Editorial: Things Are Happening

Donovan Maudsley - Editor-in-Chief
Posted on: January 29, 2017

I honestly can’t believe that we’re already in our fifth week of class. I don’t think I’ve gotten a whole night’s sleep since the New Year. Mechanical Engineering’s 3B term is starting to live up to its reputation.

This issue comes with a lot of great content. There’s so much content that I seriously considered cutting my own article! SpaceCam returns this issue with an update on NASA’s new missions. Ra(Tan) Lines covers Hello Internet, another classic podcast. Bryan’s Half-Baked is a bit of a misnomer, as the Haystack Cookies don’t require any baking at all. They were pretty tasty though. Elizabeth details the progress of the Maple Leaf’s rookies in The Benchwarmer Report. If columns aren’t really your thing though, have no fear, as we’ve still got tonnes of other articles this issue.

Lots of things have happened since I last sat down and wrote an editorial. One was a small(ish) error in the printing of our previous issue. The question was not printed for the Iron Inquisition, our student poll, so no one knew what people were talking about. Tom had asked everybody what their favourite CSE course was. I was really surprised when people start reporting the issue, because no one had found it while we edited it. Usually these things get spotted, but no one mentioned it. I went back to check the draft and saw that it really was there. The issue stems back to an oversight at the printer, something about the text getting put on a different layer than the rest of the page.

Between issues we also found out the name of the next Star Wars film. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi has people spinning, wanting to know what’s going to happen. It also had my friend Joey and I stumped for a while. Is Luke Skywalker the last Jedi? Is he going to train Rey and then die, in which case Rey would be the last remaining Jedi? Who knows? It was a while later that night when it clicked; Jedi is the plural of Jedi! I ran down to the living room in my PJs to tell Joey, and no one else in the room had any idea what I was talking about. Yeah, I kinda like Star Wars.

Oh yeah, and Trump became the President of the USA.

One of my mandates this term was not to write about Donald Trump’s administration or policies or controversy surrounding his rise to or actions in office. A series of events that took place after his inauguration really shocked me though, and I feel compelled to write about them.

First up was newly sworn in Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s speech on Jan 21st. During this speech, Spicer harangued his democratic predecessors before attacking media outlets for falsely reporting the attendance numbers for Trump’s inauguration. He then went on to state that media outlets shouldn’t be reporting on this, and should instead be reporting on Trump’s upcoming meetings with foreign leaders or his visit to the CIA. Just a few notes on Secretary Spicer’s address:

Attendance at Trump’s inauguration is largely thought to be a decrease from both of Barack Obama’s ceremonies. This is backed up by aerial photos, transit records, and statements from people who attended both events. In fact, there was less use of the Washington DC public transit system on Inauguration Day than there is on a typical weekend.

In his statement Spicer pretty much ignores the Freedom of the Press, which states that no government official or organization can interfere with the distribution of information and opinions.
Directly following this was Kellyanne Conway’s interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sunday Jan 22nd. Mrs. Conway was one of Trump’s campaign managers, and has since become the Counsellor to the President. In her statement Conway defended Spicer’s claims, which Todd called “falsehoods.” Mrs. Conway called Spicer’s claims “alternative facts.”

Let’s take a look at that term. Alternative is generally meant to show multiple answers or solutions. Alternatives are typically given when someone has a choice that they can make. Something that is fact is indisputable and true. “Alternative facts” then means that there are multiple things that are inherently true. 2+2 could equal 4, or 5, or fish. Alternative facts are things that just aren’t true. Lies. Falsehoods. Fibs. It’s very telling that before the Trump administration had even been in office for a single work day (Inauguration Day doesn’t count) they had adopted a culture of lying to public and refusing to listen to facts.

After Mrs. Conway’s speech, copies of George Orwell’s 1984 began selling like hotcakes on Amazon, so much so that it became the bestselling book and then promptly went out of stock. Sales increased over 9,500%, and a new printing was ordered. “Alternative facts” bears a strong resemblance to the Orwellian term “doublethink,” where an individual can accept two contradicting statements as fact. Also, if you’ve never read 1984, you really should.

Moving on from Mrs. Conway, there was the immense success that was the 2017 Women’s March on Washington on January 21st. A grassroots protest meant to bring media attention to the issues of LGBT and women’s rights in America, the March spawned over 650 copycat protests around the globe. Cities in Canada, Mexico, South Korea and the United Kingdom all saw marches. There were even two in Antarctica. I personally know people who marched in New York and Chicago. My personal favourite video of the Marches is one from Nova Scotia where 15 people (out of a population of 65) marched. The Marches were all peaceful demonstrations, and I haven’t heard of a single arrest around the world. All told over 2 million people protested in the US, making it the largest single-day demonstration in US history.

…And then the executive orders started coming, 14 in total thus far. There’s one to repeal Obamacare. There’s one to redirect funds for his wall. There’s one to freeze hiring of government officials in the US for 90 days, which actually directly conflicts with his whole wall thing. There’re two to get the oil pipelines back on track. There’s one which essentially makes it impossible for a woman to get an abortion in the US. There’s also one which stops the United States Refugee Admissions Program and bans people from seven countries from entering the US. I wish I had the time and the space to write about each of these orders, but I don’t. I’m going to talk about the last one for a while.

This executive order is trash. Terrorism is a very real thing and a very scary thing, but literally no good can come from this order. Out of the seven countries named (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Syria) none have produced citizens who have committed acts of terror on US soil. All are in one state of flux or another, but so are many other countries. Some critics have even stated that there is a “random quality” to the countries selected. Even worse, people who have worked hard and obtained legal travel visas are not exempt from this law. Starting January 27th passengers began to be detained at US airports, and at the time of this writing over 300 have been detained. Protests against the ban began popping up at 16 airports around the country. Lawsuits against the administration have already been filed, with many lawyers providing pro-bono representation.

The chief executives of Twitter, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Tesla, Netflix, Amazon, LinkedIn and Google have all condemned the order. Google has also recalled most of their travelling employees, in case the order would prevent them from returning in the future. Sixteen state attorney generals signed a joint statement condemning the order as unconstitutional.

Universities are also affected by this ban, as it means that students from these countries are now unable to study in the US. Many institutions are reportedly looking into the legality of the ban, but the University of Michigan has openly defied the order and refused to release its students’ immigration details. In a statement released January 28th the school stated that it “welcomes and supports students without regard to their immigration status,” and that they “will continue to admit students in a manner consistent with [their] non-discrimination policy.” The statement is bold and eloquent and I recommend reading it. There has been a public call for other institutions to follow Michigan’s example.

I want to end my editorial with a excerpt from The New Colossus, the poem published to raise funds for the Statue of Liberty. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to break free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” In this poem Lady Liberty, one of the great American symbols, literally calls for the world’s refugees so that she can shelter them.