Opinion

MTV Offers a Rare Chance to Enlighten

As I wandered around my apartment Wednesday night, I was stopped suddenly, distracted by the program that my roommates were watching on television. The program had mediocre acting and I, at first, thought it was one of those silly drama series, but I was instantly intrigued and couldn’t pull myself away from the screen. There were no commercial breaks and I wondered what station was airing the show. To my surprise, it was MTV. It was the special showing of “”A Hate Crime Revealed,”” the story of Matthew Shepard. I recalled hearing about the horrific crime that took place in Wyoming and had read an article about it in “”Time.”” Though it certainly was not the first crime of such nature and magnitude, the case of Matthew Shepard drew national attention. The harsh treatment of gays in America, the “”land of the free,”” needed to be brought to light. The events surrounding Shepard’s death were unsettling. With its portrayal of the violence of the men who attacked him and exhibition of small-town anti-gay sentiment, the program struck emotional chords. But the most disturbing part of the story was the public reaction after Shepard’s death. There was footage of actual events and protests that transpired after his death woven into the movie. The posters that people made in response to Shepard’s death were appalling. Bold letters on posters screamed “”Matt is in Hell.”” To know that the people who made these posters were so-called people of the church was especially disturbing. Those people who claimed to be followers of God were certainly not practicing the unconditional love they believed was so graciously given to them. There can be no resolution when those who should ease the problem only contribute to it. I am not saying all believers are of the same outspoken and judgmental type, but those outspoken people are the ones who set precedence into the public’s eye of what all Christians are like. It is outrageously hypocritical to judge another person without considering one’s own faults. My initial reaction to the show was to praise MTV for sparing an hour of airtime from the bombardment of advertisements. A significant statement was made: This is an important topic that warrants no interruption. The popularity of MTV with youth adds to the impact. Eager young viewers flip to their favorite music channel to find something very different. MTV hopes their interest is piqued by this show and that they might continue to watch and broaden their understanding of such a topic as hate crime awareness. Certainly, many viewers were disappointed to miss their regular program and did not even consider what was being shown. Or even worse, the young viewers may have already been conditioned to think negatively about homosexuality and refuse to open their minds to other ideas. It is not that they should completely change their morals and the way they were raised, but they should at least try to gain a new understanding. One does not have to believe in or accept an idea, but an attempt should at least be made to understand it. It is encouraging to see programs that touch on important events and problems that affect our nation. By educating the people, especially the younger generation, there is hope for less hate in the future. ...

Living in the Shadow of Parents' Success

Like many UCSD students, I suffer from overly successful parent syndrome. In a sense, some would think I have the perfect life. My parents, though divorced, have taken care of me nicely. They have provided me with love, shelter, food and even dealt with my conspicuous consumption phase during high school and junior high. And even though their marriage didn’t last, my college fund did. I am going to college on Mommy and Daddy’s money. Yet somehow the spark of life isn’t within me — the spark that most young adults my age seem to have, to go out and get that first paycheck, to settle down, have a family. My parents outdid their parents economically. It depresses me that I will have to be way more successful to even come close to their proportionate economic success. Economists have been saying for years now that the Pepsi Generation will be the first one to earn less than its parents. The work ethic my parents have is extremely intimidating. My mom graduated from UC Davis in three years. She has been working since age 14 and has been working full-time for the state since the age of 20. She has steadily moved up the ladder in various personnel departments of state agencies, and at 49 is looking to retire in a few years. My dad did relatively the same. He said he started working when he was eight, no joke. He is now 62 and getting ready to retire after more than 35 years of being an engineer for the state. And I haven’t even mentioned my stepmom or stepdad yet. I cannot fully explain the type of cloud that seems to surround me every time I begin to think about my future. At times, I will be in a state of euphoria, totally at ease with life and my academic progress. And then I think, I’m a piece of crap. I haven’t worked for anything all my life. I’ve had three summer jobs, all paying near minimum wage. My parents have been supporting themselves since before they were out of high school. They paid for all of their schooling in college. No matter what I do, how can I compare to Mom or Dad? I don’t look at grad school as an option. I look at it as a requirement. It’s the only thing I could do to separate from my parents. I’d like to name this feeling “”overly successful parent syndrome.”” I’m sure it’ll be rearing its ugly head on psychiatrist couches across the nation soon. It’s hard to really describe the symptoms I deal with. Pangs of helplessness, worthlessness, feeling lost. Sometimes I wonder why I’m here. I feel guilty for not having to pay for college. I think if I was paying for college, I don’t think I would have this self-formulated syndrome. Lately I’ve been considering triple-majoring. “”Why?”” you might ask. No sane person with a social life does that. I think it’s yet another thing that would elevate my academic success above my parents’. My parents are not the only thing that have created this syndrome inside of me, although they are a large part of it. Much of it is our society itself. I know it’s trite, but America is one big rat race. I’m scared of getting caught in it. I feel like my parents did. My dad has told me that becoming an engineer was not his ideal occupation, but it provided stability. While I was growing up he would spend his nights reading about the civil war and Parisian art. My dad sacrificed his life, in a sense, to provide security for me. I feel extremely guilty about that. I would rather reverse time and tell my dad to seek happiness, not stability. I don’t care if we wouldn’t be as well off. Dad got stuck in the rat race, and I think he regrets it. Americans are naturally competitive. The growing global market and financial opportunities have transformed healthy competition into greed-motivated education. I think this has permeated into the college setting. In the ’60s and ’70s, college students were “”making a difference.”” They were standing up for people who could not stand up for themselves. It seems as if UCSD students, especially in the sciences, are more set on crushing the competition for their own gain by curving the midterm, or checking out those books a month ahead just to spite the other students, rather than helping out that freshman at OASIS. I’m feeling a whole spectrum of emotions, and I’m sure I am not the only one. I’m scared of falling into the trap of conspicuous consumption that the media have set for us. I’m scared of disappointing my parents. I’m scared of getting a job out of college and hating it. I hope there will soon be a time in my life when there will be less fear and more excitement for the future. And I hope someone actually reads this article and relates to it instead of making a mental note to avoid the person named Valerie Burns in the future. ...

Uncertain Future Awaits Graduating Senior

Well everybody, happy New Year. Seniors, it’s officially time to start worrying about what you’re going to do after spring finals. While I’ve been thinking about the ominous future for several years now, it has suddenly dawned on me that, come June, I will no longer be a student. Even if I decide to apply myself to graduate education to postpone my career path, I have to do something during the down time. This realization provoked a few minor panic attacks during my otherwise restful winter break: What am I going to do with my life? How am I going to get into medical school? Do I really want to be a doctor? Do I want to spend the rest of my life pipetting microliters of solution? Should I run off to Guatemala and work with street children instead? I’m sure the rest of my fourth- and fifth-year brethren share most, if not all, of the above sentiments. Even if you’re not seriously considering the plight of Latin America’s children, you’re probably trying to figure out what you are supposed to be doing with your life, and how you’re actually going to make that happen. If you already have that all figured out, please stop reading. The hard truth is that no matter what we decide now, the odds are pretty good that we’ll make some drastic deviations from those plans in the future. You’ve already seen this in college: Half of the pre-meds decide to go into psychology, and a good portion of Revelle jumps to another college to avoid the humanities sequence. After school, or between schools, people are also allowed to jump areas of interest. Don’t worry so much about what you’re going to do in June; chances are, it won’t be permanent. While I hate to drag my family into my school’s newspaper, my father is a perfect, almost laughable, example of what I’m talking about. After getting a degree in business, he went to law school, graduated, and then decided not to take the bar examination. Thus, he never practiced law. He then went into the commercial real estate business for a while. After getting bored with that, he built a boat and became a commercial swordfisherman for several years. Since then, he has revisited real estate, left real estate and formed a pay phone company. The pay phone market is crashing due to cell phone usage, so he has something else up his sleeve … I’m clueless. My dad is a crazy example of a career switcher, and he enjoys being self-employed more than I ever will, but it’s an interesting case nonetheless. If he can go from law school to fishing in a span of two years, then I can change my mind about what I’m doing, too. My point here is that even though we’ll all graduate from UCSD with a great education, we don’t necessarily have to use the knowledge from our degree. We can be flexible. I have one friend who is graduating with a degree in biology and plans to work with the high school students at her church. She won’t be using her biology knowledge in that occupation, but that intellect will sure help her if she decides to go back to school and do research, so her education was not a waste. Your degree, whatever it is, just gives you more options for a life plan. Don’t limit yourself to your “”field,”” and don’t feel like any decision you make now is permanent. With this perspective, it’s a lot easier to think about June. Even if the summer finds me pipetting alone in a lab somewhere, there’s always the next summer for Guatemala … or grad school. I just hope I don’t end up chasing swordfish. ...

Editorials

The conservative former Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft recently received widespread criticism upon his nomination as attorney general. The Guardian feels this criticism is warranted and that Ashcroft’s extremely conservative congressional record makes him an unfit choice for an office of such significance, and that a more moderate politician would be better qualified for this position. A vocal opponent of affirmative action programs, Ashcroft voted to end funding for struggling minority- and women-owned businesses. He also opposes all abortions, including those sought by victims of rape and incest. Ashcroft also voted against an increase in the minimum wage in 1999. The former senator’s approach to environmental and foreign policy is equally conservative: He opposed a bill that decreased government funding of logging road-building in national forests and he voted to decrease funding for researching solar and renewable energy. In addition, in 1997 Ashcroft voted against a bill that would favor China firms that had adopted a code of conduct on human rights. On gun control, he supports the right to carry a concealed weapon and, in 1999, he voted against mandatory background checks at gun shows. Ashcroft also has supported legislation that infringes on the Constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and privacy. He supported the Communications Decency Act, which would have censored and filtered Internet content regardless of users’ preferences. Also, he voted for mandatory honorable discharge of all HIV-positive military service members. The Guardian feels that this politician is clearly the most partisan-voting, right-wing party loyal that President-elect George W. Bush could have chosen for the weighty office of Attorney General. We feel overall that the attorney general’s office should be held by a less extreme partisan. Though many argue that the opinions held by the Attorney General would not affect his or her ability to execute the laws, such views would carry great weight within the Justice Department itself. Such internal attitudes guide policy development and steer the course of legislation that the Department collaborates on with the Congress. Digression with regard to policy and action has undeniable consequences in the Justice Department’s interaction with the executive and Congress. An ideal Attorney General must guide policy options with such offices in the interests of bipartisanship, not extremism. Ashcroft does not fit this description and would certainly develop Department policy in the adverse interests of most Americans. ...

Fractured Down the Middle: The U.S. Senate Splits in Two

When voters went to the polls on Nov. 7, 2000 to decide the future leadership of this country, they expected the outcome of the election to be very close. Nobody could have imagined how close the results were. In the end, America witnessed something that had never occurred. Yes, the presidential protests and contests went on for 35 long, arduous days, and George W. Bush was finally declared the winner of the 270 electoral votes necessary to become the 43rd president of this great land. The historical importance of the election does not, however, lie in the election of the chief executive, but in the U.S. Senate. For the first time in this nation’s history, the Senate will have a split of 50 Democratic senators and 50 Republican senators. On election day, voters from across the country sent to the Senate freshman Democratic senators hailing from Delaware, New York, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington, Missouri and New Jersey, and two freshman Republican senators from Virginia and Nevada. The freshman senatorial class of 2000 includes Jon Corzine of New Jersey, a former Goldman Sachs chief executive who spent $60 million of his own money to win a position in government that pays a paltry $141,300 a year. There is Jean Carnahan, who will be replacing the first-ever deceased person elected to the Senate, her husband Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan. Not to be outdone, there is of course Hillary Clinton, who is the first first lady to be elected to the Senate. A final “”first”” of notable mention is that there will be 13 women serving as senators in the 107th Congress. To be sure, 2001 can be titled “”The Year of the Woman in the Senate.”” All in all, Republicans who used to enjoy a 54-to-46, four-vote margin over their Democratic counterparts have now lost that margin and now must count on Vice President-elect Dick1 Cheney to cast the constitutionally mandated tie-breaking vote if it ever becomes necessary. In the two election cycles since the Republican Revolution of 1994, the Republicans have been cut down each time. Democrats hope that they will become the majority party. Observers note that the 107th Congress will be run with the campaigns of 2002 and 2004 constantly in view. The quickest way to guarantee a Democratically controlled 108th Congress is to portray the Republican-controlled 107th Congress as a do-nothing Congress and run a campaign purporting that nothing was achieved. The argument will be that, by returning the Democrats to power, the voters will be able to get rid of gridlock and have the representatives of the people return to doing the work of the people. Though it is easy to say that nothing will be achieved in the nearly evenly split Congress, there is one strong force that can guarantee that work will be done. That force is the desire for power, namely presidential power. It will be impossible for any senator to run on the record of having accomplished nothing. It is hard to run a campaign — let alone a winning one — in which the candidate cannot name any major legislation that he fostered or co-sponsored for passage. For Democrats and Republicans alike, the issues of job security and the achievement of higher office will require that work in the Senate be accomplished. The first order of business the Senate will tackle will be the confirmation of Bush’s cabinet nominations. It is generally agreed that the majority of the nominees will be quickly confirmed with very little opposition, as is the tradition of letting a newly elected president assemble his team as he wishes. The nominees for the Bush cabinet have been widely praised. To begin with, the cabinet nominations “”look like America,”” to borrow a phrase from the Clinton years. Bush has, by most accounts, chosen highly qualified people who are capable of doing the jobs for which they have been nominated. In the process, the president has sent a clear message from Washington that the American dream is still alive. However, there have been some rumblings from the left and far left on a few of the nominations. Many of the special interest groups that were in no way nonpartisan and in no way favorable to Bush’s campaign seem to imply that they have veto power over his nominations. There are questions about whether Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft played the race card in defeating the appointment of a black judge, Ronnie White, to a lifetime position on the appeals court. By and large, this question will be answered and most, if not all, of the nominees will be confirmed. Though the groups that are raising the questions, including Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, the Rainbow/Push Coalition and the AFL-CIO, are in a losing battle to deter Senate confirmations of the cabinet secretaries, it is increasingly clear that they are seeking to tee up for any upcoming Supreme Court nominations. What these groups are seeking to do is show the nation and their senators that they do have some power and are capable and willing to exert their political muscle when the time comes. The message they are sending is that when Bush does nominate a justice to the Supreme Court, the groups will oppose that nominee because of disagreements over policy and the issues very near and dear to them. Due to the fact that these liberal groups and organizations were not able to get either of their men in the White House, they are exerting their political muscle now and warming up for the bigger battles to come. Once the Senate has finished confirmation of the cabinet, it will move on. There will be two things that the Senate will act upon very early during its session. The first issue will be the contentious matter of abortion. The Senate, even with newly elected Democratic senators, will pass a partial-birth abortion ban. This ban has a good deal of support from Republicans and Democrats alike, including California’s own left-leaning Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The Senate ratified a ban in the past, only to have it vetoed by Clinton. The Senate once will again pass a ban on this medical procedure, and this time it will be signed into law by Bush. The second order of business that the Senate will deal with is the slowing economy and a tax cut. There is only a slim chance that Bush will be able to receive his $1.3 trillion tax cut in its entirety, yet a reduction in taxes will be dealt with. Once again, the greatest indicator of what will occur is what has occurred. The Senate ended the death tax and the marriage penalty. Those bills, however, were once again vetoed by Clinton. The Senate will be able pass a hefty tax cut on to the American people with the signature of the new president. Following a tax cut, there are many issues that the Senate can and will deal with. There is the reform of the public education system, campaign finance reform, the strengthening of America’s military, and the restructuring of Social Security. These important issue have strong bipartisan support from our elected officials and the voters who have put them in their positions. Though the naysayers claim that gridlock will rule Washington, the evenly divided Senate will cordially and, in a bipartisan manner, get the work of the people done. They will pass legislation that common sense requires. Through the combined efforts of the 100 senators and Bush, the lives of Americans will be improved. Those in office, whether Republican or Democrat, will be able go to their home states and say that they deserve to be re-elected. Others will be able to take their legislative records to the nation and give primary voters reasons to vote for them. ...

Letters to the Editor

Editor: I write to you with great concern and disappointment regarding your Nov. 14 article on the perceived lack of political activity at UCSD during this past election. A profoundly large number of students played key, active roles in this current election cycle. Political groups on campus flourished with the heightened awareness that the election brought. Thousands of students registered to vote on campus and showed up to the polls on Election Day, yet the Guardian, for whatever reason, failed to report on such activities. With a current membership of over 150, the College Democrats at UCSD organized and mobilized an unprecedented political awareness campaign on campus this past year. The College Democrats began a voter registration campaign at the beginning of fall quarter and registered students to vote on Library Walk every day for nearly a month straight. The College Republicans and Students for Nader also participated in successful voter registration efforts. We at the College Democrats were able to register over 1,300 students, faculty and staff. Resident Advisors, student organizations and even professors asked representatives of the different political organizations to speak at various voter information sessions. A number of UCSD students were even hired by various local candidates and issue-campaigns during this past election cycle. And yet, the Guardian, fully aware that these activities were occurring, failed to report on any of these highly visible and important events. There were a number of political rallies and activities at UCSD during this past election cycle as well. UCSD was a particular hot spot, attracting local, national and international press coverage of the various events it held. The College Democrats brought author and activist Gloria Steinem, now Congresswoman Susan Davis, and now Assemblywoman Christine Kehoe to UCSD for a lunch-time rally. The A.S. Council sponsored a debate between congressional candidates Susan Davis and Brian Bilbray. Students for Nader welcomed the Green Party U.S. Senate candidate Medea Benjamin to campus, and the College Republicans scheduled Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell to visit campus; all in an honest and noble attempt to raise student political awareness and participation on campus. On Election Day, the College Democrats organized nearly 100 students wearing bright yellow t-shirts and placed them throughout campus and in phone banks encouraging students to vote and be part of the process. As a result of our mobilization efforts, there was a dramatic increase in on-campus voter turnout compared to previous election cycles. And yet, the Guardian claims that there was no political activity on campus and that student turnout was nearly nonexistent. To say that political activity lacked on campus is simply false statement and an indication that the Guardian is desperately out of touch with the pulse of the student body. Instead of filling your pages with claims that left-wing bigots are running rampant throughout campus, I would encourage your writers and editorial staff in the future to report on the long hours and positive work that the various student political organizations devote toward breaking the stereotype of youth apathy toward the political process. The students of UCSD should be commended for their participation in this past election. Whether they simply made it out to the polls on Election Day, or sacrificed countless hours toward an issue they were passionate about, the students of UCSD demonstrated an inspirational spirit and an unwavering commitment to their community, their nation and the political process. Terry Schanz President, UCSD College Democrats ...

A Trip to India Offers a Slew of Experiences

Some go to India for spiritual enlightenment. Others go for a chance to connect with their roots. And others, well, they go for the pashmina shawls. I, however, went for a carefully blended mixture of all three. Except I also left the luxuries of a “”first-world”” nation in order to escape from the chaos of school, a broken heart, and other tragedies. When I strapped myself into the seat on a Singapore Airlines Flight, my stomach lurched as the plane took off — not because of the sudden altitude climb, but because so much had happened in the week prior to my departure that had stained whatever good feelings I had going to India. For one thing, I received a D and a F respectively on my first two Bio midterms (I hope my parents aren’t reading this) and even my last-ditch effort to redeem myself on the final which I aced (in comparison to the midterms) wasn’t enough to get me more than a C in the class. So much for medical school. I had also destroyed any integrity I possessed by becoming foolishly infatuated with someone who reacted with more amusement than annoyance (thank God) to my poor attempts at conversation, but will probably always think of me as that “”hairy psycho.”” To top it off, I behaved like a rotten brat when I screamed at my mom for not packing the proper clothes for me and wailed to my best friend that not only had I destroyed my first quarter grades, but also terrified an innocent boy in the process. Yet, thanks to the makers of UNISOM (a sleeping aid) and some fervent prayers, I drifted out of my tortured conscience and fell asleep for a few hours on an airplane filled with crying babies, cantankerous adults and a serious shortage of cute guys. When I finally arrived in Delhi, India’s capital, after an arduous journey that consisted of tens of hours in agony, sitting in a poorly ventilated plane, I was ready to kiss the ground. Well, almost. As I strode confidently into the waiting arms of my relatives, I was filled with a satisfaction that everything would be all right. I would 1) finally figure out the meaning to life (as I was assured by my father that I would be able to interview his holiness, the Dalai Lama, due to my grandfather’s connections) 2) wow attractive foreign Indian guys with my amazing prowess in cosmopolitan fashion and etiquette (yeah, right) and 3) lose 10 pounds due to the absence of delicious American brand chips, candies, cookies, etc., that I have a special fondness for. All my problems would be solved. Once I shed my “”baby fat,”” (although I’m a bit too old to use that phrase) flashed my dimples, and learned how to coordinate my balance with my high heel shoes, I would be the hottest thing to hit India since Gandhi. Or so I thought. My plan quickly unraveled when I realized in Delhi, it was much more practical to wear my lucky Batman T-shirt (a far cry from sophisticated elegance) and scruffy tennis shoes to avoid having dust and dirt and cow dung being splattered everywhere. As I tried to find my niche in Delhi among a plethora of cows, cars and people, I found myself losing my desire to portray myself as a sophisticated American when I had so much to learn from the people and places around me. I suddenly felt ashamed that I wanted to lose weight when skinny four- and five-year-old children were approaching me, asking for a few cents so they could eat. I felt overwhelmed by a sense of guilt and a stronger feeling that in college I had hardly given a thought to someone in desperate need of food or shelter. Although I was not in the least as benevolent as Mother Teresa when I was in Delhi, I tried my best to make amends for my arrogance by slipping those children money and chocolate when my relatives weren’t looking. But if I had any stains on my soul due to my sins, I certainty thought I could erase them when I boarded a box of cardboard that faintly resembled a functioning aircraft as I set off for Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama spends much of his time in between his hectic schedule. I was nervous for two reasons during the flight. One was my concern that I couldn’t think of anything terribly profound to ask or say to and the second was that the pilot of the craft which held nine people, including me, excused himself out of the cockpit to get a newspaper and a sandwich. My goal of wowing the Dalai Lama with an eloquent vocabulary changed as the turbulence rolled and shook the aircraft (while the pilot caught up with the latest news in India) and switched to merely getting the chance to see the Dalai Lama while I was still alive. As the plane finally landed on the thin airstrip set in the middle of a field (we had to circle around a few times because a stray dog had parked itself on the “”runway””), I became giddy with excitement. Not only would I impress the Dalai Lama with my excellent verbal and written skills but my interview with him would be so thought-provoking and ground-breaking that I would no doubt impress my editors and eventually win the Pulitzer Prize. My hopes were dashed however as soon as I set foot in Dharamsala when someone gently broke the news to me that the Dalai Lama was on vacation and would return a few days after I was scheduled to return to Delhi (providing I survived the plane ride back home). So much for spiritual enlightenment. Yet, even without meeting the Dalai Lama, I felt I learned a lot while walking the same paths that no doubt he walks often while in the town. I explored Buddhist temples, joined various nationalities as they participated in their religious rituals and sparked conversations between a variety of merchants and professionals walking the dirt roads. Sure, electricity was unreliable, the food was repetitive, and showers were hot buckets of water, but I survived. There were difficult times, of course. Me walking in on my grandmother taking a shower was quite troubling, and when I became sick and had to use the restroom numerous times, the theories and discussions about my condition by various people outside the door were quite irritating as well. But I suppose this is what the journey of life is all about (if I can attempt to sound philosophical for a moment): good moments and bad moments and several in-between moments. When I got back to Delhi, I got over the fact that in the end, after much hoopla, I never did end up meeting the famed Buddhist spiritual leader. I had, in fact, met so many other people who had taught me a lot about Buddhism and a humble existence that I often hear little about in my environment here. Although, interviewing him wouldn’t have looked too shabby on a resume. As the trip wound down and I arrived in Bombay, I became a little homesick, content that I had discovered many things in my parents’ homeland but anxious to see my family and friends again. That feeling soon disappeared, however, when I hit the town with my cousins and siblings on my birthday and New Year’s with a slightly more svelte self (throwing up nine times and suffering from food poisoning twice clearly contributed to this) determined to once again show India’s millions and millions of people what they would soon be missing when I returned home. I lost my inhibitions as I shimmied alone up on a dance stage (due to the fact that a cute guy had approached my 16-year-old sister to dance and not me) and was suddenly transformed from insecure adolescent to confident vixen. Well, almost. Tripping head first over stairs kind of brought me back to my senses again. But all in all, taking a trip to an exotic land was well worth it, even if my poor stomach endured a lot of pain. It opened my eyes to the plight of others, helped stretch my own imagination and encouraged me to be more confident in my own abilities. It also made me realize that losing a little weight didn’t exactly give me the magic pill of happiness I desperately craved. Oh, and I think my heart is OK again. Besides, I think my former crush has a gorgeous girlfriend anyway. Luckily, my experience in India has enlightened me to what’s really important in life: sanitized food, good music and, of course, family and friends. Although a romance with a dashing Maharaja would certainly have been nice. ...

Christmas Eve was Herald to a Bad Break

Life is full of irony, isn’t it? The holidays are supposed to be a time of joyous celebration. Well, my holidays were of no such things, to say the least. True, I do not celebrate Christmas, but I still got a few gifts. Some dress shirts, a J. Crew tie and a bottle of Issey Miyake cologne. Great gifts; I like them all, especially the cologne. I’ve been meaning to buy it for a while now. It has this light citrus smell to it. But in light of another present, it all seems so … futile. Santa Claus was generous enough to deliver his gift for my entire family early this year. It came in the wee morning of Christmas Eve (at 3 a.m. actually, as opposed to later that night). Not a thing was stirring, not even a mouse, when the phone call ruptured the silence. I stumbled to bed only an hour before my uncle called. Brrrng! Brrrng! My eyes popped open. Brrrng! Brrrng! My mother picked up the phone. A few minutes later, I could hear her hang it up. My father woke me up in the morning to inform me of Santa’s gift. But he didn’t have to. I’m no fool – I knew exactly what the news was. The entire family, for almost a year, knew this present would eventually arrive . And like a lump of black coal, none of us were anxious to get it. It doesn’t take a fourth-year English Literature with an emphasis in Asian-American works to ascertain that there was a death in the family. My paternal grandfather passed away Christmas Eve. He was a whopping 92, almost 93. He had been sick for almost a year, in and out of the hospital a couple of times. This time, his kidneys failed him. He left behind a slew of daughters and sons, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. My two brothers and I were his, as the Vietnamese saying goes, “”cream nugget,”” or “”cream-filled center.”” Vietnamese pastries are often filled with a sweet paste or cream, and what the idiom basically means is that my siblings and I were his favorite grandchildren. We came to the United States when we were very young and were able to make the most of it: We are, more or less, successful in our lives. We went, or in my case still go, to prestigious schools and have, in my brothers’ cases, thriving careers. If you were Asian, or at least Vietnamese, you would understand the importance of this to grandparents. Despite this bestowal of pride on the three of us, we were never close with him. I do not have a lot of memories of interaction between my grandfather and myself. I do distinctly remember one, though. Bear with me as I retell it. When I was younger, my family would often drive from Sacramento to San Jose to visit my grandparents at my uncle’s house. This time we were spending the weekend there, so I lugged along my box of G.I. Joe figures. It was morning. I remember it being cold. I brought out my box to the living room. My grandfather sat down next to me and picked up one of the figures, probably wondering to himself what the hell I was playing with and why the figures were so damned ugly. I proceeded to explain to him the figure’s name (I think it was Hydro-Viper) and what weapons he had and what he could do. He picked up another one and I again told him about that figure. As I had mentioned, we were not particularly close. As sad as I am over his death, I didn’t find myself grieving at his funeral. I am more sorry for my grandmother than for myself. It wouldn’t be a lie to say that practically everyone was sniffling when my grandmother, tottering on her cane, slowly approached the casket to light an incense stick and to view her husband of 70 years for a final time. I don’t know why I’m writing all this. There isn’t a real point to this column. Maybe it’s more of a catharsis for me. Or perhaps it’s an opportunity to better cope with the irony of this past holiday season. Well, it’s not working. ...

For better or worse: Breaking Down the Barriers

As UCSD students begin yet another quarter at our fine university, they will endure a second onslaught of tests, midterms and finals. Amid all the drama and excitement that typify college, I begin to wonder how many students take time to truly reflect on the process in which many of them were granted admittance. Frostenson Guardian Because of the passing of Proposition 209 a few years back, many of today’s students have not had to worry about dealing first-hand with the effects of affirmative action. Since 1995, the debate over the legitimacy of affirmative action has raged, fueled mostly by conservatives such as Pete Wilson, Dinesh D’souza and Ward Connerly, though many so-called liberals, too, have been vocal members of the opposition. Many opponents of affirmative action in California bring up the familiar argument that such practices are racist and support a form of “”reverse discrimination,”” wherein certain more qualified students get denied admittance to UC schools over less qualified minority students. They go on to argue that even though admissions boards may no longer maintain specific racial quotas when deciding who to accept and who to deny, they are still unfairly influenced by a racial agenda. The case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke in 1978 is often cited by affirmative action critics to support their stance. In it, Allan Bakke sued the University of California for twice denying him admittance to the UC Davis School of Medicine. According to Bakke, although his test scores were higher than many of the minority applicants the school admitted, he was still rejected because he was white. Ultimately, the case went to the Supreme Court in which the justices ruled 5 to 4 that UC should admit Bakke. The decision further states that schools cannot use racial quotas in determining who they accept. However it leaves open the practice of considering race in admissions to encourage diversity. While I agree with the notion that students should be judged by their own merits, I also recognize that we do not live in a perfect world — that is, judging students on an even playing field, the fact of the matter is that everyone is not on an even playing field. To assume that would be a naive and misguided attempt to ignore all the inequality that exists in our society today. This is where the case against affirmative action is weakest. Too often affirmative action has suffered from being overly scrutinized for the moral and ethical issues that it raises. What is often forgotten in the debate are the systems of discrimination that created a need for such a program in the first place. For opponents to suggest that admissions boards judge a person solely by their own merits as if we were all equal would be a dire mistake; it conveniently implies that our society is and has always been cured of the prevailing disease known as racism. Unfortunately, this simply is not the case. Historically, groups of people have been disenfranchised and marginalized in numerous institutions exclusively on the basis of their race. Affirmative action should be seen more as a necessary, albeit flawed, remedy for creating greater opportunities for groups who normally experience considerable inequalities.. Without a program like affirmative action, we would have a system that only serves to further polarize and segregate our society. In many ways, this is precisely what has happened over the past few years at UC campuses, as well as colleges across the nation. Minorities in general are increasingly absent from most student populations, particularly in elite colleges. UC Berkeley and UCLA have suffered from a lack of more diversity as a result of Prop 209 and its subsequent abolishment of affirmative action in state programs.. UCSD is definitely no exception in this regard. At a recent Graduate Diversity Conference hosted by UCLA, Patricia Gurin, a professor at the University of Michigan and one of the state’s expert witnesses in an affirmative action suit against the university, expressed the crucial role programs such as affirmative action play in society. “”Knowledge is not just what you think or what you know, but how you think and how you discover new information. This is affected by diversity,”” Gurin said. Diversity should not necessarily be the narrow goal of affirmative action, but more of a positive byproduct. The true goal of affirmative action and the reason it should be reinstated in the UC system has always been social justice. We can no longer live in a “”color-blind”” society, pretending that race and socio-economic status do not matter in today’s America. It is time we remind ourselves that race does matter regardless of how much we buy into the lie that we are all equal, or at least treated as such. Affirmative action, or some form of it, will always be necessary so long as we live in a society that continues to create inequalities between a majority that is content to maintain the status quo and a minority that struggles to conform to the mainstream majority social and cultural faction. ...

Letters to the Editor

Editor: In light of the recent developments in the Middle East, we strongly feel that this issue ought to be properly addressed. Having said that, the events as addressed in the article “”Peace Vigil Unites Students,”” published on Nov. 16, give an unrealistic impression of peace in the Middle East. We have seen leaders such as Clinton, Barak and Arafat attempt to construct “”peace”” along illusory lines, which sadly but expectedly culminated in the latest Al-Aqsa Intifada. We can talk all we want about peace, but when the core human issues of justice and freedom are ignored, peace loses its meaning. We cannot achieve peace along false lines. More importantly, the line in the article stating, “”The vigil primarily concentrated on Christians, Jews and Muslims”” is questionable. If this was the case, then why was the event organized at the same time that the Muslim Student Association held its Islamic Awareness event, thus making it difficult for the group to attend? Secondly, the Arab Student Union and the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee were not contacted. If you ask us, the planning was shady and casts doubt on the intentions of the organizers. Moreover, the quoted words of Rabbi Goldstein, “”It is important to understand that what happens there, happens there, but here is our own world”” take away from the severity of the situation and our moral responsibility as citizens of the United States and human beings on this planet to guard against the suffering of innocent populations. Let us not forget that our own president is at the forefront of the situation. Let us not forget that what happens here greatly affects what happens there, as the actions of the United States since 1948 have determined the developments in the region. In conclusion, when we get together to hope for peace, we cannot turn a blind eye to the source of the conflict, which is largely about occupation, independence, and self-determination, rather than the way it is misrepresented in the mainstream American media. Even if Jerusalem were a desert, devoid of holy places, the conflict would be no less fateful. After all, this is an issue of basic human rights to property and liberty. Wasn’t it the great American Patrick Henry who said “”Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, almighty God, I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”” — Nour Chammas and Lana Kreidie ...