 2011. Tragically peace was short lived for both parties. By 2013 both countries were laden once more by violent, politically and ethnically charged civil wars.

In Sudan The Sudanese Armed Forces have brought destruciton on South Kordofan and Blue Nile civilians while Darfurians  are under attack by governmental forces. In South Sudan the Dinka tribe with allegiance to President Kiir and the Nuer tribe with allegiance to former Vice President Machar are waging a civil war. Both countries are laden with violations to human rights by bringing violence, recruiting children, and restricting access to humanitarian affairs.

I struggle to fathom the realities of life for a Sudanese, but refuse to cease striving. This should be a primary objective of the education system: Raising a generation not sheltered from the atrocities of the world, but eager to learn about, engage with, and gain skills in order to abolish them. I believe this process would be a springboard to combat slacktivism. Friends, continue to stay informed and raise awareness through liking, sharing, wear a certain color on a certain day, and engage in conversations with those close to us, but let us also deliberately change our language. Recognize we are not talking about a distant land or place that innately is war-torn, but there are people losing their lives to other people. Allow this to hit close to home.

Nicole Clanton

What if?

What if we knew?

If we knew: In just the 20th century, over 170 million people have lost their lives as a result of genocide. Genocide has been defined as “the intentional destruction of a national ethnic, racial, or religious group, in whole or in part” (Newton and Scharf, 254). Intentional destruction of others takes place on a much larger scale than we like to think. The world’s worst crime, genocide, is the most tremendous form of persecution and the most extreme crime against humanity.  Genocide can include, but is not limited to killing members of a group, causing bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures to prevent births within the group, and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group (Lemkin). The atrocity of genocide is not spontaneous; it does not just happen. It is a planned, systematic, and long-term. There are many individuals around the world today experiencing the tragic impact of the worst crime in the world.  

What if we listened? 

If we listened: We could learn. We would become aware of the atrocities that are taking place outside of our internal bubble. We would find that people (right now in this very moment) are being hurt in ways we cannot begin to imagine and lives are being exploited in ways that would disgust us. We would wonder how something so terrible could possibly take place. Our hearts would break for the women, men, and children whose lives are being destroyed by the unimaginable acts of others.We would find that the worst crime in the world is taking place and far too little is being done about it. We would be outraged. Then possibly overwhelmed. Then we might feel very small, like our impact couldn’t possibly make a dent in the growing mound of pain taking place in the world. We might feel hopeless. We might stop there. We might be silent.

Or we might not…

What if we spoke up?

If we spoke up: Despite any fear, hesitancy, or reluctancy, we must say something. Our silence leaves space. It leaves space for injustice to roar. It leaves space for the world’s problems to persist. It leaves space for people to continue hurting in unthinkable ways. Our silence says that we don’t care. We must believe that our silence contributes to these global tragedies.We must stop being silent and fill the space. Even the faintest of whispers breaks the silence. A single voice breaks the silence. If we spoke up, we could build awareness, helping others to know, helping others to listen, and helping others to know how to speak up too. We could create conversation about the terrible things that are taking place around the world, and we could create conversations about the beautiful stories of resilience and compassion that exist despite such horrors. We could collaborate about who, how, and where to help. We could make a difference.

What if we loved?

If we loved: Once we know and listen and speak, we might find ourselves motivated to act. We find ourselves wanting to do something. And these issues might seem overwhelmingly large, far off, or distant. However, I think the answer here is to love. To love where you are, who you are with, with what you have. If we loved, we would begin to chip away at that overwhelming mound of bad stuff going on in the world. Far too often we underestimate the power of loving one another. Despite differences, despite fear, despite circumstance, we can show love to each other. If we dedicate each day to filling the world with more love, that love will spread.  Love is never stagnant- it moves, works, and multiples. 


.know. listen. speak. love.

-H. Pellegrino



You’ve probably heard of  the term activism before – simply googling it comes up with the definition “the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.” Sound familiar? Probably! And hopefully you’ve been given opportunities to become an agent of change through a campaign or movement you’re passionate about. But what does that mean or entail?

Well, if you recall my previous blog post about child soldiering, I included information on the happenings in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the campaign started by Invisible Children awhile back – Kony 2012. Leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), he was known for kidnapping children and using boys as child soldiers and girls as sex slaves. Kidnapping now over 30,000 children, he is responsible for leading the rebel group that has prolonged armed conflict in Africa for quite some time now. Below is more information on Joseph Kony, from the Invisible Children website.

The Warlord

I had the pleasure of reading two articles, co-authored by my professor Aaron Noland, titled “Argumentation and the International Problem of Genocide” and “Making Humanitarian Advocacy Less ‘Abstract and Remote’: Kony 2012‘s Representation of an Agent-Centered Approach.” Both center around the verbal approach in discussing genocide, civil war, armed conflict. They applauded Invisible Children’s campaign, because it drew attention to the perpetrator of injustice and cruelty (Joseph Kony) which put a face to the campaign and not simply a country. Many times, organizations create campaigns centering on geographic regions or they broaden their campaign names to include a whole slew of activities that “there’s no clear crystallizing locus for our attention” (Brigham & Noland). What’s important to note is that these campaigns and movements are well-intentioned, but by focusing on a scene, we automatically cannot withdraw the association of the injustices occurring within said country or region. Furthermore, “in these agent-act-driven situations, assigning responsibility to a certain person [like Kony] creates a tangible goal and sense of urgency” (Brigham & Noland).

I thought it important to note the simple things, like campaign titles, that may get looked over but serve as a highly influential motivators in the audience’s response to a movement. So, when Invisible Children released their multimedia campaign in response to Kony and the LRA, it included a 30 minute video expressing the exponential use of the internet and social media and how this can be tied to activism for major issues, specifically Joseph Kony’s reign beginning in Uganda. Below is the video, which I sat and watched four years ago from today.

I remember seeing it and realizing that it was different from most videos I had seen before. Before coming to college, I was painfully unaware of global issues and this was the first exposure I had to getting a glimpse of child soldiering and armed conflict. After watching this video, I was very moved but didn’t know the next step or why I felt moved in the first place. Looking back, I wish I had formed more of a heart for the issue and taken action. But all I remember doing is feeling very upset and disturbed and clicking “like” and “share” on Facebook.

While my intentions were good and I wanted more people to know about the issue, I hadn’t educated myself on it and I didn’t know anything past the video. What I engaged in was called slacktivism – defined by google as “actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, e.g., signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on a social media website.” Where I went wrong was that I didn’t know anything about the issue I wanted more people to know about. Where I went wrong was that I engaged in what seemed like action to me by sharing this video via social media, but what was really slacktivism. I didn’t engage in real action or open up the issue to conversation with friends and family members. With a little tap of my finger, I felt I had done my part in the movement…while sitting in front of a computer screen.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from sharing – videos, articles, personal opinions. But rather I want to encourage you in your sharing to be knowledgeable on the topic and stirred in your heart to participate in it. We, human beings, are the agents of social and political change. We have the capacity to create significant change if we mobilize ourselves in united efforts to promote justice. To quote Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children and film director of the Kony 2012 video, “Who are you to end a war? I’m here to tell you who are you not to?”

– Ashleigh Stratton

Let’s Spread Love

For the past two weeks, our professor (Aaron) has given us a love challenge. For the first week of the challenge, we were supposed to commit acts of love. He simply said we should use some of our time during the week to, “help those who need your help.” When we reconvened for class after the first week of the challenge, we shared our acts of love that we had committed throughout the week. Some were simple acts such as washing a roommate’s dishes or stopping to speak with a homeless man. Others were grand gestures, like giving bystanders who were carrying groceries through the snow a ride home.

For the second week, Aaron challenged us to give shout outs, via social media, to people who we witnessed sharing acts of love. We were to use the hash tag “#LoveInAction” to tag our events. Some of the ones I noticed were simple things from my roommates- Rachel took out the neighbor’s garbage, just because. Hayley picked up garbage out of the parking lot in front of our building and put it into the receptacle. What surprised me, however, were the emotions that I experienced from engaging in the love challenge. Seeing my roommates, classmates, and other random strangers engage in the love challenge made me more motivated to show love as well. Love is contagious. It’s like a good disease, one I wanted to catch, and I think I am infected.

After Aaron first challenged us, I thought to myself, “I am already a friendly person, I go out of my way to help others.” I felt like I wouldn’t have a story to share in class because I already do kind things for others. Ultimately, this resulted in my rather apathetic reaction to the challenge during the first week. What I realized over the past two weeks, however, was that I could be a kind person from time to time but that I could always be kinder. Hearing my classmates share their experiences and watching others sharing love made me realize that it’s not hard to share love and that I could easily incorporate more #LoveInAction into my life. I did things that I never thought I would do, such as offering someone who was walking in the rain a ride. I feel like maybe I was clouded with negative stigmas about helping others prior to the challenge- no, I shouldn’t give rides to hitchhikers. They are dangerous. No, I shouldn’t pick up trash I see laying around. That’s not my job. It is because of Aaron’s love challenge that I can now see that there is always a way to share more love.


Imagine: what would our world look like if we all shared love? We are all in this life together. So, I challenge YOU to share more love too!

“Remember – love wins, even if it sometimes doesn’t feel that way.”

                                                                                                    — Aaron Noland


The verbal rabbit-hole

Fearmongering (noun): the action of deliberately arousing public fear or alarm about a particular issue.

Last Wednesday evening, our class had an in-depth question and answer session regarding the inner workings of ISIS and Syrian refugees in Europe. It was an incredibly intriguing conversation; I left class that night with even more questions and opinions swirling around in my head. So like any person nowadays does, I went to the Internet. One of the first things to appear after my “migrant crisis in Europe” Google search was a YouTube video from Last Week with Tonight with John Oliver (if you are unfamiliar, he’s an intelligent British import whose satire on everything politics, news and current event related lights up social media the day after it airs. It’s hilarious.) I forced myself to sit through the nearly 18 minute video, which should be illegal in terms of YouTube standards. But boy, it was worth it.

What I took away most from the video was Oliver’s harsh critique of the rhetoric used when we speak about Syrian refugees. I’m guilty of it: even my use of the word “crisis” in my Google search is an example of the stigma that Syrians are facing. Oliver showed various news clips that have aired since the refugees started entering Europe at a rapid rate. For example, a Fox News clip that was heavily suggestive of refugees becoming terrorists. TERRORISTS INBOUND? sat underneath a video of refugees chanting while on a European train. Upon further inspection, we come to learn that the video was uploaded in 2010, years before any type of “crisis” entered our stream of consciousness. Another example was British Prime Minister David Cameron using the word “swarm” when discussing the influx of refugees to Europe. Oliver was sure to point out that the word swarm can make anything sound terrifying, such as a swarm of kittens.

This type of language is being used everywhere lately, from the news to political debates. Fearmongering has become such a prominent tactic that it’s almost impossible to watch refugee coverage that’s portrayed in a positive light. It’s being used to pass political agendas and to frighten large populations into thinking they are doing the right thing by refusing to help these people. We need to be more aware of how we are being influenced. It’s easy to gain a distorted view, but it’s even easier to keep ourselves educated and prevent ourselves from falling too deep into the rabbit-hole of media influence.

-Lauren Antilety