Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reflection of Time

This semester has been awesome.  The discussions throughout the semester have consistently covered various issues throughout the world that were extremely interesting.  The semester actually feels like a Legend of Zelda game.  Yes, bear with me here.
You see, we all started the semester as Young Links.  Young, inexperienced, yet full of potential and destined to be heroes of time (more or less).  We all came from different places, or in the context of LoZ, different timelines, and have unique stories and backgrounds.  What bound us together was a common desire to learn more about the world and how it operates.  Our quest to analyze why the world operates the way it does allowed us to examine micro and macro level issues that ranged from self-determination to unipolarity.  What brought us all together in this world politics class could have been destiny, curiosity, or even the Triforce.  While we all started the semester with a unifying issue of world politics, as the semester progressed, diversity within the class emerged.  Some of us became Dekus, Gorons, and Zoras, but these were loose roles and anyone in the class could easily take off one mask and put on another one. 

To elaborate, I'll start with Dekus.  Throughout the series, these humanoid creatures never played a substantive role.  They were clearly sentient and had an organized society but generally kept to their selves.  They generally within their villages in the forest but are sometimes seen in more populated areas doing small business.  Their role in the series drastically changes with Majora's Mask.  In this game, you spend the beginning of the game as a Deku version of Link.  As the game progresses, you begin to actually see the lifestyle and community behind the Dekus.  They're extremely environmentally conscious creatures due to their homes being part of the environment.  Additionally, Deku villages have a very tight sense of family and micro-level issues as they are generally disassociated from the rest of Hyrule (primary setting of the series).  While there is a hierarchy of Dekus and there are internal politics, the close-knit nature of the Dekus.  Like Dekus, there were those in class who may have not said much throughout the semester, but when they did speak, they provided unique insights and perspectives on critical issues.  Certain topics appealed to certain people.  While I'm not strictly categorizing people, as it's possible to be both a Deku and a Zora due to Link's mask abilities in Majora's Mask, it was interesting to see how some people excelled on issues such as self-determination while others thrived on the benefits of a unipolar system.
Gorons are notorious for being big, strong, and always getting the job done.  They may not be the most rational creatures, but they find the best way to obtain their goals.  They use the resources and capabilities that are given to them in order to complete tasks.  Their is a common misconception that Gorons are unintelligent, but this becomes clearly false in Twilight Princess in which the Gorons have industrialized before any of the other races.  The correlation between Gorons and World Politics isn't muscle size, but rather their straight-forward approach to the world.  The class consisted of some discussions regarding unipolarity and America's power in the world.  I feel that Gorons were able to uniquely contribute to these discussions due to personal beliefs or even just knowledge on the subject area.  The importance of increased military presence and military funding could be correlated with the Goron's raging muscles.  Finding solutions that benefit the U.S. quickly and efficiently is identical to the nature of the Goron.  Thankfully, classes weren't entirely Goron-based and Dekus and Zoras were able to provide alternate perspectives to these issues.

Finally, Zoras.  This sleek and slender species is known for being the water species within the LoZ series.  While they originally started as annoying enemies that shot fireballs at you in the earlier games, they eventually became peaceful sea creatures.  They are extremely rational and look for logical solutions to problems.  This is evident within their monarchical government and a council of Zoras that exists. Aesthetics and beauty are generally important for the Zoras as evident by their general demeanor and their habitats.  Additionally, Zoras are calm and peaceful and it is rare that they are truly angry.  Zoras exist within our world politics class through the purely rational thinkers.  Those who question the implications of action and logical results of actions/theories.  They enjoy the structure and logical actions.  I could see Zoras really liking simulations.  

Like I articulated above, the great thing about World Politics and LoZ is that us being Young Links meant that we weren't tied down to a single race/role in class.  There were times when we could put on our Deku mask, Goron Mask, or Zora mask.  The range of topics allowed us to think from different perspectives while discussing and debating with our peers who may have donned different masks.
While I wanted to elaborate more on connections I found, I'm pretty tired and have other finals to study for.  I wanted to go on and explain how the TAs are like Navi & Tatl, fairies that consistently help you throughout the game/year.  Or how the knowledge we started and ended with are similar to Link's transition from a wooden sword and shield to the Master sword & Hylian shield.  Regardless, the semester has been great and I can't wait to see how our second semester projects turn out.

Thanks for a great first semester!

Final Reflection

I can't believe its already the end of my first semester of college. Its been quite an adventure. I am so glad that I did the World Politics UC. I have made so many wonderful friends and I have learned a lot from Professor Jackson, Erin and all my intelligent peers. I enjoyed the opportunities that the Wednesday labs offered. I definitely went to areas of the city I may have never been able to visit.

I enjoyed the major simulation this past week. It was fun to be China in a World Bank session and it was also fun to haggle, negotiate, vote and legislate with classmates. I wish we could have continued our World Bank discussion because I think we, as a class, would have made some really interesting changes to the original World Bank list.

I am so glad that Winter break is so close! I can't yet imagine how wonderful its going to be without academic responsibilities for a month, but I soon will and I can't be more thankful.

Does Sovereignty Protect Difference?

I think sovereignty can protect difference, but I do not think it is necessary to protect difference. As a student at American University, I walk around daily with people of very different cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. America, the country, is full of people who are different and though they may not be as strongly represented in the U.S. government as white, males are, they are still protected.

Sovereignty, though it may protect the self against the other, it doesn't always protect the differences within itself. The banning of the burqa in France can be viewed as an example of when sovereignty could have protected a difference if it was in the hands of an Islamic government. Though sovereignty may be good for the overarching population, the exceptions to the norm may not be protected by sovereignty.

If the world broke into sovereign bodies based on differences, it would be a disaster. From a realists perspective, multiplying the amount of "others" would only be many times more threatening as the number of enemies grew. Continuing to evaluate from a realist perspective, sovereign bodies would then begin to take over other sovereign bodies and then potentially squelch the difference in the other body.


In theory, I agree with the assertion that sovereignty protects diversity. Sovereignty means that countries can pass laws that are as different from other countries as they wish. It allows countries to retain identities and social systems, regardless of what other countries wish them to do. In this way, cultures can retain their identities, and the human race stays diverse.

However, diversity is not always a positive thing. Sovereignty allows Arab nations to ignore woman's rights, and allows for the passive perpetuation of the caste system in India. These things are part of the culture and diversity of those countries, but I, as a girl that has been raised in relatively liberal America and ingrained with visions of social equality and economic mobility, don't think they should have a place anywhere on this planet.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Final Reflection

This reflection is not going to be good enough for a final reflection for this class but as I sit here, sick, tired and recently returned from an emergency trip to Minnesota over there weekend where I was treated to driving snow and frigid temperatures, my wont is to just get it out the door and maybe make something respectable of it at a later time.

I remember when I first knew that I was going to be taking World Politics. I figured that I would walk in and immediately astound everyone with my brilliance and would henceforth go to class surrounded by swimsuit models and wearing a fur coat and a purple fedora. However, as I soon found out that was not the case. And as it would be repeatedly shown to me, I am not that smart of a student of IR. Which was fine, if emasculating. I certainly have become a better one with time (though, as PTJ would be quick to point out, "better" does not mean "good").

One interesting phenomena is that I have become more conservative and more realist. PTJ even said on my essay that I sounded awfully realist for a self proclaimed liberal and that may be (though I do admit to tossing the rules out a bit when the annihilation of humanity is on the line). I don't know if that is a bad thing or not, or even if it is something to which a "good" or "bad" label (whatever those mean anyway) can be ascribed. When my brother went to college he came back with his "coexist" posters and a big beard and I have none of those. Though, I admit to being jealous of the beard.

College has been many things to me but it hasn't been the huge transformational experience I thought it would be. AU is certainly not at fault for that (though I do occasionally wonder what Fordham, GW or the U would be like now). This will sound awfully narcissistic [even] for me but I think it's because I came to college a little more mature than my brother and others. Maybe "mature" is not the right word but with a more developed sense of purpose. I know what I want to do, I've known it since Freshman year in high school. Maybe that will change, and maybe then college will be the huge trans-formative event I've heard about but maybe not. I'm only a first semester freshman, there remains a lot to be seen, a lot [LOT] to be learned and a lot to discover. Only time will tell.

I have 2 dogs: Scout and Amy

They are, but that's beside the point. In his book, 'Conquest of America' Todorov writes a dedication on the inside cover and while dedications are usually to loved ones or close friends, he writes his to an anonymous Mayan woman who was killed and thrown to the dogs when she refused to sleep with one of the Spanish soldiers. This curious dedication is best seen not as an actual homage to a nameless, faceless woman who was killed by some jerk, but instead as a representative of all those who would die and suffer horrible fates from the coming colonization of America. What happened to that Mayan woman was the bell weather of things to come, she was the vanguard of the millions who would be slaughtered by the coming waves of Europeans.

The Mayan woman was heroic, in Todorov's eyes, because she resisted her would be rapists. Unlike Montezuma who fiddled while his Empire burned, she was brave. She kept her promise to her husband and stood on principal, even if that principal got her killed in horrifying fashion. The coming centuries of slaughter and brutalization were perfectly encapsulated in the episode of the nameless Mayan woman. He seeks to immortalize her story as a example of the dangers of violent cultural conflict in the absence of knowing and understanding the other. Millions died because of colonialism and millions upon millions have died as a result of not knowing the other. There are millions of stories of men and women being killed and raped and they must all be remembered as a cautionary tale, if one so oft unheeded. As he writes on p 247, "I am writing this book to prevent this story [Mayan woman] and a thousand others like it from being forgotten. ... My hope is not that Mayan woman will now have European men thrown to the dogs (an absurd supposition, obviously), but that we remember what can happen if we do not succeed in discovering the other."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Todorov's Dedication

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure why Todorov dedicates his book to the woman devoured by dogs.  I do have some theories though.  I personally believe that the dedication is for those who are marginalized, suppressed, or silenced in general.  The anonymity of the woman creates a generalization in which no one specifically is targeted.  He may be attempting to commemorate or highlight the importance of these people historically and continually within society today.  Throughout the book, various implications of marginalized populations are evident.  As I've explained in previous posts, the implications of marginalization can occur throughout society.  Even minor discursive representations have the ability to fragment society and create distinctions between people.  In my Columbus post, I talk about how the imperialist mindset devalued the importance of humans.  Todorov could potentially be writing for the people who have been devalued and treated as less than human.  I believe that this could be possible due to the method in which the woman is killed.  She is devoured by dogs, an animal.  While I do understand that there are anthropocentric justifications for humans simply being species of the world and that there isn't a hierarchy of species within the world, I do believe that animals can be considered "less than human" due to their beast-like nature and lack of a high level of sentient and comprehensive thought (this is a generalization obviously, there is a legitimate counter-argument to this claim but I don't want to deviate to far from the thesis of this post).

While people do die from animal-related deaths in the world, the way Todorov's dedication is targeted is uniquely important.  He dedicates it to a woman "devoured by dogs".  This could potentially imply that the woman was part of the animal food cycle.  She was on the level of animals, probably even below a dog, and was devoured by nature's food cycle.  This could be representative of the type of dehumanization that occurred with the West's encroachment upon the Natives of foreign lands.  While there are probably flaws in my logic, this is what came to mind when I thought about the dedication itself.  Thus, I feel that Todorov's dedication was potentially for those who have been silenced and dehumanized to a point in which they can not even be considered human.  His book sheds light upon the situation and attempts to highlight the importance and implications of such behavior.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Over Thanksgiving break I had a very detailed discussion with my Uncle Adi about the political debate regarding the building of a mosque two blocks away from ground zero. I began the discussion by expressing my outrage at how Renee Ellmers uses the terms "muslim" and "terrorist" interchangeably and how I think she is ignorant and offensive. I also told him that I think that a Muslim cultural center is a perfectly peaceful and pleasant idea for the old coat factory near ground zero.
My uncle, who is very liberal and very open minded and accepting of all colors, races and religions, asked me if I'd seen a particular video of the Dutch politician, Geerd Wilders, speaking. Geerd Wilders is a very radical politician who believes that Islam is spreading to the West because the Koran bids those of the Islam faith to conquer the West. Watch his video and see what you think.

It seems very peculiar to me to think that religious persons are migrating westward in order to smother out other religions. When we visited the French Embassy for our Wednesday lab, the French diplomat told our group that the French government is worried because those who are immigrating into France aren't taking on a French identity. The same issue is happening all over Europe. Persons are immigrating into a country but still identifying themselves as individuals from their country of origin. The French government is trying to reiterate the importance of maintaining French culture and not letting it get diluted with other culture. These ideals are what prompted the ban of the wearing of burqas.
I don't know where I stand on the issue. I certainly don't think all muslims are extremist terrorists trying to take over the world. Learning about this Geerd Wilders and others who agree with him has definitely prompted my recent interest in immigration patterns and the muslim faith.

Monday, November 29, 2010


This past week was quite a lesson on human interaction. Through the noisy insanity of the screaming mass that is my family, I saw parallels to the larger world of international relations.
My cousin Ryan, the roofer and husband, shocked us all when he broke from his labels and assumed another one- father. Of course, we all knew about the birth of his daughter only months before, but when he altered his behavior and began to do things like help clean up messes and watch his language, we all were a little shocked. We weren't sure how to treat him in his new role. He was always the sort of renegade cousin, and when he changed his identity, we shifted the way we treated him.

Jessica was in charge of the mashed potatoes.
I was in charge of the pie.
We made friends.
She got extra pie
I got to lick the spoon from the mashed potatoes.
Thanksgiving + liberalism = :D

By it's very nature, Thanksgiving rejects the idea of realism on a micro level. However, on an international level the holiday is all about realism. If you throw a little cynicism into the mix, Thanksgiving Day quickly becomes Thank God I'm Not An Impoverished Congolese Woman Day. Thanksgiving is all about what we Americans have, not how we can help other countries. It is very much America individually celebrating its success.

Reflection #14

***Updated, found some awesome articles that explain the scenario.

Going home was something I had surprisingly been looking forward too.  I love being in DC but didn't think I'd miss Denver as much as I did.  The break basically consisted of a complete detox from school.  I was able to hang out with my friends, eat a lot of food, do some Black Friday shopping and ended going to a Basshunter concert which was crazy.

While this may not be the most substantive post, I wanted to branch off a post by Christian regarding the recent Korean incident.  My response was not surprisingly different than Christian to North Korean's attack on South Korea.  When I heard about the attack, one of my first thoughts was "IMPACT UNIQUENESS FOR MY NORTH KOREA SCENARIO".  While this probably doesn't make sense to much people (except PTJ), it's not a generally useful thought.  Regardless, as I thought about the matter, I wondered whether or not the world would actually see a real life zerg rush from the North Koreans.  Right now the balance between the two nations is extremely wobbly.  South Korea is prepared for retaliation, North Korean propaganda is perpetuating hate, China is attempting to act as a balancer, and the U.S. is trying to help South Korea while simultaneously trying to push through a South Korean Free Trade Agreement.  Now while I don't know if North Korea has nuclear weapon capabilities, they're playing an extremely convincing bluff.  A professor at Stanford recently indicated that North Korea has a "stunning" secret nuclear plant and even North Korean officials are claiming that they have thousands of nuclear centrifuges.  It is still unsure as to whether nor not these centrifuges are capable of enriching high grade uranium that is a prerequisite to nuclear weapons.  This level of uncertainty means that both the U.S. and South Korea will have to tread carefully to ensure that determine that there's no risk of a nuclear launch.  Additionally, the way China approaches this scenario could potentially change U.S.-Sino relations.  Signs indicate that China is carefully considering its actions and comments as it is receiving pressure from the U.S. regarding its North Korean policy.

Christian's second scenario is quite the scary one.  I'm pretty sure the video I linked above describes what a worst case scenario could become.  With the introduction of nuclear weapons, the situation becomes scary.  If this happens, someone will eventually have to GG.  The future decisions by policymakers will have to be made carefully.  Only time will determine the outcome of this situation.