Making Connections: 53 Teenagers Suggest Creative Ways to Link School Curriculum to the World of 2019

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Making Connections: 53 Teenagers Suggest Creative Ways to Link School Curriculum to the World of 2019

Anieya Archuleta-Valdez, a student from Utah, connects the Op-Doc above with Elie Wiesel’s “Night.”

For the runners-up, we are publishing short excerpts from their essays — enough, we hope, to give readers an understanding of why and how the writer connected the two texts.

Anieya Archuleta-Valdez, Nuames High School, Layton, Utah: “Night” by Elie Wiesel and “Wuilly Arteaga: Fighting Venezuela’s Repression With My Violin

“Night” had me dumbstruck and in turmoil while reading. It transported me to another place, and I could almost feel the pain and need for survival one might have felt. However, there was one important part of the book that stood out to me: Juliek’s farewell. He played Beethoven’s Concerto, something the SS forbid him from doing. He broke the silence that filled the darkness and played the last piece he ever would.

Much like Juliek, Wuilly Arteaga played in defiance against the Cuban government. He too lived in restraint and was denied his “basic” human rights. He was beaten, tortured, and witnessed his comrades die before him.

Despite this, Juliek’s and Wuilly’s music wasn’t filled with hatred or anger. Their songs reflected pain and hope, but, most of all, both of their performances conveyed forgiveness.

Mahesh Agarwal, Berwick Academy, Exeter, N.H.: “Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood and “Chinese Scientist Claims to Use Crispr to Make First Genetically Edited Babies”

A mass-distributed drug has eradicated Homo Sapiens—an inefficient, violent and sex-crazed people. Now, “Crakers” inhabit the earth. This gentle new species has a digestive tract that can process grass and skin that is UV protected and blemish free. Devoid of lust, Crakers breed during a specified season and live until they’re programmed to die at age thirty, avoiding the ailments that come with midlife. Such is the vision of Crake, a bio-engineer in Margaret Atwood’s novel “Oryx and Crake.” By spreading a virus and “improving” humanity, the geneticist’s desire for perfection propels him across both scientific boundaries and moral ones.

Atwood’s story, although obviously fictional, deals with a relevant topic: the ethics surrounding genetic modification. Two months ago, Chinese scientist He Jiankui reportedly created the world’s the first genetically edited babies: twin girls named Lulu and Nana. In order to give the embryos HIV-resistance, Dr. He used CRISPR Cas9, a chemical pair of “scissors” that can cut and paste sections of DNA. Dr. He caused global uproar. Gene-editing is still in its infancy and many pointed out that any mistake would affect not only Lulu and Nana but all of their future descendants. Instead of being championed as a step towards a healthier future, this experiment was seen as a rogue move that used humans as lab rats.

Vaidehi B, Deccan International School, Bangalore, India: “1984” by George Orwell and “Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret

On the surface, it seems as though the world of Winston Smith is a hyperbole, a worst-case scenario, an exaggerated version of your reality. However, upon closer examination and analysis, you notice the uncanny and surprising similarities between the reality that Orwell paints in the book and the reality you live in. The book alludes to several themes that are relevant in the 21st century, the two major ones being privacy and freedom.

“Big Brother is watching,” is a statement that is pervasive throughout the novel, and it makes you think about the Big Brother in your reality, a significant segment of which may be comprised of social media- Facebook friends, Instagram likes, WhatsApp instant messages. These big tech companies send out assured proclamations of security and data privacy, but in reality, every millisecond of our activity on these apps is being fed into the machinery of profit-generation.

Christine Baek, Northview High School, Johns Creek, Ga.: “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding and “A Dictatorship Is Rising in My Country, Again

I watched as the boys [in “Lord of the Flies”] shed their wide-eyed purity as easily as snake skin, staining their newly naked forms with bloodshed and decay. The sovereign dictatorship molded from the ashes preceded a society rooted in nationalism based on fear and manipulation and impassioned acts of violence. In the end, the children had become their greatest fear and their greatest enemy; the island was no longer a refuge, but a battleground as the inhabitants descended into chaos.

Just months later, I read an op-ed essay: “A Dictatorship Is Rising in My Country, Again” addressing the reality of Daniel Ortega’s regime as a “return to dictatorship.” President Ortega, once a symbol of revolution and freedom from the violent Somoza dynasty’s reign, is now the head of the sprawling Sandinista government. The brutalization of innocent people, the burning of books, and the organized attacks on religion are all done to strip away the human rights of Nicaragua’s citizens. They are all acts I have seen in the nightmarish dystopian novels flooding my school supply list.

Luke Briody, Byram Hills High School, Bedford, N.Y.: “Maus” by Art Spiegelman and “Migrants in Tijuana Run to U.S. Border, but Fall Back in Face of Tear Gas

Liberty’s lantern flickers in the eastern skies as the sun blazes down upon Tijuana, Mexico. While American citizens sit down on their couches to enjoy the Saturday morning cartoons, a caravan of migrant families are immersed in chants and cheers of freedom; they have traveled hundreds—thousands—of miles in search of sanctuary. Yet here at their new home and haven, they find instead a new hell, as tear gas rains down upon them. Suffocating. Silencing. But why? Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen suggests violence by migrants, but Maya Averbuch & Elisabeth Malkin imply in “Migrants in Tijuana Run to U.S. Border, but Fall Back in Face of Tear Gas” that the true impetus was nothing more than the color of the migrants’ skin: the beginnings of an American hecatomb.

Currently, my English class is exploring Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” and its classification into a genre, considering the controversy of its content and graphic medium. Hailed as an allegory, a comic strip, and a pure biography, Maus encompasses all literary realms… But what if the ambiguous nature of this piece’s identity was intentional? Spiegelman created “Maus” to illustrate the strength of an interconnected narrative of past and present, rather than the bare bones of one strained through the polluted dichotomies of genre. This concept applies to all levels of identity created by and for humans: every border, belief, and birthright. When Hitler perceived the Jews as threats, he did not identify them as humans, or lovers, or families, but as animals. With the isolation of an entire people from their true identity, we irrevocably lost six million of our own kin.

Sarah Fulton, Flint Hill School, Oakton, Va.: The psychological term “choice blindness” and “Why Trump Supporters Don’t Mind His Lies

In psychology, we learned about a term: choice blindness. Essentially, a person becomes so consumed with their own choice that they fail to see any development or change in the situation that would change their opinion. It’s part of a bigger circumstance called the introspection illusion. People tend to be more confident and stubborn than they should be in their choices; we will even go to the extent of defending an argument that’s wrong, just because we made it.

Unfortunately, this is reminiscent of the political climate today. In the article “Why Trump Supporters Don’t Mind His Lies” by Daniel A. Efron, it states that Donald Trump made over 2,400 false statements in under 400 days in office, however, his Republican approval ratings are at 82 percent. The excuses people actually believe these falsehoods or they just don’t mind them because they’re a result of his confidence; nonetheless, I believe it stems from this introspective illusion. Specific to our president, in 2016, voters made a choice and now that that choice may not be as ideal, people still want to believe they were right. This isn’t specific to Trump either. In all major issues, there tends to be two sides that get so caught up in their own viewpoint that they refuse to even acknowledge the other side.

Gabriela Garity, Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart, Miami, Fla.: Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” and “Climate Denial Was the Crucible for Trumpism

The deadliest wildfire in history, the costliest hurricane ever to hit the United States, and multiple exhortatory reports from the world’s leading experts seemed to have no effect on the most powerful man in the world’s belief that climate change is a “gigantic hoax.” It does not require a scientific degree to notice that as carbon emissions, deforestation, and pollution have increased, so have global temperatures and natural disasters. Why, in our abundance of knowledge, do those in power turn their backs to the truth? Paul Krugman, author of “Climate Denial Was the Crucible for Trumpism,” says the reason is a combination of “corruption, willful ignorance, conspiracy theorizing and intimidation.” Examining the relationship between knowledge and politics, Plato in his “Allegory of the Cave” presents a similar list of reasons: lack of sense of duty, private interests, and corrupt political ambition.

In Plato’s allegory, a group of prisoners chained inside a cave, unable to turn their heads to look around, have spent their entire lives believing that the shadows in front of them are “real” objects. One prisoner escapes and enters the world of light, recognizing that his life in the cave lacked objective truth. When he informs the other prisoners of his findings and attempts to liberate them, they threaten to put him to death. Plato applies his allegory to politics, demonstrating how the truth is sacrificed in favor of political gain. Sound familiar?

You Young Kim, Seoul International School, Seoul, Korea: Virginia Woolf’s “Professions for Women” and “How I Came to Hate the Word ‘Wife’

As bizarre as it may sound to an American reader, [aegyo (a Korean word for acting cute)] is encouraged in Korean women. Female celebrities are often asked to show aegyo on television; a young female singer named Kang Jiyoung once incurred much hatred online for refusing to show aegyo on a talk show. Aegyo has long become a characteristic many Korean men expect in women, and even many women concede that it is a quality that women should possess.

Growing up in such a society, I did not ponder the implications of aegyo deeply until I came across Virginia Woolf’s “Professions for Women” in my AP English Language class. Delivered in 1931 before a branch of the National Society for Women’s Service, the speech celebrates Woolf’s successful killing of the Angel in the House (the idea that a woman should be devoted and submissive to her husband). I rejoiced in her success only briefly, however; my eyes lingered over her lament that she still has “many ghosts to fight, many prejudices to overcome.” Indeed, the conventionality of men restricts a woman’s freedom. A woman can no longer be herself once she is concerned about the male opinion of herself.

Almost a century after Woolf’s speech, women still struggle to fight against the expectations thrust upon themselves—their Angels in the House—as well as men’s conventions of gender roles. In “How I Came to Hate the Word ‘Wife,’” Marcia Walker finds herself feeling strangely possessive about housework that she previously resented after finally acceding to the label “wife.” Despite feeling distressed by the traditional duties associated with this new “role,” she is unable to redefine its responsibilities in a way that would not compromise her freedom and identity.

Just like Walker’s revelations that she does more housework as a wife than her unmarried self, women in Korea, myself included, often find ourselves raising our voices and omitting syllables—whether consciously or not—to appear more feminine, as society expects.

Simon Levien, Sparta High School, Sparta, N.J.: “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka and “Some Good News, and a Hard Truth, About Science

There’s a famous line in German. Translated, it goes: “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he discovered that he had been changed into a monstrous, verminous bug.” It comes from Franz Kafka’s most-celebrated novel, “The Metamorphosis,” in which salesman Gregor Samsa wakes up, suddenly transformed into an insect-like creature, or bug, or cockroach, or dung beetle, or…we don’t really know. Metamorphosing “The Metamorphosis” into English has been a translator’s quandary for over a century. The German word Kafka uses in place of “bug” is “Ungeziefer” (and yes, it’s a capitalized proper noun) with no direct English translation. Translators search their entomological glossaries for suitable “Ungeziefer” alternatives but to no consensus.

…But the problem of translation doesn’t just stick to the literary world, it very much extends into our own lives through science communication. Science and technical journalists are tasked with the same challenge as literary translators. They need to take dense, jargon-filled research articles and clarify them into succinct feature pieces that both catch the eye and stay true to scientific findings. Effectively, they—just like Kafka’s translators—must interpret and innovate to get a text from language A (the scientific world) to language B (the general public). And sometimes, compromises must be made for simplicity’s sake.

But between staying true to hard data and embellishing it for readability (or for clicks) is a balancing act. Fake news writers and conspiracy curators are not-so impartial translators, distorting information, misrepresenting statistics for their agendas. And there’s major ramifications in purposeful mistranslation—swung votes, misinformed minds, unvaccinated children. It inspired the recent March for Science this Science Times article deals with. As literary translators defend the sanctity of translated works, hoping to be as close to the original as they can, science journalism and science’s portrayal in the media must follow suit. In the words of the article’s author Alan Burdick: “That’s the task of science journalism, to tell that story, as well as keeping the enterprise accountable.”

Peyton Narr, Vanden High School, Vacaville, Calif.: “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson and “How I Used Art to Get Through Trauma

“Speak” is about a freshman named Melinda Sordino whose sense of self-worth is obliterated after being raped at a high school party. Not only does she face the ordinary trials of transitioning to high school, but also faces depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, bullying, severe loneliness, insecurity, fear, anxiety, and many symptoms of PTSD. At the beginning of the story she feels utterly isolated, unable to voice her seemingly endless suffering. Throughout her journey of reclaiming her life back, she rediscovers her love of art and uses it to empower herself and heal.

The tragic event inspiring the New York Times article “How I Used Art to Get Through Trauma” by Terry Sullivan occurred only six years prior to the initial publishing of “Speak.” Sullivan witnessed a mass shooting on her evening train commute in which six people died and nineteen others were injured. Although she fled physically unharmed, she was left with mental scars and suffering. She faced difficulty when attempting to accurately translate her emotions into words, so she turned to her love of art to express herself.

Jenna Park, Blair Academy, Blairstown, N.J.: “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury and “Technology Has Destroyed Reality

Bradbury paints a world where technology is so advanced that it creates confusion between reality and fantasy. Although the short story was published way back in 1950, almost 70 years from today, it astonished me how Bradbury foresaw the implications of technology on people’s lives. The New York Times article, “Technology Has Destroyed Reality” by Hito Steyerl, correlates closely with Bradbury’s work. Steyerl shares with her audience that technology “divides and fragments” people, just as Bradbury’s nursery ultimately separates and destroys the family’s relationship.

Although there is no roaring lion in Steyerl’s piece, she describes how contemporary technology provides a “custom-made” reality for “your preferences” if you “don’t like the reality you’re facing.” As Bradbury highlights the dangers and fears of relying on technology too much, Steyerl underscores how our very real technology promotes fake news, false reports, and rumors, as well as technology’s effects on the workforce.

Paige Patton, New Tech High@Coppell, Irving, Tex.: “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien and “Military Veterans Respond to Our Cover Story About Moral Injury

Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and the Evacuation of Saigon are the war stories we always think about. Our society focuses on the epic battles and forgets about the quiet moments or the loud moments that seem quiet: the death of a friend, the killing of an enemy, the moment when the feeling of war finally settles in. Tim O’Brien’s novel, “The Things They Carried,” describes these instances that affect soldiers’ lives forever. The New York Times also provides anecdotes in “Military Veterans Respond to Our Cover Story About Moral Injury” that describe the psychological injury to veterans.

“The Things They Carried” is a succinct compilation of stories and experiences about the Vietnam War. They range in both length and drama, but each reveals something about the realities of Vietnam. He recounts how a friend was playing with a grenade and it exploded, forcing O’Brien to shake his human remains down from a tree. O’Brien also tells of the first time he killed a man. It wasn’t intentional. It was an “automatic” response, he claims. The victim was a young Vietnamese man walking along a path adjacent to the American ambush team. However, the most important aspect of this story is how O’Brien presents several different versions: one for his daughter, one for the reader, one for himself. The truth is subject to change, and it is constantly evolving to match the circumstance. Civilians never hear the real stories, just the versions they find appealing. We encourage the lying because we are dissatisfied with the mundane.

Veterans often suppress these stories when they return home. In The New York Times, veterans from across wars tell about the internal struggles they faced upon returning home. Huck Flynn from Colorado, “pretend[ed] that he was O.K.” to the guests at his daughter’s birthday party. Sean Case remarks, “my young cousin thanked me for keeping him safe, but I couldn’t bring myself to respond for fear of lying.” These veterans are forced to present a certain truth to those around them while wrestling with the realities of how war has damaged them. These struggles often manifest themselves in the forms of outbursts, addictions, suicide, and murder.

Amy-Grace Ratanapratum, Fountain Valley High School, Huntington Beach, Calif.: “Why I Write” by Terry Tempest Williams and “The Feminist Power of Embroidery

In such a socially and politically tumultuous time, how can we take a step away from the utter chaos of it all? With the clamor of so many voices, each scrambling to be heard over the other, how can we hope to hear our own?

Stronger importance has been placed on the “self” as of late, and with that importance comes the need for self-expression. There needs to be a way to make ourselves heard—not just to an audience, but to ourselves. Terry Tempest Williams, in “Why I Write,” explains how her writing does just that. Our class had first read it in order to pinpoint exactly why we, as individuals, chose to write. At first glance, the poetry of it struck a chord with me. In it, I saw a piece of myself. We went around, articulating our own purposes for writing, and I was surprised to find that many of us had similar reasoning: “to explain…to express…to understand the world around [ourselves].” Williams, too, “[writes] to make peace with the things [she] cannot control.” These similarities couldn’t be a coincidence.

The act of creating for yourself, and yourself alone, transports you from the turmoil of the world and creates a space where you can be alone with your thoughts. It can be “an act of slowness,” allowing you to process the constant flood of information from behind screens. Or, as Tammy Kim writes in “The Feminist Power of Embroidery,” it can be “transgressive in its silence and domesticity.”

Kim expresses a similar sentiment to Willams’ in “The Feminist Power of Embroidery,” admitting that while “resistance is necessarily public…there is a corresponding need for time indoors, where [she] can be still and let the mind wander.”

Sarahi, Verona Area High School, Verona, Wis.: “Enrique’s Journey” by Sonia Nazario and “Trump and the Baby Snatchers

Sonia Nazario had written “Enrique’s Journey” to depict the realities of immigrants, especially in recent decades, depicting the journey of struggles immigrants go through, such as gangs, bandits, lack of food and water, and trying to avoid border patrol. As “Enrique’s Journey” humanizes and brings awareness to the situations of immigrants, President Donald Trump’s language tells another standpoint. New York Times author, Charles Blow had written “Trump and the Baby Snatcher”, after President Trump enforced families to be separated and incarcerated because Trump viewed them as “unlawful immigrants” and “criminals”; therefore, the foul language and actions used by Trump dehumanizes all immigrants who cross the border.

Annie Sheridan, Marblehead High School, Marblehead, Mass.: “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley and “Now Mental Health Patients Can Specify Their Care Before Hallucinations and Voices Overwhelm Them

Both pieces regard bioethical issues of their times and unfair treatment given to people because of their differences. The creation of Frankenstein’s monster is a great bioethical dilemma because it is be a major scientific discovery but its morality is debatable. The bioethical issue in the article is whether mentally unstable patients should get full control of their treatment.

The amount of respect that Mr. Singer, profiled in the New York Times article, and the creature from Frankenstein received from others are similar. Mr. Singer, who suffers from bipolar and borderline personality disorder, was locked in a room with a guard at the door for 20 hours after visiting the hospital. Both of them were treated like they were animals that were to be put in cages. Even Mary Shelley, the author of “Frankenstein,” wanted to see the creature in anguish.

When reading “Frankenstein,” it can be hard to empathize with the monster because he is just that, a monster. I never felt strong sympathy for him because he acted so inhumane. Surprisingly, the treatment that Mr. Singer received in the NY Times article allowed me to understand how the monster felt.

Tommy Sherman, Bloomfield Hills High School, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.: “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett and “Going Nowhere Fast on Climate, Year After Year

In this article, author Paul Bledsoe displays society’s lack of action over the past 30 years, from the meager response to the staggering climate reports of the 1980s to the current withdrawal of the US from the Paris Climate Accords, ending his article with another warning about the rapid warming of the planet and the costs to humanity in the near and far future. Like we care.

Although tempting, to think this increasing disregard of our global problems is merely a modern phenomenon would truly be naive. Societal ignorance is a never-ceasing historical habit, which has spread into our literature through the escapist genre, often infused with political allegory.

In my English class, we recently read the play “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett, a play originally written in France in 1949. The play follows two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, as they wait for a man named Godot for reasons unknown to the reader. As Vladimir and Estragon wait for Godot, they converse about things they wish to do: hang themselves from a nearby tree; never see each other again; and move from where they are, ultimately ceasing to wait for Godot. However, Vladimir and Estragon severely lack the motivation to take almost any action throughout the play, expressed ironically at the end of Act I when Beckett writes,

ESTRAGON: Well, shall we go?

VLADIMIR: Yes, let’s go.

They do not move. Curtain.

…Beckett’s incessant displays of inaction are not only purposeful, but also a satirical stab at the ignorance of the political elite in post WWII France. Although his play was written for another time, Beckett’s Waiting for Godot still has relevance today, as the problem of lethargy has surfaced again with respect to global warming.

Janani Srinivas, West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North, Plainsboro, N.J.: World War II and the Holocaust and “China Is Detaining Muslims in Vast Numbers. The Goal: ‘Transformation.’

“Never Again,” that is what we said after World War II, never again would such prejudice corrupt the thoughts of our world. “Never Again,” was the anthem of the people after the 9/11 attacks, never again would we let ourselves be caught off guard like that ever again. “Never Again,” is what we say after every single school shooting that has happened over the past decade, never again would we let our schools become war zones. It is funny though, how history keeps on repeating itself, isn’t it. Now the situation in China with the Uighur Muslims is no different, yet again are we imprisoning people for being who they were born to be, or who they chose to be. Throughout my education I have learned about the Holocaust in different subjects to varying degrees. In science, we learned about how the Germans used chlorine against the american troops. In language arts, we read the “Diary of Anne Frank” and other books detailing the life of a Jew during this time. And in history, we learned about everything leading up to the War and all the catalysts and warning signs. At the time my peers and I just went through the motions, did the homework and took the tests. Only after reading about the Uighur Muslims did I understand why we were being taught the same unit year after year.

Valerie Wang and Kisha Yan, Richard Montgomery High School, Bethesda, Md.: Newton’s Third Law and “Women Will Pay for the Mess of the Kavanaugh Confirmation

Newton published his laws of motion in his Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Not only have these laws been the cornerstones of the field of physics, but they’re also applicable to the metaphysical world. Perhaps the most often quoted is Newton’s third law, which states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Simply put, it explains why your knuckles hurt while boxing, or why a tennis ball bounces. Outside of its implications in a classroom setting and its fundamental interpretations, the general principle stands: everything you do will have repercussions, making it crucial to remain tenacious in our words and actions.

For decades, people have been urged to speak up about sexual assault, yet society still tiptoes around the subject like it is broken glass. The past year has brought momentous change, with pivotal figures such as Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick shedding much needed light on the issue of sexual harassment. Women around the world, realizing that they were not alone, were empowered by the courage of others to share their own stories, sometimes earning justice for the crimes committed against them. Although the rise in such testimonials should have solely been constructive in the treatment of women in society, it has caused unanticipated backlash and damage.

The article headline, “Women Will Pay for the Mess of the Kavanaugh Confirmation,” likely shocked readers initially, especially those for whom Ford has become a beacon of inspiration. Yet, reading into the article reveals the author’s disheartening, albeit true, conclusion that the women involved, the very people who ought to have benefitted from Ford’s testimony, are unfortunately losing just as much as they should have gained. Hence, being equal, but opposite.

Maxwell T. Wilson, Cresskill High School, Cresskill, N.J.: “A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams and “China Is a Dangerous Rival, and America Should Treat It Like One

Two partners, polar opposites in attitude and personality, find themselves in a relationship built not on love but on carnal needs, violence, dominance, and submission. One is delicate, valuing kindness and virtue. The other is aggressive, even animalistic. It works because the former submits to the latter, rationalizing and forgiving abusive behavior.

American literature buffs might recognize this relationship as that of Tennessee Williams’ Stanley and Stella Kowalski, two main characters in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” But the pattern of dysfunction also describes another star-crossed couple: The United States and China.

A recent article in The New York Times entitled “China Is a Dangerous Rival, and America Should Treat It Like One” noted that the Chinese are simultaneously one of our greatest trading partners, and one of our greatest strategic enemies. Their ideology is antithetical to ours; they steal our intellectual property and rattle at us a military saber built with our dollars. It seems that just as Stella is dangerously attracted to Stanley’s dark masculinity, the U.S. is addicted to The Red Dragon’s cheap goods.

Audrey Yin, Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, N.H.: “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and “China Breaks Silence on Muslim Detention Camps, Calling Them ‘Humane’

I first heard about China’s hidden internment camps through a snapchat news story. Located in Xinjiang, these camps hold tens of thousands of Muslims. The Chinese government refers to them as students, bragging on public media about their “generous” living conditions. However, the truth of the situation has been brought to light by various news sources. These Muslims are being brainwashed and stripped of their identities. Chinese officials ignore Islam values like the strict adherence to permitted “halal” foods and dress code, instead detaining Muslims and force-feeding them communist propaganda.

It is shocking to see how individualism was not allowed fifty years ago and are still not allowed today. Reflecting on what happened to my grandparents during the Cultural Revolution, and seeing picture after picture of Muslims reciting laws and being forced to do hard, manual labor, I wondered how it was possible for oppressors to oppress. I realise now that this isn’t a simple matter of empathy. Maybe the incentive is more of an absolute power for the communist regime.

In English class we watched the Ted Talk “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She spoke of how one version of what you hear has the power to totally infest your perspective on someone or something. Are these Chinese officials, the ones who are running the Muslim “schools”, hearing single stories from the government? Are the Muslims trapped in these camps hearing single stories from these officials? When these shallow, one dimensional stories become somebody’s truth, do we start forgetting about putting each other in each other’s shoes, regardless of religions or customs?