What does Trump think he’s doing? I mean, honestly dude, you can’t just call the leader of Taiwan without expecting China to be ALL OVER YOU. Do you want World War III? This is how we get World War III. Trump’s lack of ability to understand even the most basic tenants of diplomacy is really going to make foreign affairs rough for America in these upcoming years. If there really is a destabilization of NATO and other similar alliances, there is going to be a place for Russia, China, and their allies to move in and upset Western democracy as the global ideologic hegemon. While that might not be the worst thing, it will almost certainly involve an unnecessary loss of life. Trump doesn’t seem to understand the gravitas of his situation, nor is he able to comprehend how his personal actions can possibly affect the lives of our service men and women overseas, in addition to our lives here at home. International Relations and International Studies professors are going to need to write new books and teach new classes about what it means to work in the Foreign Service under a Trump presidency, because this is certainly not the world that we thought we lived in. I am perhaps most scared for our European allies who rely on our support in order to stave off threats that are geographically closer to those nations and who are now being told that that support comes with a price. Sooner or later, Trump is going to need to recognize that diplomacy, and governance, is decidedly different from the art of business. However, if his success in the latter is any indicator, he may not learn his lesson regarding the former anytime soon.
Among its democratic peers, the United States is unique in its use of the Electoral College in order to separate voters from the true power of choosing the President. Nations like Britain and France have far more equitable systems of voting for their highest offices, while the Untied States utilizes an institution that gives a voter in Wyoming 3.6 times the weight in the Electoral College that a voter in California gets. This was the topic of one of my Informed Citizens Discussion Group meetings, and I found it to be particularly interesting. According to members of my group, our Western European allies use a system close to, if not precisely, a national popular vote to elect their chiefs of state. These nations also have a higher voter turnout than the United States, and their campaign periods are shorter and more informative. It really got me thinking about the potential impacts of eliminating the Electoral College. Would we have an increased voter turnout? I could certainly see that being the case in places like California or Oklahoma wherein one political party dominates the winner-take-all system. Absent that institution, maybe each state would have a more diverse electorate? It would also force candidates to moderate their stances in order to appeal to voters everywhere. How would our primary system work? I really think that looking at the success of other electoral systems around the world might be beneficial for the United States as we strive to move away from a College that was created in order to protect slave states and to separate the people from making the important decision they possibly can.
This semester, I had the pleasure of moderating an Informed Citizens Discussion Group with Student Body President Daniel Pae (10/10 human being). While most of our weekly meetings were spent hanging on the bottom floor of the Conoco Student Leadership Center, we took one special week to visit the Asian Food Fest in the Armory. What a fun experience! I didn’t realize how many authentic and diverse Asian eateries there were in the Norman area, and I was especially impressed by the Asian-American Student Association for bringing them all together for one big event. I got the opportunity to talk to one of the store owner’s at length about their experience in the Norman community and walked away with a new gratitude for restaurant owners. This particular business isn’t easy, and surprisingly, the competition in Norman for authentic Asian food is actually reasonably high. External to the Food Fair itself, we also had a discussion within my group about recent events in Syria. Some of my group members had gotten to go to Professor Landis’ President’s Associates Dinner, and had found some of his observations about the region to be particularly poignant. It was great to get to hear an abridged version of his presentation, as I was unable to go that evening. His concept of “The Great Sorting Out” also has some interesting similarities to what I perceive to be a phenomenon in the United States, that is, the movement of people to places where their ideas are more represented (basically, liberals moving to the coasts). It is certainly fascinating to see how patterns of human behavior replicate themselves around the world, despite being in different situations. All in all, I can’t wait for next year’s Food Fair!
Despite being an International Studies major, I am woefully ignorant of the European Union. I mean, I know that it’s a group of European states that share economic and social ties, but I’m really uncertain as to the intricacies, the governing policies, etc. So, when #Brexit was a #thing, I was really #unsure what exactly was going on. Luckily, the Informed Citizens Discussion Group hosted a talk with Dr. Mitchell Smith from CIS to help explain #Brexit in the #simplest terms. I have to say, I really love this part of college. Classes are obviously informative, but there’s something to be said about non-graded discussion where the sole point is to inform. The food also helps. Dr. Smith talked all about the economic implications of the UK splitting from the EU, but what he talked more about was the difference between a Hard Brexit and a Soft Brexit. Dr. Smith thought that the UK, and the EU, would push for a Soft Brexit. That is, although the UK would no longer be an official part of the EU, it would still maintain a strong relationship that might manifest itself in some carried-over benefits in order to reduce the impact that a full exit, or “Hard Brexit”, would mean both for the citizens of the EU and for the citizens of the United Kingdom. In the wake of the recent election of Trump, his talk seemed retroactively fitting, as he also talked about the electorate in the UK that led to the Brexit vote. Most believed that it wouldn’t be true, but a small voter turnout, combined with a large alt-right presence, seemed to lead that to be true. I’m very much looking forward to his and Dean Grillot’s class on fascism in the new semester.
One of my favorite parts of sophomore year has been getting the opportunity to mentor new students. More specifically, the Global Engagement Fellowship has given me a number of mentees that I’ve really bonded and connected with, and I feel so lucky to have gotten the chance to guide them through this year. Even though I met them all at the beginning of the year, I’m really looking forward to specifically mentoring my own cohort. Hennessey constantly astounds me with her passion and drive for justice, Noah always makes me laugh with a well-placed and witty joke, Lucy impresses me every day with her incredible intelligence, Lydia’s incessant happiness always makes me smile, and Ryan’s love of life is just inspiring. I’ve never felt like the patriarch of a family before, but these “Nasty Women and Bad Hombres” (our GroupMe name) make me a proud papa. I mean, seriously. Hennessey is an elected Congress rep, Lucy is one of a very small number of freshmen members of TOG, Lydia and Ryan are dramaturging their first show, and Noah is killing the academic game better than anyone I know. However, I know that my own mentees are just indicative of the awesomeness that is the Global Engagement Fellowship Class of 2020. Their first meeting was especially fun to go to. What a fascinating group of people! I was especially interested in all of the places that they said they wanted to study abroad… we have a number of great Global Engagement Days ahead of us with the experiences these students are going to have and then share. Major props to Jaci for recruiting and admitting some of the coolest people around.