What’s Missing in US Gun Control Debates

These are the statistics:
1982-2011 – America has a public mass shooting at a rate of every 200 days
After 2011 – America has a public mass shooting at the rate of every 64 days

With the student-led March for Our Lives demonstration in 2018, public support ‘common sense’ gun control policies appears to be increasing. In fact, Abele reports that 90% of Americans “support universal background checks” for gun purchases. Capitalising on this, many prominent 2020 presidential candidates have taken it up as a policy issue.

But these discussions miss one crucial element of the problem: public mass shootings have become far more common recently (Mother Jones and Harvard School of Public Health), and there’s ample reason for that.

The one factor that cannot be ignored is best exemplified by Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 students in a school shooting in Parkland, Florida. He was pictured wearing a Donald Trump campaign hat – saying ‘Make America Great Again’ – and allegedly had ties to white supremacist groups. 

A tweet, which is one of many, in which President Trump appears to demonise Mexican immigrants

Vitriolic political rhetoric is not a new problem – but it is one that has been exacerbated by the widespread use of social media. In addition to this, politicians’ use or approval of it themselves, whether serious or in jest, has the effect of normalising such opinions. 

This effect in turn can motivate the mentally ill, or otherwise unstable, to extreme lengths. In a world moving toward globalisation, we cannot tolerate another massacre – no matter who the victims are.

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Time’s Up in 2019: where to go from here?

There’s no doubt you’ve heard of it: the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have become national and international news in two short years. While #MeToo encouraged victims to speak up about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault to demonstrate prevalence, the Time’s Up movement took action against what had been shown to be an epidemic of sex-based crime.

One key thing to note here, is that while both movements have affected many, both were predominantly American enterprises. In fact, Time’s Up was started by Hollywood celebrities, which begs the question – what is Bollywood, and the rest of India, doing about the same problem?

It’s undeniable that Indian, and in general, Asian, culture has a conservative approach to women’s sexuality, and this can and has bled into their mentality regarding sexual assault. The fear of the social stigma that may come with allegations has lead to devastating consequences for women. 

A 2006 National Crime Records Bureau report estimated that unreported rape crimes made up 71% of all rape crimes in India, as opposed to the international UN estimate of 11%. This is in addition to the fact that marital rape is not yet considered illegal in India.

Personally, that’s quite unacceptable. High unreported rape would indicate a prevalence of those who would persecute a known survivor of these crimes, rather than help. As for marital rape – Time’s Up is engraining in us that no means no, no matter your relation, your clothing, or the circumstances. 

These dire facts point to only one fact: revolution is coming for this country. As more and more women, including some in Bollywood, continue to speak honestly about their experiences, we should expect to see this matter be taken seriously, worldwide, in our lifetimes.

The Real-Life Politics of Game of Thrones

Don’t worry if you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years – this article is spoiler-free.

On Sunday, 19th of May, it felt like the world came to a relative standstill as we all came together and watched the last ever episode of ‘Game of Thrones’. The ramifications of this show are so widespread that it may even affect viewers’ attitudes on politics – according to a study by Professor Anthony Gierzynski. However you feel about the final season, it is undeniably a cultural phenomenon. I think I may know one of the reasons why.

In a political world that seems precarious at best (and terrifying at worst), it’s no wonder this bloodthirsty epic no wonder became so popular. We face so many of the same issues daily, albeit on a much less showy scale. One of the key elements of the show is the battle for, and amassing of, power. Not only does it feel almost never-ending – the pursuit of power colours the decisions of most characters, as well as how we view them.

The idea of the nobility of ruling, that ends always justify their means; these are as familiar to us as they are to citizens of Westeros. We watch time and time again as innocents suffer in order to further a ruler’s political ideal. Mostly portayed as tyrannical, but occasionally seen as necessary evil, these losses feel distant, like another aspect of the fantasy. But that’s not necessarily true.

Real life democracies are already beginning to show the limitations of a system built on the of putting personal gain over policy. When highly-publicised elections roll around – such as the USA’s 2018 midterm elections – it feels like anything would be said or done by those in power in order for them to stay in power.

Let us not forget the alleged crisis of the migrant caravan, brought up close to elections to fear-monger and sway uncertain voters. Though American politicians already seem to have forgotten it, its effects have been long-lasting. Not only did it steal precious time and resources from issues that really mattered, it also publicly gave voice to xenophobic ideals.

Just like in Westeros, we may have to come up with a solution to the quest for control – or perhaps, we already know one. Limiting elected officials to one term could allow our governments to focus on their real job: protecting their people.

Is Romeo and Juliet the Greatest Love Story of All Time?

This photograph by Michael Daniel is of the Public Theater showing of ‘Romeo and Juliet’. It is one of multiple film and theatre adaptations of the popular novel.

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: a romantic fantasy that has stood the test of time and has been deemed a worthy read by the toughest critics; however, the conclusion of this epic saga brings the gruesome deaths of two adolescents and four others, thus begging the question – is it even a love story at all? While the author’s writing was exemplary and ahead of its time, certain key facts diminish how romantic and fantastical the adventure can be considered…

Firstly, what images does your mind conjure up when you think of a thirteen year-old girl? Innocence, probably, tinged with the colour pink. Passionate love – probably not. In this day and age, marriage between a thirteen year-old and sixteen year-old is considered scandalous and taboo, if not downright abhorrent. “There is nothing romantic or loving about this play, just lust, hormones, and teenage rebellion” is one reader’s firm opinion. Furthermore, many believe that the author was actually mocking the impetousness of teenage decisions rather than illustrating the beauty of “love’s light wings”. The only fact contradictory to this is that at the time of publication, both Romeo and Juliet would have been considered to be at a marriageable age. This toys with the notion that superficial characteristics can upstage the vast, magnificent idea of love, as the play shows nothing if not that true love should trump it all; these teenagers that let nothing stand between them and believe that love is worth death are the archetype of this ideal. After all, age is but a number.

Rainbow Rowell, author of Eleanor and Park, another ‘modern teenage romance’, provides her own opinion in the aforementioned book, by asking why it is that Romeo and Juliet has weathered the storm of time, to which the eponymous Park replies, “Because people want to remember what it’s like to be young? And in love?” William Shakespeare’s famous love story is evocative of an ardour that most associate with their passionate youth – while teenage love may be short-sighted, it is still a sentimental memory for most adults – a nostalgic feeling held close to the heart. Another popular author of a young adult book stated that “adults love in different ways, not the only way.” This is something that Romeo and Juliet teaches its audience time and time again. After all, how many millions of teenagers believe that their beloved “is the sun”?

Rosaline and Romeo’s love: one we get nary a glimpse at apart from at the very beginning of the play, in which Romeo talks about Rosaline, saying “she’s fair I love”. This is just lines before he meets Juliet and promptly forgets about the girl, whose praises he had been singing. This entire encounter far from romanticises Romeo and Juliet’s relationship, instead casting a suspect comparison with the similarly ill-fated love of Romeo and Rosaline and encouraging the audience to question: was Romeo ever in love with Juliet, or was it just ‘puppy love’, a meaningless infatuation? The depth of his emotions towards Juliet is immediately put into question, especially when he is willing to throw the word ‘love’ around so casually. Showing a fickle love interest is detrimental to the telling of this grand story; if Romeo was to lose his heart so thoroughly to Rosalind, only to forget her moments later, who is to say he wouldn’t have done the same to Juliet given the chance?

Closely associated with the idea of Romeo’s ridiculous recklessness, is the possibility that the entire play was intended as satirical comedy. Satire is characterised by the ironic parodying and subversion of the quintessential tropes of a popular genre – in this case romance – and many elements of Shakespeare’s ‘great love story’ seem to do this. Eleanor, Eleanor and Park’s other protagonist, isn’t as convinced of the play’s charms: “Romeo and Juliet are just two rich kids who’ve always gotten every little thing they want. And now, they think they want each other”. Supported by the fact that Shakespeare’s humour often scorns his own characters (see: Mercutio’s cruel pun on his own death), it is entirely possible, and very probable to many, that this entire drama solely serves to highlight and mock the luckless decisions our captivating teenagers made due to the misguided bravery, or idiocy, that often accompanies passion. 

Teenage rebellion is a key source of ignorance and stubbornness in the world, but is it conceivable that Juliet’s hasty head-over-heels love was simply another of its effects? A metaphorical statement is declared to the audience by Juliet, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. The purpose of this quote is to remind the audience that Juliet’s passion was not due to the pain that this particular boy caused her family, nor to the inane impulsivity of young nonconformity, thus setting the stage to introduce love as the mythical force behind their infatuation. It does not matter to Juliet that her Romeo is a Montague: their attraction is all that she allows to influence her decisions. 

It is undeniable that there has been a recent rise in stories mistakenly suggesting that the price of love is pain (whether this is emotional, such as in The Fault in our Stars, or physical, such as in Fifty Shades of Grey), but this idea has been around for centuries. The play Romeo and Juliet poses the issue of whether romance can be diminished by the toll it takes on its recipients – is their love diminished by the price they paid? More significantly, it must be considered that their motivation for loving each other may in fact have been a fundamental psychological need to torture themselves in relationships that would inevitably end tragically. 

This is a tragic tale in which the two “star-cross’d lovers” are destined to be apart, kept away by family, social constructs and, eventually, death, and that is why some people love it whilst many others detest it. As the world’s style of literature and entertainment evolves, modern love stories (or as they are now called, ‘romantic comedies’) are most commonly found at the other end of Shakespeare’s writing spectrum: comedies. A typical Shakespearean comedic ending, just like a contemporary love story, would have a happy ending in which the blessed couple would marry – as we have clearly seen is not the case with Romeo and Juliet. Simply put, the fact that our two suitors did not get their happily ever after sets modern audiences ablaze rather than eliciting dreamy sighs. This is a love affair that bucks traditional stereotypes of love necessarily leading to a happy ending, a volatile entanglement with high stakes that only make the tale all the more intense. Most importantly, the fact that the play ends at the height of their passion ensures the audience never has to witness their falling ‘out of love’ – their story will never tarnish.

Though readers’s impressions are important, it’s also crucial to consider the real-life implications of considering a gory tragedy the greatest love story in history. One such implication is adolescent suicides in the name of love; Victoria Kish-Donovan and Raymond Oswell, two young British lovers, 19 and 24 respectively when they first met, are just two examples of delusional souls who (seemingly unable to be together, and believing it to be a fitting end to true love) made arguably reckless decisions and ended their own lives, leaving behind grieving parents, siblings and children. Despite the fact that their story is not quite as famous, the fact that it is non-fictitious just makes it all the more tragic and taints the undeniable adoration of the many masses for the play. 

Whether or not you consider the ending fitting, or the characters unbelievably spectacular, it is at its heart a shocking and astounding love story that withstood the test of time due to the fact that it astounds with every new page. It accurately shows just how young minds, including the darkest and most undisclosed parts, think, and gives an unforgettable rendition of how teenagers can not only fall in love, but change their worlds as they do it. Repetition of astronomical references (particularly the wishes for a night never-ending) cast them in a sympathetic light: the control they seek over their universe and their story is, alas, just beyond their grasp.

What I Learned In Writing for a Newspaper

I received the best news I could imagine last year – my school was entering me (little old me!) in a competition to write a piece for a national newspaper. Naturally, I got straight to work brainstorming. By the next day, I had come up with no fewer than five fleshed-out ideas, and was buzzing with energy; that is, until I found out what it was that we would be writing. In a twist that would have shocked no one else but me, the newspaper was government-affiliated – and there was no way I was writing any of my ideas.

Rather than give us free rein of the articles, allowing us to eloquently convey what we, the people, felt to be most important, a topic list had been given to us. Every word on it spoke of patriotism, of national strength and how my country was doing its utmost in practically every field. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. Living in a monarchy had always felt pleasant enough – in large part due to the luck of having a benevolent ruler – but that wasn’t always the case, and I knew it might not be in the future. I had a jarring realisation that of course, the biggest newspaper in the country would be censored. Of course we wouldn’t have true freedom of speech.

In a world with the internet and where information feels so easily available, it’s fighteningly easy to forget the truth. Blocking critical websites, using public media as propaganda, and outright lies online are still issues we face today. And maybe we’re not doing enough to solve them.