“No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here.”
I buried my father 30 days before arriving in New York to study at the Columbia School of Social Work. I needed the supernatural power of radical self-care to get out of bed every morning. Brushing my teeth was a task I was proud to accomplish. I gained lots of weight from wine nights and getting comfort food after class. I went to the gym less because I could always fit into my leggings. And even without a formal diagnosis of depression, I knew that I couldn’t emotionally tax myself over academics. My energy was focused on not only overcoming a great loss, but on surviving in another predominately white institution....
Esfandyar Batmanghelidj is an opinion columnist. His column Institution Rules runs alternate Thursdays. Lanbo Zhang is an associate opinion editor and is interrogating Yar about yesterday's column Chinooks and Crannies. Interrogating him the way an enemy of the state deserves to be interrogated! Lanbo: You really wouldn't fight for America if there was a war against Iran? Yar: I guess that is the big question. My gut reaction tells me that I would avoid fighting by all reasonable means. Lanbo: Ok. Fine. But if you had to choose, Iran or the US. In a war. Which would it be? Yar: The whole point is that I can't choose. Iran over the US, US over Iran. God willing they will never have to enter conflict. I'll put it this way, choosing Iran over the US would betray the fact that the US is the country that has provided me what I have. But Iran provides me with who I am... Lanbo: What do you mean? You've never been there. How many people do you even know in Iran? Yar: A handful at best. But that's not the point. You have to consider that the cultural inputs, the identity inputs, the food inputs (yums) I got throughout my childhood were a hybrid of American, Iranian, and European traits. Cut the Iranian out and you starve the soul... not to get too poetic.more Lanbo: Why don't we all just forget about America? Yar: The average American isn't first generation, a speaker of some other mother tongue, or as exposed to the cultural heritage of their parents. You are in an even more "dislocated" position than me... you should see how this effects decisions Lanbo: Not really. Yar: Yes really. Lanbo: I don't see how I should have any loyalty to China. I was born there...big woop. Yar: Australia? The US? Lanbo: Not the US. Yar: You would lay down your life for Australia? Lanbo: If Aus ever got in a war with China and I had to pick. I would pick Aus. Though I wouldn't lay down my life for much. Not much at all. Yar: Well obviously this is all a thought experiment And in the US, we have an all volunteer army So the pansies among us can continue to live in the meadows Lanbo: Let's modify this so pansies like us don't have a way out. Both countries are at war and drafting. We are eligible. There is no way out. Pick a side. Yar: Switzerland I used to go to camp in this little town, I would go there. They have good chocolate And docile cows Lanbo: You're a snob. Yar: It has that connotation Lanbo: What if the whole world but Iran and the US disappeared. And you HAVE to pick a side? Yar: I have a solution... I would pick Iran. The side that loses. Lanbo: How does that make any sense whatsoever? Yar: Because the great American project will continue with or without the support of the Iranian American community, but the preservation of Iranian identity for my kids and grand kids would require that I choose Iran. ... Lanbo: What has Iran ever done for you? Has Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ever given you a lollipop? Yar: You are conflating the state and the society. Lanbo: Yes. Yar: Granted, the state sucks its own lollipops. But the society is rich, vibrant, and inspirational. Makes Australian look like a felonious place. Oh wait... Lanbo: Why did your parents come to the US? Yar: My parents came to the US because it is the greatest country. For prosperity and privledge. Yar: But, the combo of US policy and Iranian politics coerced them to leave Lanbo: Ok. So Iran kicked them out and the US graciously took them in. Yar: US brought Iran to the point where Iran kicked them out and the US took them in Lanbo: Yet for some nonsensical reason you would pick up an Iranian gun? Yar: Probably a Chinese gun fyi But yes. I would rather die on that side of the fight. Then live on the other. Knowing I have killed. Lanbo: That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Yar: I appreciate the sensitivity. Lanbo: If China and Australia got into a war I would pick up an Australian gun No question at all. Yar: (DISCLAIMER: The author is hugely proud to be American, as evidenced by his participation in fantasy football) ... Lanbo: So why should it give a rats about you if you are just going to pick up a gun for Iran if the situation comes down to it? Yar: I hope the State Department doesn't see this chat Can anyone say GUANTANAMO? Lanbo: Maybe Machiavelli was right...people are "ungrateful, fickle, liars and deceivers, they shun danger and are greedy for profit." Yar: Hope you don't drop irrelevant quotes in your CC essays. Lanbo: That's not irrelevant. That's Machiavelli's conception of human nature. Your choice to fight for Iran in that hypothetical is an example of all of that. Yar: And it predates the emergence of the nation-state whose effects on the citizen psyche completely alter the calculations for what is "ungrateful" and "fickle." ... Lanbo: You have some weird desire to die for a country which kicked your parents out. Yar: Which kicked my parents out because of the country that took them in. Lanbo: Are we really getting into America bashing here? You might want to watch it there. Yar: no America bashing, I wouldn't have the gall But the role of American politics can't be sugarcoated. Especially in regards to forcing my parents to leave Iran at young ages. Lanbo: In what? The Mosaddegh coup? Yar: Among other things. Lanbo: So that makes them exiles...how does that make you one too? Yar: It makes me a cultural exile. Lanbo: I thought we already established the fact that we are pansies Yar: I am a poison pansy ... Lanbo: I chose Australia. Australia was good to me. What did Iran ever do for you? Yar: something bothers me about first generations kids who eschew their cultural heritage Let's be real, the US has little to offer on the culture/identity front Lanbo: So bloody what? Yar: Its an amalgam Lanbo: Why can't I choose? What is wrong with that? Yar: I like tapping into the cru sauvage, the pure deposits of identity At least temporally speaking Lanbo: cru sauvage? really? ... Lanbo: maybe we should wrap this up? Yar: Well... we are no closer to an answer and a bit closer to strangling each other. Lanbo: yup Yar: Do you want the M NIGHT SHYAMALAN twist? Lanbo: maybe ill just tsunami your room ...oh wait i live there too. Yar: I was gonna reveal that Lanbo: im sorry what do you want? a cookie? Yar: Are you China annoy me? Lanbo: wow im signing off Yar: Thanks lanbo, its been enlightening....
Colleges have the potential to be the birthplace of ideas and liberalism, and Columbia University has often been at the forefront of this onward push in the name of equality for all. The recent expansion of the Equal Justice Center of the Roosevelt Institution serves to further the cause of progressivism and provides more students than ever with the unique opportunity to harness their ideas in order to shape national policy by writing it. The Roosevelt Institution, however, predates the Columbia chapter's Center on Equal Justice. Roosevelt is a relatively new operation, founded in 2004 following the presidential election. It is the nation's first nonpartisan student think tank, and it has been producing progressive policy that has made its way into the hands of our nations top legislators for the past few years. Furthermore, the organization is non-partisan, which lends it to an open-minded constituency. On the Columbia University level, Roosevelt was founded by Josh Lipsky, CC '08, and has grown from a small operation to a weekly forum for ideas and policy to blossom. The topics discussed include education, health care, foreign policy, environment and energy, labor, and most recently, equal justice. For the students who participate in Roosevelt, Equal Justice is the most expansive and inclusive center in terms of issues covered. As co-president Dario Abramskiehn relayed, it is "a component of every part of our procedure. The other centers at Roosevelt serve a more specialized role catering to the specific issues, but the over-arching purpose of equal justice is to provide a forum for issues that are best suited under the heading of equal justice." The idea behind expanding from the Electoral Reform Center to the Equal Justice Center was to create an umbrella for students who wanted to write a diverse variety of policy, but couldn't find the right arena to do so in any of the other Roosevelt forums. Having a broad environment for discussion is at the core of the venue. The newly coined center deals with a wide array of issues, from marriage equality, to electoral reform and felon disenfranchisement, to protection of civil liberties. While these topics are under the jurisdiction of legislators in this country, students also have the ability to change policy, and policy matters on this campus. Equal Justice is an all-inclusive endeavor, granting the opportunity for exploration and innovation. There are no constraints. As students, there must be an organization available that allows freedom of ideas and promotes the belief that our government is there to help, to foster, and to grow—an organization that empowers students to proactively shape their tomorrows through the power of the pen. With so many activist groups it is often times difficult to look at the heart of the issue and see the solution rather than merely the problem. At the new Equal Justice Center, we do more than criticize—we make our complaints constructive. The center allows its members to write their own policy, thereby rectifying the injustices they view in the world. The Equal Justice Center fills a unique niche in Columbia in that it brings all different kinds of activism together while channeling protest into the kind of policy that makes legislators sit up and take notice. Columbia University needs to keep pushing for all kinds of freedom in our local, statewide, national, and global environment, and we need to do so with cohesion and inclusion. This is why the Equal Justice Center was expanded, and this is why we hope to see it grow with the support of the diverse student body of Columbia in the future. The author is a Barnard College first-year. She is the center leader of the Center on Equal Justice in the Roosevelt Institution and lead activist of the Activist Council of Columbia University College Democrats...